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Faith Without Works Is Dead

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
February 22, 2015 5:00 am

Faith Without Works Is Dead

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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February 22, 2015 5:00 am

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Well, I'm so glad for what God is doing. Yeah, if you're going to clap for the Lord, go ahead and do it. I've been walking with Angel for a few years, and I'm so glad about what God is doing at the Spanish campus, and really throughout all of our campuses.

God is just amazing. Well, hello everybody. Who is sick of this cold weather yet? I'm telling you, I was born and raised in the Caribbean island, and I am not doing well. I am not.

I am not doing well. You would think that I've been meditating on God's Word all week for this weekend. I have to confess to you, I've been meditating on a nice beach all week. I think I've visited more Florida websites this week than I've ever had in my life, and I'm actually serious about it.

As my wife, she's like, get off the internet and Florida websites. But I'm so glad to be here. My name is Riddell, if you've never seen me before or know me at all. I've been attending the Summit Church for a little over seven years now, and I've been on staff for five and a half of those years. If you are visiting us, and if you happen to be someone that's investigating the Christian faith, perhaps you're a non-believer. I have a special love for you, because for ten and a half years of my life, I sat under a heavy atheist teaching. I grew up in an atheist community, and so I'm just so glad that you're here. I do have to confess to you that the message today, it's for the people of God, it's for the church. But hopefully in it you'll see at least how important God is to us, and that He calls us to genuine faith. Pastor JD asked me to share God's word with you this weekend, and I'm grateful to do so.

Today, we're not going to be on judges. Don't judge me. You know, that is a dark book. Everybody's messed up.

You're like, wow, everybody's messed up. But I do believe that God has led me to a passage that we really need to hear collectively as a church. We'll be in James, James chapter 2, verses 14 through 26, and I'm going to get into a sticky tension today. A life that, yes, completely rests in what Jesus has done, of course, yet is a fully devoted life that actually, actually pleases God.

Why is that a sticky tension, you ask? Well, I personally see two streams in Christians. I see a Christian on one end that is all about works. This Christian is so far removed from the world that they live in a kind of spiritual bubble of some kind.

Everything is bad. And because of that, they do not hang out with unbelievers because, you know, they're afraid of doing things that don't please God. And so they live in a bubble. These Christians are like a light under a table, not very purposeful. They are very religious. Morality is their God.

You know, if their kids make them look good, if their kids say, yes, sir, yes, ma'am, and make them look good, then they've made it in life because it's about them. Now, there is another extreme, though. The one that I'm going to focus on the most today, and it's the Christian that is so assimilated with the world that you can't even tell if they're Christian. They think they're a light, but one wouldn't know it. They tend to speak of grace a lot. They speak of justification and salvation, but very little to nothing on sanctification.

And folks, even though sanctification is the work of Christ in us and not our work, sanctification does demand our surrendering. And these Christians, they put all of the weight on the done and they can care less in practice about the dues. And they kind of feel superior to everybody else. They definitely feel superior to other Christians. Their churches feel superior to other churches because they give themselves, you know, it's all about knowledge and because they care about knowledge so much, they give themselves labels. Like, I'm a gospel center Christian.

I am a Christ center Christian. And to be honest, they tend to live off task in the mission of God, tend to live for themselves. And if we learn something from Jesus, it's that yes, he was full of grace, but he never took his eyes off of the Father. And in the longest prayer recorded in the Bible, Jesus is talking to God and says, Father, I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. Jesus knew exactly what he was supposed to do, and that is exactly what he did in his short life on this side of heaven. And I think God wants to pose the question today, do you know what you are supposed to do?

And are you actually doing that? Are we walking on the good works that God has laid out in front of us to walk in so that people can see those good works and glorify our Father? Or are we banking on grace in a distorted way where we just live for ourselves? Grace truly is unconditional, no question about it, but grace demands a response. Think about it as, say you come home from work and there is this little precious little thing, a one and a half year old, that just learned how to walk and you know, they walk like Frankenstein and you open the door and they're rushing your way with arms wide open and they have a smile from ear to ear and they're walking to you because they want to love you and hug you. That is pure love coming your way. However, it bids you to leave whatever you're going to do next, it leaves you to leave behind whatever you're going to do and come. That is grace.

It is unconditional love, but it demands a response. And I think God wants to talk to us here in James about if you believe in Christ, if you say you have rested in Christ but have no works, your faith is dead, James 2.17. So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Beloved family, the Word of God reminds us today that the work of Christ for us starts a work in us. And again, this is a very difficult topic because we know that we're not saved by works, not even good works. We're saved by the grace of Christ alone. When Jesus said it is finished, it was finished.

There's nothing you can add to the work of salvation. But you see, that salvation doesn't come void of good works for you and I to walk in, Ephesians 2.10. You see, justification is not just pardon, it's not just forgiveness. It's not just your guilt has been removed, your sentence has been taken care of, you may leave.

No, justification is more than pardon in that it says your guilt has been removed, now you can come. Thy kingdom come. His will to be done, not ours. So let us break down this passage here in James 2, chapter 2, verse 14. And I see at least two different kinds of faith that look like true faith but that are not faith at all. The first kind is a dead faith, verse 14. What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works, can that faith save him? Now that is a great question, isn't it? Straight from God, if someone says he has faith but does not have works, can that faith save him?

It's a real important question. It's an eternal question. We can be saved from death. We can be saved from our sins. We can be saved from our enemy. We can be saved from an eternity without God. Salvation is a real important question. Can a faith voided from works save us? It's a question in God's word today.

And now God through James plays out a few scenarios for us, next verse. If a brother or sister is fully clothed and lacking in daily food, you know that neighborhood you drive by on the way to work that you know is a low income neighborhood. You know there is a ton of needs in that neighborhood.

You know the kids that go to school with your kids that wear the same little worn clothes every time because you know their parents don't have much to buy more clothes. When you see them all around you, when you see their need and one of you, verse 16, says to them, go in peace. God bless you. I'm sure God has great things for you. Be blessed. Trust God. I'll be praying for you. You see that's the problem with religious people.

They say a lot but they don't do anything. I'll be praying for you. I am sure God will provide meals for you. Listen, God has already provided meals for them.

They're in your pantry. Go home, cook it, and bring it to them. God has already provided a coat for them. I wonder if our church is going to have a coat drive. The coat is in your bag.

Take it off and give it away. If a brother or sister is fully clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, go in peace. Be warmed and filled without giving them the things needed for their body. What good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. You know what something dead does? Nothing. You know what dead faith does?

Nothing. And the funny thing though, the funny thing is that this church thinks they have faith. Their pastor is Jesus' little brother. They have great theology.

And they think they have faith. But James says, what faith? Dead faith is lip service, lip service void of a living sacrifice.

Dead faith is a professing faith that you actually can't practice. Why can't you practice it? Because you profess it, but you don't possess it. It's dead. It's just not there.

You think it is, but it's not. And church, I think God wants to really search our hearts through this passage. And perhaps some of you inherited dead faith. Perhaps you grew up with people around you, maybe your own family that professed to be Christians, but you said, wow, if that is what it is to be a Christian, I definitely don't want to be one. You have inherited dead faith.

People around you that care more about themselves than anyone else, which is inherently not Christian. That's typical religion for you. It's lazy. It's lukewarm. It's lifeless.

And maybe you have become theological about your faith. I'm sure you guys saw this a couple of months ago where they did a study of the most educated cities in the nation in America. And they came out with a report.

And guess what? Raleigh-Durham, top grant. They're ranked in the top.

Number two and number three most educated cities in the nation. Good for us. Now, here's the problem with that. That we have a tendency to be theoretical, philosophical, theological, but not practical. Faith without works. It's enough for us to know what's right and we don't care about punting to do what's right. And sacrificial.

As long as I know what's right and have the proper theology. Don't worry. Don't get in my business about what I actually do in secret. What I actually do when those doors close after work.

What happens at home. Because, you know, we got the right theology. Yeah. And without realizing it, you start to boast about what you know and about what you believe. And you think you're this amazing Christian because of what you know.

And you fail to realize your arrogance. And you fail to realize that, yes, Christ leads you to rest, but he doesn't lead you to idle. Listen, you do want your heart to rest, don't we? But you do not want your heart to go idle.

If that happens, you drop dead. That's dead faith. And we live in a culture that values comfort over sacrifice.

Millions of dollars spent on research and development to make what's sacrificial easy. And you've got to be very careful not to take the gospel message of trusting and resting in Jesus and incorrectly adapt that to excuse your laziness and spiritual apathy. We do have a message of rest. Praise God. We do have a message of trust. But you cannot take that message in a culture that values comfort over sacrifice and incorrectly adapt it to excuse your laziness and spiritual apathy. Jesus says, he who abides in me will bear much fruit. What or who do we abide in? Listen, you can look like your faith is alive because we are experts at pretending, aren't we?

But James says you can have a faith that appears alive on the weekend, but it's actually dead. My mom lives out in the country. She lives in Johnson County in a tiny little house.

I love it out there. And one of the things that is interesting is right in front of her house, there's just two big trees. And we found out that one of the trees is dead. We know it's dead because a guy came out and he was able to punch right through it.

And we keep forgetting to tell a guy to come back to cut it down. But the funny thing is that they look the same, but one of them is alive and one of them is dead. They both look the same. To the naked eye, that tree is still standing. Looks just like the other one.

But you know what? It is. It is so dry. It is so hollow. It is so empty of life. It is dead.

And James says, church, there is a faith that looks just like that. It looks great on the outside, but it's hollow. It's empty.

It's dead. It's theoretical. It's philosophical. It's theological.

But it's not practical. That reminds me of a story I heard when I was a little boy of a college professor, a world renowned college professor in England. This is back in the day where he needed to cross the English Channel. And so he paid his local fisherman a few bucks to get him across in his tiny little boat. And so this renowned college professor hops on the little boat with the fisherman and they're crossing the English Channel. And the professor asked the fisherman, son, do you know the science of math? And the fisherman looks at him and says, sir, sorry, I really don't.

He says, son, you've lost a third of your life. A few minutes later, the renowned college professor asked the fisherman, son, do you know the science of marine biology and the ocean that we're riding over? And the fisherman was embarrassed at this point. He said, sir, I'm a fisherman.

I know the ocean a little bit, but I don't even know what marine biology means. No, sir, I don't. And the college professor said, you've lost another third of your life.

And all of a sudden, a big storm comes rushing in. And the fisherman asked the college professor, hey, doctor, do you know how to swim? He says, no, I don't. I said, well, you lost your whole life, buddy. And he died. He died.

And the fisherman is still alive. You know. We can be like that with the gospel, you know. The power of the gospel is when you see it at work, in your life, in practice.

It's not just in the intellect. Yes, it blows away your intellect, but it's got to make it to your heart and then it has to make it to your will. So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. And I know some may say, you know, I'm not doing this and that because the Bible tells me to do nothing.

Christ did it all for me. Listen, with all due respect, using the Bible to excuse disobedience to the Bible is not using the Bible at all. Using the Bible to excuse our disobedience to the Bible is not using the Bible at all. Others may say, verse 18, but someone will say, well, you have faith and I have works. In other words, hey, you know what, James, listen, bro, just, you know, you have your way.

I have mine. Let's just get along. Let's not complicate things.

We're both right. You have faith and, you know, we have works. And so you get two sides in the Christian church, those in the side of faith and grace and rest. But they don't do anything.

They're lazy. And those who do a lot of works. But the problem is, is that their devotion and their works is what they trust for their salvation.

Here are the two sides again. But someone will say, you have faith and I have works. But God's response is this. That same verse says, show me your faith apart from your works and I will show you my faith by my works. I will show you my faith by my works. Now all the hyper-Calvinists and hyper-Reformed people don't leave yet. Just give me a chance. I'm just reading God's word.

James confronts these two groups that ironically they keep arguing 2000 years later. Is it rest? Is it grace?

Is it works? The side that defends the definition of grace and rest, they say, don't worry about a thing. Just rest in the Lord. What we do is nothing. And the side that defends works says, what?

Do something, man. Those who defend works have a tendency to want to earn their salvation through what they do, through their devotion, regardless of religion. Depending on religion, you may have to pay your karma debt or visit Mecca or speak in tongues. And I have nothing wrong with tongues. I believe in the gifts of the Spirit.

And I do believe they are for the church today. The problem is when we pursue the gifts more than the God of the gifts. Works people tend to live to prove to God that they're worthy of being loved. Because, you see, religion is about self, not God. Religion is about getting the blessings of God. The gospel is about getting God because He is the greatest blessing.

And there's a big difference. And Pastor Ravi Zacharias reminds us of works this way. Every religion that says, every religion says that the Savior by which we can be saved is the person we can see in the mirror every morning. True Christianity says the opposite. Works people tend to be their own saviors and of course they can't save. Now, on the other hand though, on the other hand, faith, grace and rest people, they defend that in life we must do nothing.

Just trust God and keep on living. They say, you know what, let's just relax. We don't have to be so serious like this devoted fanatics.

You know what, it doesn't really matter. I mean, I know I didn't pray, but you know what, Jesus intercedes for me, Hebrews. So you know, I just don't care if I don't pray. God is sovereign, they say, He's already taken care of everything. We don't have to serve, that's legalism and works. We just need to sit down and receive the word from God and the men of God.

Fasting, are you kidding me, fasting, that's for Pharisees. But church, do not undermine our enemy and do not undermine our wicked and deceitful hearts. Yes, Jesus did all the work of salvation, only He's able to save us. But that doesn't mean that what we do doesn't matter. What we do gives away who do we belong to. What we do gives away who is our hope. What we do gives away who do we love most.

What we do gives away whether Jesus is king of your life or you are king of your life. And listen, it's true that we can't do anything for God to love us any less, but it is also true that we can do a bunch of things to grieve the Holy Spirit. It is so true that you and I can do a bunch of things to sadden the heart of God. No guilt in life, we say, and praise God because that is true, because of the forgiveness purchased for us at the cross. But there are many moments in life where you better feel bad about your sin because James says that there are times where we must be wretched and mourn and weep.

Let your laughter turn to mourning and joy to gloom. Humble yourself before the Lord and He will exalt you. James 4, 9 and 10, and James confronts both sides and says, you're both wrong. Works without trust in Christ is you attempting to be your own savior and faith without works is dead.

What we do matters. That's the first type of faith that James warns us about, a dead one, void of good works. The second one, though, looks like true faith. It is not true faith, but I think James gets a little more serious here. We left on verse 18. Let's read verse 19. You believe that God is one. You do well. In other words, you believe God, good for you.

Congratulations. Do know, however, that even the demons believe and shudder. The second type of faith that James describes is a faith that is no different than that of the demons, even the demons believe.

Allow me to say something. Demons also believe in Jesus Christ. It's all through the New Testament. How is a believing Jesus one like the ones the demons have? Well, that would be to believe in Jesus and do nothing for Jesus. To believe in Jesus and not be in love with Jesus. To believe in Jesus and hush the gospel.

To believe in Jesus and live for yourself. When you believe in Jesus, but your lifestyle lacks the evidence that you love and belong to King Jesus. It's when you can understand very well many things about Jesus without having an affection for Jesus. Listen, you can have good theology and have no affection for Jesus. You can have great theology and have no desire and no passion to live for him. No wonder non-Christians think we're hypocrites. Because you profess to have faith. You profess to be a Christian, but they are witnessing that in your life, your affections, the desires of your heart have little to do with Jesus. I have three atheist friends that I meet with regularly.

Like I said, I love them so much. Because that was me. And I met with one of them recently for coffee. And he said to me something really interesting. He said, Redell, why do you seem to be the only Christian that befriends an atheist and separates time to hear me try and disprove God?

Now, I know I'm not the only one that does that. And to be fair to Christians, he just doesn't know the other Christians that do that. But boy, there's a little bit of honesty there, isn't there? Because if one thing I love about atheists is that they can spot falsehood in a heartbeat. It at least should make us ask the questions, who have you befriended this year that does not know the Lord?

Not as a project, just out of pure love. If you say you rest on that grace, if you believe in unconditional grace, who have you befriended that doesn't know the Lord to just hear them and to just love them and share the hope of Jesus with them? Church, you can have good theology and not have affection for Jesus. You know what's interesting? That when you read Matthew, John, Luke, and Mark, you see the demons, they know Jesus well and they even have good theology.

Here's a few examples. Matthew 1, 34, and he, Jesus, would not permit the demons to speak because they knew him. Jesus, the demons know Jesus. And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit, this was in church, there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon and he cried out with a loud voice, ha, what have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? This is the demon speaking to Jesus.

Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God. Many people can even say what this demon said. Jesus, you are the Holy One of God. One more example, Luke 4, 41, and demons also came out of many crying.

You are the Son of God. But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak because they knew that he was the Christ. You see, demons have good theology too, but they do not love Jesus. They don't want to love Jesus. They do not enjoy Jesus. They do not have affections for Jesus. Their belief in Christ is not true faith. Church, there is a kind of faith that is like one of the demons.

Would you allow God to search your heart through this passage to lead you to repentance? Arredor de que realmente, gira tu vida. What is it really that your life revolves around? Is it you? You know, this was me. This was so me. Because after I moved from the atheist agenda, guess what I did? I found another agenda that was also about me, which is religion. I moved from an atheist agenda to a religious agenda.

And this was so me. I used to think, you know, I believe in God. I'm a pretty good person. I'm highly moral, more than most anyways. So I'm all right. I even serve in church. So what else does God want from me?

I'm good. Yet I had a dead faith. My belief was no more different than that of the demons. My theology was good, but my heart was not in the game. My heart didn't belong to Jesus. But Jesus, through his word and his spirit, he gave me life. He saved me. He gave me freedom and hope.

And he also gave me good works to walk in each and every day of my life so that others will see the good works and glorify my merciful Father. Listen, I knew Jesus, but I didn't love Jesus. It's so evident when we love somebody. You know how, you know what gives it away? Joy. You get all giddy up about this person. It's so evident when we love somebody.

Joy gives it away. I knew Jesus, but I didn't love Jesus. I didn't enjoy Jesus. I didn't live for Jesus. I knew him intellectually, but I didn't have a relationship with him.

But after he opened my eyes and I saw his love for me, all I want to do now is love him back for the rest of my days. And let me tell you, I thank God for Bluetooth technology. Because back in the day, I would be talking to God and people would think I'm crazy because I'm riding in my car by myself and they know nobody else is in the car.

They're like, that guy is nuts. But now with Bluetooth technology, people think that I'm talking to somebody. Well, I am. I'm still talking to Jesus. And it's a beautiful thing because he's no longer just here.

He's no longer a weekend experience. He is my savior. I love him. I'm in love with him. And I talk to him. I talk to him about silly things. He's my friend. He's right there with me in the car. And I talk to him. I talk to him. And I sing to him. Never would have made it.

I would have lost it all. But now I see. And you talk to him. Is Jesus real to you? Or is your faith dead? Is Jesus real to you? Do you have true faith in Christ? Listen, I believe in Jesus Christ like the demons, has information but lacks transformation. I believe in Jesus Christ like the demons, has information, good information, but lacks transformation.

Where are you, church? Do the demons, did they know who Jesus was? Yes. Did they want to surrender to Jesus? No. Will they spend eternity in pleasures evermore with Jesus?

No. And James is saying it is quite possible to know about Jesus and miss him and not spend eternity with him. Because you need more than information and good theology. You need transformation.

You need surrendering. And some people can take a theology test and pass it with flying colors. They can say that Jesus is the son of God. They can say that Jesus is the holy one. They can say that he's Christ just like the demons have said. But it's not about filling the right answer on a theology test.

It's about filling the heart with the only one that can satisfy it and give it eternal life. And his name is Jesus. Do you believe enough to follow him? Do you believe enough to trust him in your life? And I know that there are changes that will take a lifetime.

I know that. But it's impossible to encounter the Savior of the world and be the same. At least you should be transformed a little more each day humbling yourself to his loving leading. I want to conclude with this. Church, you can say anything you want about being a Christian.

I've been there. But faith without works is dead. And I know it's a difficult tension because, again, we do rest and trust in God alone and in his grace alone. And we're asking, well, which one is it? James seems to be saying do. Paul seems to be saying done. Which one is it?

Well, let's pair them up real quick. James 2, 24. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. Truth. Then Paul says, for we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

So which one is it? You're probably thinking, you see, pastor, the Bible contradicts itself. No, my friend, it doesn't.

The Creator always knows more than the creation. Let me give you a helpful analogy. I hope it's helpful. Say you go to a doctor's office, one of these little doctor's offices. We've all been there. One of these offices where you can hear everything from the waiting room. And say you hear the doctor walk into an examination room and tell that patient. So the doctor was listening. You hear it and the doctor says to this patient, listen, you need to rest.

I don't want you to try to achieve anything. You need to just sit down. You need to relax.

You just need to rest. I'm serious about this. And so you're listening to this conversation.

Okay. Then you hear the doctor walk out of that room into another examination room, a different patient. And you hear the same doctor say to that patient, listen, you need to walk. What are you doing? I need you to get up and going. Get moving. Why are you being lazy? Why are you doing nothing?

Get going. I'm serious about this. And by this time you're thinking, this doctor is crazy. You're thinking he contradicts himself. But oh, no, my friends, the doctor is not contradicting himself. It just so happens that one patient has a broken leg and the other patient is obese. Listen, you can trust the doctor.

What you can't afford to do is to trust your own assessment. Paul and James are talking to different audiences. Paul is talking to Gentiles. James is talking to the church.

They're different patients. But it's the same gospel that gives us life. Church, true faith always leads to action. Jesus leads you to rest, but not idle. Verse 20, do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless. If you really believe, if you really say you trust Jesus more than whatever, you tend to put your trust and security in, then jump, jump for real into the arms of the Father. There is security in Jesus, yes. There is rest in Jesus, yes. But there's also a better life in Jesus. There's also a better life in him. He has placed good works for you to walk in.

And you'll start to walk in his kingdom of life as soon as you cease to walk in your kingdom of darkness. Listen, you can have a university PhD on bicycles. And you can tell me that the frames of bicycles can be made all the way from wood and aluminum to carbon fiber. And you can tell me about the gear ratios of the bicycle because you have a PhD in bicycles. Let me tell you something, church, unless you get on that bike, you don't know how to ride a bike. You may have all the education.

I'm so glad that our cities are the most educated. I am so glad that you read, praise God, but real smart people simply believe in God's word and apply it in their lives. I am not so concerned with what you don't know. I am deeply concerned with what you already know and refuse to put in practice. Faith with our works is dead.

You can read the rest of the chapter at home. Let us pray. Father, thank you for your word.

Father, we need more than good information, you know that. We need transformation. Father, you are a king and yes, you're the most loving king because you gave yourself for us, but you're still king. And what a king does is he rules. And God, you're not into the business of remodeling our hearts.

You're in the business of tearing down walls. God, in the words of C.S. Lewis, we thought we were being made into this decent little cottage, but you're building a palace in our hearts and you intend to come and live in it yourself as king. Father, we have sinned against you. We have banked on grace in a distorted way, living for ourselves. God, you call us to obedience precisely because you've loved us so much. Why wouldn't we want to obey you, Lord? There's so many things that we do that create the Holy Spirit. God, forgive us. Lead us to repentance. In the name of your son, Jesus. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-04 03:28:04 / 2023-09-04 03:42:13 / 14

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