Introduction: A key idea in today’s Sunday School material is that James challenges his readers to have living faith. Prayerfully, we will be challenged to make sure that we have living faith.
Read James 2:14-16
I. Useless Piety. James urges his readers to consider the vanity of faith with no works. He compares it to giving nice words to a person who needs food and clothing. Faith without works and words without food and clothing for those in need are examples of vanity.
- Responding to those in need. Notice in vss. 15-16 that nice words are not enough for people who need food and clothes. First, there are some sisters and brothers who are in need. This is why a number of churches have benevolent accounts, give donations, and volunteer to help organizations.
Second, words can be nice, when accompanied by responding to physical needs. It doesn’t have to be “either or,” it can be “both and.”
Third, we should strive to respond to the needs of the less fortunate. Some people respond by giving money to those who are begging for money on the street. Some respond by giving money to organizations that serve the homeless. Some respond by supporting churches that support organizations with funds and volunteer hours.
There are a number of ways to respond. Let’s make sure that we don’t get so comfortable with our lives that we only give lip service to those who are in need.
Read James 2:17-19
II. Empty Profession. James continues to defend his position about working faith. He talks about faith without works being dead. He talks about how even demons shudder at the thought of there being one God. However, they lack living faith.
- Living faith. Notice in vss. 17-19 that real faith produces work. First, James is not promoting a salvation by works. No one can do enough good works to be right with God.
Second, James is promoting a faith that produces work. Think about how you can tell the tree by the fruit that it bears. A living and saving faith should move us to strive to live by God’s word. When we have no urging to live by God’s word then the type of faith that we have is called into question.
Let’s make sure
that we have a living faith. Make sure that you are striving to live by
God’s word, which centers around loving God and others, as we love ourselves.
- Knowledge is not enough. Notice in vs. 19 that knowledge about God and even emotional response to God is not the same as having living faith. The demons of the text know about God, believe there is one God, and even shudder to think about what God will do. However, they don’t have enough living faith in God to strive to live obedient lives.
There are a number of people who have come to church and learned about God but have never developed living faith in God that moves them to obeying Him. This sad reality should move our churches to make sure that we are doing all that we can to help people develop living faith - help them become disciples of Christ. Our efforts are called edification.
Let’s work on doing what we can to help people develop living faith. Growth groups (i.e., discussion of applications, encouragement, and goal accountability) do better with living faith than Bible study lectures/lay sermons.
Read James 2:20-26
III. Faithful Action. James continues to defend the idea of working faith. He uses Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son as an example of working faith. He uses Rahab’s hiding of the spies as an example of working faith.
- Abraham’s faith. Notice in vss. 20-24 that God used what Abraham went through as a lesson for His people thousands of years later. In like manner, God can use how we handle our troubles today to be a helpful object lessons long after we are dead and gone.
Thus, we should work hard on going through each day, as if God is looking for something about us to help others with. When we really internalize this point, we will think again before we just quit. Let’s work on handling our troubles like God is watching.
- Rahab’s faith. Notice in vs. 25 that God worked things out for the good Rahab the prostitute. First, just as God blessed Rehab, despite her being a lying, Gentile, prostitute during the law, God can bless us, despite our sins. We don’t have to act as if we have no sins. God knows about our sins and is willing to bless us anyhow, if we let Him.
Second, just as God worked things out for Rahab, God can do it for us. As with Rahab, it may be messy. We may have to make some sacrifices. But if we trust God, God can bless us, while walls are falling down, people are being killed, and we are called to relocate as a foreigner. Let’s work on trusting God at least as much as Rahab the prostitute did.
Conclusion: Let’s work on having living faith. God has much
for those who obey His will.