Step Towards Transformation
James 2:14-26 New King James Version (NKJV)
14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?
15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food,
16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?
17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!
20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?
21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?
22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God.
24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
25 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?
26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
So far, we have examined
Here at the end of Chapter 2, James continues the theme that hearing/faith must lead to doing/works and again writes about How To Prove Your Faith With Works
Illustration: If the label says “coke,” and when you open it and pour it in a glass, all that comes out is coloured water, you may come to the conclusion that the label and contents do not measure up to each other. The same case is with faith
Illustration: Saying that Faith and faith alone is all we need to live out our lives for the Kingdom is like saying all we need is a car to get where we want to go, or that all we need is a light bulb to illuminate the darkness. We all know that we also need fuel to power the car, and we need electricity for the light to work.
If you want to experience faith that is dynamic and life changing , if you want to experience a spiritual life that is on fire , and powerful , and growing you are going to need to put a little effort or work into your spirituality. If you want to upgrade up your faith life add in a few good works to the mix. Our faith should move us and drive us to do some work.
“I would not give anything for your profession of faith unless it can be seen. Lamps do not talk, but they shine.” – Charles Spurgeon
Faith is like the wind. We cannot always see it, but we can see its affects. Not to have deeds with it is like having a flashlight but no batteries.
James doesn’t beat around the bush with this he lists 4 illustrations of real faith.
Let’s examine them together.
Here we see a Perspective of what faith really is. This is what we are examining today.
The Bible says No! Notice two questions asked in our text:
Illustration: In the ancient world, someone who came upon a person who appeared to be dead would hold a mirror up under the person’s nose. If a mist appeared on the mirror, then they knew the person was still breathing, there was still life in the body. If the mirror stayed clear, they knew the body was dead.
In much the same way, James puts the mirror of God’s Word under our noses. If the marks of works appear, then faith is alive. However, if no marks of good works appear, then our faith is barren, without fruit.
False faith is a faith in speech not in actions. They behave just like the world, and see no reason to change. Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t want people to think I’m a Christian I want them to see I’m a Christian. Let others see Jesus in you. If you are truly saved then your life will be your witness. That’s what real faith is.
We saw that false faith benefited no one and here we see that dead faith is useless.
Jesus put it this way in Matthew 25:45,” ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’” (NIV)
God doesn’t look at the intellectual claim of faith God knows what is really in the heart. Anyone can claim to know God but real faith is moved in service for others.
Don’t deceive yourself. Faith is an action word. If we are all talk and no action then we do not have faith.
Illustration: We have faith in our car’s petrol gauge. When it gets low we find a gas station don’t we! We don’t tap on it and go I just filled you up 350 miles ago, surely I have another 100 miles before it is empty. No, we stop and fill it up. It is crazy to have faith in something and not put actions to that faith.
Illustration: When a distinguished foreigner paid his only visit to America in 1950, a committee of prominent Chicagoans lined up at the railway station to offer official greetings. But the committee noticed that his eyes were not wholly fixed on them. Those penetrating eyes were wandering beyond the encircling committee. Something on the station platform caught his eye amid the crowd of travellers. With politeness but firmness the great man said to the committee, “Excusez-moi,” (or excuse me) and literally dashed past the receptionists. Diving into the crowd, he stopped beside an elderly woman who was staggering under her load of heavy suitcases..
With his big, sensitive hands he grabbed the old woman’s suitcases and bundles and, beckoning her to follow him, he threaded a way through the throngs. He led the woman to the coach she wanted to take, lifted up her suitcases into the overhead rack, and bowing in a courtly manner, wished her, “Bon voyage.” Then he rushed back to the astounded committee with apologies for keeping them waiting. And that’s the way Dr. Albert L. Schweitzer arrived in America!
That is also kindness in action or we could say, faith in action. And this is what James is talking about when we claim to have faith. That faith must be backed up with good deeds.
James’ explanation ends with a DILEMMA. If faith has no works, it cannot save us. (verse 17) “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” Something that is dead has no power to save.
Verse 18 raises a common perspective: “But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”” “We’re all different; I have my thing and you have yours.” James says this is a false DIVISION, that it is not possible to have one without the other. So he throws out a challenge: “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.” James is saying “If I can’t tell you have faith by observing your life, then something is wrong” Faith, like a tree, is known by its fruits.
Illustration: When MUHAMMAD ALI first became a boxing champion, he loudly proclaimed to everyone that he was the king. But once he had established himself as the champ, he no longer needed to tell anyone – they knew by the fruits of his boxing. Similarly, faith without works is dead and cannot save us.
To claim you are a Christian and never attempt anything for God is at best a wasted life.
III. The Application or Use of Faith (v.19-20)
If my faith is real then I should be able to answer the question what is faith really good for? Here James shocks the church of Jerusalem. Remember he is trying to get the laziness out of the church. He tells them and us that even demons have faith. They believe in God and they too believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Mark chapter 3 and 5 tell us this.
Illustration: Suppose the devil were to try to join Witness Ministries’ Church and we question him and we say,
The Bible says Satan is transformed as an angel of light. And he could pass all of these tests but he is not born again. Devil, I have asked you a number of questions, let me ask you one more question.
“Will you bow the knee to Jesus Christ and crown Him King of Kings and Lord of Lords?” “I will not. I will not.”
James is restating what Jesus said in Matthew 7:21-23, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (NKJ)
James ends with two witnesses of faith in action- to Abraham the father of the Jewish nation and to Rahab the harlot and heroine of Jericho. James offers two Witnesses.
He points to Rahab. In the book of Joshua we learn that this harlot became convinced of the power of God, trusted His promises, and so protected God’s messengers until they could flee from danger. Hebrews lists her as a heroine of the faith.
It doesn’t matter who, or what, she was – works flowed from her new-found faith and she was accepted of God. In fact, she became an ancestor of Jesus himself! As young as her faith was, it instantly prompted good works. Once again we see that faith and works are inseparable – as inseparable as sun and sunlight.
For Abraham and Rahab faith and deeds worked together.
Illustration: ‘An old Scotsman operated a little rowboat for transporting passengers. One day one of the passengers noticed that the good old man had carved on one oar the word “Faith,” and on the other oar “Works.” Curiosity led him to ask the meaning of this. The old man being a well-balanced Christian and glad of the opportunity for testimony, said, “I will show you.” So saying, he dropped one oar and plied the other called Works, and they just went around in circles. Then he dropped that oar and plied with the one called Faith, and the little boat went around in circles again—this time the other way around, but still in a circle. After this demonstration the old man picked up Faith and Works, and plying both oars together, sped swiftly over the water, explaining to his inquiring passenger, “You see that is the way it is in the Christian life. Dead works without faith are useless, and ’faith without works is dead’ also, getting you nowhere. But faith and works pulling together make for safety, progress, and blessing’.
Illustration: About 35 years ago there was a famous tightrope walker named George Blondin who, for a publicity stunt, decided he would walk across Niagara Falls on a tightrope. On the appointed day they stretched a tightrope from one side of Niagara Falls to the other. He got out there and there were crowds lining both the Canadian and American side. Thousands of people showed up to see this unbelievable feat. Blondin walked up to the edge of the tightrope, put one foot on the tightrope and put another foot out and began to walk across — inch-by-inch, step-by-step. He got out in the middle and everybody knew that if he’d make one mistake in balance he’d fall off the rope and into the Falls and obviously be killed. Blondin got to the other side and the crowd went wild, shouting and cheering. Blondin said, “I’m going to do it again.” He got to the other side and the crowds went crazy. Blondin said, “I’m going to do it again but this time I’m going to push a wheel barrow full of dirt.” He pushes the wheelbarrow across. He got to the other side. He did this nine or ten times. On about the tenth time, he pushed the wheelbarrow right in front of a tourist who said, “I believe you could do that all day.” Blondin dumped out the dirt and said, “Get into the wheelbarrow.”
In verse 26: “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
Illustration: Now look at the illustration again. He is saying here the work that a human body does doesn’t give it life, the work that a human body does reveals life. Without life the body cannot work. Therefore, the body without works is dead.
Now I want to ask you a question.
Conclusion: The works demonstrate. And so James says you show me your faith without your works, I’ll show you my faith by my works
Illustration: In 1904 William Borden heir to the Borden Dairy Estate, graduated from a Chicago high school a millionaire. His parents gave him a trip around the world. Traveling through Asia, the Middle East and Europe, Borden got a burden for the world’s hurting people. He wrote home and told his parents God was calling him to the mission field. When he made this decision he wrote two words in the back of his Bible. No Reserves. [कोई आरक्षण नहीं]
After graduating from Yale he turned down several high paying job offers and he wrote two more words in the back of his Bible, No Retreats. [कोई वापसी नहीं]
He completed his studies at Princeton Seminary and sailed for China to work with Muslims. He first stopped in Egypt to prepare for the work. While in Egypt he was stricken with cerebral meningitis and died within a month. Some would say what a waste. Not in God’s plan, because the last two words William Borden wrote were No Regrets. [कोई पछतावा नहीं]
Someone said, “What you are is God’s gift to you, what you become is your gift to God.” आप क्या हैं –वह आप के लिए परमेश्वर का भेट है, आप जो भी बन जाते हैं- वह परमेश्वर के लिए आपका भेट है
Church let’s go out in the world this week and prove that the Jesus we praise on Sunday is the Jesus we’ll show on Monday.
Finally The point made in todays passage is this:- Do you have a faith that works?
Illustration; In a make-believe country where only ducks live all the ducks came into the church, waddled down the aisle and into their pews, and squatted. The duck minister took his place behind the pulpit, opened the duck Bible and read, ’Ducks! You have wings, and with wings you can fly like eagles. You can soar into the sky! Use your wings!’ All the ducks yelled ’Amen!’ and they all waddled home. There is no point just saying Amen to the fact that God has enabled you to fly with the eagles – only to go home and stay on the ground waddling with the ducks.
Illustration: No one expects a first year apprentice carpenter to build a house. But if you say you are a Master Builder, and all you ever do is fit door knobs onto doors … some people would rightly say, “Are you really a Master?” What good is it if a master acts like an apprentice – or even less than an apprentice? A working faith will constantly change and evolve – as you grow, as you mature, as God gives you new direction in life.
Illustration; A newly promoted colonel had moved into a makeshift office during the Gulf War. He was just getting unpacked when out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a person coming his way with a toolbox. Wanting to seem important, he grabbed the phone. “Yes, General Schwarzkopf, I think that’s an excellent plan.” He continued, “You’ve got my support on it. Thanks for checking with me. Let’s touch base again soon, Goodbye.” “And what can I do for you?” he asked the person with the tool box. “Ahhh, I’m just here to repair your phone,” came the rather sheepish reply. A working faith does not mean pretending to be something you are not. It means being genuine about who you really are.
Illustration; Dr.Charles Weigle composed the favorite song “No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus.” One day he visited Pasadena, California. Early that morning he had an opportunity to walk through some of the famous rose gardens when the full fragrance of the flowers filled the air. Later in the day he arrived at the hotel where a Bible conference was being held. As he took his seat, a man turned to him and said, “Dr. Weigle, I know where you’ve been. You toured one of our lovely gardens, for I can smell the pleasing aroma on your clothing.”
Weigle then said, “My prayer is that I may walk so closely with the Lord that the fragrance of His grace will pervade my being. I want them to know by my words, actions, and songs that I have been with Jesus.” That’s the way it will be if we truly walk with Him. The sweet smell of His life will be seen by others.