James breaks down how we can know that we have more than just a said faith, but rather one that is truly a saving faith. One that is more than just professing delusion, but of a truly saved follower of Christ.
Truth About Prayer and Healing
The Truth About Suffering and the Believer
The Truth About Wealth and the Joneses
The Truth About Slander and Silence
The Truth About Conflict in Our Lives and Communities
The Truth About Transformed People
The Truth About the Tongue
The Truth About Genuine Faith
The Truth About How to Treat People
The Truth About the Believer and the Word
The Truth About Temptation and How True Believers Respond
The Truth about Troubles and Trials
That little bumper talks about the heartbeat of our faith. What is the heartbeat of the church? What makes a dead church? We're going to dive into that this morning in James. If you weren't with us when we started James, I mentioned to you that James is the very first letter that was ever written to the Christian church.
About 10 to 15 years after the resurrected Lord, the Holy Spirit had James, who happened to be the half-brother of Jesus, who was the elder and leader of the church in Jerusalem… As the church was being dispersed and suffering and persecuted, as they were beginning to really be tested in their faith, James was writing a letter of encouragement and reminder.
If you were with us when we started in James, you'll see he started the whole book by addressing problems with a spiritual life. You're still going to suffer. There are still trials. Jesus said when he was here, "In this world you will have trouble." So James was telling you what to do with those troubles, why they are here, what the purpose of them is, what you must be careful to not do in the midst of trials and troubles.
God isn't looking to tempt you. He will allow these things to prove your faith. He talked in the very beginning of James about the problem in the spiritual life of pain and suffering. Then in James 1:19 all the way through James 2:26 (we're going to finish chapter 2 today), James has another major section. It's not talking about the problems in the spiritual life; he's talking about the product of a genuine spiritual life.
If you want to know your faith is genuine and that you have humbly received the Word implanted in your soul that is able to save you… If you want to know you're saved, this is the book for you. This is the Sunday, the podcast, the streaming you need to be at, because James is going to tell you how you can know you have a genuine faith, a saving faith not a said faith; how you can be sure you're not just a professing, deluded individual but that you are a "possessing of the Spirit," saved individual. There is a huge difference.
If you've been around Watermark very long, you will know I believe the greatest evil in America (frankly, the world today) is the dead, feckless (ineffective), non-abiding, simply professing, singing "In Christ alone," "Great is thy faithfulness," "How great you are," not trusting in Christ alone, not following him, not living faithfully church. What I'm going to tell you this morning is the dead church, the professing church has always been the supreme enemy of God because it is a demonic church.
That is because individuals who make up those churches are people who don't have a dynamic faith, a faith that works, that has power. They have a dead faith or a demon's faith. I'm going to show you this morning how you can know which one you have. If you sang the songs this morning and have been participating with us or if you didn't sing because you don't like to sing but you certainly agreed with what was sung in your head, I'm going to tell you we have to move it out of your head. Orthodoxy isn't going to get the job done.
In other words, straight doctrine, straight dogma, correct truth isn't what you need in your head. You need it in your heart. It needs to be implanted in your soul. It has been well said that many people miss heaven by 18 inches. Demons have great doctrine. I'm going to prove it to you. The reason America is in the state it's in is not because there is a radical, liberal movement trying to redefine marriage or because of individuals who call something a name that allows us to dismiss it without dealing with the emotion of killing a child.
The reason America is in trouble today is because what is supposed to be the sanctifying, righteous, redemptive community of God is a professing community by and large. We do not have a dynamic church. It is a demonic church, mostly. So early on, the book of James was written by God to say, "Let's not go there." Now, God is going to make sure his remnant, his true church prevails. So this morning we're going to find out "Am I a part of the true church or am I a part of the trouble?" Are you ready? Let us pray.
Father, would you open the eyes of our hearts and let us see what is here? Would you protect us from anything that might be error? Might we always open up the Word of God, rightly divide it when we hear somebody speak, go to the Scripture to see if these things are so. Would you allow the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart to be acceptable in your sight? Would you protect the ears of those who hear in two ways? First, keep them from error, but secondly, let them hear, let them listen. May your Word deeply implant in their hearts as it is declared by the grace of God, amen.
Let's take a look at the product of a genuine faith. As we start, this section of Scripture is why guys like me don't teach the book of James. It is a beating. It is hard, and it seems to be contrary to what is one of the great cries of the Reformation, which is, "We are saved by grace through faith alone." What you need to know is that true faith always works. It has been well said by several men we're saved by grace through faith alone, but the faith which saves is never alone.
I am not going to teach you this morning this thing called lordship salvation. You might say, "Todd, what is lordship salvation?" It is what is called back-loading the gospel. It is the idea that after you trust in Jesus you must do these things to earn your salvation. In other words, it's Christ plus works equals salvation. That is not what we teach. James does not teach lordship salvation, that works must be added for you to be saved, but James does declare what is the Lord's definition of salvation, and that is that works will be there if you are saved.
One way to say this is God's work of grace always works. It isn't bad seed. What happens if you take bad seed and put it in the ground? If it's dead seed, what does it do? Nothing. We just have barren dirt. But if it is alive and right and if it germinates, it bears fruit. The Bible says the Word of God never returns void if it's implanted in your soul. It might go by rocky soil. It might go various other places where it's picked off before it goes in by birds that trouble you and pull it out, but if the Word of God is implanted in your soul it's going to produce.
Our job is to gather together and encourage each other to move from thirty to sixty to a hundredfold. Faith that is real is faith that works. It is important that you understand we don't need to add works to faith because true faith always works. Let us not be those people Jesus condemned so much. "They honor me with their mouth, but their hearts are far from me." That is why he rebuked Israel, and that is why he said these very strong words to them.
He said in Matthew 12:33, "Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers [you snakes] , how can you, being evil, speak what is good?" That's a bunch of folks who are saying some dogma but missing the truth of it. It's not implanted and producing the works that should be produced right there. So we want to make sure we are not these individuals.
I started to say a lot of guys don't like to teach James because of this section of Scripture, because it seems to be contrary to what the preponderance of the later writings to the church talk about. Let me just address that right now. James and Paul are not foes fighting each other and arguing about what the true gospel is. They are friends who are back-to-back fighting two different enemies of the gospel.
They use similar words, and sometimes, because they're using similar words, it looks like… Paul is fighting people who say you have to earn your salvation. You have to be good enough for God to say, "That's good," and you will be saved. Paul says, "No. Christianity is not what we do; it is what Christ has done. Christ alone is our Savior. We are justified by the finished work of Jesus on the cross."
There were others who took that idea from Paul, which is true, and said, "Because Jesus died for your sin, it doesn't matter what you do. You can live however you want because Christ died for all your sins, past, present, and future. So just continue to sin that grace may abound." You're going to find out it wasn't just James who didn't like this antinomian idea, which just means against the law of any kind of morality.
James was fighting against this, that people said, "You can believe in Jesus, and because of that you don't have to look like a person who loves God, because Jesus died for the fact that we don't love God." James fought that. Guess who else did? Well, Jesus, Paul… In fact, after one of the greatest chapters in your Bible that talks about what Christ has done for us, these are the next words out of Paul's mouth in Romans 6.
Paul says, "What shall we say then?" In light of the fact that Christ died for us and our sins have been paid for and we are justified. Meaning, we are declared righteous by God judicially. "What shall we say [to these things] ? Are we to continue in sin that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?"
That isn't the only place he says it. In Galatians, which is a mini-Romans, he said, writing to his fellow Jewish believers who had trusted in Christ, "We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles; nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law…"
In other words, Paul says, "I have been redeemed from this false teaching by a brood of vipers who said God wants us to do these things in order we might earn our salvation. No. We were always to be humble people who saw God's provision for our sin, anticipated through the sacrificial system set up in the Old Testament, fulfilled ultimately by Jesus Christ." Remember what Jesus said? "I didn't come to abolish the law but to fulfill it."
By the way, how do you get rid of something? There are two ways to get rid of kittens. One, which may or may not be my preferred method, is to put them underneath a tire and back over them. I said "may or may not." Don't judge me. I like kittens. Here's the problem with kittens: they turn into cats. It's like what they said about Mowgli in The Jungle Book. "He's a good man cub. We like man cubs, but men we don't like. They hunt us. They encroach upon our rainforest. So we have to deal with Mowgli."
Here's how you get rid of kittens: in a very inappropriate way with tires or it fulfills its purpose as a kitten and is abolished because it becomes a cat. Jesus fulfilled the law, so there is no longer a need for us to obey the law, because the law has been accomplished. Our righteousness comes through him, and that's exactly what Paul is saying. We're not people who believe we have to make ourselves righteous through the works of the law, because Christ is our righteousness.
Watch what he says here, though. You don't want to run the wrong way on this. Galatians 2:16: "…so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified. But if, while seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have also been found sinners…" In other words, continuing in sin. "…is Christ then a minister of sin?"
In other words, he's such a great High Priest he died for all your sin. Therefore, go ahead and get after it, because it'll make him look more gracious. To that Paul says, "May it never be!" It sounds just like James. How about Peter? First Peter 2:16 says, "Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God." You're free. You're no longer under the law, but don't use your freedom to sin. Use your freedom to honor God, it would say.
"…love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king." Let the glory of God be restored in your life because you're reconnected to God. How about Jesus? Matthew 7:15: "Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves." You will knowthese guys who are here amongst the flock, looking like you but who are not like you… How?
"You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits."
How will we know if somebody is truly a follower of God? Do they bear fruit in keeping with their repentance? Wisdom (knowing that God is good and that God has saved us, that God has redeemed us) vindicates itself, shows itself to be real by its deeds, the Scripture says. Verse 21, though. "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter." What does that mean? Does that mean I have to go back to doing things again to be saved? No. What it's going to say is what James is about to teach.
What I want to say to you this morning is if you're here and you have asked Jesus into your heart, you have received him, you have a Bible by your bed and not a Qur'an, you don't think the new atheist movement is real, you reject it, you always check on the census form "Christian, Protestant," but there is not in you a longing for righteousness, the fruit of love, an abiding peace, a desire to be in authentic biblical community with other believers, a hankering for the Word of God, a sensitivity to sin, where you are open to the Spirit's whispering in you, "That isn't of me," where you then confess it, where you count the smiting of other believers as oil upon your head and you thank them, then I'm telling you the book of James may have been written for you and you are headed toward not having a dynamic faith, but you have a dead faith or a demon's faith.
That doesn't just pop up in James 2. It is all throughout your Bible, and it was right there the very first time Jesus made his very significant declaration on the mount. He said, "Don't just think because you've professed something that you're mine." I'm going to show you the most orthodox beings on earth are demons, and they always obey God. Demons will lie to men, but they'll obey God every single time. If you know the Word of God, you're going to find out you will bear fruit in keeping with repentance.
Here we go. James 2, verse 14. You want to understand this text. I hope you bring your Bibles and, if nothing else, open up something to write on. This is how you can understand James, chapter 2, verse 14 down through verse 26. Next to verse 14 write down faithful objective. James is going to try and faithfully tell you something. "This is true faith." That's what's going to happen from verse 14 down through verse 17.
In verse 18 you're going to have a fool's objection. It's a very difficult verse to understand exactly what James was doing there, but there's an objection there. Almost everybody agrees what he does is he introduces this person who is going to be a foil who's going to say something he's going to respond to. So he's going to tell you faithfully, "This is true faith," there's a fool who is going to insert an objection, and then in verses 19-20…
Next to verse 19 write down fair response. In other words, he gives a fair response to this fool's objection. Then if you want to understand the rest of it, from verse 21 on down through verse 26, you write down faithful object lessons. So faithful objective:true faith; fool's objection; a fair response to that fool; and faithful object lessons. Let me teach you something. Here we go.
"What use is it…if someone says he has faith but he has no [ergo] ?" It's where you get the term, when you go to Office Depot, ergonomically correct chair. It's a chair that works. It's literally what the word means. Some of your Bibles might say deeds, but the Greek word work is ergo. He's saying, "What good is it if your faith doesn't do anything?" I say all the time, "People will say what they think, but they do what they believe."
What James is going to share with you is this is how you can know if you're just a thinker. "I think Jesus really did live. I think Jesus really was God. I think Jesus did die on the cross. I think sinners need a Savior. I think Jesus is the Savior." You're going to find out demons say all of that minus the word think. James is going to tell you how you can know you aren't just a thinker but somebody who has trusted in and will do what you believe.
The word believe and the word faith are the exact same words in your Bible. People say that to me all the time. They sometimes say stuff like, "Well, Todd, I'm not really sure about faith because I like reason." I go, "Well, what makes you think reason and faith are juxtaposed? They're not." The opposite of faith is not reason. What's the opposite of reason? The opposite of reason is irrationality, unreasonableness. The opposite of faith is unbelief.
Let me show you something. "I believe God is good. I believe he loves me. I believe he is sovereign, enthroned in the heavens; he always has my best interests in mind; he is good; he is caring; he is redemptive; he died for me, but I think I'll date this girl the way I want to date her. I think I'll define sex the way I want to define sex. I think I'll pursue sexuality the way I want to pursue sexuality. I don't really care what God says. I don't care how good and divine he is.
I'm going to live my life this way. I know the Bible says money is a tool, a test, and a testimony, that I should not make it my god, but it is my god. I live to get more money, and I live to have money please me. I live to be satisfied by money." What are you going to say to the person who lives this way? "I thought you told me you believed God was good and wise and true and loved you in everything you do. You say that. That's what you think. What you believe is what you do."
What you're going to find out is Jesus and Paul and Peter and James are saying, "Church, this is not a choir. We don't just sing. We are a group of people who live faithfully." True belief always turns into action. Deluded profession does nothing. You're going to find these words. In verse 17 it's dead. In verse 20 it's useless. You're going to find out it's barren, it's unproductive, and all the way down in verse 26 again it is dead. It is a demon's faith.
James says, "What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?" I think not. There's a difference between a said faith and a saving faith. He goes on. Here's an illustration. Verse 15: "If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,' and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?" What good does that do anybody? That doesn't do him a lick of good. In fact, he's going to resent you.
The little section of Scripture that is referenced there has its roots in Numbers 6:24-26. As a Jew, it's what's called the Aaronic blessing. It's what the Levitical priests would often say. If you grew up in a denominational church, you heard this. "The Lord bless you, and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace."
So here you are. I have food; you're hungry. I have clothes; you're cold, you're naked. I have truth; you're lost. If I walk up to someone and go, "The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you; may the Lord give you peace," and walk away, they're going to go, "I don't like that guy's Lord, and I don't like that guy." That faith is worthless, and it's frankly an offense to God and an offense to them.
I scribbled down here, "The faith that doesn't produce works is the faith that doesn't produce salvation." Another way to say it is, "The faith that doesn't benefit others is the faith that doesn't ultimately benefit you." What he's saying is you don't want somebody to do that to you, to say blessing without being a blessing. That is a dead blessing. "Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself."
This wasn't just a Jamesian idea. I want to bring in John. In 1 John 3:17-18, John is saying the same thing. The whole book of 1 John is James, chapter 2. First John 3:17-18: "But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth." Otherwise, you don't love at all and the love of God is not in you, is the point. You don't have faith or love for God.
Now we're going to have a fool's objection. This is kind of hard to understand, because the Greek doesn't have quotation marks when this person says this. "But someone may well say, 'You have faith and I have works…'""I've got faith, you've got works, and never the twain shall meet. You do your deal; I'll do mine." James is going to say, "Show me." That little phrase show me is the key, because James is going to walk you through and tell you how you can see if somebody has faith.
My job as a pastor… Just in case you're curious, when you die I don't get an email. "Todd, could you please check your rolls, and would you please just find out from the community of folks who are underneath the structure of the church, as I intended, whether or not this person should be admitted to heaven." God knows his sheep, and he won't lose one. But here's a fact: God sees faith; we see fruit.
In Matthew, chapter 13, Jesus is telling parables of the kingdom, and he tells the parable of the wheat and tares. We're not an agrarian society, so sometimes that loses its meaning to us. A tare is a weed-like growth in the midst of wheat that looks like wheat, and if you go through and try to pull out the tares, even if you can discern correctly, those roots are sometimes mixed up with the wheat and you'll destroy the crop.
So he says, "Let it go until the harvest. I will send my angels, and they will separate the harvest." You can't always tell. Now listen. Sometimes we can. "Well, Todd, how can you tell?" I can tell by the fruit. Jesus says, "Todd, you're going to know a tree by its fruit. You're going to have an idea if somebody has a faith that's working by whether or not their faith is working."
My job is not to see through you; my job is to see you through to greater faithfulness. Part of that is to teach you what real faith is. Thankfully, we're in the book of James, and there is no better place in the Bible to do that. James is going to say, "…show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith [as it emerges from] my works.""By my works I'll show you what I believe." He goes on to say this. This is very key. This is a fair response, what James is going to say.
"You believe that God is one. You do well…""Way to go." That is the Shema. Deuteronomy 6:4. If you were a good Jewish boy or girl, you memorized this from the get-go. "Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!" That's the Shema. What he's saying is, "You believe the central tenet of monotheism." If you even trickle down one other verse, it says, "You shall love the Lord [who is our God, who is one] with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." Way to go.
"You believe that God is one." Watch what it says right here. "…the demons also believe, and shudder." That word shudder is kind of like if you've ever been really scared and you even think you've come up against supernatural evil or you turn the corner and see something and all of the hairs stand up and it just goes through you. It is a word that is used when you are confronted with respect, fear, and an overwhelming sense of "I am in the presence of something not like me."
It is being confronted with the supernatural. That's what the word means. That's what it says demons do. Demons don't think there's a God; they know there's a God. I'll show you. This is a compilation of what demons say in your New Testament. This is Mark 1, Luke 4, Matthew 8. You'll find several different places throughout your Bible that demons say this. "What business do we have with each other?" This is a demon speaking to Jesus.
"What business do we have with each other?" Sometimes it'll say, "Jesus of Nazareth." Sometimes it'll say, "Son of God." "Have you come to destroy us?" Sometimes it'll say, "Have you come to torment us before our time?" "I know who you are. You are the Holy One of God." Let me just tell you something. That is about as excellent a profession of faith as you can get. They know who Jesus is, where he's from, what he is here to do.
That is correct theology. That is correct Christology. That is correct hamartiology, which is the study of sin. That's correct angelology. That is correct eschatology. They are killing it. They absolutely have it right. It is absolutely a good thing to possess an accurate theology, but it is an unsatisfactory thing unless that good theology possesses you. This is what James is starting to introduce you to.
Hey, I'm glad you all sing "In Christ Alone," Watermark. Way to go. I'm glad you know all four verses to "How Great Thou Art." Good for you. But has that truth implanted in your heart or is it a demon's dogma? I'm going to tell you again, if you feel no conviction of sin; if your marriage is not ruled by, corrected by, reproved by, trained by the Word of God; if you aren't somebody who lives as if God is good and true and you are a sinner and a liar and you just keep running your own offense, no matter what song you're singing…
I don't care if you sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the beginning of the Olympics. If you try and help Russia win, you are not on our team. What it's saying is we know you're an American by the way you compete. Verse 20: "But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?" It's a play in the Greek, that ergo is argos. Argos is the word for not working. If that which is supposed to go to work doesn't work, that isn't good. Can't you see that is the way of fools?
By the way, this is what James did. James is brilliant, because all he did is quote his big brother, who happened to be perfect. Do you want to be useful to your Community Group? Don't speak unless you can share counsel from the Word of God. That's what James is doing. "How in the world am I going to elder this new church in Jerusalem being attacked, being dispersed? I have an idea. I will quote loving God who is perfect and true." That's a heck of a way to elder people.
There are two places in the Bible that Jesus calls somebody a fool. One is in Luke 12. The other one is in Matthew 7:26, when he says, "Some guys know you should build a house on a really solid foundation. If you hear my word and act on that instruction, you are a wise man. But if you know, little pig, you should build a brick house and not a straw house or stick house but you go ahead and do it anyway, even though you say a wise builder would listen to the king and build bricks…"
What I'm trying to show you is we teach children this because we don't want them to throw something together that is useless and will end up having them be devoured by wolves. Too many of you guys believe because you said some words somewhere, sometime you have something that is indestructible. I'm here to tell you this morning there is a wolf who has deceived you, and you're going to get destroyed.
Jesus says to you this morning, "You fool!" if you just say certain things and that thing you say is not deeply rooted in your heart and informs you. Matthew 7:26: "Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand." See what Jesus said? It's hear and believe, which leads to action. James is saying the exact same thing in verse 20. "Aren't you willing to recognize, fool, that faith without works is worthless?"
Now he's going to give us some faithful object lessons. "Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?" Here's the problem. Paul, another place in the Scriptures, says Abraham was justified by faith, and dagnummit if right here in my same Bible it doesn't say, "Was not Abraham our father justified by works?" People go, "There's your problem."
In fact, you might even have a Mormon knock on your door and go, "Oh good. You're a Christian? You go to Watermark? You probably believe you're saved by grace through faith alone. Do you have a Bible? Open it up to James, chapter 2." You'll go gladly. You'll open up to James, chapter 2. They'll turn to this little section of Scripture in verse 21, and you will read, "Abraham our father was justified by works," and you'll go, "Oh man! I wish I'd paid attention that day Wagner taught it."
In our English language, there are words we can use more than one way. If I said to you, "Napoleon was a big man," is that true or false? I hear, "False. True. Which one does he want me to say?" What you want to do is go, "Bro, could you define big?" Because if you're talking about stature, he made Zacchaeus look like Andre the Giant. Napoleon was just a wee little man. We named an entire complex after him. So, no, he wasn't big in stature.
But if you're asking me if Napoleon was a significant person in history… So much so that hundreds of years later I can mention his name and every single person in this room knows who I'm talking about. That is a big historical figure. Somebody might say, "Well, Napoleon is not big at all." Somebody else might say, "Napoleon is a big man." You have to go, "Well, those things are contradictory." No, let's make sure we see if they're using words differently.
Here's the deal. The word justified in English and in Greek can be used two different ways. One way it can be used is it can be a declaration or a verdict of innocence. That's the way Paul uses it when he says, "Abraham was declared righteous by his faith in the righteous provision of Jesus Christ that he wholly, fully, and completely trusted in." If you think of it in that way, justification is to basically absolve somebody of guilt. It's a verdict of innocence.
But there's another way to use justified. When somebody makes a case that something is true, you want to go, "Man, I don't know. You have to justify that line of reasoning for me." What I mean by that is you're going to have to vindicate what you're saying through evidence and reason until I understand what you're saying and I would go, "You know what? Now I'll make a verdict that what you said is true because you have vindicated what you've said and justified that claim."
When Paul said Abraham was justified by faith, he was talking about when Abraham believed in God. Then what James is going to do is go about 25 to 30 years later and say Abraham proved his faith was a real faith because of what he did. "What did he do, Todd?" Well, I'll tell you what he did. He was about 70 years old when God said he was going to give him a promise of a son. He thought that was crazy.
Twenty-five years passed. God comes to him and says, "Hey, you're 99. Your wife is not far behind you. She's going to have a kid." And they have a kid. They have a baby. The baby grows to maybe be 10 years old, and God says, "Hey, Abraham, I want you to take that child, I want you to go to Mount Moriah, and I want you to offer that child."
Abraham's life could have gone like this. "Well, God, I believe you are good. I believe you love me. I believe you're gracious and wise. I believe you're perfect and not one given to error. I believe everything you ask me to do is righteous and true and will make it go well with me. You also told me this was the son of promise the covenant blessings would come through, and you want me to go kill that.
You must just be drinking too much of the nectar of the gods, so I'm going to save you from yourself, and I'm not going to go and offer Isaac as a sacrifice. In other words, I don't really believe you're good and true and perfect and righteous altogether. I think you need my help, because that's just, frankly, unreasonable and not wise." Okay, that's way too out there. I'll come back to that. How about this?
"God, you are wise and good and completely reasonable, and you're righteous altogether. I love you. I will give you my life. God, I'm 18 and a virgin. There's no way you would want me to not participate sexually with others." "O God, there's no way you wouldn't want me to become a success first and then look to be significant." "O God, when I married this woman and said I'd love her as Christ loved the church, you must not have known it was this woman."
Do you believe him? Is he good when he tells you how to handle your life, your purpose, your marriage, your relationships, your hurt? Here's what Abraham did. "Look, this doesn't make any sense to me, but you want me to offer the son of promise. I know you're good, you don't make mistakes, and you're perfect. You said Isaac is the one the blessing is going to come through, but I'm going to go to Mount Moriah because that's what you told me to do, and my faith is now going to do what a person who believes you're good is going to do. So I'm going to go up here…"
What's amazing, if you go back and read the text in Genesis 22… He takes his servant with him to a certain point, and then he says, "You stay here, and myself and the boy are going to go and offer a sacrifice." Who was the sacrifice? The boy. He says, "Myself and the boy will go offer the sacrifice, and we will return." Abraham had no idea what God was doing, but all he knew was that God was God and God was good and he could trust him.
So even if he put a stake through his son's heart or lit a flame around him and the flame consumed him, he knew God could deliver him from the flame. He just needed to do what God asked him to do, and God would take care of it after that. What would you say to a person who was willing to do that? I would say to that person, "You have just proved to me you think God is God. I think you're crazy. I think you're nuts. I think your God is a little bit whacked, but you believe that is God." Yes? Exactly.
Now watch what happened. God got him there, and God said, "Abraham, don't do that. I don't want you to kill the son. I was just proving your faith. I was showing you that you do know who I am, and that's the kind of person I bless. There's no reason for you to offer Isaac. I don't want child sacrifice. It won't do you or Isaac or me any good."
I'll show you something really amazing about this God we can trust. Fast-forward several thousand years. Mount Moriah, exact same geography in world history, has another name. It is called Golgotha. Another Father walks his Son up on that same mountain, and the Son says, "Father, are you sure this is what we should do? Are you sure this is the sacrifice we need?"
The Father this time does say, "Yes, son. This is the sacrifice we need, because you are righteous altogether. This isn't just a child sacrifice. This is the redemptive act of God where we, in the person of the Son, who is the Trinity of God, the Holy One of God, who has come to crush Satan underneath his feet, is going to give himself up. And guess what? Because I am God, because the wages of sin is death and that offense is to me, we will pay the ransom to our nature, and I will redeem you from the grave because the debt will be paid, and we can love Abraham and David and Lot and Wagner and anybody else who really will believe in us."
What he wouldn't let Abraham do he let Jesus do, because Jesus is the redemptive sacrifice. He is the Son of promise. Here's my question…Do you have faith like Abraham? "What's a faith like Abraham, Todd?" Here's a faith like Abraham. "I will take my beloved, my future, and I will give it to God and radically trust it to him, no matter how crazy it seems to me or the world." If you won't even trust your dating life, your sex life, or your marital conflict to God, don't you tell me you believe in God, because James doesn't let you.
That's the problem in our world. "We believe in God. We love God. We're going to handle every issue our way. We're going to vote our way. We're going to date our way. We're going to deal with sin our way." The world looks at us and goes, "Man, you guys are…" You have to ask yourself, "Do I believe?" Abraham was demonstrating his faith by works when he offered up Isaac, his son, on the altar.
Look at verse 22. Remember what he said in verse 18? "Show me." Verse 22: "You see…""Do you want to see? Do you want me to show you?" "… [Abraham's] faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected…" In other words, his faith was expressed. His faith was made seen. Let me show you this. First John 4:12. What you have right here is a little verse that otherwise to us might seem kind of crazy.
It says, "No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us." Do you think there's anything I can do that would make God's love more perfect? Of course not. Yet 1 John 4 is saying if we love one another and we live and we reconcile and we don't have bitterness, we don't gossip, we don't slander, we don't use each other for our own selfish gain…
If we just practice the "one anothers" of Scripture and don't regard ourselves as more important than the other guy the way Jesus did, in that sense people are going to go, "Man, the love of God is being perfected." In that sense it's being expressed. It's being made whole and revealed. That's what 1 John 4 is saying. It's exactly what it's saying right here in James. It's the same word. It was perfected. His faith was proved. It was expressed. It was made evident. It was completed.
Verse 23: "…and the Scripture was fulfilled…" It happened just as it should. That word fulfilled is only used in your Bible in reference to prophecy. Let me ask you guys a question. If God is God (and I believe he is) and he says, "This is what's going to happen," what would you expect should happen? This. So what he's saying is Abraham's faith was fulfilled when he did what he did.
It is not the prophecy of God if it doesn't come true. It is not the faith of God if it doesn't get fulfilled. It is a demon's faith. I hope you're listening, because some of you guys prayed a prayer, said a statement, bought a Bible, rejected Islam, rejected atheism, but that's where it stopped. I'm here to tell you this morning it can't stop there. It never stops there. Real faith works.
This is the first decade of the church. He's saying, "We can't go anywhere if we don't figure this out." The church is going to get perverted a little bit later and start to go back toward this Jewish, religious, Roman Catholic idea that works, works, works will get you there. Jesus was good, and you add works to it and get saved. Paul is going to have to be the one we go back to. "No, you're justified by grace through faith alone."
But don't ever forget his common friend fighting this person over here who says, "It doesn't ever matter what you do." Both of those are enemies of the gospel. Which one do you struggle more with? If you're here this morning and you're having a hard time believing all you have to do is acknowledge you're a sinner and God's standard is ultimate righteousness and there's nothing you could ever do except accept his provision for your sin, you need to hear that this morning.
Some of us have said, "Yeah, man; I believe that's true," and we've never then let that faith in the goodness of God inform our lives. By the way, we don't just say, "God, I've got it. I'm going to serve you over here." We go, "God, I'm now going to walk with you. I'm going to abide with you." This is what Jesus says in John 15:6. "Any branch that has the external appearance of being affected by and controlled by the vine but really isn't is a dead branch. It will be dried up, cut off, thrown into the fire, and burned."
You can't just say, "I'm connected." You have to be connected and you have to fulfill, perfect, bear fruit. That's the Bible. Look at this. "It was reckoned to him." That's the word, again: Verdict of innocence. It's resolved. God gave him when he believed this declaration that he was righteous, and he was called the friend of God. John 15:14: "You are My friends if you do what I command you."
Verse 24: "You see that a man is justified [vindicated at the judgment] by works and not by faith alone." It's not just what you say. Prove your faith. Your real faith always has real works. Do you remember what I said at the beginning? God's work of grace always works. We're saved by grace alone, but the faith which saves is never alone.
Salvation biblically, friends, is a word like an umbrella, and underneath that word are two things: justification, sanctification… Here's a visual for you. There is salvation. Justification and sanctification are all under it. Justification is what Christ did for us. It is free. It's a gift. Sanctification is costly. It is a life-changing promise God gave us. If you trust in the Savior, you will be declared righteous.
If you are declared righteous and become a righteous person, you will prove your righteousness by a lifelong process. Over here what you have is you are righteous by faith, justified by faith in what Jesus did. Over here you are sanctified, you are vindicating your faith by faithfully abiding with Jesus. It's the same word, justified, justified, but we're saying justified, sanctified. All James is doing is emphasizing this. All Paul was doing a lot of the times was emphasizing that.
Let me give you a few more. Not as a result of works are you declared righteous. You're proving righteousness by working out your salvation. This is our position in Christ. This is our practice of Christ in us. How do I know that I'm in Christ? Christ in me works its way out. If you don't see yourself on both sides there's a real problem. This is what God has done for me; this is what God is doing in me.
This is by belief in God's command; this is by obedience to God's commandments. This is focusing on the cross of Christ; this is by focusing on taking up my cross daily. This is the finished work of God; this is finished ultimately when God is done with his work through me on earth. And guess what happens then? He who began the good work in us and was restoring us back into his likeness will then finish what he began.
Sanctification is the beginning of the glorification process, which is evidence that God is there alive and active and at work. If God is not there and alive and active and at work, you ought to be concerned that you have a relationship with God. Are you listening to that? I'm here to tell you you have to figure this thing out. "Am I really doing business with God?"
Or are you like the demons? "What business do you have with me and my dating life? What business do you have with me and my discretionary income? What business do you have with me, O Holy One of God? Are you here to trouble me before my time?" Or are you like, "You have everything to do with me, Father"?
Okay, we have a Jewish male patriarch. I wonder if this is true for a Gentile female prostitute. The answer is yes, and it's right there in your Bible in verse 25, where it talks about Rahab the harlot who, again, was justified by works. She was righteous because she believed the God of Israel was the redemptive, true, living God, so she forsook the God of the Canaanites, but she showed she really believed in that by not fighting for the Canaanites but by telling the men who were scouting it out, "Go a different way."
"Normally I would turn you this way to the king and to death, but I'm going to say go this way; you'll be safe. I'm going to stay in the wall, and I'm going to drop down a red scarlet line in my belief that this is the spot where you're going to come rescue me. Even though the walls are going to come crumbling down as you come on Jericho, I'm going to be delivered because I trust in the God of Israel." Her actions proved she was a believer in the God of Israel.
Verse 26: "For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead." That's a crescendo. All he's saying right here is faith is as inseparable from works as the living Spirit of God is from the body. If you don't have a body and a spirit you're not here. You're not human. You're a created spirit being, you're an angel, but you're not human. You need the animating presence of God and a physical body to be human.
I don't know if you've been in the presence of family who have died like I have, but when they die, the second they die it is like Mama isn't there. Timmy is gone. It's just a shell. You rightly treat with honor that body because it was something that held your beloved one, but you don't have any sense that my husband, wife, child, friend, brother is there. They're gone. It takes flesh; it takes the body of truth and the animating presence of God together to make it alive.
It takes the profession of truth and the abiding presence of the Spirit, the body of doctrine, the quickening of the Spirit for you to be alive in faith. A number of years ago, I taught something very similar to this. I wrote down a few things, and a friend of mine who's very gifted summarized James, chapter 2, for me in a video. We close with it. Watch this.
Male: Faith. Works. Salvation. Man, talk about your polarizing topics. Everyone has an opinion on them. Can we work our way to heaven? Does it just simply take faith? And what is an authentic faith? Well, let's investigate the arithmetic behind these important questions and see how the truth really adds up.
Some people believe works equals salvation. Simply put, this is man's effort to work his way up to God and become acceptable in his sight. This is the view of religion, that a lot of good works equals salvation. However, Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "For it is by grace that you have been saved through faith, not by works, so that no one can boast." Hmm. It sounds like something is wrong with our equation.
So let's scratch works and replace it with faith. Surely that's all we need to make our equation correct. Well, we need to tread carefully here. Faith is ultimately what makes us acceptable to God, and we know without faith it is impossible to please God, but this equation is incomplete. James 2:17 says that faith by itself isn't enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. So works must be factored into the equation.
One popular view of the salvation formula is faith plus works equals salvation. People think belief in Christ is important but that salvation is still dependent upon doing enough good with their life. They rightly acknowledge the expectation that works are involved, but they confuse why they are there. It may be subtle, but it's wrong. Why? Well, look at this quick math lesson.
We can all agree that two plus three equals five. Thus, since this equation is true, it also means three equals five minus two. A true equation holds up regardless of how you move the pieces around. We call them fact families. So let's return to our formula. If faith plus works equals salvation is true, then the formula of faith equals salvation minus works must also be true. Professor James has already reminded us this kind of faith just doesn't add up.
Let's try this one more time. We are saved by faith, but James does add something to the equation by challenging us with what our faith should look like. It's not that works create our salvation. Rather, it's that works should accompany our salvation. That's an authentic faith: growing in Christlikeness in such a way that our lives bear the fruit of good works.
Yes, I know what you're thinking. If this fact family is true, then faith minus works equals salvation must also be true. So if you have no works are you saved? Let's just say while we can celebrate God's amazing grace, the expectation of God's Word is that we would see the fruit of your real faith. So while the math adds up, it should bother you that your life does not. The fact is we are saved by faith alone, but the faith which saves is never alone. Still not sure about all of this? Well, you do the math.
[End of video]
I can't think of a kinder thing to share with friends, because I want you to have not a demon's faith or a dead faith but a living faith that saves you. We're here to encourage each other day after day and spur each other on. If you're here and you're happy being a regular attender and not underneath a loving family, that is a sign you are not letting a real faith work out in your life, and it should trouble you.
If you're here this morning and you're wracked by sin and you wonder if God could ever forgive you… I don't care what you've done. Would you come? I'm here to tell you that Jesus has paid the sacrifice for you, and if you believe in him you will abide with him, knowing he's good and redemptive, and you'll walk with him all of your days.
We invite you in. Would you come and trust in the perfect, finished, saving, redemptive work of Christ? And would you continue to walk in the good works he prepared beforehand with us? That's what the church does…the true church, the one James 2 talks about. Come. Go. Let us worship him. Have a great week of worship.