Based on the eighth characteristic of a healthy church in Take Your Church’s Pulse.
Theme: True faith is best seen in action because what we believe determines what we do.
Goal: To show our faith by what we do.
Need: Witness = what we say and what we do
People of God, we are sent as witnesses to the world, and our witness is seen in what we say and what we do.
We have been talking about journeying with Jesus to the cross during Lent. And we recall that it was for “the joy” set before Jesus that He was able to endure the cross, scorn its shame, and sit down at the right hand of the throne of God. But “the joy” was more than the throne; it was the people gathered around the throne; people from every tribe, language, and nation worshiping at the throne of God. That was Jesus’ “joy,” and it is that same “joy” that motivates us to action today. We have seen that Jesus equips us for this task by giving us leaders, gifts of grace given to each of us, a heart set on heavenly treasure, His Word (both proposition and person), the call to tell the good news about Jesus, and then teach people to obey everything Jesus commands. But it’s not just about what we say, it is also about what we do. Actions speak louder than words. The faith we profess must be accompanied by action, doing good deeds. And that is what we are going to talk about this morning.
True faith is best seen in action because what we believe determines what we do.
(Read James 2)
True faith is best seen in action because our faith determines what we do. The author James begins this chapter with a very profound statement.
(Read verse 1) - principle
What’s going on here? How does faith in “our glorious Lord Jesus Christ” lead us away from favoritism?
Favoritism relies on appearances. If we like what we see, it finds “favor” with us. Yet Jesus found “favor” with no one.
(Read Isaiah 53:2b-3)
So in other words, Jesus was “ugly.” There was nothing favorable about his appearance whatsoever. Yet Jesus was “our glorious Lord and Savior.” Even though, according to appearance, He was no one special. This should teach us that appearance is not a good indicator of overall worth.
Therefore, as “believers” in Jesus, we need to look beyond just what we see. We need to look deeper to see the overall worth of people, who are all created in God’s image. In order to illustrate this, James presents us with a fictitious, yet all too common, scenario.
(Read verses 2-4) - scenario - verse 4 - draws the conclusion based on the principle
What happened here? People judge by what they see on the outside. If they like what they see, it finds favor with them. They see a person who “looks good” and apparently has lots of money and they treat him better than others. There is a lot to say about this, but in the interest of time, let me just say - God does not judge by mere appearances - God looks deeper into the heart. As God’s children, then, and believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, we should do the same. But James does not end his dialogue here. He goes deeper. Just as we are called not to show favoritism as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, so we are also called to put our faith into action.
(Read verse 14) - principle - Faith determines what we do - True faith is active faith.
(Read verses 15-16) - scenario
(Read verse 17) - principle restated - True, living faith requires action.
This is simply good logic. The scenario does not make sense any other way. Yet too many people get hung up here and confuse the matter by bringing in the teaching of “justification by faith alone”—“The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:18) and others. And justification is not the primary issue. This is about living faith. No one is justified by works alone because our works are not good without faith.
To confirm this, we can look at Hebrews 11:6 - “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” So don’t think that James is saying anything about being justified by works alone. His point is that true, living faith is best seen in action!
(Read verses 20-24, 25-26) - examples - Abraham and Rahab
Conclusion - Faith without deeds is dead—it is not faith at all So why are we talking about this when we are supposed to be talking about “Service to the Community?” Well, it has to do with our witness. Our witness to the world is not only what we say, but also what we do. So how can we say that God loves our family, friends, and neighbors when we do not actively love them? It seems that our witness is diminished because our words are not backed up by what we do.
(Read I John 3:16-24)
I do not know how it could be said much clearer than that - “let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth.” Love, like faith, is best seen in action. So how are we doing in that regard? Are we actively (by what we do) loving the diverse communities in which we live?
Faith is best seen in action, and active faith is generated from a heart of love. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but will have everlasting life.” God loves the world. So if we truly love God in faith, then we will also actively love God’s world ... for God’s glory and Christ’s kingdom. Amen.