Sunday, March 11, 2007
True Faith In God
The Alps is the name of one of the greatest mountain range systems of Europe. Alps come from the Latin words albus or altus. Albus means white. Altus means high. The Alps stretch from Austria and Slovenia in the east. It goes through Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, German and France in the West.
It said that the tracks were built over the Alps between Vienna, Austria and Venice, Italy before there was a train to make the trip. The people built it any way, because they knew that one-day the train would come.
They built the tracks over those high White Mountains by faith. This is the greatest illustration on faith that I have every heard out of James Chapter Two. This must have been what James was taking about when he said faith without works is dead.
James in Chapter Two had to deal with some very unspiritual mature behaviors. James was someone who the young folk would say who, “Kept it Real.” James kept it real by let the people know that favoritism is folly not faith. He kept it real by letting the people know that faith encompassed forgiveness and forbearing. He kept it real by letting the people know that faith will be fruitful! Let’s look at the lesson titled, “ The Favoritism of the Folly.”
The Favoritism of the Folly
(James 2: 1-9) NIV
1My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism. 2Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. 3If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, "Here's a good seat for you," but say to the poor man, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet," 4have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong? 8If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, "Love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing right. 9But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.
James shares in the above text something that was very disputing in the church. This disputing practice was show favoritism to what we in our day would call “Big Ballers” The King James calls this favoritism – respect of person. Other translations calls this prejudice or partiality. People in this church would see people who had material blessing as some one who had more intrinsic merits than poor people. This is not so with God. The rich, high born or powerful in the house of God does not have more inherent value than the poor.
.They were treating the church house like it was a club with a VIP section. If you showed up wearing “bling-bling” and FUBU, they would place you on the front row. If you show up wearing something you bought from Pay-Less, K-mart or Goodwill, you would just be lucky to get any seat. James in the text called favoritism discrimination. He calls these men judges with evil thoughts. A judge with an evil thought is worse than an average “Joe.” Judges are supposed to administer justice. Without justice, there wouldn’t be any peace in the church.
We as African Americans have experienced prejudice and discrimination at least once in our lifetime. February is Black History month. During this month, we are reminded that we have come very far as a race of people in America. We came from slavery to the discrimination of Jim Crow. We had to sit in back of the bus, drink from colored only water fountain and enter restaurants through the back door. However, God brought us though. The old folks used to sing the word of this song, “We’ve come this far by faith. Leaning on the Lord. Trusting in His Holy word. He never felt me yet.”
James was trying to get the people in the church of our Lord Jesus Christ to come this far by faith. People who discriminate do not have true faith in God. Discrimination causes a spiritual cancer in the church. That is why today many African American believe Christianity is a white man’s religion. Many prominent leaders in history claimed to be Christian but they owned slaves. That is why many African American Christians cannot divorce theology from social action. We essentially are saying, “Faith without works is dead.” God condemns the thoughts and the practice of racistism.
God condemns racisms or any kinds of favoritism. Discrimination should not be in our churches!
The Forgiveness of the Forbearing
(James 2:10-13) NIV
10For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11For he who said, "Do not commit adultery,"also said, "Do not murder." If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker. 12Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!
People how are judgmental do not have true faith in God. The word mercy in James 2:13 means kindness or good will towards the miserable and the afflicted, joined with a desire to help them. The word judgment mean a sentence of condemnation, damnatory judgment, condemnation and punishment. James says in the above text. Mercy should triumph over judgment. It is better to want to help someone in a difficult situation than to judge them because they are in the situation.
I was asked once as to how I would handle a situation. The church wanted to give a baby shower for young couple who was married and were expecting a child. There was also a young teenage girl in the church that was pregnant outside of wedlock. They both were due about the some time. The people want to give the couple a baby shower, but they did not want to give the teenage girl a baby shower. They asked, “Pastor Eaton what would you do?” I responded that since this was a baby shower it seems to me that the baby that needs the most help was with the teen mother. This is a good example of how mercy should triumph over judgment. The church was trying to judge the teen mother and curse the baby. However, mercy should triumph over judgment. Here is another instance of how mercy triumph over judgment in the life of Billy Graham.
Billy Graham, the great evangelist, tells of driving through a small southern town and being stopped by a policeman and being charged with speeding. Graham admitted his quilt, but was told by the officer that he would have to appear in court. The judge asked, "Guilty, or not guilty?" When Graham pleaded guilty, the judge replied, "That’ll be ten dollars -- a dollar for every mile you went over the limit." Suddenly the judge recognized the famous minister. "You have violated the law," he said. "The fine must be paid, but I am going to pay it for you." The judge took a ten dollar bill from his own wallet, attached it to the ticket, and then took Graham out and bought him a steak dinner!
Billy Graham used that illustration in his sermons to explain God’s grace. That is how God treats us as repentant sinners! He paid for our sins with his son and now we get to dine with him in heaven.
People who are judgmental think they are righteous. However, they are self-righteous. James had to let the self-righteous people know if they keep the whole law and stumbles at one point they are guilty of breaking all of the law. Therefore, they should let mercy triumph over judgment.
The people in this church were judging the poor for being poor. They were buying into what we call today the Prosperity Gospel. Its central doctrine is to promote that health and prosperity are promised to all believers, and are available through faith. This is faith that is folly. In Matthews 8:20, Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." Peter said in Acts 3:6, “…Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." Could Peter have gotten a sit in this church? Could Jesus get a sit in this church James was addressing? They would have judged wrongly and miss the savior. Mercy should have triumph over judgment.
The Faith of the Fruitful
(James 2: 14-26)
14What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. 19You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. 20You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend. 24You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. 25In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
People who have no works do not have true faith in God.
If you are judging me because I am poor and do not help me your faith is dead. A person is justified by what he does and not by a faith in theory. They say they built the tracks over the Alps between Vienna, Austria and Venice, Italy before there was a train to make the trip. They built it any way. They knew that the train would come one day. They did not judge that it was ludicrous to do so. They had true faith to build.
Faith in this text is the conviction or belief respecting man's relationship to God. We must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. We diligently seek Him by true faith. True faith will move you to action. Abraham believed God and he moved to were God lead him to go. Abraham is known for going without knowing. He had to give up his homeland, people, and idiot gods to find a city whose foundation was God. Are you willing to give up your life as you know it and go to a place without knowing all of the details? I always like to say, “If God tells you to go you better went!” A question for you, “Where is God trying to get you to go?” (ministry? marriage? In business? In South Dakota?)
In the same way Rahab the prostitute was considered righteous for what she did. She risked her life and the life of her family by lodging to the spies. Rahab also sent them off in a different direction so they could get away. Are you willing to risk your life as a Christian for what you believe? We in America do not have to risk our life for our faith. However, there are many Christian in our world today who risks their lives just to go to church. This is something that we take for granted.
Faith always involves a practical element of risk. What is God trying to get you to risk? What is God trying to get you to do? If God is trying to send you a train you better start building the tracks by faith. If God is trying to send a plane you better start building the runway by faith. If God wants you to go, you better leave by faith. If God wants you to be an author you better write by faith. Mark Beaird said, "Faith enables us to understand what God does. Faith enables us to see what others cannot see. As a result, faith enables us to do what others cannot do." James says to close this chapter, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”
Points to Ponder
1. People who discriminate do not have true faith in God.
2. People who are judgmental do not have true faith in God.
3.People who have no works do not have true faith in God.
Pastor Michael Eaton wrote the lesson of James Chapter 2. Pastor Eaton is the Senior Pastor of the Holiday Hills Baptist Church. Michael and his wife, Kimberly lives in Abilene, Texas.