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Faith Works Part 1 - Dead or Alive...

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Faith Works

Part 1 - Dead or Alive

James 2:18


Faith. It's just a word. F-A-I-T-H. Is it different from other words? Not really. When we say it, it doesn't seem to affect us much. But, when we use it, the earth quakes!

Faith just doesn't seem to mean much in our culture today. People exercise faith every single day. We use it when we turn the key in our car, when we go to buy something at the store, when we go to bed at night, and when we pop that little piece of chicken in our mouths that the lady at the mall is handing out. ~

But the kind of faith we’re going to be learning about together in this series is a “faith that works”. Because, as we’re going to learn, there are two kinds of faith. Dead or Alive. Faith that works, and faith that doesn’t work.

Now, if I were to ask you, “Which kind of car would you rather have, a car that works or a car that doesn’t work?” Which would you choose? How about if you’re an employer or a manager, which would you rather have, an employee that works or an employee that doesn’t work? Pretty obvious.

At my house, we’ve got a couple of extra Direct TV remotes laying around. Every now and then, as grandkids are likely to do, one of them will find one of those extra remotes and play with it. The problem is, I come home and pick up a remote and try to turn the TV on with it and it doesn’t work. And as usual, it takes me a while to figure out that the remote I’m trying to use doesn’t work. ~

Very frustrating.

And here’s the thing. God wants us to have faith. As a matter of fact, we are going to discover that you cannot know God without it, you cannot live the Christian life without it, Churches cannot grow without it, and we can't please God with our gifts without faith.

But James (the brother of Jesus) points out in his letter that it does absolutely no good to have faith, if it does not work.

Here’s what we’re going to look at in this series. We’re going to see that in order for us to make sure we have the right kind of faith, we’ve got to check it to see if it’s working. We’re going to look at four things that prove our faith is a faith that works. Each week, we’re just going to look at one piece of evidence that will prove if we have the right kind of faith or not. Why? Because it’s so important. It’s so important that it can be the difference between life and death. Working faith proves we are really true believers. Non-working faith proves we might call ourselves believers, but we’re not. This is really heavy stuff. It’s crucial stuff. So, James is going to introduce this idea to us in chapter 2. And I have to say that what James said about working faith has caused some of the biggest arguments in church history.

So, we’re going to start with what James said today. Then we’re going to look at the first evidence of working faith. In other words, working faith, faith that truly leads to life, faith that real believers of Jesus have, will work. It’s like the car that works or the employer that works, or the remote that works. There will be some evidence, some manifestation, some proof that it works. So, I’m just going to introduce you to the idea that real faith, saving faith, faith that changes us into Christ like believers... works.

Then I’ll leave you with a challenge, some homework.

So let’s start with this controversial, argument causing statement James said in James chapter two:

verse 18, “Now someone may argue, ‘Some people have faith; others have good deeds.’ But I say, ‘How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.”

For centuries that statement from James has caused all kinds of doctrinal arguments. And those arguments come from a misunderstanding of the context. There has been a debate between Faith and Works. The debate is especially evident in the Christian community because of the powerful presence of a "Works" based religion. These wonderful people have been mislead to believe that you can't be saved unless you "do" certain things. A partial list of these things is:

1. Church Membership

2. Baptism

3. Communion

4. Keep yourself saved.

On the other side of the debate are Churches like ours who base salvation on "Grace through Faith". We believe that we are saved through the finished "work" of Jesus on the Cross, and not our own works. We believe that Faith in Christ alone saves you. We believe that your name can be on every Church role in town, you can be baptized until you shrivel up like a prune. You can participate in communion until you actually acquire a taste for that chalky unleavened bread, and you can still be as lost as a piece of luggage, and on your way to Hell!

Now, those on the "works" side of the debate say, "See! Your kind of salvation is too easy. You think you can be saved and then do anything you want! Your salvation just gives you the license to sin! Your salvation just doesn't "do" anything!"

You know what? The shame is that they are right about many of us. Our Faith hasn't caused us to do anything. There will always be the mundane, predictable Christian who never does more than knee bends between praise songs. They never look beyond themselves into the "could be" mirror and they never become that person. All because they lack a faith that "works". You see, while we do not believe that works save you, we do believe that salvation by faith, works you! If you're a little confused, let's turn to James 2:14-18 and read what God's Word has to say about a Faith that Works, (Read).

James 2:14-18

“What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?”

(He’s posing a question to us. )

And now James is going to illustrate the answer...

“Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well” -but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?”

(I want to stop right there and ask you to answer that question outloud... “What good does that do?” NOTHING!)

Then James continues because he knows what he said was absolutely obvious. There is no question that kind of faith doesn’t work.

“So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.”

James is making the case that there are two kinds of faith. One kind says they believe, and maybe even really believes in God. They believe that God is good. They believe that God wants us to be good people and do good things. But, just believing those things isn’t working faith. As a matter of fact, James says “that kind of faith is useless”.

But, there is a second type of faith James is referring to here also. He’s also pointing us to a type of faith that works. A faith that acts. A faith that does something with belief. A faith that turns mere belief into behavior!

Check it out:

verse 18, “Now someone may argue, ‘Some people have faith; others have good deeds.’ But I say, ‘How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.”

It’s like someone trying to sell me a computer.~ They better be prepared to show me the computer works. I’m not going to buy a computer or laptop just because it looks good. It better work! And I don’t mean just turn on! It better make my work easier. They can say how awesome it is, how big of a hard drive it has, how many RAM it has, what kind of processor it has in it, but in the end, they better show me that it actually works. That it isn’t just a big paper weight!

And that’s what James is saying about faith. He’s saying some people just talk a good game when it comes to faith. “Oh, yeah. I have faith. I believe in God. I believe in Jesus. I’m a believer.”

“Well”, James says, “Show me! Don’t just tell me you have faith, show me you have faith!”

And we might ask James, “Why? Why do I have to show you my faith by my deeds?” And James would say, “Because, that’s the only way I will know if the faith you say you have is genuine... if it’s real!”

What James is saying here is that many people have a "dead" or useless faith. In other words, the faith that they say they have in Jesus is really no faith at all because it has never caused them to "do" anything. Real Faith Works! How can we tell of a person's faith is dead?

1. They substitute talk for walk. (they know how to say all the right things but their actions don't match.

2. They substitute grasping for giving. (they are too concerned with their own needs that they do not give.)

3. They substitute concern for compassion. (they're intellectually concerned, but spiritually unmoved.)

So you can say you have faith all day long, but if your faith doesn’t change your behavior, doesn’t cause you to act it’s absolutely useless.

verse 19, I absolutely love this next verse...

“You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this and they tremble in terror.”

I love that verse! I just love it. It’s one of the most sarcastic statements in the entire Bible! It’s really pretty funny! ~~

verse 20,

“How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?”

Now, what’s James saying here? It’s actually very important. I mean, this is crucial. This is the difference between life and death. This is the difference between being a true follower of Jesus Christ and a poser.

James is saying, “If you say you have faith in Jesus, but your faith does not work, it's dead faith. And it’s not only useless to everyone else, it’s useless to you. If you’re relying on just believing in God to do anything for you, you are in for a very rude awakening. If the faith, the belief you have in God doesn’t do anything, if it doesn’t cause you to behave a certain way, or do some specific things... then it’s a dead faith. And dead faith cannot save you.”

I think that there are thousands of people who will be surprised one day to find out that their faith in Jesus was dead faith. Jesus Himself says in Matthew 7:21, "Not every one that says unto Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of My Father which is in heaven." In essence, Jesus is saying, "Just because you say you have faith in Me doesn't mean you're a true believer. Your faith in Me must be alive. It must be causing you to want to do the will of God!" If Jesus is not Lord of all in your life, He may not be Lord at all.

Only those who have committed their lives to Jesus Christ have a real living faith. But what does that even look like? What does living faith do? How will I know if I have living faith?

The answer to that question is our bottom line for today. We’ve said it already in many ways, but I don’t want you to forget it. "Living Faith Will Work!"

It’s not dormant, it’s not just asleep, it doesn’t go on vacation. Living faith works.

So, if Living faith works, then how can I tell? What proofs do I have that my faith is alive? That’s what we’ll begin to answer next week. Next week, we’ll begin looking at the evidence of living faith.

So I’m going to give you a little preview: Living faith W.O.R.K.s. On your handouts you’ll see that the word WORK is there. Each letter stands for a different proof of living faith. Now, this is just to get you to thinking. Starting next week, we’ll take each of these words and explain them in detail.

But for a preview, here’s how living faith works:



R-eaches out


So next week, we’ll look at how worship is the best indicator of whether or not your faith is alive. Who or what we worship, how we worship, and how often we worship.

See, the truth is, everyone worships something or someone. Regardless of whether or not you have living faith or dead faith, you worship. But next week, we’ll see that who we worship, how we worship, and even how often we worship makes all the difference in the world when it comes to proving our faith is alive.

Living faith works.

So, for your homework this week I want you to ask yourself three questions:

Who or what do I worship?

How do I worship who or what I worship?

How often do I worship who or what I worship?

Be honest with your answers, and then come back next week and we’ll talk about those questions in more detail.


Maybe you’re here today and this whole idea of a living faith verses a dead faith is kind of new to you. Maybe you have more questions about faith than when you came this morning. That’s a good thing. You should be thinking about this. Remember, it’s the difference between life and death. It matters.

I want to give you an opportunity right now to give a spark of life to your faith. Some of you believe in God, but you’ve never trusted Him with your life. Remember, just believing in God isn’t enough. The bible tells us that even the Devil believes in God. God doesn’t need me to defend whether or not He’s real or exists. That’s like trying to defend a lion. All you have to do is let the lion out of the cage.

And all you need to do this morning is let God out of the cage of your unbelief. He’ll prove Himself to you.

How do you do that? By faith. You simply believe that God exists, believe that He created you, believe that He wants a relationship with you. Then, you believe that Jesus died on a cross for your sins and rose again. Then, by faith you ask Jesus to be your leader and forgiver.

The moment you do that by faith, your faith will come alive. And that new living faith will work.

Are you ready to accept Jesus Christ as your forgiver and leader, by faith?

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