Faith That Is Real Really Works | Intro to James

August 14, 2022

Series: James

Sermon transcript below

Let’s dive right into our lesson for today. Please turn your Bibles to James.

After finishing off Hebrews, we now literally turn the page to the epistle of James. It’s the next page in your Bibles. Alright? And so for the next three to four months, we will teach and preach from James on most Sunday mornings. So to begin our study, I think we need some backstory here.

So we’re going to start reading here in James, in chapter one, verse one with the greeting. Here we go. James, chapter one, verse one. James, a servant or slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ to the twelve tribes scattered among the nation’s. Greetings.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance and perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. So we’ll stop there. First of all, no secret here, James is the author of James. Got that one down. James is the Greek version of the Jewish name Jacob.

And similar to now, James was a very common name in the first century. So this can be confusing. There are multiple James in the New Testament. So with that being said, this James is not one of the twelve apostles, all right? He’s not the son of Zebedee in the fishing boat from Mark chapter one, it’s not that guy. This is a different James. All right? So who is this James? This James is the son of Joseph and Mary.

This James is the younger brother of Jesus. Alright? So you think about that for a moment. For years, this James had eaten at the same table, lived in the same house, played in the same places, and watched firsthand the growth of his older brother Jesus. That’s who this is.

So with this in mind, notice how James identifies himself in his letter to the churches. In verse one it says James a servant or James a slave of the Lord Jesus Christ.

You see, at the time of this letter, James, he was actually the most prominent leader in the Jerusalem church. And yet here he calls himself not the brother of Jesus, but a slave to Jesus.

Now you may know this, it wasn’t always this way for James. In the Gospel of Mark early on, James pushed back along with the rest of his family against the identity and the mission of his brother. They went to go take charge of him. And then in John seven we even see, James was slow to believe that his brother was even the son of God and he taunted him. So as many of us know, family can be difficult to convert to Jesus.

And I’ve been on both sides of that equation. Never ever give up on your family. The love of Jesus never gives up on us. And that’s what happens with James. He eventually becomes the follower of Jesus.

The love of Christ compels James, and he would go on to become the primary leader of the first church in Jerusalem. He becomes known as James the Just, or old camel knees. He was known as old camel knees because he prayed so often on his knees, thick calluses started to form on those knees. That was his reputation, old camel knees, James.

But you see, if you read the letter of James, which we’re going to do, and we’re going to study that out, James really practice what he preached. James was a man who met every hardship with prayer. In just 30 years after his brother Jesus died on the cross, James was then stoned to death for his faith. Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance, and perseverance must finish its work. Why?

So that you may be mature and be complete, not lacking anything. So who’s the audience of this letter? Well, of course, James is writing to us today, but we see here in verse one, his original audience is the twelve tribes of Israel. So in other words, just like Hebrews. We just finished studying out Hebrews.

Just like Hebrews, these are Jewish Christians in the church. What does that mean? Well, that gets us thinking. Well, these are Christians now that are very familiar with God’s word, and they’re very proud of their longevity, they’re very proud of their heritage.

They’re many years of service to God. So here’s the context. Here’s why James wrote this letter. Here’s the setting of it, and you tell me if this sounds familiar to you. These are troubled times for the Jews in the Roman Empire.

Taxes are high, there are food shortages. The rich oppress the poor. You have the rich, the poor. And remember, and you have all classes of people who are Christians together in the same church. There is political chaos.

We have a division of ideologies that is seeping into the body of Christ. People are angry, they get frustrated with the government. There’s an undercurrent of tension in the Church, even if it’s not said. And Christians, then they begin to look to society for the answers to their problems. They become double minded.

They’re wavering between the kingdom of Jesus and the commands of Jesus and the wisdom of their culture. That’s the occasion for the letter of James, and I certainly think it speaks to us today in 2022.

The remedy from James? Get up and get going. It’s time to put your faith in action in order to fight for the Church, in order to fight for the faith of his brothers and sisters, James writes he writes this incredibly practical letter to address the lethargy and the sin and the dangers and the different things he sees happening in the Church. It’s incredibly practical, and he utilizes two primary styles to accomplish this. First, of all, he appeals to ancient wisdom.

And then time after time, James gives just direct commands. Many believe that this letter is simply an old school synagogue sermon. It’s proverbs meets sermon on the Mount. That’s what this is.

And I’ve included in your notes two brothers, two sermons ten years apart. This was written only a decade after Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, right? So here we see James. He just lays it out just like Jesus. And you’ll see a lot of the similarities between the two sermons.

But what he’s saying is, if you claim Jesus as your king, then you got to live that life. You need to back it up. We need to see that happening. It’s not just theology in your mind or great doctrines of the Christian faith. It’s, what are you going to do?

How are you going to live in every situation, especially in suffering? And here’s the consistent vibe you’ll find in the letter of James. Faith that is real, really works.

Faith that is real, really works.

Or you could say in a different way, there was a small shoe company that borrowed this from James. Just do it.

Just do it. You say you’re a Christian. We’ll do it. If you claim to follow Jesus, let’s see it. Live it out.

Just do it.

So every church that received this letter would have read it aloud at their next gathering. And if you preach James word for word from start to finish, it takes about 15 minutes. So I’m going to do that for us right now. And after I read through all of James, I’ll briefly respond. And then we’re going to share communion together.

And as we listen to James, as I read James to you, let’s get our minds right. I know sometimes it’s been proven we have the attention of a goldfish.

But I tell you what, as I read James to you, imagine that he personally sent this sermon to the east region of the Orlando Church of Christ.

Imagine that James knows our church.

He knows what’s going on in our world. He knows your suffering. He’s heard about it. He knows that midterm elections are coming up. He knows who’s sitting on our Supreme Court.

He knows our trials. He knows our suffering. He knows our sin. He knows the conflicts, the undercurrents in the church. He knows how tempting it is for you and me to get sucked into divisive, toxic thinking of our culture.

He’s aware of this. He sees what some of us are posting on social media. And what’s happening is our brother James is calling you and me back to faith in Jesus. A faith in Jesus that is real. A faith in Jesus that really works.

James is calling us to action. Let’s read this sermon from James.

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations. Greetings. Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance, perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man or woman should not think he will receive anything from the Lord. He is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position, but the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wildflower.

But the sun rises with scorching heat, and withers the plant its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business. Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, you receive the crown of life that God has promised of those who love him. When tempted, no one should say God is tempting me, for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.

But each one is tempted by his own evil desire when he’s dragged away and enticed, then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is full grown, gives birth to death. Do not be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like the shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the Word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created. My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this.

Everyone should be quick to listen. Everyone should be slow to speak and slow to become angry. For man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all the moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the Word planted and you which can save you. Do not merely listen to the Word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

Anyone who listens to the Word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in the mirror and after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it, he will be blessed in what he does.

If anyone considers himself religious and does not keep a tight reign on his tongue, he deceives himself, and his religion is worthless. Religion that God, our father accepts as pure and faultless as this to look after orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, where’s a good seat for you?

But say to the poor man, you stand there or sit on the floor by my feet. Have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my dear brothers and sisters. 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? But you have insulted the poor.

Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones dragging you into court?

Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong? Now, if you really keep the royal law found in the Scripture, love your neighbor as yourself, you’re doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as law breakers. Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said do not commit adultery also said do not murder if you do not commit adultery, but you do commit murder, you become a law breaker.

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such a faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If 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? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

But 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 you believe that there is one God. Good. Even the demons believe that, and they shudder. You foolish man. Do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?

Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together. And his faith was made complete by what he did. And the Scripture was fulfilled that says Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness, and he was called God’s friend.

You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. In 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. As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers and sisters, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways, if anyone is never at fault in what he says he’s a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check. When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.

Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by just a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body it corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man. But no man can tame the tongue.

It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing, my brothers and sisters. This should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?

My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

Who is wise and understanding among all of you? Let him or her show it by a good life, by deeds done in humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from heaven, but is earthly, unspiritual and of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and every evil practice.

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure. The wisdom from heaven is peace. Loving it’s, considerate it’s, submissive it’s full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something, but you don’t get it. You kill, you covet. You cannot have what you really want. You quarrel and you fight, and you do not have, because you do not ask God.

And when you do ask God, you do not receive because you ask with the wrong motives that you may spend what you get on your own pleasures. You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God? Or do you think that Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely, but he gives us more grace? And that’s why Scripture says god opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

Submit yourselves then to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double minded grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. Brothers, sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you’re not keeping it, but you’re sitting in judgment on it. There’s only one lawgiver and one judge, the one who is able to save and destroy.

But you. Who are you to judge your neighbor? Now listen, you who say today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spending a year there, carry on business and making money. You don’t even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life?

You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, if it’s the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that. As it is, you boast and you brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it sins.

Now listen, you rich people. Weep and wail because of the misery that’s coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moss have eaten your clothes, your gold and your silver have corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look the wages you have failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self indulgence. You have fattened yourself in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men who were not even opposing you.

Be patient then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. You see how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient. Stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against each other, or you’re going to be judged.

The judge is standing at the door. Brothers, sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You’ve heard of Job’s Perseverance?

And I’ve seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear. Not by heaven or earth or anything else. Let your yes be yes and your no be no, or you will be condemned.

Is any of you in trouble? Is any of you in trouble? He or she should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.

And if you’re sick, he should call the elders of the church to pray over him. Anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well. The Lord will raise him up, and if he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed.

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. And Elijah was a person just like us. Elijah prayed earnestly that it would not rain. And it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. And again he prayed.

And the heavens gave rain and the earth produced its crops. My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins. Let’s pause for a moment to reflect on what we just heard and silently pray just for a few moments us. Before we continue,

If you’re new to our church, or perhaps forgotten, I just want to remind you who we are as the Orlando Church of Christ, what we represent. We are ambassadors for Christ and we aspire to bring the living water of Jesus to all of central Florida.

That’s a high calling. So with that being said, as we embark on this study of James, I did want to give you two living water challenges for this week. First of all, number one, just do it. As I preached James word for word, what hit you? What cut you to the heart?

And I believe if James were here today, he would then ask us this: what are you going to do about it? What are you going to do?

Just do it. And then number two two brothers, two sermons ten years apart in your personal Bible study this week. Do what we just did. I suggest and I ask you to go to Matthew five, six and seven, the Sermon on the Mount by Jesus. Read it straight through.

Read it aloud and then you can fast forward ten years and then read James straight through. Let the message of these very practical sermons sink in this is upside down Christianity. This is practically how we’re expected to live if we follow Jesus. We must be radically different than the rest of the world. That’s how we make a difference.

All of this is upside down. Push the culture out. Bring Jesus in.

Do it. Read it and do it. Reflect on these two challenges in your quiet times this week. In your time alone, reflect on these challenges. Read these ancient, timeless words from heaven and then act on it.

Get together in your small groups. Talk about these things. And I tell you what. We’ve had a wealth of teaching over the last few years. I love being in the Orlando Church of Christ.

Just even in our region alone. We’ve studied Hebrews, and that was a deep, deep dive. We’ve had many other classes. We’ve had two marriage classes in the last year. We had an amazing teen camp this summer.

We had lots of incredible lessons from the WDS.

But here’s what we need to realize going to a teen camp, hearing lots and lots of great lessons. This will not save you on Judgment Day.

Faith without works is dead. You must do something about it. So I appeal to you this morning as we begin our study of James. If you faded from the church, faded in your heart, faded from the daily lordship of Jesus, set up a personal Bible study with someone today. Talk with someone today.

Confess to someone today. Get someone praying for you today so that you may be healed. Take the next step. Come back to Jesus. If you’ve been hanging around the church for years, stop procrastinating.

You may need to get baptized today in the name of Jesus, for the forgiveness of your sins. What are you waiting for? Life is a mist. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. The cross before you, the world behind you.

Just do it.

Brothers and sisters, our best days as Christians are right in front of us. And as we’ve.

 

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