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James 2: 14-19 “Even the Demons Shudder”

9/9/2018 Rev. Jerry W. Krueger Boardman UMC

Some things seem obvious to us. When a fence collapses, it no longer can perform its appointed task of keeping things in, or out. When we look at some trees in the winter, we may say, “Oh I guess that tree is dead. “ But it may be dormant, waiting for a rebirth in the spring. Things that look one way, are not always as they appear. In the reading today, James who is most likely the brother of Jesus, addresses when faith is dead.

 

His shorthand version is found in verse 17, “so faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” The criteria for a dead faith are:

  • Acts of favoritism that result in dishonoring the poor within a Christian context.

  • Failure to keep Gods commandments, and instead, just choosing bits and pieces. Loving God, but not neighbor.

  • Showing no mercy, as found in vs. 13.

  • Paying lip service to good works, but not exhibiting that faith through any good works.

These criteria are not so we can judge everyone else’s faith. They’re criteria given for self-diagnosis. For us to examine our own hearts.

 

Sometimes those with a dead faith, are spiritually dead, but keep talking a good game anyway. It’s the person saying, “Do as I say, not as I do.” We have one tongue in our head, and two tongues in our shoes, and no matter what the tongue in your head is saying, the tongue in your shoes tells WHAT you’re doing and WHERE you’re going. Both faith and action.

The Apostle Paul in Romans declares that we are justified by faith. That is correct, but hear me church. Faith and works are being linked together for a person to be of complete faith.

 

If you’re in a row boat, you have two oars. One is labeled, faith, and one is labeled works. If you only use ONE oar, you are stuck in an endless circle, never getting to your destination. Both oars are designed to be used in conjunction with one another. Faith and works are the same way. In Ephesians 2: 10, Paul writes to the church at Ephesus, “for we are what God has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.’ Faith and works.

 

Works is if your brother or sister lacks clothing or food, why would we just say, “Go in peace, keep warm, and be full.”

The stay at home Dad, David, was taking care of two small kids. His wife on a business trip, and one child got the flu. Then the other. Then dad got the flu. A friend stopped by to check on David the stay at home dad, and when David opened the door, the friend saw the trash can overflowing with wet diapers, dishes piled up in the sink, noticed an unruly pile of laundry on the kitchen table that needed sorting.

 

But instead of taking any action to help Dave, the friend said, “Well Dave, I just wanted to see how you’re doing with your wife Melissa away on business. Have a great day.” And left.

 

The friend had faith to check on Dave, but missed the opportunity to put faith into action. He could have spent 20 minutes emptying the trash or loading the dishwasher, or even run a load of laundry, or go to the store to get chicken soup or medicine.

 

Good intent was there, but it was empty without the action. When we say, “I have faith in Christ,” and do nothing else, when we believe that faith is solely enough, it is a too easy accommodation for us to be devoid of accountability, responsibility, or any action.

 

  1. churches today contain many who believe that faith doesn’t require any obligation or relationship to others, and if that is challenged, it is met with resistance. Many people believe that simply claiming a connection with a place of worship is enough, even though they don’t engage in the life of the church.

There is a needed commitment to gather with others to worship God regularly which seems unnecessary to some people. I believe James would wonder if faith without community, could even survive.

 

Life and blessing depend on our following what God wants for us, to honor the Greatest Commandment, to Love God, and to Love neighbor as found in Matt. 22: 35-40;Mark 12: 28-31;Luke 10: 25-28; John 13: 31-35.

 

The foundation, the lynch pin, the cornerstone of our faith as Christians, is one thing and one thing only, the resurrection.

Even dead faith can come alive again, can be resurrected from lethargy or the doldrums. Even the demons know the Christ. They recognize who he is, and his God given power. Yet they opt to stray far from Christ.

 

When your faith dwindles and slowly ebbs for whatever reason, like “I can’t stand the preacher, too long winded, the people are mean, the music too this or too that. Church is not relevant, God is mean, or not loving or good,” it is important for us to know that believers in Christ who have reached inertia, no movement, can become people of faith and action again.

 

So, Do NOT examine my faith, or your neighbor’s faith. I ask this very Wesleyan question of each of you, one question John Wesley the founder of Methodism asked of his preachers, “How are things with your soul?”

Have you lost interest, fallen to a spiritual standstill? Have the embers of your faith dimmed of late?

 

Christ assures you that your faith can be rekindled. Just as Christ was resurrected to new life, so too can a faith in Christ be refurbished, rekindled, resurrected to a new faith filled, and active relationship with God and neighbor.

 

Remember the row boat, one oar is faith, the other is works. To go anywhere, both oars must be in the water, pulling to a goal that honors God by loving God and loving neighbor.

 

And all of God’s resurrected, and on fire people proclaimed. Amen.