Going through the motions? – James 2:14-20

Complete sermon series on James.

Points covered: Faith without action, deeds of faith, faith in action, are we going through motions or is our faith True?

Introduction: We all start many things with great enthusiasm and joy in life. Most often after sometime things tend to get more routine and people lose interest of things. Sadly such attitude can creep into our faith life. I have seen many believers lose their interest, zeal, and love for God and are just name-sake believers. Are you in faith? Do you have a genuine saving faith or a faith that is dead? Are you producing the fruit of repentance

Going through the motions?

Let’s open our Bibles to: James 2:14-20 Faith and Deeds

14What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their 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 my deeds. 19You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. 20You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?

Now James is telling us that if we claim to be people of faith, and if our faith is not backed up with deeds or work, that kind of faith is dead faith.

James 2:17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Faith is something that is in our inside. True faith will always be seen outside in good works. Dead faith will not be seen at all. Dead faith is all talk but no real life of faith.

Let’s go to Matthew 3 into the ministry of John the Baptist. Matthew 3:5-10 5People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. 6Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 7But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. In other words, it is the light of good works, good deeds.

Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. It is not the sayers, it is the doers. Trust not in what people say, trust in what they do.

This goes on throughout the ministry of Jesus as an emphasis. Look with me for a moment at John chapter 2.

John 2:23-24 23Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name. 24But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. Believing in itself is not enough.

In John 3 There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. He is one of those who believed. John 3:2-3 2He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” 3Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again. He believed in Jesus. He believed Jesus is a teacher. He believed in the miracles. He believed in the name. He believed Jesus was sent from God. But Jesus said to him and to all like him, believing is not enough unless you are transformed.

The church of Jesus Christ must deal with wrong impression that a simple knowledge of the gospel is equal to acceptance of saving faith. Our life has to show the good works as a result of our transformation.

Now, no one is saved by works but we are saved by grace? Ephesians 2:8-9 8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast. But no one is saved without producing works. Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. That’s the issue. Now that you are saved, you should produce good works, produced the fruit of repentance. Saved people should have a life of absolute turnaround from the pattern of the world.

James is dealing with people who claim to be believers but have no fruit or deeds in their life. Now James writes this epistle to the Jews who are now converted and become believers. The people experienced a tremendous amount of stress to be a Jew because Judaism by this particular time had become totally religion of laws, rules, work, and sacrifice. Matthew 23:4 They (The teachers of the law) tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. The leaders put people burdens far too heavy for them to bear. And along came the gracious gospel of salvation. The gospel said, “Just believe and you receive joy, blessings, eternal life.” It became an easy religion for them.

Now, faith life had become so comfortable that they would come, hear, shout hallelujah in the church but their real life was far away from the word. They were just going through the motions.

Now James gives us two descriptions of the nature of dead faith. This is the summary of the entire epistle of James. People who are in church, they believe God but truly they are not in faith.

1. Faith without Deed.

James 2:14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?

If a man says he has faith. “I have faith. I believe in God. I believe in the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. I am saved. I am baptized.” But if my life does not show the deeds of faith then I am having a dead faith. Even the demons believe that: James 2:19-20 19You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. 20You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?

If there are no works and no righteous deeds, you cannot demonstrate a changed life. True faith in Christ has a new nature and will have good deeds to it.

James is listing to us some of the good deeds that must be evident of our faith.

a. Perseverance.

James 1:12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. Patiently and triumphantly enduring through trials as a good work demonstrating true faith. That’s one of the tests.

b. Overcoming temptations.

James 1:14-15 14but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

James 4:4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

c. Control of the tongue.

James 1:26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.

James 1:19-20 19Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

James 3:9-11 9With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?

James 4:16 You boast and brag. All such boasting is evil.

d. Purity of life.

James 1:21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

e. Hearing and obedience to the Word of God.

James 1:22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

f. Humility.

James 4:6 God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.

 h. Prayer.

James 5:13-18 13Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. 17Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.

James himself identifies many of these good works. When true salvation takes place, the sovereign grace reaches down and totally transforms a person, there will be an abandonment of sin and abandonment of self to the sovereignty of Christ as a part of that saving work. There will be good works evident in that person.

When the gospel came to Ephesus in Acts 19, immediately the text says the people who were deep into magic and the occult took all of their magic books having heard the gospel and believed…and what did they do with them? They burned them all.

When the Thessalonians that they had turned from idols to serve the living and true God. It is an exchange of masters. So while salvation is all of God, it is also within the saving work that repentance and a turning from sin and an embracing of a new master takes place.

2. Faith without compassion.

James 2:15-17 15Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Here is a person who is naked or poorly clothed. No food for the day. Here is this man or woman cold and hungry and we meet that person in the church. We see their condition and we say, “Go in peace. God be with you. God bless you. Hope you do well. Hope you can find somebody who can help you. I will pray for you.” These are all vain words. What good is that kind of faith? We say we have the compassion of Christ and we can’t concern ourselves with someone in need? James 2:17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Illustration: I heard the story about a queen who was taken to the theater to see a drama. She wept her way through the entire drama. From beginning to end it was…it was pathos, it was sad. And she really got into the spirit of the drama and she cried through the whole thing. This was in the time of the carriages in years past. And she went out to get in her carriage and it was a very cold and wintry night and she had left her coachman out there where he belonged. He didn’t belong with her class. She found him frozen to death and according to her biographer she shed not a tear.

It’s amazing how people can cry over fiction and not cry over reality. Have you noticed that? It’s amazing how people can watch a movie, a serial or even hear a song and weep, but see a destitute person and be absolutely indifferent. I mean we have all seen so many disasters portrayed on television that we’ve pretty well emptied our emotions. In real life we are not concerned about others.

And so, James says if you have that kind of false compassion, and go in peace, I wish you well, but you don’t give them what they need, what good is that kind of faith? That faith that has no works is alone and therefore it proves to be dead.

Look at the words of Jesus: Matthew 25:31-46 31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’41“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ 44“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ 46“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

We always talk about faith, power in the blood, successful Christian life. That is good and true but the religion and life that the Lord Jesus Christ taught us also has good works and compassion.

Conclusion: James 1:27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep onself being polluted by the world.

To conclude our study, Acts 8 gives us an illustration of dead faith: Acts 8:9-13 9Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, 10and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is rightly called the Great Power of God.” 11They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his sorcery. 12But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.

Acts 8:18-22 18When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money 19and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 21Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God.

He believed, he was baptized, he continued, he was amazed and he was damned. You see it? It is possible to believe, it is possible to be baptized, it is possible to continue to listen, it is possible to be amazed by everything happening in Christianity and to be damned…that’s dead faith.

And then he calls for the attitude of true faith: Acts 8:22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart.

Acts 26:20 I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds.

2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves to see whether you are in faith; test yourselves.

And so James says look at your deeds and action, what do they tell you about your faith? Are we going through the motions or are we having a living faith? Let’s Pray