This morning, let’s continue our study in James. Last week we looked at faith and how to balance faith into our lives, according to what James said in Chapter 1. This week, I am going to show you about balancing faith and works. Many people get confused with this topic. Faith and works are the 2 most important things of living the Christian life. If you have one without the other, you only have half of a life. So today we want to find out how to balance your faith with what faith does.
There are lots of people who think faith and works are opposites of each other. Many Christians bump heads over this topic. I am praying that through this study, God will reveal what He has revealed to me in a way that is easy to understand. They actually are complementary to each other. I see faith and works the way I see french fries and ranch dressing. They're both good, and they're good apart, but they're a lot better when they're together.
And so today we want to look at what James has to say from James 1 and James 2, about balancing your faith with your works.
Let’s look at James 1:21-24 KJV Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. (22) But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. (23) For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: (24) For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.
Now I love the mirror image because we can all identify with that. There are three possible responses to looking into a mirror that I can think of. My wife will say I am wrong, but I often throughout the years see her looking in the mirror or a reflection to make sure her hair is not out of place. I think it is a woman thing to look in the mirror when they pass one.
I want you all to picture this. You’re at one of those places and you get one of these mirrors that are curved where you either look extremely tall or extremely short. You are fooled by what you see looking back at you. You know the mirrors I am talking about? You look in that mirror and it makes you slender; it makes you tall, and you say, “I think I'm losing weight. I think I'm getting taller”. But you aren’t. It’s the mirror that's doing that. There are lots of people who fool themselves with their mirrors.
A second response is that you can get an accurate assessment by looking into a mirror and become discouraged by it. You get up in the morning, you look in the mirror; you have an accurate assessment and you say, "Man, this day is going to be terrible! Look at my hair. What can I do with this?” Another woman thing. That's getting an accurate assessment, but not coming away from looking in the mirror with any great help.
The third response is you can get an accurate assessment and make a positive change. You can look and say, “Look at this hair, something has to be done. I'd better get to work on it right away”. And when you come away from the mirror, this time not fooled, and you do something about it. Have I painted a picture?
So what James is telling us, is this: Faith without works deceives us into believing we are something we are not. We think we are very gracious people and we think we are very faithful people. We think we are very spiritual people, but we don't do anything about our faith. And it's like looking in a mirror and saying, “I am a good person”. But it's deceiving ourselves. So he starts out by saying faith without works can deceive you.
Look at James 1:25 KJV But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
Here's the contrast: Faith without works deceives some people, but faith with works blesses everyone who makes an adjustment based on what you see in the mirror.
Leanna and I have been listening to a series on blessings. It is a 6 part series and if anyone is interested, I can send you the CDs, yet you should really read the book. If you remember the message I shared a while back on what we should say or not say, this series goes much deeper.
James talks here about the perfect law of liberty. At first they don't sound like they go together. The perfect law of liberty? I want you to keep your place in James but let's go to Psalms 19:7.
Psalms 19:7-11 KJV The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. (8) The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. (9) The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. (10) More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Ok , listen (11) Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.
What is the perfect law of liberty? What are your thoughts on these verses? We have it in our hands. This Bible is the perfect law of liberty. What he says here in Psalm 19 is the “law of the LORD," verse 7; it's a synonym for the Bible. "The testimony of the LORD" is a synonym for the Bible. The precepts of the LORD. All these words are just simple synonyms for God's Word.
So when I look into God's Word, I can either fool myself and not believe what I see there, or I can look into God's Word and know what I see there and know something about myself and be so discouraged and say, “I might as well just give up”. Or I can look into God's Word and say, “I need some positive changes in my life.” And so He says when you look at faith and works together and make the changes that are necessary from your faith, you work out your faith by making those changes and Praise the Lord; you will be blessed by that.
This book that we are reading from is the perfect law of liberty, perfect in the fact that you need nothing else. This Book doesn't tell me what I ought to do, it tells me how to live so that I please God and benefit other people. So I'm freed by the law of this Book. Again, this series that we have been listening to Power of Blessings, discusses this too.
This Book doesn't say, "You shall not do this”, But when it does, it says, You shall not do this because it will harm you in this way. What the Bible does is it shows me the way to live that benefits other people and pleases God at the same time. So it brings to me liberty. Only God's law truly can set me free. Still keep your place in James, but turn to John 8:32
John 8:32 KJV And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
Are we looking for the truth? Do we want to be free? What did Jesus tell us in this last verse we read? And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. Praise Jesus
James 1:25 KJV But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
This is where you get the balance between faith and works. You look into the Law of God, the Word of God in faith. You come away from the Word of God, acting on what you learned from God's Word. So, I am blessed when I do something as a result of looking into God's Word. I'm not blessed simply because I looked into it; I'm blessed because when I looked into it, I learned something and I acted on what it said.
Leanna received what could be a very discouraging report from her doctor back about two years ago. Without going into details, there could be some very negative consequences if some of her numbers didn’t change for her kidneys. We believe God still heals today. Now does that mean she just sits around and just hang on to that promise? No, she needs to do much more than that. Diet and exercise played a big role in her recovery. Faith in her healing will play a huge part. I believe speaking scriptures, praising God like we learned a few weeks ago and telling Him that He is what she needs to be better and thanking Him for already doing this. Amen? She ended up getting an awesome report. Kidneys that don't get better in the natural are healing. Praise God.
What James wants us to understand is pretty clear. He says you need to not only see yourself clearly, but you need to respond to what you see. You need not only to know who you are and get a right assessment of who you are, but if there are changes needed to be made, you need to make those changes.
It doesn’t help us to look at God’s Word and say, “Yep, that's me. I'm a miserable failure. I can never be what the Bible says.” If you do that, you're no better off than those who never looked at all. But when you and I look into this Book and we find ourselves in the pages of this Book and we see the positive changes we need to make in our lives and then we go out and we make those changes, we change the way we live. We change the way we treat other people. We change the way we treat the neighbors, the family and the kids.. We change the way everything is in our lives when we make positive changes as a result of getting a good picture of ourselves in the mirror of God's Word. That's the balance of faith and works.
And it takes both of those. You can't just work, making changes, if you don't know what those changes ought to be. And in order to know what the changes need to be, you have to look into God's Word. But when you look into God's Word and you make no changes, there's no balance between faith and works. Is everyone understanding this?
Through writing this study, I have to remind everyone that every time you open God's Word we should pray “Lord, show me in this reading I do today, who I am. Show what I need to do. Show what I need to change”. When we do that, we may get a difficult assessment of who we are. Other times we may have a better picture, but if we want to be the light of Jesus and to have the compassion like Jesus, that’s where we need to start.
James is absolutely right here. The most difficult thing in the Christian life, is the balance that is necessary to live the life that pleases the Lord God. And the great balance in the life of the believer is the balance between faith and works. James 2:18 KJV Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
While we do God’s good will, He abides with us still, and with all those who trust and obey.
I came to this conclusion while studying for this. When we think about works, we have a tendency to think of works with deeds. These are the deeds you and I might do. I help the little old lady across the street. Call an older person and ask if I can help them go grocery shopping, or things like that. Those are good deeds, but I think more than that, it’s the work of understanding God's Word. It’s the work of applying God's Word to my own life; and if I do that correctly, and I do it consistently, it's going to filter out to the little old lady who needs help to cross the street, or the person we take shopping.
Let's go to James 2:14 Remember last week I mentioned that there were times that the disciples had disagreements, but how they looked to God for the answers? We may see that here.
James 2:14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him?
I want to stop here because this is where a lot of people think there is an issue between Paul and James. Paul constantly, in the Book of Romans, and Galatians, and elsewhere constantly is saying it is faith that brings salvation to us. James entirely agrees. One cannot be saved apart from faith, but the key here is this. He says, What good is it my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? Not "Can faith save him? Can the kind of faith that looks into God's Word and says, I have faith, but doesn't do anything about it, James says that's not the kind of faith that saves. There is no difference between James and Paul on these issues.
James 2:15-16 KJV If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, (16) And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
Now what can someone who is dead do? Let's just take a few minutes and get a pen and a piece of paper out and list all the things a dead person can do. That sounds foolish doesn’t it? But look what James says. Faith that does not activate itself is not activated by God's Word. That kind of faith is totally useless. James describes it as being "dead."
Now, there are three issues he brings up here. The first one is found in verse 14. What good is it my brothers if someone says he has faith, but does not have works? What he is talking about here is the difference between deeds and creeds. Now, some people believe all the right things; they just don't do all the right things. And what he's doing here is making a distinction between those who say, “I have faith”, and those who actually live out their faith.
What he's saying is not easy for us to hear. But what he is saying is the absolute point of James in this chapter. James 2:14 tells us that if we have creeds, we believe things, but if those creeds don't lead to deeds, those creeds are dead, our belief system is dead. It is of no value whatsoever.
Verses 15 and 16 tell us that words without deeds are as bad as creeds without deeds. You can believe something and not do something about it and that's not good. But you can also believe something and talk about it and never do anything about it and that's not good either. So he says in verse 15, if a brother or sister is poorly clothed, lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, listen to the good words here. Go in peace, be warmed and filled, without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?
In the first verse he's saying there's a distinction between deeds and creeds. In the second verse he's saying there is a distinction between words and deeds. We talk about what needs to be done, but we don't do it. We talk about how we need to be in God's Word every day, but we don't ever go to God's Word every day. We talk about sharing our faith with our neighbor, but we never share our faith with our neighbor. Or, ready for this? Sharing our faith with a perfect stranger. There are times that we may be led to share God’s word with someone we have never met………………….
What he is saying is, “Your faith is dead. It's lifeless. It's useless”. You have to exercise faith and exercised faith produces you saying something about it. In verses 15 and 16, the contrast is between words and deeds. You can say to a person, “Oh! You're so poor. You're in such pathetic condition. I wish somebody would help you.” But if you don't help them, you have not lived out your faith. You haven't helped them at all. And then notice verse 17. This is the key of the whole argument James 2:17-18 KJV Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. (18) Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. I think this is the key to James’ argument in the entire book. Faith is designed to work.
You all have heard the parable Jesus told of the good Samaritan?
Luke 10:30-37 KJV And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. (31) And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. (32) And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. (33) But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, (34) And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. (35) And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. (36) Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? (37) And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.
This my friends is faith and works working together. And what did Jesus say to do? Verse 37 Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.
Faith is not designed to be a body of truth that you have memorized and you hold dear. Faith is not to be something that you inculcate in your life, you put it in your mind, you hide God's Word in your heart, and then you see a person in need and you're not moved at all by that. You do nothing to help that person. That isn't faith. And what James is saying is the only kind of faith that matters is the kind of faith that acts upon what it believes.