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Faith with Action
you can hear a MP3 recording of sermon here
James 2:14-26
Sunday, 20th October, 2013

We have not made much of the structure of James. That is because it is, unlike Paul’s writing, more a ‘wisdom’ writing with loosely connected sayings rather than a carefully crafted letter.

That possibly shows that it comes from a Northerner, James, the brother of Jesus,  remember came from Nazareth and was the son of a carpenter. Paul was a debater, James has wisdom to share. However, it is clear that he is challenging wealthy people and calling for holiness in our daily lives. That keeps cropping up all over the place. Today begins with a challenge to the wealthy.

It follows what James has said about favouritism and takes the matter further. Don’t just agree with God’s word, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!

Read James 2:14-26


 This passage of God’s word lies at the heart of the letter of James. In it James is intent on defining the scope or area of influence of Faith in our lives. He sets true faith in  direct contrast to

 (i) mere sentiment that never gets beyond a pious expression (v 16) "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,",

and (ii) an intellectual conviction (voiced in v 19), You believe that there is one God.  which he dismisses scornfully even the demons believe and shudder (v 20a: “you empty- person”).

This takes a step further to the condemnation already given in 1:11 – the rich who fade away, who are who are vulnerable by resting content simply with mental agreement and formal concurrence with “the implanted word that is able to save your lives” to the point of self-deception.

 So he picks up his earlier judgment 23–27 on the peril of a self-deceiving attitude that leads to a person’s becoming no better than a “forgetful hearer,” rather than a “doer of work” and falling prey to mere verbal profession .The upshot is that such a person’s religion is “futile”.

 The hazard of a church is to teach that knowing the doctrine is important and toning down on the necessary and resulting change of behavior true faith demands.

We sit through good sermons and say thank you for them but go away and it does not change our lives.

We agree that sin is bad but our struggle for holiness is feeble and too often we have no ambition to be pure and blameless. Our love is a great feeling but we do not want love to take up time, cost us money or drain us emotionally.


 Some, like Martin Luther, a great German monk, theologian and revolutionary, who kicked-off the reformation To him the gospel  was all about  Paul’s declaration  “justification by faith [alone],” . Some have suggested James runs counter to this and emphasizes works, but James’ readers would have known what Paul said. And neither James or Paul are divided over this Paul would  not have accepted the bogus faith of 2:14. Paul uses “faith” to denote a confidence in God’s saving act in Christ, who died for our trespasses and was raised from the dead for our justification (Rom 4:24–25). In a different context,  James—whose view of faith (as necessary for salvation) does not differ from Paul or any other NT writer—is attacking an understanding of “faith” that sees it merely as a pious sentiment or an intellectual acceptance of doctrine.


James picks four examples to show up what true faith in Jesus is like.

 Two which are bad examples

·        The rich

·        The demons

Two which were good examples.

·        Abraham 

·        Rahab


This harvest we have supported  the Food Bank in Hillingdon. Shockingly in this day and age there are too many families who have little or no food even when entitled to the grudging benefits of our state. You try to balance benefits with basic survival expenses and you will fail.  Round here just renting costs you all your income. But did your harvest gift cost you or be just some item added onto the weekly shop?


TEAR Fund is seeking support for the people of Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. What have you done in the first instance to respond to what you see on the News?  Or in the second instance in a long term problem that has reared up again but not got into the Western News, civil war in the Congo? Are we simply saying to our neighbours and to a suffering world,

"Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,"


Is the shoe-box appeal too expensive to contemplate or simply your love of God and your love of the children of this world cannot stomach spending as much as you would spend on a meal in a restaurant?


You are anti-slavery and persuaded that ‘Fair Trade goods’ are at least concerned about making sure the producers of food and clothing have at least sufficient  for the goods they produce. But they cost much more and probably not all the benefit goes to the growers and producers. We can wish well but the question is whether we will do well when it is the expensive option. I believe we as church should have a ‘fair Traded’ policy to buy only ‘fair Trade’ goods for this Fellowship as far as is practicable.


Last week we were considering the passage before this one and God set you a challenge. The gentleman who hung around the door made us all uncomfortable. But did you respond according to your faith? Or did all the usual arguments about ‘his sort’ allow you to ignore him? I thank God that many of you tried to engage with him and offered him tea and cake and more. He only wanted to keep out of the rain, he said! Have you prayed for him this week?



If I am making you feel uncomfortable it is because God’s word is not comfortable. It questions our actual faith by asking questions of the resulting actions.

A religious person says I have faith, James is quoting a classic orthodox Jewish statement “I believe in one God” – and it appears at the beginning of the Apostles creed. But being able to talk the talk, make all the right Christian and evangelical and charismatic noises without the transforming of the Holy Spirit in your lives is nothing more than empty words. You say you are a Christian, have you been baptized? You say you are a follower of Jesus, have you offered friendship to the unloved, practical compassion to the world around you. Demons know the script, they shudder because it speaks to them of  judgment.


So lets speak of the Lord’s Prayer. That line we pray :

Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.

You believe you are forgiven, are you forgiving, replicating the love of God in your life? Is Faith a matter of words and feelings or does it actually lead to action and change of mind?


 But lets move on and examine Abraham and Rahab. The selection here is significant. Abraham the great Father of the nation and Rahab, dubious background, from Jericho, an alien who changed sides.  Both are commended for their faith. Abraham “believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness” over the matter of believing God’s promise to make his family a great nation.

Hebrews 11:17- 19 says this

 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.


He did not understand but he acted in obedience to God’s command. His faith is clear. He took the leap of faith that God would keep his promise regardless of the fact that it would be impossible if he sacrificed Isaac.

The same faith is shown by the actions of Daniel’s friends. :Daniel 3:17-19

Faced with instant death in a furnace  Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter.  If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us  from Your Majesty’s hand.  But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”


Or Esther 4:15 Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”


Their actions demonstrated real faith and real courage. There were no guarantees, escape routes, they were depending on God alone.


And Rahab, brothel/hotel owner on the walls of Jericho believed God was with Israel. So did others, but she risked execution of herself and her family protecting the spies, trusted God that he and the spies would keep their promises.

Jesus challenged the rich young ruler to go, sell that he had and give to the poor, then come, follow me. How tightly do you hang on to your wealth for the future and the  security of your friends, rather than reach out


 A man slipped on a cliff path and fell catching a bush as if fell. Hanging there, life depending on the waning strength of his arm, he cried out “God, if you are there, help me!” A voice said. “ Let go, and I will you save you”. There was a moment’s pause. The man called out “Is there anyone else?”


Is that you? Faith is Ok. If your feet are on the ground but sometimes God calls us to take risks of faith and we start looking for someone else. As far as eternal life is concerned, there is no-one else, Jesus is the only way, the truth alone and he is the only one who has resurrection power over death. But do you trust him? James goes further, will live according to his rule, the kingdom rule, that Jesus taught and is here in the Bible, God’s word? That is the challenge this morning. Go out and DO faith!


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