I shall take another excursion today. This month, the church I attend has been preaching a series on James. It is one of my favorite books. It calls people who say they believe in God to prove it by what they do. It can also be sticky as preachers will preach morals from it but not necessarily point to Christ. It can be controversial for people who argue that salvation is by faith alone but who display no more love for God than the atheist next door. This post will consist of insights from Ligonier, followed by the sermon notes, and closing with a few OT examples.
R.C. Sproul constantly says that salvation is by faith alone, but not faith that is alone. James 2:26 proclaims that truth loudly. The Sermon on the Mount proclaims that truth. Old Testament history of Israelites giving God lip-service but serving idols illustrates this truth, especially when God finally gives them his justice and sends them into exile.
"God's Word must be consistent because the one who hates all falsehood has revealed it." This is a quote from an archived Tabletalk devotional. Many people think that James and Paul contradict each other. Paul wrote Romans and Galatians saying that people are counted righteous because they believe. James wrote James saying that faith without works is dead. The same Christ inspired both authors into writing down his Word. God does not contradict himself, so this must be a paradox to be solved. These are two truths that are not A and not-A in the same time and in the same relationship. God counts believers righteous because of faith. What happens next? If they have faith, then their actions show it.
In James 2:1, James calls Jesus the "glory" of God. He refers to the Hebrew term kabod, which deals with not just glory, but with a weightiness or substance. This glory can crush you. James equates Jesus with the same kabod glory. He possesses "supreme gravitas", nothing is more important or greater than he, and no one deserves more honor. A sinful person like myself will die if she should encounter this glory. Praise God for Christ's grace and generosity in sharing his glory and making it bearable.
That being said, if Jesus is an all-crushing glory with infinite weight and substance, then when he saves you, you have no choice but to be a doer of the Word. You no longer hear a preacher preach only "blah blah blah." Now he is intelligible, and Christ transforms you through that.
I will get to some of the points from Sunday's sermon. This will go on longer than expected, but there is so much to cover. The sermon's title is "I am Responsible for my Actions." The series has the subtitle, "Going from Excuses to Personal Responsibility."
I am responsible for my personal prejudice. The text is James 2:1-4, but sadly, it is the Message, and so you don't have the effect of James calling his brother the "Lord of Glory." But it makes a difference because without him, those prejudices will remain. I know because I am a prejudiced Presbyterian who knows I'm not always right, but still considers myself that way. As a paedobaptist, I am prejudiced against Baptists who just don't seem to understand covenant solidarity. As a cessationist, I am prejudiced against people who insist on speaking in tongues and the "God-told-me" people. This includes authors and their trips to heaven. God's special revelation to us is complete and there is no more to be revealed until he comes back. If he had wanted us to see more, he would have written it in Scripture.
Just the same, this paedobaptist married a man of Baptist origin and can't imagine being with anyone else. She followed him to his church which is truly non-denom, still a legit church, but definitely has me worshiping next to people who think they speak in tongues or claim new special revelation from God to themselves. I'm not saying that they are liars, but I just think they are greatly mistaken and live under presuppositions imposed by popular Christianity.
I could not enjoy such diverse company if it was not for God's salvation through Christ. In Christ, I am no different from the people I disagree with. I'm as bad of a sinner as people who live in sin. God gave me salvation for no other reason than because he wanted to. How dare I be prejudiced against people whose faith details are little off from mine? It matters more that they look to Jesus for salvation, and even that is only possible because of Christ's gift. Without the Holy Spirit's intervention, there is no difference between one person and another.
I am responsible for my measure of mercy. The text is James 2:12-13, "12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment."
Christ has freed me to be able to consider myself a sister with people who are vastly different from me. He has given me grace despite my ignorance or lack of understanding. I sin greatly if I do not give the same grace to others. Only God knows their true spiritual state. I cannot simply assume it because of some error, though I still warn against it in fear for their souls. Ultimately, however, I have to simply trust that God will lead them to the truth.
I am responsible for my actions of faith. If this God is so real, and if Christ's glory is so compelling, then I will naturally want to care for the poor, witness to those who don't know Christ, obey his law, and care whether people think they can have salvation apart from belief in Christ. I must care for people and plead for them. I can't just sit at home and write a blog about it. I need to go into the world and interact.
James gives an example of Rahab. The lady was a pagan and a prostitute. She was very far from the Lord when she encountered spies from Israel. Even protecting them, she lied to authorities. However, she believed in the message of the Gospel, and it changed her life. No longer was she a sexual plaything living in the wall of Jericho. She was a valued daughter of God who saved people's lives, married into them, and eventually became an ancestor of Jesus.
I'll include Abraham since Paul gives him as an example. Abraham believed God and was counted righteous. What did he do next? He left his home in Ur and traveled to Canaan, not knowing what he was doing, simply because God told him to. He did not always trust God when he said that God would give him a son through him and Sarah. Sarah tried to help God by having Abraham beget a child through Hagar. Yet, God sustained them, even in their failures and changed them into people we can look to in times when we doubt.