What is necessary for a person to be a Christian; faith or works? The answer is faith but works should follow if our faith is real.
In Ephesians 2, Paul says, “we are saved by grace through faith.. not as a result of works… So, Paul says that works don’t save you. But then, James tells us that works should follow faith and James is right
In order for anyone to become a Christian they must by faith, ask Christ to save them. They must by faith invite Jesus Christ into their heart. Ok, that’s all that’s necessary for salvation. When you invite Christ into your heart, you are now saved.
Then what? Because we invite Christ into our hearts, our faith in Christ produces works. We begin to worship; we study our Bible, we give, we serve, etc… So our faith produces works.
So, are we saved through works? No, we aren’t. But, there should be works in our lives because by faith, we have received Christ as our Savior.
We receive Christ by faith and our faith produces works in our lives.
James said, “So also faith is dead without good works” (2;26).
Today, this week… demonstrate your Christian faith through the works of love and giving and helping.
Today is Sunday… a day of worship.
We go to worship, hear a message… may even say “Amen” at times or, nod our head in approval of a point in the sermon. Let’s say that the Pastor preaches on helping the less fortunate. During his sermon he challenges God’s people to be aware of people who need help and especially during this holiday season.
The sermon is over… we go to our vehicles, we crank them up and drive away. As we drive away we begin discussing lunch plans…
We come to a red light… off to our right, there is a man holding a sign that says, “Please help!”
We ignore it… we figure, “Oh, it’s just some bum… He probably is an alcoholic or drug addict who has wasted his money on booze or drugs.”
We come to a second light and again, there is someone standing there… this time it’s a lady… she has a sign that reads, “Need help BADLY… Please help.”
You think, “It’s probably some prostitute or drug addict…I’m not helping them.”
Then, you go to the grocery store… you are making your way through the store and you come to a freezer where the turkeys are kept. There is a young man and woman there looking at the turkeys. They need the larger one but they don’t have the money. As you over-hear them, they seem to be about $10 shy of what they need to purchase the larger turkey.
You have a wad of cash in your pocket and you feel for this young family but… You don’t help them…You reason they have probably not managed their money well or they wouldn’t be in the position they are in. They need a Dave Ramsey class.
About that time, you spot a fellow church member and y’all begin talking about the great message you just heard at church on helping other people…Then, y’all make dinner plans for that night… After all, you have some extra money in your pocket…. Money you could have helped that young couple with….
You have heard a message on helping others… you even nodded in approval at the message a few times… then, after church you had the opportunity to actually put that message into practice but you didn’t do it.
You had THREE opportunities… and each time you didn’t act. Oh, you love the Lord… You may even have a bumper-sticker on your car that says, “Honk if you love Jesus!” But, you are not putting your “love for Jesus” into practice.
James said, “”But be doers of the word, and not hearers only… If anyone is a hear of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror” (James 1:22-23).
Today… this week… from this point forward… be a doer of the word… not merely hearers only.
What is the difference between being tempted and being tested?
Maybe you have asked that at times.
Maybe you are talking with someone and they say, “I believe God is testing me.” You may want to ask, “Ok, how do you know that?”
James 1 talks about being tempted and tested. James says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete lacking in nothing” (2-3).
Later, in the same chapter, James says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God.'”
So, what’s the difference between being tested or being tempted? God tests us to mature us to grow us… Satan tempts us to cause us to sin… God will not tempt us… God only tests us.
In Genesis 22, there is the story of God testing Abraham. God had just given Abraham Isaac and God wanted to see if Abraham loved God more than he did Isaac. So, God told Abraham to offer Isaac on Mt. Moriah. God intervened at the last minute and spared Isaac after God knew that Abraham would sacrifice Isaac if called upon to do it.
You may ask, “Ok, how do I know if God is testing me?” In my experience, it’s not easy to determine. To determine it, we have to have some spiritual awareness. Transparency here… I believe God has been testing me some… and I didn’t pass several tests. God has been slowly getting rid of things in my life that were important to me than they should have been.
If God is testing you, He’s doing it to prove you… to mature you. And when that is the case, we can, as James told us, “Consider it joy when we encounter various trials.”
“How much money do you need?” is a question we may have been asked.
And the response for many of us is, “Just a little bit more.”
We always think more money will solve our problems.
But money does not solve all problems. Now, before I go any farther, I recognize that in some cases, a raise in salary or a job that pays better will help someone out. There are some people who needed a job desperately and a low-paying job is all they could get at the time thinking they would continue look for a better-paying job. But more money isn’t always the answer.
Hebrews 13:5 says, “Let your character be free from the love of money, being content with what you have.”
There is nothing wrong with making money… but it is wrong if we begin to love money.. if we are consumed by money. A love of money has led some to break the law. A love of money has led to the breakdown of a marriage. A love of money has kept many people from giving.
At times, people will say, “When I make more money, I will start giving.” That’s probably not true. If we aren’t giving now, we likely won’t start giving later.
There is nothing wrong with money… unless it begins to consume you. The apostle Paul said, “For the LOVE of money is the root of all evil” (I Timothy 6:10).
Work hard… and if you make good money, thank the Lord. But don’t let the love of money or making of money consume you.
All of us have, at times, compared ourselves to others. It may be one of our siblings or, a friend of ours or maybe someone at school or a neighbor. Normally it’s someone we would like to be like.
Maybe you wish you were more athletic so you wish you were like someone who is. Maybe someone else looks like you would like to look.
Maybe someone else has the charisma you wish you had.
Whatever it is or whomever it is, you can look at someone and wish you were them. And, that can lead to discouragement and even a mild case of depression. Because we can never be someone else.
But we shouldn’t focus on others. Hebrews 12:2 says, “…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” The word “fixing” means to “consider attentively.” It means to take our eyes off of other people and focus on Jesus. Why? Because Jesus never lets us down. Jesus accepts us like we are.
The Christmas season is just around the corner. Maybe your money has been tight and you are not going to be able to spend the money you normally spend on Christmas. And, that may be frustrating because you see and hear what others are giving and it frustrates you. But, instead of focusing on others, we need to keep our eyes on Christ.
Jesus accepts us as we are.. He doesn’t want us to be someone else. Jesus loves us as we are… Jesus forgives us… Jesus never lets us down… He never disappoints us. We should keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.
Years ago, I knew a man who watched a particular Preacher on TV. That particular had a moral problem and resigned. During that time, I was visiting with the gentleman I knew and he said, “Gregg; I hope you never let me down like that man did.” I was a young Preacher and didn’t know what to say.
I should have told him, “Sir, I hope I don’t either but, don’t worship a Preacher; keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.”
We should do the same.
In the movie “Raiders Of The Lost Ark,” Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is looking for the lost ark of Israel. The Germans are looking for it as well.
When the Germans find it but they have no respect or reverence for the significance of the ark. And, if you remember the movie, when they open it, they are consumed by fire from God.
Proverbs 1:7 says, “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”
Psalm 111:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
What does it mean to have a “fear of the Lord?” It means reverence for God. And, that is missing in today’s world and in some cases, today’s church.
Reverence is a recognition that we are in the presence of God. It means no moving around. It means quiet.
When I was growing up, children were taught to go to the bathroom prior to the beginning of worship. If you got up to go to the restroom during church, you better be about to bust! That’s not the case any longer. At times, our worship services can look like a track-meet with people getting up and moving around. Doing that distracts other worshipers.
Do you have a fear of the Lord and, are you trying to instill that in your children and grand-children?
Theodore Roosevelt once said, “To educate a man in mind but not in morals is to educate a menace to society.”
Folks, God isn’t “the man upstairs…” God is Holy and in our daily lives and worship, we should have a reverence for God.
My Dad was a science teacher. Science is based on proof that something exists. But Christianity is different. Christianity is all about faith and, that can be a problem for someone who doesn’t believe anything exists that can’t be proven.
Lots of people have heard the gospel but will not believe in Jesus because they can’t prove that Jesus exists. Which is why Christianity is about faith.
We learn about a man named Jesus by reading the bible. But, how do we know that the Bible is true? We accept it by faith. And, as we exercise faith, God grows us and matures our faith.
Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Think about that verse… “faith is the ASSURANCE of things hoped for..” That means that we are confidence.. we are sure.. that the promises of Christianity are true.
What are those promises? One is that Jesus is real… even though we have never seen Jesus, we believe Jesus is a real historical person.
The Bible says if a person will repent of their sins and believe in Jesus, they will be saved. Millions of people have done that… when we did, we didn’t see Jesus come into our lives but we felt it. We believe that Jesus is real.
We believe that Jesus died and is returning.
We believe that Jesus will provide for our NEEDS. The apostle Paul said, “My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory” (Phil. 4:19). Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him…” Today, if you are struggling with faith… if your faith is weak… ask the Lord to strengthen you faith and He will.