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How Shall We Be Known? As Those Who DO Good September 5, 2021

An embassy is, “an officially sanctioned outpost of one nation inside the borders of another nation.” For example, the British embassy in the United States is in the United States but inside the walls of the embassy it is as good as British soil in our country. The British embassy in the United States is a little plot of England here in the our country. The British embassy is their sovereign territory. Those who work in the British embassy represent their country’s interests in the United States. They live in a foreign country far away from their homeland working for their Queen. The Church is not unlike the British embassy. We might have the cool accents but we live in this country representing the interests of our King, Jesus. We live here in the United States, in this world far away from our homeland representing the kingdom of our God. All faithful churches—our church is an embassy of heaven. That is what WE ARE (not this place-but us) and why it is worthwhile to stop and consider how we represent our homeland so very far away from home. The question we have been asking is: How do we want to be known? This question has occupied us for the past four weeks. To use our language from today, how do we want our heavenly 1

embassy to be known by the community that we live in but is not our home. We live in this continual tension, we live in a place that is not our home. So, how are we to be known by the people here before we go home? So far we’ve said we want to be known - As those who LOVE God most. - As those who LOVE our neighbors we love ourselves. - As those who LOVE each other with the love Jesus has shown us. - As those who are GOOD. Today—it as those who DO GOOD. We represent the interests of our king far away from home by doing good to all, but especially to each other. We ask—how shall we be known because it is just too easy to be known by what we are against. It is too easy in this world to shout loudest about what or who we are against— -

I am against high taxes I am against either radical vaxxers or anti-vaxxers I am against this president or the one before I am against the mainstream media or social media I am against the direction of our world I am against public school I am against this 2

- I am against that - I am against the other thing It is easy to be AGAINST things, but it takes real courage to explain what you are for. We must be known by who we love and what we do. This is what it means to be an embassy of heaven. Does that mean we can’t have strong opinions? NO! It means that our strong opinions do not define us—rather—that we let Jesus and our commitment to him define us. No, what sets us aside as unique is who we are for—Jesus Christ. In our passage today, James will help us represent our home. James 2:14-17 is going to tell us that we represent our king by being a people who DO GOOD to all—but especially to each other. Today we are going to see that we as a church must be known for the good we do. PROP: Do good to all, especially each other. Faith without good works is no real faith at all.

We are going to read three short verses together but contained therein is: 3

- A Question - A Scenario - A Conclusion

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” James 2:14-17 PRAY

1. A Question (James 2:14)— There are actually two questions in verse 14 asking the same thing. Did you notice them? Look at verse 14 with me, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If we don’t understand what James is asking we will not understand the answer he gives. James is asking—can a person have authentic faith (trust) in Jesus without doing good works for others? Do you see? 4

As Christians we believe that salvation in Jesus is not by means of works. Ephesians 2 is just one of the places in the Bible where we see this explicitly: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, [9] not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8–9 Salvation is not by works but by grace. Got it. James here is not asking how someone is saved, rather he is examining how those who are genuinely saved live. In other words, can someone be genuinely saved if the pattern of their life is to do no good deeds for others? This is a different question than—can someone live in unrepentant sin and yet still regard themselves as okay before God. We’ve said before no authentic Christian will or can live a life of— -

Sexual Immorality Greed Anger/Rage Bitterness Slandering

And regard themselves as okay with God. While that is not true— James is presenting to us a different question. He is asking: Is faith without good deeds for OTHERS indicate an authentic faith? 5

This is a poignant question for every age. Is it enough to pray a prayer, raise a hand, get baptized, or even know a lot about the Bible but live a basically selfish life, self-centered, self-focused life? Or to use his language—is a faith without good works an authentic faith? That is our question. To clarify his question James lays out a simple scenario for us to consider together. 2. A Scenario (James 2:15-16) Verses 15 and 16 presents us with two different people. One person is in dire need just for the basics of life and another person comes upon him. Look with me at verse 15, 15

If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, James uses the words brother or sister here and verse 14—should be translated brothers and sisters. This means that James speaking about two people of the household of faith. He is speaking of an imaginary interaction between two members of the same church. Do not imagine here that James is putting before two strangers happening upon each other. No, these two are known to each other. 6

They are a part of the same church. We know that because of the familial language. Throughout the Bible, Christians are presented all Christians as family especially those who are a part of the same church. An example is in Romans 12:10, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” Romans 12:10 Does this means we should not care about others who don’t have enough? No. But there are other verses for that. The focus here is how we show love by doing good to and for each other. Here we must understand that James is presenting us with a scenario where two people very well known to each other—called to show love to each other happen to come across each other on a street. In other words, how do you respond when you come across someone you are supposed to love like family in dire need? See the scenario? You happen to run across a brother or sister from Center Church (or whatever church you are a part of) and that person is in acute need. What kind of need are we talking about? We aren’t talking need of— - A new phone without a cracked screen 7


A new pair of designer jeans A new computer with a faster processor A 2021 SUV rather than the 2015 model New Patio Furniture Internet or cable service

We are talking about the most basic needs fundamental to survival—food and clothing. This is what we see in this scenario. A brother or sister is poorly clothed and hungry. This person is no stranger. They sit there barely covered against the unremitting sun or the biting cold and they shake with hunger. So, how should someone with authentic faith in Jesus respond to a brother or sister in this kind of need? Feed and clothe the person. Simple. How does the person respond in vs 16, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” They respond with empty religious words. The person who should help instead pronounces a blessing upon the hungry person—go in peace. There is nothing wrong with that blessing per se, but it is very poorly timed. How is that person supposed to go in peace with a rumbling stomach and shivering from cold? They can’t. 8

Do you see what happened? Put yourself in the place of the naked and hungry person. Imagine you find yourself out on the street after the worst day of your life— catastrophe piled upon catastrophe—and you have no idea what you are going to do or how you are going to make it through the day. And all of a sudden—a brother or sister from church comes walking down the street—and you think, “Yes, now I can get help. Thank you Lord.” And then your face meets their face and there is that moment of recognition and your brother or your sister says, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” You would feel hopeless. Why? This person was the one person that you could have and should have expected help and instead you got empty religious platitudes. It is very easy to spout religious words and paper over sinful inaction toward other people. We might not say, “God in peace, be warmed and filled,” to anyone in real need but we have our empty religious words— - God has a plan - I don’t feel led to do that - I don’t have the faith for that 9

- All things will work out for good - God is good - Trust God Instead of just helping. It is easy to use good sounding words in order make our evasion sound almost godly. I’ve done it. I’d wager we all have done it. 16

and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? What good is that indeed? One writer summed this attitude up perfectly, this attitude makes for a ‘wordy yet worthless faith.’ So, where are we? The Question: is a faith without good works an authentic faith? The Scenario: we come across a church member is deep need we do nothing but sling some handy religious platitudes but offer no real help.

3. The Conclusion (James 2:17) Vs. 17, 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 10

Simple. Direct. Devastating. Faith without good works is no real faith at all. Howe can you tell if your faith in Jesus is authentic? -

NOT by how much theology you know NOT whether you have been baptized NOT by your feelings NOT by how many spiritual experiences NOT by a position you hold at a church

BUT— By how you treat others of your church especially when they are in need. Authentic faith in Jesus is never invisible, it will always be noticed by the good deeds we do for other people. There simply is no such thing as saving faith in Jesus without an active impulse to do good deeds for others in need, especially those at your church. Do you see? Not for one moment are we saying that we earn salvation by the good deeds we do for other people. Salvation is all of grace. True 11

and full stop. Yet our the works we do for others make visible the internal workings of grace. Just because our good deeds for others do not contribute to our salvation does not mean that our good deeds are irrelevant or unimportant. Christians are commanded by God to do good. We have no right to pit good deeds and faith against each other. They are on the same team. Davids says it perfectly, “James does not argue for faith instead of works, or works instead of faith, or even works above faith, but for faith and works.” Peter Davids BOTH Do you see why? Vs. 17, 17

So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

A faith in Jesus that does not ALSO have good deeds toward others—especially in its own church—is no faith at all. Genuine faith in Jesus is made visible by good deeds toward other followers of Jesus. 12

In the early church, one her leading theologians was a man named Tertullian. He reported that the Romans were staggered by the love they saw the Christians had for one another. He reports that they said, “See how they (the Christians) love one another.” Tertullian The Christians would care for the sick, even getting sick themselves. They would lend a hand to any who had need. That is our command too. The poor The sick The lonely The downcast The outcast The jobless The outside world is NEVER going to say, “See how much faith in Jesus they have.” Why? Faith is invisible. But good works are very much visible. Do you see? As they witness us doing good works for each other and they see our love for each other, they will be interested in our Jesus. 13

How? It is interesting that James does not describe what this love must look like, rather he says that when we become aware of specific needs of our brothers and sister—especially in the church—we must move to help. You might wonder—there is so much need out there in the world—how can we make a difference. Great question. Look again at verse 15, 15

If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, There is a proximity, some would call it a moral proximity. When we know of someone in our church who has need we must move to help. That is the idea. When we know of one of our brothers or sisters across the world who have need, we move to help. Examples? - Haiti—The earthquake hit last month and we sent money and offered prayers. We didn’t send it to the Haitian government, but to Marc Clouvus. He was able to use that money to serve people who had need. 14

Here as well Car repairs Medical bills Clothing Help around the house Know of a job Hospitality

We all have this responsibility for each other. It would be a total failure if you waited for pastors to let you know where the needs are. Sometimes—most times—I’m the last to know things around here. When we become aware of someone who has a genuine need in our midst—we should move to help in the ways that we can. Not all of us are going to be able to help in the same way. But we all should want to help. A couple of thoughts as we end this series and look forward to next week. - Our uniting principle is Jesus and our bond is love. According to Carl Trueman, Karl Marx the great proponent of communism has handed us all a legacy. 15

“Marx also makes another major contribution that is now basic to how we think about society: he abolishes the pre-political, that notion that there can be forms of social organization that stand apart from, and prior to, the political nature of society…. And one does not need to be an ideological Marxist to be pulled into this tussle, for once one side gives a particular issue or organization political significance, then all sides, left, right, and center, have to do the same.” Carl Trueman Do you see what he is saying? Marx encouraged people to make everything political. To bring politics into every conversation, and make it the primary way people identify sides. We cannot do this. We identify with Jesus, extend love to all. If there is something for us to be known for—make it our love and not our politics. - What opportunities might we have? We MUST NOT be afraid. There will be a growing chorus of people who are going to view our gospel as unsafe, our Bible as a hazard, and our church as subversive. There will be voices that say this—but as they investigate may they see with their own eyes that we love God and each other. This is one 16

of the many reasons we CANNOT retreat into some kind of Christian fortress and remove ourselves from the culture around us. Church, we don’t want to just exist and make it through this cultural moment—no the Lord has us here and now. I believe we have an opportunity to thrive and make a real difference in our community. Why? We are an embassy here—far from home representing our king and his interests.