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Attitude Matters: James 2:14-26

Don’t Flinch!
John Witte

Faith Bible Church is a Free Grace congregation. Our Expanded Statement of Faith says this:

Salvation is a free gift of God’s grace that comes only through faith in Christ. At the moment of salvation, the believer is granted the perfect righteousness of Christ, declared righteous of all sin, past, present, and future, made a new creation, and indwelt by the fullness of the Holy Spirit. (John 5:24; Gal. 6:15; Romans 5:9; 1 Cor. 6:11) Lifestyle changes, surrender to Christ as Lord, and the bearing of fruit are results of salvation and are not conditions for gaining or keeping God’s free gift. (John 6:47)”

That belief is in sharp contrast to one that says we must earn our salvation through daily obedience to the Lordship of Christ. Many who hold that position use our text today as one of their proofs. In many ways, we agree with them that the way we live our lives – what we call “works” - is of extreme importance. The sermon today takes this topic head-on.

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James 2:14-26 (ESV)
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. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.—
Sermon Summary
John Witte opened the lesson with the story of an injury he received when he fired a new rifle as a boy. That event caused him to flinch when shooting from then on. The metaphor is a life lesson for our temptation to flinch during trials. Flinching makes it hard to act, even on what we know to be true. At the core, flinching is a faith problem. We’re not sure we trust what’s about to happen. We’re not sure who we can trust, if it’s worth the risk to trust, when it’s safe to trust, why we should trust, and what can we trust?

WATCH> the video clip above

James 2:14 says, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?”

ASK> What did James mean when he asked this question of the wealthy brethren that were flinching in the face of trials?

READ> Ephesians 2:8-9

It appears that James and Paul were saying precisely the opposite about salvation! Paul said works don’t save you. James said faith without works can’t save you.

ASK> How do we resolve that theological tension?
“Salvation” in our passage does not mean “going to heaven.” James asked his Christian brothers if they thought a faith that doesn’t work would make the most of their lives and be rewarded at the Judgement Seat of Christ? James was sure the answer was NO!

James teaches that our deeds are the visible expression of our invisible faith. We tend to think of good works as opposed to saving faith. But the Bible consistently encourages our good works.

ASK> Like Abraham and Rahab, do your good works complete your faith and prove that it is alive? What actions show that your faith in God is genuine?

ASK> In what ways do we flinch in the face of trials? What opportunities are missed for us as well as for others?
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