I preached at the final service in the Clearfield Community Lenten Lunch series today. Here’s the gist of my message …
Joleen, who hosted today’s service at West Side, read the Scripture. I hope people caught the contrasting points of the two writers.
Romans 4.1-5 (NLT)
Abraham was, humanly speaking, the founder of our Jewish nation. What did he discover about being made right with God? 2 If his good deeds had made him acceptable to God, he would have had something to boast about. But that was not God’s way. 3 For the Scriptures tell us, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” 4 When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned. 5 But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners.
James 2.21-24 (NLT)
21 Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. 23 And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God. 24 So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone.
And here’s the message that followed …
Too often, there’s a disconnect between faith and action. We may emphasize faith and simply show up on Sundays to be fed and inspired, only to go about life as usual until the next week. Or maybe we’re active, but our work isn’t really connected to our faith. It’s just busyness. It’s technically action, but it doesn’t bear any fruit for the kingdom of God.
There’s always been confusion over the relationship between faith and action, going at least as far back to Paul and James. I love that they both wrote about Abraham’s offering of Isaac and quoted the exact same sentence out of the Old Testament … and made two different (but not necessarily conflicting) points from the story!
I think Paul’s emphasis was on faith in coming to Christ while James’ emphasis was for those who have faith in Christ to bear it out in the way that they live.
Faith and action go hand in hand!
It’s always been that way. Look at the people listed in Hebrews 11. The writer doesn’t say, “Wow. Abraham was a really nice guy. Moses was so spiritual. And Sarah, boy she was a very trusting person.” No, in just about every case, the writer said, “By faith …” they did stuff! Their faith resulted in action. They were people for whom it could be said, faith and action go hand in hand!
At the end of this list in Hebrews, the writer sounds a call to action (to run the race with endurance) then directs the readers’ attention to Jesus, the greatest doer of all!
Listen to some of the things Jesus said …
I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me. (John 6.38)
My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work. (John 4.34)
Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. (Matthew 7.21)
Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother! (Matthew 12.50)
… let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. (Matthew 5.16)
Is it any wonder that the biblical account of the first generation of Christ-followers is called Acts? The account describes how those first followers’ faith and action went hand in hand!
I want to leave us with the question that God asked Moses at the burning bush when he trying to talk Moses into leading a massive exodus from Egypt. God’s asked Moses, “What’s that in your hand?”
Moses must’ve thought, it’s just a stick! And he was right. In Moses’ hand, it was just a stick. But in God’s hand, it did mighty things. It was used in the performing of miracles, including the parting of the Red Sea. It was a tool in the start of a spiritual revolution!
What’s in your hand? You might think it isn’t much, that it’s just a stick. It might be one talent, two talents, or five talents. The amount doesn’t matter — what matters is what we do with it. Whatever you do, don’t sit on it or bury it. Do something with it that honors God and bears fruit for God’s kingdom!
To you, it might just be a stick, but in God’s hand, it can be mightily used to accomplish great things. It can start a spiritual revolution, in your home, your school, your workplace, or your neighborhood.
You see, this is a hands-on faith!
Jesus’ followers took people by the hand and people were healed. They laid hands on people and they were filled with the Holy Spirit. Jesus himself touched lepers and other “untouchables.” He washed the feet of his friends, even though he knew that within hours, one would betray him, one would deny, and all would desert him!
Jesus was delivered into the hands of sinners. He was tied up, tortured and humiliated. His hands were stretched out and nailed to a cross.
After rising from the dead, Jesus sends us to be his hands, feet, and his voice in the world … to change the world with the good news of Jesus Christ!