Greetings and love to you all.
We spoke last week about doing the word. How our faith is at its best when we put it into action. Today we’ll continue along this same line of thought, looking at our faith with deeds. Not our faith and deeds. But, our faith with deeds. The deeds we perform or do not perform should be a clue to the strength of our faith. We’ll stay in the book of James, James 2:12-13,
“Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”
Say this, out loud, with me, “Mercy triumphs over judgment.” Again, and one last time. If you don’t remember anything else today, please remember this.
We live in a society and culture that is tremendously judgmental. We are harsh, and critical, and speak condemnation to each other via all the new technology that we are blessed with. The woke agenda is nothing but a template to use in comparison with peoples’ behavior, in an effort through shaming and condemnation, to force people to adjust personal behavior to the woke agenda. It is McCarthyism in reverse.
The conservatives are not much better, they speak condemnation back to the woke agenda, out of anger and frustration.
Please understand this, from both points of view, this is a very poor witness.
Say this out loud, to yourself, “Mercy triumphs over judgment”. Again, and again. When you speak out loud to your own subconscious three times, it registers in your mind. Mercy does triumph over judgment. Let’s look at this from another perspective, Matthew 9:13,
“But go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’”
Let’s analyze all of this through the lens of the servant mindset. The attitude of a sacrificial servant is that of a martyr. The attitude of a merciful servant is that of a compassionate healer.
I ask each of you today, which of these are you? Is the attitude of your service one of a martyr, proud of your continuing sacrifice? Or, is your serving attitude like that of a compassionate healer?
I can tell you this. Our God does not need any more mouthy martyrs, proud of their own sacrifice that is always so difficult. The world has enough of these people. In fact, this is very similar to the attitude of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. Shouting “Look at me, at what I’m doing”.
God wants compassionate healers, who humbly serve the lost.
Which is the better witness? Jesus told us. He’s not calling the righteous, he’s calling sinners. The loud and mouthy martyr scares away sinners. Compassionate healers draw sinners to them. Jesus was a compassionate healer.
Jesus does not need any of us to be sacrificial martyrs, because he made the final sacrifice, a couple thousand years ago.
This is confirmed in Hosea 6:6, where the Lord, speaking through Hosea teaches us,
“For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.”
God does not want our sacrifices, he wants our love and fellowship. He wants us to work smarter, not harder. Remember, his yoke is supposed to be easy, right? Remember Jesus’ teaching to Martha.
Many, many well-meaning Christians make this error today. I made this mistake for many years as a new believer. Don’t make this mistake. Let’s be compassionate healer and not a mouthy martyr. James 2:14-17,
“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
We are surrounded by homeless people today here in Concord. Families, with children, infants even, living in cars, in tents, sofa surfing with family and friends.
We cannot just tell these people that we will be praying for them. We have got to step up, take action, be compassionate healers, and take some form of action. In fact, God is teaching us to do this very thing. 1 John 3:17-19,
“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth…”
What kind of person do you want to be? What kind of Christian do you want to be?
We live in a society that speaks condemnation from both sides of the political spectrum. Those that are suffering could care less what these people are saying. I’m not here for your vote. I’m not here to win an election.
I am here for people’s souls. I want to see more people believe in Jesus, and fewer people go to hell. I can better facilitate this by being an action-oriented compassionate healer than I can be anything else. I believe that many of you agree with me. We need to follow in Jesus’ ministry footsteps.
But we have to be careful. James 2:18-19,
“But someone will say, ‘You have faith; but I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shudder.”
What is driving your faith? This is the question at the root of this. Let’s go to Paul in Romans 3:27-28,
“Where then is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man (or a woman) is justified by faith apart from observing the law.”
I am not here to get you to behave a certain way. I am here to help you to believe. Changing behavior is the responsibility of the Holy Spirit. This happens after you believe. The Holy Spirit will guide you through conviction, confession, forgiveness, and spiritual growth. Here in this scripture, Paul is emphasizing that our faith in Jesus Christ is the basis for our justification, not our actions. Paul is teaching that just obeying the law is not active enough for salvation.
Well, neither are good deeds, for that matter. Our actions do not determine our salvation, it is our belief in Christ that determines our salvation. Our salvation is based on our faith. When Martin Luther personally read this verse where it says “on faith”, Luther wrote, “on faith alone”.
We are justified by faith alone. Not by a lonely faith isolated by itself. Well, if we are justified by faith alone, why deeds? Again, I ask you, what drives your faith? Deuteronomy 6:4-5, this is the Shema, the Jewish confession of faith. This is the beginning part of the Shema,
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
This is what should drive our faith, our love for God. Nothing else. Not what people will think, not appearances, not reputation, not whether my deeds sound good on Twitter or Facebook, not even whether my momma told me I should do this. We should do what we do as Christians out of love for our God and for his glory, not ours.
In Mark 12:28-31, Jesus answers a question by one of the teachers of the law.
“‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’ ‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this, Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. (Jesus adds) The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is none greater than these.”’
This is what should drive our faith.
Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God.
and Harmony UMC