This message is about faith ~ doing the will of God, aligning ourselves with God. The little phrase we sometimes add to prayers is larger than life: “not my will, but your will be done.” Lincoln reminded those ministers that religion is not a tool by which we get God to do what we want but an invitation to open ourselves to being and doing what God wants.
I found a great outline to help organize this message ~ three kinds of faith: dead faith, demonic faith, dynamic faith ~ Warren Wiersbe, the man of the outline said: "No man can come to Christ by faith and remain the same, anymore than he can come into contact with a 220-volt wire and remain the same." Faith in Jesus Christ will change you!
James is for those who are unsure in their faith. The counsel of James is that the way to gain confidence is to start on the inside, not the outward problems, but your relationship with God, your faith. Last week the scripture came from the first part of James 2, it seemed like a sermon on what James calls the Royal Law, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (James 2:8). The scripture today is like a sermon on the first command often paired with the Love Your neighbor command: “Love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” (see Luke 10:27-28). This describes the dynamic faith James speaks of in the 2nd half James 2. Before he gets to the dynamic living faith, he first tells about a couple of other sorts of faith that are less than dynamic, less than involving heart, soul, strength, mind: dead faith, and demonic faith. Only the dynamic faith is a living Saving faith. The other two are not real faith because faith cannot be compromised.
My life is enriched by many who have a dynamic living active faith. Dynamic faith does not mean perfection, but if you are saved and have accepted the grace of Jesus Christ with his death on the cross, your faith is dynamic. When we talk about dead faith and demonic faith, the point for many of you is not to wonder “is that me” but rather, to embrace the contrast in order to find greater dynamic faith. Maturity in Christ means we can grow in faith. On the other hand, if you are not sure about this whole Jesus Christ thing, take this message to heart….
Faith is an essential element in the Christian life: Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6); the Christian is saved by faith (Eph. 2:8); the Christian is to walk by faith (2 Cor. 5:7). Trust God with everything you have: heart, soul, strength, mind.
DEAD FAITH is described in James 2:14-17. The old question that makes you think: If you were arrested for being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict you? The illustration James uses is self explanatory about turning people away that need help. A few weeks ago in Sunday School the question centered around whether actions were enough for evangelism; most of us agreed no, our actions are important, but we do need the words of Salvation in order to invite people to receive Jesus Christ. It is extremely important to note our actions as Christians are a result of our changed life and not the payment to earn salvation. Dead faith would be something like paying membership into a gymnasium but never going to the gym. Dead faith is the mark of a person who knows the right words, but does not walk the talk.
Dynamic faith is the person who has been transformed in heart, soul, strength and mind, “Love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind”
Dead faith is intellectual faith only. I had a friend come to me once that was getting out of the pastoral ministry. I thought he wanted to talk about his life/issues. NO. He wanted Sally and me to support him in his new job as a financial counselor and give him all our money to invest. I knew this man for years. His own finances were a disaster. Sally and I thought to ourselves, “are you kidding me?” There were lots of reasons that was a bad idea (a friend invest our limited money?), but we said no primarily because he was a poor money manager himself. This man was not walking the talk ~ a good idea in his mind but he showed no evidence he was capable of handling money.
A person with dead faith knows the words of Christianity, perhaps knows the story of salvation, but they have never really submitted to God and trusted in Jesus Christ for salvation. Three times it says in this short scripture that faith without deeds is useless/dead ~ James 2:17, 20, 26. I think James is emphasizing this point because his scattered congregation is hunkering down around the world; he wants them to continue living their faith even in the face of fear and uncertainty.
DEMONIC FAITH: The next kind of faith is found in James 2:18-19. Remember dynamic faith includes heart, soul, strength, mind. If any is missing then it is a limited faith and less than God’s best for us. As I read these verses, what is missing? READ.
This is nicknamed DEMONIC FAITH because even the Demons have a brand of faith. They believe there is one God. In other scriptures demons clearly believe in the deity of Christ (see Mark 3:11-12). The demons have emotions ~ they believe, they “shudder,” intellect ~ but you know what they are missing? I don’t know exactly what a “soul” is…but the demons are missing the soul of Christianity. They have “deeds” but the “deeds” of a demon are for their own ends. The “deeds” may even appear to be good and noble, but somehow they are missing something that is NOT God honoring. The disconnect between Demonic Faith and Dynamic Faith is that the Will of God is not the focus. Demons are active in their faith, they believe in a lot of things, but they are enemies of God not seeking to do his will, not seeking to be servants of the purposes of God, but seeking to do their own will. [Is this an overstatement? Any actions, even good actions, strictly for my own selfish purposes, are of Satan, not of God. Overstated?]
I don’t like demons, yet this faith described by James is demonic. There are those that have faith equivalent to demons, masquerading as Christians but are not. Beware. Be savvy. Be ready. Contrast the faith of demons with a dynamic faith in the true God.
I don’t like demons. I don’t like talking about demons. But it is important to understand demons and Satan are real. Demonic faith mimicks the Christian faith, more subtle than Dead Faith. Demonic faith is missing the soul of what it means to follow Christ. We tend to see the world in grays. We tend to mush the lines of faith, the lines of rightness. I don’t understand our political world ~ with the two current leaders of the two major parties, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, I don’t get the extremeness of either one. But if there is a silver lining of something positive, in both cases, it appears the average person is desiring to get away from the mushiness of our world and just decide where are we going as a nation. We are tired of fighting, going places halfway. We are tired of our political establishment taking us nowhere fast. I am a simple person, I want God in my life not because I am so smart, because He is….He knows… what is confusing to me is clear to God….Dynamic faith means you are all in for God, not holding back your mind, your actions, your passions, seeking to do his will.
Back to a demonic vs. dynamic faith, it will always be true that we are not God so we don’t have an absolute list of who is saved because we don’t know the heart. But God knows. He sees the world in right and wrong, saved and unsaved. Let these verses be a reminder that God knows the sincerity and convictions of our heart.
Demonic faith is frightening because many elements of true faith are present, yet the bottom line is that a demonic faith is the complete opposite of God’s will. Demonic faith is passionate, believes, practices good deeds, but the soul is missing and the end of demonic faith is completely contrary to living a life with Jesus Christ.
There is only one kind of Faith by which you will be saved: DYNAMIC FAITH. READ James 2:20-26. dynamic faith is when what we do is an expression of what we believe. Our heart, soul, strength, mind are one…Dead faith touches only the intellect. Demonic faith is missing the soul of Christianity seeking to do the work of Satan, not Christ.
Each of the examples listed from the O.T. in this scripture of people who live their faith are worth considering. [I will add on the website Bible verses where you can find the stories of Abraham and Rahab. Find them. Perhaps better, sit down with one of the wonderfully faithful Christians in this church and ask….] Both Abraham and Rahab are imperfect people living imperfect lives, yet they demonstrate a dynamic faith focused on God and are acceptable to him. Whatever dynamic faith is, it is NOT perfection, it is NOT earning salvation. It is simply a focus, desire, trust and living the will of God.
Dynamic faith ~ the mind understands truth, the HEART desires and rejoices in the truth, The WILL acts upon the truth. It is not intellectual contemplation, but that may be part of it, it is not emotionalism, although God embraces our passions. Dynamic faith results in obedience expressed by doing good works.
The clear inspirational message is the contrast of James 2:26 READ. James is saying LIVE. LIVE FOR CHRIST. BELIEVE. BE PASSIONATE. BE ACTIVE.
Questions to Examine your faith [are written out at the end of these notes]. I found this list helpful for a person to take a spiritual inventory of faith. I encourage you to take this home and prayerfully consider where you are in your relationship with God. A good place to begin is with the heart-felt statement of Ps. 139:23-24: Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Dynamic Saving Faith: God wants your heart, soul, strength and mind.
Questions to ask to examine your faith:
- Was there a time when I honestly realized I was a sinner and admitted this to myself and to God?
- Was there a time when my heart stirred me to flee from the jusdgment to come? Have I ever been seriously worked up over my sins?
- Do I truly understand the gospel, that Christ died for MY sins and then rose again? Do I understand and confess that I cannot save myself?
- Did I sincerely repent of my sins, making the decision to turn from them? Do I now hate sin and fear God? Or do I secretly love sin and want to enjoy it?
- Have I trusted Christ and Him alone for my salvation by responding to the commands He has given? Have I confessed my faith in Christ and then been baptized for the remission of my sins as He and His apostles commanded?
- Has there been a change in my life? Do I regularly practice good works, or are my good works occasional and weak? Do I seek to grow in the things of the Lord? Can others tell that I have been with Jesus?
- Do I have a desire to share Christ with others? Or am I ashamed of Him?
- Do I enjoy the fellowship of God's people? Is worship a delight to me?
- Am I ready for the Lord's return? Or will I be ashamed when He comes for me?