This week we will be continuing in our series “Back to School with James” by looking at James chapter 2. I hope that you are taking the time to read through the book of James this week. I am praying that, as you read, God speaks to you in a personal, powerful, and life-changing way. James has a way of cutting through all the fluff of life and getting right to the heart of the problem, which most often is a problem of the heart.
With that being said, I am looking forward to sharing with you some things that God has strongly confronted me with over the past couple of years. The title of this message is “Exploding the Myth of ‘Acceptable Exceptions’”. We are all susceptible to conforming to the culture around us but God has called us to lead radically counter-cultural lives. Jesus has given us the power to live out that call, and the Holy Spirit stands at the ready to enable us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12.1-2). So, all I have to say is “buckle up buttercup” this Sunday morning is going to be a heart-challenging time.
I’m also excited that you get to hear from Johnathan Van Vleck this week. He’ll be sharing in each service about his experiences this summer serving as your intern here at TFBC. Come and listen to the stories of how God has grown him over the past three months. Also, come prepared to bless Johnathan with a love offering as he heads back to college. I appreciate how generous you have been as a church in the past and I’m excited to give you the opportunity to invest in this young man.
I love you all!
See you Sunday,
STEPS TO PREPARE
PRAY FOR THE SERVICES AND FOR YOURSELF
AND ME AND THE OTHER TEACHERS.
PRAYERFULLY READ THE SCRIPTURES
AND CONSIDER THE DISCUSSION QUESTIONS.
MAKE PLANS TO ATTEND A PREACHING SERVICE AND A SMALL GROUP.
INVITE SOMEONE TO COME WITH YOU.
PREPARING FOR SUNDAY: SMALL GROUP QUESTIONS
SMALL GROUP QUESTIONs
James 2 – Dead Faith
- Are you a doer or a thinker? Are you more likely to act without thinking or think without acting? Give an example.
- How do you define faith?
- How would you explain to a child why we do “good works”?
James continues his series of tests by which his readers can evaluate whether their faith is living or dead. And he clearly says that a faith that is not acted out is really no faith at all. He’s not saying that a person is saved by works (he has already clearly asserted in 1:17–18 that salvation is a gracious gift from God). He is saying that there is a kind of apparent faith that is dead and does not save (vv. 14, 17, 20, 24, 26). It is possible James was writing to Jewish Christians who had embraced the mistaken notion that since righteous works and obedience to God’s law were not effective for salvation, they were not necessary at all. Thus, they reduced “faith” to a mere mental assent to the facts about Christ.
The truth that James emphasizes in this text is that what we do reveals who we are. He is not speaking simply of beliefs and intentions in general, but of the foundational belief of saving faith. The genuineness of one’s profession of faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is evidenced more by what a person does than by what he claims. As you study the passage, ask God to give you insight into the important relationship between faith and works, and to help you have a living faith.
Read James 2.14-20
- What two examples does James cite to show the futility of faith without works (vv. 15-6, 19)? How are these good examples of dead faith?
- Do you think James proves his point? Why do you think so?
- Is James suggesting that helping the poor and hungry is a prerequisite to salvation? How do you know?
- What did James mean when he said that the “demons believe”? How does this emphasize the difference between dead faith and genuine saving faith?
Jesus told a parable that also illustrates how true faith reveals itself through doing good to others.
Read Matthew 25:31–46.
- What does this parable reveal about the relationship between faith and works? How is the King able to tell which are His true subjects?
Read Ephesians 2.8-10
- What more do we learn about the relationship between salvation and works?
Read Luke 19.1-10
- What does this incident reveal about the transforming nature of saving faith? (Other verses to consider: Acts 19.18-19; 1 Thess. 1.9)
It cannot be stressed too often that no one can be saved by works. Salvation is entirely “by grace . . . through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:8–9). If works could have any part in salvation, it would no longer be by God’s grace. But neither can it be stressed too often that, as James declares in the present passage, “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (2:17). Genuine, transforming faith not only should but will, produce genuine good works, notably repentance and obedient submission to Christ’s lordship. This is the expression of the new nature, created in the new birth (2 Cor. 5:17). It will not be perfect obedience and repentance, but good works will be present. We might say that it costs us nothing to become a Christian but everything to live fully as one.
- What have you learned about the dangers of only doing good works?
Of only having a head-knowledge faith?
- Someone has asked, “If you were tried in a court of law for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” How would you answer this? What undeniable proof of God’s saving and sanctifying work do you see in your life?
- How can we best pray for you this week?