The Right Kind of Faith

SCRIPTURE: James 2:14-26

14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? 15 Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, 16 and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?

17 So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.

18 Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.”

19 You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God.[f] Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. 20 How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?

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.

25 Rahab the prostitute is another example. She was shown to be right with God by her actions when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away by a different road. 26 Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.

INTRODUCTION

The key to the passage is verse 14, Can that kind of faith save anyone? James is not talking about FAITH verses WORKS. He is talking about two kinds of faith. Technically there are only two kinds:

  • The right kind and the wrong kind.
  • A faith that works and one that does not work.
  • A faith never moved to act and a faith that moves us to act.
  • A faith that is dead and lifeless and a faith that is alive.
  • A faith that is passive and a faith that is active.
  • A faith that pities and a faith that helps.
  • A faith that is intellectual and a faith that is life changing.
  • A faith that manifest itself in words and a faith that shows itself in deeds.

Once you see that he is discussing two kinds of faith, everything becomes crystal clear. Either you have the right kind of faith, a faith that works or you have the wrong kind, one that does not work. What James hates is profession of faith without evidence of faith.

The question presented tonight is–How do you show, demonstrate true faith? You do it in actions [Verse 18]

  • You help the brother or sister who has no clothes or food. Speaking a blessing over is not an appropriate action. You go home or to the store and get food and clothes and take it to them. True Christian ministry is always expensive. If you are cheap, you are not a minister. Advice is cheap, words are cheap but food and clothes cost money.
  • Abraham believed God. He had so much faith that he believed that God would resurrect Isaac. God would have had Isaac been the Messiah. But God is not into human sacrifice other than the one exception. Yet Abraham demonstrated tremendous faith by being willing to give up his son. He literally gave the one thing he loved most to God. What a sacrifice. He did not have to slay his son to present the sacrifice, he had to be willing. Figuratively, Isaac was resurrected because Abraham got him back. When you think of Abraham, what word pops into your mind? It is not works. The word that pops into your mind is FAITH because Abraham was saved by faith, real faith, the right kind of faith. [James does not hate FAITH; he hates profession without real faith. He hates the wrong kind of faith.]
  • When you think of Rahab, do you think works? Not unless you are Church of Christ. Rahab is the poster girl for GRACE just as Abraham is the father of FAITH. I am not going to tell you what Rahab means in Hebrew: look it up on Blue Letter Bible. She was a prostitute but she believed in Yahweh and she let it be known to the spies. She believed that every knee would bow and every tongue confess and she wanted to be identified as a believer. She demonstrated her faith by putting her life on the line. Had the king of Jericho found out what Rahab was doing: she would have been executed. It took great faith for her to hide the spies. What kind of faith did she have? The right kind! The wrong kind of faith is useless. By the way, Rahab became a proselyte Israelite, she converted to the faith and married an Israelite man. Rahab gave birth to a man named Boaz who eventually married Ruth a Moabite. Ruth and Boaz had a son name Obed. Obed had a son named Jesse and Jesse was the father of David. This makes Ruth [Gentile] David great grand mother and Rahab is his great-great. Boaz was half Israelite and half Canaanite. Obed was only one quarter Israelite. His mother was a Moabite and his daddy was only half Israelite. What does this mean? David, who the Jews came to worship was not a full blooded Jew. A lot of people believe that Matthew put Ruth and Rahab in the geneology to humble the Jews. Rahab spells GRACE. You know the Jews did not want her name mentioned. They of course denied the deity of Christ and that He was the Messiah but they could not deny that she was David’s great-great.

So we see as an example how Abraham and Rahab expressed their faith: they did it by doing acts of faith. It both cases it took faith to act and they acted in faith. Neither had a dead, lifeless, passive faith.

Jesus In The Sermon On The Mount

“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

Who do we obey, Jesus or James? Actually, there is no real conflict. Jesus is dealing with motive. In Matthew 6 Jesus is referring to Pharisees and Scribes in chapter 5 He is talking to His disciples when He says…

“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

So really James is in sink with Jesus, we are not to cover our faith. We are not to keep it secret. The sin is to have a corrupt motive and do it for our glory rather than the glory of Christ.

My first Church was actually an interim job during my last two years of college. It was a very good church. They had an old fashioned general assembly before Sunday School and the Sunday School Directory had the floor. He was an old man who loved to hear himself talk and he only attended on Sunday mornings. I was green as grass and didn’t have a clue as to what I was doing but I grew up in a much larger church that used the SS envelope system with the 8 point grading system and a place for your offering, and a place on the outside of the envelope where you wrote down the amount. The SS Directory had a fit and his biblical excuse was Matthew 6:3, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. I think in this case, the left hand was ashamed of what it was doing which was robbing God. I was young and thought all church leaders tithed, especially a man who stood before others and tried to teach them right and wrong. Sure enough, the old bird didn’t give a dime. He was using Jesus teaching to excuse himself from giving.

We are not to give ostentatiously; we are not to give begrudgingly–Jesus made it clear that there is no reward for the wrong kind of giving. That does not mean that professing believers should watch the offering plate past without putting something in. You don’t have to stand up and wave your check. I turn my envelop upside down. No one needs to know the amount but they need to see me give. I’d be a hypocrite if I talked about giving and I didn’t give. No one should be showy about their giving but neither should we be ashamed. I have no problem with revealing all our financial records including the contributions. We are going to do that but I wouldn’t mind personally. June and I are not the leading contributors and that is a good thing. But we tithe and I personally would have no problem with you examining my financial records. If we put that to a vote, it will get voted down. What do you think will motivate people to vote no: fear loss of reward for their incredible gifts or fear reproach when folks realize how little they give. I believe the later is a greater problem than the first.

When ever the opportunity to give comes up, you should be in front of the line anxious and ready to give. You don’t have to give $100 dollars every time the plate is passed but you need to give something because someone is watching you. I’m not talking about Jesus, He is watching but their are others in the congregation that are watching you, especially if you are a leader. They are looking to see if you demonstrate your faith.

I do agree that some things need to be done in private: you don’t make a spectacle out of helping someone but at the same time you don’t put the candle under a bowl. You only concern is motive. In terms of giving who expressed the most faith in their gift in the bible?

Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Many rich people put in large amounts. 42 Then a poor widow came and dropped in two small coins.

43 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. 44 For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.”

It is not the amount that counts: it is the faith expressed and the motive. Jesus did not rebuke this woman for giving in public because her motive was pure. Any time people begin talking about secrecy and they don’t do things to been seen of men; what it really means is they don’t do anything.

You can’t convince me in a thousand life times that a man who loves his family when he refuses to support them financially. Trust me, there are men who don’t.

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Jesus And His Critics

SCRIPTURE: Luke 6:6-11

On another Sabbath day, a man with a deformed right hand was in the synagogue while Jesus was teaching. The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees watched Jesus closely. If he healed the man’s hand, they planned to accuse him of working on the Sabbath.

But Jesus knew their thoughts. He said to the man with the deformed hand, “Come and stand in front of everyone.” So the man came forward. Then Jesus said to his critics, “I have a question for you. Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?”

10 He looked around at them one by one and then said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored! 11 At this, the enemies of Jesus were wild with rage and began to discuss what to do with him.

INTRODUCTION

I confess, I have my share of critics and yes, even some enemies. I am aware that there are those who are literally praying for me to fail but we’re going to talk about JESUS today because He is the focus of this story and He is a much better subject. Plus, I am more comfortable talking about HIM than myself.

Before we get into the heart of the message– I want you to notice two things:

  1. Jesus had critics–Verse 9…”Jesus said to His critics.”
  2. Jesus had enemies–Verse 11…”The enemies of Jesus were wild with rage.”

JESUS AND HIS CRITICS

Unfortunately, we have naïve and ignorant people in our church who think that spiritual leaders should be so gentle, meek and mild as to have no critics or enemies. Dr. R.G. Lee stated long before his departure…”When my body lies in a casket and some preacher stands here and say, ‘Here lies Dr. Lee, he didn’t have an enemy in the world.’ Some help me, I will raise up and point my finger at him and say, ‘you are a liar.'” When Charles Stanley was elected president of the SBC, amid the tumult of the times {the liberals screaming in protest}, the liberal Baptist Press rushed to him with their microphones and ask, “How do you feel, though elected, knowing that so many hate you? I love his answer and it shut them up. He said, “Well, it puts me in the company of Jesus and Paul, they were both hated also.”

As I have reminded the naïve and ignorant more than once–Jesus did not die of old age–the Jewish religious leaders hated Him with a passion and they conspired to put Him to death. I know this was God’s plan and Jesus had to help them in places but the fact remain, Jesus was hated by the religious and the pagan.

Jesus was hated then and He is hated now. You can keep kidding yourself, but Corporate America has sold their soul to the devil and with few exceptions, they are anti-Christ. We can’t boycott them all but I suggest that we start with Starbucks and Walmart. Psalm 2 reads like yesterday’s new paper….Why are the nations so angry? Why do they waste their time with futile plans? The kings of the earth prepare for battle; the rulers plot together against the LORD and against his Anointed One.

With this understood: I want to say three things about Jesus and His Critics

I. JESUS KNEW WHO THEY WERE AND WHAT THEY WERE THINKING

My father in the ministry, Calvin C. Inman, said things that I found unbelievable until God called me to preach. One of the things he said repeatedly was…”I know who is praying for me and I know who is critical.” As a teenage boy, I thought, “No way, he cannot know who is critical and who is prayerful.” Husbands, let me ask you a question: do you know when your wife is mad at you? Does she have to tell you? We call this non-verbal communication and it is very real. You young people think I am making this up but you will discover the truth someday.

I’m like Bro. Inman, I have a sense of who is critical and who is prayerful and I know what you are thinking in general but Jesus knew specifically. He knew every sorted detail of His critics thoughts. Mind readers bother me; don’t they disturb you just a little? What if the incarnate Christ walked through these doors today. I’m not sure I could muster up a hardy welcome because I would be finding me a spot of the floor with head down, just praying he would not notice me.

To face HIM eye ball to eye ball and accuse HIM, no, no, not me! You can do it if you choose but I want no part of facing the sinless Christ with some flimsy accusation. That’s the devil’s job, not mine.

I don’t pretend to know what you thinking right now but JESUS knows and that fact alone should humble us.

II. JESUS ADDRESSED HIS CRITICS [V.9]

JESUS could have ignored them and He did on occasion but on this particular day, in the synagogue, He spoke directly to them. JESUS asked them a question: “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?

JESUS said in Matthew 7:12, “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.” We call this the golden rule…Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. In Matthew 22 Jesus elaborates further…

36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”

37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

In Matthew 9:13 JESUS said to this same group of critics, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices. {Hosea 6:6}

Let me ask you a real easy question: what is missing in the lives of JESUS’ critics? If you said Mercy or Compassion, you were right. The Pharisees and Scribes showed no mercy, had no compassion and violated the two most important commandments which are to love God with all the heart and neighbor as self.

These hardened religious zealots did not care about the man with the crippled hand. They didn’t care about anyone. They were so obsessed with their laws and religion that they were insensitive to all the pain and suffering around them. They were concerned with laws, rituals, days…Jesus was concerned with people and their needs.

I know a woman who works hours to prepare the Sunday meal for her family but she never sits down to eat or rest until she carried a tray of food, including drink and dessert to her shut-in neighbor who lives by himself. I don’t think Jesus is upset with her for breaking the Sabbath, do you? The Sabbath is a good day to do a good deed.

III. JESUS STOOD UP TO HIS CRITICS

Oh how I admire Jesus. His courage is off the charts. I so want to be like HIM in this regard. He did not cow down to His critics, His enemies. Let me tell you something that I have taught for years: the devil is a play ground bully. He loves to accuse and to intimidate but he had nothing on Jesus.

Jesus basically said, “You guys want to scrutinize everything I do, well scrutinize this and he called the man with the withered hand to the front of the synagogue where everyone could see. Jesus performs the miracle right there in front of them. No smoke and mirrors; no secrets, no meeting behind closed doors. Jesus had nothing to hide. The irony of this story is: His enemies left the synagogue and had a secret meeting with the Herodians on how they could eliminate Jesus. Isn’t this amazing: they are guilty of the very thing they accuse HIM of.

A lot of people do well until they begin to get criticism: this is one reason preachers use to move so often. When the honey moon was over, they found another church. You will never be a force in the Kingdom until you learn to face your critics. Don’t kid yourself, if Jesus had them [He was perfect], you and I are going to have them. The only way to silence your critics is to drop off the radar screen, become a monk, withdraw from society, be a do nothing. If you lead the troops into battle, you have to know you will be fired upon. The only way to prevent that from happening is to abandon your post and run for cover. If you get out of sight and out of mind, you probably will not be criticized. In you fall in rank with the CHRISTIAN ARMY, prepare to be fired upon.

Dead and Useless Faith

SCRIPTURE: James 2:14-17

14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? 15 Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, 16 and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?

17 So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.

INTRODUCTION

Actually, the passage on faith and works goes through verse 26 but I thought that was too much to cover in one night. James can be easily misunderstood and a lot of folks have failed to see the true meaning of his discussion on faith. Martin Luther called James the Epistle of Straw and did not want it in the cannon. I am certainly no Martin Luther but years ago, the LORD gave me an insight that changed the entire complexion of the book. Little did I know at the time that thousands of others had gotten the same insight.

We tend to think competition and when we get to James, we think FAITH verses WORKS. We thing either or but it is not one verses the other. James is talking about Spurious [false] faith verses true faith, saving faith. His basic premise is that TRUE FAITH WORKS! A spurious faith is passive, dead, without energy, inactive, intellectual based and can be wordy. A spurious faith can be professed and even defended but it cannot be demonstrated.

James is not refuting Paul; he is not saying that salvation is by works. He is simply saying “Real, True, Saving Faith is alive, active and demonstrates its true character in Christian deeds. In Biblical interpretation: Rule one is to filter everything through the words of Christ and the second rule is “God does not contradict Himself” so keep studying and praying until you figure it out.

Salvation is definitely by Grace through faith. Paul said in Ephesians 2, For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. In Galatians 2 Paul says,  “Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.

  1. SALVATION must be of grace for all have sinned
  2. GRACE is not grace unless it is wholly grace. Salvation could never be GRACE plus WORKS. Such a combination would destroy pure grace and give man bragging rights. If I buy a new truck and I am short $100 and you give me that $100, this deed gives you bragging rights. You can honestly say, “Look at the truck Bro. Jack and I bought.”
  3. The issue is not FAITH VERSES WORKS or even FAITH AND WORKS but TRUE FAITH VERSES SPURIOUS FAITH

James refers to spurious faith as ‘DEAD’ faith and he has good reason to do so.

I. DEAD FAITH IS PROFESSED BUT NOT PRACTICED–IT SUBSTITUTES WORDS FOR DEEDS

James says, “Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?

Talk can be cheap. In the case above, it took little effort to say these words but words alone can be meaningless, especially in such a case where a person is in need. We can speak words without spending money. We can speak words without making any sacrifices. As believers, we have the obligation to help those in need. Jesus said,  “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets. [Matthew 7:12] He also said, Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.” In Matthew 25 Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ Paul said in Galatians 6:10, Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith. Never pass up an opportunity to do an act of kindness: it is a way to make your faith visible; a way to demonstration of your faith.

Possibly the most pertinent verse is found in Isaiah 29, “Because this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote.” Jesus quoted this verse in Matthew 15, adding a few words… You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’”

A faith that yields only lip service is not TRUE FAITH.

II. DEAD FAITH CANNOT BE DEMONSTRATED BECAUSE IT HAS NO POWER SOURCE

A car will not run without an engine.  There has to be a power source, an energy source or else you have a car that sits.  What good is a car that will not get out of the garage or parking lot. The Christian life is energized by the person and presence of Jesus Christ. Paul said is Galatians 2:20, I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. In Philippians 4:13, Paul said, For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. There are ten words in English but in the Greek, there are only five–“Who gives me strength” is one word, endynamóō [to empower]. Christ is our dynamo, He is our power source. Note what Paul said in Galatians 2:20, “The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God.”

Real faith is dynamic because the object of real faith is Jesus. Putting your faith in religion will leave you powerless when it comes to loving your enemies, or loving your neighbor the way you love your self.

III. DEAD FAITH IS INTELLECTUAL BUT NOT SPIRITUAL

By intellectual, I mean the head acknowledges facts but the heart never surrenders to the Saviors will. It is the kind of faith that demons have. A lot of people believe with their head but not with their heart. Intellectual faith acknowledges facts but it never surrenders the will. Million of people and all the demons believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that He died on a cross but they are not saved because they have never repented, bowed the knee and surrendered the will. This is why we have problems in churches, everyone is not willing to come to the altar. They fear the altar because they know it is a place of surrender. They know the bible [Pharisees], they know facts but they have never surrendered their will. They are serving God their way and that is called ‘Religion’.

All of you know Charles Swindoll but did you know he had a brother named Orville who was a Missionary to Brazil for some 30 years. Orville and Chucks dad was a professing Christian but the faith thing through him for a loop. He was a well organized man who always wanted his ducks in a row. He planned everything. On the eve of Orville and family [wife and couple of children] leaving for South America, they had supper at their parents and Chuck was also there. After eating, the women moved to the kitchen leaving Orville, Chuck and Mr. Swindoll. Chuck knew it was a matter of time. Sure enough Dad looked at Orville and said, “Your about to take your family to a foreign country, how much money do you have?” Orville said, “Dad, don’t worry, God will provide.” As if he didn’t hear Orville, his dad said, “How much money do you have in savings?” Orville said, “I don’t have any money is savings.” Dad…”How much do you have in your wallet?” Orville…”I do not have any money in my wallet.” Dad… “You are about to move your family to South America and you don’t have a dime to your name.” Orville pulls out a quarter and rolls it down the table to his dad…”I don’t need any money, God will provide.” Mr. Swindoll thought Orville had lost his mind when in reality, he had surrendered his heart. Orville had an energetic faith, an active faith, a daring faith. Chuck said he lived his life on the edge.

CONCLUSION

  • True faith is active, not passive.
  • True faith is alive and vigorous
  • True faith empowers, energizes
  • True faith works

Dr. Adrian Rogers was famous for saying, “If you faith doesn’t work, you better get one that does.” Dead, passive, intellectual faith will not get you to heaven. Authentic Faith is dynamic: its object is Christ and its energy is Christ.

Nit-Picking

SCRIPTURE

One Sabbath day as Jesus was walking through some grain fields, his disciples broke off heads of grain, rubbed off the husks in their hands, and ate the grain. But some Pharisees said, “Why are you breaking the law by harvesting grain on the Sabbath?”

Jesus replied, “Haven’t you read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He went into the house of God and broke the law by eating the sacred loaves of bread that only the priests can eat. He also gave some to his companions.” And Jesus added, “The Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath.”

INTRODUCTION

Luke begins this section with two stories about the Sabbath. I thought about doing them together but then it seems the LORD influenced my thinking. In the first story, the Pharisees are spying on Jesus and His disciples and they catch them picking cornels of wheat and rubbing them in their hands to separated the husk from the grain and then eating the grain. It was an “Aha” moment for the Pharisees…”Aha, we caught you, working on the Sabbath.” Jesus disciples had violated at least four maybe five of their 365 Sabbath day laws. Jesus gave them a stern rebuke–[1] Haven’t you read the scripture. It embarrassing when bible scholars forget such obvious passages of scripture as I Samuel 21 where David fleas to Nob and get help from Ahimelech who gives David the sacred bread from the table of presence. Jesus pointed out that David broke the law; this bread was for priest only but because David was hungry and running for his life, bread was given. [2] Then Jesus really threw them a curve, He said, “The Son of man is LORD of the Sabbath.”

  • Jesus is greater than a day, even the Sabbath. Man was not made for the Sabbath, the Sabbath was made for man.
  • Jesus is greater than ritual religion with all its pomp and circumstance.
  • Jesus is greater than the Jewish religious code that created 365 laws regarding the Sabbath.
  • Jesus is greater than Moses, Abraham, David or any of the prophets.
  • Jesus is greater than Judaism

I could go on and on about the glory and greatness of our Savior but today, I want us to focus on the two groups in the story. I am referring to the PHARISEES and the DISCIPLES.

LETS TALK ABOUT THE DISCIPLES FIRST

Jesus has called 12 disciples or followers. These guys are very young. Peter is the only one in the group old enough to pay taxes. The disciples are probably in their teens; very young men. Rabbis did not choose adults to be followers or pupils. It is hard to teach an old dog new tricks. These guys are young and they are just starting their journey with Jesus. They are green, untested, untried, and rough around the edges. They are not spiritual giants; they are babes in Christ. They are not ready to be martyrs; they are merely pupils following their teacher. They are kindergarteners just starting.

BUT lets give them some credit: they had left everything to follow Jesus and they were following. Where Jesus went, they went. Every step He made they were making. They were light years away from spiritual maturity but they were devoted followers. One day they would become spiritual giants, one day they would lay down their lives as martyrs but at this stage, they were beginners and they were by no means perfect.

THE SECOND GROUP IS THE RELIGIOUS LEADERS

[SCRIBES AND PHARISEES]

This group is following Jesus also but for the wrong reason. They are dogging Jesus steps in order to find fault. They are their to spy on Jesus and His devoted followers.  Technically, they were persecuting Jesus and His disciples. The Greek word for persecute means to pursue, to hunt, to press, to chase after with the intent of harassing or mistreating. The Pharisees and Scribes were nitpickers.  You probably don’t want to know what a nit-picker is but I am bound to tell you. The phrase comes from the task of removing the tiny eggs of lice (nits) from someone’s hair and clothing, a tedious activity that required close attention and care. The nits usually attach themselves to the root of the hair which means a detail examination of every hair.

In the figurative sense nit-picking is petty criticism or fault finding. It is making a lot out of nothing. The nitpicker’s sole occupation is looking for flaws or faults and then complaining about them without ever making concrete or viable suggestions for improvement. Nit-pickers are always spectators and never participants.

[1] First of all, Nitpicking is as natural as eating or sleeping.

It takes little effort to find faults in others. It is as easy as falling off a log. It takes no effort to be negative, it is our default setting. We were born negative. One of the first words a child learns is NO! Even as a parent, it is easier to criticize your children than to praise them. Do you tell your children what they are doing wrong? Sure you do but do you praise them when they do right? It is easy to find fault.

[2] Every Church has Nitpickers.

I grew up in an atmosphere of Nitpicking. I became a nitpicker at a very early age.  My father said more than once that preachers preached for money and I restated what he said more than once.  We both changed our minds when God called me to preach. When I get around my some of my relatives today, they are often critical of the pastor and I have reminded them more than once, that there are people in my congregation doing the very same thing to me that they are doing to their pastor. Every complaint is petty and trivial. You will not find a church that does not have Nitpickers.

Listen, Jesus was perfect and yet these nitpickers opposed everything he did and said. Look at verse 9, “They were critics of Jesus.” Can you imagine a person with the gall to criticize Jesus? If they criticized HIM, rest assured they will criticize those who follow HIM.

[3] Nitpickers are insecure and laden with guilt.

Do you know why you spend so much time finding fault with others? It is because you do not want to face the truth about yourself. By focusing on the faults of others, you are diverting attention from your faults. How much time to you spend talking about your faults. You remember the story in John 21 where Jesus mildly upbraids Peter. Being on the hot seat made Peter uncomfortable so he points to John and say, “What about him?” He failed You too, aren’t you going to chew him out. Jesus said, “My relationship with Him and my plans for him are not your concern, you focus on following Me.” The Pharisee were laden with guilt, they were guilty of adultery, fraud, and so greedy that they foreclosed on Widows. They religion was cover. They were faking the whole thing.

[4] Nitpicking–Indicates a spiritual problem

LORD willing, I am going to prove this today. Let face the truth, the Pharisees were nitpickers and they had a spiritual problem. They professed to love God but they despised Jesus. While they were steeped in Judaism, they were actually living in rebellion against God. Not only did they not have a relationship with Jesus, they had no relationship with the Father. Jesus said to the Pharisees in John 8:

37 Yes, I realize that you are descendants of Abraham. And yet some of you are trying to kill me because there’s no room in your hearts for my message. 38 I am telling you what I saw when I was with my Father. But you are following the advice of your father.”

39 “Our father is Abraham!” they declared.

“No,” Jesus replied, “for if you were really the children of Abraham, you would follow his example. Instead, you are trying to kill me because I told you the truth, which I heard from God. Abraham never did such a thing. No, you are imitating your real father.”

They replied, “We aren’t illegitimate children! God himself is our true Father.”

Jesus told them, If God were your Father, you would love me, because I have come to you from God. I am not here on my own, but he sent me. Why can’t you understand what I am saying? It’s because you can’t even hear me! 44 For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies. So when I tell the truth, you just naturally don’t believe me! Which of you can truthfully accuse me of sin? And since I am telling you the truth, why don’t you believe me? Anyone who belongs to God listens gladly to the words of God. But you don’t listen because you don’t belong to God.”

CONCLUSION

To which group do you want to belong? [1] Devoted followers [2] Nitpickers. It is your choose. God has not predestined you to be a nitpicker, you do it by your on resolve. Did the Pharisees ever change? A few of them did but not many. You can be one of the few if you have the courage to face the truth. You are not following Christ: you use religion or the name of Christianity as a cover but you are not right with God. You have never dealt with your sin and guilt. Today you can begin that journey just like disciples of following Jesus step by step. The way to begin is to be honest.

Joe David and I are going to bow before you has your servant leaders. Like the disciples in the early stages, we acknowledge our spiritual immaturity and the fact that we make mistakes. If you are genuinely concerned with the direction of the church and you are especially worried about the leadership. I want you to come lay your hands on us and say a prayer. It can be silent. Be as critical as you want and ask the LORD to conform us to His will. Our heads will be bowed. I promise, we will never look up. Unless we recognize your voice, we will not know who is praying.

Mercy

SCRIPTURE

Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law.

10 For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. 11 For the same God who said, “You must not commit adultery,” also said, “You must not murder.” So if you murder someone but do not commit adultery, you have still broken the law.

12 So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. 13 There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.

Verses 12-13 in NASB

12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.

INTRODUCTION

In the last couple of weeks, I have felt unusual conviction when reading the word of God, especially as it relates to judging others. There is no question that I am guilty. Romans two is directed toward the Jews for judging the Gentiles but today it is directed toward the church for judging the unbelievers. Paul said, You may think you can condemn such people [chapter one, homosexuals, people that do not acknowledge God, people who worship idols], but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things. That is pretty strong language and because it is the word of God, it puts fear in me.

Sunday morning Corey brought a good message on loving your neighbor and he pointed out that your neighbor is anyone is need and that includes needing Jesus. He said, “You are to love ISIS as much as you love yourself.” A the dinner table a few minutes later, my grandson said, “Granddaddy, I don’t love ISIS so I have a problem.” I said, “Son, we all have a problem because I don’t love them either.” Should I love them? Yes! Does Jesus love them? Yes! I told my family that the message revealed two things in me: [1] I don’t love Jesus with all my heart [2] I don’t love my neighbor as much as I do myself. It is not an easy confession to make but since I do not love my neighbor as much as myself, how can I claim to love Jesus with all my heart. I am left to beg mercy and to pray for grace to love HIM more.

So again tonight, we are going to talk first about the ROYAL LAW…

I. LIVING HIGH {ABOVE THE LAW} { verse 8…Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” }

Obviously James has connected the ROYAL LAW to “Loving your neighbor as much as you love yourself.” Why does he refer to this as the Royal law? Let’s suppose you came across a person who incarnated loving your neighbor as yourself. Would this person stand out? Would they be living on a higher plain? Royals live in a world about the common and ordinary. They don’t shop at Krogers; they don’t pay income tax, they don’t wait in lines–they live above the ordinary.

There is an old hymn that we never sing anymore, “I am pressing on the upward way, new heights I’m gaining everyday. Still praying as I onward bound, Lord plant my feet on higher ground. My heart has no desire to stay were doubts arise and fears dismay; though some are content where these abound, my prayer, my aim is higher ground. Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”

So I thing James in talking about a higher plain of loving which leads to a higher plain of living and I’m not there but I want to be.

It is also worthy to note that CHRIST has a Kingdom and He is the King of the Kingdom and it is a kingdom of love. His kingdom is actually governed by love not law which support the original point that love takes us to a higher plain. Jesus lived on that higher plain and He is the King. Love trumps the law in His kingdom, just as mercy triumphs over judgment.

II. PASSING JUDGMENT {Verse 9…But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law.}

The primary reason we should not judge others is that we too are law breakers. James said, For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. How many laws do you have to break to become a law breaker? One! To pass the law exam, you have to make a 100. If you score 99, you fail. Normally 99 is a good score, an A+ but not in God’s kingdom, 100 is demanded. We don’t seem to realize it but this fact puts us all on the same level, sinners, law breakers, and moral failures.

In school the person who scores 99 feels vastly superior to the person who made 14 but in God’s kingdom, both are failing grades and it doesn’t matter who made the highest score because 0-99 in failure.

The fact that we all sin and come short of God’s perfect standard should humble us and enable us to see that we have no business judging others. Many years ago a young woman came forward during the invitation. I knew enough about her situation to know that she was not married to the man she was living with. He had two teenage children by his first wife and she was several years younger with no children. She came to join the church. Of course I questioned her salvation to make sure she understood that Jesus saves us not joining a church. Then I said, “Are you married to the man you are living with?” She was honest, she said “No!” Then I said, “Do you think we should work on your relationship with the man you are living with before we do church membership.” She was visible hurt and the more I tried to soften what I said, the worse it got. She turned and went back to her seat and never came to another service. Some years later, I saw here at a store and I apologized and she told me not to worry about it but I have. The man did marry her a few months later but the marriage didn’t last long. Then a few years after that something similar happened and I have doubts about the way I handled the second problem: a family was visiting our church and they owed one of our businessmen a lot of money and they were not trying to pay it back. He said, “If you present them, I will vote against them and according to the by-laws, one vote is all it takes.” The man was an honest businessman but I was caught in a quandary. I did not know what to do. They were not missing a service and I thought what will I do if they come for membership? So, I went to their home and told them about my problem. I encouraged them to attend but not to join: they choose to go elsewhere. I see them occasionally and they have no ill will toward me but to this day, I do not know if I did the right thing.

I am afraid of legalism. When we get nit-picky, were do we stop? On the other hand, when we dedicate a baby and the parents are not legally wed, what kind of message are we sending to our young people? It is a thin line between judging and holding firm to your standards. I am afraid I have erred on the side of legalism and I prefer to err on the side of mercy.

One thing is certain, we all sin and we have all failed the law test. We have all come short of the perfection we see in Christ.

III. SHOWING MERCY [ So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty.  For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.]

What does it mean “judged by the law of liberty?” I think it means we will be judged by how we love. If we love Jesus with all our heart and our neighbor as much as we love our self, I think you are in good shape.

One thing is certain, we had best show mercy if we want mercy. All have sinned, all have failed the law exam and so all need mercy. Grace is a gift, it is receiving: mercy is not getting what we deserve. It is mercy that make grace possible. Just as we cannot comprehend the love of Jesus, neither can we wrap our feeble minds around the mercy of God.

The story of the two debtors in Matthew 18 is a prime example of what James is talking about. One man owed millions of dollars to his king and he begged for mercy and was given mercy but he went out and found a man who owed him a few dollars and he demanded payment. The second debtor begged for mercy but the man who had been forgiven showed no mercy. When word got to the king, he reversed his decision and had the man thrown into prison because he failed to show mercy after he had received mercy.