Month: September, 2015

Bible Study Questions – Mark 10:2-16

Bible Study Questions – Mark 10:2-16

What does it mean that they tested Him? Why did they feel the need to test Him?

 

Why did Jesus ask the Pharisees about Moses’ Law? What was Hi motive?

What did Moses teach about divorce? Deuteronomy 24:1-4

Was he encouraging divorce, why or why not?

According to Jesus, why did Moses write this law? What does this mean?

What are some examples we see of this today?

What Bible lesson did Jesus teach them? What was his main point? Genesis 2:20-24; Verses 6-9

What else did the Bible and Jesus believe and teach about marriage? Matthew 5:27-32; 19:1-12; Luke 16:18

What else does the Bible say about marriage? Genesis 2:22-24; Exodus 20:14; Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22: 13-21, 24:5; Proverbs 10:12, 12:4, 18:22, 19:14, 31:10; Romans 8:3; Ephesians 5:22-33; 1 Corinthians 7:1-16; Colossians 3:18-19; Hebrews 13:4-7

When they were alone, what did the disciples ask Jesus? What does this show about them? Verses 10 -12

What are some of people’s motives for divorce today? What does this say about our relationship with God?

Why is divorce a sin against God? John 15:5

What do you think Jesus means when He says we must “receive the kingdom of God (God’s reign and control in our lives) like a little child”?

Why did people want Jesus to touch and bless their children? How does He do that today?

What was the difference in Jesus’ view of the children and that of the disciples? Verses 14-16

What does it mean to receive the kingdom of God like a child?

How did the children receive Jesus and how did he receive them?

“God Hears Every Prayer”

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…
A man took his small son with him to town one day to run some errands. When lunch time arrived, the two of them went to a familiar diner for a sandwich. The father sat down on one of the stools at the counter and lifted the boy up to the seat beside him. They ordered lunch, and when the waiter brought the food, the father said, “Son, we’ll just have a silent prayer.” Dad got through praying first and waited for the boy to finish his prayer, but he just sat with his head bowed for an unusually long time. When he finally looked up, his father asked him, “What in the world were you praying about all that time?” With the innocence and honesty of a child, he replied, “How do I know? It was a silent prayer.”
Today we talk about prayer, a topic I hope all of you know a lot about because it’s a very important part of your life. Unfortunately, for too many people, they wonder what all the commotion is about. They feel they have no use for prayer or time to pray for that matter. You might even be one of those persons.
People who don’t trust in the power of prayer usually fall into a couple different categories.
The first group has never experienced the power of prayer in their lives and they’ve only heard vague reports about what prayer has done in someone else’s life. They think prayer is only for the weak and that any evidence of miracles from prayer, great or small, are a hoax.
They’ll only believe in the power of prayer if they see it. They might have tried prayer when they were really desperate but they didn’t notice anything different right away so they put it in their, “been there done that” file.
The second group of people who have not come to trust the power of prayer are those who have forgotten the power of prayer. They might have experienced good things coming from prayer in the past but they have long since forgot it. That was then and this is now.
They might have had someone talk them out of their belief or they might have fallen away some other way. They’ve become disconnected from the kind of prayer that changes things and eventually their prayers became more and more empty “prayer for the sake of prayer” practices. They feel as if they’re speaking to no one so their prayers aren’t really making a difference anymore.
They are those like we spoke of last week who receive nothing because their prayers lack the proper motive.
If you can identify with either of these groups, I ask you to play close attention to the message the Lord has for you this day. If you understand just how important prayer is or even if you don’t, I want to encourage you today. I want you to leave here knowing that prayer is important, that it’s a necessary component in our relationship with Christ and that prayers still lead to miracles.
I want you to experience an enriched prayer life because when you understand the importance of prayer, you begin to pray with greater passion. When you begin to experience the true power in prayer, your prayers will be spoken with more conviction and faith. When you learn by whose authority that you are able to pray, your communication with God will be deepened. When your prayers begin giving you a taste of God, you will keep wanting more and more.
Martin Luther said, “If I should neglect prayer but a single day, I should lose a great deal of the fire of faith” and he urged his congregations to “Pray as if everything depends on God, then work as if everything depends on you.”
The synod office has asked the congregations to put the power of prayer at work. They have asked us to form groups to go to each office of Planned Parenthood and prayer outside their office or building.
They do this because they understand the power of prayer. Who would have believed we would have digressed so far as to kill our unborn children simply because the mother didn’t want to be bothered with a child. In fact, we have greater laws to save unborn animals then we do children.
In Arizona an iguana is considered an endangered species so they will fine you $500 for destroying an egg. In Florida you can go to the beach and be fined $20000 and be put in prison for removing a sea turtle egg from its nest. Nationally it’s a $5000 fine and a possible year in prison for breaking an eagle’s egg.
Yes our prayers are needed, so look for the signup sheet when we’ve decided on a date. Something needs to change in this country and the only thing powerful enough that we can do as God’s children is to reach out in prayer.
And we all have significant things in our own lives to hold up in prayer. What an incredible gift we have been given to be able to speak with our Creator and to know He listens to every word.
So, what does an effective prayer look like? Well, first, I believe the most effective prayer is an honest prayer, one that contains evidence that we understand just how dependent we are on God.
When God looks down on us, He’s not really interested in what we look like or what we wear or what kind of music we listen to. No, he’s more interested in seeing that we are looking up. He wants to know that we depend on prayer, that we cherish it as much as we cherish anything, that we believe in its power to change things. Our God wants to see hearts that want to make a difference, that glorify Him, that depend on Him for everything.
God sees every heart and He knows whether your prayers are genuine or if they’re nothing but words. He’s listening to what our souls are telling Him through prayer.
He counts on those prayers more than He counts how much money you put into the offering plate, more than the number of times you go to church, more than how sincere you look when your prayers are being done. He looks to the hearts because that’s where the most powerful prayers come from.
God sees the heart. You can’t trick Him, you can’t fake Him out because God sees the motivation for your prayer in the heart. To pray an insincere prayer is to mock God as you try to manipulate Him.
I can remember growing up and prayer being a part of every meal. I remember praying with my mom every night and really believing that those prayers were protecting me.
I remember thinking that God was listening to me, just me at that moment. What I wouldn’t give to have that same childlike faith sometimes in my own prayer life today.
Prayer depends on your relationship with God. If he’s nothing but a passing fancy to you then your prayers will show it. But if you have surrendered everything to God, your heartfelt prayers with glow all the brighter. And if you seek to strengthen that relationship, it is prayer that you go to because God wants nothing more than to give you the strength that can only be found in the faith you have in Him. An honest, truthful prayer from the heart is the kind of prayer that changes things.
The words we say and the actions that we take begin to make a difference when you become honest before God. Jesus was moved because a widow gave all she could because he knew it was all she had and He is equally moved when we empty ourselves out to Him in prayer.
In our Epistle lesson for today in James he tells us in chapter five verse 16-17, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed.
The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” That’s one of God’s greatest promises, the promise He attaches to prayer. He wants our prayers to claim that promise and fully expect God to honor His Word.
The Greek for this quote speaks of a prayer that is done with great emotion, with great passion and with great faith. Does that mean our prayers should match the intensity that Christ showed in the Garden of Gethsemane? Oh that we could. Yet some of the most passionate prayers are those where there is no sound because the passion is all from the heart.
So where does this passion come from? We find it in things that inspire us, so your prayers should be a source of inspiration to you. A conversation with God, doing as much listening as you do talking. Your passion should come from wanting to make the kind of changes that glorify God in the process. When we pray for the sick, the homeless or anyone less fortunate then ourselves our passion should be in wanting to be Christ to them. Our prayers should see transformation in us in places where we have fallen in faith, in those places where we could have made a change but decided not to.
The prayer of the passionate causes us to rise up and take action in a way that exalts God in the world. Psalm 34:6 says, “In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened; he saved me from my troubles.”
But, let’s be honest, not every prayer is going to be award winning. Sometimes we’re just not that passionate. Sometimes we might even be a little angry with God. Well, your prayer is a conversation and God rejoices at every prayer said, even those given that are less than passionate.
God has promised us to hear every prayer, not only that, but He promised to answer every prayer. But even in our most passionate efforts the answer is sometimes no or later. These are the ones that trip us up because we all want immediate satisfaction, especially when we pray with earnest hearts. But, if we look back in our lives, I think most of us can say, “Man, am I glad He didn’t say yes to that one!”
So what should our prayers contain? Well, first of all, they should not be a canned version of something or some mantra that you have gotten used to. Honest prayer looks very much like a conversation between two people. When I have trouble imagining God hearing me, I put a chair before me and imagine Christ is sitting there listening to me. Then I simply have a conversation.
Every prayer should have certain elements though. Every prayer should include petitions asking for forgiveness.
God wants us to understand the depths that our sin has reached and the sincere desire to make a change. Every prayer should include a cry for salvation. Every prayer should include petitions of thanksgiving because God also wants us to understand just how much we have to be thankful for. Every prayer should include praise and adoration so that we might come to know how important it is for us to understand the immensity and greatness of God. And they should also include requests but those requests should be one’s that glorify God and not ourselves.
Sometimes we feel lost, even the most faithful of us. Jesus knows this and He wants you to pray to Him for hope. Sometimes we feel anger and He wants you to pray for peace. Sometimes we feel lonely and He wants you to pray to remind yourself that He is there. And sometimes, we just want to pray and these prayers can lead to the greatest blessings of all.
As you pray, understand that Jesus can. Jesus can save you from the greatest of trials. He died, not so that He could simply fulfill prophecy but also so that we could feel confident coming to Him in prayer. He took on our punishment in part because he didn’t want that to become a stumbling block to our prayers. He paid the price we couldn’t pay so that we could hold our heads high, looking to heaven for the answers we seek.
If you will devote yourself to an honest and passionate prayer life, I can promise you that your prayers will never go unanswered.
If you make the decision to call on the Lord for all of your needs, he has promised to take you to the places only He can take you.
In every prayer of repentance, forgiveness will follow. In every sincere prayer of need, His mercy will be given you. In every cry for redemption, His promise of eternal life will hold true for you because He desires to answer the prayers of His people. You will be forgiven. God will call you righteous. God will take care of His children as He has promised, but you must go to Him and the best way to do that is in prayer.
1 John 1:9, “But if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” That’s a promise. That’s the kind of prayer that changes things. It is an honest and fervent prayer that’s not afraid to bow the knee in humility before a mighty God. May God hear your every plea and answer you with the love only He can provide. Amen

Bible Study Questions – James 5:13-20

Bible Study Questions – James 5:13-20

Look at James 5:12-14. What are the three kinds of people listed here that one might find in a typical church setting? Why do you think James gave the advice he did other than the obvious?

Why do you think that those who are “suffering” are told to “pray” instead of to “sing” or “call upon the Elders to pray for them”?

Can you think up two or three other categories? What advice might you give them?

Why have we fallen out of practice with how James gives advice to the sick (weak or powerless)? Is this a Lutheran practice?

From your experience do most Christians believe in healing? Under what specific circumstances?

How do these verses relate to James 5:14-15? 2Corinthians 2:6-10; 1 Timothy 5:23; 2 Timothy 4:20

Why might God bring sickness into someone’s life because of his/her sins? Hebrews 12:5-11.

Why do you think we are told to confess our trespasses to one another rather than just confess to God privately?

What do you think the connection is between confession, forgiveness, and physical healing?

Prayer is a very important part of James’ message. What does these verses tell you about prayer? Matthew 7:7-12, 11:24; John 14:13-14; 1 Thessalonians 5:17; Psalms 34:1; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; Hebrews 4:14-16

Describe a prayer of faith?

What one thing makes prayer most difficult for you?

What can you do this week to spend time in prayer each day, even if only 5 minutes of undistracted time?

What situation does James describe in verses 19-20 and what are we as believers instructed to do about it? Why?

How do these last two verses fit with those that just preceded them? In other words, how do they relate?

How do these verses compare with what James says here? What do they add to your understanding? Psalm 32:1; Proverbs 10:12; Galatians 6:1-2; 1 Peter 4:8

 

A Winnable War

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

My dad was born in 1916. Next year he would have been 100 years old. In his life he experienced many things, some good and some bad. The one bad thing that would never leave him, however, was his experiences in World War Two. He got to see the worst of war, the dead bodies, the destroyed buildings, all the ugliness of conflict. I guess you could say that even though he came home, he really never left the war behind him. It troubled him so much that we never discussed it. I had to hear from others in my family just how horrific it was. I wonder if he ever thought that we had won.

On September 2, 1945 General Douglas McArthur spoke to a waiting world weary of war from the Battleship Missouri anchored in Tokyo Bay. He said, “Today the guns are silent…the skies no longer rain death…the seas only bear commerce…men everywhere walk upright in the sunlight. The entire world is quietly at peace…” I wonder if my father would have agreed.

World War two cost sixty million lives and cost an estimated $1 trillion. It came only one generation after Woodrow Wilson called World War one “The War to End All Wars.”

And ever since that time, we have found ourselves in conflict, first with Korea, then Viet Nam, with Iraq and Afghanistan, and now we still see ourselves at war fighting radical Islam, not to speak of all the limited wars we have supported. The history of the world is monopolized by war.

But not all wars are political wars between nations. All of us have experienced and may be still experiencing our own personal wars. They might be between you and relatives or friends or a co-worker or a fellow church member or even your immediate family. War is not foreign to any of us. In our Epistle lesson James brings it closer to home and he makes it clear that many of our personal stories are war stories as well.

James says in verse one of chapter 4, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but you don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot get what you want.”

 

James asks questions none of want to answer because, brought into the light we could see that all our examples would look petty and weak and full of selfishness. We would have to come to grips with why we didn’t get along even when we know in our hearts that there was a better way to handle things then the way we chose to handle them.

We go through life looking for the next battle. We are easily offended and easily angered. We have problems with other people and we have problems with God and we see here in James that he gives us the reasons for our conflict.

First, he says, we have conflict because of the conflicting desires that are housed in each of us. Harsh words toward our perceived enemies, followed by harsh action all experienced because we lack peace within ourselves. We reach out in anger to others because the peace of God is not in us. The fury that satisfies only Satan is chosen over the tranquility that was shown us in Christ. We tend to think that peace is our natural nature and that conflict is not, when the opposite is true.

We have constant battles because of our misguided desires and passions. We lust for power, popularity, prestige and pleasure. Both the word “desire” and the word “hedonism” (the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the highest good) come from the same Greek word and in more cases then note in Scripture they have negative connotations. Titus 3:3 says, “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.”

In 2 Peter chapter 3, Peter is speaking of people who indulge in the lust of corrupting passion and despise authority, he says, “They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They easily entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed.”

Today society teaches us that we should try to have it all, our passions destroy us, however, because we one day find that it’s an unattainable goal. We find there is a hidden cost to selfishness and deceit in the form of lost relationships and lost opportunities for peace.

When such passions don’t materialize for us, many become frustrated and too often this leads to war. When James uses the words “kill and covet” he’s not necessarily talking about taking a life, he’s also talking about ruined lives victimized by misguided passions. Those same passions that haunt all of us.

We see our natural nature when a baby is born. Immediately they are selfish and self-centered. They want and want. It might be their bottle, your attention, a certain toy.

We don’t have to teach baby’s to be selfish because that comes natural. What we must teach them are the ways of peace. If permitted to live a self-gratifying life, if we continue to give them free reign with their most basic desires I believe every child would grow up to be a criminal.

Next James reminds us that we do not have because we didn’t ask God with the right motivation. He says, “You ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” In other words, we ask with wrong motives. We ask wrongly because we ask for things that will only benefit us. And I’m an expert on this. Just last Monday I was praying and praying for a Viking victory and those prayers went very wrongly and it was unfortunately shown in the score of the game. No, I’m not trying to say that the Vikings lost because I prayed wrongly. I just wanted to give you an example of selfish prayer.

God will not allow His children to use prayer for selfish reasons. Just as our lives are not really about us, the same can be said for prayer. A life led in serving self instead of neighbor has only frustration and loneliness that follows. Prayers only prayed to serve selfish ambition also lead to the same negative outcomes.

A distorted prayer leads to an unhealthy spiritual life. Is it any surprise to you that self-ambition is the polar opposite to loving God as we have been created to do?

James uses harsh words to tell us, “You adulterous people. Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?” Enmity is defined as “A feeling or condition of hostility; hatred; ill will; animosity and antagonism.”

Love of self is to love the world. To love the world is to have enmity with God. Any love we have for self should always be because of the love we receive from God not in spite of it.

Today we see these self-satisfying aspects of the world invading even our churches. Too many only come to church if the world is not calling them to do anything else, then when they do, they only appreciate hearing what their itching ears want to hear. As long as we get what we want out of worship, we’ll keep coming but as soon as we have a viable excuse to leave we will to serve our own measures. Nobody better make us mad or say something we don’t like to hear or we’ll leave just to show you how mad we really are. Instead of coming together in peace we look for war. And too many Christians think they can just live the American dream with a little Jesus overlay as if it should go together but it doesn’t. If people are going to seriously follow Jesus, they need to recognize that the secular culture they yearn for is pulling them away into a different direction.

Our God is a jealous God and when we become enamored with the world, when we fight the spiritual to live the un-spiritual He reminds us that we shall have no other Gods. He says, “You shall not bow down to them or worship them; For I, the Lord your God am a jealous God.” In our text James says “God yearns jealously over the Spirit that He has made to dwell in us.”

The world we find ourselves fighting for is hostile to God, therefore it is unthinkable that we would make it the object of our affection. In 1 John 2:15 john warns us, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not with him. For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride in possessions – is not from the Father but is from the world.” Yet our war with God and the ways of God continues because our love for self has overridden our love for God.

But thank God James doesn’t leave us there. Next he reminds us that, while our God is a jealous God, He is also the God of grace opposing the proud and giving that grace to the humble. God is jealous because we mean that much to Him. He doesn’t want us to share our affections with the world because He is not of the world. His love for us is a complete love, an agape love that is pure and true.

Though we struggle and war over the things that stand in the way of having that same love for God, His grace enables us to gain the victory. He gives grace that is even greater than the demands He puts on us. His love will never part from us, even when we find ourselves lost in a world that offers no hope.

Through His Son, God shows us a love that cannot be matched by mere mortals. In His death and resurrection, we received the greatest reward, one that we had no right to. In His sacrament He continues to shine on us by providing us with the forgiveness we have not earned and the salvation we have not deserved.

Earlier I read a passage from Titus. Let me read it again, “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves of various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.” Well, what I didn’t read was the good news that follows. It says, “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing and regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

Think about that for a moment. Despite all the wars we wage against God and against each other, He shows mercy on those who come to Him. Not only that but He sees us as sons and daughters, heirs to the kingdom and partakers of His glory.

Despite our daily battles, it is God who pardons. Despite the conflicts we create, He gives us all things by His grace and through His Holy Spirit dwelling within us.

understanding this then, James next words hold greater meaning. He urges us to, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you….humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.”

Through Christ we have secured the victory By humbling ourselves instead of readying ourselves for war, we have already won the battle. Now our war can be against the enemy, Satan. Indecision and doubt only makes the Devil more aggressive, so humble yourself before God and submit to His power and glory. He is our greatest ally and in Him we will always be victorious.

God offers love, trust, grace, forgiveness, openness, honesty and all the other attributes of a healthy relationship. But we must draw near to Him. We must end the war we have with Him.

We must stop our flirtation with the world. We must return to an intimate relationship with the creator. May God give us His strength to stop the battles so we might win the war. Amen.

Bible Study Questions – James 3:13-4:10

Bible Study Questions – James 3:13-4:10

What is the difference between knowledge and wisdom?

What is heavenly knowledge? What is Heavenly wisdom?

In 3:13-18 James discusses earthly and heavenly wisdom. What are the characteristics of each?

“Humility” was considered by most of the ancient Mediterranean world to be more of an evil vice than a positive value. James’ phrase “humility that comes from wisdom” (Verse 13) then would have caused most folks to scratch their heads and say, “Nonsense!” How would you say humility is viewed by most Americans today? Why?

In what situations could humility help you become a source of peace? Explain.

What are some examples of selfish ambition and ambition that is not selfish.

Which of the seven aspects of pure, heavenly wisdom (verse 17) would you say is most lacking in Christendom in our country today? Why? Which would you say Christianity seems to be doing the best job at of these seven qualities? Why?

What would you say James has in mind when he speaks of peacemakers reaping “a harvest of righteousness?”

What battle is being waged within us that causes fights and quarrels? How? Do we all suffer from this?

James just suggested that we ask God when we feel deprived of something. Now he limits our ability to ask (verse 3). What do you think about James’ limit?

What might be examples of right and wrong motives in your prayer?

Why would James call people “adulterous?” Who is he talking about? Why are they adulterous?

What is the cure for Satan’s wisdom, with its resulting envy and trouble? (Verse 6) How does this overcome Satan’s wisdom?

How does submitting to God provide a peaceful life?

Is this God’s wisdom: to grieve, mourn, wail and be gloomy? John 15:9-11; Galatians 5:22-24

What kind of humility is James calling for? Explain Verse 10

How do you measure up to God’s calling for wisdom? Where do you lack?

“Faith That Works”

Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father….

Please pray with me…

Trying to win their case some lawyers have been known to ask some incredibly unbelievable questions. The Massachusetts Bar Association Lawyer’s Journal gave the following example:
Question: Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?
Answer: No.
Question: Did you check for blood pressure?
Answer: No.
Question: Did you check for breathing?
Answer: No
Question: Then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?
Answer: No
Question: How can you be sure doctor?
Answer: Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.
Question: But couldn’t the patient have been alive nevertheless?
Answer: It is possible that the patient could still have been alive and practicing law somewhere.

We all know that a body without the brain is dead. Without the brain, the body has no life, there is no action. Without our brains our bodies are useless.

Now, I have been accused with not using my brains many times, but it wasn’t because I didn’t have a brain.

It was simply because I failed to use it in the way God intended me to. We’ve all been guilty of this. There are times when each of us, if we had just taken the time to think something through, would have done certain things in our lives differently.

Well, just as the body is useless without a brain, so too is faith useless without works. Furthermore, if we say we have faith but there is no evidence of this faith in our works, then it is a useless faith. In our Epistle lesson, James is speaking about the importance of works and in verse 14 he makes his opinion clear by asking his readers a question, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? The construction of the Greek shows us that the answer James was looking for was “no.” In other words, can the kind of faith that is not seen in our everyday works save anyone? The answer is no! Any declaration of faith that does nothing is worth nothing.

In these passages, James is talking about a certain kind of faith, the kind of faith that produces no works. Some of us may have an intellectual acceptance of certain biblical truths but without that faith leading to good works, that faith is useless because without works it is simply talk.

And there are places throughout the New Testament that back this opinion up.

 

In Ephesians, we often hear the familiar words in Chapter 2: 8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” But we hear less often verse 10 which takes up the point being made by James in our Epistle lesson, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” In this verse there are no exceptions. Faith must be lived out through our deeds.

A man fell into a pit and couldn’t get himself out.

A subjective person came along and said, “I feel for you down there.”

An objective person walked by and said, “It’s logical that someone would fall down there.”

A Pharisee said, “Only bad people fall into pits.”

A mathematician calculated how deep the pit was.

A news reporter wanted the exclusive story on the pit.

An IRS agent asked if he was paying taxes on the pit.

A self-pitying person said, “You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen my pit.”

A fire-and-brimstone preacher said, “You deserve your pit.”

A Christian Scientist observed, “The pit is just in your mind.”

A psychologist noted, “Your mother and father are to blame for your being in that pit.”

A self-esteem therapist said, “Believe in yourself and you can get out of that pit.”

An optimist said, “Things could be worse.”

A pessimist claimed, “Things will get worse.”

The Lutheran said, “lets form a committee to study the problem.”

But Jesus, seeing the man, took him by the hand and lifted him out of the pit. Christ is always the best example. In our Gospel lesson, the healing of the blind man was the right thing to do and Christ showed who He was by His actions. He didn’t think what it would do for Him or how He would have to go out of His way or if He had enough time. He saw a need and acted on it. His faith was shown in His works.

Verses 15 and 16 illustrate the kind of faith that is all words but no action, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food,   and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?

The rhetorical question is followed by a realistic illustration. What good is wishing someone well when they are struggling. Words can only do so much.

 

In Galatians 5:6 Paul says, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” And in 1 John 3:17-18 the Apostle John wrote, “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” We show others what we believe, not so much by what we say but by what we do. If the people of Redeemer are to show that they are people of faith, then they must put that faith into action by serving each other and even more importantly, by serving their neighbor.

Martin Luther said that faith is the soul of works. Someone else said, “Pious talk can’t take the place of helpfulness.” To profess faith in Christ as our Savior while at the same time ignoring the needs of fellow believers is inconsistent to what we profess. James is saying that true faith transforms into compassion in action. The best clarification of our faith is seen when that faith is put into action towards our neighbor.

James makes this clear in verse 17, “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” Workless faith is worthless faith; it is unproductive, sterile, barren and dead both outwardly and inwardly and down to the roots.

 

We can boast about this body of Christians being alive at Redeemer, but if it does not move, if it has no vital signs, no heart beat, no perceptible pulse, then it is dead no matter what someone might say. Our false claims will be silenced by the lack of evidence. We must be aware of simple intellectual faith. No one can come to Christ by faith and remain the same any more than we can come into contact with a 220-volt wire and remain the same. And dead faith is not saving faith, it is a counterfeit faith and it lulls a person into a false sense of security. Christians are called by God to show works of love that prove their faith is real and alive.

Williams James said, “The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it” When Dave Thomas died in early 2002, he left behind more than restaurants. He also left behind a legacy of being a practical, hard working man who was respected for his down-to-earth values.

Among the pieces of good advice that have outlived him is his view of what Christians should be doing with their lives.

Thomas, who as a youngster was influenced by Christ through his grandmother, said that believers should be “roll-up-your-sleeves” Christians. In his book, Well Done, Thomas said, “Roll-up-your-sleeves Christians see Christianity as faith and action.

They still make the time to talk with God in prayer, study Scripture with devotion, be super-active in their church and take their ministry to others to spread the Good word.” He went on to say they that “anonymous people who are doing good for Christ and may be doing more good than all the well-known Christians in the world.” Now, there is the beef. Thomas knew about hard work in the restaurant business; he knew it was vital in the spiritual world also.

Finally, verse 18 warns us against a faith that only exists as a creed or doctrine but which does not move into action for Christ. “But someone may well say, ‘You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”

As Lutherans we have been taught numerous times that we are justified by grace through faith alone apart from anything we can do or by observing the law. Even good works, if done apart from faith, can never lead us to salvation, but true faith always results in a changed life shown in good deeds.

The great Jewish profession of faith is found in the Shema which begins with this declaration of belief in the one true God found in Deut. 6:4, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.”

 

Quoting Pastor Dennis Davidson, “Right doctrinal belief is good but it is no more than agreement to right knowledge and in itself has no saving power. Right belief about God does not connect one with God. You can believe that all the doctrines of the Christian faith are good and right and not be saved. Mere mental faith does not save. If it did all the demons of Hell would be saved.
Demons are neither atheists or agnostics. They believe Christ is co-equal with God, they even state so with their lips in Mk. 3:11, “And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.”

They believe in the existence of a place of punishment (Lk . 8:31), and they begged Him not to command them to depart into the abyss,” and recognize that Jesus Christ is the Judge (Mk. 5:1-13), For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside,

and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.”

They also submit to the power of His Word, they do what He tells them. They not only believe and obey, they get emotional about it, James says they tremble because of what they believe about Jesus. Their hair stands on end in God’s presence.
But it is not a saving experience to believe facts, obey Jesus’ commands and even fear Him. If so all the demons of Hell would be in heaven along with satan himself. You can understand with your mind and be stirred in your heart and be lost forever! True saving faith involves something more, it involves the commitment of your life to Jesus that allows Him to come in and change the course of it.
And we can get that kind of faith only by the power of the Holy Spirit who instills that faith in us that can trust in the Lord and be moved to service. By way of the Holy Spirit, God extends to you His invitation towards salvation. He has given you His word so that you may come to an understanding. He has given you His only Son so that we might come to faith in the fulfilled promises He has given us and Christ has given you His true body and blood so that we might receive that grace of forgiveness and be united together in the one true faith by which we may be bold in our actions.

Far too often we choose an inactive faith and we are unwilling to recognize the Words of God which call us into a life of servant hood. Far too often we prefer an empty life to a full life in Christ.

But the Lord calls us to be willing and He has made us able to turn from a superficial understanding of faith to a true understanding of serving Christ. Through saving faith, active faith, we show the desire to live a life controlled by God and not a desire to remain in control like the demons do.

Our Lord is worth the effort and He has given us all the tools to show a true faith. The Bible says that a faith that does not produce good works is a dead faith. This does not counter the belief that we are justified by faith alone because true faith is seen in what we do and in who we are. Our works are a result of our faith but in themselves they cannot obtain for us salvation. Christ already has provided for us that path.

If you claim true faith, can you point out in your lives the fruit of that faith? Has your faith challenged you to make a difference in someone’s life? Is your priority with your neighbor first?

We have a great God and through His Holy Spirit He will work wonders in all believers that not only benefit them, but also benefit those who come in contact with them. A true faith makes all we do a ministry. Stop fighting for control, let your faith in Christ move you to become the person you were created to be. Serve God with boldness. Amen

 

 

 

Bible Study Questions – James 2:1-10, 14-18

Bible Study Questions – James 2:1-10, 14-18

What kind of works might accompany living faith?

What does dead faith look like? Is dead faith a real faith? What warning should we take from this?

How can one show his faith without works? Is it possible?

What does it mean to show partiality (favoritism)?

Is favoritism common in society? What makes it so common? What is the root cause? James 1:27

Is it common in the church? In what ways might believers show favoritism today in the church?

How about out of the church?

What kind of judgment is James discussing in verse 4? Matthew 7:15-16

Is it possible to be judges with good motives? Genesis 3:4-5; Deuteronomy 10:17; Matthew 16:27

What do we worship when we show favoritism to the rich man?

Verse 5 says God has chosen the poor to be rich in faith. Is God guilty of showing favoritism in this way? Explain.

In what ways did Jesus give us an example of NOT showing favoritism?

How can we follow God’s example of impartiality in our daily lives?

Does this mean that we should love all people in exactly the same way?

What is Paul’s point in verses 6-7?

How can “the royal law” (verse 8) guide our treatment of both poor and rich?

In what way does failing the law at just one point make us guilty of breaking all of it (horizontal verse vertical)?

Since we have all broken at least one law, what hope do we have?

And you say to them, “Peace, be warmed and content,” and do not help them is that any good? What is the main point of verses 15-16?

James talks about showing his faith by works. As a believer what are some of the things you can do to show others that you are truly saved?