Friday, February 28, 2020

Christian Forensics

Read James 2

Some time ago we learned a verse from Hebrews about faith.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 

Faith is tangible yet intangible.  You can’t see it but we say it has substance.  We talk of evidence of things not seen.

What in the world is evidence of things not seen?  I get a perfect example for about 300 plus days each year from my office.  I look out of the window, that I am thankful we decided to put in what is now my office, and see the American Flag at the post office.  It is not hanging down the pole it is flying full mast with a full-value wind.

I can’t see the wind, but I can see the evidence of the wind.  I have seen the evidence of things not seen.

James says show me your faith by your deeds—by your works.  He gets a little terse here and there.  If you really believe in God then show me your faith by what you do.  That’s a good ole Missouri, Show Me!

You want to say that you believe, but consider the fact that the demons really believe in God.  They don’t have any doubt.  It scares the hell out of them because they know that the one true God is a righteous God and has consigned them to hell. They know with certainty their eternal destination. 

Make no mistake, they believe in God.

So how are we different?  James says, look at the way you live.  Do you live by the law of love or do you just love the fact that God’s grace keeps you from keeping company with the demons?

But I believe that God is real.  By the evidence of creation itself, I know that God has to be real.  I believe that Jesus died for my sins.  I believe that the Holy Spirit is with me now. 

James says, let me introduce you to Forensic Christianity.
If all that you say is true, there will be evidence.  There will be evidence of things not seen.

If you see a person who is hurting—maybe hungry or homeless—and you have the means to help but do nothing, then there is no evidence of this thing called faith.

If a person who does not believe in God helps this pitiful person, there is evidence of a good deed but no profession of faith in God.  You can have good deeds without faith.

Not everyone doing good things has faith in God and not everyone who claims faith in God seems to have evidence to support that claim.

There is a song by Everlast titled What It’s Like.  Most of you my age haven’t heard them and probably wouldn’t like them.  Some folks here don’t need to listen to them.  Their lyrics are very real but just too raw for most people.

We've all seen the man at the liquor store beggin' for your change
the hair on his face is dirty, dreadlocked and full of mange
he asks a man for what he could spare with shame in his eyes
get a job you blanking slob is all he replied.

Now the song is about walking in another person’s shoes and it goes into some situations where we could just point fingers of blame and excuse ourselves.  You got your own self into that mess, now deal with it.  That is, unless we were called to live out our faith.

Think to the parable of the Good Samaritan.  The man who was beaten, robbed, and left for dead should have known not to travel the road between Jericho and Jerusalem alone.  He was just asking to be robbed. 

But Jesus is answering the question, Who is my neighbor?  He uses this parable.  At the end of the parable, you know how this goes, it is the Samaritan who shows mercy.  It is the Samaritan who loved the man left for dead.  It is the Samaritan whose actions showed him to be a neighbor.

If you have received Jesus as your Lord, I will see your faith.  You will see my faith in acts of mercy.  My mercy does not make me faithful.  My faithfulness makes me merciful.

My acts of goodness do not bring me to salvation but my salvation brings me to acts of goodness and mercy.

I have told this story in different groups from time to time.  Once upon a time I was a newspaper manager for The Oklahoman.  I had a territory that went from Canute to Mangum to Cement/Cyril  and to Hinton.  After a couple years I was promoted and was responsible for things south of I-40 and west of I-35 with a little spillover here and there so a town didn’t get divided in half.

There had been trouble with service in Chickasha right before I was promoted.  It was really bad.  The area had gone through 7 managers over the past year and carriers were quitting every week.  As I interviewed manager prospects, I told them that Chickasha was a hornet’s nest.  Don’t ask for this job unless you are ready to deal with 100 customer complaints on day 1.   I spent most of my first two months putting Chickasha back together while culling through manager prospects.

Sometimes I would overnight there.  Sometimes I would drive back and forth.  I grew tired of Chickasha and the drive to and from this place.  Now, I had the other fourth of the state to take care of as well, but Chickasha was just sucking the life out of me.

One evening, I was ready to head home knowing that I would be back in a few hours.  I had not eaten all day, so I pulled into Arby’s to get the 5 for 5 special.  I don’t like drive-throughs so I went in to get my drink and 4 sandwiches and got in the car to head home.

As I looped around the back of the restaurant, I see a man digging in a dumpster.  I continued and made a left on the road heading west.  I was ready to be home and get my 2 hours sleep.  It was about half a block later that I made a U-turn.  I think it could have qualified as a Bat-Turn. 

My company car was a Dodge Magnum.  It had a long wheel base but I spun that baby around like a pro.  It took under a minute to get back to Arby’s and the dumpster and the guy was gone.  He wasn’t inside or walking anywhere nearby.  He was gone.

I knew that I was supposed to help that guy.  Yeah, I can eat 4 sandwiches.  I hadn’t eaten all day.  I was on the hungry side, but this guy was dumpster diving and I drove by him.

I knew exactly what the Spirit that lives within me was telling me to do.  I knew exactly what my faith was compelling me to do and I had not done it.

I should have taken those sandwiches back and gotten a refund because as I ate them on the drive home, they were the worst tasting sandwiches ever. 

My faith did not manifest itself into works, at least not as it should have.  I should have been so in tune with my faith and the Spirit that lived within me, it would not have taken half a minute to realize what I should have done.

I want you to consider two different and provocative concepts: Worthless faith and faithless works.

James uses the example of Abraham and Isaac and how Abraham demonstrated his faith by offering his son as a sacrifice to God.  No father here ever wants to have their faith tested in that way, but Abraham had faith that God would fulfill his promise that he would be the father of many nations and that promise would come through Isaac.

At the end of this example, James gives us the formula for faith and works.  Neither is a stand-alone entity.  Faith and deeds work together.  Faith is made complete in our works.

There is no such thing as an academic faith.  Faith moves us to action.  Our actions are incomplete without faith. 

But every time that I think of faith and works, I think about being saved by grace not works.  I am saved by grace through faith.  My salvation comes completely from God.

That statement should be rock solid in your foundation of faith.  I am saved by grace through faith!

Saved by grace through faith is absolutely true.  There are no asterisk or caveats.  It’s true.  But is it true for you?  Have you received Jesus not only as Savior but as Lord?

If we have truly professed our faith in the words that we know so well, Jesus is Lord, then we are helpless to do anything but respond to this incredible gift with action.  Sometimes our action is delayed but we are compelled to action nonetheless.

Our salvation comes from God in the blood of Christ Jesus.  Our salvation is completed in our response to his great love.  We could call this the fullness of our salvation.  I most often use the term discipleship.

Jesus said that once we believe in him, we pass from death to life.  Before we received Jesus as Lord, we were under a death sentence.  Our existence without Jesus was death. 

James makes the analogy as the body without spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead.

We try to dissect God’s instructions to us.  His instructions to us are less for analysis and division and more for synthesis—receiving the full Biblical witness and unison—living in one accord as the body of Christ.

You can only dissect faith and works in a corpse.  You can’t do this in a living being.  I am going to patent the Faith and Works version of the game Operation.  There’s no bones or hearts or kidneys to remove, just faith and works. 

If you take either one out, that nasty buzzer sound goes off.  Your patient is dead!

Faith and works work together.  They are a package deal. 

Everyone who is saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ is predisposed to good deeds.  That is your new nature.  To live otherwise is to deny the Spirit of God that lives within you.

So, here are the test answers for those taking the course for credit.
Faith and actions work together.

What you do completes what you believe.

Faith without works is dead.


1 comment: