Sun. a.m. AGCC 9/10/2000
#1 (Demands of Discipleship Series)
"WHERE'S THE BEEF?"
TEXTS: Eph. 2:8-10; James 2:14-26; Col. 1:10; II Cor. 9:8; Matt. 5:16
INTRO:The problem with Christianity has always been the tendency of moving off center to either of two extremes … all "faith" and no works, or all "works" and little faith. Conservative Christians sometimes have been guilty of ONLY emphasizing the soul, and liberal Christianity has too often been guilty of ignoring it and ministering to the physical needs of man only.
ILLUS:Words without deeds are empty, but deeds without words are dumb. It is stupid to set them against each other. It is, for example, stupid to say: "The one thing that matters is to go everywhere and preach the gospel; all other activities such as schools and hospitals and programmes for social action are at best merely auxiliary and at worst irrelevant." ... On the other hand, it is equally stupid to say: "Preaching is a waste of time. Forget it and get on with tackling the real human problems of poverty, injustice and oppression." -- Lesslie Newbigin in Mission in Christ's Way. Christianity Today, Vol. 31, no. 16.
To make a difference for Christ in this world requires the wedding of "faith" and "works" … for indeed, that is what Christ demands of his disciples!
ILLUS:The proof of Christianity is not a book but a life. The power of Christianity is not a creed but a Christian character; and wherever you see life that has been transformed by the grace of God, you see a witness to the resurrection of Jesus. -- William M. Woodfin, Leadership, Vol. 8, no. 1.
Christ did not make disciples for them to simply write books (He already took care of that anyway!) … He made disciples so we can minister His grace to a world that desperately needs it!
Like the old woman in the old hamburger commercial, the world is asking us "Where's the beef?" -- where is the evidence that faith has transforming power, that our actions are evidence of our beliefs … and when they see this they too will desire transformation!
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that being called to a life of faith requires more than just the acceptance of Christ as our Savior, it also means a life of actions that reflect the very nature of Jesus' own life. "Faith without works is dead!"
I. TRUE NATURE OF FAITH ( Good Doctrine ) Eph. 2:8-10; James 2:14-26
A. Existence Eph. 2:8-10
1. Paul states clearly that no one is saved by earning it through good works.
a. If that were possible then we could brag about our own ability to save ourselves, wouldn't even need God.
b. Hence, no person, even those who do lots of good deeds will make heaven JUST on the basis of their good deeds!
c. This truth is fundamental to understanding the very first course of action we need to take to know salvation, accepting by faith Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
2. Many people are deceiving themselves by believing their own goodness will be sufficient to get them into heaven … if that were true, then Christ's death on Calvary was completely unnecessary!
a. The very fact that Christ died for us is evidence that we cannot trust our own goodness to warrant God's favor.
b. It cannot be our own "goodness" that saves us, only Christ can do that when we simply come by faith to Him.
3. The only way to see God is to accept Him by faith, then … we can reflect Him by our actions!
ILLUS:Have you ever wondered why clocks run clockwise? Before there were clocks, there were sundials. In the northern hemisphere, the shadows on the sundial rotate in the direction we now call clockwise, and the hands of the clock mimic the natural movements of the sun. So too our lives should imitate the Son of God. -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
4. Though we can't "earn" our salvation, we must express it by good works once we have it!
B. Expression James 2:14-26
1. James does not contradict Paul … James is dealing with faith AFTER we have it, Paul is dealing with faith and how we FIND salvation.
a. James therefore jumps to the point at hand, if you say you have faith it better show in real ways!
b. The reason Christianity is so often powerless today is because Christians are so often passionless, and thus not driven or practical in expressing their faith!
2. Too often Christians think that the disciplines of prayer, fasting, worship, and adherence to doctrinal truths is the essence of their living for God … these are truly the foundation for our faith but every foundation must have something on it to see or it is useless!
3. Even the power of prayer mixed with faith requires obedience to act when we can!
ILLUS:Among the remembered prayers of the very wise and holy St. Thomas More is this: "The things, good Lord, that we pray for, give us the grace to labor for." A good example of somebody who understood this is a little girl whom Leslie Weatherhead mentioned in one of his early books. She was much troubled by the fact that her older brother trapped rabbits, and she had begged him in vain to stop. One night her mother heard her praying "Dear God, please stop Tommy from trapping rabbits. Please don't let them get trapped. They can't. They won't! Amen." Her mother, troubled and perplexed, asked, "Darling, how can you be so sure that God won't let the rabbits be trapped?" The blessed child calmly replied: "Because I jumped on the traps and sprung them!" Ex ore infantium. When I tell this story in sermons I see smiles. It is a charming story--but not a cute one. It is a paradigm of Christian praying. -- Carroll E. Simcox in The Christian Century (March 4, 1987). Christianity Today, Vol. 31, no. 11.
a. Prayer cannot be an excuse for inaction, it should instead be the driving force of our actions!
b. The early Church prayed … and then acted, there is no better model!
c. Christ so often prayed, and then "Jesus of Nazareth … went about doing good" (Acts 10:38) … His prayers set the stage for His driving actions.
d. Generally speaking, people who pray are also people who act, they can't sit still!
4. The Church that only worships and does not work will be a powerless Church!
ILLUS:Unused truth becomes as useless as an unused muscle. -- A.W. Tozer in That Incredible Christian. Christianity Today, Vol. 34, no. 8.
5. James' challenge is clear, "Show me REAL faith without works … can't be done!"
a. Demons believe in God … and yet they "tremble" … for their works are evil and Hell is all they will ever know.
b. It is not enough to simply "believe in Jesus" and then wait to get into Heaven.
c. Abraham serves as a good example, he believed God and then ACTED!
d. Rahab the gentile prostitute also serves as a similar example, she believed God and she ACTED also … and her whole life changed.
e. James' use of both a "good man" (Abraham) and an "evil woman" (prostitute Rahab) show that no matter where you come from, faith must follow with good works or the existence of that faith is questionable!
II. TRUE NATURE OF FOLLOWERS ( Good Deeds ) Col. 1:10; II Cor. 9:8; Matt. 5:16
A. Expectations Col. 1:10
1. If we accept Christ our lives should be lived in a way worthy of the Lord, which means bearing fruit … fruit that Paul calls "good work."
a. The fruit of the Holy Spirit listed by Paul in Gal. 5:22-23 is a list of "action words" … "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."
b. God's fruit cannot be expressed by words alone, it requires action on our part!
2. These actions are the result of faith's residency in our lives.
3. IF one has God's Spirit, there will be an outpouring of action worthy of being called a Christian.
4. God does expect action by those who call themselves Christians, we cannot just be content with verbal expressions of our faith!
ILLUS:I am often, I believe, praying for others when I should be doing things for them. It's so much easier to pray for a bore than to go and see him. -- C. S. Lewis in Letters to Malcolm. Christianity Today, Vol. 37, no. 10.
5. The trouble today with Christianity is that we have allowed ourselves to think that being a Christian is something you do on Sundays and doesn't belong in the public place … separation of Church and State does not mean we leave our Christianity in the pew!
a. The world keeps trying to get us to live our faith "privately."
b. It doesn't mean pushing our faith onto others either, it means to live OUT our faith in good works … that righteous actions of righteous people will have righteous results!
6. The world already knows our teaching, what they need now is models!
ILLUS: Always do right; it will gratify some people and astonish the rest. -- Mark Twain, Preaching Today.
B. Evangelism II Cor. 9:8; Matt. 5:6
1. Good works not only reflects our faith, it reveals man's need of God.
a. In this way there is an evangelistic nature to doing good works.
b. Jesus spoke often about our actions and their impact on the lost.
c. In fact, Jesus Himself went about doing good works and healing the sick in order to reveal the love of God to fallen man, to attract the unsaved to God.
2. Paul says here in II Cor. 9:8 that God will give us the necessary grace to do all good works whenever they are needed, in this way we realize that doing good is not dependent on our own power.
3. We need to look for opportunities to do good to all men (and women!)
ILLUS:Many believers are "rabbit hole" Christians. In the morning they pop out of their safe Christian homes, hold their breath at work, scurry home to their families and then off to their Bible studies, and finally end the day praying for the unbelievers they safely avoided all day. -- Jan Johnson in Moody Monthly (Nov. 1987). Christianity Today, Vol. 32, no. 8
4. Our good works actually serve the purpose of evangelism.
a. People want to know why we are willing to help.
b. People can see that faith has a dramatic impact on our lives, to change us from self serving people to being servants to others.
c. Jesus' own example demonstrate this, as He went about doing good to all, they came and bowed before Him exclaiming Him as Lord. This was especially true with the prostitutes, drunkards, tax collectors … those for whom few did any good deed. No wonder they turned from their sins to follow Jesus, they received good at the hands of Christ though they certainly did not deserve it.
d. Self righteous religious people like the Pharisees however hardly lifted a finger to help the weak and downcast, they had rules to keep those horrible people away from the pure people (themselves! - at least in their opinion) … they did no good deeds toward these outcasts!
e. No wonder when Jesus touched the leper, when He sat at dinner with sinners they were surprised … and delighted!
5. How do your actions show others the grace of God? Has anyone accepted Christ because of your actions, or can't they even tell that you are a Christian?
ILLUS:In Conspiracy of Kindness, Steve Sjogren (pronounced Show-gren) tells the true story of Joe Delaney and his eight-year-old son, Jared, who were playing catch in their backyard. Jared asked, "Dad, is there a God?" Joe replied that he went to church only a few times when he was a kid; he really had no idea. Jared ran into the house. "I'll be right back!" he yelled. Moments later he returned with a helium balloon from the circus, a pen, and an index card. "I'm going to send God an airmail message," Jared explained. "Dear God," wrote Jared, "if you are real, and you are there, send people who know you to Dad and me." God, I hope you're watching, Joe thought, as they watched the balloon and message sail away. Two days later, Joe and Jared pulled into a car wash sponsored by Sjogren's church. When Joe asked, "How much?" Sjogren answered, "It's free. No strings attached. We just want to show God's love in a practical way." "Are you guys Christians, the kind of Christians who believe in God?" Joe asked. Sjogren said, "Yes, we're that kind of Christians." From that encounter, Steve led Joe to faith in Christ. Many people may be only one act of kindness from meeting a true Christian. -- Tom Lundeen in Fresh Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching (Baker), from the editors of Leadership.
6. The good works that we may do don't have to be grandiose, they only have to be done with a godly heart.
7. In the first century the world was transformed by the early Church … How?
a. It had little money!
b. It had little political power!
c. It had few resources and almost no equipment!
d. BUT: It did have the Holy Spirit and a love that couldn't sit still … and as they moved into culture preaching and doing good works people came to know Christ!
8. Jesus said, John 13:35 "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." This was observable love, action by deeds!
a. Good works are the hallmark of our discipleship!
b. Discipleship means a life of good deeds, as much as it means a life of good doctrine!
9. What kind of disciple do you appear to be?
CONCLUSION: To get people to join, most organizations lure people in by telling them what benefits they will receive if they join. However, all organizations also have expectations once you're in. Christianity has the best benefits of all, eternal life, God's promises of His presence always, our good, etc. But there are also responsibilities, being a Christian is not just about feeling good, it is also about doing good! The rewards of discipleship are great, and so are the demands, it isn't for the half hearted!