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Life Hacks: Faith That Works!

13 Week Sermon Series on James: Authentic Living...Practical Faith in the Midst of Difficult Life!

Life Hacks/Faith that Works (based on the book of James)

SERMONS IN THIS SERIES ARE ARRANGED IN REVERSE ORDER, WITH THE MOST RECENT SERMON AT THE TOP!

Week 12 (9/13/20) - Faith Works... Doing Right When You've Been Done Wrong!

Week 11 (9/6/20) - Faith Works... Money Matters!

Week 10 (8/30/20) - Faith Works... When Facing an Unknown Future!

WEEK 10 - SERMON NOTES!

Today’s scripture: James 4:13-17


James explains to us how to avoid the three most common mistakes that people typically make when it comes to the future.

We make mistakes in planning for our future.

We make mistakes in presuming about our future.

We make mistakes in procrastinating about our future.


  • WE MAKE PLANS WITHOUT PRAYING!

Submit isn't a four letter word. It is a six letter gift!

To have God's blessing, involve Him in your planning. Pray as you plan!


  • WE PRESUME THAT WE'LL HAVE A TOMORROW... and that it will look the way we want it to look!

Presumptive pride is futile, arrogant and sinful!

Live one day at a time and make it count!


  • WE PUT OFF DOING WHAT IS RIGHT AND GOOD!

Procrastination destroys your potential.

Procrastination is sinful disobedience.


3 QUESTIONS TO PRAY ABOUT...

1. What is the next step in your spiritual growth and obedience that you need to take right now, and you haven't done it yet?

2. What do you know God wants you to do, that you have postponed over and over and over?

3. What excuse have you been using to not do what you know you need to do?

Week 9 (8/23/20) - Faith Works... The Way Up is Down!

Week 8 (8/16/20) - Faith Works... Two Kinds of Wisdom

WEEK 8 - SERMON NOTES!

Today’s scripture: James 3:13-18

 

There are two kinds of wisdom:

  1. authentic wisdom from God (above)
  2. counterfeit wisdom from the world (below)

 

The two cannot be mixed without creating double-minded disorder!

 

TODAY'S LIFE HACK: How to discern what is wisdom from above!

1. STOP – and get on your knees; make a vertical connection with God

2. DROP – your puffed-up self sufficiency and live out your faith with humility

3. ROLL – up your sleeves and reach out in peace; make a horizontal connection with others

 

Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others.

James 3:17 (The Message)

 

Don’t let “wisdom” from below trick you into becoming the world’s wisest fool!

Week 7 (8-9-20) Faith Works... Tame Your Tongue!

Week 6 (8-2-20) How Faith Works!

Week 5 (7-26-20) How Faith Works!

no video for today... you have the sermon manuscriptfrom Rev. Mat Campion instead

James 2: 1-13 

1 My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?

8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.

12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

As we open this morning, I want to reiterate a few points Pastor Linda has made over the past few weeks. The Book of James was a letter written by James, the younger brother of Jesus, to the early church. At that time, the Christian community would have been largely composed of Jewish Christians. Scholars believe that James is probably one of the earliest books in the New Testament, meaning that it would have been one of the books that were written and circulated in the opening years of the church as the gospel spread beyond Jerusalem. If you have not had the chance, I want to encourage you to sit down this week and read through the entire book as if it was a letter written to you. Without a doubt, it will be a blessing to you.

Again, as Pastor Linda had mentioned, what James has to say to his readers is very practical. He tackles that thing we all wrestle with…...how does our faith and life work together? When I say, ‘I have faith in Jesus Christ as my Savior and follow Him as my Lord,’ what does that look like in my life?   How does my faith in Jesus shape the everyday decisions I make….influence the words I use with people…prioritize my time….determine what I watch on tv...what I view on the internet...how do I live with the people at work... the people I call ‘friends’.......my children……. and my spouse? Does what we profess with our mouths line up with what people see in our lives?

I love the example that Pastor Linda used a few weeks with the Ethics professor at lunch. Here is a guy who is teaching students about ethics...about ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ behavior...he has studied all of the theories of good and bad behavior...and at the end of lunch, he steals the silverware. There is a disconnect between what is known in the professor’s mind and what he believes in his heart. Again, this is the big idea that James is tackling - How does what we believe and say match up with our lives?

With that, we turn our attention to Chapter 2. It begins with this simple statement, My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.” (James 2:1) He is addressing the problem of favoritism that is happening that day within the church and among the believers. James’ simple statement is this - Partiality, favoritism, discrimination, or any other similar attitude and action is not allowed within the church. This is not permitted among God’s people.

Partiality and favoritism is the idea of giving a person special preference, treatment, recognition, or praise largely based on some outward characteristic. It is making a judgment about somebody’s worth, value, and standing based upon what I see about them such as power, wealth, beauty, talents, social standing, etc. I am setting this person apart in most times to some exalted position in light of some external circumstances.

James was writing in an age that was very partial. It was filled with prejudice and hatred based on class, ethnicity, nationality, religious background. In the ancient world, people were routinely and permanently categorized because they were Jew or Gentile, slave or free, rich or poor, or whatever they were and that continues in our world today in many respects. We like to separate people into groups with various labels and say your ‘in’ and you are ‘out.’ … or I like you and don’t like you…. you are acceptable and you are not. We see this on a national level and we see in our local community.

We see it in harmless ways such as member-only benefits at the grocery store and first-class seating in airplanes. Sports stadiums are set up to give certain ticket holders special treatment. For those who have hired people for a position, you don’t just throw the resumes that have been mailed to you up into the air, and the first one that hits the ground is hired. You should partiality and preference to certain skills, abilities, and talents that are needed for the job. Similarly, a teacher doesn’t take her assignments and throws them down the steps and the papers that went the farthest down the steps receive the lowest grades. No. She will show partiality and preference to those students who have done the work correctly and completed the assignment.

We also see partiality lived out in very harmful ways in our society. You may have experienced it in the workplace, where others were favored by management for no better reason than they want to create a special clique. You may have experienced it in school among fellow students. You may have experienced it in your family, where some siblings were set apart as favorites by parents or other family members. We see in our community through racism, sexism, etc, where entire groups of people are held back or experience discrimination.

And this is the world we live in this atmosphere day in and day out. Unfortunately, it is all around us. And this the challenge for the church. We are not people living in a vacuum. We are not people living in a bubble. We are people of this time and this place and the currents of our culture are pushing against us. And the danger frankly is that we bring these perspectives and practices into the church with us. James gives us an example in the text in Chapter 2: 2-4...2

“Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”…

We see someone who has money, power, or prestige in the community and this becomes recognized and revered in the church. At the opposite end, is someone who comes from the community who is an outcast, poor, no social standing or respect...and that follows them into the church and influences the congregation. Again, here is our challenge? Can the church be a place where a person’s community identity, image, reputation, etc that the community has placed on them… good or bad….. is left at the door and they are received by the congregation without regard for what they have or don’t have? 

The church needs to be a place where we come and gather in equal standing as believers in Jesus Christ. It is a place where we can take off the labels, identities, and stigmas that culture puts on us and gather together as equals because of what Jesus Christ has accomplished in us and who we are through Jesus Christ. 

This begs the question, ‘why is the church a place where partiality should not be found?’ In sum, Partiality does not reflect God’s character. Partiality does not respect God’s commands to us. Last, partiality does not remember what Christ has accomplished for us.

First, partiality does not reflect God’s character. God by nature is impartial. In the opening chapters of the Bible (see Genesis 1 and 2) we read that all people are created by His hand. We all have the very same beginning. We are all formed by the hands of a personal, creator God. Later in the Bible, as God was forming a people that would reflect His will and nature on this earth, He asked Moses to explain to the people, “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great: God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.” (Deuteronomy 10:17-18) We read later in the New Testament, “then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. (Acts 10:34-35) Again from Peter, “Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.” (1 Peter 1:17) Finally, Paul writes, “For God does not show favoritism.” (Romans 2:11) 

We see this demonstrated in Jesus’ life. From the start, God had promised to send a Messiah not only to Jewish people but to all people. At His birth, we see who will be welcomed by Jesus and who will be drawn to Him. We see the shepherds, on the one hand, who were despised by the larger culture, and on the other, kings and nobles from other countries.

During His ministry, we see the people Jesus welcomed and who were comfortable with him. He welcomed the poor, sick, outcast to himself. After Jesus ascended to heaven, the Holy Spirit began to work and the church started to spread after Pentecost. We see people from all nations, races, and cultures receive the gospel and empowered by the Holy Spirit. In fact, we are here today, worshiping Jesus as Savior and Lord, because our God does not play favorites. We are a testimony to God’s impartial nature and character.

Second, partiality stands in opposition to God’s commands and directions for those claim to follow Jesus Christ. God has commanded us, as His followers and children, not to show partiality or favoritism among his people. Our second point flows from the first. If we are the children of God… if He is our heavenly father and we are his children, we will live obediently to his commands and desire to reflect His character in our lives. When we read through the Old Testament, particularly in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, we see God’s instructing the Israelites this is how I want you to live. We read in Leviticus 19...13 “‘Do not defraud or rob your neighbor. “‘Do not hold back the wages of a hired worker overnight. 14 “‘Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the Lord.  James points his readers back to this chapter in James 2:8, when he writes, “8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,”[a] you are doing right.” He is quoting from Leviticus chapter 19:18 - 18 “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.“

Jesus repeats this idea in the Gospels when He talks about the Greatest Commandment. In Matthew 25, we read, “One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matt 25:35-39)  In addition, Jesus would go on to give His disciples a new command to follow after he left...new instructions about how people, who are following him...who are his disciples would live together….. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

If we claim that Jesus is Lord of our lives, our obedience to God’s instruction and direction in our lives would naturally follow. If Jesus is Lord, we should be living obediently to His voice. And as His children gather together to worship, serve, celebrated, etc, His community of people will be marked by love, mercy, encouragement, and not by partiality or prejudice because He has told us not to demonstrate that behavior as His children.

Last, partiality stands in opposition to what God did in my life and your life through the Cross of Jesus Christ. We have received mercy and forgiveness through the Cross not because of who we are, what we have, or what we have done. We know that we had nothing to offer God and yet we received by His grace, mercy, and love the free gift of eternal life through the salvation by Jesus at the cross. Paul writes, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. …….. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6,8) We were all sinners, separated from God, and destined for judgment, but, God provided a Savior for all people. (see John 3:16).

In 1 Corinthians, Paul reminds us….Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” (1 Cor 1:26-31)

We have nothing to boast in ourselves...we have nothing to point to in ourselves that made us attractive to God to accomplish His work in our lives...or for Him to bring us to Himself through the Cross. James makes the point in 2:5…. “Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?”  As believers in Jesus Christ, we stand together equally as those who have been redeemed only by the saving grace and mercy of God through Jesus Christ. And it is only through Him that we boast...and it is only through Him that we are adopted children of our Heavenly Father. It is only through Jesus that we have received the presence of the Holy Spirit and it is only through Him that we have our new identity in His community of believers (the church). It is all about Jesus. It is not about us.

As we close, do you remember the old sitcom “Cheers” that ran back in the 80s and 80s? It was about a bar in Boston where people could escape life for an hour or two and just be accepted for who they were, no matter what their walk of life or background. The theme song that opened the show went, in part, “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name and they are always glad you came. You want to be where you can see troubles are all the same. You want to be where everyone knows your name.” Granted, the comparison may be incomplete in many respects but in its basic principle, shouldn’t this be something the church should strive to offer people? A place to where we gather together ... without preference or partiality …. leaving the caste system culture creates behind us as we enter …. and gathering as equals, who worship, celebrate and serve Jesus Christ together.

The makeup of the local church should baffle the world. The world should not be able to explain how people of different races, economic and social levels, and age groups can come together in love and harmony. Church will be incredibly counter-cultural. In a world built on preferences, partiality, discrimination, and special treatment…. to walk into Christ’s community of people and be among equals will be radically counter-culture. For the church to be a place, where every person leaves at the door any privilege or baggage and all are received with the same celebration, joy, and love of God in the name of Jesus Christ….that place will be transformational as the presence of God works within that community. One of the greatest apologetics to the community around us...the greatest witness to those outside the church will be people seeing the church as this counter-cultural force.

Paul writes in Colossians 3….11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and is in all. 12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Jesus Christ has called the church to be a place where someone can walk through the door and their identity imposed by the community ….where the layers and separates created by the culture fade away and they enter simply as a child of God…...where the only identity we have is one where we claim Jesus as Savior and Lord and it is that identity that binds us and guides us. By God’s power and presence...and to His glory and praise, may our church be that place.  Amen

Week 4 (7/19/20) - Fatih Works... Listen AND Do!

WEEK 4 - SERMON NOTES

TODAY'S SCRIPTURE: James 1:19-27


The longest journey you will ever take is the 18 inches from your head to your heart!

The WAY we live demonstrates the REALITY of what we believe!


To to allow God's truth to speak to you personally, James tells us to prep our hearts!

  1. Be quick to listen - Have an OPEN EAR!
  2. Be slow to speak - CONTROL YOUR TONGUE!
  3. Be slow to become angry - Have a CALM SPIRIT!
  4. Get rid of all moral filth [nasty ear wax] and the evil that is so prevalent - Have a CLEAN HEART!


WHY?

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. DO what it says!


Where do you put your trust?

If you are struggling with a new normal, could it be that you have put your trust in the idol of certainty?

...the thought that America, or your life, will always look a certain way - and right now it doesn't look that way?


As believers, we are called to walk our talk... to match our beliefs with our behavior.

We are called to be peace makers and truth tellers...

God wants to make this season of life matter!

Will you show a FAITH that WORKS - and join Him in whatever that is?

Week 3 (7/12/20) - Faith Works... How to Deal with Temptation

WEEK 3 - SERMON NOTES

There are sound issues at the end of the video. Be patient; it does come back on!


TODAY'S SCRIPTURE: James 1:2-8, 12

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.


Trials are inevitable!

  1. Trials will test your faith!
  2. Trials produce perseverance; they exercise your faith muscle!
  3. God's got a plan to use every trial for our good and His glory!


How do we rise above our trials?

  1. Embrace trials (consider it joy) as God's way to mature our faith.
  2. Allow trials to complete God's purpose in our lives.
  3. Ask for wisdom to help you view a trial from God's perspective.
  4. Don't be double minded - wanting your will and God's will at the same time!
  5. Ask God to help you, so you don't waste your pain!

Here's a great prayer to start each day!

God, I don't like this test... I wouldn't choose this test!

But help me to depend on you, and to bless Your Name in the midst of it! Amen!

Week 2 (7/5/20) - Faith Works... How to Face Life's Trials...

Week 1 (6/28/20) - Faith Works... Let Me Introduce You To...