True religion is more than hearing and even more than believing, it is building a life that manifests the character of Jesus.
00:00 You're listening to a live recording from Westside church in bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us.
00:06 Good morning, everybody. I'm Ben Fleming, one of the other senior pastors, and I'm excited to be with you today. We're in part two of our James series, and we're gonna start in James chapter one in verse 19. for those of you who are online again, we're so grateful that you're with us. There's an incredible team. That's part of the creative arts team here that runs cameras and soundboards, and is up on the booth and is kind of the hidden heroes of every Sunday that allows us to relay this service and really this community to a larger audience. And, just wanted to shout that out after Evan said, we're so grateful for what this team does every single week in and week out, that creates a better community. So we appreciate you guys. James part two last week was part one, pastor bow talked about endurance leading to perfection.
00:53 So James kind of outlines this entire letter that isn't to a specific group or a specific church, even though he is kind of the, the father of, or the pastor of the church in Jerusalem, which is considered the mother church or the Christian movement, but really it's two Christians. It's two people that are doing their best to follow Jesus, not just people in one specific area. And so he's trying to relay this idea of endurance leading to perfection or wholeness, which means that we say what we believe and we believe what we say, and we're actually willing to do the work to make that faith happen. And what's really gonna happen here at the end of chapter one and all of chapter two. And we're gonna read all of it because I don't want you to miss any of it is harsh criticism from James who is the half brother of Jesus to the church.
01:44 Now, first of all, I love James because I love that there's actual documentation that states the half brother of Jesus spent almost all of Jesus' life saying this dude is not the Messiah. He's my brother until the very end when Jesus dies and he rises again from the grave James, the half brother of Jesus says, oh my gosh, something really happened. He is the Messiah. If a half brother can admit that, then I think there's something for us to discover here in the story of James, but a lot is made of criticism of the church from outsiders, right? So people who have had a loose connection with the church, or maybe had a long term connection with the church and have grown to hate the church or different political organizations or things in our city, whenever criticism comes from outside the church, sometimes we can be really defensive as the church and we can kind of fire back.
02:34 People don't understand what we're trying to do, what we're going through, who Jesus really is. And we could take this defensive posture. I believe that there's a good way to receive criticism from outside the church. I believe that everybody that's willing to share a story of pain or of hurt that story. And that person is valuable not only to the church, but to the kingdom of God. And I believe that the church and hearing criticism of itself from outside can actually create something that looks more like Jesus from understanding those stories. But today this is not criticism that is coming from outside of the church. And it is some of the harshest criticism that you will hear. It's coming very much from inside in the form of James, the half brother of Jesus. And so here's James chapter one verse 19, we'll jump into it.
03:23 He says, understand this, my dear brothers and sisters, you must be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce righteousness, God desires. So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts for it has the power to save your souls, but don't just listen to God's word. This will be a big theme today. You must do what it says. Otherwise you're only fooling yourselves for, if you listen to the word and don't obey, it's like glancing at your face in a mirror, you see yourself walk away and you forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, or the law of freedom, and if you do what it says, and don't forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.
04:10 But if you claim to be religious, but don't control your tongue, you're just fooling yourself. And your religion is worthless, pure, and genuine religion in the sight of God. The father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. So in order to lead us to the wholeness or the perfection that Bo talked about this last week, James is now using another phrase. It's called the law of freedom. And he's gonna give us a few different ways to actually enact this law of freedom and create more freedom, not just for ourselves, but for the people, the family, the world around us. So let's pray. We'll get all the way into it. Father, we pray today that your presence would just be felt and made known among us. Or we know that you're here. You walk with us every single day.
04:55 I pray that our souls would be quiet enough to just slow down and stop and be reminded of your presence in our lives. Jesus, we pray that we would be shaped by your scripture today, specifically by the words of James, that we wouldn't allow them to just go beyond us or past or over our heads. But instead we would listen to what you're trying to communicate to us today through the scripture in Jesus name, we pray. Amen. I just did a wedding yesterday up in hood river at a gorgeous orchard. Maybe some of you guys have been there before. I've done a couple weddings up there and I really enjoy weddings. And this is wedding season. I suppose you could get married, any day of the week during any time of the year. but we insist on getting all of our friends dressed up and sticking them right out in the middle of the sun when it's a hundred degrees out, cuz we love them.
05:45 And this is how our relationship is please come and enjoy the sunshine. And but I really do. The weddings are so fun. They're usually so beautiful and you know, there's the whole festive and party element to it. There's kind of a hustle and bustle. Some people are stressed out, but we won't talk about them today. and I've done a lot. I'm coming up on a hundred weddings. I think I'm gonna hit a hundred weddings this summer and I've seen a lot of stuff.
06:57 I've been to one where the groomsmen, they, we asked where the rings were and one of the groomsmen actually took off running to his cabin. we can all assume. So we went to a different part of ceremony, came back to that part. So I've seen a few mess up. Screwups I've seen rain, I've seen snow in September. I've seen a lot of different things that have made weddings kind of exciting. It's always been fun and amusing for me. The pastor until just a couple years ago, I was doing a wedding for a west side, couple over in lake Oswego at a converted farm. And we went through the rehearsal, came back the next day, gorgeous wedding, gorgeous couple incredible day. And I get to the end of the ceremony and I say to whom God has joined together. Let no man put a thunder, which is how I finish.
07:43 And I see the bride or I hear the bride first go, oh, a gentle exhale. And then there's something clutched in her hand. And then I see her go behind her back to the maid of honor. And I see the groom do the same thing and I go, something's happening. This has never happened before. And I get to the point where I say now pronounce you man. And why, if you may kiss the bride and it dawns on me, they had prepared their own vows and I had skipped it and I almost threw myself on the floor and tore my clothes like an old Testament morning. And sure enough, it finished the bride and groom walk out. One of the bridesmaids like staring me down like you idiot. And I'm like, yes, I am an idiot. I had never done this before. I had always been deathly afraid of getting someone's name, wrong in a wedding ceremony, but never before had I forgotten to allow them the time to state their own vows, which by the way is
08:42 Like the biggest part of the whole thing. It's the wedding. They're looking at each other in a beautiful way and promising making so many wonderful promises to each
08:52 Other. That they'll probably ruin a, but it's, it's the moment that everyone's waiting for. And I'm like, oh let no man put us under. Let's continue on and get to the party. And I wanted to throw up, my wife was with me. We get in the car, we drive home from lake Oswego and I don't think I blinked. She's going, are you hungry? I'm like, I don't think I'll ever be hungry again.
09:35 No. Are you sure?
10:33 Now, James is using this word law of freedom as a bit of a word picture, and it kind of relates to how we do our road structure. So the apostle Paul said, look under the, under the guise of grace, not under the guise, under law of grace, everything is permissible, but not everything edifies. So in other words, you can do anything, but that still doesn't always make it the right choice or the best thing for the you or the people around you. And James is really playing off of this or doing his own version. He's saying the law of freedom is like all of us being able to drive, but there's no rules to the road. How many of you would feel excited and comfortable and free to drive out on a road where everyone is making up the rules as we go along. It's not freedom.
11:13 It's actually bondage. It's actually a prison that we would put ourselves in. And James is saying, look, grace can cover all abundantly everything. It can cover every kind of sin, but here's the thing we need to create and subscribe to this law of freedom together as a church so that all of us can continue to actually be set free. And he lays out how we can be set free in this law of freedom by grabbing a hold of the core elements of what this faith is. So he says in chapter two, I'm gonna read a lot. So try to keep up with me. It's really good. He says my dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord? Jesus Christ. If you favor some people over others, for example, suppose someone comes into your meeting, dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry.
11:58 And another comes in is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, you can stand over there or else. Sit on the floor. Well, doesn't this discrimination show that your judgements are guided by evil motives. Listen to me, dear, your brothers and sisters. Hasn't God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith. Aren't they? The ones who will inherit the kingdom. Me promise to those who love him. But you dishonor the poor. Isn't it? The rich who oppress you and drag you into court. Aren't they? The ones who slander Jesus Christ. Who's noble name. You bear. Yes, indeed. It's 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're committing a sin and you're guilty of breaking the law for the person who keeps all the laws, except one is just as guilty as a person.
12:50 Who's broken all of God's laws for the same God who said, you must not commit. Adultery also said, you must not commit murder. So if you murder someone, but you don't commit adultery, you've still broken the law. So whatever you say or whatever you do remember that you will be judged by the law. That sets you free. There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you've been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you. So James does something you could tell. He is the brother of Jesus been spending a lot of time with Jesus. And you could tell he's been leading this church and spent a lot of time in Judaism because he calls back to the words of his brother, Jesus, who once had a conversation with a rich young ruler. And he said, look, I wanna come and follow you Jesus.
13:33 So the rich young ruler and Jesus said, you're gonna have to give up everything that you have and then you could come follow me. And it says the ruler went away sad, and Jesus followed it up with a difficult word. His disciples decided by saying, look, it's super hard to enter into this kingdom of heaven. As a rich person, it's easier for a camel to go through an eye of a needle then to be rich and to go ahead and inherit and enter into the kingdom of God. And now James has identified not that long after the death of his half brother Jesus and his resurrection, that the Christian Church is falling into the same pattern of influence and power as the Jewish church did that. He spent so much time in you remember that Jesus overthrew the tables of the money changers. Not because there were just people making money inside the temple of God, but it was because those people were actively taking advantage of poor people who wanted to come worship and make sacrifices.
14:29 And they were upcharging the price of things like doves and livestock, because they knew the poor people had to make sacrifices. And they knew that they could up the price and still get it from them because they felt the religious manipulation too. And James is saying, I've seen this before. How is it that Jesus only died so long ago? And we, the Christian Church, the people that are, that are trying to follow after this brand new way have already fallen into the, the same pattern of being in love with influential people, of being in love with rich people, of being in love with people that look the part, and we've already abandoned the poor people who actually are the ones that Jesus said, these who are the poor in spirit will inherit the kingdom of God. What are we doing?
15:18 They're trying to gain influence in the church simply by having this kind of power and money. And by the way, they already do it in the justice system. And when God is trying to bring a new form of justice, the church has to stand up and understand for those of us who are rich and maybe not so rich that our calling is not instead to create this inside community where only so many of us belong. And we look a certain way and we sound a certain way. But instead it's the people that would walk in and they not only don't look the part, but they have nothing to offer you.
15:50 Those are the people James is saying. You're telling them to sit on the floor, you're leaving them behind. You're missing the entire point. And he goes on, it gets worse. Check it out. What good is it? Dear brothers and sisters in verse 14. If you say you have faith, but you don't show it by your actions. What kind of faith that can, that kind of faith save anyone. Suppose you see a brother, sister who has no food and clothing. James starts to dig with what I believe to be a little bit of sarcasm here. He says, you see someone, no food or clothing. You say goodbye and have a good day. Stay warm, eat well. And then you don't give that person. Any food or clothing. What good does that? Do you see faith by itself? Isn't enough unless it produces good deeds. It is dead and useless.
16:43 Now someone might 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'll show you my faith by my good deeds. You say you have faith for you. Believe that there is one God good for you. Sarcasm again. Even the demons believe that. And they tremble and terror. How foolish can't you see that your faith without good deeds is completely useless. 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, you see his faith and his actions work together. His actions made his faith complete. And so it happened just as the scripture say, Abraham believed God, God counted him as righteous because of the faith. He was even called the friend of God. So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do and not by faith alone. We'll stop right there. And I'll finish up the rest here in just a second. Pastor, Evan and I were talking before the first service and Evan just created a really good, picture for me. He said, we all love in the Christian faith. We love this calling phase, right? You have a calling to go and to be, and to do. And we love to sit in that phrase, that phase and go, oh, I'm so called.
18:11 So loved. It's warm in here. Feels nice. Some of you who write know that you love the idea that you've been called to write a book and the outline and the chapters are the daunting and the difficult part. I remember before we had our first child, we love the idea of being parents.
18:39 There. Wasn't supposed to be a pause in there, but,
18:43 And I remember we have pictures of, this is my second child, but we have pictures of my daughter's room. We painted it this nice, this nice form of pink. And then we got the, the letters that would spell out J O V I for Jovi. And it was perfect and it was set. And then the child shows up
19:52 You sing and you talk and you have theology and you meet in your groups and you do. And that's wonderful and that's great, but you're missing the widow and the orphan and the poor and the broken, the one that's hungry. You say, have a good day and eat your fill. And you forget that you have actually called to be the hands and feet of Jesus to be the cooks of the food that you insist. Fill the bellies of those who are hungry to be the bank. For those who have run out of finances and improving themselves to be financially, irresponsible and unwanted by the rest of the world, the church has been called to be the go between for these people and Jesus Christ himself. And we want to sing and talk our way into a situation where we continue to feel good about what we believe and do not want to work it out in our belief. There's a better way. He says, James, it's not good enough to continue to talk.
20:56 And he finishes up with this example in verse 25, it says Rayhab the prostitute is another example. She was shown to be right with God by our actions when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away by a different road, just as the body is dead without breath. So also faith is dead without good works. I love that. James brings up Rayhab the prostitute because you say prostitute and immediately what comes to mind is a certain set of actions. And he says, but look at this moment, Rahab's works. Her actions speak of the glory of God and the saving of people who otherwise would've been killed. So James leaves us really asking a few questions to ourselves. The first is, are you merciful? Are we as a church? Merciful? Are you generous? Are we as a church? Are you as an individual? Generous? Are you welcoming? Are we as a church, you as an individual welcoming, hospitable place, NT Wright, the author says James's point is this. When you look into this law, the law of freedom, the word of God, it is supposed to change you. The word must go to work. When that happens, God blessing. God's blessing. That is God's enrichment of our life in all kinds of ways will surely follow
22:36 Roar. Another offer says, this says, just keep we keep this preoccupation with Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. We love Jesus. You can almost make a co relationship with the more that we talk about Jesus, the less we actually do what he said. I think it's the way the ego fools itself into a place of comfort. Oh, you guys, I want to be comfortable. And our theology is a worthy conversation. Our singing is a glorious moment, many multiple moments that we have together. But I pray that we would look in this mirror as James says, and we wouldn't forget what we look like. We come to the scripture and we look in the mirror and then we walk away and we are able to compartmentalize this faith that James is talking about with these actions that we have outside of the church. It is a human problem. Since the beginning of time, we believe and idealize our faith and beliefs. And yet often our don't reflect that, which we believe. And I am just convinced today, church, that west side in central Oregon and in bend can be a people that we are being a people we're working to, being a people that actually not just believe what we say and say what we believe, but there is proof in the actions and the way that we live and care for the world around us,
24:11 Should permeate every fiber of our being, the way that we parent, the way that we care for our family, the way that we care for our neighbors and our neighborhood, the way that we care for the people in the seats around us, the way that we care for our own souls that are often beaten up and be dragged and tired, the way that we care for the people that we are sure have proven themselves, that they do not deserve help any longer. How we treat these people, how we communicate with these people. It must impact all of these things and these relationships. Why? Because faith without works, isn't actually faith at all. It's empty philosophy. It's pretend it's a social club. It's a place where we go to feel better about ourselves and reinforce our influence when God has called us to a greater place. So Jesus, we humble ourselves. We look in the mirror today as individuals and as churches, Lord, I pray for those of us in here that are considered rich, just probably all of us. When it comes to the grand scale of the world, I pray that we would use our riches and our resources and our influences to care for the people of this world, create a better place to live and to have our being and to love. And to worship you.
25:53 It's a high and difficult calling similar to moving a camel through the eye of a needle. But Lord Jesus, we want to use everything that we have all for the good and the glory of your kingdom. What I pray that we wouldn't discriminate between social classes, between those who look like they belong and those who do not look like they belong, that we would embrace an all inclusive. Everyone belongs way in Jesus name. We pray. Amen.