Faith with Works PowerPoint Sermon

Speaking as someone who is celebrating a birthday this month I can say that often it feels better to say that I’m “maturing” rather than getting older. Of course when I was younger being mature still sounded like being old. So I guess there’s no way around it the two sort of mean the same thing. And yet they don’t.

We must admit that it’s possible to grow older but not necessarily to mature. I think we all know those people who are up and age but never outgrew the immaturity of their youth. Maturity is also not the same as experience.  It’s been said that a person may have 20 years of experience – but that just may mean they’ve had one year of experience 20 times over.  In other words, they are not necessarily learning from their experiences; they are just repeating the same mistakes over and over.  Maturity, however, learns from its experience.

Maturity also has nothing to do with our achievements or academic degrees. A person may accomplish a number of things or have a string of letters behind their name and still be immature.  I am sure we all know someone like this.

So what is maturity? And in particular, what is spiritual maturity? That is what we are going to be discussing the next few months at Redeemer by the Sea as we go through the book of James verse by verse. James is one of those books that you love to hate and you hate to love. James pulls no punches. He says so many things that we need to hear, but do not want to hear.  The Apostle says things like:

  • “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds” – James 1:2
  • “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” – James 1:22
  • “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” – James 2:10
  • “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” – James 2:17
  • “Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you” – James 5:1

Even Martin Luther struggled with the book of James because it could be taken out of context to emphasize works over faith.  However Martin Luther understood that faith and works must go together just as the Apostle James says. And so we are embarking on a three-month Journey seeing and understanding our faith to be one “that works.”  This is a catchy phrase that reminds us that a true faith does good works but also that the kind of faith the Christian is to have must actually work in their life.

And the faith that we profess in Jesus Christ does work. It works to form us into the image and likeness of God’s Son. Our faith creates believers who understand that we live in a sinful and broken world that will cause us trouble and give us challenges but though these may test our faith, our faith can withstand them – and even find joy in the struggles of life.

A mature faith is one that understands that even if our neighbor is our enemy, we still can have love for them, and desire for them to repent and return to the Lord.  A mature faith understands that the words that come out of our mouth, represent what is in our heart. And so as our faith matures, we will desire to serve others rather than self.  We will grow in patience and prayer as we wait for the Lord’s return.

Perhaps it’s fitting that we begin this journey as the Summer Olympics begin in Rio de Janeiro. Just as an Olympic athlete trains tirelessly to grow in their skill for the Games, we too as Christians must “work” to train our faith up to maturity – to be more Christ-like.  There is much to unpack in the book of James!  It will take us a few months to get through it, and ultimately it will take a lifetime in order to mature.

Growing in Christ,

Pastor Augie.