February 21, 2016 – manuscript

Scripture Text: James 2:14-17 (ESV) – 14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

There are many things I want to tell you.  There are many ways American Christians get church wrong.  There are many ways that we cheapen the gospel of Jesus Christ.  There are many times we cheat ourselves out of the rich divine blessings that God has for us.  There are many of us that rely solely on a short prayer that we said at one point in our lives and never go any deeper with Jesus.

If I were to ask you how to get to the next stage of your individual spiritual growth, it’s a good chance you couldn’t answer the question.  It’s true for the majority of Christians and because we don’t know, we coast through our existence, we hope that God is pleased, and we long for more.  We just don’t know what we long for, but we long for something.  We remain unsatisfied with our spiritual growth, and we tell ourselves that we need to work just a little harder.  For the individual as well as for churches, the result of this pursuit is that we do things that make little sense and we don’t pull the plug on things that have been on life support for decades.

How would you respond if I told you the next stage of your spiritual growth has more to do with how you pause then what you do?  The majority of people in my generation that no longer attend church, have quit because doing church didn’t benefit anybody.  Church calendars were filled.  Sunday school classes were large.  Families were overly-busy.  At some point, all of it became religious activity to gain God’s approval.  I am convinced, more than ever, that Satan is more pleased with the busyness of church life than God is.

Some where along the generational lines, we missed it.  We missed Romans 15:5-6 because we misinterpreted our next steps for spiritual growth.  We’re going to talk about what true faith looks like.  We’re going to talk about next steps for spiritual growth.  We’re going to talk about it for two reasons.  First, because we, as adults, should never stop growing.  Second, we have a responsibility to make sure our children have been trained to pursue spiritual growth in whatever church they choose to attend as adults.  Here are four practices that will “pause” us and develop true faith.

Expression of true faith (2:14–17)

14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

If you underline in your Bible, underline or circle three words.  In you’re taking notes, you can write these three words.  They are good ~ faith ~ works.  What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?  Good means advantage or benefit.  We’ve already learned this from chapter one; faith means beliefs and assurance of beliefs.  Works means tasks, duty, workmanship.  We need faith.  We need knowledge.  We need information stored inside of us.  We need to serve in ministry.  We need to be doing something for God.

This morning, I want to focus on the ‘in between’ of faith and works.  It isn’t about busyness.  It isn’t about cramming one more thing into our calendars.  It isn’t about doing anything.  The ‘in between’ of faith and works is pausing.  Pausing reveals who we are when we are not doing.  Pausing naturally pours into doing.

A question rises from verse 14; can a person have true faith and be a spectator Christian?  I think people can be a Christian and not be a follower of Jesus. I think people can have fire insurance and never experience the full redemption of Jesus Christ while living on earth.  I think churches are filled with people living this way.  Revelation 3:16 calls this person a lukewarm Christian and he makes Jesus vomit.  Watch this illustration of a lukewarm Christian…

When coffee sits out too long, it needs the heat of a microwave.  It’s just like faith that sits around without being used.  Verse 17 tells us that faith unattached to any type of task or workmanship is lifeless.  It’s on life support.  It’s in a coma.  It’s waiting for somebody else to determine its fate.  That doesn’t sound like true faith to me.

Four practices that will “pause” us and develop true faith

The first practice that will “pause” us is prayer.  This is my seventh Sunday, and I haven’t heard any mention of corporate prayer.  We have our transitional prayer times in the service, but when was the last time this church gathered for the sole purpose of consulting God?  When was the last time this church gathered together simply to listen to God?  We will never hear God speak in one voice if we never gather together in one voice.  It’s that simple.  Here are three calls to action.  First, take out your cell phone and set a daily alarm for 3:56pm.  This will serve as your daily call to pray for our church.  Do you want God to move in this place?  Do you want God to bring numerical growth?  Do you want the Holy Spirit to dwell here?  Do you want more than lukewarm?  Then pray every day at 3:56pm.  Second, find a place in your home and make a circle on the floor.  The easiest way to make a circle on the floor is to buy a hula-hoop.  Step into that circle and ask God to revive the circle.  The transformation of your family and your church begins with the transformation of you.  Third, we need four prayer teams that meet in the office to pray during the message.  Each team will consist of three people for a total of twelve people.  If you choose to accept this mission, you will pray during the message one Sunday per month.

The second practice that will “pause” us is fasting.  I am calling for a weekly fast now until Easter.  The fast is one meal during every week for the next five weeks.  Our mission is to begin to hear God’s one voice.  I understand some individuals have medical conditions that do not allow the skipping of a meal.  If that is you, fast from coffee, pop, candy or snacks in between meals.  It is important that we remember a Biblical fast is abstaining from food and drink for the purpose of listening to God speak into our lives.

The third practice that will “pause” us is Bible reading.  If you don’t read your Bible with any consistent pattern, you need to begin.  Reading your Bible when you are at church is not a consistent pattern.  You cannot know God without reading what God has written.  Beginning tomorrow, I am going to put a daily scripture reading on the Facebook page.  Go to Facebook, like the church’s page, look up the daily scripture passage and read it.  We’ll also create space in the bulletin for weekly Scripture readings.

The fourth practice that will “pause” us is silence/solitude.  The purpose of this practice is to break the chaos of our lives and listen to God.  Psalm 46:10 is one of my favorite verses for this one.  There are a few ways you can engage in this one.  The first way is to turn off any noise in your vehicle while your driving.  If you choose to try this, you will begin to cherish your drive time.  The second way is to gather your family and decide on a portion of the day or week when there are no screens.  Use that portion of time to be with God as a family.

This is our mission.  If you choose to accept it, God will take your spiritual growth deeper.  As He changes you, He will change the church.