Prayer – let’s spend some time in quiet before the lord for directed Prayers.
At the end of our prayer time we will pray together the Lord’s Prayer – and in case you don’t know it feel free to open your eyes and read it from the screen – the Lord’s prayer is one of those traditions that has been passed down through the centuries – and so it’s one of those things that unites all churches.
1. Perhaps you want to start with a word of thanks – specifically – what about last week are you thankful for?
2. Let’s spend a moment interceding for others – pray for people you know who are sick or are in need of some provision from the Lord.
3. Pray for anyone in your life that you want to begin a faith journey with Jesus.
4. Pray for yourself.
Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done in earth,
as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
as we forgive those who sin against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
My wife Jody is from San Diego – and so it’s a beautiful place to visit – during one of our visits we decided to take a day trip out to the desert near palm springs.
As we came out of the mountains we could see in front of us a huge lake. Huge massive lake. And from a distance it looked spectacular. It was like a complete wonder – this gorgeous looking lake in the desert – and it was huge – some 30 miles long. But it was weird – there wasn’t a boat on this 34 miles long lake.
Curiosity got the best of us and as we drove by a sign that invited us to check out Salton City, we exited the road and headed toward the lake. And I’ll tell you something. If you ever want to get creeped out – take a drive into Salton City.
If you want to drive into a Stephen King book – if you ever want to know what the impending zombie apocalypse is going to look like, I’d invite you to vacation in Salton City. I mean, it felt like we had just driven into a nuclear weapon testing facility. Barely any homes – the ones that were there were in rough shape! I’m not kidding, it felt like we were the only two living souls in the entire city.
We made our way to the lakeshore and followed a sign to go to the beach. When we got to the beach we jumped out of the car and that’s when we noticed something for the first time. Since it was hot- summer in the desert hot – we had our windows up and the air conditioner cranked full blast. So we didn’t notice it until we opened the car door – but when we opened the door – There was a smell, a stench – it smelled like – it’s hard to explain exactly how it smelled but let me put a picture up here on the screen and then you can just imagine what this smells like. (Picture of dead fish)
We learned that the Salton sea – though beautiful from a distance – was dying – It looked alive – but was truly dead. With salt content twice that of the ocean, the fish were dying off for lack of oxygen.
Did you know that it is possible to have a faith like the Salton sea? From a distance – it looks good. But in reality – it’s dying a slow stanky death.
It is possible – and James is going to tell us what this dead faith looks like in the second chapter of his letter that we find in the New Testament.
Today is our 13th anniversary here at Journey. And when we started we asked ourselves – what are we going to look like as a church?
And we decided we wanted to be known, as a church, for four things. We asked, “What will Journey be famous for?” We want to be famous for Displaying grace. For depending on God. For Declaring the Good News, and also for the topic for this morning – we want to be a church that is famous for Doing Good.
Our days should count for something. What we do with our time, and our dimes – it counts to God. It’s important. And let me tell you – before you think that this is going to be one of those guilt sermons – I have nothing but commendation for you as a church. Over the past thirteen years – you all have laid an amazing legacy – you all have blazed an amazing trail and our job now is to remain on that path – to continue to do good as a church over the course of the next thirteen years.
Since it’s our birthday, let’s take a moment to review what God has done through Journey over the past 13 years…
- Breakfast lunch and dinner for all of the children in Christopher’s Hope Orphanage – for years now – because of your generosity. Do you know that over the last 13 years you all have donated more than $380,000 to our work in Haiti? You wonder how those children feel about people that have never met them buying their food each day? Let’s ask them. How do you feel, kids?
- You’ve donated more than $435,000 dollars to build health centers in Mali Africa. And in each of the ten towns we’ve worked in there is now a church – we’re going to open our own church building in June it will be about #10th church we’ve built. Ever wonder how those kids feel about having health in their village? Let’s ask them.
- Locally – we’ve been able to extend assistance to people in need – both of a bill that has needed to be paid, and also by providing affordable health care. This town is a town with many needs that are well hidden – but over the last 13 years we’ve helped by providing more than $330k in local assistance.
- We are so very proud our ministry partners at Heartland Hope – and many of you have volunteered hours helping those in Omaha in need. Ever wonder how they feel? You can go down there on the first Tuesday of the month and find out for yourself!
One last number to show – 146,000. Any guesses? That’s the number of Donuts we’ve eaten in 13 years. So we’re also keeping LaMars in business.
So – If this is your first Sunday at Journey Church – this is the legacy of Journey that has been handed down to you from faithful people. I want you to know what kind of church you are sitting in. We meet in a gym. We eat donuts. We give ourselves away.
This is our history. Will it be our future? It better be. Because if we ever become a church that isn’t intentional about doing good in our community and our world, then we might as well change the name of our church to the Salton Sea church.
Perty from the outside. Gross when you get up close.
Let’s look at James 2 this morning and see what he has to say about faith a doing good.
If you are not aware – this letter we are reading was written in the first century by Jesus’ actual brother. Son of Joseph and Mary – and in the early church James became a pillar in the church. In fact – it appears that James became the leader of the church in Jerusalem – and he was greatly respected and carried a lot of weight. And James was nothing if not a straight shooter.
14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?
James is asking a question but it’s not really a question right? The answer is understood. No – it will not save you. There is a kind of faith that lives up here in the head but doesn’t make it’s way to our hands. It tickles the brain without triggering the body to action.
Our faith must be more than an intellectual affirmation of a set of doctrinal beliefs… It’s not enough, says James.
19 You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.
Faith requires more than doctrine. More than theology. Even the demons know theology.
Now – a couple of caveats here before we continue…
First – Now – is good theology important? Yes. We work hard here at Journey to teach the word of God correctly – it’s not unimportant. But – it’s not how much we know that saves us. It’s who we know. And if we know the one who rescued us from the kingdom of darkness, then it will be evident in a changed life.
Second- it’s very important to understand that good works doesn’t save us either. We are loved by God because God decided to love us. Not because we’ve done so many good things that we’ve somehow captured God’s attention because we’re stellar people.
I heard this week a wonderful example that I’d like to steal from a pastor named Alistair Begg. Who points out that when Jesus was on the cross, he was hung between two thieves. While on the cross – one of the thieves defended Jesus from the scorn of the other thief – and Jesus said- today you will be with me in paradise. And Begg says –“Imagine the angel at the gates of heaven when that thief shows up. He asks the thief – what are you doing here? And the thief says, “I don’t know.”
The Angel says, well, Are you clear on the doctrine of justification of Faith? I don’t know what you’re talking about!
Were you baptized? I don’t know what you’re talking about!
Were you a good man? Far from it! No – Well, the angel asks – why are you here? And the thief says to the angel – because the man on the middle cross said I could come.”
Good works does not save you any more than good theology. Jesus saves us.
But – what James and the entire New Testament consistently teaches – is that the evidence of true faith will show up in good deeds.
We will begin to care about people we never cared about before. We will give to help people we have never met. We will use our gifts to do good in this broken world.
And what James and others in the NT point out is, that if we aren’t using our gifts, talents, recourses to do good in our community and world, then there is something fundamentally broken with our faith.
JAMES 2:15 NLT Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, 16 and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?
17 So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.
If a purely intellectual faith is dead, so is a well-intentioned faith. And this hits a little closer to home to me because it sticks a finger on two things I wish I had more of- I wish I had more time – and I wish I had more money.
But what we have is what we have. And God wants us to use what we’ve been given – he wants us to be faithful with what he’s given us.
Because sometimes doing good requires time. And sometimes it requires money. And I don’t like to part with either of those freely. And so it sends me into this unholy holding pattern of someday’s and wishes.
Someday I will be able to give some money to help with the feeding program in Haiti, but not today. Someday I will be able to serve but not today. Someday I will… fill in the blank – but not today.
I wish I weren’t so busy – I’d love to help someday. I wish I had the time to volunteer but… someday I will. I hope. just not today.
Someday when I’m not so busy I am going to make a difference in someone else’s life. But God knows my heart and so Stay warm – Eat well – God bless. Take care!
Listen – I understand that there are times when we are not in a position to help. But if that becomes the defining characteristic of our faith, then our faith is fundamentally broken.
Our faith needs to be more than intellectual and should be more than intentions. There ought to be signs of life. Because good works are external evidence of an internal change.
18 Now someone may 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 will show you my faith by my good deeds.”
20 How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?
26 Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.
Okay James – we get it. Uncle! Let up on us, right?
Why does James – and the bible really – it’ not just a James thing – it’s a god thing – a Bible thing – why such a big deal about putting our faith into action?
Let me give you two reasons.
First – God identifies himself with people in need. The poor – the needy – the oppressed, the orphan and the widow – the pushed asides – God is close to these people.
And I could read you a hundred verses in the Bible about God’s instructions to his followers about how to treat the poor and the needy and the hurting…
But let me just read this one… Why is James making a big deal about good deeds? Well, for one thing, as a brother of Jesus, James heard this message plenty from Jesus. Jesus was the one who preached that one day he will return and people are going to give an account for how they lived their lives. We read it in Matthew 25, and according to Jesus…
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’
Pretty amazing piece of scripture there. Very powerful words from Jesus. This passage gives us a glimpse into how much God loves and cares about people who are hurting – and need help. He identifies with them entirely. When we do good deeds to someone in need – we are acting that way toward God. And conversely – when we do nothing, Jesus goes on to say – when we do nothing for someone in need, we are doing nothing for him.
We care about doing good to those in need because – well we learned it from our father.
Secondly, I’d say this. When we activate our faith – when our beliefs cause us to act – we become God’s hands and feet to the world. We demonstrate the love of God to others. We prove to the world that there is a God and that he is loving and kind.
When Christians do good – when they activate their faith and care for the needy – people are convinced of God’s love and they are drawn to Him through us. Matthew 5:14-16 NLT “You are the light of the world… In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
There are Christians all over the world today who are doing good because of their faith. All over the world there are orphanages run by Christians. People are being rescued from slavery this day by Christians who are going after them. All over the world today hungry people are being fed by followers of Jesus. We are doing this because of God’s love, not to earn it.
It is part of God’s plan to win the world to himself that we be at the front of the line when it comes to doing good things in our world.
Right now there are hundreds of people worshipping the Lord in Mali. Gang – Christianity is 2000 years old. But in these villages, Christianity is 7 years old. Why now are there churches and Jesus followers? Because a group of Jesus followers in Gretna Nebraska helped to bring health to a village. And as a result – these villagers asked – what kind of God is this?
There are people out there who want to bag on Christians as somehow being selfish, or hypocrites, or internally focused or judgmental. And to be fair there are plenty of examples of that. But let’s not lose sight of the thousands – the millions who’s faith is being put into service for the sake of the Kingdom of God – who are rocking this world in Jesus’ name.
There are some people who want to end religion. Who want Christianity to go away. Fine. You want to pull Christians out of this world? This world will be a hell hole in a week.
Christians – people who are followers of Jesus – are the world’s most powerful force for good on this earth. There is no one like them. We’ve been doing our part here at Journey. Are you a part of what is going on?
Do good. Give yourself away. And let’s show our community what it looks like to be a church that values doing good for the Kingdom of God.