Putting Feet to Our Faith #1
Rev. Jeanine Alexander, September 10, 2017
Putting FEET To Our Faith –
A Study of the book of JAMES
Sermon # 1: Overview of the Sermon Series & the Book of James
There’s a three year old boy who would often drop by church with his dad. As soon as he got to the church he’d run into my office, give me a huge hug, take a piece of candy, chatter non stop, then turn on my loud pinball machine and start playing (he did all this regardless of what I might have been doing when he came in). It’s very cute – I looked forward to his visits. However, several years from now if he did those same things I might feel differently about his behavior.
A few years ago I was giving a sermon when a little girl about 2 years old ran up to me to give me a hug right during the sermon. So I picked her up and hugged her and we all thought the situation was very cute. Had she been older we may have thought her behavior was ill timed and inappropriate.
When I was learning to toilet train my mom tells me that I would often yell out to her what I was doing. One time when she had company I yelled out, “Mom, I just went #1.” She affirmed me. A few minutes later I yelled out, “Mom, I’m going #2” and once again she affirmed me. Before long I yelled out, “Mom, now I think I’m going #3.” Everyone laughed and thought it was cute. But it wouldn’t be cute today for me to be sharing with people what I’m doing in the bathroom.
Children can be delightfully spontaneous and fill our lives with joy. But generally we don’t want people to stay children. Childhood is a stage – a wonderful stage – but one to grow out of. It’s sad when adults behave as though they have never ever grown up. The mere passage of years does not automatically turn people into authentic grown-ups.
Nor do mere years of being a Christian guarantee that Christians will become mature. Sometimes people who have been Christians for a considerable time still lack Christian maturity. Though we want people to have child-like faith – faith that trusts God completely, actively and joyfully … we need to outgrow childish or immature faith. Here are some examples of childish behavior in Christians. See if you see yourself in any of these descriptions. Childish Christians:
- Are very up and down about their faith and church (extremely enthusiastic about what interest them, but completely bored with what doesn’t)
- They plunge headfirst into a new ministry activity, but when challenges arise they get impatient and discouraged and often give up
- They take away their toys and walk away, even throw a tantrum, when things don’t go their way
- They stay in situations which are harmful or keep them from growing, rather than dealing with the tension of change
- They are most interested in what affects them, rather than what is best for others or for the group
- They are quick to judge others and place blame
In other words, childish Christians’ behavior often doesn’t reflect the kind of faith they profess.
Can we all see a little of ourselves in these descriptions? I can. Probably all of us can. That’s why I chose to do a sermon series on the book of James. Growing up, becoming mature Christians is James’ subject.
- Do you need to develop attitudes that a mature Christian should have? Do you need to build perseverance? Overcome destructive desires? Grow in confidence as a follower of Christ? If so, James gives clear guidance.
- Do you need instruction on using your words for good, on responding to the poor and wealthy alike, on growing as a person of prayer? The book of James has answers.
James has been called “the Proverbs of the New Testament.” Like the Old Testament book of Proverbs, the emphasis is practical. The focus is Christian maturity.
The book of James is about PUTTING FEET TO OUR FAITH, making sure that we walk our talk when it comes to being followers of Christ. It’s a short book, only five chapters, but it packs a powerful punch. It talks about topics that are as relevant and practical today as they were two thousand years ago, when they were first given to the church.
The Book of James was written toward the end of the 1st century A.D. or the beginning of the 2nd century. At that time, the church was establishing itself as an institution and struggling to help its members establish a consistent code of ethics. This book is not written to any specific New Testament congregation, nor does it address specific situations or particular problems. Rather, it deals with general Christian concerns.
The book of James helps its readers lives out their faith day by day.
- The sermon today is an overview of the book of James. My purpose is to get you interested in and excited about the book. I want you to leave today having made the commitment to study the book of James in its entirety during this sermon series.
- Next Sunday’s sermon will deal with developing perseverance. We will look at how God wants us to respond to trials and temptations.
- Sermon #3 reflects on what it means to be “good” in God’s eyes. We’ll talk about our attitudes toward the poor (and the powerful) and being careful about how we judge others.
- Sermon #4 will focus solely on the power of our words – how we can bring life and death with our tongues.
- In Sermon #5 we will read about true wisdom and what it means to submit ourselves to God.
- The final sermon will reflect on what humility looks like … how to deal with our wealth … and prayer that has power and impact.
For the next several weeks we will be study the book of James during the sermon time and then you will have opportunity to do some study on your own throughout the week.
Begin your study by reading the entire book of James this week. Look at the study guide prepared to help you. I have outlined the sermon series texts for you (indicating which week each will be discussed). Write down a short phrase or sentence that can serve as a title for each section of the letter.
You may also want to jot down key concepts that catch your attention. What repeated words and ideas do you find? What are the main themes? How can you apply what you are reading to your everyday life?
There’s a story about a man who had been away from his church for several years, involved in all kinds of shady practices and criminal activities. When he eventually returned to his church and testimony time came, he was ready. He stood and said, “I’m so glad to be back in this church, and I want to tell you that it is true that I beat my wife… deserted my children … stole … lied … did all manner of evil… and served time in jail. But I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that not once, in all that time, did I ever lose my religion!”
If our religion is nothing more than a set of beliefs, if it has no genuine effect on how we see the world, how we live and how we treat others — then our faith has no feet and we are missing out on the life God intends for us.
I’m reminded of those great lines from Wilbur Rees:
I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.
Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep,
but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk
or a snooze in the sunshine.
I don’t want enough of God to make me love a black man
or pick beets with a migrant.
I want ecstasy, not transformation.
I want warmth of the womb, not a new birth.
I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack.
I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.
Would you like to buy $3 worth of God … or do you want all of God – all that God offers and all that God calls us to do and be?
Friends in Christ, it’s true that God is a loving God who will give us rest, peace and comfort.
But more than that – God will often disturb us by awakening our hearts to the needs of those around us …by giving us great discomfort at injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves — and will call us to take action … to put feet to our faith – to follow Jesus in a way that transforms us and the world.
The way we live our lives in the here and now is crucial to pleasing God … making the world better … and having abundant, full life. The decisions we make today matter. Our actions have eternal impact.
Will you commit to studying the book of James – to growing in Christian maturity, to putting feet to your faith? Will you?
Let us pray:
God, thank you for giving us your Word so that we can learn about you and how you want us to live. Be with us as we embark on this study of the Book of James. Send your Spirit upon us to give us motivation, discipline and commitment as we study, learn and act on our faith. Use this study to help us walk our talk when it comes to being your followers. Develop in us a rich Christian maturity that our lives might bless others and honor you. Amen.