Phase 2: Social Action
From the series Social Restoration
In this message, Ryan Ingram encourages us that in Christ we have a calling to good works! He reminds us of Paul's teaching in Ephesians - We are not saved BY good works; we are saved FOR good works. He goes on to say that action is the completion of faith, not in competition with faith. Put simply, social restoration demands that followers of Jesus put their faith into social action.
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About this series
Research tells us, and we see it played out every day, that the current culture is bearing down on the Church with such pressure that it's sometimes difficult to see how they're different. Taught by Chip's son, Pastor Ryan Ingram, Social Restoration looks at how it's possible for the Church of Jesus Christ to be IN the world, but not OF the world. Ryan provides practical, biblical solutions to how we can counter the cultural pressure and bring light, not heat, to a world that's, literally, falling apart.More from this series
In the midst of social injustice, and social unrest our hearts are longing, our nation’s longing is this: how do we experience social restoration? Like, how we do experience where the brokenness and the fracturedness of our society and the brokenness and the fracturedness of what the evils of racism, the evils of prejudice, the brokenness and the fracturedness of when we go to the extremes and we just cast people in categories – how do we begin to see restoration and healing and wholeness?
And I think there’s actually another question for those of us who are followers of Jesus that we have to ask. Is: how do we bring about social restoration? You see, you see, the Church was never intended to be a social club.
We have turned it into that. I go, I’m a part of this, I get my community. No, no, no. We are to be a people to bring out a social revolution in the name of Jesus. That is our purpose on this planet to bring the gospel, which changes hearts and lives and healing and wholeness.
Well, how do we bring about social restoration? And, in fact, James the half-brother of Jesus, he was the pastor of the church in Jerusalem that was undergoing their own social upheaval. They experienced intense persecution, they were scattered, they were in unrest, they were disoriented emotionally, trying to figure out how to navigate life.
And he’s going to give us four phases in which we are to engage in to experience or bring about social restoration.
Social restoration begins when followers of Jesus embrace there is no social distinction. Now listen. Among followers of Jesus there is to be no favoritism. There is to be no prejudice. There is to be no racism. It has no place among the people of God.
The apostle Paul would say it this way, that there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, but all are one in Christ.
And where we embrace that as followers of Jesus, the first step is, hey, there is no social distinction. A distinctive mark of the first followers of Jesus and the followers today is to be that there is no social distinction.
We are looking at phase two: social action. Remember that question: how do we bring about social restoration? If want to experience social restoration, followers of Jesus need to engage in a very specific social action.
And James is going to unpack it for us in James chapter 2, Verse 14. If you’ve got your Bibles, would you open up and dive in with me today? We are talking all about social action. And here’s what James says. “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deed?” What good is it? What good does it do if I believe in certain things but I don’t do what I say I believe?
And then he asks another question, “Can such a faith save them?” Can such a faith help them? What kind of faith does that produce or what does it do? Does it do anything at all?
And then he’s going to give us an illustration. “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes.” Here’s the picture that he’s painting. Suppose you’re walking around, but if you come across someone, you’re going like, “Man, this is someone I know, someone I love. This is a brother or a sister in Christ. “Suppose you come across them and they are without clothes,” literally in the Greek it’s “naked”.
Suppose they are naked, this is the picture he is painting, “and they have no daily food. Now, if one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace,’” which is just a typical farewell, “have a good day.” Maybe we’d say it this way, “Take care!” Like, “Take care!” Like, you should, you need to take some care.
And he says this, “Keep warm and well-fed,” which is actually the person commanding them, “You should get some clothes. You should get some food. You really need to take care of that.”
“But does nothing about their physical need,” now, the question, “What good is it?” And the answer you know and I know: no good at all. It does them no good. If I just have good feelings, good intentions, good thoughts. Oh, I’m just going to send you good thoughts. I don’t even know what that means. I’m going to send you good thoughts, but I do nothing good, then it does no good at all. This is what James is saying and now he’s bringing it home.
He says, “In the same way,” in like manner, listen to this, “faith by itself if not accompanied by action is dead.” Faith by itself, if not accompanied with action is useless or worthless.
See, he’s saying if we want to experience social restoration, followers of Jesus need to put their faith into action. He is calling you and I to have a faith that works. A faith that gets to work.
See, it’s one thing to talk the talk and we all know this. It’s another thing to walk the walk. He’s saying, “Practice what you preach.” Put it into action. See, what James is addressing here is something that has become, ah, like the way we have started to engage as followers of Jesus in America.
See, what he’s addressing with these early followers is a type of mentality that we can have what some have called a “fire insurance faith.” Right? It means I believe certain things, I say certain things, it has zero impact about my daily life, like, I’ll go to church on Sunday but it has no impact on Monday. But because I believe these certain things, I hold to these propositional truths, then my eternity is secure, though it has no impact on my earthly reality. And he is confronting that type of engagement from followers of Jesus.
And he says, “No, no, no. The calling for you and I, if we want to experience social restoration is a faith that works.” A faith that gets to work. A faith that does the work of faith.
Well, what is faith? And I want to define this for us, because I think we over-spiritualize faith, right? And so it becomes this, like, very abstract concept. And, yet, the reality is every single action that you take is preceded by faith in you. We live and operate by faith.
When you turned on your car, that was an act of faith, trusting that all the things that are going to work on the way they built that machine, it would work to turn on and take you somewhere. We do these step-by-step all the time.
So, let me give you a definition of faith. Faith is a strong confidence in and reliance upon someone or something. Like, I have confidence in you and so, I’m going to rely or trust or bank on you or someone.
It means to believe to the extent of complete trust and reliance. For example, let me give you an example of this. You go to the doctor. The doctor gives you a diagnosis. And maybe you have some sort of infection. And you have been going through this and then they give you antibiotics.
This is fantastic. Faith is trusting the doctor’s diagnosis that you have confidence in, reliance upon the medicine that they gave you and so you take that pill, you take the antibiotics to get well. And what James is saying is it’s great to say, “I have confidence in the doctor.” It’s great to say, “I have this pill right here, these antibiotics. Fantastic.” But if you do not take the pill, what good is it for you? No good at all.
So let’s then turn this of what is biblical faith? Well, that faith is the confidence in that God is who He said He is – His character. And He will do or accomplish what He said He will do. Meaning then I will begin to take what I cognitively believe about God and who He said He is and what He said is true and put that into practice in my daily life.
I like how John Ortberg said it. He said, “Faith is coming to believe with my whole body what I say I believe with my mind.” Faith is coming to believe with my whole body what I say believe with my mind.
And so, to trust Jesus is to believe that He was right about everything. He was right about how we should go about life. He was right about the best ways of life. He was right that He is life itself and that no one can come to Father except through Him. And to follow Jesus is to follow and step into life.
Now, for some, you’re wrestling with and wondering about, Okay, Ingram, what happened to salvation by faith alone? Right? Okay. This faith and works deal, what happened to salvation by faith alone? Are Paul and James in conflict here? Are they contradicting each other? No. They are not contradicting each other, in fact, they are complementing each other.
See, the apostle Paul and James are addressing two different groups with two very different issues at hand. Paul is addressing legalism and how to enter into the family of God. And you have legalism saying you have to do x amount of works to be accepted by God. And this is who Paul is addressing.
And James is addressing those already in the family of God who say, “You know what?” He’s talking about activity in the family of God. Not how to get into the family of God but activity in. See, the apostle Paul is addressing the root of salvation or the root of faith; James is addressing the fruit of faith.
And if you read the apostle Paul carefully, you’ll recognize He understands this too. In fact, the famous passage and if you’re still following along in the book of James, you’ve got your analog Bible out, just flip over a few pages over, you go to Ephesians chapter 2, verse 8.
And here the apostle Paul, this is our salvation by faith alone text that we hold so dear. He says, “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith – and this not of yourself, it is a gift of God – not by works.” You can’t do anything to earn the gift of God. You can’t do anything to make yourself right with God. “…so that no one can boast.” See, it’s by faith and His grace.
Okay, but then notice what Paul says in verse 10, because we often stop at verse 9. “For we are God’s handiwork,” His masterpiece, His workmanship, “created in Christ Jesus,” now, help me out here, “to do good,” to do what? To do good works! “Which God prepared in advance for us to do.” See, you are not saved by good works, but you are saved for good works. See, your good works will never earn you any merit before God, but if we understand and recognize the grace of God and what it means to be in His family, we recognize that our faith in action, we were created in Christ Jesus to do good works right now. The calling of James and of Paul is a faith that works.
I like how Dallas Willard said it. He said, “Grace is not opposed to effort,” see, we confuse this. “Grace is opposed to earning. Earning is an attitude. Effort is an action.”
Well then, why is this faith that works so very important? What is the big deal about all of this? Why does James seem to think this is what it’s going to take to help bring about social restoration? Well, he’s going to give us three reasons why this is so incredibly important.
The first thing he’s going to say to us is your behavior reveals what you truly believe. How you behave reveals what you actually believe, not just what you say you believe.
And he says this, “Some will say, ‘You have faith and I have deeds.’” Or, you know, you have the faith side and I do the deeds side. We can’t all do the same. And he says this, “Show me your faith without deeds, I will show you my faith by my deeds.” And then he goes on to say this, “You believe that there is one God.” Great for you. I could see him just clapping. Nice. Awesome. “Even the demons believe that – and shudder.” Don’t miss this.
So, check this out. Doctrinal correctness is incredibly important. But if all you have is doctrinal correctness without a life that lives it out, he says it doesn’t differentiate you from the demons. See, your behavior reveals what you truly believe.
The apostle Paul and James are addressing two different groups with two very different issues at hand. Paul is addressing legalism and how to enter into the family of God. James is addressing those already in the family of God. See, the apostle Paul is addressing the root of salvation or the root of faith; James is addressing the fruit of faith.
See, you are not saved by good works, but you are saved for good works. See, your good works will never earn you any merit before God, but if we understand and recognize the grace of God and what it means to be in His family, we recognize that our faith in action, we were created in Christ Jesus to do good works right now. The calling of James and of Paul is a faith that works.
I like how Dallas Willard said it. He said, “Grace is not opposed to effort,” see, we confuse this. “Grace is opposed to earning. Earning is an attitude. Effort is an action.”
How you behave reveals what you actually believe, not just what you say you believe.
John Ortberg in his book Faith and Doubt. He unpacks three types of faith that we have or hold. He talks about your public faith, he talks about your private faith, and then then he talks about your core faith. Or public conviction, private conviction, and core conviction.
And here’s what he says about each of those. He says, “Your public conviction is what you say you believe.” It’s what you’re posting on Instagram right now. It’s what you want others to perceive of you that is true of you.
Then your private conviction, your private conviction is what you think you believe. It’s the things that you hold internally. Now, the interesting thing about a private conviction, let’s just talk about, maybe you have a private conviction of generosity. Maybe you have a private conviction of equality for all of humankind. Maybe you have a private conviction of integrity and doing what is right.
It’s those convictions, we hold them, but they aren’t really – we don’t really know how true they are until they are put to the test. See, generosity is not put to the test when you have a lot, but when you have a little. Integrity is not put to the test when you’re just going about life and you have nothing that is confronting you. Integrity is put to the test when you have a private decision and you won’t ever be found out about it, or at least you don’t think you will, and you have a decision of what you’re going to do.
See, for many, our private conviction, what we think about ourselves and what actually is, there’s some challenge or dissonance. He says your public conviction, what you say you believe. Your private conviction, what you think you believe. And then there is your core conviction. It’s what you actually believe, revealed by how you live.
See, this is convicting. It’s convicting for me. See, if I want to know what I really believe, I just have to look at how I spend my time, how I spend my energy, how I spend my money. See, all those things reveal what I actually believe about God.
See, I was confronted with this the other day as, I would say, both publicly and private conviction. And then I’m sitting in my living room and as the protesting began to move onto the streets, I was in having a quiet time and it’s on my couch and my window is right here. And my street is right there. And I look out my street as people are hitting the streets, there is no one on my street. Literally, because of my circumstances, I could stay in my safe home and be unaffected. I could stay comfortable. Sit back. See, it was in that moment that God was challenging me of, like, okay, are you going to have a faith that works? Are you going to have a faith that engages? Are you going to have a faith that is going to move into the uncomfortable?
A powerful thing happened this week, as a bunch of us pastors gathered together to join those that are speaking up for justice. We just came to speak up for justice in the name of Jesus and to kneel in prayer for our country, for our city, for our brothers and sisters in love and for justice.
See, core conviction is revealed not by what I say but how I live. James is saying your behavior reveals what you truly believe. And then he’s going to say why this is so important is action is actually the completion of your faith, not in competition. We believed a lie that somehow faith and works and those things are in competition and they are pulling against each other.
No, no, no, no. Action is the completion of it. And he begins to tell Abraham’s story and Paul uses Abraham’s story as well of when in Genesis chapter 15 of where Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. That’s Genesis chapter 15.
And then he fast-forwards to Genesis 22 when God asked him, “Hey, you to sacrifice your only son, the son of promise.” And he goes, “Okay, well if I’m going to believe You then, I’m going to believe You now,” and he does that. He doesn’t actually kill him. God saves him in that moment.
Genesis 15 – fast-forward thirty years was the completion of that action. In fact, this is why James says it this way. He says, “You see that his faith,” this is verse 22, “and his actions were working together.” Or they were in cooperation, not in competition. And his faith was made complete by what he did.
It’s easy to talk a good talk. It’s easy to just go, “Yeah, I believe all these sort of things.” We are called to walk the walk. There was one of the famous examples when, you may have heard of it when we talk on faith is a tightrope walker back a long time ago. I didn’t write down the actual date. I think it was 1861 when this happened. It was Charles Blondin. He was a famous tightrope walker, became world-renowned, and he began to doing tightrope walks over Niagara Falls. It’s eleven hundred feet across, two hundred and sixty-foot drop. He did this seventeen different times and he did all these different shenanigans on it. You can go and read what he did. It was incredible. At one point, he’s walking on stilts. And at another point, he had his manager on his back walking across.
On one particular time, he’s got a wheelbarrow and he’s going back and forth across Niagara Falls and the crowd is just cheering. Some people estimated there was up to a hundred thousand people would come out to watch these acts.
And the crowd is just cheering. And then he goes, “Does anybody believe that I could take a man across this?” And the crowd is cheering, “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Ohhhh! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” “Who wants to volunteer?” The crowd got silent.
See, it’s one thing to believe in the ability of someone, it’s another thing to get in the wheelbarrow. Following Jesus means getting into the wheelbarrow and saying, “You have my whole life and You get to steer and lead it.” That is faith. “I trust You. I trust that Your work for me is final and complete and Your words for me are true and trustworthy.” Why is that important? Your behavior reveals what you truly believe. Action is the completion, not the competition of faith.
And then he’s going to go on to say, “Faith without action is like body without the breath.” And what I love is he gives two illustrations. He gives Abraham. And then he goes and gives Rahab.
You know, she was a part of the enemy of Israel at that point. She was a woman. And she was a prostitute. And James elevates the “wrong” person who activated her faith to unpack this for us.
Look, notice what he says, “In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous – Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?” You can pick up the story if you want to unpack that more in Joshua chapter 2.
As the body without the Spirit is dead, so faith without action or without deeds is dead. Faith without action is like a body without breath. See, it’s not enough just to feel bad about something. See, feeling bad isn’t the same thing as doing good.
At the same time, we have to ask and wrestle, “Okay, God, what would You have me to do?” Let me give you a few things. Pray. Prayer is an active faith. Wherever prayer focuses, the power of God falls, that we would pray. That you would take time to learn and to listen, to dive in. Maybe for some, you go, “I want to help educate my kids and begin to talk about that with our family.” Maybe it’s going and just encouraging people.
It’s more than just posting, by the way. For some, you may feel strongly, like me, where we go, like, “Hey, we’re going to go out and take a stand in a visible way and protest peacefully.” But faith without action is like a body without breath.
Social restoration demands that followers of Jesus put their faith into action. Social restoration demands that followers of Jesus put their faith into action. In fact, the way Jesus said it this way. He says, “In the same way, let your light shine before men that they see your good deeds,” your good works, your faith in action, “that they may glorify your Father in heaven.”
Like the way we live out our lives, the way we love, the way we shine the light and the grace and the truth and the justice of Jesus is to point to our heavenly Father where they would go, “Wow! God, You are great.”
So much of our love today comes with strings attached. “I’m going to love you, but I expect something else to come from you.”
In fact, that was even how Del Mar when we first started this with them and rightfully so. You get this. They were a little suspicious. They were like, “Why are you doing these nice things for us?” And like, “Hey.” Like the first couple years, like, “We don’t really know if we trust you. And we’re not so sure.” And totally get that. But we said, “We are going to love you just the way we think Jesus would love you.”
And so, we have done things like Del Mar Serve Days where we have done Beautify the Campus. Every Friday, we drop off coffee and donuts for the teachers. At the end of every semester, we throw a party for the teachers. We bring in a taco truck and we just bless and serve them. It’s so fun because we hang out together and we get to make an incredible environment just to say, “Man, we so love you.” And we have done that time and time and time and time again. Eight years of this.
One of our team members had this great idea, because with COVID, we weren’t able to do the lunch at the end. They said, “Well, what if we sent them Chipotle gift cards? And sent them an encouraging note from Awakening?” Like, that’s a fantastic idea. Since we can’t gather and since we can’t honor you and it has been such a crazy year, we still want to love you, even though we are not with you. Why? Just simply because that’s what Jesus would do. And so, we did that.
And then I got this email. I just have to read it to you. This comes from one of the faculty at Del Mar and they say, “Hello and thanks for the gift card. Thanks as well for all the help you have provided, you provide to our community of students and families.
I was just emailing with Courtney, trying to express to her how amazing,” all caps, “I think your organization is and,” notice this. Don’t miss this. “…balancing that with, balancing that with the really hard time I have in understanding some of your core religious beliefs.” And then in parentheses, “And I guess my own baggage I carry in terms of understanding of the Christian Church. The fact of the matter is, your deeds are inspirational and the love behind them is evident and strongly felt.”
Oh Church, that we would be a people, everywhere we go that our light would so shine before others that they would look at our lives, they would look at how we love and they’d go, “I am not so sure about what you believe, but I cannot deny how you love.” And they glorify the Father.
Social restoration demands that followers of Jesus put their faith into social action. A faith that works.