daily Broadcast

Phase 2: Social Action, Part 1

From the series Social Restoration

HERE’S a question, it sounds like a joke but it’s not: “What’s the difference between a social club and the Church?” The answer? “Less and less.” In this program, Ryan Ingram talks about what serious-minded believers can do to counter-cultural pressure and not give up their positive Christian influence.

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Message Transcript

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.