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Phase 2: Social Action, Part 2

From the series Social Restoration

Regardless of the issue, when you see a problem, don’t you find yourself saying or at least thinking, “What can I DO?” In this program, Ryan Ingram answers the question - As the Church of Jesus Christ, what can we do that will actually make a difference - socially, culturally?

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Message Transcript

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.