Jack Graham - Scary Message
Halloween has become the second most celebrated holiday in America. Interesting. Only Christmas in terms of marketing and spending and all the rest that goes with a holiday. Halloween is second. And, I would say for the most part it's about costumes and candy and carved pumpkins. But we do know there's a darker side to Halloween. The fact is the supernatural exists. I wrote a book about it called Unseen: Angels, Demons, Heaven and Hell, and the struggle, the Fight for Eternity. Well, there is a dark side and it's not fiction. It's not little goblins and ghouls dressed up, but there is a devil; he has demon spirits that serve him, they exist, they're supernatural, they are powerful.
And we must always refrain and reject any preoccupation with evil in any form. It's foolish and even dangerous. We have a much better message on Halloween. It's called Hope! That Jesus came and destroyed the works of darkness, that He overcame death and hell and the grave! Jesus is the only one who can give life and not death. Ours is a message of life, not death! And so we celebrate Halloween not so much; Easter, yes! Because Christ lives!
And so this brings me to why I'm calling this "Scary Message". Because the passage we're about to read in the book of James is one of, if not the most frightening passage in all of the Bible. Because it is possible to believe in God, to believe in Jesus and to die and wake up in hell. It's possible! And it's frightening and terrifying to consider that a person can be in church or practice a certain religion and not have a real, genuine faith. So really this message is about saving faith, because not all faith is saving faith and that's what we read in the book of James chapter 2.
So beginning in James, chapter 2, and beginning in verse 14: "What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? (That is a faith without works) If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and filled,' without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is D-E-A-D. But someone will say, 'You have faith and I have works.' Show me your faith apart from your works, and (James says) I will show you my faith by my works. (Because of my faith and by my works. Verse 19. Here's the scary part.) You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe and shutter"!
Now let's stop right there. This is a sobering, startling passage, shocking really passage of Scripture! That I could somehow say the right words, believe at least intellectually in all the right things, practice a right religion, traditions and rituals and all the rest, and not go to heaven, not be saved. Now when I say saving faith, what does it mean to be saved? To be saved means that all your sins are forgiven, everyone of them, passed, present and future. Saved from our sin. It means that God, Jesus lives in us, that we are alive in Christ! That His very presence possesses our lives. That's what it means to be saved. And it means to know for certain that when you die or when Christ comes that you will spend eternity with Him.
That's what it means to be saved! And everybody needs to be saved! The whole world needs to be saved! And it is how we are saved that becomes the issue. And James is telling us that it's possible for you to say you're saved, think you're saved and not be saved. Now before we go any further I want to make it absolutely clear that we are not saved by doing good works of any kind. Works don't get us to heaven; they don't even help to get us to heaven. Works follow us to heaven. Our lives count and what we do matters, but our good deeds, our efforts to gain heaven. We don't earn it, we don't deserve it. We're saved by the grace of God.
James tells us that earlier in James 1:18 when he says we are born again by the living word of God. Look at it, verse 18 of chapter 1. "Of His own will he brought us forth by the word of truth". That is we are birthed by the word of God, of His own will God graciously, lovingly brought us into His family. It was His work, His act, the finished work of Christ on the cross. We are saved not by our deeds, but by His deed. When He said it is finished, paid in full. He accomplished it. He did it all! He did it all! Paul says this clearly in Ephesians 2:8-9: "For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourself, it is the gift of God (not of what?) Not of works, lest anyone should boast".
Paul said in Titus 3:5: "Not by works of righteousness that we have done but according to His mercy He has saved us". "We are justified, saved by grace through faith alone, but the faith that saves, justifies is never alone". And that's the point that James is making. That saving faith is a doing, working faith. Now a great debate has ensued over the generations as to what James meant and even denominations have been birthed and churches have split over the issue of faith and works. And some have wanted to make it this great debate-faith versus work, and personified Paul versus James. In other words which is it? Are we saved by grace through faith in Christ alone, or are we saved by grace through faith that works alone? James and Paul are not debating. We watch these political debates. It's very interesting and you see these candidates attacking each other trying to get a leg up in the election.
Well, Paul and James are not attacking each other when it comes to faith and works. They're not fighting each other face to face but someone described it as James and Paul back to back, fighting different enemies. Paul is fighting legalism, Paul is fighting legalism which says you have to keep the law, keep the commandments. Do all these things in order to be justified, in order to be saved. And it was the battle-cry of the Apostle Paul as well as the great reformation that we are justified by faith in Christ alone by His grace. James on the other hand is fighting a different kind of enemy. It's license. It's the attitude which says it doesn't matter how you live. You come to faith in Christ, you're saved by grace. You go from there. It doesn't matter whether you do good works or not.
So James is fighting against this kind of license which says anything goes once you become a Christian. Here's another way looking at it. Paul is dealing with our vertical relationship with God. Our relationship with God in justification and James is looking at our horizontal relation with God as we relate to people and relate our faith to people. It's the sanctifying side of our salvation. So both by faith and by works we are saved. How so? Paul said in 2 Corinthians 13, verse 5: "Examine yourselves whether you be in the faith". And I want to call upon you, everyone who's watching, everyone who's listening today to take an honest look at your life and your works and your faith and your deeds and to see if you are a true believer.
What is saving faith? Number one, saving faith is a laboring faith. Look again in chapter 2 verse 14: "What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him"? That faith, a faith without works, can that save him? The answer is no! Here's someone who has a say-so faith, but not a show-so faith, someone who professes faith but does not possess Christ in their life. And James says that kind of faith is faulty, it is foolish, it is futile, it is worthless. There's some who have faith and nothing to show for it. There's no fruit. There's no evidence. There's no proof.
When people ask me if I can help them in knowing Christ and knowing salvation, having assurance that they have eternal life, I typically ask them two questions. Number one, do you know Christ? Do you believe in Christ? Do you know Christ? If the answer is yes, there is a follow up: What is Christ doing in your life today? What is He doing in your life? Because if you say you have faith and never show it, never live it, James says what good is that? The answer is nothing, absolutely nothing. Jesus changes life! And some people need to stop enduring religion and start enjoying salvation in Jesus Christ, because that's the kind of faith that labors for the Lord. Lives for the Lord.
People walk up to you, students and say, there's something different about you. What's changed in your life? What's happened to you? And you have to say something like "Well, God's been good to me. God's grace is changing me. I have a new life in Christ. And if there's a difference in me then praise God for what Christ has done in my life". 2 Corinthians 5:17, "If anyone be in Christ he's a new creation. Old things are passed away and behold, everything becomes brand new". I'm not the same person that I used to be. I'm not there yet. I know I'm not there yet, but I'm on my way. I'm not what I used to be. Christ has changed and is changing my life. And now therefore, I'm loving and I'm giving and I'm serving and I'm working and I want my friends to know Christ because something so wonderful in my life I can't keep it to myself. It's a laboring faith. That's what faith does; it loves.
You say, "Well, I'm waiting on the big opportunity". Don't! Do what's right in front of you. That's what James is saying. You walk up on somebody who has a need, don't just pass by, don't just say "God bless you. I'll pray for you". But God is putting someone at your doorstep, God is putting someone in your life, God is putting someone in your pathway that you might serve them and love them and help them in Jesus' name. That's the faith that saves that is not alone! The works follow! In that same passage that I quoted earlier from Paul in Ephesians 2:8 & 9, remember: "For grace you're saved through faith and that not of yourself; it's the gift of God not of works, lest anyone should boast". You know what verse 10 says? "For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works".
Okay, theology lesson! Are you ready? Put your thinking cap on. I'm going to give you three simple prepositions that if you can get these prepositions straight, your theology of salvation, faith and works will be straight. "For by grace through faith unto good works". "By grace, through faith". Grace is: God's riches at Christ expense, God's gift. Faith is: Forsaking all I trust Him. F-A-I-T-H: Forsaking all I trust Him. "By grace through faith unto good works". And if we can get that straight we can make a difference in this world. After all, didn't Jesus say, "When you cloth the naked, when you feed the hungry, when you give a drink to the thirsty, when you welcome the stranger, you have done it unto Me". They said, "How have we done that unto you, Lord"? He said, "When you've done it unto the least of these you've done it unto Me". You've served Me by serving people. You love God by loving people.
It's a loving faith. It's a laboring faith. But one final thing, it's a living faith. Look at verse 19: "You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe and shutter! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? (Look at verse 26) For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead"! Now James talks about two kinds of religion here. First of all, a devilish, demonic religion. This is why I thought of calling this message "Scary Message" because he says, "Do you believe in God"?
Ninety-four percent of Americans say they believe in God. Okay, you believe in God? Congratulations! You've got the faith of a demon! because the demons believe in God! The devil and all the hordes of hell, they're not atheists! They're not even agnostic! They're believers in God. They know God exists. They know God is one. If a demon, let's say a demon came forward today during our invitation and wanted to join the church. And so we say, "Do you believe in God"? First of all we say, Okay what's your name? "My name is Mr. Beelzebub". Okay, Mr. Beelzebub, do you believe in God? "Absolutely! I know God exists"! Do you believe in Jesus? "No question about it"! We're told in the New Testament that the demon spirits, they confess Jesus as the Son of God. They said, "Son of God, why are you tormenting us". They said Jesus is the Holy One, the Messiah! So Mr. Beelzebub, do you believe in Jesus? "Absolutely, I've met Jesus".
Oh! Do you believe He died on the cross? "Yeah, I was there". Do you believe He rose again? "No question about it. I know Jesus is alive from the dead". Do you believe Jesus is coming again? Demons believe that. "Oh, yes," Mr. Beelzebub said, "Absolutely, Jesus is coming again". You see demons are orthodox, they're not hieratical! They believe in all the creeds! And we would say, Mr. Beelzebub you're going to make a great member of this church. Come right on in. You believe all the right things! But if we were probing a little bit more we would say, "Mr Beelzebub, will you follow Jesus and give Him your life"? And he would say, "No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no! I play for the other team. I've already decided not to follow Jesus".
Fact is, so many people have the faith of a demon. You ask them do you believe in God? "Oh yeah, I believe in God. Jesus, He's a good man, the best man. I believe in Jesus. I'm just not that into it though. I'm just not that committed. Really doesn't make that big difference in my life. I would be kind of a C student. I'm not shooting for A's. I'm not going to make A's in Christianity. I'm a C with a few drops and a few incompletes. I'm pretty sure when I die I'm going to go to the happy place. I'm going to go to a better place because after all I'm not that bad. I'm better than a lot of people. So I'm not going to try harder. I'm not going to do anything, I'm not going to commit, I'm not going to love, I'm not going to serve, but I believe". James says, "Congratulations, you've got the faith of the devil".
You know that passage, it says the demons believe in God and they tremble! And it's a cool Greek word which means shutter or shake or shiver. It's like you know, it's like boo! And you shiver. It means your hair's standing on in, your skin's crawling. It's actually akin to an English word which means to freak! The demons believe in God and freak out! That's what it means. But they're not saved because their faith is dead, not alive. He gives two examples: I don't have time to talk about but he gives Abraham and Rahab. Two polar opposites in the Old Testament. And yet both of them had saving faith in common. You know why? Because James tells us Abraham believed God and he was willing to sacrifice his own son, to lay Isaac on the altar. He was so in that he says my faith in God means that I will follow Him no matter what! And he laid his son, the son of promise on the altar and God spared the hand of judgment.
I've always said God didn't want Isaac the son, He wanted Abraham the father. He wanted all of him. And then Rahab. She was living in Jericho and when Israel was marching on Jericho the spies came in and she hid those spies. She lied to do it. You say, "what? Well Is that a good example"? No! But she was a pagan. But she believed and she risked it all. She risked her own life to identify with the children of God. And she was a believer and she risked and put her faith in action. That's what faith does. It's a living faith. Otherwise it's a dead faith.
I love that story of those three old guys that were talking. "Say, what do you want them to say at your funeral"? They were having coffee one morning. "What you want them to say at your funeral when they go by your casket what are people going to say"? One guy said, "Well I hope they say, 'Well, he was a good husband, he was a good father.'" Second man said, "Well I hope they say that you know he helped people, he was kind and he was good.'" The other guy, third guy didn't say a word. They said "What do you want people to say when they come by your casket"? He said, "Well, frankly, I want them to look at me and say, 'He's moving!'" Faith that is alive moves! It works! Otherwise it's dead and meaningless. As long as you've got breath you've got a purpose in your life. Serve Him.