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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Rick Warren » Rick Warren - Real Faith Versus Fake Faith

Rick Warren - Real Faith Versus Fake Faith

Rick Warren - Real Faith Versus Fake Faith
TOPICS: A Faith That Works When Life Doesn’t, Faith

Welcome back to our series on Principles for Living Through a Pandemic. We're looking at a faith that works when life doesn't. We've been going through the book of James now, this is part 12. So if you wanna download the message notes from wherever you are, you can go along with us as we go into Chapter 2. Today, our culture is literally overrun with fake products. Almost anything real can now be faked and purchased at a much cheaper price. I fly through a lot of international airports around the world and in many countries you could buy a fake Rolex $15,000 for only $100 and it looks identical to the real thing. And of course, today you can improve your body with fake nails, fake hair, fake teeth, fake body parts, which remain unmentioned, fake tanning, and then you can go out and you could eat a taco with fake meat and fake cheese, and you could put fake sugar in your coffee, and then you can wear fake designer clothes made out of fake leather and fake fur, while you talk about fake news to your fake friends on social media with your fake identity.

Now, there are some areas in life where fake works just fine just as well as the real thing. But there is one area where you have to have the real thing. And it is this, you have to have real faith, not fake faith or it doesn't work. In the Bible, in this book there are over 6,000 promises of God that God has made to you. You need these promises to stay stable, and strong, and healthy during this pandemic. But to access those promises you have to have a real, legitimate, genuine faith. Fake faith has no power to change your life. It has no power to save you. It has no power to answer your prayers. Fake faith has no power to transform you. And when life doesn't work like in this COVID-19 pandemic, fake faith doesn't work either. So, in the book of James, we now come to the second half of Chapter 2. And here we have a little essay written to help you know the difference between real faith and fake faith.

Now, I wanna guarantee this today, it's gonna make a huge change in your life. This is gonna be very, very helpful. It's real simple to understand, but it's real basic knowing the difference between fake faith and real faith. Now, for instance, some of you been wondering why your prayers have not been answered. Well, maybe the problem isn't your request, but it might be that you've been using fake faith. So today's passage in James 2, is gonna help you know the real difference between the real and the fake that has no power to help you. Now, let me read you James 2:14-20. It says this: Dear brothers and sisters, what's the use of saying you have faith if you don't prove it by your actions? That kind of faith can't save anyone. Suppose you see your brother or sister who needs food or clothing, and you say to them, "I wish you well. I feel for you. I hope you stay warm and eat well". But then you do nothing to meet their needs. What good does your sympathy do? It's worth nothing. In the same way, faith if it is not accompanied by actions, doesn't work. It's dead and it's useless.

Now, someone may argue, "Well, some people can have faith while other people do good deeds". But I say, I can't see your faith if I don't see any good works in you, I don't see any good works to show for it. In contrast, I will show you my faith by my good deeds. Now you say, "Well, I believe there is a God". And I say, "Well, good for you". But even the demons believe that and they are afraid. It's foolish not to realize that faith in God is useless if you don't do what God wants you to do. Now, after reading that passage that I just read, I'm sure some people think that James is contradicting Paul, who wrote some of the other books in the New Testament, but that's a misunderstanding. James and Paul don't contradict each other. Instead, they complement each other, and you can see the way they compliment on the chart that I put on your outline, look at look at that chart.

For instance, when Paul is writing, the emphasis of Paul is how to know I'm saved, how to know I'm saved. But the emphasis of James is how to show I'm saved, how to show I'm saved. Paul's focus when he writes about this, he's focusing on the root of my salvation, which is internal and unseen. James is focusing on the fruit of my salvation, which is external, and visible. It's two sides of the same coin. When Paul talks about, "Works", he's talking about keeping Jewish laws in order to become a believer, he says, "You can't do that, they won't save you", keeping Jewish laws. But when James uses the same term, and he talks about works or good deeds, he's talking about living like Jesus, because you already are a believer.

So what is real faith? Well, James first tells us four things that real faith is not. And then he gives us two examples of what real faith really is. Now, as we go through this today, you might use these points as a quiz for self evaluation. Do I have these saving faith items in my life? First, James 2:14 says this: Dear brothers and sisters, what's the use of saying you have faith if you don't prove it by your actions? That kind of faith can't save anybody. Now, I want you to circle if you're taking notes, the word saying, "What's the use of saying you have faith if you don't have any actions in your life"?

Here's the first thing he says real faith is not. Real faith he says is more than just words I say. "Real faith is more than just the words I say". It's more than just a memorized prayer. Sometimes people pray, "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep", et cetera. And that doesn't mean you're a Christian, that doesn't mean you know the Lord, doesn't mean you have faith. It's just something you say. Repeating something that I heard other people say doesn't mean that I have real faith. Claiming that I have real faith doesn't prove that I have real faith. Knowing all the religious lingo and all of the phrases, just because you say you have faith doesn't guarantee you've got it. You ever met anybody who sounded like a believer? They know all the right phrases but their lifestyle is a 360 degrees or 180 degrees difference, their lifestyle doesn't match their words.

Studies have shown that in the United States, most people claim to be a Christian. Vast majority of Americans say, "I am a Christian". But they sure don't act like it, they don't act like. And we've saw outburst of racism here just recently this week, that's not Christ-Like when we treat other people with disrespect, and a lot of people live any old way they wanna live. That's not faith. Today, we make a mistake, and we tend to label anybody who's a celebrity, or anybody who's a sports star as a Christian if they just vaguely sound like a Christian. Somebody gets up at the Country Western Awards, and they say, "I just wanna thank the man upstairs". Who are they talking about, the producer? That doesn't mean they're Christian. He's saying, "Just because you say you have faith doesn't mean you've got it, real faith is more than words".

In Matthew 7:21 Jesus says this, "Not everyone who says that I am their Lord is going to enter the kingdom of heaven". Woah, "Not everyone who says that I'm their Lord is gonna enter the kingdom of heaven. The only people," this is Jesus talking. "The only people who'll enter heaven are those who do what my father in heaven wants them to do". Not just what you say, it's what you do. You ever had a driver flip you off, and then as they drive by they've got a Christian bumper sticker on the back. I could say, for instance, I could say or I could claim to be the best dancer in the whole world, but that wouldn't make it true. And the moment I started dancing, you'd know it was not true. Now, what value is phony faith? What value is fake faith? None it has no value, it's worthless. Talk is cheap. So real faith is more than just words I say.

Number 2, second thing James says, "Real faith is more than just an emotion I feel". He says that in the very next verse. "Real faith is more than emotion I feel". You can be inspired, and you can be emotionally moved, and you can get a quiver in your liver, and you can have goosebumps, and you can be really emotional and never have real faith. James gives us an example of this. In James 2:15-17 he says this: Suppose you see your brother or your sister, and they need food or clothing. And you say to them, "I wish you well. I feel for you. I hope you stay warm. I hope you eat well". But then you do nothing to meet their needs what good does your sympathy do? It's worth nothing.

In the same way, James is still talking. He said, "If it's not accompanied by action, it doesn't work. It's dead, the faith is dead and useless". Do you see the sarcasm that James is using here, he said, you'd go up somebody who's out of work and we've got 32 million people out of work right now just in America. And and they need food and they're in the food lines, and you go up to me say, "Hey, buddy, I feel for you. Hang in there. Cheer up, keep your chin up. Don't worry, be happy". When we use all these great cliches and pious platitudes, "You know what, I'll pray for you". They don't need your prayer, they need food. So you can say all those words, but it's not faith unless you actually do something about it. If I shut my finger in my car door and I can't get it out, I don't need your sympathy, I need your assistance. I need you to help me get my finger out of the door.

I don't need you to come up say, "Brother, I sense your pain. Just let it flow, let it flow". Let it flow, let it flow. No, real faith is practical. It gets involved with people's needs. Now, why am I teaching this to you Saddleback members? Because you thousands and thousands of you are doing this literally every week during COVID-19. We've got 10,000 plus people handing out food and supplies to the needy and out-of-work literally every week. So you are talking about real faith. Just today, on just one day in one location, we've fed 840 out-of-work families just today in one of our 897 pop-up food distributions, and just today 256 people prayed to receive Jesus Christ, just today, one food line. You wanna lead somebody to Jesus, I mentioned this last week, volunteer for our food ministry during COVID-19, you will learn to lead somebody to Christ very, very quickly and very easily. Faith is more than the words I say. Faith is more than the emotions I feel.

Number 3, James says, "Real faith is more than an idea I debate. Real faith is more than an idea that I debate". And he says that in the very next verse in James 2. For some people, faith is just an intellectual game. It's just a mental challenge. It's a theology to be studied. It's a doctrine to be debated. It's a dogma to be defended. It's an idea to be discussed. It's a truth to be talked about. In other words, for them faith is not something you do, faith is just a conversation. They love to talk, talk, talk, talk. They'll talk all day and night about God, about faith and they'll be happy to debate you and it's all about conversation not about conduct. They would rather discuss the Bible than do it. They'd rather debate theology than do it, than practice it.

And then James 2:18, he imagines an intellectual objector this third kind of fake faith. He says, verse 18, "Now someone may argue, 'Isn't it possible that some people have good faith, while other people do good deeds?'" James says, "But I say no. I can't see your real faith if you don't do anything. If you don't do any real deeds to show me". He says, "In contrast, I can show you my faith by the good things I do". In other words, he's saying, the guy goes: You're into doing good things. Well, I'm into discussing good things. I like to discuss it. I like to talk about the Bible. I don't wanna practice it, I wanna just discuss it. And that's cool, you say that's cool. I don't wanna get my hands dirty. I really don't wanna do anything about my faith, I would rather just fight over it online. I don't wanna obey God, I wanna debate God. I'll discuss it all night but don't ask me to make any commitment. That's fake faith number 3.

Now, there's a key phrase in verse 18. And if you're taking notes, I want you to circle the phrase show me. He says, "How do I know you got real faith unless you show me"? He says, "Real faith is visible. It's apparent, you can see it, you show me". Here's the fact, faith, like love is odorless, it's colorless, it's weightless. You can't see it. So how do you know if somebody really has faith? James says, "Look at his lifestyle. Look at her lifestyle". I got to thinking the other day on a diet, I realized that faith is really like calories. You can't see calories, but you can sure see the results of calories. You can't see calories, you're never gonna see a calorie, but you can see the results. And that's what faith is, you can't see faith. It's odorless, but it's invisible, but it's got results.

Some of you remember if you're old enough growing up, there was a classic movie called "The Invisible Man". And in the movie, "The Invisible Man", you only knew the guy was around if he moved things, he tips over a cup or he opens a door. And the point here I'm making is that real faith, you can't see it by itself, but real faith is expressed in visible ways. Some of you probably grew up in Missouri, and Missouri is the "Show-Me" State. It's on this license plate, and Missouri is a "Show-Me" State. James is saying, "I'm the 'Show-Me' Man". Show me your faith and then I'll know it's real. Don't tell it to me, don't say it's an emotion, an ocean of emotion. Don't tell me it's words you say, it's something you do. He says, "If you claim to be a Christian," James says, "Then I have the right to ask you to prove it. And the way you prove it is by your actions".

Now, the truth is really this, somebody as big as God cannot possibly come into your life without changing you visibly. It's impossible for somebody as big as God to come into your life and did not change you in a visible way. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, "Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he's a new creature. The old has passed away the new has come". Everything becomes new.

Now, it doesn't become new in your life overnight. But it does become new in your life over time. And if I were to grab a 220 volt wire of electricity, I would know it instantly and you would too. And it's just like you know when you've grabbed a hot wire of electricity, you know when God's coming in your life 'cause it changes you. Now, here's the question. And I want you to really think about this. We're not persecuted right now in America for our faith, we're harassed but not persecuted. But if you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? Would there be enough evidence to convict you? Could people say, "I see the changes in their life". Real faith always produces a changed life. It's more than the words I say, it's more than an emotion I feel. "Oh, I got a wonderful emotion in that service". It's more than an idea that I debate.

Number 4, here's a fourth thing that it's not. Real faith is more than just a truth I believe. Oh, yeah, real faith is more than a truth you believe. Now, James again, uses a little bit of sarcasm. I think that's why I like this guy. He uses sarcasm to make his point. And in James 2:19-20 he says this: Now you say, "Well, I believe there is a God". And I say, "Good for you". But even the demons believe that and they're afraid, they tremble they shudder. He said it's foolish not to realize that faith in God is useless if you don't do anything and don't do what he wants you to do. In other words, the guy comes and says, he thinks he's gonna make brownie points by boasting, "Well, I believe in God". Big deal, the devil believes in God. Did you know that?

The devil is not an atheist, he's smarter than that. Even the devil believes in God, but you're not gonna find him in heaven. And demons believe in God, you're not gonna find them in heaven, why? 'Cause it's one thing to have head knowledge about God, believe in God. It's another thing to obey God, to love God, to trust God, to serve God. Maybe you didn't realize this, the devil is not an atheist, he's no fool. Let me be clear, saying I believe in God will not get you into heaven, 'cause even the devil says that, of course he believes in God. He believes in Jesus. He knows Jesus is the son of God that's why he wanted to kill him. So what? It's not just something you believe, and you have an intellectual knowledge of.

So what is real faith? If it's not what I say, it's not what I feel, It's not what I believe, it's not all of these things that I wanna argue about, I wanna debate. James says, "Faith is something I do. Faith is something I do". Faith is active it's not passive. Faith is a commitment. Faith is a choice. Faith is an action. Faith is something I do. James 2:26 he says, "Just as a body without a spirit doesn't breathe and is dead, so faith that doesn't do anything is just as dead". Have you noticed the word that James uses over and over in this section? There's a word, he used it in every single verse I read you, it's the word do. Let me read a few for you again. He says, "If you do nothing, what good does your sympathy do"? He says, "What if you fail to do any real deeds"? He says, "I'll show you my faith by what I do". He says, "Faith in God is useless if you don't do what he wants you to do". And he says, "Faith that doesn't do anything is dead", and on, and on, and on.

This is the point, he says it over, and over, and over. He said, "Get the message here". Faith shows up in my life, in my lifestyle, and if there's no change in my life, I don't have real faith. I got fake faith. 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 says this, and this is a good verse to remember in the pandemic. "Stand firm in your faith. Stay brave, be strong, and do everything in love". I can't think of a better sentence for you to remember, stand firm, be strong. Do everything in love, stand firm in faith. That's what we should be doing during this pandemic. It's a great verse to remember. So let me just ask you, what do you do in these days to stand firm in your faith? What are you doing to take a stand for Jesus Christ? What are you doing to demonstrate your faith, anything? Are you doing anything to demonstrate your faith in the middle of this pandemic?

Now, James ends his little speech or essay on the difference between real faith and fake faith by giving us two actual examples of living by faith. And these two people were real people, but they were very, very different people. They were named Abraham, and Rahab. These are the two people James chooses out of the old testament to demonstrate what real faith is, Abraham and Rahab. By the way, neither of them were Jews. Which means they weren't a part of God's chosen people. Why? There weren't any Jews yet. There weren't any Jews until Abraham actually had faith. Abraham was born where modern Iraq is today. He wasn't born in Israel, he was born in modern day Iraq in that empire, the Babylonian era.

Now, Abraham had faith and Rahab had faith. Abraham was a man, Rahab was a woman. Abraham was a rich businessman. Rahab was a poor prostitute, she's a streetwalker in the city of Jericho. Their lives are many years apart. Abraham story is in the book of Genesis. And one day God comes to Abraham who is not a God fearing man, he were idol worshiper in Ur of the Chaldees. And God comes and says: Abraham, I want you to leave your country, and I'm gonna ask you to follow me to a new location. And I want you to move all your family, and your flocks, and your herds. And if you'll trust me on this, I'm gonna make a great nation out of you, if you'll demonstrate real faith in me. And he did. And Abraham became the father of faith and became the father of the Jewish nation.

Now I want you to write this down. Abraham followed God, without knowing where he was going, that's faith. Abraham followed God without knowing where he was going. He didn't say, "God, show me where we're going first". No, God told him, "Just head out that direction". "How will I know when I get there"? "I'll tell you when". He's going to a place he's never seen, never been, trusting a God he didn't know before this, but he acted on his faith. He held nothing back from God. He trusted that God would provide. And later he was tested again, when God asked him to sacrifice his son, it was a test. And Abraham knew, "If I sacrifice him God could raise him back to life. I'm gonna trust Him". His whole life was trusting God, going ahead, stepping out in faith, taking the risk there without knowing where he was going.

Now, James concludes his example of Abraham, in verse 22. He says, "Isn't it obvious," talking about Abraham. "That faith and works are yoked partners, that faith expresses itself through works, that the works are 'works of faith'". I love that in the message, works are the works of faith. And in verse 23, he says about James, "God accepted Abraham's faith, because he acted on it. And that faith made him right with God. So Abraham was called the friend of God". I can't think of a better thing to be called. At the end of my life, I would like to be called the friend of God. At the end of your life, I would like for you to be called the friend of God. There are some friends that don't matter, but if you're God's friend, that's gonna matter for eternity. I would like for you to become a friend of God today.

If you're not sure that you're a friend of God, I'm gonna help you step across the line in just a minute. So hang on, but I know you can begin that relationship with God today. God wants to be your friend, but you've gotta step across the line in faith, just like Abraham did. Then James gives us the other story of Rahab. Now, that story is in actually Joshua 2, it's actually a spy story. Moses had led the children of Israel, the Israelis out of Egypt after 400 years of bondage, and they're getting ready to go into this new territory that God says, "I'm gonna give you this as the promised land". And Jericho is a giant overwhelmed, highly fortified city. And in that city they were so scared of the Jews that were coming in, and they were gonna fight them. There was a woman named Rahab. She was a prostitute. She was a streetwalker. And you know what she did? She risked her life to save the spies that Joshua had sent into Jericho. And because she risked her life in order to save God's people, God put her in the genealogy of Jesus.

Do you know that in Matthew in the New Testament, where it lists all the people, it says the father beget this father, he had this father, four women are mentioned, one of them is Rahab. She wasn't even Jewish and she was a prostitute. But her faith was more important than her background. And God said, "That's good enough". And she became one in the lineage of the Messiah. I don't care what your background is, God can use your life for good if you'll be like Rahab. And if you'll step out in faith, write this down, Rahab risked her life to save others. Rahab risked her life save others, what she's doing? She's showing faith in action, that's faith. Our faith is demonstrated by what we do.

I'll never forget an old story that I heard as a young man about the famous tightrope walker, George Blondin. Way, way back, I think it was the 1920s that Blondin and did this. Blondin was world famous for walking on tightropes in very famous places. And one day he decided and he announced that he was gonna walk across Niagara Falls on a tightrope. And thousands of people showed up on both sides, the Canadian side, the American side, to watch this world famous tightrope walker walk across Niagara Falls. So he gets up to the edge and he walks slowly across Niagara Falls, and when he makes it to the other side, the crowd went crazy. And they're jumping up down and there shouting, and hooping and hollering and Blondin just raised his hand and said, "Wait a minute, I'm gonna do it again". And he turned around and he walks all the way back. When he gets back on the other side, the crowd goes crazy again. They're going, "This is great, this is the greatest act we've ever seen".

He raised his hand and said, "Wait a minute, I'm gonna do it again". And he said, "But this time, I'm gonna push a wheelbarrow across". So he gets a wheelbarrow, and he starts pushing it across Niagara Falls, this is a true story, on this tightrope. He gets out in the middle, he shakes it a little bit, now he goes, Whoa. But he's in control, he gets it over the other side. And when he lands it on the other side, the people go crazy. And a man walks up to Blondin, and he goes, "Mr. Blondin, that's the greatest performance I've ever seen. I believe you could do it 100 times. I believe you could do it the rest of your life. I don't think you'd ever fail. I believe in you".

And Blondin looked at him and said, "So you really believe in me, huh"? "Oh, man, I've got faith in you. I think you could do it 100 times". Blondin just turn around, dumped out the wheelbarrow and said, "Okay, buddy get in the wheelbarrow". That's the test of faith. That's the test of faith. Will you get in the wheelbarrow? It's one thing to say it, it's one thing to feel it, it's one thing to debate it. None of those things are real faith. It's one thing to claim you believe it. But will you get in the wheelbarrow? Our behavior shows what we really believe.

Now, I want you to take this message and I want you to think about what the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 13:5, "Examine yourselves to see whether you are really in the faith; test yourselves". Maybe you've been a fake Christian, maybe you've been a fake faith person. You've had a phony faith. You've talked the talk, but you haven't got in the wheelbarrow. There's nothing in your life that shows you're really a Christian. You're just like everybody else who's a non believer. Have you stepped across the line? If so it ought to show up in your life and it ought to show up during this pandemic.

Now, let me make it really clear. Works, don't save you. They can't save you. You can't work your way to heaven. You can't earn your way to heaven. They're not the root of your salvation, they are the fruit. They show you are a Christian, they don't make you a Christian they show it. Ephesians 2:8-9 says this, "It is by grace, you have been saved through faith. By grace through faith for a life of good works, which God has already prepared for us to do". Now, notice there are three prepositions in that sentence. It says, "We're saved by grace. We're saved through faith. We're saved for a life of good works". You got all three parts in your life? If you're saved by grace, and you're saved through faith, it's gonna show up in your life. You can't have God come into your life and it not change you. Now, the order is important, by grace, through faith, for a lifetime of good works. And God has planned your life to make a difference.

Now I wanna close with just a couple questions in light of what James has just said. Here's the question, first question. You need to ask yourself, am I really a Christian after all? Have I really put my faith in Christ? How do you know? How do you know that? I just said a few words, did it change your life? What changes can you point to in your life? What changes can I point to in my life? Is my lifestyle any different from unbelievers? Each week, we do a couple things at the end of each service as Saddleback Church, the first thing we do is we recommit our lives to Jesus Christ. And if you have not ever done this, I wanna lead you in a prayer right now. Would you bow your heads with me? And this is a prayer of real faith, not fake faith. Say this, say:

God, I don't wanna have a fake faith. I wanna really trust you. I want you to change my life for good. I don't wanna just talk the talk and not walk the walk, I want my life to be better. I want my life to be different. I want my life to be what you made it to be. I wanna know your purpose for my life. And I'm asking you to change me. I'm giving you permission to change me. And I wanna learn to trust you and follow you like Abraham, and like Rahab. Jesus Christ, I give you my life completely to you. In your name I pray, Amen.

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