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From Bad Faith to Saving Faith

From Bad Faith to Saving Faith

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Published by Don Bryant

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Categories:Types, Speeches
Published by: Don Bryant on Jan 09, 2012
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03/21/2014

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From Bad Faith to Saving FaithJames 2:14-26Let’s start here: there’s such a thing as bad faith. That one has faith is not in and of itself laudable. Our text says “even the demons” have faith of a kind, a believing.But not that kind of believing which is a saving believing but a damning believing.This believing brings no comfort, no peace, no repentance and life change, nolight, no excellence, no moral rectitude. It is a faith that does no good, to either the believer or to those in contact with the believer.I think we are all aware that religion makes some people the worse for having. Thelast thing some people need is God “on their side”. It’s then that they truly becomedangerous. Jesus refers to this in Mat 23:15 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees,hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and whenhe becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell asyourselves.” Believing can make people mean, arrogant, incapable of community,stiff and unbending, rude, authoritarian, blind to personal faults and all-seeing as tothe faults of others.Religion in the service of self-interest is a terrible thing. And the reality is thatreligion has always been found to be very useful – by kings, prime ministers and presidents; by political parties; by corporations; by entertainers and sports stars; by parents who seek to control their kids’ behaviors; by spouses who want to managetheir husbands and wives; by pastors who want influence and success and security; by church insiders who are threatened by uncomfortable change, by me. It can become simply a way to get my way, a way to get one up and stay one up, a way to build image and keep influence.Believing, as believing, is not a good. The question is dramatically posed to ushere: what good does your kind of faith do? And that is the test: the good. If thereis no recognizable good that flows from it, no alteration of the broken world inwhich we live, no actual life force that arises from that faith, can it really be faithin any meaningful sense of the term?That faith which is commended to us in the Bible is the faith of Abraham. V. 23 – “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness—and he wascalled a ‘friend of God’” This is that kind of faith which brings the company of God, the nearness of God, making my life a temple in which Christ is in me, thehope of glory. It is that faith which lays hold of God, believes his offers, reverses a previous life course.
 
So, what kind of faith is that? 2:24 clarifies – it is not an “alone” faith. We aresaved by faith alone, but that faith which alone saves is not alone. It lives, and likeall things living, it is not static. It moves, grows, It is faith with force, a source of change, of movement. But does not the Bible teach that we are saved by faithalone? Surely it does. Wondrously it does. Gratifyingly it does.Rom 3:28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of thelaw.Rom 4:5-6 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness(Gal 3:11) Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law,for "The righteous shall live by faith."But this is capable of misunderstanding. There is a clarification needed. It seemson the surface of the text to mean that all one has to do is believe that certain thingsare true. I can sign the doctrinal statement. I believe and am a member of a churchof people that believe these things, too. I often ask a person if they have come tothe place where they know for sure they have eternal life. Often they will respond,“I am a Catholic, or I was raised a Methodist, or my mother brought me up as aBaptist.” With a charitable hearing, what they could actually be saying is that thesethings I have believed and loved from my youth. But unfortunately experience hasdemonstrated that often these things serve as a substitute for a vital, living, lifedominating romance with Christ. Faith in Christ is a mere historical statement butdoes not dominate the landscape of life as it is now lived.So we agree that when we use the word faith, we must mean faith of a kind, of acertain character. And that is where James comes in with his contribution.1. It is a faith that overcomes
the inertia of indifference
that is part of our old life.It stops the unending calculations we make that measure how muchanother’s need impacts our safe retreat into life as we want it, a life that wemust keep safe from being too exposed to human need.Surely the kind of faith that unites us to the one who is the Savior of theworld is the same kind of faith that looks upon others with those same eyesthat were the Savior’s. If this is not true, can it be said of our faith that it isreal? That it is the faith of Christ.The suburbs for all their promise of privacy, peace and safety can be adangerous place for faith. The very genius of the suburb is to remove fromus the bustling mass of humanity with its always boiling cauldron of needand dangerous desire. The suburbs can be a place of suspicion, paranoia and
 
self-obsession, all of which are enemies of the Christ life if they root in our soul.I remember my introduction to the world of Boston suburbia 20 some yearsago when I was visiting in the evening someone who was guest at our church. It was one of those homes on large acreage with a driveway longenough you could not see the house from the street entrance. It was dark andquiet, eerily quiet. As I came to the near end of the driveway and opened thedoor of the car to move to the front door, lights clicked on, flooding not onlythe landscape but virtually blinding my eyes. Dogs began to bark. At anymoment I expected a voice to yell out, “Please put your hands up and do notmake any sudden moves.” This was the peaceful suburb? The guests I wasvisiting explained. The area was so expensive and the home so private thatthere had to be extra protection. Fair. Go ahead. Protect your assets. Startleyour visitors. Keep the uninvited and unwanted away. Makes sense. There isa lot to lose and carefulness must be a way of life. But before we know it thedistance from others the suburbs promise us becomes first a desire, then agoal, then a possession and then a god.2. It is a faith that worships God unconditionally.This kind of faith measures reality by the commands of God rather than the pleasures He bestows. It is the kind of faith where worship takes precedenceover feelings and expectations. It is the kind of faith that doesn’t create aworld into which it tries to force God, but follows God into the world over which he is lord and which he desires to save.It is not a rule faith, but a worship faith.Of course, the world looks upon this moment of Abraham coming to thevery point of sacrificing his own son and finds prove of the danger of religion, religious fervor that would go to any extreme, mindlessfundamentalism that has lost any touch with common decency and order.Parents sacrificing their own children? You’ve got to be kidding. This isn’tthe worth of religion but the worthlessness of religion. No doubt, there is in this episode referred to something that numbs us. It is aone of a kind episode in the entire bible. There is no other episode like it.Except one – the yielding up by the Father of the Son to death. Certainly thisis what the Abraham/Isaac story images. In the whole history of the peopleof God there is one parallel to what God himself would do, who God himself was. It stands alone. It is not a pattern of what we are to do but how we

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