Faith that Gets Its Hands Dirty part 3
Just Do It. 
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
January 20, 2008

 

Main Passage: James 1:19-27 (NLT)


About seven years ago when I first began planning and praying and dreaming about starting a new church that eventually became Sunrise, one of the things I did was I sat down and identified a whole slew of things that would be priorities for us. I listed probably 40-50 different things, and then I combined some of the ones that were similar and I narrowed that list all the way down to seven things that today we call our Core Values. Let me refresh you on what they are…

Sunrise Core Values:

Significant Relationships

A great deal of what we are called to do as a church happens through relationships. We encourage you to share your faith within the context of relationships. We provide ways for you to grow and learn from each other and encourage each other within the context of relationships. We stress that the Christian life is not meant to be lived in solitude, but that we need other people and they need us.

We believe that’s the way God designed us to live life… in community with others. If you flip through the New Testament, you find several passages that emphasis this in the newly formed Church. You find phrases like…

"Be at peace with each other" (Mk. 9:50)
"Love one another" (John 13:34, & 12 other references)
"Live in harmony with one another" (Rom. 12:10)
"Instruct one another" (Rom. 15:14)
"Accept one another, as Christ accepted you" (Rom. 15:17)
"Serve one another in love" (Gal. 5:13)
"Carry each other's burdens" (Gal. 6:2)
"Be kind and compassionate to one another" (Eph. 4:32)
"Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs" (Eph. 5:19)
"Teach one another" (Col. 3:16)
"Admonish one another" (Col. 3:16)
"Encourage one another" (1 Thess. 4:18, and 5:11)
"Build each other up" (1 Thess. 5:11)
"Spur one another on to love and good deeds" (Heb. 10:24)

God intended for us to live in community, which is why we identify it as one of our Core Values.


United Ministry

The Bible talks about how every Christ-follower is given special abilities to be used to serve others in and through the church. God has uniquely equipped you to make a difference in His Church… to make your own unique contribution. We call these special abilities Spiritual Gifts, and basically we believe that unless every Christ-follower is using his or her spiritual gift to serve others, we will never reach our full potential as a Church. So one of our Core Values is that ministry the ministry of Sunrise won’t rely solely on one or two people, but that we will all join together contributing our own unique giftedness to accomplishing the ministry God has called us to do.


New Beginnings

Listen, there have been a lot of people who have been hurt and disillusioned in life. They carry around pain and disappointment, shattered dreams, guilt…

Well, at Sunrise we want to offer new beginnings because that’s what Jesus offered us. In fact, the very name "Sunrise" implies a fresh start. Regardless of their past, we want people to experience love and acceptance at Sunrise.

Do you believe that God has the power and the authority to forgive a person and change the course of their life? Then we need to value New Beginnings.


Real Life Christianity

We believe the truth of the Bible is as relevant today as it was the day it was written. So what we want to do here at Sunrise is interpret the Word of God in today’s world and exploring ways it can impact everyday life.

Now, I’ve read some things recently in the newspaper and on the Internet where some of the more liberal church leaders have been declaring that Christians need to redefine their faith if they want to stay relevant, and what they mean is that you’ve got to cut sections out of your Bible and read other sections as if they’re just fairy tales.

That’s not what I’m talking about here. We’re not about discarding important and truths. But what we do what to do is discover why those truths matter today. We want to help people see how a relationship with Christ can improve and make a difference in every area of life. The Bible’s packed full of practical applications for our lives, and we’re here to discover what they are.



Intimacy with God

We believe God desires for every person to know him personally. So we are committed to helping people grow in their relationship with Him and to providing opportunities for people to express their love for Him through prayer, corporate worship and serving Him in ministry.

Being a Christian is not about going through rituals on Sunday morning; it’s about developing a deep and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s about getting to know Him better and better all the time. It’s about experiencing His love and loving Him back.

You see, being a Christ-follower is not about a religion; it’s about a relationship. So we want to see each and every person grow in their own personal relationship with Jesus.



Sharing Our Faith

Look, we’re surrounded by people who are far from God. And that’s a choice they’re free to make. But the sad fact is, without a relationship with God they headed for an eternity in Hell. So we need to be about the business of sharing our faith… telling people about the difference God has made in our lives and giving them an opportunity to respond to Him themselves. We need to do that in order to offer them the hope of Heaven, but we also need to do that for the here and now. Because without Jesus, a person can never realize their purpose in life. They can never know their Creator, they can never discover how they were meant to live and they can never experience the love and forgiveness and life that Jesus came to offer.



Expanding the Church

This means a few different things for us. First of all, it means that we’re going to grow as a church ourselves. We’re going to bring people into the Sunrise Family and, more importantly, into the Family of God and help them to grow in their faith. That’s the first thing, but “expanding the church” also means that we’re going to be involved in starting new Churches. Right now, we’re financially giving toward three new Churches in our district… two in Nova Scotia and one in Newfoundland. And eventually, we’d love to give birth to a new church right out of Sunrise.

And the third part of this value is expanding the church around the world through missions. My wife has gone on a couple of short term mission trips over the past few years, and I know several of you are considering going on a trip like that yourself soon. In fact, I hope you’ll do just that. This summer, our district will release plans for, oh, ten or twelve trips taking place next Fall, Winter and Spring. So you can start planning and saving for it now. And when the details are released in July, you can figure out just what trip you want to go on.

That’s short-term, two to three week trips. But we also support career missionaries. Central Asia, Ukraine, Japan… In fact, Robin White who volunteered here as a co-pastor for a year just arrived a few weeks ago in Japan as a missionary. I know many of you receive his emails, but in case you don’t, there are a few copied of his latest newsletter available on the Information Table.

So those are our Core Values. Those are the things that are important to us as a Church. They are priorities for us.

So we address them all in one form or another in our LIFE Groups, in our social events, and in our sermons.

Now, this is our third week in our message series on the New Testament book of James. We’ve been calling this series, “Faith that Gets Its Hands Dirty”, talking about developing a faith that’s not afraid to get involved in the messiness of life. What’s this about? It’s about Real-Life Christianity. It’s about living a faith that matters.

That’s the crux of the whole series, and the passage we’re looking at this morning goes right to the very heart of it. It tells us that just listening to the Word of God isn’t enough; it’s got to make a difference. It’s got to matter. It’s got to be applied to your life each and every day.

That’s the kind of faith I want. I mean, what value is there to a faith that really doesn’t matter? Who cares about a faith that’s entirely abstract and theoretical and has no impact on real life? I don’t want that, and I doubt you do either.

Don’t you want a faith that goes beyond empty rituals and meaningless conversations? Wouldn’t you rather have a faith that’s practical? That makes your life better? That challenges you? That helps you through rough times? That shows you a better way to live? That gives you a hope for today and for tomorrow? Even when sometimes it gets hard, don’t you want a faith that you know is transforming you into the person you were meant to be… the person God designed you to be?

Derek already read James 1:19-27 for us, so let’s focus in on the key verse. In fact, read it aloud with me…

James 1:22 (NLT)
But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says.

That’s what takes Christianity from being a collection of nice ideas to being life-changing. That’s what enables the Holy Spirit to work in your life and transform you from the inside out. Don’t just listen to God’s Word; you must do what it says. It’s not just meant to be read; it’s meant to be put into practice.

When I was in college, I enrolled in the courses I took so that I could get credit toward my degree. Which meant that I had to do all the work, I had to attend the classes, I had to write the tests and exams, I had to do the reading, I had to prepare the projects, I needed to do the studying… it wasn’t enough for me to just sit there.

But every once in a while, somebody would be in a class with me who wasn’t taking it for credit. He was just auditing the course. Which meant he didn’t have to do all the work. All he was there to do was sit there and listen. He wasn’t really challenge by the homework, he wasn’t stretched, and he didn’t receive credit for the course. It was just an audit.

That’s the picture James is painting here. When he uses the word, “listen”, he’s writing about someone auditing a course. He says, “It’s not enough to just audit; you’ve got to do the work. And unless you do, you’re not going to reap the benefits and you’re not going to get credit. Don’t just listen to God’s Word. Do what it says!”

And that a concept that’s echoed by the Apostle Paul. He wrote…

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NLT)
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.

Take your pen and underline the word “useful”. The Word of God is relevant. It’s practical. It’s helpful. It’s functional. It’s useful. It’s meant to be applied.

Now, I’ve got to say, most of you are pretty good at that. You read the Bible on your own and you learn from it and you look for ways to put it into practice. And you come here on Sundays and you’re exposed to the truth of Scripture here, and then many times you start to make changes in your life and you strive to apply what we’ve talked about here on Sunday to your life Monday through Saturday. And that’s a great thing.

But there are people—certainly none of you—who would go to Church and sit there and listen and hear a terrific message from God’s Word that could completely transform their lives, but when they leave they completely forget about it.

Everyone seems to have a digital camera now-a-days, but do you remember what it was like with film? Do you remember how you used to have to be careful if you were going on a trip and so you went to the airport and you put your stuff through the X-Ray machine? What was the danger? The danger was that the X-Rays could erase whatever was on your film. Just like you didn’t want to put audio cassettes or video tapes right in front of a huge speaker, because the magnetic field it produced could erase anything that was on the tape.

Well, for some people, it’s like that when they leave church. They hear the depth of the truth of God’s Word, but it’s as if they go through an X-Ray machine on their way out. Everything they’ve just heard is erased from their memory and it never gets applied on Monday morning.

Look at how James describes this…

James 1:23-24 (NLT)
For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like.

I can identify with that. Because I’m not a morning person. So when I get up in the morning, I stumble to the bathroom—I might even stumble into a doorframe or two on the way—and when I get there, I look in the mirror and I’m rarely pleased with what I see. Because the remains of sleep are still with me. My hair is usually in a mess, I haven’t put my contacts in yet so I’m squinting, I’ve got to shave, I might have a bad case of pillow face (you know, with those crease marks up and down my face), and in general it’s not a pretty sight. I need work.

Now what I don’t do is this: I don’t turn around and suddenly forget what I look like. You might think that’s what I do, but it’s not. I assure you, even to look like this takes some work. So this morning, I didn’t simply get up, look in the mirror, and then come to church. I took the time that it takes to care for all the things that good grooming and good hygiene require. I took a shower, I washed my hair, I washed my face, I shaved, I put in my contacts, and I even ironed my clothes as I got ready for the day.

How about you? Yeah, I think most of you got all cleaned up this morning, too. Maybe a couple of you didn’t, but we’re not going to get into that… Actually, just smell the person next to you to make sure we’re all good.

James tells us that a person who hears or reads the words of the Bible but doesn’t put them into practice in his life is like a person who looks at his reflection in a mirror, turns around and forgets what he’s seen. So he does nothing about it. He’s not bothered by the glaring problems that need to be addressed.

How about you? When you look in the Word of God, do you see ways that it needs to impact your life? What do you do about it? Does what you see bother you enough that you’re actually going to do something about it?

“Most people are bothered by those passages in Scripture which they cannot understand.  The Scripture which troubles me most is the Scripture I do understand.”
~ Mark Twain

Let the Bible bother you. Be troubled by what you read. And let it inspire you to let it make a difference in your life. I don’t know who said this, but I think it sums up the problem so well…

“Christianity has been studied and practiced for ages, but it has been studied far more than it has been practiced.”

So, when you look into the mirror and you see what needs to be done, what do you do? Let’s take a look at James 1:21…

James 1:21 (NLT)
So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.

“Get rid of all the filth.” The picture that James paints here is a person with an ear full of wax. If you look in a mirror and you see a candle growing out of your ear, you should probably do something about it.

So what James is talking about here is the obvious presence of immorality in your life. When you look into the word of God and see your reflection, do you see the obvious things that need to change… the lying, the cheating, the words that pass your lips… whatever acts of sinfulness you see in your life. James says, “Get rid of any and all forms of moral filth.”

But he doesn’t just leave it at that. In the NLT, it says “Get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives.” But the New American Standard Bible translates this a bit more accurately…

James 1:21 (NASB)
Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness…

So he says, “put aside all filthiness” which would be the obvious acts of sinfulness that we’ve just been talking about. But then he adds, “and all that remains of wickedness.” This would be the not-so-obvious sinfulness of character.

Apply the Word of God to Your…

•    Acts of sinfulness
•    Heart of sinfulness

In our bathtub, we’ve had one of those plastic shampoo and soap dispensers stuck to the wall. Problem is, it never seemed to work right and it just got in the way and made it harder to clean the tub. So last week, I took a crowbar to it and pried it off the wall. I got rid of an obvious problem.

But even after I got rid of it, I still had to scrap off the remains of that sticky tape that was holding it there and scour away at the grout. I had to get rid of the “remains of wickedness.”

So what is James saying here? He’s saying that the word of God needs to impact not just what you do but what you are. Your actions and your attitudes. Your practices and your prejudices. Your hands and your heart. He’s saying that the Word of God needs to be applies to your obvious, outward behaviour—stop doing acts of sin. But he adds that it also needs to be applied inwardly—to the source of all your acts of sin, your sin nature. Allow the Word of God to transform you and cleanse you outwardly and inwardly.


There. Does that sound good? Now here’s the thing… Your role in all this is to apply the Word of God to your life. But you are not actually the one that performs the cleansing. You do not have the ability within yourself to do that. Only God can do that. And He is more than willing to do that for us. Listen to this:

1 John 1:9 (NLT)
But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.

So by obeying and applying the Word of God, you welcome God to do the rest. You express your desire for Him to act in your life. You open the way for Him to forgive you for your outward acts of sin, and to cleanse you from your inner wickedness… your heart of sin, too.





[Note: This message series uses a variety of source materials, primarily "A Faith that Worls" by Rick Warren, "Faith for Pedestrians" by Laurence Croswell, and "James: Hands-On Christianity" by Charles Swindoll.]



 

 

Copyright © Greg Hanson, 2008 SunriseOnline.ca