14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? How can you see a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? 17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. 19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? 22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? 23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. 25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? 26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
Thanatology is the study of the process of death and dying especially from the psycho-sociological perspective. We all are acquainted with death in one way or another. Every level of life expresses death in one way or another. Death has a way of ripping to the core of our emotional spiritual being and causes us to stop in our tracks and deal with it through the grief process. Death causes us to feel stages of grief that allow us to take inventory and make corrections in our lives. There is nothing like a funeral that allows us to look inside and say to God “what is it I can do better?” But to speak of death around a church is strong verbiage. To speak of death in terms of a dead church or a church that has lost its zest and vitality for ministry, is strong language.
When you speak of death in terms of church and church folk implies that something is fatally wrong with the belief and religion of that church and its people. The word is used in relation when we speak of a dead church or one that has ceased to be relevant to the community, that it is a part of. Death and or dying implies that life has ceased and life as we once knew it is over. Death represents a shutting down of systems that pronounce life upon the organism. The church may be in the process of dying. The church may even be terminal whereby it is not dead, but the prognosis is not good. Death is hard to swallow and sometimes there is denial on the part of the one dying.
The church is said to be not a building or system of belief but that humans make up the body of Christ and it is a living organism. So when it is dying you can conclude that the people inside of the church although not physically dead or dying may have lost their spiritual lives and are said to be dead. The church is not especially known for its cold plaster walls and stained glass windows, but by the life, the pnuema or breath that moves from the church and gives it its place and ability to transform community and society. Each of us are life’s organisms and is dependent upon the cycle of oxygenation by inhalation and expiration to expel the gases, toxins and discharge the waste from the body. Without this discharge of waster from the body, the body begins to shut down and loses its ability to not only live but reproduce new life. Some want to live as long as possible and with the right circumstances and care, life can be prolonged and noted not quantitatively, but measured qualitatively.
In the text James’ analogy is one of the spirit, being dead and does a complicated mathematical compilation that says that the body without a spirit is like someone who says they have faith and does not do the work of ministry. Or the body without a spirit is like faith without: works. So a body that lacks spirit is like a person of faith who sits and does nothing. James speaks out making the argument that if you call yourself, one who is spiritual or one of faith that there must be something that you do that speaks for what you believe. James Brown the soul singer from Augusta Georgia, says it is possible to talk loud and say nothing. James builds the argument for one who is spiritual must do something to compliment the great swelling words that it is possible to spew from the mouths of church folk so that those that view you know that you are not just all talk. That your faith is not just all talk.
That is what my challenge is today is that if I stand in the church that declares one can come here and receive rejuvenation for their soul, my challenge is to remind you that there comes a moment in time where what you say matches what you do. Revival is defined as the renewal and reviving of an organism that has lost its ability to live. This is what is known as spiritual CPR. Revival of the heart and breath of the church of God and to remind you that you must not only believe but do something relevant and refreshing to make a difference in this community.
Therefore there must be a question that rises from this text that we must answer here today. Revival begins with action when we understand that:
1. Faith is not enough. Faith is merely the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. Faith is the vehicle by which we believe the gospel. Faith in the book of James means that you will find ways to exercise faith. Faith standing alone is nothing, but the door, the entrance to the substance of its own self. Faith is the mental part. It is the part in the heart that speaks to the issue. Faith allows us to speak boldly about the things which we desire. As you look around this community and this city, you will find ways to pray and talk with God about what it is that needs to be done, to save a generation, but after the talks with God and the prayers and meetings, there comes time to do more than believe.
That was James issue with the dialogue, that there were folk who were left for dead and it was the church folk who were guilty. Faith is the window into which we peer and see things as they should be. After faith comes the work, the work of the church. We find ways to avoid the work and that is where we begin to lose our breath. We go into cardiac arrest and into defibrillation. Our hearts skip beats because fear nails us to the floor, we starve our faith and find ways to feed our doubts. Faith by itself loses its steam as it is cast before mean and faithless folk who never see the change that is being birthed in the midst God’s people. Along with faith we need, a strategy and purpose. A strategy is a straight forward plan that defines our purpose.
Faith causes you to see out of the box, it allows you to see the answer to the tears, and it allows you to find ways around the poverty, along the shores of struggle. The force comes alive under the pressure of failure. Someone has to see success, when others see defeat; it sees life when you see death. It sees prosperity and growth when others see poverty and death. Faith is the evidence and the substance of the work. Faith says it will work, when death and defeat says it won’t. However faith is bolstered by the work you do. Faith spurs you to action, it causes you to rise up and be accountable to the process.
2. Talk is cheap. James speaks of those who see folk standing hungry, naked, sick and in prison, yet they make no movement toward, but instead retreat and move away from the battle. James illustrates that no one profits from you cheap talk. It sounds something like when you see someone on the steps of the church, hungry and destitute. Not just begging folk, but folk in need and you in your religious way, say how are you and conclude the conversation with God bless you. It is not the fact that you personally don’t have the resources but that you lack the love for those in need and have no dedicated plan for change and transformation process. We find ourselves in middle of many meetings.
Revival is where change begins and here in the text James is encouraging someone, that if you really want to demonstrate faith, do something. Not just the words of faith, or offering kind words, but becoming people of action, who sometimes don’t say a lot, but have begun the process of fulfilling God’s command to the believer that they love their neighbor as themselves. Revival is not just an exercise in the futility of religion and if you don’t come this week that is just what it is. Sinners come to be saved and ain’t nobody home. Shoe some sign that God is in you and you in God, get over your fears and aches and pains and begin somewhere to match up your talk with your faith.
3. What’s dead should be buried. You faith if it is without works James says is like a body without a spirit. That is the final thing I want to leave with you, if its dead bury it. If your sin is dead bury it and if your salvation is dead, bury that. Only live folk can work on dead folk. Jesus said let the dead bury the dead, but let the physician work on the sick, let the challenged and the fearful move out of the way and let God operate. There are some folks right here, right now, afraid of letting God be in complete control. Hanging onto their old dead stuff, like bodies without spirits. Wake up. The body without a spirit is like someone of faith without works.