WHAT IS GRACEFULLY, REALLY
Well, we started a little series 3 weeks ago - going through the book of James - to get a handle on ‘what living gracefully through your life’ really is. We spent two Tuesdays in James - Chapter 1. The book of James gives us a pretty good picture of how the Lord wants us to live our lives while we’re here on earth. Many preachers, teachers, and theologians believe it gives us a clear idea of what the grace of God is like and how we are to live our daily lives.
Just to remind us, the word GRACE means ‘undeserved favor’ - and that’s what the Lord gave to us. We didn’t deserve His favor - but when we accepted what Jesus did for us in His death on the cross - by believing in our hearts and saying with our mouths that we received Him as our Savior, GOD ACCEPTED US INTO HIS FAMILY!!!!! THAT’S UNDESERVED FAVOR. Now, the reason we’re doing this is because (1) God said to, and (2) It’s hard to live gracefully if you don’t know what it is.
We talked about many things through Chapter 1. Now we’re beginning Chapter 2. I’m going to read James 2:1 - 9 - “My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ and say to the poor man, ‘You stand there,’ or ‘Sit here at my footstool,’ have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?’ Listen, my beloved brethren, Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called? If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well. But if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.”
Now, I know that we all are aware to some degree that this is a well-known attitude that Jesus taught in His teachings. Now, remember, many preachers, teachers and theologians believe that the JAMES that wrote this book was the half-brother of Jesus. There are some who believe this was the one who was one of the apostles. Whichever one it was, this person knew Jesus well, how He lived, taught, and dealt with mankind. So, the person who wrote this, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is trying to get across to us that the way we live our everyday lives is to be the way Jesus was, here on this earth.
Now, when it gets down to the nitty-gritty, a huge amount of Christians try to put on a good look on the outside - by doing the right thing - but it’s not coming from the heart.
This portion of Scripture is mainly trying to help us see that, there should be no difference at all in the way we FEEL ABOUT (on the inside) and ACT ABOUT (on the outside) between a person that we can see is rich and the person we can see is poor. The more we are like God, the more we will not have respect for persons based on outward things, such as money or clothing. BUT IT HAS TO COME FROM OUR HEARTS - NOT JUST TO LOOK GOOD (BUT ON THE INSIDE, YOU’RE THINKING, “OH BOY, THIS GUY’S LIFE IS A MESS…………”) Then, here comes the rich guy, and you think, “MAYBE, IF I TREAT THIS PERSON REAL GOOD, HE’LL SHARE SOME OF HIS MONEY INTO THIS PROJECT I’M WORKING ON…………..”
It boils down to this, we should not treat people different based on what you can tell about them as you look at them. BUT - it shouldn’t be just an action on the outside but it should be coming from the heart.
Now, back in that portion of Scripture, it talks about, “Loving your neighbor as you love yourself.” Now everybody has heard this sentence, so it has just become a Bible verse that we’re familiar with. But, if we really get down to the nitty gritty, to a lot of Christians, IT JUST SEEMS IMPOSSIBLE TO DO THAT.
So, I think the easiest way to understand it is to just think and pray this way - “Lord, this person before me is just a human being here on this earth - like I am - (maybe it’s a rich person, or maybe it’s a poor person) and I just want to see him (or her) through your eyes - the way you see me. I don’t know what all has transpired in life for this person, but, if it were me, I know how You would treat me. So Lord - help me feel on the inside of me, the way You do about this person - and I’ll act on the outside that way also.”
Now, I’m going to take each one of these next verses - one at a time. James 2:10 - “For whoever shall keep the whole law , and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” Think of it this way. It’s like a huge plate glass window - you can hit it in a spot and cause it to be broken there. But the whole window has to be replaced - one little crush ruins the whole thing. So - breaking any commandment is like breaking them all. The primary purpose of the Law was to show us that we couldn’t keep God’s standards and, thereby earn salvation - it was to show us we can’t earn salvation by our own righteousness - we must call out to God - and receive His ‘undeserved favor’. That’s the reason that, under the Old Covenant, they were constantly bringing sacrifices for their sins - it was their way of realizing that they couldn’t do it perfectly.
Now - James 2:11-12 - “For He who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ Now, if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty.”
So think of it this way - the Old Testament Law wasn’t a thousand separate commandments, but the thousands of commandments made one Law. This portion of Scripture in the New Testament is showing us that the New Covenant of grace that Jesus provided salvation for us was because we could never be good enough to do everything perfectly. God loves humanity so much that He provided a way for people before the law was given (by speaking to them personally and guiding them) - then He gave the law (and provided for them bringing sacrifices to cover their sin - which was really admitting being a sinner) - and THEN HE MADE A NEW COVENANT WITH MANKIND BY DYING ON THE CROSS AND TAKING THE SIN OF HUMANITY - BUT INDIVIDUAL HUMAN BEINGS MUST ACCEPT IT PERSONALLY. WHEN THEY DO - THEY ARE BORN AGAIN - IN OTHER WORDS, RECEIVE A NEW SPIRIT BY WHICH THEY CAN HAVE A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD.
Now, I think that we people, living on the earth after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, are some of the most blessed people the world has ever known. Now, think about what all happened to humanity before the Law was given - the flood of Noah - the death of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah - the people speaking different languages at the Tower of Babel, so they had to live away from one another so they could talk to one another - and on and on. Then, Moses came - he loved and obeyed God and God spoke to Him in all kinds of ways and led him to write God and man’s story - known as the first books of the Bible - and the Law was given, so people could bring sacrifices for their sins. It began to make mankind more sin-conscious.
Then - came Jesus!!!!!!! And here we are 2,000 years later, able to have a personal relationship with Him, with a new spirit inside us, with the blessing and gifts from Him in our new spirits. We can call ourselves His children and be part of His family.
Now - James 2:13 - “For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” This is simply just reminding us that we all need mercy - and we all need grace. Mercy is not getting what we deserve and grace is getting ‘undeserved favor’. If we need mercy ourselves, we need to show mercy to others, FROM OUR HEARTS. That’s living gracefully!!!
Now these next verses are all connected to the same subject - FAITH AND WORKS. So I’m going to take one verse at a time. James 2:14 - “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?”
I want to read a statement by John Calvin from a long time ago. He said, “Faith alone saves, but saving faith is never alone.” TRUE FAITH HAS ACTIONS. Anything that we truly believe causes action. I’ve heard this mentioned to describe this. If you were with a group of people and somebody came in and yelled that the building was on fire, some might start running out - some might start screaming - some might start trying to help others get out - but it’s for sure that, if you believe it, you’re going to have some kind of action. Faith is heartfelt conviction that is felt so strongly, it influences our actions. Those who say they believe and yet act contrary to that belief are deceived.
Next is James 2:15-16-17 - “If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
The point James is making here is that saying that you believe is as useless as just telling someone in need all their needs are met. It takes more than words to solve physical needs. There needs to be corresponding actions. Now, it’s true, that we each, individually, cannot meet the needs of every single person - but the Lord wants us to see people the way He sees people and treat them His way. He’s using this picture of the helpless person to show us that we are to regard people the way we would like to be regarded if we were the ones who were helpless. It has to be a heart attitude. Again, it’s about acting on the outside the way God wants our heart attitude to be. It’s not enough just to do a good thing (because somebody said to do it) - it’s about LOVING LIKE GOD LOVES FROM THE HEART. Brothers and Sisters - living that way is living gracefully.
Now - James 2:18-19 - But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe - and tremble!”
I love this portion of Scripture. I’ve read it over and over and sat and laughed at the way God inspired James to get people to really see the truth. The point is that IT IS NOT ENOUGH TO JUST BELIEVE THAT THERE IS ONE GOD. IT IS TRUE THAT THERE IS ONE GOD BUT YOU MUST BELIEVE THAT HE LOVES YOU SO MUCH THAT HE WANTS YOU WITH HIM IN ETERNITY. THE ONLY WAY THAT CAN HAPPEN IS IF YOU BELIEVE IN YOUR HEART AND SAY WITH YOUR MOUTH THAT JESUS TOOK ALL YOUR SIN AND YOU ACCEPT HIM AS YOUR SAVIOR. IT’S FOR SURE THE DEMONS DON’T WANT YOU TO DO THAT!!!!!!!
Now - this is very important. Others cannot see what you believe in your heart - only God can. BUT, others can get a good idea of what’s in your heart by your actions on a regular basis. Those who say one thing but do another are fooling themselves and others.
I believe this is a very powerful truth that we all must see and understand, as we deal with other people. Many of us have family members and friends, who BELIEVE THERE IS ONE GOD BUT THEY GO NO FURTHER THAN THAT. IT IS IMPORTANT THAT WE SPEND TIME PRAYING FOR THEM AND ASKING THE LORD FOR MOMENTS WHEN WE CAN SHARE THE TRUTH WITH THEM - AND GET THROUGH TO THEIR HEARTS. THE LORD MAKES THIS POINT ABOUT THE DEMONS VERY CLEAR.
It is also very important that we Christians know and understand that we have been given authority over Satan and all his demons, in the name of Jesus. So many are not exercising their authority - they just feel like that’s just ridiculous - BUT IT’S NOT! I have personally learned, in my life, that taking authority over the enemy is an extremely important thing that makes a huge impact on our lives. See, I had to learn to see myself as A CHILD OF GOD, THE CREATOR OF HEAVEN AND EARTH - THEREFORE, ONE WHO HAS BEEN GIVEN AUTHORITY OVER THE ENEMY OF GOD - SATAN, AND ALL HIS DEMONS, IN THE NAME OF JESUS!!!!
Now it may sound a little weird to talk about ‘authority over the enemy’ in a class with the basic topic being ‘GRACEFULNESS’ but it’s not. ‘Gracefulness’, in the Biblical sense, is really, really, really walking in God’s ‘Undeserved Favor’. You nor I ever deserved to be taken into the family of God, with all our sins wiped away, and given a relationship with the Creator of the Universe - and given the FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT (ALL THOSE WONDERFUL BLESSINGS) INTO OUR BORN AGAIN SPIRITS - and then, also given authority over the terrible enemy of God - SATAN, THE ONE WHO BROUGHT THE DESIRE TO ADAM AND EVE TO GO AGAINST WHAT GOD HAD SAID!!!!! Now, think about it, for a minute - WE HAVE ACTUALY BEEN GIVEN AUTHORITY OVER THE ONE WHO OPENED THE DOOR TO SIN TO THE FIRST HUMAN BEINGS!!!!!!!
What a wonderful blessing, to see ourselves as God sees us and operate here on the earth the way God wants us to operate!!!
I, honestly, have to say that getting ahold of the truth about our God-given authority has brought more ability to live GRACEFULLY than I ever had before. When you see a tornado turn and go the other way, when you told it to, in Jesus’ name, like I did, you actually experience what ‘GRACEFULLY’ is! When you experience pain instantly leaving your body, when you told it to, in Jesus’ name, like I have done many times, you are aware of what gracefulness really is! When you’ve had family members going in a wrong direction, and taken authority over the enemy in Jesus’ name and told him to ‘loose them and let them go’ like I have done, in Jesus’ name, and seen miraculous things change, you feel like you’re just soaking in ‘gracefulness’.
Now, I want us to remember that the main point that James is teaching in these verses is that FAITH AND WORKS KINDA’ GO HAND IN HAND. Faith is very, very, very important - But so is works!!! A huge number of Christians kinda’ center in on one of these but not the other. Some on faith and some on works. It needs to be both!!!
I’m going to read these next few Scriptures together - James 2:20-26 - “But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham, our father, justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. Likewise, was not Rahab, the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
I’ve been reading in the book of Genesis in this last week - so I read about Abraham and Isaac and the altar again. I’ve read it many, many times. It’s one of my favorite stories to ponder on. Can you imagine the strength of Abraham’s faith - to be so sure that God would keep all His promises which He had already given to Abraham regarding Isaac - to be obedient to what God told him to do. You talk about faith. I have sat and imagined how that all went and I am just in awe that Abraham was so close to God (that’s the reason he was called ‘the friend of God’) that he put his son on that altar - because God said to. Don’t you know that God was thinking - “Wow - he really, really trusts me to the max - I can use him and his family to bring knowledge about Me into the human race.”
I remember, all those years ago, when God told my husband to go to Prairie Bible Institute in Three Hills, Alberta, Canada. We had two little kids, my husband had been in the Army and was struggling to find work to take care of us, and I had been through two pregnancies and births - so we certainly did not have extra finances to go to Bible School. But God told us He would provide for us. We didn’t ask family or anyone else for money. We were at Prairie for one year and then we moved to Colorado and he went to Western Bible Institute for three years.
The Lord told me that He wanted Jerry to be at Prairie for a year to be kinda’ out of the worldly life for a year - after being in the Army. That’s what we were - kinda’ isolated from all the BAD STUFF IN THE WORLD - we had no phones, no TV, no places to go, JUST CONCENTRATING ON JESUS AND HIS WORD FOR A YEAR. After a few months, my husband found a job for 3-5 hours in the afternoons, when he had no classes. That really helped sustain us.
Then He told us to move back to our hometown and He would show us the next part. So - we did - and get this!! A friend of ours had a friend who had a very large mansion-type home and needed someone to live in it (for free) for 2 months while they were away. They introduced us to them and that became our home for the summer.
During our time there, the Lord guided us to Western Bible Institute, just outside of Denver, Colorado. So, when we left the mansion, we moved to Colorado. Now - listen to this - when we arrived, we didn’t know where we were going to live - but as my husband got signed in as a new student, I discovered that they were looking for someone in the office who had done secretarial work. THAT WAS ME!! Now - get this! Instead of receiving a salary, we were provided a little place to live on campus - rent free!!!!!!
When he was in his last year of school, he was asked to pastor a little, tiny church in Black Hawk, Colorado, in the mountains. Through the most amazing ways, God led us to a place about five miles from there called ‘Cap’s Lodge’ - it was a place where groups of children came and stayed for a few days - and it had a living space separate, for the people who saw to it, to live. They needed someone to live there and watch over everything. SO-O-O-O-O-O-O-O - again, we didn’t have to pay rent - we just watched over Cap’s Lodge!!!!!! Let me also add that, through those years of school, my husband worked on part-time jobs, where he could work in the afternoons when he wasn’t in class. GOD PROVIDED.
My reason for mentioning all of this is that both of us learned, through that experience, that if you know God wants you to do something, even though it seems impossible, if you will trust Him and obey Him, He will see you through situations which seem absolutely impossible.
I have sat by myself, and imagined what it was like for Abraham to be told by the Lord to put his precious son, Isaac on that altar as a sacrifice. Abraham had to put his complete and total confidence in the Lord. He might have been thinking, “Lord, I’ll do what You say - I believe You - I don’t understand it all but I KNOW YOU SO I BELIEVE THAT, IF NECESSARY, YOU WILL RAISE MY PRECIOUS BABY BOY FROM THE DEAD.”
When my husband and I embarked on the Bible School escapade, that’s kinda’ the attitude we had on the inside. We had no idea how it was all going to work - but we just put our complete confidence in our LORD - THE CREATOR OF THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH, OUR SAVIOR. AND GOD OPENED DOORS, PROVIDED FOR US, AND SAW TO US OVER AND OVER AGAIN. We learned, through those years, to take the Lord at His Word - His Promises.
So, brothers and sisters, what it boils down to is this. It is very important for us to live our lives here on earth GRACEFULLY. But, it’s not just because it’s good for us to to that - but because a graceful life shows other people how God wants them to live. Therefore, a graceful life really is lived by what you believe in your heart being acted upon in your life - therefore seen by others. BUT, you can’t be acting it out, when you really don’t believe it in your heart.
This portion of Scripture is making it clear that FAITH AND WORKS work together. YOU MUST BELIEVE IN YOUR HEART AND, THEREFORE, YOU MUST DO THE WORKS BASED ON WHAT YOU BELIEVE IN YOUR HEART!!!!! Believe me, moving off to 4 years of Bible School, in different places, when we didn’t have the money for any of it, ONLY BECAUSE GOD HAD TOLD US THAT’S WHAT HE WANTED FOR US TO DO - TOOK BELIEVING IN OUR HEARTS AND DOING WHAT HE SAID TO DO. We had so many miraculous things occur in our lives and had the pleasure of meeting so many wonderful Christian brothers and sisters - it would take hours and hours to tell about them. REMEMBER - FAITH WITHOUT WORKS IS DEAD!!!!!!
WALKING BY FAITH - TRUSTING GOD - DOING WHAT HE SAYS TO DO - HELPS YOU TO LEARN HOW TO LIVE GRACEFULLY!!!!!!!!
Scriptures for this lesson