James the Just
Part 4 - Good Works

Brethren, recently we had the wonderful opportunity of attending a meeting of church brethren from ten different scattered groups.  In addition to sermons, songs and prayers, we had an open give and take inter-active question and answer session.  We had come together to explore the concept of “Unity of the Spirit” among church brethren.  The ladies especially enjoyed being a part of the discussions and being able to voice their comments and concerns.  There were brethren in attendance who fully understood that true Christianity involves caring, serving, good works and laying down their lives for others.

There is a problem in God’s Church in that not everyone comprehends the necessity for Christians to be living sacrifices and doers of good works.  Ours is not a “feel good” church.  There are some brethren who think that being in the right church group insures their good standing with God.  They have forgotten the admonition that requires that we go on to perfection.

During the bewilderment of the apostasy some brethren were maliciously cast aside.  For some, the scars of that abuse remain. We live in an era in which the brethren must be allowed to heal.  Brethren are reluctant to trust again after being hurt repeatedly by a harsh ministry.  There are brethren who continue seeking for others with whom to fellowship who are living according to God's truth.  It is God’s Will that all the brethren, including those that were driven away, be fed and nourished – that’s a good work.

Thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds; “The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them.”  (Ezekiel 34:4)

Interestingly, at that mini-symposium that we attended, there were no representatives of the larger and better known corporate organizations.  Those which declare themselves to be the biggest, the best, to have the legitimate claim of leadership, to be doing the greatest work, or the corporate group which is the spear point of the work of God, did not participate in the symposium.

Symposium is a good word.  In the Greek it means, “To drink together.”  And that is what we were doing there – drinking in of God’s Word, and seeking His Will in our efforts at being one in Spirit.  Jesus prayed that we may be one (John 17).

The coming together of these dispersed brethren was more of a grassroots movement of shattered members than it was a group seeking fame or recognition.  The purpose was not to build another competing corporate organization.  Jesus Christ does not approve of division within His Body.  When He said, "This is my Body," and, "I will build my Church," He had only one Church in mind (Matthew 16:18).

Jesus Christ is not satisfied as long as the brethren are split by man-made boundaries of separation.  Division breeds competition – and competition yields bad fruit. The danger to the membership arises from a feeling of self-assurance that they are in the “right” church group.  That implies that others are in the “wrong” group. The problem with that is; Christianity does not work that way.

The epistle of James addressed the same problem in his day when the brethren fell into a substitute religion and thought they were doing just fine – when they were not doing the works of God at all.  James discusses at least a dozen examples of wrong Christian practices within the Church of God.  Those brethren were smug in their faith – and they really felt that they were better than other people.  Their inward superiority colored everything they said and did.

Let’s be careful not to have a Substitute Religion – which is a False Faith.  Some of our brethren got so “religious” that they are no longer with God.  Sure, they warmed a bench every Saturday and dutifully brought a casserole to every pot-luck.  They didn’t eat pork chops or easter bunnies.  They didn’t have statues or christmas trees.  They didn’t eat shrimp or catfish, and they left home on halloween.  They didn’t, didn’t, and didn’t… and thought they were good Christians.  And they didn’t practice Pure Religion, or do Good Works, either.

"Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world."  (James 1:27)

Everyone knows that Paul said not to forsake the assembling of yourselves together, but how many remember why? And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works.”  (Hebrews 10:24-25)

"Even so faith, if it has not works, is dead, being alone."   (James 2:17)

So, Brethren, we should ask the question of ourselves – what are my works?  The book of James is a contrast between good works and bad works – which is substitute religion.

**Our relationship is with God through Jesus Christ.  It is not through any man.  Trusting in men, or their organizations, is a lack of faith.

“You do not have the Faith of Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory if you have respect toward persons.”  (James 2:1)

James recognized that faith in persons threatened the doctrine and understanding of the True Faith and the practice of Pure Religion.


Sermon "James the Just - Part 4 - Good Works"
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