Hope for the Hopeless

How Do We Receive The Beautiful Gift Of Saving Faith?

George Wright
Nov 15, 2020    24m
Do you ever feel like you have to do good works to receive salvation? You do not, we can find hope in the fact that the beautiful gift of saving faith comes by believing in Jesus as our Lord and Savior. The good works we do will not save us, instead, they are a fruit that comes from our saving faith. Video recorded at Columbia, South Carolina.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

George Wright: 00:01 Well, it is a privilege to be able to gather together this morning, and what a joy to get to celebrate what we just experienced in the story of death to life that happens through the good news of the gospel. I believe there are more stories just like that, that will be told as a result of today.

George Wright: 00:23 This really is a special day, okay, it's Master's Sunday in November, so that means it's special right out of the gate, right, that's pretty significant. But it also is the day where we get to welcome a very special guest, who's going to lead us in some worship and some music, Steven Curtis Chapman is here with us today, you're going to see him in just a moment.

George Wright: 00:42 But even more importantly, today is the day, we don't get to say this every day, today is the day where the world will literally change for some children in need because of the steps of faith that some of you will take. Today's our compassion Sunday, and it is a joy to be able to partner with The Ministry of Compassion. We're going to tell you a little bit more of what that means, and what Compassion is all about. But before we do that, we want to step into the Word of God, and we want to understand why something like Compassion Sunday is so incredibly important in the life of one who is a follower of Jesus.

George Wright: 01:29 So turn with me, if you would, in your Bible to James chapter 2, James chapter 2. We have been in a series over the last few weeks, talking all about hope, and the reason why we have hope as the people of God, even in the midst of so much uncertainty, so much hostility that swirling around in our culture, and so many big questions, we can have hope because of what our God has done.

George Wright: 02:00 And today is a living testimony of hope on display, look at what the scripture says in James chapter 2. And I want to invite you, if you're willing and able, to stand with me as I read these verses to get us started here this morning. If you're new to Shandon, or if you're joining us online, and you're wondering, why are they standing for the reading of the Bible? Well the reason we do this, is so that we all can be reminded that the Word of God is our authority as the people of God. We are standing on the firm foundation of the Word of God, and the Word of God lays before us, what God says is right and good and true, and shows us the reason we have for hope.

George Wright: 02:45 So this is what the scripture says, James, 2 beginning in verse 14, "What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." These verses are incredibly challenging, incredibly convicting, to think about what does it mean to live in such a way that our faith demonstrates the works of who God is and what he has done.

George Wright: 03:51 With that in mind, let's go before the Lord, let's ask the Lord to speak into our lives right now. So pray with me, if you would. Heavenly Father, we come before you today, we stand before you in this room, we gather before you in many different places, as people join us online, and we need to hear from you. There is so much noise fighting for our attention in the world we live in. There are so many things pulling for our affection, pulling for our devotion, fighting for our hearts, Oh Lord, how we need to hear from you. And so I pray in the power of your Spirit right now, you would come and fill this place. That we would recognize that these are not just the words of men being thrown around, that these are the words of the living God, the words that have the power to transform a life, the words that have a power to write a new story, the words that have the power to set men free. I pray, Lord God, that we would not be the same as a result of what you say, that you would have your way among us for your glory this day. Use us as we look to you, it's in Christ' name, I pray. Amen. Amen. You may be seated, thank you for standing.

George Wright: 05:35 Well, I realize at this point in the year 2020, it goes without saying, but we had had a lot of things to worry about this year. Have we not? I mean, the list of things, in addition to just our normal lives, that we could be worried about this year, it's a long, long list. We've all been thinking about how can we stay safe? How can we stay healthy? What do we need to do as individuals? What do we need to do as families? Where should we go? Where should we not go? And when we get there, how do we interact with one another? We've all been thinking about these questions of safety in our culture, in the midst of so much hostility, in a divided political season, in the midst of so much hostility, as we've seen racial injustice, there's a lot to worry about. And if you're like me in the year 2020, with so many things to think about, and so many things to try and understand, and so many decisions to make, it is become very easy in this year to be only focused on self. And what does my family need right now? And what are we going to do? And how are we going to adjust to this new normal? And what is school going to be like? And what is the online world going to be like? And where are we going to go? And then what are the holidays going to be like? And it's so easy, in the midst of all that we have to worry about, to just be focused on ourselves.

George Wright: 07:26 I would venture to guess that for many of you, this has not been a year where you have been thinking a lot about global poverty. This has probably been a year for most of you where you have not even been aware of the fact, unless you're very, very intentional, or very, very involved in seeking to eradicate global poverty, that there are between 700 and 800 million people around the world right now, today, that are seeking to survive to the end of this day on less than $2 a day. That's a big need. And I know some of you are thinking will thanks a lot, pastor, forgive me one more thing to worry about, one more thing that I can't do anything about. Well, here's the deal, today, we have the opportunity to do something. Today, we have the opportunity to literally change the world for some children that are living in this desperate place of extreme poverty. We have the opportunity to partner with an incredible ministry that we have joined hands with for many years, Compassion International, to help release some children from poverty in Jesus' name. Why does this matter, especially right now in the midst of a year like we have been navigating, where early estimates are saying that the extreme poverty rate around the world is only going to grow exponentially in the coming years because of the fallout out of the Coronavirus, both health-wise and economic fallout. Many experts, in fact, are saying that over the next year or so a hundred million people that are not currently living in extreme poverty, are going to dip below that extreme poverty level around the world.

George Wright: 09:18 The need is great, so what do we do sitting here in Columbia, South Carolina, about this great need around the world that is so often easy to ignore, or just treat as, you know, out of sight, out of mind. That's not my issue or my problem, I've got enough to worry about on my own. Well, at the end of this day, this issue will not be out of sight, out of mind. At the end of this day, you cannot say, I did not know about the needs of others around the world. At the end of this day, there will really be one question to answer, and that is, have I done anything about the need I am aware of?

George Wright: 10:06 And that's exactly what is being addressed here in James chapter 2, these verses cut right to the chase, they get right to the heart. And in verse 14, where we are starting today, James is saying to the church, Hey, I want to ask you to stop and think theologically. I want you to examine your own theology. Let's ask the question, what is true faith? Can true faith exist without works? And what do works have to do with our faith? How do we know if someone has true saving faith? James 2:14, "What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?" The scripture here is saying, think about your theology, think about faith and works. What is required for someone to receive true, saving faith? Do we have to work hard? Do we have to earn our way to God? Some of you are believing that today. Some of you are here today, in fact, because you want to live a good enough life for God to love you and accept you, that is your desire. And some of you are seeking to live in such a way that there's more good than bad, so at the end of the day, God will invite you into eternity with him. Is that what it means to have saving faith, we work hard enough, we do enough, we achieve enough, we perform enough? What is this saving faith?

George Wright: 12:10 Well, turn with me f you will, to Romans chapter 3. Romans chapter 3, are you saved by your works? Am I saved by my works? Romans 3 verse 20, says this, "For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, (In God's sight.) since through the law comes knowledge of sin." I love what the Bible does here, the Bible is so clear, that the Bible wants to make sure we don't miss this. And so the Bible says, let me make sure you understand true saving faith, true saving faith will not come through works, ever. It does not matter how moral you are in your mind, it does not matter how good you are compared to others, it does not matter how many people you help, or how many times you attend a church service, your works cannot save you. Why? Because even on your best day, with your greatest works, when you are most religious, you still have sin, and it is sin that separates us from God.

George Wright: 13:45 We all have sin, we all need a savior. So how do we receive this gift of saving faith? How is one saved? We'll look now in Ephesians chapter 2, Ephesians chapter 2 verses 8 and 9. We'll come right back to James 2 in just a moment. Ephesians 2:8-9, it says this, listen to how clear this is, it's so beautiful, the Word of God is not wanting to confuse us, the Word of God wants to invite us to see clearly God's love made available to us, so that we can understand what it means to receive the gift of salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. (Here it is.) This is not your own doing; it is a gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." The Word of God is saying salvation comes through faith alone. It is in the grace of God, through faith alone, in Christ alone, that man can be saved. Our only hope for salvation is Jesus Christ, and the good news of the scripture is that this gift has been made available to you. This gift of salvation, and what Christ has done, that we could never do for ourselves has been made available to you, and to me, and to all who hear the name of the Lord.

George Wright: 15:29 See, Jesus went to the cross to die for your sin and for mine, to make a way for us when we could not make a way for ourselves, to be made right with God. And at his death on the cross, he served as the perfect substitute for you and for me, he took the penalty that we deserve, so that by grace, we could be saved through faith in what he has done. And in the power of his resurrection, Jesus invites us into new life, he invites us to experience real abundant life in this world, and eternal life in the age to come. This is the gift of saving faith, provided through Jesus Christ.

George Wright: 16:18 So if this is true, if that's what saving faith is all about, why in the world does our boy, James spend so much time talking about works? Is James confused, what's the deal here? And if faith is all about grace, and faith is all about what Christ has done, and faith is all about the finished, completed work of the cross, and the power of the resurrection, why does James spend so much time talking about works? And even saying things like, James 2:17, "So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." What are we supposed to see here, revealed in the Word of God? What the scripture is showing us, please hear this, don't miss this, works are the fruit of saving faith, works are the evidence of the grace of God alive in us, works provide a living testimony of what Jesus Christ has done for us to save us from our sin, and to invite us into new life through his grace.

George Wright: 17:38 This is why back in Ephesians 2, right after the verses we considered 8 and 9, verse 10 says, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Our works, in our faith, are showing off God's workmanship in us. And so when there are good works in the life of one who is a follower of Christ, it's not so that we can try and earn God's love, it is so we can try and show off God's love. That we can demonstrate what we have received in the good news of the gospel, and point others to this incredible gift that we have laid hold of because of the grace of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

George Wright: 18:33 So let's get really practical, because the Bible gets really, really practical here in James 2. Look back
at verses 15 and 16, the scripture says, "If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?" That is so practical, so easy to understand. James is saying, let's take away all the excuses. Let's take away the excuse that says, well, I didn't know. Let's take away the excuse that says, I've got enough issues in my own life. Let's take away the excuse that says, 2020 is crazy, I can't think about anyone else, I've got enough to think about in my own life. James is saying, look, if you see a need, and you have the opportunity and the ability to meet the need, and you choose to do nothing about what you see, then your faith is useless and may even be dead. If you see someone in need and you say them, oh brother, I'm so sorry, I feel bad for you. May you go in peace, the peace of the Lord be with you. I got nothing for you, I can't help you, I'm not going to help you, I'm too busy. There's no way I can work it into my budget, I'm sorry, there's just too much going on in my life. But man, may the peace of God be all over your life. James just says, what good is that? What good is that? Not only have you not help someone, but you've actually demonstrated that what you say you believe is not even aligned.

George Wright: 20:47 You know, these words are very clear, they are very practical, but they are very challenging. Because the scripture here is saying real faith leads to real compassion. What is compassion? Well, compassion is very simply defined as seeing a need, and doing something about what you see. It's seeing a need, and getting involved. This is what Jesus felt when he saw the crowds that were helpless and harassed like a sheep without a shepherd. Jesus said, I've got to do something. I don't just feel bad, and then keep on walking. No, I see this need, and I go, this need compels me to action. I've got the opportunity, I've got the ability, I've got the faith, I will do something that will be a demonstration of the fact that faith is alive in me. Real faith, leads to good works that point to the good grace of Jesus Christ our Lord.

George Wright: 21:54 Bur we come back to where we started. The needs of the world are so overwhelming. I mean, when you start to talk about hundreds of millions of people living below the international poverty line, on less than $2 a day, I mean, how in the world can we here in Columbia, South Carolina, do anything about that? What do we do? Well, the answer I believe is very simple, the answer is we do something one life at a time. Do for one, what you want to do for everyone, one life at a time. And this is where the Ministry of compassion International is such a gift. Compassionate as a global ministry at work in over 25 countries around the world, where the need is the greatest. Some of the poorest of the poor, that's where Compassion spends its time, and its resources. And Compassion gives the local church, this incredible opportunity, this beautiful invitation, to get involved, To say, you know, the need is great, and you know, the need is difficult to meet, and you know it's overwhelming to think about how do we meet this need? So let's just go about seeking to meet this need one life at a time. Your life, partnered and sponsoring a child in need, can literally change their world. And compassion gives us the opportunity to live in such a way that James 2:15-16, is not our personal story, but living by faith and demonstrating the works of the spirit in us, are our personal story.

George Wright: 23:48 So to help me communicate this a little more of a personal way, before we get to hear some really good music as well. I want to bring out Steven Curtis Chapman right now, who's just going to share a little bit of his story as it relates to compassionate. So would you join me in welcoming Steven out here onto the stage this morning?

Recorded in Columbia, South Carolina.
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Shandon Baptist Church
5250 Forest Drive
Columbia, South Carolina 29206