2018-08-19 – James 2.14-26 – The Court of Christ

2018-08-19 – James 2.14-26 – The Court of Christ

Good morning everyone. I look so forward to this annual “church in the park” and I am so pleased that you chose to spend the morning with us here today. God bless you all, and God bless our First Congregational Church family.

Question: Anyone here ever have to stand before a judge in court for some reason or another, good or bad?  Anyone ever get arrested, put in handcuffs, dragged into jail with about a dozen others to stand before a judge in court?
Well I have, and it wasn’t a pleasant experience to say the least. I will tell the rest of the story at the end of our message today J

Earlier this week I had the privilege of talking to a lady named Jeri (what a cool name :). The purpose of the call was to setup an appointment for her husband to come and cut down a dead tree in our yard. However after about 30 minutes into the call, as we were talking about salvation and faith, she asked me a great question: What is going to happen to her as a believer upon judgement day?
Was she going to have to stand and watch all of her life sins cross God’s judgement seat in front of her? She was scared about her judgement day.
Today we are going to talk about that question and subject from the perspective of a born-again believer. My hope is that we all will believe and have confidence that although we will be judged, as Christians, we have nothing to fear.

Please turn now to James 2:14 of your Bibles, which is the Inspired, Infallible and Living Word of God, but let us start with prayer.  

Before we read our primary sermon passages out of James 2, I want to first set the stage and talk a little about judgement. Last week we finished a short bible series called For All That Believe that reflected on how the apostle Peter went atop a roof and saw a vision of all kinds of animals being lowered down in a massive sheet, and God told Peter to take kill and eat. Three times God told Peter that anything God says is clean is clean indeed. As Peter woke from his vision, three men showed up at his door. God told Peter to go with these men to the Centurion Cornelius’ house and tell them about Jesus. Peter presented to them the Good News Gospel, that Salvation is available For All That Believe.

All this ties into what Peter said at the end of his sermon message, that God has appointed the risen Lord Jesus Christ to be the Judge of the living and the dead. Everyone who has ever lived will stand trial before the Lord Jesus.

At the conclusion of the message last Sunday, I asked “Are you ready to stand and be judged by Jesus? Have you made the decision to follow Him in your heart yet?”

That is what we are going to discuss briefly in this message today.

I get a lot of questions about this judgement topic that lays before us. What does it mean to be judged by Jesus? The title of this sermon message is The Court of Christ. I hope to peal open this issue a little today so that you all will feel comfortable enough share this with others, because it is a very popular topic.

If, like millions of other Christians, you have met Jesus Christ in the pages of the Bible and have been persuaded that Jesus is worthy of your trust, then you do not have to worry about what is coming when you die. God has told us many things in the Bible that should encourage us, and free us from the fear of death.

2 Corinthians 5:8 says as Christians “We prefer to be absent from the body and at home with the Lord.” You see for those of us who trust Jesus as Savior and Lord, like Paul said “to live is Christ and to die is gain”. We have absolutely nothing to fear in death, but everything to gain instead. I am heaven bound!

Regarding judgement, 2 Corinthians 5:10 says “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”

Anyone ever heard of something called Double Jeopardy? It’s a law that says you can’t be tried for the same crime twice. Well the same thing goes for us in heaven. You see Jesus has already been judged for the sins of those who receive Him as their Savior. Jesus received our punishment and paid our fine on the cross. Romans 8:1 says, “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” However the Bible still says we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ. Not just unbelievers, not just some of us, but all of us.

When we stand before Christ as Judge, we will be judged according to our deeds in this life. Jesus said this Himself in Matthew 16:27, “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.” And in the very last chapter of the Bible, Revelation 22:12, Jesus said, “Behold, I am coming quickly, and my reward is with me, to render to every person according to what he has done”. In other words, the way you live as a Christ follower is important brothers and sisters.

Please don’t be confused, we all should clearly understand that we are saved by Grace alone. Ephesians 2:8–9 says, “By grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast.” Salvation is not “of works.” That is, works do not earn us salvation. Romans 6:23 says that “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ”. God’s grace gives us salvation as a free gift to be received by faith alone, not at all earned by our good works.

So understanding that our deeds are not the basis of our salvation, however they are [in fact] the evidence of our salvation.

In the same way that our baptism is a public declaration of our salvation — the same goes for our deeds or works. People should know we are a Christian according to our deeds. Your deeds or works are a witness to what is in your heart. If you are a Christian and have the Holy Spirit inside you then you do good works. That is the fruit or evidence of your salvation.

So the answer in a couple sentences is that our deeds will be the public evidence brought forth in Christ’s courtroom to demonstrate that our faith is real. In other words, salvation is by faith alone, but the evidence of our faith in the judgment hall of Christ will be a transformed life. Our deeds are not the basis of our salvation, they are the evidence of our salvation.

So you might ask, other than being evidence of our faith, what is the purpose doing good deeds. For one, doing good generally has both mortal and eternal benefits. Of course it makes you feel good to do good deeds. It makes others happy and it makes you happy and maybe even healthier in the process as well.

Also there are teachings in both Paul’s writings and in the words of Jesus that believers will receive differing rewards in accord with the degree that their faith expresses itself in acts of service and love and righteousness.

In 1 Corinthians 3:8 Paul says, “He who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.” And in Ephesians 6:8 Paul says, “Whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord.” It’s like a bank account, we need to make deposits and invest.

Most of us probably remember the parable of the talents in Luke 19. Where Jesus compares His going to heaven and returning, to a nobleman who went away and gave to ten of his servants one talent each with the command to trade with them so that his estate would be advanced in his absence. When he returns, one had traded so as to turn his talent into ten. And the nobleman says that his reward will be to have authority over ten cities. Another had turned his talent into five. And the nobleman said that his reward would be to have authority over five cities. Another had just kept the talent and done nothing with it. To this one the nobleman said, “I will condemn you from your own mouth.” And he took the one talent away from him. God expects that we will invest His blessings.

What this parable teaches is the same thing Paul taught, namely, that there are varying degrees of reward for the faithfulness of our lives. But it also moves beyond that and also teaches that there is also a loss not only of reward but of eternity for those who claim to be faithful but do nothing to show that they truly value God’s gifts and provision. For whom much is given, much is expected.

I have an Old Testament illustration also that I think makes clear how deeds will function in the final judgment. Remember the story of how two harlots brought a baby to King Solomon, each claiming that the baby was hers (1 Kings 3).

They asked King Solomon to act as judge between them. He said that a sword should be brought and that the baby should be divided and half given to the one and half to the other. The true mother cried out, “O, my lord, give her the child and by no means kill it.” King Solomon said, give this woman the child, for she is its mother.

You see, by doing what he did, Solomon was not looking for a deed or act that would earn the child. Instead Solomon was looking for a deed that would prove that the child was already hers by birth. That is the way God looks at our deeds. God will not be looking for deeds to purchase our pardon in His judgment hall. Jesus already did that on the cross at Calvary. Instead He will be looking for deeds that prove we are already enjoying our pardon. The purchase of our pardon was the blood of Christ, sufficient once for all to cover all our sins. The debt has been paid already. And the means by which we own it is faith and faith alone.

And that takes us to our verses to close with out of James 2:14-26. It is entitled: Faith Without Works Is Dead

14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 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? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

So to answer the question: “What is going to happen to believers upon judgement day?”  Please know that as Christians we will be judged, not for the sins we committed, because as far as the east is from the west, the Bible says, God will no longer remember our sins as they have been paid for in full by the blood of His Son Jesus. However we will be judged for the deeds we performed as Christians.

So, although we cannot be saved by our good works, when we are saved by grace, we will produce good works. Just as a baby will grow after it is born, so a believer will grow after they are born-again. We grow at different rates and in different ways, but a live birth results in growth. As he or she grows, it is normal for the child to start looking more and more like their parents. In the same way, after salvation, we grow, and we begin to look more and more like our Heavenly Father. This is only possible as we “abide in Him” and allow Him to reproduce His character in us (John 15:4).

Good works do not produce salvation. Good works are the product of salvation. Jesus said to His followers, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Finally, as you might recall in the last series about the Centurion Cornelius in Acts 10, where the angel told him “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God”. That tells me that God notices our good deeds. And just like I wanted to be noticed by my mortal father, and I wanted to make my father proud of me for the things I’ve done, we should be thinking the same thing about our Father in heaven. Make God proud of you as you go. In all our different lives and vocations, as it says in Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”
And that my dear brothers and sisters, is how you make your joy truly complete.

So now I will tell you the rest of the story about my unfortunate incarceration. I was given a ticket one day back in 1982 for speeding. The officer said I was doing 22 miles per hour over the speed limit. I really didn’t think I was going that fast, so I got a lawyer because I knew if I was convicted I would probably lose my license. The lawyer said he was going to delay my court date since I was in the military and getting ready to go to Germany. Therefore if I lost my license, it really wouldn’t be a big deal for me. Unfortunately, the lawyer forgot to call the court. So the police came and got me. So I was sitting in my holding cell with about a dozen other guys, until they took us before the judge. I watched each of the other defendants go before the judge and they lost their license or got a huge fine. Then my lawyer went up to the judges bench and whispered something to him. They had me stand before the judge, who said something in Latin which effectively said I was pardoned for my crime. You see it wasn’t my fault I was put in jail that day, and he was letting me go, believing that I paid my dues and learned a lesson that day, which I most assuredly did.

Well Jesus the Judge, in The Court of Christ, has more than pardoned those who choose to believe, for He has paid the price for our crimes. And for that I am eternally thankful. So today, let us bow in humble adoration and bless this bounty of food as we go.