Outward Signs of an Inward Change

by Todd Benkert on January 23, 2014 · 6 comments

For the next few months, I am preaching through James. The book of James sets an agenda for the church for how we might live as the people of God. James focuses his letter on the outward signs of faith that reflect the inward change that has taken place in the life of a believer. For James, faith is a “lived out” faith, demonstrated by what we say, what we do, and how we live. As I reflect on the teaching of James, I am asking questions about how this 3-fold focus applies to fulfilling the mission God has given us and our churches. Let us consider, then, how we might renew our faithfulness to God’s call on our lives.

How will we demonstrate our faith through what we say? The Bible has much to say about our tongues and how we use them. James reminds us of the importance of guarding our speech so that what we say brings honor to God and builds others up. Perhaps there are changes that need to be made in the way we speak – speaking more encouragement and less criticism, building others up instead of putting others down, offering godly and biblical council and not the wisdom of this world, the list goes on. We also use our tongues to lift up the name of Jesus. How do we make Christ known by what we say? We do so by the words of our testimony as we share with others what God has done for us and in us. We do so by sharing the good news with others and how they too may know Jesus as Lord and Savior. What changes might God have you to make in your speech? Who has God placed in your life that He wants you to share the good news? Are you ready? Will you be His voice?

How will we demonstrate our faith through what we do? The book of James speaks much of “good works.” A person transformed by faith in Christ will demonstrate his faith by his deeds. Specifically, God calls us away from a self-centered life to one that serves and ministers to others. Are you looking for ways that you might be the “hands” and “feet” of Jesus to someone? In what ways will you lead your family to minister to others this year? How might God have you use your gifts in service to others? What are the unmet needs around you? Might God be calling you to meet the needs of the poor or to “visit widows and orphans their distress”? How will your church serve the community around them that does not know Christ? Where might God send us with his gospel message?

How will we demonstrate our faith by how we live? As our culture moves farther and farther away from biblical values, a life lived for Christ will stand out. How will we keep from being caught up in the spirit of the age? What are some specific ways that others will see Jesus in us by how we live? Is there any noticeable difference in me because I am a Christian? – in the way I act, in the choices I make, in the way I spend my money, in how I use my time, in the priorities I set for my life, in what I’m teaching my children? What changes might God be prompting me to make? How will I truly live for Christ?

My prayer is that my time in James will lead to an ever closer walk with the Lord. I pray that through my speech, my actions, and my life that I would live a life pleasing to God. I pray that I would make Christ known in my life, in my home, in my family, in my church, in my relationships, in my work, in my community, in the world. Let us renew our commitment to love and serve Him. Let us purpose that as He works in us, that we may glorify God and make His Son known.

1 Dave Miller January 23, 2014 at 1:21 pm

How will we demonstrate our faith through how we blog?

2 Todd Benkert January 23, 2014 at 4:34 pm

A great question Dave! Any thoughts on that?

3 Todd Benkert January 24, 2014 at 4:11 pm

An old post of mine on how to disagree applies particularly to blogging… maybe some of who participated in the last discussion might review a few of these…

http://sbcvoices.com/baptist-disagreements-things-to-avoid/

4 Greg Harvey January 23, 2014 at 5:19 pm

I hate to try and answer Dave’s question directly, because I’m afraid it won’t be all that well received…

How then should we live? In a manner specifically chosen to cause as little offense to the one who sacrificed himself for our sake as is not only humanly possible but as also is divinely enabled through both the blood of Jesus Christ as well as the enabling work of the Holy Spirit in our lives to be pleasing to the Godhead.

If the Bible is correct, we have the wherewithal–the freedom–to not sin. So how do we go about being sufficiently serious in appropriating and applying that freedom in our lives? Because if the Bible also is correct about this, I believe none of us succeed in fully living within that liberty to not sin.

And I’ll offer a hint: any human scaffolding designed to hedge sin probably is ineffective at teaching us to properly exercise that liberty. In fact, that hint might even be so important that any attempt to systematize behavior probably ought to cause some amount of suspicion in our own lives as to how and why that systematization of behavior is effective spiritually.

As a matter of faith, then, I intellectually commend reading the Bible and praying daily (or in Daniel’s case, three times per day in an apparently carefully constructed habit.) But how do I know when I’m doing these things because they’re the right thing to do and when I’m doing them “just for appearances”? It’s a similar question to the ones raised during the study of the prayer of Jabez based on the book by Bruce Wilkinson. How do I know when the choices I’m making–including the things I’m asking for in prayer–really are pleasing to God and when they’re just designed for my own satisfaction?

I hope I’m not annoying people by making the claim that in THIS life I see very little evidence that the majority of us escape the problem of continuing to sin even if we manage to avoid continuing sins. And I also hope I’m not annoying people by making the claim that some of those we would raise up as heroes of the faith among our contemporaries struggle as much with pride–from every evidence that I can tell–as pretty much all of us do.

Because if we can’t be honest with that kind of admission, what hope is there for any outward signs to be authentic?

P.S. Now where am I in doing this stuff? Let’s just say you’d be disappointed with me almost daily if you were my Lord if the only thing I was graded on was my ability to appropriate the liberty to not sin in my daily life. Thank God Almighty that he also takes into account the righteousness of Jesus Christ that has been imputed to me through my faith in Jesus.

5 Todd Benkert January 23, 2014 at 5:27 pm

Thanks, Greg. I’ll actually be tackling this in my sermon this week as I talk about the “law of liberty” in chapter 2. You are correct in seeing that in this life we will never live a life in which we perfectly “appropriate the liberty to not sin.” Thankfully James reminds us that “mercy triumphs over judgment.”

6 Jim Hedrick January 24, 2014 at 3:21 pm

I’m currently preaching through I John. Let us struggle on by faith, in faith, with faith, for faith unto He who is faithful and true. How Shall We Then Post and let us not forget ….Pray. Abide in the Word for in That knowledge we have fellowship w the Father and each other in brotherly love. God help us give a care for one another when we post.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: