Our faith is meant to be active, not passive. One sign that my faith is active is that I am sharing the good news with others.
SIGNS of an active faith
We continue this morning in our series based on James 2:14-20. James reminds us that faith must be evidenced by life change and action. Faith without works is not limp, not lame, not slow but DEAD.
We defined an active faith as: “living our lives in obedience to God, believing that He is right and trusting that His way is best”.
If you missed either of those messages I encourage you to watch them online.
Now let’s move on to our last sign of an active faith:
In less than a month we will celebrate Christmas. The time that we rejoice in the birth of our Savior, when he came as a vulnerable human baby to sacrifice his life for us.
At the time of his arrival, there was a message given by some angels:
“That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”” (Luke 2:8–14, NLT)
The angels make this announcement, and they set the stage for the future of the church. They give the message about “Good News” that salvation has come to man. Then watch what happens with this proclamation of Good News:
“And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.” (Mark 16:15, NLT)
There are those darn absolutes, again.
The reason most of you are here today is because your life has been transformed by the work of Jesus on the cross. You have experienced the amazing, saving grace of God in your life and come each Sunday to worship Him as part of his family. You heard the Good News and responded. That is GOOD NEWS!
The reason we exist is because of the “Good News” of Jesus. The mission that we have as a people is to share that “Good News” with others. Though this is the last of the 5 signs, it is certainly not the last in priority or significance. However, this command to go and preach the Good News is often one we struggle with a lot.
Let’s unpack that message from the angels just a little more this morning.
“And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” (Luke 2:10, ESV)
There are 3 things I want us to focus on in this passage.
ASK: Have you ever received good news? What was it and how did you react?
As the choirs of heaven give us this example for us to follow, we notice first that their message declared “good news”. What was that Good News? The SAVIOR (one who delivers or rescues), the MESSIAH (anointed one, sent by God) has arrived.
In 1791, President George Washington imposed a Whiskey Tax to help raise funds to pay off government debt. However, this caused a rebellion, and in 1795 two men (John Mitchell and Philip Vigol) were sentenced to death by hanging due to the violent insurrection that took place. They were accused to treason. However, the two men were granted the first Presidential Pardons ever given. Though convicted of their crime, they were then acquitted of the punishment of their crime. I would imagine they were both relieved! The news that they were not going to be hanged and were free men must have been some very good news!
“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he makes sinners right in his sight when they believe in Jesus. Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.” (Romans 3:23–28, NLT)
You and I have the same option of an acquittal before a Just and Holy God who must punish us for our insurrection against Him.
The saving work of Jesus on the cross IS the good news, the gospel. You and I, and everyone who believes in Jesus, can be forgiven of our sins and become the adopted, accepted child of God.
That is GOOD news.
When we place our faith in Jesus, the good news bring great joy because we have a Divine Pardon from our eternal sentence.
“Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight. Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of sin.” (Romans 4:7–8, NLT)
We often think that “stuff” and experiences will make us happy and bring us joy. All it takes is a brush with death to realize that it is RELATIONSHIPS that bring us the most joy. At least, they CAN if they are healthy relationships.
When we place our faith in Jesus we are given a clean slate, no guilt, healthy relationship with God our Father. All our sins are forgiven. That relationship defines joy and helps us understand what it takes to have joy in the rest of our lives.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:9–11, ESV)
Once we align with God through salvation, we then abide in him through obedience. The net result is JOY. The good news bring great joy because we now have the ability to live for God – which is to fulfill the very reason we were created in the first place.
Perhaps the most quoted verse in the New Testament of the Bible is John 3:16
“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16–17, NLT)
The message is for the world, but the joy is only experienced by those that believe in Jesus. The point is that the entire world, ALL people, need to hear this good news. That means:
“For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”” (Romans 10:13–15, NLT)
The GOOD NEWS has the power to create GREAT JOY for ALL PEOPLE who hear it.
Let’s make this apply now. Jesus came to preach Good News. He commands his disciples to go and share the Good News. To have an active faith I must be sharing that good news with others so they can accept Jesus through faith.
This is perhaps the biggest challenge in the modern church. Why? I think that it is possible that the American church has misunderstood what this means and how it works. We have made evangelism a profession or trade that must be perfected or it will not be effective.
That could not be farther from the truth. Sharing our faith is so much simpler that that. It is actually meant to be a very natural out pouring of our daily connecting to God.
So how do we do this?
“Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law. When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.” (1 Corinthians 9:19–23, NLT)
Serve others (I have become a slave), find common ground (connect in culture) and share the good news.
REALITY: sharing the good news does not mean that every time you talk to someone it must lead to a 15-minute presentation of the gospel with an altar call. What it does mean is that we are ready to share about God and his grace with others.
“Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.” (1 Peter 3:15–16, NLT)
This is our last Sunday with Kurt & Hanna, so I have asked Kurt if he would come and share his grace story with you this morning.
Every believer has grace stories. Not just one, but many.
Let me encourage you with this thought.
“For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.” (Romans 1:16–17, NLT)
Any Cleveland Browns fans? Really sorry to hear that! 0-11 this year. That’s embarrassing. I would be ashamed to be on that team this year. But how about those Philadelphia Eagles? 10-1! A great time to be an Eagle fan, right? When they are losing all the time, you might be ashamed to admit that you are for that team. We are part of a team that has won the ultimate victory over sin and death. A team that scores for eternity every time someone places their faith in Jesus. Why would we ever be ashamed of that?
The GOOD NEWS is that Jesus saves people. You and I should never be ashamed to share that with others. Good news was meant to be shared with others so that they can be a part of the celebration.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord.” (2 Timothy 1:7–8a, NLT)
When you and I get to the point in our lives where we see the way God in involved in every part of our life, it will be natural for us to make our conversations point to God.
The most valuable gift we have ever been given is our Divine pardon. We need to share the good news of Jesus so that others around us can experience it too. It is God’s mission, was Jesus’ mission while on this earth, and was passed along to everyone who as faith in Jesus.
“This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace.” (Colossians 1:6, NLT)
If I have an active faith I will want to see others have the same joy that I have, so I will share the good news with them as often as I can. Jesus changes lives, and WE have the joy and privilege of sharing that with others. Why wouldn’t we? Let’s be a part of that awesome transformation!!