Doing or Be(coming) Good?

I am knee deep into sermon prep this week. I am using several texts to work through the fact that God wants our Hands, Feet, and Hearts to build the Kingdom of Heaven. One of the texts is James 2:14-19

NLT James 2:14 Dear brothers and sisters, what’s the use of saying you have faith if you don’t prove it by your actions? That kind of faith can’t save anyone. 15 Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing, 16 and you say, “Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well” — but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? 17 So you see, it isn’t enough just to have faith. Faith that doesn’t show itself by good deeds is no faith at all — it is dead and useless. 18 Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” I say, “I can’t see your faith if you don’t have good deeds, but I will show you my faith through my good deeds.” 19 Do you still think it’s enough just to believe that there is one God? Well, even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror!
Many times we get hung up on these verses as works versus grace based righteousness. I believe that James is attempting to convey that good works naturally flows from a heart that is full of God’s love. Put another way, do we truly “believe” what we do NOT act upon? It doesn’t matter what our head says to us or our lips say to others. Our actions show what truth we ‘believe’ in our hearts.
And on the other side of this discussion. Doing good things for others without the faith component is not what God is looking for either. Works based on some other motive beside faith (eg. guilt, feelings of inadequecy, etc.) do not move us closer to God’s plan for our life. It might make us feel better, but in the end, works without faith is our personal attempt to create our own righteousness apart from God.
All this to say, at the church I serve, we are attempting to discern what it means for us to be a ‘missional’ church. A church that is continually outward focused and making a dramatic difference in our community in particular with the hurting and outcast. In my mind, it all gets back to becoming more like Christ. Missional outreach flows from hearts filled with God’s love, engaged in our culture, and determined to persist.
I believe that we are called to not simply do good, but we are called to be(come) good or in other words more like Christ. The hands and feet will follow where the heart leads.
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