Sermon Starters

Support and Resources For Pastors and
Christian Ministry Professionals

Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A., Editor

Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost
Series B

Option #1: "Words & Works"
James 2:14-18
Rev. Wayne Dobratz, B.S., M.Div.


I. When works don’t work--Rom 4:1-8, 18-25; 3:22ff.; 10:1-4; Acts 10:38-39; Gal 2:16, 3:9-14; Phil 3:7-9

II. When works work--text, 17-18; John 15:5ff.; James 2:20-22, 26; 1 Thess 1:3; 1 Tim 1:5; 2 Pet 1:5-8

The Handbook of Bible Application: Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. (Luke 3:8) Faith naturally leads to action. Confession and a changed life are inseparable. Faith without works is lifeless (James 2:14-26). Jesus’ harshest words were to the respectable religious leaders who lacked the desire for real change. They wanted to be known as religious authorities, but they didn’t want to change their hearts and minds. Thus, their lives were unproductive. Repentance must be tied to action, or it isn’t real. Following Jesus means more than saying the words; it means acting on what he says. ...Jesus was saying, therefore, that the quality of our goodness should be greater than that of the Pharisees. They looked pious, but they were far from the kingdom of God. God judges our heart as well as our deeds, for the heart determines our real allegiance. Be just as concerned about your attitudes, which people don’t see, as your actions, which are seen by all.

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We all know people who brag. Most of them can’t back up what they say. Imagine someone bragging like this: "I can throw a baseball 96 miles per hour." There are two words we can use whenever someone brags to us: PROVE IT!

So let’s try it out: "I can hit a home run as far as Barry Bonds." PROVE IT! Or how about this one? "I can lift 300 pounds!" PROVE IT! One more: "I can hit 3 baskets in a row from half court."  PROVE IT!

In Bible times there were people who claimed to be right with God and did all kinds of bragging about it. One of them even bragged to God about how he did MORE than God asked of him. The problem was they did not have faith in Jesus as their Savior. And that’s like trying to run a game with a run-down battery. There’s no power. Works must have faith to give them power; otherwise we are only bragging and we can’t PROVE IT! In one of today’s readings, the Apostle James wrote: "Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do" (James 2:18b).

Jesus said that you know a tree is alive when you find fruit on it. It is the same with our lives. So whenever you and I think to ourselves "I have faith," we still have to add those two little words: PROVE IT!


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Option #2: "Faith Works Works!"
James 2:1-5, 8-10, 14-18
Rev. Kelly Bedard, B.A., M.Div.
Point: Head faith isn't all bad, especially when it's faith in The Head!
Problem: Our saving faith isn't always saving--i.e., non-discriminatory, active in love.
Promise: Because God discriminated against Jesus, making Him to suffer and die for our sins, we enjoy forgiveness, life, and salvation and, empowered by the Holy Spirit, love our neighbors as ourselves.
1. This is what is sorely lacking in many churches today with regards to the topic of good works. Much of popular preaching, especially what our people hear on TV, is filled with the urgency of doing more works. "Stop doing that and do more of this" is often the advice given. But doing more works is not the remedy for dead faith. That's confusing Law and Gospel. Those who have been convicted by the Law and are aware of their sins, perhaps even to the point of questioning their salvation, need the comfort of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, lest they be left in turmoil and despair. More Law preaching will produce not more works, but terror. (Joel Fritsche)
2. Faith clings to Jesus cross alone and rests in Him unceasing;
    and by its fruit true faith is known, with love and hope increasing.
    For faith alone can justify; works serve our neighbor and supply
    the proof that faith is living.
    (Stanza 5, Salvation Unto Us Has Come)
3. Faith filled with Christ Himself can't help but be active in love toward others. (Joel Fritsche)
4. Post-Communion prayer: "Strengthen us through the same in faith toward you and in fervent love toward one another."
5. Collect of the Day: "O God, without whose blessing we are not able to please you, mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and govern our hearts--through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord..." Amen!



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