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052216 - James 2a - No Partiality
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May 27, 2016 10:18 AM PDT
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James 2:1-8, Pastor Scott Keller

I want to change things up today and so I’m going to start the sermon by reading the first eight verses in chapter 2, from the New Living Translation replete with slides and I’m going to make some comments along the way… Don’t worry I’ll still cover the verses in detail from our NASB. For now, though, I want us to see the content, meaning and flow of thought…

James 2:1-8, (We start with the principle… In Christianity we always start with principles, never rules… James gives the principle in verse 1, and since it is a stern command – he softens it by reminding them of his pastoral love and their relationship in Christ)
1My dear brothers and sisters,
how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?
(The NLT renders the command as a rhetorical question which captures the seriousness even though it is not a question in the Greek.
In the Bible, once we are given a principle command, then there always follows examples or practical applications flowing from the principle… Verse 2)
2For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. (The theoretical situation or example is set… and now we get the theoretical response in verse 3…)
3If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor” (So that’s the reaction given… What’s the outcome, results or ramifications of that response? Verse 4…)
—well, 4doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives? (This actually is a rhetorical question in the Greek. You may remember that in Greek – a language created for rhetoric and philosophy… There are two different ways to frame a rhetorical question… one requires a positive answer and the other requires a negative answer. This question requires us to agree… “Yes, of course that reaction means we are discriminating because we are judging with evil motives.”
Next, we get some clarifying teaching on a reason why it makes no sense to favor some people over others… Verse 5…)
5Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him? (Another question requiring agreement. “Of course God has chosen those whom others would reject.” God is no respecter of persons… YET, what have you done in the example? The first half of verse 6…)
6aBut you dishonor the poor! (That’s the succinct charge and for amplification on the foolishness of it all, Verse 6b&7…)
6bIsn’t it the rich who oppress you and drag you into court? 7Aren’t they the ones who slander Jesus Christ, whose noble name you bear? (Now, follows a pivot-point verse. It will conclude this specific train of thought and provide the basis to carry on into a new facet of the same basic principle… Verse 8…)
8Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (The love part ties up treating everyone the same. Bringing up the Law, introduces the next argument for treating everyone fairly… The whole chapter is explaining the principle established in verse 1.)

So that’s the basic structure and flow of the first 8 verses… Going back to verse 1 in the NASB we have... “My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.”

We opened up that verse last week and talked briefly about a single word found there… translated by the five English words… “An attitude of personal favoritism.”

The word is προσωπολημψίαις (pȑŏ-sō-pŏ-lām-psē-īs), which occurs 4 times in the Bible and is typically translated as favoritism, partiality, “Respecter of persons,” or preferentialism.

As I said before, it means evaluating a person on what can be readily observed and making a determination about what that person’s value is to me.

In the other three places that this word appears, the gist is, that there is NONE of that in God. There is NO partiality with God – God judges “The thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Romans 2:11, Ephesians 6:9, Colossians 3:25, Hebrews 4:12).

A related, but slightly different point is found in I Corinthians 4:5, “Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts…”

So that’s a very short review of προσωπολημψίαις. Now, let’s look at the verse as a whole…

It’s a command related to Christianity itself – how Christianity, and therefore how Christians, MUST be… Without any hint of “Partiality,” or “Personal favoritism.”

The way James describes Christianity is important… He calls it, “Your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.”

It is important because he means every word of it… Christianity is, first of all, by means of personal faith in Jesus… it is YOUR faith, NOT the faith of your parents, your friends, or your pastor. And it is an objective faith in Jesus, NOT some set of beliefs, practices, rituals and traditions.

Next, the object of our faith is Jesus, as both Lord and as Christ, which is to say Savior.

We often say, “Jesus is my Lord and Savior.” How often do we consciously recognize what that means?

As Savior… HE saves me, I don’t save myself. If I saved myself then I am my Savior at least to some degree. Biblical Christianity is based upon the conviction that God will accept you as His child because you accept Jesus.

This entire book is about doing, BUT never miss the fact that the accepting by faith is the catalyst for the doing. Doing must flow from believing, NEVER the other way around.

The other way around is called legalism and it is the natural tendency of humanity… it is by its very essence man-made religion in all its forms.

Jesus, and Jesus alone, is the Savior… Because Jesus is my Savior, I desire to obey Him, and that’s the other element… Jesus is Lord.

It actually means that a Christian has been purchased by the blood of Jesus and they have agreed to be His slave.

I think we should let people know right up front that that’s what they are buying in to, when they accept Jesus.

Everyone who comes to the point of confessing Jesus, definitely wants Him as their Savior, at least to the extent they feel they NEED a Savior… They are happy to have a little Jesus as a fire & brimstone insurance policy…

They’ll take Jesus as their back up plan, so long as He doesn’t get too crusty… doesn’t cramp their style… doesn’t interfere with their hopes and dreams.

Jesus as an insurance policy? You bet! Jesus as support to make my life better? Sure! Jesus as the entire means of my eternal salvation? Ah, well maybe. Jesus as the Lord of all I am???

Everyone should be told; you want to accept Jesus? Do you understand that it means you, “Must deny yourself, and take up your cross daily and follow Jesus” (Luke 9:23)?

If you don’t want to be the slave of Jesus, you don’t understand Christianity at all.

It is an, all my eggs are in one basket – all in, full steam ahead, never turn back, faith.

As a slave, our life no longer belongs to us… our entire purpose in life is to do whatever the Lord wills.

Oftentimes we begin a thing… maybe it’s volunteering for a ministry. Maybe it’s a commitment to attend a long-term class or study. Maybe it’s an illness, or an injury, or a relational issue…

It is a course we are on, whether we initiate it or not.

Whatever it is, it seems somewhat challenging and we rise to the challenge… “Yes Lord, I can do this… with You strengthening me, I can do this.”

Time is the killer.

After a while, it gets too hard to carry on and if there is a way out we take it and if there isn’t a way out we try to make one and if we can’t make one we get grumpy, frustrated and angry.

God NEVER said it would be easy… in fact Jesus repeatedly and bluntly said it would be extremely difficult.

You might be thinking that Jesus also said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

I won’t exegete these verses today because we’re in James, not Matthew… I just hope you can see how Jesus’ point is that there is difficulty… there is still a yoke and there is still a burden… The entire point is that IF we come to Jesus, it becomes possible to carry on.

It isn’t that Christianity is easy… it is that with total dependence on Jesus, it is possible.

He is the Lord… and anytime I forget that, I struggle.

In this opening salvo the fourth thing is easiest to overlook… it is the word, “Glorious.”
“Our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.”

Most people simply gloss over glorious – “Oh yeah, Jesus. We get that all the time… Glorious, of course, He’s glorious… we get it.”

BUT do we?

To further confuse things we have translations like the KJV, that put it as, “The Lord of GLORY,” or worse, like the Message, as the, “Glorious faith we have.”

The sentence is difficult in Greek… scholars now agree that the rendering of the NASB we have here and shared by Holman, NET, NIV, NLT and NRSV is correct… “The GLORIOUS Lord Jesus Christ.”

That probably still doesn’t mean much and you may be wondering why I’m wasting your time splitting hairs…

In this place here in James, it is NOT our faith that is glorious, it is NOT that the Lordship of Jesus is glorious, it is NOT that Christianity itself is glorious… all those things are glorious in their own way, BUT what James is saying here, is that Jesus is the Glory of God and there is a very specific reason why he says it this way…

What James is pointing to here is the Old Testament idea of the physical manifestation of God for the purposes of salvation.

We see that fulfilled in Jesus as it says in John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

As we’ve seen many times the Highest Glory of God in our universe is NOT the universe… it is NOT the diversity of God’s creatures, the intricacy and the complexity of life… the Glory of God is that He would love us.

Love us so much that He would take on humanity and suffer for us in order to save us… Salvation is God’s Glory.

Titus, chapter 2, verse 11, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men…” Verse 13, so we are, “Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.”

Saved souls are to God’s glory because it is tangible proof of His goodness and mercy as well as his righteousness and justice. Those two seemingly opposite things – mercy and justice are made simultaneously possible through a sacrificial savior.

God paid our debt through His Son in order to be able to satisfy justice and extend mercy.

What is the ultimate and greatest moment of the salvation, which is to God’s glory?

As the Titus passage indicated, it is the appearing of Glory in its fullest form… it is the return of Jesus and it is by necessity, final Judgment.

Jesus said in Matthew 16:27, that He, “Is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds.”

James is actually bringing up the perfectly righteous Judgment Jesus will bring when He returns to confirm salvation.

The point is that the Christian should not judge others because the position of judge has been filled… it is to that perfect Judge we will all give an account.

Our Savior and LORD will judge the heart, something we are entirely incapable of doing, so to hold our faith, in other words, to claim we are Christians and not get that is unconscionable.

We cannot judge in that sense. Now obviously there are times when we are required to make some kind of a judgment…

When that’s necessary, we as Christians, MUST judge as closely as we can to the way Jesus judges… without prejudice… without bias and certainly without showing any kind of personal favoritism.

That’s the principle… JUSTICE… it is called, justice. God is constantly telling us to be just…

The Bible says, “God LOVES justice,” it says, “The works of His hands are Truth and Justice,” and that, “The Lord is a God of Justice.” (Psalm 37:28, 111:7, Isaiah 30:18).

It really goes back to the idea in Exodus 23:6, where God commanded, “You shall not pervert the justice due to your needy brother in his dispute.” Or as seen in Deuteronomy 27:19, “Cursed is he who distorts the justice due an alien, orphan, and widow.”

God prefers justice and mercy to sacrifice… IF we are people filled with His Spirit we MUST be JUST in all our dealings with people… We cannot ever play favorites (Matthew 12:7).

Now, that the principle is well established, we get an example to help us understand the principle better.

James 2:2-4, 2For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, 3and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” 4have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?

The example is actually a judicial proceeding, NOT a normal church service.

The way it is framed, there are two Christians who are essentially unknown to the Group… they come to the church for a judgment… one is obviously rich, powerful and influential… the other is the opposite.

By the initial action of seating the two, the case is already decided in favor of the one, people naturally want to get close to and against the one, people naturally want to shun.

We are Christians, not people controlled by our natural inclinations so it is not only evil, it is actually denying Jesus, our Lord and Savior, because He would never do that!

In the Roman world it was all about status… whoever had the greater, wealth, position, status and influence was considered better than all others below them on the socio-economic scale.

Back then anyone with greater status than you could haul you into court and would win a judgment against you solely based on the preferential treatment they would receive.

You had to be extremely careful in the Greco-Roman world not to get sideways with anyone more powerful than you… is it so different today?

Today, you must also be careful not to irritate the politically correct, litigious, special interests… lest you be sued into oblivion.

The point though, once again, is we cannot be like the world – we must be like our Father and our Lord if we claim to be moved by the Holy Spirit.

James then moves his argument forward with another rhetorical question in verse 5… “Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?” As mentioned before, it requires a “Yes,” answer.

From cover to cover, the Bible repeats this fundamental truth… One example is in, I Corinthians 1:27-29, “God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.”

We are all about appearances – all about power, influence, youth, celebrity, beauty and wealth… Where God continually surprises us with His choices.

Jacob over Esau, Israel over Egypt or Babylon or Assyria, Ephraim over Manasseh, David over Saul… God lifts the humble and oppressed who are poor in our eyes and turns His back on the proud and powerful who are rich in our eyes.

Verses 6&7, “But you have dishonored the poor man…
Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?”

The second half of verse 6, takes us into a related, BUT slightly different situation… it is a different facet of poor versus rich to show the importance of following the principle of Justice.

This new wrinkle flows from the previous example, BUT now we are talking about a poor Christian being persecuted by a wealthy non-Christian.

The point here is that Christians are abused by people of power – people the world sees as superior. So, persecuted Christian, can’t you see through your own experience, the world’s choice is wrong?

James 2:8, If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.

We’ll get into what the Royal Law means and how it creates a transition or segue into the next reason for JUSTICE next time.

As a pivot-point verse the part directly applying to our study today is the love we are commanded to have for others.

It is, of course, the command from Leviticus 19:18, “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.”

Jesus sums up the Old Testament in Matthew 7:12, “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Paul also sums up the entire Old Testament as being fulfilled by love for others (Romans 13:8-10, Galatians 5:14).

IF we love each other we prove that we are Spirit-filled Christians as the Apostle John said in, I John 4:12, “No one has ever seen God.
But if we love each other,
God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.”

As Paul taught, I Corinthians 13:4-7, “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

051516 - James chapter 1, review and James chapter 2, introduction
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May 17, 2016 09:52 AM PDT
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James 1:2 through 2:1, Pastor Scott Keller.
After a nice break from James to honor the moms last week, we get back at it…

We finished chapter 1, BUT I gave fair warning we would go back over a few key points and bring out some other important concepts.

Call it an overview of the chapter.

James spent a great deal of time and effort to convey God’s instructions on how to stay the course when trouble, difficulty, pain, disaster, θλῖψις, comes.

It is so important because, as we can all attest, trouble always seems to come and God tells us repeatedly, we MUST stay the course in the face of such trouble.

So thank you Lord, for giving us instruction on how to do that.

Now that we have investigated the chapter as a cohesive whole concerning various aspects of staying the course under duress… We can also recognize properly extrapolated meanings as well.

Wisdom from verse 5, in this context, is clearly the wisdom to see things for what they truly are in God’s economy, through God’s eyes and with God’s perspective.

We all desperately need that wisdom in times of hardship… BUT we really need that wisdom to see things with a Godly perception, all the time, and in every situation. So let us actively and continually seek the Lord for His Wisdom in all things.

This wisdom is not the wisdom to choose a job, or choose a car, or choose a spouse… directly, BUT indirectly, it is precisely that and more… It is the wisdom to make Godly and therefore far better decisions about everything in life…

This or that? What would Jesus do?

If we ask, believing that God is good and that He desires to give good gifts to us, His beloved children, just as the Bible teaches, then we will, receive from Him, Wisdom from above… it’s a promise.

This is what we must realize… God wants to give us His perspective on things.

Next, we saw that the “Brother of humble circumstances… and the rich man” are really two facets of the same person.

We all find ourselves in humble circumstances at times and even when we are not being humbled by life… We should all assume a humble attitude in relation to God and to others – as Romans 12:3 says, “Do Not think too highly of yourselves.” And as James will go on to say in chapter 4, IF we, “Humble ourselves… the Lord will exalt us” (James 4:10ff).

And that’s the other half – we are all rich beyond comprehension in Christ Jesus… Whatever riches we possess in this life are absolutely meaningless when compared to the riches we already have in Him.

So then, no matter how poor, miserable, beaten down and oppressed we might be in this life, or how well off… it is all temporary.

What is eternally true is that we are beloved children of the one who speaks galaxies into existence!

We are rich, my friends, we are rich! Because of our HOPE in Christ.

The other nuance I would remind us about is the obvious fact that SINCE that is so, NOT only should we be careful about how we view our situation in life… we should also be very careful about how we view our resources in this life.

Since life and everything in it is so temporary and therefore meaningless, eternally speaking… God’s reputation is therefore far more important than my suffering or my leisure.

The success of the Christian community in proclaiming Christ is far more important than my wealth or my hardship.

Verses 12 through 18 make that explicit.

God is good and He is only good. He is so good, in fact, that He gives us a choice, and then He honors that choice!

Our human choices collectively and cumulatively have corrupted God’s perfect creation… because we consistently choose rebellion over obedience.

Like I pointed out last week, IF we followed the plan of God concerning sexual relations, 85% of all abortions performed in the United States would have been avoided as completely unnecessary because none of those women would have been pregnant in the first place.

IF we followed the plan of God concerning marriage, the other 15% would have been avoided as well because all of those women would have had loving and supportive husbands eager to raise children together with them.

My point is that we are the ones who use the choice given to us by God to rebel against Him… well there are consequences to sin… chief among them is death.

Sin, starting with our original ancestors, has made for a temporary physical existence where pain and suffering, disease, war, famine, plague, decay and death rule… BUT for those who trust in the Lord’s perfect salvation there is Revelation chapter 21, where God will make a new heaven and a new earth and the Christian community will be joined forever to Jesus and it will be that… “God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

“The old order,” the order of things we, the people, have created through our rebellion, that order will pass away…

One day very soon, God will make all things new and will set everything right and the people who will be in that new place with God… will remain faithful to Him, BECAUSE that is what they proved they desired by doing their very best to follow Him and His plan in this life.

That’s the point… there are people who through their continued choices PROVE they want to be with God. They are the ones who finish the race we call this life focused on Him.

Can you see that this implies a JUDGMENT? There must be, by actual necessity, an evaluation of who fits that profile, and who does not.

God didn’t make us robots in this life, so He obviously will not turn us into robots in the next.

IF we are still able to choose, as we must be, we are still able to rebel, we are still able to destroy the beauty, love and harmony of God’s new order, just as we did this present order.

People who desperately desire the good that is God will fit in the new order and it will work forever… Love, joy, peace… all based upon self-control, that God will provide to those desiring, self-control.

The vast majority of humans want no part of that. What they want, is their own plan – their own ideas, their own desire.

Well, my friends, that’s completely incompatible with God’s program… such people will, by necessity, be separated from the others… That is an evaluation and categorizing, which is, by very definition, judgment.

God will judge and everyone will be divided into one of two possible categories… those eternally inheriting the “New heaven and new earth” and those banished from God’s presence forever.

What’s interesting to me, is that God will simply recognize and accept the choice you made in this life.

Heaven is reserved for people who love God, trust God and want to do things God’s way… IF a person can’t do that here and now, how could anyone think that they would do it for eternity?

Next, we saw in verses 19 through 26, that, “Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger,” and that IF anyone, “Does not bridle his tongue, he deceives his own heart, and his religion is worthless.”

We found that our frustration, irritation, impatience… our anger, is amplified when we give it voice and that it never accomplishes the “Righteousness of God.”

Reminds me of the time of the manure pile, shovel and two flies… “Never fly off the handle when you’re full of…”

So we need to keep our ears open and our mouth shut… As I like to say, “Never miss an opportunity to keep your mouth shut.”

Or as I saw someone else say, “Some things are better left unsaid, which I generally realize right after I have said them.”

Or as my dad used to say, “People may think you’re stupid, BUT when you open your mouth you remove all doubt.” Whether you think Abraham Lincoln or Mark Twain coined the adage it was actually God… Proverbs 17:28, “Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.”

It is far more difficult to get into trouble if you hold your tongue and stay attentive to your environment.

That truly applies to times when you feel cheated, taken advantage of, or have a general feeling of “Why me,” or, “Life’s not fair.”

It can also be extrapolated out to cover more… such as disagreeing with the sermon and internally closing your ears and talking to yourself about how wrong the pastor is and how much smarter you are than him.

Listen and learn, and then you will have a clear understanding of what the preacher is saying and know precisely where you disagree and then there is a sound basis for discussion and edification afterward.

I can’t count the times someone takes issue with a something I said in a sermon, only to find out they misunderstood my point because they quit listening before I finished.

The other day, Miss Donna told me one of the unexpected surprises in reaching her mid 80’s is that she is still learning so much every day.

That’s ONLY because she still listens and learns, as opposed to flooding others with what she already knows.

There is something going on in Christianity today that is very troubling…

Practically every Christian today thinks that he or she is an expert in theology and so, they constantly judge, condemn and denounce other Christians, including pastors, as being misguided, deceived and even unsaved.

In addition, they openly treat non-Christians with condescension, disgust, disapproval, hostility and condemnation.

It is the number one reason Christians refuse to be part of a church-family… and it is the number one reason non-Christians refuse to even entertain the idea of becoming Christians.

Add to that this absolute individualism that results from Christians thinking that they have all the answers they need and even the regular church goers have no compunction at all about skipping church for the most frivolous reasons.

We all need to listen more and speak less… that’s really just another way of saying, we all need to be humble and teachable.

I was going to go into a lengthy diatribe about church-hoppers and home-churchers, BUT I want to make an appeal, rather than preach at you about this…

Most everyone here is doing a fantastic job of being the church… we could all do better… there is always room for improvement… BUT by and large, you are to be commended for your commitment.

This is, as they say, preaching to the choir. Maybe this is just some encouragement for you or maybe this is something you can use to encourage someone else, BUT my friends, ORGANIZED Christianity is dying in America.

Some might say that’s a good thing.
It is NOT, NOT in any way, shape or form, is it a good thing.

I’m talking about organized Christianity, NOT organized religion… there is a huge difference, BUT most people can’t seem to make the distinction.

God commands us to come together, love one another, worship Him as a community of Believers, actually participate collectively as the Body of Christ in physical form.

These are not suggestions, they are commands – Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will obey my commands.” and His command is that we “Love one another” (John 13:34-15:17).

It is impossible – understand, it is impossible, to get even a very few people together for very long without some kind of organization to the gathering.

The idea that Christians can come together and just do their thing without any rules or procedures or organization is stupid, because it is impossible…

Not only is a group without organization just a mob, it is also counter to God’s wishes.

The Bible itself tells us that there MUST, yes another command, there MUST be orderliness to our gatherings because, “God is a God of order, not disorder.” (1 Corinthians 14:33-40).

In chapter 3 of James, “Disorder” will actually be equated with “Evil” (James 3:16).

What is infinitely more important than the particular way we orchestrate a service is the idea of commitment to the group.

I cannot be a beneficial part of a group if I insist on everything suiting me. Again, by an absolute logical necessity, any cohesive group requires compromise.

We rail against the very idea because we see compromise as evil – BUT God says it is “Disorder” that is “Evil” and there cannot be order without compromise.

I’m NOT saying compromise your principles… I’m saying allow others to NOT compromise their principles!

That requires that you respect them and that requires humbleness. Can’t you see the utter arrogance of assuming your ideas are the ones free of error?

If a person insists on having things their way… I will tell you that person is a conceited and prideful person who hates to submit to anyone else’s authority, BUT who simultaneously expects others to submit to them, their methods and their authority.

We absolutely must be humble in order to get along just as we are repeatedly commanded.

No person, institution, group, church, ministry, gathering is perfect… we can and should strive for perfection, BUT at the same time we must put aside our demands in order to play nice with others. I Peter 3:8, “To sum up, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.” In Ephesians 4, God implores us, “To walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Because, “There is one body and one Spirit… On hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.”

To do that properly we must listen more than we speak, we must humbly make concessions for the good of the group, we must sacrificially serve the group as being more important than our own interests. Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.”

IF we actually care more about the group as a whole than we do about our own individual interests the local churches will flourish and as they do the church universal will flourish. God’s Kingdom will be built and He will be glorified.

Finally, we saw that as far as God is concerned, pure and undefiled Christianity is to actually BE Christians… that is to actually to help the helpless, and resist the corrupting influence of the worldly culture.

The example in the first part is to assist “Orphans and widows in their distress (that’s in their θλῖψις).

What are we doing in this regard? The Community Kids program was precisely this… Many of our kids are essentially orphans and many of our single moms are essentially widows.

The point God is making is that we cannot claim to be Christ’s hands and feet in this world if we are not actually ministering His compassion, love and grace to the world.

There are many ways to do that and none of them are perfect, BUT we must do the best we can anyway… IF we wait for the perfect thing, we will never do anything.

The second part is, “To keep oneself unstained by the world.”

Perhaps keeping oneself unstained by the world is as subtle as not giving in to the culture that says commit to no one and nothing…

God is all about commitment – it is called covenant. God enters into agreements when He absolutely does not need to… and He honors His side of the equation no matter what.

Perhaps we need to start by saying no to a culture that drives us to only do what we want, only participate in what works for us, only join in what makes us happy.

Perhaps we need to reject the common practice of our culture in worshipping celebrity and wealth while vilifying those with a conscience and integrity.

James 2:1 ~ My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.

I wanted to give us a glimpse of what comes next… This single verse says so much that we will only scratch the surface now, BUT rest assured there is much left to investigate in this amazing letter.

I’ll call your attention to only this one fact today… προσωπολημψίαις (pȑŏ-sō-pŏ-lām-psē-īs) occurs 4 times and the other three essentially say that there is NO partiality in God, Romans 2:11, Ephesians 6:9, Colossians 3:25). πρόσωπον means face and this is really to take things at face value – technically, it means to accept a person based upon their appearance… and so, it is to show partiality, make a distinction or show favoritism based upon external factors].

God never does that – God judges the heart, something utterly impossible for a human being to do. If we, then, are people who recognize God as God we would never presume to judge another person… NOT only is it NOT our job, our place or our right to do so… NOT only are we completely unqualified to do so because of our own imperfection… We don’t even have the ability to judge what must be judged – it is actually impossible for us and of course God tells us that repeatedly throughout His Word, YET we constantly do it anyway.

050816 - Mother's Day
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May 17, 2016 08:29 AM PDT
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A short portion of the Mother's Day Sermon by Pastor Scott Keller.

050116 - James 1e
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May 05, 2016 09:45 AM PDT
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James 1:19-27, Pastor Scott Keller

So far, James has said that life is difficult and when it is we need to seek God for His WISDOM and His RICHES… Doing so will enable us to use those challenges, as the fodder for building internal JOY.

That internal JOY gives us the ability to rejoice in the Lord, no matter the circumstances and facilitates the perseverance to stay the course all the way to the finish line, whatever may come our way…

It is for His glory, for an example to non-Christians, for the encouragement of the saints and for our own salvation.

This life will pass away… and what remains… is the Lord…
and those who put their trust in Him…
“Every good thing” and “Every perfect gift” comes from God as we ask, He “Generously” gives “Without reproach.”
So that His perfect Will…
to award us the eternal Crown of Life, is accomplished.

God is for us! God wants you to succeed and He is patiently waiting to assist you in all the trials of your life so that you WILL “Fight the good fight” and WILL win the victory.
Jesus wants to embrace you and say, “Well done, Good and faithful servant.”

Please KEEP this flow of thought in mind as I read James 1:19-27 from the New Living Translation for ease of understanding…

James 1:19-27 NLT ~
19Remember this well, my dear friends, everyone must be quick to listen,
slow to speak… and slow to anger.
20Human anger does not accomplish the righteousness of God.
21Therefore get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.
22But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.
23For if you listen to the word and don’t actually do what it says, it is like looking carefully at your face in a mirror.
24You see yourself, walk away, and immediately forget what you look like.
25But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.
26If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.
27Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

As much as we want to make the first chapter of James several disjointed separate topics concerning 1) trouble and joy, 2) wisdom and doubting,
3) poverty and wealth, 4) good and evil and now,
5) listening, speaking and doing… the reality is that the whole chapter is about the struggles of this life and how to effectively BE a Christian through it all.

To quickly boil these verses down, it is about listening rather than talking in order to be reminded of God’s TRUTH and act like a Christian, rather than getting angry and acting like an unsaved corrupt person who has no hope.

The LAST thing you want to do when trouble strikes is to listen, keep your mouth shut and refuse to get upset… BUT we must fight the natural inclination to close our ears, voice our discontent and stir our anger into a raging inferno.

What we are supposed to do when tragedy, difficulty, turmoil and tribulation rears its ugly head… is to remain silent, listen intently to the Lord… Listen to Him through Scripture, through prayer, through Godly counsel… listen… hear His voice… and then respond to that, instead of responding to the situation.

Respond in obedience to Him, rather than in obedience to your baser nature.

What God wants to accomplish in your life will never happen as the result of your anger… no matter how understandable and natural it would be… That’s not how the “Righteousness of God” is achieved.

So, the idea is that, You are a child of the Living God – never forget that!

Pray for self-control in all circumstances and you will clearly see the Lord at work through those circumstances to do what is ultimately good.

The very thing I said was so difficult last week is addressed here.

When a person is crushed and overwhelmed with a trial there is nothing I can say at that point that doesn’t seem like a cliché or some trite platitude.

The person is angry, hurt or bewildered and oftentimes they want to let it be known, shouting it from the rooftops. Sometimes they want to be left alone like a hermit in a cave. EITHER way, they are in no fit state to hear anything someone like me has to say.

It is such a common thing… that suffering people cannot listen or hear… that we teach comforter-counselors to NOT talk… We tell them, just be a sounding board… just be a shoulder to cry on… Just be there for them… Maybe you can gently suggest something if you must, BUT it won’t work anyway, so try to resist the urge… just let them vent.

We teach the suffering people that it is okay to vent… it is the human thing to do – get it off your chest. In fact, we tell folks it is healthy… it is good… it is the right thing to do… Spew forth!

Maybe, BUT that is clearly NOT what God thinks.

In my personal experience people don’t vent about a serious situation or problem person without getting even angrier than they were before… Without working themselves up… Without saying things, they regret, or at least should regret.

You can say all that anger was pent up inside and needed to be released to get it out, BUT God has a different plan.

God is telling us to see everything in a new perspective… His perspective.

Giving voice to our negativity and getting angry are both related to how I perceive a thing.

If I think something is unfair… I complain and get mad. If I think that something is serious… My feelings are intensified.

BUT it all has to do with what I think… With how I perceive it.

We often tell parents to pick their battles with their kids and to take a moment before reacting… count to ten, ask yourself is this going to matter in 100 years?

In this first chapter, God is saying, life is, life, live it doing the best you can and realize that a perfect eternity of reward awaits.

That’s the eternal perspective. God is in control, He knows what He’s doing and He has a mansion for you in heaven.

If someone hurts me, or some terrible thing happens to me, and I truly believe what I’ve just said, I will be a rock… I won’t need to vent because I’ve already put in perspective… I will act like a Christian who truly trusts God with my entire existence.

A child has a full-blown, melt-down, sob-fest, because they can’t find blankey… As the adult, we think it’s silly because we know blankey is in the dryer and everything is going to be okay – in fact, better than okay, because now, blankey will be clean.

Life is like that, if your over 50 you know there are things that would have caused you tremendous annoyance when you were younger and now you don’t care… it’s not that big of a deal, it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.

That’s because you’ve seen it all before, you know it isn’t worth getting upset over.

To God – from His perspective, there is nothing in this TEMPORARY life that matters so much, that it is worth ruining our relationship with Him and others.

What happens to me in this life is irrelevant, eternally speaking, BUT how I react to it, may have eternal consequences.

In addition, nothing in this life is going to be better if I lose my temper and give voice to my rage.

James 1:19&20 NASB ~ 19This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; 20for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.

“This you know,” is interesting in that it is both a recognition and a reminder. “Of course you already know the road is icy, BUT the road is icy.”

God through James is commanding… “Remember & Know this well,” everyone MUST be attentive to hear from God through whatever means He uses… again, whether it’s through the Bible, through prayer, through a guy like me, through a simple statement by a child, whatever voice God may use – be determined to hear from Him.

This is almost a restatement of “Ask God for wisdom,” from verse 5. It’s the same basic concept… BE TEACHABLE.

Actively, intentionally, ALLOW the Holy Spirit to RENEW your MIND – this is what we’re talking about…

It is about learning and relearning, remembering and remembering again, recalling and recollecting that God loves you and He has a perfect plan for you… Trust Him.

It is really saying be the type of person who sees things for what they truly are… from a God perspective…
Be a person who recognizes that God not only can help… He wants to help you and He’s going to do that through these avenues.

He is going to do it by talking to you… Whether you can you hear His voice, is up to you.

What that means is that we need to work on cultivating an attitude and a plan to be good listeners while simultaneously holding our own commentary.

I’m totally stressed and distressed and what should I do? I should search for wisdom, insight, strength, whatever can reorder my thinking, whatever can remind me of who God is and who I am in Him.

When I open my mouth I shut my ears and I end up reminding myself of how UNFAIR I think life is to me. How dissatisfied I am with it all, how I am done with trying to be a nice guy and do the right thing.

Anger hinders, if not outright blocks, what God desires to do through your situation.

You can say I don’t care right now! You can boot the hogs aside and wallow in the slop of the problem till the Second Coming… BUT it won’t get any better… not really…

OR, you can immediately run to the Father, listen intently for His voice, refuse to complain and refuse to wallow… The choice is ours, BUT, make no mistake, the choice, God commands is clear.

So, bridle your tongue… don’t give in to anger and a bad attitude…

Instead, allow God’s righteousness to win the day.

That’s the positive way to say it… Seek God and His righteousness in all things and everyone wins…

The other side of that coin is fail to do that and you hurt yourself, but also those observing you, perhaps looking up to you without you even realizing it… they are watching to see how a Christian handles adversity.

In addition, you may harm those actively trying to help.

I’ve seen it so many times… A person wants to help – usually they don’t know how, But they try and they are smacked down for their trouble.

Sure they might mess it up. They might say something dumb, they might fumble around and tell a foolish joke, story or anecdote…

BUT, they are trying to HELP! They care enough to go out of their way, and out of their comfort zone, for YOU!

So get annoyed, act superior and bite their head off, treat them like pond scum and you harm their faith.

You think you’re the victim, well you just turned the tables and victimized someone else for trying to help you… no matter how ineffectively and awkwardly they might have been doing it – they were trying to help.

You say, well not everyone is trying to help – some are just trying to say, “I told you so.” Some are just trying to draw attention to themselves, some just want to be bossy or show how smart they are…

Of course… perhaps… BUT are you a fit judge of another person’s heart and true intentions?

Is it your job to fix them?

Here’s what you do when someone comes to help and you find yourself getting more irritated… ask them if it’s okay if you just pray together for a while.

People truly wanting to help will be relieved, others will excuse themselves. Problem solved.

You need to be careful – your already having trouble and if you’re not careful you may cause someone else to stumble. Jesus said, “If you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone hung around your neck” (Matthew 18:6, Mark 9:42, Luke 17:2).

Sometimes we want to be angry – we want to be left alone – we want to wallow… well I would say that’s okay… BUT God says it is NOT okay.

Railing against the problem is railing against the One who could change the problem – it is, in point of fact, a blasphemy against God, His character, His love and His plan.

I’m sorry – as I said – I wish it were different, BUT God is telling us in no uncertain terms that we need to run to Him and trust Him when we are more inclined to shake our fist at Him.

And so, we need to put aside all those human inclinations that are opposed to God’s will… We need to fully trust in the Word of God that has the power to save our immortal souls forever.

In humbleness we need to recognize that we are not smarter, more holy or better planners than Almighty God is.

“Why would God allow this?” Is actually saying, I disagree with God. “IF I could, I would change God’s mind about this situation because I don’t like what He’s doing here.”

When we became Christians we acknowledged that Jesus was our Lord and our Savior.

When we react badly to life’s trials we are denying that fact. When we react badly we allow another group of people to say, “I told you so.”

It is the group called the non-Christians, the atheists, agnostics, humanists, and on and on, the ones who refuse to believe that there is anything to Christianity and blaspheme God because of us, just as it says in Romans 2:24.

We have become, in that moment, hearers of the Word instead of doers of the Word.

We delude ourselves when we wholeheartedly love Jesus when everything is going well and then act like He has abandoned us or worse yet, like He’s actually tormenting us, when things take a turn for the worse.

Friends, I must tell you that I love you and I understand when we fail… well the Lord loves you and He also understands when we fail… IT is so hard at times… so difficult.

BUT just like perfect sinlessness MUST be our genuine, if unattainable goal, so too should perfect trust in times of trouble be our genuine, if unattainable goal.

As soon as I give us this reality check about God’s mercy and love coupled with our weakness and fear, we let ourselves off the hook.

We say, well it’s only a theoretical goal that I don’t really have to meet.

What a shame that we are always looking for the easy way out, instead of looking for God’s best for us and for those around us.

Think of how faith building it is for young Christians and even for non-Christians to see those they think of as mature Christians fully trust in Jesus during times of distress… be completely filled with joy and exhibiting God’s peace that is beyond human understanding.

Think of how destructive it is to the faith of young Christians, non-Christians and even to the person themselves, when trouble is met with the same childish response any non-Christian might exhibit.

Let’s endeavor to do better – let’s help each other do better - let’s cultivate an attitude of listening when trouble comes.

It is focusing on the Word of God – the Gospel Message of Salvation that will carry us through to the finish line.

James 1:22-25, NASB ~ 22But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.

Verses 22 through 25, remind us that Christianity is never just a theoretical, academic exercise…

It is all about a belief that is real to the very core of our being.

It does no good to believe IF belief isn’t real enough to produce an effect. Salvific belief changes a person… No one can go from being separated from God and headed to the Lake of Fire to being a beloved child of God headed for eternity in His presence without some sign, some indication, some evidence of that change.

You look at yourself in the mirror – of course back then mirrors were very small pieces of highly polished metal as opposed to our silvered glass – but the principle is identical.

You see your reflection and walk away forgetting what you look like… you might say as I once said, “I don’t get it.”

Okay, let me explain. On Mondays, I get up and get ready. I see myself in my big deluxe lying mirror and say, good grief, “I’m OLD!” Gray hair and stubble, wrinkled face, sagging middle and atrophying muscles… what a mess.

Then I drive to Pastor Basketball and begin playing… in my mind I am a 25-year-old stud muffin waiting for the NBA to call.

It makes no sense!

I have completely substituted my idea of myself for what I actually know to be the real me.

When we are Christians, that is who we truly are and when we act like we aren’t Christians we have completely substituted an idea of ourselves for what we actually know to be the real us!

It makes no sense!

This is precisely what Paul is on about in Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” “Do not be συσχηματίζω to this world, but be μεταμορφόω by the renewing of your mind.”

STOP acting like the person you no longer are and continuously act like the person God has made you to be… Listen and Obey.

Both are passive imperatives – we are commanded to allow God to help us know that we are Christians NOT unbelievers…

Unbelievers lack faith – they don’t believe they don’t trust, BUT we are not like that anymore… allow God to let you KNOW that.

Verse 27, “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

What does this really mean?

It means remember who you are and who you represent… remember what’s at stake and what’s future.

042416 - James 1d
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April 26, 2016 05:24 PM PDT
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James 1:9-18, Pastor Scott Keller

James has now said that we need to have the God-given wisdom to recognize that the circumstances we find ourselves in are only temporary and must be used to enhance our Joy, refine our faith and build our perseverance.

If you are suffering and you are finding it difficult to put it into a proper Christian perspective… it is BECAUSE you lack WISDOM… according to the Bible. So, what are you to do? ASK GOD! “Ask and you SHALL receive.”

James 1:9-11 ~ 9But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; 10and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. 11For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.

These three verses seem easy enough… poor people should realize that they are rich in the Lord and will spend an eternity far wealthier than any person on earth.

Rich people should realize that whatever they have now, will all instantly vanish upon their imminent physical death and so they too must look to and prepare for eternity by humbly submitting to the Lord.

Time – that artifice created by God to force us to a decision point – keeps moving and there isn’t anything we can do to slow its advance.

Live for the inevitable future. Have the wisdom to prepare for what comes next…

Remember the rope?
Don’t get caught up in spending everything to have a better inch, when what we do now affects the infinite trillions of miles to come.

That is a reasonable interpretation of those verses. It aligns with other Biblical passages and it is therefore true and satisfactory. Most people stop there and move on to verse 12.

For those intrepid souls who like to dig deeper and really get to the meat of the matter… it doesn’t take long before realizing that the passage is not as simple as it first seems.

In fact, this passage becomes very difficult for scholars to figure out and is one of the more troublesome sections in the Book.

I won’t bore you with all the technical minutia and the various issues and concepts involved… I do want to show you what I’m convinced is really going on here.

So without throwing away the nice easy answer, let’s delve deeper.

I think the key to the entire problem is essentially what I said last week about asking God for wisdom.

James had NOT started a new topic there and he has NOT started a new topic here either. This is NOT a separate instruction concerning the financial status of people and how they are to understand their physical wealth or lack thereof.

First, despite what some people think, both juxtaposed people are Christians… one poor, one rich.

BUT, the first person is NOT actually poor. Some translations state him as such plainly… Others state it more subtly as our nasb, “Of humble circumstances.” BUT that still implies a poor person… a person in economic poverty.

The single Greek word translated as those three words in the NASB, is ταπεινός (tä-pā-nŏs), and it actually means low. Jesus said, “I am gentle and humble (that’s ταπεινός, I am gentle and humble) in heart” Matthew 11:29.

It has to do with attitude, it is a person who has a LOWLY, meek, mild, or humble disposition… It is often because a person is afflicted, beaten down, oppressed and is therefore, disheartened, discouraged and depressed… They are at a real low point.

It is a person, in this context, who is going through a trial, NOT a person without financial resources… although, being short on money, can sometimes be the basis of a trial.

The word was used to translate Proverbs 3:34 into Greek, 23 centuries ago… “Though He scoffs at the scoffers, Yet He gives grace to the afflicted (ταπεινός).”

That Scripture was quoted by Jesus and by Peter (Matthew 23:12, I Peter 5:5), but also by James a little later in chapter 4, verse 6, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble (ταπεινός).”

Translators, commentators and Bible students, are all spring-loaded to assume a metaphorical meaning of ταπεινός as low in material wealth, making it solely about a person in financial poverty… ONLY because the next guy discussed in our passage today is “Rich.”

Of course taken that way – these three verses have nothing to do with what preceded … a person in distress asking God for wisdom in faith rather than in doubt, or what comes next, which is, “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial.”

They take it as unrelated to what came before and what comes after, because of the context of the passage where “LOWLY” is contrasted with “Rich.”

Well you know I’m all about context, BUT I think there is a way to see a bigger context and enhance the meaning of this passage without losing anything in the process.

My belief is that there is a metaphorical word here alright, BUT that it is the word for, “Rich,” NOT for, “Low.”

I believe the Holy Spirit through James is still on the same topic from verse 2, and that the flow of the letter has not been interrupted by a rabbit trail concerning wealth, any more than it was interrupted by a rabbit trail concerning wisdom and double-mindedness.

James will talk about material possessions later in the letter, BUT right here, he’s still talking about trials. joy, endurance and asking for the wisdom to see difficulties for what they are in order to stand firm.

What he’s saying then is that you who are beaten down, afflicted, humbled by life… you who are going through the trials and tribulations of life… you who are crying out to God in your distress for His wisdom, strength and encouragement…

You, “Glory in your high position”! You are a child of God – He’s got you – it is going to be okay… because no matter how it seems… you are already in a HIGH position where it counts as opposed to the LOW position in this physical life where it doesn’t.

You are His beloved… You are gaining faith, courage and endurance as you pray for wisdom and stay the course in His strength… You are the recipient of the Victor’s Crown of Life… you just need to catch up to it in time.

On the other hand, is the “Rich man.” The πλούσιος (plü-sē-ŏs). Rich is often used for other kinds of wealth… George was the “Richest man in town,” because he came to understand what real wealth was all about… God, family, friends, doing the right thing.

The Apostle Paul used this same word in Ephesians 2:4, calling God, “Rich… in mercy.” In the very next chapter our author James, will use this word again, to say, “God choose the poor of this world to be rich… in faith and heirs of the Kingdom…”

People do not become, “Rich in faith and heirs of the Kingdom, simply because they are financially strapped! He clearly uses poor and rich as metaphors in the very next chapter.

It is as Jesus said in the Beatitudes… “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” In other words, blessed are the humble in attitude.

Those who are poor enough in spirit, humble enough in attitude, low enough in self-sufficiency to “Love Him” (James 2:5), they are made “Rich.”

1) So first, IF you are rich or abundantly supplied in your present life circumstances… IF things are going well for you right now, remember that also is a temporary condition.

Today, your life may seem like the beautiful grass in full flower, but before you know it, things will change… It “Will pass away. For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed.”

It can all go south in a hurry… So get ready. Gear up spiritually for the temptation, trial and test to come.

We have people who prepare for physical disaster… people who stockpile food, guns and ammunition in order to be ready for trouble.

Let’s say such a person has a neighbor who thinks it’s crazy and does nothing to prepare. Now, let’s say trouble comes.

If the Prepper survives and the non-prepper doesn’t… who’s to blame?

That’s merely physical life… we’re talking about eternal life. Don’t you think it makes sense to prepare for the trouble spiritually in order to stand firm in the faith that has eternal consequences?

In this first nuance of being rich in your present circumstances, “glory in your humiliation…” which is to say, glory in the fact that you are strong, only in His strength – that you are, “Rich,” only in His wealth.

Please do NOT be distracted from God, by the good times…

When things are going well, that isn’t the time to ignore God – that’s the time to get ready for the next battle by humbling ourselves and seeking God.

I will tell you the Truth… when you are suddenly crushed by the weight of a trial… there is really nothing I can say to help you… it is too late for that.

When you are drowning in the problem all I can do is listen and pray.

What that means is that IF you are going to be better prepared for the next calamity, you need to learn everything you can between volleys.

Peacetime is to get ready for wartime… C.S. Lewis said we are living our lives in enemy occupied territory and our job is to actively resist, to actively sabotage the efforts of the bad guys.

It isn’t a matter of if there will be trouble… trouble is already here. Let’s get ready.

Last week I said, when everything is going well we sometimes forget that God is the one allowing it to go well… I think He allows those seasons as our opportunity to prepare.

Constantly recognize that it is God who “Is able to make you stand…” Press into Him when you are LOW so that He can lift you HIGH… and press into Him when you are RICH so that you will be prepared when trouble strikes (Romans 14:4).

I don’t want us to fixate on the sky is falling… When things are good, we should gratefully, thankfully appreciate that, but also be fully aware that, just like tough times, easy times, are also temporary.

We need to fully understand that only God can make it good for eternity and that He has done precisely that…. with that understanding, we hit the even more important idea or nuance concerning the rich man…

We are all the rich man, all the time, regardless of our present situation. That’s why I love that Matt Redman song, “Blessed be Your name.”

It is blessing God, “In the land that is plentiful Where His streams of abundance flow.”
And just as jubilantly – just as honestly blessing God, “On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering.”

Every blessing God pours out, however it seems to physical eyes, “I'll turn back to praise.”

With preparation… with asking for wisdom… with His strength, “When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say… Blessed be Your glorious name.”

It is a choice.

And it is a choice, I daresay, you cannot make in your own strength… be prepared and when you are brought LOW, God will lift you HIGH and you will be RICH in Him, now and forevermore.

James 1:12 ~ 12Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

“Trial” is the word for a test seeking failure and “Been approved,” is the word for a test seeking success.

It means that the test that was designed to destroy you. The trial that was searching to prove your inadequacy – to find fault with you – to confirm your failure…

That test, BECAUSE of God strengthening you to endure and bear up under it – to stand firm and carry on to finish well… That test was turned into a test that actually ended up proving your Christian character and proclaiming, to both the physical and spiritual realms, that you are a resounding success.

You, “Who persevere under trial,” are victorious! You WILL be awarded the Crown of Life.

They are many crowns mentioned in the Bible… Royal crowns, The Crown of Thorns, a Crown of Exultation, a Crown of Righteousness and a Crown of Glory… But this exact, “Crown of Life” is found in only one other place… Revelation 2:10, Jesus speaks to the Christians of Smyrna, “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

James 1:13-18 ~ 13Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. 14But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. 16Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. 18In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.

When the test does NOT go so well… Here’s the deal… we are humans. As humans it doesn’t take us very long to try to deflect at least some of the blame.

We will eventually try to mitigate our guilt and reduce our responsibility by rationalizing that it wasn’t really our fault.

Yes, I cheated on my income taxes, BUT they are too high and the government is corrupt. Yes, I cheated on my timecard, BUT my employer is rich and doesn’t appreciate me. Yes, I cheated on my spouse, but my spouse is distant and probably cheated on me.

James under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit isn’t having any of it!

These 6 verses essentially say… YOU are RESPONSIBLE for the CHOICES you make.

Notice who’s absent in this passage? Where’s Satan? Where’s the, “Devil made me do it”?

James fully understands the Devil’s role in temptation… In chapter 4 verse 7, James will say, “So submit to God. But resist the devil and he will flee from you” (NET).

We love to blame the Devil for our failures, BUT the Bible tells us right here it is our choice to “Submit to God” and to “Resist the Devil.”

I don’t want to get into a whole philosophical discourse about Aristotelian cause, BUT I do need us to see and understand, that the cause of our failure, in the final analysis, is us.

As Pogo famously said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Each one of us is ultimately responsible for his or her own choices in life REGARDLESS of the tests, trials and temptations that come our way.

How can I be so sure? Because each one of us, as individual people – one by one – will give an account to the “Judge of the Living and the Dead” (I Peter 4:5).

Jesus said, we would give an accounting on the “Day of Judgment” for “Every careless word we have uttered” (Matthew 12:36).

The NLT is simple and to the point in its translation of Romans 14:12, “Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God.”

Of course this is where James is going as we see in just a few more verses… James 1:22, where he says… “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”

It is not enough to have an academic understanding or a theoretical belief… Life is real – death is real and so we need to be real.

Life and the struggles in it that lead all the way to death are REVEALERS of true belief.

People also blame God for their failure… I hear it all the time… “Why God, why did You let this happen to me?”

Since God is in control He could have prevented this difficulty, BUT He didn’t and so I don’t have to play nice either.

James says such a thing is ridiculous… God is NOT testing you to see you fail – to see you destroyed… God is the one who wants to help you survive the test and emerge victorious.

I recently talked about the problem of Good and Evil so I won’t talk about it today – BUT trust me there are very excellent reasons God allows calamity.

The point here is when calamity comes it is God who wants to help you.

So James says in verse 16, “Do not be deceived.” Do NOT allow your troubles to cloud your thinking and cause you to come to faulty conclusions which can make you fail the test.

“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” Praise be to God – “Blessed be His glorious name.”

God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow – He never changes. His nature is PERFECT Goodness.

He has willed us to be successful – turn to Him and win the victory that matters… turn to Him and take your place as a kind of first fruits among His creation.

041716 - James 1c
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April 20, 2016 09:53 AM PDT
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James 1:5-8, Pastor Scott Keller

James who identifies himself as a slave to whatever God has for him. A guy who is obedient to whatever the Lord would have him do. A man who is surrendered to WHATEVER the Spirit directs.

That guy… Tells us that we are to chalk up our trials and tribulations… all the difficulties, temptations, failures, frustrations, pain and suffering of this life… we are supposed to chalk all of that up to JOY.

“JOY comes from realizing what one has already obtained.”

It is a recognition, NOT that the glass is half full… BUT that even if the glass is completely empty and shattered into a million pieces… IT was only ever a temporary glass… There is a glass that is so big the universe cannot contain it. IT is full to overflowing and will continue to overflow forever and ever…

This is just a little of the water overflowing YOUR personal cup.

It is the amazing love of a profoundly generous God that is ALREADY your possession in Christ Jesus X2

You are already a child of the living, almighty and perfect God… You already have an eternity of perfect relational peace with Him and with your siblings in Christ just around the corner… You already have a surety deposit of the Holy Spirit in you… as a Christian, that’s what you have already obtained.

Why are you worried about… anything… in this short, fleeting, temporary life?

That’s JOY… the mindset that allows a person to REJOICE in the Lord, even when everything in this physical life, seems to be a train wreck.

The awareness, acceptance and appropriation of God’s everlasting LOVE… that is ALREADY your possession in Christ Jesus, brings a trusting cessation of frantic effort to get it… or anything else for that matter.

Can you see that? When I trust God’s love and eternal provision – NOT only can I Rejoice no matter the circumstances, BUT, I can STOP fussing and fighting, worrying and fearing, conniving and pretending and simply rest in His embrace… I am at peace.

The opposite of joy is fear. There is no fear in Love… because – Perfect love drives out fear. Love therefore eliminates fear and begets Joy and Joy begets Peace… IF I am at peace, then I can patiently endure until the end. IF I can patiently endure, I can do so as an ever maturing Christian person… That is the Fruit of the Spirit and what it means.

We also see that here in James. According to verse 4, endurance results in, or produces a person of settled Christian character who will stand firm and finish the race…

So you might say that such a person… who has put their experience, emotion and education to good use, building a surplus of JOY… by recognizing God’s everlasting Love… is… wise…

James 1:5-8, 5But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, 8being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

Now if we cut through all these words to get to the core thought we can see that a lack of wisdom can be fixed by asking God with wholehearted faith.

That’s the primary concept once we strip away all the extra words…

1) Lack Wisdom?
2) Ask God with complete faith.

Okay, what precisely does James mean by the word “Wisdom”? Has he completely abandoned his previous thought about trials and Joy and taken up a totally new topic concerning wisdom?

As I already hinted… the answer is a resounding, NO!

First, that’s not how the Bible works. We have artificially created phrases, sentences and paragraphs in English where they do not exist in Greek and we have inserted verses, sections and chapters dividing the Word where no such divisions exist in the original.

We do that for good reason… It allows us to read smoothly and to reference more easily, BUT never make the mistake of thinking you can take any bit of God’s Word and separate it from its original contextual meaning.

If I quote the verses I just read, without any other context… who would ever think the preceding verse talked about endurance and the following verse talked about humility? So we have to recognize the flow of the letter.

Secondly, all words have a range of meaning. Wednesday we talked about the word, “Light.” It can mean literal light waves, intellectual illumination, the Truth, purity, moral perfection, and so on… a RANGE of meaning.

When translating Greek φῶς (fōs), we come up with an English word that has a meaning matching the original… “Light.” It is the meaning corresponding to the red X. X, marks the spot of equivalent meaning, BUT the range of meaning, illustrated by the colored spheres for the words is rarely ever identical or perfectly matched.

The Greek and the English words overlap in meaning, but they have other nuances that are not the same.

We see a word like “Wisdom,” and accept it for its whole ENGLISH meaning in our experience and understanding, NOT realizing that the Greek word, in this case σοφία (sŏ-fē-ä), may have a different scope or range of meaning.

We may limit, we may expand, or we may simply alter, the total meaning of the original word, based upon our understanding of the English word chosen.

As an easy example, ἀγάπη (ä-gä-pā), is translated as “Love,” we all know that, but as we have seen many times, Agape’s range of meaning is very specific compared to the range of meaning for love. Agapê never means sex, but love can.

My point is that we make connections in the Bible, or make divisions in the Bible, based upon a somewhat faulty understanding of the meaning of the original word…

In this case we see “Wisdom,” and assume it has nothing to do with the previous verses and so we must be starting a new topic.

To really make it simple and blunt… The underlying word σοφία, translated here as, “Wisdom,” means more than we initially realize and so it is related to the previous section.

In addition, there is a coordinating phrasing in Greek that tells us verse 4 and above is inextricably tied to verse 5 and below.

In the most Bibles you can see it preserved in English even though none of us would catch it without it being pointed out to us…

In the NASB, ESV, Holman, NIV, and others, verse 4, essentially ends with, “Lacking in nothing.” Verse 5 starts with, “But if any of you LACKS wisdom.”

Lacking and Lacks, or the NET’s double use of the word, “Deficient,” or the NLT’s, “Needing nothing,” in verse 4, and “If you need wisdom,” in verse 5, are all conveying that Greek coordinating construction.

You say that seems pretty flimsy. Yes, in English it is flimsy and that’s why we miss it… But in Greek, James has intentionally used a word twice to tie the two seemingly different topics together. It is an advanced literary technique.

The quality of Greek writing in James is excellent – some of the best in the Bible. In contrast, the Greek of I John, that we are studying on Wednesdays, is very basic.

James and I John stand on opposite ends of the literary quality spectrum, but each letter is absolutely perfect in its own way.

What all of this means is that the “Wisdom,” James is talking about here, is first and foremost, the wisdom to discern a test for what it is… an opportunity for Christian growth.

We have to turn our eyes upon Jesus.

I don’t want to say too much now, BUT the same concept is at play in chapter 5, where the “Sick” person is to call the Elders to pray.

“Wisdom,” here, and “Sick,” there, mean more than we typically think, and so in both cases give us a far richer meaning than the English words chosen would suggest at first blush.

In both places it is about understanding what’s going on in the big picture – realizing God has plans and purposes we cannot come close to comprehending and so, simply trusting in Him by keeping an ETERNAL perspective… looking forward to the finish line… counting it all Joy… staying the course… standing firm.

If you are suffering and you are finding it difficult to put it into a proper Christian perspective… it is BECAUSE you lack awareness, discernment and understanding… it is because you lack WISDOM… so, what are you to do? ASK GOD!

It says God gives, first of all, “Generously.” God is NOT stingy with His children! God loves you! God wants you to succeed and He wants you to do it by recognizing that He is with you and for you… God, the Author of All Things, is with you and for YOU!

Pray! Ask Him, He is actually eager to pour more out upon you than you can accept…

That of course, is the weak link… our limited ability to accept because of our limited faith.

We’ll get to it – BUT for now, please know and believe that God, for His part, is “Generous.”

Next, God gives this super-overabundance, “Without reproach.” This should be so comforting!

I have no agenda with this picture – it just illustrates making someone feel small. God doesn’t do that when we come to Him for help!
Look, all of us react badly at times, especially to the initial shock of some difficulty or tragedy…

Sometimes a trial takes us to a dark place… sometimes there’s fear and doubt and sometimes there’s anger and hate.

Sometimes we just mess it up… BUT praise be to God our generous and gracious Heavenly Father and to the Lord Jesus Christ who is Himself fully able to empathize with our suffering from actual personal experience…

GOD will give you the wisdom, strength and ability to carry on without condemning your initial or even ongoing failure to fully trust Him. He wants to help you with that.

He is NOT interested in upbraiding you, chastising you, finding fault with you, rebuking you, reprimanding you… God WILL give to you “Without reproach.”

Run to Him without embarrassment, without anxiety, without fear and ASK Him. Do not delay… in Him are all the answers.

There’s only one obstacle to gaining “Wisdom” once you’ve overcome yourself and actually asked for it…

In a nutshell – it is a lack of faith.

Of course we know that anything you can fit in a nutshell belongs there.

So what can we discern about a lack of faith in this case?

First, it should be noted that the Bible never applauds, encourages or even condones DOUBT. So many people today think that doubt is a sign of intelligence, or savvy – that it is being non-judgmental, open-minded and unprejudiced.

Doubting everything has become the hallmark of the evolved person… Well, doubting God is the hallmark of the doomed person… Hebrews 11:6 states it succinctly, “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

We absolutely must have absolute faith and we must do everything in our power to get that kind of faith.

The key to doing that is also asking God in prayer… He is the one who can increase our faith. If you really think about it increased faith comes by asking God for wisdom while going through a trial.

God grants wisdom commensurate with your faith and your faith is then increased.

Next time you ask for wisdom with more faith than the last time.

JOY and ENDURANCE and PEACE and PATIENCE and in this case WISDOM are all near synonyms for FAITH. They are so closely interrelated…

Faith, at its core, is a genuine belief one holds to be true. NOT what one claims to believe, BUT what one actually believes.

Actual, genuine belief is revealed by trials and tribulations… that’s where you find out what someone really believes.

True Biblical Faith in God is essentially Joy… recognizing the fact that everything in life can be used as fodder for increased Joy – increased faith – that is Wisdom.

Wisdom leads to faith, BUT you need faith to gain Wisdom.

You need a job to gain experience, BUT you can’t get a job without experience… what you need is some help… a leg-up… an in…

The prayer then is to ask for wisdom with faith that God is good and generous and desirous to help and to simultaneously ask for the faith to trust that it is true…

Lord I can’t do it. I need Your help. I am crying out to You to lift me up, give me Your Wisdom to see things for what they truly are – to see things as You see them. I know and believe that You will grant me the Wisdom that will give me the strength to carry on…

The Joy that will enable me to rejoice in the midst of my trouble… Lord “I do believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).

The Wisdom we seek gives us the strength to press on through the trial… NOT the craftiness to escape it.

Why doesn’t God answer my prayers?

Quite simply, because we pray for the wrong things… Let me say it again, because I thought long and hard about this and it is important… God does not answer our prayers for one reason and one reason only… it is because we ask for the wrong things… that’s it.

You may be thinking, surely there are other reasons… no, not really.

The Bible tells us in multiple places that if we ask – we will receive – God will hear, God will answer, we will get.

Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, recorded in Matthew 7:7, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”

Or again in Matthew 21:22, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

So many people pray like God is Santa Claus, or a magician or a Genie in a bottle or like He’s Bernie Sanders… Eager to give to them whatever their little heart desires.

Jesus explained that human fathers give good things to their children and then He says, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:9-12).

Therein lies the key to the entire issue… God will give what is good.

The reason we don’t receive is because we ask for the wrong things – the reason God won’t give us the wrong things we ask for is because He only gives us what is good.

If your 3-year-old child asks you for a loaded gun; will you give it to them and walk away?

A loaded gun can be a wonderful thing to have… most everyone in this crowd would agree that it can be very good… but is it good for a toddler?

We ask God for the wrong things… Sometimes the right thing might be the illumination of our hidden sin in order to properly repent.

Sometimes the right thing might be forgiveness for treating our spouse poorly or for all the other sins in our life.

Perhaps the correct thing is obedient surrender to the Will of God.

Maybe after all that, it would be wisdom, strength, character, perseverance, self-control.

James 4:3, bluntly states, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.”

We ask to get out of the trial – God put a stop to my suffering – God free me from my trouble… Why do we ask that?

We ask for our pleasure – a stop to the difficulty we are enduring… it is the wrong motive because it seeks our will rather than God’s will… it is asking for the wrong thing.

Someone may cite Jesus saying in John 14:13&14, “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.”

Ask Jesus anything you want and simply add to the end of the prayer, “In Jesus name, amen.”

And He is required, bound, forced to comply. You’ve said the magic incantation and you will receive whatever you desire.

To ask in Jesus name, actually means, to ask as an ambassador or representative of Jesus… it is to ask what He would ask… it is to ask like Jesus.

Isn’t it interesting that the very next verse in that John passage is, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”

It is about conforming to Jesus – being like our Master – praying the way He prayed… and what did Jesus pray? Luke 22:42, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” What does the very next verse there say? “Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him.”

It was the right prayer and it was generously answered by the Father without reproach.

The absolute granting of our proper prayer requests is more clearly seen in, I John 5:14, “If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”

We were discussing this very thing in the Elder’s Meeting…

It can sometimes seem like there’s no real point to praying… IF we pray for God’s perfect will done on earth as it is in Heaven… and IF God is going to orchestrate things according to His perfect will anyway… why pray?

I alluded to that last week… God will sovereignly do what God must do because He is good… BUT it is up to us whether we are on board or not.

“Pray, NOT to align God with God’s will with yours, BUT to align your heart to His.”

Prayer is first and foremost relational… I talk to people I have a relationship with.

Prayer is dependence upon God… when things are going well enough we look at this part as an exercise of mere acknowledgement… tipping our hat to God so to speak… BUT, my friends, never mistake it for that.

No matter how well things seem to be going, we are completely dependent upon God’s provision moment-by-moment!

Prayer for God’s perfect will to be done is a direction corrector. It realigns our focus and thinking… it renews our mind…

Jesus – the one we are supposed to imitate, said in John 6:38, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”

We, as Christians, as Disciples, as Slaves, are NOT put upon this earth to do our will – to get out of life what we want… we are here to do His will…

When I repeatedly, daily, pray, “Yet NOT my will, BUT Your will be done.” I am reminded, refocused, renewed.

As prayer reminds me of my purpose, it enables me to trust and as I trust, I am able to believe… because, my friends, God is faithful to answer my prayers.

I have received His wisdom, comfort, strength and joy beyond measure. Jesus said in John 16:24, “In My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.”

God eagerly, generously, freely desires to give you what you request in keeping with His will and when you receive that wisdom from above your joy will be made complete.

Once we get this concept for getting through and getting the most out of our suffering we can carefully extrapolate it out to other areas of our Christian walk and to wisdom in general and especially for knowing the Will of God.

Notice carefully that here it really does tell us that this is a request that asked in faith WILL be granted.

It is God’s promise… He WILL give you generously and without reproach His strength to stand in the midst of whatever storm surrounds you.

It is a Heavenly guarantee.

James emphasizes the certainty of God granting the wisdom to rejoice in your circumstances by essentially saying that to ask and not receive was to ask and not be sure of God’s gracious character.

It is actually a blasphemy against God to ask for wisdom without knowing to the core of your being that He will give you just that.

This goes to the Biblical idea that God will never forsake or abandon you. As Paul taught in, I Corinthians 10:13, “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”

I promise you, whatever your problem, God will enable you to endure and eventually He will provide a way out…

If I’m honest with you, and I hope you know that I am, that way out, may be the transition into the next life.

Know that God is in control and that He knows what He’s doing… It may not seem like He’s in control at times and His plan may not make any sense to us, BUT know that He is able and He is good and whatever His will – it is perfect.

041016 - James 1b
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April 14, 2016 08:30 AM PDT
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James 1:2-4, Pastor Scott Keller

James is the most American and least American Book of the Bible all at the same time.

It is the least American because, 1) it encourages endurance in suffering… we don’t like pain. 2) It discourages wealth… we like money. 3) It encourages silence… we like to talk.

It is the most American in that it is arguably the most practical Bible Book… It is the handbook on how you DO Christianity… Americans are all about practical, personal, application.

I’m always saying, “BE a Christian…” Well, this is the guide on how to do that.

The best subtitle for this book of “James,” really is, “A Faith that Works.”

Here’s what most people miss… There is a profound reason behind the practical outworking…

Even in James, God gives us the principle first and the application second… We just need to look a little harder. But, as I like to say, the Bible is always, “Principle then Praxis.”

To be honest, we will not get to fully discuss the principle behind the activity today… but I’m going to at least give us a sample today…

James 1:2-4 ~ 2Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James wastes no papyrus, ink or time in getting straight to the point!

It fits perfectly with what we know about James. He was a no nonsense guy who knew far better than most the Truth of Christianity.

Like Paul, he was a stanch unbeliever and to some degree a persecutor of Christ. Also, like Paul, the Risen Lord Jesus had a face-to-face meeting with him to straighten that out.

James didn’t think… Christianity was right.
He didn’t believe fervently… that Christianity was the way to go.
He didn’t just have this amazing faith… that Christianity was real…
James knew for certain… Christianity was the ONLY Truth.

So for him, there was no point in wasting a single moment of time… or a tiny bit of effort… or a miniscule amount of money… on things that had no eternal significance.

It just made no sense… why squander anything on non-essential business?

It would be like playing in the NCAA national basketball championship and with the score tied in the last five minutes… you decide to go get an ice cream cone.

It would make no sense at all and that’s how James viewed life after the Resurrection…

If it wasn’t about Jesus, the Gospel and the church… if it wasn’t about the Glory of the Father, the Kingdom of the Son and the work of the Spirit… if it wasn’t about doing the perfect will of God… it was a waste of resources.

It just didn’t compute. Why would a person neglect even a single opportunity to do something vital to eternity?

That’s the difference in degrees of belief… As I said last week, the first great question is “What do you believe?” The second great question is then, “How much do you believe it?” James believed so much it passed beyond certainty into the category of guaranteed fact.

I’ve mentioned before that, IF Jesus, were to manifest Himself right here, right now. IF He, were to physically appear before us and interact with us for, let’s say, the next 30 minutes…

None of us would sin during that time. No one is going to say nasty things, push and shove, be rude or mean-spirited, during His visit. No one is going to lie, cheat, steal or commit adultery, let alone murder, rape, pillage or plunder, in that half hour.

Every one of us will be perfectly behaved, heavenly focused, God adoring saints… because of His presence.

Yet, that is precisely what’s actually going on just beyond our ability to perceive.

Jesus is with us right here, right now and at all times in all places… more than that, IF you are a Christian, God’s divine Holy Spirit is inside of you – you are born again… and yet… and yet…

The difference between how I live my life, and how I should live my life, all boils down to the degree of my acceptance of how things truly are just beyond my reach… just outside of my vision… just a bit too far behind the veil.

IF I could see the spiritual world as it is… Would I waste time, effort or money doing anything that was unnecessary, as it relates to that world?

Obviously, there are things necessary to our physical existence… eating is one… Eating requires food, which in turn requires money, which in turn requires work.

God said through the Apostle Paul in II Thessalonians 3:10, “If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.”

I’m not entirely sure why that is so difficult for people to figure out… BUT, that’s a sermon for another day.

The point is while we do need to do mundane things for our physical existence and we need to help others and we need some R&R when it is deserved… Even Marines get vacation.

While all that is true… how much should I spend on myself, once my basic needs are met?

Probably… the amount of resources I expend on myself will go down proportionally as the amount my faith goes up.

That’s probably right… isn’t it? The more certain I am about the spiritual realities around me the less I focus on my temporary physical life.

We should constantly cry out to Jesus as the boy’s father in Mark 9:24 did, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”

That is a taste of the principle behind James’ practical application guidebook. When James tells us to think, speak and act as he does… it is with that principle of knowing the future that undergirds his instructions.

So, back to our verses…

Let’s break them down and then hopefully we will put it back together with greater understanding and appreciation…

“Consider it all Joy.”

It is actually a command… God, through James, isn’t suggesting… He’s telling…

Tally, account, log, input, score, count, record… CONSIDER IT… Acknowledge, reckon and file it in your ledger as being… ALL Joy.

“All,” is a lot more than some, in fact it is actually…

Joy… Joy is χαρά (čḥä-ȑä), it is the second element in the Fruit of the Holy Spirit.

It is a noun based upon the verb to rejoice… In our Biblical setting it is almost always in reference to rejoicing in the Lord.

As a verb it is the grateful, appreciative, thanksgiving to God for His goodness and grace – it is the active praise and worship of His Holy Name as the Almighty.

So as our noun, Joy, it is the BASIS behind that heartfelt praise, worship and thanksgiving. It is the underlying attitude, demeanor and disposition that enables or causes rejoicing.

As I’ve mentioned before, the Greeks were philosophers and many of their words have important idealistic, philosophical meanings.

Joy is such a word, Biblical Joy, is often misunderstood by people today. So many folks confuse this Joy with happiness and think of it primarily as an emotion.

It is not even close to happiness and while it definitely carries an emotional aspect, it is definitely NOT primarily an emotion.

Biblical Joy, and please get this, Biblical Joy, is something that is derived from and molded by our thoughts.

We choose Joy.

Think of Joy for a moment as being like an imaginary object – let’s say a red rose. Close your eyes for a moment and think about a red rose.

Construct the rose in your mind’s eye.
Conceive of its red color and delicate shape. Concentrate on the silky texture of the rose’s petals and the soothing fragrance they give off.
Focus your attention on the fragile flower; see it grow clearer, crisper and more defined.
Let the red rose fully bloom and recognize that the more time you spend thinking about it the more developed the red rose becomes… the more real it is to you…

Now, my friends, open your eyes…

It can become so REAL as you think about it… Yet, it was created by you in your own mind.

IF what you conceived of was very similar to this picture it is for good reason… The Rose you envisioned was based upon your actual previous knowledge, experience and emotional responses to red roses in this physical reality.

That’s like JOY. Joy doesn’t really exist outside of our own mind, BUT it can only be internally constructed through contemplating, focusing, concentrating on our actual previous knowledge, experience and emotions tied to this physical reality.

I know about God from other people and my own contemplations confirmed by the Holy Bible and the Holy Spirit.

I have experienced God in a variety of ways from the general revelation of nature all the way down to the personal revelation in my own life through miracles, encounters and observations.

I have been emotionally moved in praise and worship, in helping others, in being helped by others, in flashes of insight and in a million other ways.

All of these things… I store up and treasure in my heart just as the Mother of Jesus did. I concentrate on them and put them into an order that makes it take on substance and the more I think about it, the more defined and developed JOY becomes… the more real it is to me.

Of course, no one can see my JOY because it is created inside of me based upon my actual previous knowledge, experience and emotions…

BUT, the evidence of my internal JOY is unmistakable. You can’t miss it… because JOY results in physical rejoicing.

Just as the effulgence, the heat and light are the inevitable byproducts of the nuclear reactions in the sun, so rejoicing is the inevitable result of internal JOY.

Joy is measured by the level of genuine rejoicing. You may not like that, BUT I cannot change the Truth.

I already said that rejoicing is NOT primarily emotional though… rejoicing can be quite emotional… BUT rejoicing is about acknowledging that God is.

God is on His throne, God is in control, God is orchestrating everything perfectly at all times… God IS God.

Rejoicing is thanking Him, loving Him, praising Him, worshipping Him, TRUSTING Him, in every circumstance and situation… acknowledging God’s perfection when non-Believers cannot comprehend why you would.

It’s because you know what they don’t and that certainty is called JOY.

Joy is the result of recognizing Truth… In the Fruit of the Holy Spirit found in Galatians 5:22&23, we often think love is an apple, joy is an orange, peace is a kiwi etc. BUT the Fruit is actually singular and each element is a part of a single beautiful fruit (metaphorically)… it all works together to become the evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit in a person.

The first element is what? Yes, Love, but not any love, it is Agapê, that unconditional, altruistic, God-love.

When a person has sufficiently recognized that God loves them… By meditating on that Truth from God…

When that person is persuaded by their religious experience, God-honoring emotion and theological education… that the Creator of the Universe actually loves them… Then Joy.

Joy starts as an intellectual acceptance of the Truth that God loves you and therefore holds you and keeps you no matter what happens… “Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate you from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38&39).

When a person fully gets that… then Joy.
I Peter 1:3 starts off with, “All praise to God.” And the reason? It is, “By his great mercy that we have been born again…” And, “Now we live with great expectation…” Because, “Through our faith, God is protecting us by his power until we receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.”

Verse 6, “So greatly rejoice. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold…”

Verse 8, “You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy.”

Joy is that underlying DISPOSITION that allows a person to thank God no matter what – to praise His name even when all seems lost, to Worship Him even when there seems to be no hope. To love and accept from Him whatever is in the offering… even when there is no understanding at all concerning His plans and purposes. Blessed be Your Name.

Joy manifests itself as the third element of the Fruit of the Holy Spirit… PEACE. Philippians 4:7
“The peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

What is it we are to tally to the JOY ledger?

“Trials.” Have you had any trials in your life? Trials is πειρασμός (pā-ȑäs-mŏs). It is tests, temptations, troubles, difficulties… and let’s be honest… the horrors of life.

It is negative, evil, bad, painful, frustrating and life-shattering stuff.

I was saying to a friend the other day that Christianity is NOT Stoicism… nor is it Eastern Mysticism… Christianity doesn’t pretend that bad stuff isn’t bad, nor does it pretend that bad stuff isn’t real.

Bad stuff is bad… evil is evil… and pain is pain.

What Christianity tells us is that IF, IF, we will trust God, He can take the evil and use it for good.

Technically, God will use evil for good no matter what we do, BUT we IF we fail to trust Him we will suffer in misery and we might even miss the benefit.

One of Satan’s names is the πειράζων (pā-ȑä-dzōn), the Tempter; which means the one who tests or sifts or assesses by way of tempting. It is a NEGATIVE test designed to prove inadequacy, deficiency, weakness and produce failure.

It is like the automobile crash test – it tries to find error – it seeks to uncover the defects – it is looking for what is wrong. There are people like that… always examining everything and everyone to find fault. I wonder who their father is…

While that is the purpose and underlying goal of these “Various trials,” Verse 3 uses a completely different word, translated here as, “Testing.”

God flips the dynamic… testing is δοκίμιον (dŏ-kē-mē-ŏn), which is a POSITIVE test designed to prove competence, adequacy, strength and produce success.

God takes the evil “Trial,” seeking your destruction and wants to flip it to become a “Test,” that proves your competence, faith and ability.

You know, my favorite president is Theodore Roosevelt. Teddy said a lot of cool things and one of them was that, “Comparison is the thief of Joy.”

That is only true as we compare our situation to what we perceive is a better situation… I have a sore back, I compare my plight with a guy who doesn’t and I feel cheated.

What IF I compare myself to a guy who has had his back flayed open with a whip?

The test is really about perception…

I became a serious Christian during a fiery ordeal and afterwards I would often comment that, “If you weren’t going to prison or dying; it is all good.” After gaining a little Christian maturity – a modicum of trust in God, I realized that even if you were going to prison and dying; it was still all good.

I changed my saying to simply, “It’s all good.” Diane bought me a shirt with that maxim. My point is NOT that bad is good, BUT that because of the eternal plans and loving power of God, it will all end up perfect – so from that perspective, “It’s all good.”

To get that perspective, God wants us to run to Him, to lean on Him, to fully rely on Him… so that we pass the test and realize His faithfulness to us which in turn strengthens our faith further.

That’s what the final stanza of the Lord’s Prayer is all about… “Lead us NOT into temptation, πειρασμός, BUT deliver us from Evil.” Do NOT allow the evil of this world – the trials and temptations sink me… BUT instead Lord let it be You who are tested in me so that through Your strength and faithfulness evil is overcome with victory and the test is a triumph.

It “Produces,” which is to say it, “Brings out in us,” endurance.

Our old friend ὑπομονή (hü-pŏ-mŏ-nā), to “Remain under.” It is the Greek Phalanx formation… It is to remain in position under the unbelievable pressure to thrown down your weapons and run away.

Life will beat down upon you to the point where you want to do practically anything to get out from under the pressure…

BUT, pressure is precisely what is needed to mold you into the image of Christ Jesus or Lord.

Remain under.

Do NOT waver or fall… Do NOT run away… trust!

These trials build faith in others around you as they try to minister hope and encouragement to you and as they see you stand firm.

It also builds your faith as you see God care for you through His Word and His Spirit and His people.

Now this work of endurance has the end goal of making you mature… making you a grownup Christian…

Ephesians 4:14, “As a result, we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed here and there by waves and blown about by every wind of doctrine. We will not be influenced by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.”

A couple of chapters later in that Letter the Apostle Paul says…
10A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. 13Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14Stand your ground… (Ephesians 6:10-14).

So what have we learned today?

When, NOT if, BUT when, we undergo difficult things we are to chalk them up to lessons, tests, encounters and experiences that provide the substance for increased JOY.

Faithfulness in the midst of trial… God’s faithfulness to us, the faithfulness of our brothers and sisters in the Lord… and YES, our own faithfulness all work together to strengthen our faith – our trust in God and our surrender to His purposes…

We recognize that part of His purpose for us is that our increased faith builds and brings out our endurance…

Our ability to stand firm in the Lord under even greater pressure… an endurance that gives us assurance that we will not falter because through testing we have learned the secret…

We stand because, “The Lord is able to make us stand” (Romans 14:4). As Jude, the other brother of James said it is God, “Who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy” (Jude 24).

When so many Christians worry and fret about their eternal salvation… How can I be so certain that I will be saved for eternity?

Because I know in Whom I trust to make me stand.

When we know that, we can endure any test and that is the “End goal” and the “whole portion” of what God wants for you… that’s what it means to “Lack nothing.”

This is a greater understanding of His love for us even in the midst of the most difficult, dire, horrible circumstances… So, we know it is going to be okay and that is a deep and abiding JOY.

That is a Hope that won’t disappoint. The Apostle Paul put it this way in Romans 5:3-5, 3And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

040316 - James 1a
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April 05, 2016 09:14 AM PDT
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James 1:1, Pastor Scott Keller

I love starting a new Book… it is so exciting to me because there is so much expectation. There is a whole flood of new information…

All manner of things to talk about… all the who, what, where, when, why… the historical data, the cultural ties, the theological implications.

In military aviation, learning never ends, BUT the formal portion takes about two years and during that time it is often compared to constantly taking a drink of water from a fire hose. There is just so much information to learn – it is quite frankly overwhelming, and many people drop out, because it’s just too much, too fast.

I feel like it’s similar when we start a new Book – there is so much I’m eager to share with you, that I just want to flood you with it all right now.

I’ve often thought about a computer download – just connect my brain to yours and then we go eat.

I’ll try to refrain from overwhelming you and ask your patience if I do, BUT please remember, what I always say about sermons around here, “It’s not important that you get everything – it’s only important that you get something.”

Let’s start simply… James, like John or Mary, was a common name in Jewish circles in the first century… so it can sometimes be confusing.

James is Greek, Ἰάκωβος (ē-ä-kō-bŏs), it’s the best you can do to form the Hebrew name יַעֲקֹב (yă-ă-kōv), into New Testament Greek… If that satisfies you, simply check out for the next 3 minutes while I explain why Jacob, is translated as James, in English.

What gives? Well there is a lovely conspiracy theory that the name was intentionally altered to honor the guy who sponsored the 1611 Bible that bears his name… King James of England, or perhaps his Scottish predecessors of the same name.

The Greek Bible… renders the name, Jacob, יַעֲקֹב, in the Old Testament, Ἰακώβ (ē-ä-kōb)… that’s pretty good.
But, by New Testament times, the name was actually said in Greek as, Ἰάκωβος, not, Ἰακώβ, to make the ending work in that language.
So, in the New Testament itself, every reference to a pre-Jesus, Old Testament, guy named Jacob, they stayed with the original Greek, Ἰακώβ, rendered in English as Jacob.
But, every reference to a Jesus-contemporary, New Testament guy named Jacob, they updated to, Ἰάκωβος, which is rendered in English as James.

The names are different in the Greek – so also in the Latin – so also now, in the English, even though it is all based on the same Hebrew name.

It is much like Jesus in the New Testament is based upon Joshua in the Old Testament.

The actual reason it became James, as opposed to some other name, goes back to changes in the Latin through French into English.

In the 1380’s, Wycliffe translated the Latin Bible into English and he is the one who rendered Jacob and James, for, Ἰακώβ and, Ἰάκωβος, respectively… That is what gave rise to people, being named James – not the other way around.

The very first King James I of Scotland was born at least ten years later, in July 1394. Sorry, no conspiracy here. Everyone who checked out can come back now…

The three most prominent James’ are the Apostle James, son of Alphaeus, who was probably the brother of the Apostle Matthew.

The Apostle James, son of Zebedee who was definitely the brother of the Apostle John. Some of my references are obscure – I know, but she likes it…

And then the James, we’re interested in today, our author, the half-brother of Jesus.

His father was Joseph, his mother was Mary, his older half-brother was Jesus, he had a few sisters and three younger brothers.

Joseph, Hellenized as Joses, who we don’t know much about, Simon who took over the Jerusalem church after James was murdered, and Judas, shortened to Jude, who wrote the Bible Book by the same name (Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3).

James represents a perfect example of the concept that, “Familiarity breeds contempt,” along with the whole sibling rivalry thing thrown into the mix.

He was strongly opposed to Jesus during His big brother’s earthly life.

Three of the Gospels report the story about Jesus’ family coming to meet Him… Mark 3:31-35, says, Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.” “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

So, in three places in the Bible it seems that Jesus is not very friendly to His own earthly family – His mother accompanied by His brothers and undoubtedly His sisters as well… are rebuffed. It seems rude.

Here’s the rest of the story… we look just a couple of verses earlier, Jesus is starting to rub the religious officials the wrong way and, Mark 3:21 tells us, “When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’”

Jesus’ earthy family came to see Him to conduct an intervention… you thought that was a modern tactic. They were there to hogtie Him, take Him home and talk some sense into Him… that’s why they showed up.

Mary was no doubt afraid for Jesus’ safety. James probably wasn’t as concerned for Jesus’ health and welfare, as he was about the embarrassment to the family and the stress to their mom.

I heard a Christian comedian named Michael Jr., do a whole routine about how difficult it would have been to be James… How much pressure would it have been to be Jesus’ little brother? All his life everyone saying, “James! dude! why can’t you be more like Jesus?”

He said, “You know little brothers are always following big brothers around and trying to do the same stuff… I bet one time James almost drowned.” He’s a funny guy, but I am sure there’s some truth in it – I don’t think it was easy being James.

I imagine at this point, James was feeling a little satisfaction, finally being the brother the family was turning to for stability and direction.

I would bet real money that it was James’ idea to go grab Jesus and haul Him back home before He really made a fool of Himself or worse.

John chapter 7 records a very telling incident. Jesus was making some very serious enemies who, by that time, already wanted to kill Him.
NLT, Verses 3-5, “Jesus’ brothers said to him, ‘Leave here and go to Judea, where your followers can see your miracles! You can’t become famous if you hide like this! If you can do such wonderful things, show yourself to the world!’ For even his own brothers didn’t believe in him.”

From what we know of James. I am personally sure he was the main ringleader in that group, against Jesus.

He certainly was nowhere to be found when Jesus was dying on a Cross or being laid in a tomb.

But something truly amazing happened on Sunday morning… The thing we talked about last week and the thing that proves Jesus IS Savior and Lord… Death could NOT hold Him!

I Corinthians 15:7, specifically states that the Risen Lord Jesus Christ appeared personally to His earthy brother, James. That would have been some meeting – the long delayed intervention – but for James.

After Jesus Ascended into Heaven His followers assembled in an upper room in Jerusalem to await the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Acts chapter 1, lists the eleven remaining Apostles and then says, “They all met together and were constantly united in prayer, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, several other women, and the brothers of Jesus.”

It took James a little while to get his feet under him, but in relatively short order, he became an Apostle and eventually the leader of the Jerusalem church.

While the other Apostles knew Jesus intimately for 3 years, James knew Him for 30.

It didn’t take long before he was directing things… in Acts chapter 12, Peter was miraculously released from prison and he tells the disciples to, “Go tell James.”

By Acts chapter 15, and the first Christian Council, James is clearly in charge.

James is the one who stood up after everyone else was finished and said, “Brothers listen to me” (Acts 15:13). He is the one who said, “And so my judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God” (NLT, Acts 15:19).

James led the churches in Jerusalem for almost 30 years until he was murdered by the Jewish leaders in 61 A.D.

After the Roman Governor Festus went back to Rome, but before the new Governor Albinus had arrived to take over, the High Priest Ananus took the opportunity to have James thrown off of the Temple pinnacle and his body beaten with clubs and stones for good measure.

The early church historian Hegesippus, writing in about 150 A.D. tells us that James was called, “Old camel knees,” because he spent so much time in prayer.

His most well-known moniker is “James the Just,” because he was seen as a man who was always impartial and fair to all.

He wrote this amazing letter we are privileged to study between 45 and 60 A.D., most likely in the late 40’s A.D., based on the content.

These are 3 early Greek manuscript fragments of James… As the Wednesday class learned last week, P stands for papyrus and the number is just the order in which the manuscripts of fragments are discovered.

P 20 is a copy that dates to 225 and is at the Princeton University Library. It contains James 2:19 through 3:9.

P23, also dates to 225. It is at the University of Illinois Museum and contains most of James 1:10-18.

P100 is dated to 275 and at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, England and contains James 3:13-4:4, and 4:9-5:1.

Most of the letter is contained in these three fragments.

James 1:1 ~ James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings.

Most people gloss over the opening so fast they often are not even conscious of what it said…

Well, not us…

The introduction is simple… there was no doubt in anyone’s mind back then who was sending the letter.

Unlike America today where people constantly thump their own drum and tell everyone how great they are – back then – especially for Christians – what we do today, would be appalling.

To talk about how wonderful, you are – how much, you have accomplished – how great, you will be in the future, was simply seen as arrogant braggadocio with no place at all, in Christianity.

It opens with, “James,” period.

He identifies himself, NOT as the Lord’s brother, Not as Apostle, Not as the Leader of the churches in Jerusalem… NOT even as, “THE Bond-servant,” BUT merely as, “A bond-servant.”

“A bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” If you’ve been around here very long, you probably know how much that term, “Bond-servant,” annoys me. It is δοῦλος (dü-lŏs), and it means “Slave.”

Richard Trench said, a δοῦλος, “Is one who is in a permanent relation of servitude to another, his will being altogether consumed in the will of the other.”

Slaves were considered property under Roman law and had no legal PERSONHOOD. Just like unborn babies today, slaves then, were not even recognized as human beings by the government.

Therefore, they could be beaten, sexually exploited, tortured and executed at the whim of their owner… and no one would blink an eye, let alone interfere.

An owner could do anything to, and require anything from, a slave.

Just like slavery in America 150 years ago, some owners were more compassionate than others, BUT no matter how caring, they were all willing owners of what was considered non-human property, no different than owning a dog or a horse.

I cannot overstate how horrific conditions were for all slaves. Even if your owner was generous and kind, he still held your life in his hands…

That is how all Christians, prominently including Paul, Peter, John, Jude and James thought of themselves… they all saw themselves 100% belonging to God and the Lord Jesus Christ… to be used in ANY way God saw fit.

So many of us today want God to use us, BUT we want to be used in a way that we approve. We want to be comfortable with how Jesus uses us. “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone,” including God.

You say, “No Scott, you’re wrong – I want God to use me however He chooses.” Okay, what if God wants to use you as a missionary in Syria or Iraq right now? Oh, and don’t forget to bring your kids…

What if Jesus wants you to take in, house, feed and care for homeless people… NOT at the church or some other facility, BUT in your own home?

What if the Holy Spirit wants you to get up and preach a message, BUT to reach some particular person, He wants you to make a fool of yourself and suffer ridicule by the crowd. Yeah, you preach, BUT you fail spectacularly because that’s how He wants to use you.

What if God wants you to have cancer?

As a slave… my desire is irrelevant – it makes no difference at all, what I want anymore. I don’t own myself – the Lord does. It is not my will; it is God’s will.

Yes, Lord, “Here I am. Send me” (Isaiah 6:8).
Abba Father, You can do anything… “Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (Matthew 26:39, Mark 14:36, Luke 22:42).

Being like a slave is surrender.

To surrender to the Will of God like that, requires tremendous trust in Him, and faith in His plan…

There will be many times when it makes no sense – but you must believe, my friends, only believe…

Everything to do with Christianity comes down to a matter of faith… “What do you believe?” And then, “How much do you believe it?”

James is specifically surrendered to: The will of Almighty God, and to that of: His Lord.

Remember the way phrases are ordered has meaning. The actual order is, “James… God’s & the Lord Jesus Christ’s, slave.”

The emphasis is on God and Jesus, not James’ status.

Anyway, it a combined surrender equally to “God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

The Lordship of Jesus, is stressed first, because James is talking about surrender as His slave – therefore lordship is the most important part…

When we call Jesus our Lord and Savior the Lord part actually means that He’s the Boss.

But James doesn’t just say, “Lord” – he is next specific that His Lord, is none other than his earthly brother, “Jesus.”

But wait, there’s more… that “Lord Jesus,” is the “Christ” – the Messiah – the Anointed One of God – Immanuel, God with us.

Any Jew back then could have called himself a slave of God – but to add, and also of the “Lord Jesus Christ,” would have been blasphemous in that context.

It was fine to be the slave of God and also the slave of Caesar for example, BUT not in the same context. Said this way it would have elevated Caesar to the level of God.

That is precisely what James has done.

Now he addresses his audience… “To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad”

There’s basically two ways to take this

Jewish Christians dispersed or metaphorically for the eschatological church as yet un-gathered.

Either way, it is for Christians in various places, either originally Jewish or not, and so is an epistle of letter, that is catholic, as in universal, or circular, as in, meant to be circulated, or general, as in not specifically for one person or church.

If you’re a person who favors a more literal view James addressing Jewish Christians then the date for the letter must be in the mid 40’s A.D., If you go for the more metaphorical meaning, then it could be dated anytime from the later 40’s through the 50’s.

What’s the big deal… well there are Christians, like me, who believe that God is not finished with the Jews.

There are other Christians who believe in what is termed, “Replacement Theology.” It is the idea that God has rejected the unbelieving Jews forever and REPLACED them with Christians. The Twelve Tribes is now ONLY metaphorical and means the Christian Community.

I am convinced that James would have never had that thought, BUT I do believe he would have seen the Twelve Tribes as a description of God’s true people both Jewish Christians and “Grafted in” Gentile Christians (Romans 11:17ff).

“Greetings,” is “Grace to you…” God’s blessing and His peace in the form of salvation to you.

So we’ve had our introduction to the letter and we’ve refreshed our memory on some things and we’ve perhaps learned something new…

But for today, the biggest point is the notion of being a SLAVE of God and also of the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is about total surrender to His program and it requires a tremendous amount of faith that you cannot possibly conjure up in yourself…

It is the work of the Holy Spirit.

Pray every day for the power of God to make you stand for that day – one day at a time – to make you stand firm.

032716 - The Resurrection
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March 29, 2016 01:57 PM PDT
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Easter Sunday sermon by Pastor Scott Keller

Today we celebrate the single-most glorious and important event in the history of the universe!

Putting the capstone on the Great Pyramid of Khufu in the Giza Necropolis…
Attaching the final brass plate to the Colossus of Rhodes
Building the last section in the Great Wall of China…
Placing the finishing stone on the Sphinx in Egypt…
Planting the final flower in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon…
Erecting the final column in Herod’s Jerusalem Temple Complex.
Painting the last panel in the SISTINE CHAPEL Installing the final statue in the tomb of Mausolus IN Halicarnassus…
Forcing King John to sign the Magna Carta at Runnymede…
Booting the English ARMY out of America… Twice…
Putting the finishing touches on Mount Rushmore in South Dakota…
Or landing Neil Armstrong on the moon (even though he messed up his line).

It is all meaningless in comparison to what we are here to talk about today.

I’m not in any way exaggerating. This is no hyperbole or overinflated, grandiose embellishment to get your attention this morning. I am not only, not, overstating the matter – it is literally impossible to do so…

We simply do not have the words or the emotions to properly express the significance of what we commemorate today.

Those things I mentioned, are merely human achievements… The birth of our universe itself – the original Light out of darkness, the original creating of the heavens and the earth… the original breathing life into the first human… All the way down to the formation of the oceans and continents, the plants and the animals, the expanse of the Grand Canyon and majesty of our own Glacier Park. The beauty of the sunrise this morning… somewhere.

It all pales in comparison to the Resurrection.

Even the celebration of the Lord’s birth at Christmas and the somber remembrance of His death on Good Friday are pointless without the reality of what we celebrate today. Everything hinges on what today represents.

We’ve been talking a lot about PROOF over the last few weeks…

Just last week we talked about how God sending Jesus in actual reality was absolute, sure PROOF, that He loves us.

Before that, we talked about how moments or flashes of unconditional, altruistic, God-love, called Agapê, that manifest in a person was PROOF that that person was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Which is itself PROOF that that Christianity is true and that that individual is a saved child of God.

The Resurrection of Jesus is the most important PROOF of all.

It is the difference between what is Truth from Almighty God and what is just another man-made system of philosophical concepts, along with the requisite rules, rituals and inevitable traditions.

Many people think Christianity is just such a man-made system… BUT my friends, GET this… no one, who has any intelligence at all, can believe that unless they first disbelieve the Resurrection.

It is utterly impossible to rationally disbelieve Christianity, without first disbelieving the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ some 2,000 years ago.

IF you believe in the Resurrection of Jesus and you are not an all-in, sold-out, on-fire, card-carrying Christian… you are at best… crazy… and I hope to show you why.

There is a war that has been raging the better part of 20 centuries… It is a war waged by evil to keep people from eternal life with God.

The war has many fronts, BUT none are more important than the fight to destroy the reality of the Resurrection.

It is done in a wide variety of ways. Sometimes subtle, sometimes fiercely overt, sometimes intentional, sometimes done in complete ignorance, BUT all to the same effect and ultimately all for the same purpose whether those involved realize it or not.

To understand the war and the objective evil pursues, one must fully understand the Truth on the opposite side that evil attacks.

As they say, you don’t teach Treasury Officers to spot counterfeit money by focusing on the fake stuff. What you do, is make them experts in what is real.

That’s the goal of this church – to do what we can, to make you experts, in what is real.

The Resurrection specifically and technically means… That Jesus, who while He was fully God, was also fully man, and so He truly died. His mortal, human, physical body was dead.

Clinically, legally, completely dead.

No breathing, no circulation, no brain activity, no life… stone cold dead, period, end of story.

I make a big deal out of that, because that is one way detractors try to dismiss the Resurrection. They say Jesus never fully died – He swooned. He was, “Only MOSTLY dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive.” They say…

Well, Jesus was “All dead,” and that is part of the reason He was three days in the tomb… To the people back then, after three days – after that amount of time, nothing could be done – there was no hope of a miracle after that. At that point the person was truly gone for good.

I know what you’re thinking… and yes, that’s why everyone had given up hope for Lazarus and why it was such an incredible miracle when Jesus raised him from the dead…

There was no way possible and yet, Jesus brought Lazarus back.

So, Jesus fully dead, and in the tomb, technically for three days.

Then on Sunday morning, Jesus was fully alive again. The full, bodily restoration to life, from the fully dead state. Now, for the final piece… drum roll please… Alive to never die again. Death was conquered by Jesus. Lazarus was raised by Jesus, BUT he died again… Lazarus didn’t personally have the power over death – Only God has that power.
Romans 6:9 says, “Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him.”

Somewhere in that process – fully dead – then fully alive and never to die again – somewhere in there, disbelievers in Christianity MUST find a way to change that narrative.

They have a number of theories to dismiss, ignore, minimize, mitigate, malign and marginalize the Resurrection…

Some say he died and they stole His lifeless body, hid it somewhere and made up the stories about His return. Maybe they even hired an actor to play the Resurrected Jesus.

Some say an imposter was crucified, intentionally or perhaps by mistake, in Jesus’ place. There are many other propositions of course…

Too many of them to cover, and like I said earlier, there’s really no point. I just want to make sure we all understand the Biblical Truth because, once again, there is NOTHING in Christianity that is more important than this.

IF we don’t get this right – there’s really no value in getting everything else right… and it grieves me that all Christians don’t grasp that.

Jesus, the Word of God made flesh, suffered and died… He was not mostly, but fully dead.

His human body was devoid of any life for three days and then life fully returned to that same body and he rose from the dead to be fully alive, never to taste death again.

There is no corpse, no mummified remains, no bones, no ashes or dust of Jesus. The Bible says in, Acts 13:34&35, “God raised Jesus from the dead so that he will never be subject to decay…” “As it is written: ‘You will not permit your Holy One to experience decay.’”

The Apostle Peter preached to the people in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost, “With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed Jesus to a cross and killed him. But God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life, for death could not keep him in its grip… it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Jesus” (Acts 2:23&24 NLT).

That is the salient and significant point of today. Any idea that clouds those facts is utter heresy and makes Christianity just another false human religion.

There may be some philosophical value – there may be some moral good or some ethical standard that serves society, BUT without the Resurrection, Christianity is no better than Buddhism.

Actually, it would be far worse because it would make the founder either a pathological liar or a charismatic lunatic or, I’ll add, a foolish patsy for the agenda of others.

No matter how you slice it, the Bible that we base everything upon would be so full of made-up information it would be completely unusable.

No one could determine what was true and what was false… therefore anyone trying to follow the Bible would be a sad, ignorant, fool, only to be pitied.

You don’t have to take my word for it… The great Apostle Paul put it like this…

I Corinthians 15:14-19 ~ 14And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless κενός, and your faith is useless κενός. 15And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. 16And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. 17And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless μάταιος and you are still guilty of your sins. 18In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! 19And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied ἐλεεινός than anyone in the world. (NLT).

Christian preaching and the faith in Christ that results are both “Useless,” absent the Resurrection, that’s according to the Bible. Absent the Resurrection Christians are just clowns.

The word is κενός (kĕ-nŏs), means empty, hollow, vacuous, fruitless, without use or purpose; it is vain, as in… in vain… preaching in vain – faith in vain.

Verse 17, says IF Jesus the Christ has NOT been Resurrected from the dead to never die again, the faith of any and all Christians, is absolutely “Useless.”

This “Useless,” is a different word. Here it is μάταιος (mä-tī-ŏs), similar in meaning, BUT with a greater focus on the outcome or result of empty faith.

As Gregory of Nyssa explained it nearly 17 centuries ago, “It is as, building houses on sand, chasing the wind, shooting at stars and pursuing one’s own shadow.” The “Shooting at stars” bit, would, of course, be with a bow and arrow, which somehow seems even dumber than with a gun, but not really.

It is aimlessness and futility… So, such a person is a fool to be “More… Pitied than anyone in the world.”

Pitied is ἐλεεινός (ĕ-lĕ-ā-nŏs), a person who should be pitied because they are pitiable, wretched, miserable. Such a complete sad sack you just walk by a shake your head.

I go through all of that to stress the futility of Christianity or any other religion, belief system or philosophy IF it is not objectively True.

Whatever such a system claims… it must be true OR it must be rejected as UN-true. Naturally, I, as I hope you know, believe with every fiber of MY being that Christianity is OBJECTIVELY True and therefore Jesus must have been LITERALLY Resurrected.

The point the Bible is making in I Corinthians chapter 15, is that Jesus was, in point of fact, raised from the dead once and for all and that gives the true and reasonable hope that we all will likewise be raised one day as the passage goes on…

SLIDE: I Corinthians 15:20-23 ~ 20But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died. 21So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. 22Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life. 23But there is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back. (NLT).

How can we be so sure Paul was right? The Bible also tells us earlier in that chapter…

SLIDE: I Corinthians 15:3-8 ~ 3bChrist died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. 4He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. 5He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. 6After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. 8Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him. (NLT).

So, Jesus was bodily Resurrected and because of that fact we all have legitimate hope for life eternal with Him.

Why though? What makes it so critical to Christianity?

As a quick overview… there is something rather than nothing. Think about that for a moment. If you came to church thinking it was Easter and so the sermon would be generic, insipid and cutesy… You came to the wrong church… there’s no point in hearing a sermon that doesn’t require you to think… even if it is a holiday.

There is something rather than nothing. Some would say, that is true and so we don’t need to think about it, BUT that is intellectual cowardice.

The universe exists – there is something. Everything we understand about science screams that there should be nothing instead.

That is IF there is not a cause that is outside of the physical reality of our universe… a pure being outside of space-time of unimaginable intelligence and power.

A First Cause, as Plato called it, is responsible for creating our Heavens and our earth… more to the point this Creator God is responsible for creating you and me.

It would seem to me, that we would turn to our Creator and out of a sense of love and gratitude for our existence, and all the resources of a planet to flourish, we would say, “Thank you – I’m yours to command.” I’m certain that’s what the angels expected.

BUT, that is not at all how it went… the very first man and woman wasted no time at all in establishing their own independence and repudiated God’s plan and by extension repudiated God Himself.

Again, it would seem to me that, that would be the end of the story… BUT wait… there’s more!

This open refusal to truly honor God by loving Him and obeying Him is called sin.

People say, well sure, God’s wrong to require people to love Him and force people to obey His dictates.

Let’s examine that…

God isn’t asking us to unilaterally love Him… God is asking us to enter into the love He has for us! He is asking, as a parent asks, will you join me in genuine heart-felt relationship?

Jesus quoted the Old Testament when He was asked, “Which is the greatest or most important commandment in the Law?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment” (Matthew 22:36-38).

The obedience thing… examine what it is that God commands.

The entirety of all the instructions, commands and requirements in the Bible boils down to Galatians 5:14, “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Or, how about, Romans 13:9&10, “For this, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”

What a jerk God is for ordering us to love!

Ordering us to all get along with Him and with each other – what a crime!

And so we all refuse – that’s sin. God is looking out for our individual best interests and the best interests of all of us as a whole, BUT we aren’t having any of it.

Sin results in decay and ultimately death. God told Adam that in the Garden… Satan’s argument was that God was all talk – His bark was far worse than His bite. Satan said, “Surely, you won’t die!” Don’t be stupid – of course God’s not going to allow you to die.”

Romans 5:12, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.”
Verse 23, “For the wages of sin is death.”
1 Corinthians 15:56, “The sting of death is sin.”
James 1:15, “When lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.”

The entire universe was thrown into a state of decay ultimately and inexorably leading to death.

That could have been the end of the story and, for my money, it should have been.

BUT, “God loved the world so much (God loved you and me so much): 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 (as He surely could have, and some would argue, He surely should have), but (rather) to save the world through him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged…” (John 3:16-18).
John 16:9
9The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me.

Jesus repeatedly claimed as much… He was constantly talking about being the One sent by the Father to eradicate the sin problem.

He was going to pay with His life in order to balance the ledger… in order to satisfy righteousness – Truth and propriety on the one hand and on the other… mercy, grace… love.

You see my friends, IF Jesus had died and NOT been resurrected it would mean that death had won and the only way death wins is when there is sin… the cause of death is sin.

The absolutely vital nature of holding firmly to the Resurrection is the Truth that since death could NOT hold Jesus it PROVES beyond doubt that He defeated sin.

The Bodily Resurrection PROVES in actual reality that Jesus was telling the Truth when He said, “I AM the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies” (John 11:25).

Jesus repeatedly said that He was the Anointed One of God sent to free people from sin and death. How can you free others from sin and death if you yourself can’t overcome sin and death yourself?

The Resurrection puts an end to the discussion – it terminates the debate – it utterly destroys the fear associated with mortality.

Because of what the Resurrection PROVES we can say along with the Holy Spirit… “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. 57But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 15:55-57).

I have always said that church unity – the unity of Christians is far more important than we think… Many people will be shocked when they stand in front of Jesus and have to explain why they didn’t take it more seriously.

Of course the problem with unity is that we all have different ideas and we are all just arrogant enough to think our ideas are better than everyone else’s ideas.

I said, the question we should ask ourselves before engaging in a fight is NOT, “Am I willing to die on this hill?” The question we should ask is, “Am I willing to destroy the unity of the church over this issue?”

In other words, there are some things worth fighting about and then there are the vast majority of things NOT worth fighting about.

Well, my friends, the full bodily Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ nearly 2,000 years ago that we celebrate today is an issue that is non-negotiable and is worth defending to the very end.

Unity without agreement on the Resurrection is NOT Christian unity at all.

Romans 8:11
11The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.

The proof that God loves us is that He created us – then He let us rebel – then He sent Jesus to give us another chance.

The Proof Jesus was Who He said He was and that He accomplished what He said He would is the Resurrection.

The Proof that all of this is true and that you are actually saved and will have life eternal is the Spirit of God living in you.

The Proof of that reality is the amazing, non-native, unnatural Agapê love of God, being manifested through you.

032016 - The Entrance
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March 21, 2016 04:14 PM PDT
itunes pic

Palm Sunday message about the entrance of God in our world culminating with the entrance of Jesus in Jerusalem.

Over the last few weeks, we have talked about, “Who Jesus Is,” and found out that He is the Word of Almighty God, Himself, fully God, coequal with our Heavenly Father.

We then talked about the reason that, “He Had to be God,” in order to accomplish the Father’s plan… Only God can save us – “Salvation belongs to the Lord.”

Then for two weeks we discussed the sometimes overlooked, sometimes over emphasized and rarely understood Holy Spirit. His absolutely vital role enabling that amazing plan of salvation to be accepted by people and therefore become effective in actual human lives.

We recognized that the Holy Spirit Breath of God is, Himself also, fully God and coequal with the Father and the Son.

It is the Trinity, and each One, within the triune Creator Godhead, is as vital to our existence, our salvation and our eternity as the others.

Ultimately, the purpose of all of their activity is relationship with you and with me – as crazy as that sounds… Ultimately, everything was instituted, accomplished and enabled for the goal that we would become people who love perfectly, just as God loves perfectly.

There are reasons that it all had to proceed precisely the way that it did… And be exactly the way that it presently is… And that it will go inexorably the way that it must… We could talk about those reasons for the remainder of our lives, and I hope to do just that…

Because, it is so amazing, there are so many fascinating concepts and connections, BUT the one I want us to think about today is that God… Through the desire and plan and command of the Father, through the life and death and resurrection of Jesus, through the inspiration and illumination and revelation of the Holy Spirit… God Proved His PERFECT love for us… in actual reality.

It is NOT theoretical – it is not just a hypothetical thought experiment or a conjectural supposition. The Father actually sent Jesus. Jesus existentially came to us. The Holy Spirit genuinely reveals that Truth to human beings.

It actually happened… we can point to it on a calendar… we can visit the geographical locations… we can read the ancient accounts… we can touch the archeological artifacts of the time… There are people sitting near you at this instant who have walked precisely where He walked.

The physical life of Jesus is historically undeniable. NO academic expert denies that – the actual life of Jesus of Nazareth is NOT disputed – as I say, at least not by any serious scholar, anyone with any intelligence, knowledge and education in a related field.

Jesus entered our world and IF we will allow it – He will enter our lives.

It may seem strange to talk about His birth when this coming Friday we will remember His death… BUT today is about “The Entrance,” and while specifically today we are acknowledging, “Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem,” we must start at the Beginning…

Quite literally, we start at the Beginning.

As we all know, Genesis 1:1 states, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

I don’t know how many people like hearing phrases in the original language, But I know at least a few of you are in that boat… This is how it has been told for over 4,000 years and how it has been written in the Bible for over 3,500 years… This is how Abraham would have said it to his son Isaac… בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים אֵ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ׃
bĕ-ȑä-shēt ~ bä-ȑä ~ ĕ-lō-hēm ~ ĕt ~ häshä-mīm ~ vĕ-ĕt ~ hă-äȑ-ĕtz

Literally, it means that in the non-time before our universe existed, before there was any space – time – energy – matter… By fiat – ex nihilo – out of nothing that previously existed, GOD created everything… the heavens and the earth.

The Bible goes on to immediately say, and “The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.”

The Spirit was hovering, God was speaking, His Word was activating new creation in physical reality.

So, with His Spirit, God spoke His Word and in this particular case… Light had no choice, but to be… Light had no choice, but to shine forth in the darkness.

God then continued to create through speaking all of it into existence by the power of His Holy Word…

That Holy Word took on human flesh and dwelt among us as a man named Jesus… the Bible says of Him… “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:15-17).

And why would the Holy Word come to earth? That very passage, in Colossians chapter one, goes on to explain… “He is also head of 1the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for 2all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach” (Colossians 1:18-22).

And what, pray tell, must we do to benefit in such a way? What must we do to be reconciled to God – made right with Him? Well, we don’t have to wonder because the very next verse spills the beans about that also, you will be reconciled to God, declared holy and blameless and beyond reproach… “If indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven” (Colossians 1:23).

Let’s take a moment with all of that and recognize just a couple of other important points in the Colossians passage…

I hear people all the time whining that while they love God, they hate church, while they self-identify as Christians they can’t stand to be around Christians… Untold numbers of people, over the years, have told me, “I accept Jesus, I just reject church – my church is the great outdoors… spending time with God alone.”

Jesus – the same Jesus who was born in a barn and who died on a cross – that Jesus, IS the “Head of the Body, which is the Church.”

A person may disparage the church, which is the Bride and Body of Jesus Christ, made up of His individual followers. They may hate the church, which is the chosen instrument of God and is Jesus on earth now… BUT Jesus loved His church… He loved His church so much that He died for her.

Of course it is far more enjoyable to stand on a spectacular vista and praise God… it’s enjoyable because it’s easy… any moron with absolutely no Christian maturity at all can stand by themselves looking at a beautiful scene and worship. Who needs the Holy Spirit for that?

Here’s what’s far more difficult. Get to church regularly, get involved personally, work shoulder-to-shoulder with turkeys like me, and then praise and worship God… you may very well find that impossible, that is… without the Holy Spirit to help.

It takes no character at all to worship in the first case, BUT it often takes immense character to do the latter… and that’s the point – it requires God to build Christian character in us. He gets the credit for church unity.

Do not make the mistake that Moses made. I could easily argue that, if Moses wasn’t the greatest Old Testament hero, he was certainly in the top three… God trusted Moses to lead his people out of Egyptian slavery. Exodus 33:11, states, “The Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend.”

We know being humble is key to serving God and according to Numbers 12:3, “Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth.”

Moses was on his mission, leading the Israelites into the Promised Land flowing with milk and honey… life was good!

Read Numbers chapter 20, very carefully and you will see that Moses became exasperated with the people… They were thirsty, there was no water, and so they rebelled against Moses… condemning his leadership ability and his personal motives.

What Moses forgot, was that those stiff-necked, contentious, irritating, complaining, rebellious, insane people were… GOD’s people.

Moses in Numbers 20:10, “Said to them, ‘Listen now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?’”

In what I believe was a fit of frustration and anger Moses wacked the rock twice and while God made water flow from it abundantly, God was displeased with the disrespectful show that Moses put on.

In verse 12, God said to Moses, “Because you did not treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.”

Moses never set foot in the Promised Land because he forgot that the people, were God’s people.

My friends, never, ever, forget… as difficult as Christians can be at times… never forget they are sons and daughters of the living God. They constitute the Bride for Christ and believe it or not, they are filled with the Holy Spirit…

Please do not hate, disparage or dismiss the church because I promise you, God will defend His people. Do not bring judgment upon yourself, by judging the church.

The other point I’d like to make concerning the Colossians passage is that, “It was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him.”

Romans chapter one tells us that no person has any excuse at all for not seeking God – there is absolutely no ignorance defense at the Judgment Seat… “I didn’t know” will never work to mitigate anyone’s guilt.

Why? Because, “Since the creation of the world God’s invisible attributes, His eternal power and His divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made.”

Through the stars and the earth, through science and the arts, through emotion and the intricately complex dance of life… it is all around us, the miracle of existence itself, and because of “That God says, they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).

As Thomas Schreiner put it, “God has stitched into the fabric of the human mind his existence and power, so that they are instinctively recognized when one views the created world.” Therefore, “The rejection of God is concurrent with the knowledge of him.”

That’s why there is no excuse or possible defense… It is God’s divine nature we can comprehend from the world around us, that’s θειότης (thā-ŏ-tās).

The fullness of divinity, the fullness of deity, has been manifested in our experience and the ultimate demonstration was in Christ Jesus our Lord. Colossians 2:9, “For in Jesus all the fullness of Deity, θεότης, dwells in bodily form.”

It is not merely that God has put a deposit of Himself in Jesus, not merely that Jesus possessed the divine nature… in other words it is not merely that Jesus was LIKE God… Jesus IS God.

Hebrews 1:3 tells us that Jesus “Is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature.”

I’ve mentioned it before, BUT I just love that the radiance of God’s glory… is His ἀπαύγασμα (äp-ʌʊ-gäs-mä), it is God’s EFFULGENCE… As Theodoret said 16 centuries ago, “The effulgence is both from the fire and with the fire, and has the fire as its cause, yet is not divided from the fire; for whence comes the fire, thence also comes the effulgence.”

The effulgence is everything we see and feel coming from the sun… it is inseparable from it and it is the very thing that makes the sun known to us. It is the manifestation of the sun we experience.

And God’s effulgence came to us… John 3:13, “No one has ascended into heaven, except He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man.” Verse 18, “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

Now that we are done with that two-pronged side eddy… We now rejoin our regularly scheduled program in progress… back to Genesis… God entered our world by first creating our world and then by creating us…

Genesis 2:7, “Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”

I find it fascinating that God breathed into the man His Breath – the Holy Spirit breath of life – breathed into him in intimate gentleness and that, as a result, the man became a living soul.

What’s even more incredible is that Jesus did precisely the same thing to His disciples… John 20:22, “Jesus breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’”

Each one of us has, by proxy, been breathed into existence as a living soul by Almighty God and each one of us who is a Christian has likewise, by proxy, been breathed into existence as a living spirit. Let us then “Live in the spirit according to the will of God” (Romans 8ff, I Peter 4:6, etc.).

God entered our world by creating it and then creating us… as we have seen over the last month, God entered our world repeatedly as recorded in the Old Testament.

And as alluded to all day long, God entered our world through the Incarnation… Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit and was born of the Virgin Mary (Matthew 1:20ff, etc.).

Jesus grew and at the proper time He began His personal ministry by first being baptized in order “To fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15, etc.).

His ministry progressed for three years according to tradition and our best understanding of the Scripture… again, the Bible was not written as an historical narrative filling in all the details, BUT rather as a relation-building book of historically true and accurate accounts to move the theological points along.

When Jesus was performing His most exciting, jaw dropping miracles… especially those where people were getting a free lunch by the sea… His popularity and crowd appeal was epic.

People love to flock to the best show in town especially if there are free door prizes.

Then Jesus began to preach the Truth bluntly and openly…

One of the saddest verses in the entire Bible is John 6, 6, 6… “As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.”

You want a crowd? Put on a production. You want to find out who is serious about God? Plainly preach the Truth bluntly and openly.

In spite of the fierce opposition from the religious leaders, the rejection from the majority of the people, the betrayal of so many disciples and the dullness, dumbness and grumbling of the Apostles… Jesus stayed the course.

He knew full well what was waiting for Him if He went to Jerusalem… Yet Luke 9:51 records that, “Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” I like that rendering in the NET. I kind of like the ESV, even better, because it just follows the original Semitic idiom, colloquialism or way of saying, “He set his face to go to Jerusalem.”

He set His face, τὸ πρόσωπον ἐστήρισεν (tŏ pȑŏ-sō-pŏn ĕs-tā-ȑē-sĕn), means He firmly decided and resolutely determined to go… He would not be dissuaded from His mission.

Jesus was about to enter our world again… the time had come.

So, the Jews of that time were eagerly looking forward to God’s Anointed One… God’s Messiah who would DELIVER the people out of bondage to the Romans and to any other nation or empire that might oppress them… such as the Parthians to the East.

This Messiah would also DELIVER the Jews from their human frailty and failings – He would also enable them to truly love and obey God.

People being people, I imagine the first part was more interesting than the second.

The general consensus was that Messiah would enter Jerusalem during Passover.

So, almost 2,000 years ago, there was a tumultuous scene of great rejoicing by emotionally exuberant masses, openly, publicly, proclaiming Jesus to be the long awaited Savior.

The story is told in detail in all four Gospels… Jesus spent Saturday night in Bethany less than a mile and a half from Jerusalem.

They got a slow start the next morning… Sunday morning… The day was well underway when Jesus and a throng of Apostles, disciples, and other interested parties arrived at the top of the Mount of Olives looking across at the Holy City of David.

Jesus mounted a donkey colt to fulfill the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey— riding on a donkey’s colt.”

The people with Him and then all the pilgrims along the way – the whole vast crowd rejoiced shouting Save us, we pray, O LORD –
אָנָּא יהוה הוֹשִׁיעָה נָּא
ä-nä / Yä-wĕh (ADONAI) / hō-shē-ä / nä
O! / Yahweh (Lord) / Save / Now or Please
It is Anglicized today as Hosanna. It refers primarily to… Psalm 118:25&26.

For the very first time in His earthly ministry Jesus allowed them to enthusiastically announce Him as Messiah… For the first time Jesus wasn’t quashing the party, He wasn’t putting a stop to it and His followers could not contain their elation.

Everyone, His Apostles, His Disciples, little children, desperate people, intrigued visitors and all those who were, up till then, undecided… stridently, dramatically, heartily, declared Him as the Anointed One of God…

The Warrior-King-Priest come to set all things right! Everyone was free to shout and sing and dance for joy… People were free to pray and praise and worship God for sending them their SALVATION.

Everyone present that day knew the implication… God had finally decided to SAVE His children from the poverty, injustice, oppression and religious ineffectualness of their lives.

In a new and different way God was going to live among His people…

They were right about the general idea, but they were very wrong on all the details and that is why it took only a few days, for the crowd to go from, “Hosanna in the Highest,” to, “Crucify Him.” Matthew 21:9&15, Mark 11:9&10, John 12:13 and then Mark 15:13&14

It only took half a week for His hand chosen Apostles to go from, “Make way for the Holy One,” to, “I tell you the truth, I never knew Him.” Mark 11:6, Luke 19:34 and then Matthew 26:69-75

Jesus did change everything, and in a far more important way than the Jews back then were looking for… but it wasn’t in the way they expected… You don’t want to be around when people realize you are thwarting their expectation.

Immediately after that John 666 verse, the Bible tells us that Jesus turned to His closest friends and asked them, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” (John 6:67).

God Entered our world in the most dramatic way possible… Jesus was the long-awaited and sadly unrecognized Messiah.

Because of God’s gracious plan you and I, along with any other person on the planet have an opportunity to say what the Apostle Peter said to Jesus’ question, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68&69).

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