Aletheia Christian Fellowship Podcast
Truth in Love
070316 - James 4a - Independence?
July 06, 2016 03:04 PM PDT
James 4:1-6, Pastor Scott Keller
So last week we finished chapter 3, and I think we could all see how serious God is about unity in the Body of Christ.
In verse 16, of that chapter it says, “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.”
According to the Bible, “Disorder” in the church is a sure sign of earthly, natural and demonic “Wisdom” at work.
It is people who think so highly of their opinion… they must work, struggle, fight, even destroy, in order to impose it on others.
It creates instability, confusion, divisions and disassociation. Paul addressed the spiritually immature in I Corinthians 3:3 NLT, saying, “You are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world?”
So we start with the first bit of verse 1, in James chapter 4…
JAMES 4:1a ~ 1aWhat is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you?
Having just said, as the NLT translates it, “And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.”
James, in verse 1, turns to the opposite of peace and rhetorically asks what is the source of anti-peace in the church, what is the cause of “Quarrels and conflicts” among Christians?
We continue with the rest of verse 1…
JAMES 4:1b ~ 1bIs not the source… your pleasures that wage war in your members?
This sounds like a question that could be debated… well maybe that’s it, but maybe not… Remember in Greek, the language of logic and rhetorical argumentation… rhetorical questions can only be answered one way… nothing is left to chance.
Here the answer to the question is a resounding, “YES, obviously, absolutely, of course,” the source is “Your pleasures that wage war in your members.”
What does that mean?
Once again, the NASB translation is perfect at what it does… it translates as close to word-for-word as possible and in so doing often leaves people scratching their head.
The ESV is clearer, “Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” The NIV may be better than that, “Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” The MSG is clearer still, “They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves.”
If a core characteristic of God is love for others, a core characteristic of humans is love for self.
No matter how mature you are in Christ… no matter how much you yield to the Holy Spirit work in your life… self… constantly rears its ugly head.
SELF must be vigilantly recognized, intentionally opposed and actively battled… every day of your life.
Our default position is thinking about ourselves, our interests, our desires, our will done.
That is the normal, native passion, lust, desire within us all and IF we are Christians led by the Holy Spirit we will be at war with that earthly, human, fleshly inclination.
When we lose that battle the devil makes progress in the church.
James expands his argument in the first part of verse 2…
JAMES 4:2a ~ 2aYou lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel.
It is a nice mnemonic couplet to enhance and amplify the concept that our human lust for power, longing for acceptance, craving for attention, passion for pleasure, hunger for more than we have, starts out as a mere wish…
It starts by a thought in our mind that we want things to be a certain way… we envy those who seem to get their way… we struggle then to set it right… working to remake the world to reflect our desire and we become bitterly jealous of those who are better at it than we are.
Thoughts give birth to words and words grow up to be actions and actions produce effects just as James said back in chapter 1, “When desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is full grown, it brings forth death” (James 1:15).
Left unchecked our desire to have it our way ultimately leads to fighting and war and murder… Unchecked, it confirms eternal death in the practitioner as well.
It is so important that we “Take every thought captive” (II Corinthians 10:5). Thoughts produce attitudes… my friends. What we dwell on in our mind produces the attitude we have and it is nearly impossible to speak and act contrary to our attitude.
Philippians 2:3-5 NLT, 3Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. 5You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.”
The final bit of verse 2, and verse 3…
JAMES 4:2b&3 ~ 2bYou do not have because you do not ask. 3You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.
Here we take a little foray into the basic problem… It would seem that I’d be as happy as happy can be, IF I got everything I wanted, when I wanted it…
I don’t get what I want and so I’m unhappy and so I make those around me unhappy.
Why don’t I get my way?
Well I don’t ask God for what I want. I either don’t think about asking God, or I believe God can’t help or I believe God won’t help.
The first is arguably the most common reason… I simply react and try to get what I want on my own without giving God much thought at all.
I see Christians making huge life decisions… Where to go to school, what profession to pursue, where to live, who to marry, how many kids to have… without ever asking God what He thinks.
It’s typically only when a thing becomes a crisis that I call out to God.
If I always ask God for His help in even the most mundane matters it does a few things for me.
1) First, it keeps me connected to God and therefore somewhat disconnected from caring too much about the temporary things of this world. Things that usually won’t matter in 100 days, let alone in 100 years, let alone in eternity.
2) It also provides a bit of a Godliness check… You want to destroy an opponent and it might give you pause when you try to formulate that into a prayer.
3) It also helps me remember something critically important… I am dependent upon God, whether I am aware of it or not, for even the tiniest things I typically don’t even notice.
God makes my heart beat, He makes the sun shine, He makes the air that I breathe, He enables the synaptic connections that allow me to recognize that He is God and that, in itself, is enough.
As I’ve mentioned before, my first professional preaching gig was filling in for a pastor for an entire month. It was a Southern all-black church… I don’t mean Southern Montana and I don’t mean the building was painted black, I mean people talked funny and Mariah and I were the only pale-skinned people for miles around.
I must say it had a profound effect on me and I often wish we could get a little bit of what those wonderful people had here in our church.
I’m certain that on average, they didn’t understand theology as well as our crowd here, BUT they were in love with Jesus and completely unafraid to show that reality in everything they said and did.
One of the things that struck me was a theme that kept recurring. Many times, from many different people, they would say, “I just praise God that I’m in my right mind and can know who He is.”
If God will enable your brain to work well enough to know who He is… it’s enough… that is enough and how often do we thank Him for that?
When I ask for all the things I want, it helps me remember all the things I’ve already got.
4) It helps me remember to be thankful for my abundance and maybe a little less greedy for more.
Yeah, I lost my “Fill in the blank,” but I still have salvation.
5) It also helps me remember that no matter how powerful, smart and hard-working I am… I control nothing.
We love to think we are in control. In fact, the number one reason for stress in our lives, is a feeling of being out of control. In actuality, we’re never in control of anything. We just think we are…
Human control is an illusion and prayer reminds me of that fact.
The next two reasons I don’t ask is I don’t believe God is willing to I don’t believe God is able… He’s too busy, too distracted, too aloof, too exacting to care about little ole me.
However, we frame it, the bottom line is, I don’t believe in the God of the Bible. I don’t believe in the God who cares and who is in control, the God who wants to hear from me and desires my best, the God who is compassionate, merciful and able.
The next problem is… sometimes I do ask God, and He doesn’t answer… Which is to say, His answer is not one I want to hear.
The problem isn’t that God doesn’t answer, the problem is we’re so focused on the answer we want, we aren’t listening for the answer He gives.
What we want is a Genie, not a God. There’s a huge difference between the two. The first is like witchcraft, a way to get my will done.
In our culture today we often hear about a distinction between good witches and bad witches, between white magic and black magic.
All witchcraft, like all magic, like all works-based religion, is about control. If I mix these ingredients, say this incantation, go to that church… then things will go the way I think they should go.
Even if everything I desire is good… it is my idea of what’s good.
It is always about me acting as God, rather than me humbly serving God. Me wanting my will done in heaven, rather than God’s will done on earth.
I “Ask and don’t receive,” because I’m asking for what I think is best, rather than asking for what God knows is best. I “Ask with wrong motives.”
What are the wrong motives? Well, in a nutshell, the wrong motives are motives not aligned with God’s purposes.
Wrong motives are desiring God to move on your behalf so that you can have your way. even when your way is counter to God’s will.
Back in verse 1, we found that the source of strife in the church was our, “Pleasures that wage war in our members?”
“Pleasures” is the Greek word ἡδονή (hā-dŏn-ā), yes, this evolved into English hĕdonism or hēdonism.
Specifically, here, it is what I desire, that takes precedence over what God desires.
Many people confuse their ideas and God’s. Many people create havoc in the church by demanding their own strict interpretation of the Bible… The irony is they destroy the unity God repeatedly commands while thinking they are acting on His behalf.
So, the final part of verse 3, is talking about asking God for what we think is best… what PLEASES us… When God may have something very different in mind.
Now, on to verses 4&5…
JAMES 4:4&5 ~ 4You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”?
This picture represents is the intended effect… Several times James has addressed us as brothers and it is legitimate to say, as sisters, so this is quite shocking.
“You adulteresses,” is a slap in the face. It is to call everyone’s attention to the seriousness of the matter.
Adulteresses is of course in the feminine form because God’s people are often metaphorically equated to His wife… unfortunately, most often, an unfaithful wife. In Ezekiel 16:32, God calls His people, “You adulteress wife.”
Adultery is seeking after a different God. When we do that it always starts because we are dissatisfied… it is always finishes by rejecting God in His role and granting that role to someone or something else.
Therefore, “Friendship with the world is hostility toward God,” in the sense that getting caught up in the world leads us to compromise our loyalties.
Judas was so concerned with Jesus being who and what he wanted Jesus to be, that when he failed to live up to those expectations, Judas betrayed Him with a kiss.
That’s what we are in danger of doing when we want God to be who we want Him to be rather than who He truly is.
It is to be double-minded (James 1:8, 4:8). It is to allow our loyalties to be divided and so we must battle against the tendency. It is essentially what Paul pointed out to the Corinthians where he says, “One who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided”
Please align all of your interests with God’s interests and when you do it will actually make you a better spouse, a better parent, a better sibling, a better friend.
Verse 5, is one of the most difficult verses in the entire Bible to interpret. The basic issue is James clearly quotes two separate passages. The first here in verse 5, and the second in verse 6.
Verse 6 is easy… it is clearly Proverbs 3:34 from the Greek Old Testament. The passage quoted in verse 5 is not clear.
Here’s a perfect example of why context is so important. Because we can’t be certain which Scripture James is quoting in verse 5, we can’t be certain about the quotations original context, so it leaves the meaning open to interpretation.
Everyone agrees on the underlying Greek words, BUT what they mean, without the original context, can vary.
Here’s what I mean and why I bring it up…
NASB “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”?
That’s God wants relational connection with all of His Own Spirit and a portion of that Spirit dwells in you.
ESV, NIV, NRSV all essentially say, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? That’s God again, BUT now He is yearning for us more than His Spirit in us… God wants connection with our life animating human spirit.
The NLT agrees with a little easier flow, “God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him.” That’s again, God after our spirit.
The MSG avoids defining what the subject or the object, simply saying that, “he’s a fiercely jealous lover.”
HCSB says it is, “The Spirit who lives in us yearns jealously?” Not God yearning, BUT His Holy Spirit.
NET agrees with the KJV and the older NIV translation by saying, “The spirit that God caused to live within us has an envious yearning.” Meaning that it is our human spirit that’s doing the yearning and so the yearning is evil.
The reason we can have so many different ideas at this place is because each one of them is Biblically possible… If you have a passage that can potentially have multiple meanings and all of those meanings are reasonable Biblically… why choose?
People want to know for sure… they gather information and make a decision. Then they argue and fight with anyone who disagrees.
See the irony? God is talking to us about Christian unity and in the middle of the exhortation we divide and fight over the exact meaning of a single verse.
God put this nebulous verse here for a reason and I believe the reason is to graphically show us just how foolish we can be.
Any of the translations are okay. In fact, when we take all of them together they form a detailed and complete picture of why we fight against God and why He cares.
Yes, we know God desires right relationship with us because He both granted us life with our spirit at the moment of conception and granted us eternal life giving us His Spirit at the moment of Christian conversion.
And yes, God’s Holy Spirit inside a Christian yearns for complete access and perfect relationship with the Father through Christ Jesus.
And yes, our human spirit strongly desires things that are opposed to God’s will.
It’s all true and so any of it is possible… we pass the test when we don’t miss the forest for the trees.
When we don’t get so wrapped up in the minutia that we actually miss the main point of God’s Message.
JAMES 4:6 ~ 6But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
Regardless of the intricacies of why there is a disconnect between me and God… He bridges the gap.
When I fail, God gives me greater grace. That is… when I am humble.
What it means is that when I recognize my unfaithfulness to God by pushing for my way I humble myself because I am sorry, I am repentant, I acknowledge my imperfection and that only Jesus can be perfect for me…
I humbly beseech Him for His Grace, His pardon, His mercy and forgiveness… I humbly ask Him to help me… not be a better me… But help me be precisely who HE wants me to be.
That is the opposite of INDEPENDENCE.
Praise God today for our nation’s Independence from tyranny and oppression so that we are free to be openly dependent upon God.
It will not last… make hay while the sun still shines and also prepare for winter.062616 - James 3b - Can't We All Get Along?
June 29, 2016 10:37 AM PDT
James 3:5-18, Pastor Scott Keller
In chapter 3, James is basically saying, as we come together as a church family, we don’t need a bunch of ARROGANT, holier-than-thou, know-it-all, I-have-an-opinion, blowhards always trying to get their views heard and their ideas adopted.
What we need is people willing to check their opinion at the door and humbly work together to get along. To bless God, to encourage each other and to be examples of God’s grace to the lost.
As God teaches in Philippians 2:2-4, “Be of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
The meaning of “Be of the same mind,” seems so obvious, yet we have had people in this very church twist that phrase to mean the exact opposite of what context tells us it means.
They think, their mind is right, and so every other person must become of the same mind with them… everyone else must think precisely the way they do… Anyone who doesn’t agree fully is simply and tragically wrong… WRONG about God and so, not only, not led by the Holy Spirit, but probably not a Christian at all. The only thing left for the perfect one to do is to shake the dust from their feet and walk away… judge, condemn and disassociate.
What is more arrogant than that?
The other place this concept about “Being of the same mind” is used is in Romans 12:16, where it says, “Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind (that’s big-headed, self-important, arrogant), but (instead of that) associate with the lowly (those no one values or respects and who cannot help your ambition). Do not be wise in your own estimation (in other words, do not overvalue your opinion).”
So, my friends, twice in one verse about “Being of the same mind,” we are told not to think too highly of ourselves.
Trust me when I say, none of us… my dear friends, none of us, are nearly as smart as we think we are.
It is to “Agree wholeheartedly with each other,” as the NLT puts it. Why, because we are so much less important than the reputation of God and the operation of the church.
If your mind is thinking of a way to resist what I’m saying, you are in point of fact, resisting God, not me.
Of course, there’s another side to this coin, BUT there is nothing going on here in this church that comes close to blasphemy… except a refusal to get along with each other.
We need to be humble God-honoring Christians striving to do God’s will and serving one another.
We need to get along as a group and our group needs to get along with other Christian groups as much as possible, because we all collectively constitute the church universal… The Body of Christ on earth.
It isn’t our Body… it’s His. We need to adapt to the Body, not try to force the Body to adapt to us.
You want to be right with God and go to heaven? Be a Doer of Love and start right here in this place.
Because we are all so different, God, in His gracious mercy, has provided several wonderful aids to achieving unity… First and foremost is the power of the Holy Spirit.
I’ve said before, IF getting along as Christians was easy, we wouldn’t need the Holy Spirit. A failure to get along with other Christians is an admission that you are not being led by God’s Spirit.
Ephesians 4:1-6 (NLT), 1Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. 2Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 3Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. 5There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all.
Remember, as God tells us through Paul, “Insofar as it depends on you… be at peace with everyone.” It doesn’t matter what others do, nor does it matter how they react to your patient forgiveness… “You do you,” and let God worry about the rest (Romans 12:18).
That brings us to another aid in getting along… the idea of, “Walking in a manner worthy of our calling.” It is to understand, accept and actually conform to the teaching we have received.
Jesus is our master… we follow Him… He has shown us the way… Christian education, understanding Who Christ is and what He has done helps us put aside the pettiness of life and get on with the big picture program.
Another aid is the gift of choice. As I said last week, there are over 100 churches in this valley. Not a single one of them is perfect, but at least 30 of them are good enough.
Each one is unique, each one can be a home to commit to for the long haul.
I dare say that choice in itself can work in the opposite direction. With so many choices it’s hard to decide.
Picking out a paint color, or going to a new restaurant that has a huge menu… it’s hard to decide what to get. Why though… why? It’s only because we are afraid that we won’t pick the best one. We make our selection and worry that a different color would have been better, a different entrée would have been tastier, a different church would be better.
There isn’t a better place to grow in Christ because church is not about the programs and the ambiance and the personalities; it’s about God and you.
Has it ever occurred to you that the reason we are repeatedly commanded to get along in a church group is that doing so is difficult, and that, that difficulty is part of what grows you as a Christian?
Marriage serves many purposes and one of those purposes is to mature the couple through friction.
Sanctification, which is Christian growth, equals struggle… IF you are not struggling, you are not growing.
The final aid I want to share with you today is the freedom to simply focus of Jesus… If you spend more time with Jesus and less time worrying about things you can’t control anyway… You will find that peace that Christ promised (Luke 12:22-32, etc.).
Romans 12:18, “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” It’s as simple as that… IF you lack peace with others (especially in the church), have you done everything you can? If so, move on, if not, get busy.
This IS the Christian life… Working out your salvation, each day, bearing your cross.
I’m going to read a long section from the Message, just to give us the context and gist… we’ll go back over it all… Remember, in verses 3&4, James used horse bits and ship rudders to illustrate the point that something very small can control something very large. A tongue is small, but can have a huge effect…
JAMES 3:5-18 ~
It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. 6A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.
7This is scary: You can tame a tiger, 8but you can’t tame a tongue—it’s never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. 9With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. 10Curses and blessings out of the same mouth!
10My friends, this can’t go on. 11A spring doesn’t gush fresh water one day and brackish the next, does it? 12Apple trees don’t bear strawberries, do they? Raspberry bushes don’t bear apples, do they? You’re not going to dip into a polluted mud hole and get a cup of clear, cool water, are you?
13Do you want to be counted wise, to build a reputation for wisdom? Here’s what you do: Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It’s the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts. 14Mean-spirited ambition isn’t wisdom. Boasting that you are wise isn’t wisdom. Twisting the truth to make yourselves sound wise isn’t wisdom. 15It’s the furthest thing from wisdom—it’s animal cunning, devilish conniving. 16Whenever you’re trying to look better than others or get the better of others, things fall apart and everyone ends up at the others’ throats.
17Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. 18You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.
I hope that helps to get the overall flow of chapter 3… Going back to verses 5&6…
JAMES 3:5&6 ~ 5So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! 6And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.
I know folks, and perhaps you do too, who can cut with their words better than a butcher cuts meat with a knife.
Obviously, the tongue is used figuratively for our speech. Our words can seem innocuous to us, but they can have a profoundly negative effect on others, and on ourselves, especially if we are in a position of authority.
In a fighter squadron 95% of the people are senior lieutenants and captains… all are in a similar boat with between 2 and 10 years as officers, in their mid-twenties to early thirties.
Then you have a couple of colonels who lead the squadron as Commander and his deputy. These guys have about 20 years as officers and are in their early forties. At my last squadron one of our colonels was despised by all the guys. He was considered a total jerk and everyone hated him.
Now, the entire reason why he was loathed was because, as a friend put it, he was a captain in colonel’s clothes.
He teased and verbally bashed us just as we teased and verbally bashed each other, BUT the same words coming from him, had a profoundly different effect.
Words have power especially when they come from an authority… that’s why the chapter starts out addressing teachers. For 2,000 years in Christianity and even longer in Judaism, the teachers have been the authority in the local church.
We know about forest fires in Montana… one spark and thousands of acres of forest are up in smoke.
Speech can have an even more destructive effect… Adolph Hitler became the force for evil he was, primarily through his speech.
Practically every vile, despicable, dictator, from Pol Pot to Idi Amin and from Joseph Stalin to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, came to power because they could convince others to follow them… almost exclusively through their words.
Someone tells you how wonderful they are for long enough and you start believing it’s true… I mean it must be true… right? They keep saying it.
The words we speak can easily set us and others on a course of destruction… Satan uses words to tempt and deceive… and God uses His WORD to save.
Starting in verse 7, James gives us another comparison talking about how the human race has “Tamed” every animal species…
“Tamed,” not in the sense of made pets out of every species, BUT in the sense of having dominion over every species. Tame here means to conquer or have mastery over a thing.
Humans can dominate any and every animal, big and small, BUT they cannot seem to control their own relatively tiny tongue.
The end of verse 8 says our tongue is a “Restless evil” and that it is “Full of deadly poison.” “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.
We bless God, sing His praises and pray earnestly with our tongue. We bless friends, encourage the saints and teach the Bible with our tongue. We preach God’s mercy, testify about our experience and proclaim the Gospel to the lost with our tongue.
And with the very same tongue, we revile, denigrate, criticize, abuse, condemn and vilify human beings made by God in His own image.
When James says, “These things ought not to be this way.” We think he’s making a strong recommendation.
The phrase means it is incongruous, incompatible, inconsistent, inconceivable, as in, it makes no sense whatsoever! It is the equivalent of rhetorically asking, “How could this possibly be the case?!?!”
Blessing and cursing from the same mouth… worshipping God and condemning people with the same tongue… It is like… “A fountain flowing with both fresh and bitter water… it is like a fig tree producing olives… it is like a grapevine producing figs…”
It is ridiculous, absurd, illogical, actually unthinkable as in impossible, as in it simply should not happen, ever.
Certain things make no sense whatsoever… It is, οὐ χρή (ü ĉḥȑā), “That’s NOT RIGHT,” emphatically, “It’s just wrong.”
Now let me set the record straight here because a misunderstanding of the concept of cursing actually gives folks the idea that they can curse…
Cursing here is about judgmental condemning words… It is about placing yourself over and against another person whether it is done loudly and profanely or whether it is done calmly and politely.
There are the outraged rants and there are the passive-aggressive jabs that while seemingly innocent are just as vicious.
This is NOT about cursing as in the use of profanity or what we used to call “Curse words.”
I have known people who think they can bash another person so long as they don’t use profanity and don’t raise their voice… WRONG!
When we talk about foul language the best passage is Ephesians 5:4, “Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking.”
So I’m not saying profanity is acceptable, I’m just saying right here, God is addressing something far more serious and that is calling your brother or sister a “Fool.” Jesus tells us that can get you a one-way ticket to the “Fire of hell” (Matthew 5:22).
Then in verse 13, James asks a rhetorical question that essentially states… IF you think you are wise and have understanding prove it by your actions.
IF you want to be treated like an adult, act like an adult.
The mark of a mature Christian who has wisdom and understanding is they will actively display good behavior that treats others gently.
When you are secure in what you know you are able to be kind, patient and gentle… you don’t need to prove a thing.
On the other hand, if as James says, if a person has “Bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in their heart,” Their so-called “Wisdom” is earthly, not Godly, it is natural, it is demonic because “Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.”
Verse 17 tells us the wisdom that comes from God is first and foremost ἁγνός (häg-nŏs) holy, sanctified, set apart from the common things of this world, innocent and so pure… God’s wisdom is first of all pure because it is His wisdom, not human wisdom.
We see that our arguments come from fleshly human wisdom seeking our way instead of seeking God’s will.
Such wisdom is εἰρηνικός (ā-ȑā-nē-kŏs), harmonious, peaceable… it does not force itself upon those who resist. If a person doesn’t want to know about hunting or flying or physics or Christianity, it doesn’t bother me at all… that’s their choice… I’m at peace… as far as it concerns me, I’m at peace.
Because that is true… The wisdom that comes from God is also ἐπιεικής (ĕpē-ā-kās), gentle, as in tolerant and yielding.
As well as εὐπειθής (ü-pā-thās), compliant or reasonable.
So God’s wisdom is “Full of mercy and good fruits.” That means it presents mercy to people and it is good and wholesome in thought, word and deed.
Finally, the wisdom that come to us from God is both ἀδιάκριτος (ä-dē-ä-kȑē-tŏs), and ἀνυπόκριτος (ä-nü-pŏ-kȑē-tŏs).
ἀδιάκριτος, is a hapax legomenon meaning the opposite of prejudicial… so we are talking about a wisdom that is nonjudgmental, impartial and unwavering… it is what it is, regardless of the circumstances or people involved.
It is Truth from God and so is true always for all people without any hint of favoritism.
ἀνυπόκριτος, meaning the opposite of hypocritical… a wisdom that is without pretense or agenda, and so genuine, true and sincere.
What it all means is that God’s wisdom is God’s wisdom… there is a two-edged sword here.
Because it is God’s wisdom it is pure and true, but at the same time because it is God’s wisdom it is gentle and peaceable.
Verse 18 finishes the thought nicely, “The seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”
This is a summation of all of chapter 3… and is probably better understood in the NLT rendering… “And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.”
The issue was also addressed in I Corinthians 1:10-12, where people in the church were separating into factions by highlighting their differences. Paul wrote that he had heard about their quarrels, that, “Some were saying, “I am a follower of Paul.” Others were saying, “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Peter,” or “I follow only Christ.” Under divine inspiration Paul wrote, “I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.”
Jesus proclaimed “Blessed are the peacemakers” … Blessed are those who actively overlook the differences and make peace… “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9.
Our country’s problems are due to a wholesale abandoning of God and His ways.
One of those ways we jettisoned was that most distinctively American trait… We were the melting pot of the world… people from all over the globe came and within one or two generations were assimilated into the fabric of our society and were fully American.
America recognized differences and overlooked them, seeing instead what made us all the same.
Highlight differences and individuality takes such prominence we cannot possibly hope to get along.
It is the same in the American church.
We want the young hip church, the old fogey church, the church for cowboys, for gun nuts, for latte drinkers… We further divide our church into young and old, singles and couples, men and women… a program so all the young moms can get together, another for all the divorced people, for all the college students, for the guys who fish and the guys who play golf…
There’s nothing wrong with getting together with Christians that have similar views and tastes – it’s nice – it’s good, BUT you don’t need the Holy Spirit for that.
Church is about a diverse group of people becoming one because the thing that binds them together is so much more powerful and important than that which makes them different. Two avid bow hunters will talk for hours regardless of Christ… big deal. Show me an avid hunter and a PETA person getting along because they both love Jesus and now that is a big deal.061916 - James 3a - Teaching Position Just Opened Up
June 29, 2016 09:17 AM PDT
James 3:1&2, Pastor Scott Keller
Last week we finished James chapter 2, where we talked about the kind of faith that is effective… Effective for salvation and effective for enduring the trials and tribulations of this life.
That effective faith is a faith so real, so honest, so deep that it produces recognizable, tangible, physical, evidence. That evidence is DOING Christian love.
Out of the overflow of a good heart comes good thoughts, words and deeds… the entire conduct of a Christian’s life must necessarily be a life of DOING Good.
Doing comes from being and being comes from true faith… Doing then is the proof that you have effective faith.
That’s the kind of faith that God credits or reckons to a person as righteousness… a righteousness that enables one to be God’s friend.
JAMES 3:1 ~ Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.
We were talking about how faith real enough to be effective, will be evident. Then we completely switch gears here in verse 1, with a sentence about teachers and stricter judgment. Then in verse 2, James switches gears again, and talks about talking, for the next 11 verses… “The tongue is a fire,” and “No one can tame the tongue,” and so on.
That’s not how the Bible works. James as a letter is a single cohesive whole that must be seen in that context.
He has just spent an entire chapter helping us understand that it isn’t Christianity and therefore it isn’t the CHURCH, IF we say we believe in Jesus, but still behave like the rest of society.
You cannot conduct your own life in such a way and we certainly cannot conduct multiple lives together in a Community of Believers, called a church, in such a way. It simply will NOT work.
For God to be glorified, we must be conformed to Him. It is the radical transformation of the Believer by the power of the Holy Spirit that actually proves that you are a Spirit-filled, Christ-following, Father-pleasing, Child of the Living God.
A collection of such people constitute a church that functions well, brings honor to God and proclaims the Gospel by our collective activity… by the observed actual impact in the surrounding community.
How can I preach or teach or counsel or pastor, IF everything I say, is unseen, purely hypothetical theory without any physical evidence?
Why would anyone want to become a Christian or to work hard to grow as a Christian, IF there is no evidence that any of it is real? IF Alêtheia is no better than the Rotary Club or the Elks Lodge.
We have all kinds of churches across our valley, big churches, little churches, home churches, single individual standing on a mountain-top churches, all kinds of churches that produce people who claim to be Christians, but other than wearing a t-shirt, or displaying a bumper sticker, or reposting religious tripe on Facebook, or pointing at others in disapproving judgment, there isn’t much about them that is different from the rest of the populace.
James tells us that will not do…
Now, there is an extremely common phenomenon that happens at such a juncture… We tend to think of and judge the type of Christian or Church that I just described.
James has already told us that will not do either.
We don’t want to harshly condemn any other church or any other person because that’s not our role, nor is it within our ability.
We can’t know the heart and we must acknowledge that every devout Christian starts out ignorant and immature and no Christian ever becomes perfect.
What we do know for sure, though, is that we must strive to be people who actually live as Christians… There is honestly no such thing as relative righteousness in God’s eyes… it is completely irrelevant what others are doing – you worry about you… each one of us needs to focus on being the best Christian we can be.
Some will argue, I must be concerned about others… YES! Emphatically, YES! And the very best way you can help others is to BE the best Christian you can possibly be, demonstrated by DOING Love.
IF we are living as Christians we will join together in fellowship to worship God.
Worship Him as a unified family loving God and loving each other in our offering, in our rejoicing, in our prayers, in our service to Him and to each other, in our praise, in our learning, in our reverence and in our going out and being light in this valley.
That’s the point of chapter 2 as it now transitions into chapter 3 and beyond.
For the remainder of the Book, James is addressing the church… every church… our church.
Be obviously, actually, publically, God honoring… both individually and collectively… That’s what the entire Book of James is about and IF I were to pick a single verse as the thesis, or central point, the subject line… or the social media soundbite… it is James 1:22, “But prove yourselves doers of the word (that’s doers of the Gospel – doers of love), and not merely hearers who delude (deceive, falsely and fraudulently mislead) themselves.”
The very first thing he says is, “Let not many of you become teachers.” The NET and ESV, have it, “Not many of you should become teachers.” That better conveys the nuance.
It is literally, Μὴ πολλοὶ διδάσκαλοι γίνεσθε, four Greek words, “Not, many teachers become.” It starts with the word, μή (mā), which is the emphatically negative “not,” as in all capitals, let me have your attention, NOT! (vs οὐ).
The correct force in translation would be, “NOT many of you, TEACHERS, should become,” It sounds like I’m Yoda, so we rearrange it a bit to make better English, BUT in the process lose a bit of the original nuance.
It isn’t a suggestion, it is a command and if you believe that the Bible is God’s Holy Word, it is a command from God, through James 2,000 years ago, to us here in this room today.
The force is, “Who are you, to presume to teach?” What qualifies you as a teacher?
It is truly remarkable the number of Christians who presume to be teachers even if it is only in their own family or their own life… Who are you to presume to be a teacher even of yourself?
Look, ► If you’re not a lawyer, you’d be dumb to represent yourself in a major court battle. If you do you’ll probably end up in jail. ► If you’re not a doctor, you’d be even dumber to treat your own illness. If you do, you’ll probably end up sicker. ► If you’re not a pilot you’d be even dumber than that to go out and fly an airplane. If you do, you’ll probably end up dead.
We get that, for the most part… Although we are a people who love to denigrate the skill and training of others, while simultaneously holding an unjustifiably high opinion of our own abilities. So I imagine, some of you thought, well, I could do that…
Anyway, we understand that there are some things we are not qualified to do… YET, practically every Christian feels totally qualified as a teacher.
My friend Lloyd Pierson tells an incident from a Freshman Bible class. The TEACHER was a distinguished faculty member who held a Doctorate, had served as a senior pastor, had written a couple of books and had now been a college and Seminary professor for decades.
He was teaching about some theological detail and one of the students, an 18-year-old recent high school graduate, disagreed.
After a bit of discussion, the student said, “Well I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree.”
The reason we think we are qualified to be teachers is because we have an overinflated sense of self-worth… it means we are arrogant.
God is telling us right here in an imperative command, DO NOT be so arrogant that you think you are qualified to teach.
Those who do, will receive, literally, a “Greater judgment.”
In generations past, that would be sobering to people and they would get the message.
We as 21st century Americans… and Canadians… have such high opinions of ourselves we think, bring it on… I can handle greater judgment… no worries.
If, for even a moment, you think that, well, God help you… Because you are precisely the type of person, God had in mind when He inspired James to write this verse.
So, who is qualified to teach God’s Word? NO ONE! That’s the entire point… No human being is qualified to teach true theology, because God and His Holy Word are flawless and no human being even comes close to being flawless.
As the Apostle Paul said in II Corinthians 3:5&6, “It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God. He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant.” There are people who are called by God to teach and I think the main prerequisite He’s looking for in such a person is humbleness, a fear really, a genuine apprehension and dread of misrepresenting Him and misleading others.
I am constantly praying, “Lord let me speak Your words, let it be what You want it to be, however I am received, let Your will be done and Your name be honored.” It keeps me up at night. “Lord if I misspeak correct it in the people’s hearing, let them hear what you want them to hear.” At the top of every sermon, I have a reminder to myself… It reads, “Honor the Lord – Love the People.”
I have said that, “I no longer want to be right, I just don’t want to be wrong.” What I mean by that is that I don’t know everything, I will never know everything and that’s perfectly okay…
It isn’t important for me to be right about everything, BUT what is of paramount importance is that I’m not wrong about anything. That’s my concern and my prayer. That what I proclaim on behalf of God would be true and good and correct.
The thing that propels most people to teach is EGO. It is an ambition to be in the spotlight or a desire to be the boss or a love of telling others how to live. It is a pompous pride that says, I know better than you, and it ultimately makes such a person unteachable themselves.
Show me someone who lacks humility and I’ll show you someone who resists being taught. The arrogant are unteachable.
God chooses people who approach the task with trepidation, people who fully recognize that they are representing Him and His wishes as authorities on the matter to other people.
It is just as we find in I Samuel 16:7, “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’”
There are levels of responsibility as a teacher primarily based upon your position. The position you take is largely the position YOU take.
For the most part, YOU decide how much authority you will wield. I’m NOT saying others will accept that… I’m talking about your attitude about your expertise… I’m talking about your level of arrogance.
You decide, how teachable you are, which is synonymous with how truly humble you are… Truly, because there are all sorts of people who act humble, they appear humble, but their heart is far from humble.
So that’s what James is talking about specifically… the problem of people assuming authority over others as teachers… The 400-year-old KJV translates “Teachers” as “Masters” following the Latin translation of over 1,600 years ago. The word is clearly, “Teachers,” but the meaning is the authoritative nature of teaching and so really you can say, “Masters,” in the sense of church leaders.
In those days, the main reason people put themselves forward as teachers was to receive the tremendous honor and esteem the position commanded. Teachers were, by definition, leaders to be respectfully followed.
Today, practically no one respects a religious teacher and many openly revile them… so the primary reason we still have the problem today is that we have people who are completely unwilling to humble themselves and submit to anyone else’s expertise and authority.
If someone refuses to regularly attend church and fellowship with the saints, it is because they are arrogantly full of themselves… period.
You can get mad at me and there’s more I could say, to soften and clarify, BUT really my friends that’s the bottom line. There can be all sorts of reasons and excuses, BUT we have over 100 churches in our very small valley and IF someone can’t find one they can commit to, it is only because they are so arrogant they think their feelings, their ideas and their doctrines are more important than God’s command to assemble together to learn and worship Him.
Such people love to wield authority, BUT never even think about the enormous responsibility that must necessarily come with it.
No one and no thing is perfect, except for the God, who takes pity on us and mercifully forgives us based upon His Grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ!
Whatever your particular issue, and I’m mainly talking to people not here today, get over it and get over yourselves… James would say, NOT many of you should presume to lead even yourselves, at least, not until you can submit to authority.
Answering the call to teach under appropriate authority with humility and grace being deeply concerned about the message you share is not the problem… Arrogantly assuming you have the answers is the problem.
The former builds God’s church, while the latter destroys it.
I strongly encourage everyone in this church to become teachers in the appropriate way, the correct time and within the proper level of authority. We desperately need people who are mature enough to understand the importance of the words coming out of their mouths.
That takes us to the remainder of this section talking about talking… Before we go there, let me point out one more thing that ties back to something I said earlier…
I said, there is an extremely common phenomenon that happens when we become aware of something erroneous… We tend to evaluate and judge that thing.
I read verse 1, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment,” and without conscious thought, we begin to judge teachers. With conscious thought we justify our judging by interpreting this verse to mean teachers must be held to a much higher standard.
Well, no doubt, BUT nowhere does it say God has given us the job to more strictly judge teachers!
Verse 1, does NOT say, all you Christians, carefully evaluate and strictly judge your teachers… Just like the Bible does NOT say husbands make your wives submit.
We are constantly trying to force everyone else to live up to God’s standard… You better worry about yourself. As Jesus taught in Matthew 7:5, “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” As Paul rhetorically asked in Romans 2:21, “You, who teach others, do you not teach yourself?”
This is… You teachers be careful because God takes the matter of preaching, teaching and leading His people very seriously.
The position of judge has been filled. God has got the task of judging covered – He can handle it… relax, have a cream soda and let Him do His job.
JAMES 3:2 ~ For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.
My proposition is that James is talking about teachers primarily as leaders and the power such people wield to do God’s Will to build the church or the work of Satan to destroy the church.
James included himself in verse 1, where he mentioned ultimate judgment and he includes himself here along with everyone else… “We all stumble…” None of us is perfect in the sense of without fault.
That should give all the teachers a little breathing room… No one has totally got it together, no one, not the Apostle John, not the Apostle Paul, not brother of Jesus, not Augustine, not Luther, not Billy Graham, not David Wilkerson, not you and certainly not me… no one with the single exception of Jesus has ever been faultless, without sin, perfect.
We all stumble and the main point is again about humbleness as a teacher.
The next bit of the verse leads into the next several verses. The gist is the spoken word has immense power… a power to do good or evil… a power to build God’s Kingdom or to destroy.061216 - James 2d - Faith in Action
June 29, 2016 08:58 AM PDT
James 2:18-26, Pastor Scott Keller
Last week we covered James chapter 2, verses 14-17, which exhort us to match our actions with our words… not just talk the talk, BUT walk the walk as well.
It’s about DOING Christianity and specifically, it’s about being a DOER of Love, just as God is a DOER of Love.
We emulate God in His Love for others… In His generosity, grace, kindness, gentleness, mercy, forgiveness, patience… We MUST DO as God DOES.
A nice place to see that point is Luke 6:32-36, where Jesus tells us, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
On the other hand, IF you are a loving, good and generous person to those who are unable or unwilling to reciprocate, you are like God. You are acting the way your Heavenly Father acts. You are proving that you are a member of God’s family.
God’s DOING flows from His character, from His nature, from who He is. It flows from His BEING.
Likewise, our DOING, MUST flow from our BEING as well. That means it really isn’t about DOING at all…
It is, as we’ve proclaimed a thousand times in this church, all about BEING.
DOING is a symptom of BEING, just as bleeding is a symptom of a deep cut on your finger. The bleeding is not really the problem… the cut is the problem, BUT the bleeding provides sure and certain evidence that the cut is real.
DOING Christian love is the result of BEING a Christian who is filled with God’s love… it is therefore the proof that you are filled with the Holy Spirit. It is the proof that you are a disciple of Jesus and it is the proof that you are a child of your Heavenly Father.
BE the Christian, God wants you to be, and you will necessarily BE a DOER of Love.
That’s what James is on about… IF you have true salvific faith the symptoms will be obvious in how you are and so then, in what you do.
James 2:18-26 ~ 18But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” 19You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 20But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? 21Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; 23and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. 24You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.
These verses basically amplify, clarify and intensify the argument that true INTERNAL faith can’t help but produce EXTERNAL results.
Verses 18&19, are notoriously difficult to get a grip on grammatically. They constitute a common battleground for scholars.
The way James put it together it’s a bit ambiguous. It would be like me saying, “I know more successful hunters than Rob.”
That could mean that I know more people who are successful hunters than Rob knows. BUT, it could also mean, that I know hunters who are more successful than Rob is.
In addition, to that general ambiguity, the original Greek had no punctuation. That makes it difficult to know where the quotation marks should start and end. Which means knowing if there is, one or two speakers here.
There are different possibilities. The two most common are reflected here in the NASB and NLT translations. It’s fascinating to eggheads as they endlessly argue such things, BUT here’s the beauty of God’s Word and another plug for context…
It all ends up meaning the same thing.
The point is that faith is the thing that is important, BUT that true faith produces evidence… because true faith changes a person… the way we think, and so, the way we speak, and so, the way we act, all conform to our core belief.
The key phrase, no matter whose mouth it comes from is, “I will SHOW you my FAITH by my works.”
“Works,” is ἔργον (ĕȑ-gŏn), from which we get our English word energy. It means activity, action, effort. It is labor, as in physical exertion. Hence “Works,” BUT not in the sense of works-based religion that believes you can work your way into God’s grace… Instead, it is “Works” as in the conduct of life in the physical realm.
Neither “Works,” nor “Good deeds,”
The Good News Bible, which I’m not endorsing, has a better translation at this point… it says, “I will show you my faith by my actions.”
Verse 19, “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder,” furthers the argument by demonstrating how foolish it is to think that true salvific faith can be equated to a simple mental assent to the existence of God…
Demons, not only believe God exists, they know God exists, in fact they know God personally. Yet they do not submit to Him, they do not obey His commands, they do not seek to do His will.
They shudder because they are afraid of God… Demons, who are vastly older, wiser and stronger than humans, know well to fear God when outside of His grace.
They obviously believe God exists, yet according to Jesus they will spend eternity in the Lake of Fire (Matthew 25:41).
This then serves, NOT only to say that a person relying on simple mental agreement doesn’t possess salvation… it says such a person is condemned.
How many people will tell you that they believe in God and in Jesus… BUT bear no discernable fruit? How many claim to be Christians, BUT only live for their own desires? How many people say, “Lord, Lord,” to Jesus… BUT fail to act, fail to obey, fail to DO?
According to Jesus they are deceived. They will go to the judgment throne expecting to enter Heaven and Jesus will say to them, “I never knew you… away from me you evil doers” (Matthew 7:22&23).
You see, a failure to do love is, in itself, a doing of evil. As Jesus said, “He who is not with Me is against Me” (Matthew 12:30).
The Message Bible renders James 4:17 this way, “If you know the right thing to do and don’t do it, that, for you, is evil.”
One of the most dangerous errors we make is assuming that there is a middle ground… there isn’t.
You are either a spirit-filled Christian or you are a child of Satan… You either carry the Seal of God or the Mark of the Beast… It is presently one or the other – no one, is an, as yet unmarked person, delaying the mark until they make a decision… delaying IS a decision. A decision to remain in darkness.
Some people think all humans are basically good and that God is so loving and generous that He will simply accept them – they think the default position is Heaven.
An even larger majority of people think the default position is neutral… They think they have to overtly make a decision to move into one camp or the other, and that until they do, they are Switzerland… they are impartial – unaligned – open-minded – peacefully coexisting.
According to the Bible, the default position is condemned sinner bound for the Lake of Fire.
I know that seems harsh and I know some will bristle against it as narrow-minded, judgmental and intolerant.
In our touchy-feely, politically correct, never tell the truth because it might offend someone, society, we fear being honest.
I said, the default position for all humans is condemned sinner bound for the Lake of Fire… Is that Biblically true?
Feel completely free to disagree and even to get mad… just remember your disagreement and irritation isn’t with me – it is with the Bible.
According to the Bible, a person must actively move from the default camp of eternal condemnation into the new camp of eternal life.
As I said last week, that means a genuine, core of your being, acceptance of Jesus as your only Savior and surrender to Him as your only Lord.
You will be a DOER of Love as that activity flows naturally from your new nature in Christ, BEING a Christian.
Verse 20… “But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?”
Again, I must stress that James is NOT saying it is about works… He’s saying that faith without evidence is not faith – at least not useful faith… NOT a faith that can activate Salvation and make one a Christian.
Faith without evidence is a placebo… it might make you feel better about things, BUT ultimately it is a lie.
As I noted last week, both James and Paul used the Patriarch Abraham as an example by each quoting Genesis 15:6, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
Paul was making the argument that it is not, nor was it ever, obedience to the religious dos and don’ts that save a person.
A point, with which, James would have wholeheartedly agreed. The point James is making is a different one entirely.
James is NOT saying it wasn’t faith… in fact he is saying it was faith… he’s just pointing out that it was a faith that real enough to produce an effect proving the underlying faith.
A DOING that accurately reflected the causal BEING.
We often allude to Old Testament characters and assume everyone knows their story… Today we’ll take a moment to talk about Abraham and Rahab the harlot. Talk about not being politically correct!
A dude named Abram was born about 4,000 years ago in what is believed to have been the largest city on earth at the time.
Ur was a coastal city near the confluence of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers on the shores of the Persian Gulf in what is now Southern Iraq.
The Gulf has filled with sediment over the millennia and now the remains of Ur are 200 miles from the coast.
In Genesis chapter 12, God tells Abram to, “Go to the land which I will show you.”
After many years of steps and missteps and God continually dealing with Abram we get to Genesis chapter 17, where God changes Abram’s name to Abraham and promises that he and his wife, renamed Sarah, will have a son to be named Isaac.
Not so shocking until you realize that at the time of the promise, Abraham was 99 and Sarah 89.
But God swore to Abraham that their son, Isaac, would be the one through whom God would raise up a special nation and that his descendants would outnumber the stars.
Just as God said, a 100-year-old man and his 90-year-old wife, had a son… proving precisely what God had rhetorically asked them – “Is anything too difficult for the Lord?”
Genesis chapter 22, starts by saying God tested the faith of Abraham by telling him to offer Isaac as a human sacrifice.
Abraham intended to do just that because according to the Bible Abraham believed God – he trusted God – he knew that God would provide for Himself the lamb according to Genesis 22:8 and that even IF Isaac was to die, God would raise him back up from the dead according to Hebrews 11:19.
The entire point is that Abraham believed God and trusted Him by a faith so strong it acted in accordance with that truth.
That’s faith! That’s proven faith. That’s what the Bible means in James 2:22, that his faith was perfected… it was made complete in the sense that it was indisputable… it was real.
That’s the kind of faith that God credits or reckons to a person as righteousness… a righteousness that enables one to be God’s friend.
Rahab the harlot… not a nice way to describe the great-great grandmother of King David and ancestor of Jesus. Yet, like it or not, that where she started.
She was evidently in charge of an inn, which likely functioned as a bar, restaurant, hotel and brothel, in the city of Jericho.
Nearly 3,500 years ago, Moses’s successor Joshua, sent two spies into Jericho in advance of the Israelites crossing the Jordan River and entering the Promised Land.
The spies entered Rahab’s establishment, but were seen by someone who reported it to the king… He ordered Rahab to hand the Jewish spies over, but she hid them instead, telling the king that while it was true the men stopped in, they had already departed.
Later she helped the spies escape.
Why did she risk her life to save a couple of foreign spies? According to the account in Joshua chapters 2 through 6, she believed God was on their side and trusted that if she helped them, she would save herself and her family.
The Israelites conquered the city, completely destroying it, killing every inhabitant and burning what remained.
All except for Rahab, her father, mother and her brothers and sisters… who were welcomed to convert to Judaism and join the fledgling nation of Israel.
She eventually had a son named Boaz, who married Ruth, the faithful foreigner from Moab and the subject of the Bible Book bearing her name. Their son Obed was King David’s grandfather.
Verse 26, summarizes with another example… “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.”
This is a great summation because it proves what we’ve been saying all along… it isn’t about works and it isn’t about works together with faith… it’s about faith that is real… faith that is alive rather than dead.
True faith in the Father and in Jesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit that is evidenced by one’s entire being and therefore entire doing is the kind of faith that God requires to activate Salvation through Christ.
I talk to people all the time about problems they have… all manner of problems. I say Jesus is the answer to all of life’s problems.
It is rare that a person truly believes that enough to make a difference in their situation.
Whether it is life’s problems or fundamental Salvation, it is all about Jesus… all about Jesus… BUT it is personal faith that galvanizes that reality for folks… Personal faith that makes it real to them. makes it effective for them… AND the type of faith needed to accomplish that feat is a faith that can be seen.
It seems to me that the power of God to change lives or change attitudes is somehow far more difficult to capture.
I think it is because we are so self-indulgent. I don’t necessarily mean that we indulge our every desire, although that is not far from true.
I mean self-indulgent in the sense that we think of our desire above all else.
Let me be clear and please understand… we care far less about God’s reputation than our wellbeing. We care far less about the church than our plans for fun. We care far less about others than ourselves.
We are beholding to no one – we are fiercely independent and IF anyone dares to interfere with how we think things should go, well, God help them.
Because we have bought into the idea that the world revolves around us and our plans… we are busy – oh so busy remaking our environment to suit our proclivities. Since we are so busy working so hard we are irritable people, impatient and frustrated with any deviation from our program.
How can we be good – good to God, good to others, good to ourselves in a healthy way when we actively block the Holy Spirit by our lifestyle.
God is so far away; I’ve heard people say. It is true, but not because He’s moved away from us, BUT because we’ve moved away from Him.
You want the power of God in your life? Stop the cycle of living for yourself and surrender to living for Him.
Start by being good as He is good.060516 - James 2c - Old Testament Examples
June 24, 2016 05:02 PM PDT
James 2:14-26, Pastor Scott Keller
What have we discovered so far in James chapter 2? Well, we saw that we are to imitate our great God and Savior by also being those who are fair to all and grant grace and mercy to those who have not earned it.
We saw that the goal of the Royal Law is to produce Christians who are actually Christians in their words and deeds… people who love as God loves.
We saw that blind obedience to the Law ultimately only accomplishes condemnation as everyone fails and judgment looms.
And we saw that Mercy flowing from the Gospel’s Law of Liberty triumphs over judgment.
James 2:14-17 ~ 14What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? 15If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.
For nearly 2,000 years, controversy has accompanied this passage and because of it, the entire Book of James has at times been excluded from the Bible.
Eusebius, the Early Church Father, famed historian and leading Bishop at the Council of Nicaea, writing in about 325 A.D. called the Book of James, ἀντιλεγόμενα (än-tē-lĕ-gŏ-mĕ-nä), meaning, “Spoken against.” The term comes to us in English as antilegomena. It denotes a writing that is disputed.
You see some of the Bishops at the Council of Nicaea accepted James as Scripture while others did not. Back then, it was mostly due to antisemitism – a bias against Jews. To the Western Christians, James seemed too Jewish. It is, after all, written from Jerusalem and addressed, “To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad.”
Nevertheless, the church universal acknowledged James as Scripture and both the Eastern church in the original Greek and the Western church in the Latin translation retained this amazing Book.
1,200 years later, in 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg Chapel starting the Protestant Reformation and ultimately a split from Roman Catholicism that now affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide.
This is his actual portrait painted in 1528 when he was 45, and an original copy of His “Protest to Reform,” dated 1517.
That’s what Protestant Reformation means… Luther was protesting the practices of the Catholic Church and was seeking to reform those practices.
His basis for doing so was his conviction that the Bible alone constitutes the basis of Christian faith and practice.
Catholics believe the church is the final authority… the church determines what the Bible is and what it means… Luther thought the Bible should determine what the church is and what it does.
The concept is encapsulated in the Latin phrase, “Sola Scriptura,” meaning the Scripture Alone.
Later on John Wesley the founder of the Methodist Denomination, said it this way, “In all cases, the Church is to be judged by the Scripture, not the Scripture by the Church.”
Luther famously said, “A simple layman armed with Scripture is greater than the mightiest pope without it.”
Yet, Luther and others who followed him actually sought to eliminate James as a Bible book. When there was obviously too much opposition to the idea, Luther diminished James as a book of lesser importance and moved it to the back of the Bible where it remains in the German translation to this day.
Luther also wanted to eliminate Jude, Hebrews and the Book of Revelation… All four “lesser” books were placed in the back of the Luther Bible.
English Bibles follow the Catholic order.
Isn’t it interesting that the man who started the Protestant Reformation based on the Authority of Scripture actually sowed the seeds for the rejection of that authority.
By giving more weight to some Scripture over other Scripture, Luther actually laid the foundation for the idea that the Bible was not entirely God-breathed… Not entirely without error… Not entirely to be trusted or followed.
The largest Lutheran Denomination today embraces female clergy, abortion, divorce and homosexual marriage… all because they do not believe the Bible is God’s universal, authoritative Word… even though, like their founder Luther, they say they do.
On a side note, although John Wesley said some great things about the authority of Scripture he disagreed with Sola Scriptura and replaced it with Prima Scriptura.
He thought the Bible was of prime importance, but that tradition, reason and experience also played a significant role.
It shouldn’t be surprising that the end result is that the Methodist Church also deviates widely from the clear teaching of the Bible.
Now that we’ve had our little history lesson… the reason I brought it up is Luther, although infamous for his own antisemitism, actually opposed James primarily due to theological reasons.
He saw a real contradiction between James’ works here in our verses today and the faith expounded in the writings of the Apostle Paul. As an example, Paul said in, Romans 3:28, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law” (KJV). The NLT makes it even clearer, “So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.”
Perhaps more to the point is Ephesians 2:8&9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Yet James says in verse 20, “But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?”
Some people say, Luther believed the “Foolish fellow,” James was referring to, was not a hypothetical character, but was none other than the Apostle Paul himself!
The belief is that James was directly attacking Paul and his theology… With that understanding you can see why Luther and others had a problem with James.
The reverse bias, elevating James over Paul is often seen in Roman Catholics, Messianic Jews and others who tend to works-based legalism.
The whole thing stems from a misunderstanding of what Paul and James taught.
We’ve talked often about how important context is to understanding the Bible and how most, if not all theological error is the result of taking Scripture out of context.
This present section is really the crescendo of James’ point in chapter 1 summarized in verses 21&22, “Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”
It starts with “Therefore,” so we readily see that it refers to what James had been saying and the thrust propels the argument all the way to the end of our verses in chapter 2.
What James was saying was not that salvation comes from works and it was not even that salvation comes from faith together with works…
What James was saying is salvation comes from BELIEF in the Gospel Message of FAITH in Jesus alone… That is genuine, actual, real, sincere, authentic, honest, existent.
True faith in anything produces an effect… there is always evidence for what a person truly believes… that’s James’ point.
You cannot CORRECTLY say you’re a Christian IF there is no evidence of that claim.
James would be the first person to say you can’t work your way into heaven… He would stand shoulder-to-shoulder in complete and total agreement with the Apostle Paul that “Salvation belongs to the Lord” and that it is activated by faith apart from works.
Likewise, the Apostle Paul would stand shoulder-to-shoulder in complete and total agreement with James that true faith is ALWAYS accompanied by evidence.
It was Paul who said in, Galatians 5:25, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”
Paul was saying in that place that you cannot claim to be a spirit-filled Christian and carry out “The deeds of the flesh.” IF you are a genuine Christian due to your true salvific faith you will display “The Fruit of the Spirit” instead (Galatians 5:16-24).
Jesus is the one who said, “A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs are never gathered from thornbushes, and grapes are not picked from bramble bushes. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.” That statement is found in both Matthew chapter 7 and here in Luke chapter 6 (Matthew 7:15-27, Luke 6:43-49).
That’s the point James is making here and the whole reason the Apostle Paul wrote so many letters… IF we are Christians filled with the Holy Spirit of Almighty God… that will be obvious by the way we live.
In that Luke passage, Jesus went on to bluntly ask, “So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say?”
The Matthew passage is even more ominous where Jesus goes on to say, “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’”
To the majority of you here this morning this is obvious – you’ve heard it expounded here, over and over again, to the point it has perhaps become stale and boring… “Yeah Scott, we got it.”
I’m sure none of us can count the number of times I’ve quoted, Psalm 3:8, and, Revelation 19:1, “Salvation belongs to the Lord.”
How many times I’ve explained that eternal salvation is “By grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.” But, that such salvific faith results in a changed life… That as Peter said, in I Peter 2:24… Jesus, “Personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can die to sin and live for what is right.” Because, “By his wounds we are healed.”
Paul, was a Paul, and he was also appalled, at least with the idea, that a person would use the Grace of God as an excuse, let alone as a license, to sin…
Paul said, μὴ γένοιτο, “May it NEVER be!” “Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?” Paul went on to say, “Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives” (Romans 6:2&4b).
Paul also said, “Walk as children of Light,” and immediately said that there is a fruit of the Light… a tangible evidence that is produced… it is “All goodness and righteousness and Truth”
It reminds me that John the Baptist said, “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” Then when asked what that meant the Baptizer said, “The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise” (Luke 3:8-11). Be doers of love.
None of us have never, nor will ever do anything to earn even the smallest fraction of our salvation… It is impossible to earn anything from a holy and perfect God.
God, though, has provided a way, through faith in the completed work of Jesus.
It requires absolutely nothing from us to be saved except acceptance.
The acceptance is a total acceptance. It is a surrender. It is a ceasing to be my own god and to live for my own desires. It is an all-in, “I’m Yours Lord, do with me as You will,” kind of faith. It is an obedience to God, from our heart, as best we can, with the His divine help.
How many times have we said, “Don’t put the cart before the horse?” Christian attitudes and behaviors necessarily flow out of a Spirit-filled Christian. That’s the correct order and with that understanding, there is nothing but complete and perfect agreement between James and Paul.
Anytime we think there is a contradiction in the Bible – it isn’t the Bible that needs to change – it’s us.
“What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works?” “None whatsoever!” “Can that faith save him?” “Of course not!”
He asks, “Can THAT faith save?” In other words, he’s NOT saying faith can’t save you… He’s saying faith without evidence is NOT faith! That’s the argument.
It is an argument that is clouded by Luther’s misunderstanding and is seen in the KJV verse 14, “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?”
That second question leaves the definite article in Greek untranslated in English… The KJV question is “Can faith save?” The required answer is, “No!” BUT that’s NOT the question James actually asked.
He asked, “Can THAT faith save?” Can the kind of faith that has no evidence save? NO!
Essentially, James is saying, it is faith in Jesus that will save you… IF it is real faith… Real faith that naturally produces an effect… real faith that is evidenced by real activity.
Then he gives us an example. Here’s another way people miss the point. We get caught up in the example instead of understanding the example is only here to help us see the point.
Verse 15&16, “If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?”
This is not about a poor person, or about an uncaring rich person, per se… this is an analogy!
The point is, IF someone is in desperate need and you say, “Have a nice day” and walk away without helping them… the person is STILL in desperate need.
Your words have NOT changed the situation. That’s the point… Verse 17, “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.”
James is NOT against faith… Faith is precisely what he’s talking about! It is faith and it is faith alone, BUT true faith is NEVER alone.
The faith that saves, is a faith that can be seen.
Salvific faith is effective faith, my friends, a faith that must inform our every thought, word and deed.
I said the example is about the point, NOT the example… But it is significant that James chose the example analogy that he did.
Notice that the example wasn’t about murder, adultery, observing the Sabbath or abstaining from pork.
This is further proof that James was not talking about being an observant Jew with a little Jesus thrown in for good measure, nor was he saying as a Christian we now have the power to obey the 613 Old Testament Laws.
His example demonstrates the “Love your neighbor as yourself” principle.
Christians, who by definition, love God with all they have and likewise love others as themselves, would NEVER see a brother or sister in desperate need and only offer platitudes.
The Apostle John said in I John 3:17-19, “Whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him.”
It isn’t about obeying a whole host of rules, regulations, procedures, customs and traditions… It is about being filled with the Holy Spirit and living in accordance with that reality.
The works James is talking about are as the Apostle Paul said in Galatians 5:6, “When we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised (legalism). What is important is faith expressing itself in love.”
Salvific faith MUST express itself in love.
One other note… So many times the Bible addresses us as “Brothers,” and we know that in the majority of those cases it means brothers and sisters and some modern translations make that explicit.
Here, James made it explicit in Greek. It really is, “A brother or a sister.” The Bible is fully capable of recognizing the value of our sisters and include them where it is appropriate.
Bottom line, the works we’re talking about are works of love. Not a legalistic doing of things, BUT let’s also be clear it isn’t some internal spiritual thing either… Being a doer means you DO Love.
We did Community Kids last semester… it may not have been the best thing, BUT it WAS something!
Do something – Do love.
Once again, though, I’m compelled to add that it isn’t even faith accompanied by works of love that save… It is Jesus who saves!
IF Jesus has saved you, your faith will increase and as it does so will your love and neither can be hidden. As Jesus said in, Matthew 5:14-16, “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”
James goes on…
James 2:18-26 ~ But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” 19You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 20But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? 21Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; 23and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. 24You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.052916 - James 2b - The Royal Law
June 24, 2016 04:36 PM PDT
James 2:8-13, Pastor Scott Keller
In chapter 2, God talks to us about justice. We are to be people who treat everyone fairly regardless of who they are, what they are, whether they’re in the church, or NOT… because that’s what Jesus does.
No one should ever be treated better or worse than anyone else… in like-circumstances. That is NOT to say that we can’t treat people differently in unlike-circumstances.
That’s one of the greatest flaws to legalism… and there are many… is it cannot possibly account for the complexity of real life.
If we have a law that says I must never show any personal favoritism… then I cannot be any nicer, any more considerate, any more loving to my wife, than I can be to a stranger…
If, on the other hand, I have a guiding principle to be fair and just to everyone… then, while I can have different relationships and different interactions, I know I must be nondiscriminatory in them all.
In other words, I am free to treat my wife better than a stranger, and, in fact, I am commanded to do so by Almighty God. Because that’s an unlike-circumstance… My wife versus a stranger… That’s not a like-circumstance.
If my wife and the stranger have a dispute, they both enter into a like-circumstance, insofar as the dispute is concerned. Wisdom tells me to avoid making a judgment, but if required, as bad as it may turn out for me – I must judge between them fairly… As a representative of Christ, I cannot show favoritism… in the dispute. That’s called Christian integrity.
We can have personal relationships… we can have people performing different roles and tasks with varying levels of responsibility… what we cannot have is unfair discrimination.
Almost 25 years ago I knew an elderly man who had grown up in the deep South during segregation. He asked me if it was okay for him to be prejudiced against a certain race of people as long as he was a good Christian in everything else…
I said, sure, of course, absolutely… as long as you don’t want to go to heaven.
I tell that story for two reasons, one it illustrates the point about prejudicial treatment, but mostly because we will find that this is really what James is driving at in our verses for today…
All to expound the principle in verse 1, that we are to be people of righteous impartial justice, never people of blasphemous prejudicial injustice.
So starting with that transitional verse 8…
James 2:8-13 ~ 8If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. 11For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not commit murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. 13For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.
Because the argument is so sophisticated, many people misunderstand it, or get a little confused.
We start with, “The Royal Law.” How many people assume that, “The Royal Law” is, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”?
That is absolutely NOT the “The Royal Law.” Yet, if you’ll stay with me, we will find out that “Loving your neighbor” is, at the same time, precisely what the “The Royal Law” is all about.
I warn you to be careful when using certain translations, one such translation is the Complete Jewish Bible. You can use it and gain much from it, but caution is advised.
In verse 8, David Stern, the translator of the Complete Jewish Bible, pretty well hit the nail on the head… the CJB says, “If you truly attain the goal of Kingdom Torah, in conformity with the passage that says, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.”
I’ve put it alongside of the NASB and color-coded some points for comparison.
It’s really an excellent translation of this verse because it makes it clear that the “Royal Law,” is not a single commandment, like “Love you neighbor,” but is actually the whole “Law of the Kingdom.” Specifically, it is the “Law of God’s Kingdom.”
That is then, the same as, “The Entire Law of God.” All that the “Royal King God” has personally commanded. It is the sum total of God’s whole and complete requirements.
The weak point of Stern’s translation is the word Torah, because technically that is only the Law portion of the Old Testament where the real intended meaning is the totality of all God commands which includes the Prophets and the writings and whatever else God has said.
Another difference is in yellow where the CJB correctly points out the idea of attaining the goal of God’s desire, rather than simply fulfilling the actual commands.
Rules seek blind obedience… PRINCIPLES seek a transformed heart. We always want to, “Truly attain the goal” of God’s instruction.
In green, I like the idea of “Conformity with” the intention of God’s desire rather than the simpler NASB “According to…”
I must tell you this journey today is going to require some attention to detail if you want to follow me all the way through the forest and back to beginning again.
Here we diverge into two different meanings that will wind their way back to the same conclusion. It is like a trail splitting to go around a large tree only to come back together and still lead to the same destination.
The first way we can look at it is that James is saying if you keep the legal requirements of the Old Testament law by fulfilling the particular law to love your neighbor… you do well.
It’s like, Good, congratulations, you are obeying Leviticus 19:18, that very important law from the Old Testament… nice job.
Then, verse 9, makes it clear that IF you ever show any partiality, you have committed a sin, you are convicted and you are therefore a transgressor – a breaker of God’s Law.
The particular sin is “Partiality,” προσωπολημπτέω (pȑŏ-sō-pŏ-lām-ptĕ-ō), which is the verbal form of, “Personal favoritism,” we saw in verse 1, προσωπολημψίαις (pȑŏ-sō-pŏ-lām-psē-īs.
As I said before, the noun occurs only three other times in the Bible. All related to the fact that God does not show favoritism. Here in verse 9, we have the verbal form as a hapax legomenon, meaning this is the only place it is found in the Bible. The use of this one-time word, ties this whole section back to the principle point presented in verse 1.
The argument is that you do well to keep individual Laws, in this case the Law closest to what the main topic is about, BUT remember, if you want to be justified by the Law, you cannot make even one mistake.
When I was in the Air Force, we used to say, and it was mostly true, that we flew jets in a “One-mistake Air Force.” Any misstep and, as an old friend used to say, “Here endeth a mediocre career.”
The Bible is a far worse taskmaster… any violation of any rule at any time, results in being a failure at keeping the Law. It results in being branded a convicted transgressor of God’s Law.
Verse 10, reminds us that any deviation at any point makes one guilty as a Lawbreaker.
When someone steals a candy bar, we don’t say he broke A law, we say he broke THE law.
Our legal code is a unified whole given to us by our lawmakers. IF I willfully violate the least law they have given, I, in effect, repudiate the law as a whole, I repudiate the makers of the law.
As an example, our local lawgivers built a part of a bypass that should have been completed 30 years ago and gone the other way around town. They stupidly put in roundabouts with a series of curves in and out to slow the speed and flow of traffic even more.
Why anyone would intentionally put unnecessary curves in a road where the road may be icy 11 months out of the year is beyond me… unless you want more accidents.
Anyway, when they opened the small section they built, they put the speed limit for a city bypass at 45 mph… In my mind it was ridiculous. In my mind the whole thing was ridiculous.
Let’s say, purely for the sake of our discussion, that I chose to willfully disobey that speed limit. By doing so, I would have been choosing to become a lawbreaker and I would have been saying, through my actions, that the law given by the lawmakers, was dumb… and therefore the lawmakers themselves were dumb.
Can you see in such a case I would be establishing myself as a judge of the law?
The point in the passage is the same… only here it is Almighty God who has given the Law… for anyone to ever violate even His smallest and simplest Law is to say, I have judged the Law and therefore I have judged the Lawgiver and found both Him and His Law… dumb.
I know better than God… I will choose what Laws to keep and what Laws to ignore and so I, in effect, dismiss God’s authority and become my own authority – in effect, my own god, making my own rules.
That’s the meaning of verse 11. It makes explicit that it is the very same God who said, “Do not commit adultery,” and, “Do not commit murder.” He is also the same God who said “Love your neighbor.” Any violation of anything He said, is a rejection of God as Lawgiver, which is a rejection of Him as God.
James is saying IF you want to play the legalistic game you will fail because only Jesus – God made flesh – ever had a chance.
Understood this way, verse 12 becomes a plea to abandon the legal code of the Old Testament which no one can obey and embrace “The Law of Liberty” instead.
What is “The Law of Liberty”?
In chapter 1, James explained that the “Perfect Law,” is the “Law of Liberty,” and it amounts to “The Word which is able to save your soul” (James 1:21-25).
It is the Gospel Message. Of course it is! It makes perfect sense. No rule, no obedience to the Law, no fulfilling of anything, even loving others, can save your immortal soul…
The “Law of Liberty” is completely different because it isn’t a code of laws… it is a SAVIOR.
A Savior from the impossible task. Jesus perfectly obeyed and therefore perfectly fulfilled the “Royal Law” and now grants a new paradigm.
A new and better covenant written in His blood… It is NOT loving your neighbor that will save you… it is Jesus who will save you… that’s the “Law of Liberty.”
The plea here is to embrace that reality…
That is, of course, grace and what is grace, if not mercy?
That’s what verse 13, reminds us about. We have received mercy and the mercy to us, triumphs over the judgment we deserve. The judgment that would condemn us as transgressors of God’s Law.
Mercy triumphs over judgment in our individual case and so, of course, we must reciprocate, of course we must be conformed to the God and Savior we claim.
Just as we are commanded in Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”
Jesus taught us to pray in Matthew chapter 6. A critical part of our daily prayers is asking the Father to “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” It is quite literally, “Forgive me in the same way that I have already forgiven others.”
Jesus makes it explicit a few verses later in Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”
In Luke 6:36, Jesus simply commands us to, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” And of course there are the Beatitudes… Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7).
Finally, let me say that you are certainly free to judge, But Jesus said in Matthew 7:1&2, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.”
Here’s what I know for sure. Any person with even the slightest bit of sense desires God to be merciful to them.
When someone does something wrong, I want to see justice… when I do something wrong, I want to see mercy.
Jesus is telling us that IF you judge others based upon their performance, God will judge you based upon your performance.
Some people are so dumb they actually think that’s okay – bring it on!
It is dumb because it incorrectly assumes that God will judge based upon relative righteousness… You are righteous compared to the majority of other so you will be rewarded.
God’s standard is absolute perfection… no deviation allowed. Anyone failing to be completely perfect is condemned.
The alternative is grace… it is forgiveness… it is mercy.
You want to be judged like that? Like a saved child of God through faith in Jesus who has already fulfilled the Law on your behalf?
Then judge others in the same way. Be fair, be forgiving, be merciful.
That then takes us back to the specific verbiage in verse 12, to “Speak” and to “Act” as those “Judged by the law of liberty.” As well as the reason Leviticus 19:18 was chosen as the Old Testament example.
The idea is the same as I have mentioned several times in the past.
The entirety of the Law of the Old Testament… all 613 rules and regulations can be summed up as “Love others just as you love yourself – treat everyone else as you would want to be treated.”
It is all summed up in this, IF, and only IF, we understand that for it to truly be realized we must first be filled with God’s Holy Spirit.
We must understand that for that to happen we must be saved children of the Heavenly Father through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
It is only through loving God with all we’ve got that we can love others as He loves them… and all of that is only possible by being transformed by the Holy Spirit.
So when understood this way… The “Royal Law” has nothing to do with the single command found in Leviticus 19, BUT coming full circle, that’s really, all it is about.
And that’s one path around the tree. The other path takes a more Christological view.
The difference is that on the second path the “Royal Law” includes the prophetic reinterpretation by Jesus.
Remember the Sermon on the Mount recorded in Matthew chapters 5 through 7? In that sermon Jesus reinterpreted the Law.
So it becomes a whole lot simpler as making the point that as a Christian we must conform to everything God desires in the fullest sense of it all.
Not just abstaining from adultery or murder, BUT loving others as we love our self, which would never allow us to lie, cheat, steal, covet or murder.
It isn’t about perfectly keeping the individual rules making up the Law given to the Jews – it is about being moved by the Holy Spirit to keep the intention of the Law.
It is about truly attaining the GOAL of the Kingdom Law clarified by Jesus as being like God… “Humble in spirit,” one who “Mourns” over sin and its consequences. Someone who is “Gentle,” and who “Hungers and thirsts for righteousness.” One who is “Merciful, “Pure in heart” and who works to be a “Peacemaker.”
It is about speaking and acting as those who are saved by the Blood of Jesus.052216 - James 2a - No Partiality
May 27, 2016 10:18 AM PDT
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)
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.”
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…
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.
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
May 17, 2016 09:52 AM PDT
James 1:2 through 2:1, Pastor Scott Keller.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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
May 17, 2016 08:29 AM PDT
A short portion of the Mother's Day Sermon by Pastor Scott Keller.050116 - James 1e
May 05, 2016 09:45 AM PDT
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…
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.
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 ~
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,
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…
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.
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.
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.
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