Monday, May 30, 2011

What does you credit card statment look like?

I haven't posted in a few days, primarily, because I have kept reading and re-reading James 5, unsure of what The Lord wants me to take away from this chapter right now. James starts with a warning to the wealthy:

James 5:1-3 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. 2 Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days.

Because I was uncertain of the first half of this chapter, I decided to read some commentary. Both commentaries I read made the point that James is addressing wealthy land owners of that day. The other thing that is made clear in the verses that follow is that these are corrupt land owners:

James 5:4-6 Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5 You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.

It would be easy for us to zip by this with an attitude of, “yea, they will get what's coming to them.” But before we do that, let's consider what one of the other commentaries said. The wealthy land owners had more than what they needed to live comfortably; which in and of itself was not the problem. The problem was what they did with the excess. I would contend that the majority of people in the United States have in excess of what they need to live comfortably; which in and of itself is not the problem. The problem lies in the hearts of men. What are they doing with their excess? Are they living in pleasure and luxury with total disregard for God's will? After all, if we have it, God gave it. Is there any desire to further the Gospel of Jesus Christ with your resources? Before you write me off as a socialist that only desires to redistribute wealth, understand that I am only reading God's Word. God's Word also says, if you don't work, you don't eat. So, I am definitely not talking about taking from one group to give to another out of “fairness”. I am talking about being committed to serving God with our finances. How much, is between you and God, I don't have the answer to that. But I know that when we seek first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness, we will be sensitive to His leading on this issue.

Luke 12:16-31 And he told them a parable, saying, "The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, 'What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?' 18 And he said, 'I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.' 20 But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God." 22 And he said to his disciples, "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

I was thinking this morning how interesting it is to look at peoples Facebook wall. You really see what is most important to a person (to some extent) by what their “wall” looks like. If it is their children, you can tell....if it is sports, you can see that also.....etc. Of course there are exceptions to the rule, as in the case with my wife; our kids are everything to her, but she doesn't post much about the kids, or pictures of them, because in her mind, she doesn't want to endanger them by putting information out in the public domain. This makes sense. On the other hand, in every case, what our check ledger and credit card statements look like give a very clear picture of what we are all about.

Matthew 6:19-21 "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Do you love the world?

The first 10 verses f James chapter 4 are about as straight forward and powerful as any other 10 verses in the Bible. We would do well to read, re-read, meditate on, and memorize these verses. As you read them it is not difficult to see why most people would prefer to read them once and forget them.

James begins the chapter with, basically, pointing out the reality of our discontentment. He follows this up quickly with the fact that our prayers are useless when the condition of our heart is wrong.


James 4:1-3
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

I don't think there is any doubt that all of us either have, or still do, pray selfishly. Until we are abiding in Christ our prayers are primarily ME-ME-ME. If we are seeking God, and His will for our life, we will eventually get to the point where we realize that it is not about us, it is ALL about Him. However, until we are a new creation in Christ we love the world, we love us, we are selfish, self seeking, and prefer self gratification above all else. God makes it clear in His Word (as to eliminate any confusion), that to live for the world and the desires of the flesh keeps the wall of hostility between you and God firmly in place.

James 4:3
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
This chapter reminds me of a song by Cody James:

All these years I've been a selfish soul trying to fit in to the world but you set me free and with humility I pray Lord mold me, guide me, change the man inside me to be more like you to reach the lost and feed the multitude
-Cody James

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

You can tame a lion, but not a tongue

James 3:2 For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.

This seems like such a simple statement, yet when you really think it through it is exactly right. Which shouldn't surprise us, God's Word is ALWAYS right. Put in the most simple terms, if a person is not able to exercise self-control in the way they speak,(whether it be in the face of anger, urge to gossip, desire to slander, or use of profanity) they can not, and will not exercise self-control in other parts of their life.

James talks about our inability to tame the tongue:

James 3:7-8 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. 8 But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.

This begs the obvious question; if NO MAN can tame the tongue, what is the point of trying or caring if it is tamed?

First, we should care because God does not want us to speak in ways we ought not. He wants us to be self-controled in all aspects of our life; and that is reason enough to strive to tame the tongue.

Secondly, like everything else that is impossible with man, it is possible with Christ to tame the tongue:

Matthew 19:26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

James gives us a great illustration of small “members” having great responsibility:

James 3:4-5 Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. 5 Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Do you eagerly wait for a stranger?

There is so much information and direction in the first two chapters of James! Yesterday I opened up my Bible and the first verse I looked at was James 2:12:

James 2:12 So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty.

I thought it would be a good idea for us to take another look at two things: 1- What is the Law of Liberty and what is the other Law? 2- How is someone under the Law of Liberty suppose to speak and act?

First, we need to understand that God's Law (the Ten Commandments) is good and perfect:

Romans 7:12-13 Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. 13 Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful.

Here's how the ESV translates:

Romans 7:12-13 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. 13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.

These verses are basically saying, “just because I don't obey God's Law doesn't mean The Law is bad. The Law is perfect and I am a wretched sinner.” It is when a person arrives at this humbled and broken conclusion about themselves that they are ready to receive The Truth. However, if they do not become humbled and broken before God and ask for His Grace, Mercy and Forgiveness; they are still under the law of sin and death:

Romans 8:1-2 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

As long as you remain under the law of sin and death you will be condemned for all eternity on Judgment Day. Your striving and acts of goodness will amount to NOTHING, as a matter of fact the Word of God says they are less than nothing, they are as used tampons:

Isaiah 64:6 But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.

Do not buy in to the silliness that is being preached and taught that says, “we will all go to Heaven”.....”we will be given another chance after we die”. This preaching and teaching is from the pit of hell and many well meaning people have been deceived. If we can agree that God's Word trumps the wisdom of men, let's take a look at a few verses:

Hebrews 9:27-28 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Two things are crystal clear here: 1-Christ offered Himself once to bear the sins of MANY, NOT ALL; 2- He has already dealt with sin; He is not coming back to deal with it again, He is coming back to save those who eagerly wait for Him. Let me ask you a question, have you ever eagerly waited for the return of someone you didn't love? If a co-workers husband went on a 6 month business trip to Asia, would you ask them everyday, “is he home yet? I am so excited for him to get home, I miss him so much. Let me know the minute he gets back.” In all probability this wouldn't happen; you are probably not going to eagerly wait for the return of a co-worker's spouse because the level of love is not the same as your own spouse. The ultimate point is, Jesus is coming back for those that are eagerly waiting for Him, for those that love Him. He's not coming back for everyone.

Matthew 7:13-15 "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. 15 "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

I don't know if the word “many” in the context of the Hebrews verse above and this one in Matthew are the same in the original language; but I know this: NEITHER VERSE SAYS ALL. Not all will be saved, and not all will be condemned. Isn't it interesting, however, that Jesus would follow these two verses up with, “BEWARE OF THE FALSE PROPHETS”. There is a massive movement in this country that is commonly called, “universalism”. Most universalist do not like the label and they will deny the label; yet much of their preaching and teaching indicates that is exactly what they are. A universalist believes, “at the end of it all we all wind up in Heaven”. They will even ask what they consider to be deep thinking questions like, “how can we know God's plan”; “who are you to judge”, “how do you know there isn't that opportunity in the moments after you die to have an opportunity to receive Christ, after all, the brain functions for 'x' amount of time after you are dead?”

This is how we know: THE WORD OF GOD! We do not serve a God of confusion, we serve a God of love and because He loves us He provided a Way and that way is made very clear in His Word. Again, The Word of God trumps the wisdom of man, no matter how loving or sincere the man may seem.

OK....That's the real deal on the law of sin and death. No Jesus, No Life. Know Jesus, Know Life.

Those that have repented and put their trust in Jesus alone as their Lord and Savior are not under the law of sin and death, but, instead, will be judged by the perfect law of liberty:

James 2:12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty.

The Word of God makes it clear that when we have truly put our Faith in Jesus Christ we are a new creation, we are different. Jesus calls this being born-again. Born of the Spirit. As such, the Spirit convicts us AND enables us to say and do the things a follower of Christ would do. As we have talked about in the last week, James wrote about being a DOER, not just a HEARER. Inside of 2 short chapters James listed some of these “things” we should see manifesting themselves in our life if we truly belong to Christ:

Let's start with the “speaking” part:

We are to ask God for wisdom:
James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

We are to restrain our tongue:
James 1:19 So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath;

James 1:26 If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one's religion is useless.

Have nothing to do with filthy talk:
James 1:21 Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

Ephesians 5:4 neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.

Colossians 3:8 But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.

Now the “doing” part:

Count it joy when we face trials:
James 1:2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,

Endure Temptations:
James 1:12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

Listen, rather than insisting on being heard:
James 1:19a So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak,

Do not be short and hot tempered:
James 1:19b , slow to wrath;

Have nothing to do with filthy behavior, Guard your heart and thoughts from evil desires, let the Word of God take root in you:
James 1:21 Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

Show unselfish love and mercy toward the helpless and the hopeless:
James 1:27 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

Friday, May 20, 2011

That is NOT the character of God!

James 2:14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?

I have read James 1:14-26 quite a few times in the last week, continually praying that The Lord would open it up to me more. Last week I was thinking that the word works could be substituted with obedience. Whereas I think that is part of it, this morning I have landed on a clearer definition of the word works as used by James.

First, lets discuss what “works” is NOT. As in every case, “false religions” pervert the Word of God. Religions throughout history have added to God's plan of salvation with their own rituals and requirements to be saved; and in doing this, have placed those that have been deceived under heavy burden and bondage. This IS NOT the character of God! God wants to set you free from the bondage of sin and religion; He wants to lighten your burden:

Matthew 11:29-30 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

John 8:36 Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.

It is Satan who lies, deceives and confuses people about the “works” God desires, and the “works” James is talking about:

John 8:43-45 Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me.

John 6:29 Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent."

It is interesting that sandwiched in between James establishing what he is trying to get through to the reader about works, is this verse:

James 2:19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!

There must be something more to this word believe if on the one hand, Jesus says, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent"; and then James says, “ You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble”. And there is more! James is making the point that mere belief of God does NOT mean a thing as it relates to eternal life. You WILL NOT BE SAVED by simply saying “yes I believe in Jesus”; “or saying, “yes I believe Jesus died for the sins of the world.” True belief in Jesus Christ manifest itself in saving Faith in Jesus Christ and that saving Faith is demonstrated by the believers desire to serve their King. The desire to serve Him out of love and thankfulness, not obligation.

I think it is clear in James 2 that the “works” James is talking about is:
1- Believe and Trust God completely 2- Serve God completely 3-Do God's Will

James gives us 2 examples of “works” that demonstrate saving Faith. The first is Abraham. Abraham was promised a son in the most unlikely and illogical of situations. Through much waiting on God's promise, Abraham did finally have a son (Isaac), but then God told him to sacrifice his son. In reading this account I can't help wonder if Abraham would have been like most of us in saying, “WHAT! You finally give me a son and now you want me to kill him!?!” Whether Abraham was thinking this or not, Abraham obeyed God. Ultimately God stopped Abraham as the knife was raised, but clearly Abraham was fully prepared to Do God's Will and he trusted fully in Him.

James 2:21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?

The second example James gives is Rahab the prostitute. Joshua 2 gives the account of this story; but in short; she knew that these two certain men were sent to destroy the people of her city. She also knew that there were men in the city that became aware of this and sought out to kill the two men. Rahab protected them because she knew that it was God's Will for these men to do this. She ends up pleading with them that she and her family be spared; however, there would have been no guarantee of this when she protected them. The ultimate point is, Rahab believed in God and had the desire to do His will. Rahab had the desire to “be on God's side” so to speak.

James 2:25 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?

James tells us over and over, be DOERS, not just HEARERS. But he also raises the bar in saying, if you are not a DOER, your faith is DEAD, your faith is useless. Not because you need to “earn” your way to Heaven; but because your “works” demonstrate the condition of your heart.

James 2:20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?

James 2:24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

James 2:26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

James says the same thing THREE times in six verses. We see in Scripture where Jesus would repeat something twice in a row for emphasis, yet here He inspires James to repeat this point three times. I'm thinking it must be pretty important. Like Jesus said, you will know them by their fruit.

Matthew 12:33 "Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Do you get star struck?

It is an interesting phenomenon how star struck people get. Many of us have probably been in situations where we are with someone and they point at someone in a store or restaurant and excitedly say, “DO YOU KNOW HOW THAT IS?!?” Then after they are pointed out to us, whether we've heard of them or not, we act different toward them because they are “somebody”. We tend to forget that they are just regular people. Many of them would probably turn in the fame for a regular life if they could put “the genie back in the bottle” so to speak. This reminds me of the lyrics to a Kid Rock song. Most of his stuff I can't, and wouldn't want to listen to because of the vulgarity and profanity; but he is an amazing talent and does have some very good, clean music. In any case, the lyrics to one song goes; “some job some where on some assembly line, I wish I had that life, I bet you wish you had mine.”

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, as they say; however, when you are born-again; there is total contentment. There is no more striving for the world, and what the world says is important; we only have a desire to do our Fathers Will. Just as this transformation takes place with the lusts of this world replaced with contentment and real joy, we also see people as God sees them, at least that is the goal. We may not think of this as that important, however, the Word of God makes it clear how sinful it is to do anything less:

James 2:1-7 My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. 2 For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, "You sit here in a good place," while you say to the poor man, "You stand over there," or, "Sit down at my feet," 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?

It is almost like James knew people would breeze by this command; so he follows it up with a crucial Word. Almost as if he says, “hey, don't zip by this as if to say, 'OK, next', if any of you is guilty of any part of the law you are guilty of all, so pay attention to the way in which you are to conduct yourself as a follower of Christ.”:

James 2:8-13 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. 11 For he who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

1Corinthians 1:27-29 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Are you still "trying" on your own?

James wraps up the 1st chapter by commanding us all to NOT just be hearers of the Word, but to be doers. I have to confess, there was a time in my life where I was striving to learn, learn, learn God's Word with no real desire to walk it out. Of course I had the season of complete and total disobedience as I have said before, but this was a season of just having a desire to know God's Word for the sole purpose of having an “intellectual” foundation of His Word. That is NOT being a “doer” of the Word, that is simply being a hearer. Forever learning, but never walking it out. Yes, we all need to meditate on the Word, learn from solid teachers, and study the Word continually...but we also must walk it out. Today we are going to look at what it means to walk it out, “practicing” Christianity if you will, demonstrating a true saving Faith, showing the world that you belong to and are surrender to Jesus Christ. Not just telling the world, but showing the world....not for your glory, for His Glory.

The Word. The Perfect Law of Liberty, Jesus Christ, The Way, The Truth and The Life:

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

I think we can easily say that being doers of the Word (as James puts it) could easily be defined as being obedient to Christ:

James 1:22-25 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. :23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

Take a look at what James talks about as being a pure and undefiled religion. But, before we do, DO NOT confuse James' talk about religion with the false religions that run rampant today. We are talking about true saving faith in Jesus Christ, a pure religion:

James 1:27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

Why does James put so much emphasis on orphans and widows? In that culture the two groups of people that end up totally dependant on the compassion and love of others (and often times strangers) were widows and orphans. They would have had no means to “pay anyone back”. An act of love and compassion toward a orphan or widow would be completely self-less. Showing love to the hopeless and helpless, without the need for attention or a pat on the back is an indicator of the true love of Christ flowing out of a person.

The second indicator of a pure and undefiled religion manifesting itself in the life of a believer is repentance. Some of you might be thinking; “again with the repentance, is every chapter in the Word about repentance?!?” May be not every chapter, but it sure seems to surface quite a bit. How else would you define the command to “keep oneself unspotted from the world”? Everywhere you look in the Word we are commanded to “leave our life of sin”, “put to death the deeds of the flesh”, “not to walk in the flesh”, "seek first the Kingdom of God”, and the list goes on and on.

James strips all the noise away and makes it about as simple as it gets; “love as Jesus loves and do not fall prey to the lusts of this world” Certainly easier said than done. As a matter of fact, on your own, forget about it.....it's not going to happen. There are people that are certainly trying real hard to at least pretend like they love as Jesus loves, and trying to stay unspotted from the world, but the truth is, in the flesh it is impossible, but with Christ all things are possible. In Christ there is victory. Victory over sin and death; victory over the cares of this world; not because of anything we've done, but we He did.

Romans 8:8-19 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. 10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. 12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father." 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

"And your new years resolution is to not provoke me to anger"

As we approach the end of chapter 1 of James we are given some pretty clear directives. Characteristics of a follower of Christ. It is interesting for me to consider the fact that before I was born-again, I was the exact opposite of these characteristics. Not only did I get extremely angry and out of control, I considered it a “virtue”. Not only did I not care what most people said, I was convinced that I what I had to say was most important.

James 1:19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;

I am very thankful that God has freed me from “the biggies” that consumed my days before He saved me. To maintain a “G Rating” let's just say, I no longer go places I shouldn't go or do things I shouldn't do; however, it is not God's desire that He prune out some garbage and leave some behind. His Word makes it clear, the old is gone and the new has come:

Ephesians 4:21-24 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.

Romans 8:13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Colossians 3:5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

All throughout Scripture the “biggies” in our life leap of the page; like sexual immorality and passion; however, we tend to look past some....at least I do....or I should say, I did. He has really convicted me over the last couple years that my anger needs to go away. I need to be more self-controlled when it comes to getting upset. I would get upset to the point where I didn't even consider the consequences of my words and actions, and that is not a characteristic of a Godly man. As a matter of fact, I told my wife January 1st that I would not get angry in 2011; then I half jokingly said, “and your new years resolution is to not provoke me to anger.” Isn't that just like human nature, blame somebody else. “I won't get angry any more if you don't make me mad.”

The same is true in controlling our tongue. Controlling our tongue is not just in cases of anger. We need to be self-controlled when it comes to gossip, crude joking and slander as well:

Matthew 15:18-20 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone."

2Corinthians 12:20-21 For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish--that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. 21 I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced.
Ephesians 4:29-32 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Colossians 3:5-10 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.

Friday, May 13, 2011

What does Charles Manson have to do with it?

I listened to a live 2 hour interview this week with Vincent Bugliosi, who is best known for prosecuting the “Charlie Manson Family”. He is promoting his new book, “Divinity of Doubt”. In listening to him, two things became clear, one-he is very intelligent and well read; two-he is passionate about discrediting Christianity.
Why do I bring that up today? In James chapter 1, James uses a word that Paul used quite a bit; and it is a word that shows up 73 times in the New King James Bible. The first time being Genesis chapter 3:

Genesis 3:13 And the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."

Vincent Bugliosi is a perfect example of the fact that we can not intellectually receive the Truth. There is no doubt that the evidence of all Gospel accounts are accurate; however, men can reason away anything. The wisdom and Truth of God is Spiritually discerned:

1Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

1Corinthians 1:17-31 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect. 18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: "I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND BRING TO NOTHING THE UNDERSTANDING OF THE PRUDENT." 20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence. 30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—31 that, as it is written, "HE WHO GLORIES, LET HIM GLORY IN THE LORD."

Colossians 2:2b-4: attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words.

In James chapter 1, James says, don't be deceived:

James 1:16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.

I have been struggling with this for the last couple days because it seems unclear to me if James is warning of “not being deceived” by those that contradict what he “just” said, or what he “is about” to say. This morning as I read, it seems clear to me that the warning “not to be deceived” is for both. If that be the case, what is James 1:16 sandwiched between?

Before this verse is a warning we have seen and discussed many times; so I will make this simple statement about it: “Those that do not repent will not be saved”.
After verse 16, James says:

James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

He provided The Way of Salvation, the ultimate Gift. If you have received Jesus, He drew you to Him. If you seek Him, love Him, and serve Him He gave you a heart to do so.

Every good and perfect gift comes from God. All the wisdom of man, including Vincent Bugliosi, does not make this any less true. Just because Vincent Bugliosi, or any one else, can not explain why God allows evil, or does not grant every request (which he mistakenly attributes to not answering prayer) does not make his conclusion correct. Please pray that God will grant him revelation and repentance.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Why do people sin?

We have seen in the last couple days that those that belong to Christ can expect trials. Although Paul's writings have made it clear, James removes all doubt as to how we are to respond to trials. We are to respond to trials with joy, because ultimately trials are a testing of our faith. We are to be patient in the midst of trials. For those of us that are very calculating and mathematical, James gives us a very logical sequence:

First, there are trials to test our faith
Second, the testing of our faith produces patience
Third, when patience does “it's perfect work, you will be complete, lacking nothing”
Fourth, when we endure faith testing trials we will receive the crown of life

In the same way, James is very methodical in his presentation of those who WILL NOT inherit eternal life. But, let's first take a look at this common misconception.

How many times have we heard someone say, “God is tempting me.” The truth is, God may test you, but He NEVER tempts you with sin:

James 1:13 Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.

We are even quick to say, “the devil is tempting me”. Where as the devil and his demons certainly do play a huge role in presenting sin that looks very appetizing, the truth is; we fall prey to temptation because at some level we really want to sin. For some, the level is very shallow and effortless to fall in to temptation; and for others we may stand strong for a while but ultimately we give in; but in either case, we sin because we love it:

James 1:14-15 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.

Did you catch the sequence:

First, we are tempted by OUR OWN DESIRES
Second, desire for sin is conceived
Third, this desire becomes all out sin
Fourth, when sin has its way in your life it results in eternal death

One thing that we must get straight about these last 16 verses that we have taken a few days to go through is the fact that James is talking to believers. If you are not a believer, you must not confuse your trials as a testing of your faith, because without Jesus Christ, anything you put your faith in is a false hope. So, in most cases, when a non-believer is going through trials it is a result of sin in their life. Sin that ultimately causes trials should not be confused with the trials of believers, which is testing their faith, giving them opportunity to exercise and produce patience, goes on to demonstrate their willingness to endure which results in eternal life.

That being said, if James is talking to believers, (and he is) how come he is talking about a way that leads to death? James must be talking about the unrepentant. I don't know how it could be viewed any other way. Someone may say they believe, yet prefer to yield to their own fleshly desires instead of standing fast to demonstrate that what they proclaim is true.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Are you interested in this reward?

As we see in this next verse; the Holy Spirit teaches us all things:

John 14:26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.

I don't think there is any doubt that He teaches and reveals things to us as we are ready; however, I don't think that any and every bit of wisdom is what James is talking about in verse 5:

James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

I could be wrong about that, but I when I was reading yesterday, it came to me that verse 5 is sandwiched in between verses that are talking about trials and temptations:

James 1:2-3 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.

James 1:12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

How many times have all of us been through trials of various kinds and we feel bitter, confused and helpless. How many times have we wondered (or even screamed and yelled); “what is going on!” I think this is what James is talking about. When we are facing trials we (believers) need to seek God first. Not from a stance of hostility, “what is going on!”; but instead, from a stance of, “Lord, I am not sure how you are most glorified in my current situation, but You know. Please Lord, give me the wisdom to understand it and the strength to get through it.”

Then James immediately (almost like he didn't want to waste anytime allowing for confusion) tells us the “posture” in which we must pray:

James 1:5-8 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

James then goes on to point out, whether you are rich or poor is of no consequence when it comes to trials. When we belong to Christ trials will come to all:

James 1:9-11 Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, 10 but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away. 11 For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits.

Whether we are rich or poor, have plenty or lack; when trials come, along with it comes temptation. Along with it comes the lusts of this world and the lure of the enemy. The question then becomes, are you going to glorify God in the face of your trials, or are you going to fall prey to the temptations. That is not a question that should be handled flippantly; after all, if it was of no real consequence why would God offer such a lofty reward for all those who endure?

James 1:12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.