Friday, November 18, 2011

Digging Deeper (James 2:1-9)

Digging Deeper 10        James 2:1-9
The Word of God is not the ink on the pages of a leather bound book. The Word of God is alive and life changing. Often in a quest for information about God we miss the experience of hearing from God as He reveals himself through His living word. It is not until we see God’s Word as the very character of God,  instead of a book about God, that we can experience His revelation and application to our lives. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1 Let’s continue our study as we dig a little deeper in the Epistle of James.
            James chapter 2 verse 1  My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. Note first that James is addressing believers, everything after the coma applies to the brethren. The phrase “do not hold your faith” as we will see in context to the rest of the passage could be “do not keep to yourself your faith based on who you think should hear it.” One of the prideful misstatements a believer can make concerning unbelievers is that someone probably would or would not make a good follower of Christ, are we really in a position to play favorites with the “faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” ? How can we possibly be able to determine who should receive the Word of God that leads to faith in Christ?
            Verse 2-3  Opens with an illustration of such prejudices. For 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, 3 and 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,” Does one that is rich deserve more an opportunity to receive ministry than the poor because maybe they can “contribute” more? James continues in verse 4 that if this distinction has been made than we have committed evil judgment. have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? James 2:4 Is it better to befriend the wealthy because we stand to gain from it?
            Verse 5 -6 James addresses the situation 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? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? Isn’t it the one that finds their strength and their authority in worldly things the one that oppresses the believer but it is the poor that are seeking to find riches in faith. This passage is not an indictment on the rich, James is simply laying out the principle that man’s prejudice and judgment is based on the external instead seeing the heart of a man which can only truly be seen by God. Verse 7 solidifies that based on the favoritism of man, the people that man would judge worthy are blasphemers. 7 Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?
            Verse 8-9 James lays it all out for us 8 If, however, you are fulfilling 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. Who is our neighbor? Neighbor here is translated from the Greek word “plesion” it means fellow man that is near in proximity. It does not mean those of the same financial status, same race, same family, or same ethnic background. It very simply means that whoever we are around should receive the love of Christ from us without favoritism or prejudice. Jesus tells a story in Luke 10:30-37 A Jew is attacked by some robbers and those of his same nationality or culture just walk on by but a Samaritan who had no connection to this man stopped and helped. After telling this story Jesus asks this question, “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands? (Luke 10:36) And they responded “the one that showed mercy” and Jesus said “go and do the same”.  There is no room in the heart of a believer for prejudice based on external things. God makes it clear “But if you show partiality, you are committing sin” (James 2:9a)
            Let’s go back to the first phrase in verse 5 Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose… . Is God not sovereign? How can we play favorites or show partiality concerning who should receive or not receive the expression of God’s love from us if it is not our decision to make? We have no authority to show partiality.
            Now that we have dug a little deeper what do we believe?
What do we believe about God?
1.    God requires no external qualifications.
2.    God does not choose based on someone’s ability to give back.
3.    God is sovereign.
What do we believe about ourselves?
1.    Our faith is not ours to withhold our faith is from “our glorious Lord Jesus Christ”
2.    We cannot make decisions to share the love of God based  on who we believe we can gain more from or who is more deserving.
3.    When we show prejudice we are saying we our more discerning than God.
4.    Our neighbor does not have to qualify by meeting our standard, our neighbors are simply those that are around us.
5.    There is no room in the heart of a believer for prejudice based on external things.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Digging Deeper (James1:26-27)

Digging Deeper 9 James 1:26-27

How often do we say or at least think,  if I just knew what God wanted, where do I go, what do I do that my life? Truth is what separates us from God’s direction is our arch enemy pride; we can’t get out of our own way. God gives us direction, He guides us with His Holy Spirit and has given us His Word, but the trouble is His direction may be different than where we want to go or what we want to do or even what we want to believe. How does our direction in life change when we consider where we go, what we say, and what we believe in the light of I Corinthians 10:31 Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. To live for God, we must seek the heart of God in the riches of His Word. Let’s dig a little deeper.
James 1:26 If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart; this man’s religion is worthless. Let’s start with the last phrase “this man’s religion is worthless. Religion, “threskos” in the original language means ceremonious in worship. This is harsh statement to say that one’s ceremony or conduct of worship is worthless. But James is very clear in what makes ones conduct of worship worthless and it has nothing to do with style or music or the way someone is dressed. An unbridled tongue is what negates worship. Let’s go back to the first phrase If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart… James 1:26a. We will cover the dangers of an unbridled tongue a little later in the book of James but to see the depth of this text let’s look at James 3:5 So 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! When we think of ourselves as being worshipers (religious) but the things we say are not truth and are often self promoting and even hurtful then we are deceiving ourselves that we are worshipping God, our religion is worthless!
          But James says in verse 27 Pure and undefiled religion (ceremony or conduct of worship) 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. Just like James speaks earlier, only being a hearer and not a doer of the word deludes, or deceives, simply talking a big story and not doing ministry deceives man’s heart and renders religion worthless. And we cannot ignore that last phrase “keep oneself unstained by the world.” These precepts, not just hearing but doing, taking care of others that cannot take of themselves, and keeping unstained, all walk hand in hand. When our focus is ministry is for God’s glory, doing the word of God, keeping our mouths closed, the result is an unstained life and a religion that is pure and undefiled in the sight of God.

Now having dug a little deeper what do we believe?
What do we believe about God?
1.      God sees and knows our heart in worship.
2.    God receives only pure and undefiled religion (conduct of worship)
What do we believe about ourselves?
1.      Our tongue reveals a deceived heart.
2.    Our religion is worthless if we have an unbridled tongue.
3.    We are capable of pure and undefiled religion.
4.    When our focus is doing the word of God, ministering to those that cannot help themselves, guarding what is said it leaves little space and time to be stained by the world.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Digging Deeper (James1:22-25 )

 Digging Deeper 8       James 1:22-25

This week I am praying that we will be encouraged to move forward. I used to use the phrase “do something, even if it’s wrong, do something” but of course that statement is so wrong, at least that last little bit is and so I say to you do something because it is right do something right. A quick look at the triumphs of faith in Hebrews chapter 11 reveals examples of faith in action. Abel offered, Enoch witnessed, Noah built, Abraham went out, Isaac blessed, Jacob blessed, Joseph gave orders, Moses refused to be called an Egyptian the scripture is full of examples of folks living out there faith. Knowing all scripture, believing all scripture but never doing all scripture is only fooling ourselves that we are living for Christ.
Let’s dig a little deeper in the Word. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. James 1:22 two words we must understand: doers and word. What is a doer? Well how about this for a profound definition, a doer is somebody that does something. It is not to be confused with someone who knows something, or listens to something. Seriously, a doer is someone who takes action. James’ instruction is to be someone who takes action on the word. Now what is the word? The Greek word is “logos” and it means intelligence and the expression of that intelligence. So there we have it, take action on the intelligence that has been expressed to you in this case the knowledge of God given by inspiration directed by the Holy Spirit.
Notice that this is not a condemnation of hearers but instructions not to be hearers only. Hearing or listening is an important step to becoming a doer. The point that James is making is that if you are just a listener and never carry out the action demanded by the Word of God then you are just fooling yourself. Receiving instruction is worthless if the instructions are never carried out.
In verse 23 and 24  For 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; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. The comparison is the wisdom and instruction of the word verses what man sees in himself. Once a man looks at himself and sees his own natural ways he forgets who he really is, a sinner in need of grace.  When man’s focus is who he is instead of who the word says that he is he will naturally walk contrary to the word trying to fulfill his own ideas of who he should be.
Verse 25 But 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. The word perfect here translates well as complete, the word law here is a divine truth so one who looks intently at the complete divine truth and abides by it will be blessed, blessed the Greek word “makarrios” possessing the characteristics of deity. The one who does not just hear the word but does the word lives, out the character of God!
The life of a doer is a life filled with peace and joy. There are easier ways to live than living in the precepts of God’s Word but there are no other ways to enjoy the liberty found in a life for Christ. There is no idle in the life of a believer we are either moving forward according to the word or we are falling away chasing our own agenda.
Now having dug a little deeper what do we believe?
What do we believe about God?
1.      God gives faith to action.
2.      God gives direction through His Word.
3.      God’s law (word) is complete and is the law of liberty.
4.      God blesses the doer of His Word with His character.
What do we believe about ourselves?
1.      Not doing the word only deludes, or fools ourselves that we are living for Christ.
2.      Doing what is natural is contrary to the direction of the word.
3.      Living out, doing, the word exhibits the characteristics of God in our lives.
4.      Although not always easy, a doer of the word enjoys peace, joy and liberty in Christ.