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.

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