Friday, February 24, 2012

Digging Deeper (James 4:13 - 17)

Digging Deeper 22 James 4:13-17
 A deeper understanding of God, which develops from His Word, requires a closer walk. Drawing closer to God and Him drawing closer to us empowers and equips us to follow Christ. But the more holy we see God the more of His character we know, the more that is required. But the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more. More often than not we use this passage is used to teach financial responsibility but the principle is much broader. God has called us to be stewards of every resource he provides including the knowledge that we receive from His Word. Now let’s dig a little deeper.
 James 4:13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow, we shall go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit. The problem is not in the planning, scripture teaches us to plan “count the cost” the problem is in the assumption, “spend a year, make a profit” note verse 14 You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. “You are just a vapor that appears for a little while then vanishes away. This is truly a humbling realization. We have no knowledge of tomorrow let alone any control. So how is it that we can make plans boasting what we will accomplish? We simply do not know what we can or cannot accomplish other than walking in the promise that we can accomplish God’s will which can be and often is different from our plans. Verse 15 Instead you ought to say “If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that.” Acknowledging that “if the Lord wills” acknowledges that God is sovereign and puts us in a position of humility. It is in this position we recognize the will of God. Man often gets things turned around we lay plans to do this or that then we even spend a lot of time praying that God will bless our plans, provide for our plans, we even seek to gain God’s endorsement of our plan. Verse 16 But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. The evil in living such an attitude is simple “we know better than God”!  Arrogance is the outpouring of pride and it is pride that will lead us to destruction, it is evil!
James 4:17 Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin. Here is the point the more we understand the character of God revealed in His Word the more we know sin. Galatians 3:22 But the scripture has shut up all men under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
So then how should we approach the concept, if I know more, than I am more accountable? That is not the concept, the concept is that the more we know what is pleasing to God the more we know sin and the more we know what is pleasing to God then closer we can follow Christ. The goal of a believer should never be what is the least I can get by with and still make to heaven. That is not the heart of someone that knows Jesus. The heart of a believer constantly struggles to know God, to walk with God, and to be pleasing to God, simply because He is worthy. Knowing that God is sovereign destroys our pride and stifles our arrogance and it eliminates our boasting and maybe most importantly opens our eyes to see His will for our lives.
Some of the questions this leaves us with: Are you the one who knows the right thing to do? What can we change in our lives to know what to do? What keeps us from doing it what we know is right?
James has given a stern reminder that to make boasts of what we are going to do or not is an exercise of arrogance and is evil!

What do we believe about God? 
1.   God is Sovereign
2.   God is God of yesterday, today and tomorrow

What do we believe about ourselves? 
1.   Arrogance is sin against God.
2.   We can know the right thing to do.
3.   When we make plans they should be simply to follow the steps of Christ.
Covenant Church 210 Station Rd, Wilmington, NC 28405 (910) 395-5800

Friday, February 17, 2012

Digging Deeper (James 4:11-12

Digging Deeper 21 James 4:11-12
         Do you have a passion? Truth be told we all have our passions, things that we think about every day, things that we just can’t get enough of, we want to talk about it, read about it, we want to be around it, a passion can become an obsession if left unchecked. But what would it be like if our passion was to simply please God? How does our life look different if we woke in the morning and pursued that mission to please God! What if we couldn’t get enough of it, what if we were always talking about, what if we made it our life to know the character of God and walk in it? What if our passion for God turns into an obsession? How important does the study of God’s Word become when we have a passion to please God? Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
Romans 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ. A passion for Christ will create a desire for His Word. Let’s dig a little deeper in the Word!
        James 4:11 Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother, or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it. Do not do it! There are not a lot of ways to misinterpret that first phrase. But notice this word “brethren” those that we have the bond of family. Family here is not limited to biological family but includes the family bonds of having the commonality of Christ. Now there are two others words actually they are one word in the Greek, speak against - katalaleo “kata” which means down and “laleo” which means to talk at random or to use thoughtless words. So this is what James is saying “Do not put a brother down”! If we are putting some one down then we are making judgments of the law which are certainly not in our realm of authority. If we are using the opinion of the law to make judgments of whether a brother is keeping the character of God then we are certainly not doers ourselves. There is only one with that kind of authority. Paul writes this concerning the issue Romans 14:1 Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions and again in Romans 14:10 But, you why do you judge your brother? Or again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God.
 James 4:12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you to judge your neighbor. If God gave His law, and God alone has authority to administer judgment concerning His standard, then how are we going to put down a brother that we cannot truly see not having any knowledge of his heart? What are we going to do about it anyway? We can neither save nor destroy him so what could possibly be our intent of putting down a brother in Christ? This instruction in no way relieves us from being our brother’s keeper we need to confront sin when a brother has fallen short and when he is wrong but the confrontation must be from a heart to lift not to put down. 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15 And we urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the faint hearted, help the weak, be patient with all men. See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all men.
Much of this is tied back to the previous verses concerning submission to God. God does not need us to be his policeman, judge and jury. There are times when our pride tells us that God is just letting some stuff go. People are getting by with sin, disregarding God’s principles. Often our response is to play judge rather than brother. It is easier to put someone down than build them up. It is easier to talk put about him and put him down, often to others, rather than having a loving confrontation. The last phrase of verse 11 … but who are you who judge your neighbor? This is a call for self examination, who are we that we can make a judgment of another’s walk with God? Imagine the unity of believers striving to lift one another up by submitting all judgment to God! This cannot be misconstrued as a passive look at sin. We are not to embrace or condone sin in our lives or the life of others. But anytime something is pushed down it raises something else up and if our heart is not right in approaching the sin in our brother’s life then we are simply pushing down to raise ourselves up. 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. Submitting to God means letting Him be the judge.
Now that we have dug a little deeper what do we believe?
What do we believe about God? 
1.   God alone is the lawgiver.
2.   God alone is judge.
3.   God does not need man to do what only God can do.

What do we believe about ourselves? 

1.   We should not put our brothers down so that we can rise up.
2.   Our submission to God will guard us against putting a brother down.
3.   We cannot see how to help a brother out until we see ourselves as needing help with our own lives.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Digging Deeper (James 4:9-10)

Digging Deeper 20 James 4:9-10
        Despite a great movement in church culture today to nearly eliminate the study of God’s Word as a function of the church, the Church cannot and will not be affective without it. There is swing toward a light approach to scripture, looking at it as simply a jumping off point to an inspirational, emotional satisfying feel better message. God’s Word is much deeper than that and is critical to the life of the church and to the individual believer.  Without the study of God’s Word the church is not much different than any other social institution. God’s Word is Christ revealed John 1:1-4 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of man. Without the study of God’s Word we miss the mark of the function and purpose of the church and we are weak as individual believers to carry out the responsibility of telling others the good news of Christ. 2 Timothy 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth. Let’s dig a little deeper in God’s Word.
        James 4:9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to gloom. This is a tough verse; does God really want us in a constant state of morning, and gloom? Of course not, to understand we need to see this verse in context to the proceeding thought. There is a command for clean actions, a pure heart and single focus which defines drawing near to God. Being miserable, mourning and without joy is an extension of the thought “you sinners” when we are far from God there should be and there is an attitude of doom and gloom. The believer plain and simple should be miserable not walking with God.
        James 4:10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord and He will exalt you. Exalt means to rise up, to elevate. There seems to be a conflict in terms here. First we are to be humble, lower. Then we will be exalted, raised up. Drawing near to God is not a heroic action on our part that we accomplish by doing great things earning God’s recognition for which we receive a trophy or special award, drawing near to God is done on our knees recognizing of the awesomeness of God and our terrific weakness, and unrighteousness. Drawing near to God is not us conquering Satan, defeating the world, doing amazing things to earn our presence with God. Drawing near to God is a realization that we have no power to resist the devil, we have no power to sustain ourselves on either a spiritual or physical level. Humbleness breeds submission and it is submission that draws us near to God resulting in God’s nearness to us. Now in the state of humbleness and submission there is a promise of exaltation. We do not earn a prize; God simply cleanses our hands, purifies our heart, clears our mind, and changes our weeping to laughter and our gloom to joy. Exaltation does not elevate us above others and certainly does not elevate us to a place to be praised it is an elevation out of our own miserable condition.
        In man’s frame work of thinking humbleness is frowned upon, it is considered an acknowledgement of weakness, it is just that, but it is not a negative. That is the problem we all struggle with our pride that screams at the thought that we are weak. But in our weakness comes humility, in our humility comes submission. And it is in this position that we draw near to God and He is near to us and the devil flees. 2 Corinthians 12:10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
Now that we have dug a little deeper what do we believe?

What do we believe about God? 
1.   God desires a humbleness that recognizes His holiness.
2.   God gives promise that He will draw near to us in our submission to Him.
3.   God desires to raise us out of our doom and gloom.

What do we believe about ourselves? 

1.   We should be miserable when we are not close to God.
2.   We can only come to the presence of God in humbleness.
3.   God can and does exalt, rasie us up out of our miserable state.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Digging Deeper (James 4:6-8)

Digging Deeper 19 James 4:6-8
 How should we approach God’s Word? Maybe it is as simple as, with reverence. A true reverence for God’s Word seems to be something that is getting lost in today’s church culture. Somehow for many the Bible has become simply a guideline for living a productive life, for some it is history that if studied and not neglected it will help prevent us from the same mistakes as those in the past. Even many churches today only see it as a side note to justify an inspirational thought. But it is not a history book although it is historically correct, it is not a self help book but it will certainly help you, it is not a book of guidelines yet it will direct your life. God’s Word is the breath of God and is everything we need to see the character of God. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness that a man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. That is the purpose of “Digging Deeper” that we would reverence God’s Word as the ultimate authority on all things. Let’s dig a little deeper in God’s Word.
James 4:6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  It is only by the grace of God that the whole world and everything in it even exist. There is no debate here; there are degrees of grace that we experience. To experience a greater degree of grace requires humility. The more that we surrender to the power of God the greater grace is experienced. The more we surrender our spiritual “can do attitude” in favor of an “I can do nothing without God” attitude the greater the grace experience. Nothing we can do or not do can or will change the power of God’s grace but when we give up our pride we are free to experience greater grace.
James 4:7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. In this short verse we have two commands or instructions and one result. First let me say that there is a reason for the order of instruction, to resist the devil we must first submit to God. How often do we complain “I just wish the devil would leave me alone” it is not a wrong desire but too often we ignore the instructions to make that happen. First, submit to God! The word submit mean to be placed under. This is a problem for us. We are quick to proclaim God as above all things and we really believe that problem is we struggled to submit to that. Mankind has a problem with submission; we struggle with the mindset that someone can be in a position over us. But listen again to verse 6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submission is the action of recognizing who God is and our position before Him. The second command is resist the devil. I know it is way over used, but really, “just say no!” It seems simple until we are required to put it into practice. But a heart that is totally submitted to God will have no problem resisting the devil. An illustration is marriage. There are far too many marriages ending because “the devil couldn’t be resisted” it is impossible to cheat on your spouse if you are totally “submitted” to one another. The strength to resist the devil comes with a total commitment to love God!  
James 4:8 Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double minded. Let’s go back to our illustration, if we are working really hard to get as close as we can to our spouse it result in a closeness, of course the illustration has problems because we are dealing with flesh, but the point is that a marriage is strong and pure when you are close. James says draw near to God, talk to Him, and get to know Him, cherish Him, love Him, and walk with Him. Be diligent in your quest to be close to Him. Results, He will draw near to you. The more we seek God the closer we will see Him in our lives.
Submission can only come with humility, we cannot draw near to God with a “my way” attitude. To walk closely with God, to resist the devil we must realize that God is God and we are not. James in the last phrases of verse 8 says that are hands should be clean, this speaks of our actions, in context, our actions should be done in submission to the character of God and not for self gratification. James says that our hearts should be pure; a pure heart is a heart absent of selfishness and personal agendas. He mentions that before these changes take place it is double mindedness, too much believing and professing one thing and living out another. “I just wish the devil would leave me alone” Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. James 4:7
Now that we have dug a little deeper what do we believe?

What do we believe about God? 
1.   Grace belongs to God.
2.   Grace is given by God at His discretion.
3.   God desires that we are close to Him.

What do we believe about ourselves? 

1.   We can experience greater grace
2.   Greater grace comes when we are humble before God.
3.   The devil will flee from us when say no to him and submit ourselves to God.