Wednesday, December 08, 2021

James 2:1-4

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1 My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? ~ James 2:1-4

Our study of the book of James, so far, has shown us that we grow in our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ by learning to be dependent upon God as we encounter trials and temptations. It was in our last study of James that we learned that one of the greatest demonstrations of our faith in the God of the Bible is seen in how we treat the helpless.

Today, we transition into James 2. As we make this transition, it becomes evident that, like us, the early church struggled with favoritism. Having become Christians, these young believers had to learn that God shows no partiality to anyone, and neither should the believer in Christ.

In v.1 of today's text we read, "My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism."

The order this verse was originally written in the Greek is very interesting. The original reads this way: "My brothers and sisters must not show favoritism." 

In the English the last phrase in this verse comes at the end of the verse, yet, in the Greek it comes at the beginning. James put it at the beginning because he meant it to be emphatic. It means the believer in Christ must not show partiality to anyone, especially toward those who can give us something in return. 

This word "favoritism" means to lift up the face of someone or to elevate them. The idea is to judge someone by the face or to exalt them strictly on a superficial level. The lesson is we must not evaluate others by what they look like, or their clothes, or where they live, or what they drive, or their socio-economics. It is built into our fallenness to differentiate and divide. And so, this emphatic phrase at the beginning is a warning against preferential treatment based on race or wealth or dress or rank or social status.

Now, being partial toward someone regarding their socio-economics is in total conflict with what our faith teaches. If we are children of God, we ought to act like God, and He is impartial and we should be impartial. God does not tell us to give honor to someone based on their worldly wealth, nor does He want us to treat the poor with disdain, forcing them sit at our feet.

In v.2 of today's text we read, "Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in."

Here in v.2, James uses a third-class conditional sentence to get his point across to us. The situation James presents included two visitors who potentially come to our meeting, one is wealthy and the other is not. He is saying that when we make judgment of others just by the way they look, this is wrong. We are all equal because God has created all humans in His image. Our intrinsic value comes from the fact that God created us equal.

In v.3-4 of our text today we read, "3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet, 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?"

To "show special attention" is to look upon this man with favor, rendering to him special treatment. Although, it is not wrong to give the rich guy a good seat, it is wrong if it is at the expense of the poor guy. We show partiality towards others because it is built into our fallenness to do so. We, naturally, extend favor to those who look nice, smell nice, and are obviously wealthy. And, we show contempt towards those who do not look nice, who do not smell nice, and who are obviously not wealthy.

In v.4 James asks, "have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?" 

Making distinctions among ourselves creates division. When we do this, we are guilty of evil discrimination. When we do this we are being defined by evil. When we make these distinctions, we are not being led by the Spirit of God. So, the issue of such behavior is that it’s not God-like, and it gives evil an opportunity to advance the kingdom of the enemy. This is not the wisdom of God which is what we need in the midst of our trials and temptations. 

The word "evil" means vicious. In this case, we are being motivated to cater to the rich and the prominent and we are being motivated to shun and slight the poor and the common. This is anti-God behavior. This is "the flesh" at its finest. And, this has no place among the people of God.

Tuesday, December 07, 2021

James 1:26-27

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26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. ~ James 1:26-27

Today, we come to our eleventh and final blog and podcast on James 1. As you know, James wrote this book to Christians who were going through some of the most difficult times anyone could go through. They had lost their homes and all of their belongings. They had been scattered from all the comforts of their world and they were scared. 

In v.26 of today's text we read, "Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless."

Back in James 1:22, James had addressed the topic of self-deception. He reminded us to not only be hearers of God's Word but also doers of God's Word. If, when we have heard the Word of God, all we do is hear it and it never has an impact on our lives, then we are self-deceived. What is the point of enduring the trials and the temptations, if we are not being defined by the Word of God?

In James 1:26, James turns our attention to a slightly different issue when it comes to our faith in the God of the Bible. James takes us to the arena of religion. There are those who think that the doing of religious activities is the goal of our faith in the God of the Bible. Thinking they are not just hearers of the word, they do religious things, like rituals and other religious activities.

So, James addresses this posture of the man who thinks he earns God's favor by doing certain things. James essentially says here, "If anyone has the opinion that he is religious, yet controls not his tongue, he does not get it." 

Even though the ritual might be biblical, it is useless if we perform the religious activity and our hearts are not engaged in it. It is a deception to think that we earn God's favor when read our Bibles, or attend church services, or to pray, or to give money, or to sing songs. The goal in doing these things is not to earn God's favor, but to realize God's blessings in our lives. 

The word "religious" in James 1:26 is used in the Bible to describe outward ceremony. It delivers the idea of external trappings, religious rituals, routines, liturgy, rites, external forms. So, James is saying, "if somebody thinks himself to be religious in the sense that he’s carrying out all these outward formalities of religion while not controlling his words, deceives his own heart. This kind of religion is absolutely useless." 

We can spend our whole lives in a religion that is absolutely useless, accomplishing nothing. Religion that doesn’t transform the heart accomplishes absolutely nothing. A proper reaction to the Word of God is to receive it without deception. James directs us to the heart of the matter which is the matter of the heart. When we have entered into a personal relationship with God, He will increasingly gives to us His heart for others. And, it is out of the overflow of our hearts that our hearts speak.

In v.27 of today's text we read, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

The genuineness of our religion is determined by the opinion of God. And, God says we are religious when our lives are marked by our love for the needy. Martin Luther, as I am sure you know, had a problem with the book of James being included in the Bible. But, when we approach our study of this book from the standpoint that he is writing to believers, we do not have the issue of the scenario that if a person does not act in a certain way that he is not saved. 

Here, James is saying that if we do not respond to God through our trials and temptations in dependence upon God, we will lack His wisdom. And, when we lack His wisdom, we will miss the heart of what it is all about. The heart of it all is not that we earn God's favor. No, we can't earn God's favor. But, once we have God's favor through believing in the finished word of the Lord Jesus on the cross, we are set in the right direction to get what this life is really all about. And, if our heart is not involved, we will have been derailed from the point of the faith.

The words, "look after" in James 1:27 carries the idea of bringing love and compassion to someone who has been abandoned. The orphans and the widows have nothing to give us. And, when we give to them, our hearts motive will be revealed. This word is used by the Lord Jesus in Matthew 25 when He said, "When I was sick and you visited." It means "you came and you cared enough to help me in my need." It means our hearts will be engaged in the process of helping the needy. It means helping those who can not return the favor.

Now, God places a huge premium in His Word upon the orphans and the widows. As the tongue is not comprehensively indicative of Christianity, so widows and orphans are not comprehensively indicative of Christianity. But they are as representative of love as the tongue is representative of a pure heart. God has always been concerned with the fatherless and widows. Replete is His word for the helpless. And, when we have His heart, we will have a heart for them.

Our acquisition of God's word and wisdom is made manifest by how we love people who are in need and can not repay us. In addition, as James writes at the end of v.27, true religion is "to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." That is to say, "the culture of this world is not defining us, God is."

The believer in Jesus Christ will be, to some degree, defined by God. And, he will increasingly, not be defined by this world. As believers, we have been set apart by God. We have the good news that has set us free from the false in this world. And, once we have come into a personal relationship with God, we will want others to know what we have come to know. And, in order to be effective at sharing this good news, we must not be defined by this world, we must be defined by God.

Finally, it is not our perfection that proves our personal relationship with God through His Son. No, it is our reaction to our imperfection that proves that we have a personal relationship with God. It is our authenticity in our personal relationship with Him. The pattern of our lives changed the day we entered into this personal relationship that we enjoy with God. That day, He began the process of transforming our hearts and subsequently our lives. We now care about people in need. We now care about what God cares about. We now are increasingly being defined by God and not this world. 

Monday, December 06, 2021

James 1:22-25

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22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. ~ James 1:22-25

Today, we come back to James 1 where we have been for several days, and, rightfully so. James 1 is a testament to the depth of the Word of God. The Bible is the most popular book in the world despite a considerable amount of opposition waged against it. Unlike other religious texts, advocating good works to please an unreachable god, the Bible uniquely teaches that salvation is a gift from God that does not require human works. 

The Bible reveals that Jesus is God and that He saves us through His death and resurrection. No other sacred book claims that its leader rose from the dead. The God of Scripture is not a far-off, uncaring god but the Creator of all things who is intimately involved in the lives of His creation. 

In v.22 of today's text we read, " Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says."

In this chapter, James, one of the four half brothers of the Lord Jesus, gives a portrait of what it looks like to have biblical faith. In this chapter James provides certain tests that can enable us to know that we have real biblical faith in the God of the Bible. The first is how we respond to trials. The second is how we respond to temptation. A trial is simply a situation which God allows or brings into our lives to strengthen our dependence upon Him. And, with the trials, there always looms the temptation. The temptation there to get us to make a go at life without the influence of God on our souls.

Here in v.22, James provides the third test to determine whether our faith is biblical or not. And, that test is how we respond to the Word of God. The hearer of God's Word who is not a doer of the Word is deceived. Back in James 1:18, James reminded us we were born again through the Word of truth. The Word of God gave us new life. God used His Word to wake us up spiritually. How we respond to the Word of God is indicative of our spiritual state toward God.

When we seek God in the midst of our trials and temptations, He promises that we will receive His wisdom. And, once we have that wisdom, we will be able to recognize the genius of God's Word. And, to ignore His Word is plain dumb because the alternative leads to all sorts of destruction in our lives.

The word deceive means to reason beside or alongside. It means to be beside yourself. The mathematical use of this word, when it appears in mathematical terminology, outside of the Bible, means to miscalculate, to reckon wrongly. If we think just hearing God's Word is enough, we have made a gross miscalculation. We are self-deceived through this false reasoning. 

In v.23-24 of today's text we read, "23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like."

Now, in order to explain this deception, James develops a very graphic analogy in v.23-24. This man is like someone who looks carefully into a mirror, and as a result, he sees the details of his condition in the mirror. This word "looks" means to observe carefully. It doesn’t mean to take a casual glance. He comes to the Word of God which shows him his sin, and he gets distracted. He goes back to his life and he forgets what he saw. The message did not stick. His problem is he has not the wisdom of God guiding his sights.

In v.25 of today's text we read, "But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do."

The Greek word used here for "looks" literally means to stoop over, to bend down to examine something with care and precision. Here is a person who really gets into it, and really searches out the Word of God. The stooping implies a humbling of oneself, looking intently with great desire and effort at the mirror, wanting to discern what is revealed.

Our attitude when we come to the hearing of the Word of God is the key to everything. Preparing our hearts to receive the message from God and responding to it is the key to it all. And, what best prepares our hearts for God's Word is the wisdom of God which is garnered through our trials and temptations. Resisting the lure of turning away from God in those most difficult moments is the preparation we need to see the impact of His wisdom on our lives.

The law James speaks of here is not the Law of Moses which condemns. This law gives freedom to the believer in Christ because Christ has fulfilled the Law of Moses and has given to us His perfection. This law James speaks of does not get us into heaven, it gets heaven into us right now.

At the end of v.25 we read, "they will be blessed in what they do."

When we obey God's Word, we will access God's blessing. As a result of accepting life’s tests and temptations, as friends, we are prepared for God's wisdom and blessing. The pain brought on by interruptions and disappointments, by loss and failure, by accidents and disease, is the long and arduous road toward spiritual maturity. The blessing here is not garnered in the hearing, only, the blessing is garnered in the hearing and the doing. Countless people have given testimony around the world of freedom from substance abuse, destructive lifestyles, lying, and stealing, due to learning to be hearers and doers of God's Word. 

Friday, December 03, 2021

James 1:19-21

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19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. ~ James 1:19-21

Today, we return to James 1. The goal in this letter from the half brother of the Lord Jesus is the growth in the believers relationship with God. And, the number one tool in the arsenal of God to grant growth to the believer is trials which provide the greatest classroom for the believer in Christ. A believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is one who looks to the Lord for the answers to life's questions. True believers in Christ are defined by the Word of God. Even though there are times when the believer in Christ fails to to be defined by the Lord, it is the longing of his heart to obey Him.

In John 8:31 we read, "Then Jesus said to those Judeans who had believed him, “If you continue to follow my teaching, you are really my disciples."

The product of true saving faith is the wisdom to recognize the intelligence involved in obeying the Word of God. The one who is truly connected to Christ in genuine saving faith hears His voice through His Word. The one who does not hear His Word, therefore, gives evidence of not knowing Christ at all. Again, this will never mean that we will be perfect in our obedience, it means we will sometimes make the decision to be defined by God and His Word.

In v.19 of today's passage we read, "My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry."

The wisdom of God tells us that we must be quick to listen. The issue here is our response to the Word of God. In James 1:18, the Word of truth is highlighted. In James 1:21, the implanted Word is highlighted. Therefore, in James 1, the Word of God is the theme. And, to "be quick to listen" means to listen to the Word of God while we are enduring a trial. 

The key here is how we respond to the Word of God. James is describing our eagerness to grasp every opportunity to increase hearing God’s Word. This means as we gain His wisdom, we will respond by pursuing every privileged occasion to hear the Word of God. Wisdom requires hearing God's Word acutely.

The Bible is the source, then, of deliverance out of our trials and temptations. And, as we respond to it, the Word of God becomes the most welcomed friend to the believer because of what it yields, a meaningful and personal fellowship with the living God. When we became believers in Christ, our desire to communicate with God began. And, as we respond to His Word, our desire to hear Him will increase. And, of course, this leads to obedience to God's Word.

Again, in v.19 the believer in Christ is admonished to be: "slow to speak." As quick as we should listen to God, we should be as quick to withhold our rebuttals. We must be quick to hear God's Word, instead of flying off the handle at God. The Word of God is at times very harsh to us. It cuts us deeply and we find it hard to receive it. But, when we have garnered God's wisdom, we will see the genius to throwing a welcome mat out before our hearts with regard to the Word of God.

In v.20 of today's passage we read, "because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires."

There are times when we don’t want to hear the truth that God desires to give us. I had a friend in college who would always say, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you mad." Our resistance to God's Word does not produce that which is right for us. In fact, it gives opportunity for anger to well up. It is just plain dumb to ignore God. 

In v.21 of today's scripture we read, "Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you."

Once we have received the wisdom of God we must be wise to sweep out of our hearts anything that hinders the expression of the righteousness of God in our lives. It makes no sense to undermine God in our lives by ignoring His instructions.

The key word in this verse is "accept." Before the Word of God can produce righteousness in our lives, we must unload some things out of our lives. The verb "get rid of" means to take one's clothes off. Before we find ourselves in a position to be defined by God, we must first resist entertaining the thinking of this fallen world which is in contradiction to God's Word.

Our willingness to receive the wisdom of God results in our "souls" being saved. This is not talking about us going to heaven. This is talking about God's wisdom being operative in our lives right now. This is sanctification teaching, the salvation of our "souls."

The word "can" in James 1:21 is a present participle which means it is powerful enough to continually save us. It is God's Word that starts our salvation, and, it is God's Word that keeps our salvation going forward. When we put our faith in Christ, we were saved from the penalty of sin. At that point, we punched our ticket into heaven and nothing can change that. The Word of God, also, has the power to save us from the power of sin. We no longer have to obey sin. We can choose to say "no" to sin. The Word of God has saved us from the penalty of sin and the power of sin, and, in the future, the Word of God will save us from the presence of sin. One day, soon, we will be taken out of this world and we will be in the place where there is no sin, at all.

Thursday, December 02, 2021

James 1:16-18

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16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. ~ James 1:16-18

James 1 is primarily about the purpose of our trials and our temptations. Trials and temptations are the common experience of every human being. God uses trials to strengthen our faith. Trials, if we respond to them correctly, prove God's goodness and faithfulness towards us. Satan tries to use trials and temptations to detour us away from God. Our battles with trials and temptations prove the genuineness of our faith in the God of the Bible. 

Trials turn into temptations when we do not handle the trials correctly, when we do not turn to God for His help during the trials. Trials usher us into the context where temptation tries to take us further away from God. How we respond to temptation also determines how well the process of our sanctification goes. We will either move forward in our obedience to God and His word or we will shrink back resulting in ineffectiveness at being used of God in the lives of others.

In v.16-17 of today's text we read, "16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."

All mankind at one point or another has blamed God for our sin. But, no one can blame God for sin because every good and perfect gift is from Him. Everything we need to be satisfied in this life God provides. How foolish, then, it is when we turn away from His goodness and we grab the luring bait of sin. Satan convinced Eve that God was not good, resulting in her downfall into deception. Eve bought the lie and history reveals the lack of wisdom that was in her decision.

As indicated here in v.17, the God of the Bible is the father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He, as Creator, created all of the heavens, but He’s not like them. They change. They dim. They brighten. They are here in the daytime and gone at night. Their benefit to us comes and goes. But, God isn’t like that. God’s brilliant bright light of glory and grace abides. His streams of mercy never cease, nothing can eclipse God's goodness. 

In v.18 of today's passage we read, "He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created."

Since God created us in His image and He has recreated us through His Son, we can depend on Him. God made a conscious decision to give us birth through the word of truth. In 1 Peter 1:23 we learn we "have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God." 

We are reborn by the Holy Spirit in order to share in Christ's resurrected life through the word of God. The spiritual transfer from death to life that we have experienced, happens through the word of God. Then, in 1 Peter 1:25 we read, "This word is the good news that was preached to you." In other words, the word through which we are born again is the gospel or the good news that was preached to us.

Here in v.18 of today's text, James reminds us we are the "firstfruits" of all of God's creation. This means we are His own precious possession through the redemption that is in Christ. James uses the topic of regeneration to show us that God doesn’t lead us into sin, He leads us to be creations of a new kind, like Him. He leads us out of sin into new life. God is recreating us away from sin, not into sin.

James is a book written to help us take our faith in the God of the Bible to a higher level. In today's passage, James establishes the idea that God doesn't tempt us because He is good and He has made us alive to Himself through the Gospel, the good news about the Lord Jesus Christ. He has done all of this that we might grow in His wisdom which will always lead us to the place where we conclude, "More of Him and less of me." When we get to this point, we are realizing the point of our sanctification: Being a blessing to others in such a way that they not only come to faith in Him, that they themselves become a blessing to others.

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

James 1:13-15

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13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. ~ James 1:13-15

We return to our study of the New Testament book of James. Today, we are in the portion of this book that addresses the role of trials and temptations in the life of the believer in Christ. Our trials and our temptations are not the same. Trials are outward, while temptations are inward. When we are going through a trial, we are tempted not to believe in God's way, and, we are tempted to go the way which is contrary to God's way. Trials become temptations when we refuse the wisdom that we need to pass the test of the trial.

In v.13 of today's text we read, "When tempted, no one should say, 'God is tempting me."'

Previously, in v.12, James reminded us that we are blessed when we endure a trial. We are blessed because once we have gotten through the trial we will have garnered God's wisdom. But, when we do not pass the test, we discover temptation is right there, waiting, to usher us away from the sphere of God's influence in our lives at that moment.

When we became believers in Christ, we defected from the domain of Satan. At that moment, we were secured for eternity for heaven due to Christ's work on the cross and our trust in His finished work on that cross. But, the battle for our souls rages on. You see, when we were born again, our spirit was made alive to God. But, our souls are now the battlefield. This battlefield is the arena of our sanctification which is the process whereby our souls (minds, wills, emotions) are being changed by God. Satan is the source of all temptation to reject God's reign in our lives on a given day. Satan wants to render our sanctification stunted in order to minimize our impact on the lives of others for eternity, so, he tempts us to go away from God.

In v.14 of today's passage we read, "but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed."

In order to minimize our eternal impact for good in the lives of others, now, Satan appeals to the evil desires that are yet within us. Even though we are born again and on our way to heaven, we still battle sin. Believers in the Lord Jesus, even though on our way to heaven, are still sinful. Temptation comes from our own evil desires. And, the reason Satan tempts us is due to the fact that we are learning to love God. You will remember that in James 1:12 we read, "Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him." Passing our trial tests grants our hearts the ability to love God more. The point of our trials and even our temptation is the possibility of our heart's ability to grow in our love for God.

There are three very instructive words in v.14 of today's text. These words are: "dragged away" and "enticed." The first, "dragged away" comes from hunting. And it is used of luring an animal into a trap. A trap is baited and the animal is lured into the trap. The verb itself means to be drawn by an inward power, an inward power. It means to be lead, to be compelled to be impelled, to be lured into a trap.  To be baited and caught.  

The second term, "enticed" is a fishing term. This word means, to capture or catch and its literal use was to catch a fish with bait. To bait a hook and catch a fish with bait. When we are tempted, we are being lured, deceptively, and then hooked and trapped in sin. Sin will always look attractive. But, when we grab the bait, with the bait comes the pain of capture and death. This is the way it is with temptation. It dangles out there and it promises great pleasure, fun, reward, and it lures the suckered victim into its trap and hook into a deadly way. 

The word "desire" in v.14 is the strong passion of the soul. So, the blame in our sinning is not with God. The problem is not even the devil, the problem is not even demons. The problem is not even the world or wicked people around us. The problem is the traitor is within us. Our problem goes back to the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve rebelled against God. And, don't ask, "Why does God punish me because of what they did?" We all know that if we had been there, we would have done the very same thing they did. Our problem is always ourselves. The real enticement is our covetousness or lust.

In v.15 of today's text we read, "Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death."

Sin starts with desire which is always connected to our emotions. Sin begins with the feeling of wanting to be satisfied. It is strictly emotional. And, if we follow its allurement, it leads us to deception. We start with the desire in our emotion and then it leads us to a deception in our minds. Then, we begin to justify and rationalize the right that we have for that which we desire. It is at this point that we believe it is fulfilling. And, once we have the opportunity to sin, we devise how we are going to satisfy the sin. This occurs in the will. At this point, we have gone from our emotions, to our minds, and then, to our wills. This all happens in the arena of our souls.

And, sadly, when lust has conceived, it brings with it, death. The end result isn't what it promised. This death is spiritual death, the separation of the soul from God. This does not mean that the believer in Christ loses his salvation because our salvation is based on our justification. And, our justification is what gets us into heaven. Nor does it mean that our souls will be discarded from God permanently. The changing of our souls by God is our sanctification, and our sanctification will go on until we transition into heaven. Our sanctification gets heaven or the influence of God on our souls, into us now. The believer can't lose his salvation but his sanctification can be temporarily short-circuited. 

We were created with two needs: to be loved and to love. And, the ultimate in this life is to make an eternal influence on the lives of others. This is the point of our sanctification. And, when we get to heaven, we will then realize the enormity of our influence on others in the here and now. Our trials and temptations are not just about you and me. They are also about those whom we love and this whom we should love. As they see us grow in our love for God, they will be influenced to love God for themselves, for eternity.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

James 1:9-12

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9 Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business. 12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. ~ James 1:9-12

Today, we continue in our study of the book of James. As you know, the name James derives from Jacob which means deceiver. Like you and me, before James came to faith in the Lord Jesus, he lived a life of deception. And, like Jacob, it wasn't until he came to faith in the Lord Jesus as God that he began to live a life being defined by the God of the Bible.

Our faith defines us. Of course, it isn't just our faith, it is the object of our faith that ultimately defines us. When the object of our faith is the One who created us, He defines us. But, none of us are perfectly defined by God because we are known to place our faith in other things on a given day.

In v.9 of today's passage we read, "Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position."

James wrote this letter to Jewish Christians who had been scattered throughout the ancient world because of persecution. They had lost their homes, properties, and lands. And, consequently, many of them became poor because of this. James encourages these believers to see their trials through the eyes of the God of the Bible. Though evil people had mistreated them, God was using their trials to develop their dependency upon Him.

The humble believer in this passage is the one who is going through a trial and is being defined by the God of the Bible. One can be in a low position in life and yet can be proud because he is NOT being defined by God. The one in "high position" is of the one who is learning to draw nearer to God through his trials. And, the word "pride" communicates the idea of exaltation. This isn't the type of pride that God abhors. This word brings with it the idea of being encouraged by the privilege of his relationship with God and his subsequent ability to see his trials from God's vantage point. He may be hungry, but he has the Bread of Life. He maybe thirsty, but he has the Water of Life. He may be poor, but he has eternal riches. He may be cast aside by men, but he has been received by God. He may have no home here on this earth, but he has a glorious home in the life to come.

Humility enables us to see our lives as they really are. It is pride that obscures our vision, making us think we can make a go at this life without our Creator. The circumstances of our lives have an incredible impact on the outcome of our lives on a given day. And, that which frames up our approach to our daily lives is of utmost importance.

Our pain and suffering is increasingly useful to us if it increases our dependency upon God. God uses suffering to refine, to strengthen, and to keep us from trusting in the lesser things of this life. Suffering allows the life of Christ to be manifest to, in and through our lives. Suffering drains us of our human resources, and, as a result, it makes it possible for us to gain the wisdom of the One who embraced the punishment for our sin.

Suffering teaches us that the greatest good is not the absence of pain, but the presence of spiritual maturity. Suffering is an inevitable part of the struggle with our fallen natures and the sin that is in this world. In addition, suffering is part of the struggle for the advancement of the kingdom of God in and through our lives. It is often, on the heels of suffering that we are best positioned to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

God desires truth in our innermost being, and the primary way He achieves this is through our suffering which is always coupled with a greater amount of His grace. Suffering teaches us to give thanks in times of sorrow, and to appreciate the times when we do not suffer. 

In v.10 of today's passage we read, "But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower."

Many rich people worry that they may lose their riches. In this verse, God admonishes the rich to rejoice if they were to lose everything, because they should not place trust in their possessions or in their lofty position. The rich man should rejoice when he’s humbled, because it is most often that humility is honed in the difficult moments of our lives. After all, it was pride that inaugurated sin.

Faith does an incredible thing for us; it positions us to embrace the gift of humility. Humility is precious because a great man is always willing to be little. In humilities world, the poor man forgets all his earthly poverty and the rich man forgets all his earthly riches. And, the two realize they are equal in Christ. True humility accepts the poor and the rich. Either way, don’t attach yourself too tightly to what you have, and don’t live your life trying to get what you can’t. This is the lesson of humility. It was Thomas Merton who once said, "Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real." Pride causes us to chase the mirage, whereas, humility gives legs to our pursuit of greatness.

To emphasize how anything in this life is temporary, James, in v.10, gives an illustration: "...since they will pass away like a wild flower." James is referencing the temporal of this life. If we do not lose it here, we will surely lose it when you leave.

In v.11 of today's passage we read, "For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business." 

There are some flowers that bloom and disappear. And, the sooner we accept that God is in the process of humbling us, the more we will be defined by Him. And, the more we are defined by Him, the less dependent we will be on the things of this world.

In v.12 of today's text we read, "Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him."

This sounds like we earn our salvation. We must not make that mistake. You see, the forgiveness of our sin could only be merited by the Lord Jesus Christ. All trials have two great purposes: they make us better acquainted with the Lord Jesus and they make us less acquainted with the things of this world. Pain and suffering is evidence of God's love. And, the more we have His wisdom, the more we will see this truth. His is a love of which He never repents, a love which He never withdraws. His is a love which compels Him to refine us. Whatever then comes to pass in our lives is the result of His loving will. All of our pain and suffering will always be useful to Him in bringing about His will for our lives. Our trials are not by chance, nor are they accidental. Our pain and suffering are the providential accomplishments of this loving God who is granting to us a greater degree of intimacy Him, now.

Monday, November 29, 2021

James 1:6-8

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6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. ~ James 1:6-8

Today, we come back to our study of the testing of our faith through the trials that come into our lives. As we have considered, when we are in the midst of a trial, we most desperately need the wisdom of God. Through the trial, we ask for His wisdom, and when He gives us His wisdom, we grow in our faith, we grow in our heart's ability to see Him.  And, as we see in today's text, there is a condition to consider when we are asking God for His wisdom.

In v.6 of today's passage we read, "But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind."

When we go through trials that God either allows or causes, we can rest assured that the presence of the trial is God's vote of confidence to our faith. You see, He wouldn't allow the trial to come if He didn't think our faith was strong enough to endure the trial. This is why He reminds us to not be double-minded. To be double-minded is to be unstable in our attempt to trust Him. This does not mean that when we doubt and subsequently question God that we do not trust Him. God knows that the questions created by our doubting is all a part of the process of the development of our faith. We must not come before God defying Him, telling Him He would be better off to do what we want than what He has chosen for us. We can not expect to receive from God the relief from our suffering until we trust God.

We must understand that the civil war within us between belief and unbelief will always rage while we are on this earth. But, we must not be totally defined by our unbelief. And, when we come, not like the doubter who is blown and tossed by the wind, we will ask for God's wisdom to understand His will through the trial that we are enduring. If we have NO faith, we can expect nothing from God in the midst of our trial. He is not saying that if we have struggling faith we will not receive anything from Him. There is no such thing as perfect faith this side of heaven.

In v.7 of today's text we read, "That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord."

If we do not have any faith, we will receive nothing from God because, as we learn in Hebrews 11:6, "Without faith, it is impossible to please God." Faith, in the God of the Bible, even little faith, is the channel by which God's blessings come to us. And, if we have no faith, we are in sin. Paul tells us in Romans 14:23, "Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin." So all activity that does not come from faith is sinful. If we are not acting out of what we believe, then, what we are doing is unacceptable to God, even though it may be highly applauded by everyone around us.

In v.8 of today's text we read, "Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do."

The Greek word used in v.8 for "double-minded" is "dipsuchos" which means a two-souled person. This word appears only in the book of James. Most Bible scholars believe James coined this word. This does not mean we have perfect faith. In the Gospels, the Lord Jesus asked a man whose son needed healing, "Do you believe?" The man responded by saying, "Yes, Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief." This man honestly answered by revealing the civil war within. And, this man received from the Lord, even though he was struggling to believe.

The adjective "unstable" at the end of v.8 is a Greek word which means "to not establish" or "to not set in order." This word is found 5 times in the New Testament. It is descriptive of a drunken man, unsteady, staggering, and falling down. This is not descriptive of the one who is growing in his heart's ability to see God. This word describes the person who believes not at all.

Suffering and pain makes no sense to those who know not God. It only makes sense to those who cry out to God for the ability to, to some degree, believe in Him. This is how the process works. We encounter a trial and it calls us to believe in God. And, when we believe in Him, we cry out to Him. And, when we cry out to Him for help, even though our faith is struggling, He joyously grants to us His perspective on our lives. As a result, we grow in our faith in Him, we grow in His wisdom, and we grow in our love for Him and we grow in our usefulness to Him.

Friday, November 26, 2021

James 1:5

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If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. ~ James 1:5

Today, we return to our study of the epistle of James who was the half brother of the Lord Jesus. In this book, James wrote to a group of Christians who were going through some of the most intense trials imaginable. Their story illustrates for us that the trials we face are a must for our hearts to not only seek God, but also to see Him. When our faith sits on the shelf and isn't challenged, we will become distant to the voice of God.

We naturally think trials are bad. In fact, we most often run from our trials. Sadly, in running from our trials, we discover that we are running from God. There is no way around the necessity that trials are musts in order to deepen our personal relationship with God.

Trials cannot destroy true faith. Trials put our faith to the test. The faith that stands the test is proven to be genuine and the faith that fails the test is proven to be false. Trials cannot destroy faith, they can only test it. And, once tested, our faith is strengthened for the next go around when it comes.

God allows or causes trials to come into our lives in order to wean us from our dependency to this world. Trials, as we learned in our last study, serve our ability to evaluate what is real and substantive. Trials serve us to cry out to God and learn to be dependent upon Him. Trials serve us to teach us to evaluate all things. And, once we have evaluated by His culture, we discover what is true and good.

In addition, trials position us to help others in their trials. Trials are integral to our sanctification which is the process whereby God changes our souls. Our souls are made up of our way of thinking, our choices and our emotions. Our trials are useful in developing our ability to be useful to God in demonstrating to others what it looks like to depend upon Him for all things.

Now, in the midst of trials, the believer is strengthened to persevere in his faith. True faith in the God of the Bible endures. It will persevere to the end. Increasingly, true faith discovers that it possesses a joyous attitude in the midst of trials that enables the believer to evaluate correctly and thus will become more mature in his faith. 

In today's verse we read, "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you."

Wisdom is always at a premium, especially when we are going through trials. Wisdom is a bi-product of crying out to God and depending upon Him as we go through trials. God's wisdom is accessed as we live in obedience to His will and word and are defined accordingly. Trials are intended to drive us to dependency on God and being defined by Him as we obey His word.

Humility is assumed in the prayer for wisdom. Most often, it is only when we discover that we lack something do we turn to God for help. The Lord Jesus prayed continuously, even though He was God. His example of dependency upon His Father is our example. In fact, this is what prompted the disciples to approach the Lord with the request, "Teach us to pray."

We are naturally self-sufficient. Our default mode is to not depend upon God. However, we become prayer warriors when we are driven to our knees in prayer. As we encounter trials, we are more and more convinced that we need God's wisdom. And, the source of wisdom is always there when we turn to Him. Once we run to God, we will discover that God gives to all who ask for it generously and liberally.  We have a generous and gracious God who desires to pour out to us those things which we need. When we cry out to God, He is poised and eager to impart to us His wisdom which is different than knowledge and understanding. Wisdom is the ability to apply God's knowledge and understanding which is garnered in and through His word.

When we cry out to God for His wisdom, He promises that He will give it to us. He gives, because it is his nature to be giving. He gives liberally, sincerely and without hesitation. He gives without mental reservation. He does not give to us reluctantly.  

The book of wisdom in the Bible is the book of Proverbs. Wisdom is mentioned 125 times in the book of Proverbs. In the book of Proverbs, God has given a complete manual on the subject of wisdom. In fact, in Proverbs 3:5-7 we read, "5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. 7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil."  

When we go through trials, we must not lean on your own understanding. Increasingly, we must choose to trust in the Lord with all of our hearts. We must be careful to not look to ourselves for answers but to spend time in God's word, listening to Him for His insights which will steer us away from our natural and sinful ways of handling our problems. We must be careful to respond to the wisdom God gives us so that we do not have to learn that particular lesson again. This highlights the nature of God's wisdom: It builds on the previous lesson of wisdom given.

Billy Graham once said, "We are to pray in times of adversity, lest we become faithless and unbelieving. We are to pray in times of prosperity, lest we become boastful and proud. We are to pray in times of danger, lest we become fearful and doubting. We are to pray in times of security, lest we become self-sufficient."

Thursday, November 25, 2021

James 1:4

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Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. ~ James 1:4

The ultimate expression in any relationship is the love therein. Learning to love God is without question the key to enduring all the trials of life. The believer's love for God is not automatic. As with loving anyone or anything, loving God involves a process, and, it is this process that provides decisive evidence of the heart that has been made alive to Him. And, when we endure trials, we will grow in our appreciation and love for God. True faith sustained by true love perseveres in the midst of our trials.

Now, the true believer in the Lord is held by the Lord. This results in the believer also holding on to the Lord. We persevere in our trust in the Lord as we go through trials. That is to say, when we endure in our faith in the Lord through our trials, our faith is proved. Proven faith through the perseverance of our faith through trials gives validity to our love for the Lord.  Perseverance is the child of God holding tightly to his love and his faith. Our values determine our evaluations. When we can not rejoice in our trials, we discover our values are wrong. 

In the beginning of today's text we read, "Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature."

If we had a trial free life, it would be boring and without purpose. For example, a pearl forms when an irritant such as a wayward food particle becomes trapped in the mollusk. The animal senses the object and coats it with layers of aragonite and conchiolin. These two materials are the same substances the animal uses to build its shell.

In most pearls, the mineral aragonite is arranged in sheets of flat, six-sided crystals. Between each sheet, the mollusk secretes a very thin layer of the membrane-forming protein conchiolin. This composite material is called nacre or mother-of-pearl. The crystalline structure of nacre reflects light in a unique way, giving so-called nacreous pearls their high luster. The needlelike crystals of aragonite in these pearls are arranged perpendicularly or at an angle to the surface of the pearl.

Our verse today begins with the word "Let" which is a present active imperative. Essentially, James is saying, "Let God do His work." We must be submissive to God through the trial. We must not fight against God by resisting the insight the trial is trying to deliver. 

In 1 Corinthians 10:13 we read, "No trial has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it."  

Through our trials we are afforded the blessing of experiencing the joy of the Lord. His joy enables us to see the incredible future He has in store for us. His joy is the fuel to our perseverance. And, the more we persevere, the more we understand that God is allowing or causing the trial to create a greater perseverance in our faith for a greater usefulness for His glory.

In today's verse, James wrote, "Let perseverance finish its work."  The word "finish" here is better translated "bring to maturity." When we resist the work God wants to accomplish in our lives, we deny the spiritual maturity He wants to grant us at that time. Embracing God through any trial is most difficult.

Now, perseverance is not the goal, being mature in depending upon God is the goal. Actually, the goal is becoming more mature in our relationship with God, and this happens on the heels of learning to depend upon Him more and more. In Galatians 4:19 we read, "My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you." God's ultimate spiritual goal in the life of the believer is that Christ is fully formed in us. His goal is that we become so dependent upon Him that He is revealed through our yielded lives.

Again, our text for today reads, "Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete."  

Here, James reveals what he means by maturity. The Greek word translated "complete" is holokleros. We get our English word, holography, from this Greek word. A holography is a 360 degree picture. It's a complete picture. Trials enable us to see God more completely rendering for us a more complete ability to depend upon and trust Him more.

The last phrase of today's verse reads, "not lacking anything.At the root of our sin is our lack. It is our lack that gives way to covetousness. Most intriguing is that the tenth commandment is, "Thou shalt not covet." At the root of all of our sin is our desire for that which we do not have. Due to the fact that we lack explains why man looks to others things instead of God for fulfillment. And, in the end, it all comes down to what we value. 

Oddly, the only way we consider trials to be a great joy is if we want God in all His glory more than we want anything else. And, if we want those other things more than we want God, to that degree we will be unable to consider the trial a great joy and fully embrace Him through the trial. This call to maturity is a call to slavery to God. This is why James begins his book by describing himself as a "doulos," a bond servant. At the end of it all is God giving Himself to us in a way that we truly get Him. 

You will remember our sanctification is the process whereby God changes our souls which are made up of our minds, wills and emotions. Sanctification is God changing how we think, choose and feel. Paul Tripp who once said, "God will take you where you would not go to produce in you what you could not accomplish."

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

James 1:2-3

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2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. ~ James 1:2-3

We return today to our study of the book of James which is a book that reveals to us substantive faith. This letter is of unique and peculiar significance to us because it comes from one of the half brothers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In v.2 of today's passage we read, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds."

Trials are imperative for without trials our faith does not grow. If our Christianity is genuine, it will show in the midst of our troubles. Our faith in the God of the Bible is not only good when life is going well, it is good when it is not going so well. In fact, our faith in the God of the Bible is mostly legitimized when life is not going the way we want it to. The Christians to whom James wrote were suffering all types of difficulties. They had been scattered or driven away from their homes.  

Now, in v.2 James wrote, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.

James begins with the value of the trials that come into our lives. James reminds us to be joyful "when" we go through trials, not if. He reminds us to make the choice to consider our experience with trials with pure joy.

The word consider can also be translated count, and it is a mathematical word. Consider or count is a useful word on the ledger of our lives. Trails aid us in discovering what is truly substantive in this life. At the darkest time of their night in prison, in Acts 16, Paul and Silas sang for joy. Paul told us in Philippians that he considered all things loss in comparison to knowing Christ.

The Lord Jesus said to His disciples, "In this world you will have tribulation." Like James initial audience, we will face difficult times in our lives. We must never forget that like James' initial audience, we are God's scattered people, not God's sheltered people. Trials are a must to the maturation of our faith in the God of the Bible.

Now, James used the Greek word "peirasmos" which basically brings with it the idea of trouble. Trials are those things in life that disrupts our tranquility, that robs us of peace, comfort, and happiness. And since James calls these trials as many or multi-colored, we must recognize they don't just come to us in one package. They show up in multi-packages.

C.S. Lewis once said, "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world."

The word "trial" does not necessarily mean temptation. The presence of trials in our lives does not necessarily mean a solicitation to evil. In fact, the context here in James clearly shows us that the idea is not to emphasize some subjective solicitation to evil, but rather an objective difficulty to prove and strengthen our faith. When trials enter into our lives, we are in the position to be more convinced that God is really involved in our lives, even in the unwanted things of life.

One of the most interesting realities of suffering is that our personal pain also speaks to those around us. Our pain becomes God’s megaphone to a watching world. The world gravitates to the cancer patient who has hope and peace. Bystanders are astounded over the parents who cling to God the Father as they bury their own child. Our pain gives us a platform to testify to the truth of God's existence and unique involvement in our lives. 

The scope of God's character and grace does not change when suffering arrives in our lives. As we trust God, even in our heartache, that trust speaks of a hope that extends well beyond what we can see or touch. The testing of our faith in the God of the Bible is such an important part of the growth of our spiritual lives, but also our witness to others. When we do not find a way to see God through our trials, our trials end up as temptations. Temptation can lead us to sin and we could potentially fall to that sin. 

James wrote in v.3, "because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance."

Our trials can lead us to greater dependence upon God. Trials are tests that reveal the genuineness and the strength of our faith. Trials can, on the one hand, reveal the genuineness of our faith, and they can, on the other hand, reveal also the strength of our faith in the God of the Bible.  What we do through a trial will reveal whether we really believe God and are genuinely saved, and it will also reveal the strength of our faith.

When we find ourselves in the middle of a trial, we will be naturally driven to the Lord. And, most often, we discover the weakness of our faith in the Lord. This is a good thing because in this context we are driven to prayer, driven to lean on God's strength. We naturally think this is weakness, but it is really strength. Trials that produce true faith lead us to the pain of inadequacy. It is in these moments that we are cast upon the strength of God. It is in these moments that we see Him with our hearts.

In v.3 of today's passage we read, "because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

The product of our trials is perseverance. When trials show up in our lives, we do not stop following the Lord Jesus. In fact, our resolve to follow Him and to know Him is strengthened. We rejoice in the Lord through the trial, as it drives us to Him. We don't rejoice in the trial in and of itself, we rejoice in the trials for what it does for us. James uses the Greek word "hupomonĂ©" which is translated in the English as perseverance. We only get perseverance through enduring trials. And, the point of this endurance is to know the Lord Jesus for ourselves in a much greater degree than we did before.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

James 1:1

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James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. ~  James 1:1

Today, we begin a new study in the New Testament epistle or letter or book of James. Like Jude, the author of this book was one of the half brothers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Interestingly, the name James is the same as Jacob. I find this very instructive since "Jacob" means deceiver. Like you and me, before James came to faith in the Lord Jesus, he lived a life of deception. I say this because before James was defined by the Lord Jesus, he was defined by the lesser things of this world. And, like Jacob, when James came to faith in the Lord Jesus as God, he discovered his new found life with God as his friend.

In John 7:2-5 we read, "2 But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, 3 Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. 4 No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For even his own brothers did not believe in him.

The word "brothers" in John 7:3 means biological brothers. James, the writer of this epistle of James, was one of the brothers who were there that day in Jerusalem at the Festival of Tabernacles. And, at that point, James did not believe in the Lord Jesus as Savior and God. It wasn't until after the resurrection of the Lord Jesus that James believed in his half brother as his Lord and his Savior. It makes perfect sense that James would become a servant of the Lord Jesus after He had resurrected, because if He resurrected from the dead, the Lord Jesus is God, for only God can overcome death.

In 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 we read, "3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles." 

After His resurrection, the Lord Jesus gave his half brother, James, a special viewing of Himself, after He was raised from the dead. And, this resulted in James becoming an ardent follower of the Lord Jesus as his Savior and Lord. His awe of his half brother is evidence that the resurrection happened.

In v.1 of today's text we read, "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings."

James mentions not once in this book that he was the half brother of the Lord Jesus. It is quite instructive that James didn't haughtily pull rank as the half-brother of the Lord Jesus. Better yet, James identifies himself as a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the result of seeing the Lord Jesus for who He is; James saw that the Lord Jesus was/is God and he therefore bowed his will to Him as God. When we come to see the Lord Jesus as God, we will naturally see ourselves as His servants. The Greek word "doulos" is used for the word servant here. In that day, everyone knew that this lowest form of a servant had no rights of his own. The "doulossees himself as having been bought with a price and he no longer has any rights and freedoms of his own. He has abdicated to the Lord Jesus his rights to run his life through his belief in the Lord Jesus as God.

In Luke 17:7-10 we read, "7 Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? 8 Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? 9 Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’"

Within these verses we are given the best definition of the "doulos." A doulos obeys not expecting anything in return. The greatest characteristic of a "minister" is he is a slave to the Lord Jesus Christ. Most of the epistles of the New Testament begin with this adjective, "doulos." The early believers were so convinced the Lord Jesus was and is God, they therefore sold out their lives to and for Him. And, the flip side of this is also true. The fact that the Lord Jesus is the "Master" of all and He is in control of all things means we can rest in His will for our lives. 

This leads us to a very valuable lesson. When we rest in the sovereignty of the Lord Jesus Christ, meaning He either allows things to happen in our lives or He causes them to happen in our lives, when we rest in His sovereign will, we will not be all bound up with worry and fret. I say this because, if it happens, and He is sovereign, then it is a part of His will for us at that time. So, we do not worry, we do not fret because if it happens, it is a part of His will for our lives. We rest and find ourselves amazed as we view the unfolding of His plan in and for our lives for each given day.

The audience of James is identified in v.1 as the twelve tribes scattered among the nationsThis letter written by James was written shortly after the persecution of the Jewish believers in Jerusalem, following their dispersal throughout foreign lands following Stephen’s death in 35 AD. This makes the book of James the earliest of all the New Testament writings, including the gospels.  

Down through their history, the Jews have experienced many scatterings most of which were due to their unwillingness to be defined by God. When we refuse to see God as our God and we deny Him the power to render His will in our lives, we find ourselves "scattered" or in bondage to the cares of this life. We worry and fret, when if we would just trust Him, we would see a different story unfold in our lives.

James does not deal with the doctrine of justification in this book. You will remember that our justification or our rightness before God is solely based on the work of the Lord Jesus on the cross. Also, we must remember, our sanctification is mostly based on our willingness to let God have His way in our lives, and then, through the Holy Spirit and God's word, we are changed for His glory. Justification gets us into heaven in the future, while sanctification gets heaven into us now. 

There’s nothing in this epistle about the crucifixion of Christ or His resurrection. There is nothing in this book about the deity of Christ, and nothing about regeneration. These subjects are assumed. James assumes his hearers know about the afore mentioned subjects. It’s very clear that he is writing to people who say they believe in the Lord Jesus. He does this because he knew that he was writing to people who believed already. By the way, when studying an epistle, we must keep in mind that the subject of any epistle is always going to be about sanctification not justification. 

So, the main goal of James in this book is to teach us about our sanctification. Saving faith always yields good works in and through our lives. Some people have said James is in conflict with Paul. Not at all, because in the book of Romans Paul was asking and answering the question, “How is salvation received?” And Paul’s answer was always by faith alone. But to James the question is, “How is salvation verified?” And his answer is always, “By works alone.” Salvation is received by faith; it is verified by works, and with that, there is no conflict. 

Monday, November 22, 2021

Jude 25

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... to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. ~ Jude 25

Today, we end our study of Jude. We began our study of this powerful little book with with an eye on the One who called us, who loved us and who keeps us in the faith. Jude’s letter begins and ends with the assurance that God is decisively the One who has saved the willing. Everything began in our lives the day we willingly placed our trust in the finished work of the Lord Jesus as our Savior. 

Today's text is a doxology, literally, a word of praise. And, Jude's purpose in including this doxology isn't just to give us a nice ending, it's not just to give us a liturgical form or an ecumenical shtick. Rather, Jude desired to assure us, his readers, God is the long pursued longing of our hearts. This is why these final two verses are all about God. Jude doesn't close this book with the spotlight on the apostates, if he had done that, we would be left confused. If he had not ended with the sufficiency of God in our lives, he would have undermined the whole purpose of this book.

Now, in v.25, Jude puts the word God next to the word Savior. He wrote, "... to the only God our Savior." We know the Lord Jesus is our Savior, He is regularly called our Savior throughout the Bible. And, here, Jude puts God next to Savior to show us the Lord Jesus is God. He could not be our Savior if He were not God. If the Lord Jesus is not God, His death would not have been sufficient to pay the penalty for the sins of the world. In 1 John 2:2 we read, "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world." 

A created being, which the Lord Jesus would be if He were not God, could not pay the infinite penalty required for sin against an infinite God. Only God could pay such an infinite penalty. Only God could take on the sins of the world, die, and be resurrected, proving His victory over sin and death.

Jude himself was one of the half brothers of the Lord Jesus. And, Jude did not believe the Lord Jesus was the Savior, at first. It was after the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus that Jude became convinced that his half brother was the Messiah of Israel, the Savior of the world. 

Think with me. Jude watched the Lord Jesus grow up. He  watched the life of his brother unfold. And then, when his brother started His ministry, Jude heard His about His sermons and the miracles He performed. And yet, he didn't believe in the glory, majesty, power and authority of the Lord Jesus as God.  

After the display of the divine qualities of the Lord Jesus, through His resurrection, Jude trusted the Lord Jesus as his Savior. As a result, it became the desire of Jude to render to God, glory, majesty, power and authority. Of course, it was not needful to the Lord Jesus that His siblings rendered such to Him. He would have done what He did with or without their support.

The born again believer recognizes these four attributes belong to God. These attributes of God were required to save us and to keep us for eternity. Without these four attributes, we would be doomed. This is the point of this book. And, when we come into a personal relationship with God, as a result of His Spirit coming to dwell permanently in our spirit, we naturally desire for Him to be our Lord and to get the glory. We do this because we have come to see Him, to truly see Him for who He is, and we render back to Him His glory, majesty, power and authority. This is how He keeps us for eternity.

Jude came to understand the importance of believing, "Now to Him who adopts dirty, abandoned, rebellious children into his family — to Him belong compassion and boundless mercy." The attributes that we ascribe to God are the ones that account for the actions we praise. The degree of glory, majesty, power and authority it took to save us is immeasurable. We have no human measurement for such. 

So, Jude establishes first and last the decisive work of God in keeping those made alive to Him. And, in between, Jude warns against the false teachers "who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality." These apostates were not called and they were not loved and they were not kept. The evidence that they weren't is that they didn’t crave Christ, they craved much, much less. They didn’t prize the God of grace; they prostituted the grace of God.

When we were His enemies, God granted us spiritual life. When we were dead to Him, and we had no spiritual life, it was then His Spirit acted upon us. And, we became alive to God in our spirit. This spiritual life that we have is not ours intrinsically. It is not ours autonomously. We have this life to the degree that we have the Holy Spirit in us, and to the degree that we are in Christ. This new life we have in Christ was impossible for us. Think of it, it required the glory, majesty, power and authority of God to accomplish it. To Him be the glory, majesty, power and authority for ever and ever, AMEN!

Friday, November 19, 2021

Jude 24

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To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy. ~ Jude 24

Today, we come to the next to the last verse in the incredible book of Jude. The final two verses make up a doxology which is the combination of two Greek words: doxa means praise and logos means word. A doxology is a word of praise. 

Now, the writer of this book, Jude, was not one of the twelve original disciples, but was, in fact, the half-brother of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Jude did not come to the Lord Jesus as Messiah until after the Lord Jesus had overcome sin and death by raising from the dead. And, after Jude experienced the inspiration of the dead rising to life, he was used by God and inspired by the Holy Spirit, to write this important epistle. The conclusion of this letter is the high point of the entire book of Jude. 

In today's passage we read, "To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy."

To me, the most precious part of our salvation is the doctrine of eternal security, also known as the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. It is that biblical truth that says once we are saved, we are saved forever. If the Lord did not save us we would be damned. If we could lose our salvation, we would. If any part of our salvation depended upon our performance, we would have absolutely no hope to be rescued from the eternal flames of hell.

Through the perfection of the Lord Jesus, believers are positionally perfect in God's sight. And, even though we have this sure hope, daily we are tempted to be frauds or to hide the reality that we are still sinners. Daily, we are tempted to live a deception about who we really are apart from the Lord Jesus. We are wretched in ourselves. But, in Christ we are white as snow. Consequently, we are prone to self-righteousness. Often, our limited understanding of these truths, runs us off into the spiritual ditch of life.

Now, most of Jude's letter has been about the apostates. Jude is about those who have fallen away from the faith. And, in the end of this book apostasy is contrasted with the God who keeps the humble from becoming apostate. The way of the proud is not to be the way of the humble. The believer in Christ is not a casualty because the One who saves is the One who sustains and keeps. This is all possible because we had nothing to do with our salvation. All we did was to cry out for it and receive it. 

Now that word, keep, in v.24, is a military term. It means to guard, or to watch over. And, the picture that God paints for us in this one little verse is: He is, 24/7, standing guard over each believer. He stands guard over us to ensure our eternal safety. 

In John 10 we read, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they follow me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. Neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand." 

Now, sheep are not known for persevering. Sheep are not great survivors. In fact, sheep without a shepherd don't make it. The care of sheep is totally dependent on the quality of the care provided by the shepherd. Sheep are helpless. If a sheep is unattended, they often fall down and roll over onto their side. And, when they roll to their side, they can't get up. And, if they try to get up, they find themselves on their backs with their feet straight up in the air. This is called being cast. A cast sheep gets on its back and eventually has its circulation cut off. As a result, it stops breathing, and it dies. Sheep are pretty helpless. And, if a sheep is going to persevere, if it is going to endure, it has to be kept by a shepherd. And that's the point! 

"My sheep hear my voice. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand." 

Now, the first part of today's verse is positioned on earth and the second part is in heaven. "To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy."

The goal is to present us faultless in heaven before the perfect God. Notice it does not say we are faultless. It says he'll present us faultless. Even though our sin has been removed from us as far as the east is from the west, we, will never be able to say that we are sinlessly perfect. But, Christ makes the believer legally perfect before God. The Lord Jesus took our sin, and God treated the Lord Jesus like us, deserving of His wrath. So, through the payment the Lord Jesus made on the cross, God has pronounced us righteous, and, one day the Lord Jesus will present us before God the Father as faultless. 

The word Jude uses in Jude 24 translated faultless is also translated as unblemished. In Hebrews 9:14 we read, "How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

Right now, believers in Christ are unblemished to God. We are treated as if we were blameless because Christ bore our sins and we’ve been given His righteousness. And God treats Christ on the cross as if He lived our lives so He can treat us as if we lived His. 

In Zephaniah 3 we read, "The Lord your God in your midst, the mighty one will save. He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will quiet you with his love. He will rejoice over you with singing." 

That's the joy Jude is talking about in Jude 24. "To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy."

It was this joy that enabled the Lord Jesus to endure the cross. In Hebrews 12:2 we read, "...who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame." The moment we believed, the Lord Jesus presented us before God the Father as faultless, and He did it with joy as He sang over us. 

So the purpose of salvation isn't just to rescue us from hell, it's also to present us perfect in heaven. Each believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is a salvation trophy that brings Him joy. This is why we should work ardently to turn back the efforts of the false teachers who teach apostasy.