Archive for the ‘James’ Category

James 5

James 5 confronts the reality of riches when used incorrectly.  “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you….You have laid up treasureYou have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence”.  There is nothing wrong with money.  It’s how we respond to money that matters.  All the money on the planet belongs to God.  When we lose sight of that, and think somehow it is our own, we slide down a slippery slope of greed and idolatry that will lead to God’s response. “You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you”. There will be a price to pay for living rich.

It doesn’t necessarily happen quickly.  God tells us to be patient. “See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains”.  Everything happens in its time.  And we are not in control, of the rain, or God’s return.  So how we live matters.  Not only with our money, but also in how we relate to each other.  James tells us to “let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no”.  That is a noble thought.  Wouldn’t it be nice if a person’s word meant something?  That’s what God expects.

He also expects us to be engaged with those in our patch.  “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord”.  God works in our lives through the body of Christ – the church.  We need to do life together there, and live life in a way that those around us can be part of the challenges we face.  The Christian life is not meant to be a solo event.  We are to do life as Christ Followers together.

But it goes deeper than praying for each other.  James tells us to “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working”.  We’re getting pretty deep now.  It’s one thing to ask for prayer, its entirely another to be transparent about our sins.  But that’s how the church should work.  We need to be accountable to each other.  And we need to submit to each other too.  “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. We have a responsibility to help each other stay the course.  If we wander, we need someone to pull us out of the ditch and back on the path of being a Christ Follower.  It’s our responsibility to each other in the body!

Advertisements

James 4

James 4 has the writer teaching us about pride and wanting things.  “You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask”.  God makes it clear that one of our issues is a failure to ask for things we want and need.  But there is a catch.  “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions”.  Life is not about us, nor what we can accumulate.  God wants to give us more than we need, but not for ourselves.

He wants us to stand apart from the ways of the world.  “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God”?  We aren’t to fit into the world.  We are to stand apart because “whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God”.  We can’t serve God and man.  If we are going to live in a way that pleases God, we have to be willing to be different from the world around us. We have to be willing to stand firm even if it means we are different and don’t just slide into the world we live in.

There are some strong words about how we view ourselves.  “God opposes the proud, but  gives grace to the humble…Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you”. God looks for a humble heart.  Another reality that life is not about me.  In fact, we need to realize that the world revolves around Him, not us.  We do that by putting Him where He belongs – on the throne of our life.  “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts,  you double-minded”.  God needs to be in control of our life.

We also have to come to the realization that we are not determining the days of our life. “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that”.  But what we do certainly matters.  Sin is not just doing the things we know are wrong.  Sin also is not doing the things we know are right – “whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin”.  Sin is sin, and sins of commission are no worse than sins of omission.  God wants us to live in a way that aligns with His will, through what we do, or don’t do!

James 3

James 3 begins with the author reminding us that “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness”.  God tells us in many places in scripture that those who teach or lead will be held to a higher standard.  We need to carefully consider the responsibility that comes with teaching and leading.  And then James launches into one of the key problem areas for every human – the tongue.  He makes it clear that small things create huge outcomes – be it a bridle, rudder, fire or our tongue.  They can all do great good when controlled properly.  We have to realize just how important it is to have that small part of our body under control.

So also the tongue is a small member, yet  it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire”!  Words matter.  What we say makes a significant impact to those in our patch.  The fire of the tongue has been used to burn many. “The tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell”.  James isn’t telling us to never speak or to take a vow of silence; in many ways that would be easier than exercising true self-control over the tongue.

But he is warning us that “no human being can tame the tongue”.  Trying hard is not the answer here.  We need the power of the Holy Spirit within us to win this fight.  There aren’t many sins that don’t involve talking in some way.  “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people  who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so”.  Our excuse can’t be that we just can’t help it. The tongue can be brought under the power and the control of the Holy Spirit. Only God Himself is mightier than the human tongue!  So to tackle taming it on our own will be futile.  We need God’s help from God’s helper – the Holy Spirit who lives within us.

James goes on to describe God’s wisdom telling us “the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere”. God’s wisdom is shown clearly by its fruit. This wisdom can be seen by the fruit it produces. It isn’t just the power to think and talk about things the right way, it truly yields a fruitful result.  James isn’t talking about theory here.  If we seek and live out God’s wisdom, our life will bear the fruit of godliness and make an impact in the lives of those in our patch!

James 2

James 2 begins with some strong words about how we treat people in our patch.  “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,”  while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become  judges with evil thoughts”?  There is no room for partiality in God’s kingdom.

God expects us to love all people everywhere.  “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it”.  Can we get to heaven and eternity by our own efforts?  James makes it pretty clear that won’t happen.  God only allows us to become perfected when we keep ALL the law.  One failure point disqualifies us from being good enough to be free from it’s conviction.  And how we treat others is definitely one area most if not all of us will fall short.  Treating people with partiality is a sin.  Failing in one area – committing one sin – puts us without entry to eternity with God.  It’s why we need Jesus.

James goes on to make clear that faith alone is not what it looks like when one becomes a true Christ Follower.  “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him”?  James starts with a question about what salvation really looks like.  And then he goes on to answer it quickly.  “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works”.  If we truly have faith and a relationship with Christ – we will be moved to live out that faith through works.

Works are a result of faith, but not really a choice, but rather a result. James uses Abraham as an example of what faith will do in our life.  It comes alive and leaks out through works.  It isn’t something we keep to ourselves. “You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed  by his works”. We can’t contain our faith and keep it to ourselves.  It has to come out and bless others.  “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone”.  It isn’t that works are part two of a salvation experience with Jesus.  But rather that true faith in our Savior and Lord can’t be contained and held within. It will come out of us.  It is a sign of a true relationship with the Savior. “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead”.

James 1

James 1 is filled with wisdom about how to live life as a Christ Follower.  There are several men named James mentioned in the New Testament, but reliable tradition assigns this book to the one called James the Just, the half-brother of Jesus and the brother of Jude, who led the church in Jerusalem.  He starts off with a very counter cultural approach.  “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing”.  Most of us run from trials.  When they come, we’re immediately asking God to take them away.  But wait, there is a reason they come.

Trials lead us to develop steadfastness.  James tells us that trials as inevitable. He said ‘when’, not if you fall into various trials. At the same time trials are occasions for joy, not discouragement or frustration. We can count it all joy in the midst of trials because they are used to produce patience – another word for steadfastness.  But there is even more value.  Faith is tested through trials, not produced by trials. Trials reveal the depth of the faith we have; not because God doesn’t know how much faith we have, but so that our faith will be known to us and to those around us. But wait, there is more. The work of patient endurance comes slowly and must be allowed to have full bloom.  Patience means we learn to wait on God, trusting Him to act on our behalf.  It is a sign of true faith lived out over time.

How important is faith?  “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.  Faith unlocks God’s wisdom in our life.  It is right there for the asking, and God will give it to us, if we have faith.  Without faith, it is impossible to receive God’s offer and in fact, as it says in Hebrews, without faith it is impossible to please God.

The chapter is filled with lots of other wisdom, but James ends this first chapter reminding us that the life of a Christ Follower is not spent sitting on the sidelines.  “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like”.  If we follow Jesus, we have to get out of the pew and into the game.  We can’t watch from a far.  Jesus spent His entire life where people were, not sitting in the synagogue waiting for them to come to him.  He was in homes, the marketplace, and the highways and byways of life.  We have to live the Word, not merely hear it.  It demands action from each of us that claim Jesus as Savior and Lord!

James 5

James 5 wraps up with some clear guidance on how we should live in preparation for the last days.  James describes what the people have been doing to get ready:

       You have laid up treasure

       You have lived on the earth in luxury and self-indulgence

       You have fattened your hearts

       You have condemned

       You have murdered the righteous person

Wow – sounds quite a bit like today doesn’t it.  Focused on self and what we can accumulate, living for self and what we can consume, pointing fingers and blaming others, and still crucifying our Lord by our continued sin and selfish actions.  James is talking to people just like us here. 

 

So what does he say?  Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains”.  We need to learn to wait on the Lord.  We want it our way and we want it right now.  But God is not running on our timeline.  God wants us to learn to wait upon Him.  We are also told “do not grumble against one another”.  Plenty of grumbling going on around us isn’t there?  But instead we need to realize we will be “blessed who remain steadfast”.  God wants us to just walk with Him day by day and quit comparing ourselves with others.  We need to live faithfully as we walk with Him.

 

James gives a foundation for how we should relate with each other.  let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation”.  Are you honest in how you conduct yourself with those in your patch?  Does your word mean anything?  It should.   Our word should be exactly what we are going to do.  It is a powerful way to let people know we are living God’s way – when what we do lines up with what we say.

 

James also teaches us the importance of the body.  Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed”.  There is much power in confession.  It isn’t an easy thing to do – to admit we messed up and need to be set free from our sin – but it is a critical part of getting right with God and with each other.  We all know that no one is perfect.  We all know that there are things that need to be confessed.  So trying to appear like we are without sin is fooling no one but ourselves.  Why does it matter?   The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working”. Because if we get it right we can impact each other deeply through prayer.  Intercession is a powerful way to make a difference in the lives of others.  We need to learn to pray.

 

Finally James lays this on us: “if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins”.  We don’t live in our own little bubble where we are to ignore everyone else.  We are in the body of Christ to help each other live right.  And that means we have to be willing to confront sin and help others fix it.  Not just by pointing it out and telling them they are wrong, but by coming alongside and helping restore them.  Did you catch that in James words?  We need to bring back a sinner from his wandering – we have to get into the trenches beside them and help them find their way back to God and His direction.  Not finger pointing but coming along side and getting in the mud with them.  Are you doing that?  Do you let others do that for you?  Or do you stiff arm those who might come to you with suggestions and help in how to life God’s way?  Life matters – we need to leverage the body to help us do life well!

James 4

James 4 is filled with so many things to consider.  A short 17 verses but packed with things that give us direction on how we need to live.  Let’s take a look at a few key teachings he gives us.  He begins by telling us what is wrong at the core: “your passions are at war within you”.  We are messed up on the inside.  We focus on the wrong things:

      You desire and do not have

      You covet and cannot obtain

      You do not have because you do not ask

      You ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly to spend it on your passions

Our issue is that we are focused on ourselves.  It is all about me and what I need and want and will get.  Me, me, me.  We have our eyes on the wrong things.  God wants us to be focused on Him and what He cares about.  Listen closely to these words: “do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God”?  If we want to be focused on the stuff of this world, we are missing the boat completely with God. He is not about stuff.  He is about life and people and eternity and souls.  He is not worried about the details of our money or houses or cars.  He cares about people.

 

James goes on to remind us that “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble”.  Want to get in good with God – learn humility.  He is giving us the formula for success.  Humility means we put ourselves in our right place in relationship to God and the world around us.  It is realizing that the world does not revolve around us at all, and in fact, we are a mere spec on the world we live it.  James gives a very straight list of things we need to do here:

      Submit yourselves to God

      Resist the devil

      Draw near to God

      Cleanse your hands

      Purify your hearts

      Be wretched and mourn and weep

      Humble yourselves

      Do not speak evil

  See any common thread here?  It is putting God and others first and above us.  It is not thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought, as Paul puts it in another place in scripture.  We have to learn to be humble.

 

James also reminds us of our fragileness: “Come now, you who say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes….you ought to say, If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that”.  There are no guarantees about tomorrow.  In fact, we have no idea what the future holds.  But we do know who holds the future.  God alone is in control my friends.  He alone knows what tomorrow will bring.  We need to recognize His authority and His majesty and know that we are in His hands.

 

James ends this chapter with a chilling verse that should haunt each of us.  So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin”.  We often want to define sin as things we do that are wrong.  James gives us the other side of the coin here.  What we fail to do that we know we should be doing is also sin.  Did you catch what he said?  Missing the mark and committing sin is not only what we do we shouldn’t (sins of commission) but also includes things we know we are to do but don’t (sins of omission).  And sin is sin is sin no matter which kind it is.  Hard to equate a murder with failing to care for a widow isn’t it?  But God tells us plainly to care for widows and orphans many times in scripture.  When we have those directions and ignore them – we sin.  We need to seek God’s direction and listen carefully to what He is telling each of us to do.  Being a Christ Follower demands obedience and action.  Failing to do so is sin!

%d bloggers like this: