OK, I get it Lord. – James 2: 9-11

New American Standard -

But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not commit murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.

The Message -

But if you play up to these so-called important people, you go against the Rule and stand convicted by it. You can’t pick and choose in these things, specializing in keeping one or two things in God’s law and ignoring others. The same God who said, “Don’t commit adultery,” also said, “Don’t murder.” If you don’t commit adultery but go ahead and murder, do you think your non-adultery will cancel out your murder? No, you’re a murderer, period.

Again, I like the way The Message states this verse. Another way of thinking about this is the same God gave both the seventh commandment, “you shall not commit adultery” and the sixth one, “You shall not murder”. To violate either is really violating the law of love toward one’s neighbor. Remember the last post on verse 8? It’s illogical to assume that a person by keeping one of the commandments is free to violate any of the others.

So many places in Scripture will give a list of what right living means. How can I know for sure when I’m in God’s will? How can I stay in God’s will? Ultimately, love…love for one another…love for your neighbor…love for the unlovely is what they all point to. If you get to the point where you have love for all of God’s creations no matter what, then you’ve achieved what God is trying to teach us through His Word.  So as I’ve said before, it seems every time I write something on here, very soon, the Lord tests me on it.  Even though I’ve done it more than once, when I see someone sitting at a light that has turned green because they’re texting or doing email I really want to smash into them. I know, real Christ-like. Saw that happening this morning on my way to work. Again, the flesh side of me wanted to ram them.   More than once I’ve had opportunity to act like a jerk and sad to say sometimes I have.  I remember one time last year when my wife and I were heading to Tennessee to see our son, I was passing a semi and he pulled over in my lane and ran me onto the berm. Fortunately there was enough room on the berm that I didn’t lose control of the car, but I did lose control of my temper. I sped up beside him honking my horn. My wife looked over at him and he was apologizing. Did I feel like a schmuck. See a pattern here? Talking to the guys in my morning Bible study this seems to be a guy thing.  I think it’s just a sinful human thing.  I hope I’ve learned something and hope you have too.

Love – James 2:8

The Message -

You do well when you complete the Royal Rule of the Scriptures: “Love others as you love yourself.”

New American Standard -

If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF,” you are doing well.

In my previous post when we were talking about verses 5-7 we said that there were three reasons why prejudice is unfit for Christians. Theological, logical, and biblical. In verse 5 there was the theological reason, God shows no partiality, so neither should his children. In verses 6 and 7 he shows the logical reason, indiscriminately showing favoritism toward the rich and mistreating the poor, therefore, made no logical sense. That brings us to today’s verse, the famous “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. This is the biblical reason because Jesus used this in his own teaching in Matthew 19:19, “Jesus said, “Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as you do yourself.” Jesus called this the second of the two greatest commandments, the first being, loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:31) In Romans 13:9 Paul says that every commandment in the Law of Moses “is summed up in the saying” and that “the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, love,  in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”(Galatians 5:14). So to break this one law is like breaking all of them; and vice versa, if you break any of the others, you’ve broken this one.

So, we’re okay with loving our neighbors, so long as we get to pick the neighborhood. I have to admit I struggle with this…a lot. In today’s politically correct (or incorrect) charged world, I find myself at odds with what the world thinks versus what Scripture says. Just pick up the newspaper or read the internet news and you’ll see plenty.  It’s tough doing that loving your neighbor thing when some people are obviously acting against what God’s Word says.  All of those things I mentioned are just the headlines of the day.  Back in the 60’s we had the free love movement.  Another way of saying have sex with anybody you want, with no strings attached.  The point is there is always plenty of sinners to get angry at if you choose to do so.  But as much as Jesus hates for us to sin, He still loves and forgives us for it. If we look at our own lives, we may not have participated in any of the things I just mentioned but there’s plenty of other things that we have done that if Jesus were standing next to us when we did them, we would not feel very good about it. But he still loves us. He still forgives us for it.  And that’s what he’s telling us we have to do too. We have to love on those who’s ideas don’t mesh with ours or Scriptures. After all, when you’re being Jesus to them, it may be the only glimpse of Jesus they get to see that day.

Lord, help us to love those who have different ideas and actions that don’t align with Your commands. Help us to reach out to them and be You to them.  We pray that You would use us in whatever way You see fit, and help our attitude be one of gratitude for that person.

 

God chooses the down and out first. James 2: 5-7

The Message -

Listen, dear friends. Isn’t it clear by now that God operates quite differently? He chose the world’s down-and-out as the kingdom’s first citizens, with full rights and privileges. This kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God. And here you are abusing these same citizens! Isn’t it the high and mighty who exploit you, who use the courts to rob you blind? Aren’t they the ones who scorn the new name—”Christian”—used in your baptisms?

New American Standard -

Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?  But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court?  Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?

In these verses, James kind of shifts into low gear and explains why prejudice and partiality are unfit actions for Christians to take. He gives three reasons, theological, logical, and biblical.  First the theological in verse 5. When I looked up cross references to this verse, this one jumped out from Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29.  “For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.”

We all root for the underdog don’t we. We love it when someone who is not in the upper crust gets a break.  I’m thinking of the street person Ted Williams, who if you live around the Columbus, Ohio area is well known now because of his golden voice. A newpaper reporter took a video of him on his corner where he begs for money and it went viral on You Tube. Before long the guy was getting job offers from everywhere because of his voice, and was on national TV shows.  Here’s an update on him from March of 2014. http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2014/03/14/catching-up-with-ted-golden-voice-williams/ It remains to be seen how he does personally with this new found fame but the point is when people saw the story they were all rooting for him to do well.  We love those kind of stories and so does God. In verses 6 and 7 James has a logical reason. He asks two rhetorical questions, which reveal a lot about the situation in which Jewish Christians found themselves.  First, the rich and powerful were persecuting Christians, dragging them before the authorities (2:6). Second, the rich and powerful were blaspheming Christ’s name. Reading between the lines, we can tell that the poor were not involved in this kind of persecution. Indiscriminately showing favoritism toward the rich and mistreating the poor, therefore, made no logical sense.

The only legitimate favoritism allowed by God is that which allows us to esteem everybody else as better than ourselves. That is a legitimate favoritism.  Look at where Jesus lived up until he was 30. Nazareth. Nazareth was a blue collar town. There’s one verse in the Bible that says, “what good can come out of Nazareth”.  That’s the kind of town Jesus lived in.  Then when he started his ministry, who did he minister to? The poor. The down and out. When was the last time you gave up your prime seat to the person who may have needed it more than you? Or went out of your way to help someone in need without them knowing that you did it?

God doesn’t care one bit what you look like. He doesn’t care how you dress. He doesn’t care how much money you have or don’t have. He doesn’t care about your education and where you went to school. He doesn’t care about your social standing. He doesn’t care about your prestige. He only cares that you’ve given your life over to him so that you can spend eternity with Him.

We’ll look at the biblical reason in verse 8 next time.

 

Eww! You Sit Here. James 2:1-4

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The Message -

Anyone who sets himself up as “religious” by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.

New American Standard -

 

My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.  For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?

Today starts the beginning of Chapter 2.  I said in an earlier post that there will be times when we take more than one verse at a time as it makes sense. This is one of those times because of the continuity of the verses.

Looking Good – James 1:22-24

man looking in mirror

New American Standard

But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.

The Message

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like.

We are all just hearers at times. We read a passage of Scripture and move on. We don’t act on it. It kind of just goes in one ear and out the other. James uses the mirror to represent the Word. See I have this routine in the morning after I take a shower. Contacts in, gel the hair (what little of it there is) looking in the mirror while doing this, take my meds, deodorant (aren’t you glad), shave, brush teeth. If that little routine gets interrupted I sometimes forget to finish one of those tasks. Hopefully it’s not the deodorant. I’ll go on and not remember it until something brings it to my attention. I’ve gotten interrupted shaving before and not shaved everything. Fortunately my wife usually points that out before I go out. Anyway, God uses this little analogy to help us understand that when we just listen and never participate it’s like passing by a mirror, looking at yourself, and then forgetting about it. I do that all the time in department stores. You’re moving down the aisle, bang…see a mirror, take a quick glance, notice you’re too fat, or too skinny, or too bald or something and you move on. Five minutes later it’s gone from your mind. God doesn’t want our study of His word to be that way. He wants us to dive deep. Concentrate on it. Understand it. Then go out and be doers of the Word. Let’s pray about that today. That God would allow us to read and understand and then go out and live it. And one other thing…why do they always put the biggest mirrors in the bathroom where you usually look your worst. Ought to be just as you’re going out the door so you can look your best…and remember that picture.

Hearing the Word, James 1:21

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New American Standard

Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.

The Message

In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life.

We’ve been talking about hearing the Word of God in our lives. Reading scripture, listening to Christian music, attending worship services, watching Christian TV, reading Christian oriented books and magazines. In order to hear what God is telling us we have to “put aside”, get rid of anything that hinders us from hearing. Think of it this way. That wax buildup in your ear that causes you to be deaf, the wax is sin. You have to clean your heart of the sin just like you would have to clean your ear to hear.
Then he says, receive in humility the word implanted. That basically means to have a teachable spirit. A heart that longs to be taught by God and be a willing student.

Way back on the second day of this study I talked about what it means to receive Christ into your heart. Confess your sins, acknowledge that He died for your sins, was raised from the dead, and lives today in Heaven with God the Father. Make Him the Lord of you Life. In order to make that happen you have to work at it and listen to what He’s telling you. In order to do that you have to listen to His Word in whatever way you can and do it humbly, wanting to be taught. In order for any of this “accepting Jesus, going to heaven” stuff to make any sense at all you have to believe what the Bible says. If you don’t start with that premise then God is either a hoax or a liar and all that “big bang” theory stuff is true. (Speaking of big bang theory, I liken that to a tornado going in one side of an auto junkyard and depositing a brand new shiny Corvette on the other) . Unfortunately some people, given the choice, have taken that path. They don’t believe the Bible can be true even though it was written by the eye witnesses to Jesus’ walk on earth. Hopefully you haven’t taken that path because the Bible is the truth and the more you read and let your mind soak it in, the more sense it makes and the closer you will be to Him.

I read something recently that hits the mark in Max Lucado’s book “Just Like Jesus Devotional”. I’d like to share it with you.

I’d like to tell you the story of the dancers who had no music. Can you imagine how hard that would be? Dancing with no music. Day after day they came to the great hall just off the corner of Main and Broadway. They brought their wives. They brought their husbands. They brought their children and their hopes. They came to dance. The hall was prepared for a dance. Streamers hung. Punch bowls filled. Chairs were placed against the walls. People arrived and sat, knowing they had come to a dance but not knowing how to dance because they had no music. They had balloons. They had cake. They even had a stage on which the musicians could play. But they had no musicians. One time a lanky fellow claimed to be a musician. He sure looked the part, what with his belly length beard and fancy violin. He stood before them and pulled the violin out of the case and placed it beneath his chin. Now we will dance they thought, but they were wrong. For though he had a violin, his violin had no strings. The pushing and pulling of his bow sounded like the creaking of an unoiled door. Who can dance to a sound like that? So the dancers took their seats again…Some tried to dance without the music. One wife convinced her husband to give it a try, so out on the floor they stepped, she dancing her way and he his. A few tried to follow their cue, but since there was no cue, they didn’t know how to follow. The result was a dozen or so dancers with no music, going this way and that, bumping into each other and causing more than one observer to seek safety behind a chair. Those dancers grew weary, and everyone resumed the task of sitting and staring and wondering if anything was ever going to happen. And then one day it did.

Not everyone saw him enter. Only a few. Nothing about his appearance would compel your attention. His looks were common, but his music was not. He began to sing a song, soft and sweet, kind and compelling. His song took the chill out of the air and brought a summer sunset glow to the heart. And as he sang, people stood, – a few at first, then many – and they began to dance. Together. Flowing to a music they had never heard before, they danced. Some, however, remained seated. What kind of musician is this who never mounts the stage? Who brings no band. Who has no costume. Why musicians don’t just walk in off the street. They have an entourage, a reputation, a persona to project and protect. Why, this fellow scarcely mentioned his name! “How can we know what you sing is actually music?” they challenged. His reply was to the point, “Let the man who has ears to hear use them.” But the non-dancers refused to hear. So they refused to dance. Many still refuse. The musician comes and sings. Some dance, some don’t. Some find music for life; others live in silence. To those who miss the music, the musician gives the same appeal: “Let the man who has ears to hear use them.”

Anger James 1-20

James 1:20

New American Standard

for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.

The Message

God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger.

I debated about linking this with the previous post on James 1:19 but felt that the verse deserved some time of it’s own. Human anger comes in many different forms and plays out in many different ways. No matter which way it manifests itself, it’s the exact opposite of the way God wants us to act. That’s what this verse is saying. Have you ever been around people who just seem like they’re mad at the world. That someone’s been kicking their cat. Not too fun to be with are they. That’s not the way God wants us to be. The Bible has around 270 passages that have the word anger in them. It’s an important topic. So how do we go about not getting angry. I think that’s an impossibility because we’re all going to get angry once in a while. My wife knows which buttons to push that brings out the angry Bill, and I probably know which buttons to push with her. I bet your kids know which buttons to push with you also don’t they. But with a steady diet of God’s word in us and an understanding of who He wants us to be it can get better. One of our former pastors wrote a book called Your Secret Name. It’s a book he’s just written that looks at the names we’ve been given over the years. We have our birth names but we get labeled as we grow up. God also has a name for us and it’s up to us to discover what that is. Some of the people who have taken the test on the website to determine their secret name (and I would encourage you to go do that) have said that they’ve been labeled with the word “angry”. Is that you? I pray not but if it is, meditate on this verse. The good news of the gospel of Christ affects the whole person. It’s not a set of rules to outwardly follow, but a change deep within that leads to a difference in our behavior. The effects of the Word in our lives can be seen by a continual process of inward transformation and then outward action that honors God. Anger is not one of those actions that is honoring to God. God’s Word frees us to live in truth, and His Spirit gives us the power to live it out.

Think Before You Speak – James 1:19

James 1:19

New American Standard

This you know, my beloved brethren But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger

The Message

Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear.

Don’t you love the way The Message just puts it out there?

So now we know where the old adage, “think before you speak” comes from. That’s a hard lesson to learn sometimes. I don’t know about you but often my tongue engages before my brain and then I have to end up backtracking. Not a pretty picture.  Could be why God gave us two ears and only one tongue.

I’ve been reading through a number of commentaries on James and all agree that the real lesson behind this verse is about hearing the Word of God. Hiding it in your heart for later. When there are trials, a believer runs to the Word, which provides the comfort. When there are temptations, the believer turns to the Word where there is strength to resist. So being quick to hear is talking about having that desire to hear the Word of God as much as you can. Slow to speak…  cautiously, slowly, patiently and with some reluctance would you become the speaker. We’ll see later in James 3:1 that he tells us to be very careful about being a teacher of the Word. Teachers are judged more harshly.  OK, I’m outta here. I started this blog, why? Just kidding.  I know that God has been working in my heart for awhile about doing this and especially about studying James. This is all good stuff.

Slow to anger… this is in the context of hearing the word of truth. And this implies that there are some people who get hostile against the Word. They don’t like what they hear. When the truth is presented they don’t want to hear it. There is a whole movement that has been around for a long time called secular humanism. Here’s the definition from Wikipidea…Secular Humanism is a secular philosophy that espouses (alludes to) reason, ethics, and the search for human fulfillment, and specifically rejects supernatural and religious dogma as the basis of morality and decision-making. So they would be good examples of those who don’t want to hear what the Word says. They’re rejecting the notion of God and the moral absolutes that He’s put in place since He created the world. That there can’t be anything other than themselves in control.  In the words of that great philosopher, Dr. Phil…”How’s that working out for you?”.

So in summary, be anxious to hear and learn God’s word, be slow to start telling other people right away about what you heard until you do more study and meditation on it, and then don’t let what you read or hear anger you. Be submissive to the Word and let it sink in. Exactly why we’re only doing one verse at a time. So we can do just that.

The next section of James, verses 19 – 27 talk about using the Word of God to guide our lives. Verses 19 – 21 talk about hearing and receiving the Word, verses 22 – 25 talk about the doing of the Word, and verses 25 – 27 deal with the application of the Word. It’s interesting to note that the three admonitions in this first verse is also going to be dealt with in greater detail in later verses. Quick to hear, verses 1:22-25, slow to speak, verses 3:1-12, and slow to anger, verses 3:13-18.  Hang on, could be a rough ride ahead.

 


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Who’s in Charge Here? James 1:18

James 1:18

The Message

He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures.

New American Standard

In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.

Had someone ask me today what the book of James is about. Told them it’s about life. Life the way Jesus sees it. Life the way He wants us to live it. It’s about the tough things in life.

Today’s verse is sort of a summary of what James has been talking about up to this point. As a little review,  James says in verses 13 to 18, you cannot blame anyone but yourself for your sin. In verse 13 he says the nature of evil demonstrates that. “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. ” You can’t blame God for evil because God and evil are mutually exclusive.

And then in verse 14, the nature of man. He says man has his own problem. Man is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lust…and enticed. The problem is in man. It is in his sinfulness, his fallenness.

Then he talks about the nature of lust in verses 15 and 16. Lust when it conceives brings sin. Sin when it finally comes produces nothing but death. In other words, understand that is the reality of sin. So it isn’t just because God and evil are incompatible. The problem is in the nature of man. And in the nature of man, the problem is his evil desire, his lust, his passion for that which is wrong.

Then in verse 17 we saw that he goes back to discussing the nature of God and says, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. ” So you can’t blame God because His nature is to give only good things, only good comes from God. So he says we can’t blame God for our sin.

Then in verse 18, he sort of sums up his argument by saying, “The nature of regeneration itself or conversion or salvation or the new birth shows us that God does not lead us into sin.” Verse 18 says, “Of His own will,” in other words, it was His will, “to become like Him, a kind of firstfruits of His own creation.” So the purpose is to create us to do good, not evil, to give us power over sin as a part of a new creation. So God is in no way involved in our sinfulness. He cannot be mixed with evil. The problem is in man. In man the problem is bound up with his lust. The nature of God is such that He only gives good gifts. And when God touches your life, it is to produce life not death, to produce righteousness not sin, to make you a new creature.

So embrace Him. Allow Him to work in your life. Ask Him to. You’ll be surprised at what happens. And oh, by the way, God works on His timetable, not yours so don’t get discouraged. Remember who’s in charge.

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It’s hard to walk away from temptation – James 1:16-17

James 1:16-17

The Message

So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle.

New American Standard

Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.

Isn’t it good to know that every thing that is good is coming from God. There is nothing deceitful, two-faced or fickle about the gifts God gives us. It’s unmistakable. Without error from the Father of Light.  We possess a nature that gives rise to sin. God does not. The nature of God is such that it only produces good. This is a two-fold thing. On the negative side, what it’s saying is God could never produce sin. On the positive side, get this, what it’s saying is God is going to pour out good, good, good, good, good, good and more good, so why in the world do we go after those lustful things we talked about in the previous post to be satisfied when God is pouring out everything you could ever use for all your satisfaction?  Easier said than done isn’t it.  He never said it was going to be easy…just worth it.  Our hearts get hardened against sin. In the beginning when it gets dangled in front of us there is a point in time, as we discussed yesterday, when our conscience kicks in and we know whether it’s right or wrong. After you ignore that warning and go ahead and commit the sin it gets easier the next time, and the next, and the next until your heart is hardened against that sin. You don’t even realize you’re sinning and if you do it’s very easy to rationalize and ignore the warning signs.  You have to turn away from the sin and only receive the gifts that the God of Light is sending down from above.

Who’s to blame in your sin? You better know because you’ve got to deal with it. Augustine, great saint of God, had lived with a prostitute before his conversion. After he was wonderfully saved, he was walking down the street and this prostitute saw him. She shouted his name and he kept walking. He saw her but kept his eyes straight forward and walked. She continued crying after him and ran after him and finally she said, “Augustine, it is I.” To which he replied, “I know, but it is no longer I.”

That’s my prayer for us today. Let us walk away from the sin that confronts us.

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