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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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Posted by on April 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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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Posted by on April 8, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

James 1:15 Lust isn’t just about sex

Corvette

That title got your attention didn’t it! Well read on and you’ll see how many things can contribute to our lustful desires.

James 1:15

The Message

Lust gets pregnant, and has a baby: sin! Sin grows up to adulthood, and becomes a real killer

New American Standard

Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.

Anyone who knows me well knows that in the past I’ve had this thing for cars. I’ve had a number of Corvettes, plus about any brand of car you can think of.  I would get a different car every two or three years. Yes, I’m attracted to the latest bright and shiny thingy. Now I think I’ve transferred that car lust (had the one car now for 7 years and the other for 1 but it was 3 years old when I bought it) into technology stuff. Like my iPad or my iMac or the latest Bluetooth gadget.  So yes, I struggle with what this verse says. And this verse says a lot.  I like what The Message says at the end, “and it becomes a real killer”.  It can kill marriages, it can kill careers, it can kill family relationships, lots of killing can occur when we give in to our lusts.

In a nutshell here’s how this breaks down. First you have desire which is related to our emotions. It begins with a feeling. It begins with a feeling of wanting to be satisfied, something new, something that’s been dangled in front of your face. It makes you feel a longing. That’s where it all starts. Sin begins with the desire.

Then comes deception of the mind. You start to rationalize the reason why it’s such a good thing. Next you start to figure out how you’re going to pull it off. This is where your will comes in. You’ve gone from emotions to the deception of the mind now you begin to justify getting that desire. I’m an expert at this. I can come up with some of the best, most logical reasons why it makes sense to get that new thing.  Doesn’t matter what it is.  Your desire could be a car, could be jewelry, could be new clothes, could be a house, could be a woman or man. So the design is conceived on how you’re going to pull this off. You’ve justified it in your mind now you’re ready to act. This is where the disobedience comes in and sin occurs.

So where do you nip this in the bud. Once it gets to the design phase it’s tough to pull back. It needs to be headed off at the desire stage. Everything I’ve read on this says the same thing. It is the person who is able to control their emotional responses that is going to deal effectively with sin. So, we are all bombarded each day with temptations.  It’s what we do with that temptation that determines if it becomes sin or not. Let’s pray for that today. Making the right determination when we’re at the desire stage.

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Posted by on April 4, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Temptation – James 1:14

iStock reaching for the apple Small

James 1:14

The Message

The temptation to give in to evil comes from us and only us. We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lust

.New American Standard

But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.

I like The Message’s interpretation of this. No one to blame but the leering, seducing flare up of our own lust.  That’s a real visual image.  Everyone is tempted. All of us can give testimony to the truthfulness of that statement.  Everyone is tempted.  Temptation is the common experience of every human being…non-Christian or Christian.  We all face the battle of temptation and how we deal with it is a mark of the genuineness of or lack of our faith.  Just as how we face trials and respond to them as we saw in verses 2 through 12 was seen as a test of genuine faith, so how we deal with temptation is also a test of genuine faith. It is normal for people not to accept the blame for their own sinfulness. It’s typical for us to put the blame somewhere else. Remember the Adam statement from yesterdays post? Because of Adam’s sin, children come into the world refusing to take responsibility for their behavior.  The first time you reprimand your little child for something, their initial knee-jerk reaction is to say, “I didn’t do it, it wasn’t my fault.”  Accepting the full responsibility for weakness in temptation is not something we do very well. Children shirk the guilt for their own wrong and they grow up to be adults who do pretty much the very same thing. James is saying in this passage, how you respond to temptation and where you put the blame is another indicator of the genuineness of your saving faith, or the lack of it.

Let’s take a quick look back at Genesis 3:11-13. In The Message it says this, “God said, who told you you were naked? Did you eat from the tree I told you not to eat from?”  The Man said, “The Woman you gave me as a companion, she gave me the fruit from the tree and yes, I ate it.”  God said to the Woman, “What is this that you’ve done?”  “The serpent seduced me,” she said, “and I ate.”  Here Adam and Eve are confronted by God and all of a sudden they had a self-consciousness that they never had before. Listen to the man, all he had to say was what? Yes, I did that. But no, he said the woman who you gave me to be with, she gave me the fruit and I ate it. Whose fault was it? Well, he suggests the woman, I mean, after all, he went to sleep one night and never had seen a woman in his life.  Woke up the next morning and was married to one. Didn’t even know what a woman was. But the real issue here is he’s not blaming Eve. He’s blaming God. Why did you pick a woman who would do that. You’re God, you could have picked any woman you wanted.  Of course when God asked Eve about what she had done, she blamed Him for putting the serpent in the garden to tempt her.  The blame is placed on God and it’s been pretty much that way ever since. God made me with this sinfulness, God gave me my circumstances, God put me in the situation I’m in, God gave me my surroundings, God created the scene I find myself in.  IT’S NOT MY FAULT.  We tend to also blame others around us, our spouse, our family, our circumstances…well I think you get the idea. We blame everyone but ourselves. James says, take responsibility. Own up to it.  God tempts no one. He allows temptations to go on but we’re the ones that have to make the choice to pursue or not. He allows us to be tested, even as he allowed Christ to be tested. But remember, never more than we are able to bear and always giving us the resource to persevere…if we choose to. So the next time you pray the Lord’s prayer, and you get to the part about “lead us not into temptation”, we are simply saying, “God, we ask You to do what You’ve promised to do and never give us more than we can bear.” The temptations are going to come…every day. Satan knows our weaknesses. He knows what we’re vulnerable to and he tries to exploit that. Here’s what I try to do when confronted with temptation. I just say to the Lord, “get me outta here”. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  Some people refer back to scripture they’ve memorized. I’ve not been very diligent in doing that memorization but maybe that’s another area I need to work on to help me through those temptation moments.

My prayer today is that you find the way to help you through those temptation moments. You’re reading this blog so you obviously have the ability to get on the internet. The internet can be used for things that build you up or it can be used for things to tear you down. Figure out what works for you to not be tempted out here in the “wild, wild, internet west.”  I have a small picture of Jesus right beside my computer. So I imagine if Jesus were sitting right beside me looking at my computer screen, would I be ashamed of what we were looking at or not. Well, He is sitting there and the more we’re aware of that the easier it is to beat back that temptation.

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Posted by on April 2, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

James 1:13 Does God tempt us?

James 1:13

The Message

Don’t let anyone under pressure to give in to evil say, “God is trying to trip me up.” God is impervious to evil, and puts evil in no one’s way.

New American Standard

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.

James makes a shift here from verse 12 to verse13. He had been talking about trials. And he has just said that the person who endures trials is blessed. Those trials, we learned, are outward circumstances which tests our faith and produces spiritual growth. But those trials can also become temptations and rather than being a means of spiritual growth can become something that lures us to evil.

Every difficult thing that comes into my life, either strengthens me because I obey God and stay confident in His care and trusting His power, and so I grow or I am tempted to doubt God, deny His Word, disobey and fall into sin. The difference is how you respond to it.  If you respond to a trial with obedience, then you find it a means of spiritual growth. If you respond to a trial with disobedience it has turned into a temptation and you have fallen victim to it. Every trial has the potential to become a temptation, depending on our response.

Every circumstance of life that we face then provides us with a decision. Will I move ahead in faith in God by obedience to His Word or will I listen to that voice that sometimes sits on our shoulder and suggests the easy way out is disobedience. If I choose the latter path and fall into sin, whose fault is it? Is it God’s fault who brings trials or allows them? Is it the fault of my circumstances? Is it the fault of my being created by God the way I am and I can’t help it? Whose fault is it? If God brings the trials, then is he responsible when they become temptations? The issue of who is to blame in temptation is the heart of this passage and it is as old as sin. Think back to Genesis when God asked Adam why he ate the apple. He blamed Eve for giving it to him.

James here makes it very clear, God does not tempt. It’s how we respond to trials that causes us to sin. We’ll expand on this tomorrow in the next verse.

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Posted by on April 1, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

James 1:12

James 1:12

The Message

Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.

New American Standard

Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

I think this verse really is the heart  of the book of James. Persevering under trial. Isn’t that what life is about. One trial after another. Some bigger than others. I read this in the Our Daily Bread devotional about a friend of the author Phillip Yancy, whose name is Douglas that fits perfectly with today’s verse.

“He has lived a Job-like existence in many ways, experiencing the failure of a ministry, his wife’s death from cancer, and injuries from a drunk driver to himself and a child.” Yet Douglas advises, “Don’t confuse God with life.” When troubles come and doubts arise, I often turn to Romans 8. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” asked Paul. “Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (v.35). In that one sentence, Paul summarized his ministry autobiography. He endured trials for the sake of the gospel; yet somehow he had the faith to believe that these “things”—surely not good in themselves—could be used by God to accomplish good. He had learned to see past the hardships to a loving God who will one day prevail. He wrote, “I am persuaded that [nothing] shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ” (vv.38-39).

Confidence like that can go a long way in helping overcome discouragement about how life hasn’t worked out the way we thought it would. Don’t confuse God with life. I like that.

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Posted by on March 27, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

James 1-11 – Never saw a hearse with a UHaul behind it.

James 1:11

The Message

You know that as soon as the sun rises, pouring down its scorching heat, the flower withers. Its petals wilt and, before you know it, that beautiful face is a barren stem. Well, that’s a picture of the “prosperous life.” At the very moment everyone is looking on in admiration, it fades away to nothing.

New American Standard

For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.

You know I can’t help but think about Bernie Maddoff with this verse. Pursuit of the “prosperous life” at all costs. Then how quickly the beauty and appearance is destroyed. Just took one SEC investigation into his ponzi scheme and his whole world fell apart. He’s in prison, his son who was in business with him has committed suicide, all of his wealth has been taken over by the courts. What a waste. He obviously was a smart man. Why couldn’t he do a legal, legitimate business. A fair guess would be that he wasn’t adhering to God’s word.

Everything is temporary. One of our pastors used to say he’s never seen a hearse with a U-haul trailer attached to it. We come into this life with nothing and we’re going to leave with nothing. Oh, we can leave “stuff” as an inheritance for sure and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But I’ve also seen a lot of “trust fund babies” who have no concept of reality when it comes to money or how God intends for us to use the resources He gives us. This verse is just one more that deals with putting your full trust and reliance on God and not on yourself.  You know what topic is mentioned more times in the Bible than any other? You would think it would be sin or anything relating to the 10 commandments. It’s money. There are over 800 references to money alone, so guess what the number one issue is in divorces. Not adultery. It’s money. More fights are started over money issues than any other by a wide margin. My theory is that if you are walking with the Lord in every aspect  of your life, the Lord will bless you with just the right amount of money that you can handle. If you show that you can handle the little amounts he will gradually give you more.  God does not tempt. Only satan tempts. But Got will only give you so much as to not get you in trouble.

So remember at the beginning of this study I said that James is all about tests of your faith.  So how you doing on that money pursuit. Is it number one in your life?  If so, you better reexamine because according to today’s verse, pretty soon it’s all going to be fading away.

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2014 in Uncategorized

 
 
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