How to Have the Peace of God (Phil. 4:7)

How many of us desire peace?

Do you have peace? 

Peace is that calm of mind that is not ruffled by adversity, overclouded by a remorseful conscience, or disturbed by fear.

Horatio Spafford, a businessman in Chicago, sent his wife and three daughters to Europe by ship while he remained back in the States, intending to join them later. En route there was a terrible storm and a shipwreck during which their three daughters drowned. Mrs. Spafford made it to safety and wired back saying, “All of our daughters have been lost. Only I have been saved.”

He took the next vessel. As they came near the place where his daughters drowned, the skipper of the ship pointed to the place where the other ship had gone down. It was there on the deck of the ship he wrote these stirring words:

When peace like a river attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,

“It is well, it is well with my soul.”[1]

I view anxiety and worry the opposite of peace. These past few weeks we have been talking about how to have the peace of God. Today, we will put them together a little bit more.

Three weeks ago we talked about Rejoicing in the Lord Always (Phil 4:4)

Two weeks ago, Let Your Gentle Spirit Be Known to All Men (Phil 4:5)

Last week: Be Anxious for Nothing, Instead Pray (Phil 4:6)

Today: How to Have the Peace of God (Phil. 4:7)

Next week, Think on These Things (Phil. 4:8)

Today, let’s focus on the peace of God.

Let’s read Phil 4:6-7:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

  • Notice that the peace of God is a result of the previous verse, or even verses.
    • The peace of God is a result of rejoicing in the Lord (Phil. 4:4).
    • The peace of God is a result of your gentleness being known to all (Phil. 4:5).
      • Now, you may say, “How are they connected?” You may think you can understand rejoicing being connected to God’s peace, but not gentleness.
      • Think about it this way. Do you ever regret things you say in an argument? I have. Well, those regrets steal your peace.
  • Gentleness does not steal your peace.
  • At the end of the day if you can think that you have not wronged anyone, you have not lost your temper, you have not cursed anyone, lied to anyone, or cheated anyone you will have more peace.
  • Gentleness does not steal your peace, it adds to your peace.
  • The peace of God is the result of your petitionary prayer with thankfulness.
  • Now, peace of God is also connected to Phil. 4:8: Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
  • We will talk about that passage next week.
  • When we are anxious, we lose our peace.
  • When we worry, we lose our peace.
  • But when we give those things to God, we receive peace.
  • When we reframe things, and change our perspective to focus on God, we will have more peace.
  • When we worship God, we have peace.
  • Look at this verse about the peace of God.
    • God’s peace surpasses understanding.
    • How could Horatio Spafford write that hymn after his three daughters died? God’s peace was with him.
    • How can Joni Eareckson Tada live serving the Lord as a quadriplegic? The peace of God.
    • How could Annie Johnson Flint write “He Giveth More Grace” when she was an invalid with many health issues? She had the peace of God.
    • God’s peace surpasses understanding.
    • This is not a peace as the world needs. This is not a peace from war. This is an inner peace which we receive spiritually.
    • This peace will guard our hearts and minds. I think by saying that Paul is saying that the peace will guard our whole person.
    • The term used for guard is a military term. This type of guard has to do with a soldier on a wall guarding a city.
    • The peace of God will guard us and the peace of God is guarding us in Christ Jesus.
  • Applications
    1. We need to quit worrying about things we cannot change. Those things are stealing our peace.
    2. We need to quit getting angry about things we cannot change. Those things are stealing our peace.
    3. We need to quit living in fear. Turn those fears over to God. Those fears are stealing our peace.
    4. What is the worst that can happen? You may die of COVID-19. Death is complete healing and perfect paradise in Heaven (Phil 1:23).
    5. We need to pray about everything and trust in the Lord.
    6. We need to pray with the body of Christ.
    7. We will not have the peace that God wants us to have if we are not connected to the body of Christ (Ecc 4:11-12).

You know what robs our peace more than anything? Worry. Where does worry come from? Pride.

Invictus

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
 

William Ernest Henley

We are not the master of our own ship. God is in charge.

Go to Him with prayer. Rejoice in Him. Pray for gentleness. Surrender to Him. You need help. Pray with other believers.

Let’s pray now.

[1] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 431–432.

Be Anxious for Nothing, Instead Pray (Phil 4:6)

I have never seen a gravestone that reads, “He died of worry.” But some of them ought to read that way. How many illnesses are directly connected with our worries, our anxieties, trying to take the responsibility that was designed for God to handle. If you can’t handle it, why are you trying to handle it? If you can’t change it, why are you worrying about it? But we do, don’t we?

In fact, I have a friend who worries when she doesn’t have something to worry about. She has to have that security. I think she keeps a mental list of those reserved areas, then when she runs out of the conscious ones she draws on the unconscious. And she just brings them on, just like ammunition in a machine gun, just to fire them into her life.

Corrie Ten Boom, for the last two years of her life, spent it in our congregation in Fullerton, California. It was a wonderful experience to have this godly woman in our midst during that extended period of time as we literally watched her die. She said on one occasion, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of sorrows; it empties today of strength.”

A woman worried for forty years that she would die of cancer. She finally died of pneumonia at age seventy. She wasted thirty-three years worrying about the wrong thing.

—John Haggai, How to Win over Worry

As you may recall. I am preaching a short series on Phil. 4:4-8. I am hoping this helps us dealing with the times we are living in. The year 2020 has been tough, no one would argue that. However, maybe during this tough year we can draw nearer to God (James 4:8) like never before.

Two weeks ago we talked about Rejoicing in the Lord Always (Phil 4:4)

Last week, Let Your Gentle Spirit Be Known to All Men (Phil 4:5)

Today: Be Anxious for Nothing, Instead Pray (Phil 4:6)

Next week: How to Have the Peace of God (Phil. 4:7)

September 20, 2020: Think on These Things (Phil. 4:8)

Today, let’s read Phil. 4:6. My theme is to pray instead of being anxious.

Phil. 4:6:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

  • Paul tells them not be anxious but to pray giving their request to God with thanksgiving.
  • Not to be anxious is difficult.
  • One stressed-out secretary told her boss: “When this rush is over, I’m going to have a nervous breakdown. I earned it, I deserve it, and nobody’s going to take it from me.” —Billy Graham, The Secret of Happiness
  • It doesn’t matter how great the pressure is. What really matters is where the pressure lies, whether it comes between me and God or whether it presses me nearer His heart. —Howard Taylor, Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret
  • But Paul gives an antidote to anxiety and even to the time we are spending being anxious.
  • What is anxiety? It is worry. Instead of worry Paul calls us to prayer.
  • How is that working out for you?
  • Do you find yourself anxious lately, or more anxious? Pray more.
  • C. H. Spurgeon was showing some visitors over the Tabernacle (London). After taking them to the main part of the building, he said, “Come, and I’ll show you the heating apparatus.” Imagine their surprise, when he took them to a room where four hundred were gathered in a prayer meeting. The church with warmth of spirit must have the warmth-producing prayer meeting.
  • The antidote is prayer and Paul tells us how to pray.
  • We pray in everything. Not in some things but in all things. And we pray with supplications, sometimes translated as petitions. This petition means that we have a list of needs that we are giving to God.
  • Please understand, all prayer is not petition. Some prayer is just listening to God, worshipping God, praising God. But in this case Paul says: pray and give your list to God. But Paul also says do this with thanksgiving. Tell God what you are thankful for.
  • A few years ago, I was counseling a student who was somewhat depressed. I had him make a list of things to be thankful for; I think we thought of at least 50 things.
  • We all have clothes, we have food, we have heat, we have a roof over our heads.
  • But you know what? We usually forget the most important. We usually put the physical, felt needs in front of the spiritual.
  • We have salvation in Christ. We have the Holy Spirit as our comforter (John 14). Jesus said not to fear the person who can harm our body but the person who can harm our soul (Matt 10:28).
  • About the year 125 A.D. a Greek by the name of Aristeides was writing to one of his friends about the new religion, Christianity. He was trying to explain the reasons for its extraordinary success. Here is a sentence from one of his letters: “If any righteous man among the Christians passes from this world, they rejoice and offer thanks to God, and they escort his body with songs and thanksgiving as if he were setting out from one place to another nearby.” —J. G. Gilkey[1] 

Having been banished, Cyprian suffered martyrdom in Carthage in 258. When the sentence of death was read to him he said, “I heartily thank Almighty God who is pleased to set me free from the chains of the body.”[2]

We can be thankful for our salvation and we are to give God our needs in prayer with thanksgiving and then God will give us peace which compels us to rejoice and be kind. We will talk about the peace of God next week.

  • Applications: 

Swindoll shares:

Let’s get six words clearly fixed in our minds. These six words form the foundation of God’s therapeutic process for all worrywarts. 

WORRY ABOUT NOTHING,
PRAY ABOUT EVERYTHING

What qualifies as a worry? Anything that drains your tank of joy—something you cannot change, something you are not responsible for, something you are unable to control, something (or someone) that frightens and torments you, agitates you, keeps you awake when you should be asleep.

All of that now needs to be switched from your worry list to your prayer list. Give each worry—one by one—to God . . . .

Tell Him you will no longer keep your anxiety to yourself . . . .

The more you practice giving your mental burdens to the Lord, the more exciting it gets to see how God will handle the things that are impossible for you to do anything about.

Turn your worry list into your prayer list. Give each worry—one by one—to God. 

  1. We are not to be anxious about anything. There is nothing that should make me anxious.
  2. We must pray about everything.
  3. We must pray with a humble petition of needs.
  4. We must give God thanks.
  5. We must depend upon the Lord.
  6. The only way to do this is to meditate and ruminate on this passage.
  7. We must pray this passage.

John Piper shares:

When the mud splatters your windshield and you temporarily lose sight of the road and start to swerve in anxiety, turn on your wipers and squirt your windshield washer.

So my response to the person who has to deal with feelings of anxiety every day is to say: that’s more or less normal. At least it is for me, ever since my teenage years. The issue is: How do we fight them?

The answer to that question is: we fight anxieties by fighting against unbelief and fighting for faith in future grace. And the way you fight this “good fight” (1 Timothy 6:122 Timothy 4:7) is by meditating on God’s assurances of future grace and by asking for the help of his Spirit.

The windshield wipers are the promises of God that clear away the mud of unbelief, and the windshield washer fluid is the help of the Holy Spirit. The battle to be freed from sin — including the sin of anxiety — is fought “by the Spirit and belief in the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:13).

The work of the Spirit and the word of truth. These are the great faith-builders. Without the softening work of the Holy Spirit, the wipers of the word just scrape over the blinding clumps of unbelief on the windshield.

Both are necessary: the Spirit and the word. We read the promises of God and we pray for the help of his Spirit. And as the windshield clears so that we can see the welfare that God plans for us (Jeremiah 29:11), our faith grows stronger and the swerving of anxiety straightens out.

Gavin Ortlund:

One of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes comes from a little-known letter. In 1958, Lewis was savoring the remaining time he had with his wife, Joy, who was ill. He wrote to a friend, “my situation is not easy to describe. My heart is breaking and I was never so happy before; at any rate there is more in life than I knew about” (quoted in Alan Jacobs, The Narnian, 285, italics mine).

At the time Lewis wrote these words, his own health was starting to fade. He was five years from his own death. He had lived a very full life, experiencing war, love, a dramatic conversion, and literary fame. His writings up to this point convey a depth of wisdom and insight that most human beings never achieve. Yet here he is, discovering new pathways, finding life fuller and richer than he yet knew.

I often think about these words: there is more in life than I knew about. They remind me that we should never stop growing. Boredom with life is simply inexcusable. If we are bored with life, the problem is with us, not the world. There is always more in life to experience, to learn, to love.

In my mind, this is a function of a Christian worldview: because we live in God’s world, and ultimately before God himself, reality has endless possibility. Anything can be a door to newness and change, because anything can direct us to God. There is always something more out there.

Backpack example: 

I have been convicted by this verse. Further, I have been convicted by the context of these verses. I have been convicted to pray for gentleness. I have been convicted to pray that I will rejoice in the Lord always. I have been convicted that if I can worry I can pray. So, in response, I have prayed these verses. I encourage you to do the same. I encourage you to pray that God will help you to live out this verse. Pray it every day this week. That is your homework.

Pray  

[1]Tan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : A treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers. Garland TX: Bible Communications.

[2]Tan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : A treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers. Garland TX: Bible Communications.

Let Your Gentleness Be Known to All Men (Phil 4:5)

We are going to be going to Philippians 4:5 in just a minute. I want to setup a sermon on gentleness and to do that I want you to think about the opposite. Think about anger.

People today still have murder (anger) in their heart. Take for example this classified ad:

Wedding dress for sale, never worn.

Will trade for .38 caliber pistol.

Preaching magazine, March–April 1993[1]

Thomas Jefferson believed, “When angry count to ten, if very angry count to a hundred.” Mark Twain said, “When angry count to four, if very angry swear.”

Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations[2]

There is a lot of anger going around right now, isn’t there? There is worry, anxiety, frustration, mistrust, violence, and the response is likely anger. But you know what I think is disarming? Gentleness. Gentleness is disarming.

We are in a short sermon series on Phil. 4:4-8:

Last week, we talked about Rejoicing in the Lord Always (Phil 4:4).

Today, Let Your Gentle Spirit Be Known to All Men (Phil 4:5).

September 6, 2020: Be Anxious for Nothing, Instead Pray (Phil 4:6).

September 13, 2020: How to Have the Peace of God (Phil. 4:7).

September 20, 2020: Think on These Things (Phil. 4:8).

Let’s read Phil. 4:5 and talk about being gentle. My application today is that we would seek to be gentle.

Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.

  1. Seek to have a gentle disposition.
    1. The ESV says “reasonableness,” but it seems that “gentleness” is a better translation (Even John Piper says so).
    2. I must begin by admitting that I am a passionate person. I am generally a passionate person and this is expressed in energy. In this speed I do not do slow very well.
    3. Sometimes this passion is expressed in anything but gentleness. I don’t think that is wrong. But I do think I must be careful that my passion is not perceived as aggressive.
    4. Having said that, I believe that gentleness is disarming.
    5. I don’t want people to feel like they need to walk around on eggshells around me. I want people to know that they can say anything to me and I am not going to fly off the handle.
    6. I think a gentle disposition is something for Christians to seek.
    7. We always want to justify our anger, don’t we?
    8. How many times have I tried to justify my anger saying it was righteous anger.
    9. We may have righteous anger, but it may not be expressed righteously.
    10. Anger, is not healthy. Your blood pressure goes up. Cortisol is released which causes weight gain. We all know that anger is not healthy.
    11. Gentleness is healthy, not only for the individual but for others around him.
    12. The more heated the disagreement, the more our inner steam tank builds to the breaking point; and it is all we can do to keep a level head through the whole explosive episode. This reminds me of the Quaker who owned an ornery cow. Every time he milked her, it was a clash of two wills. This particular morning she was unusually irritable, but he was determined to endure the session without so much as a cross word. As the farmer began to milk her, ol’ Bossy stepped on his foot with all her weight. He struggled silently, groaned a little under his breath, pulled his foot free, then sat back down on the stool. She then swished her tail in his face like a long string whip. He merely leaned away so it wouldn’t be able to reach him. Next she kicked over the bucket, by then half-full of warm milk. He started over, mumbling a few words to himself; but he never lost his cool. Once finished with the ordeal, he breathed a sign of relief, picked up the bucket and stool, and as he was leaving she hauled off and kicked him against the barn wall twelve to fifteen feet away. That did it. He stood to his feet, marched in front of his cow, stared into those big eyes, and as he shook a long bony finger in her face, he shouted, “Thou dost know that I am a Quaker. Thou dost know also that I cannot strike thee back … but I can sell thee to a Presbyterian!” —Clyde Murdock, A Treasury of Humor[3]
    13. Paul calls us to be gentle.
    14. I believe that the more I respond to my children with gentleness now, the better our disagreements will be later.
    15. Don’t get me wrong, I think there is a time to respond with force. Of course, one has to raise their voice to get attention occasionally, or for emphasis, or some other reason. But our pattern should be gentleness.
    16. In Gal. 5:22-23 gentleness is the second from the last of the fruit of the spirit.
    17. This means that a sign of being a Christian is being gentle.
  2. Now, let’s talk more about this passage in context.
    1. Paul tells them to be gentle, or let their gentleness be known to all. Again, Paul doesn’t say let people know you are gentle when things are going well, and people are nice to you. No, let your gentleness be known to all.
    2. This gentleness may be exactly why Paul could be a good witness.
    3. Again, the Philippians have faced persecution, how could he ask them this. Several reasons:
    4. Matthew 5:44: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
    5. Matthew 5:11: Jesus says that we are blessed when persecuted for Him.
    6. Acts 5:41 the people leave after being persecuted rejoicing that they could suffer for Christ.
    7. But I believe Paul gives one of the best reasons at the end of this verse. Paul says the Lord is near. This can mean one of two things or both.
      1. Either the Lord’s second coming is close.
      2. Or, the Lord is near in Spirit.
    8. Jesus is with us always through the church. The Holy Spirit is within us.
    9. If Jesus’ second coming is near that means that judgment is near. This means Paul is saying, “Be kind to them even when they persecute you. Their judgment is near.”
    10. Either way they had hope. The Lord was near to them. They were not alone. The Holy Spirit was with them.
    11. Also, this idea of gentleness fits the rest of the letter of Philippians.
    12. In Phil. 2:3-11, Paul told them to have the attitude of Christ. They were told to consider others more important than themselves. They were to look upon others needs before their own.
    13. In Phil. 2:14, they were exhorted to do all things without grumbling or complaining.
    14. In Phil. 3, Paul talked about giving up all his worldly achievements for Of course, Jesus was known as gentle.
    15. The idea of gentleness is throughout the New Testament: 1 Tim. 3:3; Titus 3:2; James 3:17; 1 Peter 2:18; 2 Cor. 10:1
    16. But I believe their help is in the next two verses. Paul has told them to rejoice always, Paul has told them to be gentle to everyone, but how? Through prayer with thanksgiving. We are going to talk about that in the coming weeks. For now, let’s apply.
  • Apply
    1. To be gentle must mean that I pray about this often.
    2. We must be gentle to all people, even when it is not easy.
    3. If we have issues with anger, and rage, we must get help now.
    4. We must repent when we are not gentle with people.
    5. We must seek to be gentle, not only in volume, but mannerisms and words.
    6. To be gentle may mean that watch for triggers that prevent us from being gentle. Maybe sometimes we overfill our schedule, and we are too rushed, and then when things go wrong we get angry.
    7. To be gentle, we must learn to let go of things that we cannot control.
    8. During this COVID crisis many are worried and angry over things which we cannot control. We must let them go. We must turn them over to the Lord.
    9. To be gentle, we must turn our worries over to God in prayer (next verse).
    10. We must pray about this with our family, friends, and church family. We must link up with the church for help being gentle (Prov 27:17; Ecc 4:12).
    11. We must see this as important.

 

When I was in high school youth group there was a young man a few years behind me. He was a good person. He came from a very strong family. His parents owned a business and sent him to a Christian school. He liked to hunt and planned to go to college to major in forestry. I graduated and we lost touch. However, after a few years I heard about him. He was in college and got in an argument with his girlfriend. He was filled with rage and he stabbed her to death with a pin knife. He was released on parole. My younger brother went fishing with him, he was safe to be around, but he had an anger problem. Eventually, he was sent to prison, where I believe he is right now.

Many of us may not have issues like that, or we think we do not have issues like that, but we all must seek gentleness.

We must get control of our anger before something like that happens. But in order to truly get control of our anger, we may need help. Get help.

All of us should seek gentleness. This is the Word of God.

Prayer

 

[1] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 33.

[2] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 33.

[3] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 33–34.

Rejoice in the Lord Always (Phil 4:4; Col. 3:16-17; Genesis 1:1)

I have a story that will hopefully help us begin this message. I did not write this story.

BLIND AGAINST THE BLIND

One of the most celebrated sports heroes in our state was Charley Boswell. Charley was blinded in World War II while rescuing a buddy from a burning tank. He had always been a great athlete so after the war, he took up golf. While in college I saw him play an exhibition match. Of course, he had a friend line him up and give him a distance, but I can testify that it’s hard to hit that little white ball when you’re looking at it. Boswell won the National Blind Golf Championship 16 times, once shooting a score of 81. In 1958 Charley came to Ft. Worth to receive the coveted Ben Hogan Award.

Mr. Hogan agreed to play a round of golf with Charley. Charley said, “Would you like to play for money?” Hogan said, “That wouldn’t be fair!” Charley said, “C’mon, Mr. Hogan, are you afraid to play a blind golfer?” Hogan was really pretty competitive so he said, “Okay, I’ll play for money. How much?” Boswell said, “$1,000 per hole.” Hogan said, “That’s a lot. How many strokes do you want me to give you?” Boswell said, “No strokes. I’ll play you heads up.” Hogan said, “Charley, I can’t do it. What would people think of me taking advantage of a blind man?” Boswell smiled and said, “Don’t worry, Mr. Hogan, our tee time is tonight at midnight!”[1]

 

Do you ever feel like you are living in a dark world? Do you ever feel blind? Lately, I am sure that many of us have felt that way. I am sure that many of us have felt like we are truly going through strange times. Maybe you feel like you are golfing in the dark. Maybe you feel like there is no light outside. Because of everything still going on I decided to change my sermon plans. I had planned to talk about sharing the Gospel for the next few weeks. Instead, I have decided to talk about Phil 4:4-8 for five sermons. Here is the plan:

Today, we will talk about Rejoicing in the Lord Always (Phil 4:4)

August 30, 2020: Let Your Gentle Spirit Be Known to All Men (Phil 4:5)

September 6, 2020: Be Anxious for Nothing, Instead Pray (Phil 4:6)

September 13, 2020: How to Have the Peace of God (Phil. 4:7)

September 20, 2020: Think on These Things (Phil. 4:8)

Today, my theme is that we have reason to rejoice in the Lord.

Read with me Philippians 4:4:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!

  1. Rejoice in the Lord.
    1. Paul gives a simple statement, doesn’t he? Paul says to rejoice in the Lord.
    2. How often are we to rejoice in the Lord? Always. We are to rejoice in the Lord at all times. Paul tells us just that.
    3. He says to rejoice in some NO! He says to rejoice in all things.
    4. I understand, and I think that Paul would also understand, that sometimes it is hard to rejoice. Have you had times in your life when you felt there was nothing to rejoice about?
    5. Maybe that is right now; maybe right now it is difficult to rejoice. It is, isn’t it?
    6. When Paul was writing this letter, he was under house arrest. There were guards around him. We know there were guards because he says so in chapter 1:13 and following.
    7. Paul is writing this to the Philippians who were persecuted for their faith in Christ.
    8. The city of Philippi was a Roman colony. They were very Roman in culture; they probably even spoke Latin which was a little rarer at this point.
    9. By this point in Paul’s life he had already been shipwrecked, beaten, stoned and so much more (Acts 14; 2 Cor 11).
    10. Yet Paul says to rejoice. Paul even repeats it twice. He might have repeated it twice thinking that they were going to wonder how he could ask them to rejoice in the midst of their troubles.
    11. They must have thought, “how can you tell me to rejoice? Look at the persecution we are going through. Look what you have gone through!”
    12. It is interesting that Philippians is a different type of Paul’s letters. There are no rebukes, or anything like that. Joy in its various forms occurs 16 times in this letter. It is said that Philippians is all about joy. Dr. Rydelnic of Moody Bible Institute says that it is about joy in unity.
    13. In Philippians 1:29, Paul even says that they have suffered for Christ, yet Paul exhorts them to rejoice in the Lord always.
    14. The question is, do we have reason to rejoice?
    15. The question is, did they have reason to rejoice? Apparently, they did have reason to rejoice. Paul tells them to rejoice.
    16. Could it be that rejoicing in the Lord is the ultimate help when we are emotionally burdened? Could it be that when we don’t feel like rejoicing is when we really need to rejoice? Is that possible?
    17. Paul tells them to rejoice, even when he is in prison and they have suffered for Christ, wow!
    18. Paul could have told them to complain to the Lord, but he did not do that. Actually, in Philippians 2:14 Paul tells them not to complain.
    19. Again, do we have reasons to rejoice? I will come back to that.
    20. Of course, Paul modeled this. One person writes: “When his enemies preached Christ out of envy and rivalry, wanting to wound Paul and undermine his ministry (Philippians 1:15–17), he welled up not with anger, bitterness, or resentment, but with joy. ‘What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice’ (Philippians 1:18). It takes more than human courage to rejoice when you’re mistreated, especially when you’re in prison where you can’t defend yourself.”[2]
    21. John Piper says about these verses,
    22. “When we have little and have lost much, Christ comes and reveals himself as more valuable than what we have lost. And when we have much and are overflowing in abundance, Christ comes and he shows that he is far superior to everything we have.”[3]
    23. Actually, in Acts 16:25, Paul and Silas were in prison after being beaten and they are singing hymns. Wow!
    24. Do we have reasons to rejoice? Is Christ everything to us?
    25. Let’s look at another passage.
  2. How do we rejoice?
    1. 3:16-17 helps us with that.
    2. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.
    3. This passage and really, all of the verses we are going to be talking about for the next month, deal with sanctifying our thinking. That means that we set apart our thinking for Jesus.
    4. Instead of focusing on the negative we do this.
    5. Look at that verse: Let the word of Christ RICHLY dwell within you. Teach and ADMONISH one another…
    6. Notice the focus on thankfulness.
    7. Look at verse 17. Give thanks to God the Father in all that you do.
    8. Do you see what Phil. 4:4 and Col. 3:16-17 are having us to do? This is reframing the events of our lives. This is giving us a different perspective. We do everything for King Jesus and we worship Him in all things.
    9. That takes practice but that is our encouragement for today.
  • Think with me about how great God is and rejoice.
    1. We know that God created the Heavens and the earth. Think about God’s awesome creation and let that reflect back on our awesome God.

John MacArthur shares:

Do you know that birds navigate by the stars? Now, how did that ever happen? Do you know that birds raised from eggs inside a building, where they’ve never seen the sky, can instantly orient themselves toward home when shown an artificial sky representing a place their species have never been? How does that work? I don’t have any idea.

There’s a fish called archer fish. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard about archer fish. They shoot drops of water with great accuracy at insects. Because its water, it doesn’t kill the insect. Scientists think they just do it for fun. Now how did they ever develop that?

Mites, little microscopic bugs, live in the ear of a moth. And a moth can fly fine if only one ear is occupied. If two ears are occupied, it can’t fly. And strangely enough, mites don’t get in both ears. How do they know that, those little guys? That if one of their buddies is over there, they shouldn’t be on this side.

There is a thing called the bombardier beetle, it produces chemicals in its body in two separate sacks. And when the enemy comes along, that little beetle has the capability to mix those two little chemical fluids and they come out of the mouth and explode in the face of the enemy. But the explosion never occurs prematurely. Now, you can’t evolve two explosive liquids in a beetle and never blow the beetle up. 

Well I think you’re getting the picture in ways you probably have never thought about it before. Do you know codfish lay nine million eggs? You probably know that.

Do you know the earth is twenty-five thousand miles in circumference, weighs six septillion, 588 sextillion tons, and hangs in empty space? And spins at a thousand miles an hour with perfect precision so that we’re not going like this all the time. Time is kept to the split second. And at the same time it’s spinning at a thousand miles an hour, it’s careening through space, around the sun, in an orbit of 586 million miles, at the speed of a thousand miles a minute.

Do you know that the comets can have tails a million miles long? And travel 350 miles per second? I mean it’s just astonishing stuff. And then these people come along and say, “Well, it just happened.” If you follow the God-given reason of cause and effect, you’re going to have to come back to a great cause, aren’t you? And then you follow conscience, and you’re going to find out that whoever the Great Cause is, He is moral. And He has a law that can’t be violated without consequences. Now that’s not redemptive truth, as Stephen Olford said, but that’s getting you back to the God who can redeem. The redemptive truth then unfolds on the pages of Scripture, doesn’t it?

Listen to what Dr. Donald Gray Barnhouse wrote, “God gave man brains to see things, these things, and the sorrowful answer is that God gave man brains, for example, to smelt iron and make a hammerhead and nails. And God grows a tree and gives man strength to cut it down. And brains to fashion a hammer handle from its wood. And when man has the hammer and the nails, God will put out His hand and let man drive those nails through it, place Him on a cross, in the supreme demonstration that men reject God.” Rejection. God gives the truth and men turn from the truth. And then they become futile, empty in their speculations. Empty, useless, nothingness and they get sucked into darkness where they can’t know God. And the law of God no longer speaks. And conscience no longer reacts. And reason is warped and twisted. And the light goes out.

That reminds me of the guy in the mental institution. He’s lying in bed and he’s saying, “I’m Napoleon. I’m Napoleon.” All day. All day. All week. The guy in the next bed is really getting weary. Finally he says to him, “Shut up. Who told you you’re Napoleon?” He says, “God did.” The guy replies, “Oh, no I didn’t.” Or the lady who went into the psychologist’s office with a duck on a string, said, “You need to help my husband. He thinks he’s a duck.” I mean nobody knows what reality is. Perception is so skewed that they give each other PhDs, and they became fools.[4]

  1. Our God is awesome, amen!
  2. He created this awesome creation and then He became part of His creation to save us.
  3. We have reason to rejoice in the Lord.
  4. Do you know in the previous verse Paul writes about people whose names are written in the book of life.
  5. When we commit to Jesus as Lord and Savior we have a relationship with God, Almighty. The Holy Spirit resides in us.
  6. We are called His children (1 John 3:1).

Remember what I shared about the blind golfer? What did he do? He said he would golf at midnight. He changed things. Do you know what we need to do? We must change the perspective. We must focus on rejoicing in the Lord, and in rejoicing, we will light up the darkness.

So, this week, here is my encouragement, this week rejoice in the Lord always. No matter what happens make it your aim to rejoice in the Lord. Then at the end of each day reflect to see how you have done and pray about it.

Prayer

[1] (From a sermon by David Dykes, Has Jesus Touched Your Eyes? 8/20/2012)

[2] https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-only-joy-we-never-lose?utm_campaign=Daily%20Email&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=77642378&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-80WqZw3q0ApL72SpydOpMOewIXPyM3OEWwQqigzvcPKh-RWjwk-hd8bXhyJiMSFtpkg4YP9wBrGW2o2zSZyYvLxKnd9g&_hsmi=77642378

[3] https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-only-joy-we-never-lose?utm_campaign=Daily%20Email&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=77642378&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-80WqZw3q0ApL72SpydOpMOewIXPyM3OEWwQqigzvcPKh-RWjwk-hd8bXhyJiMSFtpkg4YP9wBrGW2o2zSZyYvLxKnd9g&_hsmi=77642378

[4] https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/80-184/2719

James 5:19-20: Stay In the Truth

James 5:19-20: Stay In the Truth

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends in Poland, OH on Sunday, August 16, 2020

Sin which is not dealt with is contagious, it is better to confront sin in love so that it doesn’t spread to others.

John Wesley [the founder of the Methodist movement which led to the United Methodist Church] preached on the 5th of February, 1738, at St. John the Evangelist, Westminster, he preached “On those strong words, ‘If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.’” He later wrote, “I was afterwards informed, many of the best in the parish were so offended, that I was not to preach there anymore.”

The following Sunday he preached on 1 Corinthians 13:3 at St. Andrew Holborn, here, too, he was not allowed to preach anymore. This happened at several other churches. It also happened to his friend George Whitefield and John Wesley’s brother Charles (Charles has written many of our hymns). [1] They preached the Bible but the words of the Bible were offensive so they were no longer allowed to preach in those churches.

Wesley’s words were, “…many of the best in the parish were so offended, that I was not to preach there anymore.” They were offended by the Scriptures so they didn’t want John Wesley preaching there. Yet, they did want to continue as a church. Why? Was their problem with John Wesley or was their problem with God and His Word?

Our Scripture passage today comes from James 5:19-20. In this passage James wraps up his epistle. James wraps up his epistle by writing about confronting sin. Let’s read this passage. In this passage you will see confrontation, restoration, and salvation.

Let’s read James 5:19-20

My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

  • In this passage I see the principle of confronting sin.
    • James writes to them as family. He writes, “My brothers.”
    • James describes a scenario, a case study, where someone wanders from the truth.
    • Now, we must question, “Was this man a genuine believer, or had he heard the truth when it really didn’t soak in?”
      • We really can’t answer that fully, but I believe in this scenario the man was not a true believer.
      • You will notice in the next verse James writes that anyone who turns a sinner from the error of his ways will save him from death and cover a multitude of sins.
  • John MacArthur’s sermon on this passage points out that the Scriptures use “sinner” to refer to an unbeliever.
  • Sinner implies one who has not surrendered to Jesus Christ.
  • In 1 John 2:19 John talks of people who went out from them but were never part of them to begin with.
    • They might have appeared to be Christ followers, but they really weren’t Christ followers.
    • Wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt 7:15).
  • So, I am preaching this passage believing that James is writing about those who are not Christ followers, though they may have appeared to be for a while.
  • James writes of someone who wanders from the truth. Something I read about that verb says this: The word “to wander” or “to stray” is planetes from which we get planet which was a wandering body. It means to reject, to go astray, to apostatize, to wander. The term is used in Scripture many times to refer to physical wandering and many times to refer to spiritual drifting. And frequently it is used to refer to the condition of the unsaved. The unsaved are said to wander, or stray.
  • So, someone wanders from the truth and now someone else brings that individual back. This means at some point there is a confrontation.
    • At some point a Christ follower must go to this person and say, “Hey, you have left Christ, you are living in sin, this is unbiblical and this is wrong.” The Bible is the Christian’s guide (2 Tim 3:16-17).
    • That is what John Wesley did in his sermons. Wesley was a preacher that was not afraid to confront sin. Every sermon should offend some because the Bible offends people. Listen to Heb 4:12-13: 12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
  • Jesus taught a pattern for confronting sin in Matthew 18:15-17: 15 “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16 But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
Old Testament quotation: testimony of two or three witnesses.
  • Paul also wrote about confronting sin in Gal 6:1: Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.
  • Why don’t we do this? How do we do this? Or, have you done this? Have you ever had to have a meeting with someone where you confronted the way they were living, something they were doing, or some way in which they offended you?
    • I know of situations where a church member (even someone who led worship at a church), was involved in an adulterous relationship. Even though people knew about it, or speculated about it. Instead of confronting the person or people involved, there was gossip going around. This could have been stopped by a conversation between those involved and the pastor. Instead, it greatly damaged the church.
    • I know this is not easy, but it is rewarding and it is necessary. The Scriptures teach us to do this and we must not ignore the Scriptures.
      • In this case I think it is someone who has strayed from the truth likely because they really didn’t know Jesus. If this was a real life scenario you may not know whether they really knew Jesus or not. All you know is they have left the church and they have rejected the message.
      • It is important not to let them go to the way of the world. It is important to confront them. You are to do this the way Jesus instructed in Matthew 18:15-17.
        • First you meet with the individual alone. Actually, first you pray and pray throughout the process.
        • Then you and one or two others talk with the individual.
        • Maybe when another person is brought in you will realize that the person left the church for a legitimate reason. Maybe he/she was offended by a lack of love. This is why it is important to use two people.
        • Then the whole church decides the matter.
          • Also, always confront using Scripture and study so you are sure that you are using Scripture correctly.
          • That is why you bring in two or three witnesses and then the whole church. This is to bring in objectivity and make sure the Scriptures are used correctly.
  • What if the confrontation doesn’t work? What if they still stray from the truth? What if they will not come back to the church? Then you let them go; knowing they have made their own decision.
  • But what if you never confronted the person? What if you never approached them?
    • Rom 6:23: For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
    • That is referring to eternal death.
  • That is what happens if you never share the gospel, eternal death in hell.
  • But eternal life comes through the Gospel.
  • What we must be careful of is the fact that we will naturally take the easy way out. We will naturally make up any excuse to avoid a confrontation. Even pastors do this. We will naturally be passive aggressive. Maybe you will see someone at the store and you make a very passive, yet aggressive, comment.
  • Or, suppose you have to do another form of confrontation. Maybe someone has offended you in the church. Well, you may not like confrontation so instead you make those passive aggressive comments, or maybe you gossip. You both still go to the church. But you both have a torn relationship with each other.
  • All of you know what I mean with this. Passive aggressive people are all over churches, but it is wrong to gossip about someone, or not share your true feelings with the individual. This causes more trouble in the end. The best manner of response is Matthew 18:15-17 which I read earlier. Go and talk to the person. Also pray.
  • One other thing about confrontation. Remember, several times now I have talked about how we need prayer partners and accountability partners. You know that if we did this we would have a wonderful opportunity set up for each one of us to help each other grow in Christ. The Bible says as iron sharpens iron so a man sharpens his brother (Proverbs 27:17). We sharpen each other. This holds us accountable which builds us up before we reach the point where we have left the church or we are living in sin.
  • So, we see James exhorts us to confront those who have fallen away.
  • In verses 19-20 we also see restoration.
    • The person is confronted and he or she is brought back.
    • The goal of confronting is to restore the person into a relationship with you and others in the church.
    • The individual was a sinner in the error of his or her ways and now he or she is turned from them. He is restored to a right relationship with God. Restoration can’t fully happen without salvation.
    • What is a right relationship with God worth? It is priceless.
    • This is just like the commercials. A Big Mac from McDonalds cost about 3.00, a book from the book store cost about 10.00, a burrito from Chipotle cost about 15.00, a cup of coffee from Starbucks cost about 100.00 (obvious exaggeration), a relationship with God— priceless!
    • We can’t put a price on the intangible. This leads us to the last part of James.
  • James ends his epistle with salvation.
    • This confrontation leads to salvation. Salvation implies restoration.
    • James says this saves his or her soul from death. The person who wandered from the truth was heading to hell. Now, they are heading toward Heaven. They are saved from death and destruction.
    • James says this covers a multitude of sins.
    • Jesus died for all of our sins.
    • Sometimes this process is different, yet the reward is the same. Sometimes there is no restoration because you need to share the gospel with people who have never gone to church before.
    • It is not restoring because they have never been a part of the church.
    • We have got to be more passionate about sharing the Gospel.
    • This is eternal life. There is a real hell. Everyone is going somewhere. Someone described death like the escalators at the mall. You know how sometimes when you are going up one escalator you can see people going down another escalator? So, you have passed away, here you are going up the escalator to Heaven, yet you see family and friends going down the escalator to hell. They are looking at you asking, “Why didn’t you tell me?”

Dr. Kalas was the president of Asbury Theological Seminary. He was also one of my seminary professors. He told a story of a Sunday school teacher that he had when he was a kid. Dr. Kalas was 86 years old when I heard this story, so this would be back in the 1930’s. Dr. Kalas said that sometimes the Sunday school teacher would get off topic and share a story. One day he shared the story of how he came to know Christ. The Sunday school teacher said that he was a drunk [Dr. Kalas said that is what they called it back then]. This man was a drunk and he was going to through himself in the river. But there was a church service going on. So, he ended up at church. That night, when he was going to commit suicide he ended up giving his life to Christ. He was lost but he was found by God. He was going to literally kill himself but instead he died to the world and became alive “in Christ” for the first time. Instead of dying he was alive. Then, years later he taught Sunday school to a student who would someday become a pastor and Seminary professor and president.

So, what did Wesley and Whitefield end up doing? They didn’t water down the message. John Wesley and Whitefield went to those who never heard and who appreciated the message. “The Chancellor of the diocese refused him [Whitefield] permission to preach in any consecrated building until the Bishop had given a ruling on the matter. Impatient with the delay, Whitefield resorted first to Newgate prison, and then to Kingswood… One Saturday afternoon, the 17th February, 1739, the evangelist walked out to the village. He climbed a hill and spoke to a couple hundred coalminers. ‘Blessed be God that I have now broken the ice!’ He wrote afterwards. By the month of March the numbers had risen to as many as twenty thousand.” Later on Wesley did the same. Many were saved and we have the United Methodist Church today.

So, as you have seen in this passage James call us to confront sin, share salvation and restore those who have left the church who have been confronted.

The epistle of James is all about Christian living. Now as he ends his epistle, quite abruptly, he writes about salvation.

Pray

 

[1] A. Skevington Wood, The Burning Heart, John Wesley: Evangelist (Lexington, KY: Emeth Press, 2001) pages93-100.

The Power of Prayer and the Response of Praise (James 5:13-18)

The Power of Prayer and the Response of Praise (James 5:13-18)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, August 02, 2020

A minister said to a child: “So your mother says your prayers for you each night. What does she say?” The youngster replied, “Thank God he’s in bed.”[1]

Prayer is very important in our Christian life.  A man named William R. Newell said this about prayer: “kneeling is a good way to pray because it is uncomfortable. Daniel prayed on his knees.” Jim Elliot [who was killed as a missionary in Ecuador] said, “God is still on His throne, we’re still His footstool, and there’s only a knee’s distance between!” He also said, “That saint who advances on his knees never retreats.”[2]

Many others have written on prayer. Why? I think that is obvious, prayer is our connection with God. I believe people write on prayer because prayer is so difficult for us, all of us, including pastors.  One reason I believe prayer is difficult is because it takes faith. We are having faith that our prayer is heard. Another thing about prayer is humility. It is humbling to ask for help and confess our sins to God. Of course, another reason is time.

In James 5:13-18 we see James wrapping up his epistle. Here James writes about prayer. As we discuss this passage, I hope you will be encouraged by James instructions on the power of prayer.

Read James 5:13-18:

 Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15 and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. 18 Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.

  • In verse 13 James instructs us to pray in our troubles.
    • Prayer is the subject of the next several verses
    • Prayer is also the better use of our tongues. If you recall James has written about the tongue in several verses. Some of this is review, but allow me to remind you:
    • in James 1:19: be slow to speak; James 1:26: anyone who thinks of himself as religious must keep a tight rein on his tongue. James 3:1-12 are about not using our words to curse people. In chapter 4:11-12 it says not to slander one another, then in verses 13-17 he writes about boasting and bragging. So, now James gives us some good instructions for the tongue; prayer and he will also mention praise.
    • Now, what type of trouble is James talking about? It is easy to think that the trouble has something to do with illness. In fact, at first glance I thought the trouble had something to do with illness. I thought that because in verse 14 James writes about sickness. But I am going to share a different thought on that verb translated “sickness” in a moment.
    • For now, trouble could likely mean persecution. Recall that in James 2:6 the rich were dragging the people into courts. We also know that James was the pastor of the Jerusalem church and we know there was persecution in Jerusalem. James himself was stoned to death in AD 62. Stephen was stoned to death prior to this letters writing. In Hebrews, which I think was written in or around Jerusalem, in chapter 13:3 there is a hint about persecution there. So, I think the trouble James is referring to is persecution.
    • James says to pray.
    • What are you doing in your trouble? I urge you to pray. This is a topic which I have covered before, but it always needs repeating, pray.
    • Francois Fenelon, a seventeenth-century Roman Catholic Frenchman, said this about prayer:
    • Tell God all that is in your heart, as one unloads one’s heart, its pleasures and its pains, to a dear friend. Tell Him your troubles, that He may comfort you; tell Him your joys, that He may sober them; tell Him your longings, that He may purify them; tell Him your dislikes, that He may help you to conquer them; talk to Him of your temptations, that He may shield you from them; show Him the wounds of your heart, that He may heal them; lay bare your indifference to good, your depraved tastes for evil, your instability, Tell Him how self-love makes you unjust to others, how vanity tempts you to be insincere, how pride disguises you to yourself and others.
    • If you thus pour out all your weaknesses, needs, troubles, there will be no lack of what to say. You will never exhaust the subject. It is continually being renewed. People who have no secrets from each other never want for subject of conversation. They do not weight their words, for there is nothing to be held back; neither do they seek for something to say. They talk out of the abundance of the heart, without consideration they say just what they think. Blessed are they who attain to such familiar, unreserved intercourse with God. [3]
    • Now, still in this verse James writes about the opposite of trouble, happiness. If you are happy, sing songs of praise. Col 3:16-17: Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
  • Now, in verses 14 and 15 James tells us about communal prayer for illness.
    • I said communal prayer because now you are to get more people involved in your prayer.
    • James says, is anyone of you sick? You should call the elders of the church to pray over you and anoint you with oil in the name of the Lord. And in verse 15, the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well.
    • This is a somewhat difficult passage for me to talk about. It is difficult because it would be easy to say if you have done this and you are not well, your faith is not strong enough. Look again: James says, the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well. The text continues to say: The Lord will raise you up; if you have sinned you will be forgiven.
    • Now, what does sin have to do with the sickness?
    • We cannot say that if you are not better after being prayed over and anointed by the elders, your faith is weak and your sickness may be because of sin.
    • I know that I have opened a can of worms and I am going to get rid of the worms now. I am going to try to get those worms to catch fish or something productive.
    • The dear man, who was my youth pastor in high school and a spiritual advisor now, lost his daughter to leukemia when she was around 16 or 17 years of age. He is and was a very godly man who spent lots of time in prayer and had great faith. But he was told by some that he had unconfessed sin and that is why his daughter was not healed.
    • I don’t believe that for a second. At least not in that case.
    • Though I will talk about confession in a minute.
    • The Greek verb translated “sick” can mean weak. It is quite likely that James is not writing about a physical ailment but a spiritual weakness and/or some physical weakness from the persecution. Think about it for a moment. These people are facing persecution. They are drained. It has been difficult to maintain the faith. Their faith has been challenged and maybe weakened.
    • Now, James says call the elders.
    • The elders are to pray over the person and anoint him/her with oil. The verb translated “to anoint” literally means “to rub” or “smear” with oil. This could carry the idea of putting oil on wounds from persecution. At the same time this anointing could simply be symbolic as it was in the Old Testament.
    • Either way, it is quite likely that the sickness is not a literal physical illness but a weakened faith.
    • The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well. God will honor your request. This is especially true if we believe this is talking about a weakened faith from persecution.
    • The text goes on to say that his sins will be forgiven. What is the sin? Where does this come from?
    • It is possible that the sin is a weakened faith.
    • It is also possible that the sin is just an unnamed sin. Why is it forgiven? Do the elders forgive the sin? I don’t think so. I think we can know the sin is forgiven because the individual has come to the elders. Since he has come to the elders, that implies a contrite heart willing to confess sin.
    • Suppose the person has an actual physical ailment? This passage says they will be healed in faith. You may be questioning your faith because you have not been healed. Remember that our prayers must always be about God’s will. We pray in Jesus’ name because we are praying in Jesus’ character or manner. Look at verse 14. At the end of the verse it says that the prayer and anointing are in the name of the Lord.
    • In the Bible times, name meant character. Our prayers need to be in the character or person of Jesus. This must include Jesus’ will and desires. Our prayers must be in submission to His will.
    • So, the prayer in faith will bring healing if that is in God’s will. The question is whether James is referring to spiritual healing or physical healing.
    • It seems to me to be about a spiritual weakness which needs a spiritual healing.
    • Also, about elders: notice the idea of calling upon the spiritual advisors for support. The New Testament gives this type of instruction often. It was important for the church to be a community. You need to, I need to, we all need to be able to call for help spiritually; and that is what the next verse is about.
  • In verse 16 James shows that communal confession goes along with prayer.
  • In Psalm 66:18 the Psalmist writes that if he had cherished sin in his heart the Lord would not hear his prayer.
  • I don’t think you must always be concerned about some unconfessed sin that you don’t know about.
  • What you must be careful of is repetitive sin. This is sin that you are going through and you cannot conquer. This is sin which you have given into time and time again. We should always confess our sins to God, but we must also confess them to each other.
  • This doesn’t mean giving your dirty laundry to the whole church. Who wants to be first we can have an open mic right now. No!
  • This does mean having a prayer partner or a group of Christian friends that you can share your struggles with at a specific time and place. There is a time for public confession as well. Don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think that is what James is writing about.
  • We need to confess because in confession we clear our minds and hearts.
  • We need to confess because in confession we can hear the person we confess to say that we are forgiven, or God forgives you. We need to hear that.
  • We need to confess to everyone we have offended in our sin (as far as possible). In some cases that may be a large group of people.
  • We need to confess so that we can be held accountable not to continue in that sin.
  • This means the person we confess to, or at least one of the people, should say, “You are forgiven, now how do we prevent you from falling into this sin again?”
  • We are not meant to live the Christian life alone. Unchecked sin corrupts absolutely. Our sin is contagious, always. It is not secret. If you don’t believe me look how divorce affects children. Be sure your sin will find you out and it does hurt other people (Numbers 32:23).
  • This verse about confession and sin implies that the sickness may be actually weakened faith in the previous verse.
  • I know that some of you need to confess and I urge you to do that. Make it a point to confess the sin today.
  • You may have to confess to your spouse that you have looked at pornography.
  • You may have to confess to your children that you have treated them badly.
  • You may have to confess to your boss that you did something wrong.
  • You may have to confess to someone else.
  • Don’t ignore the Spirit’s nudging about this. In Matthew 5:23-24 Jesus told the people that if they are about to worship God and they realize they have an unresolved issue with someone else, they must resolve that and then come back to worship.
  • In confessing our sin we can truly be spiritually healed and fulfilled.
  • In verses 17-18 James gives an example of the power of prayer: Let’s re-read those verses: Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. 18 Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.
  • Recall that James was the half brother of Jesus and he was called James the just. It is said that he spent hours on his knees in prayer so much so that his knees were callous like a camel’s flesh. So it is only fitting that as he closes his epistle he writes on prayer.
  • God is right there ready and waiting on your prayers
  • I want you all to know that whether you are battling a physical ailment or a spiritual problem I am here to help you.
  • Stanley Jones said of prayer: Prayer is surrender—- surrender to the will of God and cooperation with that will. If I throw out a boat hook from a boat and catch hold of the shore and pull, do I pull the shore to me, or do I pull myself to the shore? Prayer is not pulling God to my will, but the aligning of my will to the will of God.[4]

 

Let’s pray now

 

[1] Swindoll, Charles R. Read in Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN 1998. Page 456.

[2] Swindoll, Charles R. Read in Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN 1998. Page 453 (cited from Elizabeth Elliot, Shadow of the Almighty)

[3] Swindoll, Charles R. Read in Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN 1998. Page 451 (cited from Charles R. Swindoll, Strengthening Your Grip)

[4] Swindoll, Charles R. Read in Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN 1998. Page 453 (quoted from E. Stanley Jones, a Song of Ascents)

God does love You (1 John 3:1)

God does love You (1 John 3:1)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on  Sunday, July 26, 2020 

There is a show on Netflix it is called “Anne with an ‘E.'” The show is about “Anne of Green Gables.” It is a wonderful, cute show about an orphan girl who mistakenly ends up at Green Gables. They were expecting a boy. Here an older brother and sister are to take her in. Many of you may know of the book. The first episode is sad. Then she is sent away, back to the orphanage, as they think she stole from them. In reality she did not. When they find the piece of jewelry which they thought she stole they try to track her down. Finally, the brother finds her and tries to persuade her to come back. She ignores him, UNTIL he calls her his daughter. Then she comes back. Later they ask her to take their name. It was so exciting for her.

How special it is to have the rights and privileges of being part of a family?

Today, I plan to encourage you with the truth of God’s love. God loves us so much that He adopted us. We are part of his family. There is a lot of discouragement going around, isn’t there? Today, my goal is to encourage you.

There are certain lies we believe but these lies need rebuked with Biblical Truth. Here are some:

  • Lie: “My WORTH = my WORK,” what I DO. NO! This is not true. I’m a human BEING, not a human DOING (Eph 1:3, 8):

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ… verse 8: which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight…

  • Lie: “I’m all ALONE.” This is not true, see: Mt 28:19-20:

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

  • Lie “It’s all ON ME!” (Mt 11:28-30) This is not true, see Matthew 11:28-30:

28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

  • Lie: “What I’m doing doesn’t MATTER. I’m making no visible DIFFERENCE.” That is a lie, see: Isa 49:3-4:

He said to Me, “You are My Servant, Israel,
In Whom I will show My glory.”
But I said, “I have toiled in vain,
I have spent My strength for nothing and vanity;
Yet surely the justice due to Me is with the Lord,
And My reward with My God.”

Heb 11:13, 27, 39:

All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.

verse 39:

By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen.

  • Lie: “My BEST is not good enough.” That is a lie, see Jn 15:4-5:

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.

Sometimes we feel like failures. You are not. This is a lie we believe. The world may make you think you are a failure. You are not. God loves you.

My theme is: You are not a failure, God does love you no matter what. He loves you so much He calls you His children.

Let’s read: 1 John 3:1: We are only going to read and focus on the beginning of the passage.

See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.

  1. See how great a love…
    1. I like the translation.
    2. It begins with “See.” It is as if this is saying, “Take notice”!
    3. Some translation would say, “Behold.” This is a really important statement.
    4. What are we noticing? What is of significance?
    5. We are noticing God’s love. This is God’s “great” love.
    6. Think about how you love people. Do you know people that you will love no matter what?
    7. Do you know people that you will always love?
    8. Do you have a love for people that is hard to modify? It is hard to find the adjective to describe the love. Maybe the love is a verb, it is action, and it is hard to find an adverb to describe the love.
    9. God loves us with a great love. It is hard to find adjectives to describe God’s love for us. It is hard to find adverbs to describe God’s love. God’s love has been portrayed in action. His love has been portrayed in the action of dying for us.
    10. In this case God lavished love on us.
  2. God Lavished on Us. The NASB says “bestowed.” The NIV says “lavished.”
    1. This is important.
    2. This has the idea of a rich gift.
    3. Think about it, who is God?
    4. What belongs to God?
    5. What power does God have?
    6. What rights does God have?
    7. What authority does God have?
    8. Just think about it. If we are to believe in God, which I do, then we have to believe He has all power, all authority, all rights, and everything belongs to Him.
    9. And He notices me.
    10. You are not a failure. God loves you no matter what. He lavishes you with His love.
  • We are God’s Children.
    1. We are called God’s children. I like what the Archaeological Study Bible says: The underlying word of “sonship” is “adoption.” Adoption was common among the Greeks and Romans, who granted the adopted son all the privileges of a natural son, including inheritance rights (see “Adoption in the Roman World”).
    2. We have the privileges of being a daughter or son of God.
    3. What are these privileges?
      1. This can be quite a theological topic, but to just think of a few. We have eternal life with Him.
      2. We have a constant contact with God.
  • God will not give up on us.
  1. I remember hearing my dad talk to my barber once and my dad was comparing his love for us to God’s love. My dad said, “I could never stop loving my children.”
  2. It is, maybe, easy to give up on some stranger, some employee, some neighbor, but it ought to be that you never give up on your child. You never stop loving your child.
  3. God loves us that much.
  1. In the Greco-Roman world there was an actual adoption process for your own children. You were considered a slave of your own parents, until at a certain age your parent chooses to adopt you and consider you their own child. Then you have the rights of the family.
  2. To some extent this includes rewards in Heaven. It includes authority in Heaven.
  3. That is the idea the Bible has in mind. God went through the process of adopting you.
  4. The Life Application Study Bible: 3:1   As believers, our self-worth is based on the fact that God loves us and calls us his children. We are his children now, not just sometime in the distant future. Knowing that we are his children should encourage us to live as Jesus did.[1]
  5. Think of the following:
  6. You will face challenges in your careers, but God loves you and supports you no matter what. God is in your corner. God has your back.
  7. You will face difficulties in college, but God has your back. You are His child. Give Him a call on the prayer line.
  8. You will face family trials, but God includes you as part of His family.
  9. God loves you.
  10. God will never stop loving you.
  11. Your parents may stop holding your hand, but God does not (Isa. 41:10 and 13).
  12. We get older and our parents go to Heaven, remember that we have a Father in Heaven who loves us.
  13. God is there to hold our hand.
  14. God cares, He always cares.
  15. Regardless of your age, God loves you.
  16. Regardless of your mistakes, God loves you.
  17. Get rid of the idea that you are a failure, you are not. God is in your corner.

Closing:

See what manner of love the Father has given unto us.

He lavished love on you.

Stop tuning your mind into these ideas that He doesn’t love you.

Stop tuning your mind into these ideas that you are a failure.

God loves you!

Remember the Joel Osteen illustration about the TV of the mind? Sometimes we are thinking about the wrong things. We need to use the remote control of our mind and change the channel. You are God’s child, tune into that channel.

There was a Little House on the Prairie episode about the Ingalls family adopting Albert. He was so happy to be adopted. It means so much.

You are adopted by God.

You are His child.

Do you know Jesus? Luke 9:23

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)

Pray

 

[1] Tyndale House Publishers (2011-08-01). Life Application Study Bible NLT (LASB: Full Size) (Kindle Locations 161133-161142). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

July 19 Q & A Sunday

We have a different type of Sunday today. We are doing a question and answer Sunday. So, I have had several questions come in and I will answer them with a few songs in between. I am trying to keep the answers brief so contact me with any follow-up questions.

July 19:

  • Do you believe the bible teaches on generational Curses/ Sins?
    • Ex 34:7-7 and Deut 5:8-10 talks about the consequence of sin going to the 3rd and 4th generation (also, Lev 26:39).
    • Then again, Deut 24:16 says that fathers should not be put to death for their children nor children for their fathers.
    • It seems to me that children end up committing similar sins from their parents. It just happens. A child observes certain sins in his parents and ends up copying them. I like what John Piper shares: The generations to come who experience the penalty of the fathers’ sins are those who hate God. We are not told how the fathers’ sins become the children’s sins. But what we are told is that when the father’s sins are visited on the children it is because the children are really sinful. That is the form in which the fathers’ sins are visited. Therefore, all judgment is really deserved by the person who is punished.  Because of God’s grace, which is finally secured by Christ, the children can confess their own sins and the sins of their fathers and be forgiven and accepted by God.[1]
    • Notice Leviticus 26:40-42: “‘But if they will confess their sins and the sins of their ancestors—their unfaithfulness and their hostility toward me, 41 which made me hostile toward them so that I sent them into the land of their enemies—then when their uncircumcised hearts are humbled and they pay for their sin, 42 I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land.
    • Notice how that passage also talks about confessing sins of their fathers. In Daniel 9:5ff he prays to the Lord saying “we” have sinned.
    • So, yes, I think there are generational sins, but I think they can be forgiven and prevented in Christ. I think generational curses would be the consequence of the sins.
  • Where does evil come from?
    • Evil is a parasite. It lives off of good. Because of good we know evil. We know right from wrong and therefore we know what is good and so we know evil.
    • Evil has no existence on its own; it is really the absence of good.
    • Evil is not things like rocks and trees. It is a parasite that lives off of good.
    • An example is cold. We would think cold exists. However, this is incorrect. Cold does not exist. Cold is the absence of heat. Similarly, darkness does not exist; it is the absence of light. Evil is the absence of good, or better, evil is the absence of God. God did not have to create evil, but rather only allow for the absence of good.[2]
    • As finite human beings we can never understand an infinite God (Romans 11:33-34).
    • God did not create evil, but He did allow it. Evil exists because of free will. If we were not free we would be worshipping God out of obligation.
    • With temptation let quote Tozer: When Satan comes around to taunt me about my past sins, I remind him that everything that had been charged against me came from him, and now everything I have—forgiveness and peace and freedom—I have freely received from my Lord Jesus Christ![3]
  • Why didn’t God just get rid of Satan? Why does He allow us to be tempted?
    • This question is similar to the question about evil.
    • We cannot for sure know why God allows the things He allows. God is sovereign and we know that. He is in control.
    • God will get rid of satan and we know this from Rev. 20. So, it seems that God is allowing satan to do things for a time in order to build us up. We oftentimes do not grow without hardship.
    • We face hard times and 2 Tim 2:12 says: If we endure, we will also reign with Him…[4]
    • About that Bobby Murphy wrote this from Chapter 11 of the Knowledge of the Holy
    • Is it [our goal] that we will have a comfortable and trouble free life? Sociologist Tony Campolo claims that the chief goal of most people is to get through life with as little discomfort and pain as possible and that is probably true. It’s also true, I think, that they project their desires on to God. They assume that His chief goal for them is the same as theirs. They then become bitter and disillusioned when pain and discomfort come upon them. The tragedies and trials of life make them worse persons instead of better ones.
    • Obviously, God’s chief aim for us is not that we have a comfortable and trouble free life. So what is it then? Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 2:11-12. This passage was part of a Christian hymn written in the first century. Notice what we who follow Jesus will do in verse 12. We will reign with Him. John also tells us what God’s chief aim for us is in Revelation 22:1-5. This passage is about eternal life in heaven after the Second Coming of Jesus and our bodily resurrections. Verse 5 tells what it is that we will do there. We will reign with God forever and forever.
    • We go through troubles, sickness, pain because God is preparing us to reign with Him.
    • So, why did God not take care of satan earlier? It is because He is preparing us to reign with Him and God allows satan to tempt us to build us up in preparing us to reign with Him.
  • Romans 8:39-30 talks about predestination. Is it possible… if you dare… that you could talk about those verses one of the next two Sundays??? I have always had a hard time understanding the subject of election.
    • Predestination (mentioned 6 times in the Bible) means God foreordains or predetermines people or events to accomplish what He wills.  It’s a broad concept in that what is foreordained can be any number of occurrences such as the Romans and Jews killing Jesus (Acts 4:28), or the elect experiencing fullness of life (1 Corinthians 2:7ff.).  Election is a subcategory of predestination in that what He foreordains specifically is to “save” or “damn” specific individuals.
    • Let’s look at the scripture referenced in the question:

Romans 8:29-30:

For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

  • In summary my view is that predestination is either corporate or based on God’s foreknowledge. In other words, the predestined are either the corporate church. Or, the predestined are those God foreknew would be saved.
  • Why do we need predestined?
  • Jesus says:
  • John 6:44: No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.[5]
  • John 6:65: And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”[6]
  • Romans 3:10-23: talks about humanity being dead in our sins. We are totally depraved.
  • The Bible affirms God’s sovereignty, but also our freewill.
  • Salvation does start with God, but we do have freewill.
  • Salvation is God’s idea.
  • We were dead in our sins, but God wants a relationship with us and if we are totally depraved how do we receive Christ? We need the Holy Spirit to draw us to Him. So, that is predestination.
    • There are at least 3 views on this:
      • God elects unconditionally and the elect are predestined. The non-elect are essentially predestined to hell.
      • God elects and predestines based on foreknowledge. God knew who would receive Him given the opportunity and they are predestined.
      • Election and predestination are corporate. This means that the elect are not individuals, but the corporate church is elect.
    • Again, I believe number 2 or number 3 depending on the day. Remember that technically God does not look to the future to see who will be saved. Everything is eternally present. So, the term “foreknowledge” is anthropomorphic, meaning it is ascribing to God human attributes. Bottom line. God knows who would receive Him, in their own freewill, given the opportunity, and He makes sure they have the opportunity. The opportunity means that they receive the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Remember, no one can receive Jesus without the Holy Spirit’s conviction. We are dead in our sins.
    • This is called “prevenient grace.” This means the grace of the Lord coming before-hand giving us the convicting power of the Holy Spirit so we can be saved.
    • I would not be opposed to the idea that the Lord gives everyone, at some time or many times, the Holy Spirit’s conviction so they can be saved. However, the predestined, and elect, are only those whom God knows will be saved.
    • Now, you may ask, “What about the person who will never hear the Gospel?” Well, God can still give them the convicting power of the Holy Spirit so they can be saved. God is not limited by us. There are many testimonies of the Muslim in a Muslim extremist country having a dream about a Savior on a cross. Cornelius in Acts 10 is one who God communicated with and then God sent Peter.
    • Remember, God is sovereign. He knows all things. He knows the future. God is omnipresent. However, God loves us and He has given us freewill. We are dead in our sins without Jesus. So, prevenient grace means that the Holy Spirit convicts people they are sinners in need of a Savior. Those who receive Jesus as Lord and Savior are predestined and elect. Or, it could be corporate meaning the church as a whole is the corporate predestined/elect.
  • A similar question: I know God gives us freewill to accept or reject Jesus. How does God bring the people that have rejected Him to salvation that we pray for. If we pray for several years for an unsaved friend and they accept Jesus on their deathbed, they have nothing to loose at that point and they miss the joy of being a Christian during their life.
    • I believe the Holy Spirit is wooing people to come to know Him as Lord and Savior.
    • So, as we pray, God factors in our prayers and they do make a difference. We know that God desires all to be saved (2 Peter 3:8-9), so when we pray we can know that we are praying something that God desires. When we pray for someone to be saved we are praying God’s will. God desires a relationship with everyone.
    • However, God does not seem to overrule our freewill. The Holy Spirit is wooing people to Him.
    • You are right, the person who receives Christ on their deathbed does miss out on life with Christ (John 10:11; 15).
  • Miracles: we all believe in miracles, when we pray to God we ask for the simple stuff and even if it does not go okay it is okay.
    • Why do we not ask for the real miracles in which there is no answer? I think we should pray for the real miracle. Why do we not pray for the real miracle, probably because we are too dependent on modern medicine. I think we should pray for the real miracle.
    • What about a child who has a brain tumor? Further, what if we have no reason to believe that God will answer us? I still think we should pray and be honest with the Lord asking Him to increase our faith.
    • Does God change His mind? Does prayer change His mind?
    • No, this is a mystery. Numbers 23:19 says that God does not change His mind. Hebrews 13:8 says that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. James 1:17 says that God does not change. Malachi 3:6 also says that He does not change. There are passages that say that He relented. Those are passages using anthropomorphic language. That means the writers are ascribing to God human attributes. He is coming down to our level. So, does prayer change His mind? No. But does prayer change things? Yes. Luke 18:1; 1 John 5:14-15 and many other passages talk about prayer. How does that work? God is omnipresent so maybe He factored in our prayers in eternity past. Prayer does change things, but God is perfect and so prayer does not change His mind. To change God’s mind He would have to be imperfect to begin with.
  • Faith: What really is faith?
    • We say we have faith in God and trust Him, but when we pray we often spell out everything we ask Him to do.
    • Why don’t we really trust Him?
    • Do we trust that He will take care of us, even if…?
    • Can we trust Him with His will for our life?
    • These questions are going to be lumped together.
    • Faith means to trust in something or someone. In general Biblical faith is trusting in the unseen (Heb 11:1).
    • The person who asked the question is right that we should just pray and say that we surrender to His will. Think of the background to the hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul.”
  • What are your thoughts on the Passion Translation?
    • I don’t know anything about the Passion Translation so I am going off of what a good source shares. The website gotquestions.com is a really good source for many questions. It shares: The TPT goes well beyond the idea of “translation” and reimagines the Bible as one human author thinks it ought to be written.
    • Any good translation should be worked through by multiple translators who are committed to the Word of God and also know the original languages very well.

This is translated by one author and that is a problem. Gotquestions shares the following: The Passion Translation is primarily the work of a single author, Brian Simmons. Simmons has a long track record as a passionate and successful missionary and evangelist. Part of his success has been in developing translations of Scripture for people with no Bibles in their own language. However, any translation completed by a single person raises questions of accountability. Such efforts are far more prone to personal preferences. As it turns out, The Passion Translation of the Bible not only reflects Simmons’ New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) theology [The New Apostolic Reformation, or NAR, is an unbiblical religious movement that emphasizes experience over Scripture, mysticism over doctrine, and modern-day “apostles” over the plain text of the Bible.][7], but it appears to be deliberately written in order to promote it.

The FAQ section of The Passion Translation website makes several concerning remarks about the translation process:

“… the meaning of a passage took priority over the form of the original words. Sometimes in order to communicate the correct intended meaning, words needed to be changed.”

“The Passion Translation is more in favor of prioritizing God’s original message over the words’ literal meaning.”

In other words, The Passion Translation of the Bible is not about finding corresponding words in different languages or presenting original words in a new language. The above comments imply that the Bible does not mean what it says, and so it needs to be changed to say what it should say. This is not an unfair assessment on our part, as passages in The Passion Translation of the Bible show extreme tampering with the text.[8]

  • So, I would have concerns about the Passion Translation.
  • There are many good translations: NASB; NKJV; NIV; NLT

 

  • And what the heck is Paul talking about in 2 Cor. 12 with out of body experiences and third heaven??
    • The Hebrew people talked of 3 heavens. Some other cultures even talked of more than 3 heavens. For the Hebrew people the 3rd of Heaven was where God resided. The second heaven was outer space. The first heaven was the atmosphere.

2 Cor. 12:2-4

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a man was caught up to the third heaven.

And I know how such a man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows—

was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.[9]

  • I strongly believe and most seem to believe that Paul is talking about dying and being taken up to Heaven. Or, in some state God took him to Heaven without him dying.
  • Notice, in contrast to the near death experiences which we hear about, Paul was told not to share about his experience.
  • I wonder if this happened in Acts 14:19: But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having won over the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead.[10]
  • Interracial marriage?
    • I received another question about interracial marriage.
    • According to the Bible interracial marriage are totally fine and Biblical.
    • We learn in Numbers that “Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman” (Num. 12:1).
    • So, Moses was in an interracial marriage.
    • We also know based off of Galatians 3:28 that there is no longer Greek, nor Jew, slave, nor free, male nor female, we are all one in Christ (paraphrased).
    • We see in Revelation 7:9-11 that in Heaven there are many tribes, tongues and nationalities worshipping the Lord.
    • We see in Ephesians 2:11-22 Paul makes the case that we are all one in Christ.
    • What is wrong is marriage between a non-believer and a believer (2 Cor. 6:14).
    • As Christians we are redeemed but we are still battling a sin nature and part of that sin nature is racism. Own it up and repent of it.
    • Your family may not have owned slaved or been part of racism in the past, but if you are talking with someone who has been part of racism you can still say “we, as a country, have sins in our past.”
    • One thing that we do is we make excuses to make us feel better. We say things like: “All cultures owned slaved.” Or, “There was slavery in the Bible.” Or, “Most slaves had it good.” All of those are things we tell ourselves to make us feel good. The Bible NEVER endorses racism, or slavery. In fact, it seems that in the first few hundred years of Christianity the slavery institution fell apart, likely because of Christians. In the Old Testament slavery was more like indentured servants and they were supposed to be freed after the sixth year (Exodus 21:2).
    • We have these biases which make us feel better. One article writes about these: There are many ways in which implicit biases function in our lives. Confirmation bias, for example, is the tendency to search for, interpret, focus on, and remember information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions.(2) People tend to react more favorably to information that supports their own point of view. Another example of a more insidious bias is the fundamental attribution error in which an observer ascribes to a subject fundamental or inherent deficiencies rather than to situational contexts that might also be at work. In addition, the observer is more likely to attribute his or her own deficiencies to circumstances or situational contexts, rather than to his or her own personal short-comings.
    • Many authors attribute the fundamental attribution error to a lack of empathy or the inability to take another person’s perspective. How does this cognitive error play out in real life? In a CBS News article from 2016, Stephanie Pappas reported on the widespread tendency to blame, rather than to empathize with individuals, when accidents happen.[11] She cites the horrific news story of the two-year old who died by alligator attack while playing next to a pond at Disney World. While she notes that there was some initial sympathy for the parents, the overall tone quickly moved to blame them for negligence. Clearly, it was their fault that their son had died. People ignored the numerous reports of the parents being right next to the child and of the father’s desperate attempts to pry his son from the alligator’s jaws. Rather than looking at broader circumstances or explanations—namely, that accidents do happen—most blamed the event on the inherent flaws of the parents.[12]
    • So, we have to watch for these tendencies which we do to make us feel better inside. Slavery was a sin in the past. Racism was a sin in the past. Any racism within us is a sin in us today. Repent of it.
    • If you read the Old Testament prophets that we repent to God saying, “’We’ have sinned…” They said “we” even if they personally did not commit the sins (see Daniel 9:5).
    • The slavery and racism in the United States history was a sin in our past. We need to quit making excuses to make us feel better. It is a sin in our past no matter how you look at it.

Psalm 139:23-24: 23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
24 And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.

Close:

Tozer writes:

Is the Lord Jesus Christ your most precious treasure in this world? If so, you can count yourself among normal Christians.

Is the moral beauty which is found only in Jesus Christ constantly drawing you to praise and worship? If so you are indeed among those whom God’s Word identifies as normal, believing, practicing Christians.

But I can almost anticipate an objection. If someone is that delighted and that occupied with the person of Jesus Christ, is he or she not an extremist rather than a normal Christian?

Have professing Christians really come to that time in their humanistic and secularistic leanings that they can sincerely deny that loving Jesus Christ with all their heart and soul and strength is normal Christianity? We must not be reading and studying the same Bible!

How can anyone profess to be a follower and a disciple of Jesus Christ and not be overwhelmed by His attributes? These divine attributes attest that He is indeed Lord of all, completely worthy of our worship and praise. WHT105–106

Lord, I pray that You would restore in Your Church a belief that those who love You with all their heart, soul and mind are normal, and worthy of imitation. May we be overwhelmed by Your attributes. Amen.[13]

 

[1] https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/how-god-visits-sins-on-the-third-and-fourth-generation

[2] https://www.gotquestions.org/did-God-create-evil.html

[3] Tozer, A. W.. Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 365-Day Devotional . Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[4] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), 2 Ti 2:12.

[5] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Jn 6:44.

[6] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Jn 6:65.

[7] https://www.gotquestions.org/New-Apostolic-Reformation.html

[8] https://www.gotquestions.org/Passion-Translation.html

[9] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), 2 Co 12:2–4.

[10] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Ac 14:19.

[11] Stephanie Pappas, “Blame the parents? Child tragedies reveal empathy decline” CBS News Online, June 21, 2016. Accessed 10/13/2018.

[12] https://www.rzim.org/read/a-slice-of-infinity/confirmation-bias

 

WHT Whatever Happened to Worship?

[13] Tozer on the Almighty God : A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2004).

Question and Answer Sunday

We have a different type of Sunday today. We are doing a question and answer Sunday. So, I have had several questions come in and I will answer them with a few songs in between. I am trying to keep the answers brief so contact me with any follow-up questions.

Q and A Sunday:

  1. Why isn’t there more of a movement by Christian organizations like the Colson Center, etc to spearhead protests for what is right?
    1. I believe there is more going on than we realize. There have been multiple prolife marches.
    2. Last year Focus on the Family did a prolife event at Time Square.
    3. I will try to communicate these better in the future.
    4. Please follow up with me if I did not answer this sufficiently.
  2. Will we recognize our family and friends in heaven (Debbie Patsko)?
    1. This question has two parts: 1) memory 2) how would we recognize loved ones? Will heaven be physical? Will we have bodies?
    2. YES, I believe we will recognize our family and friends in Heaven. The parable of the Rich man and Lazarus, which you can read later on in Luke 16:19-31, shows people recognizing each other. That is a parable which means it may or may not be a true story. A parable is a story that comes alongside to teach, but still I don’t think Jesus would lead us astray with a parable. Plus, it is the only parable with people with real names.
    3. This gets into a broader topic but when we talk about heaven there is the present heaven and then the future new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21-22). Sometimes the present heaven is called the “intermediate heaven.” I believe we will recognize family and friends in both. To be sure, the new heaven and new earth will be a physical real place. We will have resurrected bodies. In 1 Cor. 15 Jesus is called the “first fruits” of the resurrection. For some more Scripture passages:
    4. Rev 6:9-11 describes people with physical bodies talking to God, and that will likely be during the tribulation period, which would be the intermediate heaven.
    5. In Rev 7:9-11 we have a great multitude of people worshipping God in Heaven. This means they have bodies and voices. That is still the intermediate Heaven. So, I believe the intermediate heaven and the future new heaven and new earth are physical places and we will have bodies. The other part of this question concerns memory.
    6. Remember that memory makes us who we are and so all, or some of our memory, must carry on into Heaven.
    7. We can talk more about this, but here is a short answer:
    8. Randy Alcorn writes: Scripture nowhere suggests a “memory wipe” causing us not to recognize family and friends. In fact, if we wouldn’t know our loved ones, the “comfort” of an afterlife reunion, spoken of in 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18, would be no comfort at all. Theologian J. C. Ryle said of this passage, “There would be no point in these words of consolation if they did not imply the mutual recognition of saints. The hope with which he cheers wearied Christians is the hope of meeting their beloved friends again. . . . In the moment that we who are saved shall meet our several friends in heaven, we shall at once know them, and they will at once know us.”[1]
    9. Further: At the Transfiguration, the three disciples recognized Moses and Elijah, even though they weren’t told who the two men were, and they couldn’t have previously known what they looked like (Matthew 17:1-4). This may suggest that we will instantly recognize people we know of but have not previously met, perhaps as a result of distinguishing characteristics emanating through their physical appearance. If we will recognize people we haven’t known on Earth, surely we will recognize people we have known![2]
  3. Will our pets be there (Debbie Patsko)?
    1. I remember a Twilight Zone episode about a man and his dog.
    2. Hyder Simpson is an elderly mountain manwho lives with his wife Rachel and his hound dog Rip in the backwoods. Rachel does not like having the dog indoors, but Rip saved Hyder’s life once and Hyder refuses to part with him. Rachel has seen some bad omens recently and warns Hyder not to go raccoon hunting that night. When Rip dives into a pond after a raccoon, Hyder jumps in after him, but only the raccoon comes up out of the water. The next morning, Hyder and Rip wake up next to the pond. When they return home, Hyder finds that neither Rachel, the preacher, nor the neighbors can hear him or see him; they are under the impression that he has died.
    3. Walking along the road, Hyder and Rip encounter an unfamiliar fence and begin to follow it. They come to a gate tended by a man, who Hyder initially believes to be Saint Peter. Explaining that he is only a gatekeeper, the man explains that Hyder can enter the Elysian Fieldsof the afterlife. Simpson is appreciative, but disheartened to hear that neither raccoon hunting nor any of his other usual pleasures can be found inside. Told that Rip cannot enter and will be taken elsewhere, Hyder angrily declines the offer of entry and decides to keep walking along the “Eternity Road,” saying, “Any place that’s too high-falutin’ for Rip is too fancy for me.”
    4. Later, Hyder and Rip stop to rest and are met by a young man, who introduces himself as an angel dispatched to find them and bring them to Heaven. When Hyder explains his previous encounter, the angel tells him that the gate was actually the entrance to Hell. The gatekeeper had stopped Rip from entering because Rip would have smelled the brimstone inside and warned Hyder that something was wrong. The angel says, “You see, Mr. Simpson, a man, well, he’ll walk right into Hell with both eyes open. But even the Devilcan’t fool a dog!”
    5. As the angel leads Hyder along the Eternity Road toward Heaven, the angel tells Hyder that a square dance and raccoon hunt are scheduled for that night. He also assures Hyder that Rachel, who will soon be coming along the road, will not be misled into entering Hell. The closing narration is:
    6. “Travelers to unknown regions would be well advised to take along the family dog. He could just save you from entering the wrong gate. At least, it happened that way once—in a mountainous area of the Twilight Zone.”
    7. Look at Genesis 1:30: And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
  4. That passage references animals in the Garden of Eden and also references the “breath of life in them.” Animals were in paradise when God first created it prior to the fall of man. In the eternal Heaven, in Revelation 22 it seems that that Heaven is a reflection of the first Garden of Eden. We will see a Tree of Life again in verse 2 as there was a tree of life in the first Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:9). We see a river in the eternal Heaven in Revelation 22:1. We see two rivers in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2:10 and 13. It does seem that the eternal New Jerusalem Heaven is going to be like the Garden of Eden was meant to be, only much better. It would seem that since animals were in the first garden, they will be with us in eternity. Let’s talk about this for a moment.
  5. Psalm 104 is all about animals and then we get to verse 30 and it references renewing them. This seems to mean that they are resurrected in Heaven.
  6. Heaven will be awesome with or without your pet.
  7. Heaven will be with God in paradise.
  8. DON’T discourage people from grieving the loss of an animal. That is appropriate. God created animals for us, and we are sad when they leave us.
  9. I believe the Bible teaches us not to abuse animals. We are to take care of them.
  10. Romans 8 teaches us that all creation is waiting redemption, and this includes animals.
  11. If a person was raised in a Christian home and you know deep down they believe, but for whatever the reasons, don’t practice any religion, are they saved (Debbie Patsko)?
    1. Only God knows if they are truly saved. On one hand I believe that God’s grace is more than we can even begin to understand. On the other hand if one truly knows Jesus one would expect they would live life with Jesus.
    2. Think of John 15, Jesus says that He is the Vine, we are the branches. We are called to live life with We live life with Jesus by spiritual disciplines which includes church, small groups, Sunday School, daily time with the Lord. The Christian life is not simply about fire insurance but living life with Jesus now.
    3. I would never condemn someone to hell, but Jesus does say that we are known by our fruits (Matt 7:16).
  12. Lisa Lotze: When can Christians defend themselves? If a madman asks you to deny the faith, but it does no good should we deny the faith. What about mob violence trying to take your cross or Bibles or pictures of Jesus? How is it helpful to go underground as a church when going underground means that you cannot share the Gospel, but if you are not underground and just deny Jesus you are alive to share the Gospel?
    1. This is a tough one which may need a further conversation.
    2. There is a difference between state sanctioned persecution versus individual persecution.
    3. In actual persecution Christians are never called to defend themselves. Instead we are called to trust in Christ. We are called to understand that they are really persecuting Jesus, not us. Jesus can handle it. In Matt 10:19 Jesus says: But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say.
    4. The underground church is sharing the Gospel by marketplace evangelism. The church is underground meeting for worship, but they still have jobs, occupations, etc.
    5. The underground church is growing rapidly too.
    6. Sometimes God does do more through our death than our life…
    7. Now, back to defending ourselves. I think that Christians can defend ourselves. However, we should not jump to that. Augustine wrote up the just war theory. To an extent we can apply the principles. 1) A war needed to be waged by legitimate authority. This means that first we should try to contact the police. 2) The War needed to be a just cause. 3) The war needed to have the right intentions. I believe we need to exhaust as many peaceful things before we get to violence. Remember Jesus taught to turn the other cheek (Matt 5:38-40). Romans 12:14-20 says: Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

  1. Remember that people have a different worldview than we do as Christians and we should try to show love.
  2. This question was asked in conversation about riots and mob protests. Every situation is different. We CANNOT REASON with a mob. In that case, we probably cannot reason and we should try contacting the police first and getting to a safe place. We do need to be careful. Too often United State Christians are quickly talking about using guns to shoot people that we are called to share the Gospel with. Remember, if you shoot them, even in self-defense, they die and they may go to hell. However, they kill you and you go to heaven with Jesus. I am not saying don’t defend ourselves, but why do we brain storm situations that no one ever wants to be in. Try to seek peace.
  3. Suppose, your business is being attacked by an angry mob, can you as a Christian defend your business with a gun? I believe Christians are divided on this and I am too. Firstly, leave it to the police. Biblically, it is easy to substantiate the military using force and the police using force, it is difficult to substantiate an individuate using force.
  4. However, I do think we can use reason to show that it is okay and appropriate to defend ourselves and our family. This means when the police have not arrived, or cannot help, we are forced to do what we can to protect ourselves and our property. But, if it is a mob we may not get far and it would probably be wiser to use our weapons to get out of the situation.
  5. The question was posed about groups that wanted pictures of a white Jesus taken down. Again, you cannot reason with a mob. However, civil dialogue is a great thing.
  6. I think if an organized group had a good dialogue about Jesus pictures, etc I would talk with them.
  7. It is true that Jesus was not white.
  8. These topics take discernment and this means that we must be living in a relationship with Jesus seeking His wisdom.

[1] Alcorn, Randy. Heaven: Biblical Answers to Common Questions . Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

[2] Alcorn, Randy. Heaven: Biblical Answers to Common Questions . Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

James commands us not to take oaths, but instead to have full integrity (James 5:12).

James commands us not to take oaths, but instead to have full integrity (James 5:12).

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Many years ago, a courageous and devoted American broadcast a message to his listeners that served as a harbinger for where the nation was headed societally and culturally. In his broadcast he revealed what he would do if he were “the devil,” to destroy our culture and undermine our collective societal standards and social mores. That man was Paul Harvey Aurandt, affectionately known to the nation simply as Paul Harvey, and his message not only has proven to be prophetic, but serves as a warning to Americans today of where our society continues to trend.

Paul Harvey was a broadcaster who rendered daily news on the radio from the 1950s through the 1990s, and inspired generations of Americans with true stories of goodness and heroism with his daily, “The Rest of the Story.” He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 for his contributions to the nation. At his peak, his broadcasts reached as many as 24 million listeners and readers, as 1,600 radio stations and 300 newspapers carried his program and columns across the nation.

One broadcast, which he titled, “If I Were the Devil,” ran originally in 1964, but he updated it several times over the years, and the version detailed below aired in 1996. In Paul Harvey’s own words, here is what he said he would do, if he “were the devil.”

Here it begins:

“If I were the prince of darkness, I would want to engulf the whole world in darkness. I’d have a third of its real estate and four-fifths of its population, but I would not be happy until I had seized the ripest apple on the tree — thee. So, I would set about however necessary to take over the United States.

“I’d subvert the churches first, and I would begin with a campaign of whispers. With the wisdom of a serpent, I would whisper to you as I whispered to Eve: ‘Do as you please.’

“To the young, I would whisper that the Bible is a myth. I would convince the children that man created God instead of the other way around. I’d confide that what’s bad is good and what’s good is square. And the old, I would teach to pray after me, ‘Our Father, which art in Washington …’

“Then, I’d get organized, I’d educate authors in how to make lurid literature exciting so that anything else would appear dull and uninteresting. I’d peddle narcotics to whom I could. I’d sell alcohol to ladies and gentlemen of distinction. I’d tranquilize the rest with pills.

“If I were the devil, I’d soon have families at war with themselves, churches at war with themselves and nations at war with themselves until each, in its turn, was consumed. And with promises of higher ratings, I’d have mesmerizing media fanning the flames.

“If I were the devil, I would encourage schools to refine young intellect but neglect to discipline emotions. I’d tell teachers to let those students run wild. And before you knew it, you’d have drug-sniffing dogs and metal detectors at every schoolhouse door. With a decade, I’d have prisons overflowing and judges promoting pornography. Soon, I would evict God from the courthouse and the schoolhouse and then from the houses of Congress. In his own churches, I would substitute psychology for religion and deify science. I’d lure priests and pastors into misusing boys and girls and church money.

“If I were the devil, I’d take from those who have and give to those who wanted until I had killed the incentive of the ambitious. What’ll you bet I couldn’t get whole states to promote gambling as the way to get rich?

“I’d convince the young that marriage is old-fashioned, that swinging is more fun and that what you see on television is the way to be. And thus, I could undress you in public and lure you into bed with diseases for which there are no cures.

“In other words, if I were the devil, I’d just keep right on doing what he’s doing.”[1]

Today we celebrate Independence Day in worship, but I want to talk about something that has also been important to our country, integrity.

Something that is for sure missing in our country right now is integrity.

Thomas Jefferson wrote:

Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.[2]

Further, he wrote:

Whenever you do a thing, act as if all the world were watching.[3]

George Washington wrote:

“In politics as in philosophy, my tenets are few and simple. The leading one of which, and indeed that which embraces most others, is to be honest and just ourselves and to exact it from others, meddling as little as possible in their affairs where our own are not involved. If this maxim was generally adopted, wars would cease and our swords would soon be converted into reap hooks and our harvests be more peaceful, abundant, and happy.”[4]

In a recent biography of Washington Chernow writes:

He valued his reputation for integrity, calling it “the principal thing which is laudable in my conduct.”[5]

Integrity… Let’s talk about integrity.

Why can’t our “yes” be “yes” and our “no,” “no?” Why can’t we be trusted?

In this sermon I want to show you that human beings are all liars. That sounds harsh, but the point is that we have a sin nature that compels us to lie. So, we will do things in order to give more confidence in our words. We swear. But James is saying that even though humans are liars, Christians aren’t liars. James is telling us don’t swear, instead be habitually honest.

Turn with me to James 5:12

But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment.

  • Notice that James writes “above all.”
    • It seems that this is the most important command he has given. What other command has James started with “above all?” None. This is the only time “above all” is used in the epistle of James.
    • What James is about to introduce is clearly very important. But this is not new material. James has written about our words all the way through his epistle. In James 1:19: be slow to speak; James 1:26: anyone who thinks of himself as religious must keep a tight rein on his tongue. James 3:1-12 are about not using our words to curse people. In chapter 4:11-12 it says not to slander one another, then in verses 13-17 he writes about boasting and bragging. So, James is not introducing a new theme, but building on an old theme.
    • Actually, if you look in your Bible you will see that there are only about eight verses left in this epistle. It seems that James is hitting on a few important points as he closes.
    • So, James introduces this one as the most important.
    • Look at the rest of the verse, what do you think? You may not care too much about an oath, but look at the end of the verse. “Let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no.” This means you should be trustworthy.
      • How many of you are employers? Don’t you want employees you can trust?
      • How many of you are parents? What do you do when your children directly lie to you? Do you pat them on the back and say, “Way to go son”? No, of course you don’t. Even if you are habitual liars you don’t let your children lie.
      • Integrity is lacking today, isn’t it? Do we even know who to trust in politics or the news?
    • So, we must see why this is introduced with “above all.” James wants Christians to be trustworthy.
  • Now, James gives the command. He says not to swear. Don’t swear by Heaven or by earth or by anything else.
    • Before I talk more about swearing, I must reference

Matthew 5:34-37:

But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.

  • You can see that Jesus gave the same teaching. But I can tell you that James didn’t look at Matthew’s scroll and plagiarize this material. This epistle of James was written before Matthew was written. James might have heard Jesus teach this, but also we must remember that the Bible has many authors but God is guiding the authors. God is inspiring and guiding the message.
  • Now, when James writes about swearing he is not talking about a list of vulgar words. He is talking about calling on God or an object to support your words.
  • An oath or swearing had three parts. It was a testing to the truth, calling for God to witness and, thirdly, invoking God’s punishment if you violated your word. To say “I swear to God” meant I want you to know I’m telling the truth, I want God to witness I’m telling the truth and I want God to punish me if I’m not telling the truth. Very serious. You’re invoking the curse of God on you if you lie in an effort to try to convince somebody that you’re really telling the truth.
  • People did this in that time period. One reason that Jesus preached against it was that the Pharisees would swear by the temple thinking they were okay to do that. But Jesus says that God created the temple. No matter what, when you swear, you are swearing by God.
  • There are a number of times in the epistle of Hebrews that it references how God would swear by Himself in Genesis and that is true. But God can do that because He is God and there is no one greater. Besides that, it is likely what James is condemning is flippant swearing. He is not condemning an oath in a court room.
  • So, James tells us not to swear.
  • One of my sources read: Misuse of the name of God, profaning the name of God, blaspheming the name of God, dragging down the name of God, invoking the name of God illegitimately, all of that is, in a sense, related to the kind of swearing that James has in mind. But it’s a very specific thing that he’s after here that was a part of that Jewish culture. May I add to you that it wasn’t only Jewish, it also belonged in the Greek culture. Have you ever heard anybody say, “By Jove,” have you heard that? Jove was a Greek god and when the Greeks wanted to swear they swore by Zeus or by Jove, or by somebody…J-o-v-e.
  • Next James tells us the motivation not to swear. The motivation is that we are habitually honest. “Let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no.”
    • These days we have contracts for business deals, we have to sign things at banks, and we have to swear an oath at a court room because people are not trustworthy. People will lie to protect themselves. Teachers can tell you that parents will lie to protect their children.
    • James is saying this should not be true among Christians.
    • A preacher was going to preach on honesty and he told everyone to read Joshua 25. The next Sunday he came and said, “Great. Now you’re the ones I want to talk to. Joshua has only twenty-four chapters, and I am especially concerned about you tonight.”[6]
    • That was meant in humor, but there is a point there. Christians must do better.
    • When I was a senior in high school I went with my youth pastor, Dave, to pick up an old truck he was going to buy. It was actually a truck that was pretty much in parts. He was purchasing this in order to restore his 69 Chevy truck. Dave had agreed on a set price with the seller to purchase this for. I remember the seller filling out the title with the price he was selling it for. He asked Dave, “How much do you want me to write down that I am selling this to you for? The government gets enough of our money.” He said this because, though he had already received the money from Dave, Dave would have to pay taxes on whatever amount written down that he was selling it for. So, the seller was willing to write down as little as one dollar so that Dave wouldn’t have to pay as much in taxes. But Dave was paying much more. This was a lie.
    • Dave responded to the seller by saying, something like, “Just write down the amount we agreed on, it’s the right thing to do.”
    • That was an amazing example of integrity, of Christians doing the right thing. That was an example that I was not taught, but I caught. That was an example that I needed to see. Here I was a young man about to graduate high school. Here I was a young man with all the pressures of the world and I saw an example of a godly man doing the right thing.
    • I want to ask you to reflect on your honesty:
      • How’s that working for you?
      • Have you told any white lies lately? Maybe you have fudged some numbers in order to get something cheaper.
      • Maybe you have tried to use a coupon twice.
      • Maybe you have been pulled over for speeding, what did you tell the police?
      • Maybe you didn’t do something correct at work and when confronted you stretched the truth.
        • Students, this message is for you too. The Word of God is for every age group and every age group must still fight off sin.
        • Even pastors must fight the temptation to stretch the truth. I was listening to Chip Ingram on Moody Bible Radio. He is a pastor out west. Back in the late 70’s he would say, “there were X amount of people at Bible study last week.” His wife confronted him about this. He knew exactly how many were at the Bible study, but it would sound better to say 65-70 rather than 64 people were there.
      • It is not my goal to make you feel bad, nor is it my goal to make you feel extra special. If this goes either way it is the convicting power of Scripture and the Holy Spirit’s work. It should make you feel good to confess this to God and move forward.

There was a young Christian man in a southern university. He made the football team as the starting split end. And he continually was before God saying, “Help me in the climax of moments to be absolutely honest. I pray for honesty— that one mark of integrity. I want to be that, Lord, and I’ll work on it through the season.”

The rival team came that night, homecoming. He ran his route and went into the end zone. The quarterback shot him the pass and he got it low. He landed on it, and the referee shouted, “Touchdown!” But that boy knew he had trapped that ball (For you who aren’t into that, it means that he didn’t really catch it. He landed on it while it was on the ground and it looked like he caught it.). The stands were just cheering, you know, sending him on his way, the hero of the game. He said, “Wait a minute.” Can you imagine this? Walked up to the referee and shook his head. He said, “I trapped it.” The referee canceled the touchdown and they lost the game.

Now you may not understand much about football, but you know what it is to be a fan. And that boy stood all alone, not only against a team that said, “What does it matter, man?” but against the stands full of people. He said, “I can’t take the credit. I did not catch it.[7]

  • Lastly, James gives the consequence. The consequence is condemnation. The consequence is judgment.
    • What does this mean? What it means is James is consistent with the pattern of the whole epistle. The whole epistle calls us to look into our hearts and see if we have a living faith. If you are living the faith you will not be habitually lying.
    • You will not settle for lies, not even little bitty white lies, not even a stretch of the truth.

Closing:

We need integrity in our world today. I don’t know if our founding fathers had more integrity, but they did seem to care about it more than we do. They cared about their reputation for integrity. We are in a country founded on Judeo-Christian values and we have lost them. We are also in a country founded on sacrifice. Our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence knowing they were risking their lives and their livelihood. If the British caught John Adams or George Washington or Thomas Jefferson or any others, they would have been tortured and killed. Some were captured and some suffered losses. There is a popular writing about what happened to some of them and I considered sharing it, but I am not because there are questions about its accuracy. Either way, we do know that they were taking risks by signing the Declaration of Independence. We know also that they cared about their integrity.

I don’t want to close this sermon without giving you an opportunity to confess what you need to confess. So, I am going to open in prayer and then give you a moment of silence. It is important to confess our sins to God. We are forgiven, but we must confess.

Dear Jesus thank you for the forgiveness which you offer us. Go ahead and confess anything right now. Ask God to help you do better.

1 John 1:9-10

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Dear God thank you for the forgiveness we know we have in You, Amen.

[1] https://www.idahostatejournal.com/opinion/columns/paul-harvey-s-warning-to-america-if-i-were-the-devil/article_fd1e24af-17d1-5ee0-b3d8-8dd97d87f2cd.html

[2] https://www.azquotes.com/author/7392-Thomas_Jefferson/tag/integrity

[3] ibid.

[4] https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/4356.George_Washington

[5] Chernow, Ron. Washington (pp. 501-502). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[6] Swindoll, Charles R. Read in Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN 1998. Page 272. (cited from Bob Phillips, The World’s Greatest Collection of Heavenly Humor)

 

[7] Swindoll, Charles R. Read in Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN 1998. Page 304. (cited from James K. Krames, “Tender Loving Heart,” Living Free