James 3:13-18: Two Types of Wisdom

James 3:13-18: Two Types of Wisdom

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, May 24, 2020

Last week we continued our discussion on the New Testament epistle of James. Last week we looked at James 3:1-12. This passage talked about our language. Our language cannot be hypocritical. Blessing and cursing should not come out of the same mouth.

This week we will talk about wisdom; our language should be guided by wisdom from God.

How do you know if someone is wise? What is the test? Is there a difference between worldly wisdom and the wisdom of God?

In a commentary on 1 Cor by New Testament scholar Gordon Fee, on page 81 a man named Celsus is quoted. He wrote this during the early church and his goal appears to be against the church. He says:

Their injunctions are like this. [that is an act or instance of enjoining.] ‘Let no one educated, no one wise, no one sensible draw near. For these abilities are thought by us to be evils. But as for anyone ignorant, anyone stupid, anyone uneducated, anyone who is a child, let him come boldly.’ By the fact that they themselves admit that these people are worthy of their God, they show that they want and are able to convince only the foolish, dishonorable and stupid, and only slaves, women, and children.” Footnote shows that this is quoted by Origen in Contra Celsum

In other words, to this man, the early church was full of ignorant and unlearned people. Now, there certainly were many very learned people in the early church, but to him there was a different type of wisdom in the church than in the world.

Today, we will look at two types of wisdom, one from the world and one type from God. Wisdom must guide our language and our actions, and the wisdom of God should be evidenced by our works and our words.

Read James 3:13-18

Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. 18 And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

  • In verse 13, we see a test of wisdom.
    • James starts with a question, who is wise? Before anyone can answer he gives a self-test.
    • Let him show it by his good life.
    • Now before I talk more about this good life, allow me to talk about wise and understanding. James asks: who is wise and understanding?
      • Are they the same? Are wisdom and understanding the same?
      • They are listed as two different things, two different adjectives.
        • John MacArthur says:

Notice again back at verse 13, he says, “Who is wise and understanding?” Now I don’t want to make a big distinction between those words because I think basically they’re synonyms put there for emphasis. But they do have a bit of a shade of difference in their meaning. This is the only time in the whole New Testament these two words appear together…… The simple distinction is that wisdom probably relates to the application of principles whereas understanding relates to the understanding of those principles or the knowledge of those principles. One would have more impact on the mind and one might have more impact on the conduct. But basically they have to do with the same thing. You can’t be wise if you don’t understand and you can’t really understand if you’re not wise.

  • Swindoll says: “Wisdom is the ability to see with discernment, to view life as God perceives it. Understanding is the skill to respond with insight. Knowledge is the rare trait of learning with perception—- discovering and growing. [1]
  • So, there is a hair of difference and I believe that James gave both of those adjectives for a reason.
  • Wisdom, according to MacArthur is the application of principles and understanding is understanding those principles.
  • Wisdom, according to Swindoll, is to see with discernment as God perceives things. Understanding is the ability to respond with insight. Let’s move on.
  • If you are wise, show it with your life. Godly wisdom is evidenced by our works, our words, and our life.
  • James says to show this by your good deeds done in humility. Those deeds they come from wisdom. Again, Godly wisdom is evidenced by our works, our words, and our life.
  • How many people have you known that are wise, at least by the world’s standards?
  • How many people have you known who are highly learned, but hard to be around?
  • How many people have you known who have great knowledge, but they don’t help anyone?
  • They are selfish?

In the next few verses James will talk specifically about this wisdom of the world.

  • Verses 14-16 show us a little about wisdom of the world.
    • Verse 14 starts with a conjunction that shows contrast “but” and it is a “big but” too.
    • And then there is this conditional conjunction, “if.” “If” is a conjunction showing a condition. Now what is the condition?
    • If you have bitter jealousy, you don’t just have envy, your envy is bitter.
      • If you have bitter jealousy this means that you are so envious, so jealous that you cannot bear to think of someone, you cannot bear to see someone, you cannot bear to look at their house. You think, “I cannot believe they can afford the new fishing boat. I deserve a new fishing boat.” No that’s just what my bitter jealousy might be. Point is the jealousy is advanced and it will cause damage.
      • And this bitter jealousy is about “you,” who “YOU.” Look at the next phrase: “and selfish ambition.” It is about SELFISHNESS.
        • Listen there is nothing wrong with ambition.
        • Selfish ambition is wrong, ambition is not wrong. I will watch Star Trek and watch Captain Kirk or Captain Picard and think I want to captain my own space vessel. Is that wrong? If so, it is the motivation that is wrong. Do I want to do something because I believe God has called me to do so and I believe that I can help out people? That is good ambition. However, if my motives are selfish, that is selfish ambition, and that is wrong (Phil 2:3-5).
  • Well, James writes if you have these two traits, don’t boast about it. If you talk about your wisdom, yet your life is full of selfish ambition and bitter envy, you are missing the truth. Where is the truth? The truth is in your actions. The truth is in your words.
  • The wisdom of selfish ambition and bitter envy is of the devil, earthly, unspiritual. This means it comes from our sin nature. The devil is alive and active, don’t think he isn’t. Read Eph 6:12.
  • How do you know if your wisdom is this way? Verse 16. This kind of wisdom leads to disorder, and evil practices.
    • Now, let’s talk about you. Do your practices produce disorder?
    • Do your words produce disorder or evil?
  • Before we go into the wisdom of God, let me give some of the differences of the two types of wisdom: The world versus God’s wisdom:
  • The world’s wisdom: Look like a model.
  • God’s wisdom: you are beautiful. God created you the way you are.
  • The world’s wisdom: Have a sarcastic answer which makes you look good and others bad.
  • God’s wisdom: Love your enemies (Phil 2), return evil with good.
  • The world’s wisdom: Do what you have to do to get to the top.
  • God’s wisdom: Jesus gave up everything and went to the bottom.
  • The world’s wisdom may say to drink, do drugs, have fun.
  • God’s wisdom says, these things harm you. They take you out of control of your actions. Your body belongs to God.
  • The world’s wisdom may say your voice isn’t good enough, your body isn’t good enough, you are too fat, too tall, too short, your hair is ugly, and your clothes are too cheap.
  • God’s wisdom says, “I created you the way you are for a reason.”
  • The world’s wisdom: Disrespect your parents or others.
  • God’s wisdom says, be submissive to authorities. Respect all people. Jesus was submissive to authorities that were corrupt.
  • The world’s wisdom: It is ok to have sex, just use protection.
  • God’s wisdom says, that sacrifices your purity. Sex is a gift God has given you for reproduction and joy with someone you have a lifelong commitment with in marriage. Sex is emotional and emotions are hurt if the intimacy of sex is shared with more people.
  • The world’s wisdom: Have fun! Life is short and there is no eternity.
  • God’s wisdom says we will all face judgment someday and there is an eternity. There is one way to Heaven.
  • The world’s wisdom says, if life doesn’t seem fun or you have had some trauma it is ok to end your life.
  • God’s wisdom says that He created you for a purpose. Life will get tuff but lean on God.
  • The world’s wisdom skews our view. We see through a haze. When I was 24 years old I realized that I needed glasses. I was so excited to be able to have perfect vision once again. But when I went to work as a McDonald’s manager my view got skewed again. I would leave work and my glasses would be coated with grease. I would have to clean them off. Just as my glasses were coated with grease so is our view of reality. The world’s wisdom skews our view.
  • We need God’s wisdom. Godly wisdom is evidenced by good works.

Verses 17-18 show us a little about the wisdom of God.

    1. God’s wisdom produces purity.
    2. God’s wisdom produces peace.
    3. I am sure there have been several people in the world who were wise yet their words didn’t produce peace.
    4. God’s wisdom is gentle, this means you think of others first (Phil 2:3-5).
    5. God’s wisdom is reasonable.
    6. God’s wisdom is full of mercy.
    7. God’s wisdom produces the good fruit.
    8. God’s wisdom is impartial, unwavering without hypocrisy, objective.
    9. Verse 18 wraps it up. If you do things in peace the outcome is righteousness.

Close:

How do you know if someone is wise? What is the test? Is there a difference between worldly wisdom and the wisdom of God?

The test of wisdom is right here in Scripture. Do an individual’s actions produce disorder and evil practices? Or, do an individual’s actions, an individual’s life, show purity, peace loving, considerateness, submissiveness, mercy, good fruit, impartiality and sincerity?

Apply this to yourself, by looking at your life: Do your actions produce disorder and evil practices? Or, do your actions, does your life, show purity, peace, gentleness, reasonableness, mercy, good fruit, objectivity?

Now, you can examine yourself, but it would be better to ask a close friend.

Pray.

 

[1] Swinoll, Charles R. The Strong Family. Read in Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN 1998. Page 613.

Our Tongue is a Dangerous Weapon (James 3:1-12)

James 3:1-12: Our Tongue is a Dangerous Weapon

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, May 17, 2020

I want to tell you about a weapon that causes a lot of harm. This weapon is allowed on airplanes, you don’t have to check the weapon prior to boarding the plane. This weapon is allowed in schools. The teachers try to keep this weapon controlled by the students, but the teachers cannot, and do not, remove the weapon. The weapon is in the White House and all the other places of government. They have this weapon in other countries as well. Infants have this weapon, though they have not mastered its use. This weapon has been around as long as humanity. This weapon is the tongue.

The tongue allows us to form words.

Words can make us laugh.

The tongue forms words and words can make us cry.

Words can hurt.

Words can lie:

When I was about 4 years old my dad got a new car. My dad worked for a company that provided company cars for their employees. Now I was on the sidewalk in the front yard when my dad arrived home. I saw the car and thought, “this car would look better with a stripe down the side.” I had some keys which somehow, I had acquired. My parents were about to regret that I had acquired those keys. I took a key and scratched the car all the way down the side. Later on, my dad would mention what happened and I said that the cat did it. My dad always knew that the cat didn’t do this and later on the truth would come out. My point is that I lied. With my tongue I could have told the truth, but I didn’t.

Words can share important information.

Words can make us feel good.

Words come from the tongue.

Let’s read James 3:1-12 and see what James says about the tongue.

Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well. Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well. Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires. So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things.

See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; 10 from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. 11 Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh.

  1. In verse 1 James introduces a way the tongue is commonly used, to teach.
    1. Do not be too quick to become a teacher.
    2. By this time, it has been at most 15 years since Jesus’ resurrection. The church was young.
    3. Maybe they had a problem appointing teachers too hastily.
    4. James says that teachers will be judged more strictly.
      1. Wow! James used the “J” word. James talks about judgment.
      2. The Bible affirms that there will be a judgment and the New Testament affirms a high bar for spiritual leadership. To ignore that and teach something contrary to Scripture is a grievous mistake.
    5. In verse 2 James gets to the argument about our speech.
      1. Notice how James doesn’t talk down to them. He uses the inclusive first person pronoun “we.” We all stumble. We all mess up. He includes himself.
      2. Look at the rest of the verse: If anyone is not at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.
      3. James introduces the idea that what we say can control our whole body.
  • In verses 3-12 James talks about the tongues ability to cause great danger and our lack of ability to tame the tongue.
    1. Look at verses 3-4:
      1. We can control big horses with a bit in their mouth.
      2. We can control big ships with a small rudder.
    2. In verse 5 James says the tongue is small too. The tongue is small like the rudder that guides a ship or the bit that guides the horse. Yet, the tongue causes great danger.
    3. James compares the tongue to the spark that starts a forest fire.

A fire can begin with just a small spark, but it can grow to destroy a city. A fire reportedly started in the O’Leary barn in Chicago at 8:30 p.m., October 8, 1871; and because that fire spread, over 100,000 people were left homeless, 17,500 buildings were destroyed, and 300 people died. It cost the city over $400 million.

  1. How are you doing right about now?
  2. Have you started any forest fires with your words? Proverbs 26:20: for lack of wood the fire goes out and where there is no whisper the gossip stops.
  3. The tongue forms our words and our words can start a fire of gossip. Have you been guilty of this? Have we been guilty of this? These days this can also happen through Facebook, email, twitter, or text messaging.
  4. We all best take this warning. We all should be careful with our communication.
  5. A few years ago, I was upset with the way someone said something in a meeting. I didn’t say anything for a few days, but then after sitting on it for so many days; I realized that I was not going to let it go. I sat down and typed a very harsh email to the individual. I don’t think the email said anything untrue, yet it was too much truth and too little grace. It was unloving.
  6. Our conversations can get this way, even in church. We may have a responsibility in the church and others must help with this responsibility. Well, when we think that someone else is not taking it seriously, we let them have it, all truth, and no grace. That is wrong. That is really what James is writing about, being hurtful to someone else.
  7. I don’t know if you have seen the movie, The King’s Speech. There is an amazing moment where the main character enters a room and sees his daughter (the young, not yet Queen, Elizabeth) watching the news on filmstrip. She is watching Hitler speak in German. “What’s he saying daddy,” she asks. He says, “I don’t know but he seems to be saying it well.”
    1. Destructive regimes use the voice and use the pen. They use words, they use the tongue, and they start a forest fire.
    2. That is why James writes verse 6: And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. 
  8. Skip to verse 9: with the tongue we praise our Lord and we curse men.
  9. When I was in youth group I was told that this passage is where we get instructions not to use curse words, or cuss words, or swear words.
  10. This passage is not about any particular list of words. This passage is about using our words against people.
  11. Sure, if I am using a word that is generally considered a cuss word against someone else; this verse applies.
  12. James concludes this passage by stating that blessing and cursing should not come out of the same mouth.

Close: Words can curse or bless

The Language of God, Francis S. Collins pages 159-160

Francis Collins writes:

My Junior year in college, 1968, was full of deeply troubling events. Soviet tanks had rolled into Czechoslovakia; the Vietnam War had escalated with the Tet offensive; and Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King had been assassinated. But at the very end of the year, another much more positive event occurred that electrified the world— the launch of Apollo 8. It was the first manned space craft to orbit the moon. Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders traveled through space for three days that December, while the world held its breath. Then they began to circle the moon, taking the first human photos of Earth rising over the moon’s surface, reminding us all just how small and fragile our planet appears from the vantage point of space. On Christmas Eve, the three astronauts broadcast a live television transmission from their capsule. After commenting on their experiences and on the starkness of the lunar landscape, they jointly read the first ten verses of Genesis 1. As an agnostic on the way to becoming an Atheist at the time, I still remember the surprising sense of awe that settled over me as those unforgettable words— “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” —- reached my ears from 240,000 miles away, spoken by men who were scientists and engineers, but for whom these words had obvious powerful meaning.

Shortly afterward, the famous American atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair filed suit against NASA for permitting this Christmas Eve reading of the Bible. She argued that U.S. astronauts, who are federal employees, should be banned from public prayer in space. Though the courts ultimately rejected her suit, NASA discouraged such references to faith in future flights. Thus, Buzz Aldrin of Apollo 11 arranged to take communion on the surface of the moon during the first human lunar landing in 1969, but that event was never publicly reported.

The astronauts used their words to bless, while the atheist used words to curse.

Let’s use our words to bless. Let’s pray that we can use our words to bless. You’ll mess up, we all will, when we do, use our words to apologize then try to do better.

Prayer.

 

 

[1] The Holy Bible : New International Version. electronic ed. Grand Rapids : Zondervan, 1996, c1984, S. Jas 3:6

Hannah, a Godly Mother (1 Samuel chapters 1 and 2)

Mother’s Day Sermon

Hannah, a Godly Mother (1 Samuel chapters 1 and 2) Prepared and Preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, Ohio on Sunday, May, 10, 2020

The mother has an important part in God’s plan. Would Samuel have been born apart from Hannah’s prayers?

The story is told of William C. Burns, the man who mightily blessed Hudson Taylor and Murray McCheyne, of how when he was only a boy of seventeen he visited the city of Glasgow with his mother for the first time in his life. The mother suddenly lost her boy in the crowd and after many anxious moments discovered him in an alley with his head buried in his hands, sobbing with a broken heart.

“What ails you, lad?” asked the Scottish mother. “Oh, Mither, Mither,” said the country boy, “the thud of these Christless feet on the way to hell breaks my heart.” One can understand how he grew up to be the mighty revivalist of Scotland and China.

—Alliance Weekly[1]

Prayer, what does it matter? Seeking the Lord, who cares, dependence upon the Lord, not that important, is it? Well, obviously I think all of these things in our lives are very important. Prayers, seeking the Lord, dependence on God are important as they affect our whole life. But when you are a parent these affect more than you, but your children, even if your children are not born yet. Unfortunately, in my ministry I have worked with children who haven’t had godly parents. Unfortunately, I have worked with children who have had absent parents. It is always refreshing to see a good family. It is refreshing for me to see a family that puts God first. I know there are many families in this church that seek the Lord, depend upon God and have a vibrant prayer life.

I am not the only one who thinks that prayer and seeking the Lord are very important, in the Old Testament there was a woman who sought the Lord and she was rewarded because of this. I know as soon as I mentioned the Old Testament you thought of Hannah in 1 Samuel. But for those of you who haven’t thought of Hannah, she is the one I am thinking of. Hannah was a very godly woman. I want to talk about her for a few minutes and I intend to show you that she was a godly mother and because she was a godly mother she gave birth to one of the greatest Old Testament prophets. The prophet Samuel ordained King Saul and King David, Israel’s first two kings. Because of Hannah we have the Old Testament narratives of first and second Samuel. Let me explain this as we walk through chapter 1. But let me add a note, a very important note: As I talk about 1 Samuel 1 I will talk about Hannah’s devotion to the Lord and her husband’s support. My challenge is that you also are devoted to the Lord. But just because you are devoted to the Lord this doesn’t mean that your kids will also grow up to be godly. If you have an adult or teenage child that you are struggling with it is easy to blame yourself. But I know of parents that have been and are very godly and yet their children rebel.

My theme:

Hannah went to the Lord with her need and so should we.

We will read 1 Samuel 1 as we talk about it.

  • Let’s talk about Hannah’s devotion to the Lord.
    • Let’s read verses 1-8: Now there was a certain man from Ramathaim-zophim from the hill country of Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. He had two wives: the name of one was Hannah and the name of the other Peninnah; and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children. Now this man would go up from his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests to the Lord there. When the day came that Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and her daughters; but to Hannah he would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah, but the Lord had closed her womb. Her rival, however, would provoke her bitterly to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb. It happened year after year, as often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she would provoke her; so she wept and would not eat. Then Elkanah her husband said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep and why do you not eat and why is your heart sad? Am I not better to you than ten sons?”
    • In the first couple of verses we have an introduction to the passage. We have a little bit about their lifestyle. Hannah was married to Elkanah. Elkanah had two wives.
      • It is most likely from context and wording that Elkanah was married to Hannah first. But when Hannah could not have children he took a second wife named Peninnah. Hannah means “grace” and Peninnah means “ruby.”
      • It was important back in those times for a man and woman to be able to have children. Back then children grew up and were expected to take care of their parents as they grew older. Children helped with the family business as well.
  • I believe we still expect children to help take care of their parents as they get older. My dad set a very good example for me. I remember many Saturdays watching my dad fix his mom’s car, fix the plumbing in the basement of her house, fix the flooring, electric and much more. Then, my grandmother lived with us later as well.
  • The IVP Bible Backgrounds Commentary shows that a barren woman would often be shamed/discarded, or ostracized, or given a lower status. Mesopotamian prayers and legal texts show that this was common throughout the middle east.
  • So, the text shows us that Hannah was barren. This was a big deal. It was tragic.
  • As we talk about Hannah’s commitment to the Lord, we must also talk about Elkinah’s commitment to the Lord. Verse 3 shows that Elkinah would take his family to Shiloh to worship and make sacrifices. He gave sacrifices to his two wives and to his children.
  • Now, this was a big commitment. Shiloh was about 15 miles from Jerusalem and Shiloh was about a two day journey. Now many of you are thinking, “Why Shiloh? What about Jerusalem?” I am glad you asked. At this point Jerusalem had not yet been conquered by King David. So, at this point the Ark of the Covenant, Israel’s temple and worship center were in Shiloh.
  • But as stated, it was a two day journey. How are you guys doing taking your family to church? When I was a kid we went to church several times a year but sometimes only two or three times a year. We would go to church on Mother’s day because my dad knew that was what mom wanted.
  • I know it is hard to get up on Sunday mornings, the devil makes you extra tired. But it was a two day walk for them!
  • Now you may think: “It was only once a year.” You are right, this is only talked about once a year. But it was at least 4 days of travel and they probably stayed over a week. Then there was the cost of the sacrifices.
  • So, men take a lesson from Elkanah—lead your family in worship.
  • Verse 5 shows that Elkanah loved Hannah more. But also that “the Lord had closed her womb.”
  • Major principle: The Lord is in control. I was at a doctor’s office and there was a sign—“Physicians treat, God heals.”
  • Verses 6-8 show the pain that Hannah experienced being barren. Peninnah is described as a rival. She would provoke Hannah as Hannah had no children. It is possible that she provoked Hannah because Elkanah loved Hannah more.
  • So, the Scriptures show that God controls the womb and now Hannah believes that. She believes it so much that she spends extra time in prayer about a son.
  • Hannah prays.
    • let’s read verses 9-18:
    • Then Hannah rose after eating and drinking in Shiloh. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. 10 She, greatly distressed, prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. 11 She made a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head.” 12 Now it came about, as she continued praying before the Lord, that Eli was watching her mouth. 13 As for Hannah, she was speaking in her heart, only her lips were moving, but her voice was not heard. So Eli thought she was drunk. 14 Then Eli said to her, “How long will you make yourself drunk? Put away your wine from you.” 15 But Hannah replied, “No, my lord, I am a woman oppressed in spirit; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have poured out my soul before the Lord. 16 Do not consider your maidservant as a worthless woman, for I have spoken until now out of my great concern and provocation.” 17 Then Eli answered and said, “Go in peace; and may the God of Israel grant your petition that you have asked of Him.” 18 She said, “Let your maidservant find favor in your sight.” So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.
    • She prays for a son. She prays so intensely that Eli, the priest, thinks she is drunk. She is praying with her mouth but her lips are moving without sounds coming out.
    • Now, Hannah prays for a son but also makes a vow. If the Lord gives her a son, she will dedicate him to the Lord his whole life, and no razor will touch his head.
    • Even beyond the Bible vows were common in the ancient Middle East: usually these went to a deity. This includes Hittite, Ugaritic, Mesopotamian, and less often, Egyptian. In Ugaritic literature King Keret makes a vow in requesting a wife who could produce offspring. In return he offered gold and silver corresponding to his bride’s weight.
    • Now, that is the Nazirite vow which is usually a temporary vow but she promises that Samuel will have that vow his whole
    • It is not that this was uncommon: gifts of children to the temple are evidenced in Sumerian texts from the beginning of the second millennium.
    • Have you ever wanted something so very badly? Well, Hannah did in this case so she went to the One who could ultimately provide it.
  • The Lord rewarded Hannah’s vow
    • Let’s read verses 19-20.
    • 19 Then they arose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord, and returned again to their house in Ramah. And Elkanah had relations with Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. 20 It came about in due time, after Hannah had conceived, that she gave birth to a son; and she named him Samuel, saying, “Because I have asked him of the Lord.”
    • God provided a baby and they name him Samuel. So, Hannah follows through and after the child was weaned she brings him to the temple.
    • So, Samuel was probably two to three years old when he was dedicated to the temple.
    • I read this and think, “That is amazing, she dedicates her son to serve in temple service his whole life.”
    • I am thinking it is quite likely there were more people to help raise Samuel than just Eli. And if you want, later on I encourage you to read 1 Samuel chapter 3. That tells about Samuel when he was about 12 years old.
    • But I don’t want Hannah’s dedication to go unnoticed. Mom’s care for their children unconditionally.
    • Mothers are committed, mothers love their children. This mother gave her child up to serve the Lord. She was that committed to the Lord. She knew the Lord will take care of her son.
  • Now, for a minute I want to talk about Elkinah’s support for Hannah.
    • Yes, Elkinah led them to the annual festival, or festivals but he also supported her in her turmoil.
    • Verse 8 is a verse that shows Elkanah’s support. Now we think, “what! What is he saying? He is better than ten sons.” Well it is possible what is meant is “don’t I treat you better than if you had ten sons.” Either way, he is trying to comfort her.
    • Then in verse 23, they have already given birth to the boy and it is time to sacrifice again. But she says, let me stay home until the boy is weaned. And what does Elkanah say? He supports her. He says do what seems best.
    • You know, Hannah made this vow to the Lord to dedicate the boy to God for his whole life. Elkanah could have made the vow invalid. According to Numbers 30:6-15 a husband can revoke a woman’s vow. But Elkanah doesn’t do this. He supports her.
    • They take the boy Samuel to Shiloh to minister before the Lord and Elkanah supports her decisions.
    • How are you guys doing with this? How are you doing with supporting your wife? How are you doing with supporting her emotionally when she may be going through hard times? How are you doing supporting her decisions?
    • I know many men who are unsupportive. I heard a counselor say it is possible that for a long time a marriage is dead. The two are living together but simply fulfilling the needs of life. That is not what God meant for in marriage. Marriage is supposed to be joyful and we are supposed to support each other.
    • I know that many of you are great supports for your wife as well.

Closing:

There is great value in raising godly children. This value starts when moms and dads are seeking the Lord at home.

A mother in New England was helping pack a box to be sent to India. Her son, aged four, insisted on putting in an offering all his own, a little leaflet entitled “Come to Jesus.” His name was written on it with the little prayer, “May the one who gets this soon learn to love Jesus.” When the child’s leaflet reached that far-off land it was finally given to a Hindu priest who was teaching the missionaries the language. He took it without looking at it, but on his way back to his mountain home he thought of the leaflet, took it out, and read the writing on the outside.

The child’s prayer so touched him that he was then eager to read further. He soon gave up his idols and became a devoted missionary to his own people. Fifteen years after that, American missionaries visited his mountain village, and there found the converted Hindu priest with a congregation of fifteen hundred people who had learned to love Jesus as their Saviour, through the influence and teaching of that leaflet.

That 4 year old had to have learned it from his mother and father. We need godly mothers like Hannah. We need supportive fathers. Unfortunately, it is far too often that the mother teaches about faith and not the father. In this case it was Hannah who spent time in intense prayer, it was Hannah who made the vow, it was Hannah who went through the turmoil. But at least Elkanah was supportive.

Praise God for godly mothers. Praise God for a mother’s work.

A little boy looks up at you,

With eyes opened wide.

He puts his trusting hand in yours,

And something stirs inside

He leads you to the window,

Where you stand and stare …

A robin hops out on the lawn,

But you didn’t see it there.

Your mind is deep in thought;

The years are racing past.

A small hand moves in yours …

“Why do they grow so fast?”

Soon you’ll watch him go off to school,

So full of promise and hope;

And suddenly you can’t speak,

For the lump that’s in your throat.

Time will pass so quickly;

The days will turn to years.

You’ll treasure every moment;

All the laughter and the tears.

One day he’ll meet that special girl,

And want her for his wife.

He’ll take her hand in his,

And build a brand-new life.

Suddenly … your thoughts come back,

To all the living he’s not yet done.

You whisper a grateful prayer …

And embrace your tiny son.

—Patricia J. White[2]

I pray that you will seek the Lord in your life as Hannah did.

I do understand that for many of you this mother’s day may be sad. You have lost your mother, she has passed away. My prayers are with you. Or, maybe you have not been able to have children. Or, maybe you are single, you have a gift of celibacy. There is certainly such a thing as spiritual children. These are adults and children that you mentor and take on a parental roll with. And praise God for that. My prayers are for God’s comfort.

Let’s pray

Happy mother’s day

[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.

Our Faith is Validated by Our Works (James 2:14-26)

I have a very interesting quote about the growth of Christianity. I will use this often; the quote is from the fourth century.

Emperor Julian (332-63)

Atheism [Christianity]has been specially advanced through the loving service rendered to strangers, and through their care for the burial of the dead.  It is a scandal that there is not a single Jew who is a beggar, and that the godless Galileans care not only for their own poor but for ours as well; while those who belong to us look in vain for the help that we should render them.[1]

The early church grew by helping others, taking care of people.

I want to look at James 2:14-26 and show you that faith and good works must go together.

Read James 2:14-26

14 What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.

18 But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” 19 You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

  1. In verse 14 James give an exhortation by a question (verse 14).
    1. I actually count 6 questions in this passage. It seems that James communicated by questions.
    2. Notice in verse 14 James says “if a man ‘claims to’ or ‘says he has’ faith…”
    3. You see this is an example of a person saying they have faith. This is not something observable. This is not someone saying, “so and so has faith, I can tell.”
    4. But read the rest of verse 14: this man has no deeds. He has no good works. His actions don’t match his words. He claims to have faith but that is not observable.
    5. Answer the question. What do you think? Do you think it is good if a man or woman says they are a Christian, but their life doesn’t match up?
    6. To be a Christian means to be “like Christ” or “little Christ.”
    7. Some people are now calling themselves “Christ followers” in order to distinguish themselves from all the people who are “Christians” in name only.
    8. Read the next question: Can that faith save him?
    9. Now, let me ask you a question: Are we saved by works or are we saved by faith?
    10. When reading the Bible always remember that Scripture interprets Scripture. If we read Ephesians 2:8 it says we are saved by faith not by works. But Ephesians also says that we are saved for good works (Eph 2:10).
    11. So, I believe what James is really asking is: Do the works validate their faith? What we do should show we are Christians.
  2. In the next ten verses James gives 4 illustrations. One of those illustrations is a case study (verses 15-25).
    1. James gives us a very straightforward example. What good is it when we simply say, we’ll pray but we don’t help? Now, I know that many times you may not be able to physically help and prayer is very important. However, it is imperative that we do help as we can.
    2. Faith is dead without actions.
    3. Christians are the best and worst witnesses for and against Christianity. People are watching. People are watching now more than ever. As America’s culture becomes more and more secular this will allow Christians to shine. Or, this will allow Christians to look very bad to the world.
    4. Trouble is too many Christians, alleged Christians, don’t want to get their hands dirty.
    5. What do I mean?
    6. Many Americans are eager to send money but will not go help themselves.
    7. One way Americans are eager to send money but not get their hands dirty is that many times we are eager to pay towards a homeless shelter but not go and serve ourselves.
    8. There may be many reasons:
    9. It is in a bad section of town.
    10. We are too busy.
    11. It isn’t my gift.
    12. There is a book called: Same Kind of Different as Me.
    13. This book is a true story that follows two people’s paths in life until they meet up.
    14. One person was raised in a middle class white family. He grows up and becomes very successful and very wealthy.
    15. The second person is a poor uneducated black man. He grew up as a modern-day slave. His parents worked a farm and he did too. He experienced heavy racism. Eventually this man ran away. However, he never had been educated. He lived homeless and learned how to fend for himself.
    16. Eventually the wealthy white man, now married, is convinced by his wife to begin helping at a homeless shelter. They had committed their life to Christ and she wanted to go deeper. He was willing to give money, but she wanted to do more. So, they start helping at a homeless shelter. She then says that she wants to take one group from the homeless shelter to dinner and a play.
    17. Now, the relationship grows between this wealthy man and woman and this uneducated poor black man.
    18. The wealthy white man asks to take the uneducated black man out to breakfast. At breakfast the black man asks, “Why are you doing this?” the white man says, “To be your friend.” The black man says, “I like to fish, but I notice when white people fish they catch and release. I don’t want a ‘catch and release’ friendship.”
    19. Well, this wealthy husband and wife decided to do more than give money and because they did they touched many lives. One of those lives was that uneducated black man. Later on, they formed a friendship that will last the rest of their lives and has lasted the rest of her life, as he was there for the woman’s death. The wealthy white man and the uneducated black man published this book together.
    20. Let’s go back to James’ illustrations.
    21. James says he will show his faith by what he does.
    22. In verse 19, James begins to make the case that our belief doesn’t mean anything without actions. Even the demons have orthodox beliefs. Even the demons believe in one God, and they shudder.
    23. In verses 21-25, James give some Old Testament evidence.
    24. Abraham’s faith was verified by what he did, being willing to offer up Isaac.
    25. Verse 24: a person is justified by what he does, not by faith alone.
    26. Now, it appears that James uses “justify” in a different way than Paul does. Justify usually means to declare righteous. But from context it appears that James uses this verb to mean that their faith is declared right. James is saying that your faith is validated by your works.
    27. You are not saved by works, but your works validate your faith.
    28. Verse 25 shows that Rahab’s faith was validated by her aid to the Israelite spies.
  • The exhortation (verse 26)
    1. The body is dead without the spirit.
    2. So, we also have not real faith without works. Our faith is dead, it has no life, without works.

Chuck Swindoll shares:

Persistence pays.

It’s a costly investment, no question about it. But the dividends are so much greater than the original outlay that you’ll almost forget the price. And if the final benefits are really significant, you’ll wonder why you ever hesitated to begin with.

A primary reason we are tempted to give up is other people . . . you know, the less than 20 percent whose major role it is in life to encourage others to toss in the towel. For whatever reason. Those white-flag specialists never run out of excuses you and I ought to use for quitting. The world’s full of “why-sweat-it” experts.

I’m sure Anne Mansfield Sullivan had a host of folks telling her that the blind, 7-year-old brat wasn’t worth it. But Anne persisted—in spite of temper tantrums, physical abuse, mealtime madness, and even thankless parents. In her heart she knew it was worth all the pain. Was it ever! Within two years her pupil, Helen Keller, was able to read and write in braille. She ultimately graduated cum laude from Radcliffe College (where Miss Sullivan had “spelled” each lecture into her hand), and Helen Keller devoted the rest of her life to aiding the deaf and the blind.

Want another for instance? Well, this particular man was told that if he hadn’t written a book by age thirty-five, chances were good he never would. He was almost forty, I should add. There were others who reminded him that for every book published, ninety-five became dust-collecting manuscripts. But he persisted. Even though he was warned that stories like he wanted to write weren’t popular. Nor were they considered worthy of top prizes in the literary field (his work later won the Pulitzer). Hollywood hotshots also told him such a book certainly held no dramatic possibilities. But James Michener hung tough. He refused to wash the desire out of his hair as he persisted. And he presented to the public Tales of the South Pacific. Oh, by the way, the Broadway critics had warned, “It’ll never make a musical.”

How many military battles would never have been won without persistence? How many men and women would never have graduated from school . . . or changed careers in midstream . . . or stayed together in marriage . . . or reared a mentally disabled child? Think of the criminal cases that would never have been solved without the relentless persistence of detectives. How about the great music that would never have been finished, the grand pieces of art that would never have graced museums, cathedrals, and monuments the world over? Back behind the impeccable beauty of each work is a dream that wouldn’t die mixed with the dogged determination of a genius of whom this indifferent world is not worthy.

Think also of the speeches, the sermons, the books that have shaped thinking, infused new hope, prompted fresh faith, and aroused the will to win. For long and lonely hours away from the applause—even the awareness—of the public, the one preparing that verbal missile persisted all alone with such mundane materials as dictionary, thesaurus, historical volumes, biographical data, and a desk full of other research works. The same could be said of those who labor to find cures for diseases. And how about those who experiment with inventions?

I once heard about a couple of men who were working alongside the inventor Thomas Edison. Weary to the point of exasperation, one man sighed, “What a waste! We have tried no less than seven hundred experiments and nothing has worked. We are not a bit better off than when we started.”

With an optimistic twinkle in his eye, Edison quipped, “Oh, yes, we are! We now know seven hundred things that won’t work. We’re closer than we’ve ever been before.” With that, he rolled up his sleeves and plunged back in.

If necessity is the mother of invention, persistence is certainly the father.

God honors it. Maybe because He models it so well. His love for His people, the Jews, persists to this very day, even though they have disobeyed Him more often than they have loved Him in return. And just think of His patient persistence in continually reaching out to the lost, “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). And how about His persistence with us? You and I can recall one time after another when He could have (and should have!) wiped us out of the human race, but He didn’t. Why? The answer is in Philippians 1:6:

He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (NIV)

The One who began will continue right up to the end. Being the original finisher, He will persist. I’m comforted to know He won’t be talked out of a plan that has to do with developing me. I need help! Don’t you?[2]

Persist in good works.

Pray.

 

[1] Neill, Stephen. A History of Christian Missions, Second Edition, Revised by Owen Chadwick. 1991. Pages 38.

[2] Excerpted from Come Before Winter and Share My Hope, Copyright © 1985, 1988, 1994 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.

The Sin of Partiality in Our Churches Scripture (James 2:1-13)

The Sin of Partiality in Our Churches

Scripture: James 2:1-13

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

Sunday, April 26, 2020

I recently read a story that applies to the passage we are going to look at today.

The story comes out of Ravi Zacharius’ book Deliver Us from Evil pages 422-423. He writes:

One of the greatest masterpieces of music composition, if not the greatest, is the work of George Frideric Handel simply called Messiah. Prior to its composition Handel had not been successful as a musician and had retired from much professional activity by the age of fifty-six. Then, in a remarkable series of events, a friend presented him with a libretto based on the life of Christ, the entire script of which was Scripture. Handel shut himself in his room on Brook Street in London. In twenty-four days, breathtakingly absorbed in this composition and hardly eating or drinking, Handle completed the work all the way to its orchestration. He was a man in the grip of profound inspiration. Later, as he groped for words to describe what he had experienced, he quotes Saint Paul, saying, “Whether I was in the body or out of my body when I wrote it I know not.” Handel’s servant testified that on one occasion when he walked into the room to plead with him to eat, he saw Handel with tears streaming down his face saying, “I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God Himself.”

         When Messiah was staged in London, as the notes of the Hallelujah Chorus rang out— “King of Kings and Lord of Lords…. And He shall reign forever and ever”—the king of England, drawn irresistibly, stood to his feet, and the audience followed as one. Listen to how one writer sums up the impact of Messiah:

         Handel personally conducted more than thirty performances of Messiah; many of these concerts were for the benefit of the hurting and the needy. “Messiah has fed the hungry, clothed the naked, fostered the orphan….” Another wrote, “Perhaps the works of no other composer have so largely contributed to the relief of human suffering.” Still another said, “Messiah’s music has done more to convince thousands of mankind that there is a God about us than all the theological works ever written.”

Ravi continues: “The first performance was a charitable benefit to raise money to free 142 people from prison who could not pay their debts.”

I find that story quite amazing. Handel used the benefits of the Messiah to go towards the needy. You know, as I think about it, it really shouldn’t be amazing, it shouldn’t be at all. Jesus was a common man. Jesus was a lower class citizen. Jesus washed the disciple’s feet. When Jesus was to be born the angels declared it to shepherds. Shepherds were common men, they were not the upper class. But I fear that in our churches, in our individual lives and in our mindset everyone is not equal. We all have our favorites. We are all partial to a certain type of person, a certain type of people.

Let’s see what the Scriptures say about favoritism. As we talk about this passage, I intend to show you that favoritism is a sin. Showing favoritism to one person over another is wrong. It is not right in our churches and it is not right in your Christian life. Showing favoritism means showing prejudice. You are all the church. You may think, “What I do on my own time is what I do on my own time.” But as a Christian, your whole life is Christ’s time. Paul the apostle always called himself a servant of Christ, even a slave of Christ. There is no part time Christianity. Part time Christianity is shallow Christianity and shallow Christianity is not Christianity at all because as soon as something doesn’t go your way your Christianity goes by the wayside. So, let’s get into the Scriptures and see that favoritism is wrong, wrong in the church holistically and wrong in your individual life as an ambassador of the church.

Please read with me James 2:1-13:

My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?

If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. 11 For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not commit murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.

 

Now I want to talk about this passage in three parts. The first part is verses 1-4 which are a command not to show favoritism and there is a case study example of favoritism.

The second part is verses 5-7 which is a short section consisting of 4 questions which James uses to logically challenge the church that the ones they are favoring are slandering the name of Jesus.

The third part is verses 8-13 where the consequences of favoritism are shown.

  1. So, in verses 1-4: James names the sin and gives an example of the sin as a case study.
    1. Look at the first verse. James is extremely straightforward: “Don’t show favoritism.” Period.
    2. What is favoritism? Well I think the case study in the next few verses helps us understand that. Let’s look at the case study.
    3. Verse 2 starts with the verb “suppose.” This means that this is a case study. This may not be what is actually happening, though it certainly could be happening.
    4. So someone comes into the church meeting wearing a gold ring. A gold ring would be a sign of wealth. While Jews commonly wore rings, few could afford gold rings. However, there are some reports that in the ancient world the most ostentatious people wore rings on every finger but the middle one to show off their economic status (some ancient sources indicate there were even ring rental businesses.). So, needless to say, this gold ring is a clue to the case study that this man is wealthy.
      1. This is just the illustration, the case study that James gives. James instruction is not simply against favoring the rich over the poor but favoring is wrong in all cases.
      2. This case study also gives clues to what was going on in their setting.
    5. The man is also wearing fine clothes.
    6. Then there is a man that comes in not dressed as nice. He is a poor man in shabby clothes.
    7. The next few verses show that the rich man gets the best seat, while the poor man is told to sit on the floor or just stand.
      1. Now before I go on, let’s pause to really think about this.
      2. Does this happen today?
        1. Okay, so you may be thinking, “nope, not in this church. In this church everyone is treated equally regardless of pay.” Okay, maybe they are. What about in your individual life. Remember you are part of the church. Every Christian is part of the church. How are you doing in your individual life?
        2. Do you treat people differently based off of height, weight, looks?
        3. Do you treat people differently based off of color of their skin?
        4. Okay, I got one for you. Do you treat people differently based off of how they dress? Maybe there is a man or woman who is quite educated and wealthy but if you are around them they don’t appear that way at all. Would you treat them the same way?
        5. Do you treat people differently based off of occupation?
        6. Okay, all of my prodding has so far had to do with actions, how you treat people. Let’s prod a little deeper.
          1. What types of thoughts go through your head?
          2. As you see someone at work, at church, at a game; do you make a judgment of how you would treat them based off of dress, talk, language, skin color, weight, height, the music they are listening to, sports teams?

Chuck Swindoll tells a story that is self-deprecating and makes the point of what can happen when we judge people based off of how they present themselves:

Several years ago he was teaching at a Bible conference. During one of the first days he way eating a meal and met a couple. The woman seemed really nice and talkative. The husband seemed quiet and somewhat shy. They were sitting at Swindoll’s table and they got “table acquainted.” Later on as Swindoll taught (preached) he noticed the man would fall asleep. He noticed this didn’t happen just once, but several times. Swindoll said that he had it figured out. The woman has a husband who is not as devoted to the study of Scripture as she is. He simply came to this conference to please her. On the last day the wife asked if she could speak to Swindoll after the conference was over. Swindoll said “yes.” He knew what she was going to talk about, or he thought. He thought that she wanted to tell him that she really wanted to attend this but her husband just is not as devoted to the spiritual. She waited till everyone had left and then she said, “My husband is not here today. He feels bad that he falls asleep. He is dying of cancer. One of his wishes was to come hear you speak as you are his favorite Bible teacher.” Swindoll said he was convicted. His point was that we cannot judge. We don’t know all the facts.   

You see: his case was not a matter of favoritism, but he did see how this dying man presented himself and he made a judgment. We must never do that. Never! But I admit, I do it too. I may see someone unkempt and make a judgment and if that judgment leads to the way I treat that person, it is wrong.

You see the judgment of favoritism and the opposite of favoritism, being prejudice, starts in the mind. Then it becomes meditation and then it becomes action of favoritism towards one and prejudice towards another.

James is going to continue getting more specific in the next few verses.

  1. In James 2:5-7: there are specifics to the people; James communicates through questions that the people they are favoring are slandering the name of Christ.

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

  1. You see the text says, “the noble’ or “’Fair’ name of whom you are called.” That is Jesus. They are favoring the ones who are slandering Jesus’ name.
  2. James says they have become judges with these thoughts. They have discriminated. These next few verses are very specific to the people.
    1. These questions have implied positive answers. This means the answer is obviously yes.
    2. Yes, they have discriminated amongst themselves and become judges with evil thoughts.
  • Yes, God has chosen the poor in this world?
    1. What does that mean?
    2. This means that Christianity is usually an underdog religion. Usually, not always. 1 Cor 1:26ff shows that Christianity is foolishness to the world. No worldly philosopher would believe that God died for His people on a cross.
    3. It was humiliating to be crucified.
    4. Jesus said, blessed are the poor in spirit.
    5. Yes, the rich were exploiting them.
    6. Yes, the rich were dragging them into court.
    7. Yes, the rich are slandering the name of Jesus.
      1. James even says by the way they favor the rich they are insulting the poor.
      2. Now a few more thoughts before we move on. It is common, too common and too natural, to view the rich better than the poor.
      3. Okay, point taken. God has equipped us to work and we all have different jobs and different jobs pay differently and are expressed differently. Don’t treat people differently based off of their occupation or financial status.
      4. Now, you may say: “this passage is talking about rich and poor relations.” You’re right it is. But that is just the example. The application is verse 1: don’t show favoritism, all types.
  • The next few verses deal with the consequence of showing partiality (James 2:8-13). Let’s re-read those verses.

If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. 11 For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not commit murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.

  1. The royal law. This just means it is the most important law. Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was and He said love the Lord Your God with all your heart, mind and soul and love your neighbor as yourself (Matt 22:37ff). All of the other commandments are summarized in this law.
  2. So, James is saying if you are truly loving your neighbor you are doing good. But if you show favoritism you are breaking another law.
    1. So, James is saying: if you break one law, you have broken them all.
      1. I haven’t committed idolatry
      2. I haven’t taken the name of the Lord in vain
      3. I haven’t broken the Sabbath
      4. I am honoring my father and my mother
      5. I haven’t murdered
      6. I haven’t stolen
      7. Oh, no I have told a lie.
        1. Just as a piece of glass is broken so is the law. You break one law you have broken them all. Just as a baseball that goes through a second floor window ruins the whole window, when you break the seventh commandment, you have broken the whole law. You cannot just fix the part of the window where the baseball went through.
        2. This is why we need Jesus. Jesus covers all of our sins.
      8. So, James says act as though you are judged by the law that gives freedom. Christianity brings freedom. Jesus has saved us from having to scruple about which laws we have or haven’t broken; however, Jesus allows us to press forward. True freedom is freedom to obey God and do what pleases him. The law of Christ provides freedom from sin through the gospel. In the context of James’s discussion of rich and poor ( 1–7), he may also be suggesting that God’s law will set the poor free from prejudice, oppression, and exploitation.
      9. Lastly, when we give mercy we prove we are Christians which means that God’s mercy triumphs over judgment.

Closing:

So, Handel wrote the Messiah and regardless of race, regardless of wealth, he took his performance specifically to the people in need. Handel’s Messiah full of Scripture was life to the people who are marginalized by society. Handel did something that was countercultural. Praise God for that. Handel lived out one of my favorite verses, Phil 2:3-4: consider others more important than yourselves and look out for the needs of others before your own. And when we intentionally do that, we live out the Scripture and we eliminate favoritism from our churches.

Prayer

Practice What is Taught (James 1:19-27)

Practice What is Taught (James 1:19-27)

Prepared and Preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH

What do we think of someone who teaches one thing but then does something entirely different? We might call them a hypocrite, wouldn’t we? We may lose respect for them. What does the world think of people who claim to be Christians, yet their lives are filthy? What would you think? Imagine with me for a moment that you are a non-Christian. You have gone to church a few times in your whole entire life, yet you have Christian friends, or alleged Christian friends. You observe these friends: they don’t seem to care about the orphan. They don’t care about the homeless. They don’t care about the poor. They talk pretty poorly about all your coworkers, at least when their backs are turned. They talk badly about their spouse. These Christian friends get angered pretty easily and when they get angry watch out.

What would you think?

Would you want to be a Christian?

Would you want anything to do with Christianity?

My theme:

Over the next few minutes, we are going to look at James 1:19-27 and I intend to show that James challenges his listeners that true Christianity means letting Scripture soak deep within you and a Christ like lifestyle flow out of you. True Christianity is two-fold: inward and outward—listen to the Scriptures and let it take root and then live the Scriptures.

Let’s read James 1:19-27:

This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. 22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.

26 If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. 27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

In this passage I see the main point a few verses into the passage. The main point is in verses 21-25:

Main point:

21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

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

The main point concerns the Scriptures, the Bible. So, take a note of that and we will come back to it. But first let’s talk about verses 19-20.

  1. Verses 19-20 are a specific way to live out the Bible’s instructions. This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. 
    1. Be quick to listen
    2. I know you have heard as I have. God gave us two ears and one mouth. Needless to say, “listening is very important.”
    3. How many times would arguments be simmered if people could listen to one another? Not just listen but take each other seriously. How many marriages have I seen that could be helped by honest, humble communication? We must be listening and slow to anger.
      1. I have talked with many people who have had marriage issues that go back to communication, and I am not perfect at this either.
      2. I think that listening equals humility. I am not saying everyone who listens is humble. I am talking about really listening. Not listening because you just don’t like to talk. But listening because you care about the person talking and you are interested in what they are saying.
    4. The text also says to be slow to anger. When we are not listening carefully it is easy to jump to conclusions and become angry.
    5. My grandmother used to tell me, “Steve I don’t get mad, dogs get mad. People get angry.” Anger puts you in a position to more easily sin and I believe that is why James says we need to be slow to anger.
    6. See verse 20: when we are angry, we are not becoming righteous as God desires.
      1. God desires righteous living. Do you? Do you? What does it mean to be righteous? Righteous means right-living. Right-living could be called “set apart” living, even holy living.
      2. God wants us to live holy lives. God wants us to be Godly. So, start praying for it and start trying. We don’t preach about holiness nearly enough. Well, we need to.
    7. Verse 21 starts to move into the center of this passage. The center is what I would consider the main point and the main point concerns Scripture. 21 Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. 
      1. In the NIV verse 21 starts with a “therefore.” When you see a “therefore” you must always find out what it’s therefore. It is an inference, an application. James had just written about the righteous life that God desires and now he will take it a step further.
        1. Basically, James says to get rid of stuff that is not right. Get rid of moral filth and evil. Now James could have made a nice list of all the things that we’re to get rid of, but he would probably miss one, so James just uses a couple nice summary words.
          1. Every one of us needs to get rid of a few things in our lives, including myself. What do you need to get rid of?
            1. What is the moral filth in your life?
            2. Is it your thought life? Is it your lust, pride, language, things that you look at on the internet?
          2. What is the evil in your life?
          3. Evilness doesn’t necessarily mean that you are using Ouija boards and chasing witchcraft.
          4. It just means excess badness.
            1. Let’s pray: Lord, I think right now is a great time for us to pause and confess where we fail and ask for your help. [I am going to give you several seconds to confess and to ask God to help you]
            2. When we pray God forgives. 1 John 1:9: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. But we must try to move forward. How? That is in the rest of the verse and the next few verses.
          5. Accept the Word. How do you accept the Word? We accept it humbly. There is no other way to accept the Scriptures than in humility. Why? The Scriptures convict us, but we can’t be convicted when we have pride. That pride stands in the way.
            1. Now am I sure that James is talking about the Bible? Yes, later on James will talk about the law and just by the context I am sure that he is talking about writings that are considered Scripture. For them it was the Old Testament and probably some early church writings which would develop into our New Testament.
            2. James also says to accept the Word implanted in you. The Word must get rooted. You see, we can read the Scriptures but that is not enough. They must sink down and take root in us. Again, this happens through humility.
          6. Last in this verse James says the Word can save you. Salvation is in God’s Word.
          7. In verse 22 James goes into the analogy. Don’t only listen to the Word, do what it says. Don’t be hypocrite.
          8. But do you know the Word? How important are the Scriptures to you?

I read a true story in a book by Ravi Zacharias. Zacharias is a Christian writer and speaker who writes about defenses for Christianity. He writes: 

During my ministry in Vietnam in 1971, one of my interpreters who traveled with me was Hien Pham, an energetic, devoted young Christian who had worked very closely as a translator with the American military forces, purely as a civilian, with no official or military responsibilities. He just knew English so well that he was able to be of immense help to them in their linguistic struggles.

         By virtue of that same strength he also worked with the missionaries. He and I traveled the length of the country and became very close friends before I bade him good-bye when I left Vietnam to return home. We were both very young, and neither of us knew if our paths would cross again. Within four years Vietnam fell, and Hien’s fate was unknown.

         Seventeen years later, in 1988, I received a surprise telephone call that began with, “Brother Ravi?” Immediately I recognized Hien’s voice. We got caught up with our pleasantries, then I asked him how he managed to get out of Vietnam and come to the United States. I was not prepared for the story I was about to hear.

         Shortly after Vietnam fell to the Communists, Hien was arrested. Accused of aiding and abetting the Americans he was in and out of prison for several years. During one long jail term, the sole purpose of his jailer was to indoctrinate him against the West— and especially against democratic ideals and the Christian faith. He was cut off from reading anything in English and restricted to communist propaganda in French or Vietnamese. This daily overdose of the writings of Marx and Engels began to take its toll on him. One of the books he was given to read pictured the Communist man as a bird in the ironclad cage of capitalism, throwing itself against the bars of “capitalist oppression” and bloodying itself in the process. Yet still it continued to struggle in its quest for freedom.

         Hien began to buckle under the onslaught. Maybe, he thought, I Have been lied to. Maybe God does not exist. Maybe my whole life has been governed by lies. Maybe the West has deceived me. The more he thought, the more he moved toward a decision. Finally, he made up his mind. He determined that when he awakened the next day, he would not pray anymore or ever think of his Christian faith again.

         The next morning, he was assigned to clean the latrines of the prison. It was the most dreaded chore, shunned by everyone, and so with much distress he began the awful task. As he cleaned out a tin can overflowing with toilet paper, his eye caught what he thought was English printed on one piece of paper. He hurriedly washed it off and slipped it into his hip pocket, planning to read it at night. Not having seen anything in English for such a long time, he anxiously waited for a free moment. Under his mosquito net that night after his roommates had fallen asleep, he pulled out a small flashlight and shining it on the damp piece of paper he read at the top corner, “Romans, Chapter 8.” Literally trembling with shock, he began to read:

          And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?…

… Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,  neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:28, 31, 32, 35, 37-39)

         Hien wept. He knew his Bible, and he had not seen one for so long. Not only that, he knew there was not a more relevant passage of conviction and strength for one on the verge of surrendering to the threat of evil. He cried out to God, asking for forgiveness, for this was to have been the first day in years that he had determined not to pray. Evidently the Lord had other plans.

         The next day, Hien asked the camp commander if he could clean the latrine again. He continued with this chore on a regular basis, because he had discovered that some official in the camp was using a Bible as toilet paper. Each day Hien picked up a portion of the Scripture, cleaned it off, and added it to his nightly devotional reading. In this way he retrieved a significant portion of the Bible.

  1. The Scriptures are so important. Learn them and then obey them.
  2. Look at the example of someone who doesn’t follow the Scriptures teaching. This person is like one who looks in a mirror and forgets what he looks like. Has that ever happened to you? I doubt it.
  3. The Scriptures reveal your spiritual state. A mirror tells you to comb your hair and the Scriptures tell you to comb your relationships. Do what It says.
  • Verses 26-27 are a conclusion to this passage about following the Scriptures and in following the Scriptures you can live as pure and holy.
    1. Keep a reign on your tongue. Our words matter. Words can be very hurtful. Ask a teenager. It’s true. How many of you have been hurt by words? How many of you have hurt others by words?
    2. Then verse 27: look after the needy, the lowly. These are people who are helpless. The orphan is a child who can’t take care of himself or herself. The widow likely can’t work because of the children and lack of education.
    3. Lastly, don’t be polluted from the world. This goes along with verse 21. When we become Christians, we confess and God saves us from this moral filth and evil. Don’t let it keep polluting you.

So, how are you doing? Are you studying the Scriptures? More than studying, are you letting them soak in? Then is your life an outflow of the Scriptures? The Christian life gives liberty because we are set free from our bondage to sin. We no longer owe our debt to sin, yes; but more than that we are not slaves to sin for life.

But some of you are still in bondage to sin. You never have given them over to Jesus. I invite you to this right now.

Please everyone close your eyes and bow your heads. With no one looking I ask you to consider where you stand with God. If you were to die today are you sure you would meet God in Heaven?

You know that Jesus died to set you free from sin. He died so that you can be sure. For those of you who are not sure please raise your hands:

Now say this prayer with me:

Dear Jesus, I recognize that I have sinned. I have done wrong. I recognize that you came and lived a sinless life and died on the cross to pay for my sins. I recognize that You rose again. Please come into my life and forgive me. Please help me not to give in to sin. In Christ name Amen.

If you said that prayer please tell someone and please tell me.

Let’s pray again

Closing song.

 

[1] The Holy Bible : New International Version. electronic ed. Grand Rapids : Zondervan, 1996, c1984, S. Jas 1:21-25

The Resurrection Gives US Hope and Joy (Mark 16)

Easter Sunday, 2020
Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Sunday, April 12, 2020

Happy Resurrection Sunday! It is odd saying that while speaking into a camera. However, I submit to you that now more than ever we are reminded how the resurrection gives us hope. Recently, we have been reminded of more than a few things:
• Now more than ever we have been reminded of the brevity of life (James 4:14).
• We have been reminded that the future is unpredictable (James 4:14, see also Rev. 1:8 and 22:13).
• We have been reminded that what matters is not really what we think matters. Most of our way of life has changed.
• Everything has changed. Did you ever think we would be hoarding toilet paper?
• Have you ever heard social distancing?
• Do we ever think that a microscopic virus could change the world?
• Our way of life has changed, but our hope is the same.
• The resurrection is our hope.

Think with me about things right now. For the Christian, the resurrection is our hope. We truly do have a home in Heaven. The Christian life is about a fuller life now and life eternal. The Christian life is about living life with Jesus now and life eternal in resurrected bodies. We live life with Jesus because He lives (John 15). In John 14:1-6 Jesus says that He goes to prepare a place for us. In Revelation 21 we see the New Heaven and New Earth. In 2 Cor. 5:8 the Apostle Paul says if absent from the body we are to be present with the Lord. This is all the more important because the Apostle Paul had seen Heaven and he knew it was awesome (see 2 Cor. 12). In Christ we win no matter what!

In a Wall Street Journal article, George Weigel gives a combination history lesson and apologetic for the Resurrection:
There is no accounting for the rise of Christianity without weighing the revolutionary effect on those nobodies of what they called “the Resurrection.” They encountered one whom they embraced as the Risen Lord, whom they first knew as the itinerant Jewish rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth, and who died an agonizing and shameful death on a Roman cross outside Jerusalem.
As N.T. Wright … makes clear, that first generation answered the question of why they were Christians with a straightforward answer: because Jesus was raised from the dead …. As they worked that out, their thinking about a lot of things changed profoundly.
The article mentions some of the positive secular outcomes brought to the ancient world through Christianity:
• A new dignity given to woman in contrast to the classical culture.
• A self-denying healthcare provided to plague sufferers.
• A focus on family health and growth.
• A remarkable change in worship from the Sabbath to Sunday
• A willingness to embrace death as martyrs—because they knew that death did not have the final word in the human story.
• Living as if they knew the outcome of history itself.
Weigel suggests that it’s only through, what he calls the Easter Effect, that these changes make sense. The social changes that followed Good Friday occur only if they actually believed in the resurrection of Jesus.
The resurrection changed the world.
So, do you have joy? Don’t let what is going on right now, steal your joy.
The definition of “joy.”
1. a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.
synonyms: delight, great pleasure, joyfulness,

verb
literary
rejoice.

Do we have joy about our salvation? (Psalm 51:12)

Theme:

Today, my focus is that I believe the resurrection gave the disciples joy and we need to have joy as well. We are winners!

Let’s read Mark 16:1-8:

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”
Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

I. Rejoice! Have great joy, Jesus lives!
a. So, the disciples go from huddling in a room to I think rejoicing.
b. One moment they are huddled the next moment they see Jesus.
c. Consider that the rest of the New Testament is about them spreading this amazing message, so they must have had some excitement.
d. Verse 8 has the women leaving the tomb with trembling and astonishment. I think they had a type of holy fear. They were amazed. They did not know what to think of this.
e. Notice that the women go to the tomb first.
f. In John’s Gospel chapter 20 and verse 2 the women run and tell Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved (Probably John) about this. They ran, probably in excitement, in joy.
g. Then in verses 3-4 the two disciples run to the tomb. Their lives are being turned upside down.
h. Thomas responds when he sees Jesus by stating, “My Lord and My God.” He worshipped (John 20:28).
i. Now, think about the disciples, many of them were fishermen before Jesus called them and then they traveled with Jesus for some three years. Now, they thought that they were going to reign with Jesus, but now He is crucified. I bet this was a real downer. I wonder if they were a bit depressed. I wonder if they were wondering what they were going to do.
j. Do you think they were thinking about fishing again? They were not that good at it. Every time they are fishing they did not catch anything until Jesus would come along. Jesus would come along and they would think, “What do you know about fishing?” Yet, they followed His advice and caught fish (Luke 5; John 21).
k. They were at a loss for their life had revolved around Jesus and then He was gone. But He really was not gone.
Think of the hymn: Up from the Grave He Arose:
Low in the grave he lay, Jesus my Savior,
waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord!
Refrain:
Up from the grave he arose;
with a mighty triumph o’er his foes;
he arose a victor from the dark domain,
and he lives forever, with his saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

Vainly they watch his bed, Jesus my Savior,
vainly they seal the dead, Jesus my Lord!
(Refrain)

Death cannot keep its prey, Jesus my Savior;
he tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord!

l. So jump, up and down, put your hands in the air, rejoice!
m. Have we lost our joy?
n. In John 15:11 Jesus talks about joy while talking about being connected to Him.
o. Joy can be spontaneous and immediate. Think of the joy of seeing gifts under a tree. A few years ago Mercedes came out and screamed “Presents!” We as believers can have joy that is lasting. We have long term joy that sustains us.
p. Many times, I arrive home and I hear Mercedes say: “Daddy’s home!” as she runs to the door. Jesus is alive, He has risen! Are we rejoicing? Are we excited? Do we have the joy of a child when their parent arrives? How do we look when we arrive at worship to meet with Jesus? I am applying this to myself as well.
q. You say, “I want the joy, I want to rejoice, but I have lost the joy.” Let me answer that as best as I can.
i. Everyone goes through dry spells spiritually. That does not mean that God is further away. Nor does it mean that the individual has a sin issue.
ii. Make sure you are active in the Bible. No Bible means no breakfast or no Bible means no television at night. Make sure you are spending time in the Bible.
iii. We need to be in the Spiritual disciplines:
1. Prayer
2. Bible reading
3. Bible memorization
4. Meditating/ruminating on the Scriptures
5. Deeper Bible study
6. Extended prayer
7. fasting
iv. I encourage you to spend extra time in prayer and extra time in the Scriptures. If you are not connected to God through prayer and the Scriptures you will eventually lose joy.
v. I encourage you to spend time with the church. If you are not connected to the church you will eventually lose joy. This time of social distancing will end soon and make sure you are connected to the church.
vi. I encourage you to further your church involvement. If you think Sunday is your duty and then you’re done, you will eventually lose joy or not gain joy.
vii. I encourage you to listen to Hymns and songs, read Hymns and songs. (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).
viii. I encourage Christian radio and/or podcast.
ix. Ask Jesus to restore the joy of your salvation (Psalm 51:12).
x. Pray Psalm 42: “As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs for You.”
xi. Pray the Psalms.
xii. Just some initial suggestions.
xiii. Share your joy
II. Rejoicing has applications:
a. We no longer have to fear death because Jesus rose from the grave. 1 Cor. 15:55 says there is no longer a sting in death.
i. In 1 Cor 15:3-8 the Scriptures write about Jesus appearing to the disciples and later over 500 people all at the same time. Again, Jesus showed many that He had been resurrected.
ii. Later on, in 1 Cor. 15:13-15 the Scriptures tell us that if Christ was not raised from the dead our faith is in vain! This means that our faith is useless. Later on, in that same chapter the Scriptures write about our hope in the resurrection. You see, because Christ rose from the dead, we have hope. We have hope that when we die it is not the end. We have hope that when our family members and friends who are Christians die they are not gone, but with Christ in eternal paradise. We can see them again because they will have resurrected bodies as Jesus did. Paul wrote, “Where O death is your sting” (1 Cor. 15:55). There is no sting because we have eternal life in perfect bodies.
b. The resurrection separates Christianity from other religions. We must take confidence in that. Our Savior lives!
c. We must rejoice that our savior lives.
d. Rejoicing must cause us to commit: Luke 9:23; Romans 12:1-2; Galatians 2:20.
e. Rejoicing must cause us to share the Gospel (Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 16:15).

Close:
Tim Keller writes the following:
[On Easter] I always say to my skeptical, secular friends that, even if they can’t believe in the resurrection, they should want it to be true. Most of them care deeply about justice for the poor, alleviating hunger and disease, and caring for the environment. Yet many of them believe that the material world was caused by accident and that the world and everything in it will eventually simply burn up in the death of the sun. They find it discouraging that so few people care about justice without realizing that their own worldview undermines any motivation to make the world a better place. Why sacrifice for the needs of others if in the end nothing we do will make any difference? If the resurrection of Jesus happened, however, that means there’s infinite hope and reason to pour ourselves out for the needs of the world.
N.T. Wright has written:
The message of the resurrection is that this world matters! That the injustices and pains of this present world must now be addressed with the news that healing, justice, and love have won. If Easter means Jesus Christ is only raised in a spiritual sense—[then] it is only about me, and finding a new dimension in my personal spiritual life. But if Jesus Christ is truly risen from the dead, Christianity becomes good news for the whole world—news which warms our hearts precisely because it isn’t just about warming hearts. Easter means that in a world where injustice, violence and degradation are endemic, God is not prepared to tolerate such things—and that we will work and plan, with all the energy of God, to implement victory of Jesus over them all.

When we have joy we share it. Joy is the gift that keeps on giving if we allow it to.
Share Jesus He has risen!

Do you believe that Jesus died on the cross paying the price for your sins? Sins are the wrong things we do.

The Bible says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The Bible says that the penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23). The Bible says that Jesus is the way the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except by Him. (John 14:6). The Bible teaches that sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2). The Bible says that God will not let the guilty go unpunished (2 Thess 1:8-9). Yet, the Bible teaches that God loves the people of the world (John 3:16). That is a dilemma. God can’t tell a lie or He wouldn’t be God (Numbers 23:19). God doesn’t change His mind (1 Sam 15:29). That is why God sent Jesus. The guilty must go punished. Jesus took our punishment on the cross. The penalty of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus, who is the way, the truth and the life.

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)

Confess, Believe, trust, commit: Firmly make the decision to be with Him in order to become like Him and to learn and do all that He says and then arrange your affairs around Him.

Prayer

Palm Sunday, Surrender to Jesus

Palm Sunday video

Today, we are going to look at a passage in which it is prophesied that Jesus will enter Jerusalem humbly, riding on a donkey. But do not forget the second part of the passage. There is a double prophesy in this passage. Jesus is coming again.

I want us to look at Zechariah 9:9-10 where it is prophesied that Jesus will humbly enter Jerusalem. I want to look at Matthew 21:1-11 where this passage is fulfilled.

The Application:

Surrender and share.

Read with me Matthew 21:1-11:

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

“Say to Daughter Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

  • This procession of Jesus into Jerusalem was a fulfillment of an Old Testament prophesy.
    • Many years we talk about Jesus’ procession, but let’s go back in time and talk about the passage prophesying Jesus’ procession.
    • Now, let’s read Zechariah 9:9-10: Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
      Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
      See, your king comes to you,
      righteous and victorious,
      lowly and riding on a donkey,
      on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
      10 I will take away the chariots from Ephraim
      and the warhorses from Jerusalem,
      and the battle bow will be broken.
      He will proclaim peace to the nations.
      His rule will extend from sea to sea
      and from the River to the ends of the earth.
    • First, notice this passage prophesies that the King will come and the King has come. We see this in verse 9 and we see it’s fulfillment in Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-10; John 21:4-9; Luke 19:29-38
    • Let me summarize the first eight verses of this passage. It is important that we do not divorce the passage from the context.
    • In the beginning of this chapter there are prophesies against the nations surrounding Jerusalem. Notice verse 8 says that God will protect His house. That is my summary, but the point is that God will protect Jerusalem. Zechariah was likely written around 520 B.C. to Israel, post exilic Israel. This was after they had come back from being exiled to Babylon. But they still were under Persian rule.
    • You ask, what happened with these prophesies of judgment on the surrounding nations? I am glad you asked. Alexander the Great carried out the fulfillment of these prophesies. God used Alexander the Great to carry out the judgment. This was after the battle of Isus in 333 B.C.“He went into Syria and knocked off Syria, came over to the coastline and took Phoenicia which amounted to Tyre and Sidon…moved south and took care of Philistia, all of the cities of Philistia that are named in verse 5, Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron. But amazingly enough, after destroying the nations, he saved…whom? Israel. And he spared them. And he absolutely to the tee, fulfilled the prophecy penned hundreds of years before the man was ever born, a prophecy written in a book he never saw. It was God’s way of saying, “When you see Alexander do this, know that just as that part came to pass, so will part two. And if I can use a pagan human being to judge nations and to save My people, wait and see what I’ll do with the God-Man, Jesus Christ in the end of the age.”[1]
    • That is what is going in the first few verses in this passage. We then come to verse 9, which is the verse concerning Jesus.
    • The passage says, “Rejoice.” The passage says to “rejoice, greatly.”
    • Why? Your King is coming to you.
    • Now that is something to be excited about, right?
    • But the next verse might be a downer. Imagine, we are in a war situation and the King is coming in to save us. How do you want the King to arrive? Do you want the King to come in a tank, or a Volkswagen? I would choose the tank any day and twice on Sunday.
    • But the passage says that the King will come humble and riding on a donkey, really?
    • Now, that is something to motivate the troops.
    • Now early in Israel’s history, very early, it was respectable to ride around on a donkey. But by Solomon’s time, it wasn’t. See, Solomon brought into Israel horses. He had literally…some say 30,000 horses in his private group of horses. He introduced the horse. And from that time on, nobles and soldiers and important people rode horses and the donkey lost its dignity. You were really admitting your poverty by putting around on a donkey.
    • But the passage acknowledges Jesus humility.
    • Could we miss King Jesus because He came in humility?
    • I think we certainly could.
    • Second, in verse 10, this passage prophesies judgment, this is still to come.
    • Jesus is coming as the judge. Verse 10: I will take away the chariots from Ephraim
      and the warhorses from Jerusalem,
      and the battle bow will be broken.
      He will proclaim peace to the nations.
      His rule will extend from sea to sea
      and from the River to the ends of the earth.
    • If you turn to Revelation 14:14, it says: I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one like a son of man with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand.
    • This is about Jesus coming as judge. We see this also in: Luke 21:27; Phil. 2:9-11
    • See also 2 Peter 3:9-10: The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.
    • You see verses 9-10 of Zechariah are a double prophesy. They were fulfilled in Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey, but they will be fulfilled when Jesus comes again as judge and literal King.
    • We could even look at Zechariah 9:1-10 as a triple prophesy since Alexander the Great fulfilled part of the passage.

Close:

Do you ever get discouraged when you turn on the news, or read the paper? It makes sense if you do. Be encouraged today that Jesus will come and make things right. Judgment will come. Justice will come. Why is Jesus waiting? He is waiting so that more people can choose to follow Him. Truth is, some of us want justice and that makes sense, but true justice would send us all to hell. Instead, Jesus came humbly on a donkey and surrendered to the cross so that we can be saved.

The application is to “surrender and share.”

So, today, surrender to Jesus. He is our rightful King. He is the only King.

Share Jesus. Judgment is coming and we need to be covered with the blood of the Lamb. Our friends, family and co-workers need to know Jesus.

 

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] http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/2165/the-saga-of-two-conquerers-part-2

James gives us the process of temptation while teaching us that God does not tempt us to evil (James 1:13-18).

In his book Hope Is Contagious, Ken Hutcherson shares a moment from his personal life that illustrates well the ability to foster joy in the midst of trying circumstances, even as he was battling cancer:

You can face anything in life—anything—and have that same inner peace and joy. And when you do, it’s contagious. It lifts up everyone else around you. Isn’t that the type of person you want to be? Instead of joining over and over again in the whining about how bad things are, just your presence shows others that, hey, life is still a wonderful gift we should all be enjoying.

[One day] I was relaxing in my recliner after having spent five hours in the emergency room the night before. I’ll admit I was exhausted, and the pain medication wasn’t working as well as I would have liked. I looked around and saw my family going about their lives as usual. Video games. Chores. Music. Laughter. My wife, Pat, was fixing breakfast. Even our new little puppy was settling into a comfortable routine and enjoying everyone’s efforts to spoil him. A visitor stopped by to chat. Some friends from church surprised me with a birthday cake—I had almost forgotten it was my birthday. So there I sat, surrounded by so much goodness even as I’m feeling lousy. My favorite cake is staring at me, but I have no appetite. My eleven-year-old runs past me, and I don’t have enough energy to grab him and wrestle him to the ground like I used to. I’m trying to have a conversation with my guests, but between the short night and the powerful pain pills, I can barely stay alert. And you know what I’m thinking? Can you imagine how close I am to being overwhelmed with what is happening to me?

The words practically shouted from inside of me: “Isn’t God great? What a privilege to be his child!”[1]

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32)

John Piper writes:

God strips every pain of its destructive power. You must believe this or you will not thrive, or perhaps even survive, as a Christian, in the pressures and temptations of modern life.

There is so much pain, so many setbacks and discouragements, so many controversies and pressures. I do not know where I would turn, if I did not believe that almighty God is taking every setback and every discouragement and every controversy and every pressure and every pain, and stripping it of its destructive power, and making it work for the enlargement of my joy in God.

Listen to Paul’s astonishing words in 1 Corinthians 3:21–23, “All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future — all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” The world is ours. Life is ours. Death is ours. Which I take to mean: God reigns so supremely on behalf of his elect that everything which faces us in a lifetime of obedience and ministry will be subdued by the mighty hand of God and made the servant of our holiness and our everlasting joy in God.

If God is for us, and if God is God, then it is true that nothing can succeed against us. He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all will infallibly and freely with him give us all things — all things — the world, life, death, and God himself.

Romans 8:32 is a precious friend. The promise of God’s future grace is simply overwhelming. But all-important is the foundation: I have called it the logic of heaven. Here is a place to stand against all obstacles. God did not spare his own Son! Therefore! Therefore! The logic of heaven! Therefore, how much more will he not spare any effort to give us all that Christ died to purchase — all things, all good, and all bad working for our good!

It is as sure as the certainty that he loved his Son!

Devotional excerpted from Future Grace, page 114[1]

We are all going through trials and tribulations right now.

We are all going through trials and tribulations right now.

A few years ago I was running and it was a very windy day. We were running in the country, as we would climb hills the wind got worse. I found myself being angry at the wind. I actually even wanted to yell at the wind, “stop it!” But in the end, you just got to keep running, you got to keep moving. I think that is the case in the Christian life. The devil attacks (Eph. 6:10-12), temptation comes. Those attacks provide resistance and try to make us give up or knock us down but we have to keep going we can’t give up. Press on. See 2 Tim. 2:1-7 and 1 Cor. 9

1 Cor. 9:24-27

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

[1] https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/as-sure-as-gods-love-for-his-son

As we look at the Bible we see that God does not tempt us but God will allow us to be tested in order to bring about His greater purposes.

We began a series on James last week, let’s continue this series. In today’s passage we see the process of temptation. But we also see important Theological truths:

God does not tempt us to evil and God cannot be tempted to evil. God does not change. God is good and gifts us with salvation.

Theme:

James gives us the process of temptation while teaching us that God does not tempt us to evil.

Let’s read James 1:13-18:

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. 18 In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.

  1. In verses 13-15 we see the process of temptation. James gives the process from test through enticement to sin to death.
    1. In context, James was writing about persevering under trial.
    2. In verse 13 James begins to write about temptation.
    3. John Piper shares that “tempt” is the same word for test at least in many cases. John 6:5-6; Heb 11:17; 1 Peter 4:12-17: God does test.
    4. In a sense all trials are temptations.
    5. Verse 13 gives two important theological truths. God does not tempt and God cannot be tempted.
    6. Notice that verse 13 specifies evil. God cannot be tempted by evil and God cannot tempt anyone, this means to evil.
    7. God can test us, but not to the point of temptation to do evil.
    8. A lot of times we are tempted to evil with things that are not bad in themselves.
    9. Hunger, sex, money and things like that are not sins by themselves. They become sinful as we see in verses 14-15.
    10. As stated, we do know that God tests. We see that in Genesis 22:1 with God testing Abraham. See also Heb 11:17 and John 6:5-6 with Jesus testing the disciples. What is the difference? We see the difference in verses 14-15.
    11. James breaks it down.
    12. In verse 14 he explains the process. When we are carried away and enticed by our own lust. We have desires and these lure us away. Some translations actually say that they drag us away. That is the beginning.
    13. Think of this like fishing. I used to do some fishing, though I did not do a lot of catching. In fishing I get my hook in the water. I have some bait on that hook. My bait lures the fish and then that entices the fish. The fish is going for a good thing, food, but that becomes a bad thing, the hook. All analogies fail and this one does too because it would not be sinful for the fish. However, these lusts, these desires become sinful for us.
    14. In verse 15 he continues to show us the rest.
    15. Lust, or desire in some translations, is conceived, then that gives birth to sin. Sin is accomplished and that brings forth death.
    16. Desire can lead to the duration of sin without repentance leading to death.
    17. God cannot be tempted and yet Christ was tempted but this was a different use of the Greek Word. Christ had allurements of ordinary hunger which we can use to sin and He did not.
    18. God tempts no one and tries everyone. In the trial, His purpose and goal is completeness and steadfastness. God does not make that trial a temptation.
    19. One person shares a good example:
    20. When my son Scott was just learning to walk, he fell on a cement driveway and split the area below his chin so deeply that the floor of his mouth was exposed. Hospitals and doctors were 250 kilometers away over tortuous mountain roads. I had no surgical instruments with me. A quick catalog of our resources turned up a less-than-impressive array of one darning needle, coarse thread, one pair of rather blunt scissors, and a pair of eyebrow tweezers. Infection in children develops rapidly and infection in the floor of the mouth can have fatal complications. We also had a little sulfonamide powder. There was no local anesthetic. Rightly or wrongly, I decided to trim and stitch the wound with what we had. We sterilized “the instruments.” I could not help but look at the affair from Scott’s point of view. I did my best to explain, but what can a one-year-old understand? Then he was placed on the dining room table and judgment descended on him. Cruel adults seized his limbs and his head so that movement was impossible. Then the father he had trusted became a fearful monster inflicting unbelievable pain on him. How I wished that he could understand that I feared for his life.Mercifully, he still seemed to trust me when it was over. As for me, I caught a glimpse of judgment from God’s angle.[2]
    21. The little boy was going through a trial, but he had to go through it in order to get better. We have to go through things because God wants to make us better.
    22. Verse 15 shows the process. I like how John Piper says that Jesus was tested, but it never got crossed into temptation. Remember it is the same Greek word. Jesus was taken to the wilderness and He faced testing, but it was not conceived to sin and was not accomplished to death.
    23. I like how Peterson renders this in the Message: The temptation to give in to evil comes from us and only us. We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lust. Lust gets pregnant, and has a baby: sin! Sin grows up to adulthood, and becomes a real killer.
    24. Desire can lead to the duration of sin without repentance leading to death, separation from God.
  2. In verses 16-17 James shows that every good gift is from God.
    1. Verse 18 is an example of that.
    2. James says not to be deceived. How would they be deceived? They could be deceived to think that God tempts to sin or that God brings bad gifts or something like that. They may be deceived thinking wrongly about God’s character. God does not tempt to sin.
    3. God will send trials, but His goal is building us up.
    4. James says in verse 17 that every good and perfect gift is from above.
    5. In Today in the Word from Moody Bible Institute it reads:
    6. In 1885, a Russian czar commissioned Carl Fabergé and his family jewelry business to create a special Easter gift for his wife. They designed a beautiful white egg, inside of which was a gold “yolk.” Inside of that was a golden hen, and inside of that was a miniature diamond crown and a tiny ruby egg. Known as the “Hen Egg,” this was the first of 50 such jeweled eggs created over a span of 32 years as royal gifts.[3]
    7. That is a major material gift, right. Jesus gifts us something far better in our salvation.
    8. In verses 16-18 The gift is our salvation. The gift is the abundant life in God (John 10:10). The gift is living life with Jesus (John 15).
    9. The gift comes from God and He is comparing God as the Father of lights.
    10. We have another theological truth. God does not change. He does not vary. There is no varying shadow. The sunlight changes as the clouds move or the earth moves, but God’s light is strong and constant. 1 John 1:5 is about God as light.
    11. Verse 18 is an example of that.
    12. In exercising His will, he saved us, that is what James was talking about.
    13. They were the first fruits, in other words, this is the early church and they were the first believers.
  • Applications:
    1. God does not tempt us to evil. It is important to remember that God is good.
    2. The devil can tempt to evil, but so can sin around us.
    3. It is important to remember the process and put up safeguards to prevent sin and ongoing sin.
      1. Our desire can entice.
      2. That enticement can give birth to sin.
      3. Sin can go on and become death.
      4. We must remember to cut this off before the enticement leads to lust.
      5. We must repent before ongoing sin leads to death (Psalm 66:18).
    4. We must remember that God is good.
    5. We must worship God knowing that He brings good (verses 16-18).
    6. We must worship God knowing that He does not change like the shadow.

 

God does not tempt but He will let us be tested through difficult times.

In his spiritual memoir A Stranger in the House of God, author and Moody Bible Institute professor John Koessler tells the story of his younger brother George. Since childhood, George’s life consisted of heartache after heartache: because of a collapsed lung shortly after birth, he struggled with a learning disability that made him the butt of far too many jokes—even from his own family; his first wife cheated on him after being married for less than a year; he was permanently laid off from the only job he knew how to do well at the time. As the pain snowballed, George hit rock bottom. Because he hadn’t kept in touch with George, Koessler was unaware of what was going on in his brother’s life. A literal wake-up call concerning George’s condition came late one night. Koessler writes:

I awoke from a sound sleep with a sense of dread, compelled to pray for my brother. In particular, I felt impressed to ask God to spare his life. The longer I prayed, the more anxious I became, sensing George was in some kind of grave danger…

A week later I got a phone call from my father. My brother’s roommate contacted him saying George had tried to commit suicide. Despondent over his life, he slit his wrists with a kitchen knife. “He really meant business,” my father said. “If his roommate had come fifteen minutes later, it would have been too late”…

My brother’s roommate discovered him about the same time I was asking God to spare George’s life.

With the encouragement of family and friends, George partnered with God to put his life back together. He learned how to cope with his learning disability and overcame his depression with the help of medicine. He worked difficult, trying hours as an emergency medical technician in order to earn a college degree—which he earned with honors. All the while, he was taking the all-important steps toward a life of faith. After meeting his second wife, Jan, at a church function, George committed his life to Christ.

George’s transformation stirred in him a deep desire to serve others spiritually. This man, weighed down for so long by such profound pain, would eventually become the chaplain for the Detroit Fire Department. Koessler closes the chapter concerning his brother with these words about George: 

He doesn’t regret the difficulties he has faced. He doesn’t see them as unfortunate twists of fate or himself as a victim of circumstance. He sees them as tools wielded by the gracious hand of God. “Without them,” he says, “I wouldn’t be the person I am today.” 

George doesn’t consider any of his accomplishments remarkable. “I’m just a survivor,” he says. “I’m no hero.” Perhaps not to others. Certainly not to himself. But he is to me.[4]

Prayer

[1] Ken Hutcherson, Hope Is Contagious (Zondervan, 2010)

[2] John White, Eros Redeemed (InterVarsity Press, 1993) p. 49; submitted by Jay Caron

[3] https://www.todayintheword.org/issues/2019/february/devotions/05/

[4] John Koessler, A Stranger in the House of God (Zondervan, 2007), pp.188-189

Persevere when our Faith is Tested (James 1:2-12)

Persevere when our Faith is Tested (James 1:2-12)

Testing of our faith produces perseverance and holiness

I was listening to one of my favorite preachers. His name is David Jeremiah and he can be heard on the Moody Bible radio station which is 103.3 around here. David Jeremiah talked about a time when he was in China. In China he was speaking with some Chinese Christians. The Chinese Christians said “we pray for the American Church.” David Jeremiah asked, “how do you pray for us?” The Chinese Christians responded, “We pray for persecution.” Let me make sure you understand this, the Chinese Christians pray for the American Christians to face persecution. Why? Why do you think that is? We’ll come back to this in today’s sermon.

In a minute I want you to turn to James 1. We will talk today about James 1:2-12. These verses are written specifically about trials and persecutions. As we talk about this passage I want to show you that James challenges his audience that perseverance in trials will build them up in maturity and holiness and give them a reward in Heaven. Let me repeat this theme for emphasis: James challenges his audience that perseverance in trials will build them up in maturity and holiness and give them a reward in Heaven.

Now let’s read James 1:2-12

Read James 1:2-12

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; 10 and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.

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

  1. In verses 2-4 and then again in verses 9-11 James writes about trials and temptations, let’s look at those.
    1. James says that you should consider it pure joy when you encounter various trials and temptations. This doesn’t make sense.
    2. Have you ever considered it joy at the time when you were going through a trial or temptation? Really, have you?
    3. Okay, think of it another way: have you ever considered it a good thing after you have gone through a trial or temptation?
    4. I bet that we all have. I bet we have all been thankful for what we learned through a trial or temptation. I know I have.
    5. Chuck Swindoll says, “I am thankful for the mountaintops in my life as well as the valleys, for without the valleys I wouldn’t appreciate the mountaintops.
    6. Now, what type of joy is he writing about? This is not meaning mere worldly, temporal happiness, but rather spiritual, enduring, “complete joy” in the Lord who is sovereign over all things, including trials.
    7. Notice this says “pure joy.” This is not partial joy, this is complete joy.
    8. Now, what type of trials is he writing about?
    9. Well the text says trials of many kinds. One of my sources says that he is talking about the trials of the rich oppressing the poor. That is possibly quite likely as the rest of James has several passages dealing with the rich oppressing the poor.
    10. However, I don’t want to limit this passage to the trials of rich oppressing poor. The rich certainly did oppress the poor in this area. However, this area certainly did face persecution.
    11. It was around 33 AD that Paul the apostle stood as a witness to the stoning of Stephen. It was around this same time that Acts 9 records the Christians fled the Jerusalem area because of persecution. It was prior to this time period that Peter and James were persecuted in Jerusalem. James was written from Jerusalem.
    12. The text says “many kinds of trials.”
    13. So, we also must consider it joy when we face persecution.
      1. Why?
      2. Why would we consider physical persecution pure joy?
  • Why would we consider verbal persecution or other types of persecution as joy?
  1. Why would we consider the persecution of the rich oppressing the poor as joy?
  2. Why would we consider life’s struggles as joy?
  3. The next two verses clue us in.
  • When our faith is tested this develops perseverance. This perseverance carries the idea of patience, or steadfast hope expectantly waiting on Christ. But this is not all. The text continues.
  • Verse 4 says that this perseverance finishes its’ work by making you mature and complete.
  1. This completeness has the idea of holiness.
  2. Through our trials; whether verbal persecution or physical persecution, whether oppression, or other trials of health or finances; God is building us up in holiness.
  3. And that is why we rejoice. That is why we count it as pure joy.
  • Why would the Chinese Christians pray for persecution in the United States? This is because they are facing persecution and they know it builds them up as a church. listen to this:

The following prayer was prayed by an Ethiopian at Soddu, Walamo, Ethiopia: “Almighty God, from the depth of my heart I plead with thee to send us trouble. When our king was exiled we were in much trouble with the foreign [Italian] rulers. We had to meet in secret and were in constant danger of our lives. That was the time when we worked in harmony with our fellow Christians.

“Many a night after I had locked my door and gone to bed, tired from a day’s long journey of preaching and teaching, there came a persistent knocking. Lord, how I wanted to sleep, and surely but they wouldn’t want to be baptized at night and be hunted and chased and put in prison and beaten, but they said they had seen the Christian’s joy and they too wanted that religion. Every night there were more and more.

“We read Thy Word and talked about it and prayed through the nights. We shared our joy in the Lord. We worked side by side with only one desire, to preach and teach the Gospel. Then, Lord, our king came back. The foreign rulers were forced to leave our country …

“We have peace in our land. We baptize in the daytime. We are not beaten. We meet and pray, yes, but we are beginning to grow careless in our zeal for Thee. Jealousies creep in and spoil the harmony. Petty troubles take on in large meetings. We are selfish in our ambitions. Dear Lord, send us more trouble, I pray Thee, that we may forget ourselves and be so dependent on Thee that we have no time to become selfish and jealous of our fellow Christians. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.  

  1. Now skip to verses 9-11: In verses 9-11 the text will come back to the idea of trials, this time it is specific to the trials of the poor and the rich.
    1. Verse 9: the brother in humble circumstances…. This means they have a low social status and/or financial status. How can someone in that type of status have pride?
    2. They can have pride as they don’t have the temptation to depend upon wealth rather than God. Look at the next verse.
  • There is a contrast. The rich, low position—huh? What he means is that the rich are more likely to depend upon their wealth rather than God.
  1. Come back to my example about the Chinese Christians praying for persecution in America. In China many Christians are persecuted. In China many of the churches are underground. So, they know what it is like to depend upon God. Now, what about America we have many excuses not to depend upon God. We have financial help at our finger tips. We have medical help at our finger tips. We have…. We have… we have… But we are lacking in dependence upon God.
  2. Please don’t get me wrong. I love America and I am not attacking America. I also know that many of you have had times when you definitely depended upon God. I am not discounting that.
  3. I am merely saying that the blessings of America are exactly what hurt us spiritually; the blessings of America are exactly what hurt us spiritually.
  • I was reading a book called 1776 a few years ago and the historian David McCullough says that in 1776 America was already the richest country in the world.
  • So, many haven’t had to struggle for finances and I believe this is hurting us today. We aren’t compelled to depend upon God and move to spiritual maturity.
  1. In verses 10-11 James uses an analogy to say that our wealth passes away. At death we are all on the same playing field.
  2. It says that the sun rises and the heat withers a plant. In the NASB it says scorching wind. The “scorching wind” (NASB) might refer to the sirocco, an especially devastating hot wind blowing into Palestine from the southern desert. But the summer sun by itself was also quite effective in wilting Palestinian flowers, which were then useless except as fuel.

I read of a man in California who had two daughters in their early teens. One was more attractive; the other was rather plain.

One day as they were getting ready for school the better- looking girl looked into the mirror beside the face of her less attractive sister. The latter complained to her father that this was done as a reflection on her lack of looks. Instead of growing angry or taking sides, the father called both girls to himself and gave them this excellent advice: “I want both of you to look in the mirror every day. You who are more attractive that you may be reminded never to dishonor the beauty of your face by the ugliness of your actions, and you who lack beauty that you may hide your lack of it by the superior attractiveness of your virtue and beautiful conduct.”

  1. Now let’s go back and have a looksee at verses 5-8. In these passages wisdom in faith are contrasted with doubting.
    1. If you lack wisdom ask of God. Who gives out wisdom? God gives out wisdom. Where does wisdom come from? God is the provider of wisdom.
    2. There is an amazing passage in 1 Kings 3. Solomon is now the king of Israel and God comes to him in a dream asking him what he wants. Solomon doesn’t ask for riches but for wisdom. Wisdom comes from God.
    3. Verse 6 says when you ask believe, don’t doubt. Now, why does this matter? This is why: when we ask God for something but we really don’t believe He can fulfill it this dishonors God. This undermines God’s ability. The text goes on to say that this makes the man double minded. Why?
    4. This is because on one hand you call yourself a Christian. You are trusting in God for eternal life. But on the other hand you are not trusting God with other matters.
    5. I remember when I was a child; I thought my dad could fix anything. He really did fix most things. A toy would get broke and my dad could fix it. There was not a doubt in my mind that when my dad got home, he would be able to fix what was broke.
      1. But you know what else? My dad wanted to fix things for me. He cared about me.
      2. God can fix things for us, God cares about us.
  • But sometimes we must go through some trials in order for something to be better.
  1. Now, how does this wisdom and faith relate with trials and tribulations. This is how: We need wisdom to know what choices to make in our trials. Then we need faith to trust God to guide us.
  • The passage also is written about a reward. This is found in verse 12.
    1. When we persevere in our trials. God gives us the crown of life. I believe he is talking about eternal life. But the image in mind is the crown that people would receive when they won an Olympic contest.
    2. See 1 Cor 9: 24-27.

Conclusion:

Dr. Lambie, medical missionary, formerly of a place in Africa, has forded many swift and bridgeless streams in Africa. The danger in crossing such a stream lies in being swept off one’s feet and carried down the stream to greater depths or hurled to death against the hidden rocks. Dr. Lambie learned from the natives the best way to make such a hazardous crossing. The man about to cross finds a large stone, the heavier the better, lifts it to his shoulder, and carries it across the stream as something that weighs him down. The extra weight of the stone keeps his feet solid on the bed of the stream and he can cross safely without being swept away.

Dr. Lambie drew this application: While crossing the dangerous stream of life, enemies constantly seek to overthrow us and rush us down to ruin. We need the extra weight of a burden, a load of affliction, to keep us from being swept off our feet.

 

Look, we all will continue to face trials and troubles in life. Some have trials that relate to health. Some have trials that relate to finances. Some have trials that relate to children. Some have trials that relate to verbal, physical or other forms of persecution for their faith. God never promised that these will go away but that He will support and guide us and make us stronger for going through them. Someone once said: “Are you praying for lighter burdens or a stronger back?” When we persevere we gain an eternal reward and when we persevere God builds us up.

So, how are you doing? Are you being built up? Are you staying strong in your struggles? I pray that you will. Please pray that you will. Pray that you will stay strong in your faith no matter what the circumstances. Pray that you will stay strong when, not if, but when Christians are persecuted. Make this a matter of prayer.

We are all in process. God is crafting us.

pray

 

NASB New American Standard Bible