A&D Biker Ministries "Growing the Kingdom of God . . . one Biker at a time"
February 15, 2020
“WISDOM, WAR and Peace”
James 3:13 - 4:12
(Sermon series on the book of James)
We look today at James’ next themes . . .
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. 17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
“Knowledge” is exploding in 2020! Books are still coming off the printing press . . . but, we can travel farther and faster than ever, in pursuit of knowledge, via cyber space. The “computer age” advances at such a pace that current technology becomes outdated nearly every month!
However, in the midst of this explosion of knowledge, wisdom is practically non-existent. Many people’s lives are in shambles. Position, power, and prosperity have not brought us peace or purpose in life. In our modern world, where so many homes are disintegrating, so many hopes are smashed, and so many dreams are dashed . . . we need wisdom above all else!
I’m going to make a pretty strong statement here. But, hear me out and really think about it - before you tell me that I’m wrong. The world’s wisdom is based in the secular, the sensual, and the satanic. In the words of James 3:15, “Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.”
People need wisdom today more than ever, yet, so few of us know where to find it. In these verses of James’s epistle, he examines both kinds of wisdom - the wisdom of the world and the wisdom of the Word. And, he teaches us how to apply the wisdom of the Word to our daily lives!
The Wisdom of the World (James 3:13-16)
15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.
James informs us that this type of wisdom has its origin in the secular. It is “earthly.” Its origin is in the sensual. It is unspiritual. James goes so far as to say it is “of the devil.”
16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
The wisdom of the world results in “envy.” Simply defined, envy is the displeasure we take in another’s good fortune. Another result of applying the wisdom of the world to our lives is “selfish ambition.” Disorder is the third result of applying the wisdom of the world to our lives.
We don’t have to teach our children or grandchildren the “wisdom of the world.” They are born with it. We are all born with the propensity for envy, selfishness, confusion, and perversion. The wisdom of the world is inherited through our sin nature. Many people are in serious difficulty today because they made major decisions on the basis of the wisdom of this world.
The Wisdom of the Word (James 3:17-18)
17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
This godly wisdom is the ability to discern the Lord’s hand in human circumstances AND apply Godly judgment to these earthly situations. The wisdom of the Word “comes from heaven!”
Proverbs 2:6 says, “The Lord gives wisdom.”
When we apply the wisdom of the Word to our lives, the first result is purity. The Greek word for “pure” here is hagnos and implies spiritual integrity. The wisdom of the Word produces right relationships in upward expression (peace with God), in inward expression (peace with ourselves), and in outward expression (peace with others). It also produces patience. And, it produces productivity. James tells us that godly wisdom is full of good fruit.
Each of us must choose between the wisdom of the world and the wisdom of the Word. The former comes from the secular, the sensual, and the satanic; the latter comes from heaven. One results in envy, selfishness, confusion, and perversion. The other results in purity, peace, and productivity.
War and Peace
1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. 4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. 11 Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you - who are you to judge your neighbor?
“What causes fights and quarrels among you?” (v. 1) Our current world situation makes James’s opening question as relevant today as in any previous generation. War has been a part of every era of human history. No civilization has been immune to it. In the early days of the twenty-first century, many of the conflicts around our world have their roots in centuries of ethnic hatred and hostility that are finally reaching the boiling point.
The Bible tells us that in the last days there will be an escalation of wars eventually culminating in one final climactic battle, Armageddon.
War is real. Some of us are at war with ourselves - our flesh wars with the Spirit. Others of us are at war in our homes. Some of us are even at war with God. What causes these fights and quarrels? We who are living on the brink of an apocalyptic war should heed God’s Word. James reveals that war has its symptoms, its sources, and its solutions.
War Has Its Symptoms (James 4:1-3)
There is a vast difference between symptoms and sources. Christians that James was writing to were engaged in a personal war of words. Their words were an external symptom, not the cause of the fighting itself. “Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another” (James 4:11). James reveals that the real problem is within, so he asks a second question: “Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” (James 4:1). All war finds its origin in selfish desire. It is selfish desire within that causes war with others! This is true whether we are speaking of Adolph Hitler, Saddam Hussein, or anyone else.
War Has Its Sources (James 4:4-6)
James reveals to us that the source of war is not found in our relationship with others nor even in our relationship with ourselves. The source of war is found in our rebellious relationship with God. James called this conflict between God and man a “battle within” (James 4:1). He goes on to say, “Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (James 4:4).
James asks a poignant question in verse 4 - “Don’t you know?” I don’t think James is speaking softly here. I think he is shouting and pounding his pulpit! He was expressing surprise and shock because those who had claimed to be living for Jesus for years had committed spiritual adultery. He goes on to remind us that God gives us strength and grace to resist the temptation to do what we know is wrong. James 4:6 says: “But he gives us more grace.”
War Has Its Solutions (James 4:7-12)
God has given us the solution to war . . . in the Lord Jesus Christ. Whether it’s a cosmic conflict or a family fight, there is but one true and eternal solution to war. There will never be peace without the Prince of Peace. This sounds simplistic, but it’s true. History continues to testify to wars and rumors of more wars - but one day Christ will come again and usher in a millennium of peace. The scriptures tell us that swords will be beaten into plow shears, and the lion will lie down with the lamb.
James concludes his discussion on war with a series of verbs, all of which are in the imperative. These commands are five steps towards peace. James’s pathway to peace is found in these verbs: submit, resist, come near, wash, & humble yourselves.
7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
War and peace are two of the great issues facing the Church, as we live in the twenty-first century and at the same time understand the coming end of time. Wars will continue to escalate as we head toward Armageddon. We need to remember, however, that God has not abdicated his throne. He is at work in history, and biblical prophecy underscores his presence in modern events.
Our God is the God of history, and in the midst of this cosmic chaos, he calls US to be peace makers. We know the solution to war. We have the message of hope and the message of peace. we must keep telling the story . . . OF JESUS!
February 8, 2020
“THE ETHICAL EFFECT”
(Sermon series on the book of James)
We look today at James’ next theme . . .
“THE ETHICAL EFFECT”
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that - and shudder. 20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
We live in a day when in many places the Church is losing its place of respect and influence. Many church members are quick to say that they are people of faith, but the world shouts back with the question of James 2:16, “What good is it?” Because the Church has lost its voice in so many communities, our whole nation is involved in an ethical effect.
The ethical effect, that is faith without fruitfulness, is the focus of James 2:14-26 . . . the conflict between FAITH and WORKS. James reveals to us that a faith without fruit is false, futile, and fatal.
Faith Without Fruit Is False Faith
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
James asked, “What good is it . . . if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?” (v. 14). Note that James is not speaking about a man who has faith but a man who “claims to have faith.” Then he asked, “Can such faith save him?” True saving faith will never be “by itself.”
Lawyers and judges are quick to tell you that in a trial they cannot deal with hearsay. They look for evidence / hard cold facts. The key to understanding this paragraph of James is to know that James is not talking about a faith with works but a faith that works!
Faith Without Fruit Is Futile Faith
18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that - and shudder.
At first, James 2:18 appears to contradict Paul’s statement in Romans 3:28 when he says, “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.” In reality, Paul & James compliment not contradicting one another. When we examine these statements in context, we find that James and Paul arrived at the same point from different perspectives. They said the same things but with a different emphasis.
For example, when Paul spoke of works, he was referring to the works of the law such as observing the Sabbath and offering required sacrifices. However, when James spoke of works, he was referring to the fruit of our faith, which is obedience that flows out of love. Paul was hitting hard at men and women who try to be saved by keeping the law instead of trusting Jesus alone for salvation. James, on the other hand, was concerned with a people who confused mere intellectual faith with true saving faith which ultimately produces fruit.
Faith Without Fruit Is Fatal Faith
20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
A faith without fruit is not just false and futile, it is also fatal. In the words of James 2:26, it is “dead.” There are no vital signs-no pulse rate, no heartbeat. There is only fatal silence. James 2:20 also says that such faith is “useless.”
Many church members today have no faith and no works. Some gather to say creeds and talk about faith and positive thinking but have no ongoing ministries to meet people’s needs. Others have works without faith. Their approach is motivated by social values or human rights.
Biblical Christianity is shown in the ethical effect. It is not a faith with works; it is a faith that works!
“Words as Well as Works”
There is a new phenomenon capturing American culture today. TALK SHOWS dominate the media. We are a nation of talkers. What comes out of our mouths is so vitally important that James devoted twelve entire verses in the middle of his letter to the subject. Having just dealt with the relationship of faith and works, James now deals with the relationship of faith and words. Our words reveal what is actually hidden in our hearts. So, James admonishes us to “take note of this; everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19)
Words are powerful. Self-esteem & self-confidence are often learned or lost via our parent’s words when we are children. Our Lord himself considered careless speech to be a very serious matter.
Matthew 12:36-37 (ESV)
36 “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
James makes three statements about the tongue in James 3:1-12, and he gives two illustrations for each statement.
Controlled Speech Is Directive
1 Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check. 3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.
Controlled speech, like a bridle on a horse or a rudder on a ship, is directive. It sets us on course and gives us direction in life. A horse left to itself will never accomplish anything for anyone. But a bridled horse under its master’s control can be useful for all sorts of purposes.
Contentious Speech Is Destructive
5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. 7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
Having talked about the potential of the tongue for good, James reminds us that the tongue also has a potential for evil. Controlled speech is directive, but contentious speech is destructive. James illustrates the point with fire (vs. 5-6) and with poison (v. 8), to support his case. Like a deadly snake’s poison, the venom of an untamed tongue can kill reputations that have been years in the making.
Conflicting Speech Is Deceptive
9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
A Early American Indians had a term, “forked tongue”, to describe conflicting, deceptive speech. James 3:9-12 addresses the same issue. James describes a man who praises the Lord for all he has done for him and in the next breath curses his neighbor. James says that in doing this the man is deceiving himself. Conflicting speech is deceptive, and according to James 3:10, “this should not be!” Human ingenuity and achievement has reached heights that we never dreamed of years ago. We have split the atom and done incredible things with computers. We have been to the moon and back. We have developed spy satellites that can read a newspaper in someone’s hand on Douglas Avenue in Racine. But, no matter how hard we try, we have difficulty in taming our tongue. Education or New Year’s resolutions cannot do it. Only Jesus can help us to control ourselves & make our words constructive, honest, and loving.
February 1, 2020
(Sermon series on the book of James)
We look today a James’ next theme . . .
The closing years of the twentieth century we saw major changes in our world. In the former Soviet Union, Jews who had been discriminated against for decades were freed to immigrate to Israel. The Berlin Wall crumbled. (It’s like Eastern Europe taught us that no one could be suppressed and discriminated against forever!) We in America need to remember that we are only one generation removed from racial segregation ourselves! And, in the Middle East, discrimination is at an all-time high. In the United States there is still so much discrimination between black and white and Jew and Middle Eastern races. Ironically, one of the targeted groups of discrimination today is conservative Christianity. Anti-Christian bigotry / prejudice is accelerating at an unbelievable pace!
As the Church, in the year 2020, we must not avoid the issue of discrimination - discrimination from outside the Church or discrimination from within. One would think that after 2,000 years of Church history James 2:1-13 would be irrelevant. Wrong! These verses are still extremely relevant today.
One of my good memories as a boy was going to a circus. I especially liked the clowns, and a clown act where one of the clowns (on stilts) was like 10 feet tall! The bit ended when another clown knocked him off of his feet, exposing two false legs.
Discrimination stands on two false legs that need to be knocked out from under it. One false leg is prejudice and the other is presumption.
The False Leg of Prejudice
James begins by showing he is firmly opposed to prejudice:
James 2:1-7 (NLT)
1 My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others? 2 For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. 3 If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor” - well, 4 doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives? 5 Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him? 6 But you dishonor the poor! Isn’t it the rich who oppress you and drag you into court? 7 Aren’t they the ones who slander Jesus Christ, whose noble name you bear?
James says “don’t show favoritism.” He illustrates this truth in verses 3 and 4 and then moves on to an accusation in verse 5. James accused his readers of giving rich people places of honor while marginalizing the very people Jesus spent his entire earthly ministry with. this is a strong accusation, not just insinuation! The sin of discrimination stands on a false leg of prejudice. But discrimination also stands upon a false leg of presumption.
The False Leg of Presumption
James 2:8-13 (NLT)
8 Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 9 But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law. 10 For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. 11 For the same God who said, “You must not commit adultery,” also said, “You must not murder.” So if you murder someone but do not commit adultery, you have still broken the law. 12 So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. 13 There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.
Those who discriminate are also presumptuous.
They presume three things:
Presumption #1: Discrimination is not sin
GOD’S WORD SAYS:
9 But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law.
Presumption #2: Discrimination is not significant
GOD’S WORD SAYS:
10 For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. 11 For the same God who said, “You must not commit adultery,” also said, “You must not murder.” So if you murder someone but do not commit adultery, you have still broken the law.
Presumption #3: Discrimination is not serious
GOD’S WORD SAYS:
12 So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. 13 There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.
James is quick to point out in these verses that prejudice is a sin, that it is significant, and that it is indeed serious. However, James says that mercy triumphs over judgment!
13 There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.
Merciful people need not fear judgment. The one who shows mercy in this life is not afraid of the day when he or she will stand before the Great Judge who knows the secrets of all of our hearts.
Indeed . . . MERCY triumphS!
God, please help us as disciples of Jesus Christ, NOT to discriminate against others . . . by standing on the false legs of prejudice and presumption.
January 25, 2020
“Relativism and Credibility”
(Sermon series on the book of James)
We look today at James’ next 2 themes . . .
Relativism: The Religion of Modern Man
13 And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. 14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. 16 So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.
In our day of cultural relativism, morality seems to be a forgotten word in our generation. Very few people speak of temptation. A growing number of people believe there are no moral absolutes, and consequently, they have little or no restraints. We watch on TV as moral scandals surface in every vocation / class / and race of humankind.
In such a moral climate, James’s words about temptation are appropriate. His caution echoes through time and onto our January 2020 calendar: 16 So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters.
In his discussion of relativism, James addresses three important points: the cause of temptation, the course of temptation, and caution in temptation.
The Cause of Temptation (vs. 13-14)
13 And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. 14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away.
What’s the cause, the source, of temptations that come our way? Most of us would quickly say it comes from our outer surroundings. To the contrary, James says, 13 And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong.
James impresses upon his hearers that temptation comes from two places: an internal source and an external force.
Temptation has an internal source. 14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away.
“Desire” is often translated “lust.” When this internal source of desire attaches itself to something sinful, it draws us out and away from our place of security in Christ. In the words of James, we are “dragged away.” When there is no evil desire, there is no temptation. The internal source draws us away and causes us to want to play outside God’s boundaries.
Temptation has an external force. The internal source is desire, the external force is deception. James says that once desire becomes evil it causes us to be “enticed” (v. 14). The word “entice” (deleazo) means “being baited or deceived. It’s a word picture of being “hooked.” It is the very thing that happens in fishing when the worm looks so delicious the fish swallows it, only to find out that a hook was deceitfully hidden inside the worm. He is “dragged away!” Many are hooked by the world’s enticements in the same way.
The cause of our temptations is NOT found in the externals. It is NOT found in God, in the devil, or in circumstances. James said that: 14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away.
The Course of Temptation (v. 15)
15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.
It is imperative for us as Christians to not simply examine the cause of temptation but to also examine its course - that is, where temptation leads us.
James cautions us to look down the road to see where temptation ends: in sin, defeat, and death!
Temptation is like a weed. A weed has 3 parts: a root, a shoot, and a fruit. It’s the same with temptation. The root of temptation is a selfish desire. The shoot of temptation is a sinful decision. The fruit of temptation is sure defeat.
This is a law of Scripture, AND It is just as certain as the law of gravity!
Caution in Temptation (vs. 16-17)
James concludes his words about relativism in temptation with a flashing yellow caution light: 16 So don’t be misled (deceived), my dear brothers and sisters.
James cautions us to not be misled (deceived) about sin. And he cautions us to not be misled (deceived) about the Savior.
17 Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.
Finally, James cautions us not to be deceived about salvation. This gift of salvation comes “from above.” It is supernatural. Jesus called it the new birth.
As Christians, we can overcome temptation with God’s help.
Paul said it this way, “No temptation seizes you except what is common to man. And God is faithful: He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
The CREDIBILITY CRISIS
18 He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession. 19 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. 20 Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. 21 So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls. 22 But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 23 For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. 24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. 25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it. 26 If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. 27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
James now turns our attention to the issue of true Christianity (credibility). Christianity is facing a credibility crisis. Our world’s longing to see true / lived-out Christianity. There is so much counterfeit Christianity in the world today. Many movements today gather momentum and members from younger generations, through their public media and public education. It is vital that the true Church rises up and makes a difference in our world. True or “pure” religion is the focus of James 1:18-27.
True Religion Involves Knowing Christ
Some Bible readers believe James held to a theology opposite that of Paul’s. Some even say James promotes a “works salvation.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Before James ever talks about works, he makes sure we know that salvation is in Christ alone. In James 1:18, he speaks of salvation’s origin, salvation’s operation, and salvation’s outcome.
18 He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.
True Religion Involves Showing Consistency
Consistency in our lives manifests itself in two ways: in our talk and in our walk. If we are to present the world with a true picture of Jesus Christ, then we must not only know him, we must also be consistent in our talk and in our walk.
James 1:19-21 reveals to us the importance of what we say and how we listen. James 1:22-25 impresses upon us the importance of not just being but doing. Blessing does not come by simply hearing biblical truth. It is NOT the hearing but the doing that produces blessing.
25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.
True Religion Involves Showing Character
26 If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. 27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
Many people consider themselves to be religious today. How are genuine Christians different?
True believers not only know Christ and show consistency, they also show CHARACTER.
Christian character is evidenced in three ways, according to James. There is the evidence of our conversation (James 1:26). There is the evidence of our concern (James 1:27). There is the evidence of our conduct (James 1:27).
One of the great issues facing the Church, as we now live in the third millennium, is a credibility crisis. Are we credible? The world is watching and waiting to see if we are truly for real. Our Lord ended the greatest sermon ever preached (The Sermon on the Mount) with a message about the importance of doing what the Word of God says. Jesus reveals that the wise builder (believer) is a picture of someone who “hears these words of mine and puts them to practice” (Matthew 7:24).
But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.
January 18, 2020
“JAMES: TRUTH FOR TODAY”
(Sermon series on the book of James)
For the Christian Church, in the year 2020, I don’t think there is a more pertinent message for us than the New Testament book (epistle / letter) of James. The book of James is one of the first pieces of New Testament literature given to the Church. James was the flesh and blood brother of Jesus, and the pastor of the very significant church in Jerusalem. Many Bible scholars believe that James is the most practical book in all the New Testament. I believe that James is as relevant to the many issues of the Church AND our culture today, in 2020, as it was when it was written - between A.D. 45-60!
James addresses this letter “to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations” (James 1:1). In the language of the New Testament, the word for “scattered” is diaspora. From it we get the English word “dispersed.” Those who were dispersed were scattered, like seeds. After Stephen was killed, outside the gate of the old city of Jerusalem, the Christians were scattered (diaspora) throughout the Roman world (Acts 8:1-3). God permitted this test of the Jerusalem church for a purpose.
Had there been no diaspora, the Christians would have stayed in Jerusalem and the growth of the church would have been very limited. Instead, in one generation the Gospel spread throughout the known world - and all the way to Rome.
James wrote his letter to Christian Jews scattered outside Palestine. He wrote to those who had been dispersed - to those who had to leave their homes, their jobs, and their property. However, in a very real sense, he was writing to us too! In a way, all Christians are in the diaspora. We are living as exiles from our eternal heavenly home. Thus, the letter of James is directly from God to us . . . because, directing the hand of James is the hand of God (2 Timothy 3:16).
James wrote his letter to those under persecution, and those engaged in a complex and difficult culture, in order to teach them how to deal with the stress and pressure of trials in life. He was writing to women who were at their wits end. (Their children were screaming and crying and trying to adjust to new surroundings.) He was writing to men who had lost their jobs and their sense of dignity. The people who would read his letter were emotionally hanging on to life by a thread. Persecution had driven them from their homes. They were wrestling with how to live out what they believed.
Sound familiar in YOUR life?
So, James is very direct and practical. Christians today also face pressure and stress. The good news is that we too can learn from James how to react to certain circumstances.
James addresses 13 Themes in his letter which are timeless, concerning issues that are prevalent in our culture today. The CORE of James’s message is that we should become “doers of the Word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22, KJV). James was more of a “hands-on practitioner” than a theologian. He got his hands dirty. He calls on the Church, in every age, to practice what we preach! He calls on US today, in 2020, to not simply hear the Word of God, but to “DO IT!” Long before Nike, James was the originator of the theme - “JUST DO IT.”
Let’s begin our journey at A&D Biker Ministries to explore these prevalent issues for Christians in our culture today - which James presents.
“Stress: FROM FOE TO FRIEND”
1 This letter is from James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am writing to the “twelve tribes” - Jewish believers scattered abroad. Greetings! 2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. 5 If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. 6 But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. 7 Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do. 9 Believers who are poor have something to boast about, for God has honored them. 10 And those who are rich should boast that God has humbled them. They will fade away like a little flower in the field. 11 The hot sun rises and the grass withers; the little flower droops and falls, and its beauty fades away. In the same way, the rich will fade away with all of their achievements. 12 God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
Stress is a common buzzword in our society. In some ways it has even become the scapegoat, the excuse of modern man. James writes his letter to Christians who have been dispersed during the first century. And, his first words to them were about how to deal with stress and pressure in the places where they lived.
The recipients of his letter were facing very difficult trials. So, James sought to show them, AND US, that stress is not necessarily our enemy. When stress is understood and dealt with biblically, it can actually become a friend. James begins his letter by pointing to five fascinating facts that can turn stress from a foe to a friend.
1. Stress Is Predictable (James 1:1-2)
1 This letter is from James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am writing to the “twelve tribes” - Jewish believers scattered abroad. Greetings! 2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.
The verse does not say “if” we face trials of many kinds, it says “when.” James’s point is obvious - Stress Is Predictable! It is inevitable, inescapable, and unavoidable. We all have stress. Some of us have learned to deal with it, some of us have not.
“Trials” (peirasmos) are predictable. We all face them. Christians encounter two basic types of trials. Trials of correction come our