Monthly Archives: May 2010

James 4:1-3; May 26, 2010

James 4: 1-3

What causes fights and quarrels among you?

Girls fighting because they are wearing the same shirt…

Girls beating up boy because he is dating someone else…

Boys fighting over nothing…

Quarrels over who is right and who is wrong…

Wars over religious supremacy…

Battles over boundaries…

Drug wars…

Spiritual wars…

So what is at the root of all of this?

Our sin nature… wanting what we cannot have or

what is not in the Lord’s will for our life.

We struggle with greed, pride, envy, lust, authority

all these inner desires driving our outward actions…

You don’t have these things because you don’t ask or

ask with the wrong motives…

So what do we need to do???

We need to align our will with what is the Lord’s will for

our lives.

Mike

James 3:13-18; May 19, 2010

James 3:13-18

(I encourage you to read these verses for yourself before reading my notes on them)

What’s my motivation?

James continues to explain the struggles that sinful human beings have in their faith.  The majority of chapter 3 is spent explaining how we use our tongues for evil instead of using them as we should.  After his time on taming the tongue, James begins to reveal the motivations behind the untamable tongue.  Bitter jealousy and selfish ambition are at the core of why our faith is not lived out in our daily lives.  We are often unaware of the motivations that drive us to sin, but it’s important that we understand what James is saying so we can begin indentifying them in our lives.  So let’s define some of our terms before we move on.

What is jealousy?

Jealousy as used by James is a divisive term that also drives a person to an action against someone who has something that they want.  Most often this motivation is not about something physical.  Teenagers rarely act in jealousy towards their parents because their parents have something physical that they want.  Teenagers and parents generally don’t’ fight over a toy or gift that the parent has and the teen doesn’t.  More often in this scenario, the child will feel that the parent is withholding favor, love or has given favor to someone else instead of to them.  This makes the child jealous and makes them demand that they get their way not matter what rules are in place or what limitations have been given to them.  Have you ever heard a teen say (or maybe you’ve actually said this to a parent, I have I’m pretty sure) “Well my friend’s parents let them have it…” or “Well this friend’s parents let them stay out as long as they want…”  Statements such as these come from a motivation of bitter jealousy.  We are jealous of what we feel is being withheld from us.

What is selfish ambition?

Selfish ambition is something that we can all understand fairly easily.  It’s working to achieve something for your own pleasure or glory.  It’s something that is taught to us from a very young age and is what our country has thrived on.  Capitalism is the highest form of selfish ambition.  Selfish ambition is looking out for number 1 instead of living a life of service.  It means that everything you do has nothing to do with the good of anyone else around you.  And sometimes we are selfishly ambitious about good things.  Sometimes church events open the door and actually encourage selfish ambition.  Instead of coming to serve the church or serve the other people at the church, we come to get what we want from it.  We come to get recognition for how godly we are or to be reminded how much God loves us despite the fact that we sin.  It’s generally not too hard to find selfish ambition in your motivations, but we let it stay there because we’re selfish about good things or we listen to our culture which tells us it’s okay to be selfishly ambitious because that’s what makes the world go round.  James through the power of the Holy Spirit is telling us that it’s not okay.

James says that instead of selfishly ambitious or bitterly jealous we should be meek and humble.  Instead of wanting to satisfy our own desires, we should seek to serve those around us as Christ served us.  If that is our heart, our faith is lived out.  If our motivation is to serve Christ and serve others, we walk in a faith that is living and active.  Knowing the motivations behind our actions is a big step in allowing the Lord to change us from the inside out.  Christ doesn’t want to only change the things you do, He wants to change the motivations behind the things we do.  Let Him do His work and you’ll find that you are given “a harvest of righteousness (3:18)” through Christ which brings peace not only to you but also to the people around you.  I love y’all more than you know.  Grace and peace,

JOT

James 3:1-12; May 12, 2010

James 3:1-12 (I encourage you to read these verses for yourself before reading my notes on them)

The Tongue…

James moves from describing a faith without works to a work that generally discredits an individual trying to live for Christ.  The work is presented as the work of the tongue.  The things we say have tremendous consequences.  We cannot say that we are living in faith in Christ and continually use our words to cut people down, build ourselves up or speak the lies of the devil.

Jesus says in Matthew 12:34 that “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”  Basically what this means is that whatever is in your heart will eventually come out of your mouth.  If you have trouble with the things you say, if you react sharply to your parents, teachers, or siblings, if you have trouble with gossip or speaking judgmentally about or to people, I can almost guarantee that you have other issues of sin in your life.  Whether those sins are sexual impurity, rebellion, favoritism, bitterness, or pride, those sins that you try and keep hidden in your heart will eventually come out in the things you say.

James likens the tongue to a “bit (3:3)” for horses and the “rudder (3:4)” of a ship.  Both objects are very small but control the larger object and dictate the direction it is going.  James says just like these examples, “the tongue is a small member, but boasts of great things (3:5).” Meaning that the tongue has a great effect on us despite how insignificant it may appear by itself.  The famous idiom “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me” gives a clue as to how we often underestimate the words that are spoken.

James also says that the tongue is a fire (3:6), a world of unrighteousness (3:6), a stain on the whole body (3:6), untamable (3:8), and a source of two opposing substances (3:11-12).  James doesn’t mess around with the severity of the damage the tongue can do.  The key to taming our tongue is not found in our trying really hard or correcting ourselves.  The key is in us allowing Christ to change us.  We cannot tame the tongue.  James says that anyone who has tamed his tongue “is a perfect man (3:2)” and none of us will be perfect until Christ returns and makes us perfect.  So what we do now is hide ourselves in Christ and follow Him as we work out our salvation.  This working out of our salvation means that we allow Christ to keep changing us on earth knowing that we will never be perfect here.  That’s the call we have, to die to ourselves and live in Christ.  He does the work that we can’t do on our own.  I love y’all more than you know.  Grace and peace,

JOT

James 2:18-26; May 5, 2010

James 2:18-26 (I encourage you to read these verses for yourself before reading my notes on them)

Faith without works…

To conclude his point on faith without works, James gives us two examples of people in the Old Testament who were commended for their faith.  Abraham and Rahab were people of faith, but James points out that their faith was more than just an agreement of a set of ideals.  Their faith dictated their action.  Their faith was alive and lived out.  If they did not live out their faith there would be no reason for us to know their names.

Now if you don’t remember Rahab, don’t worry.  She’s not exactly a pillar of our faith (although she is mentioned twice outside of genealogies in the New Testament).  She was a prostitute from Jericho.  She had heard the stories of what God had done for the Israelites and believed.  She allowed this faith to dictate her actions and she hid the Israelite spies and helped them escape Jericho.  Because her faith was turned to action, she and her family was saved from destruction.  God then used her to bring Jesus into the world thousands of years later.

It’s hard to be in church for very long without hearing about Abraham.  He is the father of the Hebrew nation and he was called a friend of God.  That’s not a title that is thrown around a lot in the Bible.  He wasn’t perfect by any means, but he was called righteous because of his faith.  His faith was tested when he was asked to sacrifice Isaac, his only son with Sarah, the son who was supposed to fulfill the promise of God in making a great nation.  Obviously, it would be hard for Isaac to fulfill that promise if Abraham sacrificed him.  Abraham took Isaac and was going to sacrifice him to the Lord because he had faith in God and that faith was walked out in his obedience.  Now Abraham was not called a friend of God because he only believed in God.

If Abraham told God that he would sacrifice Isaac but didn’t follow through with action, there are two things that would not have happened; that dead faith would not have been counted to him as righteousness and he would not have been called a friend of God.  He would have been a rebellious, disobedient man who most likely would have been disciplined for his dead faith.  That would be a very different story and not as fun to tell in Sunday School.  If you have a dead faith, God is trying to get your attention.  Stop living in a dead faith.  Let your faith be seen through the things you do and say.  I love y’all more than you know.  Grace and peace,

JOT

James 2:14-17; May 2, 2010

James 2:14-17 (I encourage you to read these verses for yourself before reading my notes on them)

Dead faith…

James continues to focus on faith and works as he challenges the reader to make sure that faith and works are both present in the life of a Christian.  Now something that I want to make clear before we move on is the definitions of faith and works that James is using.  The faith that James is talking about is not just a knowledge of God and Jesus and simply knowing that they exist.  Just like works for James are not just following the rules in the Bible and trying to be good.  Faith is the total surrender to Christ as Lord of our lives, and if we have faith like that then we will have works that are obedient to Christ and model the example Christ lived.  So to sum up, the faith that James talks about is not just knowledge of God, it is a relationship with Him, and works are not just good things we do, they are things we do in obedience to the Holy Spirit’s moving in our lives.  Sometimes we forget what we’re talking about with “faith and works” so I wanted to make sure we were all on the same page.

Now I want to start by saying something that seems harsh but must be said.  I only say this because I care about and love you deeply.  Most of you reading this blog are living in a dead faith.  You go to church, you try to do good things, you may even read your Bible, but you have missed what it truly means to have faith in Christ and live for Him.  You’ve been taught to be good and you’ve been taught about who Christ is, but you’ve never taken the steps of having relationship with Him.  I’m not saying that any of you are bad people, and I am not saying that you are not saved.  You’re faith is simply dead.  What you say and what you do don’t line up.

Some of you do good things like volunteer at food shelters or have been on a mission trip before, some of you have even led someone to Christ, but when you get home you disobey your parents, you get drunk at parties, you refuse to show love to the person at school who is annoying, rude, weird, or unpopular.  Some of you are in church Sunday mornings after a weekend of partying and fooling around in things you shouldn’t be anywhere near.

A dead faith leads to confusion, doubt, rebellion and ultimately it can lead to death (like the Hell kind of death, not the have a nice funeral before going to Heaven death).  James questions whether a faith without works can save a person.  He’s not looking at someone who says they have faith and telling them that they are not really saved.  No one can see the heart of a person except for God.  I would never accuse anyone of not being saved.  Thankfully that’s not my place.  Jesus says that there will be many people who will go to Hell who lived their lives in a dead faith (Matthew 7:22).  Those that Christ cast into Hell prophesied, cast out demons, and did “mighty works” in the name of Jesus, and were called workers of lawlessness and told by Christ that they never knew Him.

Simply saying you believe is not enough to save.  Simply doing good things, even in the name of Jesus, is not enough.  We must have faith that changes you.  We must have works that are obedient to Christ.  Being a Christian is all about relationship with Christ, and it’s that relationship that is so easy for us to neglect.  I challenge you to examine your life.  Are you walking in a dead faith?  Get in the Word every day this week and see what the Lord shows you.

There’s one thing I know for certain, Jesus did not call you to a dead faith.  He desperately wants to have relationship with you.  He desires to heal the parts of your heart that cry out in pain and confusion.  There are no answers to your problems outside of relationship with Christ.  Amy and I are always here to help where we can.  Call us, write us, find us after service.  We’ll make time for you.  I love y’all more than you’ll know.  Grace and peace,

JOT