boyradd

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Archive for the tag “James 4”

Can you tell me about Jesus?

John 10:10 – The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

So today, after the snowstorm of the century in Maryland (actually, it was only the 7th worst storm in the last 30 years), I decided to go to the grocery store. Safeway was not busy at all, so I got a space pretty close to the front. Since there weren’t a lot of cars, I was able to pull through the parking space and into the next space.

When I came out of the store, I rolled the cart to my car and started to put the groceries in the trunk. The space behind me was still open, and there were several other spaces throughout the parking lot that were actually closer to the store than the one behind me.

I just put the last bag in the car as it dropped and the groceries went all over the back of the trunk. I started to clean them up when a car started to pull into the spot. The woman blew her horn and proceeded to yell at me through her windows. I couldn’t understand what she said because all her windows were up, but she clearly was not happy at me.

I held up my index finger to say, “give me a minute” and continued to clean up the groceries in the trunk.

She blew her horn again and, as I looked at her, she threw up her arms in frustration and stared at me until I was finished.

I rolled the cart to the cart return area as she parked right behind me. As I walked back to my car I noticed a couple of Christian decals on her car.

When she got out of the car, I decided to ask her if she could tell me about the gospel message.

She gave me a nasty look and turned and walked away from me and into the store.

My mentor shared a sermon once as the church handed out bumper stickers to everyone that he didn’t want people to put the stickers on their cars if they were going to not act like a Christian as they drove places. This woman was clearly the subject matter of his sermon.

Now when I asked this woman to share the gospel message with me I clearly had a ulterior motive (I needed a topic this week for my blog!)

But the point, to me, is clear as crystal.

The world is watching us.

What would have happened if it wasn’t me, but someone who really needed to hear the gospel?

What if someone was contemplating the sermon they just heard and whether they need Jesus in their life and then they have this experience.

Now let me say that I don’t know what this woman was going through. She may have had a serious problem happen in her life that I don’t know about that she is struggling with that set her off.

But the world doesn’t know that, unfortunately.

The world just sees a supposed Christian woman acting very un-Christian like.

When that happens, we lose our testimony.

I know a lot of people who would say that this woman is not a Christian because of the way she acted. And she may not be.

But what if she really is?

As I said, she might just be having a very bad day that set her off.

But Satan isn’t trying to “unsave” the Christians.

Satan is trying to destroy our testimonies.

Satan knows that he can’t take us out of God’s hands. So he wants to bring doubt, confusion, anger, bitterness, sarcasm, and other demons into our lives to make sure that Christians can’t share their testimony.

That might have been the case today. This woman might have been having such a bad day and she was trying to handle everything on her own instead of relying on God. What that does is causes us to handle our issues incorrectly.

We lash out.

We say those four-letter words.

We hurt those we love.

We get our testimonies destroyed by the one who comes to kill and destroy.

So what is the answer? How do we ensure that Satan doesn’t kill our testimonies?

Well, even though Jesus, in the beatitudes, commands us to “be perfect,” you are not perfect. You won’t get it right all the time.

But God…

God has enough grace and mercy to love you and give you your testimony back.

The way to do that is to follow what is written in the Bible,

James 4:7 – Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

While I only chose James 4:7, the entire beginning of James 4 is pertinent to this post. James asks us what causes quarrels among us? It is our passion. It is our desire to put ourselves on the altar and not God.

But you might say to me, “Fred, I asked God for help and he never answered me.”

What does James say about this?

James 4:1-12 – What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?  But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

James pretty much pegged what that woman this morning was going through. Even though I don’t know the specifics, the fruit of her actions is evident. She didn’t submit to God. Even if she asked God for help, she ask wrongly.

And that is our problem as Christians.

We tend to think that God will do so much more for us that He already did.

Jesus already died on the cross. He did that so you could have an eternity with Him. But sometimes I believe we expect Him to fix every problem that comes our way. To replace the rainy seasons with rainbows, to take away our bad attitudes and idolatry and replace it with smiles and peace.

God is not a genie in a bottle.

We have accountability in this life. If we choose to humble ourselves, God will exalt us. If we choose to exalt ourselves, God will humble us.

Here is my challenge to you, Christian.

Over the next week, take everything you do and place God before it completely. Are you about get in your car and go to work? Pray and ask God to guide you. Are you about to go eat lunch? Pray and thank God for the provision. Are you about to come into a rainy season? Pray and ask God to give you clarity about how to get through it.

It may seem awkward at first. But eventually you will feel more and more comfortable with talking to God and you will learn how to talk to Him and how to listen to Him.

A Study in James 4

James 4:1-3 – Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.

This week is an interesting week. It is Thanksgiving here in the USA and, yet, we are a country divided. Thoughts of Ferguson and racial divide fill our homes as we sit to thank the Creator for our food and friends and families.

Even as we sit down to Thanksgiving dinner, there are many families who are divided as they sit down to dinner. I remember days when I used to sit down with my side of the family and my now ex-wife’s side of the family for Thanksgiving feast in the months prior to the divorce. It was going to happen. The date was set for me to move out, and yet, there was a tenuous peace; a peace similar to the many cease fires that Israel has had with any choice of Middle Eastern countries.

This week, James speaks to us about pride.

Like in previous chapters, James starts out by not pulling any punches. He asks us what causes the fights and arguments among us.

There are some key words we need to look at here in the original language. The Greek words for “fights and quarrels” are polemos and mache. Polemos is a war campaign. It can mean something ongoing. Mache is a word that means the individual conflicts in a war. When James speaks of “you” in this passage, he uses the word melos. Melos, easily translated means members. So what James is speaking about in this beginning passage is arguing among members of the Christian church.

Let’s go back to my Thanksgiving dinner. We were all members of a single family yet we could not get along. We all claimed Christ as our Savior yet the littlest disagreement would turn into a full blown war.

Unfortunately, the people who we are supposed to love the most are the ones we argue with the most. Psychologists and other people who are much smarter than me say it is because we are with them for longer periods of time and that they see us at our best and our worst and sometimes it is just too much to handle.

But I have a different answer.

Sin.

While we each sin, it is important for us to understand how to handle sin. There are people who say you need to immediately and severely confront them. There are those who say you need to confront but be loving. There are those who say you need to let them figure it out on their own. And many others.

Unfortunately, when two or more people get together and cannot agree on how to tackle the sin issue, a bigger sin rears its ugly head.

Pride.

Pride leads to murder and covetousness.

Ok, Fred, I am sure all of your former inlaws were not murdered by your hand, so what do you mean?

James is looking back at the Sermon on the Mount when he chooses his language. Murder is more than the actual killing. Now this may drive my lawyer friends a little crazy, but murder is a condition of the heart that shows itself outwardly through anger.

James goes on to say the reasons you still have these feelings is because of a couple of reasons. Either you are simply not asking God to take them away or you are asking with the wrong motives. God is a God of the heart. He looks to not just our actions, but our faith and our motives. That is why our works alone cannot save us.

We need to remember that the purpose of prayer is not to change God’s mind to equate with ours. He isn’t a genie in a bottle that we can control. The purpose of prayer is to calibrate ourselves with His will and ask Him to accomplish His will through us and our circumstances. See Matthew 6:10 if you have questions about that.

James 4:4-5 – Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”?

Moving into verses 4 and 5, James speaks to us about something that really affects the church today. He speaks about the danger of being “friends with the world.” The verses call out both adulterers and adulteresses but in the original Greek, only adulteresses are called out. Many feel that this is a verse about literal sexual adultery, but using only the term adulteress, we need to look at it a different way. God is the “husband” and the church is the “bride.” How can the church have a relationship with the world and yet claim faithfulness to God.

There is a small issue that comes up here is that the Scripture that James shares cannot be found anywhere in the Old Testament. The two leading theories as to this are that either James is citing universal truths from the Old Testament or James 4:5 is two separate sentences and that the Scripture quoted refer to what he said in verse 4.

Regardless, the message to the church is that we need to be friends with God. Take a look around at the multiple denominations out there. It is easy to see which are focused on being a friend to the world and an enemy to God. They are the churches that make mature Christians wonder about them while the world praises them.

James 4:6-10 – But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

Speaking of the world’s praise, as James moves into verses 6-10, we start to see him talking about humility. He tells us that God will give us the grace to be able to serve God as we should, but that only comes through serving humbly.

Grace and pride can be seen, somewhat, as opposites. Pride demands that God bless me based on my good works. But grace demands nothing. Grace is given only on the basis of who God is. And the humility we show is not a work to receive the grace. Humility simply puts us in the correct state to receive the grace he provides.

So to receive grace, we need to submit to God. In my young adult class a few weeks ago we discussed this exact same idea. We need to order ourselves under God. Basically we need to give up our kingdom to live in the kingdom of God.

When we begin to give up our kingdoms, Satan will come in, like he did with Christ, and offer us a greater kingdom. But we are called to resist the devil. And James tells us that if we resist the devil, we are promised that he will flee from us. This does not mean we need to exorcise Satan out of us. Keep in mind that light and dark cannot coexist in the same space. This means that Satan cannot possess a believer. We need to look on Satan as who he is, a conquered enemy.

James tells us to “resist” the devil. Resist is made up of two separate Greek words meaning stand and against. Therefore we must stand against the devil.

Next, James tells us to draw near to God and we have the promise that He will draw nearer to us. Know this, when we find ourselves away from God, it is not God that is doing the drifting. I have heard people say that the church is changing. That is the church. That is not God. God is immovable. So in order for us to get closer to God, we need to act, make the conscious decision that we want to get nearer to Him.

I like this story to illustrate it. An elderly couple is driving down the road and as they are talking, the wife, sitting in the passenger seat, notices as cars are coming toward them that there are other couples in those cars and in each car, the woman was sitting very close to the man. She looked at her husband and asked, “Why don’t we sit that close anymore?” The husband, the driver, answered, “It wasn’t me that moved.” If we are away from God, we need to realize that He has not moved. It is us, His bride, who has moved away.

James 4:11-12 – Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?

In verses 11-12, James speaks about hatred. This is hatred of our fellow brethren. James echoes John in 1 John 4:20 by basically saying that we cannot hate one another. This hatred is basically another form of pride. It is our arrogance. When we have the right humility before God, we cannot just judge a brother off the cuff.

James 4:13-16 – Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.

Looking at verse 13, James is telling us that it is prideful for us to make plans outside of the sovereignty of God.   We do not know what will happen tomorrow. Why make a plan for our worldly success when all we have is the assurance of today and the mission to preach the Gospel?

He asks us to look at the fragile state of our lives.

Please note, James is not telling us not to plan for anything. But we should make our plans based around the will and desire of God. If we make our plans, seek to build our kingdoms, and go after success without first seeking God in the equation, then we are boasting and prideful.

James 4:17 – Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.

Knowing that humility and submission to God is far easier to speak about than live, James makes it very clear on the mind of God: we are accountable for humility and dependence on God.

Next week I will end this series on the Book of James. James ends with a couple warnings and some applications for us to practice, a fitting way to end any discussion about godly living.

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