Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Get the Devil on the Run!

James 4:6-8 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. (7) Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (8) Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. 
Yesterday’s RTS dealt with pride and humility of verse 6 and for that reason we will not go through that again.  However, the statements made by James in verse 7 and 8 really are continuations of thoughts and so it is displayed for context.
James started off on verse 6 by stating that God gives us more grace.  God’s mercy and blessings are certainly something that we all need more and more of in our lives.  In order for us to be given these blessings, we are told the conditions on which they are granted.
1.  Submit Yourself to God:
First, let’s understand what “submit” means.  Submit:  to give over or yield to the power or authority of another.  Submission really goes against our nature, especially as Americans.  We do not like giving up the power to ANYONE.  However, if we want the grace of God, and all of the blessings that come with it, we must learn to make God our Lord and master and have him direct our lives.
2.  Resist the Devil:
The concept is really easy.  The application is eternally far from easy.  We are told simply to flee from Satan.  When we think about the principle that is used here, it makes perfect sense.  If a salesman has 3 prospective customers, the first has stated he is ready to order, the second says that he really likes the products but has a few questions and the third likes the product but thinks they are too expensive; which  do you think the salesman will focus on?  Of course he will spend time on the first two because the chances of making a sale are far greater.  The same principle applies with Satan.  If we continue to resist him, he will spend his time with lower hanging fruit!
3.  Draw Near to God:
Like resisting the devil, this is more difficult than many assume.  Drawing near to God is not just saying that we believe in God.  Drawing near is more than posting pro-God Facebook posts or wearing a cross around our necks.  Drawing near to God is a lifestyle that is required.  It is walking in the light as he is in the light (1 John 1:7)  It is understanding WHO God is and then molding our lives to be as much like him as humanly possible.  It is being obedient to his will (John 14:15).  We cannot simply have a positive  attitude about God all the while living the life of our choosing.
Romans 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (2) And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. 
As Paul tells the church at Rome, we must live as a living sacrifice.  But when we do, when we draw near to God, he will draw near to us!
4.  Cleanse Your Hands & Purify Your Hearts:
Part of drawing near to God is to deal with sin in our lives.  Sin has always been the problem and will always be the problem between us and God.  Until we have our sin washed away, we will never be able to have a relationship with God.  Once we have our sins washed away initially and become children of God, we still have a responsibility to avoid sin in our lives.  
Romans 6:1-2 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? (2) God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Do You Want God’s Grace?

James 4:6 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. 
Before we begin today, let’s make sure we understand the definitions of the key words in today’s passage.
PRIDE:  1.  a high or inordinate opinion of one's own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc. 
RESIST:  1.  to withstand, strive against, or oppose: to resist infection; to resist temptation.  2.  to refrain or abstain from, especially with difficulty or reluctance: They couldn't resist the chocolates.
James, in this passage, gives us significant insight into the mind of God.  He tells us that God resists the PROUD.  He opposes those with an elevated sense of self importance.  He refrains from those that feels they are superior over others.  Folks that have this kind of attitude about themselves are going to be less likely to see a need for God in their lives.  Those with pride, even if they would like God in their lives, are not likely to see a need to make any changes because of sin in their lives.  Folks having problems with pride will be less likely to admit they are wrong.  People of pride will find it difficult to humble themselves to adapt to the lifestyle that desires for them to live.  Therefore, God resists this type of person.
On the other hand, God gives Grace to the humble.  If you examine yourself and see that you are not currently a person that can be described as humble...Never fear!  Humility is not a natural trait.  Most humans are not engulfed in humility.  But it is a characteristic that we can learn.  Humility is a trait into which we can grow.
So why would an idividual WANT to develop humility?  Because it is a Godly trait!
Philippians 2:8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 
If Jesus can do it for us...We can do it for God.  And when we do, it puts us in a condition that we can receive the Grace of God!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Are You an Enemy of God?

James 4:1-4 From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? (2) Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. (3) Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. (4) Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. 
If we took a poll today asking the question:  “Are you an Enemy of God”, what do you think the results would be?  I feel confident that 90% + would say...”No way!”.  In fact, I think that a good number of those people would be insulted by the insinuation.
That question is really based upon one’s on definition of the word “Enemy”.  We typically think that an enemy is one that has their sights set on the destruction of the opposing side or person.  If we have an enemy in a war, we seek to kill and destroy them, before they kill us.  If we have personal enemies, we may not seek their death, but we might seek their demise in other forms.
When we think of God as being an enemy, we think of those that would seek to ACTIVELY work against God’s interests.  Those like atheists or Satanists.   Those that are angry with him for what ever reason and would shake their fist at God and say:  “I hate you”.  But that is NOT the image that James portrays for us.  Unfortunately, the picture that James paints for us SEEMS much more innocuous, but is equally as dangerous!
James says that those that are enemies of God are simply friends with the world.  Don’t draw the wrong conclusion and think that the “world” here only represents sin.  The concept of the “world” certainly includes sin, but it also includes things that are inherently harmless too.  
The concept that James is trying to get across stems from his use of the term “Friends” with the world.  That term denotes a level of loyalty, time spent, attention and even a level of fondness. If then, we have a devotion, affection and attention given to the world, that is loyalty NOT given to God himself.  The Bible clearly states that we cannot give God leftovers of anything.  Therefore, he is our first and most important or we are his enemy!
Matthew 6:24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. 
Matthew 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 
Matthew 12:30 He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad. 
God gave us this best when he gave us his son to die.  Therefore, he deserves to be the first and highest priority in our lives.  We must always be careful not to get so caught up in the things of this world that we become friends with it and we begin pulling away from God.  It is a choice that we must make,  We must make God the highest priority in our lives or we are enemies with him.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Who is Wise?

James 3:13 Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. 
More than once in the Bible, there is a distinction made between worldly wisdom and  godly or spiritual wisdom.  This passage is no different.  In the world that we live in, a person that is so-called “wise” will usually be great self promoter.  Others will know that he is wise because he will be the first to share that information in one form or another.
On the other hand, godly wisdom is just the opposite.  James gives us three separate characteristics of a person that is wise in God’s eyes.
1.  He Will Show it out of the Manner of his life!
Instead of grandstanding or bragging about his superior knowledge and understanding, the man of God will demonstrate his wisdom in the small things in life.  While the world nudges us and encourages us to “try” sin, a wise person will refrain because they will be able to sense the danger long before they suffer the consequences.  A wise person will also recognize that his life is on display and will live in such a way to be a positive example to the one’s that he is around
2.  He Will Show it by his Works!
If we are the kind of people that God wants us to be, we will be always open to seeing the possibility for service.  Wisdom helps us to understand that our purpose is to let our light so shine...
Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. 
We let our light so shine by our good works.  But again, that is not for the purpose of our own exaltation, but the glorification of our Father.  Everything that we do should be done with the motive of making our heavenly Father look good.
3.  He Will Show it Through His Humility!
True wisdom does not need to be placed on a marquee or shouted from a mountain top, it will be noticed through the way that we conduct ourselves.  
All of us want to be wise.  If we want to be wise, we need to choose the right team. There is one team full of worldly wise people that are all fighting to be at the top.  On the other team is our choice to be spiritually wise.  If we want to be in that camp, our wisdom will grow with the asking.
James 1:5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. 
Once we do that, we must start acting like one that is wise by following the characteristics that James lays out for us today.  Even if  we would not consider ourselves wise, let us act like we are, and we may surprise ourselves just how wise we feel.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

This Ought NOT to Be!

James 3:8-12 But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. (9) Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. (10) Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. (11) Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? (12) Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh. 
James decides that controlling our speech is so important that he makes it a topic for the second time in this short epistle.  His perspective this time is quite compelling.
James says that we praise God with our mouths and the turn right around and curse man with the same mouth.  Like our hearts and minds, our mouths ought to have a singular focus.  Either it be used for what ever WE want, or we must learn to control it and use it to glorify God, both by praising him and by encouraging others.
To think that we can mindlessly use foul language, tell lies, tell inappropriate jokes and beat people down by the way that we speak to them, all the while professing to be Christians is nothing short of hypocrisy!  We are destroying our influence and credibility among those in the world and in the church!
Matthew 23:23-28 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. (24) Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. (25) Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. (26) Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. (27) Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. (28) Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. 
If we cannot find a way of controlling what comes out of our mouths, we are only fooling ourselves by thinking that we are faithfully following God.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Actions Speak Louder than Words

James 2:14-17 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? (15) If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, (16) And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? (17) Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 
If you were to take a poll, apparently a huge percentage of Americans would claim to be followers of God.  With that understood, would you look out into society and say that it appears that a huge percentage of people behave as if they are Christians?  I certainly wouldn’t!  I would tend to see things more like Jesus does.
Matthew 7:14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. 
Jesus said that few are on the way or path that leads to life, which could be  translated to being a few that actually have the lifestyle of a Christian.  So if a large percentage claims to be followers but it is more like a “few”... why the difference?  I think James hits the nail on the head.  Because having a faith in God is more than making a profession.  It must also include ACTION.  James is saying faith without works or action is dead.  It has no value.  It is worthless.  
A worthwhile faith....a saving faith is more than words.  It’s more than wearing a crusifix.  It’s more than hitting “Like” to a religious theme on Facebook.  It is more than passing on a religious email that tells you to ‘forward this if you love Jesus’.  A worthwhile faith....a saving faith requires real substantive action.
Notice the illustrative example that James gives to make his point.  If you run across a person who is in need of basic necessities (food and clothing), and because of your “faith” you SAY (again mere words), ‘Be warmed and Filled’, James asks...What does it profit?  It certainly didn’t profit the person in need!  And the conclusion is that it does not profit you either!
In order for faith to be profitable to any one, WHAT we beleive must be put into action!  We must let our light SHINE!  We must actually feed and clothe that poor person.  We must bear one another’s burdens.  And the list goes on and on.
Christianity is not just a box to be checked on a form to identify what category we belong in, Christianity must be a lifestyle to be lived or it is DEAD!

Monday, July 23, 2012

It Only Takes One!

James 2:10-11 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. (11) For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. 
Our minds tend to think in compartments.  In doing so, we like to think that one compartment has nothing to do with another.  This way of thinking, unfortunately, allows people to believe that they are faithfully serving God, all the while holding on to a “favorite” sin.  Some of the “hypocrisy” in the church comes from this way of thinking.  I think there are a number of people that truly believe they are faithful, yet living in a lifestyle of one or two sins.  They generally feel that because they are striving to live the Christian life, ‘this one problem in my life won’t be that big of a deal’.
But James tells us this process of thought is IMPOSSIBLE!  One sin is a big deal!  We are told very clearly that if we break one law, we have transgressed the whole law of Christ!  Continuing in any sin, big or small, simply continues us in a lifestyle of sin.
For those that are puffing up thinking that they are in great shape, consider this passage.
James 4:17 Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin. 
Christianity is not just a refusal of sin, it is also a propensity to do good whenever possible.  A failure to proactively do good is a sin, so even if one is dedicated and conscientious about refusing sin, they can fall victim to being guilty of offending the whole law simply for doing nothing.
Let us not hold on to any sin in our lives.  Let us recognize sin for what it is:  A danger to our spiritual lives, and then learn to flee from it...All of it!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Seeing the Inside of Man

James 2:1-5 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. (2) For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; (3) And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: (4) Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? (5) Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? 
Our passage today deals with a lesson that we all so desperately need:  Being able to see past the physical of a person (whether good or bad), and understand that the internal can be so much different than we might first conclude.  This teaching causes me to have two obvious impressions:
1.  Praise be to God that what we LOOK like is not WHO we are!  How many times in life have we gotten to know a “popular” person; one that has everything going for them as far as looks, clothes, physique etc. and then once we get to know them we wonder how they got so popular.  On the other hand, how many times have we gotten to know someone that was superficially “lacking”; whether it’s that they are overweight, or dress with a distorted sense of style or they are just ugly, but when we get to know them they are a wonderful person.  All of us have experienced these interactions and yet, we tend to fall back and make judgements about people based upon their outward appearance.  If you are like me, I was not born physically perfect, so I am thankful that God looks upon something COMPLETELY different in order to judge who I am.
1 Samuel 16:7 But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart. 
In this passage, Israel is in turmoil with Saul being king so God desires to replace him.  He sends his prophet Samuel to the house of Jesse to choose one of his sons to anoint as the next king of Israel.  The first son that Samuel encounters was a physically ideal specimen, but God rejected him and verse 7 was his explanation.  Because God does not look on the physical as man does but looks on the heart.  Now look at verse 5 of James 2.  Notice who God says will inherit heaven.  Not the rich!  Not the good looking.  NOt the physically fit.  But those that LOVE God!  That is a characteristic of the heart.  A characteristic that ANYONE can achieve!
2.  We Therefore Cannot Judge People on superficial Characteristics!  The primary point of this lesson, is that because God does not judge from the outward, that we too should learn to do the same.  Unfortunately, not only we draw conclusions upon what we see from a person, but that we often act upon it as well.  James illustrates a scenario where two men walk into an assembly, and the socially preferred person is treated in a very welcoming manner, while the socially “outcast” person is escorted to the back.  His attendance and importance is minimized due ONLY because of his appearance.  If we are not careful, we can behave in a very similar manner over race, gender, money or any other physical characteristic.  The fact is, we are all fortunate that God does not judge us in this manner, and we MUST do all that we can to see man as God does.  We must strive, every day to learn to see that everyone has POTENTIAL!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Having an Effective Religion!

James 1:27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. 
On the heels of yesterday’s discussion of keeping our religion from being vain or worthless, James comes back to discuss how that our our religion can be pure and undefiled.  We are told to visit the fatherless and the widows and to keep ourselves unspotted from the world.  Let’s look at these teachings in two separate categories.  I think this verse breaks Christianity down into two main focuses.
1.  Living a Positive Life for God
2.  Refraining from Sin
1. Positive Living.  We may somewhat neglect this avenue of Christianity in our teaching.  I think there is a host of Christians that believe that as long as I don’t do any of those big sins then I am safe.  But the Bible and Jesus himself are VERY emphatic that if we neglect this aspect of Christianity, we deceiving ourselves.
Matthew 25:14-26 For the kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. (15) And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. (16) Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. (17) And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. (18) But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money. (19) After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. (20) And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. (21) His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. (22) He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. (23) His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. (24) Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: (25) And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. (26) His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: 
When you compare this one talent man to the other two guys, Jesus is trying to show that they differ only in this one aspect of using their talents.  In other words, we should NOT assume that this one talent man was excessively more evil or sinful than the other two servants.  The only reason that he is rebuked is because he didn’t do anything.  James says that we ought to visit the Fatherless and the widows; two groups of people that typically cannot help themselves.  So we ought to use our talents to help them, comfort them and to enrich their lives.
Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. 
2. Refraining from Sin.  These two aspects of Christianity should not be viewed as buffet items, in that we have a choice between doing one or the other.  Instead, to have a pure, undefiled religion, we must do both.  The second thing that James informs us of is refraining from sin.  
Sin is what separated us from God initially (Isaiah 59:1-2) and all sin has the power to continue to separate us from God.  With that in mind, we need to avoid sin at all cost.
Romans 6:1-2 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? (2) God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? 
For those of us that are Christians, we have made the commitment to abandon sin, In fact, the language that Paul uses in Romans 6 is that we have died to sin.  That should be the attitude that we have.  I have died to sin.  I am done with it.  I have put it behind me.
We must apply both of these aspects of Christianity in our lives. It is the ONLY way that we can have a religion that is effective and meaningful to God!.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Keeping Religion from Being Vain!

James 1:26 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. 
The Bible never ceases to amaze me.  Today’s passage is dealing with what can make a man’s religion vain. 
First, let’s make sure we understand the word “vain”.   Vain simply means:  “worthless, having NO value”.  So James is telling us that something that we can do can make our attempt at drawing near to God have not value to either us or God!
If we were to take a poll of people, unfamiliar with this verse, and ask them how a man might make his religion in vain, I would imagine that know one would give the answer that James does.  In today’s crazy world we might hear things like...”by not taking good care of the environment”.  Or by not loving one another.  By not accepting everyone despite their choices or lifestyles.
Even religious people might give the wrong answer like...by losing faith....or by failing to attend worship services regularly.  But none of these are the correct answer.
So James, what can we do that can make our religion in vain?  Failing to control our tongues.  Our speech, what we say, what we choose not to say, the jokes that we tell, the descriptions that we make, all tell others about who we are.  If we use foul language on a regular basis, then James says that our religion is worthless!  If we cannot refrain from telling jokes then our religion has no value.  If you are mean spirited and regularly belittle people with your speech, then your religion is in vain.
I think that Jesus has insight for why this is so significant...
Matthew 15:18-20 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. (19) For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: (20) These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man. 
Jesus says that what comes out of the mouth (speech) comes from the heart.  And ultimately, what is in the heart defiles a man.  If we continually lie, use foul language, tell dirty jokes, or demean people with our speech, it is much larger indicator of who we really are....a defiled person.
If you regularly use foul language in any form, but do not like the idea that you are defiled, then it is not too late to change.  You can control your speech.  You can think before you speak and become the kind of person that you want to be.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What’s the Point of Looking?

James 1:22-25 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. (23) For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: (24) For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. (25) But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. 
Yesterday, we discussed James 1:22....being DOERS of the word and not hearers only.  But in verses 23-25, James continues this thought and so shall we.
James ended verse 22 by saying that if we are hearers only we deceive ourselves.  In verse 23-24 he elaborates that concept by offering an illustration to support his statement.
James 1:23-24 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: (24) For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. 
For most of us, what is the LAST thing that we do before we walk out of the door to go into public?  If you are like me, you look at the mirror.  Why do we do that?  Because it is the final look!  The last inspection!  We want to make sure that everything is properly done; that we have not forgotten something.  It gives us one last chance in case we find that something is lacking.
Now, here really is the crux of this point...What if we find something wrong?  For instance, what if we look in the mirror and realized that men, we didn’t shave our face or ladies, you didn’t put on your make-up?  What if you look in the mirror and see that there is a big coffee stain on your shirt?  What do you do?
Really we have one of two options:
1.  You can say.....”aah, no big deal, that interviewer won’t mind that big stain”
2.  You go and fix the problem that you found in the mirror.
If you go with option number 1.....If you see a problem and choose not to fix it...Why did you look?  What was the point?  Isn’t the WHOLE point of looking in the mirror, right before you walk out the door, to make sure everything is RIGHT?  
That is exactly the illustration that James is making as it pertains to our spiritual lives. If we look in the “Perfect Law of Liberty”, the Bible, and see that our lives do not measure up, What do we do?  Will we go away and say to ourselves ”aah, no big deal, God won’t mind that sin”?  If we react that way, we are the forgetful hearers that James is warning us about.  If we walk away without changing the problem, we are deceiving ourselves by thinking that reading the Bible is having any benefit to us.
The alternative of course is that we do as the text suggests and be Doers of the word.  We see the problem in our lives and we make the proper adjustments to make things right.  Remember what James said in verse 21 from a couple of days ago?
James 1:21 ...and receive with MEEKNESS the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. 
James said that we should receive with humility or meekness the word of God.  If we look at Bible and say to ourselves that we are not going to change, that is not receiving it with humility, it is REJECTING it with ARROGANCE.
In James’ last statement, he said that if we do what we find in the word of God, we will be blessed in our deeds.  There is a real benefit, to US, for changing our coffee stained shirts before we walk out the door.  Likewise, there is a REAL benefit to both us and God if we look into the word of God, recognize that there is a problem and become DOERS of what we read, by making the proper changes in our lives.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Be Doers...Not Just Hearers!

James 1:22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
As Americans, we understand that one of the things that makes us special is our American Constitution.  That document that makes sets us apart, establishes our freedoms and in many ways, makes us special throughout the world.  Because it is the foundation for our government and liberties, we cherish it, value it and defend it.
For those that claim to be Christians, the Bible in many ways is much like the Constitution.  The Bible is our law.  Likewise the Bible establishes our Freedoms. And if used correctly sets us apart from the rest of the world.
But that statement is really the main point of our text this day:  “If used correctly”!  It is amazing to me how that the Bible can be so easily discarded as irrelevant.  The Power in the word comes from its Application!  But don’t so many other things in life?  How useful is an electrical socket if you do not stick the plug into it.  It has enormous POTENTIAL in its unused state, but it is useless without application.  Medicine is the same way.  You can be dying with a bottle of medicine in your hand and still die if you don’t put the medicine in your mouth.  The Bible is NO different!  The Bible ONLY has great Potential, unless and until it is applied to our lives!
James tells us not to be hearers only but to do what it is that we hear and read.  But look at the last statement that he makes here.  “Deceiving our Own selves.  If we think that we can read the word of God, maybe even become great students of it, even to the point that we have it largely memorized, but we do not APPLY the commands, restrictions and liberties contained within, we are only FOOLING ourselves.
Don’t lie to yourself.    If you want to be a follower of God, know the word of God by studying it regularly.  But don’t stop there....Do what the Bible tells you to do.  Refrain from what the Bible says to avoid!  Think how it tells you to think!  Be what it tells you to be!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Don’t Just Read It...Live It!

James 1:21 Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. 
This passage is so jammed packed with powerful truths that can help us, I am going to break down this verse by its key points.  I don’t normally dissect a passage in this manner for the Reflecting the Son, but for this verse, it just seemed to be the most effective way to extract the truths contained there in.
1.  We CAN Lay Aside Sin in our lives
There was an old TV show when I was growing up called the "Flip Wilson Show". On it was a character named Geraldine.  That personality would often explain away her bad behavior by saying...”The Devil Made me do it!”  As much as we would love to blame someone else for our shortcomings, the Bible is quite clear that sin is a choice that we make.  And if it is a choice that we make, it is equally a choice that we can AVOID!  Certainly there are influences that can have an effect our decision making, but if we choose to live the life of sin, there is no one to blame but ourselves.  Therefore, to be a true follower of God, we must learn to lay aside ALL sin!
2.  The Nature of Sin - A Disgusting Filth & Overflowing Evil.
It is amazing how that labels on things can make such a huge difference in the way that we perceive things.  I’v seen TV shows where people were enjoying a weird food like “Escargot” but when they learned it was nothing more than snails, they spit them out and refused to eat them.  Sin is the same way.  If we could see sin like God does, we would have a much easier time refusing it, but Satan has convinced the world to rename it to make it more palatable.  This verse, and many others in the Bible, describe sin as a disgusting filth.  Therefore, Like any other disgusting, putrid filth, we should teach ourselves to see it as it is, and like God, be revolted by it.
3.  How to Receive the the Word of God!
James tells us that we are to receive the WORD with Meekness.  A more common word for meekness is humility.  Humility is an attitude that has the proper understanding and perspective of ourselves.
Romans 12:3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
Arrogance and pride says that “I have no need to change!”  Arrogance and pride says that “the Bible isn’t for me, it’s for someone else”.  Arrogance and pride says that “My heart tells me that this is OK regardless of what the Bible says”.  However with the proper humble attitude, we will understand that that God knows us best, that he wants the best for us and that submitting to his will and following his EVERY command will benefit us in this life and the life to come!
4.  Making the Word of God a Part of your Life!
James, in this verse, describes the Word of God as the Engrafted word.  That word Engraft is a horticultural word that describes taking a branch of one tree and inserting that branch into the trunk of a different tree, and when left there and nurtured, that branch will grow and eventually become part of the second tree!  That is how the word ought to be part of our lives.  We must insert it and make it a part of our everyday life.  The word of God CANNOT simply be an accessory on a bookshelf.
5.  The Word of God is Able to Save Your Soul!
James is clear, the Bible is able to save our souls....but How?  Contained within the Bible is the instructions or prescription for healing our sick souls.  Jesus describes himself as the Great Physician and the words that he speaks, the words contained in the Bible, are his prescription.  When we follow it as we should, we can find the salvation that we are looking for.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Controlling Anger!

James 1:19 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: (20) For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. 
In our text today, James gives us sound advice on how to deal with people, especially in contentious situations. Controlling our emotions, especially anger, takes effort. However if we try, it will, in time, become more natural and allow us to appear more Godly to the one’s we are around.  
When we take time to think about what is being said, we will understand that the message of this text will greatly reduce conflict between people.  We will also see that it is the EXACT opposite of what our natural reaction is.
So if it is so useful, why do we not do it?  Pride!  We always want to be right!  We always want to save face!  As humans, we generally do not want to utilize the principles of humility that our Savior taught us and himself demonstrated so well. 
James 4:10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. 
What then should we do to control anger?  Three separate things.
1.  Quick to Hear.
Jumping to conclusions is the quickest way to have conflict  How often do we THINK that we hear something negative, react emotionally, and then later find out that what we heard was not the complete story.  This is such a problem, that when we get ready to give difficult news, we often have to tell the hearer to “hear me out”.  We know that people, by nature, will hear only a portion of the news and react!  We need to teach ourselves to gather all of the necessary information before we react prematurely!
2.  Slow to Speak.
If we properly learn this first principle, the second two will be much more natural.  If we are carefully listening, we cannot be talking.  When we talk in these contentious situations, we generally do not make the situation better.  Instead, we tend to further escalate it.  Therefore, if we have the desire to NOT be angry, then controlling ourselves from talking is a beneficial way to managing the situation.
3.  Slow to Wrath.
A significant antithesis to reasoned thought is anger.  We simply are unable to process analytical reason when we are angry.  Anger is pure emotion and often it dominates over reason.  If we then, begin talking or acting based upon this pure, raw emotion, it will not bring about a positive solution but rather an escalation of the conflict.  Therefore, to be the kind of people that God wants us to be, we need to fight the urge to allow anger and wrath to take over our being!
Notice carefully the wording that we have used to describe this text today:  CONTROLLING Anger not “thou shalt not ever be angry”.  There is a huge difference that needs to be understood.  Anger in and of itself is NOT sin.
Ephesians 4:26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 
Even Jesus was angry at times.  At least once he was so angry he was moved to violence!
John 2:13-16 And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, (14) And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: (15) And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; (16) And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise. 
Jesus was angry.  He even acted in a manner that could be described as violent.  But he acted with a righteous indignation.  The point is, that being angry is not a sin. But as James pointed out in verse 20...
James 1:20 For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. 
In general terms, anger is not a characteristic that causes man to think of God.  So if we want our light to so shine, that they see God (Matt 5:16), then we must not be people that are quick to get angry.  Anger can be controlled and we must do all that we can to do so!