2017

God With Us

God With Us sermon manuscript

God With Us

Passages: Genesis 2:18-24, 3:6, 15:1-6, 17:1-8; Joshua 1:9; Matthew 1:18-25; Hebrews 1:1-3; Galatians 4:4-5

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Pastor Ben Marshall

 

There is nothing as powerful as presence. I have a 14-month-old daughter, and I had this thought last Christmas, as she was two months old, that she desires my presence over presents. The same is true this year.

The impact of a present is temporary, but the impact of the presence of those around us is lifelong.

 

When we look at Scripture, we can see one overwhelming characteristic of God: He wants to be with His people.

First, we see God with Adam and Eve (Genesis 2:18-24; 3:8). At the very beginning, in the creation account, we see that God didn’t just create and leave. He created, and He was close and interacting with creation. 

Second, we see God with Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 15:1-6; 17:1-8). God brought Abraham outside in verse 5 and promised him heirs and offspring innumerable. Abraham at this point was very old and had zero children. But as God was there with Abraham, He promised to make Abraham the father of many nations. 

Third, we see God was with the people of Israel (Joshua 1:9). Our regular sermon series, continuing next week, has been going through the book of Joshua. We see at the beginning of that book that God promised His presence. God didn’t just promise a one-time presence, but a “wherever you go” presence. The LORD your God is with you wherever you go.

Fourth, we see God with us (Matthew 1:18-25). This is what we celebrate and remember at Christmas time. Jesus Christ came to be God with us (Hebrews 1:1-3 NLT)

 

Every one of these “God with us” moments followed God’s timing, not the timing of mankind.

Galatians 4:4-5. At the perfect time, at just the right time, God sent Jesus Christ, born of the virgin Mary, subject to the laws of man, so that we might become children of God. John 1:12, which we read at the beginning of the service, says But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.

The question is, “Have I received Jesus Christ, have I believed in His Name and become a child of God?”

The Rebuild: Patience

The Rebuild: Patience sermon notes

Patience

Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

The Church @ Hamilton

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Pastor Paul L. Davis

 

Key Goals: (Know) Understand the important of patience. (Feel) Feel compelled to fix our eyes on Jesus. (Do) Be patient.

Introduction: Over the last two weeks in our series on James, we have explored two formidable enemies of rebuilding our lives: arrogance and self-indulgence. This series has been built on the idea that anyone, regardless of where they are starting, can rebuild their life with the gospel. Jesus transforms our brokenness into purpose, and this book has been written to help us do that. This morning is critical! In our passage, James will call us to an incredibly important rebuilding tool. It is one we often joke about praying for, but its power to transform your life, your marriage, and your parenting is second to none. Please turn to James 5 James 5:7–12[1]. We will read the passage and then dive into the meat of it.

7 Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. 8 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

 9 Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

 

One of the most important life lessons everyone has to learn is how to respond correctly when you have been wronged. It happens to everyone—at some point in our lives we will all be wounded! Often we are surprised by it; we are living life happily, delighting in how blessed we are, and then wham! A difficult trial hits us broadside: a family member betrays us, someone at work spreads malicious gossip about us, someone we look up to at church severely disappoints us, we discover a close friend’s secret sin. We are shocked, angered, and disoriented. We begin to wonder, “Is there anyone I can trust?” How do you respond? With frustration or anger? Do you grumble and complain? Get even? How do we rebuild from here? Our passage this morning is the passage you turn to when you are working through hardship and betrayal. There are two key words in this passage: patience and steadfastness. The word patience shows up four times (v.7-2x, 8,10) and steadfastness twice (v. 11-2x).

 

The first thing we need to understand about patience is that patience is something you are not something you do. Look at verse 7. Be patient, therefore, brothers. Then look at verse 8, You also, be patient… James does not tell us to do patience, he tells us to be patient. Be the type of person who is patient. Patience is the ability to endure a great deal of mistreatment from people or circumstances without losing your temper, becoming irritated or angry, and without taking vengeance. The Greek is a combination of two words: long and spirit/soul, so a patient person is a “long-souled” person. Some languages describe patience as “a heart that remains seated during provocation.”

 

Patience is often associated with wisdom (Proverbs 19:11 Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense) and it includes the ability to bear pain or trials without complaint, and to suffer long under provocation. It is a fruit of the Spirit much like self-control, the combination of which keeps us from acting impulsively or sinfully in the heat of adversity.[2] It is important as we define patience to understand that patience is not passivity (unresponsiveness) or indulgence (tolerance). Patience is the loving and merciful response to being wronged, sinned against, neglected, or abused. God is our ultimate example of patience. In Matthew 18:23-34, Jesus used a story to give us a glimpse of what God’s patience looks like.

 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.

28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.

 

This parable deserves its own sermon, but the key aspect that I want us to catch is how and from where we derive our patience. Our ability to be patient flows from how God has treated us. He has been so merciful to us. How many times have we sinned against him? 1 John 1:9 promises us that If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. How many times? 7? It is unlimited. God has forgiven all of our sins through Christ Jesus! Psalm103:12 declares that our sins have been removed from us as far as the East is from the West! God’s “long-spiritedness” or patience with us is what drives our ability to be patient.

 

Lets’ go back to James 5, because James doesn’t just tell us to “be patient,” he gives us three beautiful visions of what patience looks like in real life.

 

1. Patience looks like a farmer waiting (James 5:7-8)

The farmer pictured here is the sustenance farmer of first century Palestine. He plants his carefully saved seed and hopes for a harvest, living on short rations and suffering hunger during the last weeks. His whole livelihood, indeed his life and the life of his family, depend on a good harvest; the loss of the farm, semi-starvation, or death could result from a bad year. So the farmer patiently waits for an expected future event; no one but him knows how important this harvest really is, but he must be patient no matter how hungry he becomes.[3] He knows that if he is patient until after the “later rains,” there is a reward, so he works and waits because of the coming reward. Just like that farmer, James tells us that we believers can be patient because we have a coming reward— the coming of the Lord. The Bible tells us repeatedly to anticipate Jesus’ return.

  • Revelation 3:11 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown
  • Philippians 4:5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.

 

The Scriptures teach that Jesus could return today. We are encouraged to live like we believe that! Think about this: if you knew that Jesus was going to return at 12:59pm today, would you have been a little more patient with your children this morning? Here is the reality: the hardships, betrayals, and frustrations we are working through with people who drive us crazy will soon be over. So be patient. Be compassionate and merciful like the Lord has been with you. He is returning soon.

 

A Quick Warning: Now before he gives us the last two visions of patience, James drops in a warning about grumbling against one another in verse 9. The thing we need to know about grumbling is that it is the antithesis of patience. Grumbling is neither merciful nor compassionate. God is once again our example in this; God does not grumble about our faults and failures, instead he continues to love despite them. But just like Jesus’ parable in Matthew 18, if we refuse to change, God will judge. Look at verse 9. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. So the return of Christ is both an encouragement to be patient and a warning not to grumble.

 

2. Patience looks like the prophets remaining steadfast (James 5:9-11)

God’s prophets endured incredible wrongs at the hands evil doers as well as from God’s people. Hebrews 11:35–37 lists some of the things done to them. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated…These prophets all suffered because of their faith, yet in their suffering they patiently endured and stood fast in their faith. The word translated steadfast carries the idea of “clinging or cleaving to God.” Courageous endurance is another possible translation.  

 

A hard reality of life is that doing God’s will often leads to suffering. The prophets bore up under suffering and maintained their spiritual integrity, waiting patiently for the Lord himself to intervene to transform their situations. Regardless of what the world throws against us, the patient person clings courageously to God. Hard stuff does not blow us off course because we are moored to Jesus. We can endure because we have an anchor, a sure foundation, a rock that will not move. Have you tied yourself to Christ like that? We know tough times are coming. Are you connected to Christ in such a way that when the winds blow you will remain steadfast? Verse 10 ends with Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. This verse is a pretty clear promise: we will be blessed if we remain steadfast in our faith and patient with others.[4]

 

3. Patience looks like Job eventually seeing God’s purpose (James 5:11)

The last, and I think best, reason for us to “be patient” is the lesson we learn from Job’s life: our present suffering is never the “end” of our story, because when Christ is revealed in glory we will be like him.[5] Our story will end like Job’s, not with suffering but with joy! I was reading this passage to Esther Harrington just this week. Revelation 21:4 He will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Job suffered miserably. Satan desired to destroy his faith but he couldn’t do it—not because Job was a “super Christian,” but because Job was tied unshakably (steadfastly) to his Lord. He patiently endured everything Satan could throw at him, and in the end the Lord proved himself merciful and compassionate.

 

Rebuilding with Patience: We have work to do. If you have a short fuse, you are not patient. If you snap at your kids over minor, childish things, you need to grow patient. Those of us easily frustrated with the driver in front of us are not patient. When we are quick to find fault with co-workers’ failures, we are not patient. That exasperated ‘sigh’ when you’re asked to do something? That is impatience.

 

What needs to change? James tells us right in the middle of this passage. Look back at verse 8. I purposely skipped over it. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. James tells us to establish our hearts. It is a command, an imperative. Now the Greek word for “establish” can also mean “strengthen,” but these two words don’t help me much. I struggle to know what it means to “strengthen or establish my heart.” So let me share with you one other way this Greek word is translated, because the word is also found in Amos 9:4. …there I will command the sword, and it shall kill them; and I will fix my eyes upon them for evil and not for good. That phrase “I will fix my eyes upon them” is the same word as “establish.” The idea is this: patience flows from fixing our eyes upon Jesus and not on the circumstances we are facing. Fix your eyes; set and establish your heart in Jesus! Look for his return, trust in his promises, refuse to let temporary circumstances drive your attitudes and feelings. It’s just wind, and you are tied to the rock!

 

  

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

 

 

Community Group Questions

1.          Read James 5:7-11 out loud with your group. Discuss key words or phrases that jump out of the text.

2.          What is your typical response when you are wronged? How have you grown over the years?

3.          Discuss the farmer analogy. How does farming help us understand patience?

4.          Why do you think James so closely ties patience and steadfastness? Can you have one without the other?

5.          Read Rev. 21:4; discuss how verses like this can get people through difficult times.

 

[1] All Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV.

[2] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Patience,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1619.

[3] Peter H. Davids, The Epistle of James: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1982), 183.

[4] Peter H. Davids, The Epistle of James: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1982), 186.

[5] Douglas J. Moo, The Letter of James, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos, 2000), 230.

The Rebuild: Corrosion

The Rebuild: Corrosion sermon notes

 

Corrosion

Passage: James 5:1-5

Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

The Church @ Hamilton

Sunday, March 19, 2017

 

Key Goals: (Know) Understand there are enemies to our rebuild. (Feel) Feel compelled to fight against self-indulgence. (Do) Place God and his mission first in our life.

Introduction: Last week in our series on James, we looked at a formidable enemy of rebuilding our lives: arrogance. We found that arrogance shows up when we judge others and when we presume upon the future. As we move into chapter 5 this morning, James has one more enemy to introduce to us: the enemy of self-indulgence. James was such an interesting guy. Even though Jesus was his older half-brother, there is zero indication that James believed in or even followed Jesus while he was alive. Yet after the resurrection he became one of the leading apostles of the church. I sort of get that, though; I know I would need some serious convincing if my brother declared that he was the creator of the world.

Unlike the twelve apostles, James never left Jerusalem. He was appointed as overseer of Jerusalem and was also the most “Jewish” of the apostles. History tells us that he was known for how righteously he kept the Law, so much so that the other apostles feared him. Peter refused to eat with Gentiles because he was afraid James might hear about it (Gal. 2:11-12), and James asked Paul to buy the sacrifices for some men about to take a Nazirite vow and Paul obeyed (Acts 21:18-26.)[1] What an incredible guy he had to be that apostle Peter was afraid of him and the apostle Paul obeyed him. While historians disagree on exactly how it happened, we know that the pharisees martyred James in Jerusalem. They were upset at how many people were coming to Christ. What is interesting for us this morning is that it was happening amongst the religious elite and the wealthy. Jewish temple priests and rich landowners—powerful and influential people—were repenting of their sins and turning to Christ.

Listen to Acts 6:7 And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith. In our passage this morning you are going to see why James was killed, but I also think you will see why so many repented and turned to Christ. Listen to how strong this language is. James 5:1–6[2]

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. 2 Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. 4 Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5 You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.

If I were a wealthy first century Jewish landowner reading this passage, I imagine I would either be genuinely convicted and love James for his boldness to confront, or I would think he was a jerk, shooting his mouth off about matters he does not understand. It would be hard to read this and stay neutral. How I would like to handle the passage this morning is for us to take a few minutes and break down exactly what James was saying to his immediate audience, and what they would have heard and thought. Then let’s fast forward 2000 years and see if God has a message for you and me this morning.

 

Confronting Corrosion: James begins by calling out rich people. Look at verse 1. Come now, you rich. James is addressing a very specific class of people. He does not distinguish whether or not they are believers, just their socio-economic status. They are rich.

First Century Context: First century Israel was a peasant society in the sense that “its sole of source income was subsistence farming.” In his book ‘Peasants’, Eric R. Wolf describes peasants as rural cultivators whose surpluses were extracted by the ruling elite in order to underwrite its own standard of living.[3] Perhaps you remember the phrase “Pax Romana” or Roman peace—the idea that Romans conquered the known world and made it peaceful for centuries? The Pax Romana was real, but hidden behind that “peace” were oppressive tributes, taxes, and tolls that completely impoverished the average person. So the wealthy grew wealthier and the poor grew poorer. This problem was compounded by the fact that the wealthy elite were also the “purity elite;” the wealthy also controlled the temple, the tithes, and sacrificial offerings. The rich exploited the poor through religious purity—this is the very reason why Jesus in Matthew 21 turned over the moneychangers’ tables in the temple: they had turned God’s house into an oppressive exploitation machine.

So both individual Roman rulers and the Jewish religious elite subjugated the average person. Why is this important to know? Because of what James says next. Go back to the end of verse 1 …weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. The two Greek words for weep and howl have the idea of crying out in misery or torment. The word “howl” actually sounds like someone crying in pain (ololull). James is warning the rich to repent and prepare for a coming judgment. 2 Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. This is language not seen anywhere else in the New Testament; James almost sounds like an Old Testament prophet. The view James is trying to give us is from eternity. So much wealth has been accumulated that it can’t begin to be used, so it rots and rusts. It is the rot and rust that indicts the rich man. But as we will see in a moment, gold and silver are not the rich man’s problem; it is their heart.

 

The hidden enemy of greed.

4 Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.

The way labor worked during this time period was if you worked for a day, you were paid that evening. You then took that money and bought food for your family. You have probably heard 2 Thessalonians 3:10 If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. That thought comes from this economic model. What the rich would do was withhold wages. So instead of paying every night, they would pay them at the end of the harvest. The laborer would have to borrow money to buy food and then pay off his loan once he got paid; of course they never made enough money to cover the interest, so the laborers effectively became indentured slaves, while the landowners made vast fortunes from abusing them. It was pure greed. James warns that the cries of the abused have reached the ears of the Lord.

So the enemy James is addressing is greed, the craving for wealth that leads a person to do sinful actions in order to grow rich. Paul warned against the same thing in 1 Timothy 6:9–10. Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. Both Paul and James warn us that the love of money (greed) will draw us away from God and cause us to treat people in ways that God will judge.

 

The hidden enemy of self-indulgence.

5 You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.

The rich that James was rebuking lived luxurious lives. But again, it wasn’t the luxury that was the problem, it was the self-indulgence. The self-indulgent person throws off restraint and discipline and yields to the desire to gratify their own selfish appetites and cravings. Just because we can have something does not mean we should indulge in it. Throughout scripture we are warned against feeding our passions and lusts, and urged instead to develop self-control, generosity and an others-centeredness.[4] Interestingly, the wisest man who ever lived, Solomon, tried to find happiness through self-indulgence. Listen to what he found. Ecclesiastes 2:1–11.

I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.” But behold, this also was vanity. 2 I said of laughter, “It is mad,” and of pleasure, “What use is it?” 3 I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine...

4 I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. 5 I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. 6 I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. 7 I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house. I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. 8 I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, the delight of the sons of man. 9 So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. 10 And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure…

11 Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.

 Solomon found that self-indulgence does not bring happiness; it is vanity. James warns that those who spend their lives seeking to indulge their desires fatten their hearts for the slaughter. This is again a reference to judgment. James wants the self-indulgent to understand that a day will soon come when they will answer for how they lived. Let’s fast forward to today. What should we walk away thinking?

 

You don’t have to be rich to be greedy or self-indulgent. Lying on your taxes, stealing from your employer, padding your timecard, sneaking money from your mother’s purse, over eating, bingeing on Netflix, refusing to give—these are all symptoms of greed and self-indulgence.  James really focuses in on one aspect of greed and warns us that God “hears the cries” of those who are being hurt by our greed. Before we think we don’t have any greed to repent of, let’s think a moment about how greedy people hurt those around them:

1. Greedy people must be first in line, so beware if you are in front of them.

2. Greedy people are always looking for loopholes or ways to game the system—watch out.

3. Greedy people abuse service workers who depend on tips.

4. Greedy people live for now and expect others to pay later.

5. Greedy people do as little work as possible and expect others to fill the gaps.

6. Greedy people blame innocent people as they bluff and lie their way out of trouble.

7. Greedy people covet; they covet your stuff, your spouse, your prestige, and they will take it given half a chance.

God will judge greed because of how it abuses other people. Believers are to be recognized by our love, not our greed. In fact, humility mixed with love is the antidote to greed and self-indulgence. Listen to Philippians 2:3–4 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. He goes on to say in Philippians 2:5–8 (NIV) In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

 

 

Community Group Questions

 

1.          Read James 5:1-6 out loud with your group. Discuss key words or phrases that jump out of the text.

2.          When you hear the word “self-indulgent,” what comes to your mind?

3.          Look at the “seven ways greed hurts others” found at the end of the sermon. Discuss a time you have seen one of these in action.

4.          James tells us that God “hears the cries” of the abused laborers. Can you think of another passage where God says he heard the cries of abused laborers and acted on their behalf? How is this similar or different?

5.          Discuss how humility and love might “cure” greed and self-indulgence.

 

[1] Adapted from “The Death of James the Just, Brother of Jesus Christ” http://www.christian-history.org/death-of-james.html

[2] All Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

 

[3] https://heldercarlosdotcom.wordpress.com/2013/07/13/the-socio-political-and-economic-situation-in-the-first-century-c-e-palestine-the-earthly-ministry-of-jesus-and-the-programme-of-renewal-for-the-people-of-israel/

[4] Martin H. Manser, Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies (London: Martin Manser, 2009).

The Rebuild: Judging and Boasting

The Rebuild: Judging and Boasting sermon notes

Judging and Boasting

Passages: James 4:11-17

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Pastor Paul L. Davis

 

Key Goals: (Know) Understand that there are enemies to our rebuild. (Feel) Feel compelled to fight for our relationship with God. (Do) Obey the commands of James 4.

 

Introduction: Have you ever heard of akrasia? It is a philosophical word that describes something that we often do. Take Sue, for example. In January she started a diet in order to lose a few pounds. At work she is confronted with a double chocolate birthday cake brought in by a co-worker. She immediately finds herself drawn to the rich, dark, velvety cake and although she tries to resist, knowing that it will destroy all of her hard work, she eats not one slice but two. Ever been there? Philosophers since before Christ have been fascinated by this behavior. Sue chose to eat two pieces of cake knowing full well that she ought not to eat even one. Ancient Greek philosophers called this akrasia, which literally means a lack of control over one’s self.[1] In order for an action to be akratic, the person has to know what they ought to do and then purposefully choose to do otherwise.

 

This morning James is going to help us rebuild our lives by pointing out how we can be dangerously akratic. Let’s read the passage together and get our bearings, then we will look at what I mean.

 

James 4:11–17[2]

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. 12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

 13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

 

In our passage this morning, James grapples with arrogance, specifically in us—even though we know we are not God, we act like we are. We do this is two ways. The first, in verses 11-12, is speaking evil of and judging people; the second, in verses 13-17, is presuming upon the future. At first blush, these two issues may not seem like a big deal. But if we look a little closer, we will find that both spring from a deep-rooted arrogance that is antithetical to the gospel.

 

Everyone knows arrogance is dangerous. We have all heard Proverbs 16:18. Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Yet even though we know arrogance and pride lead to falls, often we still purposely choose to act in arrogant ways. Classic akrasia. The problem with this is how destructive pride can be. We talk about a “fall” like it is no big deal, when in fact the falls of arrogance are usually devastating. Why? Because arrogance always seems to have a “plus one.”

Arrogance plus: another woman

Arrogance plus: alcohol

Arrogance plus: laziness

Arrogance plus: prescription pain medication

Arrogance plus: zero accountability

 

Let’s look at the “plus ones” James warns us of.

 

Arrogance plus:  Slander and judgment (v11-12)

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. 12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

 

One of the most important biblical truths about God is that he will judge. He is the creator, the law giver, the determiner of right and wrong, and he will judge every single person after death. Hebrews 9:27…it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment. In 2 Tim 4:1 we are told specifically that it will be Jesus who judges, as the Father has given him all authority (John 5:26-27). This is critical for us to understand. There is no person you have ever met who will not be judged. Every one of us will humbly stand before the Lord and give an account.

 

Enter arrogance. When a person begins judging another person—and the idea here is separating or evaluating (this person is a believer/good/holy and this person is not)—they first must sit down on God’s throne. In their mind, a judgmental person has determined that they omnisciently know a person’s heart, motives, and actions. An arrogant person knows that they are not God, yet they willfully choose to sit on his throne and judge the world.

 

Instead, James warns us to refuse to “katalaleo.” Do not speak evil against one another. The Greek word for “speak evil” is katalaleo; it is hostile and malicious speech directed at or against one’s neighbor,[3] with its goal being to bring someone down. Arrogant people are known for this. From their lofty perch they look for the faults and flaws in others so that they can bring them down. This is the opposite posture that Jesus wants us to have. In John 8, a woman who was caught in an adulterous act was brought before Jesus. The Pharisees said, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” Jesus could have judged her right there, and his judgment would have been perfect. But instead he said, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” Every one of the Pharisees walked away, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned[4] you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

 

Arrogant people are so worried about other people’s sin that they never humbly deal with their own sin. Jesus never condemned that woman, but he did deal with her sin, didn’t he? Humility is looking deeply at the areas in our own life that we need to repent of and not worrying about the faults and failures of others.

 

Arrogance plus: presumption (v13-17)

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

 

As I read this you might be thinking, “What is the big deal here? It’s wrong to make plans for the future?” No, let’s go back to our theology. God is not only the creator of the universe, he is its sustainer and sovereign. In other words, nothing happens in God’s universe outside of his control. Scripture is abundantly clear on this:

·      The LORD has established His throne in the heavens; And His sovereignty rules over all. (Psalm 103:19)

·      But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases. (Psalm 115:3)

·      For I know that the LORD is great, And that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps. (Psalm 135:5-6)

 

If God is sovereign, then we are not. The problem James is addressing is not this man’s plans for the future, but his arrogant assumption that he will make it happen. An arrogant person knows they are not God yet they live as if they have his sovereign authority. They don’t seek the Lord’s will or even acknowledge his presence. They delude themselves into thinking they control their own destiny.

 

Jesus shared a parable that touched on this in Luke 12:16–21. Jesus said, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” ’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” This man had big plans; he just wasn’t in control.

 

King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was one of the most powerful monarchs in history. While walking on the roof of his royal palace one evening, he said to himself, “Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?” Daniel 4:31-32 goes on. While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, 32 and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.”

 

One of the most basic lessons to learn in life is: God is God; I am not God! He is sovereign; we are not sovereign. He controls the future; we do not in any way control the future. Humility will naturally flow from a heart that understand this.

 

How should we be different? If arrogance is the problem, what is the solution?

1. Instead of speaking evil: Let us encourage others with our words. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

 

2. Instead of judging: Let us support the growth of those around us. Galatians 6:1–3 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

 

3. Instead of presuming: Let us affirm the Lord’s sovereignty as often as we can. Deuteronomy 4:39 Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the LORD, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other.

 

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

 

 

Community Group Questions

 1. Read James 4:11-17 out loud with your group. Discuss key words or phrases that jump out of the text.

2. Have someone in the group search on the internet “Bible verses judging.” Discuss the different Bible verses/passages listed. Do they add to James’ conversation?

3. List some ways you have seen people “speak evil” of others.

4. Discuss a time when someone judged you.

5. How should believers point out sin that needs to be repented of without being “judgy”?

6. Discuss “presumption;” is that a sin that has been on your radar? Why/why not.

 

[1] Greek, from a- ‘without’ + kratos ‘power, strength.’ The term is used especially with reference to Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics.

[2] All Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV

[3] Gerhard Kittel, “Λαλέω,” ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 4.

[4] Same root word as the word “judge” in James 4.

The Rebuild: Three Enemies

The Rebuild: Three Enemies sermon notes

Three Enemies of My Rebuild

Passages: James 4:1-10

Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

The Church @ Hamilton

Sunday, March 5, 2017

 

Key Goals: (Know) Understand that there are enemies to our rebuild. (Feel) Feel compelled to fight for our relationship with God. (Do) Obey the commands of James 4.

Introduction: Antisthenes, (Greek: Ἀντισθένης; c. 445 – c. 365 BCE), a Greek philosopher and a pupil of Socrates, said this about enemies: “Pay attention to your enemies, for they are the first to discover your mistakes.” The book of James has been helping us rebuild our lives. James has taught us to be doers of the word and not just hearers, to put our faith into action with works, and to control our tongue. This morning, though, James is going to warn us of some enemies—three enemies in a death match against you rebuilding your life.

 

Have you ever found out the hard way that you have an enemy? This happened to the U.S. on Dec. 7th 1941 when Japan sneak-attacked Pearl Harbor. We were not at war with Japan; we were fighting the Nazis until 7:48 a.m. Hawaiian Time. The base was attacked by 353 Imperial Japanese fighter planes, bombers, and torpedo planes launched from six aircraft carriers. By the end of the battle, all eight U.S. Navy battleships were damaged and four were sunk. The Japanese also sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship, and one minelayer. 188 U.S. aircraft were destroyed, 2,403 Americans were killed and 1,178 others were wounded. “Pay attention to your enemies, for they are the first to discover your mistakes.” Let’s focus in on the three enemies lurking to sabotage your rebuild.

 

1. The Enemy Called Hedonism (verses 1-3)

James 4:1–10[1] What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 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. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

 

One Greek word appears twice in this passage, in verses 1 and 3, and it is the word “hedone.” It can be translated as passions or pleasures. Hedone describes that internal part of us that covets and craves feeling good. Our word hedonism comes from this Greek word. Hedonism is the uncontrolled personal desire to fulfill every passion, craving, or lust one experiences regardless of the cost or consequences. Pure hedonists are completely self-centered. Paul described them best in 2 Timothy 3:2–4 as lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful…heartless, unappeasable…without self-control…reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. That is pure hedonism, but most of us are not pure hedonists, right? That would be socially unacceptable. I worry instead about the hedonism that lurks in our hearts, well hidden from public view. Look at the question James asks, What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?  Is it not your passions? The word is hedone—isn’t it your hedonism? Isn’t it because you want more, to be right, to feel good, to be first, what someone else has?

 

Hedonism destroys personal relationships (v1-2) Fighting, quarreling, even murder: these are the words that James uses to describe the interpersonal relationships of those who pursue hedone—their own lusts or passions. Students, if you constantly fight or quarrel with your parents, look hard at this passage; James is telling you it is because of your pleasure-loving heart. You would rather have your way than your parents’ wisdom. A godly monogamous marriage is a prison cell to a person pursuing hidden lusts. They are not content to have their own spouse; they want someone else’s too. So they flirt, scheme, and secretly text or Snapchat to feed their lust for more. Then they wonder why they fight with their spouse. Forget giving, serving, or caring for family or those in need. The hedonist doesn’t have nearly enough money to cover even half of what they covet. The selfish pleasure-seeker slowly demolishes every relationship in their lives, one selfish fight at a time.

 

Hedonism also destroys our prayer life (v2-3) Look where James goes next. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. A person who is bent on feeding their lusts doesn’t pray because they know what they want is either sinful or in excess. If they do pray, their prayers are not heard because they are asking God to feed their insatiable lust for more. The psalmist had the answer for what will truly satisfy our hearts. Psalm 37:4 says Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Delight here has the idea of deep satisfaction mixed with a happy contentment. Be satisfied in the Lord and all your other desires will fall into their proper place, and you will have all that you could ever desire. Here is a nugget to chew on: rebuilding the relationships in our lives may be as simple as replacing our lust for created things with a deep satisfaction in the one who created them.

 

2. The Enemy Called Spiritual Adultery (verses 4-6)

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. 5 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”? 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  

 

I am not a scholar, but I need to tell you that I deeply struggle with how these three verses are translated in the ESV. Verse 4 begins with a reference to adultery. James turns on his audience. He is no longer just warning about the destructiveness of our lusts, he calls his readers adulterers—spiritual adulterers—being in a covenant relationship with one person and loving someone else. My struggle is with the word “friend.” Friends don’t commit adultery against one another. The word is love, philo as in Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. James, in a very strong tone, is telling us that being in love with an adulteress (in this case the world) places us in a hostile state with God.

 

The question James would want us to ask ourselves is this, “Am I married to God or the world?” Imagine a couple that gets married, and a week later the husband says, “I’m going out tonight with my old girlfriend. I love you, but I want to keep in touch with her, too!” Would that work? No! When we get married, we vow to “forsake all others” and be exclusively devoted to our spouse. In the same way, when we put our faith in Jesus Christ, it is an exclusive relationship. Old love relationships need to be put off. We are either in a love relationship with the world and an enemy of God, or in a love relationship with God and an enemy of the world. Jesus said the same thing when he was talking about money. Luke 16:13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. When Jesus was talking with the rich young ruler (Matt 19:16-22) and the young man asked Jesus what he needed to do to be saved, Jesus shocked everyone when he told him to sell all that he had. Because everyone knows that selling stuff doesn’t get you into heaven. His issue was not stuff, it was spiritual adultery—he loved his stuff more than God.

If we are going to rebuild, we will have to address the adulteresses in our lives. Do you have a lover—a mistress to your relationship with God? Is it your job? Sports? Your children? A habit? A drug or substance? All of these things can become loves that get in the way of our relationship with Jesus. Rebuilding our lives will take making Jesus the lover of our soul. Jesus does not want to be one of the “great loves of your life.” He was pretty pointed about this. Matthew 10:37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Deuteronomy 6:5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. James says your love of the world is making you an enemy of God.

 

3. The Enemy Called the Devil (verses 7-10)

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

 

The universe God has created has both a physical and a spiritual realm. We often assume that what we see of this world is all there is, but the Bible clearly communicates that there is much more going on than meets the eye. In 2 Kings 6 there is an interesting moment in Elisha’s life. Syria had been trying to attack Israel and Elisha had been warning Israel before every attack, thwarting the king of Syria’s plans. So the king decided to send his army to kill Elisha. Elisha’s servant opened the door one morning to find the entire Syrian army surrounding the house. In terror he called to Elisha, “What will we do?” Calmly Elisha said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 2 Kings 6:17 There is an entire spiritual realm that we rarely think about, and in that realm are rulers and powers that are dark and evil who seek to destroy our relationship with God. Satan’s singular mission is to prevent or disrupt your bond with God. We know three specific ways he tries to do this: by tempting us to sin, by accusing us before God, and by trying to thwart the divine plan of salvation.[2] He is a real enemy and we are in a real battle, so like a good commander, James gives us a series of commands.

 

a. Submit yourself/humble yourself before God. (v6-7) God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. The word “submit” was a military term which meant “to arrange oneself under command.” The idea is for us to arrange ourselves under God’s direction rather than live according to our own desires or direction. You want to rebuild? Humble yourself and begin arranging your life according to God’s direction, not your own.

 

b. Resist the devil (v7) Resist the devil and he will flee from you. The idea of “resist” is to refuse to bow. Refuse to give an inch. If you give the devil an inch, he will take a mile. Refuse to bow.

 

c. Draw near to God (v8) Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. This verse is at the heart of the idea of “rebuilding” and is James’ call for us to come back to God. It summarized the “prodigal son” story—God the Father is always waiting with open arms for us to return to him. Rebuild by drawing near.

 

d. Cleanse and purify yourself (v8) Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. These two commands are directly related to the spiritual adultery James referenced earlier. We can’t rebuild if we are double minded or have two lovers. Rebuilding will take repentance and purifying ourselves from the sin that splits our heart from God.

 

e. Be wretched (v9) Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. One of the dangers of American Christianity is that we always want to feel good. Most Americans think that the measure of a “good day” at church is to walk out feeling good about ourselves. That is fine some days, but not if we just realized we have an adulterous love relationship with something that is not God. Then we have to do something about it. Feeling guilty, grieving, and morning over our sin is not a bad thing; it is a good thing. It is actually one of the ministries of the Holy Spirit. 2 Corinthians 7:10 tells us that there is a godly grief that produces repentance that leads to salvation without regret. In other words, there are times when we need to just sit for a moment and grieve and let that grief lead us to repentance. I think this is why David wrote Psalm 51. David wrote it just after he committed adultery with Bathsheba. He was not feeling good about his relationship with God. Listen to Psalm 51:1–10 (NIV84).

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;

according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.

4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight,

 so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.

5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

9 Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

 

Calvary, if we are going to rebuild our lives, we need to realize that it will be a war against our internal passions, our external spiritual adulteresses, and a supernatural devil. So draw near to God, purify yourself, and even allow yourself to grieve; let that sorrow bring you to repentance.

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

 

 

Community Group Questions

1.          Read James 4:1-10 and discuss the parts of this passage that speak to your soul.

2.          Discuss hedonism. Is this a word you are familiar with? Has hedone caused you to be in a quarrel or fight?

3.          How does a person know if they are a “spiritual adulterer?”

4.          Discuss the devil. Do you think about the spiritual realm? Why/Why not?

5.          Discuss the command to “be wretched.” How do we balance sorrow for our sin with the need to rejoice in the Lord always?

 

[1] All Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

[2] Werner Foerster, “Διαβάλλω, Διάβολος,” ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 76.

The Rebuild: Dangerous Tools

Dangerous Tools sermon notes

Dangerous Tools

Passages: James 3:1-12

Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

The Church @ Hamilton

Sunday, February 26, 2017

 

Key Goals: (Know) Understand the power of our tongue. (Feel) Feel compelled to change the way we talk. (Do) Seek the power of the Holy Spirit to change our heart and tongue.

The Rebuild: When you entitle a sermon series “The Rebuild,” it assumes some things. It assumes that we humans have an uncanny ability to break down, to get ourselves into some very broken places. Sometimes it’s not our fault—we just live in a damaged world. Other times we are the very epicenter of our brokenness—we caused it. Our sinful bent turbocharged our downward spiral of addiction, lust, anger, hatred, and jealousy. God’s grace and forgiveness is beautiful and free, but changing…rebuilding…that is where the work is. This entire series is built on the premise that the book of James will help us rebuild our lives and that this book is filled with practical tools for us to restore, recreate, and restructure our brokenness. James tackles issue after issue that every believer who is serious about transforming his or her life must work through. James does something with this morning’s issue that he does not do with any other in the entire book: he empathizes. Turn with me to James 3.

 

1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.

 

Verse 2 is what I want you to catch. For we all stumble in many ways. James includes himself in this discussion. This is the only time he will do this, and it is a telling admission. James knows what it is like to stumble sinfully in what you say, and we actually have documentation. In Mark 3:21, when the crowds of people began following Jesus, Jesus’ family became upset with how he was interacting with the crowds and someone in the family said (James maybe), ”He is out of his mind.” “Jesus, you are out of your mind!” We all do that sometimes, right? Make a harsh comment. You’re crazy! What are you, nuts? Are you out of your mind?

 

As we studied the first two chapters of James, he made it very clear to us that genuine faith works. If God has changed our hearts through the new birth, the saving faith that he’s given us will unavoidably show itself in a life of good deeds. This morning James moves from the generality of good works to a very specific area of works—how we use our tongue. With these two verses (3:1-2), James sets up a discussion about how we talk to one another, and right from the beginning he wants us to know a) that he struggles with this area too and b) if we succeed in this area—if we control our tongue—we can control our entire body.

 

But this may be a bigger job than we realize. When I took a trip to Zambia with a group of CSH students, one of our jobs was to expand a garden plot that the community was using to grow vegetables. In the middle of this garden was a huge tree stump that everyone had to work around. It was a nuisance, so I asked why they hadn’t taken it out. I was told it was because the job was too big. Well, I thought this would be a perfect job for four teenage guys and me. How hard could it be? So we went after it in 96-degree heat. It was a brutal job, much bigger than I had realized. Look at verses 3-5. James wants us to clearly understand that controlling our tongue is a bigger job than we may realize. Why?

 

1. Controlling our tongue is tough because, while it is little, it has incredible power.

3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. James uses two word pictures to illustrate: a bit and a rudder. Bits are small compared to horses and rudders are small parts of ships, but both a horse and a ship will end up wherever these small parts take them. Your mouth has the power to take you places both for good and evil. The right words can result in a promotion while wrong words can get you fired. The book of Proverbs teaches us this in Proverbs 12:18 There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.  Words can both cut and heal.

 

From the Old Testament all the way through the New, we are warned about the sins of our tongue and their ability to hurt. Two of the Ten Commandments refer to sins of the tongue: the third, You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain (Exodus 20:7) and the ninth, You shall not bear false witness (Exodus 20:16). Three of the seven things God hates mentioned in Proverbs have to do with the tongue. Proverbs 6:6-19 mentions a lying tongue, a false witness that bears lies, and he who sows discord among brethren.

 

Jesus warned us even about “careless words.”  Matthew 12:36–37 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.  The Apostle Paul warned us in Eph 5:4 that Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes--these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God. Even Peter, who often had trouble saying the right things, at the end of his life warned us in 1 Peter 3:19 that whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit. Why? Because even though the tongue is small, it has incredible power. Look at verse 5. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!

 

2. Controlling our tongue is tough because it is a wildfire.

6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. A key reason many of us need to rebuild our lives is because we have experienced this. In my counseling office I have watched in horror as couples burn down their marriages with harsh words, slander, purposely hurtful insults, cruel and unfair criticisms, blaming, nit-picking. Often much of what is said is true, but it is communicated so sinfully that the truth cannot be heard over the hurt. If we are going to do any life rebuilding at all, we must constantly deal with our words and speech. James warns us that it will set our entire course of life on fire.

 

Before we move on, I want us to take a peek at one phrase right in the middle of verse 6. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body. The word translated “stain” here is interesting because in Jude 12 this word is translated as “hidden reef”—the idea being an unseen danger.’ It may refer to a rock which is mostly or completely covered by the sea.[1] What James is really saying in the verse is that our tongue is an unrecognized danger. We may think it is a small fire, but it has the potential of a wildfire waiting to burn us down. Listen to the wisdom of Proverbs 17:27. Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.

 

 

 3. Controlling our tongue is tough because it is virtually untamable.

 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. Did you catch verse 8? No human being can tame the tongue. That is a strong statement. This is one of those with God all things are possible passages. It will take the power of the Holy Spirit in your life to tame your tongue. Because, James says, our tongues are a restless evil. Listen to Proverbs again, this time Proverbs 26:18–19. Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death 19 is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, “I am only joking!

 

Usually when we think of “evil,” we think of sins like molesting children or murder. Yet James wants us to see that gossip, slander, deceit, half-truths, sarcastic put-downs, and even joking are a big deal, a deadly poison set on fire by hell (v.6). They defile the one committing them. They destroy relationships with others. As a believer in Christ, we must confront these sins in ourselves and even be bold enough to confront them in others. James wraps up this passage by giving us two tongue-oriented tools to rebuild our lives.

 

Tool #1: The Tool of Blessing

We need to start blessing people instead of cursing them. Look at verse 9. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. It ought not to be so because our mouths should be full of blessings and not cursing. There is a phrase we used to use in high school to describe one of the most common curses I see. We used to call it “flipping the bird.” I don’t know why it is called that, but I am amazed at how many people around Holland “flip the bird.” That is a curse.

 

Parents, there is nothing more important in your parenting than for your children to hear words of blessing. Proverbs 15:4 Gentle words are a tree of life; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. Husbands, there is nothing more important to the intimacy of your marriage than how you communicate with your wife. Prov. 12:18 “the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Wives, It is important for you to know that your words have incredible power to bless the hearts of your husband and children. Proverbs 31:26 tells us that a godly woman’s mouth is “full of wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” Friends, it is critical that we understand how destructive or helpful our words are in the hearts of those we call friends. Proverbs 11:9 With his mouth the godless man would destroy his (friend) neighbor. Bless those around you—our words can destroy!

 

Bethany Thompson: When Bethany Thompson was only three years old, she battled and beat a brain tumor. Her family was overjoyed when the only residual side effect was that, because of nerve damage, she had a crooked smile. She beat it! But there was something she couldn’t beat—a group of girls relentlessly teasing her about her smile. Her mom said that she believed “no one could help her,” and on October 19th, when she was 11 years old, Bethany took her own life. [2]

 

One of the key concepts throughout the Bible is that we have been blessed in order to be a blessing. Let us fill our mouths with blessings and watch our relationships rebuild themselves.

 

Tool #2: The Tool of a Changed Heart

11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. The implied answer to these questions is no. Fresh water and salt water do not come out of the same pond; grapevines do not produce figs. In the same way, harsh, sinful language does not come out of a believing heart. In Matthew 15:18–20, Jesus talked about a mouth and heart connection. What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person. Proverbs 15:28 says The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.

 

The key to changing our tongues is changing our hearts. Have you asked Christ to change your heart? Is your tongue a raging wildfire? Put it out by changing your heart. Start rebuilding this morning. Are you done with all of your cursing, lying, complaining, anger, and fighting? Ask the Lord change your heart. Lord, would you make my heart new? Would you forgive my sin, come into my life, and transform my heart?

 

Power Tool: As we close this morning, there is an incredible sentence that I want us to memorize. This sentence is the most powerful rebuilding tool I could give you: I know that I hurt you with what I said; I am sorry. Will you please forgive me?

 

 

Community Group Discussion

1. Read James 3:1-12 as a group and talk about the aspects of the passage that stood out to you.

2. James describes the tongue as a “wildfire.” Does this word picture resonate with you? Why/Why not?

3. Look up and read Matthew 12:36–37. Discuss what you think Jesus is telling us in this passage. What is a “careless” word?

4. Why do you think James takes almost one whole chapter out of a five chapter book to discuss the tongue?

5. Discuss Proverbs 15:28. What do righteous people do well?

6. Discuss the Bethany Thompson story. Do you know someone who was picked on or teased? How do we teach children the importance of blessing people with our speech and not cursing?

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

 

[1] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 699.

[2] http://www.foxnews.com/health/2016/11/01/parents-blame-bullying-after-11-year-old-cancer-survivor-commits-suicide.html

The Rebuild: Using Your Tools

Using Your Tools sermon notes

Using Your Tools

Passages: James 2:14-26

Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

The Church @ Hamilton

Key Goals: (Know) Understand that it takes both deep faith and hard work to rebuild a life. (Feel) Feel compelled to work out your faith. (Do) Actively demonstrate your faith through works.

Sham: something that is not what it purports to be; a spurious imitation; fraud or hoax.[1]

There are few things in this world more frustrating than thinking something is real and finding out later that it was actually a sham. Occasionally it is funny, like when someone posts a sensational news story that turns out to be fiction. But often, finding out something is a sham is painful, like when you discover a piece of jewelry you thought was valuable is actually a fake, or when you realize a friendship was not real. Some have painfully discovered after years that their “good” marriage was a lie. Jesus was concerned about shams. He warned us in Matthew 7:21–23 that, if we are not careful, even our faith in him can turn out to be a sham. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”[2]

 

How do you know if your faith is genuine? These people thought they were going to heaven, but instead they had a sham faith. James is going to walk us through an essential element of authentic faith, because no one ever rebuilt their life based on a mirage. Our entire passage this morning is a warning from James that if our faith in Jesus Christ is not transforming every part of who we are, it just may be a sham. Let’s go to the text. James 2:14–26 

14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?

 

The implied answer to this question is no. James is confronting the mindset of someone who claims to be a believer yet his or her lifestyle, actions, and attitudes are not Christlike. For James, works are not an “added extra” to faith, but are an essential expression of it.[3] Remember back in James 1:22 when James warned us that true Christ followers are not only “hearers” of the word but “doers” as well? Now he is taking the next logical step, and revealing to us that Christ followers not only have faith, they also have works. He paints a picture of what he means in verse 15.

15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?

 

 Again the implied answer is, “It’s no good.”

 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

 

“It’s no good.” It is not true faith. It may be correct theology, but if it is not transforming the way we act, it is not true faith—it is empty faith that is unable to save; it is dead faith. When the person who says they have faith but the faith is not accompanied by works stands before God at the judgment, they should expect to hear, “Depart from me I never knew you.”

 

James’ example of works—helping to feed and clothe someone in need—echoes a parable of Jesus in Matthew 25:31-46. Listen as I read it for you.

 

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’

 

37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

 

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’

 

44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

 

James is echoing his brother’s teaching. Jesus had the expectation that faith would be demonstrated by and followed up with practical good works. Look, neither James nor Jesus in these examples was talking about us selling everything we have and moving to Africa. Their examples were simply about doing good and proper things for people in need. Clothing naked people (Jm 2:16), giving drink to the thirsty, caring for the sick or visiting those in prison (Matt 25:39). These are not unrealistic actions. Faith is not just a mental exercise; it is an act of the will far beyond simply acknowledging the facts of who Jesus is. Look at verse 19.

 

19You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!

 

Faith has to be more than a mental assent to the facts, because demons do that! In fact there are several places in the gospels where demons made amazing confessions of faith: In Mark 1:24, a demon said to Jesus, "I know who You are; the Holy One of God!" In Mark 5:7, another demon said to him, "What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?"  These demons knew exactly who Jesus was, but no demon was ever going to heaven. They have knowledge but no saving faith. James wants us to see that an intellectual knowledge alone is not faith. At this point, James hopes everyone reading this is on the edge of their seats thinking, “Okay, if that isn’t saving faith, what is?” He gives us two examples of people who had genuine saving faith, and these two people could not have been more different.

 

Example One: Abraham

 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.

 

There are two words we need to key in on in this passage: active and completed. These words are critical for our understanding of what is being said and what isn’t being said. Let me be clear, no one has ever been saved by “good works.” Ephesians 2:8–10 tells us this specifically. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” So, good works do not save; faith in Jesus Christ saves. But works has an active and completing aspect with faith. Faith is as incomplete without works as works is without faith. Listen to Ephesians 2:10, right after we are told that salvation is not a result of works. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Abraham’s submission and willingness to obey God made his faith knowable and visible.[4] We know he had faith because he acted on it—we could actually see his faith in action.

 

Example Two: Rahab

 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

 

This story comes from Joshua 2. Rahab was a gentile prostitute—the last person you would expect to be an example of faith and works. God was going to destroy her city, and she believed YHWH could and would do it, even to the point of putting her life at risk. She hid the spies, trusting that if she obeyed God, he would save her. He not only saved her but he gave her a husband, and she became the great grandmother of King David! The key here is that it was her faith expressed in action. If she had believed and not acted or acted and not believed, none of us would have ever heard of Rahab.

 

Verse 26 sums up the entire section: For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. Genuine saving faith is believing in the person and work of Jesus Christ in such a way that it transforms what we think, who we love, and how we act. This faith is inseparable from good works because good works answer the question: what is salvation for? We are saved for good works (Eph 2:10).

 

The Rebuild: This entire series is built on the premise that the book of James will help us rebuild our lives and that it is filled with practical tools for us to restore, recreate, and restructure our brokenness. This passage helps us do that in a very specific way by giving us clear examples of what “work” that accompanies faith looks like. Let’s take a close look.

 

1. Giving what is needed. The first example James gives of a “work” is in verse 15 when a faith-filled person would have “given what was needed” to the hungry and naked person. The Scriptures are clear: faith in Jesus Christ transforms the desire of a person to give. You can be a giver and not have faith in Christ, but you cannot have faith in Christ and not be a giver. New Testament believers’ faith was tangible and visible in the way they gave, shared, cared for the sick, fed the poor, directed gifts to other churches, and sent out missionaries (see Acts 4:32-35). They gave generously even out of their poverty. It wasn’t a burden; it was a visible, tangible expression of their faith!

Calculator: Over the years I have had many discussions with guys about giving. It is clear from Scripture that the most basic expression of faith in giving is a tithe, which is biblically 1/10 of a person’s increase or 1/10 of your income. Almost everyone tracks with me until I pull out a calculator and say, “Here you go. Take how much you make, divide by ten, and that is what you should minimally be giving.” It’s all just theory until you see that number. If we do not have enough faith in God to give a tithe, what does that say about our faith?

 

2. Offering a life to God. The second example of a “work” was Abraham offering Isaac. That was a very special circumstance that God was using to reveal how he was going to send his son to die in our place. But the “work” here is an important example of a man who placed obedience to God above everything he loved. In real life, good works often look like right priorities:

·      Putting integrity over getting ahead

·      Putting personal godliness over entertainment

·      Putting proper discipline of our children over our child’s temporary happiness

·      Putting our spouse’s needs ahead of our own

 

3. Receiving messengers. The last example is when Rahab chose to hide the messengers. In that moment, she chose God over everything else in her life. With this act, she betrayed her people, her former gods, and everything she knew. Joshua 2:11 tells us why she did it: “for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.” She had faith, and because of her faith she was willing to leave her old world behind. The good works to which God is calling you may look less like becoming a missionary and more like leaving your old world behind. Stop clinging to old sins, habits, and ungodly relationships. Have the faith to step away and step deeply into a new relationship with Christ.

 

Giving without fear expresses faith. Positioning God first in our heart expresses faith. Leaving our old life behind expresses faith. These are all tangible expressions of a person who has put their faith in Christ.

 

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

 

[1] Dictionary.com

[2] All Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV.

[3] Peter H. Davids, The Epistle of James: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1982), 121.

[4] Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 876.

The Rebuild: Level the Chassis

Level the Chassis sermon notes

Level The Chassis

Passages: James 2:1-13

Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

The Church @ Hamilton

 

Key Goals: (Know) Understand that favoritism, racism, and a lack of love destroy rebuilds. (Feel) Feel love toward all regardless of their status. (Do) Treat every person like God does.

 

Introduction: [We Are the Body: Casting Crowns] This song hits me every time I hear it. I think anyone who has ever felt the sting of rejection feels the power of this song. The phrase “the weight of their judgmental glances” is a powerful line. I’ve felt that weight. I remember her walking into our youth ministry for the first time. She was very attractive, well dressed and smiled easily. She did not get two feet in the door before three young men decided to be the “welcoming committee.” I chuckled to myself thinking, “Well, she is going to get ‘special treatment’.” As I was preparing to speak, I saw something develop that I was not expecting. The girls in our group began huddling up and whispering, very clearly communicating to this young lady, “You are unwelcome.” I was shocked, and turned to Martha to ask what was going on. She looked at me and said, “The competition.”

 

This fallen world has a strange way of wrecking our lives. One of the most powerful wrecking balls is what the Bible calls “partiality.” When the church began just after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, it was radically counter-cultural. It consisted of Jews and Greeks, slaves and slave-owners, wealthy and poor—all of them worshiping together. This was unheard of at the time. Both the Roman and Jewish cultures were extremely status oriented. You were born, raised, and died within your station. Very little in society allowed for socio-economic mixing. If you were a slave, you associated only with slaves; if a nobleman, only with nobles. A Pharisee would not even walk into the home of a Sadducee, though they were both Jewish. Status, hierarchy, standing, and position in society determined every aspect of your life—from your friends, opportunities, spouse, job, and housing to where you worshipped and bought your food.

 

Imagine growing up in this culture as a slave. You have never even spoken with a rich person, in fact all you have ever done in the presence of the rich is “γιγνώσκειν πρόσωπον” (Gin-oskien pros-opon)—the respectful and expected greeting in which one humbly turns one’s face to the ground or sinks to the earth.[1] This was the only culturally acceptable interaction between rich and poor or slave and free. Then you begin gathering with a group of Christ followers who read James 2:1–4[2] as part of their worship:

 

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. 2 For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

 

As a slave, your first question would have been: what does “partiality” mean? Because in all of Greek literature, the word does not exist outside of the Bible. The only people in the history of the Greek language to write using this Greek word translated as partiality (προσωπολημψία) were the apostles Peter, Paul, and James. Peter used the word in Acts 10:34–35 after the first Roman soldier put his faith in Jesus. So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. Peter revealed to us that the gospel does not discriminate based on race. Anyone from any nationality may come to God. The Apostle Paul used the word in Romans 2:6–11. Paul was talking about the “Judgment of God” that awaits every person after death.

 

He [God] will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality.

 

Same word. Paul is describing a key character trait of God in his judgment. He does not grade on a curve. It is not that he doesn’t judge—he will judge everyone—but his judgment is based in the character of their life and their relationship to Christ, not their position, influence, wealth, or nationality. Paul also uses the word in Ephesians 6:5–9.

 

Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, 6 not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, 8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. 9 Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.

 

Again God’s character is described as having “no partiality.” God will never pervert justice by showing favoritism to a slave owner over a slave. Slaves are to comfort themselves through hardship by knowing their masters will face “the ultimate Master”—God himself. The final time the word shows up in Scripture is Colossians 3:23–25. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality. There is no partiality in what? This is describing God’s judgment. God will never show inappropriate favoritism, preference, or special privilege to anyone. This is both comforting and scary. No one will receive special treatment. Everyone will stand before God as either redeemed through the blood of Christ or unredeemed. No “do-overs,” no “buying your way out,” no “sweet talking.” Our outward appearance and status have zero bearing on the gospel, our salvation, or judgment. In Galatians 3:28 we read There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. These verses are often misunderstood. Paul isn't saying that roles, ethnicity, or status don’t exist; he is saying “in Christ” we are equal despite our roles. When it comes to the gospel, there is no superiority, color, race, or even gender. Of the four New Testament passages we just looked at, the word “partiality” is always referring to God’s character. These passages go well with the dozens from the Old Testament that tell us the same thing: that God does not look at our exterior, he does not take bribes, and he does not show favoritism (See Lev. 19). He knows us and deals with us only as we truly are.

 

Turning the corner: James’ purpose in using this word is a little different; he wants us to turn the corner from how God interacts with us to how we should interact with others. James 2:13 My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. James is saying that partiality is inconsistent and incompatible with someone who claims to have faith in Christ. He illustrates this with a story of wealth in verses 2-4. Partiality in this case, we are told, “made distinctions” between people. The idea is judging and separating.[3] This is evil because God does not separate or judge people differently because of money (nor race, gender, status). A good Jewish man in this era would have followed up James’ statement with a question: “If God can make any poor person wealthy, isn’t God showing favoritism by making one of these men rich and the other poor?” Good question. Look at verse 5.  Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. James’ answer is that poor people have been chosen too. The poor have been chosen for blessings that rich people do not have nor understand. Their “riches” do not come in dollars but faith. So why would a church think better of a man rich in dollars over a man rich in faith? Doing that would be pure evil!

 

Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called? 8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. This is as direct a statement as you will ever find in Scripture. Favoring certain people because of their status, education, money, fame, prestige, clothes, car, looks, or whatever is a sin. There's no place for favoritism in the heart of God and there's no place for favoritism in the heart of his people. If we do it, we are “convicted by the law as transgressors.” 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. James’ point at the end here is essentially what Jesus said in Matthew 7:2 (NLT). “For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.”

 

Confronting Reality: Before we go any further, let’s get real honest about this issue. The church has struggled with partiality all through her existence. We have ostracized people for the version of the Bible they read, the color of their skin, music styles, citizenship, cleanliness or social acceptability. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that 11 a.m. on a Sunday morning is “the most segregated hour in this nation.” So how do we rebuild? How do we overcome partiality in our lives and in our church?

 

1. Pay attention (James 2:3)

In verse 3 when James tells us about the “gold fingered” man walking in, he says they “paid attention” (to notice/special attention) to him. That isn’t the issue. That is a good thing. We should pay attention to every person who walks through the door of our church and even those that don’t. The problem was not paying attention to the rich man, it was not paying attention to the poor man. Listen to how Paul wrapped up his letter to the Romans (Rom.15:5–7). May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. The way we overcome partiality is to pay notice or pay attention to young, old, rich, poor, black, white. Sunday morning can not just be about us—we must pay attention to others around us.

 

 

2. Live to fulfill the “royal law” (James 2:8)

The royal law James mentioned was: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Overcoming partiality is as simple as the church loving other people like we want to be loved. All through James we will find that he pushes believers: Don’t wait to be loved—love. Don’t wait to be noticed—notice others. Make the first move. The church turned the world upside down because of the radical way she loved the unlovely (and she can do it again). In the year 168 a man named Justin was beheaded by Rome for following Christ and refusing to worship idols. Listen to how he described Christians: “We who used to value the acquisition of wealth and possessions more than anything else now bring what we have into a common fund and share it with anyone who needs it. We used to hate and destroy one another and refused to associate with people of another race or country. Now, because of Christ, we live together with such people and pray for our enemies.”[4]

 

Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world,

Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight

Jesus loves the little children of the world. [5]

 

If Jesus loves “all the little children of the world,” we must too.

 

3. See others through the lens of mercy (James 2:13)

James ends this entire section by basically saying if you show mercy in judging people, God will too. Mercy is one of the most beautiful aspects of God and in turn what make Christianity so unique. Mercy is showing compassion to someone in need, aiding the helpless in distress, or assisting someone in debt who has no reason to deserve it.[6] Mercy-showing people have a keen sense of how generous God has been with them, so they show up when they see others with a need. They reach out, not because someone deserves it, but because God reached out to them. They pay the bill, assume the debt, bear the burden, go the extra mile, turn the other cheek—they show no partiality.

 

 

Community Group Discussion

1.          As a group, read through James 2:1-13. What are the concepts and phrases that jump out or are easy to remember?

2.      Where is the boundary between godly discernment (which we all need) and showing partiality (which is sin)?

3.          Often the rich get rich because they are wise and disciplined. The poor are often poor because they are foolish and undisciplined. How does this fit with James’ theology?

4.          The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that 11 a.m. on a Sunday morning is “the most segregated hour in this nation.” Do you agree or disagree? Discuss how we move forward.

5.          Discuss mercy. What do you understand “mercy” to mean?

 

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

 

[1] Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 779.

[2] All Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

[3] Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 946.

[4] Edwards, Dwight Game Changing Christianity: How the Early Christians so radically influenced their world and what we can learn from them. Thomas Nelson Publishing 2016.

[5] Written by C. Herbert Woolston in the early 1900’s

[6] J. W. L. Hoad, “Mercy, Merciful,” ed. D. R. W. Wood et al., New Bible Dictionary (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 751.

The Rebuild: Remove the Rust

Remove the Rust sermon notes

Remove the Rust

Passages: James 1:19-27

Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

The Church @ Hamilton

 

Key Goals: (Know) Understand the role of responsiveness in spiritual growth. (Feel) Feel a desire to be open and responsive to instruction. (Do) Look for areas in our life that need to be changed and change them.

 

Introduction: I think there are key moments in the relationship between brothers. There is a day with my little brother that I will never forget. I was 16 and in charge. My little brother was about 3 at the time. He was fascinated by anything “shiny.” If a new car drove by, he would say, “I like a shiny one.” I was in the living room when I heard him in the kitchen say, “I like a shiny one.” I thought, “I wonder what he is up to?” So I got up and walked into the kitchen to find my little brother holding a large butcher knife by the blade. He was thrilled; I was terrified. How do you get a shiny, beautiful knife out of the fingers of a 3 year old without slicing them? I’ll never forget that day. It wasn’t fun, but it sure was memorable. I think James had a memorable day like that with Jesus too.

 

Not long after Jesus began his teaching and healing ministry, huge crowds began to form. Everywhere he would travel, the sick and infirmed would gather around him for healing or even just a touch. They traveled from all over the land of Israel. The crowds grew especially large the closer he got to his home in Capernaum, on the northern coast of the Sea of Galilee. When he reached town, his family came out to greet him. Mary—Jesus’ mother, James—his younger brother, and the others all came out to welcome him home. But they could not reach Jesus because of the massive crowds. When Jesus’ disciples saw what was happening, Luke 8 tells us that they said to Jesus, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.” And then Jesus said something that I am sure James never forgot. He answered them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” Ouch. I imagine that the statement encouraged the crowd around Jesus, but I can also imagine how James might have felt. I bet he never forgot that day. It wasn’t fun, but I’m sure it was memorable. In fact, I know it was. Open your Bibles to James 1:19-27[1]. James repeats what Jesus said almost word for word.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. 26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

 

Our message this morning is very close to James’ heart. He will be teaching us thoughts he learned one-on-one with his big brother. Our series is called “The Rebuild,” and our premise is that this world has a strange way of wrecking our lives, but the book of James has the tools to rebuild wrecked lives. Last week we used the tool of resolve, because rebuilding a life is not easy—it only happens when we decide with firm determination to do it. Resolve allows us to endure steadfastly through trials as God grows us to completion. And if we endure to the end, there awaits us a Crown of life

 

This week’s tool is a responsive heart. If we are going to rebuild our lives or help others rebuild theirs, a responsive heart is essential. When we talk about the heart (Greek: kardia, see James 1:26) we are talking about the center of the inner life of a person—their soul or spirit. The heart is where we experience feelings and emotions, desires, and passions. The heart is also where we understand, think, and reflect; it is the “seat of our will” as it drives our choices.[2] Hearts can be open—receptive and responsive to change, or hard, calloused, and unresponsive (Heb. 3:8). The only way one makes true, significant, spiritually positive changes in their life is if their heart is responsive to God’s message of new life through Jesus.

 

There are two secrets to a truly responsive heart:

 

I. A responsive heart receives the Word (James 1:19-21)

a. With quickness “quick to hear” (19a)

Quickness communicates an attitude of eagerness to take in the Word from every angle. We should desire to read the Word, to listen to the preaching of the Word, to memorize the Word, to study it. The idea is attentiveness with the goal of obedience. Psalm 119:131 says I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your commandments. 1 Peter 2:2 encourages: Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.

 

b. With restraint “slow to speak” (19b)

Often in our pride, or even just excitement, we have a tendency to speak before we have a chance to think and take in truth. This is why counselors spend so much time working with couples on communication. Every time we are around the truth of God, he has something for us, but we will never hear it if we are spouting off. Responsive hearts receive truth eagerly, but they also restrain themselves and give it time to sink in. I was talking with a young man this last week and I spoke straight with him about an issue in his life. Just as I finished, he took in a deep breath—like he had a big long sentence to get out—but he held it, slowly blew it out, and said, “Okay.” That young man is farther along in his walk than he knows.

 

c. With openness “slow to anger” (19c)

A responsive heart is one that has stopped fighting with God and is willing to listen. Look, often the first and most natural response to someone telling us we are doing wrong and need to change is anger. People who are ready to rebuild their lives adjust their reaction time so that anger isn’t the first response. The Greek word for slow can also mean “dull or inactive.”[3] People who really want to change inactivate their anger response when they are confronted with truth. Every married person understands this. Our spouse may, in a super gentle way, tell us something we need to change; if we are not open to change, it becomes a huge issue. But when we are open, that same spouse can bumble their way through telling us what needs to change and we still respond positively.

 

Verse 20 tells us why openness is so important: for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Very few angry people change. If you are bitter or angry with God about your circumstances or things that happened in your past, your ability to rebuild your life is greatly hindered. Ditch the anger! It is not going to accomplish in you the righteousness that you need. Instead, 21put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

 

d. With meekness “receive with meekness” (21)

The not so subtle message of this verse is this: if we are going to rebuild our lives, we need to tear off the whole dirty mess of wickedness[4] we have been involved in and start listening to the Word and the godly people around us who have been trying to help us. The Greek word translated “meekness” has the idea of “strength in submission” or “strength under control.” The word was used of Alexander the Great’s horse (Bucephalus) which was powerfully strong, but totally submissive and responsive to the master’s touch. A person of meekness can be very strong and yet completely submissive and sensitive to the Lord’s command.[5]

 

II. A responsive heart activates the Word (James 1:22-27)

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.

 

A person who listens to truth but doesn’t activate it in their lives begins a self-deception process. It is an internal conversation that goes something like this: “I should probably remove that sin and change…someday.” Or they just begin suppressing the guilt and inner voice of change. Verse 24 specifically describes a “hearing-only person” as one who sees what they need to change but they look away and quickly forget. I can watch all the YouTube videos I want on how to rebuild an engine, but it will never get done unless I activate what I know. A doer of the Word is a person who hears truth, hears the gospel, and activates what they hear in their lives. They by faith receive it, they internalize it, they let it sink in and affect their desires, their passions and their will. Then they begin making new choices and actions based on these transformed desires and will. James gives us three examples (these are not all-inclusive, we could give more) of what it looks like to be doers of the Word:

 

a. Doers activate self control over areas of their lives that were once unchecked (26) 

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Have you ever said something mean or ungodly and immediately wished you hadn’t—and then said, “I didn’t mean that?” Counselor Paul Tripp suggests a more biblical response would be, “Please forgive me for saying what I was really thinking.” We say wicked things because we think wicked thoughts. Doers of the Word are thinking and reflecting on God’s Word and actively brushing away evil thoughts and intentions, which activates self control in areas that were once unchecked. Doers change their heart, which then bridles their tongue.

 

b. Doers activate self-sacrifice where there was once self-centeredness (27a)

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction. James could have also listed the sick, the shut-ins, those in prison—they are mentioned in other places (see Matt 25:31-46). This is just an example of how a believer who activates the Word of God in his life begins to change from a self-centered person to a person who sacrificially cares for others. Selfishness is the antithesis of the gospel message. Even though she was Catholic, very few people doubt the authenticity of the faith of Mother Teresa. Why? Because she spent 68 of her 80 years building orphanages and homes for children and adults dying of HIV/AIDS, leprosy, and tuberculosis in the slums of Calcutta, India. Millions of Hindus’ first encounter with Jesus was seeing how Mother Teresa love the sick and dying. Mother Teresa: doer of the Word.

 

c. Doers activate holiness where there was once immorality (27b)

…and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

Put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness.” (1:21) This gets to the very heart of rebuilding our lives. The whole reason you and I need to rebuild anything is because of sin—either our sin, the effects of our sin, or the sin of others. Broken relationships, anger, addiction, sexual sin, revenge, gossip, bitterness, slander, abuse—all of this flows from the caustic effects of sin in our lives!

 

Do you want to rebuild? Remove one key area of disobedience from your life. Search your heart. What is the one area of sin that you don’t need to hear any more information about, you just have to deal with? Be a doer! Remove it, repent of it, and activate holiness where there was once immorality. Is your heart responsive?

 

 

Community Group Discussion

1.          As a group, read through James 1:19-27. What are the concepts and phrases that jump out or are easy to remember?

2.          The passage mentions “hearing.” Discuss what hearing means beyond the mechanical process of our ears.

3.          Discuss your understanding of “receptiveness.” What about “critical thinking?” Is that useful too?

4.          Discuss a time in your life when you were decidedly unreceptive to God, his Word, or correction. How did you get through it?

5.          Discuss how hearing but not doing leads to “self-deception?”

6.          Discuss meekness. What do you understand “receiving with meekness” to mean?

7.          How does a person who has lost their desire to listen and do the Word of God recover it?

 

  

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

 

[1] All Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV.

[2] Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 612.

[3] James Strong, Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon (Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1995).

[4] Peter H. Davids, The Epistle of James: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1982), 94.

[5]Bucephalus was Alexander the Great’s horse and is considered by some to be the most famous horse in history. https://www.ancient.eu/Bucephalus/

The Rebuild: Background

Background to James sermon notes

Background to James

Passages: James 1:1-2, Various

Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

The Church @ Hamilton

Sunday, January 15, 2017

 

Key Goals: (Know) Get to know the author of James. (Feel) Desire to study God’s word deeply. (Do) Read the book of James.

 

Introduction: Some people hear a story like this and think, “No way, not me! I could never forgive my spouse if they did that.” Easy to say, until it happens to you. It was a Thursday when the call came: “He is going to kill himself!” Friends and family were rushing to help, but his grief was inconsolable. His wife had just confessed. Their marriage was a sham—the hurt and betrayal brutal, the anger and damage devastating. What do you do? What about the kids? How do you rebuild? I’ll tell you more about that family in the upcoming weeks.

 

Today we launch into our series “The Rebuild!” We will be exploring the book of James for tools that will help us “rebuild” our lives. One of the most appealing aspects of Jesus and his gospel is that when we believe and trust Christ, he gives us a new life that purges our corruption and sin and all things are becoming new (2 Cor. 5:17)[1]. Theologians call that process “sanctification;” we are going to call it “The Rebuild.” The process is not unlike rebuilding an engine. We just got it this morning, it is brand new to us, but it comes with some baggage. While it is new, it is not pristine—we have some work to do.

 

I want Trent to come and teach us a song. This song comes from The Liturgy of Saint James: the oldest surviving worship liturgy that is still used in churches today. It is a complete worship service that lasts about three hours (we are not learning all of it). At the center of the service is the hymn “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent.” The words of this hymn were written by the year 245, which makes it one of the very first hymns of the church. Many think that these words came from the church in Jerusalem during the time the church was led by James.

 

Why did we learn this? Well, it is a cool piece of ancient church history, but also because as we begin this series from a book that James wrote, I want us to get to know the man. Some people believe that first impressions about people take only thirty seconds to make. According to Malcolm Gladwell, in his book “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking,” these decisions may occur much faster—think instantaneously or in two seconds. We immediately form impressions of people based on their posture, handshake, clothing and accessory choices, how close they stand to us, attentiveness, eye contact, and facial expressions.[2] In order to understand his book, I think we at least need a first impression of who James was.

 

Who was James? The first time we are introduced to James is in the Gospels, and he doesn’t make a great first impression. Both Mark and Matthew indicate that he was one of several children born to Mary and Joseph after Jesus’ birth. Mark records an incident where people from Jesus’ hometown were ridiculing Jesus for being a local: “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. (Mark 6:3) I’m not sure how you picture Jesus growing up, but he was the oldest of five boys and at least two girls; that’s at a minimum a family of nine! Just like any family, they did not always get along; there were times that James and the rest of the family were opposed to the way Jesus did ministry. Mark 3:21 tells us that at one point Jesus’ family thought he was out of his mind. John reveals to us that James (actually all four of his brothers) did not believe in Jesus when he was alive. John 7:5 tells us point blank that not even his brothers believed in him.

 

Can you imagine growing up with Jesus as your half brother? Based on what we know, it probably wasn’t as wonderful as we would expect. The family did not understand what he was doing or why, and for his part—at least while Jesus was alive—James was not buying any of this “messiah” stuff. That is, until the resurrection. I Corinthians 15:4-7 specifically mentions that after the resurrection, Jesus appeared to James. [Jesus]… was buried, and he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Something happened to James when he saw his brother raised from the dead. His doubt immediately turned to faith, and by the time the disciples gathered in the upper room waiting for the Holy Spirit to come upon them, James was there (Acts 1:13-14).

 

The next time we see James, he is the leader of the church in Jerusalem. In fact, the Apostle Paul met with James and Peter when he first went to Jerusalem after his conversion (Galatians 1:18–19). How did a recent unbeliever become the leader of the church in Jerusalem? Clement of Alexandria, who wrote about the church between 153–217 C.E., says that Peter and John chose James for this office (Books of the Hypotyposes 6). Jerome, writing later, said that James “ruled the church of Jerusalem thirty years.” (Lives of Illustrious Men, chapter 2).[3]

 

As the pastor of Jerusalem, James was known as “James the Just” because of his incredible character. The best example we have of James’ leadership is in Acts 15 where James solves a problem between believers that came from Jewish backgrounds and believers that came from Gentile backgrounds. Some Jewish background believers thought that when you became a Jesus follower you also needed to follow the Jewish laws of purity. The Apostle Peter and Paul and Barnabas who had been witnessing to Gentile believers disagreed. Listen to Acts 15:7–11.

 

7 And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. 10 Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

 

It was just as Peter spoke the room got silent and James replied, “Brothers, listen to me. 14 Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. He then quotes Amos 9:11-12 and says…Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, 20 but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood (Acts 15:13–20).

This may sound strange to us today, but it was a pivotal point in church history. Either Gentiles were saved through faith or they were saved through faith and following Old Testament laws. James solved this issue with incredible wisdom and tact by maintaining a reverence for Old Testament law but affirming with Peter, Paul, and Barnabas that salvation is by faith alone.

 

James served as pastor of Jerusalem for 30 years. While the Bible does not tell us how he died, Jewish historian Josephus provides a detailed account of the death of James.[4] Rome was having difficulty with zealous groups of Jewish insurgents, which would eventually lead to the invasion and destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. In an effort to placate Rome, strengthen his position, and remove any who would question his authority, Ananus—a high priest appointed by Herod Agrippa II—decided to have several “trouble makers” stoned to death. So in the year 62 during a brief governmental transition period, Ananus, without permission, convened the Sanhedrin (the supreme council of Jewish affairs) and had James, along with several others of his enemies, stoned to death.[5]

 

Why have I spent so much time walking you through this? Because you need to know, as we open the book of James, that James was a real person like you and me:

 

1. He understood doubting. He did not believe in Jesus until the resurrection. So when he starts talking in James 1:6 about doubting and says, “The one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind,” he knows what he is talking about because he doubted Jesus the entire time he walked this earth. So if you have ever doubted, James will help you rebuild your faith.

 

2. He experienced trials. James watched as the Roman government and the high priest crucified his older brother and then as another high priest accused and prosecuted him. This man walked through incredible trials, yet his book begins with the sentence: Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds. (James 1:2) So if you ever feel like you are going through trials, James has some tools for you.

 

3. He understood change. The resurrection radically changed James from an unbelieving little brother that thought Jesus was out of his mind to one of the most influential Christian leaders of the first century. James knew about change. So if you have ever thought you needed to change, James will help with that.

 

4. He knew about discrimination. James watched the early church struggle to include Gentiles in the fold. When we study James 2, we are going see that discrimination in the church is most often about preferring the beautiful people over the rest of us, preferring the rich over the poor, the haves over the have-nots, the in-crowd over the unpopular, the righteous over the sinners. James will challenge us that it is not about rich or poor, it is about loving Jesus! James 2:5 says Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? So if you have ever felt left out, James is for you.

 

5. He experienced conflicts. When James discusses quarrels and fights and makes statements like James 4:2, You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel; he is speaking from experience. So if you have ever struggled to work through conflict, James is going to help you.

Challenge: Start your own rebuild this week by reading through the book of James. Then come back next week as we begin “The Rebuild.”

 

 

 

Community Group Discussion

 

1.          As you begin your discussion, have your group members open and skim through the book of James. Do you have any passages underlined? Favorite verses?

2.          How does knowing more about James help us glean more from his book?

3.          Look at James 1:1. Based on your understanding of who James was and his relationship with Jesus, why do you think he introduces the letter by saying he is a “servant” of Jesus Christ?

4.          Discuss what (if anything) you learned about James this morning that you did not know before today.

5.          Did you know that Jesus grew up in a family of (at least) nine (Jesus, four brothers, at least two sisters, Joseph and Mary)? Does that change the way you think about him or James?

6.          Discuss what you hope to take away from this series.

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

[1] All Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV.

[2] Gladwell, Malcolm. Blink. New York City: Little, Brown and Company, 2005.

[3] Hulme, David James Brother of Jesus http://www.vision.org/visionmedia/religion-and-spirituality-apostles-of-jesus-james-brother-of-jesus/6812.aspx

[4] Antiquities of the Jews 20.197-203(c. 93/94).

[5] Mc Dowell, Sean Did James the Brother of Jesus Die as a Martyr? http://seanmcdowell.org/blog/did-james-the-brother-of-jesus-die-as-a-martyr

Joseph: The Reveal

Joseph: The Reveal Sermon Notes

The Reveal

Genesis 44-45

 

Key Goals: (Know) Understand and prepare for God’s surprises. (Feel) Feel prepared for 2017. (Do) Take steps to prepare ourselves for what God will bring our way.

 

Introduction: Even though we know surprises are coming in 2017, they can still sneak up on us. So how do we prepare? Please turn to Genesis 44. When last we left Joseph and his brothers, a great feast was underway at Joseph’s house in Egypt. For the first time in over 20 years, all 12 brothers were together. So much has happened since the day Joseph wore a colorful coat and was sold into slavery. Joseph is no longer the 17-year-old boy crying for mercy. He is a 40-year-old man, and as the leader of Egypt perhaps the most powerful man in the world at this time.

 

As we return to the scene, Joseph is still disguised but reunited with all 11 of his brothers, even his full brother Benjamin, the new favorite of his father Jacob. They are enjoying a meal together. Genesis 43:34 says, “They drank and were merry.” (Hebrew: intoxicated. Literally this says they were drunk.) Plenty of food, plenty to drink, much to celebrate. But what about Joseph? He is still disguised and the brothers all think he is dead. They are in for the surprise of their lives! They don’t have a clue what Joseph is up to, and beyond that, they do not realize that God has been orchestrating every detail of their lives to bring them to this moment. They are about to be set free from their guilty consciences, but first it’s going to hurt.

 

Before we go any further, Happy New Year! It’s 2017 and we have all been celebrating, many spending time with family. As we approach this New Year, let us remember that just like God orchestrated these twelve brothers’ lives, wherever you find yourself this first morning of 2017, God has orchestrated that too. God had a plan for Joseph and his brothers, and he has plan for you. It is going to be easy for us to spot God’s fingerprints in Joseph’s life because we have the whole story. It is tougher for us to see it in our own lives, because God’s plan with us is not done yet. But as we leave this morning, my prayer is that we will each trust that God is faithfully at work, drawing us to him, calling us to follow him, and orchestrating even our toughest times.

 

Chapter 44: As the banquet ended and it was time for the brothers to go back to Canaan, Joseph had his steward hide a silver cup in the bag belonging to Benjamin. It is a very special silver cup, one that would be easily recognized. The brothers depart, but they do not get far before Joseph sends his steward to stop them and accuse them of stealing the silver cup. Of course, the brothers are innocent and deny the accusation, with the promise that if any man is found with the silver cup, he will die. Unexplainably, the steward found the cup (right where he put it). Look at Genesis 44:11. Then each man quickly lowered his sack to the ground, and each man opened his sack. 12 And he searched, beginning with the eldest and ending with the youngest. And the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. 13 Then they tore their clothes, and every man loaded his donkey, and they returned to the city.

 

They “tore their clothes.” “Kriah” is a Hebrew word meaning, "tearing." It refers to the act of tearing one’s clothes and it is done to express grief and anger in death. The brothers would not do this unless they believed Benjamin was about to die. If you ever go to a Jewish funeral, the family will do a “Kriah” as a part of the service. As the tear or cut is made, the family recites the following blessing: Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha’olam dayan ha’emet. Blessed are You, Adonai Our God, Ruler of the Universe, the True Judge. Will the brothers abandon Benjamin like they did Joseph? Were they the same men or had they changed?

You decide for yourself. Listen to what happens next and you decide if these men are the same jealous, callous schemers they were 20 years ago: 14 When Judah and his brothers came to Joseph’s house, he was still there. They fell before him to the ground. 15 Joseph said to them, “What deed is this that you have done? Do you not know that a man like me can indeed practice divination?” 16 And Judah said, “What shall we say to my lord? What shall we speak? Or how can we clear ourselves? God has found out the guilt of your servants.”


There it is. That sentence is what I believe Joseph has been working toward since he first saw his brothers. They know that they have been falsely accused here, but they also know that they have no defense and can only plead for mercythe one thing they did not give when it was asked of them. In Joseph’s wisdom he knew it was imperative that his brothers feel their need for God and his mercy.

 

Application: When American parents are asked the number one thing they want for their children, they overwhelmingly respond: happiness. In India, parents want success. In China parents respond: health.[1] While I understand what parents are saying, I doubt any one of us would ever conclude that God’s plan for us or our children is for us to be 100% happy, 100% successful, and 100% healthy. In fact, that might even be dangerous. Several years ago a teenage girl said this in my youth group: “I have a question for you. Why do I need God? I have everything.” This is one of the most honest questions I’ve ever been asked. She was a healthy, beautiful, smart athlete who came from a wealthy family. At 15, she honestly could not figure out why she needed God. Reality check for 2017: tough and painful circumstances may enter your life this year for you to feel your need for God and his mercy.

 

The brothers are distraught. 16“Behold, we are my lord’s servants, both we and he also in whose hand the cup has been found.” 17 But he said, “Far be it from me that I should do so! Only the man in whose hand the cup was found shall be my servant. But as for you, go up in peace to your father.” Joseph seemingly lets 10 of the brothers off the hook, only Benjamin must stay. 20 years ago the brothers would have seen that as a great deal.

 

 (NLT[2]) 18Then Judah stepped forward and said, “Please, my lord, let your servant say just one word to you. Please, do not be angry with me, even though you are as powerful as Pharaoh himself. 19 “My lord, previously you asked us, your servants, ‘Do you have a father or a brother?’ 20 And we responded, ‘Yes, my lord, we have a father who is an old man, and his youngest son is a child of his old age. His full brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother’s children, and his father loves him very much.’

 

 21 “And you said to us, ‘Bring him here so I can see him with my own eyes.’ 22 But we said to you, ‘My lord, the boy cannot leave his father, for his father would die.’ 23 But you told us, ‘Unless your youngest brother comes with you, you will never see my face again.’ 24 “So we returned to your servant, our father, and told him what you had said.

 

 25 Later, when he said, ‘Go back again and buy us more food,’ 26 we replied, ‘We can’t go unless you let our youngest brother goes with us. We’ll never get to see the man’s face unless our youngest brother is with us.’ 27 “Then my father said to us, ‘As you know, my wife had two sons, 28 and one of them went away and never returned. Doubtless he was torn to pieces by some wild animal. I have never seen him since. 29 Now if you take his brother away from me, and any harm comes to him, you will send this grieving, white-haired man to his grave.’

 

 30 “And now, my lord, I cannot go back to my father without the boy. Our father’s life is bound up in the boy’s life. 31 If he sees that the boy is not with us, our father will die. We, your servants, will indeed be responsible for sending that grieving, white-haired man to his grave.

 

 32 My lord, I guaranteed to my father that I would take care of the boy. I told him, ‘If I don’t bring him back to you, I will bear the blame forever.’ 33 “So please, my lord, let me stay here as a slave instead (tahat) of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers. 34 For how can I return to my father if the boy is not with me? I couldn’t bear to see the anguish this would cause my father!”

 

Do you see what Judah is trying to do here? He is asking Joseph to allow him to be a “substitutionary atonement” for his brother. In fact, the Hebrew word used in this verse is the same word used in Genesis 22:13. Just as Abraham was going to sacrifice his son, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead (tahat) of his son. This “tahat,” this “instead of” is exactly what Jesus Christ offers to you and me. His death on the cross is in place of our death. We place our faith in Jesus as our “tahat!” His death pays our debt and we go free.  1 Peter 3:18 says For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.

 

This is love! The Bible tells us in John 15:13, Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. What a difference! Remember Jacob was showing the same favoritism to Benjamin that he had showed to Joseph. Jacob had not changed, but the brothers had! Where did the jealousy go? Where is the hatred for Benjamin? It is gone and it is replaced with sacrificial love. It is in this context that Joseph finally reveals who he is. It is so rich that I just have to read it. Genesis 45:1–3.

 

Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him. He cried, “Make everyone go out from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. 2 And he wept aloud, so that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. 3 And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence.

 

“Dismayed” is one way to describe how they felt, shocked is anotherhow about dumbfounded and frightened? You could add confused, astonished and speechless. The Hebrew word is often translated as “terrified.” They immediately had a flashback to 22 years ago. (Next week we are going to explore Joseph’s five powerful statementsunderstood in context they are life changing.)

 

Let me end with some appeals for 2017:

1. Surprises are coming in 2017. Get ready! God is orchestrating them even now. You must prepare yourself. Are you ready mentally? Emotionally? Spiritually?  In 1 Cor. 9:27, Paul talked about training himself in godliness. “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”

 

2. Embrace the hard. It comes from a God who loves you. Some of your surprises will be difficult. Do not let them discourage you; use them to open up your eyes so you can see your need for a loving and merciful God. Turn to him; draw close to him. Listen to James as he addresses how we face hardship. (James 4:8-10) 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.

 

3. Replace the hatred. Your change, your sacrifices of love can open up the possibility for reconciliation in ways you could ever expect. Judah had no idea when he replaced his hatred, jealousy, and betrayal with love and sacrifice that he would reconcile with his long lost brother, but it happened. Begin a new chapter in 2017. Let the hatred go, let the hurt go, turn the page. Our God is the kind of God who goes to great lengths to orchestrate surprise reconciliations.



© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

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[1] “What Indian Parents Want Most for Their Children” Aditi Malhortra The Wall Street Journal Aug. 13, 2015.

[2] All other passages are quoted in the ESV.