Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Our Mission: Being and Making

Our Mission: Being and Making

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Calvary Baptist Church

Pastor Ben Marshall

 

Change causes us to give up comfort for the sake of some goal other than comfort. One pastor has said, “Churches that love their method more than their mission will die.”[1] This morning we are going to talk about mission. Methods will come and go; methods will change. Mission is the one thing that we must be tied to. It sets the course, or the direction, moving forward.

Our mission, passionately pursuing Christ, lovingly pursuing others for Christ, summed up in one word for each part, is “be” and “make.” We are called to be disciples (faithful, passionate followers of Christ); we are also called to make disciples.

We are to be passionately pursuing Christ and all that He is. The Bible is replete with examples of men and women passionately pursuing Jesus Christ and holding nothing back. What does it mean to passionately pursue Jesus Christ? Let’s narrow down what we are saying here.

 

First, pursue God with your whole heart

Jeremiah 29:13 ESV You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

Pursue God with your whole heart and it will fill the longing in your heart and soul.    

 

Second, desperately long after God with all of your desire

Psalm 42:1-2 1 As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?    

Do I know what it looks like to crave after God?

 

Third, pursue God as a student of the Bible

Psalm 119:9-11 9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. 10 With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! 11 I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.    

It is by following the Word of God that one is able to live in the fullness of the promises of God. 

Here are three application points to passionately pursue Christ:

First, develop a consistent habit of time spent with God. Take some time this afternoon, and maybe every Sunday afternoon, to schedule your God-time out in advance. Develop a consistent, daily habit of time spent with God. It might be a different time every day, but make it a habit.    

Second, find a consistent place to meet with God. Having a consistent place will help get you into the right frame of mind to meet with God. You know when you go here you put away distractions, turn off notifications, maybe don’t even bring your phone.

Third, bring a journal or something to document your time with God. Write your prayers, write your struggles, write what you’re learning in the Word. It will help you look back and remember. Remembering the goodness and faithfulness of God is important in our faith.  

 

We must cultivate a lifestyle of pursuing Christ and lovingly pursuing others for Christ.

Who are those we lovingly pursue?

We lovingly pursue fellow disciples, the backslidden, and the lost. As we pursue them, we must lead with grace and follow up with truth (John 1:17).

Grace without truth gives permission for sin and truth without grace gives condemnation. Neither is right.

 

How, then, do we lovingly pursue others for Christ? Here are two application points:

First, begin with prayer for others. Fill your prayer list and prayer journal with the names of others.    

Second, intentionally engage others in relationship. Go out of your way this week to bring a conversation to a deeper level.    

Louie Giglio said, “The unfinished work of the church is to tell the whole planet about the finished work of Jesus Christ.” That is our work, Calvary. That is the work of The Church at Hamilton. That is the work of every church body. The church is not a building; it is a group of disciples following the mission and call of God to be disciples and to make disciples who make disciples. 

 

[1] Carey Nieuwhof, The Death of News, Re-Tribalization and the Future Church, December 12, 2017, https://careynieuwhof.com/the-death-of-news-re-tribalization-and-the-church/

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: 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: Decide to Do the Work

Decide to Do the Work sermon notes

Decide To Do The Work

Passages: James 1:2-18

Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

The Church @ Hamilton

 

Key Goals: (Know) Understand the role endurance plays in spiritual growth. (Feel) Feel strengthened to endure hardness. (Do) Develop the skill of resolve.

 

Introduction: A 20 year old with a bright future ahead. She got the call while she was in her dorm room. Two weeks until Christmas break; she was humming a Christmas carol to herself. It’s mom, and she’s crying, “I don’t know how to tell you this, but, your father and I are going to get divorced.” How do you process that kind of news? At some point, everyone needs to rebuild an aspect of their life, even young people. That is why the book of James is so powerful. We are exploring this book, looking for tools that will help us “rebuild” our lives.

 

The process of rebuilding a life is not unlike rebuilding an engine. We have this engine right here, and let me be honest, this engine is a mess—it is not going to be an easy rebuild. Some aspects will be easier than others, but overall this is a big job. You don’t go into the decision to rebuild an engine lightly. Do you have the skill? Do you have the tools? Do you have help? Do you have the parts? And when you have all of that, you still need one more thing: resolve. Because it is not going to be easy. If this is going to happen, we must decide firmly on a course of action. We cannot waver; we must acquire the firm determination, a steadfastness to do this.[1]

 

That is the first tool of our rebuild: resolve. I’m not talking about engines anymore—I am talking about having the resolve to rebuild our lives. Anyone who has ever tried to rebuild a messy part of their life knows this is true: it is not going to be easy; it takes a steadfast, firm determination to do it. But it is worth it! That is what James thinks, anyway. Turn to James 1:2. Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.[2] One thing about James that you will spot right away is that he does not pull his punches. The first words of his book? “Hey, guys. Before we talk about anything, let me begin by saying you are going to experience heartache, trials, persecution, and suffering. When these things come, I want you to process them as a joyful experiences.”

 

This is an important piece of “resolve” and James will take the next 16 verses to flesh it out for us. I am not sure about you, but “joy” is not the first place my mind always runs when I am going through a difficult situation. Often my mind runs to discouragement. I feel dejected, unhappy, and disappointed. I also feel lonely and a little deserted, which is exactly the opposite of the way I should be feeling. Here is why: a trial is the only way to test my faith.

 

We Need Testing. A while back there was a type of nylon coat that was popular. I got a bright yellow one and really liked it. One of the aspects I thought was cool was that the tag said the jacket was waterproof. It was really nice, so I wore it often. When people commented on it I even mentioned, “Yeah and it’s waterproof too.” But I didn’t really know it was waterproof—I believed it was waterproof—until it was tested at an early spring soccer game. It was cold and drizzly, so perfect weather for my new jacket. Was it waterproof? This was the ultimate test, in 40 minutes of drizzle. I was miserable, my feet and legs were soaked, my hair was dripping, but my shirt was completely dry! It passed! I loved that jacket and wore it everywhere. In 80 degrees, I was wearing my waterproof jacket.

At the outset of rebuilding our lives, James wants us to develop a mindset that testing and trials are not hardships to bring discouragement but opportunities for joy as the authenticity of our faith is proved. Prov. 17:3 says The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the LORD tests hearts. Why? The same reason you smelt gold: purity. How do you know your faith is real? You put it through the furnace of adversity. Let’s look at this first tool for our rebuild: resolve.

 

1. Resolve within our trials produces undiminished faithfulness (Jm.1:3-4) …for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. So the very first reason we should count trials as “joy” is because the testing of our faith produces “steadfastness.” What is that really? It is the Greek word πομένειν; its basic meaning was simply “to hold out.” But in the military culture of the Roman world, the idea of “holding out” specifically in battle (like Horatius at the bridge in 510BC) grew prominent in their list of virtues. It came to represent courageous endurance which manfully defies evil. Unlike patience, it has an active content. It includes active and energetic resistance to hostile power.[3]

 

So what James is telling us is that if you want to develop a courageous, active, manly faith that can resist evil—it is only going to come by successfully holding your resolve in the midst of testing. That alone should help us change our thinking about trials. But that is not the end game, because “steadfastness” produces something in us as well. Look at verse 4. …let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. The full effect of steadfastness is that a believer becomes perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

 

In Genesis 22, God tested Abraham. He told him to sacrifice his only son. Abraham obeyed, even to the point of raising the knife, before God stopped him. I cannot imagine how hard that was for Abraham to raise that knife. But he believed in a big God; he trusted in “El Shaddai” God Almighty who had the power to give him a son in his old age.  So Abraham, we are told, believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness. You know what righteousness is? Moral perfection or completeness. His tested faith produced in him what God wants to produce in us: completeness.

 

Why count trials as joy? Because we are incomplete without them. They produce in us the manful, courageous ability to resist evil and temptation that ultimately leads to overcoming sin. A person cannot rebuild their life and end up courageous and complete without testing. So let us take James’ advice and shift the gears in our minds to start processing hardships and testing in our lives as joy.

 

2. Resolve within our trials takes God’s wisdom (James 1:5-8) If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. Last week we discussed the fact that James knew what it meant to doubt. He was Jesus’ brother, he grew up with Jesus, yet did not believe in him (John7:9) until the resurrection (I Cor. 15). James warns us that even asking for wisdom is going to take resolve—resolve based on good theology. Here is a sentence for you: bad theology creates weak and foolish Christians.

 

Let me break down the theology of wisdom for a moment. The Bible teaches us that God has all wisdom and knowledge (Prov. 2:6). God has told us that if we lack wisdom we should ask him (Prov. 2:6; Jm. 1:5) He has even told us that if we ask, God will generously give us wisdom without criticizing our foolishness (James1:6). If all of that is true, if it is that easy, why are we not the wisest people we know?

 

James, a guy familiar with doubting, warns us that while we may understand this, we may not really believe it. Your faith in God giving you the wisdom to endure hardship in your life is directly tied to how big your God is. James is straight with us: ask for wisdom without doubting or don’t ask! Doubting people should not expect to get anything from God because their understanding of God is so poor that they may not even know him. You have to have faith, trust in God (salvation) before you will have any ability to endure a trial. Why would you ask God for wisdom to test a faith that is non-existent? I can almost picture James, as he was writing, thinking about the way his brother Jesus put it as recorded in Luke 6:46–49.

Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? 47 Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”

 

3. Resolve within our trials brings rich blessings (James 1:12-15)

12Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

 

There are five crowns mentioned in Scripture:

1. Imperishable Crown - for those who serve (1 Cor. 9:25)

2. Crown for the One who Wins Souls (Phil. 4:1; 1 Thess. 2:19)

3. Crown of Righteousness - for those who love his appearing (2 Tim 4:8)

4. Crown of Glory - for those who faithfully shepherd the church (1 Pet 5:4)

5. Crown of Life - for those who faithfully endure suffering (Jm. 1:12; Rev 2:10)

 

We typically do not talk about crowns today because we think they are only for royalty. But the Greek word used for crown is stephanos, which refers to a “reward” or “laurel wreath.” In the Greek Olympics, the winner of a sporting contest was awarded the stephanos or laurel crown. Crowns mentioned in Scripture, then, represent rewards for special acts of service or perseverance within the Kingdom of God. From what we see in Scripture, the crowns will be an actual reward handed out to believers when Jesus returns again in the future. This will be at the Bema—the Judgment Seat of Christ.[4] James 1:12 and Revelation 2:10 indicate that the Crown of Life is for those who persevere in faith through temptation, tribulation, and persecution. By offering a crown, Jesus (and James) is encouraging us to stay strong, keep the course, and remain faithful; he is proclaiming to those with faith: it will be worth it.

 

[Marshmallow Experiment (Igniter Media)]

 

These children had to decide: is it worth it? Is one more marshmallow worth the wait? We have to decide if the eternal rewards of following Christ are worth the temporary pain of today. James is telling us, “Yes! Persevere to the end. Following Christ is worth whatever it will cost you!”

 

Listen to Revelation 2:10. Jesus is speaking to the church in Smyrna, which was experiencing horrible persecution. “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” In order for us as people to rebuild our lives, we must have resolve—the ability and desire to endure. Rebuilding will take determination and steadfastness, but it is how we will know our faith is pure and because when Christ returns, he is bringing a crown for those faithfully persevere!

 

Community Group Discussion

 

1.          Read through James 1:2-18 as a group, then see how much of the passage you can recite from memory.

2.          The passage mentions a crown for those who endure. Five crowns are mentioned in Scripture—why do you think we rarely discuss them? Is it wrong to be motivated by receiving a crown?

3.          Discuss what (if anything) you learned about what it takes to rebuild when life gets difficult.

4.          Discuss a time in your life when you had to endure something difficult. How did you make it through?

5.          Discuss how persevering through suffering helps “complete” us. Have you experienced this?

6.          We watched the “Marshmallow Experiment” video. Why is the idea of deferred gratification important to faith?

 

© 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] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/resolve

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

[3] Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 581–582.

[4] See Jeremy Myers’ excellent blog article on this subject: https://redeeminggod.com/what-is-the-crown-of-life/