James

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: 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: 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/

 

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