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Showing posts from February, 2019

James 2:9: But If You Show Partiality, You Are Committing Sin

James 2:9 [9] But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. (ESV) So let's assume for a moment that you have been guilty of showing partiality towards someone in your church. Do you consider it a big deal? James tells us that God thinks it is a big deal. He tells us that if we show partiality we are committing sin and are convicted by God's law as transgressors. That sounds more serious than we might have originally thought. Consider for a moment what the church is. The church is the body of Christ. It is the God ordained means by which the Gospel is preached and lives are transformed. Church is not a meeting we go to once a week, or even less. Church is not a building. Church is a living body. If the body is sick it will be ineffective. God wants his body to be holy. The Apostle Paul refers to the church as the bride of Christ. This bride is being purified by God and he desires to present her to Christ as spotless.

James 2:8: If You Really Fulfill The Royal Law

James 2:8 [8] If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. (ESV) Do you fulfill the royal law? We find this law that James is referring to in Leviticus 19:18. This Law that was given through Moses said: "You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself : I am the LORD. Jesus himself referred to this law when he summarized all of the prophets as being hinged upon two basic laws: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. In the context of this passage James is referring to how we treat others, specifically without favoritism. Imagine again the illustration that James gave of two different people walking into a church gathering; one rich and one poor. If we are truly loving our neighbor as our self we will not tell the poor man to take a seat in the back. As for this idea of lov

James 2:7: Are They Not The Ones Who Blaspheme The Honorable Name

James 2:7 [7] Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called? (ESV) There is a lot of talk these days about bullies. Most elementary schools have strict rules about bullying. Yet, with all of the rules in place, there will always be bullies. We see bullies in the political realm. We work with bullies. We encounter them in virtually every area of our lives. Truth be told, you and I have probably been bullied, and we have probably bullied others at some time. James is describing some bullies that the church was dealing with. They were the rich ones mentioned a few verses ago that were being given preferential treatment in the church. Part of the reason why they were getting such treatment may have been because members of the church were afraid of them. They may have sought to appease them. We get a better glimpse of what kind of bullies the church was dealing with as James talks about them blaspheming the honorable name of Jesus Christ. I can t

James 2:6: But You Have Dishonored The Poor Man

James 2:6 [6] But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? (ESV) There is something to be said about how we treat the poorest among us. If we give honor to the rich while ignoring the poor James says that we are dishonoring the poor man. In this particular passage the dishonor was something as simple as having the poor person sit in a seat that was less desirable in the place where they had a church gathering. A great question for the people who James was writing to would have been, "Where would you have Jesus sit in your midst?" Consider what Jesus said in the parable of the Sheep and the Goats. Jesus said, "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" (Matthew 25:40). If you view someone as being the least treat them with greater honor. Do not dishonor the poor. If we consider what Jesus said we can e

James 2:5: Has Not God Chosen Those Who Are Poor In The World?

James 2:5 [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? (ESV) Imagine for a moment that you are a King, building your own kingdom. If you could choose people to belong to your kingdom what kind of people would you choose? Maybe you would choose rich people so that they could contribute more to your treasury. Perhaps you would make sure the people you choose are healthy, not bringing unwanted diseases into your kingdom. Or maybe you would choose the beautiful?  The charming? Witty? I doubt you are going to get to choose people for your kingdom. But, our God has been building his kingdom for some time. And you might be shocked to find out who he has been choosing for his kingdom. James tells us that God has chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom. His standard is not the same as ours. Why not the rich? Liste

James 2:2-4: A Man Wearing A Gold Ring . . . A Poor Man In Shabby Clothing

James 2:2–4 [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? (ESV) There continues to be a plague that infiltrates the Church called the "prosperity Gospel." Yes, I know that sounds harsh calling it a plague. I was actually trying to be gentle. Proponents of this so-called Gospel promote the notion that if you are truly following God you will be rich, healthy, and essentially better than your brothers or sisters who lack the level of faith that you have attained. This foolish teaching would surely fly in the face of what the Apostle James tells us in this passage. We are not to value the rich and prosperou

James 2:1: My Brothers, Show No Partiality

James 2:1 [1] My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. (ESV) It is possible that I might offend you in today's devotional. I do not try to offend, but I believe this verse offends our natural tendencies. That is one of the things I love about this epistle of James. He is not concerned about coddling the feelings of his listeners. He is far more concerned with making mature disciples of Jesus Christ. James tells us to show no partiality as we hold the faith that we have in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. Let's pause for a moment. Think of the way that he just described Jesus. He is Lord. In fact, he is the Lord of glory. All glory belongs to him, and him alone. What happens when we show partiality? We give glory to lesser things than the Savior. That is idolatrous. We know that Jesus deserves all glory. Yet, when he came to this earth how did he come? Was he born in a King's castle? No, there was n

James 1:27: Religion That Is Pure And Undefiled Before God The Father

James 1:27 [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. (ESV) James continues defining true religion for us. James moves from dealing with the genuineness of our talk (verse 26) to the genuineness of our walk. True religion visits orphans and widows in their affliction. This visitation is not just showing up and walking away, but bringing relief to them. In our world, there is a tendency to do things only if there is a benefit for us. Even churches can fall into a terrible practice of only reaching out to those who can support the church in some way. We can go out of our way to help someone, because we realize they are a large contributor to the work of the Church. That is not true religion. That is true hypocrisy. James is describing a ministry to those who were completely incapable of giving anything back in return. We need to not only reach out compassion

James 1:26: If Anyone Who Thinks He Is Religious And Does Not Bridle His Tongue

James 1:26 [26] If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. (ESV) I remember pastoring a church where there was an elderly woman who was notorious for using her tongue to destroy people. I can remember her calling me stupid from her front row seat while I was preaching. No, I am not making this up. I wish I was. Her tongue was a vicious weapon that was used to destroy many. There was something else about this woman. She felt that she was very religious. If you were to question her about her vile mouth she would have rattled off her religious pedigree. She had been an esteemed member of the church for many years. She was "respected" in her community. She even used her voice to sing in the choir! Let me take a moment to make an assessment on this woman's "religion." It was worthless! All of the singing she did meant nothing. Her church membership was irrelevant. Her list

James 1:25: The One Who Looks Into The Perfect Law, The Law Of Liberty

James 1:25 [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. (ESV) We all love to be blessed. We will read books on how to increase God's blessing in our lives. We will say to each other, "Have a blessed day." James tells us one of the ways we can be blessed in what we do. The formula for this blessing is none other than spending time in the Word of God, which James describes as the "perfect law," and the "law of liberty." James describes the one who looks into the perfect law. It is essential that we share James' attitude towards God's Word. The Bible is perfect. It is inerrant. It is without any flaw. It is to be the absolute authority in our lives. This concept of the Bible being described as "Law" is not referring to the dietary codes of the Old Testament, but rather a way of describing all of Scripture. N

James 1:23-24: Anyone Who Is A Hearer Of The Word And Not A Doer

James 1:23–24 [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. (ESV) In our modern age people love to take selfies. Just about everyone, even children, have expensive cell phones that have high powered cameras that will show us every detail of whatever it is that we are taking a picture of. Imagine how odd it would be for a person to take a selfie, look at it, and then immediately forget what they looked like. When James wrote this epistle there was obviously no such thing as cell phones. In fact, mirrors were not a popular item that many people owned. Poor people did not own mirrors. So, it was difficult for someone to have a true idea of what they looked like. But the wealthy did have mirrors. Dr. John MacArthur contributes the following: “First-century mirrors were not glass but metallic, made of bronze, silver—or f

James 1:22: Be Doers Of The Word, And Not Hearers Only, Deceiving Yourselves

James 1:22 [22] But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (ESV) Perhaps you have heard the quote, "Wives, we will do the things you asked us to do, you don't have to keep reminding us every six months." There is a big difference between doing and hearing. James gives us very clear direction. We are to not just read the Word of God, we are to do what it says. You would think that James would not need to remind us, but we know different. This concept of action following hearing reminds us again of the Great Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4). In that great passage that every Jew would have understood who heard James' words, it starts with "Hear, O Israel." The word for "hear" was more than a physical acknowledgment of what was said. Rather, the word meant, "hear with the intention to obey." We need to hear the Word of God with the intention to obey. In the previous verses James talked about the one who responded t

James 1:21: Therefore Put Away All Filthiness And Rampant Wickedness

James 1:21 [21] Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. (ESV) Imagine for a moment that you have a very terrible disease. Nice thought, right? You talk to the doctor and he assures you that if you come in for a surgery he can completely cure you. That's good news. So, the day comes and you go to the doctor's office, ready for the surgery that will bring your body back to perfect health. When you step through the door of the doctor's office you are unprepared for the horrible scene that awaits you. The entire room is filled with filth! There are cockroaches crawling through bags of garbage that are strewn all over the floor. Used needles with dry caked blood are laying around. The stench in the room is overwhelming. That's quite a mental scene I have painted for you, isn't it? James tells us to put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness. We often make the mi

James 1:20: The Anger Of Man Does Not Produce The Righteousness Of God

James 1:20 [20] for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (ESV) I have often been amazed at the anger that seems to pour out of people who claim that there is no God. Atheists have a world view in which they claim that there is absolutely no evidence that God exists and, in fact, all of the evidence proves that there is no God at all. When it is posed to them that God is real they often respond with fury. I have always thought that if someone is talking about God and you are an atheist, why not just laugh it off? Why should it affect you so much if someone believes in something that you think is a fairy tale. You probably don't get as angry if someone believes in unicorns. But I think there is something more going on. The Word of God angers those who live in rebellion to it. James is telling us in this verse that the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. In the context of this verse James is talking about anger against God's Wor

James 1:19: Be Quick To Hear, Slow To Speak, Slow To Anger

James 1:19 [19] Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; (ESV) This is one of those verses that seems to mean one thing, but upon further reflection, it actually means something else. At first glance we are reminded of the expression, "Silence is golden, duct tape is silver." It is true that we should listen more and speak less. That is a general principle in life. But that is not what this verse is talking about. James is talking about the Word of God. We are to be quick to hear the Word of God. We are to be slow to speak the Word of God. We are to be slow to be angered at what the Word of God tells us. That is a great challenge for us. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ the Word of God is to be everything in your life. James tells us some key guidelines in how we should respond to it. In the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 6:4) the Jews were given an instruction which is referred to as the "Great Shem

James 1:18: Of His Own Will He Brought Us Forth By The Word Of Truth

James 1:18 [18] Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. (ESV) We know that every good gift has its origin in God. Our Heavenly Father is the giver of life, the giver of His Son, Jesus, and the giver of our eternal life. In the previous verse we recognized this wonderful truth. In today's verse, James is talking about us as a people who now belong to him and are a direct expression of His goodness. Consider for a moment how one becomes a believer in Jesus Christ, a Christian. James tells us that the relationship that we have with God is initiated by God himself. "Of his own will he brought us forth." It was God's sovereign choice not ours to bring us to himself. If left to our own desires we would have never chosen to follow the Lord. Our sinful nature was in total rebellion. How is his will accomplished? By his word ("the word of truth"). Have you considered that the univer

James 1:17: Every Good And Perfect Gift Is From Above

James 1:17 [17] Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (ESV) How many people love to get gifts? I would think that everyone does. Whether it is a Birthday, or Christmas, or some other special event, we love to receive gifts. Did you know that your Heavenly Father is a great gift giver? James tells us that every good and perfect gift is from above. Our unchanging God loves us so much he showers us with gifts. Let's consider some of them. Salvation: The fact that we have been offered forgiveness of sin, through Jesus Christ, God's Son, is the greatest gift of all. To think that in our sinful condition Christ would come and sacrifice his perfect life for our worthless one is staggering to the imagination. We are given a new hope, a new life, and a new eternal destination. The Holy Spirit: Jesus told his disciples that it was important for him to go back to Hea

James 1:16: Do Not Be Deceived, My Beloved Brothers

James 1:16 [16] Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. (ESV) "In late September 1864 Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest was leading his troops north from Decatur, Alabama, toward Nashville. But to make it to Nashville, Forrest would have to defeat the Union army at Athens, Alabama. When the Union commander, Colonel Wallace Campbell, refused to surrender, Forrest asked for a personal meeting, and took Campbell on an inspection of his troops. But each time they left a detachment, the Confederate soldiers simply packed up and moved to another position, artillery and all. Forrest and Campbell would then arrive at the new encampment and continue to tally up the impressive number of Confederate soldiers and weaponry. By the time they returned to the fort, Campbell was convinced he couldn't win and surrendered unconditionally!" - Today in the Word , June 27, 1993. James knew that it was easy for believers to be deceived. In the previous verses he has discussed

James 1:15: Desire When It Has Conceived Gives Birth To Sin

James 1:15 [15] Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (ESV) Have you ever considered that sin is a process? Rather than it being a spontaneous occurrence there is a sequence of events that leads to our sinful behavior. This tells us two things. One, the fault for falling into sin lies with us. It is not accidental. Secondly, it tells us that we do not have to sin. We can stop the process if we are aware of it. Let's look at the steps involved in sinful behavior. Desire: Our culture that we live in is becoming a more hedonistic one by the day. Whatever fuels your desire must be innately good. James tells us something very different here. He tells us that it is our desires that when conceived give birth to sin. In other words, desires are the source of sin, not the source of anything good in us. Sin: The word sin is something that many people have decided to simply not use any more. That word sounds too ju

James 1:14: Each Person Is Tempted When He Is Lured And Enticed By His Own Desire

James 1:14 [14] But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. (ESV) In the previous verse we put an end to the lie that somehow God is responsible for my temptation. James told us that God does not tempt us. Certainly he allows temptation and there is value in us being tempted and overcoming that temptation. God's position is one of enabling us to be victorious. He is on our side. He is not our tempter. Another lie we may be tempted to believe is that somehow it is not my fault when I give in to temptation. We can accept the fact that it is not God's fault when I fail, but is it really my fault? James has an answer to that question that you may not like! Yes, it is your fault when you give in to temptation. You are lured into temptation by your own desire. We are all really good at making excuses for why we sin. The fact is we enjoy sin. It feels good. It appeals to us. Our sinful nature loves it. We cannot pass the buck on this one. When

James 1:13: Let No One Say When He Is Tempted, "I Am Being Tempted By God."

James 1:13 [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. (ESV) “While my wife and I were shopping at a mall kiosk, a shapely young woman in a short, form-fitting dress strolled by. My eyes followed her. Without looking up from the item she was examining, my wife asked, "Was it worth the trouble you're in?" Drew Anderson (Tucson, AZ), Reader's Digest. Temptation. It trips us up all the time. James wants us to know that the source of our temptation is not the Lord. From the beginning, the enemy of our souls has been telling lies about the character and nature of God. He wants you to believe that God is against you. The world embraces this view. We love to blame someone else when we fail. Did you ever consider that when it comes to temptation God is for us? God wants us to be victorious over temptation. The enemy wants us to fail. In fact, not only does God want us t

James 1:12: Blessed Is The Man Who Remains Steadfast Under Trial

James 1:12 [12] Blessed 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. (ESV) “John Piper says that sin (lust for example) "gets its power by persuading me to believe that I will be more happy if I follow it. The power of all temptation is the prospect that it will make me happier." - Erwin Lutzer, Putting Your Past Behind You, Here's Life , 1990, p.54. The lie of satan is that I will be more happy if I follow his temptation and sin. In James 1:12, we see the truth that counters that lie. True happiness, blessedness, satisfaction comes from victory, not from failing. Those who remain steadfast in the midst of trials and temptations are BLESSED! I agree with John Piper that Satan lies to us and tries to convince us that we will be happy if we sin. This is compounded by a society that places the highest goal of life being “happiness.” I remember a song b

James 1:11: So Also Will The Rich Man Fade Away

James 1:11 [11] For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. (ESV) "Defensive lineman Warren Sapp spent 12 years in the NFL, earning more than $82 million over the course of his career. But a bad real estate deal, alimony and child supports payments totaling $74,495 a month, and a lavish lifestyle all contributed to a bankruptcy filing in 2012, five years after he retired. Sapp claimed he couldn’t pay his $6.7 million in debt, even though he was still earning $115,881 every month as an analyst for the NFL Network and in appearance fees." - Money. Easy Come. Easy go. It is hard to believe that someone like Warren Sapp could go from being a millionaire to being bankrupt. Many of us read that story and think, "It would be different if I had that money!" Maybe so. Maybe not. James talks to us in today's verse ab

James 1:10: And The Rich In His Humiliation, Because Like A Flower Of The Grass He Will Pass Away

James 1:10 [10] and the rich (boast) in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. (ESV) What do you boast about? Most people boast about having possessions. We like to show off the things that we have that someone else does not have. Money has a way of enticing us to boasting. Perhaps you have a collection of antiques, fancy cars, or even bank accounts! It is tempting to boast about having all of those things. James gives instruction to the believer in Jesus Christ who are rich. They are encouraged to boast! But their boasting is not what you would expect. They are to boast in their humiliation. Now that does not sound like something to boast about. Who in the world would have all kinds of wealth and boast about humiliation. I know someone. Philippians 2:6–7 [6] who, though he (Jesus) was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, [7] but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness

James 1:9: Let The Lowly Brother Boast In His Exaltation

James 1:9 [9] Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, (ESV) Money is a funny thing. If we pursue money we will never have enough of it. The world that we live in and its whole system of thinking is based on how much money or material possessions we have. Those who don't have anything feel that if they just had what their neighbor had they would somehow be happy. The reality is there is not enough money in the whole world to make anyone happy. James describes for us the lowly brother. Who is the lowly brother? He is the one who does not have many material possessions. James is writing to people who have been facing trials of various kinds. Very likely the ones whom he is describing as lowly are ones who have lost the material possessions they had because of some kind of trials and persecution. So, if this lowly brother has nothing what is he supposed to boast about? James tells us that the lowly brother should boast in his exaltation. The bottom line is that while w

James 1:8: He Is A Double-Minded Man, Unstable In All His Ways

James 1:8 [8] he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (ESV) The Book of James is at times a painful look at reality. James is not interested in patronizing those who talk one way but live another. He calls them out and shows them for what they are. In verse 8 he continues this look at one who comes to God, but doubts God's goodness and character. He calls him double-minded. This describes a person who can't decide if he wants to follow God or the world. I would love to say that this kind of double-mindedness is not prevalent in today's world, but as you read this you know I would be wrong. We see this kind of foolish thinking in our world, in our churches, and even in our own hearts. We have ears that still listen to the voice of that serpent in the Garden who questioned what God said. Just a few examples come to mind. We know that an honest reading of Scripture tells us that homosexuality is a sin. Yet, we have churches who have decided to affirm and

James 1:7: For That Person Must Not Suppose That He Will Receive Anything From The Lord

James 1:7 [7] For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; (ESV) What a sobering thought. James speaks of those who will not receive anything from the Lord. We must ask, who is he referring to? The previous verse gives us the answer. James described the person who doubted the Lord. That person is the one who should not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord. As we discovered in the previous verse, God wants us to place our faith in his divine character. If we come to him while at the same time doubting that he is who he said he is, and that he is able to do what he says he can do, than the idea of receiving something from him would be an absolute absurdity. I believe that one of the biggest problems in the Church at large is that we do not believe proper doctrine. We do not know what is true about God's divine nature. And if we do not know what is truth about God we certainly we will be full of doubt. Let's just consider a

James 1:6: But Let Him Ask In Faith, With No Doubting

James 1:6 [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. (ESV) Faith is a word that is used and misused all the time. We describe someone as having faith. Yet, it is important for that faith to be related to an object. If someone says that they have faith, the logical question would be, "Faith in what?" In this verse James is referring to faith in the divine character and goodness of God. A proper understanding of God's nature is the object of our faith. If we doubt we are showing that we have a fundamental lack or mistrust of God's character and nature. It is also important to note where the source of this mistrust comes. Satan himself loves to instill doubt in our hearts. In particular, he loves to instill doubt concerning the innate goodness of God's divine nature. Have you ever been in the midst of a trial and you find yourself questioning why a good God would al