Advent - Joy and Hanging of the Greens

The Hanging of the Greens

I. What is the Significance?
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 9:6-7
“For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”

Have you ever wondered why we talk about the “hanging of the greens?” Or why an evergreen is called an evergreen? And why Christmas greens are traditionally used to emphasize the nativity? Green represents renewal, new life, freshness, and rebirth. Plants such as pine, fir, holly, ivy, and mistletoe are called evergreens because they do not die; through the seasons of the year, they remain ever-green, ever-alive. It is no wonder then that we deck our sanctuary and halls with evergreens during this Advent season. Advent is the season of preparation for the ever-coming Christ, God’s gift to us of renewal and transformation.

Because the needles of the pine and fir trees appear not to die each season, the ancients saw them as signs of things that last forever. Isaiah tells us that there will be no end to the reign of the Messiah. Therefore, we hang these wreathes of evergreens shaped in a circle, which in itself has no end, to signify that the kingdom of God, to which Christ so eloquently testified, is also without end.

II. Wreaths Already Up
A. Past Souls (Those who have gone before us.)
B. Future Souls (Those who are not of this flock who will come into the fold.)
C. Connected and Bound by the Cross

III. Founders -- Descendants -- Younger Generation
Founding Families in Alphabetical Order:
1. Mr. and Mrs. S.W. Johnson
2. Mrs. S.R. Martin
3. Mr. and Mrs. L.M. Minter
4. Mrs. L.H. Wagoner

IV. We are all Connected
A. Descendants of Four Founding Families Stand
B. “Families that pray together, stay together.” What a great legacy.
C. As your ancestors passed their faith and the fruits of their hard work on to you so that it would endure another generation, you need to do the same for the next. Are we really prepared to do this and are we willing to do this? Are you mentoring individuals from the younger generation? Are you teaching them? Are you truly welcoming them?

Joy Sermonette

There is not much more that can be said that would be anymore significant than what we started with at the beginning of this Worship time. If that does not bring you joy, then I don’t know what will. “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given…” We have inherited a great legacy from men and women who have gone before us. They trusted that the Child was born and the Son was given. They trusted that He gave Himself for them and we believe the same. The hope of the ages arrived and peace has come on earth to those on whom His favor rests.
That is worth rejoicing over!!!

Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!”

What does it mean to rejoice in the Lord? How are we to do rejoice always?
Have you ever felt less than joyful? Have you ever come to church and just really didn’t feel like singing or shaking hands? This is the human condition. We are weak and vulnerable so that is understandable, yet we are told to rejoice at all times. Let’s answer these two questions.

Main Points:
1. What does it mean to REJOICE in the Lord?
A. To rejoice in the Lord is to have a healthy relationship with Him in the first place. David said in a Psalm “He brought me up out of a horrible pit, Out of the miry clay, And set my feet upon a rock, And established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth—Praise to our God.”
B. Secondly, it is to adoringly respond to the knowledge that we are at peace with Him through the blood of Christ.

2. How are we to rejoice ALWAYS?
A. In all of the flux of the Christian life, whether in attacks from those who have strayed, personality clashes with fellow believers, persecution, or physical death we are to rejoice.
B. Joy is something that is known and experienced in the heart. So, whether there is a smile on our face or a song on our lips does not matter. We can rejoice in the deepest, darkest circumstances.

Each and every time we gather together in this place we should fill the walls with joy. From classroom to sanctuary, handshake to hug, greetings and goodbyes – We need to allow our joy to show forth. What if every single one of you came to the assembly with excitement? What if you made it your goal each and ever week to be as joyful as possible? Can you visualize how lively this church would be? Can you imagine the people we would attract? Can you dream of the impact we could have in this community for the glory of our Lord, Jesus Christ?

A people who truly exhibit the joy that they claim to have… That would be awesome…

And if this was to happen and you were experiencing one of those down days, you could not help but be built up by your brothers and sisters. For a while I couldn’t think of where to go with this sermon, but now I have the picture. This is what God wants for His people. Jesus said, “If the Son makes you free, then you are free indeed!” We are free to love, free to worship, free to laugh, free to be joyful!!!

This statements found in Philippians 4:4 is not just good advice it is a command to be obeyed. So I challenge you – As Christmas is around the corner and 2011 is just over the hill – Make it your life’s mission to be a Christian that is full of joy – So full that it floods out of you when we are together! No matter the past – which is fixed – Or the future – which is held in God’s hands – Fort Trial Christian Church will be a people of pure, inescapable JOY always!!!

Advent - Hope

Introduction to Advent Season: It is a process that will incorporate lots of great things. 1st Advent: Birth of Christ / 2nd Advent: Return of Christ

Hope is a Natural Human Feeling: The special this morning demonstrates this fact.
We continually want something to come, happen, be found, change, or turn out well.

Hope is a Fitting Inaugural Theme for Advent:
Hope of the Birth of Christ and now hope for the Return of Christ. OT looked forward in hope to the birth and the NT (and us) look forward to the return. These are the Advents, the arrival of something long awaited. The something so momentous is the presence of Christ, Immanuel.

1. The popular English idea of hope is that it is a subjective desire or it is to want something very much.
2. The Biblical idea of hope is that it is Desire + Expectation.

Hope in the Scriptures:
We must draw a distinction between hope and faith. We can do that with a few Scriptures:

1. 1 Corinthians 15:19 We Hope in Christ for the Next Life – Promises of God
“If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.”

2. Romans 8:24-25 Hope is Waiting
“For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.”
-Who does the pouring? The Holy Spirit Who was given to us.
What is being poured? God’s Love = the Gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection
-People need concrete evidence and God gave/gives it to us by the message that Christ Jesus died. So we know that hope will not disappoint us. At the mention of the Spirit here, it leads me to believe that the Spirit continuously declares the Gospel Word to us.

3. Romans 5:5 Hope Does Not Disappoint
“Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

How can you remain “grounded and steadfast, not moved away from the hope of the gospel?”
1. Hope is induced by Scripture: “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” Rom 15:4.
2. Allow the Spirit of God to speak to your spirit: “the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” Rom 5:5.

Do you know what the Law tells you? You are Guilty! You are Guilty!
What about Satan? You are Doomed! You are Doomed!
The Spirit declares day after day, moment after moment,
He Loves you and Gave Himself for you! He Loves you and Gave Himself for you!

Isaiah 40:28-31 Does God Pause to Catch His Breath?

Let me start by taking a quick survey of five questions and I would like for you all to raise your hands if any of these apply to you.

1. Have you ever paused to catch your breath?
2. Have you ever grown weary or felt weak?
3. Have you ever fallen?
4. Has your memory ever failed you?
5. Is there anyone who is tired right now?

What about God? Does God ever pause to catch his breath?
Is God truly dead as German philosopher Friedrich Nietzshe made famous in his 1883 book?
Is God old? Is God worn out? Is God useless? Is Christ of no profit?

These were the questions that Israel had for God in Isaiah 40 and these are also the questions of contemporary culture. The LORD obviously had/has an answer. I want you to be encouraged by God’s Word and I want you to learn (or maybe be refreshed) of an indispensable message-
“Those who wait on the LORD will renew their strength.”

READ Scripture- This is the Word of God

Context: God speaks through the prophet Isaiah of a future captivity in Babylon. The people would feel that their God had abandoned them and that they would never return to their land. God knew that they would say things such as ‘Where is God? Why is God not doing anything? Has our God been defeated? Is God forgetful? Is He limited by space and time? Is He limited in wisdom and power? Is Yahweh perhaps inferior to the Babylonian gods?’ “The setting of this act has Jacob/Israel still the heir to election in Abraham but now in Babylonian exile, no longer a nation, scarcely a people… She is still disbelieving and complaining.”

Two specific complaints can be found in Isaiah 40:
1. vv6-7 humanity has no real substance or reality
2. v27 Israel’s plans and rights are not observed by God in the manner they would like.

Then in vv28-31 we see that instead of Israel looking at themselves they needed to look to God. These are some of the most comforting words in Scripture. God Himself gives an answer of who He is and how He works. Let’s look at some of the content of these verses for just a few minutes and then draw some conclusions which I hope will be encouraging.

“Everlasting God” = Literally “God of an Age.” He is a God of the long view. His strategies and His workings are not only moment by moment but are age by age. Our God is an Everlasting God. Israel demanded immediate satisfaction of what they viewed as rightfully theirs,
YET God was, and always is, prepared for the long haul.

“The Creator of the ends of the earth” = “According to Babylonian myth, the god Marduk received advice from Ea, the god of wisdom, when he created the world. The Lord, the real creator of the world, consulted no one. He needed no advice or blueprint; his wisdom and skill were sufficient.” His workings involve long distances, not just specific locations. Simply put, His strategies and workings are more than Palestine or Babylon.

“Neither faints nor is weary” = God moves through centuries and millennia accomplishing His strategies according to His works and NEVER… gets… tired….

“His understanding is unsearchable” = What was asked in v14 is now undoubtedly answered, Question- “With whom did He take counsel, and who instructed Him, And taught Him in the path of justice? Who taught Him knowledge, And showed Him the way of understanding? Answer- His understanding is unsearchable.” Israel was trying to do the impossible. They were trying to get to the root of God. They were trying to get to the source of God. No where in the Bible is this ever seen as a possibility. We study His Word to learn of Him and His ways, but we will never fully know the whole mind of God.

VV29-31Not only can we not know the whole mind of God nor the source of God, but God is actually the source of man’s power, strength, and endurance.

Application: There are things in this world that wear us down, for example: job, health, relationships. But we need to know three things and we can learn them from this passage:
1. He is aware of our circumstances.
2. He has the authority and means of lifting us up
3. We have meaning because of the fact that God’s Spirit includes us and His Word addresses us.

Though there are those in the best possible condition in this life that will faint, be weary, and utterly fall there is a special group of people that will run and not be weary, walk and not faint. How can you be a part of the special group? Wait on the LORD. It is a hopeful waiting for the God of the ages to intervene. We can gain strength to rise above the moment and not grow weary or faint.

Waiting- 1. Complete dependence on God 2. Willingness to Allow Him to decide the terms.
Waiting is declaring our confidence in His eventual action on our behalf. It is not killing time, but a life of confident expectations. You see, we have no other help unless He intervenes.

The picture of the eagle is perfect. The eagle has powerful wings, but that is not what sustains him. It is the current of the winds that allows him to fly high for long periods of time. The soaring eagle is relaxed and calm as the elements of nature carry him along. It is the eagle’s reliance on the wind that carries him. And so it is with us. It is not our strength or might that allows us to continue on. It is the Spirit of God that lifts us high and carries us on even in the midst of the most difficult circumstances, in His time and manner. That is grace and that is faith.

We know and have now been reminded that with God age, health, stamina, and none of the like mean anything. He is the Everlasting God. So, too, let us not say, ‘I am old, I am past my prime, I am tired, I have worked for so long, there is no way I can continue, I am weak, I am weary.’ “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

If you are tired or feel like you can’t go on anymore then WAIT. Wait on the LORD. He is the One who promises to renew your strength. We need to be a people who hopefully wait on the LORD. He alone is the One that will exchange our weakness for His strength, so wait on Him. Rest in faith knowing that God will raise you up. Be like the eagle that never tires because he relies on the winds. Rely on God, wait on Him, and He shall renew your strength. You shall run and not be weary, you shall walk an not faint.

The Book of Jonah

The Book of Jonah is an interesting little book. It is the fifth of the twelve Minor Prophets, coming between Obadiah and Micah. In the Hebrew canon these twelve compose one book. The other eleven state some of the prophet’s background, detail their preaching in Israel, and give us lengthy sections of what they said in their sermons. Jonah, on the other hand, gives no personal background, only narrates his mission to Nineveh (a foreign city in Assyria), and gives one sentence of what he proclaimed there “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

So this book stands out from the rest of the twelve Minor Prophets. This has motivated some to interpret the narrative as a parable. They would state that the literature is parabolic, written by some obscure prophet many years after the historical Jonah to teach Israel a lesson through this fictional character. I suppose the debate is still open on this subject, but I agree with Jewish and Christian tradition that this was an historical/literal prophet and narrative written by Jonah himself. That is what the church taught until sometime around A.D. 1800.

The reason that some believe this to be a fictional story used to teach a lesson is because of the seemingly supernatural accounts found in the book. A storm arises while Jonah is on the ship, the storm ceases immediately as Jonah hits the water after being thrown out, he survives being swallowed by a large fish while staying in its belly for three days, he is vomited back closer to Nineveh, toward the end a large plant grows overnight, and then is quickly destroyed by a worm. There is no doubt that these are miraculous events, but is it that hard to believe that these things could happen? Jonah calls God the “God of heaven who created the land and the sea.” Is it difficult to believe that this God could do these marvelous things? I think not! Yet, then some skeptics will ask, ‘It is not could God do this, but why would God do this?’ Why has God done any miraculous things in history? He is a marvelous God who does marvelous things from time to time to make Himself known and to make His glory known.

In 2 Kings 14:25 we find a reference to Jonah which says, “He (Jeroboam King of Israel) restored the territory of Israel from the entrance of Hamath to the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the LORD God of Israel, which He had spoken through His servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet who was from Gath Hepher.” With this reference we can place this narrative of Jonah sometime between 790 and 760 B.C. During these years Assyria, with a great city like Nineveh as a preeminent part, was in practical anarchy. Between 763 and 768 B.C. there were notable series of rebellions.

Annotated Reading:
Let’s recount some of the book of Jonah before I make three major points at the end. Jonah received a commission from the Lord. READ 1:1-3. It seems that the greatness of Nineveh was the fact of the size of its population. Later we read that Nineveh was numbered at more than 120,000 which is a large number for an ancient town. As of July 2008 one estimated population of Henry County was 55,316 and Martinsville was 14,543. Nineveh was a major Assyrian city. If you remember, Assyria was a major enemy of both Israel and Judah. Actually, it was Assyria that swallowed up the northern kingdom of Israel and all of the tribes disintegrated, never to be seen again, except for Judah that was in the south.

Jonah decides to run away from what the Lord planned to do in Nineveh and he went to Joppa to hop a ship to Tarshish. Jonah was not scared of the commission nor was there any other reason for leaving except for his hatred of foreign peoples. From what I have read it appears that Jonah actually leased out the boat for the trip. That would mean that Jonah spent a pretty penny to get far away from his homeland, Nineveh, and seemingly God. Tarshish’s exact location is uncertain, but it seems to represent the farthest known point in the west.

Surely if Jonah doesn’t accept the commission God would simply choose another prophet, right? Wrong! Paul said in the NT, “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” The same applies to the prophet Jonah. Yet, do not let us think that God needs us. We have been given the right to be His children. He will accomplish His plans whether He finds someone else or if He gives no option. For Jonah, God gave Him no option.

In chapter one we see that the Word of the Lord comes to Jonah and Jonah runs. Eventually, God sends a big storm and a big fish! Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. By stating that Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days it is to say that he was on the threshold of death. Three days and nights were the marker of the validity of someone’s death. In chapter two we read that at some point Jonah was conscience while in the fish’s belly and he prays (READ 2:1-2).

Chapters one and two form the first part of this narrative and then in chapter three we transition into the second. The Word of the Lord comes to Jonah a second time and this time “Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the Word of the Lord.” When we look through the entire book, we only find that the extent of Jonah’s message is, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” We see that Jonah must have known that though his message was a simple proclamation of coming doom there would be forgiveness. The people of Nineveh did not brace for wrath nor did they run from the city. Though it wasn’t explicit, the Ninevties heard in the warning a chance to repent and so they did. This, we see, was the inevitability of the situation.

READ 3:10. Does God change His mind? C4 shows that God can not be manipulated and is not part of some corrupt system that people can develop by their own means. God is not dependent on us in anyway; not our thoughts, not our attitudes, not our behavior or choices. He planned to forgive Nineveh beforehand. He wasn’t forced to “repent” but is the one who made the proposition by sounding the warning through Jonah. Of course, from our human vantage point we evaluate the situation and with the only means we have of explaining what happens we use words and say that God ‘changed His mind.’ Yet, in reality, God was going to be merciful to the people of Nineveh. It was inevitable. READ 4:2. These attributes that Jonah declares are the OT slogan for God and it is God Himself that first declares this of Himself. In Exodus 34 when God passes before Moses on the mountain He says, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty…”

It was inevitable:
1. Jonah would preach
2. Nineveh would respond (though ignorantly and inadequately)
3. God would “relent” i.e. be merciful to Nineveh

I conclude that there are three major points in the Book of Jonah:

1. Jonah’s Sinfulness
2. God’s Sovereignty
3. God’s Salvation

Point 1: Jonah’s Sinfulness1. Rebellion – Jonah flees from the presence of the Lord (READ 1:3, 12).
2. Racism – What a terrible picture we have of Jonah in C4. (READ 4:1).
3. Unrepentance – There is not an ounce of repentance in the book. (READ 2:8-9).

Point 2: God’s Sovereignty1. Storm (1:4) “But the LORD sent out a great wind on the sea”
2. Fish (1:17) “Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah.”
3. Vine (4:6) “And the LORD God prepared a plant and made it come up over Jonah…”
4. Worm (4:7) “But as morning dawned the next day God prepared a worm…”
5. Wind (4:8) “God prepared a vehement east wind”

Point 3: God’s Salvation1. Toward Jonah – Saved him in the fish, Commissioned him a second time
2. Toward Nineveh – Sent a prophet, He did not bring disaster upon them

The Main Point of the book of Jonah is God’s salvation. He alone is righteous, good, holy, and perfect yet He looks at helpless mankind and desires to save us. He is “a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm.” I think that is why Jesus refers to Jonah in reference to what He would do. The people were seeking a sign from Him, though He performed miracles all around them and taught with authority unlike anyone else. The Scribes and Pharisees pressed Him for a sign and He said in Matthew twelve, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.”

The book of Jonah was about salvation and so was Christ Jesus. God has sovereignly worked through His Son to work salvation for us. His crucifixion, death, and resurrection (three days and three nights) sealed salvation for all peoples; all those who will put their faith in Him.

Indeed, One greater than Jonah has come!

Romans 4:13-16 What Voids Faith?

Romans 4:13-16 What Voids Faith?

I have been saying for some weeks now that all of God’s blessings are accessed by faith. It is faith alone which gives us access to graces such as justification, righteousness, and ultimately salvation. The Bible teaches us that we are saved by faith, not works, yet we are to obey the Lord by doing good deeds in response to the grace we have been given. I feel like this is a subject that cannot be taught on in excess. Continuous reminders of who we are and why God has done what He has done are useful and necessary. I ran into this question during the past week and thought that it would be a valuable task to take on. WHAT VOIDS FAITH?

READ Scripture- This is the Word of God

Point 1: The Importance of FaithIn tracing the spiritual descendants of Abraham in verses 11 and 12 Paul makes no mention of the Law. (v13) Now he tells us why (FOR…). The main thrust of the argument is that the promise was attained through the righteousness of faith and NOT through the Law. What was promised to Abraham was not received by him or his descendants by their doing of the Law.

“Those who are of the Law” (v14) refers to those who base their hope of justification and blessing on law-keeping. How can blessing truly be a matter of promise and faith if people can earn it through their obedience to the Mosaic Law? And if the promise depends on keeping the law perfectly, then it will never be fulfilled because no person can sufficiently obey the law.

(v15) That the Law brings wrath is in contrast with what it cannot do which is secure the inheritance of the promise. The only thing Law can do is reveal our sin and label us as guilty with no opportunity for justification or salvation. The Law says we are sinners, guilty in the eyes of a holy God. Yet, the cross of Jesus Christ says we are justified, not guilty if only we will put our faith in Him. We must believe that His accomplishments as our sin-bearing-substitute are sufficient for salvation. And know this, His righteous works are enough for He offered up Himself as a sacrifice for the people, once for all.

In Summary- Why was the promise not made through the Law?
1. No one can sufficiently obey the whole Law.
2. The Law functions only to designate what is sin.

(v16) The promise is sure because it is only attained by faith, according to grace. The Apostle comes back to the heart of his argument. The Gospel directly tells us that we all have equal access into this grace because it is only by faith, yet it has special significance to proclaim this to the Roman church. In the midst of division and confrontation between Jews and Gentiles in the church, Paul says that the promise is sure by faith. Those of the Law (Jews) come by faith and those outside the Law (Gentiles) come by faith. Abraham is the father of us all. What does that mean? No matter what category the world puts us in, we are family in faith! The promise can only come to fruition by God’s working. If it is up to man’s working it will not be accomplished. That is why it is by the grace of God and not by the works of men.

Turn to Ephesians 2:4-10. This is the premiere passage for what I am teaching. The entire work in the Christian life is done by God that it might be done according to grace because He is rich in mercy and He loves us. And so the only way to become a Christian and to grow to maturity in Christ is to allow God to work in your life. How do we do that? Only by faith. It is not of ourselves, it is not of works, and we can not boast. This is a humbling reality. If you want to be forgiven, if you want to be transformed, if you want to be saved then your only hope is Christ!

Faith is important; actually faith is vital. It is our only means of salvation and all other blessings. It first came to us when we heard the Gospel proclaimed. Romans 10:17 says that, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” You remember that time. You may have been at a church meeting, some other public place, or even at home when you first heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You believed that He loved you, that He gave Himself for you, and that He could save you from your sins. You became a Christian by realizing how helpless you were and believing that only Christ could do anything about it. That is faith and that is how God wants us to spend our lives for eternity, continually relying on Him like a small child does his/her parents.

The necessity of faith is obvious to the attentive Bible reader. It is also apparent to every Christian simply on the basis of experience. The fact that faith is our only right of entry into the blessings of God begs the question, can faith be voided? And if faith can be voided then what is it that voids faith?

Point 2: Can Faith be Voided?Turn to 2 Corinthians 13:5. We ought to be able to examine and test ourselves to see if we are faithful. There is a slight chance that some within the Corinthian church, and as a general rule any church, are “disqualified.”

The Bible is full of “if’s” about salvation because it is dependent on us living a faithful life to the end. God will work in us and complete in us what He has started if we continue to yield to Him and trust that He can and will save us. A Scripture like Colossians 1:22-23 come to mind “to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight - if indeed you continue in the faith.” In Galatians 4:20 the Apostle said to the church “I have doubts about you” because they were turning away so quickly from the grace of God to a different message.

The Bible is clear that faith can be voided and all of the blessings of God can be forfeited by an individual who does not continue in the faith. We must be grounded and steadfast in our faith or else we could be moved away from the hope of the Gospel which we first heard. Can faith be voided? My answer is YES from what I understand in Scripture. Now we must answer the final question for the sermon, what voids faith?

Point 3: What Voids Faith?Let’s move back to our main text. Here is where we find the answer to our final question. We have now established the importance of faith and the fact that faith can be voided which is to say made of no effect, emptied of its validity, made worthless, rendered ineffective, and destroyed.

What is the one thing that voids faith? v14 “For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect.” When we stop relying on what God has done in Jesus Christ and we begin to rely on ourselves, whether intentionally or not, we may be on the verge of voiding saving faith.

This is the issue that the Roman churches and the Galatian churches faced during the 1st Century. Both were being invaded by false teachers desiring to woo them away from the faith and to convince them that they must be obedient to the Law to be saved. Paul had a life-long struggle with these people who attacked him verbally and physically on many occasions.

“Law” and “promise” are terms that exclude each other. On one side we see grouped together words like law, wrath, and transgression while on the other side we see grouped together promise, grace, and faith. These groupings cannot cross paths. They do not and can not work in harmony. Where there is law there is transgression and there is wrath poured out by God on all ungodliness and unrighteousness. Salvation is established by God’s grace alone and the only human response we have available to us is faith. We must believe in the grace of God.

The only way that salvation can be guaranteed is if it depends on God and not us. And so God makes it available to us by grace through faith. That is what makes Abraham the father of us all and not the Jews only. V16 says this clearly, “Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.”

The primary thing that voids faith is the Mosaic Law which is in the same category as any moral law or tradition that we set up against faith in Christ. We have begun by faith and must finish by faith. That is what makes us right with God and that is what saves us.

Have you put up any kind of law or tradition against faith in Christ? If you have all you are doing is relying on yourself. Do any of us think that we could ever be innocent in the eyes of God? He alone is holy, just, and righteous. Don’t void the faith that will save you by turning to any law. The promise is sure if only you will believe. What was Abraham’s first response to God’s graceful calling? He believed and that is what God accounted to him for righteousness. We know the importance of faith. The Scripture shows that it is the only proper response to God’s grace. We have also seen that faith can be voided and then spent time discussing what it is that voids saving faith. Law voids faith.

If you have turned away from reliance on Christ then make it right today. Turn away from self-confidence and renew your faith and trust in Him today. He alone offers salvation and He alone can be both Just and Justifier of the one who has faith.

James 4:13-17 For What is Your Life?

James has finished his last topic of the tongue and now he turns to the next subject, wealth. To some degree this next section speaks to all of us because we all have our own financial responsibilities and obligations. We must all make certain business decisions and commitments. Christians are called to be different in this world. We should stand out in morals, in loving deeds, in ethics, in relationships, in work habits, in financial dealings, and even in business practices. We should handle our money and possessions differently than the rest of the society.

We will see that James has two sins to address. At issue first will be the sin of faithless living and the second issue will be what we can call “sins of omission.”

READ Scripture- This is the Word of God

POINT ONEV13. James gives us a common illustration here of every day life. It was common practice for Jews to travel for business. This is especially true under the Roman Empire of the 1st Century. There were good roads, peaceful relations between people, and safety enforced by the empire.

Yet, this Jewish practice, which would have been common for many people groups, can also stand for the whole of what we do as people; it is all about decision making.

There is nothing wrong with planning, traveling, dealing, or even profiting. The problem awaits a person when he/she does all of this outside of communication with God. James, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, teaches Christians to be in constant prayer with God and constant study of His Word. This is communication with God.

V15. “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’” James insists that people not simply state some magical formula to be in great relations with God, but to have an overall attitude, a mind-set, bent toward seeking God’s will in all areas of life.

Many times we seek God concerning what we estimate as big issues, yet the Scripture urges us to be in constant prayer and to abide in His Word. Why is that? It is to learn God’s will for our ever day lives. We should seek God’s will in our routines. We should seek God’s will in even the most seemingly mundane activities of life. We must seek God in our homes and we must seek God in the market place.

V16. It is arrogant to think that we can plan, function, and live without God. Our problem is we make all kinds of plans and then pray that God will bless them. Instead, we ought to pray first and study His Word regarding the matter in order to seek His will. Let Him first bless us with a plan rather than make our own plan and ask Him to bless it afterward. I hope you get that tid-bit.

V14. “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” This is the sound, agreeable teaching of all of Scripture and is part of seeing the Big Picture:
1. In one of Job’s answers to Eliphaz in 7:7 he says, “Oh, remember that my life is a breath!”
2. David also says in Psalm 39:5-6, “Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, And my age is as nothing before You; Certainly every man at his best state is but vapor. SELAH
Surely every man walks about like a shadow; Surely they busy themselves in vain; He heaps up riches, And does not know who will gather them.”
3. See the parable Jesus taught in Lk 12:16-21. “This night your soul will be required of you…”

Lives during this present age are brief; they pass away day after day, moment after moment.
I have a professor that insisted for weeks for us to go outside during the mornings and see how long we have to live. He said that this is the time of year that we can best see the brevity of life.

Verses 13, 14, 15, and 16 are all about this one issue that Paul states clearly in one small phrase. See Roman 14:23 “and everything that is not from faith is sin.” When we go about our daily lives planning, dealing, working, and profiting without seeking out God’s will that is what I call faithless living.

A man told me this week that he is a Christian, but he doesn’t pray to God for supply he simply “shows up” every day and he finds that the supply is usually there. Well, to a certain degree God is going to take care of His children, but at the same time we are not free to eat, drink, be merry, travel to such and such a city to do business, build bigger barns, and treasure up for ourselves riches here without ever seeking out God’s will for our lives. That is faithless living. You see, “The just shall live by faith.”

Now are these things that could condemn someone? I would think that ultimately that is not out of the question. You can become so reliant on your self that you become hardened to child-like faith in God. When that happens you are bordering on apostasy, but what may be immediate is divine discipline. When you, as God’s child, decide that you will walk outside of His boundaries then He will discipline you, or me. And so “everything that is not from faith is sin.”

V17. It is a sin to know what is right and not do it. It is a “Sin of Omission.”
If we are to take the Lord into consideration in all of our planning then we have no excuse when it comes to not doing good. If we have sought His will then we will know what is right and if we do not do it then we sin. Ignorance of what is right is no excuse, especially when you know what is right…

I think James has made clear that sins of omission are just as serious and punishable as sins of commission. He says that we are at fault when we do not ask for wisdom, we are at fault when we neglect a brother or sister, we are at fault when we do not attempt to make peace and generally we are at fault when we know what is good and we do not do it. These are sins, sins of omission.

The Bible gives many examples of people who were rebuked for what they failed to do:
1. Lk 19:11-27 The third servant is rebuked for failing to profit with the mina he was given.
2. Matt 25:31-46 Jesus most clearly states, “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’”

We most often confess our sins to God of which we have done, but how often do we confess our sins to God of this we have not done? We sin everyday, not only by doing wrong things, but also by not doing certain things. We sin when we do not help a neighbor in need and we sin when we do not open our mouths when we know we should. We leave things out that we know are good. Those are sins of omission.

While I considered our first main point to be sin because of faithlessness it can also fall into the category of the second main point. It is sin to not seek God’s will in our plans and every day business. It is a sin of faithlessness, a sin of arrogance, and a sin of omission. All of God’s blessings are given by faith in His Son so we must trust Him in everything.

Let’s not store up treasures on earth because all we would be doing is storing up wrath for ourselves in the Day of Wrath. Instead, let us seek God’s will and store up treasures in heaven because our lives are but a vapor, yet there is One who has promised to make it eternal if only we will believe in Him.

James 4:1-12 Therefore Submit to God

As we continue our sermon series through the book of James we have learned that the Christians that he wrote to were a very arrogant, disorganized, rebellious, partial, and conflicted bunch. It has been loudly declared that Godly people should be doers of the Word, they should respect all persons, tame their tongues, seek after Godly wisdom in meekness, and now we face the issue of peacemaking. James began this next section in the very last verse of chapter three when he said, “Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” Christians must seek for peace and unity in all aspects of life. James really wants it for whole churches.

The NT urges believers “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” And we are even told that we will be blessed if we are peacemakers and will be called sons and daughters of God. Why is that? Because God is a God who wants peace and makes peace at all costs. “For it pleased the Father that in Him (The Son) all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.” Let’s take a look at this lengthy section and hear what God has to say to His people by His inspired Word.

READ Scripture- This is the Word of God

Point 1: Where do wars and fights come from among you? (vv1-2a)Wars and fights come from desires for pleasure that war our members. People lust and do not have. People murder and covet, yet they can not attain what they pleasure. And so people fight and war because of their unsatisfied desires for pleasure. What James is saying is simple: We destroy ourselves AND other people because we reject God as our highest satisfaction. We must treasure God for all that He truly is and love Him with everything that we are; “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind.” As someone else has so clearly said, “If we were not willfully blind and rebellious against God as our all-supplying portion in this life and the next, we would not be so violent against others. The root cause of abuse/violence is the failure to be satisfied in God.”

Point 2: You do not have because you do not ask (vv2b-3)People ask amiss. People pray for worldly, selfish pleasures. I think we may all be guilty of this at some time or another. The Scripture teaches us over and over again to ask and it will be given. Let me recall some Scriptures for you:

1. Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened.
2. If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.
3. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
4. If two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done.
5. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.

So you see, the Bible teaches that if what we ask for will be given to us. Yet, in each context of all of those verses the asker is to do so with a God-devoted mind. We can ask all day for our own self-indulgence, but God will not respond. We must ask in accordance with His Word, His name, and His purpose.

Point 3: Adulterers and Adulteresses (vv4-6)We are yoked to God and when we yield to our desires for pleasure we commit adultery. Do you see the picture that James is painting? People want something, or someone, that satisfies and so they go to God not to let Him satisfy them, but to ask Him for the means to get to something else. Then they leave God behind to go seek satisfaction from that other thing! That is why they are bluntly called adulterers and adulteresses. See Colossians 1:21. People make themselves enemies in their own minds. The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously (v5). God is a jealous God. See Exodus 34:14. Wrath falls down from heaven on all idol worship. God is a jealous God and cannot allow His people to use and abuse Him by running to another. He created us to love and admire Him alone. Psalm 16:11 says, “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” That is what God wants for us! What a blessing it is to belong to a God who gives grace. We are so sinful, rebellious, full of lust, greed, and selfishness, yet He continues to give us grace when we humbly return to Him.

Point 4: Therefore Submit to God (vv7-10)
Our first priority is not to resist the devil, but is to submit to God. This is what the younger generations of our society have the most problem with today. They don’t like to idea of submitting to anyone and that includes God Almighty. Secondly, we should resist the devil. For me, this is an active resistance. I have known a handful of people that tucked their tail every time Satan came up in a discussion. Satan is intelligent, cunning, crafty, and we should not overlook him, but we must understand “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1 Jn 4:4).” We need to draw near to God because on the outside we are sinners and it’s because on the inside we are double-minded. We say that we are yoked to God, yet we worship our own desires. Only when we draw near to God, will He draw near to us and because of ourselves and the devil we need God to draw near to give us more grace. V9 is all about repentance. Jesus said in Matthew 5:4, the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.” Does God want His people to be continually sad. Well, not in the sense that we would naturally think. God wills that we would realize how sinful we are and mourn over that fact. We should be people that mourn over sin and not turn a blind eye. This is my weakness. I turn a blind eye to easily to my own sin and the sins of others. Sin murders people! Sin destroys families! Sin destroys churches (which is one of James main points in this section). Sin separates us from God… LAMENT and MOURN and WEEP!!! V10 we are instructed to humble ourselves. What is the reason for humbling ourselves in the sight of the Lord? Because God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. (And, by the way, going back to last week we know that Godly wisdom causes meekness and humility).

Point 5: Do Not Speak Evil of One Another (vv11-12)In our sinful arrogance, we set ourselves up as the end all and be all. We spend so much time saying who is saved and who is not. We waste so much time deciding and then declaring who is more sinful than another. Who are we to judge? There is One Judge, He is the Lawgiver who is able to save and destroy. “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3-5). Speaking evil of others is exactly the type of proud arrogance that God resists. It is to slander someone else. The real problems arise and become most harmful when people question authority and when someone slanders another in secret. Quarrels on any issue usually end up in personal attacks which can destroy a church.

At the end of our main text James brings back into the picture the Law and our brothers (or neighbors). Remember what was said in 2:8 “If you really fulfill the Royal Law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well” which pointed us back to Leviticus 19:18 “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.” This tells me that James is focused on the unity of the church with the one preeminent component being love.

I think we can say that we must fully put away our own selfish desires for pleasure if we ever want to be what God wants us to be. What is the only way of doing that? We need to draw near to God and make Him our supreme treasure, love, joy, pleasure; our supreme satisfaction. Blessed, happy, and satisfied are God’s people for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, they shall be comforted, they shall inherit the earth, they shall be filled, they shall obtain mercy, they shall see God, they shall be called sons of God, theirs is the kingdom of heaven! Let us be people who mourn over sin (especially our own), people who submit to God, and people who draw near to God through the precious blood of Christ Jesus and He will give us grace upon grace. Then we can do mighty things with a united front, in this community, for His name!

James 3:13-18 Wisdom From Above

Part of being a wise Christian is seeing the big picture. Every human being can see the small pictures that are all around us, but Godly wisdom allows us to see the big picture. This wisdom only comes from above and can not be found here. Many of us bounce back and forth between the big picture and all of the small ones. Arguments, divorces, ongoing feuds, bitter envy, selfishness, church splits, and all of the like come from people only seeing the small pictures. It is easy to focus in on miniscule details which instigate complaining and arguing, but it is very difficult to consistently look at the big picture. And when we are focusing on the big picture, all of the small stuff will pass away, unnoticed.

Wisdom is a subject that all cultures deal with in some way. For the Greco/Roman world it was an ideal; something to be discussed and meditated upon, but ultimately never amounted to anything. For the Jews, wisdom was something that was from above and was to influence everyday life. Godly wisdom was/is for them, practical. James teaches that wisdom is essentially practical and will be see by our attitude and behavior.

READ Scripture- This is the Word of God

Point 1: Earthly WisdomWhat characterizes earthly wisdom which allows us to only see the small pictures?
Hearts are full of “Bitter Envy and Self-Seeking.” Also it is “earthly, sensual, and demonic.”

Bitter envy is full of jealousy, greed, resentment, and spite. Really it all points to Selfishness. Part of that big picture is that all sin boils down to selfishness. We are sinful, fallen, weak creatures that only seek after what is best for us as individuals. Think of all of the sin in your life at certain times in the past or even today. What one word describes that sin perfectly? Selfishness

First, this wisdom is earthly. It “does not descend from above.” Earthly wisdom is limited and does not look outside of our own little bubble to see the entire, beautiful world that God has created.
Second, earthly wisdom is sensual, that is to say unspiritual in every way. There is no faith involved and those who are full of earthly wisdom only function by what they can see, hear, taste, smell, and touch. Most people live in a world where human reason and human feeling reign supreme. This is the opposite of what God intends for us.
Lastly, earthly wisdom is demonic. This is the climax. Earthly wisdom is of the devil. Satan intends for us to focus on this world, live by our senses, and obey his influence. All of these things limit us and force us to only see the small pictures which cause “confusion and every evil”

False wisdom, which does not lead to “good conduct and meekness,” is characterized by the world, the flesh, and the demons. This is in stark contrast to “the wisdom that is from above” which is noted as heavenly in nature, spiritual in essence, and has a divine origin.

Point 2: Godly WisdomWhat characterizes Godly wisdom which allows us to see the big picture?
Good Conduct and Meekness

First, wisdom from above is PURE. There are no corrupt motives in Godly wisdom. The next seven words given in the list are all specific aspects of the overall purity of Godly wisdom.
1. Peaceable: peace-loving “Blessed are the peacemakers”
2. Gentle: considerate “I am gentle and lowly in heart”
3. Willing to Yield: submissive “Submit to one another”

4. Full of Mercy: impartial “For I desire mercy” and “Blessed are the merciful”
5. Full of Good Fruits: sincere “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit”

6. Without Partiality: favoritism “Do not hold the faith with partiality”
7. Without Hypocrisy: doubleness “He is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways”

The main point that I would like to get across with this sermon is (v13) that Godly wisdom inspires a person to live a life of good conduct that springs from the meekness of wisdom. If you can see the big picture then it does not matter if you have more education than another, it does not matter if you have more money than another, it does not matter if you have more experience than another, and it doesn’t even matter if you have less sin than another. The big picture causes meekness (humility). That is why the Scripture teaches in both the OT and the NT that the meek are the people who will inherit the earth. The meek are God’s people.

1. The prophets proclaimed this in the days of old such as Zephaniah in 2:3 (p1528).
2. Also in 3:12 God says through the prophet that the faithful remnant that would be left preserved would be people who were meek and humble.
3. The last thing I would like to show you is a clear teaching from both testaments.
Look at Psalm 37:11 and Matthew 5:5.

James has already said in this letter that we need Godly wisdom that only comes from above. The great fact of the matter is that God freely gives this wisdom if only we will ask. Look at 1:5.

Verse 18 shows James main point in this section. He wants them to know that peace in the community of believers is attainable. A church can be in full harmony and constantly seeing the big picture, but it can only come by Godly wisdom. So let us seek out wisdom and understanding, let us be people who are characterized by unselfishness, love, and humility. Then we will be a people who know the peace of God the surpasses all understanding. It is attainable if only we will ask, seek, and knock. “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

James 3:1-12 Beware of the Tongue

In chapter two of James verses fourteen through twenty-six, which we covered last, there was much discussion on good works. A thorough explanation was given to the effect that Christian behavior is a direct result of God’s working in a believer. If you don’t have a heart for the helpless and needy of this world, especially your fellow Christians, then there is a problem. If you do not do everything you can when you see a brother or sister in need then James says your faith is dead. And we know that faith is the only means of accessing grace, justification, righteousness, and salvation from the wrath that is to come.

Now James moves from a discussion or works to something that is closely related- words. We will see how dangerous the tongue can be and that is why I have titled the sermon, “Beware of the Tongue.” James will start by warning teachers and those who want to teach, then describe the might of something so small, the difficulty in controlling the tongue, and finally give the evidence of an evil tongue. This subject has relevance for Christians of all times.

READ Scripture- This is the Word of God

Teachers Beware of the Tongue (vv1-2)
James introduces the next issue by warning those people who want to be teachers. He also includes himself in the discussion. He uses the word “we” and speaks of teachers first, which includes him as a pastor/teacher.
1. There shouldn’t be many teachers
First of all, there can’t be that many that are qualified. Second, the work of a teacher is drastically different than say an early church prophet. A prophet was given a direct revelation from the Lord of what to say to the assembly. A teacher is entrusted with the responsibility of expounding the truth of the Gospel found in Scripture. There is more freedom for a teacher and more room to fail and be found guilty of the horrible sin of false teaching.
2. Teachers will be judged more strictly
All will be judged by the words of their mouth, especially teachers.
b. A few weeks ago Vernon brought up the verse that says we will be judged by every idle word. Let’s look at (Matt 12:36). This is the verse the haunted me growing up! And don't forget the verse that says, “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.” (Lk 12:48)
3. We all stumble, especially in word
Do you know what one of the marks of a fool is in Proverbs? “A fool’s mouth is his undoing and his lips are a snare to his soul.” (Pr 18:7) The goal is to be mature, yet this cannot be done without God’s working.

A concern about people wanting to teach leads James into a general warning about the tongue. The concern is not to talk people out of teaching who are called and gifted for it, but to impress the seriousness of that task upon those people. Then, by extension, there is a warning given to the entire church about the seriousness of speech.

The Tongue is Incredibly Powerful (vv3-6)
v5 summarizes this next point- “The tongue is a little member and boasts great things.”
Can something so small have such a massive impact, Can it really impact our spiritual condition?
Each of these next few illustrations were known widely in the ancient world and are still well-known in the modern world.
1. Small bits in Horse’s mouths steer the large animals
2. Large ships are turned by small rudders, despite strong winds
3. A little fire kindles an entire forest
This last illustration bridges us to the next section. The tongue has great, destructive potential. In fact your tongue can defile your whole body, your whole life. The tongue has the power to condemn a person. It is not surprising that James uses this wild-fire illustration for his next point. The OT compares the speech of a scoundrel to a “burning fire.” (Pr 16:27) The Bible often uses fire as a symbol for destruction. So not only can the tiny tongue to considerable things, but it also the potential to cause considerable damage. It appears that what James is getting at is that the tongue, our speech, can actually destroy true Christianity. It can destroy entire churches. “It defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.”

The tongue boasts this great power and the frightening thing is that it is difficult to control; as we all know.

Powerful as it is, the Tongue is Extremely Difficult to Control (vv7-8)
It is unusually demanding and challenging to control the tongue. The sinful nature that inspires evil words is beyond our control. This was already touched on in verse two. As said before, only by the work of sanctification by God’s Spirit can we rid ourselves of this problem.
1. Many things can be tamed, but not the tongue
2. The tongue is an unruly evil
3. The tongue is full of deadly poison

The Tongue’s Sinfulness is Evidenced by “Doubleness” (vv9-12)
Remember in 1:8 when James condemned doubleness?
1. Bless God, Curse Men
What hypocrisy it is to praise God and curse men who are created in His image.
2. Does a spring send forth fresh and bitter water from the same opening?
3. Can a fig tree bear olives or a grapevine figs?

There is no greater example of this type of doubleness than the Pharisee in the Lord's parable of Luke 18:9-12.

Sins of the tongue can destroy you, others, a church. Thoughtless chattering, lying, arrogant boasting, gossiping, and slandering are all examples of destructive speech. There is no room for this in the Christian life, especially in the church. We must be careful what comes out of our mouth. James said in chapter one, “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”

Philippians 3:7-16 Reaching Forward

78th Homecoming, 2010

I am glad that we can be here together today and I know that we will be ready to eat in just a short amount of time, but I have an important message to deliver. This sermon is simple, yet it is of great concern for Christians under our current circumstances. There is a problem that isn’t exactly new, but it has grown in recent decades among churches in this country. What the Apostle has to say in Philippians can begin to cure the problem when we realize that we are not where we need to be just yet, even the most mature Christians among us.

READ Scripture- This is the Word of God

Point 1: The Problem
In a 1949 book a Christian writer stated the problem clearly when he wrote, “The whole transaction of religious conversion has been made mechanical and spiritless… Christ may be ‘received’ without creating any special love for Him in the soul of the receiver. The man is ‘saved,’ but he is not hungry nor thirsty after God… We have been snared in the coils of a spurious logic which insists that if we have found Him we need no more seek Him.”

It is a mistake first to think that we have found Christ. Christianity teaches a doctrine that says that God has first sought after people, God has first loved people. Before we can do anything there is what is called prevenient grace, that is to say that God did and always will act first and people act secondly in response.

*1 John 4:19 “We love Him because He first loved us.”
*Genesis 3:6-9 “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, ‘Where are you?’”
*Luke 19:10 “for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

It is another mistake to think that once Christ has been made known to you and that you have responded appropriately that you have been made perfect instantaneously. With this mind you will not hunger nor thirst for anything. Jesus said in Matthew 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” The Apostle says in our text, “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected” and then “I do not count myself to have apprehended.” Something more is needed. A hunger and thirst for something more…

This problem is found in individual hearts of people, including Christians, but it is also found in our churches as a whole. Found among American churches today are programs, entertainment structures, and a load of anxious activities that fill a gap of time and steal our attention, but these things can never satisfy our souls.

Point 2: The Answer
What we need is a longing for more, for greater, for something higher…
What we need is a longing for God, a longing for Christ Jesus.

The Apostle had gained the knowledge of Christ, the righteousness of Christ, the power of Christ, the fellowship of Christ and the glory of Christ, but says that he was not finished. There are great blessings given to us when we first are united with Christ, but that is only the beginning of what is life eternal studying Him, loving Him, worshipping Him, and treasuring Him.

In verse 8 the original language shows that the Apostle deliberately chose one phrase over another. Instead of saying “these things” he used “all things.” All things that could rival the surpassing greatness of Christ, including what has previously been named, can in no way be equated. All things are rubbish in comparison to Christ. In verse ten he says that he wants to know Christ. Well, Christ has already been known to him. What does he want now? He wants to know more of Him, he wants to know Him better, more fully, all of the power of His resurrection and His death and His life.

Moses, a man that knew but wanted to know:
Exodus 33:13 “Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight.” This wasn’t the first time Moses spoke with the LORD and surely he had already found grace, yet he wanted more. And in verse 18 Moses says, “Please, show me Your glory.” We must be people that have walked with the LORD for years, seen marvelous things, known Christ, experienced His faithfulness, and want MORE!

V14 The question is, what are we reaching forward to? What is the prize? What is at the end of the race? The answer is Christ Jesus! We are forward to Him, He is the goal and the prize, He is at the end of the race. He offers salvation, life, love, blessings, all of the treasures of God are in Him. The upward call of God is possibly the picture of a winner being invited to the elevated stage to receive the prize. God stands in the person Jesus and ushers us into His presence.

We all have a past that is filled with both short-comings and accomplishments, but we should not let either control our future. If we are constantly revisiting our faults from the past we will never progress into the future with any sort of joyfulness. If we exult in the successes of the past and never prepare nor work into the future we will never know that there are greater victories ahead. Now, does this mean that we blot out our pasts? Certainly not! We should let our past mistakes teach us and our past successes encourage us, yet we are fully aware that there are better triumphs ahead. Learn and be encouraged by your past, but don’t let it control your life now or into the future. The same can be said of Fort Trial Christian Church. There have been some short-comings, but there have also been some great things done in the many years of its history. Let us learn and be encouraged by our history with full attentiveness to the fact that God has even greater things ahead for those who love Him. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.”

Paul, and all of Scripture for this matter, view Jesus as having riches bound up in Him that are endless (Col 2:3). We will spend all of eternity getting to know Him better and the better we know Him, the better we know God.

We must all live up to what we already know. If you don’t fully understand the treasures of Christ now continue to seek knowledge of Him, continue to seek the power of his resurrection, and continue to seek to fellowship with His sufferings even being conformed to His death and the Scripture says that God will clearly reveal to you the beauty of His Son, the splendor, wonder, and riches that are only found in Him.

Let us…
1. Have a willingness to take risks (faith adventures).
2. Develop our spiritual gifts so that we can serve better.
3. Dream out into the future of how we can use our lives to glorify God.
4. Have a willingness to sacrifice in the present for a prize in the future.
5. Be satisfied, yet not satisfied at the same time.

Fort Trial Christian Church will press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God and we will do so by looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross.

James 2:14-26 Dead Faith

Many people have said something to this effect when they come to James 2:14-26, “This paragraph is the most theologically significant, as well as the most controversial, in the letter of James.” In fact this is one of the most difficult passages in the New Testament. Interpreting the section and then teaching it is a sizeable and significant task.

One of the major issues is the relationship of James' teaching with that of the Apostle Paul. Many ask whether they contradict each other or if there is any way to harmonize the two. I have decided to show you Paul’s teaching with an explanation then James teaching with an explanation with the hopes that I can demonstrate that Paul and James were writing against different problems to different audiences in different settings and therefore are not contradicting one another. Finally, I will try to be sum up some things from James 2 as simple as possible so that I can be as clear as possible.

Point 1: Apostle Paul
Text: Romans 3:27-4:5
A. Problem: Legalism
People are saved by doing certain things and abstaining from other things.
Works = Justification, Righteousness, Salvation
B. Audience: Predominately Gentile Christians
C. Setting: Churches All Over the Roman Empire

Now let’s turn our attention to what James teaches.

Point 2: Elder James
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
A. Problem: Torah Minimalists
People are saved by only believing. Doing the least amount required.
Intellectual Faith = Justification, Righteousness, Salvation
B. Audience: Predominately Jewish Christians
C. Setting: Jewish Christians Meeting in Synagogues Outside Palestine

And so we now see that James and Paul are not standing face to face in a confrontation but they're standing back to back fighting two common enemies. Paul is fighting those people who want salvation to be by works. James is fighting those people who want a salvation that doesn't demand anything.

Point 3: Main ContextThere are three ways in this passage that James talks about faith to show that the faith he says cannot justify is a faith that Paul would agree cannot justify- dead faith (v17), devil faith (v19), and useless faith (v20 alternate trans).

James has already taught in 1:22, “Be doers of the Word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” There are two types of faith that James is dealing with:
1. Intellectual Agreement that simply believes the facts and history- Dead
2. Intellectual Agreement that becomes Spiritual Reality- Saving

Valid, saving faith has always been verified by fruit. And a false, dead faith is indicated by the absence of righteous actions. Many examples could be given, but let me just quote a few:
1. Hebrews 12:14 “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord”
2. John 8:30-31 “As He spoke these words, many believed in Him. Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.”
3. John 2:23-25 “Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.”
4. Paul says the same as what James says here when he states in Ephesians 2, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

Both agree that there is a faith that does not save.

James gives two examples of Faith/Action people from the OT- Abraham and Rahab. These two are an interesting combination. One is a patriarch, the other is a prostitute, but both are people who believed and went to action. Both were hospitable.

Salvation < Faith < Works
Faith is the buffer between works and salvation. Works can never directly ensure salvation, but they can add to a believers faith. Faith is what saves a person. If your faith fades away, if your faith died, then salvation will be forfeited. So the question is- Do you only believe the facts or is your faith a spiritual reality?

As we begin to conclude, let me bring all of this home in simple terms.

Some of you may have friends that have urged you and urged you to come to church. Others of you have had your parents and grandparents urge you and urge you to be here. Why do they do that? Is it because being in this building will save you? Just because you go to a church building every week and put on your Sunday clothes, does that save you? Of course not, but they know that there is something special that happens when we meet together. The Word of God is proclaimed and you all know that faith comes by hearing. The Spirit of God moves in the hearts of His people so that we are renewed and transformed. These are the things that will save you.

Why do Christian parents teach their kids to come to church each week? So that they may learn commitment. Why do they teach their kids to dress in their best when they come? So that they may learn reverence. Why do they teach their kids to give of their resources? So that they may learn that God supplies needs. Why do they have their children attend classes? So that they may learn that the Word of God is living and powerful. These things will not save a person, but they go a long way to cultivating faith in Christ. You see, these things are beneficial to our faith, not harmful. These are the natural out-workings of a Christian.

When God instructs us that these things are what flow from the heart of a believer then I believe it. James tells us that saving faith will produce certain works. Therefore we know that the one who simply says, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled” to a cold and hungry person cannot be a true believer. They may say that they believe, but God has not worked in their hearts. The Spirit is not active in them. The Word has not transformed their mind. The type of faith that saves a person is active because the Holy Spirit is at work. Faith without efforts of compassion is foolish, useless, demonic, dead...

Jesus said your belief is not sufficient unless it involves a new birth, a transformation which leads to a life of obedience. He told Nicodemus, “You must be born again.” Saving faith includes a new birth and James does teach this in 1:18, “Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.” And then there is the tendency to want glory for ourselves, but the truth is that even when we do “good works” it is because God has renewed us and continues to work in us. All of the glory goes to Him.

God desires a merciful attitude and acts of kindness. We are free in Christ from the works of the Law which cannot save, thus our freedom is a license to help our brethren so that others may be encouraged and so that needs may be met. And maybe, just maybe, an outsider may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven.

James 2:8-13 Fulfilling the Royal Law

James will soon get to the famous text where he says, "Faith without works is dead," but the text that we will cover today leads into it. In James 2:8-13 the phrase "Royal Law" is introduced. Now the Apostle Paul has already said elsewhere that we, as Christians, are not under law but under grace. So why is James talking about a royal law or what he also calls the "Law of Liberty" which we will be judged by? Well Paul will go as far as to say that we do not make void the Law through faith in Christ but that we establish the Law. Jesus Himself said that He did not come to destroy the Law, but to fulfill the Law.

What we will soon see is that we are still under a Law, but it is not the OT laws such as food regulations or sabbath rules. The Law we are under is Jesus instruction concerning life in light of the OT. Remember that Jesus said time and again, "You heard that it was said...but I say..." I would like to discuss this subject which James calls the Royal Law and how it should govern our lives today. Also keep in mind what we learned the last time we were in James. He told his readers to not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ with partiality. In 2:8-13 there will be two propositions:

1) IF you really fulfill the royal law 2) IF you show partiality
The first proposition ends with you do well while the second ends with you commit sin.

READ Scripture- This is the Word of God

Point 1: The Royal Law, Leviticus 19:18
This could be THE royal law, but most likely is a premeire verse for the Biblical principle. This verse stands in place of the law that is found all over Scripture, most clearly in the New Testament as Jesus so forcefully teaches it.

I like the idea that the word "royal" could mean that it is "from the king." And it could mean that this law belongs to Him, comes from Him, and leads to Him.

There is a connection that could be made between "royal law" here in v8 and "kingdom" back in v5. A kingdom is guided by royal decrees passed down from the king. Just as an aside, let me say that many of you may not know but I took two classes at another Bible college other than the one I earned my degree from. I took a class on the Holy Spirit and I took a Hebrew class. My Hebrew professor got on his hobby-horse one night and said that as for Gentile Christians, Jesus is not our King. He said that Jesus is Israel's king and simply our Savior. I thought to myself, whoa whoa whoa. I have been told by Jesus Himself that I am part of a kingdom; the Kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of God. And a kingdom must have a king! So let me tell you this morning that Jesus is our King, He has a kingdom of which we are citizens, and this kingdom is ruled by one, royal law- the Law of Love, which I we will discuss more throughout this sermon.

In the verse that James quotes, Leviticus 19:18, God follows the command with "I am the LORD." Now that may seem like an insignificant statement, but I think that it has great importance. If this law is good enough for Yahweh God, then surely it is good enough for His people. Wouldn't you agree?

Remember that when a Jewish teacher referred to a certain verse of a text, often he was referring to the entire context or atleast more than the one verse. Two points can be made from chapter 19 in Leviticus. I will make one of those points here and another later. In v34 of Lev 19 this love command is extended past simply Israelites loving Israelites to lovingly receiving foreigners into the community. They were to love outsiders as they love other Israelites, and truly as they love themselves.

The greatest parable that Jesus ever taught on this subject was of the Good Samaritan found in Luke 10:25-37. The trap that the lawyer fell into was that the Scripture said that a foreigner was his neighbor. Even a despised Samaritan was this Jewish lawyer's neighbor. Jesus didn't reinterpret the OT law, but clearly taught what the text says, "The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself."
The Leviticus 19 reference also works well in this context because it has a prohibition of partiality. Lev 19:15 says, "You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor."
(Matthew 22:34-40) "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."

Point 2: Speak and Do as those who will be Judged by the Law of Liberty
The royal law is now called the law of liberty. This gives us an understanding that love leads to freedom, but the question is how do we respond to the freedom we are given in Christ? This is the question which will govern our judgment. The Scripture says that we will be judged by the law of liberty. Thus we are warned to so speak and so do as those who will be judged not by the OT law, but by the royal law (the law of liberty).

Jesus told a parable about how the Heavenly Father will judge in terms of mercy when Peter asked how many times he should forgive his brother. See Matthew 18:21-35.

When we were in James last we discussed the sin of partiality. Now we see another reason why it is sinful: "Partiality is sinful because it violates the love command."
James does not end the section on a gloomy note of judgment. After all, we are Christians and our hope is in Christ. The section ends with a positive, exciting statement, "Mercy triumphs over judgment." God said in Hosea 6:6 "For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings." In Micah 6:8 the question is asked, "And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?" Mercy must drive the relationships with our spouses, children, parents, family, friends, foreigners, and enemies.

There is no way to get around quoting a wonderful Scripture like Zecariah 7:9-10 so let me read it and then we will stand for our hymn of response:

"Thus says the LORD of hosts:

'Execute true justice,
Show mercy and compassion
Everyone to his brother.
Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless,
The alien or the poor.
Let none of you plan evil in his heart
Against his brother.'"

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy."

Luke 9:51-56 Lord, Do You Want Us to Command Fire to Come Down?

As Christians we walk a fine line between spiritual realities that we have found by faith in Jesus Christ and the physical realities of this present age. In John C17 Jesus is praying for His disciples and I believe He was praying for all His future disciples including us. In one place He says, “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.” Christ said that He sends His disciples “into” the world, but that they are not “of” the world. This is a key Christian principle to which the Apostle Peter also writes and calls Christians “sojourners” and “pilgrims” in 1 Peter C2.

When we become committed believers in Jesus Christ we remain in the world and, though many would think that we should then hide in a corner, we are told to interact with the world that we live in. How else will others be saved by the name of Jesus if people like us are not telling them the good news of salvation? Not only do we interact with this world by evangelizing, but we also interact with the world in many other ways. We live here, work here, go to school here, eat here, shop here, and the list goes on. Our home is being prepared in a heavenly place, yet we are here for the present time.

I would like to continue the conversation that I began Wednesday concerning national events. I do not do a good job of keeping up with local or national news, but the important stuff always makes it to me. I recently heard about and then did some reading on the issue of the church burning Qurans in Florida. As small as that church is it is causing a disturbance all over the world which tells us that there are grave consequences for our actions. Do we want other religions to spread? Certainly not. Do we want non-Biblical political agendas to dominate? Certainly not. So what course of action should we take when we face opposition from non-believers? This is of utmost importance at a time like this. What does the Bible say concerning this subject?

Just as we have opposition in our spiritual lives, daily ministries, and in general from around the world so also did our Lord while walking the long dusty roads of Israel. His inaugurator, John the Baptizer, was murdered, the Pharisees and Scribes were breathing down His neck from the onset of His ministry, and He was ultimately murdered at the hands of the Jewish ruling elite. And everywhere in between Jesus was frequently opposed. There is a specific text that will serve as an example of one of those times of opposition and will help us greatly with our current situation. In Luke C9 we find a brief account illustrating for us how Jesus and His disciples dealt with opposition. Let us take note of how our Lord handles opposition.

READ Scripture- This is the Word of God

Background: Jesus sets out for Jerusalem because the time had come for Him to be “received up” meaing His crucifixion, resurrection, and ultimately His ascension. He sends messengers ahead of Him to prepare for His arrival in the area. It was necessary to send them ahead of the group because these small villages of about 40-50 people would not necessarily be able to accomodate Jesus and His disciples.

The messengers entered a Samaritan village, but the people would not receive Him because He was journeying to Jerusalem. They wanted no part of Jesus being in their village. Why would they not receive Him? There are many possibilities:
1. Samaritans hated Jews and vice-versa
2. They veiwed it as a rejection of their religion and temple
3. They denied Jesus' Messiaship (though many Samaritans believed previously)
It doesn't matter whether this opposition was because of Samaritans hatred for Jews or whether it is a more personal rejection of Jesus as the Messiah. What matters is that Jesus is already being rejected on His way to the cross.

Then the focus shifts to the disciple’s response to this opposition, specifically the response of James and John.

Point 1: The Disciple’s Reaction to Opposition: Command Fire to Come DownJesus has already instructed His disciples on the issue of a town rejecting them. He actually did in this same chapter, V5. “And whoever will not receive you, when you go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” It seems reasonable that this should have been their response. Yet they respond by wanting to call down divine judgment by fire. One writer said, “Notice that James and John were eager to strike a match and conduct their own vengeful bonfire. In their immaturity they thought they could advance Christ's kingdom by fighting fire with fire.” It is almost surprising that they thought that they had this kind of divine authority, but after all Jesus did call James and John the “Sons of Thunder” in Mark 3:17. They must have had Elijah in mind:

1. Elijah called down fire to consume two units of troops sent against him by King Ahaziah of Samaria in 2 Kings 1:1-17.
2. Elijah also called down fire to consume a sacrifice when competing with the priests of the false god Baal on Mt. Carmel in 1 Kings 18:38.

What can we say of this response? James and John, the Sons of Thunder, were utterly and miserably wrong. Their response was non-loving, non-merciful, and imperfect to say the least.

What is of greatest significance is Jesus’ response to this opposition and His reaction to the disciples.

Point 2: Jesus’ Reaction to Opposition: He Rebuked ThemOnce again Christ displays for us a life of humility and peace. Instead of rebuking the unhospitable Samaritans, He rebukes His disciples who should have known better.
Why did Jesus rebuke James/John? Mainly because His Face was Set for Jerusalem. Jesus came the first time to save men’s souls. He was on a life-giving mission, not a life-destroying mission. He simply rebuked the disciples and went to the next village. Even today we are under this age that Jesus introduced. What is it the Apostle says in Romans? You are not under law, but under grace. Now is a time for salvation. Jesus left the door open for the Samaritans because it was not the time to condemn: Since Jesus did not allow the disciples to react the way that they planned it left the door open for Samaritans to come to faith in Christ and receive salvation. In Acts C8 Philip went down to Samaria and preached Christ to them and multitudes listened to what he had to say and there was great joy. Jesus did not have a sensitive trigger finger did He?

1. Nehemiah 9:17 “You are God, Ready to pardon, Gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, Abundant in kindness.”
2. Psalm 103:8 “The LORD is merciful and gracious, Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.”
3. Psalm 145:8 “The LORD is gracious and full of compassion, Slow to anger and great in mercy.”
There is no doubt- Jesus practiced what He preached and showed His divine nature by being slow to anger.

As long as you are alive, there's a chance. Though the Samaritans were not repentant or inviting, Jesus was still going to Jerusalem to atone for sin, and He was going to be patient with them just as He's patient with you, as He's patient with me, and as He was patient with His own disciples, James and John. He is patient with us. What that means is that as long as we are breathing, it's not yet time for condemnation. Once somebody dies, there is fire from heaven. Hebrews 9:27 says, "it is appointed once for a man to die, then judgment." When you die it’s over, but as long as you're alive salvation is available. There's still the invitation to salvation by turning to Jesus Christ.

One major phrase that should be given some attention is that Jesus’ face was set for Jerusalem. This phrase drives the entire context and should drive our lives.

Point 3: His Face was Set for Jerusalem
Another pastor has said, “The answer of the whole New Testament is this: the surprise about Jesus the Messiah is that He came to live a life of sacrificial, dying service before He comes a second time to reign in glory. And the surprise about discipleship is that it demands a life of sacrificial, dying service before we can reign with Christ in glory. What James and John had to learn—what we all must learn—is that Jesus' journey to Jerusalem is our journey, and if He set His face to go there and die, we must set our face to die with Him.” His face was set for Jerusalem because that is where He was going to fulfill His Messianic obligations (Matt 16:21). The first account after this decision is opposition. Jesus did not send fire, judge, condemn, put on a t-shirt that said Samaritans are evil, or any of the like. Jesus continued on despite opposition. He had no time to stop and deal with these unrepentant people. He had single-minded devotion to the Father’s plan for Him. Now the question is- do we have single-minded devotion to the Father’s plan for us? Is Fort Trial Christian Church focused on the mission? Is your family focused on the mission? Are you focused on the mission?

The Father’s plan and mission for us is a life of sacrificial love for others.

Conclusion: It has been said that "There is no passage in which Jesus so directly teaches the duty of tolerance as in this."

We know “that our Christian warfare—our invisible struggle with sin, deception and false gods—is not according to the flesh. Rather, it involves humble acts like prayer and friendship evangelism.” It requires that we move ahead despite opposition, but leave the door open for repentance/salvation to those who presently supress the grace of God.

One fantastic Christian brother said many years ago, “Even if a man be utterly mistaken we must never regard him as an enemy to be destroyed, but as a strayed friend to be recovered by love." It can’t be said much better than that.

Peter gives us words that are fitting as a conclusion. In 1 Peter 2 we are told to have our conduct honorable among outsiders, that when they speak against us as evildoers, they may, by our good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. May people see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven! (Not see us wear shirts that condemn others, not see us launch out with violence toward those who have differing world views, not condemn others, but that they may see our GOOD WORKS).

James 2:1-7 Blasphemy

James has already said something in chapter one that I did not mention in previous weeks. In 1:27 James says that pure religion that the Father accepts is “to look after orphans and widows in their distress.” What did the Lord Jesus say is the summation of the Law? We are to love God with all that we are and to love our neighbors as ourself. Loving your neighbor is a hallmark of Christianity, yet how many Christians use and abuse others? How many even do it on Sunday morning? This was a major concern in the early church and it continues to be a chief matter to be addressed in the modern church. James gives us instruction on this subject as he begins chapter two, by inspiration of God. There is vital teaching from the Lord, so let us hear what he has to say.

READ Scripture- This is the Word of God

The issue is how we view other people, especially Christians. When you look at someone what agenda do you have? Are you asking yourself if they are worthy of your engagement or are you asking yourself how you can love them?

Spiritual and Scriptural truth must be put to practice. James wants to stress this point. If we believe what the Bible says about the Gospel and the Grace of our Great God and Savior Jesus Christ then we can not exercise partiality. 1 John 2:2 says that Jesus Christ died for our sins, yet not only ours but for the sins of the world!

The recipients of this original letter must have been guilty for this thinking and behavior. Partiality is inconsistent with faith in Christ. Just as light has no fellowship with darkness, neither does the Gospel with favoritism.

Verse two begins a hypothetical situation that illustrates this major point of the section. It is given of a rich man and a poor man. Now this is an obvious example, but the scenario could be written in many others ways. Think to yourself some other comparisons that would illustrate this point. Aren’t there plenty of types of people that are treated with great worth while others are considered rubbish? This is a shame, but you get James’ point.

The description is “fine” clothes vs. “shabby” clothes (dirty/filthy). The discrimination that this illustration paints is far more than just a look one way or the other. The discrimination extends to the treatment of the two individuals. One is told to have a nice seat, most likely in a prominent place in the assembly, while the other is told to stand, most likely out of the way in the back or in a corner with his other option being to sit on the floor. The language is that of the rich man having a comfortable seat with a foot stool while the poor man is told to sit by the foot stool or possibly “below the footstool.” We understand what is meant.

James then gives the reader the opportunity to decide for themselves what type of behavior this is. He poses the question to them, but we already hear the hint of condemnation in the words from verse four such as partiality, judges, and evil. Where does discriminating behavior like this come from? Evil Thoughts!

This conduct has softly been condemned as ungodly, hypocritical, and down-right evil. Now the conversation turns to an intimate statement- “My Beloved Brethren…” In verse five James allows the readers to once again answer a question for themselves, but the answer is also implied again- God has chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world.

God shows no favoritism, but He does have a special place in His heart for two groups of people: “Little Ones” and “Least of These.” He has an eye on the lowly of this world and has promised to make them rich in due time by faith. Our Heavenly Father truly wants all to assume this lowly role:
1. “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” (Spiritually Bankrupt)
2. “The First shall be Last and the Last shall be First…”
3. “Wash one another’s feet…”
4. Jesus said, “I am gentle and lowly in heart…”
5. Let us take a LOOK at Philippians 2:5-11.
That is the Biblical pattern- humility leads to exaltation, low to high, last to first.

It is important to note that we would be dead-wrong to read verse five as saying “God has chosen ONLY the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom.” That is not what the text says nor is it implied. Jesus said that it is difficult for a rich person to make it into the kingdom, but He did not say it was impossible. Actually, do you know what He told His disciples? He told them that it is impossible for man but all things are possible with God. Some Christians have been blessed with wealth so that they can bless the church and the world by it in the name of Jesus Christ. The key point is that God does not discriminate between rich and poor. He has not rejected either group, but wills that none would perish and that all would be saved by turning to Christ.

We know the recipients of this letter were guilty because James tells them point blank in verse six, “But you have dishonored the poor man.” The question is- are we guilty as they were? I don’t know the answer for each of you, but a text like this can prevent us from falling into an Evil trap like showing certain people partiality. It is Evil Thinking. When we behave this way we assume the role of judge, and the Father has already appointed a Judge, His Son Jesus Christ.

Finally, verse seven teaches that this discriminating behavior is blasphemy against our glorious Lord. The rich, young ruler said he wanted to be perfect, but could not part with his material wealth which no doubt gave him worldly confidence, power, authority, praise of men, and probably a prominent place in an assembly. What is the conclusion of that incident? He went away from the Lord miserable.

Two things can be said here for condemnation of favoritism:
1. (v5-6) This attitude contradicts God’s assessment. God honors the poor.
2. (v7) Showing favoritism betrays the name of Christ Jesus our Lord.

There are two types of faith in this context:
1. Faith in Partiality- that you can gain acceptance by appeasing the affluent
2. Faith is Christ- acceptance comes from assuming a lowly position

James pleads with his readers and us as this Scripture has come down through the centuries to choose the second. Do not put faith in partiality. It will not save you and it will honestly not help you in the immediate. James says that these arrogant, prominent people are oppressors and that they blaspheme the holy name of Christ by which we have been called by behaving this way. The Lord Jesus said at one time that the Gentile Rulers “lord it over” their people and he instructed His disciples to flee from the behavior. Prominent people, whether they be in a place of government or church leadership, very wealthy, or very successful should never lord it over others and they should assume the role of a servant just like the King of the universe did. The charge is to deny this conduct and put our faith in Christ, the servant, the sympathetic priest, the savior.

Once again, the fundamental issue is how we view other people, especially Christians. When you look at someone what agenda do you have? Are you asking yourself if they are worthy of your engagement or are you asking yourself how you can love them? We should be looking past clothes and jewelry by looking straight into the heart of another human being. What does their spirit tell you? Do they need a hug, do they need a smile, do they need some advice, are they hurting, do they need prayer, are they spiritually weak, or can they teach you something? These are Godly questions. Read a person’s spirit and not their shirt.

“My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality.”