James 1:2-4 Count It All Joy

James 1:2-4                Count It All Joy                                              WC McCarter
Time would not allow for us to tell the stories we have of the trials we have faced. Allow your mind to survey the memories of the hardships you have endured. Some of us have encountered one trial after another while others of us have endured more difficult trials than others. The fact of the matter is that as long as we live in this present age, we are not finished confronting troubling moments. This is our calling as Christians. We are to follow the path of the One who has gone before us, the Man of Sorrows. He was well acquainted with grief, despised, oppressed, and afflicted (Isa 53). We, too, are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed – always carrying in us the dying of the Lord Jesus (2 Cor 4).
Today, we will discuss a passage of Scripture that declares again what the entire New Testament teaches; that is, Christians are to rejoice in times of trial. The Lord Jesus taught this, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. . . . Rejoice and be exceedingly glad. . .” (Matt 5:10, 12). The Apostle Paul said the same, “. . . but we also glory in tribulations. . .” (Rom 5:3). And Peter, too, encouraged, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials. . .” (1 Pet 1:6). Today, we will see what the James, an Elder in Jerusalem, had to say. I invite you to read with me the Word of God.
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
Various Trials
Notice how James puts the subject of trials forefront in his letter. He doesn’t even finish the typical opening of a letter before he interrupts himself by getting to the task at hand. This tells us that the Christians he was writing to in the first century were facing tough times. They needed to be encouraged, and James wastes no time getting to that job. We also know that this is a major subject for all Christians of all ages. We need to be encouraged to continue through various trials as well.
The phrase “various trials” tells us that there are all sorts of unexpected struggles in this life, and plenty of them, that Christians must face with joy. Trials will come on the inside and on the outside:
1. Outside-
A. In the home: financial hardships, relationship problems with your spouse or child, illness, loneliness
                        B. In the workplace: social and economic persecution, competition
                        C. In the church: jealousy, discouragement
2. Inside-
A. Moral temptations to sin
B. A struggle with the old you
Count It All Joy
When James commands his brothers and sisters to consider trials “all joy” it is not to say that this is the only response allowed as if we cannot be saddened or mournful. What it means is trials are occasions for pure joy. He will explain this is in the following verses.
Joy is more than a smile on your face; it is something that is known in the soul/mind. That is why you can face various trials with joy. It is because you know what you have in Christ and what the future will bring!
Testing of Your Faith
There is no doubt that God permits testing, even of believers. Let’s be clear, He does not tempt us to sin, but He allows us to be tested by various trials. As Christians, we learn that these trials are opportunities to demonstrate our faith. When it is all said and done, we come out stronger than we were at first.
The language refers to the process of refining silver or gold. “The difficulties of life are intended by God to refine our faith. . .” (Moo, 54). When our faith is put through the heat of suffering the impurities of our lives are refined away leaving a only a purified offering to the Lord. Thus, the point is not to see if we have faith or not, but to perfect the faith we already have in Christ, our Savior.
Produces Patience
“Patience” here means “perseverance.” It is the picture of someone carrying a heavy load for a long period of time. Christians learn to trust in God the more they meet trouble. When our faith is tested, this is the first and immediate result. “Completeness” or “perfection” is the goal. Testing produces perseverance which is the first step toward that end. You see, perseverance needs to perfect its work in you so that you may be perfect.
Conclusion and Application
So, what is it that you are called to do? You are to meet trials of various kinds with joyous confidence in God and Spirit-led determination to endure.
1) At the very least, we are called to respond positively to our trials. Of course, this is against all of our natural, worldly instincts.
2) Do not be surprised when you are challenged with a difficult moment in life. This is what we have been called to in the Lord.
3) There is a purpose to be found in all of this. God is allowing you opportunities to become mature and complete in your faith. You see, faith is what saves a person. If your faith becomes weak, you run the risk of falling away from Christ. Yet, if you grow strong in your faith, if you can better understand the Christian life, then you will be saved from this present wicked age and the wrath to come.
4) No matter what your trial may be in the present moment or in days to come, you can stand spiritually whole even when things have fallen apart and crumbled all around you.

Hebrews 1:2-4 God has Spoken in these Last Days

Hebrews 1:2-4            God has Spoken in these Last Days                         WC McCarter
The entire letter to the Hebrews was written with one reason in mind: to encourage Christians who were faltering in their faith. It is a call to endure. Those Christians in the first century were facing brutal persecution from the Jews and later even the Romans. The message they needed to hear was that they had made the right choice by coming to Christ. We need to hear the same message today. No, we have not faced the same persecution that they did, but this world is alluring. It is easier to simply cruise along with no strict belief in anything than to live out a biblically led life of faith in Christ.
But listen, the truth of the matter is that God has spoken in these last days by His Son. We do well to listen. If not, we are only building up wrath for ourselves for the last day. The two main points of today’s passage of Scripture are: first, God has finally and completely spoken to us in His Son and second, by purging our sins He has sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on High. Therefore, He has spoken and He sat down. Today, we will embellish ourselves in these magnificent things.
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
Main Point 1: God has spoken to us by His Son.
The first point is the main point, and it is something to be excited about. It tells us who and what. It tells us three things. First, God has spoken in these last days. Second, God has spoken by His Son. Third, God has spoken by His Son to us. “. . . the one people of God has always been established by the word of God” (Cockerill, 88).
Point 2: whom He has appointed heir of all things
The Son has entered into the fruition of His Sonship as heir of all things in His heavenly place. To be Son and Heir is to fulfill a role. In that role, our Lord became flesh, was obedient on earth, offered Himself for sins, and is now exalted. This is what it means to be the Son of God which is why He is unique.
Point 3: through whom also He made the worlds
The One who is heir of all things is the One who made all things. The word “worlds” can also mean “ages.” He is the Creator of the ages. As Creator, He is sovereign.
Points 4 & 5: the brightness of His glory (2 Cor 4) and the express image of His person
“Brightness” means “radiance.” This is a great picture of how Christ is the full revelation of God. It is not a reflected glory. He IS the glory of God. He is not like the moon which is a mere reflection of the sun. He is the radiance of the sun. To be even more exact, no one has ever actually seen the sun, but we have seen the radiant beams of light which emanate from the sun. No one has ever seen God, but Christ has made Him known. Christ has shown us God. When you see Him, you see God. When you hear Him, you hear God. When you worship Him, you worship God. “Thus the Son is a perfect ‘imprint’ of the ‘very being’ of God” (Cockerill, 94). Together, these two phrases, “. . . preserve the distinctness of the Son while affirming that the finality of his revelation is based on his identity with the God he reveals” (Cockerill, 94).
Point 6: upholding all things by the word of His power
The One who is heir of all things is the One who has created all things. He is the same One who sustains all things. The wording actually tells us more than His sustaining work. He is the One who directs the ages. He is orchestrating all things to bring them to their intended purpose, God’s purpose. His ultimate purposes are to make purification for sins and return to rule with His people in a restored and cleansed kingdom. “Bearing all by His powerful word” is a phrase referring to deity.
Point 7: when He had by Himself purged our sins
“Purged” means “cleansed.” He intends to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, to remove all of the pollution of sin, and to remove the barrier between humanity and God.
Point 8: sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high
We must look to Christ for the full revelation of the divine nature and the divine purposes. “Sitting down” highlights the finality of his saving work. Being at the “right hand” is to be in the place of authority and strength.
Points 9 & 10: having become so much better than the angels
He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they
We have been told what the Son has eternally been. Now we are told what He became when He sat down. Christ has always been far better than the angels, but “became” much better in a new way when He sat down after completing the plan of redemption.
Conclusion and Application
As you already know, and as we can see in today’s passage of Scripture, the greatness of the Lord Jesus Christ is inexhaustible. We could never come to the end of the discussion of His greatness.
No matter what you have been through or what you are going through, Christ is enough. His grace is sufficient for you. He is our High Priest who has gone before us, has experienced the things we have experienced, and has mediated a new covenant between God and us. He is far superior to anything this world has to offer. He is heir of all things; He created all things; He sustains all things. He is the one and only radiance and express image of God the Father. He has by Himself paid for our sins and thus cleanses us. He has sat down at the right hand of the Father in glory. He is far greater than the angels or any other created thing. He is far greater than people, far greater than money, than careers, than sports, than . He is far greater than your problems or circumstances.
In our times of difficulty and trial, we are, “. . . to focus upon this Son exalted at God’s right hand and the benefits he provides” (Cockerill, 88).
He is superior to all. There is no reason we should falter in our faith, there is no reason we should not persevere until the end if we have our eyes set on Him. He is truly the Author and Finisher of our faith and all of our hopes. He is the beginning and end, the end all and be all.
If you have chosen Christ above all else, you have made the right decision.
Trust and Treasure Him.

Hebrews 1:1 God Spoke in Time Past

Hebrews 1:1   God Spoke in Time Past                                            WC McCarter
In the New Year, I would like to direct your attention to the Scripture where we learn about the superiority of the Lord Jesus Christ. What better message to hear in a New Year than the message that Christ has appeared in these last days? God has spoken completely and finally in the One who is His Son. He has purged our sins and now reigns supreme. As great as you may think that the angels are, He is far greater. The author of Hebrews begins his letter (sermon) by declaring that Jesus Christ is far better than the angels. The Jews of the first century had an obsession with angels much like our culture today. Angels are considered awesome beings, superior, elegant, authoritative, kind, and much more. However great you may think angels are, the book of Hebrews says, Christ is considerably more excellent. Today we will focus on the preliminary work that God did as He spoke in time past. This sermon will lead us into next week’s message as we ponder what God has done in history.
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
God Spoke in Time Past
God has always been a God who speaks. It has always been the word of His mouth that has determined all things. Remember the very beginning of God’s revelation. Genesis 1:1 states, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Verse three of that first chapter says, “Then God said. . . .” Many Scriptures reiterate this fact. For example, Psalm 33:6 says, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.”
The author of Hebrews places special emphasis on the fact that God is the One who has spoken. This is made apparent when we contrast the way the Apostle Paul introduces scriptural quotes and when the Hebrew’s author does. Paul often asserts, “The Scriptures say. . . .” On the other hand, Hebrews often stresses, “He says. . . .”
God has consistently spoken throughout the ages to one generation after another. That the revelations of God are from time past would have signified authenticity and integrity for the first century mind. In other words, because the Scriptures are old their authority is well-founded.
Various Times and Various Ways
God’s previous revelation was at “various times and various ways.” You see, God’s revelations during the Old Testament period (which is most of human history) came by way of dreams, visions, mighty acts, appearances, commands, promises, and more. It came by who knows how many men who were moved by the Spirit to write holy Scripture. As glorious as those revelations and events were, they are now seen as incomplete when compared to the final revelation that has come through the One who is Son.
Those revelations were only partial and incomplete which is demonstrated by the fact that they came in many parts. One writer has referred to this as “multiplicity as incompleteness.” About this he has written, “What might have been thought richness before Christ is now seen as the preliminary revelation that it was” (Cockerill, 89).
To the Fathers
When God spoke, we are told that He spoke to the Fathers. What can we learn from this? As Hebrews chapter eleven shows and chapter twelve verse one states, we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. “The fathers” refers to more than simply the patriarchs of Israel. The term refers to all of the men and women of faith who have gone before us. There are many who have gone before us. We are not alone. We are not facing anything new. Christians have, for hundreds of years, met the same challenges we encounter during our lives. They were tempted to sin. They struggled in their faith. Their marriages were not always rosy. Their finances were not always stable. But they continued on because God’s word was revealed. We, too, will carry on because God’s word stands forever.
By the Prophets
In Israel’s history there were many prophets. There were more than just the writing prophets such as Isaiah and Jeremiah. Many of the forefathers are referred to as prophets like Noah, Abraham, Moses, as well as Hosea, Joel, Amos, and many others. I have always believed that the diversity of persons who delivered and wrote the Scriptures was a validating sign of the authority of the Old Testament. Maybe I am right about that, but when you compare the many prophets to the Son of God, they pale in comparison.
Conclusion and Application
1. God has spoken. We should hear and obey His word. It’s as simple as that.
            Why is it so difficult to heed His word?
2. Because God has spoken, and now He has spoken definitively in the Son, we can press on.
            What we have heard is true and we can go on with that assurance.
Since the beginning of time God has spoken, but He has spoken no clearer and more complete than in the One who is His Son. That is the subject of our sermon next week.