Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Compassionate Life! – James 2:1-10

The Compassionate Life! – James 2:1-10
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 25, 2014

President Bill Clinton in response to AIDS activist Bob Rafsky at the Laura Belle nightclub in Manhattan, related, “I feel your pain.” It has become the quintessential “touchy-feely” comment of many and the laughing stock of others. There are those who think that humanity has the capability to develop compassion through shear will or a “shift in consciousness”. The Dalai Lama writes, “To be happy, we should devote ourselves to developing our own peace of mind; the more we care for the happiness of others, the greater our own peace of mind. Therefore, we must develop compassion for others in order to be truly happy.” There is one gigantic problem to this faulty thinking, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”! (Romans 3:23 NIV) and “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8 NIV) We cannot simply delude ourselves into thinking, “Everyday, in every way, I am getting better and better.”

This is a dangerous notion in society that compassion simply means having some kind of nice feelings or empathy with another who is going through a tough time. However, compassion, as defined in Scripture, is not this simplistic notion at all. In fact, James would clarify what I am telling you by stating that if someone says they have compassion and says, “‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?” faith has to express itself through actions, and this is what James is building toward. The compassionate life is more than having good feelings. Let’s discover what James teaches us about the compassionate life…

READ: James 2:1-10

She never met anyone she could not talk to or befriend within just a few moments after meeting them for the first time. Someone quipped, “She has the heart of a missionary.” Her friend responded, “No, she has the heart of a Christian!” And she was correct. James teaches us that the believer is to be color blind, ethnic-empathetic, and display age-equity! We are to see anyone, anywhere, and at anytime with the compassion of Christ. James knew that…

I. A compassionate life is impartial! (Vv. 1-4)

My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here's a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? (James 2:1-4 NIV)

  1. The life of a believer is marked by the way they live. They do the things they do not to receive the kudos of others, the applause of the world, nor any recognition whatsoever. They live their lives in Christ to glorify him. This is why James began this section by writing, “My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ”. He was writing specifically to Christians. As followers of Jesus, who never showed favoritism, often to the chagrin of his disciples, we are not to “show favoritism” either. In fact, James sets up an example they would immediately understand. He relates, “Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in.” The notion of two differing folks coming to a meeting from such different economic statuses is something that would happen in James’ day, because the disparity of income was so great in his society. Plus, poverty or riches were seen as how God was blessing you personally. So, this is why James continues by asking, “If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here's a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” The rich could afford to keep themselves cleaner, use perfume or assorted anointments to help them smell better. Giving the rich person the best seat was often the custom because they were seen as more blessed by God. But were they? The answer is “NO”. Yet don’t we do the same thing in our day as well? James is trying to teach us that we should never judge others by their outward appearance or their circumstances because the compassionate life is impartial.

  EXAMPLE: Jesus never saw people by their status in life, their wealth or poverty, or if they were even Hebrews or not! He viewed folks as God does. Either you knew God or you did not. And you know what? His message has not changed nor how we as his disciples are to view those around us either! Now do not think Jesus ever excused people’s sin, because he never did, but he never was afraid to eat with tax collectors and sinners either. In fact when he heard his disciples were asked why he did, he responded, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” We are not here for the religious well off, but for those who need to hear the message of God; anyone, anytime, and anyplace. Paul would say, “God does not show favoritism.” (Romans 2:11 NIV) The compassionate life is impartial!

Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone knew what his life was about; prestige, power, wealth, and commerce. The good life, or supposedly that’s what others thought, including his father. His father wanted him to be a businessman like himself. But then his son had an encounter with Christ after serving in the military. He humbled himself, wore beggar’s garments, and went on a pilgrimage to serve the poor. Giovanni became the person we know as Francis of Assisi. Francis, like James understood that…

II. A compassionate life understands its position! (Vv. 5-7)

Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong? (James 2:5-7 NIV)

  1. James innately understood the concept that God was impartial. There were also those who thought of themselves as spiritually “rich”. James used the premise of those who thought God was partial to those who were well off to slap aside the notion that those who often thought of themselves as spiritually rich were God’s favorites as well. Jesus taught this when he said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3 NIV) Jesus and James understood that your poverty did not make you godlier, but one’s spiritual poverty could because you understood your sin condition. So, James asks, “Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?” And the answer would be? “YES! He certainly did!” Those who are unencumbered by the things of life will respond easier to the gospel of God! It demonstrates the standard of righteousness God demands of His people! But, evidently, there were Christians who had “insulted the poor” in spirit. They probably thought that those who thought of themselves as righteous were rich in faith! Yet, it was these very “rich” folks who were “exploiting” literally oppressing them by “dragging” them “into court”! Paul had a similar problem at Corinth. He wrote, “I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God's approval.” (1 Corinthians 11:18-19 NIV) Wow! Those we often hold in humanly high regard have no regard for God! James would ask, “Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong?” These “rich” lived lives of self-indulgence and looked down in spiritual disdain on those they deemed not worthy! They slandered the One, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6-8 NIV) James knew that a compassionate life understands its position!

  EXAMPLE: I have met those who arrogantly think that simply because of who they are, the money they give, or the position they hold should be treated with greater respect than others in Christ. I will never forget having a leader in the church retort, “Do you realize the amount of money I put into an offering envelop each month?” He was shocked when I responded, “Do you realize your church membership can be mailed in the same envelop?” Paul once had it all, but after meeting Christ on the road to Damascus, realized he was impoverished. He wrote, “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst.” (1 Timothy 1:13-15 NIV) James realized that his fellow believers could focus on the wrong things and lose their true spiritual perspective! He wanted to bring them back to reality and remind them that a compassionate life understands its position!

One of the basic needs all human beings is the need to be loved. Loving another can be like a Linus moment in the cartoon strip Charlie Brown after Lucy declared Linus could never be a doctor, he retorts, “I love mankind… it’s people I can’t stand!!” We can also have a psychological need to be loved, so we think we have to have others love us or continually doubt others could ever love us. We are so insecure that we jump from one relationship to the next always seeking that perfect love, however, this is not the love God displays or that which he requires. James knew that…

III. A compassionate life keeps the royal law! (Vv. 8-10)

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. (James 2:8-10 NIV)

  1. Finally, James gets to the core of the issue. He writes, “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right.” If they were following the two greatest commands of Christ, to love God completely and others as themselves, they were “rich” instead of being spiritually poor! James knew that if they considered themselves “brothers” in the Lord, they were to love God completely and the second command should easily follow! There is no other law known to man that is greater than the Royal Law of God! If we say we love Jesus, we will live like we love Jesus. We will treat others like we love Jesus! “But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.” It goes back to trying to live a deluded life in Christ. There are those who say they believe in Jesus, they love Jesus, or they are “Christians too” but live and act as if they are spiritually schizophrenic. We are “to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.” (1 Thessalonians 2:12 NIV) Far too often we forget “who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.” (2 Timothy 1:9 NIV) We are called to love God and others as ourselves; we are not called to do whatever we want when we want to do it and then justify our ungodly actions! James knew the truth. He knew that “whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” When we say we love Jesus but treat others, especially fellow believers, like garbage we place ourselves not under his grace but under his judgment! If we have greater empathy and more in common with the world than fellow believers, what does this say about our faith? We don’t love others out of guilt, to make ourselves feel better, or in order to do the right thing; we love others because we love God! James realized that a compassionate life keeps the royal law!

  EXAMPLE: Why do you do the things you do as a Christian? This would include the good, the bad, and the ugly things as well. It shocked the world to learn that Mother Teresa did a lot of the things she did in her life not just out of her devotion to Christ, but out of total insecurity of her standing with God. Sadly, she constantly wondered if she had done enough for God to love her and thereby sought to do one more thing in order to gain his love. We are called to God so we will see our sin, confess it, and be changed by God’s grace offered to us freely through faith in Christ. Afterwards, we live our faith out of the love of God we have experienced, not guilt, not because of our insecurity, or out of the convoluted notion that God will love us more if we do more good things. If we love God completely; we will love others as ourselves. James realized that a compassionate life keeps the royal law!


A compassionate life is impartial! A compassionate life understands its position! And, a compassionate life keeps the royal law!

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Holy Life! -- James 1:22-27

The Holy Life! -- James 1:22-27
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 18, 2014

Some believe that global warming is the biggest threat to the world today. In fact, many of the major news organizations came out on Monday saying that the Antarctic is losing its ice sheet and “there is nothing we can do about it!” Yet, according to the National Snow and Ice Data, Antarctic ice is growing at a rapid pace never seen before. Some thought, in the 1970’s, that the greatest risk we faced was global cooling! Some thought we would all starve to death by the 1990’s and yet there are more crops being grown than ever in the history of mankind. Every year brings dire warnings of MERS, SARS, AIDS, the Nile Virus or some other disease that is going to wipe us off the face of the earth. Yet, as I look at mankind and especially the life of Christians today, I believe that the greatest global threat we face is ungodliness seen as a normal part of the Christian faith.

The holy life is no longer seen as hip or something one should embrace in their faith walk. Some actually think that because they have once placed their faith and trust in Jesus, they are now as holy as they need to be. They have their lifeguard Jesus and do not need to worry about how they are drowning in their sin. Nothing could be further from the truth! Hebrews reminds us to “Make every effort to… be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14 NIV) And, Peter would admonish, “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” (1 Peter 1:15-16 NIV) What then is the holy life? James relates some simple concepts that can help us to understand the holy life better, let’s discover what he teaches…

READ: James 1:22-27

He did not care what he had done, he did not care he had hurt others, and he did not care that he had to serve hard time for it as well. Thinking he could get better treatment, he began to serve in the chapel and it was there he discovered his imprisonment was not just physical, it was spiritual. While incarcerated, he found freedom in Christ. James teaches us that…

I. The Holy life responds to God’s Word! (Vv.22-24)

  1. Herein is a primary problem of Christianity today; people do not do what the word of God says. It was present in James’ day as well. What is truly astonishing about this is that this is one of the first New Testament letters written concerning the Christian faith. Yet, we find James very bluntly telling his readers, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” The wording here means to delude oneself or to deliberately fool oneself into thinking something that was simply not true! His fellow believers were not doing what they had just heard they were supposed to do in order to live holy lives! Like delusional dolts, they listened to the fine sounding words of the gospel, left their wonderful worship and their study of God’s Word and immediately forgot what they were just taught! Can you imagine such a thing? Many of the moral and ethical problems we face in our day are not the fault of politicians, the world or satanic influence; rather, they distill down to individual believers not doing what the Word of God says! We have thousands of churches full of folks listening to fine sounding sermons doing nothing with what they hear! We suffer from spiritual dementia! We can still walk, talk, and feed ourselves but we no longer recognize what holiness is supposed to look like. We have become blinded by the selfish faith we put on everyday rather than living a sacrificial life God desires! James declared, “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.” We are very religious, but spiritually worthless. Jesus disgustingly told the self-centered religious folks of his day, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.” (John 8:23-24 NIV) Following Jesus is more than a simple confession. Isaiah said that a person like James describes “feeds on ashes, a deluded heart misleads him; he cannot save himself, or say, ‘Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?’” (Isaiah 44:20 NIV) Too many Christians excuse their ungodly lifestyles and hold onto its filth rather than holiness. Paul wrote, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:7-8 NIV) Far too many live in spiritual dementia! James teaches us that the Holy life responds to God’s Word!

  EXAMPLE: Jesus rebuked those in his day who thought of themselves as holy but did not respond to the Word of God before their very eyes by telling them, “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart (meaning the person’s totality) the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:33-37 NIV) Well, guess what? Out of the overflow of one’s life, the totality of what a person is in Christ flows one’s holiness or not. James teaches us that the Holy life responds to God’s Word!

She wanted more in life. She had thought of herself as a “good person” and thought she loved the Lord, but there was something missing and she knew it. A harmful relationship soon ended and she had to confront the fact that she was not living her life as God desired her to. She had compromised her faith and what she believed in a hope that this would bring her happiness by excusing her ex-boyfriend’s ungodly life. She opened the Bible and as she studied it and began to apply what she read to her daily walk and she knew she had to live her faith out loud. James teaches us that…

II. The Holy life lives their religion! (Vv. 25-27)

  1. The simple unvarnished truth is that Christians need to begin to live a godly lifestyle! James knew that “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward!” (Psalms 19:7-11 NIV) The answer to the ills of the world is the Word of God! The answer for weak-willed believers is to follow their Lord and be holy! James wrote, “But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom (the Word of God found in the gospel), and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.” Again, Paul would remind us, “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13 NIV) Love here is sacrificial action, holy living! John wrote, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” (1 John 3:16 NIV) Holy living demands sacrifice and we do not like to sacrifice anything! We want the sacrifice of Christ; we want others to sacrifice for us; but we balk at giving anything of ourselves away at all! However, holy living also recognizes the delusion! It confesses the sin of selfishness! John would teach succinctly, “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth… If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” (1 John 1:6, 8-10 NIV) James continues, “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.” Whether it is your mouth, your habits, or the way you live, James is telling us we need to live lives of holiness, not just fool ourselves and say we are holy. In fact he goes on to teach, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Holiness has an outcome. It is more than concerned for others, it acts! Holy living is more than feeling good about oneself; it keeps itself from being polluted by the world! James knew that the holy life lives their religion!

  EXAMPLE: Paul was harsh and much of today’s politically correct world does not like what he wrote concerning holy living, but what he taught is true. He wrote, “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. ‘Everything is permissible for me’--but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible for me’--but I will not be mastered by anything… Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-12, 19-20 NIV) James knew that the holy life lives their religion!

James teaches us that the Holy life responds to God’s Word and James knew that the holy life lives their religion!

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Righteous Life! -- James 1:16-20

The Righteous Life! -- James 1:16-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 11, 2014 AM

We live in a day and age where the theologically unaware think that being nice is the same as being good and that goodness is the same as being right with God -- nothing could be further from the truth! Just because someone can be nice once in a while does not mean they are good and just because some folks can muster up enough goodness to do a decent thing does not mean they know God. It shocks the politically correct crowd to learn that there will be a lot of good and nice folks spending eternity separated from God where the “worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.” (Mark 9:48) The truth is a lot of folks who think they are good enough or nice enough just aren’t blameless before God and “will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:46)

What is a righteous life? We know it was not being moral or pleasant because if it were Jesus did not have to die on the cross. Rather, rightness with God must be coupled with holiness to be righteous. Rightness with God is only attained through faith in Jesus: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him.” (John 3:36 NIV) And holy living is only found in walking with Jesus: “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” (John 15:4 NIV) So, how do we live the righteous life? James gives us some great advice on just how we can do so. Let’s discover what he teaches about the righteous life…

READ: James 1:16-20

A newborn knows nothing but that everything it needs in life is given to it as soon as it is needed. They innately know where everything in life comes from. Only if this were true for the believer as well! James teaches us that…

I. The righteous person knows where everything in life comes from! (Vv. 16-17)

  1. Far too often we can be so ego-centric that we come to believe that everything in life should be focused on us, is for us, and comes from us! It begins with us as suckling children, is pampered on us as teenagers, and fed to us as adults. Some have actually become so self-deluded they think that God is not concerned about what they do! He has bigger fish to fry. This is not new. James just got through describing the effects of sin and how it grows into a repulsive progeny. He continues by bluntly writing, “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers.” James knew that to make God the author of sin, or to charge him with being concerned in tempting us to sin, is a huge theological delusion! It is, in fact, a fundamental flaw, which strikes at the very nature and being of who God is and how he works! It grotesquely stains the perfection of his holiness; it is a personal denying of him; and is a damnable error and heresy that brings swift judgment! It is to be completely guarded against, totally rejected, and utterly detested by all believers! We should know better. Rather, James thought we should understand intrinsically that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights!” A good holy God gives us the best! That which is holy and pure cannot ever have anything to do with temptation! Jesus taught, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 NIV) And while we may change our emotions, faith, and will like the shade moves following the sun’s progress across the sky, God “does not change like shifting shadows.” Hebrews correctly reminds us that, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8 NIV) In fact, we are reminded of the eternal truth, “I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.” (Malachi 3:6 NIV) As the “descendants of Jacob” through Jesus Christ, God does not change in our lives or how he interacts with us! The righteous person knows where everything in life comes from!

  EXAMPLE: I laughed when the narrator related that because all religions have the same basic truths, they must have all evolved from a common belief system of fairness. This is so utterly wrong, in so many ways, as to be downright stupid. What this is implying is that mankind wrote their notion of God into a belief system they were finally willing to adhere to. Paul had to thwart this convoluted idea when he stood up and spoke in the Areopagus in Athens. He had wandered around town and found they had fashioned a statue TO AN UNKNOWN GOD, because they thought they could evolve a notion of goodness by themselves without acknowledging there was a One True God. He related to their astonishment, “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.” (Acts 17:24-25 NIV) In fact, “God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’” (Acts 17:27-28 NIV) James, like Paul, the righteous person knows where everything in life comes from!

Often when we begin to grow we become independent of our parents. We begin to resist their control of our lives. We begin to forget where we came from and who gave us life. This can also be true of the Christian. James also related that…

II. The righteous person is born of God! (v. 18)

  1. I believe we are so intensely hungry for a lasting relationship that we actually think we are the ones who decide if God should love us or not! This is not biblically correct. James immediately relates to us, “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth”! This is absolutely a wonderful reality for each of us to completely understand. The good and perfect gift God gives us is eternal life, the salvation of our souls through his One and only Son! And notice it was his choice, not ours! As John would say, “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:9-10 NIV) We may say we love God, but it is fleeting lip service when we immediately go our own way. We forget that we have become “children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God”! (John 1:13) We who were once doubly dead in our sin are now transformed and reborn into the children of God! God does not give new life to us because of the good things we do, because we are nice, or because we say we love him – he does it so “that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.” What does this mean? (Good question!) We are the firstfruits of God’s harvest of those who have placed their faith and trust in his Son! This eternal truth should make us hold our breath in anticipation. Paul gives  us a hint what this means when he writes, “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.” (Romans 8:19 NIV) Why? Why is the creation of God waiting in this kind of eager expectation? Again, Paul tells us, “For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it (God), in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God! We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:20-23 NIV) This is why James teaches us that the righteous person is born of God!

  EXAMPLE: I cringe sometimes when I see folks who claim Christ live their lives as if they had no clue what that means. This is why Paul would rhetorically argue, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?” (2 Corinthians 6:14-15 NIV) The truth is Paul was not just speaking to relationships; he was addressing how we live our lives. We can wear the Christian moniker with a flippant disregard of who we are and how we were redeemed. God chose to do so while we were still sinners, why would a righteous person then align themselves with people or things that aren’t? James desires to remind us that the righteous person is born of God!

It begins when we are toddlers and becomes full-blown when we enter into adolescence. Just as toddlers struggle with rapid growth and have to learn how to control their emotions, teenagers enter into a period in life whereby hormones rage. They cannot help themselves, but they have to learn to do so. James understood this was true for the believer and tells us that…

III. The righteous person controls themselves! (Vv. 19-20)

  1. There are those who believe that because God loves us we can do whatever we want and God must forgive us. Perhaps, we are more easily duped than we would like to believe. We think that we are exceptional in some way and therefore God will overlook our flaws, you know those silly things called sins. With a wink and a nod to God, we smile and say, “It’s my life and I can do what I want, (wink, wink) right God?” But James will have none of it. He writes, “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” What James is teaching us is that God desires his children to take control of their lives lived in him. He is not some special fairy, flitting around us, keeping us from sinning for our own good. While God chooses us to be his, we are the ones who decide if we will live for him or not. Paul would write his fellow believers, “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:1-2 NIV) Peter would remind us, “As a result, (the believer) does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.” (1 Peter 4:2 NIV) In fact, Paul teaches, “It is God's will that you should be sanctified (made holy)… that each of (us) should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable… For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4, 7 NIV) We decide if we will live holy and honorable lives before the Lord. James knew that a “man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” Allowing ourselves to vent or to do whatever comes to our sinful minds and out of our mouth that ends in ungodly actions is sin! It does not bring about the life God desires his children to live! Paul would declare, “You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” (Colossians 3:7-8 NIV) Jesus was correct when he related, “But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’” (Matthew 15:18 NIV) James knew that the righteous man controls themselves!

  EXAMPLE: She pridefully related, “I can’t help myself, others will just have to accept me just as I am. God does.” What the young woman was willfully ignorant of is that while God always loves us, he does not ever accept our sin. God’s love for us does not excuse the ungodly actions we wallow in and then try to either excuse or ignore as being ungodly. Miley Cyrus is without excuse concerning her uncontrolled lifestyle. This is why Paul condemned the ungodly world that thinks it can do whatever it wants whenever it wants when he wrote, “For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20 NIV) Like Paul, James knew that the righteous man controls themselves!

The righteous person knows where everything in life comes from, the righteous person is born of God, and the righteous person controls themselves!

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

The Humble Life! -- James 1:9-15

The Humble Life! -- James 1:9-15
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 4, 2014 AM

I was just wondering about how we have sold our souls to the societal notion of Christianity. We no longer have a clue what it means to be humble before the Lord. At Age 32, Elizabeth Gilbert faced a life crisis of personal conscience – she did not want to be married anymore to her devoted husband or to have his children. Locking herself in the bathroom of her upscale home she began to pray over and over, “I don’t want to be married anymore. I don’t want to be married anymore. I don’t want to live in this big house. I don’t want to have this baby.” A voice, her own, answers her and tells her to go back to bed. Thus, begins her own self-focused “spiritual” journey. She goes through a dreadful divorce, moves in with an uncaring lover, and begins a self-ingratiating spiritual quest. Her final theological epiphany ends the way it began, from hearing her own voice speaking to her she concludes her highest religious dogma and theology is “to honor the divinity that resides within me” and to worship at the feet of the God within. Gilbert wrote, “Eat, Pray, Love.” A hedonistic spiritual journey wrapped in cultural selfishness.

The old time country singer Mac Davis sang, “Lord, it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way!” This is where the likes of Gilbert self-worship leads. In our Christian culture today, sadly, we have sold our souls to the notion of desiring what our spirit wants for us in the moment. After all the heart wants what the heart wants! We have emotionalized our spirituality. Oprah Winfrey would say we need to know we are “creation’s son… creation’s daughter” and that we are “ultimately I am Spirit come from the greatest Spirit. I am Spirit!” Not much humility found there. However, James knew what it meant to find oneself, it meant to lose oneself in Jesus. We forget Jesus taught that we are to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33) and everything in life follows after that. The book of James teaches us all about the humble life…

READ; James 1:9-15

We learned last time that if we lacked the wisdom we needed in life to live for God all we had to do was ask him! The problem comes when we do not ask or we ask inappropriately, seeking only to satisfy our selfishness instead of wanting to know the wisdom of God for our lives! We fall into the pit of thinking we need to experience God through feeling rather than reason. James knew that…

I. Godly humility understands the eternal view! (Vv. 9-12)

  1. Pride can be found in the poor as well as the rich. The impoverished may be too proud to accept help when needed and the rich may ignore the plight of those in need! In fact, we may be so caught up in our own lives, whether rich or poor that we neglect what is truly important -- eternity! Paul understood that what a person goes through today is not reflective of what God is doing or will do in their lives for eternity, he wrote, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all!” (2 Corinthians 4:17 NIV) James reminds us that “The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position.” He does not mean we should be prideful of being poor, but rather we should realize our position before the Lord! There are those who would insist that God desires you to be rich, but in reality God does not care if you are rich or poor only his. The poor should grasp their high position in Christ, perhaps because they are unencumbered by wealth, while the “rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower!” Here today and gone tomorrow! The wealthy have a low position because their wealth, just as poverty, is meaningless as far as eternity is concerned! When James reiterates, “For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.” He knew this was just as true for the poor person! For James the deeper truth, the undeniable truth of life was eternity and that eternity for the believer meant, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him!” When Peter whined that they had “left everything” in order to follow Jesus, he responded by telling Peter, “everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life!” (Matthew 19:29 NIV) This is what James was referring to, namely that Godly humility understands the eternal view!

  EXAMPLE: We are no longer “Bound for the promised Land” of our forefathers. We do not have to “long to see it afar” because our land, that is fairer than day, is in the here and now. We live in a world where most of us have never experienced the hardship of trying to feed ourselves on a daily basis, going without heat, shelter, or clothing. It is foreign to us. James, however, was speaking to an audience that had to strive for daily sustenance and death from famine, disease, or war was around every corner. We have so insulated ourselves from the consequences of our lives that we give no thought to where we will purchase our groceries, the doctor we visit or simply the glass of water we drink from our tap. We have become a society that has become enamored with ourselves. Our faith practice as believers often reflects this common conceit. We are shocked when someone close to us dies or dozens of folks are slain in an instant. We light candles or place plastic flowers by the roadside. The words of Paul should startle us back to reality, “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:1-2 NIV) Paul, like James, understood that Godly humility understands the eternal view of things, do you?

Paul was so geared toward the eternal he would write, “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:20-21 NIV) I suspect many of us would not be as confident if we knew we would die tonight. Some of us still fear death because we know the life we are living now is not what God would desire. James continues his theme on humility. He knew that…

II. Godly humility understands the consequences of sin! (Vv. 13-15)

  1. We often fail to place the proper perspective on our lives. We think we have an unlimited number of days to live; add to that the narcissistic notion that nothing bad should ever happen to us, and therefore when we do face hard times it can be total shock to us! We certainly cannot blame ourselves for the mess we face -- it must be God’s fault! This faulty thinking is nothing new however because the Jews of James’ day thought that if you were going through persecution or tough times, it must be because of personal sin in your life. James confronts this head on by stating, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone!” James offered a sharp rebuke to those who find an easy excuse to blame God for their sinning. There is nothing in a good holy God to which evil can make an appeal. Jesus sympathized with the temptations we go through because he, in his willingness to walk this earth as a man, had “been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) James knew the truth that “each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.” It is our choice, our desire, our ungodliness that drags us away and not God! Like sexual relations that often result in pregnancy, “after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” The results are not joyous in this instance but horrendous! “The biological imagery is vivid. The lust or desire conceives and from this conception sin is born… The grotesque child, sin, then matures and produces its own offspring, death. The steps are all too clear: unchecked lust yields sin, and unconfessed sin brings death.” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary) Just as the correct response to our trials or the bad things we go through can result in our growth to full spiritual maturity, so a wrong response to our willful lust will result in spiritual decay to abject spiritual poverty and ultimately to death itself! Paul wrote, “What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:21-23 NIV) James knew Godly humility understands the consequences of sin!

  EXAMPLE: A young couple moves into a new apartment, only to be surrounded by peculiar neighbors and occurrences. When the wife becomes mysteriously pregnant, paranoia over the safety of her unborn child begins controlling her life. Thus begins the 1968 American psychological horror film written and directed by Roman Polanski, based on the bestselling 1967 novel Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin. Now it is being made into an NBC miniseries. The plot, while being extremely farfetched, smacks of the truth of ill-conceived sin in the lives of Christians. We willingly sin, make excuses for our sin, and then when the consequences of our sin catches up to us we blame God! Many of today’s believers have so impregnated their lives with societal acceptance that they no longer can distinguish what is truly sinful. The Hebrews of James’ day had done this as well, they excused their excesses with the notion that God was blessing their lives and when the consequence snowballed into full-blown trials they blamed God! The ungodly spawn we produce are ungodly lifestyles that we think and claim are spiritual! We are dying spiritually from the Rose Mary’s Baby we have conceived! James would say, “Don't be deceived, my dear brothers.” (v. 16) He knew Godly humility understands the consequences of sin!


Humility understands the eternal view and humility understands the consequences of sin!

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.