Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Wise Life! -- James 3:13-18

The Wise Life! -- James 3:13-18
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 22, 2014

Where does wisdom come from? Does it come about because of age? Does it come from the amount of knowledge one knows or has acquired? Mark Twain retorted, “The person who has had a bull by the tail once has learned 60 or 70 times as much as a person who hasn't.” Another quote that is often falsely attributed to Twain is the one that states, “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years!” My father used to remind us that “Just because you think you know something, does not make it true.” We find this pithy bit of wisdom to be quite true in our day and age whereby so many think they know God when in fact they know nothing about him at all. Both the psalmist and the writer of Proverbs agree that, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom…. (Psalms 111:10 & Proverbs 1:7 NIV)” What then is the wise life? James gives us a glimpse in what he defines as a person who is wise.

He writes, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. (James 3:13 NIV)”

We have to remind ourselves that James is writing to believers and not the world at large. So, his premise is that Christians would already understand that what he is so concerned about comes from a life that is already given over to Jesus Christ. If not, you will not understand or have the wisdom to discern what James is trying to teach. We all would like to be known for being “wise and understanding”, but for James it is predicated on that fact that Jesus is the focus of your life, then you would show your understanding and wisdom by your “good life, by deeds done in humility that comes from” the “wisdom” he has been writing about!  Remember James had just told us that he would show us his faith by what he did and not simply by the words he used (James 2:18). The fact remains if one has placed their faith In Christ, then Christ will affect their lives and in the humility of Jesus we will do the deeds we need to do that displays our wisdom is from following him!

However, James knew that “if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth (James 3:14 NIV).”

These kinds of characteristics in the life of someone who claims Christ cannot be! If we harbor, hold on to and tenuously keep, bitter envy and selfish ambition in our hearts, how could we possibly be a follower of Jesus! Bitter envy is like deliberately sucking on a lemon and expecting something sweet! We have those around us who would have you disdain others who have worked hard for what they have. Then, there are those who would walk over anyone to gain a nickel! We should not boast about bitterness or hidden envy that we have kept like pampered pets, nor should we try to deny the sin of it because when we do, such action denies the truth of the gospel that should have affected our lives!

In fact, for James, “Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. (James 3:15 NIV)”

Literally James is saying it is not from God at all but from world, earthly, unspiritual, and demonic! Much of what we hear today on the TV, read online, or are inundated with in the classroom and workplace is the ungodly sensuality of the world’s wisdom. It is thoroughly demonic! The demonic wisdom of the world tries to rewrite the definition of what love, marriage, family or faith is. It belches out the satanic propaganda that loves is what you feel at the moment, marriage is defined as to whatever you desire, family is anyone or anything in relationship and faith is any spirituality. This ungodly and demonic “wisdom” has given us unprecedented violence, dysfunctional families, perverted tolerance, and small-minded selfish mysticism! Recently Fox Channel 12 News gushed how wonderful it was that Portland, Oregon has become a Mecca for gay men to come and have women give birth to their children!

While some of the things we do in our society today are in of themselves harmless, they are perhaps symptomatic of the deeper spiritual sickness that has crept into our society. Instead of believers being the salt and light of the world, the gospel change agents they are commanded to be, we have become societal chameleons. Take for instance the rampant sexualization of our society. I believe it represents the self-absorb outcome of the culture we live in. We readily use our bodies without a care as to the ultimate psychological, physical, emotional, and spiritual result. The legalization of marijuana when we have not come to terms with the horrendous fallout of alcohol as a society, speaks volumes as to where our wisdom is coming from.

For James, the proof was in the outcome of what he saw in the lives of believers, “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. (James 3:16 NIV)”

My Dad used to say, “If you have to think up an excuse for what you’re doing, do you really need to do it?” James understood that when you’ve seen lives filled with the envy of what others have or where one was willing to do whatever it takes to get ahead, even lie, cheat, or steal – he knew there was a problem! The problem was a sin problem because when you see this kind of ungodliness of character, “there you find disorder and every evil practice.” In fact, as Paul retorted to the Roman church that, “Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools… Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another… Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them (Romans 1:22, 24, 32 NIV).” Paul would also later lament, “Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe (1 Corinthians 1:20-21 NIV).” The world today disdains godly wisdom because it understands that what itself teaches as clever is nothing but stupidity. This is why Paul would continue by writing, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14 NIV).”

James, however, would write, “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere (James 3:17 NIV).”

What a difference there is between what society prizes as sensible and what God sees as wisdom! Godly wisdom does not have to make excuses for its behavior because it is first and foremost pure. After all it comes from God himself! James is making reference to the fact of the gospel message. The message of the cross is always foolish to the spiritually or morally ignorant and corrupt. Yet we see that the life affected by gospel is “peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” He did not mean it accepted sin but that it was impacted by the Spirit!

The Daily Mail, a British newspaper, reported concerning how “Parents of children at a primary school in the suburbs of London, England are complaining after they were treated to a pole-dancing exhibition at a school fair. A four-year-old girl participated in the pole-dancing festivities at Crockenhill Primary School, the Daily Mail reports. Other performers ranged in age up to 12.”

“‘A lot of people were upset about it,’ a father who endured the pole-dancing routine told the Mail. ‘They were performing a routine to music in inappropriate clothing and they had children doing it and I just thought, “This is so wrong.”’ Of course, School official Sarah Warshow defended the pole-dancing performance.”

“‘There was one performance by the teacher and some by the children,’ she added. ‘It’s great for the children to keep fit and it’s fun as well.’”

We have an economy still cannot provide jobs for millions of Americans, there are rumors of $6 gasoline, the Middle East is aflame but we have time to support the gay agenda? This is despite the CDC’s warning that one in five homosexual males in the U.S. is infected with HIV/AIDS and new studies proving children raised by same-sex parents are far more likely to commit homosexual acts and abuse than other kids.

James ends this section by reminding us that “Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness (James 3:18 NIV).”

Calvin wrote that “Those truly wise towards God, while peaceable and tolerant towards their neighbors, yet make it their chief concern to sow righteousness, not cloaking men’s sins, but reproving them with such peaceable moderation as to be the physicians, rather than the executioners, of sinners.” Far too many believers have instead become enablers of sin in our world today so that they can be seen as “tolerant” instead of righteous. Peter reminds us, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil (1 Peter 3:15-17 NIV).”

Isaiah warned his nation, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight (Isaiah 5:20-21 NIV).”

What is wisdom? The wise life “fights the good fight of faith” that Paul encouraged Timothy to do. Wisdom comes from God himself as we walk with him daily, as we fight the good fight. As James would say, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom (James 3:13 NIV).”

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, June 14, 2014

The Teachable Life! – James 3:1-12

The Teachable Life! – James 3:1-12
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 15, 2014

Are you teachable or do you only like to teach? They say the best teachers are those who are willing to learn themselves. While I am a conservative evangelical pastor, I still spend time reading what other faiths believe or what other viewpoints are concerning the world around me. In our world today it has become increasingly more difficult to try and have ongoing conversations with those whom one disagrees with; especially if you are a Christian. While we live in a world that says it is tolerant of differing views, I dare say what they really means is that they are accepting as long as the views agree with theirs! Often times one can become the enemy simply because you relate the truth. As Paul wrote, “Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may be zealous for them.” (Galatians 4:17 NIV) They are not very teachable.

The teachable life is not only one of accountability but also one of responsibility! We are accountable for what we know and how we relate it to others, and we are responsible to get it right the first time. James understood that those who desire to teach others about faith in Christ are going to be judged more harshly than those who did not. As Paul would write, “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” (1 Corinthians 4:2 NIV) Let’s discover what James teaches about the teachable life…

READ: James 3:1-12

From pills to hypnosis there are thousands of ways to lose weight, gain weight, or exercise. We often look at such things as self-help or self-improvement. I know that in order to lose weight I have to be disciplined in what I eat or don’t eat. I have to have discipline in order to exercise or to grow spiritually as well! In fact, James teaches us that…

I. A teachable life disciplines itself! (Vv. 1-2)

Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check. (James 3:1-2 NIV)

  1. James was addressing those who said they already had or that wanted the mantle of “teacher.” In Hebraic society it was an honorable profession to be seen as a teacher. However, Jewish teachers back then did not just teach reading, writing, and arithmetic, they taught spirituality as well. They were known as “rabbis.” Evidently there were a lot of folks who wanted to teach, but perhaps they were not very teachable. Again, James addresses his “brothers” in Christ and tells them, “Not many of you should presume to be teachers” and his reasoning was “because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” We forget that teachers, whether parents, public school, or Sunday School are held accountable by not just what they teach. They are held accountable by how they act while they teach! A teacher simply can’t say, “Don’t do as I do, do as I say!” James knew “We all stumble in many ways.” No one is perfect and “If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.” Herein lays the key to what James was getting to. If you wanted to be seen as a teacher, you had better be able to keep your body in check; the body being the total person. What thing in your life controls you so that others have a hard time seeing you as a teacher? Too many forget that whether we like it or not, the world sees believers as instructors of Jesus’ gospel; and rightly so. A Christian’s condemnation is greater because, having professed to have a clear knowledge of the gospel; he is all the more bound to obey it! We should be judged more strictly because we are holding out the words of eternal life! James knew that a teachable life disciplines itself!

  EXAMPLE: One of the hardest things to do is to learn how to be disciplined. Whether it is for a sport, exercise, creating something like a novel or painting, it takes discipline. The same is true for the mature spiritual life. If you want to learn the deep things of God, one must be willing to discipline themselves in order to learn them. Paul told Timothy, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7 NIV)” James knew that the teachable life disciplines itself!

We live in a society that falsely thinks it has the right to say anything to anyone at anytime and declare it “freedom of speech.” A society that thinks it can say anything at anytime must be willing to be responsible with the words it uses. Believers do not have such a luxury; we must be willing to speak as if it were Jesus speaking through us. This is why James continues by telling us that…

II. A teachable life keeps its mouth in check! (Vv. 3-6)


When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. (James 3:3-6 NIV)

  1. James knew that control was the key to a disciplined life. He related that “When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal.” A small implement like a bit could be used to turn a great big horse! “Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.” Such small things in comparison to a large animal or a larger ship could be steered by a very small thing like a rudder or bit. Why is it then that people, who have the ability to make rudders and bits for steering other things, cannot keep their mouths in check? James continues, “Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts.” If we see James using this example in a good sense, (as Gill writes) “the bridled and sanctified tongue, that is influenced by the grace of God, and directed by the Spirit of God, as it speaks great and good things, has great power, weight, and influence”! However, on the negative side there are those who “mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. (2 Peter 2:18 NIV)” James would have us to “Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.” Living in the Northwest we know what it means for a forest to be set on fire and James equates this kind of conflagration with a person’s misused mouth! “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” Wow! Just imagine how an unmanageable mouth is used for the fires of hell, yet, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1 NIV)” James knew that a teachable life keeps its mouth in check!

  EXAMPLE: My father hated it when we would ‘talk back” after being disciplined. He saw it for what it was, disrespect. We live in such a sarcastic age whereby we feel we should be able to express ourselves however we want whenever we want. This includes our speech. Crass and crude words have sadly become the norm for a lot of people, and then they wonder why folks treat one another so badly. Even elementary age children have mouths my Mom would have cleansed with soap. Sadly, even believers think they should be able to say whatever they want whenever they want without being “judged.” This is why Jesus related, “Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. (Matthew 5:37 NIV)” and Paul reminds us, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Colossians 4:6 NIV)” However, James knew that a teachable life keeps its mouth in check!


We recently watched the newer version of King Kong and Andrew kept asking us if Kong was “good or bad.” (He likes to get the bad guys, so this information is important to him.) We told him that Kong was neither good nor bad, just a wild animal. Some think they can act anyway they want because they are just evolved animals. The Bible says this is faulty thinking. Jude, James’ other brother by the same mother, related that this is why “men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals--these are the very things that destroy them. (Jude 1:10 NIV)” James agrees and relates that…

III. A teachable life tames itself! (Vv. 7-12)

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. (James 3:7-12 NIV)

  1. We live in a world whereby folks actually think that human beings are just a higher form of animal, so consequently they see no problem when they act like animals. In fact, there are those who actually glorify it and they “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. (Romans 1:23 NIV)” However, the Bible teaches us something quite different. It teaches that God considers us as “sons of God” and his children when we come to faith in his Son Jesus. We are in fact created in his image, capable of love, holiness, creating, faith, and service. Yet, James declares that “All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue.” It is a hard task to do. Those who use their mouths to slice and dice others are like deadly adders. Their tongues are a slithering “restless evil, full of deadly poison”! James knew that in fact if we begin to think of ourselves as animals we will treat one another like animals. We will say whatever comes into our mind not considering the consequences of our speech! Freedom of speech does not give one the right to say whatever they want whenever they want. In fact, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.” One moment we will be in worship praising God and the next we will be on the highway of life cursing those who dare cut in front of us! “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” Paul would accuse, “You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? (1 Corinthians 3:3 NIV)” Words mean things. This is why James would rhetorically ask, “Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?” The answer is of course, “NO!” “My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” James knew a teachable life tames itself!

  EXAMPLE: I get tired of hearing folks use the excuse that they simply could not help themselves. Of course they could. At some point the choice was made to follow your ungodly impulse or not. It sickened me to hear over and over how it was the availability of guns or the guns themselves that was the problem when the shooting recently occurred at Reynolds High School. This is simply not true. It was the poor choices a young man made who decided he was going to murder as many of his fellow students as he could. The problem is we no longer discipline ourselves. We support violent TV, movies, rampant sexuality, revenge, pornography, and disdain human life. Christians should live differently from the world. James knew a teachable life tames itself.

Conclusion:

A teachable life disciplines itself, it keeps its mouth in check, and it tames itself!

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, June 08, 2014

The Faithful Life! -- James 2:14-26

The Faithful Life! -- James 2:14-26
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 8, 2014

Latin for "always faithful," Semper Fidelis became the Marine Corps motto in 1883. It guides Marines to remain faithful to the mission at hand, to each other, to the Corps and to country, no matter what. It is too bad that the soldiers of the Lord could not adopt the same motto for their lives as well; to be always faithful to the Lord no matter what the cost. Christians are to have an unwritten motto that states, "Sola fide" or faith alone. However, in the constant confusion and societal blurring of today's walk with Christ, many have forgotten what the meaning of a faithful life is supposed to be.

Just as the law of love gives no excuse for disregard of individuals, so one's faith gives believers no excuse to quit doing good works. A believer must not only demonstrate one's love by readily accepting others, but we must also demonstrate our faith by helping those around us. James went on in his letter to emphasize the demonstration of a faithful life, to outline the confirmation of a faithful life, and to finally give us illustrations of a faithful life. Let's see what he teaches us concerning the faithful life…

READ: James 2:14-26

The poet Edgar A. Guest wrote, "I'd rather see a sermon, than hear one any day; I'd rather one should walk with me, than merely tell the way." What he was writing about is the fact that most folks want to see if one's faith is real or not. The best means to do so is to actually see one's faith revealed through what they do in life. James gives us…

I. A demonstration of a faithful life! (Vv. 14-17)

  1. I do not know about you but I would rather have someone demonstrate their love for me rather than just say they love me. Yet there are those who say they love Jesus, but they hardly ever demonstrate their "love". We would call that kind of faith "hypocritical" and this is why James relates, "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?" The answer is of course, "No!" James' emphasis is not on the true nature of one's faith but rather on the false claim of one's faith. It is the spurious boast of faith that James condemned. Such "faith" does no "good" and is worthless. James' rhetorical question is followed by a realistic illustration, "Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food." Notice he uses the example of a fellow believer, "brother or sister", not just someone in the world. James' focus is on how we as believers treat fellow disciples! If we say we love Jesus but treat our fellow followers in the faith horribly, what does that say to the world about our faith? James is also discussing the basic bare necessities of sustaining life. Warm fuzzy platitudes of feeling one's pain is not going to do any good. As the Mommas and the Papas sang in the sixties, "Words of love, soft and tender" won't win the heart of anyone if there is nothing behind them! Much of today's faith has a lot of worn out phrases and longing gazes, but little in actual action! James concludes, "If one of you says to him, 'Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?" The answer again is that it is no good whatsoever! Paul remarked, "If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion… Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:1, 4 NIV)" We can send folks to foreign fields, but if we are not taking care of our own as we should, something is drastically wrong! I am not supporting an "us four and no more" attitude, but rather the total disconnect of some believers not tithing or serving to support their own congregation they spiritually suckle from! "In the same way," James would declare, "faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action" towards fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, "is dead." James teaches that the faithful life will give a demonstration of a faithful life!

  EXAMPLE: When service dogs are being trained they stay with host families first in order to get some basic things down before they enter into their more rigorous training. Then they go to training centers where they learn more on how to be the service dogs they are supposed to be. One of the final tests is they have to demonstrate their skills in leading, serving, or responding to the folks they will service. Not every dog, no matter how smart they are, is a service dog. Christians should be mentored as well and they should be able to demonstrate their faith. Those who have truly professed their faith and trust in Jesus Christ will demonstrate their faith! James teaches that the faithful life will give a demonstration of a faithful life!

One can try to counterfeit their faith by continually doing a lot of great things in life. In fact, there have been a lot of folks who have done just that, when in fact their faith wasn't worth a plug nickel. They actually thought they could fool folks into thinking they were godly simply by their actions. God is not fooled however and James also teaches us that there has to be…

II. A confirmation of a faithful life! (Vv. 18-20)

  1. This is probably one of the most misunderstood passages of the New Testament. Some think James disagrees with Paul, but he doesn't. Instead they are looking at the same problem from the same perspective, namely, that faith is what saves us but there should be some kind of accompanying action to prove its existence! James knew that in our sinful hearts there would be "someone" who condescendingly "will say, 'You have faith; I have deeds.'" And his response would be, "Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do." James understood that true faith always leads the individual into action! Paul encouraged the Thessalonians by reminding them, "We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 1:3 NIV)" He would tell his young protégé Titus, "In everything set them an example by doing what is good. (Titus 2:7 NIV)" Being good or doing good things never has saved anyone, but if you believe in Jesus who came to sacrificially serve, then you will serve sacrificially as well. There are a lot of folks who claim, "I believe in God!" Yet they live lives that are on the level of the ungodly world. James' response to these folks is, "You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder." It isn't enough to simply say one believes there is a God; one has to be spiritually changed by their submission to God's redemptive act through His Son Jesus. So, to "believe" in one God may be good so far as it goes, but it does not go far enough. The demons do that. In fact not only do they believe (the same verb, pisteuō); they even "shudder," or "bristle up" at the fact. Works of Christ are the evidence of one's faith, not the means of salvation. To just say you believe, well anyone can say anything, but the proof is in the pudding, so-to-speak. James continues by berating his imaginary opponent by retorting, "You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?" James was more than willing to go toe-to-toe with someone who actually tried to claim they knew God when their actions said otherwise. James understood that in the faithful life, he knew there would be a confirmation of a faithful life!

  EXAMPLE: When I was in officer training we had to prove we could use a compass and sexton, we could not just say we could use them; we had to prove we were proficient in them. Navigation with electronic equipment, GPS, and satellites is one thing but being able to navigate by using the position of the sun, the time of day, and setting our direction with a compass proved to be quite challenging. And, we were challenged to get to a certain point in the Boston whaler we were rowing on the open ocean, because if we didn't we would not be in time to eat! When we showed up on time it confirmed our proficiency. The individual cannot just say they believe in Jesus, they need to confirm it. James knew that the faithful life, there would be a confirmation of a faithful life!

There are always those who would try to argue their standing with God by relating a long list of their achievements. The Pharisees of Jesus' and James' day did just that. Jesus told them, "You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart (one's life) the mouth (our actions) 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." (Matthew 12:34-35 NIV) This is why James gives us…

III. An illustration of a faithful life! (Vv. 21-26)


  1. As a final proof of his argument, James gives us two examples. One is the pinnacle of Hebraic thought, Abraham, and the other is a lowly prostitute named Rehab. Like any good debater he anticipates his opponent's agreement to the questions he proposes. "Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?" And, the answer of course would be, "Yes." Paul's statement that Abraham's faith, not his works, caused God to declare him righteous (Romans 4:1-5) seems contradictory to James' argument. However, Paul was arguing for the "priority of faith. James argued for the proof of faith." Paul declared that Abraham had faith, and was therefore declared righteous, prior to his circumcision. James explains that Abraham's faith was evidenced in his willingness to follow God and sacrifice Isaac, knowing God would provide. "You see," James declares, "that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did." In fact, James vigorously argues that "the scripture was fulfilled that says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,' and he was called God's friend." Abraham's faith was the motivating force behind what he was willing to do; just as it should be all believers' lives. We do good things because we love a great God. As Paul would insist, "For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15 NIV)" James and Paul quoted the same passage to prove what faith meant. "You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone." Abraham was justified by faith and his faith proved that justification by his actions! "In the same way," James continues, "was not even Rehab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?" And of course she was! So, as far as James was concerned, "As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead." He understood the basic truth that the faithful life will be a living illustration of a faithful life, just like Abraham or Rehab!

  EXAMPLE: My sister wanted to get away with not doing the housework she was supposed to do. She tried blaming Ed and me for her not getting it done; and when that did not work she tried blaming the dog, the day, and anything else that came to mind. My father told her, "Your actions speak louder than your words." "The lady doth protest too much, methinks" is an apt quotation from the 1602 play Hamlet by William Shakespeare. It has been used as a figure of speech, in various phrasings, to indicate that a person's overly frequent or vehement attempts to convince others that the opposite is true, by making the person look insincere and defensive. Let me ask you, do others see Jesus in you or is your life one big compromise. If you are trying to say you believe in Jesus, yet your actions say otherwise, your actions are speaking louder than your words. Perhaps you "protest too much." James understood the basic truth that the faithful life will be a living illustration of a faithful life!

Conclusion:
James teaches that the faithful life will give a demonstration of a faithful life!
James understood that in the faithful life, he knew there would be a confirmation of a faithful life!
James understood the basic truth that the faithful life will be a living illustration of a faithful life, just like Abraham or Rehab!

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, June 01, 2014

The Judged Life! -- James 2:11-13

The Judged Life! -- James 2:11-13
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 1, 2014

We do not like to be judged by others, but we are no matter if we like it or not. We can declare, “Don’t you dare judge me!” but folks immediately do, especially if we say such a thing because they immediately think we have something in our life to hide that we should be judged for! As a pastor I have heard folks whine, “Judge not least ye be judged!” thinking that by doing so they have scored a self-righteous advantage, yet failing because Jesus went on to declare, “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:2 NIV), meaning that if one truly judges by God’s standards and not their own self-righteousness, they can indeed weigh in balance a fellow believer’s ungodly life. That’s why you are to “first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.” (Matthew 7:5) In fact, Jesus and the rest of Scripture goes on to relate that believers will indeed be judged and held accountable to a higher standard than the world. We live a judged life and it is time for us to grow up and act like it.

Remember James just got through telling us, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” And now he continues his teaching by relating to us just what he means. James was well aware there would be some who would tend to dismiss their offense of prejudice as trivial. Kind of like some do when they think they can sin in other areas of life and God won’t care. They would hardly consider themselves as actual sinners and can justify their ungodly actions with some of the lamest excuses: I deserve this! Everyone else is doing it! It’s my life! God doesn’t care if I do this one thing! However, James went on to make it clear that any sin is no small thing that can be easily dismissed, and, whether we like it or not, as believers we live a judged life! Let’s find out what James teaches us this morning…

READ: James 2:11-13

Toddlers like to play the game Hide-and-Seek! They will put their hands in front of their eyes or place a favorite blanket over their heads, and declare, “You can’t see me!” Of course we can. Sadly, this is the very same thing some Christians do with God. They try to play a silly game of sinner’s hide-and-seek with the Lord and their lifestyle, thinking that if they just ignore their sin, God will to! James teaches us that in the judged life…

I. Any sin is sin and will be judged! (v. 11)

For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker. (James 2:11 NIV)

  1. Not every sin is the same. Certainly the sin of unbelief will be judged harsher, especially when we know we should come to faith and yet reject it simply because we do not want to change our ungodly lifestyle! Jesus taught, “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men (even believers), but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.” (Matthew 12:30-31 NIV) Why? Because, “Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man (Jesus) will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit (those who hear but refuse the Spirit’s voice) will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” (Matthew 12:32 NIV) That is blaspheming the Holy Spirit, whose sacred work is to draw us to God and Christ! And we know that the sin of deliberately trying to get believers to sin carries a heavy judgment, Jesus related in fact that “if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck!” (Mark 9:42 NIV) However, James understood that there are Christians who actually think they can get away with their sin and God will not judge it. They have forgotten that “whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17 NIV) Paul admonished his readers, “Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God--I say this to your shame.” (1 Corinthians 15:34 NIV) John wrote, “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.” And, that “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.” (1 John 3:4, 6 NIV) This is why James related, “For he who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.” (James 2:11 NIV) In other words, any sin is sin and will be judged by God!

  EXAMPLE: When we had the Youth Car Wash a man drove in with an old battered pickup truck. It was a construction rig he used on his job and he saw we were doing a car wash, so he thought, “Why not?” The girls and I scrubbed as hard as we could and rinsed it real good trying to make sure we got as much of it as clean as we possibly could. However, no matter how hard we tried there were places on that pickup that just would not come clean. They were not dirty but rather they were where someone had spilled oil or gasoline on the paint and no matter how hard we scrubbed, the oil spot would still be evident. He chuckled when I remarked to him, “The past sins of your work have found you out.” That’s the way it is when we try to hide our sins or when we try to ignore them. We cannot wash them away ourselves or try to paint over them, only Jesus’ sacrifice cleanses us completely. If we sin, we must remember that any sin is sin and will be judged by God!

So, what’s the answer? If any sin is sin and will be judged by God, how do we escape being judged? Do we keep on sinning; hoping God will look the other way? Do we every day and every way try to get better and better? Do we use the same excuse the foolish fisherman did who was in a leaking boat, ignore the holes and water gushing in, but kept madly rowing for shore, yelling, “I’m paddling as hard as I can!”? James writes that the judged life realizes that…

II. If we do not want to be judged as a sinner, we should follow the Lord! (Vv. 12-13)

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment! (James 2:12-13 NIV)

  1. We do not like it when we are asked to do something we do not want to do, but this should not be the case for the Christian who loves the Lord and is asked to follow him! It should be a delight and joy because we know that God only has the best planned for our lives if we simply follow his lead! God told the prophet Jeremiah, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV) We try so hard to outguess God when it comes to what he has in store for our lives, thinking that we know so much better than the one who created us in the first place! What utter arrogance! He has told us over and over, “my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways!” (Isaiah 55:8) and we forget that God continued by promising that if his people obeyed him and followed him that “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands!” (Isaiah 55:12 NIV) Wow! Now I do not know about you, but if God describes the promise of following him in this way, don’t you think it is worthwhile to do so? Perhaps you have forgotten that “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved!” (Ephesians 2:4-5 NIV) James had not forgotten. This is why he reminds us to “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom”! However, we should not, as Paul reminds us, use our “freedom to indulge the sinful nature”! (Galatians 5:13) We should love God so much that our lives reflect whom we follow. We are to abide in Christ; follow him so much that we might escape the corruption of this world! (2 Peter 1:4) Peter would encourage that it is “For this very reason” we as Christians should “make every effort to add to (our) faith goodness… knowledge… self-control… perseverance… godliness… brotherly kindness; and… love.” Peter knew “if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:5-8 NIV) Consistent obedience is required if spiritual maturity is to be attained! We are judged by God and “judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.” Yet, the wonderful truth is that God’s “Mercy triumphs over judgment!” If we do not want to be judged as a sinner, we should follow the Lord!

  EXAMPLE: Books on leadership often appear on best-seller lists. Most of them tell how to become a powerful and effective leader. But Henri Nouwen’s book “In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership” is written from a different perspective. The former university professor who spent many years serving in a community of developmentally disabled adults says: “The question is not: How many people take you seriously? How much are you going to accomplish? Can you show some results? But: Are you in love with Jesus?” There’s the real question that often goes unanswered. If we do not want others around us judging our faith; if we do not want to be judged as a sinner, we should follow the Lord!

Conclusion:

James teaches us very succinctly that any sin is sin and it will be judged! If we do not want to be judged as a sinner, we should follow the Lord!

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.