James 4 Part 2–Don’t Lie, Judge or Think You Have It All Together

James gets to the heart of Life. Christians need not lie about each other, judge each other or take life for granted. All those traits represent personal pridefulness. If one starts gossiping and telling lies about another,  to somehow improve their own image; they are simply replacing God and His view with a prideful and selfish view of their own. The same is true when people start judging each other. It is so fun and gratifying to look at another in their personal circumstances and cast judgment on who they are or what they have or should have done.   Truth is, no one has a right to judge another. God controls circumstance and allows things to occur in the lives of folks without explanation or reason.  Look at Joseph, Moses, David or Job and see that there is no way for those men to understand their life path from where they were.  We can see it thousands of years later–but, while they were in the midst of it–for them it was inexplicable.  Job’s friends judged him and told him everything he did wrong–and it almost cost them their lives.  We are not called to judge, we are called to love and minister to folks right where they are.
 
Finally, we need not be proud of our own path or destiny. Many have fallen from great distances in life never understanding why or how to recover. So, when one smugly says to himself that he has a plan and intends to execute it to the letter–It is simply a form of pride. God tells us to trust and follow Him. If we will He will give us a purposeful and meaningful life. No promise of riches, no promise of ease. He simply promises to love us and walk through whatever trial with us. That is itself the greatest gift. We must not presuppose we have life figured out. We are one Dr. Appt, one job loss, one wayward child away from our lives being turned upside down. God encourages us to trust Him and follow Him.  He has a plan for us and it is a plan to sanctify us and make us eternally focused and spirit-filled. Help me Lord to simply trust and follow you.
 
God Bless You

Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister[d] or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?

Boasting About Tomorrow

13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

James 4 Part 1–Friendship With the World Means Enmity With God

It simply will never work, Since man’s fall in the garden, the stark choice has always been who will be Lord of your life. Sadly, most times, men have chosen to make themselves the Lord’s of their lives. Oh, sure they may but a thin veil of spirituality over it, but in the end, people either choose to serve God or serve themselves. History has repeatedly reminded us that when men serve God, they have a life of purpose and order. Those that have chosen to follow God have left legacies that still shine long past their short time on earth.  Conversely, those that have been so captivated by themselves, have died alone and without honor or love. 
 
James is clear, God honors those that humbly follow His lead. When we take the lead in our life, we devolve into a confused and chaotic mess.  When we stand for the Lord and submit to his lead, we experience peace and purpose. Allowing our Creator, Redeemer, and Lord to run our lives is the easiest way to experience the most we could ever hope or dream.  It is not that God makes it easy, it is that God knows His plan to give us a full and meaningful life. We must trust the Lord to execute that plan–even when it seems hopeless.  We can never succumb to the world’s lies and deceit. We must follow Christ’s words, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” Matt 6:33.  Humility and grace will fill our lives with meaning and purpose. Trusting the world will fill us with hopelessness and defeat.  Choose this day whom you will serve…
 
God Bless You

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

You adulterous people,[a] don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us[b]But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”[c]

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

James 3 Part 2–God’s Wisdom Brings Change

There is a major difference between being smart and being wise.  James took the time to make the distinction.  James wanted to clarify that wisdom provides more than an understanding of facts and formulas. Wisdom was a gift that produced life change.  As James looked through his community, those that had wisdom were very noticeable–because they lived great lives. People that were smart (earthly wisdom) behaved selfishly and had chaotic lives. They displayed all the characteristics of a selfish fool. In the end, they were miserable, lost and alone. They found that all of the gains they made in life were for nothing–hollow and meaningless.
 
Conversely, seeking God’s wisdom quickly showed up in one’s lifestyle. Selfless, peaceful, considerate and fruitful lives were the hallmark of the wise.  God freely gives wisdom to all who faithfully ask for it. (James 1:5). As we begin to incorporate God’s wisdom into our lives, however, we cannot help but become like Him. Jesus said it best in Matthew 6, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.”  As we seek God and His righteousness we gain wisdom that not only assists us in navigating the troubled waters of this life; but, it also prepares us for the eternity we will spend with the Lord. we cannot help but be a different Godly person. We quickly distinguish ourselves from the world and its chaos. God’s wisdom is pure, it is complete and it is eternal. Seek God and ask for it–James tells us God is glad to share!!!
 
God Bless You

 

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

17 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. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

James 3 Part 1–Watching Our Tongues

James starts to get personal in Chapter 3.  As God’s kids, we do our best to stay away from the “Big Sins”; killing, stealing, and sexual sin. But, James began discussing our tongues. Gossip, berating others, cursing, telling lies, filthy jokes…you get the picture.  God knew from the beginning the devastation caused by our evil use of our mouths. So many lives have been ruined by harsh language and gossip. We can issue a great deal of pain to our spouses and our children by failing to manage our words and our tones.  James tells the people that big ships are controlled by a little rudder–so lives are controlled by the tongue.
 
The tongue can be a source of life or death. God calls us to use our tongues as a source of life.  Earlier, James reminded the people to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry! We are to speak life to people. We encourage, we pray and we share the gospel. We speak the truth in love and always seek ways to use our language to make people better.  There is no need to be harsh, coarse. deceptive or manipulative.  Simply, speak the truth and seek to point people to faith and not from it.  One of the great sadnesses in life is to hear that Christians, by their words, do more to keep people from wanting to know God.  So, as James has so eloquently put it–control your tongue and you will be a superstar to the church!
 
God Bless You

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.

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 body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being 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 human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.

James 2 Part 2–The Product of Our Faith

James deals with the elephant in the middle of the living room…How can one claim to have faith if their life fails to reflect any evidence of that faith?  Growing up, many great evangelists passed through my town and church. They would preach wonderful sermons on the Gospel and Christ’s sacrifice. At the close of the evening, they would present alter calls and ask people to pray the sinner’s prayer requesting Christ to come into their lives and save them. It was a great way to spread the Gospel–many were saved and lives changed.  However, there were also some that were caught up in the emotion and missed the point of the prayer. The prayer was not a call for fire insurance so once prayed that is the end; instead, it is a call for the Lord to enter our lives and begin a relationship with us that transforms us into His image.
 
James is preaching to that point. One cannot truly have a relationship with God and it not impact that person’s life.  As we walk with the Lord, we become different people. We desire to be selfless, we desire to serve God and others. We seek him through prayer, scripture, and fellowship with other believers. It is not that those things “save” us but as new creations, our lives look and run differently.  As His chosen, we are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17).  James is simply saying that our faith is evident through how we live out our lives. We need not be perfect, but, we should be different.  The great news is that God takes us as we are (Romans 5:8). The greater news is that God does the transformation as we seek Him and rely upon Him. (Phil 1:6 and 2:12-13) James is not saying our salvation comes by completing good works, instead, He is saying that our salvation transforms us into people that are different and that becomes evident in how we then live. 
 
God Bless You

 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless[d]21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,”[e] and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

James 2 Part 1–Loving Folks, Baggage and All

It is simply easier to love beautiful people. People that are wealthy, healthy and free of life’s baggage are often given preference and position. Those that struggle with life, with finances and have difficult journeys are often avoided and forgotten in the world.  James says the Church must be different! As a community, the Church must not show favoritism and it must take folks warts and all. That is the example the Lord showed by loving tax collectors and sinners of all sorts, healing the sick, crippled and dead. James is reminding the Church that it is truly our place to love people as they are and never look back. 
 
It is a tall order to simply love folks as they are. People drive us crazy. Their attitudes and actions may be maddening, but then the Church can be a part of seeking to save that which is lost. One simply needs to look at their own lives to realize we all have our own sets of baggage. That is why we must not serve as judges, but instead as a family to those with needs. As we do that, the communities we live in will grow strong and our hearts will grow rich. Selflessness will bring purpose and those touched will then touch others. We are called to be different. As a community, loving each other no matter what will set us apart from the rest of this selfish, biased world!
 
God Bless You

My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old 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?

Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: 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 dishonored 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 blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?

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

James 1 Part 2–God Simply Will Not Tempt His Own, So Live Accordingly

Flip Wilson used to do a bit…”The Devil made me do it!” Amazingly in the world of spiritual warfare, there is a great deal of truth in that statement. What will never be true is the comment “God made me do it.”  Not unlike most parents, James knew that our Heavenly Father would never push the children He loved to separate from Him. Sin separates men from God. So the God of the universe that gave His Son as a sacrifice to restore our relationships would not, in turn, tempt men to sin and separate from Him. James, Jesus’ brother, was a pastor of the church in Jerusalem. He was a later convert, but he was incredibly practical and cared greatly for his people and the Lord. He told them to understand trials and the blessing they can be in one’s life. He next told the folks not to confuse God’s sovereignty with man’s inclination to sin.
 
In addition, James makes clear that one should listen and be slow to anger. As one listens to God’s truth, we need to put that truth into practice.  Doing what God says is so much more critical than simply hearing it. If one can learn God’s word and practice it; we will become complete.  In a world that thrives on Instant this, and impulse that, James reminds us to step back, take a breath, and live as our Lord would.  We are not perfect; thank You, Lord, for Your grace. We must know that If we will listen, respond rather than react, and maintain a peaceful spirit–then God can work through us to effect change in our homes, communities, and world.  Please, Father, help me to realize You are with me and would never seek to tempt me or separate from me. Further, help me to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry!
 
God Bless You

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

Listening and Doing

19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like