EQUAL WITH GOD – John 5:15-18

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“Tattletale! . . . Tattletale!”

Can you remember hearing those words as a child?  Were those words directed at you because of something you did?  Have you ever spoken those words to others because of what they did to you?  In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, a tattletale is a child who goes to an adult (parent, teacher, etc.) and tells the adult that you are doing something that you are not supposed to be doing.  It’s called “tattling” and the person who does it is a “tattletale”.  (Other similar words include a “blabber”, “rat”, “fink”, “stoolie”, “snitch”, and the list goes on).

In the previous passage of Scripture, John 5:1-13, Jesus healed a man at the pool of Bethesda,  This man had been sick and weak for 38 years.   He didn’t know who Jesus was, and couldn’t give an answer to the Jewish leaders when they asked.  Jesus later, in verse 14,  found him in the temple and admonished him not to sin anymore or something worse might happen to him.  Now this man knows that the One who healed him is Jesus.

I.  THE HEALER IS REVEALED (verse 15)

The narrative continues in verse 15.  “The man went away, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.”  The first words that came to my mind after I read that verse were, “Tattletale, tattletale”!  After all that Jesus did for him by healing him, and now he’s going to “rat on Him”, getting Him into trouble with the Jews.   What’s the matter with this guy?  Is that any way to treat your Healer?

Actually, that was not the man’s intent at all.  The leaders of his people had asked him a question that he couldn’t answer:  the identity of his Healer.  Once he found out, he told the leaders the answer to their question out of respect for them, thinking that they would want to rejoice and give praise to Jesus also.   Jesus had not warned this man not to say anything to them because it was the time for the Lord Jesus to reveal Himself more fully to the Jews.  The tension is going to be growing.

II.  THIER ANGER IS REDIRECTED (verse 16)

In response to the healed man’s words, verse 16 says, “And for this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath.”  Now they have the real culprit to deal with.  I find it significant that the healed man tried to direct their focus away from their Sabbath laws and onto his miraculous healing and the one who healed him.  However, they direct their attention away from the amazing miracle Jesus performed and back to the violation of their Sabbath laws.  It’s as the saying goes, “Don’t confuse us with facts; our minds are made up!”.  The healed man’s “reality check” was unsuccessful.  We don’t find them objecting to the healing itself – just the day on which it was done.  The Jewish leaders were living in a world of their own:  a world darkened by their own laws.  It says that they were “persecuting” Jesus.  This persecution involved making false accusations and spreading vicious rumors in order to attack His character and ruin His popularity.  I guess you could call that a form of tattling also:  they were spreading gossip about Him.  That’s just the beginning of their attacks.  In their minds, no one was going to get in the way of their laws and their control over the social and spiritual traditions of their people.  At this point the leaders of the Jews don’t appear to have a clear knowledge of Jesus’ claims, but after Jesus responds to them, their understanding becomes clearer and their hatred of Him increases.

III.  JESUS’ REPLY (verse 17)

The Lord Jesus replies to them, in verse 17, with a simple statement that is packed with meaning.  But He answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.”   God only rested once, and that was from His work of creation only.  You might say that He stepped back for a short time to enjoy it, while at the same time keeping everything else going, so to speak.  God gave us the Sabbath as a day of rest for us, not for Him.  God is always working.  The Scriptures give us many examples of the work that God does on a continuing basis.  In Deuteronomy 11:12, speaking about the promised land, Moses says, “a land for which the Lord your God cares;  the eyes of the Lord your God are always on it, from the beginning even to the end of the year.”  Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning. . . “.  Add to those verses Zephaniah 3:5, Romans 8:34 and many others.  God is always there.  He always sees, always hears, always knows, and always cares.  It’s a 24/7 responsibility.  God never sleeps (Ps. 121:4)

The Jews would have to agree with the first half of Jesus’ statement:  “God is always working”.  Can you imagine what it would be like if God took a day off every week?  Everyone and everything would fall apart or disappear.  He would have to create all over again!

To give you an inkling of how terrifying this would be, imagine that all medical personnel and all medical facilities and pharmacies took the Sabbath day off  every week.  No ambulances, no emergency rooms, no urgent care, nothing.  Wouldn’t that be frightening?  I wouldn’t want to leave my house on that day!  Now imagine if everyone everywhere took the Sabbath day off and did no work.  There would be no stores open, no public transportation, no gas, no electricity, no food, nothing.  Thank God their laws weren’t carried out to the fullest extent then or now!

I don’t think the Jewish leaders could put up an argument about the fact that God is always working.  but when the Lord Jesus says, “And I Myself am working”, they became enraged. The Tehillim should have come to their minds when Jesus said those words.  The Tehillim is the Book of Praises (The Psalms).  When Jesus said those words, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working”, I think there was a pause in the middle.  “My Father is working until now . . . and I Myself am working.”   If His accusers would have given thought to the first half of Jesus reply, the Book of Journeys should have come to their minds (Psalm 121).  It speaks of the journey of the nation of Israel to the Promised Land, and the journey of each individual through life.  It is a psalm of David and is called “A Song of Ascents”.  Here are the first four verses to that Psalm        

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From whence shall my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep
.

The Psalm goes on to say that God is their Keeper, their Shade, their Protector and their Guard.  God the Father was always there with them, 24/7, working constantly for their good; and Jesus was there right along with Him!  In their pride and legalism, the Jews completely overlooked the love and concern that prompted Jesus’ answer to them.  They’ve been reciting and singing that psalm for a thousand years, yet sadly, they refused to honor the One who fits the description.  The author of that Psalm, King David, would probably have fallen with his face to the ground after hearing those words from the mouth of the Lord Jesus.

IV.  FROM PERSECUTION TO EXECUTION (verse 18)

In verse 18 we see that the Jews are turning up the heat on the Lord Jesus.  “For this cause therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He was not only breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.”  Now the intent of the Jews is not just a “smear campaign”; it has also become a “death warrant”.  Not only has the Lord Jesus broken their Sabbath laws, but He has dared to claim that He is their Messiah!  In their minds, that is a death sentence.

Let’s look at this situation from a logical point of view.  At the pool of Bethesda, Jesus had performed a miracle that only God could accomplish.  A man who was helpless and without strength for 38 years had his condition reversed instantly by the command of Jesus.  When the leaders of the Jews met this man at the temple, they didn’t even question the miracle because they couldn’t refute it.  Doesn’t it seem logical to you that they should have given Jesus the benefit of the doubt concerning HIs claim until they could find proof that would undeniably refute it?  Just a few minutes earlier they were looking at proof that undeniably affirmed it!

In the late 1800’s a man by the name of Lew Wallace wrote a book that became a best seller, and many years later it was made into a movie which is considered to be one of the best movies of all time.  The book’s name is “Ben Hur”.  Maybe you’ve read the book or seen the movie.  It weaves the true story of Jesus Christ with that of a fictional young Jewish nobleman named Judah Ben-Hur.   As Wallace did his research, studying the Bible and the history and customs of the Jewish people at that time, he came to believe in Jesus Christ.  Wallace said, “I have seen the Nazarene , . . I saw him perform works which no mere man could perform.”  (Our Daily Bread, 4/9/17)

What is your estimate of Jesus Christ?  Have you studied His life and His claims, and have you reviewed the evidence that supports those claims?  Please don’t let personal pride or indifference get in the way of the only relationship that lasts forever, and the only joy that is beyond comparison.

CONCLUSION;

This passage of Scripture demonstrates what legalism can do to people.  Three important principles we can all learn from this incident in the life of Jesus have to do with a proper understanding of legalism and what is needed on our parts in order to avoid legalism in our own lives.  First, my standards, if they go beyond the teachings of the Scriptures, should not go any further than myself.  Secondly, legalism consists, not of having standards which exceed the bounds of Scripture, but of considering those personal standards as being equal to Scripture, and trying to impose them on others.  Thirdly, we’ll avoid legalism if we stay in God’s Word and make it our only guide for living.  You and others around you will be glad you did!

 CONSTRUCTION SITE COMPLETED

The apostle Paul says in I Corinthians 3:10-11, “According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation and another is building upon it.  But let each man be careful how he builds upon it.  For no one can lay a foundation other than the which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”  May your work and your life continue to stand firm on His foundation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

QUESTIONS TO PRAY ABOUT – James 5:13-16a

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James begins this verse by asking, “Is any one of you in trouble?”  Do you think that James is expecting a “no” answer?  Is he using the laws of probability here? Let’s say that James expects at least 5000 people to read or hear this letter. Therefore there must be at least one person who has this “trouble”.  I don’t think so.  James is expecting a positive response.  If that’s true, then why is he asking the question?  Why doesn’t he just tell them to pray when they are troubled? James is asking a “rhetorical question” here, and he uses three of them in verses 13 and 14.

Sometimes a rhetorical question is used to give the recipient a moment to pause and think about it before receiving the answer.  It can be used as a teaching tool.   Since the reader or listener knows that the answer is “yes”, he may be more likely to listen and pay attention to what is said next.  The Lord Jesus used rhetorical questions.  In Mark 8 He used them repeatedly for the purpose of encouragement and application.

I.  ARE YOU TROUBLED? (verse 13a)

The Greek word translated “troubled” in the NIV, is the word kakopathei.  It can refer to suffering evil or hardship of any kind.  These Hebrew Christians and their families have been scattered all over Asia Minor because of the persecution, so they are struggling to find jobs, learn a new language and adjust to a different culture.  That can be very frustrating!  James knew that they needed some encouragement and some practical steps to take in order to ease their troubled minds.

Let me translate the Greek word into terms and expressions that we can all identify with.  “Are you feeling down?”  “Are you worried or distressed?”  “Are you having a bad day?”  “Are things just not going your way today?  “Do you feel like you got up on the wrong side of the bed?”  James’ response to his question is:  PRAY.  He doesn’t mean “say a prayer”.  He is encouraging them to go into the presence of God, praise and worship Him, get right with Him, give thanks to Him, and then bring their requests to Him.  By the time they get to their petition, they might find that they don’t have any urgent requests anymore.  They now feel refreshed and have a new perspective on their day.  The focus of attention has moved from their problems to their all-sufficient God.

II.  ARE YOU CHEERFUL?  (verse 13b)

The Greek word translated “cheerful” here means feeling good inside; a joyful spirit that is not dependent upon circumstances.  James says, “when you’re cheerful, sing about it, and don’t sing just any song, sing a psalm – a song of praise to God!”  Let the joy that’s inside come out – don’t keep it to yourself!   The apostle Paul and Silas were singing praises to God at midnight while they were in the Philippian jail (Acts 16:25)!

Many of you have probably enjoyed listening to a large choir as they sang the great hymns of the faith.  But if you’ve ever sung in a choir yourself, you know that singing your heart out with the other choir members after all the hours of practice is an even greater experience of joy and praise to God.  And don’t forget the enjoyment that God is experiencing as He listens to your voices and the expressions of praise from your hearts.  It is a mutually gratifying experience!

Singing played a major role in the history of the people of Israel.  There are several times in the Old Testament when the whole nation of Israel sang together to the Lord.  These occasions probably came to the mind of James as he was writing these words, and also to the minds of his readers and listeners.  The first time was in Exodus 15, when Moses and the children of Israel passed through the Red Sea on dry ground, and the entire Egyptian army drowned when the waters returned to their place.  The first few words of that song are:  “I will sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously!  The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea” (NKJV). Can you imagine what that must have sounded like?  Thousands of people singing it as loud as they could, their faces beaming with joy!  If you read the entire song, you will see that it was more than just a song.  It was a cheer to God, a vocal applause, shouting out to Him in song in response to the great things He has done. When was the last time you gave God a “round of applause” for the things He has done in your life and in the lives of others?  Don’t you think He deserves that kind of a response from our mouths?

When we’re happy we can be a source of cheer and encouragement to others also.  If you’ve been to a football, basketball, or soccer game, and the cheerleaders have you and the rest of the crowd cheering, your team usually plays harder and better.  Your cheers are urging them on and building their confidence. Statistics generally show that more games are won when the team is on its own “home field”, or has the “home court advantage.”

Once, when a great fire broke out at midnight and people thought that all the occupants of the building had been evacuated, way up on the fifth floor a little child was seen crying for help.  Up went a ladder, and soon a fireman was seen ascending to the spot.  As he neared the second story the flames burst in fury from the windows, and the multitude almost despaired of the rescue of the child.  The brave man faltered, and a comrade at the bottom cried out, “Cheer him!”  Cheer upon cheer arose from the crowd.  Up the ladder he went and saved the child, because they cheered him.  When we’re happy, let’s be “cheerleaders” to those around us.

There are several other occasions where the whole nation of Israel sang praises to God.  For example, there is I Chronicles 15 (the return of the Ark of God), and II Chronicles 5 (dedication of the temple).  In addition to these occasions, James remembers the final Passover meal that he and the other disciples celebrated with the Lord Jesus.  Since Jesus presided over the meal, after they had eaten the lamb and unleavened bread, it was Jesus who also led them in the customary singing of a hymn.  Jesus sang a hymn of praise and deliverance from the land of Egypt, knowing that the next day He was going to be that Lamb Who would be sacrificed to pay for the sins of the world.  Yet He was able to sing for joy!  I hope and pray that there is a song in your heart, and on your lips today!

III.  ARE YOU WITHOUT STRENGTH?  (verses 14-16)

Another time for specific prayer is when someone within the congregation is sick. I believe this is the only place in the New Testament where praying and anointing of the sick are mentioned in conjunction with each other.  Therefore we must be very careful to understand the context of James’ words, and especially to understand the meaning of the Greek words that are used in these verses. This is not a passage of Scripture that can be clearly understood by just reading it in several translations.  Rather, I think that this is a passage of Scripture that can be easily misunderstood and misapplied if it isn’t thoroughly examined.  Get ready for some hard work and attention to details!

After examining the context of verses 14 to 16, and in the process of studying the first significant Greek word in verse 14, I am getting an altogether different understanding of what is happening in these three verses.  Please join me in laying aside previous ideas and conclusions for a while, and let’s take a fresh look at this text and its applications to us today.

Here are some questions I’ve been asking myself as I look at the context.  James has been addressing emotional, social, and spiritual issues in this letter.  Why would he suddenly switch to physical healing in an unclear manner and then back away from it as suddenly as he brought it up?  What does anointing with oil, confession of sin, and forgiveness have to do with sickness?  What kind of “healing” is being spoken about here?

The first Greek word I am now studying is the word asthenei.  It is the word I have highlighted in the NASB translation of the first sentence in James 5:14:  “Is anyone among you sick?  It literally means, “without strength”.  In Mark 6:13 it is associated with the casting out of demons. The apostle Paul used this Greek word when referring to one’s conscience being weak (Romans 6:19; I Cor. 8:7), and the weakness of one’s flesh when it comes to giving into temptation and sin (Romans 8:3).

Notice also in verse 14, it says, “is any one among you sick, let him call for the elders . . . “.  Whatever this “sickness”  or “lack of strength” is, it isn’t incapacitating and it doesn’t appear to be physically contagious.  Also, since he is the one calling upon the elders, his specific purpose for doing so is so that they might pray for him, anointing him with oil as they pray.    This person has come to the point where he wants to make it known that he is ready and willing to do this, and wants the elders of the church to be in charge of it.  If it seems that I am belaboring the point, there is a reason for it.

I like the way the Greek Interlinear New Testament literally translates what the elders are doing:  “let them pray over him, having anointed with oil . . . “.  The  word “anointed” here means “to rub”.  It is a different word from the one used to anoint people or vessels for service to God.  Here is my interpretation based on the context of what James dealt with before it, and what proceeds afterward. As we all may know from experience, many of the issues that James has been addressing (e.g. anger, jealousy, bitterness, guilt, and anxiety) can have overpowering effects on us mentally, emotionally, spiritually, socially, and also physically.  They can draw us inward and control our personalities much like the effects of a harmful addictive drug.  Therefore I personally wonder if the elders were giving this man something similar to massage therapy and aroma therapy to soothe and comfort him in his anguish.   At the same time they were praying over him, so that he might get some things that have been bothering him “off his chest” so to speak.  The penetrating oil, the soothing aroma, the faces of these elders above him, and the sound of their prayers are preparing him to release the troubles and sins that have been eating away at his soul.  It is done in the name of the Lord, because God deserves the glory and praise for what only He can do.

In verse 15, James says, “and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick” (NASB).  The word translated “prayer” is a different Greek word for prayer.  It is the Greek word euche, which means “intense prayer“.  It is intense because it is offered in faith – grounded in the assurance of God’s will in this matter, and trusting in His enabling.  It may also be “intense” because these elders are praying together for a common purpose.  The following devotional article in Our Daily Bread is a true example of intense faith and intense prayer.

Louis Banks relates a story of a veteran missionary who returned to China after a long absence.  On the day of his return, he was met by a former convert and six other Chinese nationals.  These six, as the missionary later learned, had received Christ while living in the dark shadows of opium addiction.  Amazed by their good health, the missionary asked his former convert what remedy he had used in their deliverance.  The man answered by pointing to his knees.  He had prayed for them, and when they came to him for help he encouraged them to pray for themselves.  When they came back saying that it did them no good, the man of faith sent them back to their knees.  He said he did this again and again until they stood before him clean, sound in body and mind.  Through prayer, their cruel chains had been broken, and they had new songs of joy and praise on their lips.

Dr. M.R. DeHaan II, ends his devotional with these words:  “This doesn’t imply that we shouldn’t use other means of help.  But it says that whatever help we seek, nothing must replace the role of prayer.”

As James says in verse 15, “the prayer of faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up.”  (NASB)  God has given each of us a body, soul, and spirit, and when one of these aspects of our being is weak and hurting, it affects the other two.  From this verse and verse 16, it appears that the source of the weakness is spiritual, but it has weakened the body and emotions as well.  When God “raises him up”, He is restoring vitality to every part of his being.

So James exhorts them in verse 16 to “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (NIV).  He is emphasizing that the sins they have been committing against each other are the source of their problems, and gives the remedy.  As Jews, his readers would tend to associate suffering with sin, and in this case they are correct.  The remedy is not only to confess their sins to God, but also to confess their sins to those whom they have wronged, praying for each other as well.  Only then can our relationships be healed.  As Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount, “. , , first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering” (Matthew 5:24).

Confession isn’t easy, but it’s the right thing to do in God’s sight.  God will always give us the strength to do what is right if we ask it of Him.  Is there someone you should talk to today, confessing your sin and asking for forgiveness?  The first stanza of the hymn entitled “The Evening Prayer” contains these words:

If I have wounded any soul today,

If I have caused one foot to go astray,

If I have walked in my own willful way,

Dear Lord, forgive

by Maude Battersby

 

May you experience the joy of our Lord’s presence and closeness today, and may He shine out on your countenances as He did on the face of Moses!  BE SHINY!  (Matthew 5:16 – a child’s paraphrase).

 

 

 

 

ON THE WARPATH AGAINST CONFLICTS – James 4:1-10

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INTRODUCTION:

Can you remember a time, or times, when your parents were really upset about something you did or said?  Can you remember words being said to you in anger?  Words like:  “How could you do such a thing?”;  “What’s the matter with you?”;  “You know better than that!”;  “Now listen to me!”;  “I want you to say you’re sorry!”;  “Don’t you ever do that again!”.  Do those words bring back memories?  Didn’t those words make you hang your head in shame?  Didn’t you want to go to your room or find a corner somewhere and cry?  The fact that you remember those words is evidence that they made a lasting impression on you, and that’s what they were intended to do.  We often call that “scolding”.  If you can’t ever remember hearing those words, or words similar to that, you must have been a much more well-behaved child than myself!

Why am I bringing those words back to your minds?  Because the apostle James, the writer of this letter, has some “scolding” to do!  You are going to find some similar questions and statements in this passage of Scripture because he is very angry.  And this won’t be the last time he does some scolding to the churches addressed in this letter, and for good reasons!  When I was a kid we used to say that a person was “on the warpath” when they were really angry about something, and were venting their anger at others.

I encourage you to read James chapter 4 several times slowly.  Read it as if you were the apostle James, and you were scolding the churches for their sinful behavior.  Then read it slowly again, as if you were a member of one of the churches, and you just received a copy of this letter from James.  You might even want to read it outloud, as if you were the parent, scolding your children!  Put some feeling and emotion into it!  If you have children, don’t say it within ear-shot of them.  They might think you’re talking to them!

You’re probably familiar with this verse of Scripture:  “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brethren dwell together in unity” (Psalm 133:1).  And how bad and unpleasant it is when they don’t!  Wouldn’t’ you agree?

Remember that this letter was written by James to groups of Christians who were scattered throughout the surrounding nations because of the persecution.  He knows that this letter will be read aloud at the church gathering.  Then it will be copied and sent to other scattered groups of believers, where it will also be read aloud.  The Spirit of God is not only telling James what to say, but also how to say it.  So James isn’t just writing a letter.   He’s preaching a sermon!  You may want to take notes as James continues to reprove and correct.

I.  CONFLICTS WITH OTHERS:  THEIR SOURCE AND REMEDY (verses 1-3)

James begins by asking a question:  “What causes fights and quarrels among you?” (NIV)  He wants his readers to think about it for a second.  Then he answers his question with a rhetorical question:  “Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?”(NIV)  James is saying, “doesn’t that make sense?”, or “wouldn’t you agree”?  He wants them to think it over and be honest with themselves.  He wants them to be true to the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Jesus said, in Matthew 5, that sin begins in the heart, and He exhorted people to love one another, be reconciled to one another, and serve one another unselfishly.  The recipients of this letter know these things!  That’s why James is reminding them so strongly!

James is saying, in verse one, “the desires that battle within you”.  That’s where it starts, isn’t it?  Our selfish desires are battling inside us, seeking a way to express themselves outwardly to the world around us.  If those desires aren’t met the way we want them to be met, others are going to hear about it and suffer for it!  James uses words of warfare here; words like:  “quarrel”, “fight”, “kill”, “battle”.   But in the context of his letter, it’s obvious that James isn’t talking about punching and stabbing people, or putting them to death.  He’s talking about the way we use our words to destroy people’s reputations or get even with them.  If you don’t believe that words can kill, you’ve probably never been in a heated argument that has lasted for hours, and has had lasting results for days, weeks, months, and even years.

Here in the United States we have a sharp increase in such activity every four years.  It’s called an “election year”!  And we’re in one right now!  Turn on the news on your TV or radio and you’ll see and hear what I mean!  This activity also goes on in workplaces, schools, public places, and homes where people are trying to promote the “candidate of their choice”.  Sorry, my purpose is not to “get political”, but to give a “down to earth” illustration that we can relate to.

James now gives the solution to this belligerant activity.   At the end of verse 2, he says,  “You do not have because you do not ask God.” (NIV)  But don’t stop there!  The rest of the solution is found in verse 3:  “When you ask,you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”(NIV)

Irving Jensen, in his “Self-Study Guide on James”, asks us to think about the logic of James’ words in 4:1-3:

a.  What you really need, you may have.

b.  You may have what you need by asking for it aright (or rightly).

c.  Wars and fightings, waged in order to get, are therefore unnecessary.

The Epistle of James is closely related to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  When Jesus’ disciples asked Him:  “Teach us to pray”, He gave them principles of prayer in Matthew 6:9-13.  It is often referred to as “The Lord’s Prayer”.  I often wondered why Jesus didn’t include prayer for others when He gave these instructions.  Now I realize that this focus on others was there all along.  Jesus  begins by saying, ” Our Father”.  I’m not an “only child”, and neither are you!  Through faith in Jesus Christ, we are all members of God’s family.  We are brothers and sisters in Christ.  When we approach “our” Father, let’s be reminded of “the rest of the family”, and include them in our prayers.

The Lord Jesus also said “give us this day our daily bread”, not “give me this day my every desire“.  Bible scholar, William Barclay, in his commentary on Matthew’s Gospel, had these words to say about this verse;  “The problem of the world is not that there is not enough to go around; there is enough and to spare.  The problem is not the supply of life’s essentials; it is the distribution of them.  This prayer teaches us never to be selfish in our prayers. It is a prayer which we can help God to answer by giving to others who are less fortunate than ourselves.  This prayer is not only a prayer that we may receive our daily bread; it is also a prayer that we may share our daily bread with others.”

This may seem like a side-track, but I think you’re beginning to see how this information relates to what James has to say in verses 2 and 3 of chapter 4.  On this subject of prayer, there is much to be learned from little children because their prayers are often so honest and free from hypocrisy.  The following is one example.  A little boy had the habit of sucking his thumb and was told he must stop.  One evening in his bedtime prayer he was heard to say, “O God, help me to stop sucking my thumb.”  After a pause, he continued, “Never mind, God, because I don’t want to stop sucking my thumb!”  How’s that for being honest to God in prayer?  How often have we prayed to God for something, but we didn’t really want God to answer our prayer, at least not the way we prayed it.  That can be especially true when we  are praying outloud in the presence of others.  God is not going to answer our prayers if we don’t mean them, or if we are trying to impress others by our prayers.

Little children can also have a very simple and keen sense of logic when dealing with problems.  A farmer whose barns were full of grain which he was holding for a rise in prices, was accustomed to pray for the poor and needy, and constantly repeated his petition, “Oh God, remember the poor and needy and supply their wants and needs.”  But he never offered them any help himself.  He expected God to do it all.  One day, after hearing his father pray, his little son said to him, “Daddy, may I have half of your corn in the barns?”  Astonished, the father replied, “Why my son, what would YOU do with all that corn?”  The boy replied, “I would answer your prayers!”  (Our Daily Bread 12/20/1958)

II.  AT WAR AGAINST GOD (verses 4-6)

Here comes the scolding again in verse 4!  “Adultresses!  Don’t you know that friendship with the world is enmity with God!”  That’s the literal translation!  If somebody called you an adultress, wouldn’t  you feel like smacking that person for saying it?  James is writing to men and women, so why does he use the feminine form of the word?  His readers know the reason!  This isn’t the first time this word has been used, and several Hebrew words and phrases came to their minds immediately.  Most of the readers or hearers of this letter were Jews that had become Christians.  They were educated in the Law of Moses and the Prophets ever since childhood, and the words of the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Hosea came to mind (specifically, Isaiah 54, Jeremiah 31, Ezekiel 16, and Hosea 2).  In Isaiah 54:5-7, Isaiah says to the nation of Israel:  “Your maker is your husband, the Lord Almighty is his name . . . “.  In Ezekiel 16 God says to Jerusalem:  “You adulterous wife . . . you prostitute!”

In spite of these prophesies, God’s people continued to worship and serve other gods.  Finally, in Hosea, God gives them a visual aid!  He tells Hosea, in chapter 1, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children by her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.”  So you can see why the Hebrew Christians addressed in James’ letter knew exactly what James meant when he said, “You adultresses!”  Not only that, but the apostle Paul in Ephesians 5, and the apostle John in Revelation 19 and 21, declare that the Church is the bride of Christ.  Therefore, to pursue the world’s sinful pleasures is to commit adultery against our Husband, the Lord Jesus Christ

Let me write the rest of verse four again in “scolding-mode”:  “You know that friendship with the world means enmity against God, don’t you?”  James is saying:  “You know better than that!”

I asked myself this question, and you should ask yourself the same question also:  “What does it mean to be a ‘friend of the world’?”  When we determine the answer to that question, there is a second question you and I need to ask ourselves:  “Am I a friend of the world”?

In attempting to answer the first question, the word translated “friendship”, in verse 4, is the Greek word “philos”.  The word acturally means “love”.  It is the love you would have for a close friend, someone you enjoy being around, and with whom you share much in common.  The word translated “world” is the Greek word “kosmos”.  We often use that word to speak of the universe.  However, James uses “kosmos” to refer to the human world system that is self-seeking and in rebellion against God.  And who is the “lord” of this world?  It is Satan, the devil!  And his goal and efforts are directed toward getting people to exalt themselves and become jealous of others (John 8:44; II Corinthians 4:4).  Bingo!  Now we see all the elements involved in these conflicts!  James is going to address that in verse 7.  So to be a friend of the world, the “kosmos”, is also to be a friend of Satan, helping him to accomplish his objectives in your life and in the world!

More will be coming soon!  Are you becoming convicted by God’s Word?  I am! James gives some remedies to this situation.  They are just a few verses away!

This “work in progress” is progressing slowly but surely!  I’m showing you each step of the construction process in the hope that it might encourage you to work on your own right along with me.  I’m noticing that this sermon is really getting long, and I’m only on verse 4!  So I’m going to start a James 4:1-10 (Continued) sermon, and I’ll see you there next time.  Same sermon, different page!

The foundation for this passage of Scripture has been laid and some of the structure has been built.  Keep your hard hats on because there could be some more dust falling from above!  More reproof and correction are still on the way!

 

 

 

THE RESULTS FROM EXERCISING HEAVENLY WISDOM – James 3:18

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INTRODUCTION:

Over the past three months we have examined each of the qualities of heavenly wisdom in detail.  I hope that it has been a learning and growing experience for you also.  We have already studied the devastating results that are produced by the exercise of human wisdom.  As verse 16 explains, “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” (NIV)  Here in verse 18, the apostle James now summarizes the results that occur when heavenly wisdom is exercised.  He describes these results in one short, compact sentence:  “Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (NKJV version).

I.  THE ONES WHO SOW

I especially like the NIV translation for this verse of Scripture because it seems to me that it brings out the intent of the writer very clearly.  It reads:  “Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.”  The ones who sow are the peacemakers.  James uses the word “peace” here to refer to the right relationship between man and man, not between man and God.  But how can we have real outward peace with others if we do not have an inward peace with God?

James wants peace in the church and among the believers in it.  He knows that peace is the only environment in which righteousness can flourish.  The wisdom of this world produces trouble, whereas the wisdom from above produces peace among men.

God hates a troublemaker.  Proverbs 6:16-19 says:  “These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:  A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren.”  God opposes church splits and discord among the brethren.  But God loves a peacemaker.  Matthew 5:9 says:  Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.”

II.  THE PROCESS

But peacemaking is not easy.  The Revised Standard Version translates James 3:18 in this way:  “And the harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”  It is the peacemaker who sows the seeds of peace, and that isn’t an easy job.  You have to work hard to cultivate peace.  Do fruit and grain grow up by themselves and take care of themselves?  Do they produce an abundant harvest all by themselves?  No!  Ask any farmer!  There is a lot of work involved.  There’s the cultivation of the ground, adding fertilizer, sowing the seeds or planting seedlings, watering, weeding or spraying weeds, pruning, waiting, hoping, praying.  Just because you’re a Christian doesn’t mean you automatically get along with others and never have conflicts.  As individuals, and as churches, we need to work hard to cultivate peace with one another, listen to one another, express appreciation for one another, show kindness to one another, and settle arguments peaceably.  The following illustration is just one example of the peacemaking process:

The small town of Umbarger, Texas, was an unlikely place for an international work of art. But toward the end of World War II, seven Italian prisoners of war, who were being held at a large camp nearby, were chosen to decorate the church’s plain brick walls.  The prisoners were reluctant to aid their captors, but they agreed on the condition that their efforts be considered a contribution toward Christian brotherhood and understanding.  But as they worked on their paintings and a woodcarving of the Last Supper, one of the POW’s later recalled, “A spontaneous stream of good feelings began almost at once to flow among us.  No one spoke of the war or the past because ‘we were here for a work of peace and love’.”  (Our Daily Bread, Nov. 8, 2011)

In II Timothy 2:24-25, Paul writes to the young pastor Timothy, encouraging him to be gentle and patient when relating to others.  The following are Paul’s words:  “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.  Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth.”

I’ve taught each of the evidences of wisdom from above one quality at a time. Now let’s put them all together.  James 3:17 says:  “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure, then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, and sincere.” (NIV)  A person who possesses these qualities will be a peacemaker.  Wouldn’t you agree?  So if you truly want to be the peacemaker that God wants you to be, focus on these qualities and work at developing them in your life, by God’s enabling and for His glory,

III.  THE RESULTS

As a result of our peacemaking efforts done by the grace of God, we will reap a harvest of God’s blessing in our lives and in the lives of others.  God’s righteousness and justice will also be evident and appeciated.  Let’s ask the Lord to use us as His peacemakers so that He might be glorified, and we might be a source of joy to others.

When I was a child in Catholic school, my whole class memorized  a prayer by Francis of Assisi.  I imagine that many of you have read this prayer before, but this time let’s read it slowly and make up our minds that, by the grace of God, we will put these words into practice in our relationships with others, whether we like those people or not.  If so, we will begin to reverse the divisive and hurtful effects of man’s wisdom in our communities today.  Here is a portion of that prayer:

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.  Where there is hatred, let me show love;  where there is injury, pardon;  where is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope;  where there is darkness, light;  where there is sadness, joy;  O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;  to seek to be understood, as to understand; to seek to be loved, as to love . . . ”

May the Lord bless you, and as a peacemaker, may you be a source of blessing and joy to others!

 

 

 

 

TRUE WISDOM IS PEACEABLE James 3:17

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“Peaceable” is not a word that’s used much in our vocabulary.  I don’t use it, other than the phrase, “Let’s get peaceable about it!”  Some other translations use the words “peace-loving”.  The Greek word “eirenike” is only used here and in Hebrews 11:12 in the New Testament.   The word means “composed”, “tranquil”, and speaks of one who is at peace with God and seeks to be at peace with others.  We can’t be at peace with God and at peace with others unless we have a pure heart.  No wonder James says that wisdom is “first pure”.

The apostle Paul says in Romans 12:18, “If possible, on your part, be at peace with all men.”  In Romans 14:19 he says, “So then, we must pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another.”  When you were growing up, did you ever get into an argument with your siblings, or with other children at church, at school, or in the neighborhood?  Sure you did!  And do you still remember the famous words, “he started it” or “she started it”?  Is your mind a little foggy right now?  Mine is!  It’s interesting to note the things we remember from our childhood and things we forget!

Can you remember your father or mother stopping a quarrel between siblings and saying, “We’re family!”  “That’s your brother, (or sister, or cousin).”  I want you to apologize to one another and say you’re sorry.”  There would be tearful apologies and hugs, and things would be better for a while.   It wouldn’t get so far out of hand again because as you looked at each other, those words would come back to your mind:  “You’re family”.

Fighting is not something we naturally outgrow when we become adults, is it?  As adults and as Christians, we probably don’t punch, kick, shove, bite, or pull hair anymore, but we still have our own arenas and tactics.  Dr. M.R. DeHaan of the Radio Bible Class ministries wrote a devotional on this subject in Our Daily Bread.  The following is part of what he shared.  “How many times has it happened?  You walk away from an argument on the subject of holiness, realizing that you’ve been sinning like crazy.  As you think back, you wonder what it must have looked like to God.  Remember the way it started?  You were sitting around the coffee pot with your Christian friends.  The discussion moved from cars, to churches, to the sovereignty of God.  You love a good lively challenge, so when your doctrinal sparring partner let down his guard, or punched a little too hard, you jumped in for the friendly kill.  For some reason the Scripture you used to support your argument just bounced off his head.  A few more verses were tossed back from his direction.  You claimed they were thrown so badly you didn’t even feel their impact.  Then you began to get a little uneasy.  It soon became apparent that you were no longer testing ideas.  The friendly difference of opinion had turned into a struggle that was now being waged with voice tones, inflections, and gestures.”  He concludes by saying, “When will we learn that knowledge must be accompanied by wisdom?  When will we stop using the doctrines of God as ammunition for our own egos?  When will we allow His Word to make us pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated?”

On a positive note, Proverbs 17:27 says, in the New American Standard Bible, “He who restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.”  I like the word “cool” there.  It brings these words to my mind:  “refreshing”, “soothing”, “pleasant”, “a welcome relief”.  Are there people you like to be around because they make you feel at ease?  They are interested in you and like to listen to you and interact with you.  They accept you the way you are and aren’t trying to impress you?  Do you walk away from the conversation refreshed and renewed?  I hope you have people like that in your life.  I also hope that you are that kind of a person yourself, or you are taking steps to become more of a source of refreshment and encouragement to others.  The Lord Jesus called those “blessed”(happy, joyful) who are peacemakers (Matthew 5:9).

My next message is about the word “gentle” in verse 17.  “Be cool!”  Please come again soon!