Monday, May 17, 2010

James: Living Faith, Waiting and Waiting

James: Living Faith
Waiting and Waiting (James 5:7-12)
May 16, 2010

Like James’ Christian brothers, we suffer. Often suffering results from others’ sin against us, and often it seems unending. But how are we to approach those in our lives who are suffering, and how are we to respond to suffering in our own lives?

Tender Truth
James, like his brother Jesus, speaks the truth in love. Love meets a person in their suffering, and truth leads them out to Jesus. Truth without compassion fails to meet people. Compassion without truth results in empty emotional-jargon that meets people but fails to lead them to Jesus and therefore ultimately fails to be loving.

Waiting and Waiting and Waiting
Be patient. Three times James tenderly reminds his brothers to be patient in the midst of their suffering. Life is in between the “already” and the “not yet.” Like a farmer who awaits the harvest of his crops, the seeds of our salvation in Christ have already been planted. Our hope is secured, and though we have not yet received the harvest, we will see the precious fruit, our greatest treasure, Jesus Christ, if we establish our hearts in perseverance until the end.

Returning the Favor
When we sin, our tendency is to return the favor with sins of retaliation and sins of self-focus. Retaliation fails to leave vengeance to God and instead arrogantly attempts to be God and execute judgment in the place of Jesus. Self-focus ignores Christ’s work and instead attempts to look within for salvation rather than looking out to Jesus, our all-sufficient righteousness, hope and compassionate Savior.

Looking Back and Looking Forward
If you’re a suffering Christian, you’re in good company. Consider the prophets, Job, and ultimately Jesus Christ who stood firm on the promises of God. He is both Sovereign and good, working out all things together for the good of those who are called according to his purpose.

The question is not whether we will suffer, but whether we will suffer well.

May we be a people who remain steadfast and suffer well, like Jesus, for God’s glory and for the joy set before us, when we see the fulfillment of our compassionate and merciful Savior’s great purpose at His return.

James: Living Faith, Wisdom from Heaven

James: Living Faith
Wisdom from Heaven (James 4)
March 21, 2010

Our Greatest Enemy
Pride is our great enemy, taking our eyes off of the treasure of Jesus Christ and the great purpose for which he created and called us, and refocusing on ourselves and our kingdom. Martin Luther rightly said “pride is the mother of all sins,” because every sin from Genesis 3 on begins in a heart that seeks to be god rather than submit to God in humility. Though we are created to find our fullest joy in worshiping God, pride removes God from the picture and worships the god in the mirror. Because pride cannot exist near our Glorious God, it drives us away from God in a suicidal strategy of deafening our ears to rebuke, hardening our hearts to the Holy Spirit, and blinding our eyes to our own sin, giving us a high view of self and a small view of God.

James showed us earlier that the selfish ambition of a bitter jealousy of pride

When Christians embrace the systems and values of worldly kingdom building—boasting in selfish ambition and bitter jealousy to tear others down in an effort to exalt themselves—they are committing spiritual adultery and setting themselves up as enemies of an all-powerful God who opposes the proud.

God graciously calls proud Christians to radical repentance by humbly resisting pride from hell, drawing near to God, repenting of both the actions and the prideful heart from which they flow, and recognizing the weight of their double-minded adultery before their God.

In light of the goodness of God in extending grace to ill-deserving proud, people, James exhorts his brothers to leave the judging to our gracious God and not their own tongues

James: Living Faith, TRUE Religion

James: Living Faith
True Religion (James 1:19-2:13)
February 21, 2010

Two Births, Three Deceptions
James teaches us sin gives birth to death by deceiving us (v15), but God gives birth to living faith of his own good will by the Word of truth (v18). James then warns against three common deceptions of worthless religion, that sin will satisfy and God’s goodness changes with our circumstances (v17), that anger will produce righteousness in ourselves and others (v20, 26), and that simply hearing and knowing the truth without receiving and responding will save us (v22). He goes on to show in contrast what living faith accomplishes.

TRUE Religion
James teaches us true religion (v27)—or living faith in Jesus Christ (2:1):

Tames the tongue
“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart this person’s religion is worthless.” (James 1:26)

“Anger, even when directed against sin, fails to recognize that mere human reproach cannot change another person’s heart, and does not produce the righteousness of God.” (ESV Study Bible)

Reaches the afflicted
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction…” (James 1:27a)

lives Unstained
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:27)

Embraces indiscriminately
“My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory.” (James 2:1)

Although living faith produces good works, we must remember good works do not produce living faith—which comes only from God’s good grace alone (1:18), not our own works or effort. Therefore, we respond to God’s mercy and glory in worship and good works.

March 7, 2010: “Dead Faith” James 2:14-26

James: Living Faith, Life from the Word

James: Living Faith
Life from the Word (James 1:18)
February 14, 2010

Birth of Sin
James explains that temptation comes from our own deceitful desires within, which convince us God is holding back on us. When these desires conceive, they give birth to sin which always brings forth death. James reminds us every good and perfect thing comes from God who never changes like shifting shadows—or our shifting desires—and sin is not from God; therefore, it’s not good. Sin at its root is deceptive unbelief, and can be fought by replacing deceitful desires by the superior truth of God.

Birth of Life
James then describes a new birth that comes not from sin, but from God. Just as our will brings forth death through deceit, God’s will brings forth life through the truth of the gospel.

1.) Who accomplishes the new birth?
“Of His own will, He brought us forth…”
2.) How is the new birth accomplished?
“Of His own will, He brought us forth by the Word of Truth…”

“According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1 Peter 1:3)

“In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, we’re sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 1:13)

“Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17)

3.) What is the result of the new birth?
“Of His own will, He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”

This knowledge gives us indestructible hope for our city, for new birth is accomplished not by me--my efforts, my church programs, my sense of fashion, or my persuasion--but by God’s sovereign grace opening hearts to receive the word of truth through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Therefore we seek to put ourselves in the way of the word of truth, know the word of truth, and speak the word of truth in love. Our great God will accomplish the rest.

Feb. 21, 2010: “True Religion,” James 1:19-26

James: Living Faith, Temptation from Within

James: Living Faith
Temptation from Within (James 1:13-17)
January 24, 2010

James begins by encouraging his brothers to rejoice when they face trials on account of their faith, because their trials come from God to strengthen their faith and mold them more into the image of their perfect Savior, Jesus Christ. For those lacking wisdom to understand God’s work in their life through their trials, James says to ask God for wisdom, not doubting with their fingers crossed, but with faith in their loving, Sovereign Father God.

Two Trials: Poverty and Riches
James then addresses two trials, poverty and riches. In a culture where wealth is seen as blessing and poverty as a curse, Scripture teaches us that both poverty (“God where are You?”) and riches (“God, I don’t need You”) can test our faith. There are two prevalent errant perspectives on poverty and wealth in America, the poverty gospel and the more prominent prosperity gospel. The prior assumes that if you’re poor, you’re inherently closer to God and that the wealthy are evil. The latter assumes if you love God it will be evident by red Cadillacs in your garage, green bills in your wallet, and golden toilets in your bathroom. The Bible teaches us there are righteous poor as well as unrighteous poor and there are righteous rich as well as unrighteous rich. What matters is not your level of wealth, but rather that your hope is in Jesus Christ’s finished work on the cross and not your 401K.

Where does temptation come from? Though we would like to think temptation and evil come from “out there”—God, Satan, the world, or an opposing political party—James teaches us temptation comes first from within, not from God or outside forces. Our desires are deceitful, and when followed lead to death with all of the pain and horror of an expecting mother delivering a stillborn child.

Battling SinHow then do we fight sin? How do we destroy deceitful desires?

Errant Strategies

Willpower Legalism - Willpower religion attempts to white-knuckle our sin into submission, but fails to address the heart. The end result is discouragement and depression (“I can’t do it, I’m a failure”) or arrogance and pride (“I did it, yay for me, I’m awesome”).
Death of Desire Stoicism - Stoicism labels all desire as evil and therefore attempts to kill all passion, desire, and excitement, forgetting our God created us with desires to be ultimately fulfilled in Him (Psalm 37:4). Stoicism addresses the heart, but seeks to quench it rather than allowing God to renew it. The end result is lifeless religion that fails to delight in God, attempting rather to serve solely out of duty.

Facing the true enemy
Deceptive Desires - The problem is not desire, the problem is deception. Our hearts are deceived into thinking our broken cisterns will satisfy us when we were created to drink in the Fountain of living water (Jeremiah 2:13). We were created for highest joy, and our hearts sell us short, deceiving us into settling for temporary, lesser pleasures of sin.
Unbelief - Our sin is the result of our failure to believe God’s promises are superior to Satan’s lies; therefore, the fight against sin is ultimately a fight against unbelief.
Biblical Battle Plan
A Transformed Heart - Our need is not simply for behavior modification, but rather heart transformation. We need a Savior who will destroy our deceitful desires, and ultimately replace them with passionate desires for an all-satisfying Christ.
Cultivate an Appetite - You fight deceitful desires by replacing them with true, superior, life-giving desires of the Word of God, as the Holy Spirit opens your eyes to behold truth.
Battle to Believe - “The life that I now live [as a Christian], I LIVE BY FAITH in the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20) The battle against sin is a fight of faith, to believe that God is as good as He truly is, and that sin is as destructive as it truly is.
Biblical Weaponry
Faith – Faith is not only in the past grace of God, but also in the present and future grace that is to come. Faith is not working hard to be holy and “pay Jesus back” for dying for me. Faith is being confident in what the life and work of Christ has accomplished and also being confident that God’s way is better than sin, his promises are superior to Satan’s lies, and His love is more satisfying than the deceitfulness of sin.
By the Spirit - Romans 8:13 says if BY the SPIRIT you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. Fighting the deceitful desires of sin is about fighting for faith in the superior promises of God by the Sword of the Spirit.
Through the Word - The Word of God holds the bullet aimed for the heart of every abominable, deceitful desire. When we fill ourselves with the Word, God’s superior promises take root in our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit and give birth to new desires, that long for and enjoy Jesus Christ above all the empty promises of sin.
Additional Resources:
“How People Change,” by Paul David Tripp
“When I Don’t Desire God,” by John Piper

Thursday, March 19, 2009

who are your peers?

it would be a grave, common mistake to compare your life only with those immediately around you.

when examining your life, it may be possible to elevate yourself to the level of "okay," "average" or even "pretty good" when your line of sight is no further than your culture or even your time in history.

do not limit yourself by the maturity and passion and dreams of your peers.

do not limit yourself by the current culture's expectations of a "good" life, or the American "dream."

make friends with Charles Spurgeon, George Mueller, Martin Luther, Jonathon Edwards.

examine your life with a peer-group of William Wilberforce, William Carey, and the apostle Paul.

then test your holiness, test your passion, test the works of your life against those God-honoring, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated lives.

the life of Spurgeon and Mueller have convicted me to the core and left my longing for that kind of faith, that sort of indwelling of His Spirit, that deep of a passion for His supremacy in all things for the joy of all people.

so i would recommend reading biographies.