Archive for July, 2008

August 3rd, 2008 – James 4:13-17

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

The Book of James
Who’s in Charge of Your Life?
James 4:13-17

Introduction

In Palestine the Jews generally adhered to the agricultural life, but in the Dispersion they were frequently merchants and bankers. James 4:13-17 discusses their business plans and pursuits, and condemns them for failure to take God into account. His opening words indicate that he is addressing a group of people different from those mentioned in the preceding passage.

Our Study of the Text

  1. “NOW LISTEN, YOU WHO SAY” (4:13-17).
    1. “Today or tomorrow we will go. . .” (4:13).

      They are sure that their lives are in their hands and consequently make their plans without any thought of God. They express themselves with confident certainty, and seem to have a particular city in mind. They also seem to think it is in their power to measure out time as they please.

    2. “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.” (4:14a).

      “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth” (Prov. 27:1).

      Luke 12:16-21 illustrates how one person planned, but in reality did not have another day to live.

    3. Calling attention to their frailty, James asks a straight forward question:

      “What is your life?” (4:14b); His answer: “You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (4:14c). cf. Job 7:7, 9; 14:1-2; Psm. 102:11; 103:15-16.

      James’s thought is of something that is so fleeting and transient that it is here for a moment and then it is gone — like a puff of smoke or the vapor formed by the breath on a cold morning.

      The statement of verse 15 grows out of what has just been said concerning our ignorance of the future and the uncertainty and brevity of life.

    4. “Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that” (4:15).

      Failure to say [or think] “if it is the Lord’s will” is a reflection of one’s failure to acknowledge the sovereignty of God over life.

      Note: There are two words that are closely related but emphasize different aspects of the “will of God”:

      1. boulomai: it means counsel, purpose, determination, will, decree. It stresses the eternal decree of God. cf. Heb. 6:17; 1 Cor. 12:11; Matt. 11:29; James 1:18.
      2. thelo (verb) and thele„ma (noun): The term can be used to express desire for something, or to express resolve of purpose. The verb in the indicative mood (the mood of reality) stresses reality, while in the subjunctive mood takes us the first step toward what is conceivable. That is, in some cases we are told what God’s purpose is regarding a particular matter (e.g. the direct instructions of the Scriptures), but at other times we do not know what the purposes of God are in particular, so we plan with that understanding in mind.

        Examples: Acts 18:21; Rom. 9:16; 1 Cor. 4:19; 12:18; 15:38; John 5:14-15.

      Note: Some use the uncertainties of life as an excuse for getting the last drop of pleasure out of it while there is time – “You only go around once in life, so you better get all you can.” Others use life’s uncertainties as an excuse for doing nothing. James, however, refers to it as a reason why men should be humble before God, and in all their future planning acknowledge that all their intentions are subject to His will.

      James now accuses his readers of an attitude just the opposite of humble dependence upon God.

    5. “As it is, you boast and brag” (4:16a).

      “Boast” translates the Greek term kauchaomai and means to boast, glory, pride oneself in a thing. It can be used in a good sense or bad sense. For example the Believer is to “boast in the Lord” (I Cor. 1:31; II Cor. 10:17). But what we have before us is presumptuous pride! James calls it right: “All such boasting is evil” (4:16b).

      This section closes with a sweeping statement that has application to the whole Christian life.

    6. “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” (17).

      When one is fully aware of his duty and yet fails to perform it, this failure to perform is sin. In this case, in spite of their knowledge, they continued in their proud ways, they were guilty of sin – in which case the “the right thing to do” has reference to making one’s plans in reliance on the will of God.

  2. POINTS TO PONDER
    • In those areas specifically addressed by the Bible, the revealed commands and principles of God are to be obeyed (His moral will).
    • In those areas where the Bible gives no command or principle (non-moral decisions), the believer is free and responsible to choose his own course of action. Any decision made within the moral will of God is acceptable to God (e.g., clothes, auto, job, where to live, etc.). He will work through our decisions to accomplish His purposes in our lives.
    • Try not to see your decisions as being either right or wrong. Unless you are dealing with moral issues, the question is not right or wrong, but wise or unwise — or, more or less wise.
    • As we live our lives, we must do so with the realization that we are living within the sovereign will of God. Some things we plan will not be permitted; others will. Some things may be permitted that to us are very painful – sometimes perhaps wondering why God permitted or planned them to occur! But we accept by faith that His plan is perfect [because He is perfect] and we bow before His sovereignty.

July 27th, 2008 – James 4:1-12

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

The Book of James
Are You at Odds with God?
James 4:1-12

Introduction

John Bunyan’s book, Pilgrim’s Progress, is a classic that should be read by all. It is the story of a man named Pilgrim trying to find his way to God. When he later becomes a believer, his name becomes Christian. As he progresses toward the celestial city, he must go through Vanity Fair. It is an allegory about our journey on the earth and the worldly mindedness that constantly tries to impede our journey.

James chapter four is addressed to the same issue and he suggests three ways that worldly-mindedness expresses itself: In choosing pleasure – self-gratification, as the chief end in life (4:1-10); in harsh criticism of other Christians (4:11-12); in arrogant disregard of God (4:13-17).

Our Study of the Text

  1. THE PROBLEM OF SELF-GRATIFICATION (4:1).

    James asks a very pointed question: “What causes fights and quarrels among you?”

    Answer: “Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?”

    The term desires (Gr. he„done„) refers to the passion for self-gratification. It is the term from which we get our English term hedonism – which refers to the pursuit of or devotion to pleasure, especially to the pleasures of the senses.

    The phrase “that battle within you” clearly teaches us that the core of this problem resides within us! (See Ja. 1:14; 1 Pt. 2:11-12; Gal. 5:13-17).

    The point: fights and quarrels arise because people make self-gratification their goal. Their lives are self-centered rather than God-centered!

  2. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF SELF-GRATIFICATION (4:2-3)

    “You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight.” (See 1 Cor. 3:1-1; Phil. 1:15-18)

    The terms kill and covet, quarrel and fight are often understood to be used by James metaphorically and not as pertaining to actual conflicts between individuals, groups, or nations. According to this view, what James refers to are verbal disputes that are rampant throughout this congregation. Such a picture is possible in the light of what he says concerning the sins of the tongue in 3:1–12. Acrimonious speech, slanderous accusation, unrestrained anger—all depict a jealous and divided community; it speaks of a church governed by wisdom from “below” (4:12; 5:9). To describe such “battles” in this way (metaphorically) is not out of line with the conditions prevailing in James’ day. Although James is not clear as to what specific dispute he has in mind, he has prepared the ground by earlier allusions to “envy and selfish ambition” in 3:16. To be sure, the conflict is apparently intra muros (”within the walls,” i.e., inside the church). [John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck and Dallas Theological Seminary, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: an Exposition of the Scriptures (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983-c1985), 2:272.]

    James says that the reason they lack what they desire is this: “You do not have, because you do not ask God.”

    But even when they ask God, they do not receive anything. Why? The problem is impure motives – the goal is really self-gratification! “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

  3. THE REAL ISSUE OF SELF-GRATIFICATION – SPIRITUAL ADULTERY (4:4-6).

    Embracing the world – its thinking, its moral values, its goals, etc. – is to live in the flesh and to set one’s self in opposition to God!

  4. THE SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEM OF SELF-GRATIFICATION (4:7-10).
    • “Submit to God”
    • “Resist the devil”
    • “Draw near to God”
    • “Cleanse your hands and make your heart pure”
    • “Grieve, mourn, and weep”
    • “Humble yourself before the Lord”
  5. CHRISTIANS ARE NOT TO CRITICIZE AND JUDGE ONE ANOTHER (4:11-12).

    One way the worldly mind expresses itself is in a lust for pleasure and self-gratification — it is self-serving and lacks humility. Another is by harsh criticism of fellow Christians. The passage before us should be understood as an illustration of what happens in a life void of humility. Disparaging criticism of others is in fact one of the worst expressions of human pride. The one who indulges in it sets himself above the person he criticizes and the Royal Law which forbids it.

    Man was created by a Creator to whom he is accountable and the Creator has revealed Himself – the Bible is a written record of that self-revelation. In the Bible we are told that God made a statement about Himself in nature – that He is and that He is powerful. Natural revelation only shows that mankind in its fallen condition does not want to know and will not respond to the Creator.
    In the scriptures He has told us about Himself, our origin, our sin problem, and His redemptive purposes in Christ. Special revelation sets forth divine absolutes which can be understood and experienced by God’s people in Christ.

    Man’s standards and laws are based on relative absolutes. Absent divine absolutes this is all that man has. It is summed up by the period of the judges in Israel about which it is said, “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit” (Judges 21:25).

    An ethical conscientious is impossible if it is based on relative absolutes. To the extent that we do not think and live on the basis of heavenly wisdom, we will think and live on the basis of relative absolutes. We form a sense of right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable – on the basis of personal prejudices and preferences. This is what James is talking about when he tells us not to criticize and judge one another. Paul also addressed this same issue (see Rom. 1:30; 2:1; 14:1-13; I Cor. 4:1-5).

    Note: God’s divine absolutes reflect His own character, while at the same time pointing up man’s sin problem. Man’s “laws” — based on relative absolutes — even in a religious context — are not a cure for the problem of the flesh (see Col. 2:1-3, 8, 20-23).

    Judgment is necessary (even mandatory) at times, but it must be based on divine absolutes (see 1 Cor. 5:1-8; Titus 3:10-11; II Thess. 3:6-15; I Tim. 5:19-20; Gal. 6:1; Jam. 5:19-20).

  6. POINTS TO PONDER.
    • Be honest with yourself regarding your attitude toward those around you – including those in your own family.
    • Do you have a tendency to want to “keep up with the Joneses?”
    • Don’t criticize or judge other people (non-moral issues).
    • Don’t let other people’s prejudices and preferences control your life, but use godly wisdom in living with the world’s Relative Absolutes. Follow Paul’s example: “Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some” (I Cor. 9:19-22).
    • “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Cor. 8:1). Love for a neighbor means that we are sensitive to what may hinder relationships with him, etc.

July 20th, 2008 – James 3:13-18

Sunday, July 13th, 2008

The Book of James
Wisdom: How Does It Define Me?
James 3:13-18)

Introduction

In our first lesson in James we discussed Godly wisdom. In sum we said it was skill in living. But now need to add that wisdom is not always spoken of in a positive sense. For example God spoke about His people, Israel, through the prophet Jeremiah. He said, “My people are fools; they do not know me. They are senseless children; they have no understanding. They are skilled (wise) in doing evil; they know not how to do good” (Jer. 4:22). He also said, “How can you say, ‘We are wise, for we have the law of the LORD,’ when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely? The wise will be put to shame; they will be dismayed and trapped. Since they have rejected the word of the LORD, what kind of wisdom do they have?” (Jer. 8:8-9).

From God’s words we can see a clear distinction between God’s wisdom and the wisdom of man. Just because a person is skilled in some aspects of life – even if they are very skilled, does not mean that their skill is wrought in God. But if two people have great skill in handling life’s issues, one being a child of God and the other not, how can we know the difference between the sources of their wisdom? James will help us answer that question!

Our Study of the Text

  1. OUR WISDOM WILL BE SEEN IN OUR BEHAVIOR (3:13).
    1. A question of wisdom.

      “Who is wise and understanding among you?”

      This is an excellent question. When the terms wise and understanding are used together, wise emphasizes the factual information aspect of wisdom while understanding emphasizes being knowledgeable in a way that makes one effective in the exercise of such knowledge.

      The person being addressed here is a person who possesses the knowledge and practical skill to handle life’s issues effectively.

    2. A day of “show and tell.”

      “Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.”

      To claim to be wise is one thing; to live it out in life is another. In the same way that works demonstrate the reality of our faith, so wisdom is demonstrated by the way we live. It is also important to note that wisdom is not boastful or proud; it is characterized by humility.

  2. WE ARE TO RECOGNIZE AND AVOID WORLDLY WISDOM (3:14-15).
    1. The primary characteristics of man’s wisdom (3:14).
      1. Bitter envy.
        1. Bitter is the Geek word pikros. It is used literally to describe something that is bitter to the taste (Prov. 27:7), and metaphorically of a person who is bitter in feeling or attitude.
        2. Envy
          The Greek word is zelos. In a positive sense it is having a zeal for something desirable (see 2 Cor. 9:2). In a negative sense it means to have intense negative feelings over another’s achievements or success (see Ja. 3:16).
      2. Selfish ambition.

        The Greek word is eritheia. It is best understood as selfish ambition.

        When Paul was under house arrest in Rome, there were ministers in the area of Philippi who were envious of his ministry and were trying to cause him hardship. Paul said that they were motivated by eritheia (see Phil. 1:17). Later he exhorted the Philippians with these words: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-4). Rather than be motivated by selfish ambition, they were to be motivated by humility.

    2. The source and origin of man’s wisdom (3:15).

      The text itself is clear:

      “Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil.”

  3. HEAVENLY WISDOM INVOLVES A GODLY HEART ATTITUDE (3:16-18).
    1. The negativity of man’s wisdom (3:16).

      “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.”

    2. The godliness of heavenly wisdom (3:17-18).

      “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”

      “Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.”

  4. POINTS TO PONDER.
    • At this point in your life you have no doubt developed skills in handling life’s issues. But is it primarily heavenly wisdom or the wisdom of the world?
    • How would you rate your heart attitude: Humble? Envious of others? Selfishly ambitious? Compassionate toward the needs of others?
    • How would those around you rate your attitude?

July 13th, 2008 – James 3:1-12

Sunday, July 6th, 2008

The Book of James
What’s on the Tip of Your Tongue?
James 3:1-12

Introduction

The Bible makes the control of the tongue a matter of great importance. In Matthew 12:33-37 our Lord said this:

“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. . . For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. . . But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

The Psalms and Proverbs abound with warnings about speech:

“He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.” (Prov. 13:3).

“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit” (Prov. 18:21).

“A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even- tempered” (Prov. 17:27).

“He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity” (Prov. 21:23).

“Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies” (Psm. 34:12-13).

There are also many statements about the beneficial powers of the tongue:

“The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value” (Prov. 10:20).

“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Prov. 12:18).

The Bible speaks of lying tongues, flattering tongues, deceitful tongues, false tongues, backbiting tongues, and so on – as an indication of the person’s character.

Our Study of the Text

  1. THE SERIOUSNESS OF TEACHING (3:1).
    1. “Not many of you should presume to be teachers.”

      These words suggest that relatively few are fitted out by the Holy Spirit for this work and set apart by God for its ministry.

    2. The reason: “Because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”

      Teaching God’s Word is an awesome responsibility. We must know His Word and live His Word if we are going to teach His Word acceptably. Someone once offered this observation:
      “A ready tongue without an informed mind, a devout character, and a holy life will hinder rather than advance the cause of Christ.”

    3. What Teaching Is All About.
      1. In a general sense, we are all to be teachers (see Heb. 5:12). As we advance in our walk with Christ, we should be teaching the principles and precepts of His Word to others.
      2. In a special sense, few should become teachers (James 3:1).
      3. The difference between preaching and teaching.
        1. Preaching: to make an opinion or attitude known to others and urge them to share it.
        2. Teaching: to impart knowledge to someone by instruction or example.

          Note the similar aspect: “to make an attitude or opinion known” and “to impart knowledge to someone.” The difference is in the statement: “and urge them to share it.”

        3. In summary: teaching stresses the communication of information, while preaching stresses the application of that information to one’s life experience. The difference is not one of style of delivery!
    4. The Qualifications of the Teacher
      1. They must be fitted out (gifted and prepared) by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11).
      2. Not all are fitted out or set apart for the ministry of teaching (1 Cor. 12:29).
      3. Teaching is a special area of ministry (Rom. 12:7).
    5. The Mission of the Teacher
      1. To bring others to maturity in Christ (1 Cor. 14:26; Eph. 4:11 ff.; Col. 1:28).
      2. To teach the word of God accurately (2 Tim. 2:2; 4:2; 2 Cor.2:17).
  2. THE POWER OF THE TONGUE (3:2-5).
    1. “All” is emphatic. We all stumble or fail in many ways, but at no point are we more likely to sin than in the realm of speech.

      Since the text tells us that tongue is the most difficult member of the body to control, a person’s ability to control their tongue implies control over their whole body (control as a horse is controlled with a bridle). The term perfect here means mature. Control of the tongue, therefore, is an indicator of spiritual maturity.

    2. First illustration (v.3) – a bit in the horses’ mouth.

      The application is obvious: The tongue is a relatively small but powerful member of our body, and the ability to control it implies the ability to control all the passions of our flesh.

    3. Second illustration (v.4) – the rudder of a ship.

      The point: Despite its small size, the tongue achieves great results (good and bad).

    4. Third illustration (v.5) – its great boasts.

      The point is that the exploits of the tongue cannot be exaggerated.

      1. It can sway men to violence, or it can move men to the noblest of action.
      2. It can instruct the ignorant; encourage the downhearted; comfort the sorrowing; and sooth the dying.
      3. Like a small fire – it has the power to ignite a fire that can destroy an entire forest!
  3. THE VICIOUS NATURE OF THE TONGUE (3:6-8)
    1. The tongue as a fire is an apt illustration of the destructive and devastating effects of an uncontrolled tongue: it scorches, blasts and consumes!

      Note: this illustrates what the tongue is by nature, not what it can be by God’s grace.

      1. The tongue is a fire that sets on fire the course of human existence (v.6)
      2. The tongue is a restless evil (v.8b)
      3. The tongue is full of deadly poison (v.8c)
    2. An example: Gossip
      1. Definitions (Microsoft® Encarta® Reference Library 2003. © 1993-2002 Microsoft Corporation)
        1. Gossip: Rumor or talk of a personal (private), sensational, or intimate nature.
        2. A Gossip: A person who habitually spreads intimate or private rumors or facts about other people.
        3. Slander: False statements that damage a person’s reputation – even if the statements are not known to be false.
        4. Malice: A desire to harm another person or see them suffer; extreme ill will or spite.
      2. Gossip can involve at least three things:
        1. The sharing of personal or intimate information (confidential, private) about someone else with a person who does not have a legitimate need to know that information.
        2. The sharing of personal or confidential information (rumor or fact; false but believed to be true) about someone else and it results in damage to that person’s reputation (slander).
        3. The sharing of personal or confidential information (which may even be true) about someone else with the intent to cause them harm (malice). This is most often done out of anger or jealously or vindictiveness.

        “He who conceals his hatred has lying lips, and whoever spreads slander is a fool” (Prov. 10:18).

        “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret” (Prov. 11:13).

        “A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much” (Prov. 20:19).

      3. Why people gossip:
        1. It is a natural disposition of the flesh and must, therefore, be resisted in the Spirit.
        2. Immature Christians are particularly susceptible to this sin (although all are subject to it at times).
        3. Undisciplined people who have nothing better to do tend to talk about others. For many it is easier to talk about other people and their problems than to deal with our own. In fact, talking about other people’s problems tends to give one the feeling – and one hopes others will think the same – that they themselves have no problems – which is a problem of self-deception.
        4. Some gain a feeling of personal importance because of the information they know about other people – and it is important that they let others know that they know these things!
  4. THE INCONSISTENCY OF THE TONGUE (3:9-12)
    1. With the tongue we bless the Lord and we curse people.
    2. Inconsistent use of the tongue (good vs. evil) reflects ungodliness and lack of maturity.
  5. POINTS TO PONDER.
    • Make it a personal policy not to talk about other people (personal or confidential information). Don’t let people tell you about other people. Ask them why they are telling you this information.
    • If you feel compelled to talk about another person(s), ask yourself some questions:
      1. Why am I telling this person this information about this other person?
      2. Would the person about whom I am speaking be pleased to know that I am telling this information about him?
      3. Is the person that I am talking to REALLY a part of the problem or the solution to the problem?
      4. How will this person’s spiritual life be enhanced and how will these words minister grace to this person?