Monday, October 27, 2008

The Unofficial Review of Fireproof

If you'd like to see a review of Fireproof from a Christian who watched it (especially MBBC students, as you decide whether or not it should be purchased on DVD since you weren't able to go to the theaters to see it), check out this link.

James 1:12-18- Striving for Fruit

James 1:12-18- Striving for Fruit

I. A restatement of the Blessings in the Thorns (v. 12)
A. One of the reasons for being able to have joy in the midst of trials is that we know God will work it out to His glory. (Romans 8:28)
B. Another reason for being able to have joy is that the ultimate end result will be us being made more like Christ, until that day when we get to heaven, and we are just like Him. (“...And when you have been approved, you shall receive the crown of life.”)
  1. “...been approved...” – the idea: Passed the test- when we have endured all that God has asked of us to endure for this life
  2. The crown of life: when we shall see Christ with our own eyes and shall see the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise of eternal life and fellowship with Him.

II. Where do the trials and temptations come from? (v.13-15)
A. In this context, James is not talking about chastisement from God because of sin. God has specifically said that in those moments, He will try us and that we will know it is of Him, so if, as James tells us, God will not send temptation and trials, he must be using the words to mean something different. Consider the holiness of God and whether or not this would go against His nature to actually put that trial or temptation there Himself (vs. allowing it to happen).
B. These trials and temptations come from either within us (lust of the flesh) or from the world (the lust of the eyes and the pride of life).
C. It is not the temptation that is wrong, but what we choose to do when the temptation is before us.
  1. “...When he is carried away of his own lusts....” This is the part where we allow temptation to gain a ground hold and a solid foundation within our hearts, allowing for the beginning of going down that path towards sin. This is the part where we generally think to ourselves, “A little bit can’t hurt” or “I can control this” or “This shouldn’t be a problem since I know I can walk away whenever I want.” These are lies of our own hearts and the devil to ensnare us.
  2. “When lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin”-this is where we actually begin to act out those thoughts of, “A little bit can’t hurt” and we find ourselves doing the things that we promised to God we would never do.
  3. The result of that choice of sin: “...and when sin is finished, sin brings forth death.” Whether it is our relationship with God, or our relationships with others (which is effected by our relationship with God), when we sin, we kill those relationships. Often times, those sins will in a small way physically kill us over time (smoking, drinking, drugs, stress from the guilt of what we’ve done or the stress from the bitterness, anger, hate, depression, etc.). According to God, if man had not sinned in the garden, he would not have to physically die. It is because of sin that we age and die. Some sins speed up the process faster than others do.
III. Transition (v. 16)
A. James uses this verse as a transition into his next thought.
B. First, he says, “Do not be deceived” in that we should not be deceived by sin.
C. “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.”-James is pleading that we would not fall back into the deception that sin once had over us before we were Christians; He is pleading that we not fall back into the snare of the devil.
D. He also uses deceive to tell us how we can know what truth really is as he goes into verse 17. (hence the phrase, “My beloved brethren”- agape)

IV. What is truth then and how will it help us to see the blessings in the midst of the trials of our faith? (v. 17-18)
A. First, variation or shifting of shadow = God’s Immutability-He cannot change his nature, which plays into the context of this along with God’s Holiness from v. 13
B. This verse is the “Why?” to what James says in v. 16.
C. “Every good gift is from above....” We can know what is truth and what is not based upon its comparison to Scripture. We have to take each moment of our lives as we are living it and filter it through the Biblical Grid.

V. The Gift of God (v. 18)
A. The exercise of His Will
  1. “He brought us forth....”- We are only who we are because of Christ. “But for the grace of God, go I....”
  2. “...By the Word of Truth....”-It is God’s Word that is this gift to us, for without His Word, we could not have salvation (John 1:1, 1 Timothy 3:16).
B. The result of His Will being exercised in our lives (“ that we might be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.”)
  1. First fruits = unique, set apart, sanctified, made holy and pure
  2. God gave us the gift of His truth so that we would be unique in that as we have fellowship with Him we can withstand the trials of life as they come. We can, through that gift of His truth, trust and depend on Him for strength and have something to stand on when those trials and temptations come.

1) Do you see the blessings in the thorns? Are you allowing the temptations and trials of this life to help you become more like Christ?
2) When the temptations come, are you fighting against sin, or are you simply giving place to it? Are you deceiving yourself or are you trusting in God’s Immutable Truth to help you in times of struggle?
3) Are you living the separated life from sin and allowing yourself to be set apart for God? Are you that unique fruit that He wants you to be?

Friday, October 24, 2008

James 1:9-11 Keeping Your Focus

James 1:9-11 Keeping Your Focus

I. Our High Calling
A. Sometimes, as Christians, we get so focused on our circumstances, that we forget what God has called us to do; to ultimately bring Glory to Him.
B. He says, “To glory in your high position….” James is telling us based on the teaching of Christ, how we are not to have pride in ourselves, but to remember that without Christ, we are nothing (John 15:5).
C. If we are nothing without Christ, than we are everything when we are with Him (“lacking in nothing” v. 4; “God, who gives generously and without reproach” v. 5).
D. This isn’t talking about glorying in ourselves and saying how much of a Super-Christian we are, but rather to “count it all joy when ye suffer divers temptations;” to count it worthy that God has called you to suffer and to be comforted through that suffering, for His name’s sake, that He will get the glory.

II. The Fall of the Temporal
A. The rich man is not to be boastful and prideful in his own riches (I believe this is speaking both of physical and spiritual riches), for eventually, those riches will pass away, including some of the spiritual ones.
B. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13 that of faith, hope, and love, all that will remain in the Day of the Lord, that final day of judgment, after God creates a new heaven and new earth, will be His Love.
  1. We won’t need faith anymore; since faith is the substance of things hoped for and not seen, when we see Christ with our own eyes, we won’t need faith.
  2. We won’t need hope because our hope will have been given to us: the eternal, perfect relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ. So, the spiritual riches of hope and faith will both be gone, just like this heaven and earth will one day be gone.
  3. If we boast in these spiritual riches as if they were somehow our own or of our own doing, then we have in effect said that we have made ourselves who we are without acknowledging the work that God has done in our lives.

C. Physical riches are completely temporal. Not a shred of them will outlast this physical life.
D. Even circumstances are temporal.
  1. He compares the circumstances of life to the rising and falling of the sun and the changing of seasons.
  2. He likens how if the rich man pursues after the riches rather than the glory of rejoicing in the great things that God is doing and has done, then he will fall into ruin just like the flower in Fall.

1) Is your focus on the pursuit of either physical or spiritual riches that a relationship with God can offer, or is it on the relationship itself?
2) Is your focus on the circumstances, or what God will bring out of them?

Monday, October 13, 2008

James 1:5-8- Trust and Obey

We must trust God during the trials of life.
A. Often times, it is the trials that help us to remember just how dependent we are upon God for strength and wisdom.
  1. God gives liberally (Greek- generously)
  2. God gives without reproach; in other words, he gives freely based on the grace that He has shown to us, not on favoritism.
  3. James tells us that if we will seek after God and His wisdom, we are promised to receive that wisdom.
B. Not doubting God
  1. Two kinds of doubt:
    • Doubting that the wisdom God gives us is correct
        1. In other words, we believe that we know what God should really be doing, not what He is doing. 
        2. Illustration of this: God is making it perfectly clear to you that you ought to be in preaching, and so you ask for God to give you wisdom in making this decision because you are afraid and do not want to become a preacher. What you might ask is, “Lord, please give me wisdom in finding something other than being a preacher that You would want me to do.” Pathetic illustration? Probably, but I think that example helps us to realize that this is often how we behave in many areas of life.
    • Doubting that God will even give you the wisdom to make the right choice.
        1. If God has promised it, how then can we doubt that He will not give it?
        2. Sometimes, the hardest thing for us to do is to wait upon the Lord. But, God has promised us that if we wait upon Him, “We shall walk and not faint, we shall run and not grow weary (Isaiah 40:31).”
  2. The consequences of doubt:
    •  If you can’t trust God, what or who can you trust?
    • How can you pray to God, when prayer is all about recognizing your dependence (or trust) in Him?
    • It is the waiting for the answer that makes it so we must ask in faith, knowing that God has fulfilled His promises before, and He will always continue to do so.
    • Often when we doubt, even though we do get the wisdom that we asked for, because we have doubted on God giving us the answer, we either have given up and miss knowing the answer to our prayer, or we decide that we don’t care about what God has to say. That is what is meant here when it says, “the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea (NASB)....” Without God as our Solid Rock upon which we can trust, we have nothing to stand on if we doubt Him and don’t listen to what He wants us to do.
    • In verse 8, James flat out says that it is because of that doubt (double-minded man) that we have become unstable if we ask of God without faith in His providing the right answer, in the right time.

      1) Do you trust God to answer your prayers and to give you the wisdom that you need from His Word? Do you truly trust Him to lead you each and every day?
      2) How stable is your walk?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

James 1:1-4- A Foundation of Trust

You'll have noticed that the most recent posts have been sporadic and the material more just personal in nature (though the last post was more just a relating of things heard by other students in an attempt to get some dialogue going), rather than biblical. However, part of the reason for the sporadicness of posting is that I've been preparing for a barrage of posts. I've been working on a series of posts that I hope will truly be a spiritual blessing to all who read, that will encourage and strengthen your faith.

James 1:1-4-Fully Prepared

I. Who wrote this and who it’s written to (v. 1):
A. James, the half-brother of Jesus
  1. He calls himself a bond-servant, even though he is Jesus’ brother.
  2. We see already that James is an incredibly humble servant of God, as he would rather call himself a slave of Christ, then to claim the title of being Christ’s half brother.
B. Written to the 12 tribes of the Jews, who had been scattered abroad, who are Christians.

II. Blessings in the Thorns (vv. 2-4)
A. Some Observations:
  1. Divers-“diverse” or “various”; has the idea of something that can bring you down
  2. Temptations- also can mean “trials,” (and does) so this has applications in other areas besides those temptations that cause us to fall into sin (which is normally what we think of when we see this word in the KJV), including the trials of our faith.
  3. Patience-“endurance” or “steadfastness.” Similar to the idea of a rock, something that can be depended on; Consider the tree with deep roots in Psalm 1 how the wind can blow and buffet it, and yet it still stays strong because it is planted in the streams of living water.
  4. Testing-the verb form of the Greek word where we get the words “trials” and “temptations”.
  5. Perfect work-the idea of a result or completed task; sanctification is the idea here, which means to be set apart from sin AND set apart for God.
  6. “...That you may be made perfect and complete....”-the Greek word for perfect here has the idea of being spiritually mature, complete here means “to be made whole”; there are some verses where it means “finished.”
B. Purpose of the Thorn is to give us a Blessing.
  1. We can have joy because of the patience, endurance, or steadfastness we will have as a result of that trial. To use a modern day cliche, what James is saying is, “That which does not kill us, only makes us stronger.”
  2. We can have joy because the patience that we will gain will help us to be sanctified, set apart from sin and set apart for God, or made holy, in Christ. It will help us to be more like Christ (Romans 8:28-29).
  3. As the perfect result of God is made in our lives through these trials, temptations, and testings of our faith, we are able to love and serve God more.
  4. We can have joy because as we are made perfect in Christ, or grow, or mature in our walk with Him, we will have everything that Christ wants us to have each and every moment of each and every day (“...lacking in nothing.”).
  5. We can trust God because He is faithful and knows what’s best for us (He desires that all trials in life be used for His glory, as well as our growth).

1) Do you trust God?
2) Are you allowing the trials, temptations, and testings of your faith to work patience or endurance in you as you trust in God?
3) Are you being more and more sanctified, or set apart, or made holy, like Christ each and every day as a result of the trials, temptations, and testings of your faith?
4) Are you trusting God to give you what you need each and every moment of each and every day?