Monday, November 17, 2008

James 2:1-7-The Sin of Partiality: Part 1

James 2:1-7-The Sin of Partiality: Part 1- Loving Men More Than God Leads to Disastrous Results


I.                   Partiality does not exist with God. (vv. 1-4)

A.    God sees right to the heart of a person.

1.      Fine clothes- Greek: “bright”- Idea here is that someone who had bright clothing was rich because they could afford to pay for the expensive dyes that were put into that clothing.

2.      Gold ring- in almost any culture, including our current culture, jewelry of one sort or another is used as a status symbol.  Now, instead of gold rings (anyone can get a 10k gold ring for a decent price) it’s a Rolex or a Mercedes, or some other possession that has a way of showing monetary status in this world. At our age, class rings, varsity jackets, medals, trophies, and even diplomas are often tokens of status for us.

3.      Reality check: Though appearance can reflect some things about the heart, does appearance always accurately do so?

B.     All man sees is the appearance

1.      Notice the adjectives here used to describe the two different types of people:

a.       gold rings, fine or bright clothes

b.      poor, dirty clothes

2.      Notice how each is treated, though each has the same sin nature and (hopefully) the same heart of repentance towards God that saves them through faith:

a.       The rich man is told, “Sit here in a good place,” or, “Sit here by my side.”

1)      If you were the host, you would be at the head of the table, and the honored place of the guest was at the side, “seated by his bosom” as the Jewish custom was called of giving the seat of honor to the guest (See Upper Room Discourse in John 12 for more details).

2)      He is treated as if he has somehow earned the right to sit here because of his appearance or social status.  The question that must be asked is would he be treated the same way if he were the same person but with different clothing and such?

b.      The poor man is told, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool.”

1)      If you were the host, often your slaves would be seated at the foot of the table (Hence, the argument amongst the disciples of who would be the greatest and least in Jesus’ kingdom, and his great analogy of the servant being made greatest as He washes their feet, as ONLY a servant would be required to do). 

2)      In other words, you’re treating the poor person as if he was your slave or hired servant.

C.     The desire to be a man pleaser based upon someone’s status or appearance is a grievous sin that can often become a stumbling block between the people that you are treating differently, as you have just created a division between them based upon on their status or materialistic wealth.




II.                God wants us to be rich in faith, not rich in materials. (vv. 5-7)

A.     “...the poor of this world...” = not our material possessions, but our spiritual possessions.  We were incredibly poor before we had Christ because of our sin debt, but now we are rich in Christ because of our faith.

B.     In treating people based upon appearance and status, we blaspheme God who “...commendeth His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).”  So, is our motive to get respect, or to show the love of God?

C.     Often times, the people we respect based upon appearances, we do because we’re afraid.  James points out in verses 6 and 7 that often times, those we are trying to please could care less about what we’re doing to please them as long as it benefits them.  In other words, to please them, we will often have to compromise.

D.    The ultimate result, as is seen fully in verse 8, is that we fail to please God because we are not doing what God has commanded of us.



1)      Are you judging people based on appearance, or based on their attitudes/actions?

2)      Have you given in to the Fear of Man by allowing your desire to please people around you to cause you to compromise on your faith in Jesus Christ and His Word?

3)      What is your motive when you show respect to people around you?  Is it to bring glory to God or glory to yourself?

4)      Do you trust God or riches?  What will satisfy you?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Psalm 42- Trusting God

At about this point in the semester, just before Thanksgiving, many students are in a serious trial of their faith.  For some, it's as simple as finding the time to get that homework done a little earlier so they can get a little extra of much needed rest.  For others, they are seriously questioning right now whether or not they should be changing their major.  Students are wondering, "Lord, why am I doing this?"  "What's the point?"  "This is too hard, Lord.  I can't do everything that I need to do to pass, let alone get a halfway decent grade."  It used to be that this was the point in the semester where I would be crying- literally- my heart out to God in one of the practice rooms behind Burkart Hall, asking God, "Why am I doing this, Lord?  Why do You want me to be Music Ed?  This major is so much harder and longer than any other major; I'm expected to not have a social life of any sort outside of band and orchestra, and I just can't grow the way I need to in You without that!"  That may not have been my exact prayer every time mid-way through the semester, but you get the point.  Courtesy of Pastor Kurtz (my Sunday School teacher), we were discussing somewhat on this point of our neediness and how we need to be open and honest with one another as Christians, the way that David is open and honest in the Psalms.  That got me thinking about a message I preached earlier this summer on this very same topic about Trusting God.  Something that taught me how I need to be brutally honest with God about the way I feel so that, as I acknowledge my condition before God, I can put my trust in Him to do a work that cannot be done apart from Him in my life.  I'll just let the rest of the sermon speak for itself.

Psalm 42

Trusting God

Today, I’d like to examine Psalm 42.  As we come to this Psalm, I hope that we will walk away having seen God and His glory a little better.  But, before we begin, let us start- by way of question- examining what key components make up true worship.  This will help us to understand David’s point for this Psalm.  So, what is a key part of worship?  In other words, what attitudes and aspects of our lives make up worship?  What is that, if you don’t have this, you cannot have worship?

A right heart and a right life are both required for worship.  But, even for prayer and repentance to take place, whether it’s an unbeliever getting saved or a believer taking a step of faith, there is this one key component that is needed for worship: trust.  Trust, also known as faith, is the aspect of worship that we’re going to study tonight.  You see, prayer- which shows dependence on God- cannot truly take place if you don’t trust The One to whom you’re praying.  Sure, you can go through the motions of pretending to pray outwardly.  God is not fooled by this, though.  Trusting God is not always easy.  It requires that we break our normal sinful habits of trusting ourselves, or in trusting the things that we have grown accustomed to trusting- which aren’t God.  However, if we are- as Christians- going to be truly worshipful, we must trust God.

 Sidenote:  If you want to, I have been doing this for my personal devotions for a while and I’ll pass this blessing on to you, take the time, next time you read through the Psalms, to look for themes and promises relating to trust.  I know that I was greatly surprised to study this book of songs and find how much encouragement David and the other authors give to trust in and believe God’s promises.  Not only that, but they also show why we can trust God.  He is a great God who is so good to us, and the Psalms will help you in seeing that better.

 So, let’s go through the Psalm and see how David is going to encourage us to trust God.

 I.                   David expresses his need for God. (v. 1-4)

A.    Until I started studying this Psalm for this lesson, I had failed to put the first verse within its context.  When you isolate the first verse from the rest of the Psalm, there is a tendency to think of this verse as a verse that speaks to how we should desire for God and want to worship Him.  Now, don’t get me wrong, we should have that kind of desire for God.  However, this verse, within the context, helps us to understand the depth of David’s depression.  The next two verses go on to further elaborate on the state of David’s mind and emotions. 

B.     We see that- for whatever reason- David feels like God’s presence is very, very far away.  All three verses here illustrate for us his desire to be close to God.  Obviously, David was going through some trial in his life that caused David to recognize his utter need for and dependence on God.  However, and we’ve all experienced this at times, David felt that God was not near during this trial.

C.     His depression was so great that it affected his ability to worship, not just personally, but publicly.

1.      David shows a discrepancy between the way he used to feel and act while in worship at the temple, versus how he felt and acted now.

2.      Are we no different than David?  We have a balance that must be upheld.  We should not wear our feelings on our shirt sleeves, but we do the body of Christ a great disservice when we try to hide our problems and feelings from everyone.  Let us not forget, that just as some have the gift of teaching and preaching, there are those within the body who have the gifts of helps, service, encouragement, and hospitality (1 Cor. 12, Romans 12).  Don’t be so proud that you rob others within the body of the opportunity to be a blessing and encouragement to you.  When others ask you, “How are you doing,” I understand the feeling that if you tell them you’re not doing well or fine that they will ask why and you’ll feel obligated to tell them.  However, God’s Word never tells us that we must explain ourselves to everyone who asks.  It does tell us, however, that we should ask the body for prayer.  Perhaps you can’t or don’t want to give details, but you can request the prayer of the saints.  So often, our greatest weapon- prayer- is the least used weapon.  We are liars if we tell people that we are doing well spiritually when we’re not. I’m so thankful that David is honest with us in publicly sharing his feelings.

II.                David expresses the greatness of God. (v. 5-11)

A.    In verse 5, we begin to see why David continues to trust God, despite His feelings.

B.     David tells us that God is to be the central focus of his hope, not his circumstances.  David knows that there will be brighter, happier days.  He knows that- even should these days of sadness and trial last him the rest of his life- there will be a day when all will be well and God will never feel far away ever again.  The trials of this life are temporary compared to the blessings of heaven.  David states that he will continue to walk with God no matter how much it costs him.

C.     Matthew Henry puts it this way: “The best way to forget our miseries is to remember the God of our mercies.”

D.    How does verse 9 factor into this remembrance of the greatness of God?  David here shows us the duplicity of trust.  Though our feelings may tell us that God is not near, does not hear, and cannot work, we must always trust in fact over feeling, faith over sight, and God’s wisdom over our might.  No matter how strong our feelings may be, we must always trust in God’s Truth over our strongest feelings of experience.

 Application-  When your soul is cast down and God feels far away, remember that the God you need is the God who promised, regardless of your feelings, He will never leave you nor take his eyes off of you.  Trust Him.  Only trust Him.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

James 1:26-27 A Pure and Undefiled Heart of Fruit

 I.  Appearance of Worthless Fruit (v. 26)

A.    Looks good on the oustide, but bad on the inside.

1.      Religion/ religious = heart, lifestyle, relationship with God

2.      Christ told us that out of the abundance of our heart, we speak (Matt 12:11, 17-20).  Bridle = control

3.      We have deceived ourselves, because we have not applied God’s Word in regards to humility if we think we are great, when our mouth shows just how filthy we really are on the inside.

B.     Though men may see the facades that we put up, God always knows our hearts.

C.     Men will, however, notice our inconsistencies because we cannot keep up a perfect lie over a lengthy period of time with everyone, especially those who are close and personal to us.  As Jesus said, eventually, our heart will show itself through our speech in one way or another.

II.                Appearance of True Fruit (v. 27)

A.    Sometimes, our mindset becomes, “Well, if I can make everyone think I have good fruit, then I’m okay.”  What we forget is that the fruit is supposed to be a result of our love for God, not the fruit resulting in us loving God.

B.     James uses the phrase, “In the sight of God”- yet another way of saying God’s standard of holiness, or according to God.

C.     If we go back to Zechariah 7:8-14, we see a passage where the people of Israel were told what would happen if they stopped loving God, how they would oppress the poor and orphaned, they would not dispense true justice, peace, loving kindness and compassion, and go the way of the world around them.  Here James, tells us in a slightly different way the same warning that God gave to the Israelites:

1.      If we truly love God, we will show it in our service towards one another

2.      If we truly love God, we will do all that we can to stand up for what is right, and to make a difference in the world around us.

D.    “Unstained” = set apart, made holy, sanctified; (present active tense) This has the idea that the object which has been sanctified for God will continue to be sanctified for Him.  It’s the idea that this sanctification is a continuing action (until glory, that is, when we shall receive our perfect sanctification by being made into the very likeness of Christ’s holiness)

E.     Though we have been sanctified and made holy positionally, we have not been made holy practically.  Though all of our sins have been washed by The Blood of Christ, we will spend the rest of our lives fighting against our old sin nature even though we now have the new nature of The Holy Spirit indwelling within us.


1)      Are you focused on self or God?  Do people just see a façade with inconsistencies, or do they see that you are who you claim to be spiritually?

2)      Are you doing things because you have a heart for God, or because you’re trying to make people think that you do?

3)      Are you living as if you’ve been set apart for God?

4)      Where’s the fight?  Are you even struggling against sin and trying to bear fruit for Him?

Saturday, November 01, 2008

James 1:19-25 Comparing Your Fruit to God's Mirror

I. Setting Ourselves Apart for God (vv. 19-21)
A. If we are God’s Unique, Sanctified Fruit, then we must respond rather than react. (vv. 19-20)
  1. Verse 19- James states the obvious here, and I don’t think I can really expound on it anymore than he already has other than to say:
    • We all know how a soft answer turns away wrath, but the question is do we really practice that soft answer not only in what we say, but in what we do when we get into a situation that irritates or frustrates us? 
    • Sin nature does the exact opposite of this.
  2. Verse 20- James’ reasoning behind this: Our sin of anger and not showing love (I’m not talking about righteous wrath where we get angry because of sin, but where we get angry because of how that sin hurts us and we react rather out of our flesh, say by losing our temper or getting impatient, rather than responding). Speaking the truth IN LOVE.
  3. Notice, in my example, in both instances, one can confront that individual with the truth, but as the verse says, the first will not accomplish what God intended to be accomplished with that truth because the motive was wrong (lose your temper, motive = strike back; speak truth in love, motive = addressing the situation of that person’s relationship with Christ).
B.  Putting aside our sin and taking in God’s Holiness (Verse 21)
    1. He says to put aside all filthiness (literally-all the dirt of our sin nature, the guilt and shame of following down the path of sin laid out in verses 14-15) and all that remains of wickedness (literally-all that is contrary to God’s nature to do).
    2. As we put off, we must put on. James tells us to lay aside, and so we must also take up. But, the key here is that we do not put aside so that we can take it up. We take it up so that we will put it aside (2 Timothy 2:22 and Luke 9:23, follow- Greek: to intensely pursue or hunger after).
    3. Put on what, take up what? The Word of God. Ephesians 6 tells us to, “Put on the whole armor of God” and every “piece of armor” given in that passage is a specific part of God’s Revelation to us through His Word. So, as James tells us to receive the ingrafted Word of God, he is telling us in a different way to put on the Armor of God.
    4. However, the process of grafting is about more than just “putting on armor.” It’s about making the Word of God a part of every fiber of our being. The grafting process takes something outside of the object (like say a skin graft, or tree grafting) and makes it a part of the object. The grafting actually changes the object (skin grafts for example change surrounding tissue so they look more presentable; tree grafts can actually affect the fruit that is produced). The Word of God is supposed to be changing us as we “graft” it into our lives.
    5. Notice, he says that we are to do this in humility, recognizing that we are weak and solely dependant upon God and His Word to help us as we face sin day in and day out.
    6. “...which is able to save your souls.” This has the idea of deliverance, but not quite the same deliverance as salvation, though it would appear at first glance that that’s what is being referred to here. The word translated salvation can also be translated, “sanctification.” When we put this in context, we notice that he’s talking about trials and temptations, and that the deliverance he must be referring to, based on context, is the deliverance from that temptation or trial. He is telling us in other words to depend on God’s Word because it has God’s Power to help us in our time of need so that we will be more like Christ.
II. God is our Standard of Holiness (vv. 22-25)
A. True Faith = Obedience
    1. If all we do is hear/read God’s Word and we don’t put it into practice, we aren’t truly grafting God’s Word into our lives, because it DEMANDS application and obedience.
    2. The Illustration: James compares the hearing/reading of God’s Word to a man looking in a mirror and seeing what he truly looks like
    • The mirror reveals to us our true appearance, not just our self-concept of what we think we look like.
    • The person who does not apply God’s Word, has totally forgotten what his appearance in God’s Mirror really was. He has deceived himself into thinking everything is okay and he doesn’t need to change anything.
    • The mirror of God’s Word is an even sharper image than a real life mirror, because this mirror doesn’t just tell us what’s wrong with the outside (consequences of sin problems) but what’s wrong on the inside, too (the root of our sin problems).
B. God blesses those who obey
    1. When we obey God’s Word and we continue in that obedience, we can be used by Him. As Jerry Sivntsky says, “Obedience + Faithfulness = Usefulness.”
    2. Intently = seriously and deeply
    3. He blesses in several ways:
    • We have the blessing of seeing Him work in us and through us as we obey.
    • We have the blessing of being free from our sin as a result of our continued obedience to God’s Grace (“...The law of liberty, and ABIDES by it....”).
    • We have the greatest blessing of having a close, personal, intimate relationship with Him and becomBulleted Listing more like Jesus as a result of our continued obedience.
    1) Have you set yourself apart from sin and set yourself apart for God?
    2) What kind of fruit are you bearing before God’s Mirror? Do you just hear God’s Word, or do you obey?
    3) Do you have the joy of walking with Christ in obedience, and seeing Him allow more God-like fruit to be a part of your life each and every day?