Obeying the law is black and white. The rules are the rules, and we cannot choose which laws to obey and which to ignore. If you choose to obey the speed limit, but neglect to wear a seatbelt, you are still breaking the law. Similarly, we do not get the luxury of choosing to follow only the parts of the Bible we like.
The book of James is a letter from Jesus’ brother to the early church in Jerusalem about the hypocrisy happening among Christians. Like a lot of us today, the people of the early church struggled with committing every part of their lives to Jesus. They welcomed Jesus’ teaching on grace and salvation but seemed to be ignoring His instructions on how to treat others. Those who were wealthy and had titles were being given special treatment, while those who were poor were easily dismissed.
For these early Christians, loving your neighbor as yourself did not come naturally (James 2:8). And if we’re being honest, treating others equally does not come naturally to us either. Our natural inclination is selfishness. We impress those we want to be like while brushing off the needs in front of us as “not my problem.”
Treating our bosses as we would want to do be treated makes sense. But what about the guy on the corner asking for help? Or the family next door with the overgrown grass and unruly kids? What does loving those neighbors get us in return? A life that better represents Jesus.
Jesus doesn’t call us to follow the commands that are easy; He calls us to follow them all. Our spiritual lives progress most when we listen to God's Word and follow it wholeheartedly.
James 2:5 Has not God chosen the poor of this world?
There is nothing that men dread more than poverty. They will break every commandment in the Decalogue rather than be poor. But it is God’s chosen lot. He had one opportunity only of living our life, and He chose to be born of parents too poor to present more than two doves at his presentation in the temple. All his life was spent among the poor. His chosen apostles and friends were, with few exceptions, poor. He lived on charity, rode in triumph on a borrowed steed, ate his last meal in a borrowed room, and lay in a borrowed grave. “Hath not God chosen the poor of this world?” Why is poverty so dear to God?
It is in harmony with the spirit of the Gospel. — The world-spirit aggrandizes itself with the abundance of its possessions. Its children vie with each other in luxury and display. The spirit of Christ, on the other hand, chooses obscurity, lowliness, humility; and with these poverty is close akin.
It compels to simpler faith in God. — The rich man may trust Him; but the poor man must. There is so much temptation to the well-to-do classes to interpose their wealth between themselves and the pressure of daily need; but the poor man has no fortress in which to hide, except the two strong arms of God. He waits on Him for his daily bread, and gathers the manna falling straight from the sky.
It gives more opportunities of service. — The rich are waited on, and pay for servants to wait on those they love. The poor, on the contrary, are called to minister to one another, at every meal, and in all the daily round of life. Herein they become like Him who was, and is, as one that serveth, and who became poor, that through his poverty we might be rich. (Meyer, F. B. Our Daily Homily)
My brothers,show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. 2 For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in,3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?
In his Prison Fellowship newsletter, Chuck Colson tells of a pastor who was putting the final touches on his sermon early one Sunday morning when he heard a knock on his study door. There stood three ragged boys who had received gifts from church members. Their home was ravaged by drugs and prostitution. They had never been in a church before and wanted to look around. So the pastor gave them a quick "tour."
Fifteen minutes later they were back, asking what time the service started. "Can people come to your church if their socks don't match?" asked the oldest. The pastor assured them they could. "What if they don't have any socks?" Again, the pastor reassured them. "That's good," said the boy, "because my socks don't match, and my little brother hasn't any." That morning those boys came to church and were warmly welcomed. Since then the church has helped the entire family.
Just as the gospel is open to everyone, everyone should feel welcome in our churches. Wealthy and poor, child and aged, police officer and ex-con, handicapped and athlete are all objects of Christ's love. They are all potential members of His body. May there be no barriers in our churches nor in our hearts toward anyone! Dennis Egner (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
Lord, may some weary souls find rest
Because Your people took them in
And helped them see the love of Christ
That frees us from our guilt and sin.--Dennis De Haan
Poor is the church that values programs more than people.
James 1:27 "Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world."-- (R.V.).
THE DEVELOPMENT OF CHRISTIAN CHARACTER - IT IS the experiences of life that reveal us to ourselves. They cannot put into us qualities that are not there, but can develop them. The whole of this wonderful chapter is filled with the diverse discipline of life. "Manifold trials" (Jam1:2), which probably refer to the persecutions and losses of the early Christians., "Temptations" (Jam1:12) which refer to the solicitation of evil from without and within. The burning heat of the fire of prosperity (Jam1:11). The "good gifts" which are strewn around our pathway by the Father of lights--home, parents, friendship, love!
The greatest training-ground for us all is the Word of God (Jam1:21-25). It is here compared to a mirror which reflects us to ourselves, but alas, too often we go our way and forget what manner of men we are. The human soul has a wonderful habit of forgetting any statements that seem to reflect on itself, and to contradict its own notions of its pride and respectability. If, however, we avoid this mistake, and set ourselves to doing, and not hearing only, then we shall grow into strong, brave, and beautiful souls, and shall be blessed in our deed.
Do not stand gazing at the imperfections which the Word of God reveals but having learnt where you come short, dare to believe that Jesus Christ is the true counterpart of your need; that He is strong where you are weak, and full where you are empty.
"Keep himself unspotted from the world." We love the dimpled innocence and purity of a sweet child. But there is something nobler--the face of man or woman who has fought and suffered in the great battle against corruption that is in the world through lust. To keep oneself unspotted from the evil of the world, though perpetually accosted and surrounded by it, is a greater thing than to live in a glass-house, where the blight and dust cannot enter. What a training for character is this daily warfare!
To visit those in affliction. We are related to the world of pain and sorrow by the troubles which are constantly overtaking those with whom we come in contact in dally life. Where the conditions of life are hard, we obtain our best perfecting in Christian character.
PRAYER Make our life deeper, stronger, richer, more Christlike, more full of the spirit of heaven, more devoted to Thy service and glory. AMEN. (F B Meyer. Our Daily Walk, July 7)
James 1:21-2721 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. 27 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.
Unbelief, indifference, busyness, and laziness are some of the excuses people give for not reading the Bible. Gamaliel
Bradford, a renowned American biographer who explored the lives and motives of famous individuals, candidly admitted, "I do not read the New Testament for fear of its awakening a storm of anxiety and self-reproach and doubt and dread of having taken the wrong path, of having been traitor to the plain and simple God."
Fear of facing up to failure, guilt and sin is not a very reasonable reason to avoid reading the Bible! It's about as irrational as refusing to see a doctor because there's a suspicion that cancer has started to develop in one's body.
Yes, the Bible does indeed compel us to face ourselves. It is like an x-ray machine that penetrates below the facade of goodness and shows up any spiritual malignancy. It enables us to see how God views all the worst diseases of the soul. But the Bible does more than expose a fatal condition. It introduces us to the Great Physician, who can cure our sin and bring spiritual healing.
If you read the Bible with a willingness to obey the truth, you will find life's greatest cure. - Vernon Grounds (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
Instill within our hearts, dear Lord,
A deep desire to know Your voice;
We need to learn to hear
Your Word That we may make
Your will our choice. -Dennis De Haan
Many people criticize the Bible because the bible criticizes them.
My Problem Tongue: Various passages in James
The average person speaks 18,000 words a day, and the Bible warns, “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking” (Prov. 10:19). This theme is woven throughout the little Book of James, who warns us of:
1. The Hasty Tongue--James 1:19 and 26
2. The Haughty Tongue--James 2:2–4
3. The Hellish Tongue--James 3:2–12
4. The Hateful Tongue--James 4:11
5. The Heathen Tongue--James 5:12
Conclusion: If your problem is your tongue, spend some time reading through the Book of James, underlining his references to the tongue and memorizing some of these verses. Ask God to help you restrain your tongue and give you the tongue of the wise. (Morgan, R. J. Nelson's Annual Preacher's Sourcebook : 2003 edition. Page 77. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers)
James 1:19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;
JUMPING TO ILLUSIONS - How frustrating to have someone interrupt you, thinking he knows what you're about to say and then jumping to a conclusion! We've all done that. We've jumped to "illusions" about what the person was actually saying. We've heard the words that were spoken, but we didn't really listen to what was being said. And what mis-understanding has resulted!
Recently I "sat on the sidelines" as a husband and wife argued, firing volley after volley of accusations at each other, both talking at the same time, and constantly interrupting each other. Each word drove the wedge of misunderstanding deeper and deeper into their relationship. I could hardly call for a ceasefire above the din of their verbal warfare.
I can't imagine that Jesus ever engaged in discourteous conversation. People listened to Him, and He listened to them. James, in his letter to the early church, wrote, "Be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath" (1:19). I'm sure he saw this modeled in Jesus many times over.
Respectful listening keeps anger under control and promotes righteousness. Let's listen carefully and avoid jumping to illusions. Dennis De Haan (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
It's easy to listen to words that are said
And not hear the facts at all;
But listening for truth, and not just to words,
Will save you from many a fall.-- Hess
You can win more friends with your ears than with your mouth.
"Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change."
The conclusion is unavoidable: self-salvation simply does not work. Man has no way to save himself. But Paul announces that God has a way. Where man fails God excels. Salvation comes from heaven downward, not earth upward. “Every good action and every perfect gift is from God” (James 1:17). Please note: Salvation is God-given, God-driven, God-empowered, and God-originated. The gift is not from man to God. It is from God to man. (Lucado, Max: In the Grip of Grace)
John Greenleaf Whittier knew that at the center of trust is a confidence in God's goodness. He wrote:
I see the wrong that round me lies,
I feel the guilt within,
I hear, with groan and travail cries,
The world confess its sin.
Yet, in the maddening maze of things,
And tossed by storm and flood,
To one fixed trust my spirit clings:
I know that God is good!
Never doubt God's goodness. Even when our trials seem beyond our understanding, we can trust God to give us perfect gifts (Jas. 1:17). - Haddon W Robinson
Don't put a question mark where God has put a period.
James 1:15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
My Sin - The woman explained the rules to the Tempter. She and her husband could eat the fruit of any tree in the garden, except for the special one in the middle. Just touching it, she said, would bring death.
I can imagine Satan throwing back his head and with mocking laughter saying, "You will not surely die" (Gen. 3:4). He then suggested that God was holding back something good from her (v.5).
For thousands of years the Enemy has repeated that strategy. He doesn't care if you believe in the authority of the Bible as a whole, as long as he can get you to disbelieve at the one sin standing between you and God.
"You will not surely die," we are told. That is the theme of so many modern novels. The hero and heroine live in disobedience to God but suffer no consequences. In TV shows and movies the characters rebel against the moral laws of God but live happily ever after.
In the temptation you face today, will you choose to believe Satan's lie, or will you obey God's warning? --Haddon W Robinson (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
How has sin damaged the lives of people I know?
How has disobedience to God harmed me?
Have I experienced God's forgiveness? (1 Jn. 1:9-10).
A bite of sin leaves a bitter aftertaste
"But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire."
IT'S MY FAULT! - The first step in overcoming sin is to admit that we are the ones who are responsible. To look for someone else to blame is to evade the real issue.
A man in a parking lot backed into another car. He simply didn't look to see if the way was clear, and he was obviously at fault. But he jumped out of his car, yelled furiously at the woman driving the car he hit, and told her it was her fault for getting in his way. I learned later that he continued to blame her when he spoke to his insurance agent. Eventually she was cleared, but only after going through tremendous anguish.
This is similar to what happened in the Garden of Eden. After Adam ate the forbidden fruit, he said he wasn't to blame. It was the fault of the woman God had made.
Sometimes we respond like that. When we do something wrong, we immediately look for someone to blame, even if it's God. But James says we sin because we listen to our own selfish desires.
Troubled by a sin that won't go away? Maybe you're not overcoming it because you are blaming someone else. You might even be blaming God because He didn't stop you from doing it. Nonsense! You'll never conquer your sin until you're willing to say, "It's my fault!" - Dennis Egner (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
God cannot prosper those who try
To cover sin and wrong deny;
But all who humbly will confess,
The Savior with His love will bless. -Dennis De Haan
You can never conquer sin with an excuse.
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