Wednesday, April 11, 2012

James 1-2

I.  James 1:1-18 – Faith revealed in trials

Who was James?  There are several people in scripture called James.  This James was the step-brother of Jesus.  He grew up with Jesus, but didn’t believe He was the Messiah until after Jesus’ resurrection.  James became a leader of the church and served God.  He addressed this letter to Christians everywhere.  He wrote to teach Christians how to act like Christians.   We are to consider it pure joy when we are faced with trials and temptations, because we know the results.  We know He is at work in our lives.  As Christians we endure exploitation and slander, because we are followers of Jesus.

Faith is proven real when we are tested.  How we live our lives shows our faith.  We think life should be fair, but hardships and trials come to everyone.  Trials come because of our own choices or the choices of others and because we live in a fallen world.  Trials can show the glory of God.  We are to consider it pure joy when we have trials.  That doesn’t mean we should celebrate when we have a sickness, but we should be joyful because of what we know.  God is developing in us perseverance, endurance and maturity.  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purposes.”(Romans 8:28).  How does He use a trial to develop us? – moment by moment.  Running doesn’t eliminate the trial.  The only way is to go through it.

Is it sinful to doubt?  We are all human and we have doubts from time to time.  We can doubt what someone says and disagree with them.  Sometimes doubt can lead us to more study, knowledge and maturity.  The doubt that is a sin is when we don’t trust God and His promises.  We should ask for wisdom with confidence and believe and not doubt.  How much confidence do you have in God’s wisdom and goodness?  We should surrender our will to God in trials.  Our belief is what keeps us stable.  When we doubt, we begin to get tossed around mentally and emotionally.

God’s purpose in all trials is to develop spiritual maturity.

II.   James 1:19-2:13 – Faith revealed by obedience to God’s Word.

James 1:19-11 contrasts the rich man with the man who has nothing.  I think this is speaking of salvation in contrast to having wealth and being unsaved.  The poor man may not have earthly riches, but he has something greater than he could ever imagine.  He is an heir of God.  One who has Christ has all the spiritual blessings of Heaven for eternity.  The rich man (if unsaved), has only his worldly riches to hold to.  So if rich or poor, we are equal.  God does not look at our bank account.  He does not show favoritism.  The rich are not any higher, because of their riches.  It’s all going to fade away anyway.  If we are Christians, we all have the wealth of salvation, which is eternal value.  Worldly things are not eternal and will fade away.

No one is exempt to temptation.  Even Jesus was tempted.  God never tempts.  Temptation can lead to sin. There is temptation everywhere you look.  We live in a sexually immoral world.  Sex is portrayed everywhere – TV, movies, magazines, etc.  Couples are living together as if that was the way it was supposed to be.  Babies are being born and then couples get married.  When we give in to temptation, we let Satan get a foothold and then we have sin in our lives.  America is giving in to Satan with our selfish and lustful desires and one day we as a nation will be sorry for His judgment is coming.  For the wages of sin is death...”(Romans 6:23). 

How useful is your faith in temptation?  Trials reveal our true attitude toward God.  Where are you on the surrender scale?

How can we avoid falling into sin?  We can stay away from places and situations where we might be tempted.  Send a message to Hollywood by not watching those “R” rated movies.  Stay in His Word and fix your eyes on Jesus.  We can use the full Armor of God. – (Eph. 6:10-18). 

James lists several ways a Christian should behave in James 1:19-27.  We should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.  We should get rid of all moral filth and evil and humbly accept His Word planted in us.  We should watch our tongues.  (Our tongues will get us into trouble every time.)  We should look after orphans and widows and keep ourselves from being polluted by the world.  Who are the orphans and widows and how do we help them?  They are the less fortunate and are all around us.  We can visit the sick and elderly, send them encouraging cards, mow there yard, run errands for them, take them to their appointments, etc.  We can donate and/or give our time to organizations like Salvation Army, the Red Cross, food and clothing banks, etc.  There are many ways.  Just look around and you will find them.

We should not discriminate.  Don’t shun those who are different from you or those appearances don’t live up to what you think they should.  God shows no favoritism.  “But if you show favoritism, you sin …”(James 2:9).  We are all equal.  “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (James 2:8, Matthew 22:39, Leviticus 19:18).  None of us are perfect.  We are human and we all break the 10 Commandments.  There’s nothing we can do on our own to make up for it.  But Jesus did.  He died on the cross and paid for our sins, which make us perfect in God’s eyes.

Have you shared this with an unsaved person?

Authentic faith responds to obedience to God’s Word and produces genuine love for others.

How eager are you to hearing from God?
Do you study the Word out of habit or hunger?  Do you accept it as authoritive living?
Are you living as a hypocrite?
How has God placed in your heart the love for others?  Has it changed you?
Who is on your mind that is lonely and thirsty for love?

III.  James 2:14-26 – Faith revealed by deeds.

James 2:14-17 describes faith.   Faith without action is not saving faith.  Real faith produces action and changes your heart.  Faith without works is dead.  Our works is the proof of our faith.  We have to do more than just believe.  Even the demons believe in Jesus.  We have to put our belief and faith into action like that of Abraham and Rahab.  They believed, had faith and followed with actions.  That’s true faith.  Works don’t save us.  Every believer knows God and that He died on the cross, but if we don’t fully surrender, we are lost and destined to Hell.

James tells us there are three elements of true or saving faith.
1.  The first element of faith is to believe – to embrace the basic teachings of Christ.
2.  Then faith involves our response to what God has done.  Not only did Jesus die on the cross for all, but that He died for me.
3.   Finally, faith involves trust or commitment.
Put all these elements together and faith means that you receive Jesus as your personal Savor and Lord and are committed to following Him.  Does this describe your life?

Authentic saving faith transforms our hearts to love and to serve like Christ.

How do people know you have committed your life to Jesus?
How are you displaying love to others?
Will your faith prove authentic love?

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