Wednesday, April 18, 2012

James 3-5

James tells it like it really is and sometimes it’s hard for us to hear.  He gives more practical advice on how Christians should act - things like fighting, anger, quarreling, showing favoritism, controlling the tongue, boasting, patience and prayer.  Remember you may be the only Bible someone may read.

James 3 – Words of Wisdom

He warns that many of us should not be teachers.  Why?  Instructing in the Word of God is such a serious responsibility; therefore God will judge teachers more harshly than others.  Teachers are held to a higher standard.  Others look up to teachers as they are in positions of influence and authority.  They are molding minds.  God has given us an instrument called the tongue and is to be used in the service of teaching, but we should be cautious.  Without preparation teaching is like the blind leading the blind. – (James 3:1-2). 

We should realize that the smallest objects have great power.  He used the examples of the bit in the horse’s mouth which guides and controls the horse, a small rudder steers a large ship and a small spark starts a forest fire.  The tongue is small, but has great power and can do harmful things.  We should be careful what we say.  Words have a lot of power.  One little word of discouragement to someone can stay with a person the rest of their lives.  When people are called dumb, stupid, lazy, hopeless, etc, they never forget.  Experts say it takes two positive words to offset one negative.  We always remember the negative words, but most likely we will forget the positive words.  Before speaking ask yourself, “Does it give a blessing?” or “Is it going to better the other person?”  So James says to watch our tongues. – (James 3:3-10).  How can we do that?  Recognize we need to watch what we say and then ask God to help us control our tongues and of course think before we speak.

Some of the sins of the tongue are:  coarse jesting, gossip, lying, slander, swearing, ungraceful speech, unkind words.  “For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”(Matthew 12:37).  Instead use the tongue to comfort, encourage, warn, worship and pray.

There are two kinds of wisdom – earthly and heavenly.  Earthly wisdom harbors bitter envy, selfish ambition, is boastful, denies the truth and is not from heaven.  It shows itself in inconsiderate actions, arrogance, selfishness and bitterness.  It is unspiritual and from the devil.  Heavenly wisdom is pure, peace-loving, considerate, gentle, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, sincere and comes from heaven. – (James 13-18).  Wisdom is not only knowledge, but application.  When we hear words of wisdom, it reshapes our thinking and focus.  God’s wisdom is totally pure, because He is holy.  Man’s wisdom is competitive and leads to strife and can make a person hard and stubborn.  Take time to evaluate those places when you have been stubborn.  His wisdom is impartial and brings strength and is sincere.  Man’s wisdom is insincere and fake.

How can we gain more heavenly wisdom?  God gives heavenly wisdom by the study of His Word.  The book of Proverbs is a good book on wisdom.  We can ask God for more heavenly wisdom.  And don’t try to please everyone, only please God.

How has your tongue been tattling on your heart?
What kind of wisdom do you have?
Have you ask God for heavenly wisdom?
What sources do you turn to for wisdom?  Where does the Bible fall on that list?
Where is disorder in your life?  Can you trace it back to worldly wisdom?
Do you see the wisdom of God as an option or an obligation?

Applying God’s wisdom by His Spirit will change how we talk and think.

James 4 – Submission

We are to have self-control.  When we believe, we put on a new nature.  Our old nature is not transferred instantly, but is a process.  The cause of all quarrels is inside our hearts and comes from our own desires.  Are you frustrated with someone, but deeply mad at God?  Pride is a great sin. “God opposes the proud, but give grace to the humble.” (James 4:6). 

The world hates God and hates us for following Him.  If you choose to be a friend of the world, you become an enemy of God.  As believers we are in a relationship with the Lord.  Being friends with the world is an adulterous relationship.  We are to rid ourselves of worldly thinking.  We are to submit to God and resist the devil.  “Come near to God and He will come near to you.”(James 4:8).  True submission is outward and inward.  You can go to Bible study and church, but you also need confession. 

When was the last time you brought a sin to God?
What kind of worldly thinking do you have? 
Are you depending on God or on yourself?

The world openly criticizes people.   People are criticized for their appearance or if they don’t meet the right standards.  They compare one person to another or to themselves.  People want others to measure up to their own standards.  Scripture says only God can judge and only He knows the heart.  Christians are to speak the truth in love.

As we humbly surrender our desires and plans to the Lord, He will lead us by grace into His perfect will.

James 5 – Patient Endurance

There are 4 crimes of the rich man mentioned in James 5:1-6:  hoarding wealth, failing to pay workmen (theft), living in self-indulgence, condemning and murdering innocent men.  Are these actions the actions of Christians?  We are not supposed to judge, but they don’t act like Christians are supposed to act.  Remember James was writing to all Christians so he is reminding them how to act.  None of us are perfect and will never be until we reach heaven.  That’s why we need scripture and the Holy Spirit to convict us and guides us.  Wealth in itself is not sinful.  It’s one’s attitude toward it and how you use it.  God always knows how we are being treated and how we treat others.

Jesus is coming so patient and stand firm.  We are not to grumble against each other or we will be judged.  Be an example of patience when faced with suffering.  We are also not to swear. – (James 5:7-12). 

There are many lessons in James about prayer.  You are to pray when in trouble, call the elders of the church to pray over you when you are sick.  A prayer offered in faith will make you well.  Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so you may be healed.  The prayer of the righteous man is powerful and effective. – (James 5:13-18).  I think this is talking about spiritual weakness or a sick soul and spiritual healing not physical; however it isn’t limited to physical healing.

We as Christians have the privilege to bring those back who have wandered from the faith.  If we turn a sinner from the error of his ways, it will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins. – (James 5:19-20).  There are times when a Christian has been deceived by immoral friends or false teachers.  Maybe he has strayed from the truth in worship, doctrine or morals.  This could happen to any Christian.  We can have an impact on him by turning him back to God.  Then the person sees his sins and is restored.  He is forgiven by God.  These verses show God’s heart.  He will come after us when we wander away, because He loves us so much.

Prayer is a privilege and at great cost, the life of Jesus Christ and with that comes a great power.  What will change your heart?  Prayer.

Humbly surrendering to the Lord in prayer provides us with strength, hope and love for others.

How are you praying today for someone in trouble?
Who is in your path that is drowning?  Will you say, “I’m here to help’?
Are you known as a person of prayer?

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