James

No Discrimination

274_NO DISCRIMINATION.jpg

Do you harbor any form of prejudice in your heart? For example, do you look down on the homeless and view them as a stain on society? Do you harbor negative feelings toward an ethnic group, the gay community or even hate groups? Do you think of, or treat others differently, who don’t agree with your world view even though your world view may be Christian? If you do, remember that true love is all inclusive. We need to learn how to love every soul even if, at the moment, that soul may be opposed to our world view or live contrary to our way of life. We need to really love our neighbor as we love ourselves no matter who they are. We need to treat everyone as Jesus would treat them. James chapter 2, verses 8 and 9 tells us: 

“If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.”

You may have heard it said regarding sinners and unbelievers that we should “love the person, but hate the sin.” Though that may be true, I believe that many Christians find it difficult to separate the two. The Bible tells us that our battle isn’t against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Every person was created by God, and every person has a soul; a soul that God wants to save. The Bible reminds us that it isn’t God’s desire that any should perish. Any of us. We are all people, loved by God so much that he died for us… all of us. John 3:16 says, “for God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” In light of these truths we need to evaluate what it truly means to love the person, but hate the sin. For all people we should never discriminate, we should not show favoritism because as James says, when we do, “we sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.”

---

James says that, “if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.” We need to truly love our neighbors as we love ourselves because remember, without Jesus, we could’ve been one of the people we currently abhor. We could’ve been that which we revile the most. We could’ve been the worst of sinners, misguided, and maybe even one who preys on the innocent. But as far as our walk with the Lord is concerned, we are not to discriminate. If God loves the world, we should too. I pray that we all learn how to truly love the person, while at the same time hating the sin; realizing that these are two separate entities. Our job is to show the love of Christ while allowing the Holy Spirit to help us in that effort.

Good Wisdom

248_GOOD WISDOM.jpg

James explains that there are two kinds of wisdom that we can pursue. One is of the devil and the other is from heaven. It says in James 3 verses 13 through 17:

“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”

James explains that wisdom is good only if it is from heaven. The basic difference between good and evil wisdom is that one is selfish and the other is selfless. This pattern is strewn throughout the Bible, and it is re-enforced once again in this portion of scripture. Our sinful nature pursues selfish ambition and envies what we don’t have. But Godly wisdom focuses itself on the needs of others in a way that is humble and pure. You might have realized that these are fruits of the spirit, and you may be wondering what they have to do with wisdom. Well, Proverbs reminds us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. When we understand how to operate using the fruits of the spirit as God instructs, we are wise because we do so in obedience to the Lord.

---

James tells us that there are two kinds of wisdom; selfish wisdom that comes from the devil and selfless wisdom that comes from heaven. I encourage you to pursue and seek the latter. It plays itself out by being pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. When we pursue these attributes, we are being wise because by aligning ourselves with the Holy Spirit, we will ultimately reap what is good.

Come Near

247_COME NEAR.jpg

For me, James is one of the most challenging books in the Bible. He doesn’t mince words when calling us out about our walk with God and our struggle with our sin nature. He calls it like it is, which can be very hard to hear and very convicting. But often times, conviction is exactly what we need. In James chapter 4, verses 8 through 10 the Bible says:

“Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

This portion of scripture is clearly a message of repentance. James challenges us to make our lives right before God; to wash our hands and purify our hearts. He’s basically telling us to get serious about our walk, to repent of our sin and to turn back to Christ. He tells us to grieve, mourn and wail because of our disobedience, which indicates true repentance. Then he continues by telling us to humble ourselves before the Lord and he will lift us up. I believe the most difficult time to pray is right after we’ve sinned. At least that is true for me. I feel so ashamed and unworthy of God that I find it difficult to understand why he would hear and forgive me. But that is exactly the time we need to be on our knees before him, when we are broken and contrite. James tells us that we are to humble ourselves before the Lord and he will ultimately lift us back up.

---

Repenting before the Lord can be difficult. No one wants to feel guilty and ashamed. No one likes to feel as if they’ve done something wrong that requires forgiveness. But we are sinners, and to walk with a Holy God means that we need to wash our hands and purify our hearts when we fall. There is no other way. Your sins won’t be forgiven without asking for it. And the act of asking doesn’t really matter if we’re not ready to truly repent. So, I encourage you, if you are far from God, or if you’re caught up in sin, to repent and do what James suggests. Wash your hands, purify your hearts, grieve, mourn and wail, humble yourself before the Lord and he will lift you up.

Save From Death

242_SAVE FROM DEATH.jpg

Sometimes the most important things to do in life are actually the hardest things to do. James outlines one of those important, difficult things in chapter 5 of his book in verses 19 through 20 which says:

“My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his ways will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”

It can be really hard to extend a hand to one who has wandered from the truth. You may think that it will get slapped away, that you are risking a relationship, or that some form of conflict might occur for sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong. But James tells us that “whoever turns a sinner from the error of his ways will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins”. So, when we put our relationship at risk in an effort to bring someone back to Christ, it is a selfless act, not a judgmental one. We have everything to lose, but they will have everything to gain. If you find yourself in that place, I encourage you to dare to put your relationship at risk for the sake of that wayward person. If done with love, you can’t go wrong. Even if it doesn’t seem like you’ve made an impact, the Holy Spirit may use your efforts as a seed that could grow to conviction, leading that person back to Christ. But in all cases, before you make your move, I would encourage you to make sure you earnestly pray for the Spirit to take control of the encounter.

---

We are safest when we concentrate only on our walk with God, but even that can be difficult. Even so, consider how much more difficult it would be to turn a sinner from the error of his ways. It means that we might face rejection, conflict, or a host of other negative reactions. If you choose to put your relationship at risk in an effort to put this verse into practice, remember that it is only the Holy Spirit who can change a heart. Hopefully, that will take some of the pressure off of the result of your encounter. And as James says, your efforts can save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins. So yes, it is difficult, but it will be well worth it in the end.

Books_Both.jpg

Testimony Building

224_TESTIMONY BUILDING.jpg

I recently recorded an episode of the television series, “Christian Music Videos”, highlighting the portion of scripture that I’ll be sharing with you today. This past Sunday my pastor preached on it, and over the weekend as I thought more on these verses in James, I began to see an even deeper meaning in them. James chapter 1, verses 2 through 4 says: 

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Have you ever heard the term “building a testimony”? If we continually remember all of the amazing things that God has done in our lives, especially in the difficult times, then when we have an opportunity to share Christ with others we have examples, or a testimony, of our experiences as proof of God’s faithfulness. As I re-read James, I began to realize that it is through trials where we have persevered that we build testimonies. If we are able to put our trust in God when trials come, and leave everything in his hands, then any positive outcome can only be attributed to him. And in that, we have built a testimony with which to share with others if they want to know why we put our faith in Christ. I’m a big believer in testimonies. I try to put myself in the shoes of the unbeliever when they are told about Christ. How can they believe without any proof? I understand that it all comes down to faith, and that ultimately it is the Holy Spirit who will draw them unto himself, but wouldn’t it be exceedingly helpful if you had examples of how God came through in your life when explaining to others why they should put their faith in him? We don’t follow Christ because of what we can get from him, but identifying times when he has come through for us bolsters our faith and helps us share with others how we have seen his hand at work.

---

We build testimonies in our lives by recognizing what God has done for us and sharing it with others. It is more than just bragging on Jesus, which is awesome in and of itself. But it can be a tool to build faith in others as they hear your story of how faithful God was in a trial that you went through. No one invites trials in their lives, but they are bound to come. When they do, as James says, count it pure joy. Because as your faith is tested and you persevere, you grow more mature in the faith. Another benefit is that you have a testimony to share with others during their trials, or during their search for Christ.