James Chapter One
V1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are in the Dispersion: Greetings.
The purpose of this book in the New Testament Scripture, is to serve the children of God and the Lord Jesus Christ. James describes himself only as a servant. He has no titles of acclaim, or lordly standing in this world. He boasts no academic qualifications, or social standing of any kind, only as a “servant”
He is not James the fisherman, but James son of Alphaeus, also known as James the Less. He is one of the Apostles and is named with this name in the lists of Apostles. There is some confusion about the identity of James and what position he took in the family of Mary and Joseph. Some hold him as the Lord’s brother, or a cousin, but there is no clarity about his relationship with Jesus Christ. Whatever the specific identity, James came to recognise who his earthly brother is and came to know Jesus as his Lord and God. He obeyed his Lord with understanding and continued in obedience all his life after that time. This is the mark of a true believer. One who has understood their standing before God and realises they have none.!
James is writing to Christians, not just the scattered Jewish nation. The Christians have suffered persecution and that had the effect of dispersing them as witnesses to Christ in the uttermost parts of the world. Christians were and are everywhere and in every nation. Each succeeding generation carries the clarion call to repent, and turn and be saved. The golden chain will never break until all the people of God are gathered in. James is writing to such people. They might seem to be scattered randomly through the cultures of the world, but God knows each one and has a plan for their lives for their good and His glory. He has motivated James to write this letter.
“And we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.”
The beginning calls out with “Greetings”
The people of God are greeted by God’s servant; though scattered they remain as one body of believers in the world-wide family of God. They will listen to James as he speaks in this letter, because he is a servant of their Father God. They recognise the voice of their Master in the written word from James, and so they will obey and follow.
“I am the good shepherd. I know my own, and I’m known by my own; even as the Father knows me, and I know the Father.”
V2 Count it all joy, my brothers , when you fall into various temptations,
This is the attitude and thought processes of God in Christ. When troubles come, they are not considered problems or negative experiences, but positive. In fact, the attitude is an expression of joy. Joyful thoughts and feelings about the painful events in life, is not the natural human way. We would seek to avoid trouble and do everything in our power to get out of painful situations. The Christian is here encouraged to embrace the sufferings and as they lift their eyes to their father God, to be thankful. Even more – to rejoice.
Paul says, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”
That is quite a skill and we will not learn it without the work of the Holy Spirit in our minds and souls. This is not a Stoic resignation or a putting up with what we have got. This is a deep trust in God that He does all things well.
These trials are of all kinds – physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual. The Christian is not spared trouble. Trouble does God’s work of sanctification like nothing else. Trouble makes the Christian strong, resilient, persistent, courageous, empathetic. God does not save us to shut us up in an ivory tower. We are out there in the battle field until the day He takes us home. If our faith is going to survive and thrive, it must grow and become strong.
“But because you are partakers of Christ’s sufferings, rejoice; that at the revelation of his glory you also may rejoice with exceeding joy. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed; because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.”
1 Peter 4: 13-14
The first trials are very painful because we have not experienced them before. But as we learn to use our spiritual muscles, we get stronger and we use the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, with greater accuracy. We also become more and more aware that we are not alone. God is with us always, when we feel His presence and when we don’t. This all builds faith.
As trials get more and bigger, so we respond in greater faith and we begin to see that God’s Word and promises are unflinchingly true. This is how strong, resilient Christians are built. Not by going to Bible college, involvement in church, or any “religious” setting, but by the exercise of faith out there in the evil world, where there is no refreshment apart from Christ. This is the Christian’s joy. When they find out that Christ is enough, it is so powerful and motivating and people will then step out and step up for such a God that builds character and courage.
V3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance,
The Christians being spoken to here, understand many things about coping with pressure on their faith. If you are a Christian, your faith will be tried. This is a universal truth in our Christian lives and is wholly necessary if we are to thrive in our spiritual walk with God. To enter into the life of faith without counting the cost, will cause the person great problems. If we expect a rosy-tinted future, we will be very disappointed. If we are involved with counselling people to come to God, we must not cover over this issue.
The Christian life is full of sacrifice, loss, choosing the lesser thing on purpose, and enduring great hardships of all kinds. We follow the suffering Saviour, and our way is no different. There are plenty who preach and teach the meeting of all needs, desires and the fulfilment of all dreams if we come to God. This is a falsehood. It would be so detrimental to our faith to take to ourselves the blessings of this life. The culture we live in is not conducive to sharing, giving or inconveniencing ourselves for the sake of anyone. Making prayers and sacrifices so that my enemies are blessed, is not a human mindset.
James tells us that if we take our sorrows and persevere in our lives to the glory of God, it will bring deep spiritual blessings. Only a true Christian will appreciate this view, because our human nature does not recognise this way of living. The Christian swims against the tide of this world’s culture, and we must expect more trouble than those who are heading down stream.
To go against the mindset, atmosphere and practice of this sinful world and it’s systems, will produce a good spiritual effect. With each progressive trouble, the soul will grow and the spiritual muscles will develop and the Christian will carry on – to persevere. To know this in advance is a great blessing because we will not be expecting an easy life as we serve God. As our faith grows, we begin to see God’s work in our lives and we understand His work and rest on His promises to us in the Word He has given.
To know this truth gives us backbone and stamina to walk a straight and narrow path with Christ.
“That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found to praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.”
1 Peter 1:4
V4 Let endurance have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Perseverance is also translated patience. It is the ability to keep going whatever is happening. It is the ability to keep to the right path until the end of the journey. This is God’s work. We cannot save ourselves and we cannot keep ourselves. The human psyche must acquiesce to God at all times and seek to follow His perfect holy will. Perseverance will do whatever is necessary to keep in step with God.
The main purpose of the Christian’s service is to know the Lord. The Christian’s great interest is the Word of God, to read, study, learn and obey the lessons taught there. To know the Word is to know and love the one they speak about. The Christian sees Christ in all the Scriptures, and sees His beauty. To be like Him is the Christians great aim.
“Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God.”
So keeping to the Path of Life is paramount. As this way is walked, it has a profound effect on the Christian’s life. The Word of God makes us mature and secure in the way of God and to have the judgment of godly wisdom. We grow up in Christ as we become full of good works and wise words.
To walk this pathway in the presence of the Lord Jesus, makes our lives complete in Him and increasingly holy as we learn from His personal Words to us every day. Sin is cast off, as it has the dragging effect on the soul and keeps us away from close fellowship with God. Everything goes on the altar.
“But whoever keeps his word, God’s love has most certainly been perfected in him. This is how we know that we are in him: he who says he remains in him ought himself also to walk just like he walked.”
1 John 2: 5-6
As the Christian sheds the trappings of sin and the world, they find out that they actually have everything in Christ and the desires for earthly things gets less and less.
This is the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a redeemed person. They have moved from slavery in this present existence, into the joy of the Lord, becoming deep and mature and realising that Christ is all in all.
The work of persevering is not passive. It is the full active, dynamic and powerful interaction of the renewed will of the Christian and the sovereign will of God the Father. There is an obstinacy in pursuing the course of salvation. The believer will not be deflected, no matter how great the difficulties get.
The Christian is resolute in their determination to please God and live for Him. The Holy Spirit gives the strength to do so and the motivation to carry on to the end of the road, which is heaven forever.
“She, or he, who endures to the end, shall be saved.”
What a mighty promise and what a life of victory for those who fight their way to heaven and reign with Him in glory.
V5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach; and it will be given to him.
If these blessings should not be attractive to you or you are unable to see the grace of God in these trials, God will help you. God offers wisdom to anyone who asks. The presumption is that those who ask for wisdom are the people of God, as no one else would ask for such a thing. This gift is spiritually discerned and belongs to these who have souls that are alive to God. Souls redeemed and changed into the likeness of Christ.
The spiritually dead will not require such a gift. They have no need of it, nor see any value in having it. Some will recognise wisdom and may regard it as a good idea in some ways, but certainly not a lifestyle choice. Folly is the defining feature of the fallen human heart and as such precludes the desire to be otherwise.
“God chose the foolish things of the world that he might put to shame those who are wise. God chose the weak things of the world, that he might put to shame the things that are strong; and God chose the lowly things of the world, and the things that are despised, and the things that are not, that he might bring to nothing the things that are: that no flesh should boast before God. But of him, you are in Christ Jesus, who was made to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption: that according as it is written, “He who boasts, let him boast in the Lord.”
1 Corinthians 1: 27-31
The Christian with the image of Christ in their view, will understand the need for wisdom and seek it earnestly. If you want something badly enough, you will pray and search the Scriptures to find it.
“A scoffer seeks wisdom, and doesn’t find it, but knowledge comes easily to a discerning person.”
Proverbs 14: 6
God’s promise is that anyone who asks for wisdom will get it. God will give such a gift liberally and keep nothing back from those who seek it. God will not stop you from growing in wisdom and following in the ways of wisdom. He will not criticise you for being too forward or too ambitious in your search for wisdom.
God gives this precious gift to anyone who asks and does not discriminate or judge the person for this request or hold back the gift in anyway. In this world, we must study long and hard to achieve a qualification and only suitable people can access the process of study. People with any lack cannot enter the select group who are included in this study.
This is not true of God. He refuses no one who seeks His blessing of wisdom. Wisdom is not like intelligence. Intelligence is a measure of the ability of a human being to think, reason and apply knowledge. It is measured by tests and judgments by human standards. Wisdom is spiritual discernment and requires spiritual life from God and a living relationship with God. This is nothing to do with the abilities we need for this life, but relates to our relationship with God, our Father in heaven.
V6 But let him ask in faith, without any doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven by the wind and tossed.
If we are truly seeking God and earnestly wanting to know Him and be taught by Him, we will have faith. As we ask for the gift of wisdom, we will be asking in faith. We will believe that God will hear and answer our request because He said He would. There is no such thing as a Christian without faith, but our faith may be weak and limited to our own ideas and thought patterns.
When we ask in faith, there is no doubt in our minds about what we want, or that God will answer us, according to His promise. Asking in faith will get a reply and the request will be granted. God knows our weaknesses and yet He is prepared to give us the riches of His grace, when we ask in faith.
If our minds should be wavering and our motivations doubtful, we end up with a double-mind. We are unsure and unsettled and our faith is very tenuous. Fear is lurking in us and we are not sure how much we want this spiritual blessing. Maybe we are afraid of how this blessing will change us. Perhaps we are unsure about being more Christ-like and how other people might perceive us. Could it be we feel a bit ashamed of the Lord and are a little worried about the offence of the cross!?
Our minds ebb and flow like the waves of the sea. Sometimes they are stormy and the breakers crash on our lives causing trouble and uncertainty. The sea is a restless beast that churns everything in it and is constantly driven by the power of the wind and weather. The Scripture tells us that the mind that cannot decide if it wants God, or wants to learn wisdom, is restless and never settles. If we cannot even tell what we really want, we are unstable people. We will take on the colour of the company we keep. We will agree with anyone who comes along and imagine we are being godly when we fit into Christian groups.
God requires a single-minded commitment to Himself and His Word. It’s all or nothing. We follow the Lord and Saviour of our soul, everywhere He leads.
Without this devotion we are at the mercy of the winds of change and chance that have ravaged the human social situation. We will be tossed to and fro in all our thinking and will be rendered futile. In the end we face shipwreck and disaster as we hit the rocks of God’s justice and holiness.
V7 For let that man not think that he will receive anything from the Lord.
The doubter will undoubtedly loose out. No one who entertains unbelief will receive anything from God. It really is the whole of us or nothing. There us no trial period of salvation to see if you like Jesus and agree with Him. Even to write it is preposterous.! We give up or sinsorientated self, which will drag us down to perdition, or gain a heart of wisdom.
When God calls a person to repentance and faith, they need to respond with urgency. The door of salvation will not always be open, even in a persons lifetime. Now is the day of salvation. Tomorrow holds no guarantees. If a person sees and feels their need and understands the necessity of faith and total repentance, the desire to be forgiven will drive that person urgently to the Saviour Jesus. There will be no cost too great to take hold of such a Saviour and surrender every part to Him.
As Christians, we hold back nothing. We obey the Lord and walk in His ways right to the very end of our lives. We may fall and we will fail, but we will fly back to Him in days of restoration.
No wavering. No waiting around. If we give up all to Christ, the blessing and reward is beyond comparison. But to fail to accept the gift of faith and fail to walk in its light, brings cursing rather than blessing. The words are strong and clear.
“Without faith it is impossible to be well pleasing to him…”
God wants nothing but the oil of devotion from the vial of Faith.
“…for he who comes to God must believe that he exists, and that he is a rewarder of those who seek him.” Hebrews 11:6
We fail, but God’s promises never fail. If we place all our hope in Him, He will give us peace.
V8 He is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
Without faith we cannot pleases God at all. He is not impressed with our manners, dress, or presentation of personality. Lack of faith is shown in everything we do. We give away our spiritual position in everything we say and think. A person without faith is constantly dithering between opinions. Without the foundation rock of faith in the unchanging, living God, we are completely on our own. We will not be able to work out what is best, because our view of life and the reality of God, is limited. We might take one point of view on an issue, and something at odds with that for another issue. We change position on what we think, often to suit our company or the social group we want to join. Our integrity is suspect.
Every decision we make is tainted and the soul without spiritual life cannot make wise choices. Our mindset and thought processes are not reliable. Without Christ we are unstable in every way. We are like tightrope walkers trying to balance on a moving wire and swaying dangerously, trying to obtain control of our position.
The double-minded person cannot be trusted. They might be regarded as a pillar of the community, but their judgments are always suspect because they are not tempered with the purifying influence of the Holy Spirit. For the Christian, there is a responsibility to remain holy in life and thought, so that we are close to the Spirit. God’s wisdom is, therefore, played out in their thought processes for the glory of God. We easily sway and follow the path of fear, rather than what God teaches.
Unbelieving people can make judgments, but they are based on upbringing, education and life experiences. The Holy Spirit in his mercy for our human societies, often restrains the foolishness of human judgment and keep us as a race from wiping each other out. His gracious work also gives us some tranquility in our daily lives with each other.
“Don’t be deceived. God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption. But he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”
Galatians 6: 7-8
To be a stable-minded person, means to be emerged in the Word of God and to have a close personal relationship with Christ. The work of the Holy Spirit is intense and thorough. The safe- minded person knows and feels their sin and deals with it. A strong minded person knows the error in the mind and the truth of the Word of God. A stable person knows they are totally weak in themselves, but strong in faith and love towards God and other people.
V9 But let the brother in humble circumstances glory in his high position;
This phrase seems strange to the human mind. We wonder how a humble person could also be in a high position. “Humble” and “high” do not go together.
Human societies all have some sort of hierarchy. The hierarchy is a method of keeping order and some kind of rule of law. The person in charge has authority and power to have this authority over the lower people in the social group. The leader can do and say things that have influence over others. The leader of the group is regarded above everyone else. The leader gets praise and glory because they are seen as more important than everyone else. This is still true in the democratic system of government. This position opens the door for great pride and people pushing themselves for supremacy.
This uplifting of one above others causes so much trouble for that person and everyone around them. It drives us to deeds done in conceit and flattery, cronyism, cow-towing and many kinds of social evil.
The idea of an important, ruling person actively putting themselves down, is not a human trait. The concept of humility is not in the human psyche. Those who seek acclaim, strive for it and push themselves forward to get in the position of having authority over other lesser people. Some will say they are equal with other people, but in reality they are not. The working of human pride is in every soul, and we all seek exalted places in the scheme of things.
This Scripture tells us that the Christian who lives life in a humble way, not expecting or trying for position above others, is a blessed person. The humble heart is in a very good place to be and to live. God puts His most heartfelt workers in the low social place, because there, they will work effectively for Him. Christians who are lifted up, especially in this world, are living with danger. They will live in danger of their souls becoming contaminated and their motivations being unclear.
“For this cause, we also, since the day we heard this, don’t cease praying and making requests for you, that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, that you may walk worthily of the Lord, to please him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to the might of his glory, for all endurance and perseverance with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who made us fit to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light;”
Colossians 1: 9-12
The Christian in the lowly place, who carries on regardless of circumstances and the effects of other people, is actually in the high position in the kingdom of God. The Christian who is most sensitive to their sins and careful about their spiritual life, will be kept by God. Those who love Him and desire influence for Christ, will be rewarded. If doors shut and opportunities fail, or you are shut out of exercising your gifts for the Lord, do not be concerned, God will have something better for you. No one can thwart the purposes of God.
It is hard to live by faith. Trusting God for the future and for the fruit of the work you do for Him, is difficult. Many serve God and never know the outcome of what they are doing. In most cases, only eternity will tell, and we must trust God in this too….
“You, even you, are to be feared. Who can stand in your sight when you are angry You. pronounced judgment from heaven. The earth feared, and was silent, when God arose to judgment, to save all the afflicted ones of the earth. Surely the wrath of man praises you. The survivors of your wrath are restrained.
Make vows to Yahweh your God, and fulfill them! Let all of his neighbors bring presents to him who is to be feared. He will cut off the spirit of princes. He is feared by the kings of the earth.”
Psalm 76: 7-12
People quickly and falsely judge by sight, so we leave our glory to the God who has saved us and we rest on the truth that Christ will not allow us to utterly fail. Faith rest on God, and so we humbly serve Him in the light of His Word.
V10 and the rich, in that he is made humble, because like the flower in the grass, he will pass away.
On the other hand, people who are rich are made humble. The rich are those who have much of this worlds goods, indeed, more than they need. These earthly blessed people are made humble, because they are not rich towards God. Their spiritual state is poverty, and they have no currency towards God. They may have status and notice in this life, but none in the eternal kingdom.
It is almost impossible for the rich to be made right with God. They have no earthly needs and cannot see their spiritual need or that they might be lacking in some way they haven’t thought about. We tend to be blinded by money and acquisitions and our faith in them and not God. We fill our time and thoughts with entertainments and so do not feel our deep spiritual need. We can buy our way out of trouble, so the idea of needing a Saviour, does not move us.
God will humble all those who are not rich in grace and faith. These people will walk the earth for a short time and then fade away like meadow flowers. Their vaunted goods will do them no good and will bring them down into humiliation.
Jesus said that it is hard to get into the kingdom of God if you have many possessions.
“Jesus said to his disciples, “Most certainly I say to you, a rich man will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven with difficulty. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into God’s Kingdom.”
This is very clear. The amount of things we possess will deter us from seeking the Lord. Jesus has just talked to a rich young man and spoke to Him about his lack is spiritual desire. The young man thinks he has done enough to get into the kingdom of God. Jesus sifts the young man’s heart and the Saviour of the world watched him walk away, because the man just couldn’t let go his wealth.
Some argue the value of a rich person to give to God’s work. But God requires only faith. He is not dependant on people’s money to prop up his will and the exercise of His power. God knows the corruption of this world and how it is closely tied with the love of money. The rich are not necessary to God. What He requires is a heart that loves Him. All other things will be given at the right time.
“When Asa heard these words, and the prophecy of Oded the prophet, he took courage, and put away the abominations out of all the land of Judah and Benjamin, and out of the cities which he had taken from the hill country of Ephraim; and he renewed the altar of Yahweh, that was before the porch of Yahweh. He gathered all Judah and Benjamin, and those who lived with them out of Ephraim and Manasseh, and out of Simeon: for they fell to him out of Israel in abundance, when they saw that Yahweh his God was with him.”
2 Chronicles 15: 8-9
There are many Christian groups who own property, furniture, historical fittings, and all sorts of belongings… these are a stumbling block in these materialistic days. We think we need all this stuff, when in reality it has become an huge idol. Can we give it all away? Can we cut ourselves down to nothing but God. Nothing but God? But that is the way to spiritual success… the truth is, we cannot give up our property, prestige and pride.
Jesus walks away.
V11 For the sun arises with the scorching wind, and withers the grass, and the flower in it falls, and the beauty of its appearance perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in his pursuits.
All flesh is as grass…
Grass does not last very long. It has a short life-cycle. The meadow flowers that grow among it, have a similar life span. The force that ends the vitality of the green growth, comes from the heat of the sun. When the day breaks and the hot sun sheds its beans over the landscape, the fragile green grass is the first to feel its heat. As the day progresses, the hot sun scorched the grass as if it was put into an oven.
Similarly the power of the moving wind, dries out the foliage and the two conditions of sun and wind, shorten the life of the grass and by night fall, it has withered and died.
Even the beauty of the plants and delicate petals on the flowers that grow among the grass, loose their freshness and life. They show their beauty in the early morning dew, but by midday they are past their best and by evening they have withered and gone. It does not take long for the powerful heat and air to bring life to a halt.
So also the rich people. They have all the beautiful things in life to have happiness and to present themselves well, but it does not last. Clothes wear out and skin ages and eventually dies.
“All flesh is like grass, and all its glory is like the flower of the field.”
The Scripture likens human life as a transient event, passing and very temporary.
“The grass withers, the flower fades, because God’s breath blows on it. Surely the people are like grass. The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God stands forever.” Isaiah 40:7-8
The breath of the wind is like the breath of God who carries us away into death. The length of days is decided by Him. We perish like a delicate plant, carried into death by the wind of the Spirit. The eternal nature of the Word of God stands in sharp contrast.
ourselves huge empires and make more money than we could ever spend but we leave it all for someone else.
“Who who loves silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he who loves abundance, with increase: this also is vanity. When goods increase, those who eat them are increased; and what advantage is there to its owner, except to feast on them with his eyes? The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eats little or much; but the abundance of the rich will not allow him to sleep.”
Ecclesiastes 5: 10-12
The rich person can do all sorts of activities, but time and age wear us all down and we eventually cannot do our tasks or entertainments any more. Is death more troubling for a rich person? They appear to loose more because of their abundance. The truth is, we leave it all behind, wether rich or poor, so let us look ahead to eternal activity in the kingdom of God.
V12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation, for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord promised to those who love him.
There are always the many who follow riches and worldly goods, but some resist that route, to find a way of living in a different way. It is easy to follow this world, but much harder to follow the narrow pathway that leads to life. To turn our back on the physical and rewarding activities of the world is something only a redeemed person can do. There must be an alternative life that is more attractive than this life. To see it requires a complete turn around of heart and mind. Only a soul that sees heaven, will value that place and travel the road that leads there.
“Enter in by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter in by it. How narrow is the gate, and restricted is the way that leads to life! Few are those who find it.”
Matthew 7: 13-14
Our flesh and the enemy of our lives will always be trying to distract and stop our progress on that road. There are many, many temptations that would pull us away from Christ and stop our testimony of His saving grace to us. This temptation is not a single event. It is a live-long struggle against that power, which is always seeking to deflect our walk with God.
Enduring is a whole life activity and means we fight the fight of faith right to the end of the road. The approval of God happens when we have “stood the test.” So our long term goal is to resist the temptation of giving up the more difficult road with God, and settling for just enjoying life while we are still in this world.
The true believer will persevere and enter heaven with the joy of the Lord still with triumphant in their lives.
Those who persevere, are the true saints of God, and God will give to them the crown of life. The crown is everlasting life kept in heaven for the people of God. They love that life as they love God and long for eternity with Him.
“….we don’t faint, but though our outward man is decaying, yet our inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is for the moment, works for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory; while we don’t look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
2 Corinthians 4: 16-18
Those who do not keep going and are entrapped back into the world, do not overcome and therefore have no crown of life. They swap life for death and are ultimately cast away from God. It doesn’t have to be so.
God promises eternal life to all who love Him and love what He loves. They who are blessed by Him, walk in wisdom and obedience. Through life these blessed people are taught by God and given power to live the life of faith. They keep going because they know God keeps His promises and their desire is for the heavenly kingdom and the crown of life. There may be times of falling away, when we are enamoured by this worlds entrapments, but the believer will return to God, and live to fight another day.
V13 Let no man say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God,” for God can’t be tempted by evil, and he himself tempts no one.
We are adept at excusing ourselves. Our evil desires and wishes can shock us and cause us to question our integrity. When a sin rises up in us we can be surprised by its power and easy hold on us. It is very easy to tempt us as human beings, because we have an inbuilt tendency towards wrong. It is not difficult for the enemy to inflame those inner desires and work on our pride and selfishness to produce a crop of deadly sins.
This world and the tempter, and our evil hearts will produce for us all kinds of justifications to cover over the guilt. We can even find ourselves blaming God for our predicament. We reason that God is in charge of everything and therefore He has allowed this temptation to happen and therefore it is His temptation. God does not tempt people, but will permit us to be tested by temptations, so that we gain strength and learn to resist them. Sometimes He allows His people to be tempted and fall into sin, so that His grace is a mighty testimony to other people. When we feel the power of temptation, we can empathise with other people who also fall.
Jesus was tempted in the wilderness after forty days of fasting and praying. He is able to feel for us as we face temptations too.
God cannot be tempted by evil, so why was Jesus tempted.? It is recorded to show us the manner, strength and futility of temptation for the Christian. We can overcome by the power of the Spirit and the Word of God. As Jesus overcame, so also we. The tempter seems to be in charge, and his words seem powerful, but they contravene the Word of God, and twist the truth into a subtle error.
Jesus was tempted, but the tempter had no hold on Jesus’ character and the pure and holy nature of the second person in the trinity, could never be darkened. Holiness shines brightly and the power of evil and sin, will never put it out.
As Christians we can take courage and strength from this. We do not need to fall and the same power works in us as in Jesus the Lord.
V14 But each one is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own lust, and enticed.
If God is not the author of temptation, then it is bound up in us as fallen human souls. We have very basic flaws to our beings and these are taken advantage of by our enemy, Satan. He is an expert at destroying people and pulling lives into the dirt of scandal and sinful lifestyles. He dupes us and we imagine we are safe and secure and walk over the edge into an eternal hell.
Satan will try every trick to keep us happy and blind to our spiritual need. He will draw us further and further into sin and exploit our sinful nature to tie us in everlasting chains.
He tempts us, for sure, but we are also active in the falling into sin and deciding to disobey the Word of God. We have strong worldly desires to get stuff and influence and position in social settings. We are greedy and proud and committed to serving self, at all costs. We do and say things that will get us what we desire, and our judgment is centred around ourselves. When we met these desires flourish and do not correct ourselves, we are wide open to all suggestions.
This world appears attractive to us. We want more and more what it offers. The desires we cherish are bolstered up by what the world gives. We move further down the road to destruction, but don’t notice it. As all the desires rise and grow, the temptations to do wrong increase. It all seems so easy and we justify any qualm of conscience, as just an old idea we once heard. After all, God won’t mind and will forgive in the end… We shift our thinking to more “positive” ideas, and feel grateful we are so strong to do that.
“Beloved, we don’t faint, but though our outward man is decaying, yet our inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is for the moment, works for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory; while we don’t look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
1 Peter 4: 13-14
The power of temptation is monumental. We cannot resist, because we are so used to giving in to ourselves and putting our evil motivations in a good light. So we are drawn away. We are hoodwinked into believing we are basically good and good will come from what we do. The idea that we should walk the narrow road is now so far away that we don’t even think of it any more. We are enticed, trapped, duped, blinded, tricked, and we don’t see it. This is not the work of God, but the natural outworking of sin in the life of the person, who forgets God. This life is now set up for moral and spiritual failure and a soul that continues a life, dead to God.
V15 Then the lust, when it has conceived, bears sin; and the sin, when it is full grown, brings forth death.
The evil desires that lurk within every human heart, do not always appear to be so. We baulk at the idea that we are evil. We imagine that we are somewhat good, and have at least some good features to our character. To be good, holy or righteous, means no bad at all. Even a small bit of bad, or a few small sins, as we see if, contaminate us and condemns is to the sentence of those who are evil. We are evil because of this fact, that we practice sinfulness without any compulsion. We are not taught to do bad things, we just do them naturally. This is seen in the smallest toddler.
Lust is not just sexual sin, but any craven desire to feed the sinful heart. Greed, covetousness, unfaithfulness, jealousies, hatreds, unloving attitudes, prejudices, dishonesty, and lack of love for God, are all included.
“The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
Genesis 6: 5
Our dead souls are not operating without the transforming power of God and repentance and faith. The forces at work within us are fleshly desires that drive us and cause us to make choices. The choices feed our flesh and determine our behaviours. We are earth bound. We think nothing of the spiritual life and have no desires for God, to know Him or to serve Him. These driving forces of lust will lead us away from God, and further and further into the realm of the flesh.
Lustful desires well up in us and grow in us like a child in the womb. When the time and opportunity comes for that lust to be born, it reveals its self as sin. Sin becomes seen and obvious, and starts to live a life for self and grows in pride and conceit. It is now part of us in a big way and we live our lives subject to it’s dictates. We are slaves to it and become blind to it and stop seeing it as wrong or evil. We blend in with those who also practice evil, and so it becomes “normal”
“There are six things which God hates; yes, seven which are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood; a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are swift in running to mischief, a false witness who utters lies, and he who sows discord among brothers.”
Proverbs 6: 16-19
As we live and grow, so the sinful disease also grows. What was once a baby sin, becomes a child sin, which becomes an adult sin. Sin grows and we become worse and adept at justifying it. The longer we live in sin, the harder it is to break its power. If we make it to the end of our lives without repentance, it will lead us down into eternal death forever.
“The wages of sin is death..”
Romans 3: 23
This is an everlasting maxim. Do not be fooled. Humans cannot beat sin and death, only the shed blood of Christ can purge it away and pay the awful price demanded for it by a holy God.
“For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify to the cleanness of the flesh: how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”
Hebrews 9: 13-14
“One said to him, “Lord, are they few who are saved?” He said to them, “Strive to enter in by the narrow door, for many, I tell you, will seek to enter in, and will not be able.”
Luke 13: 23-24
Playing with sin is folly. The only remedy for this moral disease is repentance from the sin that is being indulged, and a turning away from it. Faith trusts that Jesus alone can cure the sickness and break the power of lust in our lives.
“For all the fullness was pleased to dwell in him; (Jesus Christ) through him to reconcile all things to himself, by him, whether things on the earth, or things in the heavens, having made peace through the blood of his cross.”
Colossians 1: 19-20
V16 Don’t be deceived, my beloved brothers.
The lies and folly of this world, it’s systems and habits, will tell you the opposite to what God says. God says your sin will ruin you and lead you into spiritual and eternal death. This world will tell you you have rights and the ability to decide your own destiny. It will teach you that the only way to live us to “find yourself.” You must search inside yourself and find the true you and you are compelled to fulfil all your desires and wishes at any cost. You have the right to self-determination, no matter who gets in the way. You are a wonderful person and no one has the right to say otherwise.
This world will teach you its mindset and you will believe it is your own idea. It will string you along to work and strive and labour for things that can’t satisfy and will totally disappoint you. When we are young we are prone to this kind of brainwashing and it all seems and looks so plausible. We see people in the media getting things easily, and we think that will be us, if we follow that set of behaviours.
This culture and society we live in gives the impression that people will love you and look after you and help you get what you want. Love is a shallow and fleeting set of feelings that leave us hurt and sometimes bitter. Relationships don’t last and people break their word and are unfaithful. The writer, James, calls his fellow believers, “brothers” there is love for Christians because they are in the same family. There is sincerity as James seeks to teach young believers the way to God. He wants to protect them from the ravages of sin, and to encourage them to keep seeking after God and trusting Him.
James says… “don’t be deceived.” It’s not that difficult. Stay away from the worldly minded and the sinful mindsets that lead unbelievers into darkness. Test everything and commit all your ways to the Lord.
Don’t be afraid to ask awkward questions. We must break this idea that certain people have the answers to life and are always completely honourable. We must ask questions of people who will be honest and perhaps don’t have all the answers.
“Beloved, don’t believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
1 John 4:1
Staying true to the Scriptures is so important because they daily tell us the way to God and how to walk that way. It is very different from this world’s ways, so we must be diligent and careful.
V17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom can be no variation, nor turning shadow.
We easily imagine that we are not too bad after all. Perhaps we were brought up In a “good” family and maybe we were even taken to church, Sunday school or at least taught right from wrong. We try to do the righty thing and perhaps we are quite good at it. We think this is our own morality and we are stronger than other people who make mistakes and “go off the rails,” in their lives.
If we have become a Christian, we can think that a God didn’t have that difficult a job saving us, because we seemed to believe more easily. We forget that self-righteousness is the most dreadful disease and springs straight from the root of pride. The Lord Jesus hated it and condemned it in the people who were always justifying themselves and thinking that God was pleased with them for doing good works and having many religious rules to follow meticulously.
God says that everything good comes from Him. Good things are good. They are not things that are mainly good or almost perfect, but they are perfect things. So that disqualifies us, or anything in this worlds system. God is holy. That might sound obvious, but holy means perfect, no faults, never giving into sin, or and the shadow of needing correction.
“To show that The Lord is upright. He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.”
Psalm 92: 15
“Having therefore these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
2 Corinthians 7: 1
Everything God says and does is perfect. In order to come to Him, we must know that and recognise His authority over our lives. We have nothing good enough for Him. We might think we have good deeds but they are all tainted with sinful motivations and attitudes that belie our lack of love. The slightest taint means what we do is sinful still. God does not accept anything we do as good.
“There is none that do good, not even one,”
Romans 3: 10
We don’t like this at all. But God goes not turn, change His standards or placate us. He has no favourites and will never allow a sinful person to enter heaven. How can anyone enter in? The way of forgiveness is by God’s grace and the gift of faith that He gives to all who come to Him as a dependant sinner needing a complete change of heart.
God can do this for us, because of Jesus. He is that “good and perfect gift” from above. He is the Saviour of the world and the only one who can take away the condemnation of sin, by getter rid of the sin. He did this on the cross where He laid down His life for sinners like us. He can also give us the righteousness we don’t have. God gives us His righteousness in exchange for our moral failure. There is no other salvation. Without Jesus we never reach heaven and our lives will never be good enough for the holiness of God.
“But now once at the end of the ages, he (Jesus) has been revealed to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. Inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once, and after this, judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, without sin, to those who are eagerly waiting for him for salvation.”
Some think this unfair. It is unfair that Christ should take the blame for people who do not love Him and who are dead towards God. Only when we see our need and come humbly to Him, do we recognise our state before God. Only then do we have gratitude for what we do not deserve.
Even in our lives in this world, God is kind to people who do not know or love Him. He pours out blessings beyond measure and most do not even see them. Without this loving God, we walk in the dark and cannot see the light. Only God gives spiritual light to live in His will in this world.
V18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
“Salvation is of the Lord.”
There is no forgiveness of sin outside the death of Jesus Christ, who paid the dreadful penalty for our crimes and is our only Saviour. It is by the eternal and unchangeable will and purpose of God, that we are made alive through the work of Christ. If God had not purposed to save us from the clutches of sin and death, we would be still dead in our sins. God planned the way that human beings would be rescued from the disease of sin, and it’s unending consequences of the second death. We cannot endear ourselves to God and in our natural state, we have no desire to do so.
Human beings are dead in sins and all heading for destruction of their body and soul. But God has intervened in that irreversible prospect and has caused the miracle of grace of spiritual life for all who believe.
“But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if it is so that the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if any man doesn’t have the Spirit of Christ, he is not his. If Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him who raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised up Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”
Romans 8: 9-11
He tells us His message in the Eternal Word, which is the holy Scriptures, but also through His Son, Jesus Christ. The Word of God is the truth and we can depend on it. When we hear the message, the Holy Spirit speaks into our mind and heart and convicts us of sin. As we see our need, we repent and put faith in Christ. The faith is given to us by God, and He changes us and makes us alive to Him.
This is a what a Christian is. A Christian is a bad person who has realised that they are bad, and come to God and are made good by Him. It is a work of eternal worth and it’s consequences reach far beyond time and into eternity. These early Christians that James was writing to, were a kind of first wave of the believers in that international, redeemed, spiritually alive, and eternal church of Christ. He is teaching them the everlasting way and how to walk it.
This is also true of us in these later days when the end seems to be in view. Every Christian is a kind of first fruit. Maybe in their nation or language group. Maybe in a city or family. We are all renewed people and we will all be the children of God in the eternal kingdom. Every redeemed soul is a unique fruit, or evidence of the work of Christ in the sacrifice of Himself. Out of the whole gamut of the created world, galaxies and Universe, these resurrected beings are the first results of the salvation of the world. God’s people will rule with Christ and they will bring the peace of God to creation.
“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God; and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ; if indeed we suffer with him, that we may also be glorified with him.”
Romans 8: 16-17
The salvation of the chosen people of God, will be the crowning glory of that coming kingdom, where all is justice, peace and love.
V19 So, then, my beloved brothers, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger;
We are saved by grace and not by our own efforts. Therefore we should be careful about what we listen to, speak about and get emotionally upset about in anger. Christians belong to Christ and therefore must be like Him in all aspects of life. We should be thorough in how we come to a point of view and be hesitant to make judgments. Indeed we are told not to judge, as we never have all the facts and our judgment is faulty.
As loving Christian family members of God, we must especially be careful about judging another Christian sister or brother. It is too easy to get the wrong idea and listen to gossip and allow hearsay to put a person down in other people’s eyes.
The writer tells us to be swift to hear. We must listen to what people say to us and keep listening so we understand their situation and their point of view. It is our nature to want to make our remarks or put our argument across without always being clear about what the other person is saying. Being able to listen to another person and allow them to convey their meaning, is showing respect for that person. Taking the time to share another persons burden is showing love to the person.
If we are always ready to hear, we must logically be slow to speak. Listening is the main activity and we make our remarks as will benefit the person. Always having to share our opinion, is not really a humble way to go about building relationships. It is better to say nothing and wait for the appropriate opportunity to arise. Having too much to say is being too quick to speak.
If we are trusting in God, then He will over-rule in our life and He will bring all good to come to pass, as He has promised. When we control what we say, then we will also have control of how we feel. If we just say everything, then we will have attendant emotions that are fed by our words, and it will be difficult to control our feelings, especially if they are negative, like anger or jealousy.
It is not always helpful or right to talk about issues or things that trouble us. Often, it is better to take the problem straight to the Lord and leave it with Him. This verse suggests that we talk too much and get angry too quickly. Knowing the sovereignty of God is a wonderful antidote to worry, stress and disappointment.
“If God is for us, who can be against us?”
Romans 8: 31
So we foster a ready ear to listen to others, and listen to what God is saying to us. We listen to God as we read and meditate on the Scriptures and our ears should be always read to hear Him. We are silent, rather then rushing into conversations, and keeping our feelings in check so that we are not ruled by them.
It is interesting that the emotion of anger is identified, and if we are listening to God and living humble lives, we will not be at the mercy of this emotion. If we give way to fear and are quick to comment on issues, then our emotions will trouble us too.
“Don’t fret because of evildoers, neither be envious against those who work unrighteousness.”
Psalm 37: 1
“Cease from anger, and forsake wrath. Don’t fret, it leads only to evildoing. For evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord, shall inherit the land.”
Psalm 37: 8-9
Anger is at times appropriate when we see God’s ways not ring followed, or lack of truth, or injustice, but we must take it to God and not let it turn to sin. Those who immerse themselves in the truth if the Word and live godly lives, will have the discernment to deal with this issue.
V20 for the anger of man doesn’t produce the righteousness of God.
Human beings getting angry solves nothing. Christians being angry does not bring about God’s will or bring people into the kingdom.
Anger is a strange emotion, because the Scripture tells us that God is angry. God’s anger is against the one thing that ruins our lives and ruins God’s world. Sin.
Anger is the other dimension of God’s love because He hates sin and will not tolerate it at all. God is working out His purposes in all things, and one day sin will be finally put away and all will be love, joy and peace in His kingdom. God’s anger is perfect and is part of His holy character.
“According to what I have seen, those who plow iniquity, and sow trouble, reap the same. By the breath of God they perish. By the blast of his anger are they consumed.”
Job 4: 8-9
Our anger is not holy, and leads us into bad feelings and hurtful thoughts that do no good. In other words, our anger is mostly sinful in origin. The Scriptures does speak about a holy anger or an anger that is not sinful. This anger is what a Christian feels when the holiness of God is being defamed. When people take God’s name and use it disrespectfully, we can feel very negative about that. The Christian is concerned for God’s glory and also that unbelievers will come to know God. The anger is not necessarily destructive, but wanting that everyone should know the truth and believe.
When we get angry at people, it is usually that they have hurt us or caused some kind of loss. We are angry at the injustice that has happened. Feeling angry is one thing, but what we do about it is key to keeping a holy life.
It is best to bring all anger to God, and leave it with Him to deal with. Only He has the full perspective and only He can discern properly what the end of the matter should be.
Anger can make us feel righteous, but that does not mean we have “righteous anger.” We are always struggling with our own sins and are not yet made perfect in righteousness, so it is best to leave it all with God.
In situations that cause us to be angry for whatever reason, if we take the anger into our own hand, it will not do good for anyone. The outworking of our anger leads to more trouble, because we cannot see the situation, or fully know the minds of other people. Leave anger alone and God will bring good from situations that we are not qualified to cope with.
“God’s anger was kindled against Israel, and he made them wander back and forth in the wilderness forty years, until all the generation, who had done evil in the sight of the Lord, was consumed.”
Numbers 32: 14
Only God is qualified to feel and act in this way. Only His anger is righteous, just, perfect, so He will lead His people and act as His holy character determines.
V21 Therefore, putting away all filthiness and overflowing of wickedness, receive with humility the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
We tend to be very good at judging and noticing the failings of other people. We can get angry and upset at what other people do and say, which in itself can be sinful. We are to put away all of our own sins and the overflowing wickedness in our own hearts. Don’t worry about other people’s sin – worry about your own.
To see our own sins is very difficult and painful. We avoid it. To look into our hearts and see what is there is not comfortable or comforting. The sins we see in other people, are right here in us also.
“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but don’t consider the beam that is in your own eye?”
What we see in other people is nowhere near as bad as what is blatantly obvious in our own lives. We have double vision. One lens for ourselves, one for the rest of the world. We have a blind spot that blots out our view of our own sins, but shows us everyone else. We have the ability to judge ourselves more leniently that the people around us. To see ourselves as others see us is very painful.
To face up to sin is too painful without the love of Christ to forgive and heal us. We are a mass of wounds, festering and dragging us down to death. Only the love of Jesus can bind up our wounds and heal us.
Most people don’t really want Him. We keep our sin and reject Christ and heaven. It is foolish and nearsighted and ultimately proud. James tells us to receive the message with humility, as complete failures and unable to save ourselves. We must listen to God’s way to save from sin and its consequences and obey what He says.
The Word is within us. When we hear the message we know it is true, for God has put eternity in our hearts and the message resonates with us, witnessing to us the way to God. The humble heart will repent and come to God for forgiveness and a new life in Him. When we receive this message with gladness, our souls are saved and we become alive to God.
“”If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. Now my eyes shall be open, and my ears attentive, to the prayer that is made in this place. For now have I chosen and made this house holy, that my name may be there forever; and my eyes and my heart shall be there perpetually.”
2 Chronicles 7: 14-16
The wickedness and overflowing filthiness will now be gone and we will be cleansed for all evil and will be able to walk with God in the way of holiness. Our hearts will learn to follow in faith and not fear.
“Be strong and courageous, don’t be afraid, nor be scared of them: for God your God, he it is who does go with you; he will not fail you, nor forsake you.”
Deuteronomy 31: 6
V22 But be doers of the word, and not only hearers, deluding your own selves.
It’s convenient and easy to sit in church and let the warm feelings wash over our souls. It’s a kind of fast food experience where the food is palatable and confirming, but doesn’t last in or souls for even a day. We can delude ourselves that we are spiritual because we can sit in church comfortably and it doesn’t bother us too much. We feel validated by the words spoken and maybe a little challenge about making sure we read our bibles at home, and that’s about it.
The idea of getting alone with God in any real way, does not cross our minds. We are saved by grace and don’t need to do anything else about being holy. We are happy to stay the same and make no progress in our Christian lives.
We never really change, and the stirring message of the Scriptures, doesn’t come through to us. We skip the challenging bits and stick with the book of Psalms. The Word of Jesus isn’t for us and we can justify why we cannot serve God or do what Jesus did and even greater exploits, and we have enough to worry about anyway.
As we hear the Word, we are happy to listen, but that’s all that is required of us. This Scripture says, if we do not do what the Word says, we are deceiving ourselves. We are deluded about loving God and being sorry for our failure. If we cannot obey the Word, then we don’t love the Word. If we cannot enter into the secret place with God, then we are not interested in holiness.
Being a Christian is a total surrender to the will of God and laying our lives down for His glory. This was the way of The Lord Jesus, and it is for anyone who wishes to follow Him in sincerity. It’s impossible to be half a Christian. It’s all or nothing. The New Testament speaks about people who will reach heaven by the narrowest of margins, while others will enter in glory. The difference is those who have forgiveness of sins and no fruit to give to Christ, have barely enough righteousness to get through the door.
”Therefore, while the promise of entering His rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be deemed to have fallen short of it. For we also received the good news just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, since they did not share the faith of those who comprehended it.”
Hebrews 4: 1
We can understand at some human level, but not expertise faith, and therefore never enter in.
Others will have made much of their talents and will have stepped out for God and walked in faith. This is the mark of a Christian.
Jesus warns the religious leaders and their followers that there will be people who want to get in and will be refused.
“Strive to enter in by the narrow door, for many, I tell you, will seek to enter in, and will not be able. When once the master of the house has risen up, and has shut the door, and you begin to stand outside, and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ then he will answer and tell you, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ He will say, ‘I tell you, I don’t know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of iniquity.’ There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth…”
Luke 13: 24-38
This Scripture is very clear and should cause us concern.
V23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man looking at his natural face in a mirror;
This is the first part of a sentence. It carries on from the example of the person who hears God’s Word but doesn’t do it.
Many hear the Word of God, or read it and it passes over their lives with no effect. It goes through their ears and mind, but it makes no difference to their thinking or attitudes. It is easy to become apathetic in our Christian lives and we are complacent about belonging to God. This leads to weakness of character and lazy attitudes towards other people, especially those who fall and are not forgiven.
To be a hearer and not a doer is contrary to what the Scriptures are for. God has given them, so that we can learn from Him and know how we should live. If we ignore them, we show contempt for God.
Too many think that sitting in church on Sunday is enough to satisfy God, and tick the devotion box.! We think God is like us, which shows our lack of interest in knowing Him better for ourselves. It’s a religion thing. If you please the leaders, you’re doing fine.
If we hear and don’t do, it’s like gazing into a mirror. The Scripture is a kind of mirror and requires us to look into it and examine what we see. It helps us to work out the state of our identity and our true position before a holy God.
As we look into a mirror to see our physical features, so we look into the mirror of the Word, to distinguish our spiritual features.
“For this cause we also thank God without ceasing, that, when you received from us the word of the message of God, you accepted it not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the word of God, which also works in you who believe..”
1 Thessalonians 2: 13
V24 for he sees himself, and goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.
The man in the mirror does not pay attention.! He glances at himself, not really wanting to see the reality because he knows it is bad. He knows the look of his person is not right because his conscience is troubling him and he wants it to be quiet. So he looks into the mirror and sees what he wants to see and convinces himself that all is well with his looks.
The picture of himself that he carries away isn’t accurate but he assures himself that it’s not so bad and no one will notice anything untoward. Perhaps he does see that his face is really not right and maybe he should clean it or have a bath. But it doesn’t last long, he turns away and goes off to his work and whatever he was doing and carries on as if nothing has happened.
This person referred to here, looks at the faults in his person and yet does it care enough to try to put it right. He see his dirty face, or maybe it is something worse, and does nothing about it. The forgetting is immediate. He does not really care about himself or how people view him. The verse says “what kind of man he was” this suggests that he has glaring faults that mark him out and other people see his failures. Yet he is unconcerned.
It is clear that many view themselves in the mirror of the Word of God, and though they see their need of Jesus and His forgiveness, they turn away. This is super-folly.
To have a serious and fatal disease that mars our lives and makes us ugly, and to turn from full and free healing of that disease, is total blindness. Sin is the disease and it will destroy our character and souls, bit by bit. Look in the mirror and see your need and seek the only remedy.
Perhaps you sit in church and squirm under the message that is given from God’s Word. There are too many who divert their thinking and consciences from the application of the message from God, and assign the blame to some human fault. Some blame the messenger, but never go to the Scriptures to find out what God is saying. When we feel the guilt, we must deal with it correctly. Do something about it before you turn and leave and forget. Bring it to God, for He will fully pardon us.
V25 But he who looks into the perfect law of freedom, and continues, not being a hearer who forgets, but a doer of the work, this man will be blessed in what he does.
“The perfect law of freedom.” This is the Word of God, which has been preserved for us by the will and power of God. To be an obedient follower of Christ, we must accept and know that His Word is true. If we pick away at its inerrancy, we undermine the whole truth of God. God’s perfectly true Word is the book that leads to freedom. Not freedom to do what we like, for that is slavery to sin, but the power to freely choose to follow God’s ways.
We cannot be free in our natural state. We are born into sin and we live in the bondage of the ways of this world and our own sinful inclinations. We might think we choose well, but we don’t choose perfectly. The waywardness of the human heart is the root cause of all its trouble, pain and fear. To have to rely on our own wits, does not lead us to peace and safety. Only those who have acquiesced to the demands of God, will ever be truly free. Only when we have confessed our sin and fault and given ourselves to Jesus the Saviour, can we live free people.
“But he knows the way that I take. When he has tried me, I shall come forth like gold.
My foot has held fast to his steps. I have kept his way, and not turned aside.”
Job 23: 10-11
So, we have in our possession the perfect law that leads to freedom. We must look into it constantly. We must study, meditate, and apply the Living Word to our lives and obey. Obey us the key. If we look and read and forget, then the Word has done us no good and it’s a waste of time to read it.
“The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Beroea. When they arrived, they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of the mind, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. Many of them therefore believed; also of the prominent Greek women, and not a few men.”
Acts 17: 10-12
The forgetter of the Scriptures, has no real love for them. Like the person that looked at their dirty face in the mirror and instantly ignored what they saw, so the disobedient heart. For too many, wether they read the Scripture or not, it makes no difference. They remain unclean and dead in their sins. Christians who read the Bible in this way, get no nourishment for their souls and their lives will wither and dry up.
However, the person who looks and takes in the message and does what it says, will be truly blessed. Their soul will prosper and their tastes for the things of God will grow. Their physical life will become less and less important, and the spiritual life of their souls will be lived strong in the Lord. Whatever this person does will prosper.
“Blessed is the man who doesn’t walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in God’s law. On his law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree planted by the streams of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also does not wither. Whatever he does shall prosper.”
Psalm 1: 1-3
The Christian will thrive in their life with God and every day will be lived in the deep reality of knowing Him. If we love God, then we also love His Word and we live in its truth. This daily walk in knowing God, will bring us to spiritual maturity and to the heavenly city of the kingdom of God.
V26 If anyone among you thinks himself to be religious while he doesn’t bridle his tongue, but deceives his heart, this man’s religion is worthless.
James seems to change tack here a little, and introduces the issue of the effect of what we say. He has pointed out true religion and the active work of God’s eternal Word in the life of the reader. He has shown us the effects of reading it and ignoring it. He has spoken about the godly person who reads, thinks and obeys. This person is spiritual and has love for God.
James now addresses people who consider themselves to be religious, or Christian, but has no real control over their behaviour, especially what is said. We can find ourselves saying things that we know are true from the Word of God, but not believing them enough to obey. We talk the talk and don’t walk the walk. We are hypocrites. We congratulate other people for doing the right thing, as we see it, but not doing it ourselves. We can walk a road that we think is Christian, but it’s just talk and no real power of God. We become proficient at justifying ourselves that it’s alright to cut corners. We blame other people for their failures and our failures. We justify our failures by calling out other people’s failures.
There is the tendency to pick issues to talk about, that concern the social context as live in. We talk, write and criticise godless people and their lifestyles. This becomes our clarion call for the way back to God, and the message of the gospel becomes muddy, unclear and then nothing at all. We refuse our own fault and so repentance is hidden and our groups become social settings for people who fit together according to our preferred prejudices.
God is not honoured any more and the person at the front hides the truth of God and takes the glory and acclaim for themselves. Dead orthodoxy ensues and the Spirit is long gone. Our talk has cost us our souls and the souls of all those who could have been saved.
Our tongues become very loose and we let our words flow without thought or any real understanding about what we are saying or why we are saying it. If this person is the Christian leader, then there are going to be serious problems in the life of the followers. The Word of God tells us to “test the spirits.”
“Beloved, don’t believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
1 John 4:1
We are not to believe everything we hear, but to measure every word by the Eternal Word. It is the responsibility of every Christian to listen to Bible teaching with a Bible-critical spirit. The preachers word is not necessarily the Word of God. We must listen to the Spirit within and allow Him to guide us. The preacher should be well used to the listeners questioning the words spoken.
Christian speakers or writers must guard carefully all words, so that the listeners and readers will be spiritually benefited by them. Talking to show “self” and our own novel ideas, is not safe-mindedness. We can have religion, but it can be worthless. We can speak and teach and it is clanging sounds that jar the mind and heart away from God.
“Son of man, I have made you a watchman to the house of Israel: therefore hear the word from my mouth, and give them warning from me. When I tell the wicked, You shall surely die; and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at your hand. Yet if you warn the wicked, and he doesn’t turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.”
Ezekiel 3: 17-19
“Therefore thus says the Lord God: Because you have spoken falsehood, and seen lies, therefore, behold, I am against you, says the Lord God. My hand shall be against the prophets who see false visions, and who divine lies: they shall not be in the council of my people, neither shall they be written in the writing of the house of Israel, neither shall they enter into the land of Israel; and you shall know that I am the Lord your God.”
Ezekiel 13: 8-9
V27 Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
It is noticeable that the pure religious does not seem to involve the speaking element. We know from other Scriptures that the confession of the heart is crucial and bound up in the Christian way. James is making a point here. If you want to really know God and show what He is like to the people around you, this is what you do. Visit the needy and provide for their needs and keep yourself from becoming anything like this world. Keep yourself holy. This is what we find difficult. Many want to stand in front of crowds and pontificate about religion, the Bible and our ideas of what this life should be like. This is futile work.
If you want to please God for real, and be a powerful and dynamic Christian, you must act as Jesus did. He healed the sick in soul and met the deepest needs of human hearts. He lived in poverty, ignominy, opposition and hatred. This is how He chose to live, to the glory of the Father. He choose the futile things of this world to confuse the so-called wise. He chose to die, rather than let you and I perish forever. How many of us are like that?
“…We see him who has been made a little lower than the angels, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God he should taste of death for everyone. For it became him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many children to glory, to make the author of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one, for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brothers…”
Hebrews 2: 9-11
We must say goodbye to things we like and enjoy, for the sake of keeping ourselves “unspotted.” We give up the right to enjoyments, to keep our flesh at bay. We deny ourselves legitimate pleasures so that our souls are in a better place to serve God and other people.
This verse does not say we are required to explain what we are doing or why we do it. We simply obey the Lord and live as He lived. This is true religion. This is a life lived as a sacrifice to God and in the service of other people, even if they don’t appreciate it or even acknowledge it. This is the way to a holy life and a life of service and care to those who are left out and sidelined in society.
This is the way of spreading the love of Christ and the message of our need of Him. This is the purpose of every Christian life. As it benefits those who are being saved from death, so it also keeps our life in God where it should be. We will have opportunities to speak openly the message of a salvation, and we will. Not be puffed up, for our pride is constantly put down. Then we walk with our Saviour, and are glad to do so. Self is beaten, but not gone yet, and every day is chastened into submission.