Friday, June 13, 2014

Posted by Niki |
Knowing all that we know now, what’s the book of James about?

The book of James is different from most New Testament books. James approached his audience as already being believers of the gospel as opposed to trying to get them to believe it. James wanted to make sure that his audience fully understood the implications of living it out. He was concerned with showing his readers how to live practically with Jesus. He wanted people to understand that faith is foundational, but it must be genuine, proven, and lived out if it’s going to amount to anything. Hebrews 11:1 gives us the definition of faith. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

James 1:22 sums up the entire meaning of this small but mighty book of the Bible. “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” According to the [expanded] Bible, it says “Do what God’s teaching says; when you only listen and do nothing, you are fooling yourselves.”

It is beyond the time that we as Christians start putting actions behind our words. We have said it over and over again that you are the only Bible some people read. You have a living God in your lives, so why not show them a living, breathing, MOVING God who isn’t just words.
Posted by Niki |
Verse 17: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”

All good things come from God. Good things are not accidents, coincidences, or benefits of our choices, they are gifts from God – PERFECT gifts from God. God loves us and provides for us, but he will not help us give in to lustful desires. Just because we want a new car, it might not be that perfect gift that we need from God at the moment. If you see someone else being blessed with something that you desire, it might mean that that gift wasn’t perfect for you, but it might be for someone else. We should rejoice with one another when our fellow brothers and sisters receive good gifts instead of feeling jealous or bitter. What gifts can you ask for that would help you deal with temptation and make godly choices? (wisdom, patience, etc.)

The phrase “father of lights” is referring to God as the creator of the sun, moon, and stars. God gives us good gifts – and the light to see that we can enjoy them. (Psalm 19:1)

This phrase about shadows refers to God’s character being trustworthy and reliable (Malachi 3:6). God’s nature does not change. He remains consistent and constant although we are ever-changing. It is because of this that we should constantly express our humility and gratefulness to God due to his unchanging love for us.

Verse 18: “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”

We are created because God wants us here on this earth for a reason. We have a purpose. He created us in his likeness that we would strive to live like him. The word of truth is the gospel – our good news. He created us so that we would come to him in our times of trouble for strength.

Each year in Israel, the first bundle of harvested grain (firstfruits) were offered to God as a sign that all of the grain in the field belonged to Him. This first bunch was the first in quality and in time, representing the whole of the field that would soon be gathered.  We find this in Exodus 34:22, Leviticus 23:9-10, and Deuteronomy 26:9-11. We as believers are firstfruits because we are new creations in Christ (Romans 8:22-23). We are no longer separated by sin. We should live as a firstfruit being an example of God’s goodness and what he can do in our lives so that others want to overcome those temptations and lusts.

In conclusion, you don’t have to learn everything by experimentation. You don’t have to break your leg to know it hurts because a broken bone results in pain. You don’t have to waste your life in sin when you know that the wages of sin is death and it only lasts for a season. Don’t expect to get something from nothing. People think that this world is the source of good things, and God causes us trouble. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s the complete opposite. If we want good things in our lives, we must get them from God. Fulfilling lusts of the flesh will cause problems in our lives but fulfilling the will of God in our lives is only beneficial. If we follow him and seek to do the things he’d have us to do, we will be more able to fight off our evil temptations. We can move from tested faith to maturity or from indulged desire to death. Each process is a set of slow choices that we make daily. Choices lead to habits, and habits set the tone of our character to be either for God or against him. What choice will you make?
Posted by Niki |
Verse 15: “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”

In this verse we are given a harsh fact. Lust leads to sin, sin leads to death. Death is an appointment made for all because all are born sinners. Death is unavoidable so some use this as an excuse to go out and party and live it up giving in to sin and other desires. They’re right to an extent – we can’t avoid death. It is coming whether we like it or not, but we can change where our souls are spent after our appointed times to die have come. Death isn’t the end. Our choices in this life will either land you in heaven or in hell. Again, that’s a choice that you have as human being.

“then when lust hath conceived” It takes spiritual growth and consistent dependence on God to know when a desire can be calmed and lusts can be controlled. Desires begin with the thoughts of “I have to”, “I can’t do without”, or “I would do anything if I could”. We can reason ourselves into sin just as easy as we can reason ourselves out of sin.

“when it is finished, bringeth forth death” Life is given to those who endure trials. Death comes to those who let desire run its course. Sin is full-grown when it becomes a habit. Death is referring to more than just the end of our fleshly bodies. It means the spiritual separation that comes between us and God as the result of sin (see Romans 6:23; 7:7-12; I John 2:16-17; and 3:14). There are two ways that we can choose to live:
  • OUR WAY - Proverbs 14:12 “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”
  • GOD’S WAY - John 14:6 “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
God loves us. It is his love that breaks the cycle of desire-sin-death. Wherever we find ourselves in the cycle, we can always turn to God and repent. His way leads to eternal life.

Verse 16: “Do not err, my beloved brethren.”

To err means to sin; do wrong. James said in order to avoid all of these harsh endings, avoid sin altogether. Our source of temptation is not of God, so we should stay away from all things that we find in our lives that create the feeling of temptation.

Posted by Niki |
Verse 14: “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.”

Our temptation comes from the sin nature that is present in our hearts. When we are tempted, we are drawn away of our own (lust) desires. What is a desire? Definition: a strong feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen. Lust in the Bible is defined as the strong desire in our hearts to evil. Lust is never mentioned as being something good. We never lust to do good. Lust is the complete defining of selfishness. Lust tells us that we should get our personal desires no matter what. It is about satisfying our flesh no matter what. It is an enticement to sin.

The enticement to sin is not from God; it is from within our own hearts. This is one of the hardest things about being a Christian. We never completely lose our sin nature that we were born with. Paul talks about the struggles of this several times. He talks about wrestling with the flesh, dying daily, and putting away the old man.

As individuals, we are responsible for sin. There was a Jewish belief that all people have two yetzers or impulses. One to do good and one to do evil. We see this animated in many shows today. This is your angel and your devil. Any normal desire can be turned into a temptation. Eating is an easy example. We get cravings for food, indulge, and then become gluttonous. This is a sin that is easily committed by starting with a desire or craving. Desires can either be fed or starved. That choice is up to us. If we encourage our desires, they’ll soon require actions. Desires in this sense are selfish and seductive.

Our giving in to sin begins with an evil thought and becomes sin when we dwell on that thought, then act on it. The best time to stop a temptation is before it gets too overwhelming or out of control. The devil makes it easy to give in to temptations. He offers suggestions from our environments, false advertisements, and fear. He uses all of these tools to lead us astray. We must always remember that sin is for a season and no satisfaction is to be gained from sin. On the other side, God gives us ways of escaping temptations. They are mentioned in Matthew 4:1-11, I Corinthians 10:13, and 2 Timothy 2:22.

How do we stand against the temptations that we know are coming?
  • We must continually be under God’s protection.
  • We must reject the enticement, or temptation by recognizing it as a false promise.
  • We must fill our lives with activities for our benefit – fellowship, good music, positive influences, studying, and learning the scriptures.
  • Doing all of these things will expand the awareness of Christ in our lives and we will be less likely to give in to our fleshly desires.
Posted by Niki |
Verse 13: “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:”

God doesn’t play with us, put us under pressure, or send temptations our way. God does not tempt any man. Temptations will come, but God is not the source. Satan likes to tell us that God has some sort of secret hidden agenda that He is not telling us.  He likes to use our own thoughts to cause trouble. We’ve had this discussion before. We get an idea in our heads, jump to conclusions, and then we’ve started a battle with no one else ever knowing. Our trials and temptations always present us with choices. God wants us to make the better choices. We’ve talked about what we gain from troubles and trials if we endure them with faith. There’s a difference in being tested and being tempted. God will test us to make us stronger. He will never tempt us. A temptation is an evil desire.

We also touched a little bit on what happens when we fail and lose our faith during a trial. We start the blame game. From the beginning it has been a natural response to make excuses and blame others for sin. Genesis 3:12-13 gives us the first example of this. “And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.” Who did Eve blame for her wrong decision? We like to throw out phrases like these when we make the wrong choice:
  • It’s _________ fault.
  • I couldn’t help it.
  • Everyone else is doing it.
  • It was just a mistake.
  • Nobody’s perfect.
  • I didn’t know it was wrong.
  • The devil made me do it.
  • I was pressured into it.
A person who makes excuses is trying to shift the blame onto someone else for their wrong choices. A Christian is to accept responsibility for their actions, confess them, and ask God for forgiveness.

God doesn’t tempt us. We ask the question sometimes “If God really loves us, why would he let bad things happen to us?” A God who kept us from temptation would be a God unwilling to allow us to grow. In order for a test to measure growth, you have to have aspects of it that can be failed too. God proves his love for us by protecting us IN temptation rather than FROM temptation. He gives us ways to get out of temptation:
  • His promise - I Corinthians 10:13 – “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”His presence - Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5
  • His model – Jesus. Hebrews 2:17-18
  • His guidance – Psalm 119:105
  • His mission for our lives – Hebrews 12:1
  • His encouragement from other Christians – Hebrews 10:24, 25
  • His forgiveness – I John 1:9

Posted by Niki |

Have you ever heard someone say the phrase “I’m my own worst enemy?” Is there any truth to it?

The answer is yes. This is what we’ll address in James 1:13-18. We like to blame everything on someone else. Most times we give that credit to Satan, but other times we blame this on God. In all actuality, we do it to ourselves because of the choices we make. We have a free will and can choose for ourselves which choices and paths we take. No one makes us sin but ourselves. It’s the oldest battle – and continues to be the biggest in all aspects of life. Good versus evil. In every movie that has any action, there’s always a protagonist and an antagonist. A superhero and a villain. A good guy and a bad guy. Mr. Right and Mr. Wrong. It’s something we deal with on a daily basis. Do we follow the devil on our shoulder or the angel?

If you think back on movies that you’ve watched, did the superhero or the good guy ever bring trouble with them? Generally, no. Batman didn’t create trouble. It came when Poison Ivy, the Joker or the Riddler showed up. Dorothy didn’t create trouble on her way to Oz, it came with the Wicked Witch. God created Adam and Eve after his own image; they didn’t sin until the serpent came on the grounds with temptation. This lets us know that God is not the author of confusion or temptations. This is what we’ll discuss first in verse 13. I John 1:5 also echoes this thought. Satan can tempt us all day long, but only you make that choice of whether or not you will give in.

During our lesson, I had some of the ladies play Chutes and Ladders. The chutes represented sin because it was the quickest way to get across the board, but it only went down. The ladders represented our daily struggles because they had to climb, but in the end the reward was greater. The ladders were the things that projected you across the board, allowing you to climb closer to the goal of 100. 
Posted by Niki |
Verse 12: “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.”

The word blessed is a deep joy that comes from receiving God’s favor. Jesus used this word in the Beatitudes. If we take the lessons learned from verses 2-4 in James chapter 1 and apply them to the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12, we can see that we should:
  •     Consider it joy to be poor in spirit
  •     Consider it joy to mourn
  •     Consider it joy to be meek
  •     Consider it joy to hunger and thirst for righteousness
  •     …apply this equation to the rest of the Beatitudes and it will give you a different way of looking at things.
We mentioned this in the previous lesson, but in order to make it through a trial, we must endure it. You can’t just stop in the middle and expect it to go away. James says if we stick through the rough times, we will be blessed. He goes on to say that we shall receive the crown of life that has been promised to us. This just isn’t any promise. It’s a promise from God himself. This crown of life is hope. It’s eternity in heaven with our savior. Revelation 2:10 says “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.”

Today’s trials will seem like training when we face tomorrow’s challenges.