The Biggest Troublemaker

This is a continuation of my Bible study class on Sunday mornings. We made it to chapter three. The littlest organ is the biggest troublemaker. Why is it that the mouth gets us into more trouble than anything else? Here is a brief outline of what we find in this section:

  1. The Importance of the Tongue (James 3:1-2) anyone who can control his tongue is perfect, totally mature, able to keep the whole body in check.
  2. The Illustrations of the Tongue (James 3:3-5)
    1. How it can control (James 3:3-4)
      1. A bridle to the horse (James 3:3)
      2. A rudder to the ship (James 3:4)
    2. How it can consume (James 3:5) a spark that can destroy a great forest.
  3. The Iniquity of the Tongue (James 3:6) it is set on fire by hell itself, destroying the owner.
  4. The incorrigibility of the Tongue (James 3:7-8)
    1. People can train wild animals (James 3:7)
    2. People cannot train the tongue (James 3:8)
  5. The Inconsistency of the Tongue (James 3:9-12)
    1. The contradiction (James 3:9-10) it tries to do things simultaneously.
      1. Praise God (James 3:9, 10)
      2. Curse others (James 3:9, 10)
    2. The conclusion (James 3:11-12) it cannot do things simultaneously.
      1. Fresh and salt water (James 3:11, 12)
      2. Figs and olives (James 3:12)
      3. Grapevine and figs (James 3:12)
  6. The Instructions for the Tongue (James 3:13-18)
    1. The path it should follow (James 3:13, 17, 18) control requires wisdom.
    2. The path it should flee (James 3:14-16) don’t allow Satan’s influence.

Let’s get into the beginning of the chapter. James chapter three starts out with a couple of warnings:

  1. Against too many people becoming teachers (James 3:1-2)
  2. About the untamable tongue (James 3:3-12)

I wonder if these teachers engaged other people in verbal abuse, or perhaps these were self-proclaimed teachers who got involved in all sorts of heated religious discussions. Let’s dig into what James writes:

The Warning About Not Becoming Teachers (James 3:1-2)

James does not say, “Let not many of you be teachers” but rather, “Let not many of you become teachers.” I wonder if this future orientation is James’ point. This passage is not just a rebuke of those who try to be teachers before they are ready, but a warning that many should not even become teachers in the future. Wow. I think it is a mistake that everyone should become a teacher at some point in their service to Christ. So, here is the biblical proof.

Paul often illustrated that the body of Christ has many members, and not all members do not have the same
function (Romans 12:3-8, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31). Notice especially 1 Corinthians 12:29, where Paul with a rhetorical question implies that not all are to be teachers.

Peter also taught that God’s grace toward us is multifaceted and that we should exercise our respective abilities accordingly (1 Peter 4:10-11). In view of what Paul, Peter, and James wrote, we should be careful before we apply Hebrews 5:12-14 to mean that everyone should one day be teachers (the author of Hebrews may have been writing to a select audience, whom he knew ought to have been teachers).

So, Why Should Many Not Become Teachers?

Sometimes it is easier to follow the rules when we understand the reasons why the rules are there in the first place. Consider this:

  1. Teachers will be judged more strictly (James 3:1)
    1. There is a serious responsibility involved in teaching others.
    2. Teachers can lead people to truth, but teachers can also lead them to error.
    3. Just as with elders (Hebrews 13:17), those who teach will be held accountable if they mislead others.
  2. Because we all make many mistakes (James 3:2)
    1. Since everyone makes mistakes, the improper use of the tongue is a major issue.
    2. Teaching the truth and living in error is hypocrisy.
    3. Damage will be done when Christians don’t walk the talk.
    4. The relationship between words and deeds? Words can normally lead to actions. Remember that “loose lips sink ships.”

So James cautions against many people trying to become teachers. This should not discourage any from trying to find out if teaching is a gift that they might have if nurtured along, but one should proceed with humility and caution. The point for me is that with responsibility comes great accountability.

The Power of Speech

James lets us know that the person who does not control his mouth is not really religious (James 1:26). Earlier we are told to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger (James 1:19). The power of speech is one of the greatest gifts we have. We can praise God, preach the word, communicate with others, lead someone to Christ; but we can also ruin a reputation, break a heart, tell lies and hurt others with the same mouth.

The Power to Direct (James 3:2-4)

  1. The rudder and the bridle: both illustrations are used to demonstrate that the lesser object can control the greater.
    1. They both overcome contrary forces. (bit controls a horse and a rudder controls the ship).
    2. They both need to be under the control of a strong hand.
    3. They both affect the lives of others.
      1. Sunday School teacher, Edward Kimball, went into a Boston shoe store on April 21, 1855, and lead a young man to Christ, who became one of the greatest evangelists (Dwight L. Moody).
      2. Peter preached at Pentecost and 3000 came to faith in Christ.
  2. Our tongue controls the body:
    1. Biblical support.
      1. Solomon warned that death and life are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21).
      2. David prayed that God would set a watchman over his mouth (Psalm 141:3-4).
      3. Jesus tells us that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34).
    2. Practical support.
      1. If you speak a lie, it won’t be long before you find yourself living a lie.
      2. If you speak suggestively in an immoral manner, it won’t be long before you begin acting immorally.
  3. The power of the tongue to direct is easily applied to the dangers of teaching. The teacher’s words can easily set the mood of the class or congregation, in an uplifting way, or just as easily direct the class in a discouraging way.
  4. This power to direct using the tongue should humble those who teach, and caution the spiritually immature.

The Power to Destroy (James 3:5-8)

  1. A small fire can easily cause great destruction.
    1. Rremember the Great Chicago Fire? It started in the barn at the O’Leary farm, October 8, 1871, killing hundreds of people and destroying four square miles.
    2. How many times do we read about a forest fire in California getting started by a discarded cigarette?
  2. The tongue causes destruction, too. A loose tongue can ruin one’s reputation, and can destroy fellowships, families, friendships.
  3. In describing an uncontrolled tongue, James uses very vivid terms to make his point (James 3:6):
    1. The tongue is a fire.
    2. The tongue is a world of iniquity.
    3. The tongue corrupts the whole body.
    4. The tongue sets your whole life on fire.
    5. The tongue is set on fire by hell.
  4. Should not this power to destroy and defile both ourselves and others caution us in becoming teachers?
    1. As a fire burns, so our words can hurt and burn.
    2. As a fire burns, it spreads the more fuel it gets.
    3. As a fire spreads, it destroys.
    4. When you control fire, you get power rather than destruction.
    5. Despite being able to tame wild animals, man is unable to tame the tongue (James 3:7). It is full of poison, like finding venomous snakes in your path.
      1. With God’s help, we can tame it (as David prayed in Psalm 141:3).
      2. With God’s help, we must tame it (Ephesians 4:29; Colossians 4:6).

The Power to Delight (James 3:9-12)

  1. Blessing God and cursing from the same mouth (James 3:9, 10).
    1. Our words are deep waters (Proverbs 18:4).
    2. The mouth of a righteous man is life (Proverbs 10:11).
    3. Death and life are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21).
    4. Bless and curse: something we are likely to do, especially on Sundays.
      1. We spend time in worship, blessing God.
      2. But in driving home, we might curse men (other drivers who pull out in front of us).
      3. Racists and bigots are often guilty of “blessing God and cursing men.”
  2. The illustrations of a spring, a fig tree and a grapevine, James shows our inconsistency.
    1. Water.
      1. What comes forth is a true indication of what is inside, just as Jesus taught in Mark 7:20-23.
      2. Water gives life: but not when the flood waters rise
      3. Water cleanses: like the basin in the temple, the Bible is like spiritual water (John 15:3, Ephesians 5:26-27).
    2. Tree and vine.
      1. Trees are important to our economy, holding down soil and providing wood and shade.
      2. The most important part of a tree is the root system: they must go down deep for the tree to be healthy (Psalm 1:1-3).
      3. Nature always produces after it’s own kind: we expect a spring to provide good water and we expect a fig tree to produce fruit.
  3. The problem is not really the tongue, but the heart (Matthew 15:18). Warren Weirsbe suggests 12 words that, when from your heart, can transform your life:
    1. Please, and thank you: these allow you to treat others as people ansd not things.
    2. I’m sorry: for breaking down walls and building bridges.
    3. I love you: not the romantic version but the “I love you anyway” type, that even loves our enemies.
    4. I’m praying for you: when you talk to God about people, then you will be able to talk to people about God.

Application:

These examples of the misuse of the tongue should humble and caution all those who would become teachers, but they should also serve as a warning for us all, whether we teach or not, that we need to seek God’s help in controlling the tongue! May David’s prayer be our own:

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)

The Importance of Godly Faith

The last part of James chapter 2 teaches us about various kinds of faith… and we thought faith was something we already understood and often take for granted. James wants to let us know that faith is more than just the things we believe about Jesus. “Faith” and “belief” are the same root word in the original language of the New Testament. Faith can be described as a verb rather than a noun, and we generally translate the word “believes” because is seems weird to say, “Everyone who faiths that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God” (1 John 5:1).

Here is a brief overview of this section on Godly Faith (James 2:14-26): James contrasts having only head faith with having head, heart, and hand faith.

  1. Two examples of having only head faith (James 2:14-20)
    1. In regard to the destitute (James 2:14-18): Head faith by itself is empty faith and attempts to minister to the poor by pious words not accompanied by works.
    2. In regard to the demons (James 2:19-20)
      1. The fiction (James 2:19a): “Do you still think it’s enough just to believe that there is one God?”
      2. The facts (James 2:19b-20): “Well, even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.”
  2. Two examples of having head, heart, and hand faith (James 2:21-26)
    1. Abraham (James 2:21-24): He proved his faith by his willingness to offer up his son Isaac.
    2. Rahab (James 2:25-26): She proved her faith by protecting the two Israelite spies.

Here is the meat of what James is teaching us about faith:

Faith is certainly an essential element in the Christian life:

  1. Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6)
  2. We are saved by faith (Ephesians 2:8)
  3. Believers are challenged to walk (live) by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7)
  4. When you think about it, whatever we do apart from faith is described as sin (Romans 14:23)

It is important to realize, however, that there are different kinds of faith, but only one that is truly “saving faith.” In James 2:14-26, we find James discussing the different kinds of faith, with an emphasis upon faith which works toward salvation. According to Warren Weirsbe, let’s take a look at three kinds of faith.

Dead Faith (James 2:14-17)

This kind of faith substitutes words for actions. People with this kind of faith know the correct Christian vocabulary for prayer and sound doctrine, and can even quote the right verses from the Bible, but their “walk” does not measure up to their “talk.” Is only an intellectual faith. In one’s mind, he or she knows the doctrine of salvation, but they have never really submitted themselves to God and trusted in Jesus for salvation. They know the right “words,” but they don’t back up their words with their “works.”

James gives an illustration: a poor believer comes to you without proper clothing or food. Dead faith notices the person but does nothing to meet their needs (James 2:16). These are two basic needs for anyone addressed elsewhere in Scripture (1 Timothy 6:8, Matthew 6:31, 32, Genesis 28:20). Believers are called to help (Matthew 25:40), and this help is an expression of love (Galatians 5:6, 1 John 3:17, 18, Luke 10:25-37).

So the question is, can this faith save someone? The answer is, “no.” Three times in this passage, James emphasizes that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:17, 20, 26). So, any declaration of faith that does not result in a changed life
and good works is a false declaration: a dead faith; a faith that has reached only the head. Dead faith is counterfeit faith and lulls the person into a false confidence that he has everlasting life.

Check your own faith:

  1. Does your walk measure up to your talk?
  2. Do your works measure up to your words?

Demonic Faith (James 2:18-19)

James reminds us that even demons believe in God (there are no atheists or agnostics here). Isn’t that a shock to know that even the demons have faith?

  1. They believe in the deity of Christ (Mark 3:11-12)
  2. They believe in the existence of a place of condemnation (Luke 8:31)
  3. They believe that Jesus will be the Judge (Matthew 8:28-29)

So, what sort of faith do the demons have? We saw that the man with “dead faith” was “touched only in his intellect” so perhaps the demons are “touched in their emotions” (note that they “believe and tremble”). This is probably only one step above a “dead faith” (it involves both intellect and emotions). Maybe the location of this faith is in the heart.

Does this faith save anyone? James is again saying, “no.” A person can be enlightened in his mind and even stirred in his heart and still be lost. True saving faith involves something more, something that can be seen and recognized: a changed life (James 2:18). Being a Christian involves trusting Christ and living for him. This is a true statement: you first receive the life, then you reveal the life (Ephesians 2:10). James 2:20 brings an image to barren or idle faith, like money drawing no interest.

Do you have this kind of faith? You do if you just believe the right things and feel the right things. Perhaps if your service to God does not go beyond intellectually embracing the right doctrines and emotional experiences (just attending services).

Dynamic Faith (James 2:20-26)

We know from other passages that such faith is based upon the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Dynamic faith involves the whole person and leads to action.

  1. Dead faith touches only the intellect: the head understands the truth.
  2. Demonic faith involves both the mind and the emotions: the heart desires and rejoices in the truth.
  3. Dynamic faith involves the intellect, the emotions, and the will: our hands lead us toward action.

James illustrates his points in two well known character from the Old Testament: two people who could not be more different from one another.

  1. Abraham was the father of the Jews; Rahab was a Gentile
  2. Abraham was a godly man; Rahab had been a sinful woman, a prostitute (side note: oddly enough the word can also be translated “innkeeper” so she really ran a guest house). The word in James 2:25 actually means an immoral person.
  3. Abraham was the friend of God; Rahab had belonged to the enemies of God

So what did they have in common? Both exercised saving faith in God.

  1. Abraham demonstrated his saving faith by his works (James 2:20-24). He was justified before God and his righteousness was declared; he was justified before men and his righteousness was demonstrated.
  2. Rahab demonstrated her saving faith by her works (James 2:25-26). She is even listed in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11:31. She believed God’s Word and knew the city was doomed (Joshua 2:11) yet she responded with her mind and heart, and also her will; her hands went into action. Even with her limited information about God, she was a giant in dynamic faith and one of the first soul winners in the Bible.

The emphasis of this passage that faith without works is a dead faith (James 2:20, 26). “Faith only” (the only time this phrase is found in the Scriptures) cannot justify anyone (James 2:24). Perfect faith brings out good works in us (James 2:22).

It is important that each professing Christian examine his or her own heart and life, and make sure that they possess true saving faith, which is a dynamic faith. Satan is the great deceiver and one of his schemes is imitation. If he can convince a person that counterfeit (lesser or limited) faith is true faith, then he has that person in his power.

How often do we profess to know God but our actions deny him (Titus 1:16)? We need to carefully maintain good works (Titus 3:8).

Application: It is time for evaluation and examination. Here are some questions we can ask ourselves as we examine our personal faith:

  1. Was there a time when I honestly realized I was a sinner and admitted this to myself and to God?
  2. Was there a time when my heart stirred me to flee from the wrath to come? Have I ever been seriously worked up over my sins?
  3. Do I truly understand the gospel, that Christ died for MY sins and then rose again? Do I understand and confess that I cannot save myself?
  4. Did I sincerely repent of my sins, making the decision to turn from them? Do I hate sin and love God? Or do I secretly love sin and want to enjoy it?
  5. Have I trusted Christ and him alone for my salvation by responding to the commands He has given?
  6. Has there been a change in my life? Do I maintain good works, or are my good works occasional and weak?
  7. Do I seek to grow in the things of the Lord? Can others tell that I have been with Jesus?
  8. Do I have a desire to share Christ with others? Or am I ashamed of him?
  9. Do I enjoy the fellowship of God’s people? Is worship a delight to me?
  10. Am I ready for the Lord’s return? Or will I be ashamed when he comes for me?

To be sure, not every Christian has the same degree of faith; those who have had more time to grow should be stronger in faith, but for the most part, this spiritual inventory above can help a person determine his or her true standing before God.

May our prayer be similar to that of the Psalmist:

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
try me and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24)

Four Basic Doctrines

The following is another lesson from my Sunday morning Bible study, covering about four weeks!

In James 2, he discusses the subjects of godless favoritism and godly faith. Immature people talk about their faith; mature people practice their faith. James gives the simplest of tests to see if one is mature or immature: the way we treat other people really indicates what we believe about God. A man can’t say he loves God and yet hate his brother (1 John 4:20).

Let’s take an overview of what we find about favoritism:

  1. The Command Against Favoritism (James 2:1-8)
    1. The Examples (James 2:1-4): His readers are guilty of the following sins:
      1. Treating rich visitors with great respect (James 2:1-2a, 3a)
      2. Treating poor visitors with no respect (James 2:2b, 3b-4)
    2. The Enigma (James 2:5-7): James cannot understand this, for often it was the rich who persecuted them and ridiculed their Savior.
    3. The Exhortation (James 2:8): James says, “Obey our Lord’s royal command found in the Scriptures.”
  2. The Consequences of Favoritism (James 2:9-13)
    1. To break this law is to break all laws (James 2:9-12).
    2. To show no mercy is to receive no mercy (James 2:13).

Here is the meat of the four lessons. In the beginning of James chapter 2, the author examines four basic doctrines in light of the way we treat other people:

The Deity of Christ (James 2:1-4)

  1. Jesus was not a respecter of persons (Matthew 22:16)
    1. Jesus did not look at outward appearance, but at the heart.
    2. Jesus was not impressed with status and riches (Mark 12:41-44)
    3. Jesus saw potential in sinners (Matthew, Peter, the woman at the well)
    4. Jesus was a friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19)
    5. Paul was judged by his past (Acts 9:26-28)
  2. Jesus was despised and rejected (Isaiah 53:1-3)
    1. Jesus had no home to call his own (Matthew 8:20)
    2. Jesus grew up in despised Nazareth (John 1:11, 46)
    3. Jesus was judged by human standards, and rejected by his own people (John 7:24)
    4. Jesus used Peter, Zaccheus and John Mark in spite of their failures in the past.
  3. A prescription for us:
    1. Look at people through the eyes of Jesus.
    2. Look at people as children for whom Christ died.
    3. Check our prejudice and motives (James 2:4)

The Grace of God (James 2:5-7) the emphasis is on the fact that God chooses, which involves grace. We are his children by his sovereign choice, not our merit. No one deserves salvation (Ephesians 1:4-7, 2:8-10).

  1. God ignores national differences
    1. Peter at the home of Cornelius (Acts 10:34)
    2. Must one become a Jew before becoming a Christian? (Acts 15)
    3. No distinction between Jew or Greek (Galatians 3:28)
    4. No condemnation for those in Christ (Romans 2:6-16)
  2. God ignores social differences
    1. Masters and slaves, rich and poor all equal to God (Ephesians 6:9)
    2. Who makes one poor or rich? (1 Samuel 2:7-8)
    3. God chooses the poor (1 Corinthians 1:26-27)
  3. Poor in this world and rich in the next (1 Timothy 6:17-18). God promises the kingdom to those who love him
  4. James slams the people (a stern rebuke) in James 2:6-7.
  5. The doctrine of grace forces us to relate to people based on God’s plan and not the basis of human merit or status. Jesus broke down the dividing wall (Ephesians 2:11-22) between Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, male and female, educated and ignorant, young and old, black and white.

The Word of God (James 2:8-11) James reaches back into the Old Testament laws (Leviticus 19:18), and teaches a lesson like what we find in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).

  1. Why is love of neighbor called the royal law?
    1. Love affirms that we are his disciples (John 13:34): true believers are taught to love one another (1 Thessalonians 4:9).
    2. Love rules all other laws: love is fulfilling the law (Romans 13:10). Who needs other laws if we would only love one another?
    3. Obeying out of love makes you a king: since hatred makes one a slave, love sets one free from selfishness and enables us to reign like kings.
  2. Take any of the Ten Commandments and you will find ways to break it when you respect a person’s position or status. For example:
    1. It makes you lie to some people.
    2. It leads to idolatry, lifting some people up.
    3. It even leads to mistreatment of parents.
  3. Christian love does not mean I have to like the other person, or agree with him on everything; but treating that person as God would treat them, and the way God has treated me.
    1. It is an act of my will.
    2. The motive is to glorify God.
  4. Christian love does not leave a person where I find him: love helps people to reach higher and go better, helping the poor, love builds up others.
  5. We only believe as much of the Bible that we practice. If we fail in this most basic challenge, then we will not do other lesser matters of the Word. Let’s not be like the Pharisees and careful about lesser matters and careless about the important foundational stuff (Matthew 23:23).

The Judgment of God (James 2:12-13) believers will not be judged for our sins (John 5:24, Romans 8:1) but our works will be judged (Romans 14:10-13, 2 Corinthians 5:9-10).

  1. Our words will be judged
    1. The two visitors mentioned in James 2:3.
    2. Careless words (Matthew 12:36).
    3. Words from the heart (Matthew 12:34-37).
    4. The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:21-26, 33-37, 7:1-5, 21-23).
  2. Our deeds will be judged
    1. Additional insight (Colossians 3:22-25).
    2. Sins are not held against us (Jeremiah 31:34, Hebrews 10:17).
    3. But our sins affect our character and works.
  3. Our attitudes will be judged (James 2:13)
    1. Contrasts: showing mercy, showing no mercy.
    2. The lie: that we can earn mercy by showing mercy.
    3. The law of liberty (obedience sets us free).
    4. We are able to walk in liberty (Psalm 119:45)
  4. The law prepares us for liberty: a child under rules is not mature enough to handle himself. He received outward discipline until the time he develops inward discipline.
  5. Liberty is not a license to do whatever you want, but the freedom to become who we are meant to be in Christ.

This is just the first half of James 2; next time we will dissect various types of faith.

The Dangers of Self-Deception

This last part of James chapter one is really about the dangers of self deception; we must stop kidding ourselves (James 1:22). If a Christian is deceived by Satan it is one thing, it is something totally different when a Christian deceives himself. Sometimes people are deceived into thinking that they are saved or spiritual when they really are not. Jesus spoke about this in his sermon on the mount (Matthew 7:22, 23). The immature person claims to be rich and in need of nothing; not realizing his poverty (Revelation 3:17).

Spiritual reality results from a proper relationship to God through his revealed Word. The Bible is God’s truth (John 17:17). James states three responsibilities toward God’s Word, and if we fulfill them, we will have an honest walk with God and others:

Receive the Word (James 1:19-21): here it is the grafted Word, which mean implanted. Jesus talked about the parable of the sower (Matthew 19:1-9, 18-23) comparing God’s Word planted in the human heart.

  1. Test of the Soil: the human heart is compared to the soils; notice the same seed was soil to each piece of ground.
    1. The hard heart did not understand or receive the word and was fruitless (Mark 4:4, 15).
    2. The shallow heart was emotional with no depth and bore no fruit (Mark 4:5-6, 16-17).
    3. The crowded heart lacked repentance and permitted sin to crowd out the Word (Mark 4:7, 18-19).
    4. The fruitful heart received the Word and it took root and produced a harvest (Mark 4:8, 20).
  2. Test of Salvation: fruit, which means a changed character and conduct. Fruit can be:
    1. Winning people to Christ (Romans 1:16).
    2. Growing in holy living (Romans 6:22).
    3. Sharing material possessions (Romans 15:28).
    4. Spiritual character (Galatians 5:22-23).
    5. Good works (Colossians 1:10).
    6. Even praising the Lord (Hebrews 13:15).

Religious works can be manufactured and have no life in them, and they do not bring glory to God. Real fruit has in it the seeds to bear more fruit.

The Word cannot work in our lives unless we receive it the right way.

  1. Take heed what you hear (Mark 4:24)
  2. Take heed how you hear (Luke 8:18).

Is it the fault of the teacher if they hear yet do not understand (Mark 13:13)? Maybe, but it may be the hearer becoming dull of hearing (Hebrews 5:11).

If the Word is to be implanted, James says we must obey God’s instructions:

  1. Swift to Hear (James 1:19): If someone has ear to hear, let him hear (Mark 13:9). Faith comes by hearing (Romans 10:17). Here is a great illustration of hearing and obeying (2 Samuel 23:15).
  2. Slow to Speak (James 1:19): we have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Sometimes we argue with God’s Word; like the lawyer in Luke 10:29 by asking, “Who is my neighbor?”
  3. Slow to Anger (James 1:19): don’t get angry with God or his Word.
    1. When the prophet Nathan told King David, “You are the man,” David confessed and said that he had sinned (2 Samuel 12:7, 13).
    2. When Peter was in the garden with Jesus, he was slow to hear, swift to speak and swift to anger (John 18:10).
    3. Godly anger is not a sin (Ephesians 4:26) but man’s anger does not produce God’s righteousness (James 1:20)
  4. A Prepared Heart (James 1:21): James saw the heart as a garden; if left to itself it would develop weeds. Yet when a field is prepared, the Word is planted and takes root. If we don’t receive the Word implanted, we are deceiving ourselves. So how can you prepare for this implanting?
    1. Confess sins, and ask for forgiveness (1 John 1:9).
    2. Meditate on God’s love and grace asking him to plow up hardness in your heart (Jeremiah 4:3).
    3. Have an attitude of meekness (James 1:21), which is the opposite of wrath (James 1:19-20).

Practice the Word (James 1:22-25): it is not enough to just hear the Word, we should do it. Hearing a sermon or attending a Bible study is not enough, it is applying and doing what we learn. James give us three ministries of the Word of God as a mirror:

  1. Examination (James 1:23-25): this is the main purpose of a mirror. As we look into God’s Word, we see ourselves for who we really are. James mentions a couple mistakes we must avoid when looking into God’s mirror:
    1. They merely glance at themselves: this is not studying or examining themselves. A casual reading of God’s Word will not reveal the deepest needs in our hearts.
    2. They forget what they see: if they looked deeply into their hearts, they would not forget what they see. Isaiah had a great attitude toward being in God’s presence (Isaiah 6:5). Peter had the same reaction (Luke 5:8). Even Job (Job 42:6).
    3. They fail to obey: they think hearing is the same as doing. We are good at substituting reading for doing; talking for doing; attending for doing. Our education far exceeds our obedience. Look intently into the Word, not just a quick glance (James 1:25); and blessing comes from doing (literally “blessed in his doing”). Why is the Word called the “perfect law of liberty?
      1. Because when we obey it, God sets us free Psalm 119:45).
      2. Because when we commit sin, we are slaves to it (John 8:34).
      3. Because when we obey the Word, we know the truth and it sets us free (John 8:31-32).
  2. Restoration (Exodus 38:8): the tabernacle had something called the laver or basin (between the altar and the most holy place), where the priests would wash up before going inside.
    1. Washing with the Word is an image of its cleansing power (John 15:3).
    2. The church is sanctified through the Word (Ephesians 5:26).
    3. Christ once and for all washed us clean (Titus 3:4-6, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
    4. When David fess up to Nathan, he did not stop there, God forgave the sin and David would not die (2 Samuel 12:13). He was assured of forgiveness and cleansing.
  3. Transformation (2 Corinthians 3:18): let’s not confess sin, accept forgiveness and then go right back out to commit the same sins all over again. Let’s conquer sin. Second Corinthians three is a contrast of the old covenant of the law and the new covenant of grace. The law was external and written on stone; but salvation means that his Word is written on our hearts.
    1. Moses and the veil: he came down from the mountain and his face shone (Exodus 34:29-35). He did not want the people to see the glory of God fading away so he veiled his face; it was a veil to hide.
    2. Jesus and the veil: when he died, the veil in the temple was torn and nothing was between God and man. We are to have an unveiled face, no hiding. Take it off (Psalm 139:23-24).
    3. When a child of God looks into the Word (the mirror), he sees the Son of God, and is transformed by the Spirit of God. This change is metamorphosis, a change that comes from the inside out.

Share the Word (James 1:26-27): religion here means the outward practice or service of a god, used only five times in the New Testament (James 1:26-27, Acts 26:5, Colossians 2:18, where it is translated, worshiping). Pure religion practices God’s Word:

  1. Speech (James 1:26): the tongue reveals the heart (Matthew 12:34-35). A controlled tongue means a controlled body.
  2. Service (James 1:27): Isaiah saw the Lord and then he saw himself, and then he sought to go to the people (Isaiah 6:8). Words are no substitute for actions (James 2:14-18, 1 John 3:11-18). James mentions two groups needing special attention, orphans and widows. These are the most vulnerable of our society.
  3. Separation from the world (James 1:27): the world means “the society without God.” It is the domain of Satan (John 14:30).
    1. We are to be in the world but not of it (John 17:11-16).
    2. We are sent into the world (John 17:18).
    3. Be aware that friendship with the world (James 4:4) can lead to a love of the world (1 John 2:15-17).
    4. If we are not careful we can become conformed to the world (Romans 12:2) allowing it to squeeze us into its mold.
    5. The result will be our condemnation with the world (1 Corinthians 11:32).

Jesus remained spotless (1 Peter 1:19) even though he got involved with sinners and outcasts. When we go out into the world, it is important to go in pairs, like Jesus did with his missionaries (Luke 10:1). There is strength, safety and accountability is numbers.

How to Handle Temptation

The middle section of the first chapter of James helps us to know what to do when temptation arises. We already know that the mature Christian is patient during trial that come, which attack us from the outside. Temptations attack us from the inside. We might ask why James would connect the two.

What is the relationship between testings and temptations? Consider this, if we are not careful, testings on the outside may become temptations on the inside. When we are going through a difficult time, we may start complaining against God, questioning his love and resisting his will. It is at this point that Satan provides an opportunity to escape the difficulty (enter, temptation).

  1. Abraham arrived in Canaan and found a famine, and could not care for his flocks. It was an opportunity to trust God but he turned it into a temptation by running away to Egypt (Genesis 12:10).
  2. As Israel wandered through the wilderness, they often turned testing into temptation. Not long after God delivered them from Egypt the water ran out. After three days they found water, but it was bitter, and they began to complain against God. Testing into temptation–and they failed (Exodus 17:6, 7).

God does not want us to yield to temptation, yet he does not spare us from it. We are not God’s sheltered people, we are his scattered people.

There are three facts or barriers to consider if we are to overcome temptation:

Consider God’s Judgment (James 1:13-16): this is the negative approach; sin ends in death. Temptation is an opportunity to accomplish a good thing in a bad way, out of what we might call the will of God (eating is a good thing, while stealing food is not). We think sin as a single act while God looks at it as a process; consider Adam’s sin and what it did to the human race.

  1. Desire (James 1:14): lust can mean any sort of strong desire. Hunger, thirst and sex drive are all good in God’s eyes, but each can become a temptation to sin when we seek to satisfy these desires outside of the will of God (Hebrews 13:4). These desires must be our servants, not our masters.
  2. Deception (James 1:14): temptations never appear to be temptations at first; they are subtle. The idea is to hide the fact that it is a temptation. James uses two illustrations:
    1. Drawn away: like baiting a trap.
    2. Enticed: like baiting a hook.
    3. No one knowingly falls for a baited trap, because something bad is about to happen. Bait keeps us from seeing the consequences.
      1. Lot saw the wall watered plains beyond the Jordan (Genesis 13:10, 11).
      2. David looked at another man’s wife (2 Samuel 11:2).
      3. Jesus dealt with temptation by quoting God’s Word (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10).
  3. Disobedience (James 1:15): we move from emotions (desire) to the intellect (deception) to the will. Christian living is a matter of the will, many times we don’t feel like reading the Bible or praying. This explains why immature Christians easily fall into temptation, they let their feelings make decisions. Exercise (Philippians 2:12, 13).
  4. Death (James 1:15): disobedience gives birth to death, not life. It may take years to mature but the end is sure. James gives four stages of temptation, in Genesis three:
    1. Desire to interest Eve (Genesis 3:5, 6)
    2. Deception blinded Eve (2 Corinthians 11:3) it appears that Adam sinned with his eyes wide open.
    3. Disobedience by acting (Romans 5:12-21, 1 Timothy 2:12-15).
    4. Death to us all (Genesis 2:17, 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, Revelation 20:11-15).

Consider God’s Goodness (James 1:17): this is the positive approach. The enemy tries to get us to believe that God is not for us, or want the best for us. If we believe that God is good, we don’t need anything else to meet our needs, outside of God’s will. Moses warned not to forget God’s goodness (Deuteronomy 6:10-15).

  1. God gives only good gifts: if it does not come from God, it is not good. If it comes from God, it is always good; even when it appears at first not to be good. Think of Paul’s thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:1-10).
  2. The way God gives is good: the second phrase in this verse can be translated, “every act of giving.” Someone can give a good gift in an bad manner that is less loving. The value of a gift can be diminished by the way it is given.
  3. God gives constantly: the phrase “comes down” is a present participle, meaning it keeps coming down.
  4. God does not change: there is no shadow with the Father of Lights. He cannot change for the worse because he is holy; he cannot change for the better because he is already perfect. David remembered God’s goodness in 2 Samuel 12:7-8. Note the repetition of the word, give. God’s gifts are always better than Satan’s bargains.

Consider God’s Divine Nature (James 1:18): barrier one says look ahead; barrier two says look around; barrier three says to look within, and realize you are born from above. James picture where sin leads, to death. But our new nature leads to life, as in 1 John 3:9. Notice the characteristics of this birth:

  1. It is divine: Nicodemus thought he had to enter the womb a second time (John 3:4), but this birth is from above (John 3:1-7). God works a miracle when we have faith.
  2. It is gracious: we did not earn it or deserve it (John 1:13). No one is born again through his relative, resolutions or his religion.
  3. It is through God’s Word: physical birth requires to parents, spiritual birth requires two “parents” – the Word of God and the Spirit of God (John 3:6, 1 Peter 1:23, Hebrews 4:12).
  4. It is the best birth possible: the word, first fruits, meant something to the Jews. First fruits were brought to the Lord as an expression of devotion (Proverbs 3:9). We share God’s nature and are created in his image.
    1. Throughout the Bible God rejects the first born (Able over Cain, Isaac over Ishmael, Jacob over Esau), so God also rejects our first birth and announces that we all need a second birth.
    2. This experience of new birth allows us to overcome temptation; not allowing the old nature to take over.
    3. The new man is to take the lead (2 Corinthians 5:17).
    4. When temptation knocks at the door, if I send Adam to answer the door, I will sin; if I send Jesus to answer, I will win.

God has these three barriers to protect me from temptation and sin. If we heed the warning, we will receive a crown; if we break through the barriers, we receive a coffin (James 1:15).