And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (Rom 5:3-6)

Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord GOD of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel. (Psalm 69:6)

Monday, March 3, 2014

A Christianity that Moves from Perishing to Persisting James 1:1-25

A Christianity that Moves from Perishing to Persisting
James 1:1-25

Below are a few notes that I have taken upon reading through the first chapter of James. These are
rough notes and are being published for the purpose of being used for your own personal Bible study.

For the purpose of thought, I consider that many Christians are perishing in their Christianity; not as a loss of salvation, but a failure to grow or to be cultivated into fruit bearing.  To many examples exist of a man becoming Christians yet never demonstrating any evidence of the Holy Spirit changing his life.  As a matter of fact, without this evidence I am reluctant at all to call someone a Christian.  I strongly suggest at this point a reading of Matthew Meade’s book, The Almost Christian or the first chapter of Richard Baxter’s The Reformed Pastor.

As disciples, we ought to be persisting for the evidence of perseverance.  This is the demonstration of God’s grace to renew our minds, break sinful chains, and to be addicted to nothing by being a bond-slave of Christ.  This is true discipleship.  Therefore, I share these notes from James chapter one as a herald to live your Christianity in a persistent manner with strength from God rather than the mediocrity of worldly influence.

1.1       The book of James is addressed to Christians.  Thus the directives given within are for our growth.

1.2       Count it all Joy when (in the midst of) various trials ( Good and bad events are opportunities and a trial in themselves)
            Trials are given continually.  The supposed absence of trials is often a time of peace so that one may rest and prepare themselves for future reliance upon God.  I strongly suggest scheduling times of retreat, getting away from the routine influences that seem to bring about trials, for the purpose of seeking God.  One great place for the entire family to do this is the camp ministry of Life Action Ministries.

The testing (That is part and parcel of the journey of life) of your faith
Produces steadfastness
 (Faith that holds, faithfulness, unmoved character, unswayed by circumstances, based on a sure foundation)  Do not be surprised at trials.  Prepare for trials scripturally, Psalm 119:105.
Let it have its full effect
 Don’t quit or shortcut, too often we give in too early (1 Cor 10:13).
When we give in early we fail to finish, this is why we often have trials over and over, until we get it right.
So that you may be
            Perfect and complete (That is like Jesus, Romans 8:29, Romans 12:1-2)
            Lacking nothing.  Notice God’s goal is much different than ours.  Often, the goal of man is happiness.  God sets the standard as our goal is His glory.  When we glorify ourselves it is a temporal joy that culminates in frivolity.  When we glorify God, as is our purpose, we actually receive a joy beyond expectation.
1.5       Thus If (In this situation you try and fail, try and fail) you lack wisdom (How then do I do this?) Then ask of God (Go to Him as the authority)
God gives generously
            That is He gives what we need, what is best, and He gives out of love.
            Properly seeking God is humbly submitting as abiding in love, as a child to his or her father.  Usually, as evidences later in James, we fail to receive because we ask amiss(James 4:1-11).  We tend to ask out of wrong motives.  James chapter one is all about the process of ordering our life unto God rather than our own enthronement.
It will be given
1.6       How shall we ask?
Asking incorporates our goals, attitudes, and understanding.
Ask in faith with no doubting
            Doubters are tossed by the winds, that is a lack of steadfastness.  Doubters are influenced by whatever blows this way and that.  This could be public opinion, the last opinion heard, emotions without logic, logic without emotions, ignorance, or any form of sway.  A man in this state is in a very sad state, he is perishing.  The world around him has a great influence.  The latest news sways his confidence and affects his hope.  He is driven by the winds of change.

We need wisdom thus we ask God, thus to ask God we need not to doubt, but we are asking because we are doubting.
Question: You need faith to get faith, but what if you have no faith?
Answer: This passage is written to Christians, thus they have faith as it has been given by God.  Their faith is based upon Jesus, not themselves.  Faith should never be based upon ourselves but upon God, His word and His promises.  Therefore, as James illustrates, to seek greater faith is to seek more of God.

A wind tossed person is such for many other reasons than lacking faith. However, being wind tossed is always a result of being swayed by influences other than the person of God.  Thus it is imperative to our faith that we know not just God’s word, but that we know Him through His word.  Do not read the Bible as a mere book of rules; read it as a revelation to His nature and character.

If you find yourself doubting, stop. Refuse to dwell on the doubt by going to God in prayer, seeking His word, and by talking to your pastor.  Go back to God and isolate the other influences of your doubt as being under His control.  Remember the sovereignty of God and the power of the Cross over death and sin.  The victory of Jesus is proven in the resurrection.

1.8       Otherwise, the double minded man is unstable.  That is to say, a double minded man is someone who is driven by winds of change and not the gospel.

1.9-11  Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation,
 the rich in his humiliation, for like the flowering grass/he will fade
            The rich man puts his hope in the temporary, the perishing pursuits of his wealth.

1.12     Blessed in the steadfast under trial
            When he has stood the test
            He will receive a crown of life.  Notice the rich man was clothed with temporary flowers, the lowly brother was tested in his poverty of circumstance and yet is now rewarded with a crown of exaltation.  This is a fulfillment of God’s promise, and that is a faith building blessing.

1.13     God does not tempt.
            God however can turn our temptation into trials that ultimately bless in the purposes of God.

1.14     Temptation come from within
            No one makes you angry, or causes you to lust, or sad, or whatever.  These reactions come out of our heart simply because they are within our heart to begin with.  No one makes you angry, they simply may bring an opportunity for you to vent your vexation.  You are not responsible for what happens to you, but you are responsible for your response.
Lured by own desire
            We are baited into sin by our own personal treasuring of what that sin offers.  If we treasure it we will go for it.

1.15     Desire, when conceived
            Desire is not sin. It is a part of the conception of sin, but we can defend against it.  Again, desire is not sin; only when it is allowed to develop does it lead to sin. 
Desire, if allowed to conceive gives birth to sin.
Sin leads to death.
The puritans would say, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.”

1.16     Do not be deceived (Realize that sin is a powerful enemy)
            Deception is the nature of sin.  Sin seeks to deceive, to lie, to give false promises, and to enthrone us either above or alongside of God.  Sin offers a pursuit of the world; it is a pursuit of wind driven waves.
We want/desire that which satisfies, that which makes us happy, we seek fulfillment.  God created you with a desire for satisfaction, knowing that it can only be fulfilled in Him.  Sin and failure come when we try to find satisfaction in anything other than Him.
This search for satisfaction is affected by our values, influences, our own heart, our pride, wisdom, knowledge, experiences, peers, and etc.  Think about how allowing particular influences affects your heart and mind.  Have you ever given thought to the means and habits by which you make decisions?  What is your process?  Where do you begin and end?  How are you ever changed?  Why are you steadfast?  Do you ever weigh consequences?  Do you consider short term and long term factors?
            God wants to give us satisfaction, it is His nature. Being God, He only gives what is 100% best; thus the best is Himself.
            So, God in giving, gives of Himself that we look to Him rather than creation.  This is the point of Romans chapter one.  Since earthly things do perish, God wants us not to fret, but to look to Him.  Sheep once having eaten the green pasture bare look to the shepherd as the means by which they we be led to greened pastures.

1,17     Every good gift and every perfect gift is from God, coming from Him.
No variation, no shifting shadow
            He does not change.  He is not driven by winds of change.  He is going to bless as that is His nature.  We do not influence His decision to bless, we simply ask in faith to receive.  This He is glorified when we put faith in Him.  Prayer does not change things to get God to do things.  Prayer changes us that we may then receive the blessing that God hold out before us.
            The battle is to be faithful to Him.

1.18     God works His own will, it is part of what it means to be God.
1.19     Know this
                        Our part is to be faithful and produce a heart that God can bless.
            Quick to hear (Use your ears, not your mouth, think and check facts, make sure you understand before proceeding)
            Slow to speak (Only use your mouth when needed)
Slow to anger (Anger is to be avoided)
Notice: all of these are a test that requires humility, wisdom, restraint, patience, and going to God before acting or finalizing a decision.
The anger of Man does not produce the righteousness of God.
            Man’s goals and means are often failures because
            1. Often they are not of God’s wisdom.
            2. They are influenced by wind driven waves.
            3. They lack hearing, speaking, and righteous motives.
God requires a righteousness in all situations, for these are the trials that we are being tested by.  Therefore, in every situation in should be clear that we are dependent upon God for wisdom.

1.21     Therefore, (See here how holiness is often the missing ingredient in our pursuits)
            Because we often react rather than seeking God, start to grow in faith, that is seek God’s wisdom, to….
            1. Put away all filthiness in life (Anything unrighteous must go)
            2. Put away rampant wickedness (Get rid of sinful habits.  Habits are those rampant or reactionary behaviors of our life that make up our character.)
            3. Put on, receive, with meekness (Humility, knowing your need of God, restraining your sinful desire to give opportunity to walk by faith.)

The implanted word
            His word, not our own
            His ways, we need change even in the little details.
This word, is what can save your souls.
            Mind you, James is talking to Christians, thus they are saved eternally, not losing their salvation.  However, many of their lives are shipwrecked by the continual living in sinful habits.

So often our souls fall into sin, they perish, fail to find God, simply because we are so caught up in our own hubris.  We operate out of our own abilities, our wealth, our experiences, our opinion that we are not quitters, that we are better than _________, that pride, or the esteem of our self simply fails to walk humbly before God.

Stop pretending, stop excuse making, blame shifting, it only keeps you as a wind driven wave.
Rather, put off the old self-reliance.
Put on being a doer of the word, not a hearer only.  A hearer has head knowledge, but never a heart change.

Hearers are content to look into the mirror of the word, but it is only taken as a vanity of the soul.

But, one who looks at the perfect law, the law of liberty..
            They see God’s word not as restricting but liberating.  They have found the faithful wisdom of God to bring freedom.
            This means abiding in God.  This brings about God’s blessing.  The crown of life, the saved soul.

Why are you perishing?  Like Peter drowning after walking on the sea.  Keep pursuing Jesus for a faith that persists rather than perishes.