May 29, 2018

Today you should read: James 4:11-12

Little Tuesday morning controversy, anyone?

This has to be one of the most divisive, proof-texted, misunderstood texts in the Bible. These two verses have been at the heart of disagreements, both with believers/believers and believers/non-believers. But… what is James really saying here?  And what is he not saying? Are we to never judge? Well, that can’t be true. We’d be the worst spouse, friend, co-worker, parent, child, brother, etc. if that were the case. So we must agree that he is talking about something deeper than just never showing disapproval. Could it be, friends, that he is continuing the discussion he started earlier in this letter on the use of our tongues? I heartily think so.

Here’s how one commentary that I find profoundly helpful (ESVSB) puts it:

“James restates the basic problem behind the issues discussed in 3:1–4:10: the misuse of the tongue to speak evil or to slander others. Speaking ill of others is the result of all the arrogant boasting (3:5), jealousy (vv. 14, 16), self-centered desires (4:1, 3), and pride (v. 6) that James is warning against. Such slanderous conduct is decried in both the OT (Lev. 19:16Ps. 50:20Jer. 6:28) and NT (Rom. 1:302 Cor. 12:201 Pet. 2:1). judges the law. The “law” likely refers to these OT laws against slander, particularly Lev. 19:16, which leads to 19:18, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” which James calls “the royal law” (James 2:8). Yet it also includes in a broader sense Jesus’ kingdom laws regarding love for neighbor (Matt. 22:39) and for one another (John 13:34–35; 15:12, 17). Those who inappropriately judge others (Matt. 7:1–5Rom. 2:11 Cor. 4:5) break God’s law and show contempt for God. When a person begins to “judge the law,” he is usurping the place of the one lawgiver and judge. God alone gave the law, and he alone is judge of all (Ps. 9:19Isa. 2:4Joel 3:12). to save and to destroy. Possibly an implicit message to the divisive boasters, warning them of future judgment.”

So we are not to be foolish, inappropriate, self-gratfying judges. Sounds like what Jesus said in Matthew 7, right?

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:1-5 ESV)

Let’s think through this one together today. How do we apply what James is saying here, while also being bold about our faith and caring for friends and loved ones who are making bad choices? What is your understanding of this text (James 4:11-12) in light of Matthew 7:1-5, Proverbs 27:17, Jude 17-23, and Galatians 6:1-2? I’d love to hear your thoughts…

By: Todd Thomas — Worship & College Pastor

May 28, 2018

Today you should read: James 4:6-10

I don’t know where this post meets you today: maybe relaxing with family on a wonderful holiday weekend, getting ready for a week of work, or maybe just in a tough spot. It really doesn’t matter if the last few days have been great or difficult—the truth that James writes in verse 6 is relevant for you: “But he gives more grace.” (ESV)

The fact that God gives more grace is one of the most beautiful concepts in the Bible. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, God’s grace has the power to save you and transform you. This grace takes the focus off of ourselves and places it on Jesus, which is the most freeing position you could be in. The following verses go on to talk about the importance of humility.

6 Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. … 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (ESV)

God’s grace is applied in its fullest power when we humble ourselves before God and believe that His grace has the power to save and transform. One of the greatest spiritual principles that we should adopt, is to be so consumed with loving and worshipping God that we forget about ourselves. This doesn’t mean that we think less of ourselves or don’t like ourselves, but that we are so consumed with Jesus that we forget ourselves out of our love for God and others.

A few questions for reflection:

  • What are you consumed by: God or self? What do you need to repent from?
  • Are you increasingly thankful and reliant on God’s grace?

By: Graham Withers — Pastoral Ministry Apprentice

May 26, 2018

Today you should read: James 4:1-5

James 4:1-5 is five verses with a lot to say!  

Fights and Quarrels

James 4:1-2 answers a BIG question in the world today.  Actually, it’s a question that’s existed ever since the Fall of Man: what causes us to fight? From Cain who killed Abel – to many fights and factions recorded in the Old Testament all the way through the early church in Acts and the epistles.  Even what we experience today. What cause us to quarrel and fight? The evil desires at war within you.  It’s not an outside problem – it’s an inside one.  Verse 2 spells it out – it’s all about selfishness and control.  Every divorce, every faction, every war has been caused by these things.

Prayer and Motives

Verse 3 reminds us that motives matter when we pray.  God looks at our heart.  Prayers designed to hurt others or only to advance ourselves will not be answered.  Aren’t you glad?

Friendship with the World

What’s it means to be a friend with the world?  It means to love the things that God hates (1 John 2:15-17).  How do you and I do that? What are we FOR that God’s AGAINST?  When we take this posture – according to James – we make ourselves enemies of God.  James says it twice in this verse! Matter of fact, he calls us adulterers! What’s adultery?  It’s being married to one person and fooling around with someone else. How could that apply to us spiritually?  When we receive the gift of salvation, we enter a covenant relationship with Jesus. If we keep fooling around with the world – we’re cheating!

Pride

Pride is the source of all sin.  It’s terribly destructive in all relationships including our relationship with God.  When we’re proud – God opposes us. I don’t know about you – but I don’t want none of that!  God promises to issues grace when we’re humble – that’ much better!

  • What are some relationships in your life that are broken because of your selfishness and control?  What can you do to fix that?
  • In what ways do you oppose God by being a friend of the world?  Look for those today and try and avoid them.
  • Search your heart for pride – ask God to show you and confess it.

By: Tim Parsons — Lead Pastor

May 25, 2018

Today you should read: James 3:13-18

The Pilgrim’s Progress is a timeless Christian classic. It is an allegorical tale of a young man, Christian, who realizes the great burden on his back and goes in search of relief. Along the way he encounters many folks, several trying to be helpful, but most only proving to be a distraction on the noble quest. Take for instance the excerpt from this interaction between Christian and Mr. Worldly Wiseman.

“Why, Sir,” answered Christian, “this burden upon my back is more dreadful to me — than all the things which you have mentioned! Indeed, I don’t care what danger I meet with along the way — as long as I get deliverance from my burden!”

“How did you get your burden, in the first place?” questioned Worldly-wiseman.

“By reading this Book in my hand,” answered Christian.

“I thought so!” snapped Worldly-wiseman, “and it has happened unto you as to other weak men — who, meddling with things too high for them — do suddenly fall into the same bewilderment that you now suffer. In this perplexing state, they undertake dangerous ventures, to obtain — they know not what.”

As I read today’s passage in James 3, this passage came to mind. James poses a rhetorical question, “Who among you is wise and understanding?” This question is based on yesterday’s passage. The Bible Knowledge Commentary sums these five verses up really well when it says, “A key to right talk is right thought. The tongue is contained in a cage of teeth and lips, but it still escapes. It is not intelligence that keeps the lock on that cage; it is wisdom—a wisdom that is characterized by humility, grace, and peace.

Because I’m a nerd, I watch a lot of debates and try to hear from those of dissenting opinions. YouTube is overflowing with debates and lectures from world-class scholars. For all their intellect, many of these men are fools (See Romans 1:18–25 and note well verse 22, “Professing to be wise, they became fools”). These men reject God for scientific or philosophical reasons, and then to hear them talk, they validate everything the Bible has to say about spiritual blindness. These men are constantly finding brilliant ways to say very dumb things; but the problem is that too many people heed the words of Mr. Worldly Wiseman and cannot discern that intelligence and wisdom can sometimes be mutually exclusive.

Verse 14 helps us understand that arrogance is often the litmus test for wisdom. Where arrogance exists, godliness does not. Instead, humility is a right perspective of who we are in light of who God is. In chapter one, Graham’s Jumpstart pointed us toward Proverbs 9:10, and rightly so—“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” Arrogance is a symptom of misplaced fear. If you fear inadequacy, you become jealous. If you fear a lack of recognition, you become selfishly ambitious. However, if you fear the Lord, then you understand what it means to be created in His image, and His holy standard of righteousness, and that if we fail to meet that holy standard the consequences is everlasting destruction.

One of the primary evidences of our faith is our tongue, but you’ll never control your tongue without the pursuit of wisdom.

Reflection Questions:

What is an example of worldly wisdom that you are tempted to follow?

How has God’s Word challenged that wisdom and what is the indwelling Holy Spirit convicting you to do about it?

By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate