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Archive for the ‘James’ Category

I guess most Christians would say that they ought to pray more.  Now, as a guilt-inducing statement, that probably ranks up there with, “I know I should brush and floss better.”  No one has arrived in this area.  And simply saying it does just about as much good.

But as James brings his letter to a close, he doesn’t simply say, “You should pray more.”  Instead, he calls us to bring every aspect of life to the God of all wisdom, the Father of lights, the giver of all good gifts (see 1:1-5, 17).  He reminds us that there is no circumstance that is beneath God’s notice, and no circumstance in which we don’t need God-given wisdom.  He calls us to talk to God in every circumstance, to talk to God with others, and to keep talking to God, knowing that God is faithful to listen to us far beyond what we can imagine or deserve:

I.  Talk to God in every circumstance (James 5:13-15)

A.  When we’re suffering (v. 13a)

B.  When we’re happy (v. 13b)

C.  When we’re sick and weak (v. 14-15)

II.  Talk to God with others (v. 16)

III.  Talk to God, because He hears (v. 17-18).

It was a privilege to look at these truths with brothers and sisters at Bethel Baptist Church in North Vernon a few weeks ago, on Sunday night, November 22.  The sermon may be heard by clicking below, or downloaded by right-clicking here and choosing “Save As.”

 

 

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Sadly, the idea of a professing Christian walking away from the faith is far from difficult to imagine.  All of us know people who started well, who encouraged us, whom we looked up to in the faith, but who now appear to be running from Christ, and only getting farther away.  Sometimes it’s sudden—they woke up one morning and announced that they no longer believe that Jesus is Lord.  Sometimes it’s the slow drift Hebrews 2 warns about, where taking Christ for granted leads to complacency, which leads to looking to something else, which leads finally to apostasy.

James is bringing his letter to a close.  As the lead pastor/elder/bishop of the church at Jerusalem, he has been teaching us wisdom—the art of seeing and responding to the universe in light of who God is and what He has done in Christ.  He has said that wisdom trusts God in troubles and believes God in temptation (chapter 1).  It sees others in light of Christ’s kindness to us, and evaluates our faith in light of what we do about what we say we believe (2:1-26).  Biblical wisdom sees our words as a symptom of what we love most, and turns over and over again to the wise Father who gives us all we need and more (3:1-4:12).  Wisdom holds the future loosely, and awaits God’s perfect timing for justice rather than taking matters into our own hands (4:13-5:12).  And wisdom turns to Christ in every matter, whether joy or sorrow, sickness or sin (5:13-18).

And now, at the end of a letter filled with the practical outworkings of the gospel, James says that wisdom sees those who are starting to walk away from the faith and acts.  Straying from the truth brings real danger, and with that danger comes a call for those nearby to warn and remind with an eye to turn the wanderer back to safety.  James says, “My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20).

I. Straying is a real danger (James 5:19a).
II. Straying will kill you (v. 20).
III. Straying does not have to be forever (v. 20b)!

This sermon was preached on Sunday, October 11, 2015, at Grace Chapel Baptist Church, Kingwood, WV.  Audio may be listened to below, or it may be downloaded by right-clicking and “Save Link As” here.

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“Cross my heart and hope to die…”  “But I had my fingers crossed…”  “I swear on a stack of Bibles…”  When we were growing up, probably most of us felt the need to have some way of emphasizing that we were telling the truth—or excusing ourselves when we weren’t.  And somewhere along the line we discovered that not everyone’s word was equally trustworthy —some people could be trusted implicitly, while others had to be checked out.

James has already said a lot to his readers about how we deal with one another and the words we use.  He’s called us to reflect God’s patience and blessing in the way that we speak (3:2-12).  He’s warned us to love one another more than we love getting our way (3:13-4:12).  He’s invited us to see ourselves under God’s wise and all-knowing care so that we don’t have to guarantee our own futures and rescue ourselves when wronged (4:13-5:6).  And he’s counseled us to be patient with one another, knowing that we can trust the righteous Judge to right wrongs and reconcile brothers (5:7-11).

Now he commands us to live out godly wisdom by telling the truth, no strings attached.  Instead of taking oaths to establish our credibility, he says we are to be known as truth-tellers.  Led by the Holy Spirit, he tell us:

I.  Do not live by oaths (James 5:12a).

II.  Instead, imitate Christ by simply telling the truth, every time (v. 12b)!

This sermon was preached on Sunday, May 24, 2015, at Grace Chapel Baptist Church, Kingwood, WV.  Audio may be listened to below, or it may be downloaded by right-clicking and “Save Link As” here.

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Writer and professional cynic Ambrose Bierce called patience “a minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue.”  Someone else has said that patience is a virtue that other people really ought to learn—it might have been me who said it.  It certainly does seem easier to counsel others to be patient, than to be patient ourselves.  But in the opening to his letter, James has already called us to trust God in trouble, counting on Him as the giver of all good gifts, the one who uses circumstances to teach us endurance, and to finally make us just like Christ.  He’s written to those being abused by those who live for money (James 5:1-6), announcing the judgment that is coming for their oppressors.  And now James calls us to patience: whether it’s patience in the face of ongoing mistreatment or patience with brothers and sisters, a patience that imitates those who have walked before us—and that imitates the Lord Himself:

I.  Patience in the Face of Mistreatment (James 5:1-7).

II.  Patience, Though the Time Is Long (v. 7-8)

III.  Patience with Brothers (v. 9)

IV.  Patience Like the Prophets and Job and the Lord (v. 10-11)

This sermon was preached Sunday, March 8, 2015, at Grace Chapel Baptist Church, Kingwood, WV.  Audio may be listened to below, or it may be downloaded by right-clicking and “Save Link As” here.

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From 1908 to 1909 a man calling himself Colonial Jack Krohn pushed a wheelbarrow around the United States, walking 9,024 miles to win a $1,000 bet.  He supported himself by selling souvenirs and stories along way.  He was known to tell people, “Money is the root of all evil, but most of us need that root.”

Now, we might recognize that Colonial Jack misquoted 1 Timothy 6:10; what Paul really said was “the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”  But what is a biblical attitude toward riches?

Some point out how wealthy Abraham, Solomon, Joseph of Arimathea and others were.  They would say that money is a gift from God, and so a good thing to be sought.

Others point out passages like the parable of the rich fool (Luke 12), or the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16), or the wreckage of the rich young ruler who chose his wealth over Jesus.  They conclude that money is bad, and the best thing to do is to get rid of it like Zacchaeus did and be poor.

What does James tell us?  What does it look like to live a life of godly wisdom in relationship to money?  In James 5:1-8 the Spirit tells us

I.  If you live for riches, you will die by riches (James 5:1-3).

II.  Symptoms of living for riches (v. 3b-6):

A.  Skewed priorities (v. 3b)

B.  Loving money more than people (v. 4)

C.  Seeing your wealth as yours (v. 5)

D.  Using money to get your way (v. 6)

III.  So how shall we live?

A.  For those who aren’t living for riches (v. 7-8)

B.  For those who are (James 1:10-11)

This sermon was preached Sunday, January 25, 2015, at Grace Chapel Baptist Church, Kingwood, WV.  Audio may be listened to below, or it may be downloaded by right-clicking and “Save Link As” here.

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According to the poet Homer, the Trojan War started when someone forgot to invite one of the so-called goddesses to their wedding.  Enraged at being ignored, she tossed a golden apple among a group of goddesses with the inscription, “To the Fairest.”  It went downhill from there.

Is the true and living God like that?  Is He vengeful and quick to create havoc when someone forgets the magic words, “Lord willing”?  Some read this passage that way.  They are careful to add “Lord willing” to every statement, fearful that God will otherwise wreck their plans or make them become missionaries just to prove that He shouldn’t be taken for granted.  Is that James’s point?

Remember, James is the lead pastor of the church at Jerusalem, writing to primarily Jewish Christians, urging them to a life of wisdom that sees God’s universe the way God sees it.  He’s called us to trust God in troubled times, to believe God in the face of temptation, to replace self-focused anger with trust in God’s goodness, and to obey God by living according to Christ’s perfect Law.  He’s warned us of the dangers of gospel-denying partiality, of dead faith that says good things but doesn’t do anything, of teaching that isn’t lived out, and of tongues and quarrels that reveal hearts more in love with ourselves and the world than with Christ.  And he’s called us to find safety by repenting and humbling ourselves, turning from self-serving fights to humility and grace-rooted love that come from seeing the way Christ has loved and rescued us at the cost of His own blood.

Now James calls us to be wise about the future: to acknowledge our own limitations, to entrust ourselves and our futures to the sovereign and wise Lord, and to faithfully live today without worrying about all that we don’t know about tomorrow.

He says:

I.  You aren’t big enough to make the future (James 4:13-14).

II.  Instead, humbly trust the Lord who is big enough to hold the future (v. 15-16).

III.  In the meantime, we have plenty to do without knowing the future (v. 17).

This sermon was preached Sunday, January 18, 2015, at Grace Chapel Baptist Church, Kingwood, WV.  Audio may be listened to below, or it may be downloaded by right-clicking and “Save Link As” here.

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How many of us find conflict to be a regularly recurring part of life?  Maybe not full-out warfare, but at some level we keep finding ourselves in disagreements, spats, arguments, and on and on.  It might feel like a cold war, eying each other, waiting to see what they’ll do next.  Or it might be more like a cold shoulder, giving or receiving the silent treatment for weeks.  It seems like conflict only happens if there’s more than one person in the immediate vicinity—we hardly ever get to the point where we’re not on speaking terms with ourselves, but if you add someone else into the mix, it doesn’t take long for trouble to start.

The reality of conflict is draining for a lot of people.  We just get sick of it and want it to go away.  A few seem to thrive on it, but not most people.  But is there more to conflict than just the impression that some folks (like all the ones around us) are hard to get along with?

In chapter 3 James pointed to the universal danger that our tongues create.  Our tongues lead us astray, burn out of control, rip and tear like wild animals, and flash between singing praise to God and snarling curses at those made in God’s image.  And we saw last week that the threat this little bit of flesh and muscle presents reflects the remaining presence of sin in our lives, pockets of what James calls worldly, demonic wisdom that still moves us to speak in ways that protect our ambitions and desires, rather than reflecting the wisdom of Christ.

And if James had stopped at the end of chapter 3, there would be no hope for us.  “Our tongues are out of control.  It’s because you’re not wise, and your tongue is in league with the devil.  Feel bad, try harder—not that it’ll do you any good.”

Thankfully, in chapter 4 he brings us to the cure for our tongues—but first he needs to paint the picture even more clearly for us; there’s more bad news we need to hear before we’ll rightly hear the good news.  Ultimately, the problem isn’t just with our tongues, but with what we love.  Pastor James is going to show us the real nature of our conflicts with each other, and then point us to the actual solution to the way we speak to and deal with each other—a solution that goes far beyond communication skills and sensitivity training.  He tells us:

I.  Our conflict is rooted in “I want” (v. 1-3).

II.  Our conflict is really conflict with God (v. 4-5).

III.  Repent and find grace as you humbly draw near to God (v. 6-10).

IV.  Kill conflict with humility and grace-rooted love (v. 11-12).

This sermon was preached Sunday, November 16, 2014, at Grace Chapel Baptist Church, Kingwood, WV.  Audio may be listened to below, or it may be downloaded by right-clicking and “Save Link As” here.

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