BROTHER: JAMES 3:1-12

“If all that we say in a single day,
With never a word left out.
Were printed each night
   in clear black and white
‘Twould prove strange reading, no doubt.

And then, just suppose,
   ‘ere our eyes we could close,
We must read the whole record through;
Then wouldn’t we sigh,
   and wouldn’t we try
A great deal less talking to do?

And I more than half think
That many a kink
Would be smoother in life’s tangled thread.
If half that we say in a single day
Were left forever unsaid.” - Unknown

What a sobering thought. If we were to have to write everything we said down… I don’t want to recall all the stupid, hypocritical, and useless crap that comes out of me in one day, even on my best day. But I suppose this is exactly James’ intentions when he speaks about the tongue. 

 He is making us feel really uncomfortable because it is a topic that is highly convicting. He breaks the subject down into sections. There are some distinct points he makes about the tongue. 

They are:

  • Responsibility of use
  • The power of its use
  • The abuse of its use 
  • How to use it and not abuse it 

Verses 1-2

In discussing chapter one we learned in that first chapter James gave us a little taste of what he was going to talk about in chapter three. 

“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless.”

If you are a Christ follower you have a certain responsibility to control your tongue. Remember this was one of the three things that James said are essential to “True religion” they were focused around a controlled tongue, a compassionate heart, and a clean life.

So a crucial step in the Christian process is learning how to control your tongue. No, it’s not fun at all, but it absolutely needs to be done in order to have a life that is pleasing to God. 

“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.”

You will be judged for your speech…  

“But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.”

You will be accountable for the way you use your tongue. It says that you’ll be judged even more so if you teach because those listening to your words will be impacted by it. You have the responsibility to speak in truth so that you are not deceiving yourselves or others.  Now James is not saying that you have to be perfect and that if you slip up you will be judged and go to Hell…just like in the Bible it tells us to be holy because God is holy… it doesn’t work like that. We can’t be holy because only God is able to do so, just as we will always have moments where we slip up in what we say. 

Just as you have a responsibility to control your tongue you have the responsibility to use it.

Verses 3-6

“If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.”

The tongue is capable of so much influence. James gives us these examples because he wants us to be able to fully grasp the power that the tongue has. It can be extremely misleading or extremely encouraging. 

 “A formidable power dwells within each of us. This power has changed the course of nations. It is capable of starting and ending wars. And it has made men rich and women famous. It has the means to commend or corrupt—to bless or to blame. It is the power of the tongue.”

As Tony Evans says in this quote, the tongue is powerful. James’s analogies focus on one main thing. The tongue leads. Wherever you direct your tongue the whole course of your life follows. So if you speak the words of wickedness you will lead yourself in the wrong direction. It is not so much the fleshly tongue. Obviously the tongue can’t literally crush a person’s spirit but what the Bible means and what James means here is the words we use.

Your heart and life have the tendency of following where your tongue leads

Verses 7-9

“For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.” (James 7-9)

We have the responsibility of being people who use their words wisely to speak wisely. James points out here that we do not speak wisely. In fact we are hypocrites when we speak because we abuse our tongue. Out of the same mouth we bless and we curse. When we ought to be furthering the kingdom we are using our tongues in the wrong way. 

James is bringing us to a point of conviction where we can identify the real issue here. See he is not saying that the tongue is absolutely bad. He is saying that it has great power and that the sin that corrupts the tongue is a restless evil. It is not the actual tongue that is sinful. Sin and deadly poison are in the mouths of those who abuse how their words are used. 

Verses 10- 12

“From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.”(James 3:10-12)

Now we know that the tongue has power, we know that it is abused, and we need to figure out how to control it. How do we use it and not abuse it?

As Christ believers it is not right of us that we go around saying things that do not reflect the character of God. In chapter 5 we learned that it is in our speech that a person’s spiritual life is visible. Our words have a certain transparency that gives others a clear view of our character.

James brings up this wonderful little analogy of a fig tree. Is it possible for a fig tree to produce anything but figs? No of course it can’t. James is saying exactly what we learned earlier. That a person’s real conduct is determined by how and what they speak. 

Your words are the fruit of your lips. It will always give you away. The genuine believer will not contradict his profession of faith by the regular use of unwholesome words.

Unwholesome words could look like:

  • Slandering others
  • Speaking negatively over yourself/others
  • Speaking in pride/boasting
  • Cursing/ swearing/ making vows (I swear on my mother’s grave…I swear to God)
  • Complaining 
  • Coarse joking/inappropriate humor/humor at the expense of someone else

These are just some of the things that are unwholesome and not of the Lord. 

“With the fruit of a man's mouth his stomach will be satisfied; He will be satisfied with the product of his lips. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” - Proverbs 18:20-21

Whatever you speak is the fruit of your heart. Your speech is a manifestation of what is truly going on in your hearts. If something is wrong in your spiritual life it will produce negative speech. 

The tongue is the spokesman for your heart

Ending thoughts

The tongue has not only a great impact and power over others lives but it has a particular power over your own life as well. It is a scientific fact that the things you tell yourself have a great impact and influence on your health and your actions. 

I learned this one the hard way this week when a hardship happened to me I said “This is just my luck” in my distress I started to work myself up until my mind was clouded and my judgment was misleading. I kept verbalizing “of course this would happen to me” and “I can’t deal with this right now”. However, this whole time in the seat next to me someone stayed silent. When I was done throwing my tantrum my friend began to explain to me…that the very thing that I often preach about was one of my biggest struggles. See, I verbalize all the time about how “unlucky I am”, I offer useless declarations and complaints that don’t do anything but lead me astray. I had to step back and realize that my negative speech over myself was increasing negative situations. The more I speak negatively about my problems the more problems I seem to have. I was increasing my anxiety as well. I’ve had mouth sores and stomach ulcers, migraines and attention deficit disorder…why? Because of my negative heart that was encouraged by my negative speech. My own words have worked against me. And I am sure your own words have worked against you.

The devil knows he can make you your own worst enemy because he wants to distract you from the real enemy, himself.

We spend so much time speaking that it is time we start to quite ourselves. If we could keep our mouths shut and not say everything that is in our hearts we would be a whole lot better off. We need to properly control our tongues.  

 

The taming of the tongue is impossible but the controlling of the tongue is practicable

Steps to Controlling your tongue:

  • Make a habit of thinking before you react to situations.
  • Try to speak less, try restraining how much you talk. If it is not necessary to say than try to withhold it.
  • Change your motives, if you are only speaking to get attention or speak selfishly then maybe you should evaluate why you are speaking.
  • And the most important…Be quick to listen.

This week, focus as hard as you can to not only listen to others but listen to God. I feelwe spend so much time asking, and speaking to God in prayer but we don’t often spend enough time listening to God. 

When we learn to listen to God, we waste less time speaking useless words better left unsaid

Lord, I pray that we learn to speak less and that “less” that we do say would mean more. I pray that I not speak in negativity. I reject the unwholesome talk that I have been guilty of. God search my heart and tell me if there is any wicked way in me. I pray that I can work on whatever wickedness you find there. I pray that my speech represents my heart. Help me listen to you! I pray my tongue be a faithful ambassador to my godly spirit. In my tongue I have the power of death and life, help me use it well. Amen.

BROTHER: JAMES 3 & 4

This session we will be looking at the end of James 3 and James 4. The topics we will discuss will sit mainly on prideful hearts and clean lives. We will remember some of the key points of other sessions and apply them to what James means in these couple chapters. 

First off we need to remember what we had discussed in the first session: 

“You can never be proud and wise at the same time. The two don’t go hand-in-hand.”

Chapter 3 Verses 13-16

“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” - James 3:13-16

We find here that the wisdom from above is not found in a heart that has bitter jealousy or selfish ambition. A heart which is unsatisfied in this way is also a heart that is full of pride. Pride is at the root of these two motives: Jealousy and selfish ambition. These two things are the things that lead to being earthly unspiritual and demonic. James describes it as a slippery slope; one that every Christian has the opportunity of slipping down. 

So how do we know if we have a prideful heart?

Chapter 4 Verses 1-2

“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel…”

Again let’s take a look on what was said in an earlier session. 

“The demonstration of your faith is based on the concentration of your faith.”

This works for us on the negative side as well. Those who have pride in their hearts instead of the proper concentrated faith will demonstrate it in their actions. One of the most obvious ways that we know a body of believers is struggling with having pride in their hearts is when there is fighting and quarrelling amongst themselves. James intentionally tells us exactly what peace and wisdom looks like in James 3:17-18 and then gives us a shock when he drastically presents an opposing situation.

James first tells us what a prideful heart looks like. Then he tells us what our faith ought to look like in wisdom. Then he gives us examples of how a prideful heart can manifest in our lives. 

So what James is doing is helping to identify. He already diagnosed the source of the problem in chapter three and now he is backing up what he says by identifying the symptoms. 

The source of our quarrels, our fighting, dissatisfaction in our hearts and disunity among one another is from the present pride in our hearts. Once we recognize that, we can understand why we are not receiving the things we desire.

Chapter 4 Verses 2-6

If a Christian has a prideful heart they will live in a worldly way. 

“You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.””

The way of the world fails to ask God and when they do ask they ask wrongly. We need to look back again at what Chapter three has to say about it. James says that those who have a heart of pride will lead out unspiritual, earthly, and demonic lives. 

So we have this issue of why we don’t get the things we desire…

 It is because of these things:

  • You have not asked: in which case you have not asked the Lord because you think you can get whatever it is on your terms, your way. You fail to recognize God in the midst of your problems.  In which your heart is prideful.
  • You ask wrongly: when we ask wrongly it is that we ask with the wrong motives. If our hearts are prideful then we will have worldly motives. Some examples of worldly motives would be: 
    • “Lord, I have been a good person…so will you give me this”
    • “God, if you do this for me I will do anything you ask me to do…”
    • “Dear Jesus, my life would be so much easier if you…”

When we come to the Lord in prayer sometimes we have motives that are centered on “self” and guess what? That is pride as well! When we have prideful hearts we have selfish motives and that is association with the world. When you pray to God wrongly, you are showing your worldliness. 

In the Old Testament especially in Leviticus 11, it talks about “clean” and “unclean” foods. God had put a restriction on their diet in that time. If an Israelite were to eat the unclean foods they would become unclean before God and would restrict their fellowship with God. 

See the people of James’ day would have been very familiar with this concept. He is reminding believers that just like there is clean wisdom from above there is also unclean that is not from above. If we choose to take in the unclean we become unclean and earthly. If we associate ourselves with the world and the unclean, we restrict the fellowship between us and God.  

A humble heart may always approach the throne but the dirty heart of pride is rejected at the throne.

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Chapter 4 Verses 7-10

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”

So what then must the prideful heart do? 

  • Submit yourself to God. You need to be ready to lay the whole truth and honest truth before God. Put yourself at His mercy. 
  • Wash your hands. If you have identified the worldliness in yourself then turn from it and move on.
  • Flee from the devil. You must resist the temptation of association with the uncleanliness of the world.
  • Draw near to God. If you follow all the above steps you won’t have the restriction of fellowship anymore. 

Chapter 4 Verses 11-17

In verses 7-10 James gives us the steps of what we have to do in order to draw near to God again. In 11-17 he offers us examples of areas we need to apply this wisdom to. 

“Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?””

He reminds us that one of the ways that we can steer clear of a prideful heart is by not speaking negatively against a brother when it benefits your pride. You are to confess your sin to one another. You are to keep one another in line with the Word in love. However, you are not to speak evil or slander your brothers and sisters. That doesn’t exhibit mercy; it exhibits judgment. 

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”

Another thing that we absolutely need to avoid is boasting about tomorrow. James wants to make sure that we put pride in its place. We are not law givers and judges, we are not the makers of tomorrow, and we are under the submission and will of God. That is the place we ought to be.

Ending thoughts

Just so we can store it in our minds for safe keeping, here is a simple outline of James 3:13-4:17:

  1. James 3:13-16.What a prideful heart is 
  2. James 3:17-18. What wisdom and faith should be
  3. James 4:1-6. What a prideful heart does 
  4. James 4:7-10. What a prideful heart needs to do
  5. James 4:11-17. Putting a Prideful heart in its place

I have a friend who is building a house with her husband. In this house building project they needed something to be delivered for the house in order to keep working on it. However, she received a phone call and the item that was needed wouldn’t be there for another whole month. This was so discouraging and frustrating because now that was going to stall the project! So she prayed to God. “Lord, I need this to be delivered. I am just so discouraged because I thought this was your will for us God! I thought we were supposed to be a light to this community… Please show me that this is still in your will…” so after lunch her and her husband came back to the house. Get this y’all… The item was sitting there in their front yard. Praise God; He is good!

See her prayers were answered not because she asked for the Lord to relieve her burden. It was because she humbly came before the throne asking ultimately for his will. 

So one of the things I want us to be able to walk away with is to be able to go before the throne with a humble heart and pray.

Look at your prayer life and examine your motives. What do you find? If you find that your prayer life is lacking in any way ask God to give you genuine motives for your prayers. 

Focus your prayers on the glory of God rather than the getting from God.

Lord, I pray I am not unspiritual, earthly, or demonic. I pray you deal with my prideful heart. I pray that I can resist associating with the world and making it my friend. Only you can give me what I need. Only you can judge and only you know what tomorrow brings. I pray that pride does not restrict our fellowship. You and only you can satisfy! Lord I am at your mercy do what you will!

Amen

BROTHER: JAMES 5:12-20

If two people are holding cups of unknown liquid and they bump into each other, some of that liquid will spill out. What is inside the cup will become evident when you bump into someone else.

So you might have a cup labeled “water,” but when you bump into someone black oil comes out…it is pretty evident that it is not water. Now, I don’t know why a person would be carrying around a cup of oil, but needless to say it isn’t water; in that human interaction the falsehood is found out…

Today, we will discuss the importance of being people who value keeping their word and the influence it has on the church as a whole. It is summed up into two sections: “Clear Character” and “Confident Community”

Verse 12

Clear Character -

A person’s true spiritual life can be determined by that person’s speech. That person is subject to judgement the minute they open their mouth. It was Mark Twain who said, “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” It is easier to conceal your character when you don’t use your speech...

How you speak and use your words is a direct product of your character.

This is an important lesson that James wants to teach us. How do we know this?

“But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.” - James 5:12

Let’s read that part again, shall we?

But above all, my brothers…”

If he is saying this powerful introduction to his next thought he must find it important right? But not only is this thought important… It is essential for Christians to obey! Jesus spoke these same words in Matthew 5:33-37:

“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.”

Jesus and James were addressing something that was very pervasive at the time. It was a problem that had become so large that it was spreading- and Jesus did not like it one bit. What He was saying here is that He knew that the Jews of this time were going around making false promises and oaths. They would credit everything they said by swearing on something. They were using God’s name to assure others of the truthfulness of their speech.

But this was not only a problem in that time long ago; it is a problem that follows us here to this day and age. Deceptive speech is not only a sickness among unbelievers; it infects us all, believers and unbelievers alike.

Being a Christian does not mean that you are exempt from being deceptive. No, it is one of the sneakiest ways we can be pulled out of the Christian process and out of that refining fire. So Jesus says here that we ought not to make oaths at all because we should be a people that value keeping their word. We should be a people that speak in truth.

How can we have a confident faith collectively as a church, if we can’t even have faith in one another as individuals?

We need to be people who harbor clear and truthful speech. When we speak in truth it is evident to others that we live in truth. We show a Christ-like character that is clear.

We must first have a clear character before we attempt to have a confident community.

Verses 13-20

Confident Community -

“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.” (James 5:13-18)

James addresses the issue of the individual character in the previous chapters, and is now addressing the collective character of the Christian community.

Let’s remember the analogy from the beginning of the session. It is in our interactions with one another that our character spills out. If we bump into someone else, we have the potential of spilling whatever is in our cup into theirs. When we fill the cups of those we bump into, we need to make sure that it is the pure water, not the black oil.

It is important to have a clear character because your interaction with others will spur on the habit of speaking truth. That community will be made up of people that can trust one another, living among other Christ followers that strive to have the same Christ-like character within them.

When individuals have clear character it inspires a confident community- one that has great faith because of their assurance in faith and trust in one another! They collectively come to God with pure hearts and motivated prayers.  They say prayers of praise for their confidence in God. They claim prayers that have the power to heal, to move mountains, to stop the rains, and to make the rain plentiful.

When we have a confident community nothing can stop us.

These are  James’s final thoughts. This whole letter he has written to believers on how to act, how to speak, and how to live…he has given us all the building blocks we need to align our individual lives with Christ and teaches us how we as individuals need to come together in our faith. He has taught us that we first have to pursue God and His character in our lives then we will have the responsibility of sharing that same wisdom and instruction with others.

“My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19-20)

We need to be people of truth, so that we can remind those who have forgotten and wandered, what it looks like.

His purpose is clear, as Christians we are to live a certain way…and we have the responsibility to help others do the same.

Ending Thoughts:

What is in your cup? In your daily speech can people see that you are a Christ follower?

As you bump into other Christians, your true character comes out. Be ready for other Christians and leaders of the church to correct you when you wander from the truth. You exemplify Christ when you say you are a Christian. You are linking His name to your promise of faith. You are making a covenant with God. If you say you are a Christian but lack the active faith we have learned about, you are making a false oath.

If you look at your life and determine that you are in right standing with God and actively live out your faith, it is time you take the next course of action. Bring someone back.

Who do you know who has wandered from the truth? Picture them…Now go and bring them back from their wandering.  Bump into them so they see the pure water that spills from your cup.

Dear Lord, I want to be someone who speaks truth. I want to be an example for you. I want to be an example of truth. I want to spur on my fellow Christ followers so that we have a confident community. I pray that we have a community that can boldly approach your throne. I pray we are a people that are desperate for your blessing and miracles. I pray that we are bold enough to go after those who have lost their way. I pray that the lost might see your character in me and follow my footsteps back to you.

Amen.

BROTHER: JAMES 5:1-11

Recently, I have been brushing up on nautical knowledge. I found a list of “What every skipper should know in case of an emergency” this gives step by step instructions of how to function as a captain of a vessel. In this long list… one theme kept reoccurring.

The skipper is entrusted with much.

It just so happens that this topic is highly applicable to the subject that we are studying today.  We are about to dive into the beginning two sections of chapter five in James. We will break down “The warning to the rich” and “Patience in suffering” and though they might seem like topics that are unrelated James, who is a skilled communicator, blends them seamlessly together.

These two sections do two main things for us.

They are meant to remind us, and instruct us.

Verses 1-6

These verses are somewhat rhetorical. They were written for people that would never receive the letter but it is written nonetheless to influence.

Remind -

Remember who this letter is addressed to. It is not addressed to the wicked and the rich, it is for the Christ followers dispersed among the nations. He really isn’t addressing the wicked and wealthy, he is making a rhetorical statement addressing the rich and worldly who do not produce righteous actions.

So if James isn’t directly addressing the rich and worldly we can assume that he is addressing Christ followers. But that would be preaching to the choir, wouldn’t it? Because if people are true Christ followers then they would already know everything James says here about the people he describes in verses 1-6.

See here, James is reminding Christ followers to keep clinging to and walking in righteousness; even Christ followers can forget the consequences of the pursuit of worldly possessions, wealth, and status.

One of the things I had mentioned in our earlier sessions was that the pursuit of money is one of the trials and temptations that will pull us out of the Christian process. It is among one of the many temptations with which Christ followers can be lead astray. No one is safe from this temptation because in some way, shape, or form we all have or will struggle with the temptation of worldly prosperity. Worldly prosperity comes in the main form of a “Love of money” or the “Pursuit of wealth”.

That’s why at the beginning of Chapter 1, James introduces us to the topic when he says,

“Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.”

He just gave us a little taste of what he was going to say at the beginning of chapter five.

But the message in James 1:9-11 is the same message as James 5:1-6:

It is important to remember the balance of prosperity. You can be rich and still serve God and you can be poor and still worship wealth. You will lose your focus on God if you develop a love for money, worldly possessions, or social statusThat shift in focus will pervert your perspective on what prosperity looks like. If your perspective of prosperity becomes perverted, you will turn away from God’s right perspective. This is a dangerous place to be because you will then be the same wicked people James describes.

This is such a vital topic for James to bring up because our lives become complicated. We go through dry seasons. It becomes more difficult to live as a Christian because of all the opposition and the trials that we face. Because of all this we become discontent; we begin to compare our lives to the lives of others whose lives seem to be more prosperous than our own. When we compare, it begins to make our hearts question God and what He is doing in our lives.

We look at how those who are unbelievers prosper and might find ourselves saying:

“Why can’t I live like that?”

“Why can’t I have what they have?”

“Their life seems so easy and mine is a constant struggle…”

Psalm 73 shows us that even as Christ followers we can get caught up in this temptation. Verse 3 says, “For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.”

The psalmist goes on to basically repeat the above questions I’ve listed, but he changes his tune in verse 17:

“Until I went into the sanctuary of God;

then I discerned their end.”

See, ultimately James reminds us of the same thing the psalmist was reminded of. God gives true riches to His believers; true wealth that is everlasting. God will judge the wicked and He will bless the righteous. Justice will be restored to the Christ followers.

Collect yourself and come to God. He will redirect your perspective to see what he sees.

Though you may be poor and afflicted, you are blessed. Though you might have much money, it ought to be used for His glory and not your own gain. To the person who has a balanced perspective on prosperity, you will be blessed. God will avenge you for your righteousness.

Verses 7-11

James reminded us of the dangers of losing our focus. He reminded us what the consequences were for being distracted by the things of this world. Now, James tells us to remain steadfast because we are God’s chosen and elect. This section of scripture is meant to instruct Christ followers.

Instruct -

He tells us to wait it out:

“Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” (James 5:7-8)

Be patient, quiet your spirit, and collect yourself. Remember that your God will avenge you for the unfair treatment the world inflicts on you. Your deeds do not go unnoticed. Your heart is not a mystery to God. His vengeance, fulfilment of promises, and blessings come in His perfect timing. Think on this when you go through trials and be patient in the meantime.

He tells us to follow through with our duty:

“Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” (James 5:9-11)

Yes we must be patient, but we shouldn’t be idle.

Christ Followers should strive to persevere through the trials and testing in the Christian process. When we go through the refining fire we come out every time looking more and more like the image of Christ. It is our duty to lead others by our conduct and by the way that we act out our faith. The fruit we produce through our faith exemplifies Christ. We must follow through with our duties as Christians without grumbling. We ought to remember that God entrusts us to keep our lives on track, to care for the blessings we receive, and to lead others.

James is saying in this passage;

When you go through trials don’t complain about it. Remember you are to consider it pure Joy. God will judge the heart. Those who remain steadfast are those who have sought the joy of the Lord above sympathy for their affliction.

Job had many afflictions come upon him, yet, in the midst of all his trials he never blamed God. Job did not grumble against others and he never cursed God. Instead, he always collected himself and continued on. He knew what his duty was; to serve God and remain faithful and steadfast. We ought to live by this example. By being faithful to God we are performing our Christian duties. Because Job was steadfast he was able to be entrusted with much because he had proven himself worthy of more responsibility.

Ending thoughts:

A “Skipper” is a captain of a ship or boat. As the Skipper you are responsible for the ship, the crew, and whatever else is on board. The skipper is entrusted with a great amount of responsibility. A skipper is first entrusted with a boat. On that boat he learns how to follow procedures, how to stay on course, and how to survive severe weather.  If a skipper is caught in the middle of a storm he must learn how to make it through safely; He must be patient in the storm and must wait it out. If the skipper cannot perform his duties and proves to be defective in his job, than he will never be entrusted with much because he can’t even be trusted with what he has. A skipper must be passionate about and faithful in his job. If a skipper is not passionate he will never be thorough, useful, or effective in his job.  The “Good skipper” who handles the storms and fulfills his duties is entrusted with much. The “Good skipper” is entrusted with a larger ship, cargo, a crew, passengers, and much more.

May I suggest that you are a skipper? God has entrusted you with a boat. Yet, if you do not learn how to keep yourself on course or how to weather the storms God will never entrust you with more.

James reminds us that we must not go off course, and he instructs us that we must be able to ride out the storms.

If we can’t be trusted with these simple terms He proposes, how are we to think that we can be trusted with more?

If you can be trusted with the little things, God will entrust you with greater.

Have you been shifting off course? Have you been led astray by the desire for:

  • Wealth and riches
  • Earthly Possessions
  • Fame/status/the world’s attention
  • Have you been patient in the storms?
  • Have you been complaining in your trials?
  • Do you fail to have the Joy of the Lord in your struggles?
  • Are you sick of waiting for God’s promises in your life?
  • Do you feel forgotten by God?

If your answer is “Yes” to any of these you are unfit to do anything great for God because you have lost your ability to perform the necessary duties of a productive Christ follower. But there is good news. You can be a “Good skipper” entrusted with much.

How?

Collect yourself and go before God. Admit your struggles, admit your failures, and ask that He equip you. Listen:

  • To the instruction in His Word.
  • To the wisdom from your leaders (leaders in the church that are entrusted with your spiritual wellbeing).
  • For the answers to your prayers.

Make sure that the wisdom you are listening for is applied to your life.

Lord, I pray that I have a passion for you. I pray that I am faithful as a Christ follower. I have been led astray and I have been impatient through the trials. I long to be entrusted with more, I long to do great things for God, but I need you to equip me! Lord I pray for your strength.

I am defective in my faithlessness but I am effective in your faithfulness.

Amen.

BROTHER: JAMES 2:14-26

 ““I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:1-5)

I brought up this scripture because I think it is the perfect illustration for faith and works. This scripture hits three main points that I will cover in this session.

1. Faith, abiding in God, trusting in Him, and believing in Him enables us to be saved by God. Through our salvation we become branches of the vine.

2. Favoritism, the branch cannot bear fruit unless it is part of the vine and the fruit cannot be produced if there is no branch to be produced from. The branch and the fruit are both vital; one cannot function without the other.

3. Fruit, the branch without fruit will be cut off. The purpose of a branch is to bear fruit. 

There are three “F”s that break down faith and works, they are: faith, favoritism, and fruit.

Verses 2:14- 17

The first “F” is Faith.

Faith is belief in the word of God and acting upon it.

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” (James2:14)

So the question he is asking is... can a branch that produces no fruit still be a part of the vine? The answer is clearly, no. The scripture in John 15 tells us that the branch that produces no fruit will be cut off. 

James is referring to the person who claims to have faith but it is just “The empty name of boasted faith, contrasted with true fruit-producing faith.” This is the person who is only saying that they are saved or believer in Jesus Christ but have failed to apply that wisdom given through the Word and have not produced any fruit in their lives.

“If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:15-17)

We are meant to be God’s instruments.

  • In our compassionate hearts, as a result of applied wisdom in our lives, our faith becomes active. The person that has true faith actively seeks to be used as an instrument of God.
  • Yet, the person that says be warmed and filled without giving them anything is a defective tool. In their ill-expression of God’s love, they are not exemplifying what Christian faith should look like! They are not seeking to be used by God and they are not seeking opportunities to do things for God. Their faith is inactive. It is lifeless. It isdead.

Verses 2:18-20

The second “F” is Favoritism.

God does not desire us to show favoritism with people and neither does he want us to show favoritism with faith and works either.

You cannot favor faith over works or works over faith. It is the same concept as a branch and fruit, they cannot function separately. You cannot grow the fruit without the branchas well as a branch that does not produce fruit is useless.

“But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?” (James 2:18-20)

To separate faith and works is to favor one over the other; if they are not in unity then they lose their point.

For example, when you use latitude and longitude to find a specific location on the globe... you have to have the coordinates which requires a degree from both the latitude and longitude. Now, I myself am not some genius when it comes to understanding the ins-and-outs of geography and I won’t pretend that I am. However, I do know that there is no point found if latitude and longitude does not exist. You cannot find the point if you have latitude and no longitude and you cannot find a point if you have longitude but no latitude. The two cannot operate separately. Likewise, faith and works are useless and have no point if they are not in unity.

Verses 2:21-26

The third and final “F” is Fruit.

Fruit is the result of applied wisdom in the Christian process. Fruit is the evidence of a changed life, and it is shown by works. In a sense fruit = works.

In James 1:27, where it says that true religion is to, “Visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” This scripture wasn’t saying that the goal of true religion is met by doing good things and being a good person. No! In fact, that would mean that works are the goal of Christianity. What James is actually saying is that works are a result of meeting the goal of Christianity. The goal of Christianity is to be Christ-like, to share the good news, and Jesus’s love. It is to be a witness through your faith and to testify by our actions.

“Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” (James 2:21-24)

Abraham was justified by God because of his faith in God. However, his faith became evident when he produced the evidence of faith by offering his son Isaac as a sacrifice. See, God always knew Abraham’s heart because God can see the true state of our faith. God wanted Abraham to demonstrate his faith through his works. Abraham produced the fruit that God desiredbecause he set an example of what faith looks like for generations to come.

“And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.”(James 2:25-26)

Abraham was a Jewish, rich man with good reputation. Rahab was a gentile, poor woman with the reputation of a harlot. There could not be two people more opposite from each other. However, they both produced the fruit that comes from active faith and God viewed them in the same righteous light. What a beautiful thought. They were both branches of the vine, producing fruit and acting as witnesses of God.

Though faith is unseen except by God himself, we do works to exhibit Faith at work within us.

The branch has no purpose if it does not produce fruit. Through faith we have become a part of the vine yet, if we do not produce the fruit we are useless

Fruit is the evidence of faith at work.

Ending Thoughts:

“Concentrated” - Applied with all one’s attention; wholly directed toward one thing, intense.

Where is your concentration directed? If it is directed on the things that will ultimately lead you astray... you will never be able to produce the fruit that God desires of you.

Furthermore, how concentrated is your faith? Faith that is concentrated is strong.

How do you have “Concentrated” faith? 

  • You keep your concentration on the things of God.
  • You read the word
  • You exhibit a compassionate heart.
  • You strive to control your tongue.
  • You desire a clean life (free of immorality).
  • You work towards the goal of having Christ like character.
  • You pray consistently and ask for Faith when your faith is weak!
  • You repeat the process.

As a result of applying this wisdom, you will be a witness of God’s character. You will be a living testimony of faith that you will show through your actions. You will bear the fruit that God desires. The level of concentration in your faith is made clear in itsevidence.

Remember: The demonstration of your faith is based on the concentration of your faith.

Dear Lord, we thank you for the God that you are, that you would let me be a part of the vine! Please help me to be a branch that bears fruit. When my faith is weak I ask that you supply my faith and sustain me! Help me to be a witness of your love and show the evidence of my faith. I pray that I am genuine. Help me to concentrate on you. Lord, help me live a life that shows your character.

Open my eyes to your will and my ears toward your wisdom;

Open my arms to the needy and my heart to your Kingdom.

Amen.

BROTHER: JAMES 1:19-27

James, in these last few verses, gives us a taste of what he is going to dig in to in the rest of the chapters. Just as verse 18 was a summary of the whole of the book of James, verses 19-27 have a crucial role in setting up the rest of his letter for us.

In the last session, we compared the life of a Christian to the process of baking a cake and introduced the idea of the Christian process. Remember just like the cake, if we are pulled out of the heat before we have gone through the whole process, we won’t receive the desired results. I asked, what are some things that are pulling you out of the oven and what are some trials you have been avoiding?

Whatever your answer was… I hope we have identified some of the trials you are dealing with so we can battle against them now!

"How?" you might ask. James neatly explains it for us:

Verses 19-21

The first step is to have a listening ear, a controlled tongue, and a level temper. These are qualities that are necessary to develop a complete and mature character that God desires.

  • A person who is quick to listen is usually someone who is quick to be unassuming, less likely to make irrational decisions, and ready to receive wisdom.
  •  A person who is slow to speak usually chooses his words wisely, does not pour out useless or destructive speech, and usually knows the consequences of what they say.
  • A person who is slow to anger is not lead by their anger and frustration, has a clear reality that is not masked by their own emotion, and is well-balanced.

It is necessary to learn how to respond righteously to trials. We need to have well thought-out actions; instead of "spur of the moment" natural human reactions. When you react righteously through trials, you are capable of battling those trials so you can persevere. By applying righteous reactions, you are showing perseverance; through that perseverance, you are becoming mature and complete in the Christian process.

Verses 22-25

A mirror’s main purpose is not for you to check yourself out, but to check yourself.

To check yourself is to check that all is well with your appearance. If a person goes up to a mirror to look at their reflection but fails to inspect their reflection…they walk away with a glaring issue.

What James is trying to describe is someone who looks into something and completely misses the purpose of why they did it in the first place. He is saying that the person that hears the Word might not even apply it to their lives. That wisdom becomes useless to them if it is not applied.

Look into the perfect law and actively seek to apply it to your life because when you have reached out to apply it then you will also be blessed in your efforts.

Verses 26-27

We will talk more about these verses in the next session, but for now all you need to know about 26 and 27 is that we are to have a:

“Controlled tongue, compassionate heart, and a clean life” (Alistair Begg, Faith that Works).

These three things are the evidence of applied wisdom.

James tells us:

  • How to face the trials that come our way  by having a listening ear, controlled tongue, and a level temper (verses 19-21)
  • We must apply it to our lives (verses 22-25)
  • What evidence of applied wisdom looks like such as attributes of “True Religion” (verses 26-27)

The Application:

I’m sure my personal experience was somewhat different than yours, but at some point in your life you have probably had to learn a practical skill such as tying our shoes.

A mother stoops down to her child as he trips over his shoe laces. She picks him up to his feet and starts to tie his shoes…but stops. She says, “I think it’s time you learn how to tie your shoes,” and begins to form the laces into bunny ears. She goes through the little analogy about the bunny and his home then has the boy repeat the steps. Yet, in his frustration trying to learn how to tie his shoes, he says, “Mom, but why do I have to learn how to tie my shoes! Why can’t you just do it?” She replied, “You need to learn how to tie your own shoes because you will have to do it your whole life. If your shoes are not tied, your shoes will fall off. The only way your shoes can help you is if they are tied and secured.”

Just like the necessity of the child tying his shoes… It is necessary for us to tie the Word onto ourselves. What I mean by this is having a listening ear to God, intentionally studying the word of God, and applying it to our lives.

  It says in Proverbs 3:1-3:

“My son, do not forget my teaching,

but let your heart keep my commandments,for length of days and years of life

and peace they will add to you.

Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;

bind them around your neck;

write them on the tablet of your heart.”

The key to applying wisdom is to listen to God’s Word: don’t forget it. Search it, study it, and tie it onto yourself. Make sure you apply it to your life. You can know that you need to tie your shoes and still not do it. How useless is it if we take in the wisdom of God and not apply it to our lives? As Christians, it is crucial for us to apply God’s wisdom because if we don’t, it will never change us or affect us. The shoes will fall off, but if we tie that wisdom tight… Our shoes become useful. We can’t have someone else apply wisdom to our lives; we have to do it for ourselves. In the Christian process we will have to continually apply wisdom in our lives.

Maybe you struggle with studying the Word… sometimes it seems like a daunting task to study the Bible. Here is where you can start: this week, when you read your Bible, start in the beginning of a book and keep in mind these two main ideas: character and wisdom.

Ask the scripture these questions:

• What does this say about God’s character?

• What does this say about my character?

• What characteristics do I need to work on?

• What does this say about wisdom?

• How can I apply this scripture to my life?

So this week it is my challenge for you to do all of the above… Then apply that wisdom to your life. 

Dear Lord, I ask that while I face these trials of many kinds that you would help me to react righteously. I pray that you refine me. I pray that I am not someone who only hears the Word but that I am someone who acts on it. Lord, I am done with avoiding the trials that refine me. I am ready to receive your wisdom and apply it to my life. It’s time I learn how to tie my shoes.

Amen.

BROTHER: JAMES 1:2-18

Welcome back!

This week, James is introducing us to the Christian process in the first chapter. Through the first chapter, he gives us a straight-to-the-point explanation of what he will be sharing throughout the next few chapters as well as learning how to apply practical faith into the Christian process.

For example, there is a process in baking. A cake has raw ingredients that undergo a chemical reaction; a process that will leave a mess of materials changed. Then the cake has to go through a process of heating as it goes in the oven. Through that process, heat will activate the ingredients. However, if this process is interrupted in any way before the cake has finished; it will become inactive and ineffective. It is a useless mess. If the cake does not go through the whole process… it will not produce the desired results.

Verses 2-4

James introduces us to the topic of trials:

  •  You will go through trials and through those trials… you are to welcome each trial and endure them with joy.
  • Joy is not found in the absence of trials, but rather in spite of them.
  • You are not to run away from those circumstances that test your faith, patience, or hope because that is part of the process that brings you to the desired result of a mature and complete Christian life.

Verses 5-8

If you are having trouble following through with the two previous verses, he gives us the answer to what we need to do:

  • You ought to go to God with a genuine heart; asking him to give you wisdom in those circumstances. How do we do this? The Bible in Hebrews 10:22 says,“Come to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.”
  • You ought to not go to God asking for things that you really don’t intend on following through with:
  1. James is not saying that if you are a doubtful person then you should not ask God for things…no, that would be ridiculous since we all have doubted and will continue to doubt.
  2. James is addressing the person who asks for wisdom and has no intentions of applying it to their life.  They will reject the wisdom if it is not what they want to hear. That person might know all the right things to say and may make their prayers lengthy, but deep down they have no desire to change what is right in their mind. And guess what? It might fool the person listening to their prayer, but it sure doesn’t fool God. (James 1:7 ESV) says, “For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord.” Why? Because, "He is a double-minded man.” You can never be proud and wise at the same time. The two don’t go hand-in-hand.

Verses 9-17

James reminds us of the various forms of trials that we might face in the process.

There are circumstances we will not want to undergo and stages that we will try and run from. But we must not change our results! In verses 5-17, James reminds us of the many things that will try and turn us away from the process such as, the pursuit of money (v. 9-11), temptation and its origin (v.13-15), and the questioning of God’s motives and abilities (v.16-17).

In verses 16 and 17, he reminds us of God’s character because the devil will try to confuse you about God’s character in the midst of your trials.

The devil would like you to think that God’s intentions are to harm you with the trials that you go through or in some way, God’s incapable of handling your problems:

  • “You are a good person. What kind of God would deny you of this?”
  • “How could God care about you if He took that loved one away from you?”
  • "If God really cared about your happiness, He would let you be in that relationship.”
  • "If your God is really as powerful as you think he is, why didn’t He save your friend from cancer when you prayed for it?”

The trials will weigh and the problems will make you doubt God, but He remains unchanging and His character unfailing.

Verse 18

“Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures” (James 1:18, ESV).

James writes how God is training us to be the shining examples of what His Christ followers ought to look like; the shining example of humanity. This is his main goal to give God all the Glory through our mature and complete walk with Him.

For now, we will pause here at James’ main idea in the Christian process. Next time, we will learn how to apply wisdom in a practical way to the trials that James outlined for us today.

Here are some questions:

  • What are the trials you have been avoiding?
  • What parts of this process have you tried pulling yourself out of the heat before you are mature and complete?

It could be because:

  • Any sense of bitterness that you have not worked through.
  • A temptation that you are not seeking accountability for.
  • Avoiding that confrontation that God has put on your heart to confront.

Think on these questions and answer them for yourself. Then, get ready to fix it and hop back in the oven.

Lord, I pray that you give me a heart that is ready to face my trials. I pray that you will help me to have joy while I face them. I pray for wisdom and I pray that I genuinely want to apply that wisdom. Change me Lord, I know I need it.

Amen.