Monday, December 15, 2014

HOW SIN HAPPENS - James 1:13-15


How Sin Happens
James 1:13-15

Every trial brings temptation to sin. In contrast to enduring tests to receive the blessing of God, some may fall into sin and blame God for it. James tells us that is incorrect because God cannot be tempted by evil and does not tempt us to sin. (13)

God cannot be tempted by evil because he is completely good. Psalm 86:5 says “For you, O LORD, are good and forgiving”. Jesus said “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good.” Matthew 19:17

Since God is good, he has nothing to do with evil. He is not tempted and he does not try to lure us into sin. He tests us to build our Christian character, but he does not tempt us to sin or evil.

So, then, how is it we fall into sin? James told us. We are lured and enticed by our own desire. It is a fishing metaphor. Bait lures a fish, then it is hooked and dragged away. As fallen, sinful beings, we have a heart full of sinful desires. A sinful desire is a longing for what God said no to. So, 1 Peter 2:11 says “abstain form the passions of the flesh with wage war against your soul”. God Gave us the Ten Commandments because he knew we had sinful desires in all of those areas.

It is not a sin to be tempted. Jesus was tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

For example, God said not to covet your neighbor’s stuff, including his house. (Exodus 20:17) It is a sin to covet someone’s house. I used to covet other people’s houses. I thought I deserved a better house. I wanted a better house for selfish reasons: to look as successful as other people and to fit in with them. I tried to sell my house and buy another one. God said no. I persisted. He brought about a housing down turn and my house would not sell. He said no. I decided to make it work anyway. I picked a house in a cool neighborhood, wrote a contract, obtained financing and pushed to make it work. I was not doing this to honor God, but myself. I sinned. I coveted the houses of others in that neighborhood, including those of people I knew, and tried to make it happen. The result: the owner died and it got tied up in probate and I lost my financing. It was a huge disappointment.

But God did not tempt me to buy the house. I drove around and found one I wanted and went for it. My desire for a house like my friend’s lured me into sin.

Not only does God not lure us into sin, he provides protection for us. 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us that God will not let us be tempted beyond what we are able to bear. Rather, he will provide a way out for us. In my case God forced the way out by keeping me from buying it. If I had bought it, I would likely have added the sin of pride to my sin of covetousness. God saved me from myself.

You might ask, if that is true, how can we fall into sin? It is because we refuse to take the way out. In my house example, I had many possible outs as difficulties arose. But I refused to heed them. My heart was so overrun with covetousness that I refused to take any of the ways out I was given. David had the opportunity to avoid sin when his servant pointed out that Bathsheba was married. But he refused the way out and he committed multiple, grievous sins.

Peter’s sin in denying Christ is another good example. Jesus warned Peter that Satan wanted to sift him like wheat. (Luke 22:31) He even warned him that Peter would deny him before the rooster crowed. (Luke 22:34) The warning was a way out. Peter could have swallowed his pride, confessed his weakness and allowed God to give him strength to stand for Christ. Despite the warning, and his pledge to follow Jesus to death, he denied him that same evening to a servant girl and two other people. (Luke 22: 54-62) He knew this temptation was coming, but his desire to avoid pain and disapproval was too strong.

Now the scary thing is that sin brings forth death. (15) That is what Paul said in Romans 6:23: the wages of sin is death.

James may have intended to reflect the image of Proverbs 5-9. Those chapters warn a young man against adultery. Solomon used the image of a woman enticing a man, of being alluring in appearance and speech. (Prov. 5:3) But the end of the affair is bitter. (Prov. 5:4) And ultimately, she leads to Sheol, or death. (Prov. 9:18) In contrast, the one who embraces wisdom, finds life. (Prov. 8:35)

Thank you Jesus for paying the price for my sin and bringing me to salvation. For that same verse in Romans says “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus or Lord”.





Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Virgin Conception

What we call the "virgin birth" would better be called the "virgin conception", for it is the conception of Jesus that is most important. The Bible says, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:18 it also says But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:20

INCARNATION


INCARNATION

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. John 1:1

Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son and shall call his name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from old, from ancient days. Micah 5:2

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. Luke 2:4-7

And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. Luke 2:21

Friday, December 05, 2014

Read Primary Sources!


“There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books. Thus I have found as a tutor in English Literature that if the average student wants to find out something about Platonism, the very last thing he thinks of doing is to take a translation of Plato off the library shelf and read the Symposium. He would rather read some dreary modern book ten times as long, all about "isms" and influences and only once in twelve pages telling him what Plato actually said.”
Introduction by C. S. Lewis to Athanasius: On the Incarnation

Monday, December 01, 2014

LOVE NOT THE WORLD - EVEN AT CHRISTMAS


1 John 2:15-17
The verses in 1 John are a timely warning for us during the “Christmas Season”. The world has turned this time into a free for all of materialism and partying. John says not to love the world. If you love the world, the Father is not in you. That is a huge and devastating statement. John did not tell us we can stand with one foot in the world and one in the kingdom, loving both. Love the Father or love the world. The Kingdom abides forever along with those who do God’s will. Everything else passes away.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

BLESSINGS FOR PERSEVERANCE - JAMES 1:12


Blessing For Perseverance
1:12

James told us before to be steadfast. In fact, this verse has three words to show us James is referring back to his opening theme in verse 2: trial, test and steadfast (persevere in NIV). We are to consider it joy to face trials knowing that they produce steadfastness which makes us complete. Here he says God blesses us when we are steadfast under trial. Steadfastness and perseverance in the faith is the proof of our salvation. Jesus said “the one who endures to the end will be saved”. James says the same thing here. Those who endure the trials and keep the faith will be saved.

James speaks of that reward in a metaphor. He compared the Christian life to a race. The winner of a race in the Greek games received a crown. It was a wreath of laurel leaves worn on the head. Here is a picture:







In a long race, the runner must endure trials. He or she will experience fatigue, pain, thirst, hunger, sunburn and other unpleasant things. To finish, you must endure those without giving up. If the runner endures and finishes, he or she receives a crown. These days you get a medal or a shirt.

James called this the crown of life. He said God has promised one to those who love him. Only one who loves God will endure trials and suffering to the end.

The crown of life symbolizes eternal life. One who believes in Jesus endures to the end and receives eternal life. (John 3:16) Jesus said the one who endures to the end will be saved. (Matthew 24:13)

Paul referred to a crown of righteousness. As he saw his execution approaching, he said:

I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. (1 Timothy 4:8)


Eternal life comes with many blessings:

1. Life in the presence of God (Father, Son and Spirit) (Revelation 21:22);

2. experiencing worship with the saints of all times; (Rev. 22:3);

3. No sin or sinful people (Rev. 22:15);

4. God’s kingdom will be visible (Rev. 22:3);

5. Imperishable, glorified; powerful; spiritual bodies (1 Corinthians 15:42-44);

6. bearing the image of Jesus (2 Cor. 15:4)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

JOYFUL SUFFERING (part 2)


Rich Man Poor Man
1:9-10

What is important for every man and woman is his or her position before God. There are those who are righteous before God because he declared them to be righteous because of their faith in his son. There are those who are unrighteous before him because they have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and have not believed in Jesus in order to have their sins atoned. Nothing ultimately matters other than that.

Yet men and women focus on other things. One of those things is wealth. It is easy to convince yourself you are better because you are richer. It is easy to see yourself as worthless because you are poor. That was very much the case with first century Jews. But God does not accept this structure. Jesus said to some rich Pharisees “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men in a abomination in the sight of God.” (Luke 16:15) So James addressed this issue within the greater context of suffering.

The lowly or poor believer (brother) should boast in his exaltation. Although he is poor on earth, he is exalted in Christ. Christ, in fact, was poor on earth but exalted to the right hand of God. (Philippians 2:9) That is easy to understand. But the opposite is true also. The rich man should boast in his humiliation! He is like the wild flower, which withers and dies in the heat.

We understand wildflowers in Texas. We love our wildflowers. Bluebonnets, Indian Paintbrushes, Mexican Sombreros, Wild Daisies and more. They pop up in Spring and we relish them. But, once it gets hot, they disappear. They are only up for a few weeks. So it is with human life. Life is short. As you get older you wonder where it all went. The days and weeks go faster and faster. And then this life ends, the flesh fails and we are gone from this earth until the restoration of all things. Stevie Nicks wrote a song for the band Fleetwood Mac called “Landslide”. She wrote

“Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?”

That is true of rich and poor alike. It is humbling. So the rich should boast that this life, even with wealth is short and riches do nothing to win God’s favor. But right standing before God will last forever.

Our economic status can be a trial for believers. Certainly the poor were, and are, often persecuted. You wonder if you have too much or not enough. Rich people make themselves miserable obsessing about money. Poor people make themselves miserable obsessing about money. But your standing before God is the important thing.

The Father said this plainly in Jeremiah 9:23:

Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”


James might also reflect the words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 23:12: whoever exalts himself will be humbled and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Blessing For Perseverance
1:12

James told us before to be steadfast. In fact, this verse has three words to show us James is referring back to his opening theme in verse 2: trial, test and steadfast (persevere in NIV). We are to consider it joy to face trials knowing that they produce steadfastness which makes us complete. Here he says God blesses us when we are steadfast under trial. Steadfastness and perseverance in the faith is the proof of our salvation. Jesus said “the one who endures to the end will be saved”. James says the same thing here. Those who endure the trials and keep the faith will be saved.

James speaks of that reward in a metaphor. He compared the Christian life to a race. The winner of a race in the Greek games received a crown. It was a wreath of laurel leaves worn on the head. Here is a picture:










In a long race, the runner must endure trials. He or she will experience fatigue, pain, thirst, hunger, sunburn and other unpleasant things. To finish, you must endure those without giving up. If the runner endures and finishes, he or she receives a crown. These days you get a medal or a shirt.

James called this the crown of life. He said God has promised one to those who love him. Only one who loves God will endure trials and suffering to the end.

The crown of life symbolizes eternal life. One who believes in Jesus endures to the end and receives eternal life. (John 3:16) Jesus said the one who endures to the end will be saved. (Matthew 24:13)

Paul referred to a crown of righteousness. As he saw his execution approaching, he said:

I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. (1 Timothy 4:8)