72. James 1: “Brother James”
Golden Nursing Center in Mannington, NJ –Evening
Service on 3/16/2017
South Woods State Prison in Bridgeton, NJ –Men’s Evening Chapel on 3/19/2017
(edited April 2021)
Verse 1: “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.”
This man had a unique perspective on the Gospel. He grew up with Jesus Christ as a half-brother - under the same roof! The Scriptures tell us that James, Jude, and other half-brothers did NOT believe in Jesus as the Messiah. At least, not until after they witnessed His resurrection from the dead! James had clung to the Old Testament, the Old Mosaic Laws, even though Christ was sleeping in the next bedroom down the hall, night after night, for years.
Finally, though, James saw the Light. And once he became a believer in Jesus, James became a harsh critic of wavering faith and lukewarm religion. LISTEN:
Verses 2-4: “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”
“Don’t worship blessings,” says James. Seek and accept them when they come, but accept the trials, troubles, and temptations that inevitably come along, also. Learn from them too, and KEEP THE FAITH all the time and in every season of your life!
Verses 5-8: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.”
Need wisdom? Sure you do, even if you don’t know it. We all do! And Christ will supply all the wisdom we need for this life, but we must seek it with our whole heart. Half-way in no way when it comes to both saving faith and daily instruction from the Lord. Why would God give us directions if we aren’t fully committed to follow them, even if we don’t know all the specifics? I’ve been thinking about that this week.
James also thought a lot about commitment. He had enough of weak or no real faith and ritualistic religion. He had made a fool of himself by doubting Jesus all those years. But James doesn’t want to be foolish anymore. And with faith in Christ today, none of us need be a fool any longer, either.
Verses 9-11: “Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.”
True faith and God’s Love can overcome worldly status or the lack of it!
Verses 12-16: “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren.”
Can you see in that last sentence above how much James is starting to sound like his Half Brother? True faith in Christ will change a person, sooner or later. James says I can’t blame God for all my weaknesses, sins, and errors. O, how this man has changed!
Verse 17: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”
I cannot not blame Him, but I should bless the Lord for the good things I have or have available to me. I also should realize that God won’t fail me in the way men can fail one another. That’s not in His Character.
Verses 18-21: “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.”
In and through Christ, God is making a believer fit for citizenship in a Heaven that is perfect and eternal. I can’t take my bad habits there, so I need to start washing my filth away in the Word of God right now, down here. I want to be as ready as possible before Heaven comes (and none of us knows when that might be for any of us!) We will never achieve perfection in this life but we need to keep moving ahead, toward it. It’s best for us and for those around us. James goes on:
Verses 22-24: “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.”
But, you see, the Word can’t really clean me until I act on it! Not just read it, or make a sermon or speech about it. I must find a way to DO IT, day by day! That’s what the Lord intends for our lives, and then the Word will cleanse us thoroughly! I wonder if James was, by any chance, there when Jesus confronted the Chief Priest and Elders of Jerusalem shortly before His death with this rebuke in Matthew 21:28-31:
“But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.”
This stinging rebuke of hypocrisy would have shamed and maybe even angered James at that time, I imagine. He though there was something wrong with his older half-brother. But by the time he is writing this letter, he gets it! If I don’t apply God’s Word to my everyday life, it loses its power for me. It isn’t enough even to memorize passages from the Word of God, if I don’t apply them, here and now. James puts it this way:
Verse 25: “But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.”
Now, James is not offering us a formula for receiving riches, friends, and fame. No. What it means is that whenever you act on the God’s Word, some GOOD will come of it, somehow. Please remember though that in this life there is joker in the deck, and that’s the Devil. So don’t be alarmed if the good you do doesn’t seem to be blessed, at first. This is good time to remind ourselves of what James said in verses 2-4: “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”
Now, sometimes the greatest battles we face in the Christian life are within ourselves. James seems to know all about this:
Verse 26: “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain.”
My tongue and my speech, if unchecked by humility, is where my selfishness will begin to leak out. It happens to me all the time. Sometimes I might be able to put the brakes on before it even reaches my mouth but, even then, I have be convicted by my own disobedient thoughts. Other times I have sinned in speech and only realized it much later, or maybe not at all. We all must watch what we say and let our actions do more of the talking:
Verse 27: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”
Let’s ask the Lord right now to help us to not just learn His Word, but learn to OBEY it, also. Let’s pray.