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Discovering the Joy of Our Salvation

James 1:1-26

Jim Davis

Lessons are often taught on each point James makes without understanding how each point connects. This is a weakness of too many Bible studies. James concludes the first chapter by admonishing us to be doers of the word. Let us reason backwards, from the end of the first chapter of James back to the beginning. Let us look at the last point he makes about being doers of the word and consider the connection of each preceding point. Let us consider how the last point connects with the first.

Authentic Christianity is the surest way to discover the joy of living amidst our difficulties. First, notice what happens when we connect the last point in this chapter with the first point. We see James saying that doing the word is the key to discovering joy through our trials. In the last verses James speaks of holding our tongues and taking care of the needs of the widows and orphans as practical examples of doing the word or practicing pure religion. A person busy doing what God is asking is less likely to dwell on the negative aspects of their lives. Working in a positive way to help others refocuses our lives in a positive direction.

James 1:26-27
If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (NIV)

Do What The Word Says

Proceeding backwards through this chapter of James is revealing. James tells us that through looking intently into God's perfect law of liberty and doing it we find freedom from the evil nature within. James says: "Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." (James 1:21-22 NIV) The only way to overcome the evil is through doing the good. Have you ever noticed how the evil nature within us tends to point us toward the negative in difficult times?

Many of us look at what we are, then we look at what we ought to be, and we become frustrated by the great chasm between. When we become frustrated Satan moves in to tempt us. We may even look at ourselves in the mirror of God's word, while wanting to forget what we look like. James writes, "Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it-- he will be blessed in what he does." (James 1:23-25 NIV) To have full knowledge of our trials without moving toward what God is calling us to be through his word can only result in frustration and unhappiness.

A child in Sunday school explained our dilemma in simple terms. "Two men live in my heart: the old Adam and Jesus. When temptations knock at the door, somebody has to answer the door. If I let Adam answer, I will sin; so I send Jesus to answer. He always wins.

Don’t Surrender Control to Our Feelings

Unhappiness and frustration usually lead to an inability to do what God is asking. Have you ever noticed that frustrated unhappy people are not usually very good listeners?Have you noticed how difficult it is to act right when you are frustrated? Have you ever noticed how easy it is to say the wrong thing when you are frustrated? "My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires." (James 1:19-20 NIV)

Don't surrender your life to your feelings. In times of frustration we must become doers of the word. The question is, will our frustration in trials bring out our evil nature or will they be a means to a rebirth? As we proceed backwards through this first chapter of James, we understand how God desires to give us a rebirth through the word of truth, which is the gospel that is designed to salvage our lives, as we are obedient to its instruction.

James 1:18-22
He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. (NIV)

Playing the Blame Game

It is so easy to blame God for all or our troubles. This is probably our greatest temptation. Satan desires to lay the blame for our troubles at God's feet. Job's wife encouraged him to curse God and die. His friends assured him that his difficulties were from God? Job saw his troubles as trials through which he must remain faithful to God. Paul recognized a messenger of Satan had given him his thorn in the flesh. Satan attacks from without to bring temptations within. The easiest thing in the world is to blame God for all of our troubles. If we don't blame God, often we blame others.

James 1:13-17
When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don't be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (NIV)

Temptations come from our own inward evil nature. This evil nature gives birth to sin. Temptations come through failing to have a proper inward response to what Satan is doing to us. Temptations come from Satan and our own evil nature within. Sin results when we fail to respond correctly to God through obedience to his word. Sin results in heartache. Blame strives to recognize someone other than ourselves as the source of our problems. Blame seeks to relieve us from the responsibility of personally responding to God's word.

The nature of temptation is deceptive.No temptation appears as temptation; it always seems more alluring than it really is. James used two illustrations from the world of sports to prove this. Drawn away carries with it the idea of the baiting of a trap; and entice in the original language means " to bait a hook. "

Temptation always carries with it some bait that appeals to our natural desires. The bait not only attracts us, but it also hides the fact that yielding to the desire will eventually bring sorrow and punishment. It is the bait that is the exciting thing. Lot would never have moved toward Sodom had he not seen the " well watered plains of Jordan". When David looked upon his neighbor's wife, he would have never committed adultery had he seen the tragic consequences: the death of a baby, the murder of a brave soldier and the violation of a daughter.

The bait of temptations keeps us from seeing the consequences of sin. It deceives us into thinking it will relieve our pain through the momentary pleasure it offers. Things like alcohol, drugs, illicit sex, pornography, television and a thousand other things offer us momentary pleasure and a way of escape from the realities of life.

Today the temptation to live vicarious lives is very tempting. Vicarious simply means to substitute another's experience for our own. It can be experienced in a godly way. Jesus did this as he felt the weight of our sins on the cross. Vicarious living may seek to give us the thrills and experiences of another’s life without having to undergo our own painful need of victory through rebirth. We may need to get a life of our own. Today we often live vicarious lives to escape the realities of our lives. Many may read about mountain climbing and experience the thrills of mountain climbing vicariously as they get caught up in the excitement of the story. We may observe our sports heroes victories and vicariously experience the taste of victory. I have seen people talk about some one else's happiness or pain in such a way that it seems to become their pain or their happiness. In a superficial way we may try to experience what another person is experiencing to escape the realities of our own lives.

Seeing the Goodness of God

Responding correctly to God’s word allows us to see the good and perfect gifts God has given in the midst of our trials. We will be empowered to look for the way of escape God has promised. (1 Corinthians 10:13) We will look for the strength of God’s grace in difficult times. God told Paul that his grace was sufficient. God’s grace made him strong as the messenger of Satan buffeted him. Paul said, "That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:10 NIV)

Joseph saw God’s good and perfect gifts. Joseph knew all the blessings he received during his trials came from God. Notice how he responded when he tempted by Potiphar’s wife.

Genesis 39:1-9
Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh's officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there. The LORD was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the LORD blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the LORD was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. So he left in Joseph's care everything he had; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate. Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while his master's wife took notice of Joseph and said, "Come to bed with me!" But he refused. "With me in charge," he told her, "my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?" (NIV)

Joseph knew that all these blessings had come from God. It was the goodness of God, through the hands of his employer that restrained him in the hour of temptation. God’s gifts are better than Satan's bargains. I have noticed bargains can become very expensive. You can end up paying dearly for them.

Proverbs 10:21-25
The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of judgment. The blessing of the LORD brings wealth, and he adds no trouble to it. A fool finds pleasure in evil conduct, but a man of understanding delights in wisdom. What the wicked dreads will overtake him; what the righteous desire will be granted. When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever. (NIV)

Resenting Our Lot in Life

As we proceed backwards in this chapter we understand that temptation may cause us to resent our positions in life. Resentment usually becomes a hindrance to obedience for we convince ourselves we don't deserve our lot. Therefore we may seek justification to remain as we are. There is something about the following verses, which makes them hard to understand in a twentieth century context.

James 1:9-11
The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business. (NIV)

The reason these verses present a problem for us is that James sees the poor man in an exalted position and he sees the rich man in a lower position. Today we see the rich man in an exalted position, while we see the poor man in a low position. But Jesus was exalted when he was made low and made to humble himself when he was exalted. The poor man is in a position ready to be exalted, while the rich man has a burden of riches, which easily becomes a hindrance to being exalted. It is difficult for the rich man to hold onto his riches, because riches can sprout wings overnight and fly away. The rich person may become encumbered with the problem of trying to prevent their possessions from sprouting wings.

Mark 10:17-23
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good-- except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'" "Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy." Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!" (NIV)

It is actually harder for the poor person to understand the burden of the rich, than it is for the rich person to understand the burden of the poor. The rich man understands money does not solve problems. Money gives you additional problems. The poor person thinks money solves problems. In our world most of us would like to be burdened with the problems of the rich.

Godly Wisdom Is Needed

Wisdom is the most essential element of Christian living. Wisdom gives us the means to respond to God's word properly. God's wisdom enables us to put our trials in the proper perspective. Wisdom allows us to understand the nature of our conflicts and respond properly. Only wisdom will allow us to realize the joy of living for God.

James 1:5-6
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. (NIV)

Spiritual wisdom is the one thing only God can give. Most of us desperately need it. We have to want it. We have to ask for it. More importantly we must want it for practical purposes. We must be willing to follow the wisdom of God for the purpose of being spiritually reborn as we seek to be obedient to God's word.

Wisdom is only given to those willing to persevere through the difficult trials.A person who perseveres charts a course and sticks to it, come what may. The person isn't so double minded that a new course is charted every time he/she meets an unexpected set back. It is the persevering person who develops patience and gains wisdom as each victory gives hope for the next battle. It is the expectant victory in the battles, which lie ahead, that makes living for God a joy.

What do you do while persevering? Obey God's word, seek God's wisdom and wait upon the Lord to renew your strength, which always brings joy.

Conclusion:

James reveals several things needed to discover the joy of living for God.
We must persevere.
We must seek God's wisdom.
Come to appreciate our lot in life.
Stop blaming God or others for our lot in life.
Listen to God.
We must see ourselves as we truly are.
Make a practical response to God's word.
Authentic Christianity produces pure religion by refocusing our lives on the needs of the truly needed.
The result will be joyous living.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

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