Listening and doing – June 17, 2012

Listening and doing – James 1:19-27

WHEN IT COMES TO GETTING ANGRY, DO YOU TEND TO HAVE A LONG OR A SHORT FUSE?

One of the key figures of our nation’s history died eight years ago this month, President Ronald Reagan. “I think history will remember him as one of the pivotal leaders of the twentieth century. Americans will remember him as a man of great optimism and good will, a leader who emerged from the common people and never lost his ability to connect with average men and women. He was constantly underestimated by those who opposed his positions, and he consistently used that to his advantage.”

As always when something important happens in our nation, I like to turn to Peggy Noonan to read her insights. These came from the June 7, 2004 edition of OpinionJournal.com: “Ronald Reagan told the truth to a world made weary by lies. He believed truth was the only platform on which a better future could be built. He shocked the world when he called the Soviet Union “evil,” because it was, and an “empire,” because it was that, too. He never stopped bringing his message to the people of the world, to Europe and China and in the end the Soviet Union. And when it was over, the Berlin Wall had been turned into a million concrete souvenirs, and Soviet communism had fallen. But of course it didn’t fall. It was pushed. By Mr. Know Nothing Cowboy Gunslinger Dimwit. All presidents should be so stupid.

“He pushed down income taxes too, from a high of 70% when he entered the White House to a new low of 28% when he left, igniting the long boom that, for all its ups and downs, is with us still. He believed, as JFK did, that a rising tide lifts all boats. He did much more, returning respect to our armed forces, changing 50-year-old assumptions about the place of government and the place of the citizen in the new America.

“What an era his was. What a life he lived. He changed history for the better and was modest about it. He didn’t bray about his accomplishments but saw them as the work of the American people. He did not see himself as entitled, never demanded respect, preferred talking to hotel doormen rather than State Department functionaries because he thought the doormen brighter and more interesting. When I pressed him once, a few years out of the presidency, to say what he thought the meaning of his presidency was, he answered, reluctantly, that it might be fairly said that he “advanced the boundaries of freedom in a world more at peace with itself.” And so he did. And what could be bigger than that?”

President Reagan was a “doer” and that is what we are going to talk about today: “listening and DOING”.

READ James 1:19-27

James is not the first one to teach us about the value of listening and the dangers of hasty speech.

READ Proverbs 10:19

READ Matthew 12:36-37

James would remind us that we are to consider carefully what we say.  We should think before we speak.  We should also be careful with how we handle anger.

The coach of a Buffalo little league team called one of his players over to him and said that he would like to explain some of the principles of sportsmanship. He said, “We don’t believe in temper tantrums, screaming at the umpires, or using bad language. Do you understand?” The boy nodded. “All right then,” said the coach, “I want you to go over there into the stands and explain that to your father who is jumping up and down and screaming.”

Most people behave well when everything is tranquil and friendly. But character is revealed under stress — when we are angry, frustrated, or afraid. We need persons who are at their best under pressure, people who can disarm angry opponents with a calm truth, people who are slow to place blame and quick to applaud virtue. Resolve today that you will keep your lid on even if people all around you are blowing theirs. (Bill Bouknight, Christ United Methodist Church, Memphis, TN)

VERSE 20 SAYS THAT “MAN’S ANGER DOES NOT ACCOMPLISH GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS”.  DOES ANGER EVER ACCOMPLISH GOOD?

Anger can be the only appropriate response to a situation, but it should not be our only response to a situation.  It should be saved for those times when it is required.  But we need to be careful.

I have heard that if a rattlesnake is cornered, it can become so frenzied that it will accidentally bite itself with its deadly fangs. In the same way, when a person harbors hatred and resentment in his heart, he is often hurt by the poison of his own malice. He thinks he is injuring his enemies by displaying his wrath, but the real harm is inflicted deep within his own soul.

   Anger can also cause us to do and say things we may deeply regret. George W. Martin tells the following true story: “I remember a fellow who once wrote a nasty letter to his father. Since we worked in the same office, I advised him not to send it because it was written in a fit of temper. But he sealed it and asked me to put it in the mail. Instead, I simply slipped it into my pocket and kept it until the next day. The following morning he arrived at the office looking very worried. `George,’ he said, `I wish I had never sent that note to my dad yesterday. It hurts me deeply, and I know it will break his heart when he reads it. I’d give 50 dollars to get it back!’ Taking the envelope from my pocket, I handed it to him and told him what I had done. He was so overjoyed that he actually wanted to pay me the 50 dollars!”

IS THERE ROOM FOR “RIGHTEOUS WRATH” IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE, SUCH AS WHEN JESUS DROVE OUT THE MONEYCHANGERS OUT OF THETEMPLE?

James does not forbid anger.  Repressed anger will eventually come out and it could then be destructive.

HOW CAN WE KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MAN’S ANGER AND RIGHTEOUS WRATH?

Surely the phrase: “The Wrath of God” is greatly misunderstood. Many think invariably of some sort of peeved deity — a kind of cosmic-terrible tempered Mr. Bang who indulges in violent uncontrolled displays of temper when human beings do not do what they ought to do. But such a concept only reveals the limitations of our understanding.

   The Bible never deals with the Wrath of God that way. According to the scriptures, the Wrath of God is God’s moral integrity. When man refuses to yield himself to God, he creates certain conditions not only for himself but for others as well which God has ordained for harm. It is God who makes evil result in sorrow, heartache, injustice and despair. It is God’s way of saying to man, “Look, you must face the truth: You were made for Me. If you decide that you don’t want Me, then you will have to bear the consequences.” The absence of God is destructive to human life. That absence is God’s Wrath and God cannot withhold it. In His moral integrity, He insists that these things should occur as a result of our disobedience. He sets man’s sin and His Wrath in the same frame.

READ Proverbs 15:1

OF THE THREE AREAS MENTIONED IN VERSE 19, MARK ON THE LINE WHERE YOU WOULD RATE YOURSELF.

HEARING: QUICK____________________SLOW

SPEAKING: QUICK___________________SLOW

ANGER: QUICK______________________SLOW

Which area needs the most improvement?

HOW CAN WE APPLY VERSE 26 TO YOUR OWN LIFE?

The mark of a true Christian is first, the ability to control the tongue; second – the willingness to engage in acts of generosity; and third – the attempt to overcome the trials and temptations offered by the world.  This first mark – the ability to control the tongue – is the focus of these verses.

When you’re angry always count to ten before you say anything. It’ll give you more time to come up with the right insult.

–James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 33.

Have you ever noticed that sometimes we get angry and remain bitter with people and actually forget why we’re so upset? Take, for example, the notorious Hatfield-McCoy feud.

   It hit newspaper front pages in the 1880’s, when the Hatfield clan feuded with the McCoy clan from across the border in Kentucky. Historians disagree on the cause of the feud — which captured the imagination of the nation during a 10-year run. Some cite Civil War tensions: McCoys sympathized with the Union, Hatfields with the Confederacy. Others say it began when the McCoys blamed the Hatfields for stealing hogs. As many as 100 men, women and children died.

   In May 1976, Jim McCoy and Willis Hatfield — the last two survivors of the original families — shook hands at a public ceremony dedicating a monument to six of the victims.

   McCoy died Feb. 11, 1984, at age 99. He bore no grudges — and had his burial handled by the Hatfield Funeral Home in Toler, KY.

   — Peter Johnson, USA TODAY, 4-14-88.

WHAT QUALIFIES AS MORAL FILTH AND EVIL EXCESS?

I still have an article in my files from Time magazine, dated December 13, 1971, in which four mainline churches announced their new perspective on sex outside of marriage. They concluded after careful analysis that the commandment “Thou shalt not” really meant “maybe,” and that sex was intended to be enjoyed by any two lovers of either sex who could conjure up some kind of “meaningful relationship.” At last, people had been “liberated” from their sexual “bondage.” Millions celebrated between the sheets.

   Now, over thirty years later, we’re reeling under an epidemic of thirty-eight sexually transmitted diseases, with devastating new micro-organisms showing up every few years. Cervical cancer in young women has soared to unprecedented rates. An AIDS epidemic literally threatens the entire human family and twenty million Americans are afflicted with genital herpes. They can expect to suffer from it for the rest of their lives. Obscene publications and films have become so offensive that uninitiated viewers often become nauseated when seeing them. Millions of girls are having babies before they’re out of childhood. One and a half million abortions are occurring every year in the United States alone. And most importantly, the family has been deeply wounded — and may never recover.

   — Dr. James Dobson, Intimacy In Marriage, p. 30.

HOW CAN YOU GET RID OF THESE, OR AVOID THEM?

The wording James uses give us the picture of stripping off dirty clothes which stink.  How willing would you be to hug a child who was smelly and dirty?  We must remove those temptations from our lives to get rid of them and make choices in the future to avoid them.

One of the most successful things we can do to defeat sin is to replace it with what is good.

READ Philippians 4:8

WHAT IS THE “PERFECT LAW OF FREEDOM”?

This reference is probably to the teachings of Jesus which set us free, contrasted with the Jewish Law which brought bondage.

HOW COULD LAW AND FREEDOM GO TOGETHER?

The Law points us in the direction God would have us to go, but Jesus gave us the freedom to not be bound to the consequences of the Law.  The Law points us to sin.  Jesus points us to the Father.

READ John 8:32

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO “KEEP ONESELF UNSTAINED BY THE WORLD”?

Become a hermit in a haircloth shirt in order to avoid all contact with unbelievers

Try to use discretion in entertainment choices

Show by your lifestyle that you march to a different drummer

Be friendly to your neighbors, but only spend time with other believers

Mix freely with unbelievers, but keep a personal standard that is different from the world

James tells us that true religion has more to do with generosity than acts of personal righteousness.  It involves caring for others and avoiding the world’s influence.

It is exceptionally important to not just hear God’s Word, but to really put it into practice. We should not read our Bible and then go away unchanged.  That is what James is telling us when he says to be “doers of the Word”. A response is required when we ingest the spiritual food of Scripture.  It does not matter how well a person may know the Bible.  It matters how well we live the Bible.

DO YOU KNOW SOMEONE WHOM YOU WOULD CATEGORIZE AS A “DOER”?  WHAT STANDS OUT ABOUT THIS PERSON’S LIFE?

Your assignment this week is to take these words and find ways to live them out.

IN WHAT AREA OF YOUR LIFE COULD YOU DO A BETTER JOB OF APPLYING GOD’S WORD RATHER THAN MERELY LISTENING TO IT?  WHAT CAN YOU DO TO CHANGE THIS?

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Overcoming Temptations

Trials and Temptations

Focal text: James 1:12-18

MBC, small group, June 10, 2012

WHO DO YOU KNOW WHO DESERVES A SPECIAL AWARD FOR ENDURING TRIALS?

Last week we talked about trials, our attitude toward them, how they will lead us to maturity and the wisdom we will develop from this cycle.  We emphasized having an attitude of joy in the midst of difficult trials and the difference between happiness and joy.  In today’s lesson, we will talk about where temptations come from in our lives and what we can do about it.

BTW – WHERE DO TEMPTATIONS COME FROM? Our own evil desires

Several years ago, a popular Christian magazine conducted a survey of its readers, asking them to rank the areas of greatest spiritual challenge. The top 5 answers were materialism, pride, self-centeredness, laziness, and (tie) anger/bitterness and sexual lust. The respondents also noted that temptations are stronger when they had neglected their time with God (four out of five) and when they were physically tired (more than half).

There isn’t a day that goes by that we are not tempted in some way. Temptation comes in many forms. We are tempted not to tell the truth, to take something that does not belong to us, to take advantage of someone, to gossip, to hold a grudge, to feel superior and look down on others, or to give in to that part of us that constantly wants more money and things.

So how do you handle temptations? Do you struggle a little? Do you struggle a lot? The good news is that the Bible tells us it is possible to resist temptation.

READ James 1:12-18

In the midst of adversity, we may be tempted to think or act in a sinful manner. Many people wrongly conclude that times of stress somehow justify ungodly responses. We are tempted to strike out or strike back, to feel resentment, or to respond in other ways that are harmful to us or to others.

James deals with temptation in James 1:12-18. Interpreting this passage is made difficult by the fact that the word for trials (verse 2) and temptations (verses 12-18.) is the same word in Koine Greek, the original language in which James wrote this letter. But a trial is not the same experience as a temptation. The word can refer to external stresses that press us, or it can refer to internal attractions that tempt us. It is the context that determines the proper translation and application, and the context of our passage today is the matter of the temptations with which we are faced.

There is not always a connection between trials and temptations, but often the trials on the outside can become temptations on the inside. In the midst of adversity we may be tempted to think or act in a sinful manner—to respond selfishly, lash out, complain, question God’s love, and resist His will. In our trials and difficulties, Satan loves to show us the opportunity to escape the difficulty in a sinful manner, and we are tempted to take the bait. The point of the 1:1-11 is that trials can help us grow. But the point James makes in verses 12-18 is that we can recognize and respond in a righteous manner to temptations.

WHAT IS THE CROWN OF LIFE OFFERED TO THOSE WHO ENDURE?

A crown passed down by the Apostles from generation to generation

A laurel like that given to an ancient athlete

A halo like an angel would wear

A special blessing resulting from good works

Eternal life

The ability to fully enjoy heaven

Reward for enduring trials

Crowns have always been the sign of authority and Kingship. Charlemagne, whom historians say should deserve to be called “great” above all others, wore an octagonal crown. Each of the eight sides was a plaque of gold, and each plaque was studded with emeralds, sapphires, and pearls. The cost was the price of a king’s ransom. Richard the Lion Heart had a crown so heavy that two earls had to stand, one on either side, to hold his head. The crown that Queen Elizabeth wears is worth over $20 million. Edward II once owned nine crowns, something of a record. Put them all together, from all of Europe and from the archives of the East, all of them are but trinkets compared to Christ’s crown. Revelation 19 says he had many diadems. He wears a crown of righteousness. He wears a crown of glory. He wears a crown of life. He wears a crown of peace and power. Among those crowns, one outshines the rest. It was not formed by the skilled fingers of a silversmith, nor created by the genius of a craftsman. It was put together hurriedly by the rough hands of Roman soldiers. It was not placed upon its wearer’s head in pomp and ceremony, but in the hollow mockery of ridicule and blasphemy. It is a crown of thorns.

   The amazing thing is that it belonged to me. I deserved to wear that crown. I deserved to feel the thrust of the thorns. I deserved to feel the warm trickle of blood upon my brow. I deserved the pain. He took my crown of thorns–but without compensation. He offers to me instead His crown of life, the crown that fadeth not away.

–James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) pp. 162-163.

WHAT SEEMS TO BE THE CONDITIONS ATTACHED TO RECEIVING THE CROWN?

Perseverance under trial is not the only option.  People can fail.  In these verses James examines the causes of such failure.

WHAT IS THE CONNECTION BETWEEN “PASSING THE TEST” AND RECEIVING THE “CROWN OF LIFE”?

The focus shifts from enduring outward trials to resisting inner temptations.

James presents the first truth in verse 12: it is, indeed, possible to endure temptations. The word “endure” relates back to verse 3, in which he teaches that patience or endurance results from successfully facing trials. The sense in that verse and in verse 12 is that we can experience a victorious outcome or success when facing temptation. He tells us that the person who endures temptation is blessed, because he or she has “been approved.” That term might better be understood as “passed the test” or “faced the test with success.”

READ Romans 5:3-4

[Paul] doesn’t just say, “We rejoice in the midst of suffering,” period. He says, “We rejoice in the midst of suffering because it produces something.” What does it produce? Look at the next phrase in your study Bibles. “We rejoice in the midst of our suffering, knowing that suffering produces endurance. Endurance produces character.” Character is the blockbuster term here in Romans chapter 5, That’s the Greek term dokimas, and it literally means “someone or something that has been put to the test and has measured up.” If you have ever traveled to the Middle East, you may have taken note of the fact that you can visit a potter and you will look at a vessel, a jar, and it’s been through the furnace, and it’s been through the fire, and it hasn’t cracked. It hasn’t broken; it comes out whole. It comes out complete. And you turn that vessel, and you turn that jar over, and on the bottom there is stamped DOKIAMAS. It means “approved.” This is a vessel of character. It has withstood the test of the furnace where it has been refined, and it hasn’t broken; it is whole, complete. That’s character.

— Ron Lee Davis, “Rejoicing in Our Suffering,” Preaching Today, Tape 74.

IS THIS PASSAGE SAYING THAT RECEIVING THE CROWN IS DEPENDENT UPON OUR OWN ACTIONS OR IS IT MERELY A STATEMENT ABOUT THE CHRONOLOGY (FIRST THE TEST, THEN THE CROWN)?”

Warren Wiersbe noted that when God permits his children to go through the furnace, he keeps his eye on the clock and his hand on the thermostat.

See:  Psa 23:4; Isa 41:10

DOES ONE HAVE TO UNDERGO TESTING IN ORDER TO RECEIVE THE CROWN?

Between now and the time you read these words there could well be a dozen national emergencies and numbers of crisis in your personal life. However, as Dr. Norman Vincent Peale often says, “The only people who do not have problems are those in the cemeteries.” (Then with a twinkle in his eye he says, “and some of them really have problems.”)  If you have problems, it simply means you are alive and the more problems you have the more alive you are. He even jokingly suggests that if you don’t have man-sized problems you should get on your knees and ask God to “trust” you with a few.

James leaves no question that temptation’s assault will come. Notice in verse 14: he states “when” one is tempted,” not “if” one is tempted. As Christians, we are not exempt from temptation. The fact is, we will never be without temptation until we are with Christ. That is because as Christians we are in a spiritual battle. There are opposing forces constantly trying to draw us away from God. Even though people around us may not appear to be doing so, everyone is wrestling with temptation just like you and I are.

Verse 13 almost goes without saying. Temptation does not come from God. He does not put our favorite vice in front of us to help our endurance grow. He does not test our faith with the invitation to sin. Temptation comes from Satan, who puts some very alluring choices before us to try to attract us to the pleasures he offers.

Remember, too, that temptation itself is not a sin. The writer of Hebrews points out that Jesus Himself was tempted: “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Temptation is simply the invitation to sin. We sin when we decide to accept the invitation.

READ John 16:33

WHAT DO WE LEARN IN THIS PASSAGE ABOUT THE ORIGIN OF TEMPTATION?

In writing about America’s problems with our own national security, Jim Banford, author of The Puzzle Palace, said, “Once you’ve sold one secret you’re usually hooked. They don’t start by asking to get a top secret document. They usually ask for something innocuous, like a telephone directory. Once a person starts, they’re hooked at that point.” Isn’t that the way Satan operates? He tempts us to make little compromises that seem so insignificant and end up ensnaring us in sin.

James points out that we have personal responsibility for handling temptation. We can’t blame God when we are faced with temptations, we can’t blame God or someone else when we give in. We are responsible.

But we have always had the tendency to want to find someone to blame. When I was growing up, a comedian named Flip Wilson was popular. He had comedy routines based on the famous line people sometimes use to excuse bad behavior: “The devil made me do it.” The point of the comedy routine was that his character tried to excuse bad choices by blaming it on the tempter. Satan is, indeed, responsible for the temptation, but not for our yielding to it.

Too often, the natural tendency is to blame others for our failure.  God is often blamed as well.  But, God does not put people into situations in order to test them.  Such temptations arise quite naturally out of life itself.  James makes it clear that what turns a natural situation into a temptation is evil desire within a person.  In fact, God gives us opportunities to resist the temptation.

READ 1 Corinthians 10:13

He can provide this help because Jesus knows what it is like to be tempted.

READ Hebrews 2:18

HOW DOES THIS AFFECT THE WAY YOU LOOK AT YOUR STRUGGLES AND PROBLEMS?

You know the old story of how to boil a frog. You don’t put him in a pot of boiling water. You drop him in the boiling water and he’ll jump out before he’s injured. So you put him in a pot of cold water, and he’s perfectly comfortable. Then you put him on the stove, and little by little the water gets warm. It’s very pleasant at first. Then it gets to Jacuzzi level, and he begins to be a little alarmed. Finally, when it’s boiling, it’s too late. Christians are like that, aren’t we? We get into the world and it’s oh so pleasant at first. And then it gets a little warmer and it’s pleasanter yet. And one day we realize the danger: “This is going to kill me, and I haven’t the strength to get out!”

— Donald Hoke, “The Stockholm Syndrome,” Preaching Today, Tape 30.

WHAT STAGES DOES TEMPTATION PASS THROUGH TO BECOME FULL-BLOWN SIN?

The steps are explained like the birth process.  The possibility of an evil act is entertained, and then acted on again and again as the thought becomes a deed and until it finally brings death.  In fact, the picture here is of a seductress who entices a victim into her bed and conceives a child whose name is sin.  This child, in turn, produces his own offspring which is the monster called death.  Paul uses a similar chain from desire to sin in Romans.

READ Romans 7:7-12

Sin will lead to death is not stopped.  Death is the opposite of the “crown of life”.  It the point of no return where a repeated act has become so ingrained that we have no ability to restrain ourselves.

HOW CAN YOU SEE THAT THIS HAS HAPPENED IN YOUR OWN LIFE?

A little boy named Bobby desperately wanted a new bicycle. His plan was to save his nickels, dimes and quarters until he finally had enough to buy a new 10-speed. Each night he asked God to help him save his money. Kneeling beside his bed, he prayed, “Dear Lord, please help me save my money for a new bike, and please, Lord, don’t let the ice cream man come down the street again tomorrow.”

(Lee Griess, Taking The Risk Out Of Dying)

We are tricked by our own sinful natures in the same way that a fish is tricked by the lure, only to discover too late that there is a painful hook!

WHAT ENCOURAGEMENT DO YOU FIND IN VERSES 17 AND 18?

The contrast is made between sin which gives birth to death and the Gospel which gives birth to life and brings into being God’s children.

Even though sin sometimes brings a temporary period of pleasure, it always leads to negative consequences, even though this may not be immediately apparent.

Now obviously we have all sinned, and God did not strike us dead that very moment. But we must not be misled about the ultimate result of sin because of God’s mercy. If we continue to sin and do not respond to God’s mercy by forsaking our sins, James says the sin “brings forth death.”

This has been a difficult verse for theologians to reconcile with the promises of the Bible that Jesus paid once and for all time for our sins. His death is our atonement for sin. Literally, sin, which is giving in to temptation to act unrighteously, made necessary Jesus’ death as our atonement. It can be a difficult concept to accept. God wants a relationship with us, but He cannot abide evil in His presence, and our sins are acts of evil. So Jesus became the atonement for our sin so that we can commune with God.

The process James describes—desire, sin, death—is the same as in Genesis 3. The desire to be like God led to the sin of Adam and Eve, and both their separation from God (spiritual death) and the institution of physical death. David longed for restoration of his relationship with God after his long period of sin with Bathsheba, which included continuing adultery as well as arranging the death of her husband. In Psalm 51:12, David prayed “Lord restore unto me the joy of my salvation,” because until he repented and turned back to God, he lived a death-like spiritual existence—no joy in the salvation God had given him.

Charles Swindoll, in his book James, Practical and Authentic Living, offers a good explanation of verse 15: “James is not referring here to physical death, for then none of us would be alive. Nor is he referring to spiritual death, for then no one could be saved. The fulfillment of our lust brings about in the believer’s life a death-like existence.” I would add, however, that James would, indeed, mean physical and spiritual death had it not been for the atonement, in which Jesus sacrificed His own life so that we might be saved and spend eternity with Him.

IF EVERY GENEROUS ACT AND EVERY PERFECT GIFT COMES FROM GOD, WHAT DOES THIS SAY ABOUT GOOD PEOPLE WHO REJECT GOD BECAUSE THEY THINK THEY DON’T NEED HIM?

James tells us in verse 16: “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.” In other words, don’t see a temptation as something good and rewarding. I am reminded of his earlier use of the word “entice,” the fishing term referring to the bait. Don’t be fooled by the bait of sin, he is telling us, but realize the hook is buried in it, waiting to pierce you and pull you in. Reject the temptations that you experience, because you have the ability to see evil for what it is.

That is the key: seeing evil for what it is, even though it lures us like the bait lures the fish. We need to see our world through eyes that are spiritually mature, firmly rooted in God’s truth, and then we are able to realize that the things that tempt us are evil and do not lead to any good, no matter how great they appear to be.

In verse 17, he draws a contrast with the preceding verses about temptation and what it can lead to. His point is that Satan does not give good gifts. Only God gives good gifts. Remember that James began by saying that God did not cause temptation to come to us. God is not the source of our temptation. Temptation is not a good thing. It is a bad thing. And God does not give bad things to us. Satan would like for temptation to look like a good thing. Don’t be fooled. Reject that lie outright. Every good gift comes from above, from our Father. In Him there is “no variation or shadow of turning,” that is, we judge for sure between His gifts, which are pure and good and without a doubt from Him, and Satan’s temptations, which offer fleeting pleasure and fulfillment but at a terrible price. Peter elaborates on this idea in 2 Peter 1:3: “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue.”

Finally, in verse 18 James tells us that we are different. We are born again into a new spiritual existence entirely separate from the spiritual nature of those who are not born again. The good news is that those who are born of God can resist temptation. We no longer have to be servants of sin and sinful human nature. We have the ability to see that what Satan tempts us with is a baited hook trying to separate us from the righteousness of God.

And when we waver in the face of temptation, we can fall back on the promise of 1Cor 10:13: “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, Who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” And we can fall back on the promise James gives a little later in his letter: “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

4 takeaways:

1. Tempations do not come from God

2. Temptations are not a sin

3. Temptations are my responsibility – no blame to anyone else

4. Tempatations can be defeated

Dealing with the “junk” of life – James 1:1-11

Trials – Consider it Joy

Sunday School,

MBC, June 3, 2012

WHAT TASK OR PROJECT HAVE YOU ACCOMPLISHED THAT REQUIRED GREAT PERSEVERENCE?

James is the one book that either you love or you don’t.  It is written in a different style than any of the other New Testament books. (Christian HOW TO book).  It is more like Proverbs than any of Paul’s writings. It steps on our toes and pushes us to the next level of our Christian walk.  It focuses on our relationship with Jesus in practical and sometimes painful ways.  James emphasizes that our actions are outgrowths of our faith.  He never says that we must have works to be saved, but he does imply that if we don’t have works, there is no evidence of God working in our lives.

James will take us through a journey to draw us closer to our Lord.  It is BIG PICTURE LIVING. He begins with an incredible statement about trials and testing in our life.  James will tell us what trials and struggle are good for and how we should respond to them in our lives.  He also tells us about wisdom – what we need and how to ask for it.

READ James 1:1-8 – We must MAINTAIN PERSPECTIVE with problems

ACCORDING TO JAMES, WHAT SHOULD A CHRISTIAN’S ATTITUDE BE WHEN FACING TRIALS?  Count it all joy – are you kidding James?

Christians should view the difficulties of life with enthusiasm.  Why? The outcome WILL be beneficial. The joy James is referring to is not a feeling of happiness.  The word happy gets its origin from the word “happenstance” in which we get our word circumstance.  Individuals get happy based on their circumstances.  Joy comes from a deep knowledge of knowing that God is in control no matter the circumstance. Joy is an active acceptance of adversity because of the foundation of God’s Will.

A man whom many believe was the greatest American president is a good example. When he was 7 years of age, his family was forced out of their home, and he went to work. When he was 9, his mother died. He lost his job as a store clerk when he was 20. He wanted to go to law school, but he didn’t have the education. At age 23 he went into debt to be a partner in a small store. Three years later the business partner died, and the resulting debt took years to repay.

   When he was 28, after courting a girl for four years, he asked her to marry him, and she turned him down. On his third try he was elected to Congress, at age 37, but then failed to be re-elected. His son died at 4 years of age. When this man was 45, he ran for the Senate and lost. At age 47 he ran for the vice-presidency and lost. But at age 51 he was elected president of the United   States.

   The man was Abraham Lincoln, a man who learned to face discouragement and move beyond it. Did you know that it was Abraham Lincoln who, in the midst of the Civil War, in 1863, established the annual celebration of Thanksgiving? Lincoln had learned how important it is to stop and thank God in the midst of great difficulties.

— John Yates, “An Attitude of Gratitude,” Preaching Today, Tape No. 110.

HOW OFTEN IS THIS YOUR ATTITUDE IN YOU OWN HARD TIMES?

The word “trials” has the dual sense of ADVERSITY (disease, persecution, or tragedy) and TEMPTATIONS (lust, greed, or trust in wealth).  James is not urging us to seek trials in order to be joyful.  Trials will come whether we want them or not.  This is the world we live in.  We, however, have the CHOICE in how we respond.  James assumes good results.

  C.S. Lewis likened God’s use of adversity to walking a dog. If the dog gets its leash wrapped around a pole and tries to continue running forward, he will only tighten the leash more. Both the dog and the owner are after the same end, forward motion, but the owner must resist the dog by pulling him opposite the direction he wants to go. The master, sharing the same intention but understanding better than the dog where he really wants to go, takes an action precisely opposite to that of the dog’s will. It is in this way that God uses adversity.

WHY IS ENDURING IMPORTANT?

Perseverance is an active overcoming, rather that passive acceptance. It is not automatic.  It takes time and effort.  (running second 5k and not wanting to finish)

There is a story of a British soldier in the First World War who lost heart for the battle and deserted. Trying to reach the coast for a boat to England that night, he ended up wandering in the pitch black night, hopelessly lost. In the darkness he came across what he thought was a signpost. It was so dark that he began to climb the post so that he could read it. As he reached the top of the pole, he struck a match to see and found himself looking squarely into the face of Jesus Christ. He realized that, rather than running into a signpost, he had climbed a roadside crucifix. Brown explained, “Then he remembered the One who had died for him — who had endured — who had never turned back. The next morning the soldier was back in the trenches. ”

   As a runner, when you are tired, afraid and discouraged, the best way I know to get your second wind is to strike a match in the darkness and to look on the face of Jesus Christ.

— “To Illustrate”, Preaching Magazine, Jan.-Feb. 1989.

WHAT REWARD COMES WITH ENDURING IN THE FAITH?

Becoming mature and complete, lacking nothing. The reward is maturity, completion.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE “MATURE AND COMPLETE” (VS. 4)?

James means wholeness of character.  He is NOT calling for some sort of perfection or sinless ness.  Instead, the emphasis is on moral blamelessness.  To be mature is to have reached a certain stage or to have fulfilled a given purpose.  An example is of an animal prepared for sacrifice.  It must be of the right age, without spot or blemish to be acceptable to God.  The opposite of mature and complete is LACKING.  The imagery here is of an army which has been defeated or a person who has failed to reach a certain standard.

WHO DO YOU KNOW THAT YOU THINK COULD BE DESCRIBED THIS WAY?

Elected officials, teams that lose championship, failed course/grade/test, etc

WHAT CHARACTERISTICS DO YOU SEE IN THIS PERSON’S LIFE?

Defeat, discouragement, etc.

VERSE 7 TELLS US THAT A DOUBTER NEED NOT EXPECT TO RECEIVE ANYTHING FROM THE LORD.  HOW DOES THIS FIT WITH VERSE 5 WHICH SAYS THAT GOD “GIVES TO ALL GENEROUSLY AND WITHOUT CRITICIZING?”

Unanswered prayer is connected to the quality of the asking, not to the unwillingness of God to give.

IF YOU EVER EXPERIENCE DOUBTS ABOUT YOUR FAITH, DOES THAT NECESSARILY MEAN THAT YOU ARE “UNSTABLE IN ALL YOUR WAYS”?

To doubt is to be in two minds – to believe and disbelieve at the same time – to be torn between two decisions: one good and one bad. To be indecisive is to have two heads – a freak or dead.  If we doubt that God will give to His children, we are not going to be in the position to ever receive from Him.

Did you doubt I would be here today?  Why not?  God has proven He is faithful much more than I have.  We must trust Him

WHAT IS A TRIAL YOU HAVE FACED IN YOUR LIFE?  WHAT HELPED YOU THROUGH IT?

READ James 1:9-11

HOW DOES JAMES TURN THE ASSUMED STATUS OF RICH AND POOR UPSIDE DOWN? Why glory in humiliation? Rejoice in God who keeps us humble and helps us to seek God for happiness.

Even though James’ readers viewed wealth as a sign of blessing from God, James warns those with wealth. With riches, people come to trust in wealth as a source of security.  It is a mark of double-mindedness to attempt to serve both God and money

Thought:

HOW DOES THIS AFFECT THE WAY YOU THINK ABOUT YOUR OWN FINANCIAL POSITION? It makes me nervous, what if God should humble me because of my wealth, I feel pretty good, because I never really had anything, I feel like I have been wasting my life, maybe I really am fairly well off, I want to understand how God really values wealth, or other.

IN WHAT AREA OF YOUR LIFE DO YOU NEED WISDOM FROM GOD RIGHT NOW? WHAT HAS KEPT YOU FROM ASKING FOR IT?

Ministry lessons

Welcome to my ministry lessons blog site!  I will post recent small group lessons, sermon notes, and presentations here. I do not always cite my references in my notes, so if you need a reference on something, let me know and I will try to look it up for you.  Otherwise, these are ready for you to use!