Understanding your role

I did a sermon on the first chapter of James last week which I will break up into 2 sections. One will be here, which will be about half of the sermon, since it is a bit long. The second part will be at my other site, thelivingmessage.com. I pray that those of you who read this will take the lessons of it in stride because it has much to say about how we are supposed to live as Christians.

Faith responds with practical godliness under testing (1:1-27).

James uses the description of himself as a servant or in some other translations “a bond servant” of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ to show that he willingly and lovingly served. He could’ve claimed status since he was the Lord’s half-brother, according to history. But, he didn’t. A bond servant serves out of love not because of being bound. This is the service that we should be giving unto Jesus and to our faith!

Your faith and your Christian life is no good if the people that you are around can’t tell that anything has changed in your life. Testing is like polishing a car or a piece of jewelry, it needs to be done from time to time so that your life reflects Jesus more than it does yourself. Sometimes the testing or pruning in your life may not be very enjoyable, I mean look at Job! In the first chapter of Job, God actually brags to Satan about him. Yet, when Satan challenges God on this he is given permission to do anything he wishes EXCEPT take his life.

Will we be tested quite that hard? It is possible, I mean when you are given a diagnosis of cancer or some other disease which can kill you, that is pretty hard testing. Sometimes the test is just getting through one day at a time, getting past the treatments and the medicine and the side effects of that. Lean on God’s strength when yours fails you and He won’t let you down. Because, James used the word “when” to say that we will go through testing because we are His servants in this world and this world hates Him.

A. Faith responds with joy when it faces testing (1:2-4).

This one is tough, especially when you may not be in the midst of testing right now. But, if you ever have been I am sure it didn’t seem like a joyful time. Our joy comes from knowing that Jesus is also God and He won’t let you down, no matter what. “Joy comes in the morning” is something which I turn to almost every day when my legs and hips hurt and when my spine feels like it won’t flex at all. (Psalm 30:5)

God is there with you in your pain and in the joyful times. He is near when tragedy strikes and when a child is born. In all things give thanks that He loves you and is working the best out in your life so that others will see Him in your life! Trials will cause you to develop patience and endurance in Him, if you will stay close to Jesus during your trials. Don’t think or even consider that your strength is enough to get you through any trial, regardless of the hardness of the trial, because if you do Satan can make the trial hard enough to make you look to Him even though he isn’t trying to turn you toward Jesus our Lord.

B. Faith seeks God for wisdom in times of testing (1:5-8).

In our trials, whatever they may be, we truly should seek God’s wisdom during these times. Trying to lean on your own understanding and your own wisdom will bring more problems and even harder testing because you think that you can get through without God! God’s Word contains all of the wisdom that you need to get through trials. Prayer and fasting can increase your faith to bring you even closer to God and His Wisdom. Even Jesus said that “when ye fast”, it was not a command but He knew that even in our time, there will be days and problems which require fasting to bring the solution to our knowledge from God!

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Alternate beliefs, really?

You may wonder why I didn’t put a subject behind that but there is a reason. It is because we are giving legitimacy to many religions and beliefs when we shouldn’t be! There are too many subjects which would fit in that title. What are they? Dowsing, pyramid energy, mediums who claim to be using “angel cards”, ouija, etc.; all of these and more are part of the occult and people shouldn’t be consulting with them, but they are.

Giving these “optional” beliefs legitimate status doesn’t help us to get the message out into the world that Jesus is the way to salvation, not “alternate religions”. There are so many different beliefs in the world until it is hard to understand just why there are so many. Satan has been working very hard to give people an alternate viewpoint which can be molded into a new religion or faith. It seems that today it is so easy to put your faith in almost anything besides God and Jesus!

separatechurchesWe talk about religion and being religious as if that covers all of Christianity but you can be religious about anything. Just because someone seems to be religious doesn’t mean that they are a Christian. They could be religious about any one of the hundreds of different religions out there, you could even be a religious atheist! My point is this: don’t give religions other than Christianity a legitimate foothold!

I know, I am not being inclusive of all people and their beliefs and I will own that. What I am trying to get people to think about here is ETERNITY!! There is only one God and Jesus the Christ Who can grant you access to eternity, or at least one that you would enjoy living in! The Bible states it plainly that Jesus is the only way to Heaven, all other paths, even though they may be morally good, will lead you elsewhere for eternity.

Some faiths don’t believe in eternal punishment like the lake of fire foretold in Revelation. But, if God says that is where you will be and He doesn’t lie, then that is where your choices will take you! Seek out Jesus and His gospel, believe in Him and repent of your sinful ways and then follow Him, reading His Word and praying for strength each day because it is through Him that we are given eternal life and forgiveness.

 

Why do relationships go wrong?

Truly the reason that this happens is because of the foundation. Many marriages begin on the wrong foot and certainly on sand or loose gravel for a foundation. Why do we pursue a relationship that ultimately will fail?

IAM-JesusWe do this because we haven’t found the Relationship which can’t fail. We are born searching for something or Someone but for years we search and look for things and people to fill that void, that empty place which always feels as if it needs…to be filled. It is a scientific principle which states quite accurately that “nature abhors a vacuum”. At some point, something will fill that space whether it is good or bad, God or Satan, it doesn’t matter which, but it will be filled.

If we try to fill it with a career or a family, that can work for a while but it isn’t permanent. If we try to fill it with drugs or alcohol, our life and our relationships are doomed to fail because those things are designed to destroy whatever they come in contact with! But…if we will seek out our Savior, Jesus the Christ, and repent of the attempts which we have tried before, and ask Him to come in and clean our heart up, then our life will be placed on the right path.

Following Him, learning about Him by reading and studying the Bible, praying about your family and your problems, all of these will begin to fix your pathway and your life in such a way that your foundation will become complete and solid. When this happens, your relationship with your spouse and your family will begin to level out and become less bumpy and more smooth. This is the foundation which should guide our lives today but we tend to follow along with the rest of the crowd at school or church, if we go at all.

If everyone at school or at church is just going along to get along for the sake of being thought of as a “pillar of the community”, that is the wrong reason. Trying to earn a place in the eyes of people and “fair weather friends”, no matter how you earn it, doesn’t help you in the long run. Why? Because it isn’t built on God’s foundation which is Jesus.

You can decide to ignore this advice if you wish or just don’t read this at all, it doesn’t hurt my feelings one way or the other. But…what if I am right. When your life is going to hell on a slippery slope, which of your friends could possibly pull you out of it? A rich kid that you went to school with? No, they are likely off enjoying life just as they think they should. What about your dear friend from work? Not likely, they come home feeling even more tired than they did last year.

The only One Who can get your life back on the right path and give you strength enough to make it through all of your trouble is Jesus. No other religion or “holy man” or prophet can do that because all of them are dead! He is alive at the Father’s right hand and He is able to help you in your time of need. Seek Him out and make sure that He is your foundation and your Solid Rock, your Savior. Because without Him, we can do nothing.