Daily Archives: February 25, 2019

Quick Shot: “All God expects of us is sincerity” — Cold Case Christianity

Our “Quick Shot” series offers brief answers to common objections to the Christian worldview. Each response is limited to one paragraph. These responses are designed to (1) answer the objection as concisely as possible, (2) challenge the objector to think more deeply about his or her claim, and (3) facilitate a “gospel” conversation. In this article, we’re offering “Quick Shot” responses to the objection, “All God expects of us is sincerity”

Response #1:
“Why would you believe that God expects nothing more than sincerity. It sounds like you know the mind of God on this issue. How do you know this is what God desires? Did he reveal this to you personally, or did you learn it in a ‘holy’ book? The Christian holy book – the Bible – is clear on this issue. God values truth over sincerity, because it’s possible to be sincere, yet sincerely wrong. Jesus, in describing religious people who were sincere but misguided, said, ‘They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’ God values truth over the human rules and responses, even the response of sincerity. If you’re truly interested in what God expects from us, have you considered the words of Jesus?”


God values truth over sincerity, because it’s possible to be sincere, yet sincerely wrong.
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OR

Response #2:
“Imagine that you and I are hiking and discover a poisonous hemlock plant. Since it looks like parsley, you decide to eat some of it. You sincerely believe that the plant is parsley. Will your sincerity protect you from harm? What if you were traveling to meet your distant uncle for the first time. After taking an errant turn, you find yourself on the wrong street but arrive at a house that has the same numbers as your uncle’s correct address. If you sincerely believe you are at the right house, and a man opens the front door, will your sincerity make this man your uncle? Most of us understand the value of truth and sincerity. Both are important, but sincerity without truth can lead you to the wrong place and could endanger your life. Would you like to sincerely know the truth?”


Most of us understand the value of truth and sincerity. Both are important, but sincerity without truth can lead you to the wrong place and could endanger your life.
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Our “Quick Shot” series was written specifically for the Cold-Case Christianity App(you can download it on Apple and Androidplatforms – be sure to register once you download the App). When confronted with an objection in casual conversation, App users can quickly find an answer without having to scroll beyond the first screen in the category. Use the App “Quick Shots” along with the “Rapid Responses” and Case Making “Cheat Sheets” to become a better Christian Case Maker.

J. Warner Wallace is a Dateline featured Cold-Case Detective, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, Adj. Professor of Apologetics at Biola University, author of Cold-Case ChristianityGod’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, and creator of the Case Makers Academyfor kids.

Quick Shot: “All God expects of us is sincerity” — Cold Case Christianity

The Problem of Forgiveness | Ligonier Ministries

Forgiveness is a problem for many people due to their misunderstanding of what forgiveness involves and confusion about what forgiveness really is. Part of the issue is that sometimes we are unable to distinguish between forgiveness and feeling forgiven. Sometimes our feelings can get out of sync with the reality of forgiveness.

Once a man came to talk to me about feeling greatly distressed because of his guilt. He said that he had committed a particular sin and had prayed and prayed about it but hadn’t received any relief. He wanted to know what he had to do to experience God’s forgiveness. But since he had confessed his sin and begged God to forgive him, I told him that he needed to ask God to forgive him for a different sin—the sin of arrogance. God says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). When we don’t believe that God has in fact forgiven us when we have confessed our sin, we are calling into question His faithfulness. We are saying that God’s promise cannot be trusted. That is supreme arrogance, so we need to ask God’s forgiveness for our refusing to believe His promise.

There is more to this problem of forgiveness. When we sin, one of the most difficult things for us is accepting free, gracious, merciful forgiveness. We are creatures of pride. We think that God’s forgiveness is fine for other people, but when we do something wrong, we want to make up for it. However, this is absolutely impossible for anyone to do. God requires perfect holiness. Once perfection is lost, we cannot regain it. We are debtors with a debt we cannot pay. This is difficult for us to accept because we want to be able to pay our own way. It’s because of our pride and arrogance, both fruits of our sinfulness, that we refuse to accept the forgiveness of God.

Back to the distinction between forgiveness and feeling forgiven: forgiveness is objective but the feeling of forgiveness is subjective. I can feel forgiven but not be forgiven because I haven’t repented. I can excuse myself when God has not excused me, and that false feeling of forgiveness can lead me astray. But I can also not feel forgiven even when I actually have been forgiven. If God declares that a person is forgiven, that person is in fact forgiven. Our lack of feeling forgiven does not negate the reality of what God has done.

What is the authority in our lives? Our feelings, which are subjective, or the Word of God, which is objective truth? The Christian must live practically each day by the Word of God rather than by his feelings. The issue of forgiveness is not whether we feel forgiven, but whether we have repented. If we confess our sin and ask God for forgiveness through Christ, we can be assured that He forgives us.

Sometimes we don’t forgive ourselves even though God has forgiven us. But who are we to refuse to forgive one whom God has forgiven? What makes us so wicked that God’s forgiveness is not enough to cover our sin? In effect, we’re saying that we’re so evil that even the grace of God can’t help us. No, we’re so proud that we refuse God’s grace.

Now let’s look at what forgiveness is. The Bible teaches that when God forgives us, He forgets our sins. This doesn’t mean He erases them from His memory. It means that He doesn’t hold them against us anymore.

How many times has someone told you that he has forgiven a sin you committed against him, and then, the next time you have a fight, he brings up what you did the last time? That person has, in a sense, rescinded his forgiveness. God doesn’t do that. If I am pardoned by God, it is settled and is never to be brought up again. God puts those sins aside and will never speak of them. However, we often reopen old wounds. We allow them to disturb the relationship. If I have forgiven someone, I should never again mention that sin. Forgiveness means not bringing it up.

There is another issue to look at, and that is our obligation to forgive others who sin against us. If such people confess their sin and repent, it is our moral obligation to forgive. However, if they don’t repent, we are not required to forgive. We may forgive, as Jesus did for those who killed Him (Luke 23:34). But in doing that, Jesus didn’t command that we must always forgive those who don’t repent. You can go to those who have wronged you and tell them they have offended you (see Matt. 18:15). If they repent, you have won them. But you are not called to forgive if they don’t repent. You are not allowed to be bitter or vindictive. You have to be loving, caring, concerned, and compassionate, but you don’t have to forgive. You can still talk about it and seek public vindication.

Here is one last problem related to forgiveness that we deal with often as elders in Christ’s church. A husband or wife commits adultery, repents deeply, and then asks his or her spouse for forgiveness. In such a situation, the offended spouse must forgive the guilty partner. However, that spouse is not obligated to stay married to that partner. The Bible makes a provision for the dissolution of a marriage in the event of adultery. The person is required to treat the repentant person as a brother or sister in Christ but not as a spouse.

Another example is a man stealing from us fifty times in our office and repenting each time. We must forgive him, but we can ask for restitution. We don’t have to keep him in our employ, but we must still treat him as a brother in Christ. This situation is an important practical application of the concept of forgiveness. We can have forgiveness and restored relationships, but that does not necessarily mean there are no lasting consequences for our sin.

This post was originally published in Tabletalk magazine.
— Read on www.ligonier.org/blog/the-problem-forgiveness/

How can I know that I am saved? – GoThereFor.com

I was sure that people got saved—but I doubted whether I was one of them.

How can I know that I am saved? It’s a question I’ve asked myself a lot over this past year: a question I’m not the first to ask, and I’m sure I won’t be the last. For me, this question came up because I was doubting my salvation. I wasn’t doubting the truth of the gospel; I was sure that Jesus was the Son of God who lived, died, was raised to life, and ascended into heaven. I was sure that his death on the cross paid the price for sinners, that they may be made right with God, and come to know him personally. I was sure that people got saved—but I doubted whether I was one of them.

I was asking these questions because I had been doing what Paul instructed the Corinthians to do: “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith” (2 Cor 13:5). I was testing myself (to the best of my ability), looking at how I spoke, how I acted, how I treated those around me. I was comparing my life to what I read in the Bible. I read that we are to be holy, because God is (1 Pet 1:16); we are to “abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul” (1 Pet 2:11); we are to “put to death therefore what is earthly in you” (Col 3:5). I read that I was to live for God, and to love him with my heart, soul, strength and mind (Luke 10:27). That was the standard for being a Christian, the level you had to meet, or at least come close to.

In my examination, I fell miserably short of that standard. I was not holy just as God was holy, and some days it felt like I wasn’t even trying to be holy. It didn’t feel like I was abstaining from sinful desires, but like I was falling into the same sins over and over again. It felt like my earthly nature was surviving and thriving. It didn’t feel like I was living for God, and I certainly wasn’t loving him with all my heart, soul, strength and mind. I fell short of the Christian standard. The saying goes, “If it swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck”. I felt like I wasn’t looking like a Christian, or acting like a Christian, so was it possible that I wasn’t actually a Christian?

I doubted my salvation because I looked at all the sin in my life and said, “Surely a Christian cannot be this sinful”.

So I spoke to some trusted Christian friends, and they pointed me back to what I was so sure about: how we are saved. We are saved because God the Father “chose us in him before the foundation of the world” (Eph 1:4). We’re saved because “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God…” (1 Pet 3:18). We’re saved because the Spirit now works in us, shaping us into the image of Jesus (2 Cor 3:18; 2 Tim 1:7). We are saved because God saves us.

If our salvation were based even partly on us then our performance would matter. If we saved ourselves, even a little bit, then it would matter whether we’d been more sinful last week, or better with Bible reading and prayer this week. But, as Paul writes:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph 2:8-9)

Our salvation is based on the work God has done and on his generosity, not on the work we are doing. We are saved, from beginning to end, by grace.

So how did this give me assurance? Firstly, it showed me that feeling unsaved didn’t change whether I was saved or not. If salvation is from God, then my feelings can’t affect it. Secondly, it showed me that I wasn’t perfect, but no other Christian is either. We are all sinful, both before and after the Spirit begins his work in us, and we all need to be saved by God’s grace. The Spirit doesn’t make us sinless overnight, but he changes our attitude toward sin: we do not revel in sin as non-Christians do, we repent of it. We pray that God would forgive us and make us more like his Son. The mark of a Christian is not a lack of sin, but a repentant attitude toward sin.

And thirdly, after seeing that salvation isn’t through how good we were or how good we’ve become, I was reminded that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. As Paul puts it: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom 10:9).

You will be saved, no ifs or buts about it. That’s how I knew that I was a Christian, and that these promises applied to me. I knew because I called Jesus my Lord and my Saviour, and I knew that he had the power to save by his resurrection from the dead. If you believe these things, then the Spirit is at work in you, and the Spirit is a seal, “a guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Eph 1:14).

So where do we go from here? Certainly not back to living in sin:

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? (Rom 6:1-2)

Our works do not save us, but they are meant to be a response to our salvation. If Jesus is our Lord, then we are to live under his rule, which means doing as he has commanded us to do. We will fail, but that will not change what Jesus did on the cross, and our response should always be the same: come to Jesus, ask for forgiveness, and ask for the strength to turn away from our sin and live life for him. As John Newton said, “I sin continually—but Christ has died, and for ever lives, as my Redeemer, Priest, Advocate, and King.” Luther was a man with full assurance, not because of his own sinlessness, but because of Jesus. Finally, as the author of Hebrews writes:

Since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. (Heb 10:21-23)

Let us stand firm in our faith, with full assurance, because God is faithful.
— Read on gotherefor.com/

February 25, 2019 Morning Verse Of The Day

What the Bible Says About Spiritual Growth

2 Pet. 3:18

Not many people can say that on the day they were saved, someone explained to them the steps to spiritual growth. Unfortunately, some believers never hear how to grow in grace. Since none of us grows as a Christian without taking action, Peter instructs believers to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18).

Then how are we to grow? The Bible gives us some powerful guidelines.

First, we are responsible for renewing our mind (Rom. 12:2). Though God saves us and gives us a new spirit, He does not give us a new brain. Disobedience and rebellion have dug or worn many ugly trenches in our minds. So we must meditate on the Bible, which expresses the thoughts of God. Meditation is more than reading—it involves thinking about what the words mean and then applying the truth we discover. When we meditate on His Word and depend upon the Spirit’s power to help us put it into practice, our minds undergo the wonderful process of transformation. That is how we obtain “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16).

Second, we must be ready to admit our failures and assume responsibility for them. When we deny our sins, we delay our spiritual growth; but when we confess our failures, the opposite happens—growth becomes inevitable. James tells us, “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16).

The third step naturally follows the second: After confession should come repentance. This is more than acknowledging wrongdoing or promising to try harder. Repentance means that we commit to make an about-face and head in the opposite direction from our sin. Paul taught new converts “that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance” (Acts 26:20).

God’s ultimate goal is for all believers to become more Christlike. That happens only when, through faith, we tap into the power of God. With these steps, we will begin to move in that direction. And soon our relationship with God begins to deepen.

See the Life Principles Index for further study:

  2. Obey God and leave all the consequences to Him.

24. To live the Christian life is to allow Jesus to live His life in and through us.

  1. Our intimacy with God—His highest priority for our lives—determines the impact of our lives.

 

Some believers

never hear

how to grow

in grace.[1]


Spiritual Progress

but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (3:18a)

Instead of falling prey to the schemes of false teachers, Peter encouraged his readers to pursue Christlikeness and spiritual growth—a goal that every believer should have. The apostle Paul gave similar instruction to the Ephesians.

We are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. (Eph. 4:14–16)

Grow (auxanō) means “to advance, or increase in the sphere of.” We are to grow in grace through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Because of His grace, God forgives the sins of His children (Rom. 3:25; Eph. 1:7; 2:5, 8; cf. Acts 15:11). They in turn feed on Scripture (Acts 17:11; 2 Tim. 2:15) and commune with Christ (John 15:1–11), thereby increasing in their knowledge of Him (Eph. 4:13; Col. 1:9–10; 3:10). In his earlier letter, Peter had commented on this very process, exhorting his readers: “Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Peter 2:2). As their knowledge and maturity increase, Christians are better prepared to fend off destructive doctrines and spiritual deceptions.

It is crucial to note that Peter designated Jesus as both Lord and Savior. Pursuing a deeper understanding of the fullness of Christ’s person, both in His saving work and His lordship (Rom. 5:1–5; Eph. 4:15–16; Phil. 2:12–14; 3:10, 12–14), will provide believers with the doctrinal stability they need to avoid being misled.

Continual Praise

To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (3:18b)

Peter closed the letter with a doxology, calling believers to worship and adore God (cf. Pss. 95:1–6; 105:1–5; 113:1–6; 148; 150; Rom. 11:36; 1 Cor. 10:31; 2 Cor. 1:20; Eph. 1:12; 3:20–21; 1 Tim. 1:17; Jude 25). They are to give Him all the glory, both now, in the present, and in eternity.

Clearly the pronoun Him refers back to Christ and is a sure affirmation of His deity and equality with God. After all, the Old Testament declares that divine glory belongs to God alone: “I am the Lord, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to graven images” (Isa. 42:8; cf. 48:11; Deut. 5:24; 28:58; Neh. 9:5; Pss. 93:1–2; 104:31; 138:5; Ezek. 11:23). Yet various places in the Gospels attribute that same glory to Jesus Christ: “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14; cf. Matt. 16:27; 25:31; John 17:24). The only possible conclusion, then, is that Christ is worthy of the Father’s glory because He Himself is God (cf. John 5:23; Rev. 1:5–6). Peter began this epistle with an affirmation of Christ’s deity in 1:1, and he now ends with the same.

Having reassured his readers of the certainty of Christ’s return (in 3:1–10), Peter concluded with an exhortation to live this life in light of that reality (in vv. 11–18). Accordingly, he echoed one of the New Testament’s foremost themes. In the words of the apostle Paul:

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. (Col. 3:1–4)[2]


18. But grow in grace. He also exhorts us to make progress; for it is the only way of persevering, to make continual advances, and not to stand still in the middle of our journey; as though he had said, that they only would be safe who laboured to make progress daily.

The word grace, I take in a general sense, as meaning those spiritual gifts we obtain through Christ. But as we become partakers of these blessings according to the measure of our faith, knowledge is added to grace; as though he had said, that as faith increases, so would follow the increase of grace.

To him be glory. This is a remarkable passage to prove the divinity of Christ; for what is said cannot belong to any but to God alone. The adverb of the present time, now, is designed for this end, that we may not rob Christ of his glory, during our warfare in the world. He then adds, for ever, that we may now form some idea of his eternal kingdom, which will make known to us his full and perfect glory.[3]


18 Fittingly, the antidote to this possibility is repeated in the letter’s concluding statement, just as it had appeared in the greeting (1:2): the readers are to grow in the “grace and knowledge” of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The epistolary conclusion reveals a double inclusio: “making every effort” (1:5//3:14) and “grace and knowledge” of the Lord (1:2//3:18). The letter ends somewhat abruptly and without the customary epistolary features one might expect to find—personal wishes, greetings, instructions, requests, and so forth. The doxology “to him be glory both now and forever!” is ascribed to Christ alone and is thought unusual when contrasted with other NT doxologies.[4]


Be like Jesus (v. 18)

Seductive influences of new and forceful teachers were at work in the congregations and they were destabilizing the faithful, so a growth in grace and knowledge was urged upon them, not to impress the world but to rescue fellow believers from spiritual disaster.

Knowledge of Christ and knowledge about Christ are both, if they keep pace with each other, the safeguard against heresy and apostasy, and the means of growth in grace. The best antidote to error is truth, and Christians must constantly be exposed to the truth, lest error creeps in unawares.

Peter wants his readers to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, taking time in Bible study and in living out their faith. In Galatians 2:9–10, Paul gives a rich example of such growth:

James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews. All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

An interesting point

It is noticeable that in this verse Peter gives his Saviour’s full name and title:

LORD: he is the mighty God, the second person of the Trinity.

JESUS: he is the Saviour. He came to die on a cross, so that through his death we may have life, joy and peace.

CHRIST: he is the promised one, who came as predicted.

In concluding his letter, Peter writes the obvious. But it is so easy to forget the truth about the Saviour when faced with enticing and tantalizing words and theories. Always go back to basics; remember who Jesus is, what his titles and name mean, and error will be kept at bay.

Be ready for Jesus

In the eighteenth century, English preacher John Fletcher drew up lists so that people might examine themselves daily, enabling them to be ready for Jesus.

  • Did I awake spiritual, and did I keep my mind from wandering?
  • Have I got nearer God this day in times of prayer, or have I given way to a lazy idle spirit?
  • Has my faith been weakened or strengthened this day?
  • Have I this day walked by faith?
  • Have I denied myself in all unkind words and thoughts?
  • Have I made the most of my precious time, as far as I was able to?
  • Have I kept my heart pure?
  • What have I done for God’s people?
  • Have I spent money on myself when I might have used it for the cause of God?
  • Have I governed well my tongue this day?
  • In how many instances have I denied myself?
  • Do my life and conversation adorn the gospel of Jesus Christ?

Perhaps we should use this list today.

In closing, Peter uses a wonderful note of praise: ‘To him be glory both now and for ever!’ This is not wishful thinking or a vain hope, but a statement of praise to the Lord and Saviour to whom Peter owed everything. True Christians are not after glory for themselves, but they long to give all the glory to God for who he is and for his marvellous deeds in time and eternity.

Peter’s last word is ‘Amen’, which indicates participation in and commitment to the fulfillment of the word of God, and the encouragement of fellow believers.

Different vehicles

In the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, the vehicles collecting the refuse have the following motto emblazoned on the side of the trucks: ‘From great to greater things.’ For those who feel that their lives are filthy and messed up, having the Lord Jesus as their Saviour means they are given the wonderful gift of God the Holy Spirit to live in them and change them ‘from great to greater things’.

Peter would wish for nothing else for his readers other than that they might experience not only the life of God within, but also the truth of God for all eternity. Amen.[5]


3:18 / But grow—or rather, “Keep on growing”—is Peter’s concluding word to his readers, as he harks back to his opening theme (1:3–8). There must always be constant growth in the believer’s spiritual life, for stagnation spells disintegration. As in the natural world, so in the spiritual sphere, growth is not a matter of a leaf or twig making some strenuous individualistic effort. Growth comes from maintaining a healthy relationship with the parent vine (John 15:1–8). Accordingly, the way to grow spiritually is to maintain a healthy relationship with the source of all spiritual life, God himself through Jesus Christ. The believer will then develop and mature, as surely as sunrise follows the night, by continuously drawing on the free unearned and unearnable grace of Christ, and so increase in the personal knowledge of the Savior (Col. 1:10).

With such a certain and inexhaustible supply of spiritual life to draw upon through the finished and perfect work of Christ, there can be only the response of the glad doxology: To him be glory both now, utterly sufficient for the demands of the present life, and forever (eis hēmeran aiōnos, lit. “unto the eternal day”), i.e., right up to the day of the Lord (3:7, 10, 12) which ushers in eternity.

Amen may well be a later stereotyped addition to the earlier mss. But its appropriateness (“So it is!”) at the close of Peter’s exhortation finds a ready echo in the believer’s heart.[6]


The growing Christian (3:18a)

2 Peter has repeatedly paired the titles of Lord and Saviour (1:11; 2:20; 3:18), and neither has been redundant. Lord has consistently highlighted Jesus Christ’s power to judge our world; Saviour his willingness to rescue us on that day. Peter has also told us that every Christian has a personal knowledge of Christ, and that we have a responsibility to increase our knowledge of him (1:5). Now he tells us to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour. Why?

Peter has used a wide variety of word-pictures to describe the mental attitude of the false teachers. They are wilfully forgetful (1:9), tale-spinners (2:3) who are painfully self-deluded about their spiritual progress (2:19). In a phrase, ‘they deliberately forget’ (3:5). By contrast, Peter sees his role as a permanent teacher of the truth. (1:12; 3:1; 3:8). It is as though he is saying that it is impossible to stand still as a Christian, for we all have an in-built tendency to push Jesus Christ to the back of our minds. The only remedy is to make deliberate, constant and frequent efforts to bring him to the front. Had we been first-century Christians, we might have thought that in two thousand years of Christianity a range of exotic errors would have arisen to entice God’s people. And indeed they have. Much more striking, though (to confirm Peter’s fears), is the fact that those two thousand years have been marked by a struggle to recall what Jesus commanded us to do, without adding anything of our own or subtracting the bits of his teaching we find less acceptable. No matter how long we have been Christians, we cannot rest on years of Sunday School lessons, sermons and quiet times. Every day represents a fresh challenge, when we will be tempted to forget everything we have learned over the years, and trade it in for a novelty item. Peter’s solution is to grow in the grace and knowledge of … Jesus Christ. We need to know more about him, to be sure; but we also grow in that knowledge by obeying him, by treating his promises as genuine promises of the Saviour, and his commands as genuine commands of the Lord.

Peter opened his letter with a prayer for ‘grace and peace’ (1:2), and we can now see how important those two little words are for him, arching from that opening to these closing words. We are to ‘make every effort to be found … at peace with him’ (3:14), and to grow in … grace. In both cases the overwhelming generosity of God is supreme, for peace and grace are ours ‘in abundance’, and we possess them not through our work but through our ‘knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord’ (1:2). But the difference starts now as grace, knowledge and peace become the stuff of our responding obedience, and as we avoid those who deny these central truths, instead holding firmly to them through the battles ahead.

The glorious Christ (3:18b)

Peter ends his letter with one of the highest ascriptions of praise to Jesus Christ that we find in the pages of the New Testament. It is quite breathtakingly daring for the New Testament writers to take what was traditionally allowable only as a way of praising God and to use it as a song to the carpenter friend of Peter. Yet all this has been implicit throughout his letter, where both God and Jesus Christ have been described as ‘Saviour’ or bringing ‘salvation’ (1:1, etc.; 3:15). Both are ‘divine’ (1:3–4), and the coming day involves the advent of both the Father and the Son. Jesus Christ has indeed a ‘majesty’ and a ‘glory’ which he shares with the ‘Majestic Glory’ (1:16–17).

Yet even these wonderful closing phrases only reinforce what Peter has been teaching throughout his letter. The words both now and for ever attempt to translate a difficult phrase, literally, ‘now and for the day of eternity’. How can a day last for ever? Peter has told us, for he urged us to hold on to the prophets’ promises ‘until the day dawns’ (1:19), the ‘day of God’ (3:12), in whose sight ‘a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day’ (3:8). Peter has returned to that fundamental idea from Psalm 90, and shown us one last glorious and extravagant truth: if the thousands of years which separate us from the first coming of Christ are nothing in God’s sight, then the day which sees his return can last for an eternity. Some scholars say that Peter may not have written the last word of this letter, but if that is true, who can blame the unknown scribe who added his awed response in which we can join? Amen.[7]


[1] Stanley, C. F. (2005). The Charles F. Stanley life principles Bible: New King James Version (2 Pe 3:18). Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2005). 2 Peter and Jude (pp. 136–138). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[3] Calvin, J., & Owen, J. (2010). Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles (p. 426). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[4] Charles, D. J. (2006). 2 Peter. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 411). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[5] Anderson, C. (2007). Opening up 2 Peter (pp. 112–115). Leominster: Day One Publications.

[6] Hillyer, N. (2011). 1 and 2 Peter, Jude (pp. 225–226). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[7] Lucas, R. C., & Green, C. (1995). The message of 2 Peter & Jude: the promise of His coming (pp. 156–158). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

02/25/19 Breaking Our Pride — ChuckLawless.com

READING: Leviticus 26-27, Mark 4:21-41

Today I’m reminded that God blesses obedience and judges disobedience. I’m particularly struck by God’s judging His people if they choose not to obey Him. That truth resounds through much of today’s reading, although the reading also reminds us that God is gracious; He will restore His people out of bondage when they repent—He will “remember [His] covenant with Jacob” (Lev. 26:42).

More specifically, these are the words that most grab my attention: “I will break down your strong pride” (Lev. 26:19). The people would live in rebellion and arrogance, but God would bring their pride low when He judged them (particularly, in this case, by drying up the heavens and withholding rain). Pride is such a sly cheat, invading our heart even while we claim not to be prideful. It leads us to think we can set our own rules and live according to our own desires. It causes us to assume that if I get away with sin today, I will get away with it tomorrow. It ignores the possibility of judgment.

And, it nevertheless brings God’s wrath on us. He will do whatever is required to break us of our pride so that He alone gets the glory through our lives.

PRAYER: “God, break me of my pride. Free me from its power.”

TOMORROW’S READING: Numbers 1, Mark 5:1-20

02/25/19 Breaking Our Pride — ChuckLawless.com

The Perseverance of the Saints, Part 1 | Grace to You: Radio Podcast 

Could you do something—commit some horrible sin—that would cause you to forfeit your salvation? Today on “Grace to You,” John MacArthur explains what Scripture promises about the permanence of your salvation.

cdn.gty.org/podcast/20190225.mp3

Victory Sexual Sin (Part 2) — No Compromise Radio Podcast

Today on NoCo, we listen in to the continuation of a 2011 message that Pastor Mike recently preached at Bethlehem Bible Church in West Boylston, MA. Pastor Mike preaches verse-by-verse, so please open up your Bible to 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 and follow along. The Bible is appropriate for every age group. What does God the Creator say about sexual immorality and sexual morality?1 Corinthians 6:12-20: All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be enslaved by anything. Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food-and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, The two will become one flesh. But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. Ways To Overcome Sexual Temptation and Sexual Immorality: Review from last week 1. Rehearse the Gospel. 2. Do not rationalize your sexual sins (or any sin). 3. Read your Bible more-saturate your mind with the Word of God. New this week: 4. View the body properly. You need to study the body properly. Look how many times the word body is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 6: 12-20 : All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be enslaved by anything. Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food-and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, The two will become one flesh. But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. Six reasons in light of this section that you have to think properly about your body so that you can remain pure: 1. Your body is for the Lord (v.13). God gave you a body so that you could worship Him and serve others. He did not give us a body so that we could use it in a sexual immoral and filthy way. The instrument that God gave us to worship Him should be clean and pure. Our body is not ours and thus we cannot be ruled by our hormones. 2.Your body will be raised up one day (v.14). If you struggle with pornography you need a good dose of the Resurrection. Do not defile your body that will be raised up one day. 3. Your body is a member of Christ (v.15-17). Listen in next week for the continuation of this sermon…

Victory Sexual Sin (Part 2) — No Compromise Radio Podcast

Monday February 25 – Warnings of God fulfilled — Reformed Perspective

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. – John 3:36

Scripture reading: 2 Kings 9:1-37

Have you ever had people ask, “How can you know that the Bible is true?” One way to know the truth of the Bible is to look at how the prophecies given in the Bible are fulfilled. It doesn’t matter whether they are prophecies concerning judgment or prophecies regarding deliverance and salvation; we see time and again where the prophecies that have been made are fulfilled, right down to the minutest detail.

In this passage, we see judgment in the deaths of three people, and each death is a fulfillment of prophecy. It wasn’t by chance that Joram, who was a son of Ahab and Jezebel, met Jehu at the plot of ground that belonged to Naboth. Rather, it led to the fulfillment of the prophecy of God’s judgment on the lineage of Ahab (vs.21-26; 1 Kings 21:21).

Ahaziah’s death was also a fulfillment of prophecy, as recorded in 2 Chronicles 22:7. And the same was true for wicked Queen Jezebel. Elijah had prophesied, in 1 Kings 21:23, that at Jezreel, dogs would devour Jezebel’s flesh.

In these deadly judgments, we are reminded, not only of the truth of the Bible but also that God is not mocked; one reaps what is sown (Galatians 6:7-8). And, further, through this passage, we are assured that God’s Word is always fulfilled, both in warnings of judgment (2 Kings 10:10) and in promises of salvation (John 1:11-13).

May you and I take both the warnings and the promises to heart, knowing that both are administered righteously by Christ.

Suggestions for prayer

Thank God that He is a righteous judge who will hold the unrepentant accountable for their actions (2 Thessalonians 1:5-11). And thank Him that He is the faithful Savior of every sinner who repents and turns in saving faith to Him.

This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ted Gray has served as pastor of First United Reformed Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois for the last 15 years.

Monday February 25 – Warnings of God fulfilled — Reformed Perspective

The Excellent Servant of Jesus Christ — Grace to You Blog

Servanthood isn’t typically synonymous with leadership. In the political and secular realms, leaders are generally people who spend their lives being served rather than serving others. The most visible segments of religion seem to reflect the same attitude as well. Popes and prosperity preachers spend their lives surrounded by an entourage of minions waiting upon their every whim.

But that posture is antithetical to the servant-leadership God calls His people to in Scripture. In 1 Timothy 4:6–16 the apostle Paul lists the qualifications of an excellent servant of Jesus Christ. The key phrase appears in verse 6: “You will be a good servant of Christ Jesus.” In a sense, it is the underlying theme of the whole letter, which the apostle Paul wrote to instruct Timothy on how to minister to the church at Ephesus.

The Greek word translated “good” (kalos) could better be translated “noble,” “admirable,” or “excellent.” It was used in 1 Timothy 3:1 to speak of the work of ministry, and now it is used to identify the kind of man to be in ministry.

“Servant” is the translation of diakonos, from which we get the English word deacon. It can also mean “minister” and is used of those who hold the office of deacon in the church, as described in chapter 3. Although Paul did not use the word here in a technical way to designate that office, it implies that anyone who serves in any ministry capacity must see himself as a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The word diakonos is different from the word doulos, which is also often translated “servant.” Whereas doulosusually refers to a slave under subjection, diakonosdenotes a servant who has a higher degree of freedom who yet serves willingly. The word conveys the idea of usefulness and implies that all Christians should seek to be valuable servants of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 4:1–2 Paul says, “Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.” We are called to be servants and stewards, managing that which belongs to God in a way that will bring honor to His name. Paul’s instruction to Timothy is applicable for all who serve the Lord.

In 1 Timothy 4:1–5 Paul talks about doctrines of demons propagated by seducing spirits through lying hypocrites. Having warned Timothy that false teaching isn’t human but demonic, the apostle then tells him how to be a good and effective minister in the face of false doctrine. Yet in instructing Timothy how to deal with heretical teaching, Paul majors on the positive, not on the negative. Rather than encouraging Timothy to develop a defensive ministry of refuting and denouncing error, Paul emphasizes going on the offensive by teaching the Word of God (1 Timothy 4:6, 11, 13, 16). The church leader’s ministry should primarily involve building up the people of God, not exclusively identifying and attacking error.

In verses 6–16 Paul gives eleven characteristics of being an excellent minister of Christ. They are practical and helpful objectives for everyone who desires to serve the Lord by leading His people. And we’ll examine those in the weeks ahead as we consider the defining qualities of a servant leader.

(Adapted from The Master’s Plan for the Church)

The Excellent Servant of Jesus Christ — Grace to You Blog

February 25 For the love of God (Vol. 2)

Exodus 8; Luke 11; Job 25–26; 1 Corinthians 12

 

1 corinthians 12 begins a three-chapter unit on tongues, prophecy, and other “grace gifts” (charismata) and their relation to love, which is the supreme “way” (not a gift) for the Christian. We may at least follow the flow of thought.

First, 1 Corinthians 12:4–6 affirms that there are diversities of gifts but one source. The implicit Trinitarian reference is striking: different gifts, given by the same Spirit; different kinds of service, but the same Lord [Jesus]; different kinds of working, but the same God. This does not mean Paul is parceling these things up absolutely, as if, for instance, the gifts came from the Spirit but not from Jesus and not from God. Rather, this is a preacher’s device for insisting that however diverse the gifts and graces, there is but one source: the triune God.

Second, Paul enlarges upon this principle of unity tying together diversity (12:7–12). The various gifts mentioned—the message of wisdom, the message of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, and so forth—are not only manifestations of the one Spirit, but their primary purpose is the common good (12:7). So both in source and in purpose, they serve unity in their diversity. Moreover, although Paul will shortly say that Christians are to pursue the greater gifts (12:31), here he insists that in the final analysis the Spirit distributes them as he sees fit—which means there should never be pride in having this or that gift, nor covetousness toward another who has a gift you desire.

Third, the theme of the chapter is driven home in an analogy (12:12–20). The body is one, but it is made up of many parts that must function together. The analogy is apt, for Christians were all baptized by Christ in one Spirit (the Spirit here is the medium in which Christians are baptized, not the agent doing the baptizing, who is Christ) into one body, the church. Transparently, all the body parts are needed: it would not do for the body to be nothing but one giant eyeball, for instance. So the diversity and distribution of gifts in the church is to be cherished.

Fourth, it follows further that no part of the body has the right to say to any other part of the body that it is neither wanted nor needed (12:21–27). Indeed, in some ways the least presentable parts of the body should be accorded the highest honor precisely because they otherwise lack it. There ought to be so much empathy among the diverse parts that if one part is honored, all are honored; if one part suffers, all suffer.

Even though the applications to the church are obvious, Paul takes care to spell them out (12:27–31).[1]


[1] Carson, D. A. (1998). For the love of God: a daily companion for discovering the riches of God’s Word. (Vol. 2, p. 25). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

February 25 For the love of God (Vol. 1)

Exodus 8; Luke 11; Job 25–26; 1 Corinthians 12

 

one of the most striking pictures of what might be called a “partial conversion” is found in Luke 11:24–26. Jesus teaches that when an evil spirit comes out of someone, it “goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it”—apparently looking for some new person in whom to take up residence. Then the spirit contemplates returning to its previous abode. A reconnoiter finds the former residence surprisingly vacant. The spirit rounds up seven cronies who are even more vile, “and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first.”

Apparently the man who has been exorcised of the evil spirit never replaced that spirit with anything else. The Holy Spirit did not take up residence in his life; the man simply remained vacant, as it were.

There are three lessons to learn.

First, “partial conversions” are all too common. A person gets partially cleaned up. He or she is drawn close enough to the Gospel and to the people of God that there is some sort of turning away from godlessness, a preliminary infatuation with holiness, an attraction toward righteousness. But like the person represented by rocky soil in the parable of the sower and the soils (8:4–15), this person may initially seem to be the best of the crop, and yet not endure. There has never been the kind of conversion that spells the takeover of an individual by the living God, a reorientation tied to genuine repentance and enduring faith.

The second lesson follows: a little Gospel is a dangerous thing. It gets people to think well of themselves, to sigh with relief that the worst evils have been dissipated, to enjoy a nice sense of belonging. But if a person is not truly justified, regenerated, and transferred from the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of God’s dear Son, the dollop of religion may serve as little more than an inoculation against the real thing.

The third lesson is inferential. This passage is thematically tied to another large strand of Scripture. Evil cannot simply be opposed—that is, it is never enough simply to fight evil, to cast out a demon. Evil must be replaced by good, the evil spirit by the Holy Spirit. We must “overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21). For instance, it is difficult to overcome bitterness against someone by simply resolving to stop being bitter; one must replace bitterness by genuine forgiveness and love for that person. It is difficult to overcome greed by simply resolving not to be quite so materialistic; one must fasten one’s affections on better treasure (cf. Luke 12:13–21) and learn to be wonderfully and self-sacrificially generous. Overcome evil with good.[1]


[1] Carson, D. A. (1998). For the love of God: a daily companion for discovering the riches of God’s Word. (Vol. 1, p. 25). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

Defending Faith in an Anti-Faith Age — CultureWatch

OK, I admit it: my title is actually somewhat inaccurate. You see, it depends on what one means by the word “faith”. If we use the term in a more general sense of a having a commitment, or a mental adherence, or a loyalty to something or someone, then basically everyone has faith.

The atheist, the secular humanist, the conservative, the leftist, the Hindu, the New Ager and the Christian all have faith, so one can argue that we live in an overwhelmingly faith-based culture. Basically, everyone has something they strongly align themselves with or put their hope in.

But I have used the word here in a much narrower sense – in a religious sense. And even there I primarily have the Christian faith in mind, although the Judeo-Christian worldview is also broadly in my sights. If we speak about our culture being anti-Christian, then my title is spot on.

We live in not just a post-Christian culture but an anti-Christian one. All over the West it seems that Christianity – at least the biblical version – is under attack and often in retreat. The attacks on the faith have been relentless over the past century or so. I have documented numerous cases of this on this site, and will continue to do so.

But despite all the various recent moves and claims by secular humanists, the new atheists, and others, the overwhelming majority of mankind both now and throughout history has been religious. Human beings are essentially religious creatures, and the desire to transcend the physical world is an ever-present longing.

Thus the freedom to worship and follow one’s religious convictions is a vital part of any modern democratic society. The mark of a truly democratic and free society is the way in which it allows for such religious freedom. While there are limits here – as with everything – generally speaking, religious freedom is an important and basic human right.

But throughout the West we are witnessing a war on religion. Religious freedom in many areas seems to be shrinking, not expanding. Secular humanism and leftism are a big part of this. They are increasingly turning religious folks – primarily Christians – into second class citizens.

We are seeing more and more restrictions on religious freedom and expression, and much of this is done under the guise of “hate crimes,” “hate speech” and the like. Often to simply stand up for one’s religious convictions will be deemed to be hateful, bigoted and intolerant.

Thus we find an ever-escalating war on so many forms of religious practice and expression, in particular on things like Christian teachers, pastors, bakers, florists, photographers, educators, and so on. Often the assault on these religious freedoms are coming from radical sexual activists who not only are pushing their agenda on the rest of society, but want all who differ to be silenced.

The recent homosexual marriage debate in Australia is a clear case in point. Often the attempts of believers to express their thoughts on this matter in the public arena were shut down, or at least attempts were made to keep their voices from being heard.

Venues were often denied such persons, public meetings were often mobbed by activists who wanted them gone, and various forums for public expression were closed to many. Much worse was when various outspoken Christians were actually taken to court by the militants.

Consider just one case – of many: back in 2015 a transgender Greens political candidate dragged Archbishop of Hobart Julian Porteus before the Anti-Discrimination Commission because the Catholic Church dared to publish and distribute a booklet saying marriage is between a man and a woman. I discussed that case in an article at the time: billmuehlenberg.com/2015/11/13/the-greens-war-on-christianity/

When the heavy hand of the law is dragged in by the activists to silence those of a religious persuasion who happen to have a different view on things, you know we are in a really bad way. Bullying, intimidation and ugly anti-Christian bigotry is sadly now becoming the norm.

A brand-new piece by retired Scottish Presbyterian minister Dr Campbell Campbell-Jack is worth looking at here in this regard. The title is most revealing: “Progressives are the 21st century pagans”. Secular left activists are certainly dragging the Christian West back into paganism.

He writes: “Progressives would mostly deny it but they are today’s pagans. Today’s culture war against Christianity marks the return of a pagan religious conception and worldview.” This new paganism is really just a repeat of the old paganism. What the early Christians had to deal with 2000 years ago is happening once again, and we are simply seeing history repeat itself. He writes:

Today’s ‘tolerant’ progressives cannot tolerate the existence of Christianity for the same reason their pagan predecessors couldn’t tolerate Christianity in the Roman Empire. What made Christians so threatening to the pagan Romans? Christians tended to live law-abiding, peaceful lives, intent on raising their families and getting on with their work. They were honest, sober citizens who were prepared to submit to the authority of non-Christian rulers. Yet they met with sometimes deadly hostility.

The pagans saw that Christians in the Roman Empire were, as we are today, radicals. Their willingness to comply with the law came to an abrupt end when it came to accepting pagan deities. Pagans were flexible about incorporating newly encountered gods and mythologies into one multi-cultural mosaic. However, when it came to theology and morals Christians were unyielding. They insisted on the exclusive divine sovereignty of their own God. Christian morality seemed bizarrely demanding to the free-wheeling, anything-goes Romans, but the Christians insisted on biblical standards.
http://www.conservativewoman.co.uk/progressives-are-the-21st-century-pagans/

We now have a major war going on against faith, and so very much is at stake, just as it was at the very beginning of the Christian church. Now more than ever we must contend for religious freedom. Of course to offer such concerns and make such calls is not to suggest that all religions and religious beliefs are the same or share some sort of moral equivalence.

Some religions, or at least aspects of them, can in fact be incompatible with freedom, pluralism and democracy. For example, religious practices such as honour-killings or polygamy obviously run counter to the values of Western democracies and thus must be countered.

But generally speaking the free society extends as much latitude as possible to various religious traditions and customs. Yes, the balancing act can be difficult to achieve, but it is vital that we try. And none of this has to do with some vague separation of church and state. I have dealt with the faulty views on that elsewhere, eg: billmuehlenberg.com/2006/10/20/separation-of-church-and-state/

This discussion is about the right of religious individuals to freely share their values and points of view in public. Indeed, it can be argued that everyone is religious in a sense, with some overarching set of values and commitments. The US Supreme Court even once ruled that secular humanism is a type of religion.

And with the great majority of Australians still claiming to be religious, a genuine democracy will give them as much freedom to speak and worship as it will to those with no clear religious beliefs. The attempt to shut down religious discussion and crack down on religious practices and values is very worrying indeed.

There are many of us who will continue to fight for the right of religious freedom. As mentioned, there can be some limitations here, but the general principle of freedom of religious speech, conscience and worship must be upheld and fought for. The old saying certainly applies here: ‘the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.’

When forces are at work to curtail religious freedom, then we must resolve to stand strongly for the right of religious people to coexist in society, even in an increasingly secular society. As with free speech in general, freedom of religion means that some people might be offended by what another person says or does.

But that is how a democracy seeks to function. Banning everything that offends – in this case, religious beliefs and concerns – is not how we save a democracy but how we destroy it. As George Orwell once put it, “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

If certain people are offended when a Christian or a Jew for example publicly defends their faith tradition on things like marriage and family, they have to learn to live with it. Seeking to shut down and censoring such speech and beliefs puts us on the road to the end of democracy and freedom.

I for one will continue to stand and fight against this new paganism and it wars against faith. Who will join me?

Defending Faith in an Anti-Faith Age — CultureWatch

Celebrities Attending Most Secure Event Of The Year Condemn Borders, Walls — The Babylon Bee

HOLLYWOOD, CA—At the 91st Academy Awards this evening, elite celebrities flanked by bodyguards, security, metal detectors, and physical barriers like walls and fences banded together to condemn borders and walls.

The celebrities made direct attacks on the concept of a wall as a means to provide security and protection, all while surrounded by high-tech security which included surveillance, armed personnel, and curious obstructions known as “walls” that prevent “just any old non-millionaire person” from walking in and disrupting the event.

At publishing time, they had all gone to exclusive after-parties at multi-million-dollar mansions surrounded by towering brick walls.

via Celebrities Attending Most Secure Event Of The Year Condemn Borders, Walls — The Babylon Bee

Nation’s Wealthy, Privileged Gather To Lecture Nation On Evils Of Wealth, Privilege — The Babylon Bee

HOLLYWOOD, CA—According to sources at the 91st annual Academy Awards ceremony this evening, the nation’s wealthy, privileged elite gathered to lecture the nation on the horrendous evils of wealth and privilege.

The wealthiest 0.00001% of the nation arrived at the exclusive, walled-off, high-security event in limos and luxury cars driven by servants in order to spend a few hours telling the nation’s poor and middle-class citizens how they need to throw off the yoke of oppression put on them by the wealthy elite.

“It’s the white, privileged, wealth hoarders that are ruining America,” said one white, privileged man whose net worth is estimated at $160 million. “All you people in the cheap seats at home: you need to do better.”

“America is just a terrible nation with no opportunity,” said one woman who made $100 million wearing costumes and reading words someone else wrote off a page. “We must stop the 1% from hoarding all the wealth.” Upon being informed she was well within the 1%, she clarified that it was actually the 0.000001% who are the problem.

Unfortunately, it looks like the event will proceed as planned next year as well.

via Nation’s Wealthy, Privileged Gather To Lecture Nation On Evils Of Wealth, Privilege — The Babylon Bee

Trey Gowdy Discusses Adam Schiff and The Vast Russian Conspiracy… — The Last Refuge

 

Former representative Trey Gowdy appears with Maria Bartiromo to discuss the evolution of Adam Schiff’s vast Russian conspiracy narrative amid a pending Mueller report.

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The second part of the interview is below:

Fox didn’t release the second part of the interview but you can watch below at 31:30 [Prompted, just hit play]

everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face” ~ Mike Tyson

Trey Gowdy Discusses Adam Schiff and The Vast Russian Conspiracy… — The Last Refuge

Christians’ sin problem and its mortification part 3

Possessing the Treasure

by Mike Ratliff

1 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. 6 For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, Colossians 3:1-6 (NASB) 

I find it appalling that our version of the church in the early 21st Century has so neglected Discipleship that Christians across the board are clueless about…

View original post 1,899 more words

February 24 Facing Your Fears

Scripture reading: Psalm 124

Key verse: Isaiah 41:10

Fear not, for I am with you;

Be not dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you,

Yes, I will help you,

I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.

In her book, Tame Your Fears, Carol Kent isolates and defines five forms of fear that can paralyze an individual: (1) the fear of things that haven’t happened yet, (2) the fear of being vulnerable, (3) the fear of abandonment, (4) the fear of truth, and (5) the fear of making wrong choices. She writes,

Identifying our fears and admitting we have a problem is only the beginning … The first step in finding a solution is to acknowledge that there are times when we question our faith and struggle with fear …

Fear becomes “comfortable” because it’s familiar. We’re used to feeling like powerless subjects in the fear monster’s kingdom. Instead of taming the monster and enjoying our lives, we allow ourselves to die slowly by many of the following prescriptions: denial, addictions, withdrawal, control, shame, and self-hatred …

Facing our fear head-on can feel intensely risky. But it can be a stepping stone to humble faith, renewed confidence, appropriate power and courage, and trusting reverence toward a sovereign, powerful, and loving God. “Perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). It’s in the Bible. And it’s true.

When fear attacks, claim your position as God’s child and accept His victory. He has overcome the disabling power of fear, and this is your greatest asset: His power living in you.

Dear Lord, help me to face my fears head-on in Your name. Let Your power be manifested in and through me.[1]


[1] Stanley, C. F. (2002). Seeking His face (p. 57). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

February 24, 2019 Evening Verse Of The Day

The Man and His Message

(James 1:1)

James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings. (1:1)

Counterfeiting is a major problem in our society. Forged money, credit cards, jewelry, works of art, and virtually everything else of value are passed off as genuine to deceive the unwary. Consequently, valuable commodities must be carefully examined to determine their genuineness.

That is also true of the most valuable commodity of all—saving faith. A right relationship to the living, holy God of the universe with the promise of eternal heaven is incomparably priceless. Those who think they have it should carefully examine and test it to determine its validity. To be deceived by counterfeit money or a counterfeit work of art results only in temporal loss; to be deceived by a counterfeit faith results in eternal tragedy.

The master counterfeiter of saving faith is Satan. Disguising themselves as “angels of light” (2 Cor. 11:14–15), he and his servants deceive the unwary through false systems of religion, including false forms of Christianity. Thinking they are on the narrow path leading to heaven, those who are trapped in counterfeit religion, or who simply trust in their personal concept of salvation, are actually on the way to eternal damnation.

That deception extends to those within biblical Christianity who are deluded about their salvation.

To be deceived about one’s relationship to God is the most dangerous and frightening delusion possible. Near the end of the Sermon on the Mount our Lord graphically portrayed that tragedy:

Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.” (Matt 7:21–23)

Because of the ever-present danger of counterfeit faith, God’s Word continually calls for professed salvation to be tested for validity. In Psalm 17:3 David declared the results of God’s testing his faith: “You have tried my heart; You have visited me by night; You have tested me and You find nothing.” In Psalm 26:1–2 he pleaded, “Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering. Examine me, O Lord, and try me; test my mind and my heart.” He echoed that plea in the familiar words of Psalm 139: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way” (vv. 23–24). Amid the chaos and desolation following the destruction of Jerusalem, Jeremiah cried out to his fellow Israelites, “Let us examine and probe our ways, and let us return to the Lord” (Lam. 3:40).

Through Ezekiel, the Lord says of the genuinely repentant man: “Because he considered and turned away from all his transgressions which he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die” (Ezek. 18:28; cf. Ps. 119:59). Through the prophet Haggai, the Lord exhorted His people, “Consider your ways!” (Hag. 1:5, 7).

The New Testament also repeatedly stresses the necessity of testing faith. John the Baptist challenged the religious leaders of his day to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matt. 3:8). Describing his ministry to King Agrippa, Paul related how he “kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance” (Acts 26:20). He admonished the Galatians, “Each one must examine his own work” (Gal. 6:4), and the Corinthians, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?” (2 Cor. 13:5).

The intended and inevitable result of saving faith is a life of good works, and it was for that very purpose that Christ redeemed the church. After declaring that salvation is by grace alone, the apostle Paul reminds believers that “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Eph. 2:8–10). “For the grace of God has appeared,” Paul wrote to Titus, “bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:11–12; cf. v. 14). The writer of Hebrews warned his readers: “Let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it” (Heb. 4:1; cf. 12:15). The fearful possibility of missing out on salvation calls for stringent self-examination. When the writer of Hebrews illustrated the essence of saving faith, he described the courageous obedience of Old Testament believers who demonstrated their salvation in lives of loyalty and faithfulness to God (11:1–39).

The first epistle of John mentions many marks of genuine faith. It must go beyond mere verbal profession (1:6–10; 2:4, 9) and must include obedience to God (2:3, 5–6; 3:24; 5:2–3). The redeemed are marked by not loving the world (2:15), by living a righteous life (2:29), by forsaking and avoiding sin (3:6, 9), and by loving fellow believers (3:14; 4:7, 11).

But no passage of Scripture more clearly presents the tests of true and living faith than the Sermon on the Mount. Here Jesus sets forth an extensive series of tests aimed at showing self-righteous Jews—typified by the proud, boastful, self-satisfied scribes and Pharisees (see 5:20)—how far short of genuine salvation they fell. By so doing, He unmasked their false religion, hypocrisy, and counterfeit salvation.

The sermon begins with the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3–12), which delineate the attitudes that are to accompany genuine saving faith. Those attitudes include meekness, mercy, joy in persecution, humility, a sense of sinfulness, and a deep longing for righteousness.

The next section (5:13–16) reveals the outworking of Beatitude virtues in the lives of the truly redeemed, who are as “salt and light” in the evil, dark, fallen world. Instead of being an influence for evil, they influence the world with God-given righteousness.

True salvation will be marked by genuine commitment to the Word of God (5:17–20), by external righteous behavior that stems from internal righteousness of the heart (5:21–48), by proper worship (6:1–18), by a correct view of money and material possessions (6:19–34), and by right personal relationships (7:1–12).

Jesus concludes the sermon by describing two paths to eternal destiny—the broad one that leads to damnation, and the narrow one that leads to life, which he exhorted His hearers to enter (7:13). He warned them to avoid false prophets, who sought to divert them onto the broad path that leads to destruction (vv. 15–20), and described the frightening consequences of empty profession in light of certain coming judgment (vv. 21–27).

It seems clear that James was profoundly influenced by the Sermon on the Mount—the truths of which he doubtless heard in person from Jesus, either on that occasion or others—and many of its themes have parallels in his epistle. In fact, the book of James may well be viewed as a practical commentary on that sermon. Like His Lord before him, James presents a series of tests by which the genuineness of salvation can be determined.

His Biography

The first verse of this epistle introduces us to the human author, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. As explained in the Introduction, the James who penned this epistle was the half brother of the Lord. Contrary to Roman Catholic dogma, Joseph and Mary had other children after Jesus was born. That truth is implied in Matthew’s statement that Joseph kept Mary a virgin until the birth of Jesus (Matt. 1:25) and is explicit in Luke’s description of Jesus as Mary’s firstborn son (Luke 2:7, emphasis added). Those children were His half brothers and half sisters (cf. Matt. 12:46–47; Mark 3:31–35; Luke 8:19–21; John 2:12). Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3 list Jesus’ half brothers as James, Joseph (Joses), Simon, and Judas. Paul explicitly calls James “the Lord’s brother” (Gal. 1:19). Mark also refers to Jesus’ half sisters, although not by name. That both Matthew and Mark list James first implies that he was the eldest of Jesus’ half brothers.

Surprisingly, although they grew up with Him and observed firsthand His sinless, perfect life, Jesus’ brothers did not at first believe in Him. John records their unbelief exhibited by challenging Jesus to reveal Himself openly:

Now the feast of the Jews, the Feast of Booths, was near. Therefore His brothers said to Him, “Leave here and go into Judea, so that Your disciples also may see Your works which You are doing. For no one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.” For not even His brothers were believing in Him. (John 7:2–5)

Their unbelief bore sad testimony to the truth of Jesus’ declaration that “a prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household” (Mark 6:4). So strong was His brothers’ unbelief that they even thought Jesus had taken leave of His senses (Mark 3:21). (It is worth noting that His brothers’ unbelief disproves the apocryphal accounts of Jesus’ alleged childhood miracles—as does the direct statement of John 2:11 that changing the water into wine at Cana was the “beginning of His signs,” emphasis added.) Their unbelief apparently lasted throughout Jesus’ earthly life and ministry.

But by the time those who believed in Him gathered in Jerusalem after His resurrection, something remarkable had happened. Acts 1:13 notes that the apostles were there, and verse 14 adds: “These all [the apostles] with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers” (emphasis added). What happened to change His skeptical, unbelieving brothers into devoted followers? Paul gives the answer in 1 Corinthians 15:7, noting that after Jesus’ resurrection, “He appeared to James.” Doubtless as a result of that personal, post-resurrection appearance, James came to saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The church was born on the Day of Pentecost and James, although not an apostle, soon became one of its key leaders. When Paul visited Jerusalem, he discovered that James, as well as Peter and John, were pillars of the church there (Gal. 2:9–12). Because the apostles were frequently away preaching the gospel, James eventually became the preeminent leader of the Jerusalem church. To borrow a contemporary term, he was its senior pastor. Following his miraculous release from Herod’s jail, Peter ordered the astounded believers to “report these things to James and the brethren” (Acts 12:17), clearly indicating that James had become the one to whom important news was to be first reported.

James presided over the pivotal Jerusalem Council (Acts 15), which had been convened to decide the momentous question of whether salvation required obedience to the Mosaic Law or was by grace alone working through faith. After much debate, Peter, Paul, and Barnabas reported God’s gracious salvation of Gentiles through their ministries (vv. 6–12). James then reinforced Peter’s point, handed down the council’s decision (vv. 12–21), and most likely composed the resulting letter to Gentile believers (vv. 23–29). Many years later, when Paul returned to Jerusalem at the end of his third missionary journey, James again appears in the presiding role. Luke reports that “after we arrived in Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. And the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present” (Acts 21:17–18). The plurality of elders did not negate James’s primary leadership role, as equality of apostolic office did not negate Peter’s leadership of the Twelve.

Also known as James the Just because of his righteous life, he was martyred about a.d. 62, according to Josephus.

His Character

a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, (1:1b)

In spite of his prominence, what stands out in the first verse of his epistle is James’s humility. He does not describe himself as Mary’s son and the Lord’s brother, refer to his position as head of the Jerusalem church, or mention that the resurrected Christ personally appeared to him. Instead, he describes himself simply as a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. Doulos (bond-servant) depicts a slave, a person deprived of all personal freedom and totally under the control of his master. Absolute obedience and loyalty to his master (who provided him with food, clothing, and housing) was required of every doulos. In contrast to the andrapodon, who was made a slave, the doulos was born a slave. James had become a doulos by his new birth through faith in Jesus Christ.

To be a doulos of God was considered a great honor in Jewish culture. Such Old Testament luminaries as Abraham (Gen. 26:24), Isaac (Gen. 24:14), Jacob (Ezek. 28:25), Job (Job 1:8), Moses (Ex. 14:31), Joshua (Josh. 24:29), Caleb (Num. 14:24), David (2 Sam. 3:18), Isaiah (Isa. 20:3), and Daniel (Dan. 6:20) are described as God’s servants. In the New Testament, Epaphras (Col. 4:12), Timothy (Phil. 1:1), Paul (Rom. 1:1), Peter (2 Pet. 1:1), Jude (Jude 1), John (Rev. 1:1), and our Lord Himself (Acts 3:13) all bore the title of doulos. By taking that title, James numbered himself with those honored not for who they were, but whom they served—the living God.

His Ministry

to the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings. (1:1c)

In addition to his vital leadership role in the Jerusalem church, James also had a wider ministry. The term twelve tribes was a title commonly used in the New Testament to refer to the nation of Israel (cf. Matt. 19:28; Acts 26:7; Rev. 21:12). Although the twelve tribes split into two nations (Israel, the northern kingdom, and Judah, the southern kingdom), God’s chosen people always consisted of the Jews from all twelve tribes, which one day God will sovereignly reunite (Ezek. 37:15–22). When the kingdom split after Solomon’s reign, ten tribes made up the northern kingdom of Israel, and Benjamin and Judah formed the southern kingdom of Judah. After the fall and deportation of Israel to Assyria (722 b.c.), some of the remnant of the ten tribes moved south, thus preserving the twelve tribes in Judah’s land. Although tribal identity could not be established with certainty after Judah was conquered and Jerusalem and temple records were destroyed by Babylon (586 b.c.), God will restore the nation and delineate each person’s tribal identity in the future (Isa. 11:12–13; Jer. 3:18; 50:19; Ezek. 37; Rev. 7:5–8).

James was therefore addressing all Jews who [were] dispersed abroad, regardless of their tribal origins. In this context, abroad refers to any place in the world outside of Palestine. Over the previous several hundred years, various conquerors (including the Romans in 63 b.c.) had deported Jews from their homeland and spread them throughout the known world. In addition, many other Jews had voluntarily moved to other countries for business or other reasons (cf. Acts 2:5–11). By New Testament times, many Jews lived abroad. The Greek word diaspora (“scattering”) became a technical term to identify Jews living outside Palestine (cf. 1 Pet. 1:1).

From the message of the letter itself, as well as from James’s frequent addressing of his readers as brothers, it is clear that he is writing to Jewish Christians. It is likely that most of those believers were converted in or near Jerusalem and may have once been under James’s pastoral care to some degree. James’s primary audience were those Jews who had fled because of persecution and were still suffering trials because of their faith (1:2). To give them confidence, hope, and strength to endure those trials, James gave them a series of tests (see the Introduction) by which they could determine the genuineness of their faith.

His Greeting

Greetings. (1:1d)

Chairein (greetings) means “rejoice,” or “be glad,” and was a common secular greeting. But to James the word was no mere formality; he expected what he wrote to gladden his readers’ hearts by giving them means to verify the genuineness of their salvation. That, James knew, would provide great comfort to them in their trials, which Satan persistently uses to try to make Christians doubt they are indeed God’s children and fellow heirs with Jesus Christ.[1]


Introduction to James

James 1:1

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. (James 1:1)

For many believers, James is a beloved book. Eminently practical, it is full of vivid exhortations to godly living. In short compass it offers concrete counsel on an array of issues that confront Christians every day: trials, poverty and riches, favoritism, social justice, the tongue, worldliness, boasting, planning, prayer, illness, and more.

Yet James’s candor and clarity are a two-edged sword. “Its call to realize professed ideals in appropriate action has spoken with prophetic urgency to generations of readers who have found James’ directives difficult to perform rather than to understand.”

Assessing Failure and Faith

James, like the Sermon on the Mount, is sublime and penetrating—almost too penetrating. Its piercing assessment of our failures proves we cannot achieve holiness by our striving. James stirs us to action, but as it reveals our sins, we doubt our ability to do what the writer commands. Yet James often declares that obedience is a hallmark of living faith: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (1:22).

James demands an obedience that honest readers know they cannot render. Therefore, while the individual sentences and paragraphs of James are clear, we struggle to resolve the tension between the stringency of James’s demands and our inability to attain them. If this were Paul, he would turn our attention to redemption and justification. But James never mentions the cross or the atonement, the death or the resurrection of Christ. He never uses the gospel vocabulary of justification by faith, redemption, or reconciliation. Indeed, the absence of these elements prompts observers to wonder where Jesus and redemption are found in this letter. James does use Jesus’ name twice, in 1:1 and 2:1, but on both occasions it is a passing reference rather than an exposition of his life and redemption. Similarly, while the term “faith” appears fourteen times in James, eleven of them occur in 2:14–26, a discussion that stresses that faith without deeds is dead (2:17, 26). If we want to hear the gospel of James, we must consider who James was.

The Life of James

James simply calls himself “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,” but several lines of evidence indicate that he is the half-brother of Jesus, the natural son of both Mary and Joseph. When the author calls himself James without further identification, it implies that his audience knows him and his credentials well enough.

There are three men named James in the New Testament: two apostles and the brother of Jesus. Of the apostles, James of the trio Peter, James, and John suffered martyrdom at the beginning of the Christian era. The second apostolic James is the son of Alphaeus. He is nearly a cipher in the Gospels, and we know nothing of him after the resurrection. So we doubt that he is our James.

The process of elimination leads us to think that the author is the brother of Jesus. But there is more. First, both the book of Acts and early Christian historians say Jesus’ brother became a leader of the Jerusalem church. He is prominent at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15). His speech there and the subsequent letter, both in Acts 15, contain a number of distinctive phrases that also appear in James’s epistle. James the church leader and James the epistle writer also share a passion for the law of Moses (Acts 15:21; James 2:8–11) and for peacemaking (Acts 15:28–29; James 3:17–18).

It is doubtful that James believed in or even respected Jesus in the early phases of his ministry. If, in Genesis 37, Joseph’s brothers struggled with his sense that he was destined for greatness, imagine the difficulty of being Jesus’ younger brother. The Gospels hint at familial tension. For example, the first time John’s gospel mentions Jesus’ siblings, they mock him. The Feast of Tabernacles was approaching, and his brothers said: “You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” John adds, “For even his own brothers did not believe in him” (John 7:3–5). On another occasion, Jesus’ family became alarmed when his ministry began to attract unruly crowds and to rouse opposition from the Pharisees. When they heard about it, Mark says, “They went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind’ ” (Mark 3:20–22). Later, Jesus’ family showed scant respect for his work when they arrived during a teaching session and acted as if they had the right to interrupt him (Matt. 12:46–50). Finally, when the gospels name those who stayed with Jesus at the cross, they list Mary his mother, but not his brothers (Mark 15:40; John 19:25).

It is impossible to determine when James came to faith. But Jesus, after his resurrection, graciously appeared to James, either to instill or to seal his faith (1 Cor. 15:3–8). After that, James rapidly became a pillar of the Jerusalem church. In Acts 15, when the church convened its first great council in Jerusalem, Peter and Paul described the terms and the progress of the gospel among the Gentiles. Both apostles preached that salvation came to Gentiles by faith alone, apart from works, apart from the laws about food and circumcision that established Jewish identity (Acts 10:34–11:18). Although some initially disagreed, the council established that Jew and Gentile are both saved “through the grace of our Lord Jesus” (15:11). At the council, James gave the concluding speech:

Brothers, listen to me. Simon has described to us how God at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself. The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:

“After this I will return

and rebuild David’s fallen tent.

Its ruins I will rebuild,

and I will restore it,

that the remnant of men may seek the Lord,

and all the Gentiles who bear my name,

says the Lord, who does these things.” (Acts 15:13–17)

In the early church, James acquired the title “James the Just” because of his personal righteousness and his passion to promote righteousness in others. We see the same passion in James’s epistle. He calls the law “the perfect law that gives freedom” (James 1:25) and “the royal law” (2:8). But the letter never asks readers to keep the laws regarding food, circumcision, and Sabbath that marked the Jews as an ethnic group. At the Jerusalem Council, James did urge adherence to some aspects of distinctively Jewish law (Acts 21:19–21), but it seems that his goal was peaceful relations in early church life as Jew and Gentile learned to live together as the family of God. At any rate, his letter never requires obedience to laws about circumcision or food. Thus James subordinated his passion for the law to his greater passion for the gospel. He had a zeal for legal righteousness, but greater zeal for the grace of God.

The Gospel according to James

With 59 commands in 108 verses, the epistle of James has an obvious zeal for law. In his imperatives, James directly communicates the royal law, the law of King Jesus (2:8). But the hasty reader will not see much of the gospel in James. If James is merely a series of commands, its moral clarity is a burden, and its limpid commands only condemn. While James does lack familiar formulations of the gospel, his insistence on obedience is unmistakable. He says good deeds mark true religion:

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. (1:27)

Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. (2:10)

Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins. (4:17)

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. (1:22)

Similarly, James expects teachers to do what they know and say: “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly” (3:1).

This call to obey or to face judgment is all the more stringent since James insists that everyone fails to do what the law requires. James says we must control the tongue (1:26), yet he says no man can tame the tongue (3:8). He says we must avoid the pollution of the world (1:27), yet he says our envy and our quarrels prove we are worldly (4:1–4).

These paradoxes lead to the gospel of James. He says that all are liable to judgment, but “mercy triumphs over judgment” (2:13), for “the Lord is full of compassion and mercy” (5:11). If we see our sins and confess them, we will be healed (5:16). Further, whoever sees the sins of another and “turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins” (5:20). As I will argue in later chapters, the climax of James occurs in 4:6. James completes his indictment of human sin in 4:5, then says: “But [God] gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ ” The double mention of God’s grace at the rhetorical climax of the book shows that the gospel of James is the message of God’s grace for sinners.

James’s emphasis on the word of God supplements this idea. Because the word convicts us of sin, James can say that God “chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created” (1:18). He says his readers should “humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you” (1:21) because the word brings the message of grace.

The Voice of James

Vital as it is that we grasp the gospel of James, we also profit by hearing the distinctive voice of James. An observant Christian comparing Romans, Hebrews, and James will notice stylistic differences between James and the other epistles. For example, James neither opens nor closes with formal greetings. He makes no reference to personally shared history. Unlike Paul, James claims no authority or rank. Unlike Paul and Hebrews, James has little theological argumentation. Indeed, James can sound more like a prophet or wise man than like Paul.

James as a Book of Wisdom

Job, Ecclesiastes, and Proverbs are called “wisdom literature.” These books observe who is and who is not skilled in the art of living. Wisdom has been defined as “the discipline of applying truth to one’s life in the light of experience.” It is “the knowledge of God’s world and a knack of fitting oneself into it.”6 Wise animals know how to live well (Prov. 30:24–28). English translations vary, but the Hebrew Bible calls skilled people “wise” whether they are artisans (Ex. 31:3–6; 35:35; 1 Kings 7:14; Jer. 10:9), boatmen (Ezek. 27:8), or politicians (2 Sam. 13:3).

James resembles wisdom books in important ways. James and Solomon agree that wisdom is a gift we rightly seek from God (1 Kings 3:7–12; James 1:5–8). They also agree that we can work for wisdom. Wisdom involves both meditation on Scripture and observation of the world. This is why wisdom often says, “I have seen” (Job 5:3; Eccl. 1:14; 3:10; 5:13; 6:1; 9:11; 10:5, 7; “… observed,” Job 4:8), or “Do you see?” (Prov. 22:29; 26:12; 29:20). Wisdom observes the blessings of obedience and the price of disobedience. James does the same. Building on biblical themes (James 2:8; 2:23; 4:5–6), James applies them to a stream of observations of daily life. He detects the way we snub the poor (2:1–4), the way we content ourselves with pious blather (2:14–17), the way our tongues run out of control (3:9–10), the way selfish desires lead to quarrels (4:1–4). There are also verbal parallels between James and Proverbs.

James

 

Proverbs

 

The one who is rich … will pass away like a wild flower. For the sunrises with scorching heat and withers the plant.… In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business. (1:10–11)

 

Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf. (11:28)

 

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. (1:19–20)

 

A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly. (14:29)

 

 

 

A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms aquarrel. (15:18)

 

My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. (2:1)

 

It is not good to be partial to the wicked or to deprive the innocent of justice. (18:5)

 

We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check. (3:2)

 

When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise. (10:19)

 

If James adopts elements of the style of wisdom, he also shares its interests: the roles of testing and discipline in creating wisdom, the power and the perversions of speech, the lure and emptiness of wealth, and the contrast between righteousness and wickedness.

James as Prophetic Literature

The book of James is not essentially prophecy. But when James begins to denounce sin, he can sound like a prophet of old. He warns that God’s judgment will shorten the life of the rich and lawless (James 1:11; 5:5). To rich oppressors, James says:

Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you.… Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you (5:1, 4–6).

This sounds a great deal like the prophets Isaiah and Amos.

Woe to you who add house to house

and join field to field

till no space is left

and you live alone in the land.

The Lord Almighty has declared in my hearing:

“Surely the great houses will become desolate,

the fine mansions left without occupants.” (Isa. 5:8–9)

You trample on the poor

and force him to give you grain.

Therefore, though you have built stone mansions,

you will not live in them;

though you have planted lush vineyards,

you will not drink their wine.…

You oppress the righteous and take bribes

and you deprive the poor of justice in the courts.

(Amos 5:11–12; cf. Mic. 2:1–3)

James as Meditation on the Teachings of Jesus

James immersed himself in the teachings of Jesus, especially the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5–7). Though James never quotes Jesus, he constantly alludes to his words and applies them afresh. James expresses the same themes in much the same language as Jesus. Consider these parallels:

  • Love of neighbor is a great command (James 2:8 and Matt. 22:39).
  • Self-exaltation leads to humiliation (James 4:6–10 and Matt. 23:12; cf. Luke 14:11; 18:9).
  • Take no oaths (James 5:12 and Matt. 5:33–37).
  • Do not judge (James 4:11–12 and Matt. 7:1–5).
  • Moth and rust destroy riches (James 5:2 and Matt. 6:19).
  • The Lord is coming; he is at the door (James 5:8–9 and Matt. 24:33).

As James meditates on Jesus’ teaching, he also expresses similar themes in different language:

  • Believers must rejoice in trials (James 1:2 and Matt. 5:11–12).
  • The goal of the righteous is maturity (James 1:4 and Matt. 5:48).
  • We ask God for good gifts (James 1:5 and Matt. 7:7).
  • We are doers, not just hearers, of the word (James 1:22 and Matt. 7:24–27).
  • Disciples must keep the whole law (James 2:10 and Matt. 5:19).
  • We act upon our profession of faith (James 2:14–26 and Matt. 7:21–23).
  • We are accountable for every word (James 3:2 and Matt. 12:36–37).
  • Peacemakers are blessed (James 3:17–18 and Matt. 5:9).
  • We cannot serve two friends or masters (James 4:4 and Matt. 6:24).

The Audience of James

At first glance, it seems that James is writing to Jews. After all, to translate literally, James addresses his epistle “to the twelve tribes in the Dispersion” (1:1 esv). The twelve tribes traditionally represent Israel, and the dispersion signifies the Jews scattered throughout the pagan world. But there are reasons to think James is writing for Jewish Christians, not Jews in general. First, James is a church leader. Second, Paul and Peter established that the church is the true heir of God’s promises to the tribes of Israel. Third, “dispersion” can serve as a metaphor to indicate that believers are never fully at home in this world (1 Peter 1:1, 17; 2:11; 1 Peter is also addressed to “the dispersion,” but it is clear that his readers are mostly Gentiles). So there is reason to believe that James, like other New Testament writers, envisions a wide audience.

Wherever his audience lives, James assumes they are familiar with life in Israel, for he often describes life from the perspective of a commoner in the towns of Judea or Galilee. For example, he mentions two rainy seasons, one early, one late; two rainy seasons are a distinct trait of the weather of Israel and the eastern Mediterranean. James also calls his meeting place a synagogue (2:2), he assumes that his audience takes pride in its monotheism, and he prods them to live their faith rather than resting in doctrinal rectitude (2:19ff.)

The Pastoral Spirit of James

Scholars address an array of additional themes when they introduce James. These include the structure, the canonicity, and the literary style of James, along with the date of its composition. Interested readers can consult standard introductions to the New Testament for these topics. I especially recommend Luke Johnson’s analysis of the style and structure of James and Doug Moo’s analysis of its authorship and theology.13

Among such topics we may linger over one, the sermonic tone of James. James is a letter; it urges Christians to put their knowledge into practice by living out their professed devotion to Jesus. But James has the rhetorical texture of a sermon. We see that in James’s use of direct address. He often calls his readers “my brothers” (e.g., 1:2; 2:1; 3:12; 5:12) or “my dear brothers” (e.g., 1:16; 2:5). Yet he can also address his audience as “you adulterous people” (4:4) or “you rich” (5:1).

James constantly engages his readers with rhetorical questions, sometimes in rapid sequences (2:4–7; 2:14–21; 3:11–13; 4:1–5; 4:12–14). James raises and answers objections that he supposes his readers may have (1:13; 2:18; 4:13–14; 5:13–14). An imaginary figure speaks on four occasions, to articulate a godless perspective toward poverty (2:3) or the needy (2:16) or business plans (4:13), or to object to James’s teaching (2:18). The use of imaginary objectors implies that James thinks his audience could be more receptive to his message. He shows a godly impatience with the church on occasion, as he charges them, “Do not be deceived” (1:16 esv), or “Come now” (4:3; 5:1 esv). Elsewhere he questions them, “Do you want evidence?” (2:20 niv), or “Do you not know?” (4:4 esv).

James also engages his people with abundant illustrations, using horses, springs of water, boats, fire, mirrors, farm work, flowers, mist, travel, and Old Testament heroes. He creates an array of vivid images: desire becomes pregnant and gives birth to sin (1:15); demons believe and shudder (2:18); the rich howl, riches rot, and corroding metals eat flesh like fire (5:1–3). Finally, James speaks in paradox: tests are a joy (1:2), and the rich should boast in their humiliation (1:10).

The style and structure of the letter are often fascinating, but James always puts his rhetoric to the service of his goal: to promote a life consistent with faith in Christ the Lord. True heirs of the kingdom live like friends of God (2:5; 2:23). Genuine believers order their lives under the will and word of the Lord. Then, when they fail to meet the standard, they plead for grace. As James says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (4:10). That is the gospel of James.[2]


The Opening of the Letter (1:1)

Overview

In general, letters of the ancient world followed a standard form that included the author’s self-identification, those to whom the letter was addressed, and a greeting, and James uses this pattern to open his work. The NT letters in particular, however, often carry interesting overtones hinting at nuances in how the author regarded himself and the recipients of his work, and as seen in v. 1, James includes such overtones.

Commentary

1 Our author, as already discussed in the introduction, probably is James, brother of the Lord and leader of the Jerusalem church in the mid-first century (e.g., Ac 15:13–21). However, James does not appeal to his familial relationship with Jesus as a basis for authority. Rather, he calls himself “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (the NASB reads “a bond-servant”). The term translated “servant” is doulos (GK 1528), a word used of various kinds of slavery or servanthood in the ancient world. A specific use of the word to emphasize leadership as service to the Lord, both in the OT and other Jewish writings, is probably in the immediate backdrop here. For instance, both Moses and David were referred to as God’s servants, and the Servant of Isaiah obviously carries the title. In these cases the servant of God is God’s humble representative, who comes not with an arrogant posture in his own authority but rather to carry out work or ministry as one called by God. Didymus the Blind, a writer of the fourth century, remarked that those of the world who wish to glorify themselves play up their qualifications when they write letters, but by contrast the apostles begin their letters by noting “that they are slaves of God and Christ” (cited in Bray, 2). Thus the designation combines the softness of humility and the strength of authority in an integrated vision of leadership under the lordship of God.

Further, James is a servant of “the Lord Jesus Christ.” Commentators have pointed out that the construction rendered “of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” by the NIV is awkward in Greek. It is possible to translate the construction as “of [our] God and Lord Jesus Christ,” but it is more likely the NIV has it right in this case. James witnesses to the fact that servanthood to God and his Messiah, Jesus, is a package deal. Jesus, whom God “made both Lord and Christ,” the second member of the Trinity, is one to whom James owes his allegiance. In Christianity, to be the servant of God necessitates being the servant of the Lord, God’s Messiah, and to follow Messiah implies service to God.

The “greetings” (chairein, GK 5897), a very common form of salutation in ancient letters of the time, is addressed “To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations.” In the wake of the destruction of the northern kingdom by Assyria (722 BC; see 2 Ki 17:5–6) and the exile brought against the southern kingdom by the Babylonians (587–538 BC; see 2 Ki 25:1–12), the Jewish people were “dispersed” among the nations. The term diaspora (GK 1402) could variously refer to the place to which the Jews had been scattered, the scattered people themselves, or the state of being dispersed abroad. As noted in the introduction, although some have read the address “twelve tribes” as a symbolic way of referring to Christians generally, it is better taken as a reference to Christian Jews (1:1; 2:1), who did not see themselves as adherents to a religion different from broader Judaism (Nystrom, 17–19; Bauckham, 16). One of the promises concerning Messiah is that he would bring the twelve tribes back together again in a cohesive nation (Isa 11:11–16; Jer 31:8; Eze 37:15–22). Indeed, this promise was seen by the early Christian community as fulfilled in their existence as reconstituted Israel, the new people of God bought by his salvation through Christ (e.g., Ro 9:24–26; see Laws, 47–48). Yet here the designation should be taken as racial and geographical.[3]


Setting the scene

1:1

If James were to post his letter today it would be marked ‘Return to sender’ on the ground of being insufficiently addressed. He names no names and specifies no place as destination: twelve tribes contain a lot of people and the Dispersion, in its special sense of the scattered people of God, was in principle world-wide.

Yet, at first sight, is any great problem really involved? Twelve tribes reminds us of the Old Testament people of God, the children of the twelve sons of Jacob (e.g. Ex. 1:2–5). Even in the New Testament Paul can still speak of ‘our twelve tribes’ (Acts 26:7), referring to those who can trace their descent back to the twelve patriarchs. Dispersion, too, is a term with a clear meaning. From the time of the return from exile in Babylon, the people of God were in two sections: those who had come back to live in the promised land (e.g. Ezr. 1:;2:1ff.) and those who remained living among the nations. The latter group were seen as ‘dispersed’ throughout the world, and the word ‘dispersion’ came to be used both of the scattered people and the world-wide area, outside Palestine, where they lived.

But no sooner do we feel our problem is clarifying than fresh difficulties arise. There are two. First, by the time of James, the physical descendants of the people of the Old Testament had long since become ‘the Jews’. James, however, writes as a Christian to Christians. Both he, the writer, and they, the readers, acknowledge Jesus as Lord. James is a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ (1:1); they are his ‘brethren’ (1:2) whom he further describes (2:1) as united with himself in ‘the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ’. Secondly, as James sees it, the whole of the twelve tribes are in the Dispersion. The words have lost their characteristic contemporary use among the Jews; they no longer contrast some who are ‘abroad’ with others who are ‘at home’. Every one of the tribes addressed is away from the homeland, dispersed in the world.

We would seem, therefore, to be back in square one! Who are these twelve tribes? To answer this question we must follow another line—the straight line from the Old Testament into the New. Our Lord Jesus chose out twelve apostles (Mk. 3:13–14) and looked forward to the day of his own glory when they would sit on twelve thrones ruling the twelve tribes of Israel (Mt. 19:28). In doing this he was not creating a ‘new’ Israel (either alongside or replacing an ‘old’ Israel); he was leading the Israel of the Old Covenant on into its full, intended reality as the Israel of the New Covenant, the apostolic people of our Lord Jesus Christ, those whom Paul calls ‘the Israel of God’ (Gal. 6:16). In a word, ‘Israel’ is the name of the people of Jesus; it is the true and inalienable title of his church. Because of this Paul teaches that Christians are children of Abraham (Gal. 3:7) and that Abraham is our father (Rom. 4:11, 16). He does not qualify this relationship by saying, for example, that we can think of ourselves as if we were children of Abraham, or that we might find it helpful to draw an analogy between ourselves and those who are Abraham’s children, or anything like that. He asserts a fact: those who have put their faith in Jesus for salvation are Abraham’s children and the Israel of God.

Peter brings us a step even nearer to James. He writes his first letter (1:1) to ‘the exiles of the Dispersion’ and goes on (1:2) to define them as people who know God as the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and who have experienced the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. Old Testament terms again describe New Testament people; they are God’s exiles of the Dispersion. No adjustment of meaning is made, no compromise with truth, for they are God’s Israel.

James brings these lines of Bible truth together and so sets the scene for his letter. Better than any other description could, the twelve tribes places the church firmly within the pressures and persecutions of this life. We can think of our ancestral tribes in the storm and stress of Egyptian slavery (Ex. 2:23), redeemed by the blood of the lamb (Ex. 12:13), on pilgrimage with God through ‘the great and terrible wilderness’ (Dt. 8:15; cf. Ex. 15:22), battling to enter into what the Lord had promised (Jos. 1:2) and struggling ever after to live in holiness amid the enticements of a pagan environment. These are the experiences through which James would have his readers understand their pilgrim path. They are the Lord’s twelve tribes and they are dispersed throughout a menacing and testing world. Their homeland is elsewhere and they have not yet come to take up their abode there. Their present lot is to feel the weight of life’s pressures, the lure of this world’s temptations and an insidious, ever-present encouragement to conform to the standards of their pagan environment. They are the Lord’s people indeed, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb himself—but not yet home.

First priority

James has a name for being the pre-eminently ‘practical’ man among the New Testament writers. It is a true reputation. The scene he has set in verse 1 demands that he address himself in a down-to-earth fashion to people whom he has so firmly placed right in the realities of this earth’s life. So what will he put first? What is the first thing the Lord’s people on earth need to be told?

To find the answer to this question we must, for a moment, stand back from the letter and look at it as a whole. James’ practical letter finds its focus in one set of topics: it is a letter about relationships. He calls us, for example, to care for orphans and widows (1:27), to be impartial in our courtesy and care of others (2:1); he emphasizes the duty of love for our neighbour (2:8), speaking of it as ‘the royal law’; he scorns a profession of faith which fails in love and compassion (2:15–16) and applauds the life that risks itself for the sake of those who are at risk (2:25); he warns against feelings which imperil fellowship (3:14) and words which denigrate a brother (4:11); we are to discharge our honourable debts (5:4), guard our reactions (5:9), minister to the sick (5:14), share with the distressed (5:16) and urgently pursue those who stray from Christ (5:19–20). His letter is quite a catalogue, quite a sustained emphasis on this single set of topics.

But this focus is absent from the whole of the first section of the letter (1:2–25) following upon the opening greeting (1:1), making a most marked contrast. The opening section is all about the individual: the one who lacks wisdom (5), who is not totally committed (7), the brother, poor or rich (9–10), the one who receives the crown (12). The terms of verses 13–14 could not be more individual and personal: I, each, his own desire; and the same is true of the birth described in verse 18. We could continue in the same vein through to verse 25: a self-ward, individual concentration.

James, in fact, puts first the duty of self-care in the things of God. Who would have thought it? The Christian looking after Number One! Yet Paul said the same thing to the elders of the Ephesian church: ‘Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock’ (Acts 20:28)—yourselves first, then all the flock. James writes in the same spirit and to the same point. Before we care for others we must look after ourselves. The ever practical James puts his finger right on the spot. It is all so personal, so self-ward, that it can be faced only in first person terms. In verse 4 he teaches about a path which leads to Christian maturity: before I can lead anyone else along that path or assist a brother or sister caught in life’s toils, I must ask am I on that path myself? Am I holding fast through the testings of life and so growing to maturity? Verse 12 promises a crown to the one who loves God and walks the way of endurance: how can I hold another Christian to such demands unless I am accepting their discipline myself? In verse 18 James uses the illustration of first-fruits. In the agricultural community of Old Covenant days the first of the crop was the Lord’s and specially holy: am I such, notably holy, something special for God? According to verse 25 there is a particular doorway into blessing, through hearing and doing God’s word: is that my daily experience? Am I enjoying the blessing? For I cannot point others this way unless I am walking the road of obedience myself.

It is at these points of priority that James meets us: forget about others for a bit! What is your life with God like?

Jesus is Lord

Just suppose for a moment that this letter was written by James, the brother of the Lord Jesus—not, as we have seen, an extravagant supposition. James loves the word brother. He writes to my brethren (1:2; 2:1, 14; 3:1; 5:12, 19), to brethren (4:11; 5:7, 9, 10) and to my beloved brethren (1:16, 19; 2:5). He expects Christians to think of each other as brothers and sisters (1:9; 2:15; 4:11). But when he writes of one who was in fact a brother within his own family, he calls him the Lord Jesus Christ (1:1).

Seeing the verse this way sharpens our awareness of what early believers thought about the Lord Jesus, and this point can be made irrespective of the identity of the writer. Many agree that the Letter of James is a very early piece of Christian writing. Sufficient time had not yet elapsed for that process, dear to some who write on the incarnation, by which the ‘poetry’ which hailed Jesus as son of God ‘hardened into prose and escalated from a metaphorical son of God to a metaphysical God the Son’. Early as it is, the Letter of James betrays no hesitation on this point, no sense of groping after a new theology or of expressing a doctrinal innovation about Jesus. The words have an assured ring and he uses them as stating something which his worldwide readers will endorse.

We have become accustomed to the standard English translation, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. But the Greek could equally well sustain the rendering ‘a servant of Jesus Christ who is God and Lord’. Commentators tend to step back from this translation though without arguing a case, but we can put it this way: James was a master of the Greek language. James Adamson, for example, writes of his exercising ‘the power of the expert craftsman in language’ and again of ‘the expert classic who wrote the Greek of the Epistle of James’.4 Even, therefore, were it the case that he intended the meaning which the English Versions express—that God and the Lord Jesus are co-owners of their ‘slaves’—yet it cannot have escaped his notice that his words were equally capable of ascribing deity to Jesus. But he did not alter them. Some, today, find themselves satisfied ‘to say … He is “as-if-God” for me’. But there is no ‘as if’ in James: Jesus Christ is the Lord.

The corollary of this divine Lordship is that James is his slave—‘not a term of special humility, nor … to be understood as involving a claim to the rank of a prophet or distinguished leader … simply … to belong to Christ as his worshipper’.

To belong to Christ, to acknowledge him as Lord and God, to worship him—but surely, in addition, a slave is there to serve, to do his lord’s bidding. Like James, Paul saw himself as the slave of Jesus (e.g. Rom. 1:1; Gal. 1:10; Phil. 1:1), but he became a slave the day he said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ (Acts 22:10). For though to be the slave of such a Master is a glorious and privileged relationship, it is far from being ornamental. We in turn look up to Jesus: What shall we do, Lord? If we see the letter of James as the inspired reply to this question, then we have the same practical and earthy approach to reading these five chapters that James had in writing them.[4]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1998). James (pp. 7–13). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Doriani, D. M. (2007). James. (R. D. Phillips, P. G. Ryken, & D. M. Doriani, Eds.) (pp. 3–13). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.

[3] Guthrie, G. H. (2006). James. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, pp. 210–211). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] Motyer, J. A. (1985). The message of James: the tests of faith (pp. 23–28). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

February 24 Examining Your Heart

Scripture Reading: Luke 17:1–4

Key Verse: Luke 17:4

And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, “I repent,” you shall forgive him.

Some say that the failure to offer or receive forgiveness lies at the heart of most of the serious emotional and spiritual disorders that we experience. While this may be an unprovable assertion, it is clear that unforgiveness provides fertile soil for a remarkably diverse crop of weeds. It is the source of much that can go sour in personal relationships, and it can hide behind many different masks.

People sometimes say in an angry tone that they have forgiven past offenses, but their obvious bitterness betrays them. Unforgiveness can lodge in your heart and hide from you. The following questions will help you examine your heart to see if you need to forgive someone:

  1. Do you still secretly hope that someone will get what he/she deserves?
  2. Are you still talking negatively about this person to others?
  3. Do you indulge in fantasies of revenge—even mild ones?
  4. Do you spend time mulling over what he/she did to you?
  5. How do you feel when something good happens to him/her?
  6. Have you quit blaming this person for how your life has turned out?
  7. Do you find it difficult to be open and trusting with people?
  8. Are you frequently angry, depressed, or bitter?
  9. Do you find it difficult or impossible to thank God for your offender?

Let God examine your heart. Does He find any unforgiveness there?

Dear Lord, examine my heart. I do not want to harbor unforgiveness. Expose it so I can deal with it in Your strength.[1]


[1] Stanley, C. F. (2006). Pathways to his presence (p. 57). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.