Category Archives: Humilty

Does our relationship with God prompt change in our life?

Be HolyTrue statement: We are all God’s children.

We are, too! However, does being the child of God mean anything to us? The statement that we are all God’s children is true in the sense that he created us, made us in His image and cares for us by providing the things which we need.  However, there is a sense in which that statement is not true. There are those who are the sons of God and those who are the sons of Man. The difference is not physical, nor even of the spirit (since we are all made in His image), but of the mind and heart.

When we become disciples of Christ, there is a change made by God. We are removed from the kingdom of darkness and put into the kingdom of His son (Col 1:13). We are made to be part of the household of God (I Tim 3:15) and, of course, being in that household we understand God is now our Father and what a wonderful blessing that is. (1 John 3:1). Unfortunately, sometimes, the change made by God is not followed by a change made by us.

We focus solely on the blessings  of having God as our Father.  Our Father loves us and only wants good for us, we are on our way to Heaven. Here on Earth, He will provide for us, He will comfort us, He will never ever leave us, He will chastise us….What? Wait!  Chastise?

Yes, chastise, as in punish, discipline, rebuke, and cause a little discomfort.  The Hebrew writer tells us that God does this for our own good but the question I want to ask is “Why is there a need to chastise?”  The need is there because we are not doing what He wants us to do.

Many do not think that God cares how they live their life. They think they can call Him their Father and still live however they would like to. In other words, their life does not change. They may claim to be a Christian or they may simply state “We are all God’s children” (i.e. God loves us anyway) but the bottom line is that they do not want to change. They have no desire to stop doing what they were doing before they began to call God their Father and Christ their brother.

However, Peter is very clear on this point.

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile,
(1Pe 1:14-17 emphasis mine)

The Prodigal son found out that he could only enjoy his father’s blessings by leaving the world he had made for himself and returning to the father and living with him. Had he continued to stay where he was at, his father’s love, concern, desire for his best interest would not have gone away, but the blessings of being his father’s child would never be realized.

We need to remember that we have responsibilities in our relationship with God. Among those responsibilities is the need to be Holy, not worldly.

Drawing near to God means moving away from Sin

 Jas 4:8-10  Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  (9)  Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.  (10)  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

 

In seeing this verse, I am reminded of the older couple driving along a country road. As he drove along, his wife sighed and said, “Do you remember how when we would take these drives and sit next to each other, holding hands?” (this was in the day of bench seats, of course) “Yes, I remember” he said. “Why don’t we do that anymore?” she asked. After a short pause, he replied: “I haven’t moved.”

How true is it that we think that God has forsaken us and withdrawn from us when in fact, it is the other way around.  How sad it is for Christians (and James is writing to Christians) to drift away from God when they should be heading closer and closer to Him. All of this is in the realm of being humble which we talked about in the last post. James is not through with that thought.

God sent His Son to die for you, he had the Gospel preached to you, you responded to it and now, now?! you want to slide away to be friends with the world?  No! You should be doing something else instead, you should be getting closer to Him.

James doesn’t pull punches. He just called them adulterers and now he calls them sinners. “Sinners!” Now, we may not be surprised by that because we know that we all sin.  However, those in Christ are not to be characterized as being sinners as Paul points out in Romans 6. Sin should be dead to us and we, are also to be dead, to it. The fact that these Christians were not was the source of their problems and the source of the source was their own desires, ambitions, and selfishness. (see James 1:13, 3:16 and 4:1)

James tells them to cleanse their hands and purify their hearts. A whole blog (not just a post) could be written on this. To Cleanse your hands involves the outside. Stop doing those things which are wrong;  Do not cast your lot with the sinners. Purifying your hearts involves the inside, where man cannot see. However, God can. You cannot be double minded on this. Either you are for sin or you are not. It can’t be that Jesus is Lord on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday but the other days are left for yourself to indulge. You cannot put your hand to the plow and then look back.

Have you ever known someone who rejoiced in their sin? Looked back on the ‘good ole days’ of parties and raucous behavior? I have. They go back to those days in their mind or boast about them at gatherings. They make their sinful behavior appear to be a glamorous thing. Those that did not engage in it, (or those who are too young but will soon be old enough) listen and think “I am missing out”.

Call a spade a spade and call sin, sin. Do not sugar coat the lifestyle of the world or that which you in your former life (I hope it is former) engaged in. Mourn over the things you used to take pride in. Weep at the thought of the wasted years. Be sorry for that sin that you are still struggling with simply because you are not ready to give it up. In other words, REPENT! Humble yourself before God. Be the publican in Luke “Lord, forgive me the sinner”. Be David who in a moment of clarity could only say “I have sinned.”

If you do, God will exalt you. When God exalts a person, He does it right. God gives grace, James has just said, but he gives it to the humble. Be humble!

 

God gives Grace!

But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (Jas 4:6-7)

God gives grace. Grace is a word that should not be so mysterious. A recent sermon that I did talked about this topic. Grace is favor, it is granted and not earned. Did you hear? God gives grace!

This positive statement stands opposed to statement of those who push God toward jealousy with their friendship of the world. It should be known that ‘world’ in this context is not the people (as in “God so loved the world”) but rather the principles of the world which are against God’s principles. Those who are proud and prideful stand against God and wish to do things their way.

God will give favor but only to those who are humble. Consider these examples:

Two thieves on the cross. One repented the other continued his tirade. One went to Paradise, the other did not.

Two apostles: One betrayed Him, the other denied Him. Judas was sorrowful but in his sorrow did not see a way to get back to God; he hung himself. Peter was sorrowful and wept bitterly, God raised him up to preach the Gospel. Judas was, of course, wrong. God would have forgiven and restored him. Paul, is a clear example of that fact, being called from his persecuting ways to preach the Gospel. Paul humbled himself and repented. Did you hear? God gives Grace!

That grace is given the humble and not the proud is so often taught in the Scriptures, you almost don’t need book, chapter, verse but still one of my favorite passages is Matthew 18 where Jesus talks about the need for us to humble ourselves like children in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

One of the characteristics of children is their humility. They trust authority and will yield to its call. One of the characteristics of young adults is that they tend to rebel against authority and exert their own will. Later, adults (but still young) may realize that their parents were right and understood a thing or two.  The newer relationship is a better one when that happens.

In a way, we all go through a phase like that spiritually speaking. As children, we trust God and can sing songs like “Jesus loves me” at the top of our little lungs, loving God with everything we understand to be love.  Sometimes we grow to think, we are self-sufficient and that God, our Father, doesn’t know what He is talking about. What we fail to realize is that, to God, we will always be children. Also, there will never be a time in our existence where we are not His children. The fact is, we need God more as adults than we ever did as toddlers or young children.

The Good news is that when we submit ourselves to God, Satan runs the other way. He is not stronger than God, our humility and willingness to choose God is something that he cannot fight. Jesus did that when he responded “It is written…” to each of Satan’s temptations. We can do it too, if we will only say “it is written…God gives Grace to the humble!”

Don’t boast against the truth

 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth.  (Jas 3:14)

It may not be that a person has wisdom at all. It may be that instead of wanting to be a wise teacher, he really is a bitter, envious, self-seeking individual. James’ advice is that this person face the truth as opposed to trying to deny it.

Looking back on chapter one, James talks about the person who looks intently into the perfect law of liberty. That person looks into it, sees hows he is and by continuing in that law, he will improve more and more. James also talks about the person who says he is religious and yet, he deceives himself. Don’t be that guy. His religion is useless.

There are many sources of envy and while I might be a little hard pressed to explain the difference between envy and envy which can be considered ‘bitter”, I am pretty sure that I do not want either of them to be among my possessions. Envy is a word that is very close to covet or jealous and none of these emotions are good things. I think of envy as something you feel when you do not possess something which someone else has. That something, be it a possession, a position, or a prize is something which you also wish (lust)  to have and because someone else has it, you resent or despise the person for what they have.

James ties in “self-seeking” with this because truly what we are talking about is an attitude of “me first’ and not just first, but second and last also. If you look at the beginning verse in this chapter, perhaps one of the reasons that James does not want many to become teachers is because so many times, it goes to our heads. There is always another teacher who is better, there is always another one who receives this or that honor, there is always another blogger with more subscribers (Hey now!) and so it goes.

Jesus warned against having honor among men, actually he warned against doing things so that you would have honor among men. James seems to be warning about the same thing. If you have these things, then admit that you do. Don’t sit there and lie against the truth.

As a person looks intently into the law of liberty, as they work on being a doer and not a forgetful hearer, as they see those things that they need to correct, they need to admit that it is so. Only by admitting the problem can you begin to correct the problem.  Peter had that problem. He didn’t know his own weakness and when Jesus (the Word) told him plainly, he boasted all the more “I will not deny you” yet, in the end, he did.

I have often wondered, who do the teachers confess to? You never see a preacher respond to his own invitation to come forward and confess sins. No, that would be bad, people would lose confidence in him and that can’t be allowed to happen. It may not be that you see it but a teacher does need to have his own person(s) with whom he can be honest. Otherwise, he may get caught up with sins that he will not admit.

When that happens, he stumbles as we all do and yet it is worse for the teacher than the one who is not a teacher.

Boast in the Lord!

  Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.
(Jas 1:9-11 ESV)

Of all the categories which we lump people into, the category of wealth is the most common: the haves and that have-nots, the rich and the poor, the down trodden and the ‘man’. Yet James’ counsel to both (I hasten to add…inspired counsel) is not to focus on  what they have, whether a little or a lot. He directs their sight and thoughts towards a more excellent perspective.

The lowly brother is to look around at his condition and boast. Because even as poor as he is, Christ redeemed him and exalted him and has promised him a mansion. The poor brother,  in relationship to this world’s benefits, has little but, in relationship to God, has a great deal. James will say later on (5:13) that if one is cheerful that he should sing. This poor brother should be cheerful and what better song than “I’ve been redeemed” or “His eye is on the sparrow” or “This world is not my home” or….well, you get the picture. Boast poor brother Boast!

It is particularly important that poor man boasts in his relationship with God so that he does not fall into the trap of being envious. Jesus says

“Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
(Luk 12:15)

Which brings us to the rich brother:

James says to the rich that he is to boast in his humiliation. One might ask, “what humiliation?” Not only is he rich but he is going to Heaven!  For the rich, the humiliation is that they cannot do it all; their wealth is as nothing to God because it will not buy them an ounce of grace. The rich are made to be on the same level as the poor, no special treatment is commanded for them, and in the Lord’s church it is not supposed to be allowed (James 2). Riches are easy to trust in when you have them. You can buy the things you need, even get yourself out of trouble by hiring competent attorneys, avoid the drudgery of mowing your own lawn, changing your own oil, get to watch your favorite NFL teams on satellite, dress nice and have people call you Sir or Ma’am. The list goes on and does not only apply to the über rich. However, none of the purchasable items includes Salvation.

In the world, special treatments are normal but in the church of God, they are anathema. In that day, a Christian man may have owned a slave and yet his slave might be an elder in the church. The rich man would need to be subject to his slave in matters of the church even though the slave was subject to him in relation to work to be done.   (No, such does not happen today very often: think employee/employer but it easily could.)  To be made equal is a humiliation enough but to submit to your own slave?  There is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, rich nor poor, black nor white all are one in Christ. Christ humiliated himself by becoming equal with His creation. The Rich also should boast in this humiliation. Boast rich man, Boast!

James also reminds the rich that they will disappear. Not in pomp and circumstance but just like grass on a hot, blistering, Texas summer day. The grass withers and its flower fades. Notice James says the rich man will also fade “in the midst of his pursuits”. Working away and Bam! in the blink of an eye he is standing before the throne of judgement.

As quoted above, ones life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. When we do finally get to Heaven, the wealth and magnificence of God’s throne room alone will put to shame everything we have here.

All Christians, rich, poor, or middle class should Boast, but in the Lord. Boast Christian, Boast!

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