:) Finally had some time! Next week should be fun... we're heading into some messianic prophecies... :)

Happy studying!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

James Chapter 2

vs. 1-9

- James continues hitting on specifics and moves on to prejudices.

- “How can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you still favor some people over others?”

- Proverbs 24:23-25
- Acts 10:34-36

- ouch... he goes on to give an example.

- Like two men. One dressed in fancy clothes and jewelry, and another dressed in rags and dirty clothes.

- I'm sure you all have either heard a form of this story, or gotten the chain email, but I'll tell it anyway.

- Sunday morning at a pretty up-scale church, a man walked in looking like a homeless man. Dirty, smelly, unkempt... He walked in and sat right on the front pew. Everybody in the church is whispering and trying to figure out what they should do. They were so appalled that he would sit in the FRONT!

- Finally one of the elders went up and asked him to please move to the back of the church because these front pews were reserved for the elders and the pastor and guest speakers...

- So the man gets up and walks back down the aisle amid all the stares and wonderings of a high-class congregation.

- Service begins. They sing, they praise, they worship. Things are going as they always do in their order of operations. The pastor gets up to speak and starts by saying, “well, I was expecting a guest speaker this morning, but I don't see him off-hand, so perhaps something came up...”

- And up walks the homeless man to the pulpit...

- Now, this is not to say that every hobo-looking man you meet is a preacher in disguise... but Christ said, “If you've done it unto the least of these, you've done it unto Me.” (Matthew 25:31-46)

- How much impact do you think THAT sermon had on that congregation? (Which by the way was on the least of these and our attitudes in helping those in need...) I think there was probably some major soul-searching that Sunday afternoon for a lot of people...

- If you discriminate by outward appearances, or by intelligence, or by color, or by how much a member tithes... Then you show that your judgments are guided by evil motives.

- footnote- “Why is it wrong to judge a person by his or her economic status? Wealth may indicate intelligence, wise decisions, and hard work. On the other hand, it may only mean that a person had the good fortune of being born into a wealthy family. Or it may be the sign of greed, dishonesty, or selfishness. By honoring someone just because he or she dresses well, we are making appearance more important than character. Sometimes we do this because:
1. poverty makes us uncomfortable, we don't want to face our responsibilities to those who have less than we do.
2. we want to be wealthy too, and hope to use the rich person as a means to that end.
3. we want the rich person to join our church and help support it financially.
All these motives are selfish, stemming from the view that we are superior to the poor person. If we say that Christ is our Lord, then we must live as He requires, showing no favoritism and loving all people regardless or whether they are rich or poor.”

- footnote- “When James speaks of the poor, he is talking about those who have no money and also about those whose simple values are despised by much of out affluent society. Perhaps the “poor” people prefer serving to managing, human relationships to financial security, peace to power. This does not mean that the poor will automatically go to heaven and the rich to hell. Poor people. However, are usually more aware of their powerlessness. Thus, it is often easier for them to acknowledge their need for salvation. One of the greatest barriers to salvation for the rich is pride. For the poor, bitterness can often bar the way to acceptance of salvation.”

- I Corinthians 1:19-31

- I think what James is trying to say in vs. 5-7 is that, too see only the outward appearance of things and to judge a person based solely on that, is nonsense.

- John 7:24
- Luke 6:37-42

- The poor who are rich in faith will inherit the Kingdom just like all other believers.... and in some ways, the poor have to have more faith because they have no resources to fall back on. They have to rely on God for more basic needs than does someone who is financially stable.

- The rich on the other hand, if they are oppressive and dragging you to court all the time... (lots of suing within the church perhaps? Not sure... didn't have time to research further...) then aren't THEY... not to poor, the ones who slander the name of Christ?

- Luke 6:20-36

- Jesus gave the law during His earthly ministry that we should “love our neighbor as ourselves.”

- When you favor some people over others, James says you're “guilty of breaking the law.” This is sin.

- This doesn't just mean your physical neighbor. If that were the case, given that I live in the middle of nowhere with one visible neighbor and only 6 neighbor families within walking distance of me... (2 of those being my grandparents, and my uncle and his family...) technically I would only have to love 6 families as myself. And 2 of those would be close family anyway!

- And if I decided that the definition of a neighbor were only those that I could see... well... that would only be one other family... and would exclude my family above.

- How much sense does that make?

- Love does not depend on geography. Not in the least.

- Christ knows no boundaries. Paul said that, “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” (I Corinthians 9:22)

- How far are you willing to go to ensure the salvation of your fellow man? Can you put up with social differences? Hygiene differences? “Going Green” differences? Child raising philosophy differences? Sports favorites differences? Let alone race and gender and age and all the rest of the major differences of opinion we see every day?

- How well are you keeping the law of Christ?

- Matthew 7:1-12
- Romans 13:8-14

vs. 10-13

- James says that a person who has kept all of God's laws but one... is just as bad as someone who has broken all of the laws.

- Because, the same God who said “Do no commit adultery” also said, “do not murder”.

- So if you don't commit adultery, but murder someone, you have still broken the law.

- Every law or command that Christ gave, He expects to be followed. Only doing the easy ones, or the ones you feel comfortable doing, isn't enough. Break one, break all. (Which is why we need a savior, because we will always mess up somewhere.) However...

- footnote- “Christians must not use this verse to justify sinning. We dare not say, “Because I can't keep every demand of God, why even try?” James reminds us that if we've broken just one law, we are sinners. We can't decide to keep part of God's law and ignore the rest. You can't break the law a little bit, if you have broken it at all, you need Christ to pay for your sin. Measure yourself, not someone else, against God's standards. Ask for forgiveness where you need it, and then renew your effort to put your faith into practice.”

- So whatever you say or do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free.

- footnote- “As Christians, we are saved by God's free gift (grace) through faith, not by keeping the law. But as Christians, we are also required to obey Christ. The apostle Paul taught that “we must all stand before Christ to be judged” (2 Corinthians 5:10) for our conduct. God's grace does not cancel our duty to obey Him; it gives our obedience a new basis. The law is no longer an external set of rules, but it is a “law that sets you free”--one we joyfully and willingly carry out, because we love God and have the power of His Holy Spirit.”

- There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others.

- If you are merciful, then God will be merciful when He judges you.

- footnote- “Only God in His mercy can forgive our sins. We can't earn forgiveness by forgiving others. But when we withhold forgiveness from others after having received it ourselves, we show that we don't understand or appreciate God's mercy toward us (Matthew 6:14-15, 18:21-35, Ephesians 4:31-32).”

- Leviticus 19:1-37

- Are you deserving of God's mercy?

- Do you try your hardest not to break God's law?

- When you break the law, do you ask for forgiveness?

- Do you treat others the way you expect/want/need to be treated?

vs. 14-20

- What good is faith without action?

- when I was a kid these was an Archie comic book on this. (Yes it was Archie... a Christian version believe it or not...)

- Archie bought a brand new car. Cared for it, kept it in the garage, waxed it... and he only drove it on Sunday. (saving mileage right?)

- But through the week, he drove the same old beat up, falling apart, broken down car he'd had before the new car.

- And it went through, trying to get somewhere and having 3 different kinds of engine problems... and flat tires... and leaky gas tanks and running out of gas in a rain storm...

- And all of the people around Archie wanted to know why he didn't just drive the new car?! Why buy it if he doesn't use it!?

- Well our faith is like that. (And so is Christianity in general...)

- Sunday when we go to church, is not the only time we can let people see our faith. Our faith is not exemplified by our perfect church attendance.

- Our faith, should be a faith of action. What good is a new car if you don't drive it?

- Can this kind of faith save you?

- footnote- “When someone claims to have faith, what he or she may have is intellectual assent—agreement with a set of Christian teachings—and as such it would be incomplete faith. True faith transforms our conduct as well as our thoughts. If our life remains unchanged, we don't truly believe the truths we claim to believe.”

- vs. 15-16 says “Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Goodbye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don't give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?”

- You can believe all you want... but to have faith and do nothing is worthless.

- Our conversion to this faith is supposed to produce a change in our hearts.

- A heart change should also produce an attitude change and awaken a desire in us to do good.

- So faith without that evidence of a living faith, is dead.

- It's like a science experiment. You know if the experiment went as planned by the visual result you get. (smoke, boiling, steam, growth, a change in formation, etc.)

- Some may say that they have faith and others may say that they have works, but where's the walk?

- James says “How can you show me your faith without works?” (vs. 18) Where's the evidence of a life changed?

- “I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” (vs. 18)

- footnote- “At first glance, this verse seems to contradict Romans 3:28, “We are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.” Deeper investigation, however, shows that the teachings of James and Paul are not at odds. While it is true that our good deeds can never earn salvation, true faith always results in a changed life and good deeds. Paul speaks against those who try to be saved by deeds instead of true faith; James speaks against those who confuse mere intellectual assent with true faith...”

- vs. 19 goes on to say that people say they have faith because they believe in one God. James says, “Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.”

- Matthew 8:28-34

- ouch. Belief and a knowledge about God is not enough. Even the demons believe in God and know about Him... but just knowing about Him and not doing anything with that knowledge and belief is not going to save you. The Demons know who God is. They know about Him. But they are still going to burn in a fiery hell.

- Your heart transformation after initially believing is what God is looking for. If you believe and then don't let God have a part in your life, don't let Him do anything in your heart, then you'll be right back where you were at the beginning in no time at all.

- Nicodemus in John 3 is an example. This man came to Jesus by night (probably to avoid detection from the other Pharisees.) He came seeking truth... and he got it. He probably didn't completely understand everything that night... but that was the beginning.

- Later at the end of John 7, the Jewish high council is discussing ways to get rid of Jesus... and Nicodemus raises the question of justice and of fairness. He is overruled in the end, but he has now openly spoken out for Jesus. It may not seem like much to you today, but right then, in the life of Nicodemus, this was a big deal. He was speaking out against his friends, the religious leaders... and they were dangerous men to cross...

- The next time we see Nicodemus, is at the tomb in John 19 with another “underground” believer, Joseph, who had been afraid to make a stand because of the religious leaders. This is not just a comment in passing... this is a bold action. This is a public statement of where their loyalties lie.

- God looks for steady growth, not instant perfection. Nicodemus' heart was gradually changing and growing. He was becoming more bold. It wasn't an overnight change, but the heart has to change. And it has to be a “sold out” change.

- Deuteronomy 6:4-25

- What fruit are you producing? What changes do you feel in your heart or see in your life? What do others see?

- Luke 6:43-49
- Matthew 7:15-27, 5:17-20
- Galatians 5:1-6

vs. 21-27

- Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar.

- Genesis 22:1-19
- Romans 4:1-25

- His actions completed his faith. Not only did he believe with his mind, he acted on that faith when God asked it of him. His heart's condition was made transparently clear through his actions.

- I John 3:7-24

- footnote- “James says that Abraham was “shown to be right with God” for what he DID because he BELIEVED God (Romans 4:1-5). James and Paul are not contradicting, but complementing each other. Let's not conclude that the truth is a blending of these two statements. We are not justified by what we do in any way. True faith always results in good deeds, but the deeds do not justify us. Faith brings us salvation; active obedience demonstrates that our faith is genuine.”

- “Obedience is better than sacrifice.” (I Samuel 15:22) To believe and not do is to be like the servant that burned the talents the master gave him in the ground until the master returned. (And the master was not happy with this product either...)

- Matthew 25:14-30

- So we are SHOWN to be right with God by our works and not just faith alone.

- Matthew 19:16-30

- (We can say a lot of things... it doesn't make them true. I can say I'm an awesome teacher, but the true test of that is not what I say, but rather how much the students have learned and what kind of relationship I have with them. THAT tells everyone evaluating me or my students what kind of teacher I am.)

- Our actions show what kind of faith we have. And how deep runs our devotion and obedience to our God.

- James gives a second example of a faith acted out in the person of Rahab.

- footnote- “Rahab lived in Jericho, a city the Israelites conquered as they entered the Promised Land (Joshua 2). When Israel's spies came to the city, she hid them and helped them escape. In this way she demonstrated faith in God's purpose for Israel. As a result, she and her family were saved when the city was destroyed. Hebrews 11:31 lists Rahab lists among the heroes of faith.”

- This woman was a woman of faith... She risked her life in her hometown, her nation, to save the enemy... because she had faith in what God was doing... So the enemy could later take the city, her home, her nation...

- They spared her life and the lives of her family. And thus, a prostitute; a woman of ill-repute, was written into the genealogy of Christ.

- did you know that? She was the mother of Boaz... who married Ruth. These two were the great-grandparents of King David. The most well-known King of Israel and the direct line of Christ.

- Amazing what God will do with faithful people... who are willing to be obedient and devoted to the cause of our faith...

- “Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.” (vs. 26).

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