Category Archives: James

James – Day 1

Introduction

First, I’d like to thank Jesse Gardner for contributing last week’s series What is Truth? to Progressive Devotions. He did a fine job and I appreciate his hard work.

Today we’re going to start a new study in the book of James. I thought this powerful, practical book would be a good place to apply some of the study principles we talked about in the Bible Study Basics series.

This will be a true Bible study. I’m going to ask you to read and study on your own first, and we’ll compare notes the next day. You’ll end up reading through James several times

We’ll begin this week by having you read a chapter each day and look for the following information.

Homework

  • Identify the major topics discussed in the chapter.
  • Note any word and phrases you don’t understand.
  • Note anything that seems noteworthy to you, or that you’d like to look into further.

James – Day 2

Introduction

So, how did your reading of chapter one go? James certainly gets down to business quickly, doesn’t he? His style is dramatically different from Paul, who spends a long time laying a theological foundation before he talks about walking in the world. Here are my observations and notes after surveying James, chapter 1.

Major Topics Discussed

  1. Introduction (v. 1)
  2. Trials and Temptations (v. 2-4)
  3. Believe God for Wisdom (v. 5-8)
  4. Rich Man, Poor Man – Rejoice! (v. 9-11)
  5. How Temptation Works (v. 12-16)
  6. The Father’s Good Will Toward Us (v. 17-18)
  7. The Believer’s Good Works Toward God (v. 19-21)
  8. Doers of the Word (v. 22-25)
  9. Real Religion (v. 26-27)
    (I think these are examples of doing the word.)

Words and Phrases to Look Up

  1. Is there a difference between temptations (v. 2) and trials (v.3)?
  2. What is filthiness (v. 21)?
  3. What is superfluity of naughtiness (v. 21)?
  4. What is the engrafted word (v. 21)?
1. Temptations and Trials

Here are Strong’s definitions for temptations (v. 2) and trying (v. 3) in chapter one:

Temptations (G3986) pi-ras-mos’
From G3985; a putting to proof (by experiment [of good], experience [of evil], solicitation, discipline or provocation); by implication adversity: – temptation, X try.

Trying (G1383) dok-im’-ee-on
Neuter of a presumed derivative of G1382; a testing; by implication trustworthiness: – trial, trying.

2. Filthiness

Strong’s defines filthiness this way:

Filthiness (G4507) hroo-par-ee’-ah
From G4508; dirtiness (morally): – filthiness.

3. Superfluity of Naughtiness

Strong’s definitions for superfluity and naughtiness are:

Superfluity (G4050) per-is-si’-ah
From G4052; surplusage, that is, superabundance: – abundance (-ant, [-ly]), superfluity.

Naughtiness (G2549) kak-ee’-ah
From G2556; badness, that is, (subjectively) depravity, or (actively) malignity, or (passively) trouble: – evil, malice (-iousness), naughtiness, wickedness.

So you might paraphrase this as the abundance of wickedness.

4. The Engrafted Word

Strong defines engrafted as:

Engrafted (G1721) em’-foo-tos
From G1722 and a derivative of G5453; implanted (figuratively): – engrafted.

This is talking about God’s Word implanted in the believer’s heart.

It might be helpful to put these definitions in the margin of your Bible, so you won’t have to look them up the next time read this chapter.

Points of Interest / Research

  1. Who was James (v. 1)?
  2. Who were the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad (v. 1)?
  3. If God cannot be tempted with evil (v. 13), how could Jesus be tempted?
  4. Does Do not err… (v. 16) refer to what James just said, or to what he is about to say?
1. Who was James?

Several people in the New Testament were named James.

And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. (Act 1:13)

James, the brother of John was executed by Herod:

(1) Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. (2) And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. (Act 12:1-2)

And James the lesser is referred to as the brother of Jesus:

(55) Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? (56) And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things? (Mat 13:55-56)

But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother. (Gal 1:19)

The most significant thing, I think, is that this James was the pastor of the church at Jerusalem’s. That adds emotional impact to this letter. It is a loving pastor writing to his scattered flock.

2. Who were the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad?

There were two groups of Jewish people living in other nations at this time. The first group were “the Jews of the Dispersion” (Joh. 7:35). Those were Jews who never returned to Israel after the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities. The phrase refers instead to Jewish converts to Christianity who fled Jerusalem because of Saul’s persecution of the church (Act. 8:1).

Knowing the audience James wrote to is one of the keys to understanding this letter. James wrote to people whose homes, families and finances were thrown into chaos as they fled for their lives. They were starting over again and needed God’s wisdom to avoid the many potential pitfalls of their circumstances.

We’ll consider the last two questions as we come back to chapter one and study it verse by verse.

Homework

Read through James, chapter two, for tomorrow and make the same kinds of notes you did for today’s study. Be sure to check back tomorrow so we can compare notes.

James – Day 3

Introduction

Did you get a chance to read over chapter two and jot down the topics, vocabulary and points of interest? If not, why not take some time and do that on your own before you read my notes. Here’s what I’ve got for chapter two.

Major Topics Discussed

  1. Proper attitudes toward the rich and poor (v.1-14).
  2. The relationship between faith and works (v. 15-26).

Words and Phrases to Look Up

  1. How could a person sit under the footstool of someone else (v. 3)?
  2. Do I have a full understanding of the word justified used in this chapter (v. 21, 24, 25)?
1. Sitting under a footstool

The footstool (hupopodion – literally under foot, according to Vine’s Expository Dictionary) was a footrest, or ottoman. The word translated under is also translated below. The idea here is that the poor person is invited to sit on the floor, or at a lower, more humble level.

2. Justified

According Strong’s, the word translated justified is:

Justified (G1344) dik-ah-yo’-o

From G1342; to render (that is, show or regard as) just or innocent: – free, justify (-ier), be righteous.

The same word is used in all three instances in chapter two. It might be worthwhile to do a separate word study of justification, since it appears many times in the New Testament.

Points of Interest / Research

  1. This is the second time James speaks negatively about rich people. He condemns them in (5:1-6), too. Does God dislike rich people?
  2. In what way does a person offend in one point, and become guilt of all (v. 10)?
  3. Martin Luther thought the book of James should not be included in the Bible because of verse 24. How does James’ teaching fit with what the Bible says in other places about being justified by faith alone, and not by works?
  4. What is the law of liberty and how will believers be judged by it (v.12)?
  5. Why is Rahab commended for her actions when they involved deception and lying (v. 25)?

Since the first and third questions above tap in to major topics discussed in the book of James, we’ll talk about them when we study the passages in which they appear. Here we’ll look briefly at the other three questions.

2. Offend in one point – guilty of all (v. 10)?

Actually, reading the context of this statement clears it up pretty well. In verse 11, For he that saidalso said… makes it clear that any violation of God’s Law is an offense against the Lawgiver. We tend to think of God’s commands as freestanding requirements. James offers a more holistic view of the Law. The Law is an expression of God’s character. No matter how you break the Law – you’re still insulted the Lawgiver it represents.

4. Judged by the law of liberty (v. 12)?

James used the phrase the perfect law of liberty earlier in this letter (1:25). Tracing this back, (1:23-24) compares hearing the word to looking at ourselves in a mirror. (1:22) commands us to be doers of the word, and (1:21) says the engrafted wordis able to save our souls. Finally, (1:18) says God begat us with the word of truth. I think Paul talked about this concept in his letter to the Romans:

(1) There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (2) For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. (Rom 8:1-2)

God graciously saved us by faith. We should, therefore, be the more obedient because of our gratitude. We will have to answer to our Savior for how we have responded to His unmerited grace.

5. Was Rahab righteous (v. 25)?

It’s important to read the Bible carefully. It’s true that Rahab lied to her king (Jos. 2:3-5). But God did not praise her methods; He commended her faith and the fact that she acted on what she believed (Jos. 2:11).

Homework

Read through James, chapter three, for tomorrow and make the same kinds of notes you did for today’s study. (Major topics, vocabulary and points of interest) Check back tomorrow and we’ll compare notes.

James – Day 4

Introduction

What topics and ideas for further investigation did you find as you read chapter three? Here’s what I found:

Major Topics Discussed

  1. Tongue troubles (v. 1-12)
  2. True and false wisdom (v. 13-18)

Words and Phrases to Look Up

  • Masters (v. 1)
  • Governor (v. 4)
  • Similitude (v. 9)
  • Easy to be intreated (v. 17)

Let’s take a look at the definitions for these words from Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries.

1. Masters (v. 1)

(G1320) did-as’-kal-os

From G1321; an instructor (generally or specifically): – doctor, master, teacher.

So masters here are not slave owners, but Bible teachers.

2. Governor (v. 4)

(G2116) yoo-thoo’-no

From G2117; to straighten (level); technically to steer: – governor, make straight.

The governor would be the ship’s helmsman.

3. Similitude (v. 9)

(G3669) hom-oy’-o-sis

From G3666; assimilation, that is, resemblance: – similitude.

God made man in His image and likeness (Gen. 1:26).

4. Easy to be intreated (v. 17)

(G2138) yoo-pi-thace’

From G2095 and G3982; good for persuasion, that is, (intransitively) compliant: – easy to be intreated.

Those who are truly wise, care also ready to listen to what others have to say, and to comply with wisdom from other people.

Points of Interest / Research

  1. James says a lot about how hard it is to control our tongues, but doesn’t really offer a solution.
  2. I don’t know what “And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace” means (v. 18).
1. The Untamed Tongue

James said that the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity (v. 6) and that no man can tame it (v. 8). This is, of course, true. What stood out to me, though, was that James didn’t offer any guidance on how to deal with this member that is full of deadly poison (v.8). Other Bible passages address the problem and offer solutions:

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. (Eph 4:29)

Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. (Eph 5:4)

In these verses, Paul highlights the problem and suggests suitable substitutes for it.

I guess what I was looking for was for James to say, “You can’t tame your tongue, but God can. God can do anything. Ask for His help with this serious problem.”

Why? Maybe his audience already knew what to do. Did they just need to be reminded of the problem? I know from years of preaching that this is often true. Many sermons don’t teach anything new – they just remind the audience of the need to do what they already know.

Well, I don’t have any new revelation, but remember that I said we were going to compare notes. These are my ideas and impressions as I read and write about this chapter.

2. Verse 18

The last verse of the chapter say, “And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.” The wording here is a little confusing to me. You sow seeds, not fruit. As I was searching out this verse I came across an explanation by Albert Barnes that seemed clear and reasonable.

And the fruit of righteousness – That which the righteousness here referred to produces, or that which is the effect of true religion. The meaning is, that righteousness or true religion produces certain results on the life like the effects of seed sown in good ground. Righteousness or true religion as certainly produces such effects, as seed that is sown produces a harvest.

Is sown in peace – Is scattered over the world in a peaceful manner. That is, it is not done amidst contentions, and brawls, and strifes. The farmer sows his seed in peace. The fields are not sown amidst the tumults of a mob, or the excitements of a battle or a camp. Nothing is more calm, peaceful, quiet, and composed, than the farmer, as he walks with measured tread over his fields, scattering his seed. So it is in sowing the “seed of the kingdom,” in preparing for the great harvest of righteousness in the world. It is done by men of peace; it is done in peaceful scenes, and with a peaceful spirit; it is not in the tumult of war, or amidst the hoarse brawling of a mob. In a pure and holy life; in the peaceful scenes of the sanctuary and the Sabbath; by noiseless and unobtrusive laborers, the seed is scattered over the world, and the result is seen in an abundant harvest in producing peace and order.

Of them that make peace – By those who desire to produce peace, or who are of a peaceful temper and disposition. They are engaged everywhere in scattering these blessed seeds of peace, contentment, and order; and the result shall be a glorious harvest for themselves and for mankind – a harvest rich and abundant on earth and in heaven…

(Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible)

Homework

Read James chapter four and note the topics, vocabulary and points of interest so we can review them together tomorrow.

James – Day 5

Introduction

Remember, we’re surveying the book to get a sense of its content and flow. We’ll begin studying it a passage at a time next week.

I hope you’re reading James for yourself and thinking about it before you get here each day. It’s helpful to hear what someone else has to say about God’s Word, but nothing can take the place of having the Holy Spirit help you understand the Bible for yourself.

Major Topics Discussed

Here are the major topics I identified as I read James, chapter four.

  1. The source of strife and its cure (v. 1-10).
  2. Don’t speak evil of brethren (v. 11-12).
  3. Don’t boast about the future (v. 13-17).

How does that compare with what you found?

Words and Phrases to Look Up

Here are words and phrases I wanted to check out. The definitions that follow are from Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries follow.

  • Lusteth to envy (v. 5)
  • Double minded (v. 8)
  • Go to (v. 13)
Lusteth to envy

Lusteth (G1971) ep-ee-poth-eh’-o

From G1909 andpotheo? (to yearn); to dote upon, that is, intensely crave possession (lawfully or wrongfully): – (earnestly) desire (greatly), (greatly) long (after), lust.

Lust, then, is not always a negative or sinful thing. It is any strong desire.

Envy (G5355) fthon’-os

Probably akin to the base of G5351; ill will (as detraction), that is, jealousy (spite): – envy.

The Holy Spirit jealously desires that we would be faithful to Christ.

Double minded

(G1374) dip’-soo-khos

From G1364 and G5590; two spirited, that is, vacillating (in opinion or purpose): – double minded.

Go to

(G33) ag’-eh

Imperative of G71; properly lead, that is, come on: – go to.

We might say, “Come on, now…”

Points of Interest / Research

  • It seems strange that James presents prayer as the cure for unsatisfied lust, and then warns us that desiring to consume it upon our lusts is a cause for unanswered prayer. (v. 1-3)
  • “All such rejoicing is evil,” (v. 16) isn’t what I expected here. I thought it would say, “all such boasting is evil”.
Lust, pray, don’t lust

James asks what causes our infighting. He answers that it comes from our unsatisfied lusts and the sinful ways we try to get what we want. He then tells us to pray instead of going to war. So far, so good. But then he says our prayers don’t get answered, in part, because we want to consume it upon our lusts. It sounds like a contradiction, doesn’t it? Prayer is the way to fulfill your lusts, but God won’t answer selfish prayers. I think a couple of ideas are implied here.

As we saw in the vocabulary section, lusts are simply strong desires – they’re not always sinful. So we could be talking about right desires in verse two and wrong desires in verse three. Praying, not fighting, is the way to seek every good thing you want (James 1:17).

We might also be talking about motives here . Their lusts were good, but their motives were bad. They might, for example, have lusted to be church leaders. If they wanted to be of greater service to God’s people, that’s good. If they wanted to lead so they could boss people around, that’s bad, and God’ probably wouldn’t answer their prayers.

If it’s right to want, it’s right to pray for.

All such rejoicing is evil

This wasn’t how I expected this passage to end. I thought James would have condemned the boasting, the outward activity he was talking about. Instead, he condemns the rejoicing behind the boasting. God doesn’t just want us to keep quiet about our hallucinations about the future, He wants us not to have faith in them or rejoice about them.

Homework / Weekend Workshop

Read chapter five over the weekend and look for the same highlights you’ve been looking for in earlier chapters. Since you have a little extra time over the weekend, why not turn your major topics lists from each chapter into an outline of the book. You might want to expand it by adding sub-points for each section.

James – Day 6

Introduction

Today we finish our survey of the book of James. Tomorrow we’ll circle back around and begin studying the book a passage at a time. Here are my survey notes on chapter five.

Major Topics Discussed

  1. Condemnation of the wicked wealthy (v. 1-6)
  2. Saints called to patience (v. 7-11)
  3. Command to avoid oaths (v. 12)
  4. Commands to people in various situations (v. 13-15)
  5. The power of prayer (v. 16-18)
  6. The value of converting erring brothers (v. 19-20)

Words and Phrases to Look Up

  • Corrupted (v. 2)
  • Cankered (v. 3)
  • Lord of Sabaoth (v. 4)
  • Wanton (v. 5)
  • A day of slaughter (v. 5)

Here are the definitions for these words from Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries.

Corrupted

(G4595) say’-po

Apparently a primary verb; to putrefy, that is, (figuratively) perish: – be corrupted.

As I suspected, this word doesn’t refer to moral corruption, like a corrupt politician, but of the deterioration of the wealthy person’s possessions.

Cankered

(G2728) kat-ee-o’-o

From G2596 and a derivative of G2447; to rust down, that is, corrode: – canker.

Like corrupted above, this speaks of the coming decay of the rich man’s wealth.

Lord of Sabaoth

(G4519) sab-ah-owth’

Of Hebrew origin ([H6635] in feminine plural); armies; sabaoth (that is, tsebaoth), a military epithet of God: – sabaoth.

This title reveals God as the Commander of heaven’s armies. This is an especially terrifying prospect to those who angered Him by defrauding their workers.

Wanton

(G4684) spat-al-ah’-o

From spatale? (luxury); to be voluptuous: – live in pleasure, be wanton.

A day of slaughter

The words of this phrase are easy enough to understand. I jotted it down just to be sure it was talking about the slaughter of animals, not people. This refers to feast days where animals were slaughtered in celebration and sacrifice. The rich were living like every day was a holiday – a party.

Points of Interest / Research

  • I noticed the use of “Go to now…” again (v. 1) as in (4:13).
  • Here is another condemnation of the wicked wealthy. This must have been a big problem for James’ audience.
  • “But above all things, my brethren, swear not…” (v. 12) seems strange here for a couple of reasons.
  • I think it’s interesting that God commands a specific response to being merry (v. 13).

The first two points and the last one are just observations, so we’ll look at number three here.

Swear Not

Two things seem strange to me about this verse. The first is its emphasis. The opening phrase, “But above all things…” makes it sound like this is the most important thing James has said in his letter, or at least in this section. It doesn’t seem that way to me. When Peter used that phrase, it was about something that was of first importance:

And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. (1Pe 4:8)

I’m not saying the issue of improper oaths isn’t important. It seemed to be a particular problem for the Jews and the Lord took time to address it in the Sermon on the Mount.

(33) Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: (34) But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: (35) Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. (36) Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. (37) But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil. (Mat 5:33-37)

Matthew Henry offers this interesting insight:

“Some have translated the words, pro panto?n – before all things; and so have made sense of this place to be that they should not, in common conversation, before every thing they say, put an oath.” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible)

I’m not sure I buy that, but I’ll have to investigate this more and pick it up when we get to chapter five in our passage by passage study.

The second oddity about this verse is that it doesn’t seem connected to anything around it. As I was researching this, I found that Dr. Adam Clark shares my confusion:

“What relation this exhortation can have to the subject in question, I confess I cannot see. It may not have been designed to stand in any connection, but to be a separate piece of advice, as in the several cases which immediately follow.” (Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible)

Some commentators have called James’ letter the Proverbs of the New Testament because of his practicality and the way he moves rapidly from topic to topic. So I guess it could be just a freestanding verse. I’ll dig a little deeper when I come back to this passage.

Homework

Read over James 1:1-4. Find out what you can background of the book. Then interpret and apply the passage.

James – Day 8

Introduction

Today we’ll continue our look at how to face trials. In this section, James talks about how to get the wisdom we need to endure trials victoriously.

Jam. 1:5-8 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. (6) But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. (7) For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. (8) A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

If you lack wisdom

This passage continues James’ counsel about how believers should respond to trials. It’s great to know that God has a purpose in our trials, but His help doesn’t stop there. Some of the worst decisions we make, we make in moments of crisis. When you’re facing trials, you need wisdom, and God is willing to give it to you. What does it take to get it?

First, you need to recognize that “you lack wisdom.” Admitting your need is the first step to having that need met. You’re in over your head, whether you know it or not. The sooner you realize it, the better.

Pro. 3:5-7 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. (6) In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (7) Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.

OK, so you know you need wisdom. Next you need to ask God for the wisdom you lack. As James said later in this letter, “…ye have not, because ye ask not.” (4:2) We need to get over our pride, face our need, and go to the Source of wisdom. The good news is that God has the wisdom you need and He’s willing to share it with you liberally (generously).

Pro. 2:6 For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.

Not only that, but He will not upbraid you for lacking, or asking for, wisdom. Upbraid means to rail on, or taunt – He will not throw it in your face.

Ask in Faith

When we ask God for wisdom, we need to believe that He will do what He promised. We need to expect it; to be on the lookout for it. How will God give us wisdom? Through His Word. Through wise counsel. By ordering our circumstances. He leads us by His Spirit (Rom. 8:14). We must not let the winds of circumstance, human opinions or opposition change our minds. If we want to receive from God, we must believe God. Faith is an essential requirement for answered prayer:

Mat. 21:22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.

Mar. 11:22-24 And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. (23) For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. (24) Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.

You might be saying to yourself, “Hold on – I received things that I didn’t really think God was going to do and He did.” That happens often, I think. But remember, you may not be the only one praying. It might be someone else’s faith that God is responding to. Remember the man whose four friends tore the roof off to get him to Jesus? What did Jesus react to?

Mar 2:3-5 And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four. (4) And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay. (5) When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.

Don’t forget that Christ is praying for you, too (Heb. 7:25).

Double Minded

James calls this mix of asking and doubting being “double minded.” The Greek might literally be translated “two-souled.” God doesn’t want your unwavering trust. He wants His reliability to be a settled issue in your mind and heart. The Bible often expresses God’s desire for you to decide to believe Him:

Jos. 24:15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD

.

1Ki. 18:21 And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him.

And the people answered him not a word.

You might think it’s sophisticated to be open minded, and to take your religion with a grain of salt, but that’s not what God wants. He would rather have you reject Him outright than to be a fence-sitter or a pretender:

Rev. 3:15-16 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. (16) So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

Unstable

The person who is not utterly convinced of God’s trustworthiness is unstable. He can’t be counted on and he doesn’t make much progress in the Christian life.

The Bible speaks of the Christian life as a walk. Imagine two men walking. They begin at the same time, walking day after day. Both men walk the three thousand miles it takes to cross the United States from sea to sea. They expend the same effort and experience the same weariness. When they’re finished, one man has crossed the country a step at a time and the other hasn’t seen anything but the front of his house. Why? Because the second man walked 100 feet forward, then turned around and walked 100 feet backward. He spent a lot of energy, but he didn’t get anywhere because he couldn’t decide which way to go. A ridiculous example, sure, but it’s the way many Christians spend their whole lives.

This instability is not limited to a single area; the double-minded man is “unstable in all his ways.” Unbelief reveals itself in his family, his work, his church – it influences his entire life.

How’s It Going?

  • Do you recognize your need for wisdom?
  • Are you asking God for wisdom?
  • Do you believe God will do what He has promised?
  • Are there signs of double mindedness in your life?
  • Isn’t it about time you got all the way into, or out of, this life of faith?

Homework

Read James 1:9-12 and think about these questions:

  • In what way is the brother of low degree exalted?
  • In what way is the rich brother brought low?
  • Why are they both to rejoice?
  • What is the real measure of success in a believer’s life?

James – Day 9

Introduction

Let’s continue our look at how to face trials. In this section, James talks about how everyone benefits from their difficulties and how God rewards those who are victorious.

Jam. 1:9-12 Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: (10) But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. (11) For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways. (12) Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

Rejoice

James began this letter by encouraging his readers to “count it all joy.” He picks up that theme again here by encouraging “the brother of low degree” to rejoice. Who is this brother of low degree? He’s a poor Christian, in contrast to the rich believers James addressed in the next verse. What does this brother in humble circumstances have to rejoice about? He is to rejoice because, “he is exalted,” But James doesn’t explain how he is exalted.

Searching for the Greek word doesn’t offer much help. Of the six times the Greek word is used, this is the only place it is translated exalted, and the only place it refers to a person. So that leaves us to search for other Scriptures about the believer’s exaltation.

The most obvious place to start looking is in the book of James itself. Here is a passage that sheds some light on what James had in mind:

Jam. 2:5 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?
God has given the poor brother the opportunity to learn how to lean hard on Him. That lowly brother has been made a child of the King, and an heir of God’s kingdom. So God has indeed exalted the poor brother:

1Sa. 2:8 He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the LORD’S, and he hath set the world upon them.

This is greater, more valuable than anything else in the world:

Jer. 9:23-24 Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: (24) But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.

The rich brother also has reason to rejoice. He can rejoice in being “made low.” Riches are deceptive and unreliable:

1Ti 6:17 Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;

These folks were blessed by learning first hand how fleeting prosperity can be. When you’re rich, it’s easy to trust in your riches instead of trusting in God. Wealth can make you feel immortal, and the removal of it reminds the rich of their mortality.

Measured materially, both types of believers were losers. Measures spiritually, both could be winners. Thank God that success in God’s kingdom isn’t measured by the balance of your checkbook.

Blessed is the Man

Another benefit of going through testing is the reward that God gives to those who hold up under trials. They are blessed. God gives them, “the crown of life.” This crown is not a king’s crown, but the crown of a winning athlete (Gr. stephanos).

1Co. 9:25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.

2Ti. 4:8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

Rev. 2:10 Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

The Lord has promised this crown to, “them that love him.” Notice the common themes that run through the verses above: self-discipline, love, and enduring suffering. We show our love when we obey God and trust Him during the hard times.

So, if God is Who He says He is, and He is doing what He said He would do, every believer has reason to rejoice. This is true even when we’re going through hard times.

How’s it Going?

  1. Do you believe God is working through your circumstances to bless you?
  2. Are you rejoicing in your circumstances?
  3. Are you focused on the price or the prize?

Homework

Read James 1:13-16 and try to answer the following questions:

  • Does God tempt saints?
  • What is the source of temptation?
  • What is the result of giving in to temptation?

James – Day 10

Introduction

In the passage you studied yesterday, James takes up the question where of temptation comes from. God allows trials to come to His children, He works through them, and He rewards those who are victorious over temptation. Therefore, some of James’ readers might have thought that God was the source of temptation. James corrects that error in this passage:

Jam. 1:13-16 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: (14) But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. (15) Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. (16) Do not err, my beloved brethren.

God Doesn’t Temp

God doesn’t want His children running around saying, “Well, I wouldn’t have done wrong if God didn’t put me in this hard situation. It’s God’s fault I fell.” James makes two plain statements that contradict that kind of talk. “God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.”

It’s contrary to God’s nature to be tempted. This is true for many reasons. He is utterly holy and sin disgusts Him. Also, because He is all-knowing, all-powerful, and self-existent, there is nothing He needs outside Himself. No offer of evil entices Him. How does this relate to the fact that He does not tempt others?

Since temptation is utterly foreign to God, and God’s goal is to make us like Himself (Rom. 8:29), it is foolish to think that God would tempt us. Why would He entice us to do what He has commanded us not to do? God doesn’t tempt any man!

In fact, God will not let you face any temptation that more than you can handle with His help:

1Co. 10:13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

It’s encouraging to know that your Father will never let you face a battle you can’t win. He has promised that there is a way to escape the temptation and come away victorious. (It’s a little discouraging, too, to realize that every time you have given in in the past, you could have defeated temptation.)

Drawn Away of His Own Lust and Enticed

So what is the source of temptation? The first thing I noticed here is that the devil is never mentioned. While he is certainly involved in this process (Mat. 4:1, 1Pe. 5:8), he is not the believer’s focus.

Every one of us is tempted in the same way. The phrase drawn away is an interesting Greek word. According to Strong it means “to drag forth.” We are dragged into sin by our own lust – our cravings, especially for that which is wrong. We may want something that is wrong. Sometimes our desires are right, but we satisfy them in wrong ways. Finally, we can pursue right things, in right ways, at wrong times.

When our desires meet with sinful opportunities to fulfill them, we are enticed. That enticement, or temptation, is the offer to fulfill our desires in ways that are contrary to God’s will. It would be great if we had no internal desires that external opportunities could appeal to. Until that day comes, it’s a good practice to avoid as many external enticements to sin as we can.

Our lust, though, is the centerpiece of temptation. Without it, the external opportunity to do wrong doesn’t entice us. People set their trash out along the road and it stays there until the garbage man comes to pick it up. Why is that? Because no one wants it. (Except for the occasional stray dog.) Plenty of opportunity – no desire. So you can be sure that every time you’ve ever given in to sin it is because the enticement touched some internal lust in your heart. Why does that matter? Well, if you can’t be honest with yourself about the cause, you won’t ever find the cure.

Sin Bringeth Forth Death

When lust and sin get together, they conceive a child named death. Paul said the old man is driven by “deceitful lusts” (Eph. 4:22). Ever since Adam we’ve believed the lies sin tells. We’ve trusted its promises to fulfill and satisfy us. In the end, though, it separates us from God – the true and ultimate meaning of death.

You might like to think that your sinful choices only affect you, but you’re wrong. Your sins can bring death to others, too. That’s true physically and spiritually. When it is finished, in the end, this is where sin leads.

You might translate the last verse in this passage, “Make no mistake about it.” Make no mistake about it, these are the facts about temptation:

  • God’s not enticing you to do wrong.
  • Your lusts combined with sinful opportunities to satisfy them are the source of your temptations.
  • You think you’re life will be better if you give in to temptation, but it won’t – sin leads to death.

How’s It Going?

  • Have you been blaming God for your temptations and sins?
  • Can you identify the lusts that keep dragging you, personally, into sin?
  • What is sin promising you, personally, that it can’t deliver?

Homework

We’re going to do something a little different for the next couple of days. I’d like you to do some research and post your answers to the following questions on tomorrow’s blog post.

  1. James said, “God cannot be tempted.” How do you explain verses like Num. 14:22, Deu. 6:16, and Psa. 95:8-9 in light of James’ statement?
  2. As a corollary to the previous question, how do you explain the temptation of Christ (Mat. 4:1)? We believe Christ was God. We believe God can’t be tempted. Christ was tempted.
  3. James told us that God doesn’t tempt any man. How do you explain verses like Genesis 22:1 and 2Sa. 24:1in light of James’ statement?

James – Day 13

Introduction

I asked you to research three questions about God and temptation over the last few days. While the response was underwhelming, I hope you took time to do the work. Today we’re going to consider some answers to those questions.

How did people tempt God when God can’t be tempted?

James said, “God cannot be tempted.” That was the reason he gave in support of the fact that God does not tempt. but here are some verses that talk about God being tempted:

Num. 14:22 Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice;

Psa. 95:8-9 Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness: (9) When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work.

One of the foibles of language is that the context in which a word appears can change its meaning. You know, for example, that a cool breeze is different from a cool person. The word cool means something different in each context. Jesse hit the nail on the head with his comment:

“When two Bible passages seem to contradict each other, the context and translation should be examined carefully. Some would be tempted to draw a false preception from John 6:6 and James 1:13, but studies in the history of the word, however, prove that it is a word simply referring to the act of assessing through questioning or testing. The context of the word is the determining factor in proper translation.”

The Hebrew word used in Numbers 14:22 and Psalm 95:9 is:

H5254 naw-saw’ A primitive root; to test; by implication to attempt: – adventure, assay, prove, tempt, try. (Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries)

These people were not trying to get God to sin. Their goal wasn’t to entice Him to do wrong, but their attitudes and actions certainly tested God’s patience. That’s the meaning of the word in context.

He knows everything and can do anything. He can create the fulfillment of any desire He might have. He knows the ultimate outcome of all actions, theoretical or real, so sin can deceive Him like it deceives us. Therefore, sin doesn’t entice God.

How could Jesus be tempted if He was God?

As a corollary to the previous question, how do you explain the temptation of Christ? We believe Christ was God. We believe God can’t be tempted. Christ was tempted. How do you align these truths?

Mat. 4:1 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.

Did the Spirit tempt Jesus? No, the devil did the tempting. “Still,” you say, “the Spirit led Him into the place of temptation.” That’s true. An illustration or two might be in order here.

What is a teacher’s goal in testing students? It’s not to make them fail. It isn’t to get them to cheat. The teacher has given the student the information they need to pass the test and time to get ready. Then the teacher tests them so that they can show what they know.

A manager sets his boxer up with a fight. He does it because he is confident that his fighter can win. Now the opponent and his manager have a different reason for taking the fight. They want to defeat first boxer. Their goal is just the opposite in the same match. So the same situation is an opportunity for victory and defeat.

The Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to win a great battle. He knew His Fighter would win. The enemy certainly didn’t enter the ring with that outcome in mind. His goal was to triumph over Jesus. By the way, the Father has promised never to put you in the ring with an opponent you can’t defeat:

1Co. 10:13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

Was the devil trying to get Jesus to sin? Yes. Jesus was God, though, so the enticement didn’t appeal to Him. He didn’t have to say, “Give me a day or two to think it over, Satan.” It was a temptation because it was an enticement to sin. It was not a temptation because the enticement didn’t find a matching internal lust to mate with and conceive sin. I though Heather’s comment was right on target here, “The Bible says God can’t be tempted, but it doesn’t say that people won’t try.”

Why does the Bible say that God tempted Abraham?

James told us that God doesn’t tempt any man. The Bible also tells us that God tempted Abraham:

Gen. 22:1-2 And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. (2) And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.

It’s important to remember the distinction between testing and temptation. The goal of the tester is for the one tested to pass the test. The goal of temptation is for the one being tempted to do evil. Here’s a concise explanation:

God did tempt Abraham – not incite to sin (Jam_1:13), but try, prove – give occasion for the development of his faith (1Pe_1:7).

It’s never God’s goal or desire for anyone to sin. God didn’t want Abraham to sin. God wanted Abraham to trust, and he did.

Weekend Workshop

Read James 1:17-21 in preparation for Monday’s study and look for answers to these questions:

  • What does it mean to be “a kind of firstfruits of His creatures?”
  • In what way are the actions of verse 19 a proper response to the truths of verses 17 and 18?
  • What kind of changes is God expecting of us based on verse 21?