Categories
Life

Words

Daily I am reminded of how careless I am with words. Thankfully, Christ died for the sins of my tongue just as much as any other sin.

Here is a “Bible verse poem” compiled from Proverbs 10:19, Ephesians 4:29, Luke, 6:45, and Matthew 12:36-37. Lord, remind us of the power of our words

Words

When words are many,
transgression is not lacking,
but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good,
and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil,
for out of the abundance of the heart
his mouth speaks.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths,
but only such as is good for building up,
as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account
for every careless word they speak,
for by your words you will be justified,
and by your words you will be condemned.

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Theology

Does James Contradict Paul?

Part 8 in an 8 part series. View series intro and index.

Over the centuries, some have argued that the apostle James in his letter contradicts Paul’s doctrine of justification.  The proof text for this, they say, is James 2:14-24.  James says, “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (v. 24).   The argument people make, however, is that we need faith in Jesus plus works, not simply faith.  This is unconvincing for (at least) two reasons:

  1. James’ context is to convince people that intellectual faith is not enough to save them.  He says, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?  Can that faith save him?” (2:14).  In other words, there is no fruit of the Spirit in this person’s life (Gal. 5:22-23).  Are they even saved in the first place?  Probably not, James would say.  James wants his readers to not have dead faith or demon faith (vv. 19, 26).  He says that faith without works is dead—meaning that it is not alive and therefore doesn’t exist.  It’s not really there at all.  So in Paul’s mind, justification is a legal act of God in which he declares a person not guilty.  In James’ mind, justification is a person’s righteous actions that happen because of God’s legal act.  If the first kind of justification never happens, the second will never happen.  James wants people to test their faith.  Is it simply intellectual? traditional? cultural?  Make sure, James says, that you aren’t dead or demonic.
  2. Paul continually quoted and referred to Abraham being justified at a much earlier time than James refers to.  James refers to Abraham being justified in his actions much later in his life.  The Greek word dikaioo can also mean, “To show, exhibit, and evidence one to be righteous, such as he is and wishes himself to be considered.”  James is concerned with practical, daily living (the book is referred to as “The Proverbs of the New Testament”).  When James writes that Abraham was “justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar,” he is referring to an action later than what Paul refers to.  Paul quotes over and over again Genesis 15:6 in Romans 4.  Abraham doesn’t offer up Isaac until Genesis 22:10.  Perhaps there were 15 or 20 years in between these events (Abraham had to wait for Isaac’s birth, and Isaac would have been old enough to walk up the mountain with Abraham).  That is why James writes, “The Scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’” (v. 23).  Abraham simply proved he had faith with his works.

This is a clear teaching in Scripture and one that separates Christianity from essentially ever other religious system in the world.  Christianity teaches that we come to God by faith because of his grace.  Other religions teach that we come to God by mustering up good deeds, hoping that we will have accomplished enough.  This takes all the pressure off of us to perform for God or “keep our slate clean” before him.  It shows that God is a loving,  gracious, merciful, compassionate, and forgiving God.  Wayne Grudem said, “This fact should give us a great sense of joy and confidence before God that we are accepted by him and that we stand before him as ‘not guilty’ and ‘righteous’ forever.”

That deserves a great “Amen!”

Categories
Theology

James and the Beattitudes

In James 3:13-18, James speaks about two beatitudes that Jesus taught on: meekness and peacemaking.  I can just imagine that while James sat down to write this letter he couldn’t help but recall the time when he thought everything Jesus, his own brother, taught was foolish (see John 7:1-9).

As he pens these practical, wise words, probably with tears streaming down his cheeks, he knows that what his brother, the Savior of the world, was teaching was the pure truth: the meek will inherit the earth, and peacemakers will be called sons of God (see Matt. 5:5, 9).

Categories
Life

Pitfalls in Communication: Sin

Part 6 of a 6 part series. View series intro and index.

Let’s have a short review of everything we’ve discussed over the past six weeks about our communication.  We assume the worst about people and assume they know what we are thinking.  We communicate differently than our neighbors, our friends, and the opposite gender because we are all from different cultures.  We tend to withhold important truths, manipulate facts, or change the subject.  We want to avoid talking to people face-to-face because it’s uncomfortable.  We have unreasonable expectations and therefore, become greatly disappointed in others.

That’s a pretty dismal pedigree.  All of these things happen because of something called sin.  It lives in us—even Christians—and it wreaks havoc on our relationships.  Listen to James, the brother of Jesus, talk about why we have problems with other people:

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?  Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?  You desire and you do not have, so you murder.  You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.  You do not have because you do not ask.  You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions (4:1-3).

Jesus Christ has perfectly spoken on God’s behalf to the world.  And in turn, he has perfectly spoken to God on our behalf as our advocate (1 John 2:2).  That same passage in 1 Timothy says that Jesus “gave himself as a ransom for all” (v. 6).  If haven’t received Christ by faith as the ransom for your sinful life—communication pitfalls included—to obtain peace before God (Rom. 5:1), then you will never experience peace with others.  Sure, there might be superficial peace and joy and it might seem great.  But if you haven’t addressed your greatest problem—your own sinful self—all your other problems will never get solved.

Quality communication with the people around us really can happen.  You don’t have to be a communicative failure.  Things can never be perfect, of course.  But the gospel of Jesus Christ doesn’t exist just to save you from hell and damnation.  It exists to bring restoration between us and God and also to every area of life—especially relationships with others.

In the gospel, we find forgiveness on God’s part and repentance on ours.  In your life, you will have to do both with people, and if you can sincerely live this out with others, I trust that God will bring healing and redemption to your all of your relationships.

Categories
Ministry

‘Nuisance’ Suffering Still Builds Endurance

One of the main lessons I’ve been learning while in South Africa is that suffering that seems to be a nuisance is still building endurance in my heart.  Most of the time, when I have to wait in line for a very long time, when my car breaks down, when communication is slow and sporadic, or when working with other ministries seems to handcuff me, I’d rather experience “true” Christian suffering than these annoyances.  To me, that would seem “more spiritual” or able to build me up more in Christ.

But the Lord has been reminding me that any kind of trial is either an opportunity to worship him or an idol.  If I worship Jesus, these mini-trials will build endurance, then character, and then hope (Rom. 5:3-5).  If I worship Jesus, these trials will produce steadfastness in faith (James. 1:2-4).  On the other hand, if I worship an idol (i.e. my agenda, punctuality, structure, details, etc.), then my heart grows hard, cold, unloving, and angry with God.

The apostle James says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).

Every kind of trail, great and small, can be fruitful.  The only question I need to ask is who am I worshiping during these trials: Jesus or myself?