23 April 2017

To Be Rich Without God


James 5:1-6

Would you like to be rich? Very few would say, “Nah, it doesn’t interest me!” One wise guy said, “They say it’s better to be poor and happy than rich and miserable. But couldn’t something be worked out, such as being moderately wealthy and just a little moody?” As Christians, we know that the Bible has many warnings against the dangers of pursuing wealth. Paul said this to TimothyBut those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” 1 Tim 6:9-10. But most of us read this portion of Paul’s letter would say “I could handle it, or at least I’d like to try!”

Too many people! It seems as if more money would solve a whole lot of our problems. But, we often forget that wealth can create a lot of problems as well. Something dangerous was happening at the time of his letter. Something so dangerous forced James to pen some of the harshest words in his entire letter. There where men who were using their wealth for selfish purposes and were persecuting the ones [labourers] who help them to get it. We have seen throughout this letter of James a series of tests which validate or invalidate one’s claim to be a Christian! James presents yet another test to how we view money? We need to understand especially in our North American thinking! True happiness and contentment depends on the true riches of God's grace, not on our earthly wealth as some would have you believe today….even from the pulpit.

See! It doesn't matter how much money you have! God does not determine your spiritual growth or your faith by your money or your worth for that matters………………going back to the 2nd chapter of his letter.

Do we love our wealth more than Jesus? 
Do we love our possessions, our stuff more than Jesus? 
Or! Do we love the Lord and treasure Him as the most valuable gift in our lives?

The reason I ask these questions…….this was, and still is, a major problem in the church today! Jesus said “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal [devoted] to the one and despise [hate] the other. You cannot serve God and mammon." Luke 16:13 The love or a stronger word worship of money will divide your interestsWhich means: “you’re not exclusively committed to the Lord” 
It will hinder your spiritual growth.
It will hinder your desire to pray and seek God in everything.
It will hinder your complete dependence on God in every aspect of your Christian life.
It will hinder your motivation to spend it for God's purposes instead of our own.

One thing we need to understand! Money is not evil in itself! The bible does not teach that possessing money is sinful or wrong. This truth is confirmed in Proverbs “The blessing of the LORD makes one rich, And He adds no sorrow with it.” Prov 10:22. David Livingstone had the right idea when it came to money "Do not think me mad. It is not to make money that I believe a Christian should live. The noblest thing a man can do is, just humbly to receive, and then go amongst others and give."

The problem that comes with money is the Love of money! 
“….For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” 1 Tim 6:9-10
The worship of money is rooted in evil…..
It produces disobedience
It produces greed
It produces a  breach in your spiritual walk
It produces nothing but sorrow and grief

James gives the warning in the opening sentence “for the miseries that are coming upon you.” (v1) A person who desires money, possessions, wealth and stuff they are only setting themselves up for a major fall…because they are blinded by their own hearts desires. We are going to learn as Christians what not to do when faced with a situation like this! We’re also going to see the hearts of those who belly is their god! People who say “What’s in it for me?” James points out 4 MAJOR CONCERNS that the love or worship of money does and why it’s so dangerous for a person's soul.


THE WORSHIP OF MONEY WILL RESULT IN MATERIALISM (V2- V3)

Their wealth was being uselessly hoarded…..stored up! “Hoardingmeans to instinctively collecting and laying up provisions for winter; as, the squirrel is a hoarding animal. The rich were storing away their wealth in barns and James is saying ”all that money and all those possessions, all that stuff you buy that you do not need is rotting.” You think your investing is wise, but sadly in the end it will bring miseries. Jesus warned the disciples about where they storing their treasures "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;  but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matt 6:19-21. Jesus said in Luke 12:21 "So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."

Where is it supposed to go then?

IT IS TO BE USED TO ADVANCE GOD'S KINGDOM

In Mark 12:42-44 Jesus made this comment “Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. (It was in value about three mills and a half, or one-third of a cent) So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood." 

IT IS TO BE USED AS A MEANS FOR PROVIDING FOR YOUR FAMILY.

In 1Tim 5:8 “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
  
IT IS TO BE USED TO CARE FOR THOSE IN NEED.

In 1 John 3:17 “But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?”
  
IT IS TO BE USED FOR SUPPORTING THOSE IN MINISTRY WHETHER IT’S FULL OR PART TIME.

In 1 Tim 5:17-18 “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”

We are not to hoard our possessions or wealth; it’s to be used where necessary! Everything we do is for His glory. Look what James said…. all things are subject to decay, theft, fire, or some other form of loss. (v2) James uses 3 descriptive words in these 2 verses.

Corrupted (v2) which means to destroy, to become corrupt, rotten. When combined with the fallen, greedy, selfish human heart, money can quickly corrupt.

Corroded (v3a) which means to rust down

Fire (v3b) which means literally or figuratively, specifically lightning): - fiery, fire. It symbolizes fast, inescapable, fatal, and final judgement.

When God brings judgment, even these precious metals will be doomed to corruption and fire. Think about it! What good were all the gold and silver in the world in A.D. 70 when Titus destroyed Jerusalem and slaughtered a million Jews? James was rebuking this people for hoarding their wealth without regards for anyone else especially our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. That it will all be consumed to nothing and the fact of their laying up treasures would be followed by painful consequences.
  
THE WORSHIP OF MONEY WILL RESULT IN DECEPTION (V4)

Their wealth was Unjustly Gained…exploiting others for personal gain. Moses said in Lev 19:13 ‘You shall not cheat your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of him who is hired shall not remain with you all night until morning.”

James uses the term “you kept back by fraud"

Fraud means to deprive; to ransack or loot by robbing. The money changers in the Temple where prime examples of this sort of behaviour. “Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. And He said to them, "It is written, 'MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER,' but you have made it a 'DEN OF THIEVES.'" Matt 21:12-13

Not only did they hoard their money or possessions, but they also sinfully acquired it. Far from being generous to the poor or those in need as we have seen earlier in James letter. The rich were taking advantage of others [there workers] is a very dangerous thing. Tricking people so that you can gain money is a dangerous game to be playing! Jeremiah speaks of this kind of person. In Jer 22:13 "Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness And his chambers by injustice, Who uses his neighbor's service without wages And gives him nothing for his work, James uses the expression they “They cry out against you” (v4) Cries out mean to shout, or to scream! Example John the Baptist when he said "I am 'THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS: "MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD," ' as the prophet Isaiah said."  John 1:23. This is the same kind of cry, those who were wrongly being used, by those who wanted their own pockets filled for personal gain, or riches. Moses warned that the rich who try to deceive the poor "You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether one of your brethren or one of the aliens who is in your land within your gates. Each day you shall give him his wages, and not let the sun go down on it, for he is poor and has set his heart on it; lest he cry out against you to the LORD, and it be sin to you.” Deut 24:14-15

What does this cry mean? There is going to be a frightening judgement awaiting those who unjustly hoard the wealth they rob from the poor. Their victims will cry out for justice to the Righteous Judge and He will not disappoint them." It says they cried out to the “Lord of Host” which means hosts, or armies. Describes God as Commander of the armies of Heaven. The Lord of Hosts…..He is the One who hears the cries of the defrauded poor and will call His angelic armies to act in judgement. Matt 13:41-42 “The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” The Psalmist says “When He avenges blood, He remembers them; He does not forget the cry of the humble.” Ps  9:12. The worship of money only leads to trouble, blindness and possibly eternal destruction!

THE WORSHIP OF MONEY WILL RESULT IN OPPORTUNITY SQUANDERED (V5)

Their wealth was Self Indulgently spent living the luxury at the expense of others. “Life of Wanton” means giving oneself to the pursuit of pleasure, vain attempt to satisfy their own insatiable desires. Basically filling your heart’s desire with stuff! I must have this in order to make me happy. This kind of behavior is often foolishness, produces blindness, and sadly a harden heart to the truth. It is often a hindrance to accept the Gospel! In Matt 13:22 “Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.” The son who wasted everything! In Luke 15:13 “And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.” Paul warned the Philippian believer's about this kind of person! In Phil 3:18-19 “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things.” Lavish indulgences can lead to something worse than plain old self-indulgences; they lived only to eat and drink, and to enjoy life. Isaiah 22:12-13 wrote “And in that day the Lord GOD of hosts Called for weeping and for mourning, For baldness and for girding with sackcloth. But instead, joy and gladness, Slaying oxen and killing sheep, Eating meat and drinking wine: "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!"

James warns this kind of person of a coming day of slaughter. This is a sad picture of people around us today making castles for themselves in the sand, filling their bellies with their heart desires. All this leads to death, a coming day of slaughter! This is a frightening picture of His divine Judgement Basically what James is saying “you are heading to the slaughter house, because you are like fat cows who are ready to be put to death" Blind to Heaven, deaf to warnings of Hell. They are insensitive to the impending day of slaughter and judgement, unless they repent"
  
THE WORSHIP OF MONEY WILL RESULT IN A EVIL HEART (V6)

Their wealth was cold-bloodedly attained. Do you see the progression the love money has over an individual.

After storing up the money
They robbed from the poor
Spent it on themselves
Now they would utterly kill to maintain their lavish lifestyle.

James said (v6) "You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you." This describes the next step in a selfish indulged lifestyle that only wants to fulfill self! This is the sinful progression of someone who loves money! They will do anything to attain it! You have condemned (means) to sentence, the implications is that the rich were using the courts to commit judicial murder. They will do whatever it takes to keep what they have attained for themselves. They will kill whoever gets in their way of Living. The Pharisee’s were a prime example in the Gospels and in the early church in Acts 4:10-12 Peter said “let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified…” In Matt 23:29-34 Jesus said "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, 'If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.' "Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers' guilt. Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city,

And you have “Murdered the Just” means the righteous, denotes someone morally upright…….in a sense those who genuinely saved under the righteousness of Christ….”the just ones.” As they killed the Righteous One [Jesus Christ] they will continue to do the same to us in order to keep what is there’s. But James finishes this statement, by saying "he will not resist you" The Christian will not resist you! This means the Christian will not resist their oppressors, they will live out the truth taught by our Lord.” Jesus said in Matt 5:39-44 “But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. "You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,

G. K. Chesterton said "The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies: probably because they are generally the same people."
  
Wealth may be a blessing a gift from God….bring the opportunity to do good with it like the first church giving everything they had to supply the need of the Believers in Acts 2. But that can only be true of those who are also "rich in Faith" Rich in Christ Jesus

What is the warning for us?

Don’t let your wealth be uselessly hoarded.
Don’t let your wealth be unjustly gained.
Don’t let your wealth be self-indulgently spent.
Don’t let your wealth be ruthlessly acquired.
  
There are so many people in our society today who are intent on accumulating all the possessions they can, totally oblivious to the fact that we are living in the last days. Judgment is indeed coming. As Luke wrote “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect." Luke 12:40. We as Believers need to be careful that we do not become infected with this same attitude. We can get so easily caught up in the same pursuits acquiring all that we can, while ignoring the fact that we are living in the last days. Whatever you are banking on will not last, even our most precious and indestructible things are doomed to decay. What will our [your] store of wealth say about us when we stand before Christ? (1 Tim. 6:8-10, 17-19). Riches in themselves are morally neutral, neither good nor evil. Wealth is like fire — very useful, but also terribly dangerous. We must balance between practical saving and sinful stashing. Material wealth will be worthless when our Lord returns. Place priority, not on your possessions, but how you use them for the glory of God. As the apostle Paul said to the believers at Corinth “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (2Cor 5:10)
  
God will have the final say! So the Sunday question is…………What does your wealth say about you?

15 April 2017

THE CUP CONSUMED FOR US


Mark 14:32-42

There is a story about two young brothers around the age of 10 and 11. They were always getting into trouble around the community. There wasn’t a day that would go by that these two young boys wouldn’t find something to get themselves into......After many talks and many spanks the father was at the point that he didn’t know what to do! He followed what the word of God said.....but still nothing changing in their behaviour. Then one day like clockwork! It happened again. His sons got into trouble and dad knew, and they knew it was time for another spanking........but dad did something that he never done before......he called his sons into the living room, paused for a moment and said to his sons...”you don’t seem to care about how this hurts me and your mother......the spankings don’t seem to be working, when I ground you or take things away you don’t seem to care”.........Another pause and dad said “So I’m not going to spank you or do anything!” Both brothers looked at each other and smiled until dad said “I’m not done, there is something else I want you boys to do! I want you to spank me as if I was spanking you for this punishment.” Both sons looked at each other thinking is dad serious...is he joking......Both sons were confused! So the older son said “you want us to spank you for our misbehaviour?” Dad replied “yes!” They refused and then dad’s voice got a little louder...and said “you will do what I asked.” Again both sons refused and dad said “you must!” So both sons took a paddle and then one after another they smacked their fathers backside as tears rolled down their faces........But as they spanked their father something made them stop! They saw tears rolling down their fathers cheeks.....They asked their father “why did you make us do this. We are so sorry?” The dad replied as he wipes away the tears from his eyes “I wanted you see how much your sin and disobedience grieves me.” But dad they asked “why did you take our punishment for something we did”........There was another pause and he answered “because I love you and you need  to understand that I’m willing to do whatever it takes for you to see that your sins hurt not only yourselves but those who love you dearly.”

This is a light in comparison, but a clear example of what Christ did for us on a day like this! Jesus Christ came to take our place because we are no different than those two boys in that story. Jesus Christ took my shame and punishment so that I could be forgiven by a God who loves us and desires us to follow Him. Jesus Christ became our substitute, he took our sentence of death because of our sin.

Turn to Mark 14! We must not enter this passage of scripture casually...we are trending on holy ground this morning! We are entering the garden of Gethsemane or as C J Mahaney calls it “We are entering the garden that reminds me of my sin.”

Look at (v33-v34) For the first time in Jesus’ ministry He is greatly distressed. It wasn’t that Jesus never experienced grief or distress over sin and death. It was the fact he was becoming sin for us! When Jesus wept over Lazarus it wasn’t over his death.....it was over the power of sin and death over mankind our ignorance to it. Why was Jesus so distressed or grieved even to the point of dyingJesus knew he was closer at that moment then he was the day before. That ordained appointment of death was finally here! He was about to bear the wrath of almighty God. Sadly many people today take this passage of scripture to prove the non-deity of Christ. The pagan Celsus used this question in his writings as an argument against Christianity! He said “how can one who is divine mourn and lament and fear to escape the fear of death.” The answer is simple………………and it’s found in the Scriptures!

JESUS KNEW THAT DEATH IS THE WAGE OF SIN. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom 6:23. Jesus knew that he would pay the total wage of sin in full.

 JESUS KNEW THAT DEATH IS A RESULT OF THE JUDGEMENT OF GOD. Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Rom 5:12. Jesus knew he would be that judgement
  
JESUS KNEW HE WOULD BECOME SIN. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Cor 5:21
  
JESUS KNEW THAT DEATH WOULD BRING ON HIM THE WRATH OF GOD. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin,....” Isa 53:10. Jesus knew that he would bear the full wrath of God
  
JESUS KNEW HE WOULD BE OUR PROPITIATION. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 1 John 4:10

What is John saying? He is saying that without Jesus we are one breath away from facing the wrath of a holy God. Propitiation by definition is “To make peace; to appease one offended and render him favourable”

Vines dictionary defines it in this way: “It is God who is "propitiated" by the vindication of His holy and righteous character, whereby, through the provision He has made in the vicarious and expiatory sacrifice of Christ, He has so dealt with sin that He can show mercy to the believing sinner in the removal of his guilt and the remission of his sins.  God must punish sin because He hates sin. We will never fully understand what Jesus was feeling at that moment....because His distress and anguish is a million times greater then what we will experience here in this life. His burden was the weight of the world’s sin...not just at that time in history but from the beginning of the world to the end of the world. Jesus was beginning to feel the weight of all humanity’s sin at this very moment. This pending death that is critical, almost kills Him in the garden! This event in history is so overwhelming it brings Jesus to the point of asking the Father this question....(v35-v36a)

So the next obvious question would be……….What’s in the cup?

Righteousness
Justice
Hatred of sin
Holiness
Authority


The wrath of God for the sins of the earth past, present, and future. In his book “Attributes of God” Arthur Pink said this profound statement “A study of the concordance will show that there are more references in Scripture to the anger, fury, and wrath of God, than there are to His love and tenderness. Because God is holy, He hates all sin; And because He hates all sin, His anger burns against the sinner.” As the Psalmist saidGod is a just judge, And God is angry with the wicked every day.” Ps 7:11

This is what was in the cup. This is why Jesus was asking the Father if there was another way to fulfill His wrath. Please tell me! This is where we need to pay close attention to as we read this historical account of Jesus in the garden...........Heaven is silent, God the Father is silent! Jesus is left feeling a deep loneliness...that same kind of loneliness He felt on the Cross for those 3 hours..... If there were any other way....or an alternativeThe Father would have provided it as He did for Abraham when he went to slay his son....... Jesus is left with His answer.......NO!............... This is the only way to appease a holy God. Jesus got His answer by the Father’s silence. It was almost like Jesus was becoming repulsive to the Father as He was becoming sin for us. The silence must have been deafening to Jesus in the garden.....that sense of being forsaken by the intimate relationship He has with the Father.....I love how R.C. Sproul explains the life of Christ “from the moment of His birth, Jesus lived in the shadow of the cross. It was clearly established that Jesus was destined to die a horrible death, not simply in terms of human pain, but because He would die as a sacrifice, under the wrath of God. Jesus, even in His perfect humanity, shrank back at the utter horror of it and so cries out to His Father to remove this cup from Him.”

There is only one way to reconcile us back to the Father......He must take our cup!
This is how serious our sin is to a holy and righteous God. As Sidlow Baxter said “Separate Christmas Day from Good Friday, and Christmas is doomed--doomed to decay into a merely sentimental or superstitious or sensuous "eat-drink-and-be-merry"……the birth and the death, must always be seen together,…."the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister; and to give His life a ransom for many." This is so serious that His only desire was to do the Father’s perfect will! (v36b).......Remember what He said to His disciples “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.." John 6:38-40. He did this by obeying God to the very end! Even if it meant facing the almighty wrath of God on our behalf. He came to take my cup...your cup......our cup! When you read this passage you begin to ask yourself! The same question the two young boys asked their father! Why are you doing this? I doing this because you are an anathema (abomination) to God the Father. Why are you here in the garden? Because of your sin. Our only way home or forgiveness is that Jesus must bare my sin...your sin.....the world’s sin....This moment in history....our lives hang in the balance of this one moment in time! He took my wrath that I deserve...He bore my shame and agony.

He said I will take your punishment for your crime against the Father. Christ in all His humanity “the radiance of [God’s] glory and the exact representation of His nature . . . . ............went to Cross for you and me.....”Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe...” As the Hebrew writer said “When He had made purification (cleanse us) of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” Though He faced this moment in garden alone! Never doubt for a moment that despite the distress...agony........... and shame.........He did all this with joy! looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Heb 12:2

Dear loved ones! What are you saying in your heart this morning? NO! Leave Him alone don’t crucify my Lord? Or are you saying! “Crucify Him, because I need Him to consume the wrath I deserve for my sin? This is what Jesus did for you and me on day such as this! And when He gave up His last breath Jesus said “It is FINISHED” And all of God’s children said “It is finished indeed!”