I want to start by reading a story that many in the Christian circle thought to be true, but according to “Snopes.com” a Fact Checking website determined this story to be a made up story. Weather this story is true or not, the foundation of this story will make any Christian examine their life under God’s amazing grace as we come into James letter. The story goes like this! A Pastor transformed himself into a homeless person and went to the 10,000 member church that he was to be introduced as the head pastor at that morning. He walked around his soon to be church for 30 minutes while it was filling with people for service....only 3 people out of the 7-10,000 people said hello to him. He asked people for change to buy food... NO ONE in the church gave him change. He went into the sanctuary to sit down in the front of the church and was asked by the ushers if he would please sit in the back. He greeted people to be greeted back with stares and dirty looks, with people looking down on him and judging him.
As he sat in the back of the church, he listened to the church announcements and such. When all that was done, the elders went up and were excited to introduce the new pastor of the church to the congregation...."We would like to introduce to you Pastor Jeremiah"... The congregation looked around clapping with joy and anticipation.....The homeless man sitting in the back stood up... and started walking down the aisle... the clapping stopped with ALL eyes on him.... he walked up the altar and took the microphone from the elders (who were in on this) and paused for a moment.... then he recited
"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’” The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'"
Well! After he recited this, he looked towards the congregation and told them all what he had experienced that morning... many began to cry and many heads were bowed in shame... he then said “Today I see a gathering of people... not a church of Jesus Christ. The world has enough people, but not enough disciples... when will YOU decide to become disciples?” He then dismissed service until next week... Being a Christian is more than something you claim. It's something you live by and share with others.
We know how the world looks at one another? But how do you look at others? Do you judge a person by their outward appearance? As the old saying “never judge a book by its cover.” Do you look to find out within the person to see who they really are? Do you go out of your way to get to know them and hear their story of God’s grace?
The reason I ask this is because….. Every human being, even Christians are not naturally inclined to be impartial, which means: fair, unbiased. We tend to put people in groups…..we tend to put them in predetermined categories or pockets.
Ranking other people/Christians by….
Their worth or their success
Their social status
We also tend to [sadly] rank people by their power and wealth: What kind of car they drive or how many vehicles they have sitting in their drive way. How expensive their toys are [e.g: ATV, Sea Doo, Snow machine…..maybe in our area what brand of gun or sowing machine you have]. What type of house they live in or by popularity? But all these things are meaningless and add nothing to the eternal value to a person’s soul. And most of all they hold no favour with a holy God. Listen to what Moses said about this……“For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial (does not show partiality) and takes no bribe.” Deut 10:17. What’s amazing about that statement Moses makes is that God expected His people to reflect that same impartiality toward one another. “You shall not be partial in judgment. You shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God's. And the case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.” Deut 1:17
Why do we tend to put people in categories? Just because they are different financially or physically, socially then you. If you think about for a minute, we are really all the same, whether you have more, less or have a terrible background than your neighbor. We are all sinners in need of a Saviour whether you rich or poor. In the mirror of scripture we are all criminals who deserve HELL. So why do we look sideways at people before we get a chance to know them? What are we to do, so that we do not fall to this kind of behavior? The true Christian must not fall to this kind of behavior. Why? Its sin! (v9). James feared that the early church believers we’re falling to this kind of thinking. Remember what James said earlier James 1:9 “Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation,…” Let the poor brother in the Lord, glory or rejoice in his position as a son of the Living God. For his home is the same as my home, your home….the same thing was said to Philemon about Onesimus.
Paul said to Philemon that Onesimus is“………..no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. Phil 1:13-16. Let me warn you this morning! If this is happening in your life, you must stop this wicked behavior? If this is happening in your life, you need to repent, and begin to show mercy to those who have less than you? How do I know I’m behaving like this? Let’s see how you respond to this statement! A North Carolina, Pastor Charles Worley of Providence Road Baptist Church said from his pulpit one Sunday "We need to Put Gays And Lesbians In Electrified Pen To Kill Them Off" How you respond to something like this will tell you how you feel towards others. My response to this is “WOW, what a shameful and terrible thing to say.” We don’t accept that lifestyle or behaviour, but we need to understand that every soul is precious to God…..remember that! Christ came to save the meek, the poor, sinners……"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,” Luke 4:18
He came to save the lost not the self-righteous and the ignorant! “After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi (Matthew), sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, "Follow me." And leaving everything, he rose and followed him. And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?" And Jesus answered them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance." Luke 5:27-32
This is the Gospel……….Listen to Paul as he implies this truth that Jesus spoke “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” 1 Cor 1:26-29. We are called to love the church not by whom they are, but by whom they love above all things! Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. All true born again believers have one thing in common….And that is? His saving grace found in the gospel. Richard Baxter says "We must feel toward our people as a father toward his children; yea, the most tender love of a mother must not surpass ours. We must even labour in birth, till Christ be formed in them. They should see that we care for no outward thing, neither liberty, nor honor, nor life, in comparison to their salvation... When the people see that you truly love them, they will hear anything from you... Oh therefore, see that you feel a tender love for your people in your hearts, and let them perceive it in your speech and conduct. Let them see that you spend and are spent for their sakes." There are 2 major behaviours True Christians Must Do! First behaviour we must have is to show love and mercy for all people……at all time.
A TRUE CHRISTIAN SHOWS LOVE AND MERCY TO ALL THE UNLOVABLE (V1- V4)
Showing the same mercy to others as Christ showed you. But what does James mean by favoritism?
Favoritism (means) lifting up someone face, with the idea of judging by appearance and on that basis giving special favor and respect. It pertains to judging purely on a superficial level, without consideration of a person's true merits, abilities, or character. The church needs to be extremely careful that we don’t honor the rich and neglect the poor. We are not to show favouritism, for faith and favouritism are completely incompatible. We see this illustrated in this text! Favouring the rich above the poor….the very thing the world does. See, in the world system you honor, respect and treat the person who can benefit you the most. We see this in churches even today, where someone who is very well off gets treated as kings by the leadership because their money has a lot of influence in the church. This leads us to focus on the rich rather than the poor person in the church. David Platt said this “People who are rich expect excellence, nice things, and comfort. They expect to feel good, and we have spent God’s resources trying to appeal to them. We have not had the poor on our minds at all. It’s almost as if we have said to the poor, “Sit at our feet and we will throw you some scraps.”
This may not be you, but to some degree we are all guilty of favouritism, and in this way we are influenced by the system of this world. James warns us about this in (v5) “Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?”
We are to give honor to Christ, who is supreme over the church. We are never to honor the wealthy because they are rich in money. We are to honor Christ because He is rich in glory.
We are to keep our eyes focused upon Jesus! James here is pointing out the inconsistency between God's character and the attitude of a believer who are disrespectful of poor people. We must show the same love and mercy as our Lord Jesus Christ did when He saved your undeserving soul. Meaning you for example! Jesus Christ sets the standard for all of us to follow as individuals and as a church. We read in 1 John 2:6 “whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” We have a duty and responsibility as believers to show……
MERCY FOR THE POOR
“Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed.” Prov 19:17
MERCY FOR THEY ARE BLESSED
“The poor in spirit are blessed, for the kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” Matt 5:3
MERCY TO OTHER BELIEVERS
“That there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” 1 Cor 12:25-26
MERCY BECAUSE IT’S INSEPARABLE FROM THE LOVE OF GOD
“But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but indeed and in truth.” 1 John 3:17-18
Charles Spurgeon says “I wish, brothers and sisters, that we could all imitate "the pearl oyster"— A hurtful particle intrudes itself into its shell, and this vexes and grieves it. It cannot reject the evil, but what does it do but "covers it” with a precious substance extracted out of its own life, by which it turns the intruder into a pearl! Oh, that we could do so with the provocation's we receive from our fellow Christians, so that pearls of patience, gentleness, and forgiveness might be bred within us by that which otherwise would have harmed us.” If we do not demonstrate mercy and all we do is show favouritism we are in danger zone. (v4) James calls this “evil” which means “wickedness” and this is strong language that carries the idea of malicious intentions that have destructive in harmful effects.
This is why Christ needs to be our focus, not this world or my judgement of character! “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Rom 5:8. Remember! We were once the poor person who desperately needed the Savior! But now we are rich in Jesus Christ our Lord, remember that as we serve each other in love, here at Calvary Baptist.
A TRUE CHRISTIAN SHOWS GENUINE CHARACTERISTICS OF HAVING RECEIVED GOD'S MERCY (v5-v7)
A born again, a true believer is ready to face the Lord because he or she has the liberty through the blood of Jesus Christ! Col 3:17 “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” The Pharisee's thought the other way just like the situation that James speaks about the rich and the poor man! James was warning us about showing favor to others and looking down on the feeble and the poor! The Pharisee's and Scribes looked at this kind of person as having some form of sin in their lives. Because they lived by the Law! For example
JOB'S FRIENDS…….Listen to what Bildad said to Job “you must repent" Job 8:4-6 “If your children have sinned against Him, He has delivered them into the hand of their transgression. If you will seek God and plead with the Almighty for mercy, if you are pure and upright, surely then He will rouse (to wake, to rise up) Himself for you and restore your rightful habitation.
THE BLIND MAN THAT COULDN'T SEE...... John 9:1-3 “As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
THE PHARISEE AND THE TAX COLLECTOR......Luke 18:9-14 “He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."
Whose prayer do you think God listened to that day? It surely wasn’t the self-righteous ignorant man who thought he was better that’s for sure. We need to understand something…….. a person who shows no mercy and compassion for people in need….CLEARLY demonstrates that he or she has never responded to the Great Mercy of God and as an unredeemed person will receive only strict unrelieved judgement in eternal Hell. James reminds us of this mercy! (v5) “has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the Kingdom, which He has promised to those who love Him.” This is pointing to the providential work of salvation that God has done.
Why would James say this?Because according to the scriptures we are dangerous people, who tend to judge a book by its cover. And we need to be reminded of who does the saving, and who has a tendency to elevate oneself over another. Jesus said in Matt 19:23-30 "Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God." When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, "Who then can be saved?" But Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. Then Peter said in reply, "See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?" Jesus said to them, "Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
Speaking to the believer, those saved by sovereign grace……Please understand!
There will be no poor in Heaven.
No second class in Heaven.
Everyone will be rich in the things that matter eternally.
We will all receive the same eternal life.
We will all have the same heavenly citizenship.
We will all have the same perfect righteousness.
We will all be His children, who will live with Him for all eternity.
Don’t dishonor anyone by using the guidelines of this present world system to how we judge one another. (v6) Never reject those whom the LORD has specially chosen by His amazing grace. Because how can you claim to be a child of God, and yet think and act so differently from Him. As the saying goes “Never judge a book by its cover.” Because you might be surprised, when you open it up, to see God’s grace.