15 May 2017

LIVING IN LIGHT OF THE LORD’S RETURN PART 2


James 5:12

If you are ever called on to testify in court, you will be asked, “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?” Are you violating Scripture to put yourself under such an oath? Some Christians would answer, “yes.” by what they read in Matt 5:33-37 when Jesus said “Do not swear at all…”

But this is where we need to be careful! James says this goes beyond the taking of oaths or vows…He deals with the issue of truthful speech in midst of suffering. Oaths ought to foster truthful communication, but in reality they had become a smokescreen for lying. This portion of James letter seems out of place with the context that surrounds the issue of suffering. But think about! If you have ever suffered you know the answer to this portion of James letter. It’s easy to say things you do not mean, and even make bargains with God, when you are going through difficulties.

For example Lord if you get me through this situation or the pickle I’m in, I promise I will go to church every Sunday. Lord if you get me through this I will serve you and even give my life to you. Lord if you get me out of this I will be a better husband/wife and father/mother. But sadly many of these promises are never fulfilled because we don’t see God as we ought too. The Bible does not forbid all oaths as God dealt with His children. God swore to David with an oath that one of his descendants would always sit on his throne. Act 2:30 says “Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne,” Jesus stood before the courts under oath. But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, "I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!" Jesus said to him, "It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven." Matt 26:63-64

The Apostle Paul on many occasions often swore by the Lord. Rom 1:9 says “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers,” But the Bible does forbid both lighthearted oaths and false oaths.

Example! In Judges 11:29-40 we read about Jephthah who foolishly vowed to sacrifice the first thing that walked out of his door when he returned from battle. When it happened to be his only daughter, he foolishly kept the foolish vow. He never should have made it in the first place and he should have broken it when it meant killing his daughter. So often frivolous vows stem from a prideful heart. Sometimes we want to impress others with our spiritual commitment, and so we make a boastful vow. The unconverted young Martin Luther made his famous promise to become a monk when a bolt of lightning terrified him in 1505. That didn’t stick, because when he read the book of Romans later on in life those vows he made were nothing more than frivolous and false.

Our vows are to be reserved for sincere and important occasions, where it matters the most personally. Vows that have eternal implications and build on the integrity of our person. To take an oath in court, or to vow to be faithful to your spouse at your wedding, or to vow to be faithful to the Lord at your baptism are examples of godly vows. But according to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matt 5:33-37 the Jews were notorious of making vows and oaths in all the wrong things. But what’s interesting is that they never used the name of God in their oaths, out of fear of blaspheme. So they would swear by Heaven, and Earth or Jerusalem, or even by their own headsAnd what good is that? Matt 5:36 says “or shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black.” But Jesus taught that it’s impossible to avoid God in such oaths.

Heaven is His throne
The Earth is His footstool
Jerusalem is the city of the “Great King”
Your head is under the sovereign control of God. 

When James says, “Do not swear,” he is not referring to taking the Lord’s name in vain, although Scripture clearly forbids that. He is referring to not invoking God’s name in everyday speech to assure the truthfulness of what you say. Example! Have you ever heard someone say, “I swear to God that’s true?” Why do you need to say that? Because you begin to wonder whether anything he says is true. Your word should be true without needing to make a big deal about it.
  
True Christian character requires few wordsThe person who uses many words (including oaths) to convince others has something wrong with his or her character. If you are a true Christian, with integrity then all you have to say is yes or no and people will believe you. Jesus warned us that anything more than this is from the evil one in Matt 5:37. This is why it’s important to be patient during a time of suffering! Throughout the letter and especially in the preceding passage, James has been concerned to encourage his readers' patience and perseverance in the midst of trials. It is clear that James anticipates in their suffering the temptation to compromise their moral standards and so become polluted by the world.
  
From the very beginning, James has said that his readers' faith is being tested in the trials (James 1:3).

In the midst of trials, Christians are to ask God in faith (James 1:6). 
It is because of this faith they hold in Christ that they are not to show favoritism (James 2:1). 
It is faith that constitutes true riches (James 2:5). 
James has gone to great lengths to emphasize that genuine faith will manifest itself in deeds (James 2:14-26). 
His whole letter is a plea for his readers to be not merely religious people, but people of faith in Christ alone.
  
Doing right when you are done wrong is hard! We are to never focus on the situation or you’ll get angry, instead James says for us to “Patient “as we looked at last Sunday. Yes you’ve been wronged but don’t let this get you down where you dishonor the LORD who saved you and gave Himself for you. We are not to focus on yourself, or you’ll have a piety party. Take each situation and be strong in Christ. See that this person is not an enemy but as a tool for your spiritual growth.
  
We are not to focus on someone to blame, or you’ll end up complaining. Don’t shift the blame on others, instead view others as a means God uses to shape and mold your inner person. We are never to focus on the present but look to the future for insight. In order to do that, we need to turn to the Word of God. So consider memorizing these verses and stitch them on the fabric of your heart. As you stand firm and do not pretend to say yea with your lips, and annul it in your heart; let the yea or the nay which you express be genuine from your transformed life. A man who makes that his common method of speech is the man who will be believed. Let your yes be yes and your no be no! (v12) But in order for this to happen, we need to stand be tested true to the promises of God as we endure this Christian life. How we use our words, in a crisis, shows how much we trust the Lord.

First one!

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.” Rom 8:18-25 

Second one!

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Cor 4:16-18 

Third one!

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:3-9

These are 3 simple reminders of God’s provision and goodness as we endure for His name sake though a life of integrity and genuine Christianity. Why? Our speech and actions provide the most revealing evidence or position of our spiritual condition. When we make a vow to serve Christ that is outward expression of true inward change. When we make a vow to live and die for Christ that is an outward expression of an inward change. When we vow to be whom the bible speaks about in the New Testament, the world will take notice, ask or get violently upset because they see Christ in us. Why? God has revealed Himself and has given everyone a conscience to know right from wrong. “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,” Rom 1:20. What does Romans 1:20 reveal as we look at James 5:12? God knows who are genuinely His and those who are faking it. What Jesus calls of us as to…..His sanctified (set apart) children are that we be straightforward, honest, and plain with our speech, seasoned with grace and salt. The use of oaths is contrary to faith, it marks unbelief. Faith always means yes when it says “Yes”. People of faith have no need to make oaths to give their words weight or to prompt a solution to suffering. They wait patiently as they endure suffering Why? To speak otherwise brings about condemnation and judgment. (v12c)

“…fall under condemnation or judgement.”

The Mosaic Law warned about this! "You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.” Exo 20:7. It’s so much more than using God’s name as a curse word…. but to make an oath under God falsely is very dangerous. Jesus pronounced “Woe you Pharisee’s” because of their false oaths. Matt 23:16 says “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, 'Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it.” The sobering reminder is that that those who continue to blaspheme God’s holy name through lying oaths face eternal damnation. This being another test of living faith. Not to say we are perfect and will won’t mess up on occasion. BUT! Those whose lives are patterned by habitual lying give evidence of having an unregenerate heart.

And the Bible is very clear where a lifestyle of lying leads too. “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." Rev 21:8. So as James says “But let your "Yes" be "Yes," and your "No," "No," lest you fall into judgment.” Be honest and speak the truth at all times for the glory of His name.

As a pastor I don’t know what’s in store for you in the coming weeks, months and years and neither do youGod knows and has counted your days to endure for Him and His glory as we wait for Christ’s return. Whatever that might be from……Losing your home, job, prolong grief with a neighbor or friend, a rebellious child, a parent who treat you like garbage or a bad grade on your examine. James is reminding us no matter what we go through…. Faith that preservers are trustworthy in speech. The words from our mouth should be consistent and dependable that they guarantee reliability. This is what Christ has done for us through the promises of eternal life.

08 May 2017

LIVING IN LIGHT OF THE LORD’S RETURN PART 1


James 5:7-12

Patience and suffering in the same sentence seems like an oxymoron. Its like oil and water, Sens fans and Leafs fans…they don’t work well together. If you asked most people they would tell you that they don’t like suffering at all and the last thing they want is to endure suffering or for it to be prolonged. But this is exactly what James is saying in his closing remarks. Patiently wait in your suffering and persevere in the truth of the gospel. Why? By the opening remarks of chapter 5 “Be patience or endure Christian, until the coming of the Lord.” See suffering is part of the Christian life…….at some point in time each and every one of us will face some form of suffering in this life: The suffering that the Bible talks about is so much more than your physical well-being, your finances, name calling or who unfriends you on Facebook! The suffering the Bible talks about is the battle of the Spirit and the flesh as we patiently endure this present evil age. Jesus said These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." John 16:33
  
Peter said rejoice in your suffering “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.”
1 Peter 4:12-13

See! It’s part of the Christian Life for this reason "We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God." Acts 14:22

Martin Luther said "They gave our Master a crown of thorns. Why do we hope for a crown of roses?"

Paul said all who desire to live godly will suffer “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” 2 Tim 3:12. The Lord says…….”Draw near to God” James 4:8 and His overcoming grace and power. The Lord hasn't left us alone to handle it or face it on our own! "I will never leave you, or forsake you" Heb 13:5. This is where that hope worth dying for comes into play for the Christian. I need not to fear anything…… and James reminds us of this truth. James tells us even though we are going to face suffering as we walk this narrow road. James says wait patiently! Why? Because the day is at hand and He is coming to receive us unto Himself! That’s good news that sustains us in our suffering. James gives us 5 practical views to patiently endure trials until the coming of the Lord.
  
ANTICIPATE THE LORD’S COMING WITH PATIENCE (V7 - V8)

James uses the example of a farmer who waits for his crops. In the agricultural society we are dependent on God’s provision in the weather. Think about that! Too much rain can kill a crop to rot and too little of rain can cause them to burn or dry up and die. And as Canadians we have another issue when it comes to planting things! Frost which as the same affects as too much rain and no rain. In the end it will die without God providing the proper amount for things to grow. And we know farmers and people in general are very patient people! Right? We know when you plant seeds in a field they don’t all of a sudden sprouts and produce the delicious vegetables and fruits we all are accustom to love and enjoy.

What is James trying to tell us? He is coming back again, so be patient. Faith involves trusting in God with what you cannot control. A farmer cannot determine when it will rain or when it won’t rain. When it comes to the Lord’s return and the injustice that were faced with each and every day the farmer reminds us to patiently wait. “Coming” (v7) is an important New Testament eschatological term; this is referring to the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. We read and are reminded in 1 Thess 4:14-17 “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.  For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” See if we focus our attention to this Truth, persecution or trials will not seem so big in light of this promise! This provides great hope for those undergoing persecution. For that reason, the more persecuted a church is the more eagerly it anticipates the return of Jesus Christ. This is our great hope, this we anticipate and this is what we are to wait patiently for every day. The church's greatest hope is the arrival of Jesus Christ when He comes to bless His people with His presence.

James says “establish your heart for the coming of the Lord.” (v8)

How does one establish his or her heart?

Invested your time with God in the Word and in prayer.
Reading His word and discerning the lies that Satan speaks to our hearts.
Remind yourself of the gospel and the promises it brings.
Never allow seeds of doubt to enter in about the eternal promises of God.
Count it all joy when you go through trails of various kinds. (James 1:2)

We are to patiently wait and trust in God with what we cannot control, but we are to honour God with what we can control.

RECOGNIZE OUR RESPONSIBILITY THROUGH HOLY LIVING (V9)
  
What are we to control? “Do not grumble against one another.” (v9) See as we patiently endure trials we will also be tempted to sin and usually that sin is easily achieved by the one another. It’s so easy to complain or find fault and speak evil of one another. We must resist this behaviour…this is something we do have control over. When we say “Oops I didn’t mean say that” what you’re really saying “I did mean to say that, but I meant to keep to myself. It’s the idea “Did I say what I really mean out loud?” We need to be extremely careful in this area of life because it’s so much easier and less work to destroy someone then it is to encourage and lift up someone. Why? James is reminding of this! “The Judge is standing at the door” (v9) Christ the Divine Judge is portrayed as ready to throw open the doors and burst onto the judgement scene. The Judge will bring every hidden thing to light, because He is at the door! 1 Cor 4:5 reminds of this truth! “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one's praise will come from God.” That's something that is worth taking note of or pondering over! He will reveal everything that is hidden. Do we as Christian's have anything hidden? James says “don't complain, brethren, against one another. What is James saying to these believers? Living with difficult circumstances can cause believers to become frustrated, a sense to lose their patience and complain. 

Complain means to groan within one-self, or to sigh, it describes a bitter, resentful spirit.

But Paul says to the Philippian believers don’t complain in the light of the day of our Lord's return. “Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.” Phil 2:14-17He is coming again………continue in your walk by living holy. So we can say with Paul "I have not run in vain or labored in vain" so patiently wait and anticipate His coming, through holy living.
  
FOLLOW THE LORD'S SERVANTS AND BE ENCOURAGED BY THEIR EXAMPLE (V10)

Be encouraged by believers that were and endured unjust suffering who though hardships spoke about the goodness, the greatness, the judgement and the mercy of God. Even when it wasn’t socially acceptable or  as today considered “Hate speech” They were example of people who loved the Lord and were willing to go to the ends of the earth for the gospel. “Spoke in the Name of the Lord” (v10) they represented all that the Lord is, does, and wills, the prophets were God's spokesman. Moses had to put up with the stiff-necked, rebellious Israelites who left Egypt “And the people thirsted there for water, and the people complained against Moses, and said, "Why is it you have brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?" So Moses cried out to the LORD, saying, "What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me!" Exo 17:3-4. Jeremiah endured opposition through his ministry “Then they said, "Come and let us devise plans against Jeremiah; for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come and let us attack him with the tongue, and let us not give heed to any of his words." Jer 18:18
  
John the Baptist cousin of the Lord Jesus Christ was faced with much opposition the end result was John's head “And the king was sorry; nevertheless, because of the oaths and because of those who sat with him, he commanded it to be given to her. So he sent and had John beheaded in prison. And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother.” Matt 14:9-11. These are only a few of many who have been persecuted and endured great tragedy and trials. This is to encourage us as we again, wait patiently for the Lord's return, so let us run the race, let us patiently run this race for His glory. Are we willing to do the same as those who went before us? Jesus did it for us; can we do it for Him?
  
UNDERSTANDING THE LORD'S BLESSING THROUGH ENDURING PATIENCE (V11)

God will bless those who endure such trying times. We see this in the life of Job. A man who endured many trials and hardships. He lost his livelihood of 7000 sheep, 3000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen and 500 female donkeys.
He lost his gifts from God, the death of his 10 children that he concentrated for every day to the Lord. “It may be that my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” Job 1:5. And to top it off! Job was faced with bitter wife along with 3 so-called friends who were self-righteous and judgemental. And if that wasn't enough, poor Job had boils from the top of his head to bottom of his feet. Remember it took 42 chapters for the purpose of suffering in Job’s life to be revealed and only at the end did he confess. As Job said I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, And repent in dust and ashes." Job 42:5-6
  
We can learn a lot from Job's life! Throughout this experience Job’s faith was never shaken and he was a man of integrity and would not curse God ever! “In all this Job did not sin with his lips.Job 2:9-10. If Job can get through this trying time as a sinner saved by sovereign grace, then so can you and me. This should encourage us to persevere through our tough times today or what lies ahead tomorrow. God's blessing does not come to people who do great things, but to people who endure great things for His glory. Those who will receive the greatest blessing in the life to come are those who have endured the greatest suffering in the present world. Remember what the Lord said “…..'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:” Matt 25:33-34. The hope of future blessing should encourage and motivate us as we patiently endure in this present age! This has been the purpose in James’ letter “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12. Paul said this is a crown that can never be destroyed “…an imperishable crown.”1 Cor 9:25. Patiently waiting and enduring trials mean nothing in the big picture of things. The reward is eternally secure in the arm of a God who loves us so much He sent His only Son to die for the wickedness of this world!

APPRECIATE THAT THE LORD HAS A PURPOSE (V11) 

There are 4 important divine purposes for suffering in the believer’s life as we have seen in Job.

To test your faith to prove it is genuine.
To prevent Satan’s attempt to destroy that faith.
To strengthen your faith so that you see God more clearly.
To increase the blessing in your life.


We saw this in Job’s life at the end in Job 42:10-17 The example of Job should encourage us through suffering trials to be patient and endure and realize the Lord’s purpose is to strengthen us and bless us in ways we would never think or imagine. Suffering is the off-ramp where we find and receive His compassion and mercy.

“Full of Compassion and Mercy” reminds us of the Lord’s character which is a great comfort when we are faced with suffering. As God showed deep compassion in the case of Job, we have equal reason to suppose that He will do the same in ours. This is what compassion and mercy look like as we go through suffering. Enduring trials is nothing in compared to what the Lord Jesus endured for us! He has shown us great mercy. He as show us great love, even when we dead in our sins. We have received this love by the death and resurrection of His only begotten Son. He allows us to endure and to learn patience because He is full of compassion and full of mercy. It’s a tenderness of heart which positions a person to overlook injuries, or to treat an offender better than he deserves. Through His death and resurrection, Christ has become the Mercy Seat for His people. This is why we patient wait and endure this present world system. It’s all because His grace, it’s all because of His mercy and compassion. Listen to these three words put together in a promise of God’s character and hope we have eternal glory. “The LORD is gracious and full of compassion, Slow to anger and great in mercy. The LORD is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works.” Psalm 145:8-9. Praise God for his amazing love and mercy that He shows each and every one of us. This is why we endure suffering in this life, He is coming back to receive us unto Himself!
  
5 practical views to patiently endure trials……..

Anticipate His coming at any time with great joy.
Recognize the Lord's Judgment on this perverse generation.
Follow the Lord's servants as examples of patience and perseverance.
Understand the Lord's blessing as you endure for His name sake.
Realize the Lord's purpose never go to waste.

Understand God has personally given this to us and allowed suffering in our lives for His glory! “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,” Phil 1:29. This is part of our Christian Life as it prepares our heart for what is yet to come! A Heavenly homestead for all eternity. James wants to encourage us to be patient in times of suffering! Like the farmer waiting for a spiritual harvest and the fruit it brings though God’s provision and timing. The prophets who looked for opportunities to witness and share the truth of God’s word without worrying about what man can do to them. You like Job, who displays for us that God never causes His children to suffer needlessly. To understand that through suffering we know Him better for having been in the furnace of affliction. As Matt Chandler said during his cancer treatments “The good news of the gospel is not all my hurts go away. It’s that Jesus is enough regardless of the hurts.” We must endure with patience, because this is the Last Days and our victory is found in Jesus Christ our Lord!! And He is worth dying for, so be patient!