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#8 A Living Faith God Accepts

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                  “A LIVING FAITH GOD ACCEPTS

                     (A Series on the Book of James)

Westgate Chapel 02/27/05                                  James 1:19-25

Proposition:      The Christian life is more than being born again; it involves listening, doing and examining God’s Word.

i.    introduction

-     WHAT is the “main thing” of the Christian life?

*     Loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Mark 12:30).

-     HOW is this kind of love for God possible in you and me?

*     Only because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

-     SO, the “main thing” of the Christian life is a love relationship with God, made possible in your and me through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ…because He first loved us.

-     AND then out of and motivated by our on-going love relationship with God, you and I live a life of obedience to His commands.

-     1 JOHN 2:5 says,

      “…whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him.”

-     IF all that I have been saying so far is true….not because I say so but because it is God’s Word…then this book (hold up Bible) is not a list of “do’s” and “don’ts” to be followed.

-     FOLLOWING lists is not the character of a love relationship.

-     THE character of a love relationship is to please the one who is the object of my love….just because I love, not because I have to follow a list.

-     THEREFORE, this book (hold up Bible) is not a compilation of lists but rather a mirror.

-     EPHESIANS 3:18 says it is a mirror in which we look and see two things:

1.   The “glory of the Lord” which evokes more love in us for Him.

2.   The reflection of our own lives, as we are being changed from glory to glory.

-     SO, God’s Word to us today from the Book of James, in the New Testament, is not a “to do” list but a reflection of God’s heart and a good look at whether our lives, as born again, Spirit-filled Christians, look like Him.

-     AS the Word points out places where we don’t look like Him, it thrusts us back to our relationship with Him….to ask Him to change us by His love and power.

-     AND today, James, brother of Jesus and Senior Pastor of the Church in Jerusalem, is going to show us the kind of Christian life God accepts….and in the verses we will examine, it has three components for us to examine in the mirror.

-     TURN with me to James 3:3-12 (page 1197).

-     WAIT a minute pastor, I thought we left off with James 1:25…back in November?

-     YOU are right, but you will see in a minute, why we are starting today with James 3:3.

ii.   a tight rein on your tongue

BIT AND REIN

-     AND, in verse 3, James starts with a lesson about a bit in a horses’ mouth.

      “Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well.”

-     I DON’T know how many “horse” people we have here today, but the principle seems pretty obvious.

-     A HORSE weighs approximately 1,500 pounds, and ripples with muscle, spirit and power to run….but just insert this bit in its mouth that only weighs 2  pounds, and you can make the horse obey you and direct it any way you want it to go.

 

RUDDER

-     VERSE 4,

      “Look at the ships, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires.”

-     THE wooden ships that James would be familiar with from the Mediterranean Sea, would weigh tons when filled with cargo.

-     PAUL sailed to Rome on a ship that carried 276 people. Josephus reports sailing to Rome on a ship that carried 600 passengers…so they were big.

-     (This is an example of a cargo ship built in India and used to ply trade in the time of Jesus between India and North African nations).

-     THESE ships, says James, would be driven by strong winds….sometimes gale force on the Mediterranean.

-     SO, they are ships that weigh tons, carry heavy cargoes, are propelled by powerful winds….but are steered wherever the pilot desires by a very small rudder (when compared to the other forces at work on the voyage).

 

FOREST FIRE

-     IN verse 5b and 6, James turns our attention to forest fires…and here in the Northwest we don’t need any powerpoint slides to elicit images of the destructive power of that kind of fire that devastates thousands of acres and homes every year in the western states of America.

-     AND they are usually started by one small spark…at the point of ignition.

 

TAMING WILD ANIMALS

-     THEN, in verse 7, James turns our attention to “all of the kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea that are tamed and being tamed” by human handlers.

 

-     FOUR analogies spread over 10 verses to make one point.

*     the tongue may be small, but like the bit, and the rudder, and the spark, and the trainer, it affects the whole direction and outcome of life, no matter how big or powerful that life may be.

-     THE influence of the tongue is not neutral.

-     IN verse 6, James writes,

      “…the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.”

-     IN verse 8, James writes,

      “…no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.”

-     NONE of us are capable in our own strength to tame the tongue. Only the love of God within can control what comes out of our mouths….which comes from the wellspring of life, our hearts.

-     THE tongue is evidence of what is really in our hearts, which is why James goes on, in verses 11 and 12, to conclude that it is absurd to think of…

*     …getting pure fresh water and stagnant brackish water from the same spring.

*     …getting olives from a fig tree, or figs from a grape vine.

-     ALL of which leads us to a look in the mirror of James 1:26…..where Pastor James writes,

      “If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.”

-     THAT word, religious, comes from a Greek word that means “the scrupulous observance of religious exercises.”

-     IF anyone, believing themselves to be Christian…

*     never misses a Sunday service or prayer meeting.

*     sings in the choir and teaches Sunday School.

*     tithes  faithfully and gives to missions.

*     witnesses of their faith to others.

*     goes on short term mission trips.

*     does not frequent R rated movies or raunchy TV.

-     BUT….does not have a bridle on their tongue…

*     when it comes to saying things that are off color.

*     speaking unbelief instead of faith concerning their lives and others.

*     speaking on unwholesome subjects.

*     using the Lord’s name in vain.

*     and, according to all of the commentators I read on this verse, repeating nasty things about others not present.

-     IF you don’t bridle your tongue on these kinds of subjects, two things are at work in you!

1.   You are self-deceived concerning the validity of all the religious things you are doing, not matter how zealously you may be doing them.

-     It is the principle of deception called the ruse, where you appear to be one thing, while in reality you are another.

2.   All that scrupulous attention given to all of those religious activities are worthless.

-     WHY?

-     BECAUSE your tongue has revealed what really is in your heart.

-     THOSE are some of the strongest words I read in God’s Word.

-     (HOLDING up the mirror)

-     HOW does your reflection look in the mirror concerning the tongue of a true Christian?

-     SO, the first image in the mirror, that has to do with the genuine born again, Spirit-filled life, is HAVING A RIGHT REIN ON YOUR TONGUE?

III.  LOok after OTHERS

-     THE second image is found back in chapter one, as we wrap up the chapter in verse 27a,

      “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress…”

-     THE Greek of this verse does not allow us to conclude that taking care of orphans and widows is the sum total of our responsibility for others.

-     JAMES is giving us a concrete example of the fact that true Christianity looks out after the needs of others….especially those “others” who are without any means of support or advocacy.

-     THESE are the least the last the lost in our world.

-     ORPHANS and widows represent those in our society who need practical help….help that requires you get into their lives with them.

-     IN Matthew 25:34-43, Jesus described those who would be affirmed by the Father in the coming kingdom,

       “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 ‘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; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38 ‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 ‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ 41 “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; 43 I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’”

-     LOOK in the mirror of God’s Word concerning “pure and undefiled religion” and see how involved you are with….the stranger, those poorly dressed, the sick, the hungry, the thirsty, and those in prison (and I don’t mean exclusively Monroe State Prison).

-     I THINK we are all convicted as we look in the mirror this morning.

 

 

iv. keep yourself from pollution

-     THREE tests for the life that God accepts in these verses in James:

1.   The life with a controlled tongue.

2.   The life that looks out in practical ways for the lonely, the hungry, the thirsty and the captive.

-     AND here is the third and final test in the mirror of James.

      “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this…to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

-     THE Greek word from which “world” is translated literally means “that world system of evil that has set itself up in opposition to God and righteousness.”

-     UNSTAINED means uncontaminated, unpolluted by the world system of evil.

-     AND removing yourself from the world is not the solution…since we are called to be Christ’s ambassadors in the world.

-     SO it has to mean that there are ways to be in the world, but not of it.

-     HOW is that possible?

-     PAUL puts it this way in Romans 12:1-2,

      “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind….”

-     ASK the Holy Spirit to show you which of the activities of your life are:

*     polluting your heart and your mind with the world’s evil ways.

*     conforming your life to the world.

-     AND when He shows you, get rid of those things and in their place pursue a love relationship with God….in the Word, in worship, in works of service…and He will renew your mind.

v.  conclusion

-     THREE tests for the life that God accepts in these verses in James:

1.   The life with a controlled tongue.

2.   The life that looks out in practical ways for the lonely, the hungry, the thirsty and the captive.

3.   Keeping yourself from being polluted by the world.

-     HOW do you look this morning, saints?

-     NONE of these three images in the mirror are attainable on yours or my own strength.

-     ALL of them are possible by the power of the Holy Spirit who indwells the life of every Christian.

-     BUT you have to allow the conviction of the Holy Spirit to have its way in your life.

-     YOU have to submit to the conviction in admission of your sin and repentance….turning away from sin and to God.

-     YOU have to walk by faith in a love relationship with God through Christ Jesus that will produce the change….and reflect a change in these three areas of your life the next time you look in the James mirror.

 

               HOLY SPIRIT, COME AND RAIN ON US

 

 

 

 

 

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