5 a day of Christian living

James 4:11-5:19

Christian living can seem straight forward when we are gathered for worship but now as restrictions are lifting on what we do in everyday life and we meet more and more people, how do we live out the grace God has showered upon us? What should be our daily diet of Christian life in a world that lives by other priorities.

 DAY 2

4:13-17 Humility about our plans and ambitions.

It has come very close to home for me recently that we cannot ever be sure that our plans and intentions will come to pass. Over confidence in our own abilities and success is often seen as a virtue in our contemporary society even in Christian circles. James however warns us that where such plans have become arrogance then God sees them as sinful. v 16 We cannot be certain of our future or events. In all our plans we need to remain humble and be willing for the Lord’s will to differ from ours. v15 ‘What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.’ v14

5 a day of Christian living

James 4:11-5:19

Christian living can seem straight forward when we are gathered for worship but now as restrictions are lifting on what we do in everyday life and we meet more and more people, how do we live out the grace God has showered upon us? What should be our daily diet of Christian life in a world that lives by other priorities.

DAY 1.

4:11-12 – Holy and loving speech.

James’ warns against careless slandering of people and especially members of the Christian family. We are to remember that it is God who ultimately judges and that we are also people who have sinned and grieved our Lord. This does not prohibit applying spiritual discernment but we are not the ultimate judge and should not assume that role. In particular we should not judge God’s law and judgements as in doing so we are setting ourselves on an equal standing with God himself.

Winning the internal battle.

James 4:6-10

In the previous five verses we learnt that three factors can wreak havoc with our personal Christian life and the life of the church. These are the world, (the external influences surrounding us that are opposed to the will of God) the flesh, (the passions that are at war within us) and the devil, (Spiritual forces of evil.) When we find ourselves not living in the freedom from sin that Christ has achieved on our behalf, what can we do about it to win this internal battle with temptation?

Firstly we need to grasp that the grace (unmerited favour of God) of God is sufficient and Jesus has already won this victory and we need to live in it. For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.’ Galatians 5:1 ‘For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.’ Galatians 5:13 When we find ourselves convicted by the Spirit of our rebellion against God and living as if we are a slave to sin, James assures us God gives us more grace. v6 What stops us from experiencing this grace is pride. Pride convinces us we can achieve a victory that only Christ could and has already won. Pride says, “I do not need Jesus’ work on the cross to overcome sin.” James says, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ v6 As followers of Jesus we need to humble ourselves towards God v7 and confess our need of him. As a loving Father he delights in empowering us by his Spirit to live a Christ like life.

Christians are in a unique position. If we resist the devil he will flee from us. So if our temptation comes from him because of the Spirit of God within us and the work of Christ in our lives the victory over the evil one is won. As Paul writes in Colossians, He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.’ Colossians 2:15 When can we expect opposition from evil forces? When we are about the work of the Lord. This might include praying for others, sharing the good news of Jesus, serving others in love, in fact anything that involves building his kingdom here.

How do we resist the devil? v7b By drawing near to God and he draws near to us. v8 When we are conscious of such temptation and opposition, pause and deliberately draw near to God. Consciously ask the Lord in confident faith to do the holy and right thing. Ask him to deal with the spiritual opposition you are currently facing. Peter expands on James’ teaching about resisting the devil , confirming that such spiritual opposition is to be expected and is commonly experienced wherever the church is living out the gospel. 1 Peter 5:8-10

Using Old Testament teaching James identifies four things to do when caught up in a web of sin. These are cleansing, purifying, being confident in our faith, repenting and humbling ourselves. vv 8-10

Cleansing is an allusion to the Old Testament priests who washed their hands before entering the presence of God in the tabernacle to minister before God. Exodus 30:17-21 We should not consider God will bless our ministry or work for him unless we have confessed our sin and sought his forgiveness and grace. It is his work not ours that saves.

Purification combines the state of our heart and the work of our hands. They need to be in harmony. David wrote and sang as he approached the temple of God, ‘ Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation.’ Psalm 24:4-5

Double mindedness is a repeated theme of James. In 1:6-8 he said the double minded believer is unstable in all his ways and should not suppose he will receive anything from the Lord. He is not saying we should be confident regarding ourselves but be confident in the Lord.

Repentance is not just for the not yet Christian. It is a part of everyday Christian living. Repentance and humility is not a matter of words but of our heart attitudes towards God. Amongst other places he draws on Joel 2:12 Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart,with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.’

Is there an aspect of your life you want overcome and bring to the Lord?

Break every chain – Tasha Cobbs

Can this be God’s people?

James 4:1-5

There are times when reading the letters to the early churches from the apostles or in this case Jesus’ brother, one could reasonably question, ‘Are these really God’s people they are writing to?’ But then one considers examples of conduct in churches we have known and a tragic similarity may strike us. I can think of examples of Christians arguing and bearing grudges to the point that people leave. Pastors who have been forced from a church by church members who have conspired against them. Pastors who have driven people from their church because of a difference of view or a refusal to declare personal allegiance. Grudges borne over years, gossip that undermines others in the fellowship, jealousy over spiritual gifts and ministries, covetousness of others’ material possessions and doctrinal pettiness are common features of contemporary churches that lead to divisions and splits. Such behaviour damages the work of the gospel, hinders the personal spiritual growth of church members and limits the blessing of God on the church. Where one expression of sin creeps into church life it opens the door to others.

The evidence of a living faith ought to be changed lives and progressively believers becoming more like Jesus. No wonder then James, along with the other epistle writers speak so strongly when they know of the church conforming to the worldly patterns v4 around them instead of developing Christ likeness. James confronts the churches with, ‘What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?’ v1 James identifies three reasons for rebellion against God within the church: self centred desires, v1 loving the world as opposed to God v4 and temptation from the devil. v7

The latter may strike some modern, particularly western, Christians as literally incredible and so I will address this briefly. Jesus believed in the devil or evil one, was tempted by the devil, taught his disciples to pray to be delivered from temptation from the evil one, Mathew 6:13 and delivered people from the grip of the evil one during his ministry. Many people who have experienced evil at an extreme level over history and across the globe have very little difficulty in believing in spiritual evil forces and find it easier to believe in a devil rather than a loving God. It was to overcome the evil in our world that Jesus died and rose again. Hebrews 2:14, 1 John 4:4 The apostles repeatedly urged the churches to resist the devil. 1 Peter 5:9

The internal conflict of passions will be recognized by many Christians as a reality in their own lives as they hang on to desires they know are contrary to God’s character. James describes this as a war within you. v1 However James also makes clear that such desires also are the cause of arguments and quarrels within the membership of the church. v2 When he refers to murder he is probably not doing so literally but Jesus made clear that hateful thought was like murder and lustful thought is adultery in the heart. James then uses the term adultery to refer to those things we long for that oppose the will of God. They are a form of lusting after the world and place us in direct opposition to God. ‘Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?. Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.’ v4

Such behaviour, breaks the heart of God, I use this phrase colloquially. The Holy Spirit, gifted to the Christian, is deeply and personally grieved by the sin of the Christian. Sin causes a barrier in the Christian’s relationship with the Spirit of Christ. The Spirit’s reaction is to yearn for a re-establishment of relationship with the Christian. ‘Do you not suppose it is to no purpose that the scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit he has made to dwell in us”? v5 James is not making a direct quote but referring to general Old Testament teaching.

The giving in to sinful temptation has prevented God from blessing them with answers to prayer because the motivation for their prayers has been to satisfy their sinful desires. ‘You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.’ v4 James in this short passage paints a picture of a church divided, internally at war, separated from God’s will and governed by selfishness and temptations from the evil one. Fortunately this does not have to continue to be the situation.

What are the motives behind the requests we make to God?

Whose friend are we, the world’s or God’s. (The world means, loving this world’s beliefs and pleasures more than God.)

Have you felt God’s jealous love over the spirit that he has made dwell in us? v5

How he loves us – Kim Walker / Jesus Culture

Believers united

Psalm 133 Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity.
It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes!
It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life for evermore.

Religion someone said, is what a man does with his solitariness. But not in the bible. In the biblical vision, God’s plan is to call out a people from among all nations to be his own. Covenant creates community. As in this psalm, the worship of “festival transformed the pilgrims into a family that for a holy time ate and dwelt together.” (James and May) This deeply satisfying experience of unity v1 is God’s commanded blessing. v3b Two images enrich the song.

The first is that of the soothing, healing balm of oil poured over the head v2 which typifies just how ‘good and pleasant’ real unity can be. The reference to Aaron v2b connects the image to the anointing with oil of the priests in Israel. (Exodus 29:21, 30:25) Unity is not self-satisfying but serves the mission of God’s royal priesthood in the world. Division surely mars that witness.

The second picture is that of dew. v3 The heavy dew of the highest mountain (Hermon) will accrue to the lowliest hill (Zion) to symbolise the God-given refreshment and renewal of God’s people. Grace flows from the summit to the lowlands. Oil flows from the head to the whole body. So the unity of God’s people in not a natural (horizontal) “clubability”. True unity is the anointing of God’s Spirit “coming down” as God’s gift.

Brothers in the Bible – like disciples don’t have a track record for getting on together (think Cain and Abel, Joseph and the eleven, Jacob and Esau …). Dare we, on this side of Easter, still believe that the magnetism of the cross makes us one, and that his Spirit is “the sweet agreement at the meeting of our lives”?

The psalmist’s song happily anticipates Paul’s plea for the unity of the Spirit who alone oils creaky relationships among the followers of Christ – a Body in which no part can dispense with another without disfiguring Christ. The eucharistic family that eats one loaf and drinks from one cup binds itself to stay together for priestly ministry in brotherly-sisterly love.

(CWR Cover to Cover June 2011)

How much have you experienced the anointing of the Spirit creating the unity of pilgrim disciples?

Does the eucharistic family sharing one load and drink bind you in brotherly and sisterly love?

Bind us together Lord