Friday, November 29, 2013
12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. 13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: 14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. 16 Do not err, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. 18 Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. (James 1:12-18)
At this point in our study of James 1, we might be inspired to look back to the 2nd verse of the chapter – “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations.” (James 1:2) I believe we could read that line anew by including only the first six words, i.e., “My brethren, count it all joy!” I am not suggesting that the other words do not apply, but I am suggesting that the first six words apply to an even greater extent to all of the Christian life than the limiting provisions of the last six words. What is there of the Christian life that could not be called joyful? The only path to joy is by way of that divine and gem-studded stairwell called LOVE. Love brings perfect joy in all circumstances of life. Righteousness, without love, does not exist. Salvation without love, obedience without love, and all attributes of redemption without love, is impossible. Even human love is only an echo and reflection of that divine LOVE that was in the heart of our Lord Jesus Christ – the kind of love that surpasses every other and without hesitation gives its all for the object of its love. What is it that is poured into our cup to the point of running over (“my cup runneth over”)? Whatever blessing God sends has its ultimate origin in His limitless love for us. Being the Author of Love, He writes His commandments upon our hearts with the Life-Blood of our Lord and Savior, if we have believed unto salvation.
So turning now to the beginning verse 12 of today’s text, we observe temptation being mentioned a second time but with a different sense and meaning to the first mention in verse 2. In verse 2, the temptation referred to is that which is common to all Christians in the form of general trials of life. The temptation referred to in verse 12 is the solicitation to sin that comes from evil sources. God tempts no man and cannot be tempted because He is Holy; this temptation never comes from sources of good but only evil. 12 “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.” Falling into temptations along the way is a bit different from enduring them with Holy resolve. But enduring and withstanding temptations thrown at us by the devil and his minions brings a great blessing and confidence. It is the love for Christ that enables us to stand against the wiles of the devil: “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” (Eph 6:11) All of the armour of God may be comprehended in love. Without love, there is no meaningful service to God or man. (1 Cor 13)
Our faith may be tried by many hard trials, but He never sends temptation before us. The hard trials come when God may remove Himself by some distance from us and observe our manner of action. This is like a mother for the first time allowing her child to catch the school bus for the first time without her being right by his side; however, she is attentive to watch the child from the front door. If the child encounters a great danger by the road, she will immediately rush to his rescue. But the danger was not sent by the mother but from some other source. The child learns self-reliance in that way, and so does the child of God learn to live by strong faith. Job was a man of faith who faced many hard trials. God had a purpose for removing His constant protection from Job. But it was the devil who created the torments. How encouraged we may be when faced with difficult circumstances and then remember the trials of the good man, Job! 13 “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.” God is blameless of every sinful thought and will not tempt a man to sin under any circumstances.
I am afraid the devil is given more credit than he deserves in the proliferation of sin. Certainly, he is the author of lies and evil just as God is the Author of Truth and Righteousness; yet, the human frame is capable of sins of its own imagination and making as well. The devil loves to present the temptation, but it is the carnal heart of man that agrees with the devil to do his dirty work. 14 “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” Temptation comes as a result often as a result of our own created vulnerability. Out of our lust and sinful minds, we go where we should not go, and associate with those wicked people with whom we should not associate. We do so claiming that we can withstand the temptations which we have invited by our careless actions. So we frequent places of sinful activity by the impetus of lust. When we are then confronted by the temptation, we give way to it since our lusts grow in strength as we venture into its estate.
Well do we know from God’s Word that the “wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23). No man with the stain of sin on his soul shall be admitted to the Kingdom of God. Every sin must be remitted, and we have that remission of sin made available through the blood of Christ. He has redeemed, justified and sanctified us as His people. 15 “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” The heart conceives lust as a woman conceives a baby. The seed of the child comes from her consort. So is lust conceived in the heart of man, planted there in the Garden at Eden, by that Serpent of the ill-gotten Tree. Once conceived the child of lust will grow to maturity. So the very first inkling of lust must be subdued before it develops in the womb of the heart. If the child of lust is carried to term, the result is sin, and sin brings death.
16 “Do not err, my beloved brethren.” Do not misconstrue the source of lust and temptation. It is never sent by God and it would be a great mistake to claim it so. God is only the Maker of Goodness. 17 “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” God is a Great Light to reveal Truth and expose evil. The dark forces of evil cannot tolerate the Light. God has not changed in His plan and operation from Eternity Past to Eternity Future. He is not like the ‘fair weather’ friend who deserts when the billows roll. He is “the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) He is a Friend that will never forsake or leave us. He is a “Friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” (Prov 18:24) A Christian (true follower of Christ) should reflect the same nature of their Lord. They should be constant in morals and faithful in friendship.
18 “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” Our Lord Jesus Christ bought us into the family of God by His willing sacrifice at Calvary. He was the Word Incarnate as well as the Truth in all of its immutable expressions. Each of us in Christ have been made anew and born anew into His kingdom. We have been born from death unto life eternal. Christ was the very first fruit of God in His Resurrection, and He has enabled us to follow in that resurrection life through faith and love of His Person and Word. If you truly KNOW and LOVE Him, you are not among those who are deceived and destined for the abyss.
Thursday, November 28, 2013
Thanksgiving 2013 - Letter to the Anglican Orthodox Church from Bishop Jerry L. Ogles, Presiding Bishop, Anglican Orthodox Communion - Worldwide
It is very meet and right we should turn to our better angels of years gone by in expressing our thanks for the great blessings and benefits accorded the United States of America from her ancient inception under the Providence of Almighty God. We long served and recognized our Lord as the Great Sovereign to whom Presidents, Congress, and Judges must answer. It has only been in the last several decades that we have turned from the glorious history of our founding, and sought out men of low character and reputation to rule us (men like unto ourselves, even); and this in total abandonment of those precious ruling documents - the US Constitution and Declaration - for which our Fathers pledged "to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor." We present the Thanksgiving proclamation of a great President in token to that glorious and godly nation whose memory is quickly fading as a glimmering star on the distant horizon:
[New York, 3 October 1789]
By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.
Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor-- and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.
Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be-- That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks--for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation--for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war--for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed--for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted--for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions-- to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually--to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed--to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord--To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us--and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.
My prayer is that God will once again send His Spirit to move upon the Face of the Deep of American and pronounce those words of power and restoration - "Let there be Light," and there shall be once more in our troubled land.
Jerry L. Ogles
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. 7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. 8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. 9 Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: 10 But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. 11 For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways. (James 1:5-11)
In verse 1:4 of our introduction to this Book, reference is made to the perfection expected of the saint through patient endurance. Now the necessary accoutrements of perfection are articulated by James in in verses 5 and 6, and then we are advised of those attitudes and behaviors that diminish perfection in verses 7 through 11. The description continues as well in the following verses through verse 19. The entire first 19 verses describe the trials and temptations of the righteous. It might be noted that were it not for imperfections, there would be no perfection. IT is through our imperfections that God works to makes us wholly perfect. It was through faith that valiant men were made strong out of their weakness: “Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.” (Heb 11:34)
Without wisdom, there can be approach to perfection in Christ. So how is wisdom obtained? 5 “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” In fact, wisdom has already been placed squarely in the hands of every man that truly seeks after it – in the form of the Holy Bible. But the Holy Bible is a Book whose Words and meaning far surpass the mortal mind’s ability to comprehend. So being armed with the tool of learning, the Bible, let us pray to God to open our eyes to its meaning as we read through the eyes of the Holy Ghost! “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” (Matt 7:7-8) There is never any shame associated with the asking of God for wisdom. He is most happy to supply it through His Holy Word and enlightened by the Light of the Holy Ghost.
How should we ask wisdom of the Lord and by what attitude of our prayers? 6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.” Faith is confirmed in truth. If it is the truth we seek and believe, our faith is renewed and we ask out of no doubt of grant. If we lack faith and assurance, doubting the power or will of God to grant us wisdom, then we are victims of every wind of doctrine which is of men, and not God’s, invention. Without the North Star of Truth to Guide us, we are driven hither and yon by the winds of the eternal sea.
We cannot serve God and Mammon, or God and Baal. We must settle on the pure faith in God when we seek that wisdom desired. 7 “For let not that man thinks that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.” If we doubt the reality of God, why pray to that which we doubt. I am emboldened when someone asks me to help them. Why? Because I know that they believe I am ABLE to help them. If we are going to ask anything of God, we had best first believe that He is ABLE to deliver. If our prayers are tentative, they may as well be whispered on the wind. This applies not only to wisdom, but to any petition we make to God.
Why is adultery such a sin? Or idolatry which is its spiritual equivalent? Because it undermines the institution of MARRIAGE. In the case of adultery – marriage between a man and a woman. In the case of idolatry – marriage between Christ and His Bride (the Church). When we place an equal value on any other woman than our own wives, or any other material or spiritual value on anything but God, we are double-minded. 8 “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” A double-minded friend is one who sides with you to your face, and with your enemy to your back. Heaven knows we have had our experience with such men in the ministry of our churches – forever seeking to better feather their beds with power, prestige, or even money. Such men cannot be trusted and are never to be depended upon.
In reality, we are faced with diametrically opposed temptations – one of ADVERSITY, and the other of prosperity. These two are alike only in the fact that our response to each depends on whether it is pleasing to God.
9 “Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted.” The man who is a brother in Christ and who is of lowly estate may rejoice in the fact that he is exalted in the Lord according to his faith. Even spiders dwell in king’s palaces. “The spider taketh hold with her hands, and is in kings' palaces.” (Prov 30:28) It may be a blessing to be lowly for it is a protection against the temptation of riches that often turn our heads from the straight and narrow Way. 10 “But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.” Indeed, the rich may be made lowly in spirit in the same was as Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” He did not cast all of his wealth away, but rather began using it for the purposes God intended. He became humble and lowly in spirit – a characteristic of our Lord Jesus Christ! Money brings much pleasure and a good fragrance, but those qualities are vain and short-lived as the desert flower that blooms one day and blows with the wind the next.
Wealth and glory are likewise fleeting. We may enjoy opulence for a second compared to the eternity that we shall spend elsewhere. 11 “For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.” One fine morning, the Sun of Righteousness shall arise, and the heat of His Righteousness shall wither away all of the external graces of wealth and beauty. At that time, the soul is left naked, as is, before the Great Judge of all men. What will that soul, at last, be and how shall it stand before God. Will it wither in the fires of Hell, or blossom anew in the courts of New Jerusalem? Have you sought wisdom by the diligent asking and seeking of it from God? If you have known wisdom, you will have known the Author of Wisdom as well – the Lord Jesus Christ!
Monday, November 25, 2013
When thus it shall be in the midst of the land among the people, there shall be as the shaking of an olive tree, and as the gleaning grapes when the vintage is done. They shall lift up their voice, they shall sing for the majesty of the LORD, they shall cry aloud from the sea. Wherefore glorify ye the LORD in the fires, even the name of the LORD God of Israel in the isles of the sea. (Isaiah 24:13-15)
It is such a delight to see the fulfilling of the Words of the Lord before our very eyes. Though they may search diligently in the great cities of the world to hear the Word of the Lord, they shall not easily find it; in fact, the dwellers of great cities may never again find the Word of the Lord. “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it.” (Amos 8:11-12) They shall not find that Word in their man-made new bibles, nor in the dark by-ways of streets. But the Isles of the Sea yet remember the Lord, and their voices will rise, and have risen, in praise of the God of their fathers.
The hymn that is the subject of our study for today was the theme for the 50th Jubilee Celebration of our Anglican Orthodox Communion on the 15th of November (this year) in the Solomon Islands – presided over by Bishop Zephaniah Legumana. The deep, rich voices of the men; and the high shrill yet melodious voices of the women, rose in majestic harmony and glorious praise to the very threshold of God’s Heaven. How remarkable that God has such a strong fortress of faith in the islands of the sea while the great cities forget their Maker!
O God, Our Help in Ages Past
Text: Isaac Watts, 1674-1748 Tune: ST. ANNE
O God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come,
our shelter from the stormy blast,
and our eternal home:
Under the shadow of thy throne,
thy saints have dwelt secure;
sufficient is thine arm alone,
and our defense is sure.
Before the hills in order stood,
or earth received her frame,
from everlasting thou art God,
to endless years the same.
A thousand ages in thy sight
are like an evening gone;
short as the watch that ends the night
before the rising sun.
Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
bears all its sons away;
they fly, forgotten, as a dream
dies at the opening day.
O God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come,
be thou our guide while troubles last,
and our eternal home!
The words to this hymn were written by Isaac Watts, the non-Conformist who embarked upon a new dimension of hymnody by departing from precise scriptural wordings (such as the Psalms) and included in his hymns the spiritual experiences and emotions of the committed Christian.
The storms of life often beat heavily upon the roof of the Christian soul. The crashing of lightening and gale force winds seem to be on the verge of taking away all that is in its way. Yet, the true Christian is accustomed to a regular rendering of prayer daily, and the storm makes no exception. If his faith is of a steadfast nature, he may not even pray that he be spared, but only that the Lord’s will be done in the storm. The Lord so loves to hear this kind of prayer. “…thy will be done…” It may so be that the whole roof is torn away to make way for a far more opulent mansion, or the Lord may still the winds and torrent in His own time. But the inhabitant is safe, always, in the arms of Jesus, our Lord. The hymn is most often sung to the tune of St. Anne and is intended to paraphrase the meaning of the majestic Psalm 90.
There has not been a day in the life of the elect in which God has not been his help, and there shall never a day come in future years when God forgets His chosen vessel. He is the Ancient of Days, true; but He is also the God of all Eternity Future. There never was a time, nor will there ever be a time, when He was not, or will not, be, “The Great I AM.”
God is truly our shelter in the storm just as surely as He was that cleft Rock to which Mr. Toplady makes reference as the Rock of Ages. As we huddle in the very shadow of the Throne of God, His mighty outstretched Arm will provide complete protection and safety. His wings are sufficient to cover each of His dear children.
It is beyond our comprehension to understand that God existed before time itself, but He has so existed from Eternity Past. In a sense, there is no such thing as Eternity past for that would imply a limit on eternity continuing into the future. It is for this reason that God, above and apart from the dimension of time, is the Great I AM at all points of the spectrum. Of course He predates the Hills, mountains, rivers, and seas because He made them and conceived of them while the earth was yet in the mist of the veil of time.
The observation God takes on His Creation is quite different from ours. He is not limited by the perspective of the space-time continuum. A thousand years are even less than a vapor to Him. We observe other fellows who are living in immorality and make a hasty judgment that condemns them to hell. We cannot see the future, only the present. Our judgments would have sent men such as John Newton to the gallows of Hell long before the Lord had sent a flaming and Holy Spirit into his heart and made all things new. God sees the end and the beginning, but our view is limited to mid-course.
The words of the following stanza bear heavily on my mind as I visit the cemeteries of strange and new churches to which I am invited to speak. Looking at the graves stones, I see some very important dates – the date of birth (separated by a dash) and the date of death. The first and the latter are not so important as that dash in between, for that represents the fullness of a person’s life. I wonder what that dash will include in all of my life and of yours, dear Reader?
Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
bears all its sons away;
they fly, forgotten, as a dream
dies at the opening day.
This stanza is only partially true. Those wicked and rebellious souls who have rejected God will certainly be just as forgotten as the Rich Man who refused the crumbs to Lazarus, but Lazarus is not forgotten, for his name is recorded in the Book of Life. Who needs a name in the fires of Hell? The Lord, our Redeemer, keeps excellent books; and His memory is unfailing of His saints.
We need God to be our constant Guide, not just while troubles last:
O God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come,
our shelter from the stormy blast,
and our eternal home:
The following prayer taken from the Family Prayer section of the Prayer Book has a beauty of truth and reverence that is seldom equaled. It is so because it reflects Scriptural Truth:
O LORD, support us all the day long, until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then in thy mercy grant us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last. Amen.
There does, indeed, remain a Sabbath Rest for the people of God. If we are faithful, we shall enjoy that rest in the here and now and, certainly, in the eternity to come. If it is Christ who does His labors through our organs, we are in perpetual rest ourselves. When we undertake to do the work of the Lord, if we have prayed and known of his blessing for it, the labor will not be work, but a divine and happy pleasure. Try it!
Saturday, November 23, 2013
Do We Need Jesus Today?
Our blessed Lord Jesus is our Saviour. He reveals Himself to us by His example, His teaching, and finally by His death on the cross on which he died for the sins of the world. His deeds reveal his love for us, that He would "bear our sins upon the tree" that we might not have to bear them when we stand before the judgment seat of God the Father. His mercy and goodness are infinite.
One day as our Lord was teaching in the synagogue on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, a man with an evil spirit cried out to Him saying, "Let us alone; what have we to do with Thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth?"
The question asked by this man with an evil spirit in the synagogue in old Capernaum is a pertinent one for all time. The questions comes ringing down through the ages to us in our day; and people today, may well ask the same question: What have we to do with Him? "What have WE to do with Thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth?" Many people in our own day are saying to Him still, "Leave us alone. Leave us alone in our indifference. Leave us alone in our petty jealousies, and in our petty hatreds. Leave us alone in our sin, in our selfishness, in our rejection of God's Word and of God's ways. We're getting along well enough. Leave us alone! What have WE to do with Thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth?"
This question was asked of Jesus in Capernaum almost 2000 years ago, and today many people are questioning still: Does Jesus really matter? Does He? Is He necessary in our modern living? Can't we get along without Him? What have we to do with a Galilean carpenter who is a total stranger to our modern civilization? His world and ours are centuries apart; and ours is an enlightened age; a scientific age. We are becoming more and more self-sufficient, we think. And as time rolls on, and the universe expands and our worldly knowledge grows, and our wealth increases, and as our concern with the world around us presses on our minds (inflation, business conditions), the Man of Galilee seems to get further and further away from the things that make up modern living, and he seems to many people, apparently, to become really irrelevant. The writer, Thomas Carlyle, in the last century sums it up for us: The story is told that one day Thomas Carlyle was standing looking at a picture of our Lord hanging on the cross, and as he stood gazing up at the picture, he is reported to have said, "It's all very well, old fellow, but you have had your day." You have had your day. And as we look around us in the world today and see the indifference toward God and toward His moral commands and the attitude of many people toward our Saviour and toward eternal truths, it makes one shudder at times, and we well may ask with Thomas Carlyle, "Has He had His day?" He seems so far away!
Has Jesus had His day? Do we modern people need Jesus? We do Indeed! We need Him with all of our being! With all of our souls! He, and He alone, He only, is our hope of joy and life. He only is the means of our peace with God. He only is our assurance that we are the children of God. He is our hope of immortality in God, He is our assurance that the faithful shall stand before the throne of God in glory -- justified, saved, redeemed, redeemed from sin, redeemed by His blood shed on the cross. We need Jesus, indeed we do. And we have Him, we believe through our faith in Him, and we bless God for Him.
In our modern world today, we live in the midst of thousands of distractions, and we need Jesus, for one thing, to simplify our lives and to provide a foundation for our thinking. Life is becoming so complicated for so many --with the radio and newspapers banging on our consciousness, and all kinds of philosophies from the materialism of Karl Marx to the idealism of Mary Baker Eddy, of the Christian Scientists, with the TV and telephones and the atom bomb and supersonic airplanes, inflation, threats of war, world unrest, and people bickering over little things. Our souls cry out for a resting place amid the turmoil of this worldly existence. We need some place where our souls may rest secure. We need a solid foundation on which to build our lives -- on which to build character, human dignity, personal integrity, honor, morality. We need an anchor to hold us firmly to THE ETERNAL. And something which Christianity proclaims is the God-Man who walked the earth showing us God. It is the God-Man who was crucified, showing us the Love of God that could die for us, and showing us at the same time the hideousness of Sin that crucifies the Lord of Glory. Our lives today are becoming so complicated. Our minds are bombarded with all kinds of knowledge -- scientific knowledge, historical knowledge, philosophical knowledge, moral depravity and so on and on; and we need something to anchor all of this knowledge to. We need something to show us the significance of it all, something to make sense of it all, something on which we can solidly place our feet amid the times and tides of human destiny. We of the Christian faith have such an anchor and such a foundation: it is Jesus, the Lamb of God. St. Paul, writing to the church at Corinth, said, "And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified." This is simple enough: "I determined not to know ANY THING ...save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified." This is so SIMPLE, so simple that the modern sophisticated man is tempted to scoff at it, it is so elemental. It is elemental, but at the same time it is basic and it is true. Faith in Jesus simplified things, it organized things -- it organizes our lives; if we have enough Faith .... enough Faith to make any difference. When a man can say, "One is my Master, even Christ Jesus," and makes it the business of his life to do His will, life for him becomes so much simpler and happier and more satisfying. And when the storms of life come, he is not distracted or overwhelmed. He is founded on a rock, and he walks in perfect peace and happy safety, hand in hand with His blessed Saviour. Jesus is our joy and our life. He fells our lives full, if we will let him.
We need Jesus to make us inwardly sufficient for life, for meeting life, for living fully. We need Him to impart to us His moral and spiritual power, regenerating power, by which our natures are changed, and this gives us the strength to do God's will, to fulfill his purpose, and to be the kind of people we were created to be -- that is, to be more like Jesus Himself.
And how the world needs such power today! It is obvious that while the world has been making tremendous advances in many spheres of life, it is going backwards morally and spiritually. Though men can now control fantastic material forces, they are still unable to control themselves. Observe the spread of homosexuality and drug addiction. And many people today are finding that for all their education and for all their so-called culture, for all of their advantages, for all of their wealth and power, they still lack the moral and spiritual resources even for being happy and for building a happy home. They still lack the spiritual power to break off some unworthy, soul-destroying habit, or to achieve victory over some besetting sin, or even to control a wagging tongue. Materially, we are sound and prosperous, but inwardly there are many who are inadequate, who do not have Jesus in their hearts, and their lives are going to pieces in their hands. And try as they will, they cannot save themselves. Men cannot lift themselves by their own boot straps.
We all stand in this world of sin where we all must cry, "God help us." And we do, and He does. And it is here again that our blessed Saviour, Jesus of Nazareth comes in. For His coming into human history means that God can and has and does help us. He is our Good Shepherd. He said, "I am the good shepherd."
In Jesus Christ is love, amazing and divine; there is forgiveness, large and free; there is moral and spiritual power freely offered to all who will ask for it. In Jesus Christ, God is in action. All the divine resources are focused and concentrated in Him, and made available to us. this is not imagination. For Christian experience in every age, and in this present day, witnesses to the fact that, when a man honestly and wholeheartedly surrenders his life to Christ, and receives his forgiveness, and follows Him day by day -- that man discovers that he is in touch with great spiritual resources, with the very power of God Himself -- sufficient to sweep his life clean, to change his nature, to rescue him from vile habits and evil courses, and to make him a new man, with a new joy and new purpose in life, the builder of a Christian home, a Christian community, a Christian world. So long as men are morally weak and spiritually impotent, and unable to save themselves (and this is the nature of fallen man); so long as that old problem of what the theologians call sin and the men in the street call "selfishness," ignorance, weakness remains unresolved, Jesus of Nazareth will never be out-of-date; He never will. An honest facing of the facts of our inner lives is sufficient to convince us that we have not yet outgrown Jesus Christ; and we never will. We need Him desperately. We have to have Him. He is our all in all.
And so today the church continues to proclaim the gospel that can change men. It is offered to all as the hope of mankind, our hope of eternity, of peace of God dwelling within us. Its cleansing and renewing power is available. We do not have to wait until we feel "good enough" to receive it. It is enough if we feel that we need it and want it -- want it badly enough to get down on our knees and say:
Jesus of Nazareth have mercy on me;
Dwell in my mind that I may know thee.
Dwell in my heart that I may love thee.
Dwell in my will that I may trust Thee and obey Thee.
It is only when we offer our minds, our hearts, our wills -- our whole being -
to Him that we really begin to know Jesus; and when we give ourselves to Him, we know Him, not only as the carpenter of Galilee in the first century, but now, today as our Saviour, Redeemer, and friend, Now --as the Power of God unto salvation in this world, NOW!
In days of old, when Jesus walked the earth, the evil spirit in the man in old Capernaum cried out, "Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth?" What do we have to do with Jesus? What does He mean to us? to me? to you? We know full well. The hymn writer says it for us:
How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
in a believer's ear!
It soothes our sorrows, heals our wounds,
And drives away our fear.
It makes the wounded spirit whole,
And calms the troubled breast;
'Tis manna to the hungry soul,
And to the weary rest.
Dear Name, the rock on which I build,
My shield and hiding place,
My never-failing treasury, filled
With boundless stores of grace.
Jesus, my Shepherd, Guardian, Friend,
My Prophet, Priest, and King,
My Lord, my Life, my Way, my End,
Accept the praise I bring.
This is what we have to do with him. God grant that he may be these things to all of us.
Friday, November 22, 2013
1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting. 2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. (James 1:1-4)
The opening verse of James demonstrates the humble spirit of the Apostle James. Though the half- brother of our Lord Jesus Christ, James omits identifying himself as such, perhaps to avoid the appearance of boasting. He does not proudly describe himself even as an apostle, but simply as a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ and, by extension, of the people of God to whom this Epistle is written. The Israelite tribes had been dispersed throughout Asia Minor and the known world. His message is to both believing and unbelieving Jews, but also to the Gentiles which will become true members of Israel and truly partakers of the Seed of Promise.
The Book of James contains many beautiful word pictures of God and His Kingdom. The Epistle is more concerned with the practical application of true religion than with the doctrinal basis for it. He instructs in the error of the tongue, of showing deference to the rich and well-heeled above that of the poor and lowly, and of the sincerity that is evidenced of faith through good works.
His opening ‘Greeting’ is rarely used by writers of the Epistles and demonstrates the sincerity of brotherly love that James wishes to admit at the opening of his counsel. 1“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.” A greeting is almost always followed by fond fellowship and brotherly love. So James is our brother, our friend, our fellow servant in Christ, and one who speaks with first-hand knowledge of his subject. Being a familial brother to Jesus, James knew the human side as well as the spiritual nature of Christ better than most of the apostles.
In verse 2 of the introductory verses, James stresses the importance of joy, and not disappointment, at the onslaught of temptations.
This goes often against our human natures, but if we have put on that Mind and Nature of Christ, we shall immediately comprehend the meaning that James is conveying. How strong we grow, and how joyful do we feel, when we are tempted greatly yet prevail against temptation. We feel that we have grown in strength, and certainly we have done so. When my mother placed a dish of chocolates on the table in the morning with the stern warning, “Do not touch!” how grown up and happy did I feel at evening meal when I was allowed the first chocolate treat. How happy the recovering alcoholic becomes at the passing up of every invitation to ‘take a drink.’
The devil cannot read our minds, but he has been watching us from infancy, and he knows our weaknesses by our previous behaviors. He exploits, constantly, the chinks in our armor. 2” My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations.” Please note the allusion by James to attitude and character – he counsels to “COUNT it all joy!” We may have no choice but to encounter temptations, but the manner in which we respond to them is solely our prerogative. We may view them with dismay and dread, or we may view them as a source of joy and strength in overcoming them. We should know that the angels in heaven rejoice at every victory of the believer over temptations and snares that the Prince of the Air spreads in our path. Since God has promised to allow no temptation to confront us over which we cannot gain victory, we should take great satisfaction at every victory over those increasing temptations that we face. God is sure that we can overcome even those enormous temptations that come before His child. My mother knew if I could avoid the temptation of the chocolates all day long, I would be a stronger boy. So, too, does God know that we grow stronger with each victory over the temptations of life.
What is the one great accoutrement of defense that enables to withstand temptation? Is it not patience? 3 “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” We should readily know that we cannot overcome an entire day’s worth of temptation at a single second, but we can do so by overcoming, second by second, every temptation hurled at us. We may know, for certain, that moments of temptation, as well as victory, shall pass. “This, too, shall pass!” is ascribed by a Persian Sufi poet to King Attar of Nisshapur who had the inscription on a ring he wore. When times were full of joy and happiness, he sorrowfully looked at the inscription on his ring – “this too shall pass.” When hard times came, he looked with hope to the same slogan. Such an understanding instills patience. Great temptations bring great victory when we withstand them with the patient understanding that “this too shall pass.” Faith is the fuel that gives flame to our patience. When we know the long mountain march is about to breech the crest of the mountain, we can slog on we hope and patience – but, in between, many steps must take us there.
4 “But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” The human body is strengthened by a regular exercise routine. With no exercise, the muscle of the body will atrophy or turn to fat. The mind is also made stronger by a reading of challenging works and problems. The spiritual soul is made strong by faith worked out in patience. If we omit a regular exercise routine in any of these areas, we will lose ground which must be overtaken by future efforts. Perfection in works is a constant and consistent labor of patience in the things that are Godly and good. If we omit our attendance at worship, at the family meal, at work, for a very long while, how we are reluctant to return to the beaten path. But if we report to work five minutes early every day for twenty years, it is nearly impossible that we shall ever be late of our own doing. It is the same with that perfect work with which the Lord has endowed our hearts. We not only arise with a heart that is warm to service at the beginning, but complete the day with that same heart.
We labor for the Lord as His servant – all of us who believe. We are often rejected by those who should know better – who observe superficials more than substance. But that, too, is a temptation to overcome. The servant never foreswears those for whom it is his duty to serve and to exemplify good works. Why should the servant of God and man?