The Fear Of God!

Are You Thinking Rightly About God?

So, how do we think rightly about God? Where does our thought life, about God, need to begin? Well, the wisest man who ever lived, said that it begins with the fear of God— “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline “ Proverbs 1:7. This is the introduction to the book, of the Bible, which is known for its wisdom! The writer sets up the theme of Proverbs for the entire book with those opening words. And, if you read the book from the 1st page to the last, you’ll uncover that theme of the “fear of the Lord” on multiple occasions; along, with the keywords associated with that theme—wisdom, knowledge, guidance, instruction!

-You’ll Be Wise!

And, the end results of adhering to God’s words of wisdom? You’ll be wise! For rejecting the wisdom of these Scriptures? You’ll be a fool! In my time of ministry, I’ve had the occasion, several times, to encourage individuals, that I was discipling, to read through the book of Proverbs once a month. There are 31 chapters; so, read a chapter a day! You might need to double up a couple of chapters at the end of certain months! But, you’ll be amazed at how God’s wisdom will change you in your person; in your marriage; in the training up of your children; in your work; and, in the entirety of the rest of your life!

Wisdom Has It’s Origin In God!

So, let’s draw some points from this key verse of Scripture, Proverbs 1:7. Notice that the author, King Solomon, begins with a presupposition, that, authentic wisdom has its origin with God! Theologically, we mean that God is omniscient; or, He is all-wise! So, all wisdom comes from Him! All knowledge comes from Him! Think about that! Anything that’s knowable, He knows! There is nothing He does not know! He knows the end from the beginning, Scripture says because He IS the END & the BEGINNING! He is the ALPHA & the OMEGA! God knows all things (1 John 3:20).

God Knows Everything That’s Knowable!

He knows every detail happening in all the world right now! Even when a sparrow falls out of a tree; or, a hair falls from your head, He knows (Matthew 10:29-30). He knows your every thought before you speak it (Psalm 139:4). He saw you when you were in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139:1-3). He knows everything that’s on your heart (1 Kings 8:39). Even things you share with no one else, He knows! If you look at Proverbs, chapter 8, beginning with v.22, wisdom is personified & informs us of its origin:  “I, wisdom, was with the Lord when He began His creation, before His works of long ago. I was formed before ancient times, from the beginning, before the earth began” (8:22-23). In Proverbs 3:19, he adds: “The Lord founded the earth by wisdom and established the heavens by understanding.”

-Looking For Wisdom?

So, if you’re looking for wisdom, look no further! Seek God! He created wisdom! Do you want knowledge & understanding? See God in His word! He has it! All of it! So, there’s a 2nd point that builds on the 1st. Authentic wisdom begins with a belief that God exists! If “…the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom & knowledge…”; then, unbelief, in God’s existence, would result in no fear of God & conclude with an absence of wisdom & understanding! Were you tracking with me? In other words, if we view Solomon’s words here as a hypothesis or a proposition, he’s drawing the conclusion that an unbeliever (especially an atheist) is incapable of true wisdom; because true wisdom comes ONLY from the very God he fails to believe exists! He can be a really smart guy! He can be book smart! But, the ultimate wisdom necessary to successfully navigate this world & eternity is only available in God! We’ll pick it up there next week!

Don’t Be A Fool!

-Wisdom Waits On God!

The fool is always in a fight! The fool always thinks it his responsibility to make all the wrongs right! Don’t do that, the Old Testament book of Proverbs says! Instead, wisdom waits on God to right all the wrongs! So, don’t be quick to open your mouth and speak! I used to be the one that always had to speak first! It’s still something I have to constantly work on! But, I had a friend many years ago that rebuked me. “Don’t give someone a piece of your mind,” he said, “that you can’t afford to lose.”

-The 3-Second Rule!

Someone also gave me some great advice when they shared, with me, the “3-Second Rule.” Before you speak, wait 3 seconds. You’ll be amazed what you WON’T say if you just wait and think about it for 3 seconds. That one’s kept me from saying a lot of things that would’ve got me in trouble. The best admonition of all comes from God’s word: “Be slow to speak.” Simple and direct! The book of Proverbs includes several verses that echo that refrain. “When there are many words, sin is unavoidable, but the one who controls his lips is wise” (10:19). And, “The one who guards his mouth protects his life; the one who opens his lips invites his own ruin” (13:3). Wow! Opening your mouth too quickly can mean life or death! “Even a fool is considered wise when he keeps silent” (17:28). That reminds me of the old saying:  “It’s better to be silent & be thought a fool than to open your mouth & remove all doubt.

-Be Humble & God-Directed!

Rather than being filled with pride & speaking your mind, it’s better to be humble & God-directed. Make no mistake, if you’re full of pride, it will show up in your speech & God says He’s against you! Again, wisdom from Proverbs:  “Everyone with a proud heart is detestable to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished” 16:5; “The Lord destroys the house of the proud” 15:25. Let’s talk about that a minute! Why does God hate pride? Because, ultimately, pride is taking personal credit for something that God gave you! “What do you have,” the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 4:7, “that you did not receive.” In other words, what do you have that you can personally take credit for?

-Self-Pride & Self-Confidence!

What do you have that you didn’t receive from God? Your looks? Intelligence? Your job & its income? Your talents & gifts? Every one of those things you received from God. Taking pride in yourself & even having self-confidence is part of the wisdom of the world! There is no wisdom in pride or self-confidence! Wisdom is found in those whose confidence is in the Lord:  “I have instructed you today—even you—so that your confidence may be in the Lord” (Proverbs 22:19). When you’re complimented for anything, you need to redirect all praise to God! And, then, the wisdom of Proverbs teaches us to be generous for the same reason it’s wise to be humble! Because all of our finances were also given to us by God.

-Be A Blessing!

And, God wants us to be a blessing to others with those things He blesses us with. “The one who oppresses the poor person insults his Maker, but one who is kind to the needy honors Him” (14:31).   Isn’t that interesting? It’s an insult to God when we’re guilty of oppressing the poor; but, we honor God when we care for the needy! “A generous person will be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor” (22:9).  This is just one of many ways that God’s word teaches us to encourage others! And, wisdom teaches us to also be an encourager. We live in a day of severe criticism & tearing down everyone that disagrees with us about something. This world is just saturated with anxiety! We need to be difference-makers in this world, church! “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, but a good word cheers it up” (12:25) “The tongue that heals is a tree of life” (15:4). Be wise! Be an encourager! Be that tree of life! Use your God-given gifts to bless others!

Learning To Be Wise!

-The Wise Live Proactively!

The wise live their lives proactively! They read from the Scriptures, what God— the Creator & Master Designer— has written, as laws, into His Creation; and, they make course corrections BEFORE they step on life’s landmines & blow up their domain! The Old Testament book of Proverbs offers that kind of wisdom!  For example, wisdom, according to Proverbs, teaches us to be open to loving rebuke. When you choose the right kind of friends— those walking with God— they may offer you some loving rebuke at times. Especially, if they see you moving in the wrong direction! That what good friends do according to the book of Proverbs. “The wounds of a friend are trustworthy, but the kisses of an enemy are excessive” (ch. 27:6)

-Who Can You Trust?

You can trust a friend. They will gently tell you the truth; even, when they know it may cause you pain to hear it. But, it’s for your good! But, if you’re the friend offering a rebuke, don’t be the kind of “friend” who approached her pastor after he preached a message on the spiritual gifts & announced that she had the gift of criticism. The wise pastor asked her if she remembered, from Jesus’ parable, what the man, with the one talent, had done with his talent. “Why, yes,” she said, “he went out and buried it.” And, with a smile, the pastor said, “Go and do likewise.”

-The 2 Sides Of A Rebuke!

There are always 2 sides to the rebuke— the one receiving it & the one offering it. If you’re the friend offering it, be careful! Ask yourself what motivates you to counsel or rebuke this person? Are you motivated by a desire to help the other person? Do you plan to face them honestly, but with gentleness? Are you doing this out of concern for God’s kingdom; or, because you enjoy being critical? If you’re on the receiving end of a gentle rebuke, how do you receive it? If you don’t listen to the wisdom, of a wise friend, you’re just being stupid! I’m not saying that! Scripture says that! “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but one who hates correction is stupid” (Proverbs 12:1). Don’t be that guy! Don’t be that gal!

-Don’t Be Stupid!

Oh, and don’t be that kid that hates correction from their parents! Don’t be stupid! “A fool despises his father’s discipline, but a person who accepts correction is sensible” (Proverbs 15:5). That’s because wisdom teaches us to be respectful and a blessing to our parents. If you have friends that counter the counsel of your parents you’ve not chosen your friends wisely! Don’t be stupid! Don’t be a fool! Again, I’m not calling you stupid! I’m not calling you a fool! God is calling you out! If you choose to disregard the wisdom of your parents & choose the foolishness of a bad friend’s counsel, you’re going to mess up your life! “A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son, heartache to his mother” (Proverbs 10:1). Don’t be that son! Don’t be that daughter!

-Be A Peacemaker!

There’s another theme that repeats itself throughout Proverbs— wisdom teaches us to be a peacemaker! Let me just make a general observation! If your life is full of drama, you’re probably not a peacemaker! You’re a pot-stirrer! Does drama surround you at home? Does drama follow you to work? Is there drama between you & the members of your family? Or, you and your neighbors? If you’re the constant component, in all the drama, you need the biblical wisdom of a peacemaker! “It is honorable for a man to resolve a dispute, but any fool can get himself into a quarrel” (20:3). “Don’t say, ‘I will avenge this evil!’ Wait on the Lord, and He will rescue you” (20:22 ). The fool is always in a fight! The fool is always out to make the wrongs (that they perceive) right! Wisdom waits on God to right all wrongs! More wisdom next week!

Living Life Wisely!

-Which Invite Would You Choose?

Imagine you received invitations to eat out at 2 different restaurants. One invitation is to one of the finest dining establishments in your town! Great food! Great atmosphere! Fantastic service! The other invitation is to a greasy spoon kind of place that serves what everyone calls “mystery meat” because no one is quite sure what it is. The locals call it the “Road Kill Grill.” No one is sure how many times it’s nearly been shut down by the health inspector. It’s dirty & the staff is rude! Which invite are you probably going to choose?

-The Wise & Foolish Decisions We Make!

While the choice, between the 2 restaurants, seems rather obvious, we tend not to choose well between wisdom & foolishness! That contrast between the “wise” decisions & the “foolish” ones— along with the consequences of your decision— is really what the Old Testament book of Proverbs is all about! Someone said:  “A proverb is a timeless truth in the form of a simple illustration that exposes a fundamental reality of life.” They’re timeless truths because they’ve been inspired by an All-Wise eternal God who has built them into the very fabric of His creation! So, they’re timeless!

-Wisdom Crosses All Generational Lines!

That means they cross all generational lines—they’re just as true for you Baby Boomers as they are for the Generation X’ers and the Millennials of our world! And, the “wise” among us will read them, take heed & adjust their life accordingly; while, the “fool” rejects the counsel & experiences a pain-filled life! The Book of Proverbs contains themes! Multiple themes about every area of life— the family, marriage, parenting, children; as well as business & work & retirement! There are Proverbs about sex, your thought life, your speech, your conduct in private & your conduct in public! There are Proverbs about how to deal with a loud mouth & gossip; and, how to handle conflict & strife.

-There Is God’s Way & The Foolish Way!

And, for every theme or subject mentioned, there are “foolish” ways to respond and there is the “wise” way to respond. The foolish response is always to learn the hard way; while, the wise respond by reading God’s word & acting in obedience and consort with it! There is God’s way & the foolish way! Those are the only 2 options! Here’s what a wise person told me long ago:  “Experience is a great teacher; and, a fool will learn no other way.” You might say that the wise assimilate God’s word & corrects their course of life! The fool keeps doing the same thing—living life in defiance & disobedience to God’s word—and, they keep expecting different & better results!

-Living Life Proactively!

But it won’t happen! The wise live their lives proactively! They read from the Scriptures, what God— the Creator & Master Designer— has written, as laws, into His Creation; and, they make course corrections BEFORE they step on life’s landmines & blow up their domain! Over the next few posts, I plan to consider some of the themes in the book of Proverbs! And, I hope you’ll consider them with me! Let me just finish up today with one Proverbs theme & hopefully you’ll come back next week for more! Wisdom teaches us to be cautious choosing our friends! This is a really big deal! Your friends will either build you up or tear you down! For example: “Don’t make friends with an angry man & don’t’ be a companion of a hot-tempered man or you will learn his ways” (Prov 22:24-25). Choose friends poorly & you’ll suffer harm!

Seeing God At Work!

-We Minimize Sin’s Damage!

It seems like one of the most difficult things, for us to discern, is when and where God is at work in our lives!  In our own little world—that we’ve created in our own little minds—we tend to think of God’s work, in our lives, as little more than a “clean-up on aisle 7.”  No harm! No foul! Our sin is just a little “spill” that God cleans up for us! But, in fact, our brokenness & our sinful depravity runs so deep that God’s work, in us, requires major surgery; not, just a little “clean up.” We minimize the extent of the damage that sin has done to us!

-Missing God’s Construction Signs!

It’s part of our brokenness that we’re blinded, by our brokenness, so we can’t even see how badly broken we are! We exaggerate how good we are & how far we’ve come in our faith! So, it’s easy for us to miss the “construction signs” when God is at work in us! He uses your marriage to work on you! He can use your job! He can use medical issues & a lot of other things that we may not think about! That’s what this post is all about— seeing God at work in our lives! Not just in the big things or the obvious places; but, sometimes in the corners of our lives! Places where we wouldn’t necessarily think of Him as working!

-We Need Spiritual Eyes!

If we’re looking at life strictly through the eyes of our human flesh we won’t see everywhere that God is at work! We need spiritual eyes! We need the help of God’s Holy Spirit to remove the blinders from our eyes & unstop our ears to hear what He’s telling us.  Without His help, we cannot see the work that God is doing, in us, through the events in our lives! It may feel, at times, like He’s distant! Like He’s left you on your own to figure things out! But, He hasn’t & He never will! He’s using the difficulties and pressures you face to bring to the surface all the areas of your life that He’s working on in you!

-Signs God Is At Work!

And, I can tell you that He’s at work, in you, every time you’re angry or agitated or you have a heightened sense of frustration! So, take a deep breath! Bow your head & ask Him to show you what He’s doing; and, to support you even as He works! Don’t ever make the mistake of separating out the secular part of your life from the sacred! Let me tell you what I mean by that— don’t ever assume that there’s like “church” & that’s God’s part of your life; but, God’s not involved with the rest of your life! All the earth is Holy Ground! There is no secular! God rules over everything! He’s in all the details!

-God’s Providential Blessings!

And, that’s, in part, what God’s Holy Spirit intends to show us in many of the Old Testament stories! We don’t have all the doctrinal details laid out for us in the same way we do in the New Testament. God’s Spirit intends to help us wrestle with these stories & reveal the truth in a way that might not be obvious at our first reading of the passage. We see how God uses someone’s betrayal, against us, to return us to prayer! The pain of the betrayal, in your life, can be so painful that God may use it to get your attention & get you re-focused on spending time with Him! David experiences the betrayal of his own son, Absalom (2 Samuel 15). Absalom had the appearance of a movie star! In fact, the Scripture says he, “…had a handsome appearance from the soul of his foot to the crown of his head.” When Absalom betrayed David & forced him to run for his life, God used the experience to return David to his spiritual roots of prayer!

Can God Trust You With Pain?

-What An Odd Question!

That probably seems like an odd question because it makes it sound like “pain” is a good thing, doesn’t it? A good thing that you could be “trusted” with? We might ask if you could be trusted with your best friend’s car; but, not “pain”! The question may also seem confusing because it suggests that pain is something that comes from God & everything inside us wants to rebel at the notion that pain & suffering might be choreographed into our lives by God! That can’t be true, can it?

-We Are So “Coddled”!

Most Christians, here in the west, have been coddled! I have & so have most of you! We suffer very little for our beliefs. Several months ago, I went, with a couple of our men, to visit a faith-based community center in another city. It was a Friday; and, Friday is typically my day off. But, I had had a number of interruptions, that week; and, I didn’t get my work done. So, I was whining that I’d have to go into the office for 2-3 more hours, when I got back, to finish up my work! And, the Lord convicted me! As we pulled into the church parking lot, I apologized for complaining about my “suffering.”

-Real Suffering Looks Like This!

The Holy Spirit had pressed in on me & planted the thought that there were probably brothers & sisters, in Christ, in other parts of the world, who had died for their faith that day. Still, others had endured harsh treatment, for their faith; and, I was whining about working an extra 2-3 hours.  We’ve bought into the lie that coming to Jesus is like playing a Country Western song backward— we get our dog back, our truck back; and, our girlfriend back! Funny! But, that’s not what Jesus said. He said that if the world hated Him, it would hate us! That if they persecuted Him, they would persecute us! That if we followed him, we’d have to give up our life! We have to deny ourselves & count the cost!

-More Like Jesus!

You see, the Father intends to use all the “junk”, in this sin-cursed world, to make us more like Jesus— who was, in fact, a SUFFERING Savior, right? Someone said, that, we tend to “…read the Bible, not with a desperate hunger for evidence of God’s triumph in pain; but, with a view to improving our private pleasure.” Clearly, Bible characters, like Moses & Joseph, were not overly concerned with improving their private pleasure! On the contrary, they endured great difficulty on their way to spiritual success; and, it was because of the great difficulties, in part, that they experienced spiritual success. For Moses, Scripture says “…he CHOSE to SUFFER…” rather than enjoy sin’s pleasures (Heb 11:25).

-He Chose To Suffer!

It says he CHOSE to suffer! As the adopted son, of Pharoah’s daughter, he had a choice— short-lived pleasures; or, suffering! Which would you choose? Be honest! Most of us would choose short-lived pleasures, wouldn’t we? Long-lived pleasures, even better! But, Moses CHOSE to suffer! I never choose to suffer! But, I will tell you that when suffering has been my lot, that I grew more deeply, in my faith & my walk with God & others, than I ever did enjoying the short-lived pleasures of this life! I’m not suggesting that we live our lives with a death wish! Rather, we learn to submit to whatever course God directs our lives; and, by faith believe His intentions are good! We need to learn that during this difficult time in human history! Amen?

 

Broken Relationships!

-The Way Of The Transgressor!

During the early years, of my kid’s lives, I often quoted one verse of Scripture, to them, more than any other. It was from the Old King James version; and, I quoted it whenever they had gotten themselves into some kind of trouble. It’s Proverbs 13:15; and, it says “…the way of the transgressor is HARD.” Many times I gave them no additional words of correction! I just shook my head & repeated those words, “…the way of the transgressor is HARD.” It means that there are consequences for sin & disobedience! Sin is HARD! Sinful actions reap painful, cruel results!

-Hard Circumstances!

And, my wife and I would speak to our kids from our own experiences. We’ve experienced the hard circumstances of transgressing against the Word of God. Nothing good ever comes from disobedience to God! Never! Only pain and suffering! And, one of the most painful circumstances we endure is the broken “relationships” that lay scattered in the wake of our sinful conduct. Some relationships will never be reconciled because the damage is perceived as being too severe.

-The Toxicity Of Sin!

The Scriptures, from its early chapters in Genesis, with Adam & Eve’s sin, expose the toxicity sin brings to our human relationships. Just flip back to Genesis chapter 3 for a moment. God confronts them after their sin; and, demands an explanation for their disobedience.  “What is this you’ve done,” God asks Eve in v.13. And, Eve shifts blame, “It was the serpent.” She avoids the question. God asked her, “…what have YOU done…” And, she shifts blame to the serpent. But, she wasn’t the 1st person to shift blame! She had just heard her husband, Adam, respond to God’s question, “It was the woman YOU gave me— she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate.”

-The Ultimate Blame Shift!

Did you catch that? Who is Adam ultimately blaming? GOD, right? He shifts blame to God, “…the woman YOU gave me…” So, Adam & Eve’s relationship, with God, is broken! And, their marital bliss also came to a very abrupt end because of their sin. In outlining the curse, because of sin, God told Eve v.16, “…your desire will be for your husband, yet he will RULE over you…” Sin would forever mar their relationship; and, though God, by His indwelling Holy Spirit, will work to sanctify our marriages, it’ll require work & great effort to overcome the harmful effects of our sin.

-What A Nightmare!

And, what a nightmare, that we pass our sinful nature on to our children, who in turn, make many of the same sinful decisions we made; and, also make up a few of their own. We read, in Genesis chapter 4, of the tragic history of humanity’s 1st murder; and, incredibly, it happened within the family, as one brother (Cain) murdered his brother (Abel).  We bear, as the human race, the consequences of our sinful natures. You can try & deny it or ignore it; but, “…be sure about it, your sin will catch up with you” Numbers 32:23. Also, “…don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows he will also reap” Galatians 6:7. Why? Because “…the way of the transgressor is HARD.” Only God can fix the mess we’ve made!

 

A Faith That Doesn’t Serve!

-It’s A Questionable Faith!

Faith that fails to serve is, at best, questionable! Listen to what James writes, in his epistle:  “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself” James 2:14-17.  “Is that even saving faith?” James seems to be asking,  “What good is that kind of faith?

-Can That Faith Save Him?

If I understand the text correctly, in the original Greek it has the definite article relating to “faith”; so, the question James really seems to be asking is, “Can THAT faith save him?” Can a faith that has no passion for serving the needy & the less fortunate even be genuine, saving faith? It’s questionable! The Apostle Paul wrote this to the Church of Galatia: “For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love” Galatians 5:6. In other words, if we are “in Christ” HE will produce a faith, in us, that is working through love! God IS love! So, if God— in Christ— is IN us, we’ll love more & more as we are sanctified more & more. We’ll look like Jesus!

-Looking Like Jesus!

He loved the rejects of society, the wounded, the hurting, the forgotten & those who’ve been kicked to the curb! So, if the Spirit of Jesus is “in us”, that has to work its way out through acts of love & service! If you don’t care about those in need around you, perhaps you ought to question if your faith is the real thing! James seems to say that any faith that fails to serve is worthless! What good is it?  Young’s literal translation asks, “What is the profit” of a faith that doesn’t serve? It’s worthless! Jesus lived the most profitable, worthy life ever lived because He lived it for God the Father & for others! For US! He gave Himself up for all the sins of all people of all time! So, how can we say we love Jesus if we live our lives just for ourselves? That’s the message James is trying to get across to the churches he’s writing to:  “A loveless faith is worthless!” It has no value to God; or, to anyone else! He finishes by saying that any faith that fails to serve is DEAD! (v.17)

-As Good As Dead!

He says, “…faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself” (v.17).  He’s NOT preaching that we are saved by good deeds; or, that we serve others to earn our salvation! No! It’s in the serving & the ministry that our “faith” PROVES to be ALIVE! Otherwise, “…it’s dead by itself.” It’s just empty words! The 16th-century reformer, John Calvin, once said:  “It is faith alone that justifies, but faith that justifies can never be alone!” There have to be acts of service & works of love to prove it’s genuine faith. So let me close by making this appeal to you—seek service & ministry opportunities both within your faith community & your city! Not on the basis of obligation; but, because your faith is genuine; and, like Jesus, you’re a “friend of sinners.”

 

The Proof Of Your Faith!

-As You Wish!

One of my all-time favorite movies is The Princess Bride.  It’s a romantic comedy; and, if you haven’t seen it, you need to! It’s a classic! It begins in the home of Buttercup, who’s dressed in the drab brown clothes of a peasant girl; but, orders everyone around as if she were royalty. Another peasant, named Wesley, is a laborer on Buttercup’s farm; and, the narrator—Peter Falk, he of Columbo fame—says that Buttercup’s greatest pleasure, in life, came from tormenting Wesley. She calls him “farm boy” & orders him to do all kinds of menial, boring jobs. But, regardless how menial the task, Wesley always responds the same way— ”As you wish!” While she’s incredibly condescending toward Wesley, he never refuses her demands; and, his attitude is always kind & willing. One day, she has an epiphany; and, the narrator says:  “That day, she was amazed to discover that when he was saying, ‘As you wish’ what he really meant was ‘I love you.’”

-Communicating Love!

I love that line because it fits so well into a Biblical conversation about service. It’s Buttercup’s realization that Westley was communicating his love for her, through his service to her, that holds such a remarkable spiritual parallel to something the Spirit of God inspired James to write:  “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it? In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself” James 2:14-17.

-The Invisibility Of Faith!

By its very nature, faith is invisible! You can’t see it! I can tell you that I have faith; but, I can’t show it to you.  James says, however, that faith can be seen through good works or acts of service & ministry.  He uses this imaginary person who claims to have faith; though, it can’t be seen. But, James disagrees:  “Yes, you can!” he argues, “You can see faith! You see faith when a believer offers to serve someone who lacks food; or, the necessities of life.” And, then, he uses the example of Abraham in the verses that follow. You can see Abraham’s faith, in his obedience to God, when he offered Isaac, his son, on an altar, James argues.

-Works Cooperate With Faith!

Abraham’s works were cooperating, with his faith, so that His faith actually became visible through his works. He offers Rahab, as another example, in his text.  In essence, James shows us that saving faith always produces acts of service that evidence it’s genuineness.  That’s why it must be a core ministry value, for every community of faith, to serve widows & orphans & others who are marginalized by their neediness. God’s word tells us that’s really the only way people can SEE our faith! Our faith is seen in the way that we love people! That means that any “faith” that fails to serve is, at best, questionable! James asks, “What good is it my brothers if someone says he has faith but does not have works?” It’s no good!

 

Compassion Ministry Validates Faith!

-What Does Faith Look Like?

If you’re one that believes your salvation is solely about what and whom you believe in, James epistle has to be a bit unnerving for you! I say that because James lays down 3-part evidence for what genuine saving faith looks like; and, it includes (1) Self-control over one’s speech; (2) A Ministry of compassion to the needy; and, (3) Practical Holiness. I am alluding to the words, written by James’ hand while inspired by God’s Holy Spirit— ”If anyone thinks he is religious without controlling his tongue, then his religion is useless and he deceives himself. Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world” James 1:26-27.

-Compassion Ministry!

James places the ministry of compassion on an equal plane as living a holy life & getting rid of your potty mouth! Unfortunately, many believers tend to separate them and elevate one area over another! Many think that becoming HOLY— or, “…keeping oneself unstained by the world” as James says here— is more important to God than taking care of widows & orphans! God doesn’t see it that way! Each one plays an equal part in living out our faith in Jesus, which is exactly what James means by “pure religion.” Ignore the chapter break— which isn’t inspired; but, added by well-intended individuals— and; discover something even more scandalous! James declares it “favoritism” to look past the needs of orphans & widows.

-Pure Religion Shows No Favoritism!

See how it flows without the chapter break:  “Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world. My brothers, do not show favoritism as you hold on to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ” James 1:27-2:1. Failing to minister to the needs of orphans & widows is FAVORITISM! Don’t do that, he says! He then goes on to illustrate favoritism, for us, in ch.2. So, I think it’s biblically accurate to say that the “pure and undefiled religion” in 1:26,27 is the same thing as “faith in Jesus” in 2:1. So, is this how you would define genuine faith? If not, perhaps you need to redefine faith the way that God does! It’s His definition that counts!

-Let God Define Genuine Faith!

That may seem obvious to those of you who are passionate about serving Jesus! But, unfortunately, that’s not the case with many in the church who claim to be Christians! I’m referring to the authority, of Scripture, to dictate every area of our lives! EVERY AREA! There is not one part, of my life, that I can claim authority over! God & His Word have complete authority over every area of my life— my thought life, my work life, my sex life, etc. God’s Word has complete authority over all of it! What “I think” and what “I believe” have to be submitted to the Revelation of Scripture; and, repented of & changed when what, “I think” & what “I believe” doesn’t match up with it! Are we in agreement? That is a fundamental of authentic faith in Jesus Christ! It’s no longer a Holy Bible when we start cutting out those parts we don’t like!