James – Do What it Says

Have you ever seen anyone fly off the handle over something small and insignificant? Have you ever flown off the handle? Have you ever raised your voice without thinking, gotten mad over something silly, said something you regret? Maybe it was during rush hour as you are racing to get home and someone cuts you off or you said something to your kids or spouse in a moment of anger that you can’t take back.  I see it in my own church. It’s those claiming to be Christ followers and acting out in anger. There is anger and ungodly speech running rampant and I fear that those actions are revealing that their faith in Jesus is not genuine.

I want to use James to help bring us back from our anger and into the loving arms of our Lord and Savior, Jesus.

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

-James 1:19-21 (NIV), emphasis added

There are two types of anger I have seen.  The first is the quick outbursts and fits of anger. This is similar to what you might see a preschooler doing when he doesn’t get his way.  It might seem weird to have an adult act this way, but I have seen it.  At first it’s funny and then it’s embarrassing and sad.

The second type is a deep-seated anger, anger that come from your heart that creates the outbursts.  Sometimes it comes out violently and others it is a passive anger.

We all get angry at one point or another.  It’s human nature.  Some only get angry on occasion and some are angry all the time and allow their anger to control them.  Even if you are an angry person, even if you have anger in your heart, God still loves you!  And because He loves you he wants to heal your heart from that anger.

because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

-James 1:20-21 (NIV), emphasis added

James gets to the heart of the problem and begins to fix it at its source.   He doesn’t tell us to count to 10, take deep breaths, which I am not saying don’t work.  But there is a faster, better way to fix our human anger.

The issue is that our anger is human anger, not Godly and so our anger does not make us righteous in the eyes of God.  We are angry, and we end up speaking in a way that is ungodly.  And the best way to get rid our hearts of human anger is to get rid of all moral filth and evil in our lives and accept God’s Word, which can save you.  The Word can save us from our anger and the sin that is keeping us from God.

18But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart.

-Matthew 15:18 (NIV), emphasis added

If God’s Word isn’t in your heart, if you aren’t reading your bible and talking with God daily, hourly, every second, then the things you are saying and doing will reflect that. When I focus on God, I notice a difference in my life and so do those around me.  I am a kinder, gentler person.  So how do we control our anger?

Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

-James 1:21 (NIV)

Get rid of all moral filth: turn away from your sin and dig into God’s word.  Learn how God wants you to live.  I can hear some you now: “I already go to church listen to God’s Word. I’m good, my anger is going to get better because I listen to a sermon once a week.  I get my Jesus in on Sunday.” Get this: Just reading God’s word and going to church is NOT enough.  Going to church once a week doesn’t make you a Christian and will NOT help you with your anger.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

-James 1:22 (NIV), emphasis added

There are people in church, people claiming to be Christians, who are not sure whether or not they have genuine faith.  There are people who think they’re living a life that is pleasing to God, who think they are in right standing with God, but they’re not. They think they are right with God because they go to church and hear the Word of God.

There are people going to church every week, saying they agree with what is being taught, AMEN, they nod along and sing the songs, but when they walk out the doors they live a life that does not reflect what they have just agreed with in church.  They do not DO what the Word says.  They don’t show love to other, only hate; they swear at each other and get violent over the littlest things; what comes out of their mouths is filthy and wicked and if my mom heard me say those things, I’d get my mouth washed out with soap.

So what happens if we are one of those people?  What if we go to church and hear God’s Word, but we don’t do what it says?  Then your life isn’t built upon the rock that is Jesus.

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice, is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.

-Matthew 7:24-27 (NIV), emphasis added

When we only listen to God’s word, Sunday after Sunday, and we do not put it in to practice and begin to change our lives, the life we built will come crashing down. But when you do what the Word says and not just listen to it, you can stand firm on the rock that is Jesus and you will be blessed in what you do.

Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

-James 1:23-25 (NIV), emphasis added

Imagine you look at your reflection in the mirror and you turn away and immediately forget if you have dark or light hair, the position of your nose and eyes, you forget whether you put on your makeup.  Pretty silly of you to forget what you look like.  If someone tells you not to touch a hot stove and you nod your head and listen, but you don’t do what they said you will get burned when you touch the stove.

You go to church and hear the Word, you nod along and listen to what is said,  check “Go to Church” off your weekly “Christian Checklist”, then you leave, you go home, to school, wherever, and you forget what you are taught, you don’t do what God’s Word tells you to do, you completely ignore God’s Word.  Does that sound like a Christ follower to you?

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.

-James 1:26 (NIV), emphasis added

I am concerned. I see how those around me, those claiming to know Christ, speak out of an angry heart, they yell and swear, they hear what is taught and they ignore it! And I don’t even know if they are Christians. I don’t care how many of the songs you have memorized or how much of the Scripture you’ve hidden in your heart or how many Sundays you go to church, if you’re speaking like this to people who are brothers and sisters or even enemies, you may not be a Christian.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

-James 1:27 (NIV), emphasis added

The kind of faith that pleases God is the faith that is bearing the fruit of love. Love for our neighbors, for those around us in need; love and devotion to God, this is real faith. This is being a Christian.

Are you a Christian? Think about you…not your parents, not your friend, not your spouse or your kids. I’m talking about you. Are you a Christian? Are you one who has humbly received the gospel, the Word of Truth, about Christ? If the answer to that question is no, what’s keeping you even today from receiving Him? What’s the hurdle? I invite you, I encourage you, believe in Christ. He loves you. This good God, this perfect God, has made a way for you to be loved by Him and to become His son or daughter. He did it by making His only Son an enemy so you who are an enemy of God right now could become His son or daughter.

If you answered, “Yes, I’m a Christian,” is this evident in your life? Would other godly people affirm that about you? Are you even willing to ask them? Does your daily life, professing Christ, align with your profession of faith? Are you a doer of the Word when you leave church on Sundays? Would people in your family, your friends, even those at church actually be surprised to learn you’re a Christian? If you told them you were a Christian, would they be surprised? Is there any chance that you’re self-deceived about what your relationship with God is? Any chance that you might be the one who looks in the mirror and walks away and forgets what you see?

Where are you today?  Are you a Christ follower or have you been lying to yourself and God?

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I May Lose Everyone I Love Over This – Part 2

“The Son of Man will come again in his great glory, with all his angels. He will be King and sit on his great throne. All the nations of the world will be gathered before him, and he will separate them into two groups as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 

The Son of Man will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. “Then the King will say to the people on his right, ‘Come, my Father has given you his blessing. Receive the kingdom God has prepared for you since the world was made. 

 

I was hungry, and you gave me food. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was alone and away from home, and you invited me into your house. I was without clothes, and you gave me something to wear. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ 

 

“Then the good people will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and give you food, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you alone and away from home and invite you into our house? When did we see you without clothes and give you something to wear? When did we see you sick or in prison and care for you?’ 

 

“Then the King will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, anything you did for even the least of my people here, you also did for me.’ 

 

“Then the King will say to those on his left, ‘Go away from me. You will be punished. Go into the fire that burns forever that was prepared for the devil and his angels. I was hungry, and you gave me nothing to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me nothing to drink. I was alone and away from home, and you did not invite me into your house. I was without clothes, and you gave me nothing to wear. I was sick and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ 

 

“Then those people will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or alone and away from home or without clothes or sick or in prison? When did we see these things and not help you?’ 

 

“Then the King will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, anything you refused to do for even the least of my people here, you refused to do for me.’ 

 

“These people will go off to be punished forever, but the good people will go to live forever.” 

 

-Matthew‬ ‭25‬:‭31-46‬ (NCV), emphasis added

 

I can see this scene now. I am standing in the back observing. On the right I see a few people I know and love. He tells them “Come, my Father has given you his blessing. Receive the kingdom God has prepared for you since the world was made.” I smile happy to know that they will be in heaven.

 

I look to the left and my heart falls. There are many more people here that I know and love. People I thought for sure would be on the right. Those who claimed to be saved and love God. Those who I didn’t think I needed to worry about. And some I was unsure of. Some I knew I should have pushed the issue. “Go away from me. You will be punished. Go into the fire that burns forever that was prepared for the devil and his angels.”

 

How many of us will be on the left? How many of us pass by widows in need or the homeless just wanting a warm meal? How many of us give to those “starving kids in Africa”? Offer our homes to weary travelers or help those who are in prison because of their faith? Who among us is helping the sick or clothing others? I know I need to be better about helping the least of these!

 

I am not saying every homeless person that asks you for money is supposed to get it. This is where we need to be listening to God. He will guide us and tell us who He wants us to help.  We should pray every time the opportunity arises.  We should be praying that God would guide us in these situations.  And when God says give we should give whether it is our time, homes, or even money. And then we should not be hateful or say negative things about those we have given to.  Do not make comments about “drug or alcohol money” or about how they should have tried harder.  Once that money leaves your hands or that meal is given or your time is gone it’s not up to you what happens next.  That is all between them and God.

 

The worst part is that since we live in America it is easy to find groups that help the homeless, widows, orphans, and those in need abroad and in this country. We can support them with a click of a mouse. But we are too greedy and too determined to have the “American Dream” that we won’t help those in need.  Some of these simple tasks require no monetary involvement at all. It costs us nothing to allow someone to sleep on our couch or to visit a brother in prison because of his faith. But not doing these things will cost us EVERYTHING!

 

It’s not just individuals! It is whole churches as well! Church itself has a so called “American Dream”; large buildings, thousands of members, bowling allies, basketball teams! What about the least of these?!

 

Jesus ministered on the streets and on hilltops and occasionally in other churches. He didn’t build a multi million dollar building or try as he might to build a mega church.  His time went to helping the lost and homeless, widows and orphans. He traveled to minister to those in need. He didn’t sit in a large build waiting for the people to come to Him. He went to them.

 

I will get more into the “American Dream” in part three. For now I want anyone claiming to be a Christ follower to reread Matthew 25:31-46. We are called here to feed the hungry, give the thirsty something to drink, clothe the naked, care for the sick, visit those in prison, and give a bed to those far from home.

 

When you stand before The Son of Man will you hear “Come, my Father has given you his blessing. Receive the kingdom God has prepared for you since the world was made” or will Jesus say to you “Go away from me. You will be punished. Go into the fire that burns forever that was prepared for the devil and his angels”?

 

Lord,

 

Give us the opportunity to live as Christ has called us to live in Matthew 25:31-46. Open the door for us. Guide us and give us the wisdom to know which situations you wants us to be involved in. Open us to serving you, our Lord and Savior, by serving the least of these.

 

Amen

I May Lose Everyone I Love Over This – Part 1

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.

But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. 

-Matthew‬ ‭7‬:‭13-14‬ (NIV) emphasis added

I used to struggle with this verse. All my days as a young child and even in the past few years as I have grown as an adult I didn’t understand what Jesus meant in these two simple verses. I could see multitudes of people around me claiming to know God and to believe in Jesus. I mean, I live in the Bible Belt, grew up in church, have been to countless conferences, and seen salvation after salvation. I kept thinking that the “narrow road” Jesus spoke of was just “narrower” than the broad road to destruction.

How wrong I was!

Jesus said exactly what He meant, as I have learned He always says what He means. I was just to afraid to see that He was speaking the truth;

“But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

I was too afraid to admit to myself that the people I love; family, friends, coworker, even fellow church attenders are going to hell! 

This is where those same people I mentioned might not stay with me. I knew when I started writing this I might lose those very people I love.  Please do not think I am standing on a pedestal looking down on everyone around me.

God has recently brought me to my knees, flat on my face, tears pour from within me as He showed me how wrong I have been about the so called “Christian” life I have been living.

It began a few years ago when we helped start a small town church. I was 21, young, and as they say in the south “On fire for God”. (I see now I was just more vocal about God than most 21 year olds and NO where near on fire). We met one Sunday in our new building as usually. We ate breakfast and fellowshipped as normal, but this Sunday was about to be the beginning of a long and overdue wake up call for me.

I told you I had been in church my who life; I’ve helped with the children’s ministry, been a youth leader, and even taught a class on sharing your faith. I thought that everything I needed to learn about the bible my pastors would teach me. That’s why that Sunday I got a rude awakening.

As the service started, Stewie stood before the crowd and told us we were going to partake in the Lord’s Supper. I knew this was the plan since I ran screens for our small gatherings. No big deal I had taken part in a few of these. Take the bread, take the grape juice (in the South it’s grape juice). No big deal.

Stewie said something that day that now haunts me:

Every time you eat this bread and drink this cup you are telling others about the Lord’s death until he comes.

So a person who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in a way that is not worthy of it will be guilty of sinning against the body and the blood of the Lord. Look into your own hearts before you eat the bread and drink the cup, because all who eat the bread and drink the cup without recognizing the body eat and drink judgment against themselves.

That is why many in your group are sick and weak, and some of you have died. 

-1 Corinthians‬ ‭11‬:‭26-30‬ (NCV), emphasis added

There is a physical consequence to not seriously looking within ourselves before partaking and asking God to forgive us. If we do not take this covenant seriously we could become sick and even die. It is not to be taken lightly.

After he read this he said something I have never heard from a pastor before: “If you are not right with God, if you have not asked for forgiveness of your sins, if you are not going to take this seriously, I urge you to not take part.” And that day several refused to partake!

Many pastors today are not urging their congregation to take this seriously, even though the consequences could be death!

As I said before this was only the beginning of my journey to the realization that those around me claiming to be true followers of Christ might actually be going to hell.

For now I will leave you in suspense. In part 2 of I May Lose Everyone I Love Over This! I will use Matthew 25 to explain how I first came to realize that the path is truely narrow.

Lord,

God will speak to us. Show us your great and mighty power.  Guide us and make our paths clear. Give us the knowledge and wisdom to see and hear you. And open our hearts and minds to you and change our lives.