James 1:16-17 – Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.
The core of deception is rooted in keeping us from the intent of God the Father. He intends good for our lives and He wants to give us gifts, for this is His nature.
False religion is driven by so-called deities that demand obedience in some way that is tied to our flesh. The God of heaven enjoys obedience that comes from a willing heart, motivated by the love which God the Father has lavished upon His creation. Life itself came from Him. As I look out on the beauty of large oak trees, a small lake filled with fish and other living creatures, I am reminded of His love for me. When I look up into the heavens and see the multitude of stars that no man can number, I am taken back by the fact that my Creator knows who I am and loved me enough to become like me in human form. He chose to die on a lonely tree that I might be restored to Him. Even in death He reigned and took from the evil one the keys of death and hell (Revelation 1:8). In His resurrection; He gave gifts to mankind (Ephesians 4:8). The greatest of His gifts was His own Holy Spirit to indwell me and minister the Father’s love to me. Of course, I will serve and obey Him! How could I do any less, seeing all He has done for me?
Today, stop and give thanks that every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights and they belong to you. Especially, thank Him for the Holy Spirit whom He freely gave to us through the great sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ.
James 1:13 – Let no man say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.
This is a very critical Scriptural principle to understand. “God cannot be tempted by evil.” I think of Job when I read this. In the Book of Job it tells us that Satan appeared before God. Satan pointed out Job to God and requested permission to tempt Job. Satan hoped to cause him to curse God. God gave Satan permission, but forbade him to take Job’s life. Was God being tempted by evil? Was God tempting Job by giving Satan permission? I believe the answer is “no” on both counts.
First of all, God is Sovereign. He could have removed Satan from His presence if He had so desired. In the wisdom of God, He gave Satan permission to give Job trials that surpassed that which a human being should normally have had to endure. God knew His plan for Job and He allowed Satan to test Job.
Secondly, it was Satan who tempted Job. It was in his heart to tempt Job because he hated the “righteousness” that was in Job. God did not tempt Job directly. God only gave Satan permission to tempt Job. As James said, “He Himself does not tempt anyone.” Temptation is a universal problem for all humans. It began in the Garden when Satan, in the form of a serpent, asked Eve “hath God said”?
All temptation is centered in one thing, “rejecting God’s Word” over a suggestion. The suggestion is rooted in “lust,” desiring what I want over what God wants for me. The weakness of the flesh is in “my want.” Eve wanted to be like God, to be in control of her own destiny. The death of Christ was the only cure for dealing with the sin of mankind. The temptation offered by Satan was for Adam and Eve to receive immediate gratification. Jesus rejected the offer as a human and died an awful death for all of mankind. Once and for all, Satan was defeated and his power restricted by Christ.
He is still roaring like a lion, but has been defeated by the “Lion of Judah.” Paul declares, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). The Holy Spirit will never leave us nor forsake us. He will provide wisdom and overcoming power if we will resist the tempter and trust in Christ’s overcoming life. Job made a choice to trust God no matter what. Choose this day whom you will serve!
James 1:12 – Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
To persevere is always admirable. Just keep thinking “I can do it!” I remember in High School when I ran my first cross country race thinking to myself, “I don’t know if I can make it to the finish line.” I began to set goals to help me make it from one point to another. Finally, the finish line was in sight and it became my final goal. I persevered and overcame to receive the prize. James has added another dynamic to “perseverance” that is “under trial.” If I had been sick and running, that would have qualified for “under trial”. Many are running the race of this life and are under trials. I think of members of the “persecuted church” throughout the world, trying to live as a Christian in some of the most impossible situations. Many personal e-mails I receive are from people that are enduring some of the toughest situations. My heart especially goes out to parents that are carrying an extra load because of the illness of a child.
The Holy Spirit has come to guide us through the obstacles that interfere with our race toward the goal of His high calling. It is a race not in terms of speed, but rather the goal for the prize. The goal is the Throne of Grace and the Prize is the Lord Himself. James speaks of the “crown of life.” He states that the Lord has promised the crown of life to all those that love Him. We receive His life when we are born again by the work of the Holy Spirit. As we enter into His life, we find that this natural life is full of trails determined to hinder our progress. You are blessed as you persevere through those trials. Although the life of Christ is presently in us by the power of the Holy Spirit, there is a promised day approaching when we will enter into the fullness of His life. We will be crowned with His Glory and enjoy His presence constantly. Receiving God’s love and ministering it back to Him in doing His will assures us of the promise. Only in the power of the Holy Spirit can we successfully persevere under trial.
Today, cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you. Ask the Holy Spirit for strength to “persevere under trial.” Keep drawing from the Comforter, who is an ever-present help in time of need.
James 1:9-10 – The brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away.
Here we read of the wisdom of God. The Lord always sees both sides of the coin. On the one hand, the person who does not possess a lot of this world’s goods should recognize in Christ that he has been highly exalted. He is the son of a King and everything his Father would choose for him to have is his for the asking. On the other hand, the one who has been blessed with this world’s goods should walk in humility. He only has what he has by God’s goodness. Life is a fleeting journey that will end in death for both the rich and the poor. Possessions and pursuits will all fade away like the grass. The Holy Spirit wants us to focus on those things that will remain, which principally have eternal substance attached to them. The question for each believer remains, “Is this God’s will?” The transforming power of Holy Spirit in a believer’s life is to help us live for God’s pleasure and not our own. This is good proof of a more complete restoration to God’s plan and purposes.
If I am poor, I am not to dwell on my poverty, but rather embrace my wealth which is found in Christ Jesus. If I am poor because of laziness or misuse of funds, I need to repent and ask for the Holy Spirit to help me. But if I am poor because of my plight in life, I am to rejoice, as James states, “in my high position” as a son of God, “blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). If I am rich, then I am to make the riches secondary. My rejoicing is to be in the saving grace of God. I am to rejoice that the riches did not stop me from humbling myself before almighty God and confessing my absolute poverty and my hopeless condition without God’s saving work. The Scriptures are so incredible when made alive by their author, the Holy Spirit. He helps us to apply their eternal truths in this temporal life.
Whatever your situation may be, take the appropriate position. By the power of the Holy Spirit, claim your portion in the Lord Jesus for your daily need. Remember your high state in Christ. Glory in your absolute poverty without Him and give thanks in the midst of plenty. Always remember, He saved you in spite of your temporal position.
Matthew 7:28 – When Jesus finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority and not as their scribes.
One of the most amazing aspects of Jesus’ ministry was the authority from which He taught. People’s amazement is recorded a number of times in the gospels. What good is teaching if it does not have weight behind it? The Holy Spirit is the one who gives weight to the teachings and works of the Lord Jesus Christ.
There are many in the body of Christ who can teach the Bible, but lack the anointing of the Holy Spirit to teach with authority. Consequently, those teachings are delivered as words and opinions. This is what the people in Jesus’ time were accustomed, words that did not carry Heaven’s authority. It helps us to understand what Paul meant when he said, “My message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:4). Authority is associated with power. The words of Jesus and the words of Paul were both filled with power because the Holy Spirit anointed their words.
The same Holy Spirit is at work in the Lord’s church today. He is speaking too many outside the body of Christ, inviting them to become a part of God’s family. Many ministers of the gospel do not see converts to the faith because they are not speaking by the power of God found in the Holy Spirit. Many depend on their intellect rather than waiting on the Lord for His guidance. Many simply preach other men’s messages rather than waiting on the Lord for His Word to be revealed to them. When the Word is preached with power, some are converted. Through the power of God, many find salvation and some receive healing. Others experience judgment because of their rejection of God’s provisions. All of this is the power of God manifested by His Holy Spirit. There are times when God’s power is manifested in “signs and wonders” – things happening outside of the rational which can only be explained by the power of God. He delights to act in power on behalf of an individual or group of people hearing His Word.
The Holy Spirit wants to cause your words to be those of authority as you represent the Lord and His purposes. Ask the Holy Spirit for revelation and understanding given by Him, and see if your words do not have a divine effect on others.
Matthew 7:24 Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.
Building is an ethical issue. God is a builder, from the time He spun off universes to building a church that the gates of hell will not prevail against! If we find ourselves going through life without purpose or productivity, the Bible considers it to be unethical. The Book of Proverbs speaks of two kinds of men, those that are building on solid ground and those that are carelessly drifting along, whose lives are headed for destruction. Jesus teaches it is in the hearing and acting on His words that one receives wisdom. Too many of God’s people go week after week hearing God’s Word, but not applying what was taught. We must chose to act upon what is biblically taught. By not acting upon God’s Word one is being unethical. In effect, one is building on sand and this will prove to be unwise and devastating. One example is found in Christian marriages that are in trouble. Many go for counseling, but they do not act upon the word given to them. Thus, nothing changes and many times the marriage relationship becomes worse.
The Holy Spirit is waiting for believers to act upon the Word of God. As we act upon the word given, He, the Holy Spirit, goes into action to help us understand and apply God’s Word. The net result becomes wisdom to build a life which becomes more and more Christ centered. In our lessons, beginning in Matthew 5, we read of Jesus speaking of those who will be blessed through their action. We learn of being salt and light in the world. We learn of a righteousness that exceeded that of the religious leaders. We also learn in Matthew 5 of the correct relationships that begin in the heart as well as the outward actions that follow. We learn how our forgiving others releases God to forgive us. We also have learned the correct response concerning money, anxiety, and seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness, with the promise that everything else will be added to us. Finally, we learned that the way we judge others is in turn the same way we will be judged. Furthermore, we should ask and expect to receive the promise of the Father, the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is bringing forth a good tree that produces good fruit.
Let the Sermon on the Mount become a well-known portion of Scripture. Allow the Holy Spirit to build into your life these principles in an ever-deepening way. These chapters reveal the Laws of the kingdom of God which guide the new man born of God’s Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ name, pray daily for the Father to give to you His plans for building and ask the Holy Spirit to empower you in the application.