I ended the last post on the book of James with this:
Let no one 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. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. (James 1:13-14 NASB)
So, if you think you get to blame this trial, you are going through, on God, you can’t because God doesn’t send these tests. Currently, we are all enduring a trial; it is called COVID 19 or, the Wuhan virus since that is where it came from. You are foolish if you do not understand that God has ordained this egregious man-made and deadly virus as part of the sorrows or, as Matthew’s gospel puts it, labor pains that are leading up to 1. The catching away of the church, and 2. The time of God’s wrath that is about to be poured out upon the earth.
Well, if I can’t blame God, then who?
Although you don’t want to accept it, you were tempted when you got carried away by your own desires.
But each one is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desires. (James 1:14 NET.)
Lured – Enticed; attracted; invited by the hope of pleasure or advantage.
Enticed – Incited; instigated to evil; seduced by promises or persuasions; persuaded; allured.
Desires = Lusts – It is the Greek word epithumia and means a longing (especially for what is forbidden).
Look at what James continues to say.
James 1:15 NET. Then when desire conceives, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is full-grown, it gives birth to death.
When desire conceives?
Conceive is the Greek word sullambanō and means to seize (arrest, capture), specifically to conceive.
A rewrite of James 1:15a, will look like this:
“Then when my longing for what is forbidden has seized, arrested and captured me,”
Then what happens?
If I am thinking in terms of making a baby, we used to have the concept, that once you made it, there is no walking away from it, and if you weren’t married to the girl, you now would be, because you have a responsibility in this product of your pleasure.
But we aren’t necessarily talking about making a baby are we, we are talking about our poisoned desires and passions giving birth to something, ah, but what?
James 1:15b, “.. when desire conceives, it gives birth to sin,”
Sin, isn’t that the thing that will send me to hell?
First off, SIN does not mean exactly what you think it means. It is an old English word that means to miss the bullseye in target archery. If you are familiar with my writings, then you would know that I used to shoot competitive archery, but I was NOT good at it. The point here is that I can visualize, as I write, a target, with a ten ring of about three inches in width when close, but at distances, looks to be about the size of an American quarter.
If you are equating SIN to your everyday life, a life in which you have to be able to put every shot into that small circle, you are asking for what seems impossible. Fortunately, it is possible because we have the Holy Spirit to help us. Difficult as our lives can be, our mission, as followers of Christ, is to try.
Secondly, while we all have a proclivity to SIN, we are forgiven of all sin. This forgiven state was extended to everyone, but the payment due for our sin was paid by Jesus on the cross. (Hebrews 9:28; Isaiah 53:5; 2 Corinthians 5:21.) An obvious factor is that people have to accept what Jesus did for them in order to gain the full benefits of this acquittal.
Your desire grows inside you until it results in sin. Then the sin grows bigger and bigger and finally ends in death. (James 1:15c ERV)
Lured by the attraction, which is really just the desires that your brokenness yearns for until that longing for the forbidden thing comes full term, and then the indulgence called SIN is birthed. It pulls at you, crying feed me, I’m hungry, change my diaper; and now it wants a baby brother to keep it company. One way or another, this lustful demand for your devotion is going to kill you.
Does this pursuit of desire end in the death of the soul, and an end to your relationship with the Father?
I don’t think so, at least not on His part, but there are people in the prison systems that will kill you if the “drug” doesn’t get you first. While I am not a big fan of John MacArthur, we, at least, agree on this point.
James 1:16-17 NASB Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. (17) 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 things I see in this verse are:
- That it is possible to be deceived,
- that things you perceive as good, could come from some other source – like Satan.
- You could believe that God, like many politicians, can change their vote, party affiliations, and the things they say, to suit their immediate needs, and therefore cannot be trusted.
- What if you thought that God’s plan, and therefore what He sends you, is not perfect; where would that leave you?
If you learned anything, you should learn that every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of lights; and that there is NO variation in Him, nor shifting. Look at how the NET Bible translates verse 17.
James 1:17 NET. All generous giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or the slightest hint of change.
Having gone through a dark time myself, I had to figure out what God’s nature and character were. Oh sure, I knew what the fairy tales they had been telling me looked like, but things did not make sense. For example: how could God, who gave His own Son to die for me, hate me and my sin the next day? God would have to go out of character to do that, and verse 17 tells me, without a doubt, that there is NO changing or shadows in God’s character.
Almost as though to say, and don’t you dare forget this, He gives us verse 18.
James 1:18 NET. By his sovereign plan, he gave us birth through the message of truth, that we would be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.
The Amplified Bible tells us:
“And it was of His own [free] will that He gave us birth [as sons].”
Freewill and sovereign plan, seem to be the same thing.
The NASB states:
“In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth so that we would be a kind of firstfruits among His creatures.:( James 1:18 NASB)
The fact that we can discuss this life we have in Jesus is proof that He brought us forth.
In the beginning, was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him, nothing came into being that has come into being. (John 1:1-3 NASB)
James 1:19 – 27 are entitled:
Hearing and Doing the Word
James 1:19-20 NASB This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; (20) for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.
Consider that you were brought forth by the Word of Truth, not as though this is some secret word that must be spoken in order to gain entrance; Jesus was and is that Word. He, as we can see in John’s gospel, is the magnificent creator of all things. In light of that information, here are some words to live by.
- Everyone must be quick to hear.
- Slow to anger
- (Because) “The anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.”
Dr. J Vernon McGee says this, almost as if it is a scriptural passage, “The anger of man is contrary to the will and work of God.”
There is a multitude of interpretations for verse 20. We may think that anger is what God might be looking for, but anger tends to be the exact opposite.
(AMP) For man’s anger does not promote the righteousness of God [wishes and requires].
(CJB) for a person’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness!
(MSG) God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger.
Knowing that anger is not what He is looking for, we have our next instruction.
James 1:21 NLT So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.
“The word here rendered filthiness, occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, and It means filth; and is applied to evil conduct considered as disgusting or offensive.” (Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible)
This next commentary makes sense.
“According to the Greek, this is a once-for-all action. Why should we do this? Progress in our spiritual lives cannot occur unless we see sin for what it is, quit justifying it, and decide to reject it. James’s word picture here has us getting rid of our evil habits and actions like stripping off dirty clothes. After we “get rid,” then we need to humbly accept the message of God, seeking to live by it because it has been planted in our hearts and becomes part of our being.” (Life Application New Testament Commentary)
This entire process, as we migrate through James, is a progressive change in our way of life. If you have already been living in this manner, then see it as a refresher course or reminder; But, if on the other hand, you let life run you, then you need to make some huge adjustments. James 1:22 is such an adjustment.
James 1:22 KJV But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
While I can understand what the KJV is telling me, clarity would be good. How about the CEV? It has a very straightforward approach.
“Obey God’s message! Don’t fool yourselves by just listening to it.” (CEV)
The ERV is very simplistic but effective.
“Do what God’s teaching says; don’t just listen and do nothing. When you only sit and listen, you are fooling yourselves.” (ERV)
Not only are we fooling ourselves by not putting the Word into action, but –
James 1:23-24 NASB For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; (24) for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.
Time, once again, to break these verses down.
- If anyone is a hearer and not a doer,
We are still talking about how to look at the Word of God.
James 1:25 NASB But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.
Looks, in the Greek, means to stoop down and to peer inside and to become absorbed by what you see.
If you intend to learn, then that is the kind of attention you have to give to a subject. Maybe not, but you are certainly giving this a tremendous amount of attention, and that, is a good thing.
Intently is the same Greek word parakupto which was translated looks. It means to stoop down and to peer inside.
Whenever you see duplicated words in Hebrew or Greek, the basic understanding is that you are about to learn something vitally important.
The perfect law is the Greek word teleios and means complete, faultless, and perfect.
Earlier, as an example, I looked at John’s gospel, where it described the creation and who did the creating.
In the beginning, was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him, nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:1-5 NASB)
In this, did you get any sense of something less than complete, faultless, and perfect? Yeah, me neither. It was God/Jesus/the Holy Spirit, in and at their finest, creating the most splendid of creation for their creation, humanity.
So, you paid attention, and have not forgotten, putting what you learned to work. You will be blessed in what you do.
I will tell you straight out, verse 26, 27 is going to hard on many of you, especially if you insist on saying, I am NOT under the law but under grace.
James 1:26-27 NASB If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. (27) Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
- “ If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.”
I know many people who think they are religious and can’t seem to bridle their tongues. So it’s time to ponder the meanings of words again.
Religious, as we see in James 1:26, is the Greek word thrēskos and means ceremonious in worship (as demonstrative), that is, pious: – religious.
In other words, this person is putting on a pretty good show. Well, guess what, your good show means nothing, especially if you can’t hold your tongue. Do you realize that most people perceive that the idea of holding your tongue means cussing alone, and that is certainly an aspect of this, but there is more; as it also applies to the person who uses their religiosity to shred those who can’t understand the words they use as they dispense their high theology.
Example time. And yes, I have used this before. A former pastor recommended the book The Shack, by William Paul Young. He had read it and was so touched by it that he bought a stack and sold them for face value. I bought one. Struggling to understand who God was, this book changed my life. In it, I found mercy, grace, and a comprehension of God’s love, which I have never known. I also had some immediate questions, and so I turned to a man who had an earned Doctorate in Theology, who used to attend the church and attempted to open a conversation about The Shack. He immediately responded with harshness and said, I would never waste my time discussing a book that was so theologically unsound. I never bothered that man again; I did, however, take my questions to God, and when I came to things that challenged me, I could hear the Holy Spirit say, keep reading, and I will explain it as we go, and He did. Mr. High Theology couldn’t seem to bridle his tongue. Can you imagine the amazing conversations we might have had, exploring the love of a boundless God?
Give me a moment to address cussing.
I will tell you that I can cuss with the best of them, and I usually find I am susceptible to doing that when I am tired and pushed. It is possible that we/I think that the bluster can push uncomfortable people and situations away from us. I suppose, like animals growling, it could be perceived as a warning, but most of the time, it is an attempt to make the person saying the garbage look braver than they really are. Since FEAR is a monstrous factor in all of our lives, then simply admitting to the Father that you are afraid may be a part of your solution.
I spent some time in a small group called “the man cave.” Several of the attendees acted as though they belonged in a cave, as they refused to bridle their tongue. I remember thinking, oh yeah, it’s that grace thing that we love to take advantage of. As I got to know them better, the two major offenders were highly intelligent men; odd, considering that most perceive those with unbridled tongues, as having limited, and uneducated vocabularies. That scenario demonstrated, to me, that what they were doing was purely a choice. How do I know that? Because my mother would not permit foul language to be used in her presence. Family members had to develop at least two language sets, one that was usable around mom and the church crowd, and one that they used with much of the world.
Something I have not brought into this conversation is the fact that the Holy Spirit, in my worst of times, has always been there calling me back to the Father. This is important because I understood, through faulty teaching, that God was angry with me and could not have anything to do with me. No, an unbridled tongue does not cut you off from God, but it certainly makes you look like a fool to many others.
Continuing in James 1:27
“Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” (James 1:27 NLT)
All the pretense, and yes, the “church” is full of it, means nothing to God. What carries weight is this:
- “Care for the orphans in their distress.”
- “Care for the widows in their distress.”
- “ And refuse to let the world corrupt you.”
The KJV version of verse 27, reads like this:
“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”
Pure can also mean clean.
This has nothing to do with ceremonial washings but leans more living a life that has been purified by the fire. (This fire is the fire of life that you have successfully made it through and can therefore now show God’s love to other people in a relevant manner.)
Religion – I don’t even like the word, as it has terminology like High Theology associated with it; and, usage of phrases like that have dominance and oppression attached to them.
In the Greek it is the word thrēskeía and includes, the worship of God; but It also conveys that there was a worship of angels since they were the messengers; a spin through Hebrews can help to clarify how wrong that is. So, a proper understanding of pure religion would be an untainted worship of God, in the manner suited to you, that excludes the false worship of angels and a few other things.
Undefiled before God – The Greek word is amiantos and means free from that by which the nature of a thing is deformed and debased, or its force and vigor impaired.
Maybe this will help.
The “Law” states that you shall not take the Lord, your God’s name in vain. I had that law thrown in my face for years when I was younger, and we could not even say Gosh, as that would be declared a derivative of God’s name. I am not kidding you. Get real! To take God’s name in vain is to diminish its power and authority through some manner of common, or nonsensical usage. At what point does God say to you, are you serious at this point, and, do you really want this person damned to hell? While we all have our moments when we think a person deserves to go the place of permanent, fiery, torment, where there is no relief, but the words of Jesus, who is God, may change your mind about that.
For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. (Matthew 7:2 NLT)
So, if you can read words like this, and still feel good about flinging God’s name around, in a vain manner, then perhaps you deserve what comes your way.
That was an unexpected twist, but a necessary one, sadly, though, it gives the impression that God works around our human frailties to make His kingdom work, and that will never happen. Remember, we are the ones who are broken, NOT Him. So if you think you will be sent to hell because you can’t bridle your tongue, you are wrong. Allow me to remind you of something.
But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7 NLT)
When you look up the word cleanses in The Ultimate Cross-Reference Treasury, you get this: A reference to Matthew 8:2.
Suddenly, a man with leprosy approached him and knelt before him. “Lord,” the man said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.” (Matthew 8:2 NLT)
That man not only asked Jesus to stop the disease in his body, but he also asked for restoration and a declaration to the community that he should be, once again, accepted. We did not see Jesus going through all that, and I think it was because Jesus would have circumvented a perverted temple system, which made these people pay to be declared clean to the public. If Jesus had done all that this man asked, He would have been prematurely put on that cross, and Jesus was no fool. There was a time for that, and it had not come yet.
The Ultimate Cross-Reference Treasury Goes on to say He, “Not only forgives but removes. The cleansing is present and continuous (Vincent). The thought is not of the forgiveness of sin only, but of the removal of sin. The sin is done away, and the purifying action is exerted continuously (Westcott).
If sin has been forever forgiven, then what is this judgment we see?
But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. (Romans 14:10 NASB)
You also see this theme in 2Corinthians 5:10. This is that Bema seat so many throw at you in hopes of manipulating you, as they announce that you will stand before the judgment seat. Let’s look at the words for a moment.
Bema, a Greek word that has, as one of its meanings, judgment, but it is so much more. “By implication (according to the Word Study Dictionary), it is an elevated place to which the ascent is by steps.”
Where else do we see something like this?
At the Olympic games, at the finish of an event, where the winners are awarded for a job well done. We also the usage of the word for judgment seat in Acts 12:21, where we see Herod having a raised platform with steps built, from which he addressed the crowd.
Look at 2Corinthians 5:10, as this is more revealing.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10 NASB)
There is that ominous word judgment once again, but Paul adds some additional words for clarity.
- “So that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body,”
The word recompensed is the Greek word kolumbaō, pronounced kom-id’-zo, and according to Strong’s Concordance, means to tend to, take care of, to properly provide for, and by implication to carry off as if from harm.
- In short, we are there to receive our reward.
Since we come with nothing but unacceptable, filthy rags, is it us taking care of Christ?
Hardly, therefore the logic of this process is Jesus receiving into the kingdom those who are His own and giving us rewards for jobs well done. One of those jobs became apparent as we were doing this study.
Blessed is a 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. (James 1:12 NASB)
Imagine that, one of our jobs is to persevere under trial. I wasn’t aware I signed up for that, but having come to know this Jesus more fully, I, like Paul and James, consider myself a bondservant to Christ the Messiah. This crown of life only happens at this Bema seat. So, instead of fearing God for our failures, and we have all made many, how about putting some faith in His ability to see us through the blood of Jesus Christ.