Archive | April 2014

From the Pastor’s Pen

Final thoughts on James 4:1-6

Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”? But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”           NKJV

In our passage the Lord addresses the issue of conflict within the church, which ought not to happen. I Corinthians 1:10 says, “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” Sadly this is not always the case. In our text we see three causes of conflict within the church.

First, conflict within the church comes from promoting our personal desires above God’s will. The terms desires and pleasures (v.1), lust and covet (v.2), and asking amiss and pleasures (v. 3) are all expressions of our personal desires which lead to conflict within the church. While murder (v.2) is unlikely (but not impossible) to happen physically between church members, the scriptures state clearly that hating a brother or sister makes us a murderer in our hearts (Matt. 5:22, I Jn. 3:15). Adultery (v.4) does sometimes physically occur within the church, but more commonly church members are guilty of spiritual adultery. It may take the form of lust for the opposite sex which is adultery of the heart (Matt. 5:28), but often it is giving one’s affection to other things more than to the Lord (v.4). In Hosea 3:1, the Lord refers to Israel as an adulteress for looking to other gods and loving the raisin cakes of the pagans. A god can be anything in our lives that we give more importance to than the true God. As Christians we are the bride of Christ and when we place our affections on other things ahead of Him, we are guilty of committing spiritual adultery. In verse five, we learn that our prayers are not answered because they are based on our own selfish pleasures. The Holy Spirit jealously desires for us to walk in His ways and the Lord promises us that He gives us the grace to overcome our covetousness and have victory over our lusts (v.6).

Second, conflict within the church comes from having unbelievers within the church—enemies of God rather than children of God (v.4). As shepherds in the body of Christ, we try to prevent this from happening with statements of faith and personal interviews with candidates for church membership, but no matter how careful we are, pretenders still sometimes slip into the church and they do so in every church. Satan makes it his business to sow tares (false Christians) among the wheat (true Christians) and inevitably these infiltrators will cause conflict within the congregation (Matt. 13:24-30, Jude 4).

Third, conflict within the church comes from pride among its members (v.6). Our pride can keep us from admitting when we are wrong, or cause us not to seek forgiveness from those whom we have offended, or else it can keep us from giving forgiveness and restoration to those who have offended us. Our pride can cause us to be offended because someone else is getting more praise or public exposure we are or because we did not get our way in some matter. Pride is such a foolish sin. God does not value our position, or our talents, or our education, or our intelligence, or our opinions (I Cor. 1:26-29). God values our humility (v.6). In Matthew 20:16, Jesus informed His disciples that the last will be first and the first will be last. The kingdom of heaven will belong to those who are humble, and those who are submissive, willing to put themselves under authority, will inherit the earth (Matt. 5:3, 5). It is not leadership abilities that God values, but rather it is a servant’s heart that He values.

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From the Pastor’s Pen

Final thoughts on Job 19:25

For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth;           NKJV

The heart of Job’s comfort lies in that little word “My“–“My Redeemer,” and in the fact that His Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ Redeemer lives. Oh! to get hold of the risen and living Christ. We must have a part in Him before we can enjoy Him. What is gold in the mine to me? It is gold in my purse which will satisfy my needs, by purchasing the bread I need. So a savior who is still in the grave, a redeemer who does not redeem me, an avenger who will never stand up for my soul, of what good is such? Do not be content until, by faith, you can say “Yes, I cast myself upon my resurrected, living Lord; and He is mine.” It may be you hold him with a feeble hand; you half think it presumption to say, “He lives as my Redeemer;” yet, remember if you only have but faith as small as a mustard seed, that little faith entitles you to say it.

But there is also another word here, expressive of Job’s strong confidence, “I know.” To say, “I hope so, I trust so” is without absolute certainty; and there are thousands in the fold of Jesus who hardly ever get much further. But to reach the essence of consolation you must say, “I know.” Ifs, buts, and maybes are sure murderers of assurance, peace, and comfort. Doubts are dreary things in times of sorrow. Like wasps they sting the soul! If I have any suspicion that Christ is not mine, then there is vinegar mingled with the gall of death; but if I know that Jesus is risen and lives for me, then darkness is not dark: even the night is light about me.

Surely if Job, in those ages before the coming of Christ, could say, “I know,” we should not speak less positively. God forbid that our positiveness should be presumption. Let us see that our evidences are right, lest we build upon an ungrounded hope; and then let us not be satisfied with the mere foundation, for it is from the upper rooms that we get the widest prospect. A living Redeemer, truly mine, is joy unspeakable.           Charles H. Spurgeon

From the Pastor’s Pen

Final thoughts on James 3:13-18

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.           NKJV

In verses 1-12, James exhorted us to lead a blameless life through a controlled tongue. In today’s text, James starts by asking the question, “Who is wise and understanding among you?” and then responds by essentially saying that if anyone really is wise and has understanding, then let him or her show proof of it.

The Lord tells us in this passage that there are two types of wisdom; Heavenly wisdom that is from God and worldly wisdom. The worldly wisdom is described in verses 14-16 “But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.

The fruit of worldly wisdom is bitter envy (a harsh, resentful attitude of the success of others) and selfish ambitions and is generated by the forces of Satan. The person with worldly wisdom focuses on what they can gain from others more than what they can give to or do for others. The Lord tells us in verse 16 that because worldly wisdom is motivated by envy and selfish ambitions it always produces discord and falsehood. Another fruit of worldly wisdom is pride which God opposes (James 4:6). It is a terrible thing to be in opposition to God.

The other wisdom is heavenly wisdom. Heavenly wisdom comes from God and is described in verse 17 as “pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.

God’s wisdom is full of humility; ready to confess and repent from sin and ask for forgiveness and to bring solutions to people’s issues and problems. It seeks the good of others more than self. It is what brings peace in hostile circumstances. The wise will always be slow to speak but quick to listen and their response will be worthwhile. Wise people are always submissive, not only to God but to others, respecting their thoughts and desires without trying to dominate them. Wise people are considerate, caring about the affairs and needs of others more than their own. They are merciful, always willing to go the extra mile for the sake of others without unrighteous judgment or vengeance. Wise people are sincere and worthy of trust, always speaking the truth in love. Finally, wise people are full of good fruit (the fruit of the Holy Spirit described in Gal 5:22-23) and which is so essential for pleasing the Lord and being a good Christian testimony to others.

According to James 1:5, this is the kind of wisdom that we should desire to have and which we should ask for in prayer and which our Heavenly Father will be faithful to give to us.

From the Pastor’s Pen

Final thoughts on Psalm 37:23-24

The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, And He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the LORD upholds him with His hand.           NKJV

The good man in this context refers to the true believer. Though translated as two English words in our text, the Hebrew root, gabar, from which good man is translated, literally means to prevail or overcome. Its Greek counterpart, nikao, is used of believers seven times in Revelation chapters two and three. All true believers are overcomers in Christ. All of our steps as Christians are ordered by the Lord. Every detail of our lives is graciously and lovingly ordained, fixed, settled, and maintained. No reckless fate, no fickle chance rules us. Our every step is the subject of divine decree.

He delights in his way. God has a plan for us as believers (Eph. 2:10), and He delights in seeing His plan carried out in our lives. Just as parents are pleased with the tottering footsteps of their babes, all that concerns a child of God is of interest to his heavenly Father. God loves to view our holy strivings as we press forward toward heaven. In both our trials and joys, Jesus has fellowship with us, and delights to be our sympathizing companion (Heb. 4:14-16).

Though he fall. Disasters and reverses may lay us low. Like Job, we may be stripped of everything. Like Joseph we may be put in prison. Like Jonah, we may be cast into the depths, but we shall not be utterly cast down. We shall not fall never to rise again. We may be brought to our knees, but not on our faces; or, if laid prone for a moment, we shall be up again before long. No true Christian shall ever finally or fatally fall. Sorrow may bring us to the earth, and death may bring us to the grave, but we can never sink lower, and ultimately every believer shall arise to new heights for the Lord upholds him with his hand. Condescendingly and lovingly, with His own hand, God upholds his children. He does not leave us to mere delegated agency. He gives us personal assistance. Even in our falls the Lord sustains us. Even when grace does not keep us from stumbling, it shall save us from utterly falling. Praise God that we are kept by His power through saving faith until the day that Jesus transforms us into His immortal, incorruptible likeness (I Pet. 1:5, I Jn. 3:2).

It is not that the saints are strong, or wise, or meritorious, that therefore they rise after every fall, but because God is their helper, and therefore none can prevail against them.           Charles H. Spurgeon