Archive | July 2014

From the Pastor’s Pen

Final Thoughts on James 5:7-12

Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door! My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful. But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your “Yes” be “Yes,” and your “No,” “No,” lest you fall into judgment.                  NKJV

It is obvious from the opening verses of James, chapter 6, that many of the church members were being oppressed and defrauded by the merchants and employers for whom they worked. In our text the Lord urges these believers to be patient. The dictionary defines patience as “bearing provocation, annoyance, misfortune, delay, hardship, pain, oppression, or persecution with resolve and calm, and without complaint, frustration, or anger.” Some synonyms listed in the thesaurus for patience are “calm, forgiving, tolerant, long-suffering, composed, enduring, even-tempered, forbearing, mild-tempered, persevering, self-possessed, serene, uncomplaining, and unruffled.” In our text, the Lord gives three reasons why we believers should be patient.

First, believers should be patient because the Lord Jesus Christ will return (vs. 7-8, Acts 1:11, I Thess. 4:16-17, I Cor. 15:51-54). If we endure our trials with patience, the Lord promises that we will reign with Him at His coming (II Tim. 2:10, I Pet. 4:13). Patience is an evidence of the genuineness of our saving faith (I Pet. 1:7). In v.7 of our text, the Lord uses the rain to illustrate a truth regarding Jesus’ return. We do not know when the rain is coming, but it will come. Likewise, we do not know when Jesus is coming, but He will return (Matt. 25:13, 44; Mk. 13:32-35). The phrase “at hand” in v. 8 means “imminently.” Jesus could return unexpectedly, at any moment (Lk.12:40, Phil. 4:5). In Revelation 3:11; 22:7, 20, Jesus warns us that He is coming “quickly.” The word “quickly” does not mean soon, as this was written nearly 2,000 years ago, but rather it means “suddenly” or “imminently.” Again the point is being made that Jesus could return unexpectedly, at any moment. I John 2:28 exhorts us to “abide in Him that we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.” Sadly, many Christians will be embarrassed at the coming of the Lord because they will be places they ought not to be or doing things that they ought not to be doing. We need to live each moment of each day as though Jesus was coming at that moment.

Second, believers should be patient because Christ will judge our impatience (v.9). Believers will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ (as opposed to unbelievers who will stand before the great white throne judgment in Rev. 20:11-15), where they will give an accounting of their lives while on earth as Christians, and be rewarded or lose rewards in the next life accordingly (Rom. 14:10, 12; I Cor. 3:11-15, 4:5; II Cor. 5:10). In vs. 10-11 of our text, the Lord gives two examples of patience; the prophets and Job. Job waited through all kinds of terrible trials, including the loss of his material possessions, the loss of his children, the loss of his health, the accusations of his friend, and isolation from his wife, and yet he responded by saying, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21), “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” (Job 13:15), and “For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth; And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God.” (Job 19:25-26).

Third, believers should be patient and not try and force results with an oath (v. 12). People give oaths to try and convince others of their sincerity; that they will actually do what they say they will do. When people feel the need to press us for an oath, what does that say about our reputation? In Matthew 5:34-37, Jesus exhorts us not to swear at all, but to let our “Yes” be :Yes,” and our “No,” be “No.” If a person’s word is no good, neither will his oath be any good. In v.12 of our text, the Lord is calling for straight forward, honest, plain speech. To do otherwise, is to invite His judgment.

What kind of reputation do we have? Do you have a reputation for honestly and dependability? Are you patient, willing to wait on the Lord’s timing in your life? Are you ready if Jesus were to return today? Or would you be embarrassed if He were to suddenly appear?

From the Pastor’s Pen

Final Thoughts on James 5:1-6

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days. Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter. You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you.           NKJV

The original recipients of James’ letter appear to have developed an infatuation with the rich. This seems to be clear from the many passages that offer warnings to the rich, or criticize the church for giving preference to those who were wealthy (James 1:9–11, 2:1–13, 4:13–17). In the face of great trials, it seems that many in James’ audience either placed great hope and trust in their own riches, or had a strong desire to run in the same circles that the rich did.

In our text, James condemns the greed of the rich. It is a bit uncertain as to whether the rich people that James is condemning are believers or unbelievers. It is likely that James is addressing unbelievers, since this passage does not speak of repentance, and because its style is similar to passages from the Old Testament that are clearly addressed to the unbelieving enemies of Israel (Example: Isa. 13). But even if this is the case, we as believers must also pay close attention to these severe warnings from our Lord. This passage not only tells us that the wealth of the oppressive rich is only temporal, but it gives us a stern warning as well not to envy the material possessions of the rich.

God condemns the rich and greedy landowners in our text for trusting in their riches, and for earning their money as a result of fraud and oppression. He warns that the material possessions that they have stored up are wasting away, and cannot save them in the day of judgment. They have oppressed the poor by depriving them of the wages that that the poor have earned, and by their wealth they have fattened themselves for the day of judgment as a calf is fatted up just before it is slaughtered. The worldly wisdom that looks to material possessions for security will fail in the end, for all that is not of spiritual and eternal value will be destroyed.

Hopefully, wealthy Christians would never be guilty of withholding pay from their employees. However, there are many other ways in which wealth can be misused. For example, one can sin by fulfilling his desires for comfort and luxery without giving to help support the ministry of the local church, or contributing to the spread of the Gospel messge. Whether you are wealthy or not, have you prayed and asked the Lord to show you how your material resources, which are only on loan from God, can be used for His kingdom and glory (I Cor. 10:31).

From the Pastor’s Pen

Final thoughts on James 4:13-17

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.           NKJV

The Lord closes out the fourth chapter of James by giving us three principles on planning for the future.

First, we are not to plan presumptuously. It is important to note here, that God is not saying, “Don’t think about the future or plan for it at all.” Jesus spoke of the foolishness of building without planning to see if you can afford to build (Lk. 14:28). Proverbs 14:8 says that the wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way (where he is going and what he is going to do). In Genesis 41, Joseph, who was a godly man, made plans for storing up the grain during the 7 years of plenty so that there would be abundance during the 7 year of famine. Proverbs 21:5 says that the plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, but those of everyone who is hasty (don’t take the time to plan wisely), surely to poverty. There is an old saying, “If a person aims at nothing, then that is exactly what he will hit. What the Lord is saying in our text is, “Don’t plan presumptuously or arrogantly, assuming to know the outcome, as such arrogance is evil (vs. 16-17).

Second, we only know the events of the present, not what the future will bring. While we may plan for the future, the Lord exhorts us not to worry about it (Mat. 6:34, Phil. 4:6) as we cannot change the outcome of what will happen (Matt. 6:27), but rather to trust in the Lord for the best outcome (Prov. 3:5-6, Rom. 8:28). The one important thing in life that we need to concern ourselves with is our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 10:41-42). Satan wants us to live in the past or in the future, not in the present. If we live in the past, we can be crippled with guilt or regret over our failures. If we live in the future, we can become puffed up, living on past glories, or tend to be presumptuous (as in our text), or we can worry about tomorrow. Today is the day that the Lord has made. Let us be glad and rejoice in today (Psa. 118:24).

Third, our plans ought to always be tempered by submission to the will of the God. If it is not God’s will, we should not want it, nor will we get it. The purpose of prayer is not to try and change God’s mind or get Him to see things from our perspective. The purpose of prayer is to line us up with the will of God (I Jn. 5:14, Mat. 6:10, Lk. 22:42). The only real worry that we ought to ever have in life is, “Are we being submissive to God’s will for our lives?” Are we willing to let God have His way in every area of our lives; even in those areas that we don’t really want to let go of; even in circumstances that we would not choose for ourselves? Only by submitting to His will, can we experience the peace of God which surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:7).