Words

As I was reading thru the book of James this AM, I was reminded of how many times in this book we are exhorted to keep a close eye on the words that come out of our mouths:

  1. Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger (1:19)
  2.  If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless (1:26)
  3. Speak and act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. (2:12-13)
  4. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.  If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot direct. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.  How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by man, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, an with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. (3:2-12)
  5. Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? (4:11-12)
  6. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you many not be judged: behold, the Judge is standing at the door. (5:9)

The practicalities of this as a leader and Father, Husband are profound and severe – as I read a quote from Matthew Henry this week:

Sin is more easily learned from others than holiness

A Worship Problem

You may have heard me say it a lot – worship is not only just singing.  In fact, singing is a very small percent of worship – we worship with our entire being and person.  We are all created to be worshipers, therefore we all worship something – so what is it?

God created the world and created us to enjoy him and his creation that points back to him and his greatness.  In Romans 1 he says that this is obvious – just walk outside or sit by the ocean or the Grand Canyon, or the mountains and it smacks you in the face – there is a Creator.

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:19-20, ESV)

Knowledge that there is a God and that he is eternally powerful and divine (not human) is “plain to” us in Creation.  The Apostle Paul then uses stronger language and says that we are “without excuse!”  We can’t say to God that “Oh, gee, I didn’t know you existed.”  He made everything in such obvious complex beauty and structure it is obvious that he exists.

And so if it so obvious that he exists, it also should be a given that he is to be worshiped.  C.J. Mahaney once said something to the effect that there are two categories- the created things and the Creator.   By nature and design the created things worship the Creator.

We are part of the created things and therefore need to worship the one who created us, but this isn’t just singing songs – it’s devoting our whole lives in worship to God.  He has provided a way for us to worship him fully in Jesus Christ. For as created things, we sin and that sin separates us from a 100% sinLESS God.   This is a cosmic dilemma for we cannot fix this separation ourselves.  God in his grace has provided a mediator for us in Jesus. Thru faith in Jesus and perseverance of a life dedicated to God we are restored and the separation repaired – this is the gospel. God’s Gospel.  His design and creation to reconcile us to himself.

Paul also uses strong language that we are to “obey” this  – calling it the obedience of faith in v5.   The bad part is that if we do not obey, we’ll still be worshipers – however we’ll worship the created things, instead of the Creator (v25) – and when worship is directed at the wrong things – it all goes wrong.  The list of sins that stem from this worship problem is astounding, and we see it everywhere today. Check out v26-32 for a commentary on much of what we see today.

No one will deny that this world is jacked up, that’s obvious too.  But, God is working his plan to fix what sin has broken and restore his creation back to him.  Let’s remember that creation itself screams out that God exists and the sin we see is an indication of a fundamental worship problem – and let’s all rightfully worship our Creator thru faith in Jesus.

Self-Alignment

“Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

(Ephesians 4:16–24 ESV)

As believers in Jesus, we are called to think differently – if you’ve ever noticed the way non-believers live their lives – sometimes we are shocked when they sin so openly – why?  In a sense they don’t know any better because their minds are darkened and their hearts are hardened.

We see a contrast in how believers in Jesus are to be thinking and living – three important things – (1) put off sin (2) renew the way we think and (3) Put on new self

The old self belongs to the old way of thinking, the hard heart, the non-believing heart and we are called to put it off.  We are called to think in line with how we are as new creatures in Christ.  Align our thoughts with the spiritual reality of who we are. – this is work that we are called to do – Jesus has done the perfect work on the cross, but now we are called to do the spiritual work of living up to the reality of who we are in Chirst.   That leads us to number 3 – we are created in the likeness of God, but in Chirst we are righteous and holy – we “put on” (as in outward actions) our new self – we wear it out – the last part of our passage tells us what that looks like:

“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

(Ephesians 4:24–32 ESV)

Let our lives be outwardly characterized by speaking truth and not lies, not letting anger and other emotions rule our actions, doing honest work, being a responsible contributor to others’ needs.  Watching our words – are they corrupting? (tearing down?) or building up (and giving grace to everyone, by standards included).  Are we bitter? or are we kind, tenderhearted, forgiving?

All of this is because of what God has done or us in Jesus – we did nothing to attract him – we only offer our sin, and in the grace and love of God in Jesus he restores us, reconciles us, forgives us.  How much should that dictate the way we live our lives?  Not walking in the old self, but continuously renewing our minds to align ourselves to our new spiritual selves in Jesus.

 

Jesus Prays for You

John 17 is a very rich passage – it’s Jesus’ prayer before he is arrested, falsely tried, beaten and crucified. In it we see several things that are emphasized.

  • Glorifying God – Jesus glorified God on Earth.  How?  By fulfilling the Father’s plan perfectly and faithfully. Likewise, we glorify God by doing his will – avoiding sin and pursuing righteousness, making disciples, and many other God glorifying things. (v1-5)
  • Word of God – Jesus says that he ‘gave them the words you gave me’ (v8).  We are blessed that we have these words.  Think of how many people gave their lives in order for us to have English Bibles, how long people before us didn’t have access to them, and how many people still don’t have access to God’s words in their own language. Treasure God’s word – study it, meditate on it, soak in it.  Jesus’ mission was partially to give us the words of God.  They are pure truth, and bring spiritual growth (AKA “sanctification” v17)
  • Prayer – Jesus is praying for the Father’s strength to finish the mission…he knows exactly what is before him – the cross.  If Jesus prayed for strength to stay the course – how much more should we?
  • Jesus prays for you – well, if you are a believer that is.  v20-21:

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:20-21, ESV)

Jesus prays for those who will believe in him thru the work of the disciples who will faithfully carry his words forward in the future.  Followers of Jesus are still carrying on that mission – bringing God’s word – holding fast to this ‘word of life.’ (Phil 2:!6) The word brings spiritual life!  Jesus, the God-in-flesh, came from the Father on a mission to redeem a sinful fallen human race, to give the precious words of life, that those who believe may have life in his name. As we draw near to Good Friday and Easter, how sweet these words are.

Path to Peace

In John 14:15-31 Jesus describes a sequence of interdependent events –

  1. If you claim to love Jesus you will know and obey his word (14:15, 21)
  2. If you love Jesus, you are loved by the Father (v21)
  3. If you are loved by the Father, Jesus loves you and reveals himself to you (v21)
  4. If Jesus reveals himself to you, he and the Father will make their home with you (v23)

This all starts with knowing and obeying the word of God, this is the whole Bible – not just the words that Jesus said.  There have been those that have gone astray in thinking that passages like these give them license to only obey what Jesus actually said when he was here on Earth (AKA a “red letter Christian”) – whereas in truth, all of the Bible is the word of God, it is all one story – God and his gracious redemption of a sinful human race in Jesus.  Therefore, Jesus himself says that all of Scripture is about him. (Luke 24:27)

This brings it down again to knowing and understanding Scripture.  It astounds me to realize that so much false teaching in the Catholic Church, other mainline denominations, and of course the cults all start with an improper interpretation of God’s word and it snowballs from there.  Fortunately, we are not left to fend for ourselves in understanding Scripture and it doesn’t require a seminary degree – enter the 3rd person of the three-in-one-God:  the Holy Spirit.

In our same passage, Jesus explains —

“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
(John 14:25-26 ESV)

The Holy Spirit is our Helper to teach us and cause us to remember God’s word.  This is a spiritual exercise – so pray thru your reading of God’s word daily – that the Holy Spirit would cause you to know, believe, and understand God’s word, and give you the courage to obey out of love for God.  Remembering that you are then loved by the Father and Jesus reveals himself to you and not only that – makes his home within you.

All of this – brings us inner peace as we fulfill the purpose God created us for – to know and enjoy him forever and bring him the glory he rightly deserves with our lives —

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
(John 14:27 ESV)