Peninsula Community Church
February 3, 2013
James – Good Gifts
James 1:16-18 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
For me, the idea of gift giving can be an interesting one. Gifts as you know come in all sizes and shapes and the size or the shape of the gift does not inherently define the content of the gift. So many times, we open a gift given to us with a specific idea in mind of what the gift might be but we can be disappointed when we find that what is inside it something totally different.
The other problem with gifts is that too many times gifts are given with strings attached. Parents often do this. If you are really, really good then you will get ‘x.’ While this is certainly a way to discipline the child, if it is the only means to administer discipline, the child may begin to believe that their parent’s love and acceptance is based solely in a reward system rather than in unconditional love.
At other times, gifts are used by some to buy another’s love. I knew of a couple where they would constantly fight and many times the fighting would get physical. They would part ways but then he would apologize and make up to her by buying her expensive jewelry and once he even bought her a new car not so much to show his love to her but to prevent her from leaving. In essence his gifts were actually a way to manipulate his wife.
Each of these illustrations present a level of deception in the giving of gifts. It is for this reason that James begins this passage by addressing deception. The fact is we are living in a time where deception seems to be the standard mode of operation. Of note, just this week I received a copy of a letter that was sent to President Obama and the leaders of both houses. The gist of the letter was to point out the deception and dishonesty that is being propagated on the nation and it was a call to action for them to be honest in their approach to legislative issues and to the business of running the U. S. Government.
James also recognizes the potential for deception among believers. Therefore, he calls on the believers of His day to resist the temptation of deception. In particular, this deception relates to the view one has of God. Too often, we have a skewed view of who God is. The result is we have a misunderstanding of who He is and because we have a skewed view of God we have a skewed view of His gifts to us. We need to understand that our view of God will determine how we live life and how we deal with others.
There are many deceptive views of God today. I will mention two extreme views. One view purports that God has created everything and then stands back and allows things to run its course without any direct involvement from God. This view supposes that God has little intervention in the affairs of life and it presents a disconnected and detached God that is unconcerned about our daily life. It is for this reason so many feel that God is disconnected from their life and from the particular situations they face. They begin to believe that God is a distant God and this view is confirmed in their relationships every day as they live out broken relationships every day. The result is a feeling of loneliness and abandonment.
A second view is that God controls every action we take to the point that we have absolutely no choice in what we do or what we say. This view purports that God predetermines every action taken even if these are acts of sin perpetrated on mankind. I spoke with one pastor who claimed that if someone was raped that it was God’s will and that it was God’s predetermined will for that to happen. The problem with this view is that it takes away man’s responsibility for their actions and presents a God who is controlling, unfeeling, and one that justifies sin. This view would purport that God is responsible for causing men to sin which is in direct contradiction to His character.
In the first view, there is little or no dependance on God and there is a sense that man is in total control. The result is that man feels he does not need God. In the second view, God is in total control to the point that man has no control over His life which results in him not taking responsibility for his actions. The fact is, God is sovereign and in control but that does not negate our human responsibility for poor decisions that cause damage in others lives.
Regardless of these two views, there is one thing that James wants to assure us of. He wants us to know that every good and perfect gift comes from God, the Father. God’s gifts are both good and perfect. It is important to note that this speaks to the character of the giver just as much as it does to the quality of the gift. God is good and He is perfect in all of His ways, and because He is good and perfect, His gifts are good and perfect.
We see this illustrated by Jesus in Matthew 7:11. Jesus says that if we who are evil know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more will your father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him. If we ask for bread, He does not give us a stone, or if we ask for a fish, he will not give us a serpent? Notice the action required of one the asking and then a response of God providing.
God is not in the business of offering one thing and then giving us something else. You see God is not into bait and switch. I am sure we have all experienced this act at some point. We see a sales circular that promotes the sale of a certain item at a certain price. You go to the store only to be disappointed because they do not have the specific item or the item available is more money than advertised. It is a ploy to get you into the store because they know if they get you into the store that you will most likely buy something else. I am so glad that God does not do that. What He advertises He gives and it is good and perfect.
So what are some of the gifts that God gives.
To begin with God gives us life. A part of the problem in our fallen world is that man tends to define life in so many different ways. He defines life by what he possesses. He defines life by what he does. He defines life through what he has achieved. The problem, however, is that while these things are great man can still become burdened with guilt, shame and regret to the degree that they miss out on the joy of life. Life seems a burden and not a joy.
Real life however is defined in a person and that person is Jesus Christ. God sent His son, Jesus, to earth to give us the greatest gift of all, eternal life. We observe this in Mark 10:45; John 3:15-17; John 5:21-26; John 6:47; and John 10:28. Each of these passages note that life comes by way of Jesus Christ. The life He gives is one that represents a future hope but it also represents a present now. This is a principle that is evident in Scripture. There is the now and there is the yet to come of God’s gift. If we accept this life and believe that we are only waiting for some future hope we are missing out on the completeness of the gift God has given. Too often, we live as if we have no hope now but we appear to live as if our hope is some futuristic event. But we have hope now and we have hope in the future.
This life He gives is one that is abundant. Life as a believer should be rich and full. The term abundant means “full” and “complete.” It is abundance plus. This brings us to the second gift.
God gives us everything we need to live life fully. God created all things for us to enjoy so we could experience a full life. Everything we have—including our families, friends, church, finances, jobs, houses, investments, credit, equity, cash, businesses, automobiles, and more—is given to us by God and is a part of our treasure. God has made us stewards of these treasures, but we are not owners. Good stewards make every effort to manage their treasure according to the heart and will of the one to whom it ultimately belongs. In this case it is God’s property but we are the stewards. God wants us to use these gifts in a way that honors Him. How are you managing the gifts He has given you?
Third, God gives us the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not just a gift, He is a person who was sent by God to assist us by directing our lives in truth and righteousness. God is a good Dad who listens to his kids and gives them what they need but not everything they want. We need the Holy Spirit. Why? Because he regenerates our heart so that we can follow Jesus. He produces good fruit in our lives. He empowers our efforts so that we can participate with God in loving people and building his church. He aides us as we share our faith with others. He brings conviction to the heart of the wayward sinner and the misguided believer.
Four, God gives us a purpose. God does not give us these gifts to us for us to be sidelined by fear and laziness. He gives them because he has a plan and a purpose for each us. Sometimes this purpose is clearly defined but at other times we find that we bloom where we are planted. You may not have planned on being where you are or even doing what you are doing but he uses it. I can best illustrate this by way of how I was asked to serve as the Chairman of the Long Island Task Force for Promise Keepers. I went to my first meeting where the chair resigned. Before I left the meeting, to my surprise, I had been elected to the chairman’s position. I did not plan it, but God had a purpose and a plan for that team of guys. We were able to come along side of churches to help them start men’s groups and we were effective in bringing men together for Island wide events; something that had never happened before.
There are so many gifts available to us as believers but while God gives us these great gifts it is our responsibility to appropriate these gifts as our own. If someone where to give you a gift, it is not yours until you accept it.
So what are you doing with the gifts?