Monthly Archives: April 2013

James – The Tongue Part 2

Peninsula Community Church
April 28, 2013
The Power of the Tongue – Part 2

James 3:1-5 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 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 directs. 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!

This morning we will continue to look at the tongue. As we noted in last week’s message the tongue has the power to bring life and death. The tongue is capable of bringing healing or it can bring additional hurt and pain to those we encounter.

In the text before us today, James uses several word pictures to explain or illustrate the power of the tongue. Words pictures are great tools of communication as they grab and direct our attention. Word pictures also bring communication to life and have the power to lock thoughts into our minds. The inspired authors of the Bible have a unique ability to present word pictures to illustrate the point(s) the author is trying to make in a way that causes us to remember the lesson being taught.

The first set of word pictures used by James are used to illustrate that the tongue has the power to steer and direct. James uses the word picture of a horses bit and a ship’s rudder to illustrate the ability of the tongue to steer and direct one’s life and one’s actions. Not only can they steer one’s personal life but the life of the people they influence and those they encounter.

He states that a small bit enables the rider to control a horse, and a small rudder enables the pilot to steer an entire ship. The bit in a horses mouth is able to direct the whole body of the horse in the direction the rider would desire. The same is true of a ship’s rudder. A small rudder has the possibility to guide a ship in the direction dictated by the pilot of the ship. These instruments of guidance have the capability of directing the actions of the horse and the ship respectively.

Since these small items have the power to direct and thus they have the ability to affect lives, can you imagine the damage that could be caused by a run away horse in a crowd or the damage realized by a ship that has lost its ability to be guided. When my daughter was younger I remember that she was riding a horse at a friend’s house in Florida. She was doing very well until her foot slipped out of the stirrup and when she bent over to get her foot back in the stirrup she did not realize that she had jerked the reigns to the right. The horse responded immediately and turned right, throwing her from the horse. Fortunately, she was not seriously hurt but she had a fear of riding that horse after that.

A second illustration of this power is a story related to me by my son who was in the Navy and whose ship was sent to the Persian Gulf. While stationed there the ship lost all power, including its guidance systems and steering capability. When all the systems were restored they found that they were within five miles of Iranian waters which could have caused an international incident. Fortunately, there was no incident but the potential was there.

Just as the bit and rudder are small, the tongue is also a small member. As a small part of the body, the tongue has the power to accomplish great things. The tongue has the power to effect the course of history. The tongue has been known to start wars and it has the power to end wars as well. Both the bit and the rudder must overcome contrary forces to successfully accomplish its task. The bit must overcome the wild nature of the horse, and the rudder must fight the winds and currents that would drive the ship off its course. The human tongue must also overcome contrary forces. Our carnal nature, sinful desires, past experiences and our heart condition all direct the action of the tongue. We must control if we will speak words of healing or words of destruction.

The second word picture illustrates the tongue’s power to destroy. James relates to us that it only requires a spark to start a fire. Listen to the words of the writer of Proverbs who noted “For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases. As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife. The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body” (Proverbs 26:20-22).

Fires start small and then grow. Studies have shown that most of the wild fires on the west coast were started by either a lightning strike or by an unattended fire. When our kids were younger we would take them camping. We decided to take a weekend trip to the end of Long Island where we would camp. I had started a fire and we had enjoyed an evening of food and songs and stories around the fire. When the night was over I took care of the fire and had put it out; so I thought. About three in the morning, we awoke to a fire blazing in the fire pit. Why? One of the embers had been flamed by the wind which had been blowing through the night and it erupted into a fully ignited fire.

Fire burns and it hurts. Our words can burn and hurt as well. Fire spreads, and the more fuel you give it, the faster and farther it will spread. James reminds us that the tongue has the power to “set the whole course of one’s life on fire” (James 3:6). Once the fire has started the damage is done. And when we give fuel to the fire by not controlling our tongue the fire grows out of control.

Not only does James compare the tongue to a fire but he also proclaims that the tongue “is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” (James 3:5-8) All it takes is a little poison to do damage. Poison can kill or it can debilitate one’s ability to function. Words kill and they debilitate us to the point where we can cannot function.

The third word picture used is the spring and the tree has the power to delight. (James 3:9-12) “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig-tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” (James 3:9-12)

The spring and the tree has the power to delight. I can remember going to my grandfather’s house in upstate Alabama. On the way to his house, we would often stop at a spring on the side of the road where we would fill jugs of water with the fresh water that came from the well. The fact is when a spring is right, what comes forth is good water. The good fresh water refreshes and renews the thirsty body. The same is true when we are filled with the word of God so that what comes forth from us refreshes and renews.

What James is saying here is that the tongue is not the real issue, the real issue is with our heart. What we put into our minds shape and mold our hearts. What is in our hearts will be revealed in how we live and in what we say. The fact is we cannot have both fresh and bitter water coming from the same source. If we think we do, something is wrong and we must begin to admit that we are duplicitous and need healing. We need to have our hearts cleaned up so that we speak life and life alone. We must cease presenting a persona that all is well while at church and then treat our spouses and family members with evil intent. We can be so good at being sweet when we want to and bitter at other times but this does not define the life of a passionate follower of Christ.

There is life and death in our words. Life begins with an honest appraisal of who we are and how we act. Too often when we are duplicitous, we are actually being untruthful with ourselves. As we gain control over our hearts and our minds we will have a greater capacity to control our tongue. Secondly, the more we surrender our ways to Christ’s ways and we surrender to the direction of the Holy Spirit, the more we will be able to control what we say and how we say it.

When we are passionate followers of Christ, we will make sure that sweet water come from our mouth. This does not mean thy we are always perfect as we all fail to speak in a way that honors God, is truthful and loving all the time. The key is that we are honest with ourselves and with God.

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James – The Power of the Tongue

Peninsula Community Church
James – the Power of the Tongue
James 3:1-5

James 3:1-5 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 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 directs. 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!

We are finally moving to chapter three of our study. Once again James returns to a discussion of the tongue and the power of our words. He does this I believe because there is power in our words to bring life and death. This is confirmed by the writer of Proverbs who states, The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit (Proverbs 18:21).

In this particular discussion James begins this discussion by interjecting the idea that teachers will be judged with greater strictness. For that reason he speaks to those who desire to be teachers. He states that, Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. In James day there were many who wanted to be teachers or at least they wanted to present themselves as teachers. They often had a genuine desire to educate people but while this was a noble desire, James reminds them that they will be judged at a greater degree.

We also must remember that we influence others by our words. We will also be held accountable for these words as well.

The fact is teachers must use their tongue to share truth and as godly teachers we must teach God’s truth. The concern today is the same as it was in James’ day. Teacher’s must not sin with their tongue by way of gossip, antiChristian rhetoric, false judgment and so forth. They must preach the fulness of the Word and the entire gospel and not pick and choose which parts of the gospel they will teach. Teachers must also practice what they teach; otherwise, they fall into the sin and deception of hypocrisy. James also reminds us that teachers are not the only ones who are tempted toward sin. Every Christian must admit “We all stumble in many ways” (James 3:2). It seems that sins of the tongue are at the top of the list. A measure of one’s spiritual maturity is one’s ability to control their tongue. He insinuates however that even the mature in Christ will slip up and at times say things that prove that we continue to need to grow in Christ and submit our tongue to God’s ways.

As a teacher, we face judgement from two sources. We will be judged by God himself as we will be held accountable for what we teach and to whom we teach. Not only will we be judged when we stand before God but we will also be judged in this life as well. When we teach we will either inform or we will confuse our listeners. We will challenge people in their growth in Christ or we can cause them to become stagnate and be stunted. Now we must note that while this is true we cannot be accountable for how people receive the word we speak as there are many issues that exist to prevent people from receiving the intent of our message. It could be the hardness of their heart. It could be that they do not like the one speaking so they shut them off. It could be that they are not interested in real growth so while they listen to what is being spoken they do apply the word into their life.

Second we will be judged by others. This is most interesting as when one knows they will be judged by others there is a tendency for them to be more accountable and honest. There is also a judgment that will come from people that will be unjust and will be filled with anger and bitterness. This is the tough one. To be judged unfairly is painful and causes emotional pain. We must guard our hearts against being judgmental of others. It is in this arena that James states that we must show mercy over judgment.

Then James makes the statement that we all stumble in many ways, and if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man. This again has a two pronged force to it. First, for those who are teachers we must attempt to guard our words and speak the truth in love so as not to misspeak or say the wrong thing. Second, the idea here is that no one has reached the point of perfection in what they may say. There will always be the possibility of saying things that are hurtful, crude, inappropriate, gossip, and judgmental. It is unfortunate but I have sat with some pastors and Christian leaders who have caused me to blush with their language, their jokes, their criticism of others, and their gossip. Their message in the pulpit did not match their life off the platform.

Another thought is that the tongue has power but man struggles to control the tongue. Here James deals with the power of the tongue and the inability of man to control the tongue. It is a rare person who can control their tongues without any slip up or mistake in their speech. I am sure you may have heard the term “loose lips sink ships”? This phrase was used by the government during WWI. During the war, enemy spies would hang around British pubs to hear loose talk about ship movements. Sailors would talk about their next assignments, where they were going, when they were leaving. This was all vital information for the German submarines. Just a few careless words remind people of the terrible devastation that could result from words ill spoken, “Loose lips, sink ships.” The problem of careless talk was so great that the government began to put up posters like the example I have on the overhead. As believers if we are not careful we will have loose lips that destroy relationships and cause division in the body of Christ.

Would you like to have a control z function on your tongue?

Listen to what the Bible has to say about the words we speak. Proverbs 12:18 Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. James 1:26 If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.

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James – Faith VS Works

Peninsula Community Church
James – Faith vs. Works
April 16, 2013

James 2:14-26 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe-and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”-and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

Today, we will look at the issue of works and faith. For some theologians this has been a thorny theological issue. For others there has been questions about the difference, if any, between faith alone and James’ intimation that faith without works is dead. Still others will argue if it makes a difference at all.

We begin with the premise and understanding that salvation is a free, unmerited gift of God. Ephesians 2:8-9 states For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. It is the result of the death and resurrection of Christ. We do not merit or warrant the gift by our actions prior to salvation. Prior to coming to Christ we are enemies with God and because of our carnal nature we are hindered in our ability to seek the things of God because we were being led by our flesh (John 14:17). Jesus himself says that we cannot receive the Spirit of Truth because we did not know Him but we are led to an understanding of the truth, which is Christ by the Holy Spirit. We have also come to understand that our need for salvation is a result of the Holy Spirit drawing us to the place of decision. It is the role of the Holy Spirit to convict of sin and to draw us toward righteousness (John 16:8-11).

Most of the gifts we receive today are not really free at all. As I was preparing this, I thought of a time when you would receive a “free gift” for opening up a checking account at the local bank. It might be a toaster or a new radio but in fact this was not a free gift at all. They gave you the toaster or the radio because you opened up an account in their bank so therefore it was not free. When we receive the free gift of salvation there is nothing we can do to merit the free gift at all. On the other hand once we are saved there is within us a new desire for obedience to God’s will, His commands, and His purposes for us. The old saying goes. He paid a debt He did not owe. We owed a debt we could pay. He took care of it. In that moment, we were powerless but he gave us His spirit to draw us to Him.

We must also understand that while the gift is free, there is a response required on our part. God has created us with free-will therefore we must choose to follow Christ. I would disagree with some who say that there is no response required on our part in regard to salvation. There is a difference between choosing to accept the gift and not doing anything to merit the gift. There are some that imply in their teaching that you have no choice in receiving the gift. God never works in you in such a way that your free will is removed in total. But there is a choice for us to make. This is born out by Paul who stated “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (Romans 10:9-10). What is our part? We confess and we believe. How does that belief come? It comes by way of the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the ministry of the word of God. John reminds us that God so loved the world that He sent His only son that whosoever believes in Him would have eternal life. His part eternal life. What is our part? Our part is believe in Him and trust Him.

But how do we believe? Let us return to Romans 10. In Romans 10:14-15 Paul reminds us that the Gospel is a source of faith and belief that leads one to salvation. Paul stated “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” While God is sovereign he also created us with the ability to chose. While He draws to Himself, we must make that decision to follow Christ and to obey His commands. We see this in Romans 10:9-10, John 3:16; and Acts 2:21.

The question then that is being posed in this passage is how do we show that we have faith in Christ? James is in essence countering a problem that resulted in misunderstanding of Paul’s writings by the church of James’ day. They believed that since Paul preached that faith in Christ was absent of works that they therefore did not have to be active or obedient to God’s law. James is not contradicting Paul’s comments rather he is advancing the truth that if you have been saved by faith then your salvation will be witnessed by the works you exhibit.

This is also born out by Paul, in the discussion of Abraham’s faith. Abraham’s faith was accredited to him as righteousness prior to him being circumcised. The circumcision was a seal of the work of faith in his heart. The circumcision was not his mode of belief but was a proof of his belief. So in fact from this perspective James and Paul are on the same page.

The offering of Issac was the ultimate sign of his trust and the faith He had in Christ to provide the necessary substitute for his son. This was important for James to note as his purpose was to show that Abraham showed his faith by being willing to sacrifice his son because he had total faith in God.

James illustrates his point by reminding the church about the story of Abraham. As we read the Bible, we must understand that most of the stories related here cover a period of time. In this case, the story of Abraham here covers a period of time of more than 25 years. During that time he developed a firm faith in the ability of God to take care of him and to provide for him in every circumstance. It was for this reason that his actions were counted as righteousness. He was faithful to God because God had been faithful to him.

Theologians often use three terms to discuss three views of Christ or Three views of responding to Christ.  The first idea is to simply take notice (noticia). It is to be aware but there is not much else. The second way is the mental assent, the mental acknowledgment of something’s existence (Ascentia). Just because we have knowledge does not mean that we have faith. James reminds us that the demons acknowledge and believe that God exists. This means that one can have a knowledge of something but not have real faith or trust in that object.Too many Christians fall into this category. They believe but there is no evidence of that belief in them. Even demons know Christ and know what He is able to accomplish.

The third idea carries the idea that there is more than just a mental acknowledgment (Fiducia).  It involves a trust in something, a giving over to it, a complete believing and acceptance of something. This is the kind of faith that a Christian has in Christ.  A Christian, therefore, has fiducia; that is, he has real faith and trust in Christ, not simply an acknowledgment that He lived on earth at one time.  Another way to put this is that there are many people in the world who believed that Jesus lived: ascentia.  But they do not believe that He is their savior, the one to whom they should look and trust for the forgiveness of their sins. Ascentia does not lead to works.  Fiducia does.  Ascentia is not of the heart.  Fiducia is.
So what is the take away for us? It is this. If we have a pure genuine faith in Christ, we will respond by and with good works. This is revealed through our works and through the fruit of our lives. The way we live will match the profession of our mouths. This does not mean we will be perfect but it means that we will begin to see defined improvement in the actions we take.
These works emanate from a heart that is in love with God and one that desires to see him honored by our works and what we do.

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James – Mercy Triumphs Over Judgement

Peninsula Community Church
April 7, 2013
James – Mercy Over Judgment

James 2:8-13 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so 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.

Two weeks ago we began to look at this passage and realized that there was so much here that we needed to take another week to look at what it presents to us. Two weeks ago we looked at loving our neighbor as ourselves and what that means to us as believers. We also discussed how love is a decision and not just a feeling. Today, we will look at the subject of how mercy triumphs over judgement. Before we get to that particular point let’s discuss a couple of issues that will lead us to understanding why this is so important.

To begin with, this passage presents God’s view of life in that we must obey all of the law and not pick or choose which of God’s commands we will obey. From the time of original sin and the fall of humankind, man’s innate desire has been to either reject the law in total or to obey only that part of the law that does not have a direct impact on them or the parts of the law that affects them the least. They also attempt to choose which commands they will obey and which ones others should or should not obey. This is not a smorgasbord or a menu of options but they are commands. This desire to pick and choose is driven by the carnal nature that stands ready to control and divert us away from God’s purpose and plan for our lives.

Here at PCC we have talked a lot about legalism. I want to be clear that this verse does not negate anything we have said about that but in fact brings that discussion into greater balance. Too often, legalism brings us to a place where we pick and choose the commands we will obey and what commands we think others should obey. This was the position of the Pharisees who were the kings of legalism. Legalism is in fact the very thing that James is addressing. Those who follow a legalistic mindset are good at redefining the law to fit one’s life and one’s own desire. We find this illustrated in Luke 10:25-37.

In this story, a lawyer came to Jesus and posed the question of who one’s neighbor might be. The goal of the lawyer was not to seek truth but to minimize the scope of the definition of who one’s neighbor might be. Rather than accepting the law of God at face value, the lawyer was attempting to reinvent the law and diminish the scope of the command to love our neighbor as ourselves. This was not unusual as the spiritual leaders of the day were always trying to bend the law to their favor and to limit the sphere of influence the law would have over them personally. The question posed was a means to diminish an understanding of who one’s neighbor might be and not to expand the scope of understanding. In essence, the lawyer was trying to redefine the law. He in essence was attempting to set precedence because precedence can become the rule of law rather than the law itself. But, not never accepts the precedence, only the law itself.

By James comments this continued to be one of the big issues of James’ day. Rather than living in obedience to the law, the leaders of the day would either marginalize the law or they would expand the law to cover issues never intended to be covered. They would also require perfect obedience to the law by others when they themselves could not keep the law. For that reason, James addresses the issue of how and which laws we should obey. He relates this to us by reminding us that when we break one law we are guilty in essence of breaking the whole law. The bottom line is that we sin by way of both commission and omission. The idea here is that sin is sin and is a result of a sinful nature and the failure of man. That is why we must guard our hearts against settling into a belief that we have reached a point of sinless perfection. We all sin but there is forgiveness at the cross and in Christ restoration for every sin committed.

We too are living in a society where we are bending the law to our purpose and bringing the law down to a human perspective. Society and the church at large is trying to redefine God’s law to make it more palatable and easier to deal with. But, we cannot redefine sin because sin is still sin regardless of the definition or name we use. We can redefine an apple as an orange but it will continue to have the qualities and attributes of an apple regardless of the name or definition we give to it. We can redefine abortion and call it woman’s choice but it is still an abortion. We can redefine a homosexual and lesbian lifestyle and call it an alternative lifestyle, but it is still a sin in the eyes of God. We can redefine the mismanagement of finances as creative financing but it is still a wrong way to handle our finances.

Paul continues his message by intimating that when we show favoritism we become a lawbreaker. That is why James elaborates on this issue in James 2:9-11. The message he communicates is, “Don’t think you are keeping the law of Christ while you are practicing favoritism.” James is straightforward and direct here. If you show favoritism, you sin. He purposes in fact that if one believes showing favoritism is not a sin they are in fact breaking the whole law. In verses 10 and 11, he gives us an analogy that illustrates what it means to be selective in defining sin.

In this case he uses the comparison of murder and adultery. He states that we may not have committed adultery and thus believe that we have kept the law but we are guilty murder by way of our tongues and through gossip every day. For that reason, we are guilty of breaking the whole law. Why is this? Sin is in reality rebellion against God and therefore one sin makes us guilty of breaking the whole law because we are rebellion against God’s will and purpose. Many believe that if they have not committed the big sins they will pass the sin test. We think we can a have little bit of gossip, favoritism and be all right. We think we can reject he spiritual authority placed over us or we disrespect our spouses and be righteous. However, we must understand that the law is not a multiple choice test. We don’t pick six and do our best. We must keep the whole law. And we should note that there are great rewards in keeping God’s law and that it is the Holy Spirit that empowers us to keep and obey God’s will and reap the benefits as promised by Deuteronomy.

In the final part of the verse, James states that we are to speak and act as if we will be judged by the law. We are to live as those who will be judged under the law of liberty. Notice that James defines it as the law of liberty. While the law points to our sin, Christ redeems the law and uses it to free us because we do not realize our need for freedom until our sin is recognized. This leads us to a final point. Be careful how you judge others as you will be judged by the judgement you give others according to Matthew 7:1. We must show mercy because mercy always triumphs over judgement. The funny thing about Christians is that we love to have grace and mercy extended to ourselves, but are often judge others quickly. Even in the area of showing favoritism we may find it easier to point out this sin in other people while we fail to own up to it in our own lives. The problem is that it is so easy to deceive ourselves if we are not careful.

Once again James is clear on how we should proceed. Both our words and our actions should exhibit our firm conviction that there is a real God who is really going to judge us. We should speak and act as if we really believe all the doctrine we love to vigorously defend. There should be real, tangible proof in our lives that the gospel has taken root in our lives and is growing and bearing fruit (as Paul would tell the Colossians). It is for this reason that James closes out his statements with one final statement – “Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

Do you try to minimize the definition of sin in your life?

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