James – Thirteen Tests & Twenty Resolutions

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Preached at Straightway Bible Church on Sept 29, 2013.  Below you will find the study notes I handed out. James gives us 13 tests of authentic faith and 20 resolutions to help us live the Christian life.

(Click here to see the entire series of “The Book of James – Practical Faith”)

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Here are the study notes:

James – Thirteen Tests & Twenty Resolutions

Brent Riggs – www.seriousfaith.com

Thirteen Tests of Living Faith

1.    The test of perseverance and suffering James 1:2-12

2.    The test of blame and temptation James 1:13-18

3.    The test of doing what you hear James 1:19-27

4.    The test of not showing favoritism James 2:1-13

5.    The test of living faith with good works James 2:14-26

6.    The test of controlling your tongue James 3:1-12

7.    The test of godly wisdom and humility James 3:13-18

8.    The test of worldly indulgence James 4:1-12

9.    The test of submitting to God’s sovereignty James 4:13 – 17

10.  The test of patient endurance James 5:1-11

11.  The test of truthfulness and integrity James 5:12

12.  The test of effective prayer James 5:13-18

13.  The test of persevering in the true faith James 5:19-20

Simple outline a summary of James:

Practicing a lifestyle of faith 1:1–2:13

  • Our attitude toward trials
  • Our expectation of God’s aid
  • Our awareness of our identity
  • Our acceptance of responsibility
  • Our responses to others
  • Our standards of behavior
  • Our welcome to others
  • Our calling of love

Living the principles of faith 2:14–25

  • Good works is the product of living faith
  • Taming your tongue  3:1–12
  • Judging rightly 4:11–12
  • Never being presumptuous 4:13–17

Prospects & Promises for Faith  5:1–19

Twenty Practical Resolutions

1.    Resolve to ask God for wisdom & do not doubt (James 1:5-6).

2.    Resolve to understand the situation whether lowly or high (James 1:9-10).

3.    Resolve to not be deceived about the nature and origin of sin (James 1:15-16).

4.    Resolve to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger (James 1:19).

5.    Resolve to deal with others in a godly and impartial way (James 2:1-4).

6.    Resolve to live righteously and judge mercifully (James 2:12-13).

7.    Resolve to let your life be proof of what you believe (James 2:16).

8.    Resolve to control your tongue which is the most readily available tool you have to either sin or bless (James 3:2).

9.    Resolve to show your Godly wisdom by your good conduct and meekness (James 5:13)

10.  Resolve to avoid quarrels and conflicts and selfish praying (James 4:2-3).

11.  Resolve to never speak evil or believe evil spoken of another (James 4:11).

12.  Resolve to never act as if God doesn’t exist or His will doesn’t matter (James 4:13).

13.  Resolve to never grumble about a Brother but only be compassionate and merciful (James 5:9).

14.  Resolve to speak and act with unquestionable integrity (James 5:12).

15.  Resolve to pray when you suffer; when you are cheerful, sing. (James 5:13).

16.  Resolve to be a source of prayerful strength to those who are discouraged and beat down (James 5:14).

17.  Resolve to freely confess sins and seek forgiveness (James 5:16).

18.  Resolve to not think you have to be a super Christian (James 5:17).

19.  Resolve to lovingly and humbly work to restore a fallen brother (James 5:19-20).

20.  Resolve to BE DOERS, NOT JUST HEARERS WHICH IS DECEIVING YOURSELF


James 5:19 – The Wanderer

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Preached at Straightway Bible Church on Sept 22, 2013.  Below you will find the study notes I handed out. James instructs us to go to those who have wandered away from the truth and bring them back to the right way.

(Click here to see the entire series of “The Book of James – Practical Faith”)

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Here are the study notes:

James 5:15-18 Bring Back The Wanderer

Brent Riggs – www.seriousfaith.comcli

  • James letter is a practical “roll up your sleeves” how to live the Christian life message.
  • The entire book of James is filled with challenges to endure suffering with joy, to control the tongue, to live a life that is evidence of genuine salvation; he closes with an appeal to the church to watch out for each other
  • Here he introduces a third category of believers, those who have wandered from the truth
  • James is specifically speaking here of a believer who is wandered into idolatry or false teaching
  • “turns him back” speaks not of returning the wanderer for judgment or condemnation but rather for repentance and restoration
  • Once we as believers have knowledge of brethren who have wandered from the truth, it carries an obligation and responsibility to take action regardless of our feelings or desire to do so
  • The Greek word for “wanders” is “planeo”; we get our word planet from this word which literally means to wander
  • Satan wants to see us wander away from the Fellowship and body of believers so he can isolate us and cut us off spiritually and even eternally
  • “cover a multitude of sins” – literally means “love refuses to see faults”
  • Verse 20 – it is not definitive whether James refers to the sins of the wanderer, or the sins of the person who has brought him back but is most likely referring to the sins of the sinner who has been brought back in keeping with James is comments on confessing your sins earlier in the chapter
  • The book of James is continually about statements and tests of authentic faith; the wanderer is obviously in danger of exposing dead faith and revealing they were never saved at all which is why James warns that spiritual eternal death might be their consequence
  • James reminds both the wanderer and the believer who is turn him back that anyone who repents is still a candidate for God’s forgiveness and love
  • Will save a soul from death – James is talking about both types of death, physical and spiritual
  • if the person is a true believer who is strayed, we are saving them from spiritual death with regards to their Fellowship with God and other believers
  • in 1st Kings chapter 21, this is a very dramatic instance of a godly person confronting someone who is wandering in their sin and disobedience to

Four aspects of James commands in these verses:

The Evidence

  • “brethren” – James continues to use this term to identify those within his congregation and those who he considered of like mind with him
  • “among you” – again James identifies that the people he is addressing are among the group of believers this letter is written to.. “Among you” again implies people who were behaving and living as if they were Christians
  • “the truth” – James is referring to people who at some point knew the truth, perhaps even tried to live in this truth and most certainly had access to the truth

The Threat

  • the terrible fate of those who have wandered and never come back is eternal death because their sins will never be covered or forgiven
  • Proverbs 14:12 (NKJV) There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.
  • Given the warnings of the more severe punishment to those who have been part of the truth and wandered away from it, we have added urgency and motivation to seek out those who are part of us and have left the way of truth

The Instrument

  •  “one”, “him”, “he” – are three pronouns identifying all believers not just spiritual leaders or shepherds

The Goal

  • DO WHAT:  turns a sinner from the error of his ways
  • HOW?  If a simple conversation with the person does not convince the you may have to consider specific Biblical steps in some situations…..      Matthew 18:15–17
  • REASON WHY?: save a soul from death
  • the word “save” is sozo which is the common New Testament word for salvation
  • God has given all believers the opportunity and obligation to be involved in the Ministry of reconciling lost and wandering souls back to the truth. When we see evidence that indicates one of our fellow professing believers has strayed into a life and practice of false teaching, we should assume for their sake they are not saved and face the greatest and most terrible punishment and condemnation because they had access to the truth and have walked away from it.
  • We seek them out with the goal of bringing them back in restoring them by repentance and forgiveness and a restoration to the truth.
  • In doing so, this act of love, their response of love, and God’s pouring out of love covers a multitude of sin in the lives of all involved. Love is elevated and displayed, while sin is diminished and forsaken.

 


James 5:15 – Pray Like Elijah

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Preached at Straightway Bible Church on Sept 15, 2013.  Below you will find the study notes I handed out. James gives us an example of an ordinary man of extraordinary prayer.

(Click here to see the entire series of “The Book of James – Practical Faith”)

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Here are the study notes:

James 5:15-18 Effective Praying

Brent Riggs – www.seriousfaith.com

  • James is talking about the spiritual restoration, strengthening and refreshing of downtrodden and defeated believers
  • “raise him up.” Is the word restore and it is most commonly translated in the New Testament as “save”
  • The prayer of the shepherd is a channel for God’s power
  • James also states that any sins, and that believers life will be forgiven as well, which is also evidence that James is speaking about spiritual health here, and not physical illness
  • An important part of restoration and spiritual encouragement is not only praying for strength and joy and hope, but also confession of sin
  • When we confess our sins, we purge ourselves of sin which separates us from God’s Fellowship; praying for one another, heals us in the sense that we reestablish our relationship not only with God, but with each other
  • James realizes that hiding your sin in keeping it a secret is destructive to your spiritual health and that by being honest and confessing our sins to our Christian brethren helps keep us accountable and spiritually healthy
  • “effective and fervent” is the word “energeo” which is where we get the word energy;
  • “avails much.” Literally means is very strong
  • When righteous Christians pray for each other, or the shepherds of the church pray for the weak believer, the energetic prayer of righteous believers is a strong and potent activity that avails itself of God’s power to restore us to spiritual health and strength
  • Hindrances to EFFECTIVE prayer: lack of fervency, presence of sin in your life, praying for selfish reason, unbelief and doubt


Condition for God hearing your fervent prayers:


Some truths about prayer from Scripture:

  • Our prayers must be divinely directed (1 Kings 18:36).
  • Praying must be done in the name of the Lord (James 5:14).
  • Pray according to God’s will (1 John 5:14-15).
  • Pray based on Jesus righteousness and merit as opposed to our own (Romans 5:1-2 & Hebrews 4:16).
  • Pray with the motive of His glory not ours (John 14:13).
  • Praying must be done in faith (James 5:15, James 1:6-8).
  • Prayer should be divinely directed (1 John 5:14-15).
  • Pray according to Scripture (Romans 10:17).
  • We must be bold in our declaration (1 Kings 17:1, 18:44).
  • Pray effectually and earnestly –  (James 5:16-18).
  • Pray with persistence (1 Kings 17:19-21, 18:41-44).
  • Pray with anticipation (1 Kings 18:41-45).
  • James demonstrates the truth that prayer works by citing the story of Elijah. Elijah held a unique place in Jewish thought.
  • We tend to elevate the characters of the Bible as super believers so James make sure to point out that Elijah was just an ordinary person like us
  • Elijah was fearless in this proclamation because his prayer was based on God’s Word
  • James condenses the story of Elijah and says simply, “He prayed earnestly.”
  • Literally translated the Greek says, “in prayer he prayed.”
  •  James doesn’t emphasize or even tell about Elijah’s exploits.
  • He doesn’t point to Elijah’s emotion or zeal in prayer.
  • He says nothing about how often or long he prayed.
  • “He prayed … again he prayed” (vv17-18).
  • Elijah was a righteous man full of energetic prayer.
  • Elijah’s praying demonstrates a pattern for effective prayer.
  • Note here that if James was talking about physical illness the example of Elijah would be a strange illustration given that there are many examples of physical healing James could have spoken about instead

Summary

  • When we are weak and tired spiritually, we pray
  • We seek the strength and encouragement of the spiritually strong
  • Their righteous and energetic prayers are powerful and accomplish much
  • OUR righteous and energetic prayers are powerful and accomplish much
  • We don’t have to be SUPER BELIEVERS… men like Elijah were normal humans just like us but accomplished great things by praying energetically with faith…
  • James message to us is that we can be, and should be, just like Elijah

James 5:13 – Pray When Suffering

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Preached at Straightway Bible Church on Sept 8, 2013.  Below you will find the study notes I handed out. James instructs us to pray when we are suffering, sing when we are joyful, and seek out some spiritually strong people to come along side us when we are weary and downtrodden.

(Click here to see the entire series of “The Book of James – Practical Faith”)

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Here are the study notes:

James 5:13-18 Pray When Suffering

Brent Riggs – www.seriousfaith.com

  • James 5:13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray… If you’re in trouble call on the Lord
  • Suffering here is talking about discouragement, feeling defeated, prolonged persecution, significant hardship, maybe even wanting vengeance
  • We tend to think of “suffering” as physical illness because we are not subjected to persecution
  • Remember, to properly interpret a verse you must consider:  Who wrote it? Who did they write to? In what historical and cultural context? What did it mean to the original hearers? Given that true meaning, how does it apply to me today?
  • James is telling his listeners: if you are suffering, discouraged, defeated, beat down, disillusioned and down then PRAY… that’s where you’ll find strength AND emotional/spiritual HEALING
  • James 5:13 James reminds us that suffering is not the only reason to turn focus on God. We should focus on God at ALL times in life, good or bad
  • We are reminded by singing where our blessings and good things come from: James 1:17
  • James 5:14 continues and goes further into the idea of what to do when you suffer and who and what can help you through it…. It is clear from context here that James is speaking of spiritual and emotional “sickness”, weakness, weariness, lack because of the persecution and deprivation going on during that time
  • “Is anyone among you weary, downtrodden, emotionally drained, discouraged, defeated and wanting to give up?”
  • It is more correctly translated as “is any among you WEAK” or “sick and tired” instead of “sick”
  • Sometimes it’s hard to pray, Sometimes you don’t know what to pray. Sometimes you need some help, some strength, someone to lean on, someone to guide you, someone to step in and lift you up when you are so far down, you want to give up the fight, or our losing hope…
  • So James says “call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord”
  • Who is spiritually strong? Elders/Shepherds
  • Pastors/Bishops/Elders/Presbyters/Overseer… all the same word and meaning in Scripture
  • ‎… above reproach, … sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,  ‎…  not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome… … blameless … a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money…  hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, 9 holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.
  • God requires the Shepherd/Pastor to be available to those who are weak and need prayer, and to respond to those who ask for prayer.
  • “anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” There has been lots of interpretations and speculation about how this applies to us today
  • Symbolic of the Holy Spirit
  • Symbolic of the Shepherds desire to emotionally heal, care for and soothe
  • Symbolic of comforting and cleansing
  • Or a real physical act of soothing, relieving stress, giving comfort and showing affection and physical caring touch
  • James is saying to us: Those who are weak and downtrodden spiritually and emotionally, those whose bodies are stressed and labored and weak from suffering and persecution… go to the Shepherds for strength, prayer, compassion, comfort and restoration.
  • This was a common of the Apostles: Mark 6:12–13
  • When the shepherd brought all the sheep in to the fold on the hillside after they had grazed all day, he put his staff down in front of the entry; only one sheep went through at a time; He checked over the whole sheep body for injury or disease or anything that needed care. Wherever there was a wound, he poured oil and soothed it. Wherever the skin was parched, he rubbed it soft and then let the sheep go in. That’s the shepherd’s ministry… the ministry of caring and restoration.
  • Do you understand the situation and circumstances James was addressing?
  • Have you ever experienced a time of weariness, suffering, discouragement?
  • Was it ever so bad you could have really used someone strong to come along side you and pray with you, comfort you, soothe you, care for you?
  • That’s what “church” is about… that’s what Pastors and Shepherds are supposed to be for along with equipping you for ministry
  • Have you ever been that “shepherd” for someone else? Are you strong enough spiritually to fulfill that purpose?

James 5:12 – Yes Yes No No

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Preached at Straightway Bible Church on July 28, 2013.  Below you will find the study notes I handed out. James warns us about how incredibly evil slander and criticism is, violating God’s law of love. A must-listen message for anyone who struggles with speaking ill of other people, or being a criticizer, gossip or fault finder.

(Click here to see the entire series of “The Book of James – Practical Faith”)

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Here are the study notes:

James 5:12 Do Not Swear

Brent Riggs – www.seriousfaith.com

  • James 5:12 (NKJV)   12 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.
  • James is not talking about profanity or cursing; four letter words, vulgarity, etc.
  • He is talking about two things: using God’s name in a flippant way to exaggerate or bolster your conversation or declaration; or the need to “swear” because your normal word isn’t good enough because you are a liar by habit or practice
  • The fact is, people are basically liars and can’t be trusted
  • “I will keep my promise agreeing to the penalty of having my throat cut, my tongue ripped out of my throat and buried in the sand on the beach to be drowned over and over again at high tide should I ever break my promise or obligation, so help me God who should hold me accountable to keep my promise under no less a penalty than having my chest ripped open above my heart, my heart pulled out and given to wild animals to eat, then having my body cut into pieces, my guts ripped out and burned, and the ashes tossed into the wind so that no trace of my existence remains on this earth, so help me God, if I don’t keep my promise.”
  • Bible doesn’t say don’t judge… it says don’t judge improperly
  • Bible doesn’t say don’t swear… it says don’t swear improperly, and when you do swear, you better keep your word
  • God allows the taking of life because men are murderers
  • God allows divorce because men are adulterers
  • God allows an oath because men are liars
  • It’s not wrong for Christians to take an oath when testifying in court, when being sworn into an office, or when getting married.
  • Oaths are wrong when they’re used to deliberately mislead others, or when taken casually or flippantly.
  • Throughout the Bible we find examples of godly men and women who submitted to oaths.
  • God requires us to take our vows and oaths seriously and we should never swear in a foolish or casual sense.

Distinction, Restriction, Instruction, Motivation

  • The distinction of this command underscores its preeminence (12a).
  • James says “HEY, this is the most important…”
  • It’s been noted that in a society where truth has less and less value, oath-swearing has more and more prevalence.
  • The restriction of this command applies to all casual oaths (12b).
  • They would take oaths by objects associated with God (like swearing by heaven or the gold in the temple) so as not to use the name of God directly.
  • They believed that if GOD wasn’t directly invoked, then it wasn’t as binding, or binding at all
  • They wanted to borrow God’s credibility without incurring His direct condemnation when they lied.
  • The instruction of this command clarifies the believer’s pattern of speech (12c).
  • Literally, “Let yours be the ‘yes, yes’ and the ‘no, no.’”
  • There should be no exaggeration, no deception, no equivocation, no NEED for bolstering your “yes” or “no” with something that says “I really mean it this time, promise!”
  • Swear to your own hurt: Psalms 15:2, 4
  • The instruction of James for all Christians is to stop using elaborate oaths and vows in casual communication and start doing exactly what you say you’re going to do.
  • The motivation of this command is to save from eternal judgment (12d).
  •  The Greek word krisis translated as “judgment” is never used in the NT to refer to a believer’s chastening or being disciplined by God: it is the judgment of condemnation.
  • James is saying:  if you continue to blaspheme God’s holy name with lying oaths or you will be sentenced by God to hell.
  • In other words, James is saying the same thing as John in Revelation 21:8 (NKJV) 8 But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

Conclusion:

  • You should be honest always in every word and promise
  • James is giving us a solemn warning that those who continue to lie and deceive are blaspheming God’s holy name and will face eternal judgment
  • Your promise should not need bolstering in ANY WAY
  • When you take a vow, you better keep it – Numbers 30:2
  • Failure to keep a vow invoked in God’s name (to bolster the confidence you need others to have in your commitment) is to use God’s name in vain and break the commandment
  • Never use God’s name to bolster a vow flippantly, without the due seriousness and reverence God’s name requires
  • A person who lies and swears falsely as a regular pattern of life is demonstrating an unregenerate heart in union with the father of lies and will likewise share in his doom.