Day #24

WHAT IS THE SOLUTION TO A OUT OF CONTROL MOUTH? AND OUT OF CONTROL TONGUE? THREE THINGS.

 #1. Get a new heart

You’ve got to get a new heart, that’s the problem. Ezekiel 18:31 says, “Rid yourself of all the offenses you have committed and get a new heart and a new spirit!” Painting the outside of the pump doesn’t make any difference if there is poison in the well.  I can change the outside, I can turn over a new leaf, but what I really need is a new life.  What I need is a fresh start. I need to let go of all the past and be born again and start over.  I need to get a new heart.

How do I get a new heart? 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new person. The old has passed away. Behold all things have become new.”  New life, new heart, new spirit.  When you come to Jesus Christ, He wipes out everything you’ve done in the past.  He says You’re starting over.  It’s like being born again.  You need a new heart. We need to pray like David prayed in Psalm 51 –  “Create in me a clean heart, O God” because what’s in my heart is going to come out in my mouth.

#2. Ask God for help every day.

You need supernatural power to control your tongue. You can’t do it on your own.  Your life is a living proof of that.  We cannot control it on our own.  We need supernatural power so we ask God to help us.  Psalm 141:3 says, “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.” That’s a great verse to memorize and quote every morning. I share this verse with my family before we head out on a vacation together or before we spend the holidays together. “God, put a muzzle on my mouth.  Guard my lips.  Don’t let me be critical today.  Don’t let me be judgmental.  Don’t let me say things off the cuff that I then regret.”  You need to ask God for help daily because you need His power in your life.

Sidlow Baxter: “The proof that God’s Spirit is in your life is not that you speak in an unknown tongue but you control the tongue you do know.”  You watch your words, and God gives you the power to not slander, not lie, not exaggerate.

Getting into God’s word is a part of asking God for help. As you ask Him for help you need to read His word.  It’s the principle of G.I.G.O. = Garbage in, garbage out.  What goes into your mind, goes into your heart, and what goes into your heart, comes out of your mouth.  Fill your mind with the word of God — with positive things, whatsoever things that are true, etc. — think on these things.

#3. Think before you speak

Engage your mind before you put your mouth in gear. James 1:19 says, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”  There’s a designation here.  They go in order. First be quick to listen and then slow to speak.  If you’re quick to listen you will be slow to speak.  If you’re slow to speak, then you will be slow to become angry.  If you have a problem with anger you need to work on being quick to listen and slow to speak.  The result will be you’ll be slow to anger.

What does your tongue say about you? What does it reveal about you?  If we were to play back a tape of every conversation you’ve had in this past week, what would we learn about you?  God hears it all.  Our tongues display who we are.  What direction is your tongue leading you?  Some people say, “I’m just sick all the time” or “I can never do anything”, “Things are just getting tougher and tougher” — what direction are they headed?  Our tongues control the direction of our lives like a rudder, a bit.

A bit and a rudder must be under the hand of a strong arm. James is saying that the only way to get control of your tongue is let Jesus Christ have control of your heart.  What’s in your heart is going to come out in your mouth.  You let Christ’s hand be on your bit, your rudder and let Him direct your life.

 

Maybe you need to ask forgiveness. Maybe you need to go to your kids to say, “I’m sorry.  I’m inconsistent the way I talk to you. Sometimes I’m loving, sometimes I’m harsh.  That shows I’m like everybody else.  I’m human.”  We all stumble in many ways — all of us.  Maybe you need to apologize to your wife or your husband. “I’m not as loving to you in my speech as I ought to be.  I tend to be apathetic, cold, indifferent.  I talk to you harshly.  I boss everybody around.  I’m inconsistent and inconsiderate.” Ezekiel says, “Get rid of all your offenses you’ve committed and get a new heart and a new spirit.”

Day #23

From James 3:1-12 Why must we master what comes out of our mouths?                   #3. MY TONGUE DISPLAYS WHO I AM

Here’s the unvarnished truth. My tongue reveals my real character. It shows what’s really inside of me.  First James points out how inconsistent we are in our speech.   v. 9 “The tongue we praise our Lord and Father and with the same tongue we curse men who’ve been made in God’s likeness. From the same mouth come praise and cursings. My brothers, this should not be.”  We say these things out of the same mouth.  We come to church on Sunday.  The highest use of your mouth is to use it praising God.  We sing praises to the Lord.  Then we walk out, get into the car and on the way home we argue about where we’re going to eat lunch.  Isn’t it amazing how quickly your attitude can change?  In one minute you’re saying, “Praise the Lord”, the next you’re saying, “Shut up!”  The tongue is a strange contradiction.  It’s so inconsistent.  It’s amazing how quickly it can change, like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  One minute we’re praising God and the next we’re cursing other people. Cursing here doesn’t necessarily mean profanity.  It means any kind of put down, label. [“You good for nothing… You’ll never amount to nothing … You’re just like …”]  Any kind of put down is a curse.  He says, “Why curse men?  They’re made in God’s image.”

I sometimes think –  how is it possible that we can be loving to people we love — our kids, wives, husbands — and the next moment be harsh, cold and mean to them?  How is it possible?  How is it possible in one minute to be talking to my kids in gentle, loving tones and the next minute I’m being mean to them?  I hurt them.  I am saying things that damage their self- esteem.  How is that?  I grieve over that a lot.  I find myself asking forgiveness a lot in my family, especially to my kids.  Do you struggle with an inconsistent tongue?  James says we all have it.  We speak lovingly in one breath and then lash out in the next.  What gives?  What’s the problem?  Why do we do that?  Why can we genuinely mean something in love and kindness one minute and then genuinely mean something in hate the next minute?

James gives the answer in v. 11-12. He says consider the source. “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.” The point is, whatever is in the well comes out in the water.  Whatever is in the tree, comes out in the fruit.  What is the likelihood of an apple tree producing cherries?  Zip!  My problem is not really my tongue.  My problem is my heart.  What’s inside is what comes out.  My mouth eventually betrays what is really on the inside of me.  I can fool you and pretend but eventually my tongue is going to catch me.  It’s going to let you know what’s really inside.

Have you heard this excuse? Someone says something really mean or hurtful and they say, “I don’t know what got into me.  It’s not like me to say that.  I don’t know why I said that.  It’s totally out of character.  I didn’t really mean it.”   James would say, “Yes, it is.  It’s just like you.  You meant it.  Quit kidding yourself.  What’s inside is going to come out.  You don’t have a spring that one minute gives salt water and the next gives fresh water.  That’s inconsistent.  It’s a natural law:  what comes out of the well is what is inside of it.”

Jesus said in Matthew 12:34 “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” Jesus explained the Freudian slip years before Freud even existed.  He said what’s inside of you is what’s going to come out.  My tongue just displays what I am.  It directs where I go.  It can destroy what I have.  But most of all, it simply displays what I am.  It reveals my character.

If you’ve got a problem with your tongue, it’s much more serious that you think. You have a heart problem.  A person with a harsh tongue has an angry heart.  A person with a negative tongue has a fearful heart.  A person with an overactive tongue has an unsettled heart.  A person with a boasting tongue has an insecure heart.  A person with a filthy tongue has an impure heart.  A person who is critical all the time has a bitter heart.  On the other hand, a person who is always encouraging has a happy heart. A person who speaks gently has a loving heart.  A person who speaks truthfully has an honest heart. Tomorrow, more about why we must master what comes out of our mouths.

Day #22

From James 3:1-12. Why must we learn to control our tongues and master our mouths? #2. MY TONGUE CAN DESTROY WHAT I HAVE

v.5 James gives another illustration. Imagine a beautiful forest — tall beautiful trees everywhere. Now imagine it in one minute up in smoke, completely destroyed instantly with a little tiny match. It only takes a spark to get a fire going.  In 1983 in Australia, one fire overnight destroyed 600 miles of land, villages, livestock.  All from a single match.  James says that your tongue can destroy like that.  You can lose it all.  A careless camper can destroy an entire national forest overnight.  A careless word can destroy a life overnight.  Thousands of lives. Gossip is like fire.  It spreads quickly and it wrecks havoc.  I wonder how many people because of a careless word have destroyed their marriage, or their career, or their reputation, or the reputation of another, or their church, or a friendship.  The tongue not only has the power to direct where you go but also to destroy what you have if you don’t learn to control it.  It’s like a fire.

Have you ever met a verbal arsonist? Their words are always inflammatory.  “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”  That’s just not true. Words do hurt.

Proverbs 18:20 (GN) says, “You have to live with the consequences of everything you say.”

v.6 “… it sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” Notice the phrase “whole course”. He’s saying here that words can create a chain reaction. You can say something that you didn’t mean to have any harm, but it can have devastating effects that are beyond your control.  Just a few inflammatory statements set off a chain of events that we now look back on and call World War II.  On a more personal level, you come home from work and you’re tired and grumpy and cranky. The husband walks in and yells at the wife.  The wife yells at the oldest kid.  The oldest kid yells at the baby sister.  The baby sister goes out and kicks the dog.  The dog goes and bites the cat.  The cat comes in and scratches the baby.  The baby bites the head off the Barbie doll.  Wouldn’t it be a whole lot simpler if the husband just bit off the head of the Barbie doll himself?  Chain reaction.

Proverbs 21:23 “If you want to stay out of trouble be careful what you say!” James uses another illustration. He talks about a zoo.  “All kinds of animals … have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue.  [It’s humanly impossible.  Only God can do it.] It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” (vs.7-8)  Of all the animals we’ve tamed, no man can tame the tongue, humanly speaking.  He says it’s restless.  That means it’s always liable to break out at any moment.  When Lion Country Safari opened, there was a big sign as you drove in — “Do not get out of your car.  Do not roll down the window.”  Why?  Those animals that look so tame and peaceful could rip your head off in a second. The same can be true of the tongue. It’s like poison. The word in Greek is literally “snake venom”. Just a few drops can kill.  You can assassinate somebody with your words.  Assassinate their character.  The tongue is a deadly weapon. That should not be for the follower of Jesus Christ. More tomorrow.

Day #21

James 3:1-12 (NIV)
Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.
2 We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.
3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. 7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man,
8 but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

We love to talk. There are talk shows everywhere.  Everybody seems to have something to say. The average American has 30 conversations a day and you’ll spend 1/5 of your life talking.  In one year your conversations will fill 66 books of 800 pages a book.  If you’re a man you speak an average of 20,000 words a day.  If you’re a woman you speak 30,000 words a day.  Some of us are born with a silver foot in our mouths. We have this natural ability to say the wrong thing at the wrong time. Nothing is opened more wrongly at the wrong time than our mouths.

Our mouths get us into a lot of trouble. James talks more about the tongue than anybody else in the New Testament.  Every chapter in the book of James says something about managing your mouth. “We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.”  Over the next few days, we’re going to look at what James has to say about mastering our mouths and controlling our tongues.

Why must I do watch what I say? “Words are significant”, says James.  Three reasons we have to learn to manage our mouth.  Then he gives us six illustrations, two for each of the points.  James was a great communicator.

#1. MY TONGUE DIRECTS WHERE I GO

It has tremendous influence and control over my life. Where are you headed in life?  Where are you going to be ten years from now?  Look at your conversation.  What do you like to talk about? What do you talk about the most?  We shape our words and then our words shape us.  James says, “The tongue is small, it’s tiny”.  And because it’s tiny we think it’s insignificant.  But it has tremendous power.  v. 3 Consider a bit in a horse’s mouth. You’ve got a huge stallion, 2,000-3,000 pounds, and a 95 pound jockey on his back.  The jockey can control the tremendous mighty horse by a little piece of metal stuck strategically over his tongue.  Likewise your tongue controls the direction of your life wherever you want to go, and a little bit of a word or a phrase can influence the total direction of your life.

Then he says, “Consider a ship”. The Queen Mary has 3 acres of recreational space.  The anchor is equal to the weight of ten cars.  Yet a relatively small rudder directs the huge oceanliner out in the middle of the waves and winds and seas.  A little rudder keeps it on course.  Our tongue is like that.  Our tongue is like a rudder that steers us.  Ships: “… they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.” My tongue directs where I go.  Your tongue is the steering wheel of your life.  It is the guidance system.  If you don’t like the way you’re headed right now, change the way you talk.

Many people think, if the tongue has such influence maybe it’s best to say nothing. Not talk at all, be silent.  (A guy joined the Trappist monastery.  For three years he was given a probation period where he was not to speak at all, but at the end of each year he could say two words.  The first year at the end he said, “Bed hard.”  At end of the second year he said, “Food cold.”  At the end of the third year he’s about had it.  He comes in and says, “I quit”.  The head priest says, “That doesn’t surprise me. All you’ve done is complain since you got here.” HA. James says that my tongue directs where I go, so I’ve got to learn to control it. Stay Tuned. More tomorrow.

Day #20

If real, genuine, authentic faith is not just something you say or think or feel or believe, what is real faith?

#5. REAL FAITH IS SOMETHING YOU DO

In the next couple of verses James gives two illustrations that say real faith is something you do. Faith is active.  It’s not passive.  It’s a commitment.

Two illustrations of two very different people, Abraham and Rahab — exact, opposite extremes. Abraham is a man.  Rahab is a woman. Abraham  is Jewish.  Rahab is a Gentile.  Abraham is a patriarch. Rahab is a prostitute.  Abraham is a somebody.  Rahab is a nobody.  Abraham is a major character in the Bible.  Rahab is a minor character.  He uses these illustrations to say, it doesn’t matter who you are as long as you’ve got the important thing. They only had one thing in common — their faith in God.  Their faith in God led them to an action.

v.20 “You foolish men. Do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar. His faith and his actions were working together.  His faith was made complete by what he did.  Scripture was fulfilled when it said, `Abraham believed God.'”   How do we know it?  We saw it.  He behaved in a way that his belief came out visibly. “Abraham believed God and it was accredited to him as righteousness and he was called God’s friend.” You know the story.  It’s the ultimate test where God asked Abraham to give up his own son.  This has nothing to do with salvation.  Abraham was already a believer.  Twenty-five years earlier God had said, “You’re righteous.”  He’s not talking about being saved by his works.  He’s saying, that this just shows how much you believe.  Abraham obeyed God. It was immediate.  He followed Him.  He took his son up.  He did all those faith steps.  He cut the wood, built the altar and was ready to sacrifice his own son.  Abraham says to his son while walking up the mountain, “We [not I] will return”. He knew that God would provide somehow even if it meant raising him from the dead.  The fact is God did raise him from the dead, figuratively speaking.  Abraham was about to sacrifice him and God says, “I was just testing you to see what’s most important in your life.”  It was an action.  His works proved his faith.  He held nothing back from God.

Then James talks about Rahab. The story is in Joshua 2.  It’s the story how a prostitute helped a couple of spies when they were coming into Jericho.  Rahab ends up in the family line of Jesus. She risks her life to save the spies.

Our faith is not determined by what we do, it is demonstrated by what we do. About 35 years ago there was a famous tightrope walker named George Blondin who, for a publicity stunt, decided he would walk across Niagara Falls on a tightrope.  On the appointed day they stretched a tightrope from one side of Niagara Falls to the other.  He got out there and there were crowds lining both the Canadian and American side.  Thousands of people showed up to see this unbelievable feat.  Blondin walked up to the edge of the tightrope, put one foot on the tightrope and put another foot out and began to walk across — inch-by-inch, step-by-step.  He got out in the middle and everybody knew that if he’d make one mistake in balance he’d fall off the rope and into the Falls and obviously be killed.  Blondin got to the other side and the crowd went wild, shouting and cheering.  Blondin said, “I’m going to do it again.”  He got to the other side and the crowds went crazy.  Blondin said, “I’m going to do it again but this time I’m going to push a wheel barrow full of dirt.”  He pushes the wheelbarrow across.  He got to the other side.  He did this nine or ten times.  On about the tenth time, he pushed the wheelbarrow right in front of a tourist who said, “I believe you could do that all day.”  Blondin dumped out the dirt and said, “Get into the wheelbarrow.”

In a very real sense that’s what God says to you. Talk is cheap. Put your money where your mouth is.  “I believe in Jesus!”  Prove it.  Our faith is demonstrated by our actions.  Actions speak louder than words.  Our behavior shows what we really believe.

2 Corinthians 13:5 says, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith.”   Test it.  Check it out.  See if you’re really a believer or not. A couple of questions:

Am I really a Christian after all?  In the light of what James says, am I really a Christian? What changes can I point to in my life?  Is my lifestyle any different at all from unbelievers?  So many people think  it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you believe.  James says that’s not true.  He’s not saying you work your way to heaven. He’s not saying works deliver salvation.  He’s saying they demonstrate it.  He’s saying, that if your faith doesn’t work, what good is it?

How do I know for sure?  You settle it in your mind and heart.  Maybe some of you have had doubts whether you’re really a believer or not.  You’re a good person, you’ve gone to church, and maybe you’ve known about Christ, and you’ve read the Bible, and you’ve had religion and you’ve gone to classes.  But are you absolutely sure that if you died tonight you’d go to heaven?  The fact is you can be sure. You can settle it right now, today.

How do you do that?  Ephesians 2:8-10 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, for a life of good works God has already prepared for us to do.” God’s grace.  God reaches down. He says, “I want you to know Me.  I want to have a relationship with you.”  That’s grace.  And you look up and say “I want to know You, Lord.  I want to have a relationship with You.”  When God’s hand of grace comes down and your hand of faith goes up, that’s called salvation.  That’s what it means to be a believer.  Saved by grace, through faith to do exactly what God made you to do in the first place.  God has a plan for your life.

Day #19

From James 2 – what does real, genuine, authentic faith in Christ look like?                      #4. REAL FAITH IS NOT JUST SOMETHING YOU BELIEVE

“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that — and shudder!” There are a lot of people who have strong beliefs in God, the Bible, about Christ. They can recite creeds to you and catechisms and talk about doctrines of the Trinity, quote bible verses. James says, “big deal!” Just saying I believe in God is not enough to get you to heaven. Even the devil believes that. The Bible says in Proverbs, “The fool has said in his heart, there is not God.” It’s foolish to be an atheist and the devil is no fool. The devil believes in God! The devil is a great theologian. He knows a lot more about the Bible than you do. He’s been around a whole lot longer. He knows theology backwards and forwards. He believes. His demons believe and shudder. The Greek word is “to bristle” — their hair stands up on end. It’s the kind of word you’d use reading a Steven King novel. Why? Because the devils understand the majesty and awesomeness of God. They believe in God and they tremble.

The word believe in Greek means “to trust in, to cling to, to rely on, to commit yourself completely.” I believe in Hitler but I’m not a Nazi. I’m a Christian because I believe in Jesus. But it’s more than just a head knowledge. A lot of folks are going to miss heaven by 18 inches. They’ve got it in their head but not their heart. They say “I believe in God.” James says, “Big deal. Everybody believes in God. How do you have a creation without a Creator? But that’s not enough.”

Real faith is not just saying “I believe”. There is so much easy believism in America. Article in USA Today: “Many people in America today believe but don’t practice.” They did a survey and asked people all over America and they found a high degree of belief. “Sure, I’m a believer. I’m a Christian.” Do you attend church? “No.” “Do you donate your time?” “No.” “Do you tithe?” “No.” James would say that’s a phony belief. You’re just conning yourself. A lot of people are doing that.

If real, genuine, authentic faith is not just something you say or think or feel or believe, what is real faith? That’s what we’ll look at tomorrow.

Day #18

Today is my son Drew’s  birthday. He turns 28 today. Happy birthday son.                      From James 2 – what does real, genuine, authentic faith look like?

 

#3.  REAL FAITH IS NOT JUST SOME SOMETHING YOU THINK

For some people, faith is an intellectual trip — a matter to be studied, debated, talked over and discussed. James imagines this type of follower –  v. 18 “Someone will say `You have faith, I have deeds'” He’s imagining some intellectual guy who says, “You’re into faith, I’m into works. That’s cool. Different strokes for different folks. Let’s debate it.

 

You’ve got your thing, I’ve got mine. To each his own way. Stimulate me mentally but don’t ask me to make any commitment.” “Show me your faith without deeds and I will show you my faith by what I do.” Notice the phrase “show me”. Real faith is visible. You can see it. It’s apparent. If you claim to be a Christian, people will be able to see it.

James is saying that real faith is visible. How do you know for sure someone knows Christ? James says, “Show me.” If you claim to be a Christian I have a right to ask you to prove it by looking at your lifestyle. Somebody said, “Faith is like calories. You can’t see them but you can sure see the results.” You can’t see faith but you can see the results.

 

Anybody know the state motto of Missouri? It’s the “Show Me” state. James would have made a good Missourian. James is saying, “You say you’re a Christian? Prove it. Let me see your actions back up your words.” If I say, “I believe my health is very important. Personal health is a high priority in my life. I believe that health is one of the most important things we ought to have.” You say, “Do you eat right?” No. “Do you exercise? Do you get your proper rest? Do you take vitamins? Do you ever go for a check up?” No. It doesn’t matter what I say. What counts are my actions.

 

Real faith is more than just something you think. You can point it out and see it in people’s lives. We used to sing a song at youth camps – it went like this: “If you’re saved and you know it then your life will surely show it.” That’s what James is saying. Show me. You claim to have real faith. It’s something more than something you say, something you feel, and something you think about. You can prove it. 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Any time a person becomes a Christian he becomes a new person inside, the old things have passed away. All things become new.” Not overnight. But they start becoming new.

 

If you grab onto a 220 volt wire you’re going to know it. I don’t see how somebody as big as God can enter your life and it not change you. James says, flat out, if God doesn’t change you there’s a question whether He’s really in your life. What can I see in my life that proves it? Jimmy Carter in his book “Why Not the Best?” said that “one of the things that was a turning point in his life when somebody asked him the question, `If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?'” That’s a good question. That’s what James is talking about. If you say “I know it!” Show it! How do you know you’re a believer? You’ll see some changes in your life. Real faith always produces change. Real faith is not just something you say. It’s not just something you feel. It’s not just something you think.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day #17

From James 2:12-26. Real Faith. The second truth about real faith.                                       #2. REAL FAITH IS NOT JUST SOMETHING YOU FEEL

It’s more than emotions. A lot of people confuse emotions and sentiment with faith. You can be emotionally moved and never act on it. You can go to church and get a quiver in your liver, goose bumps, but it never makes any difference in how you live.

James gives an illustration in v. 15 “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him `Go, I wish you well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?” I saw a Peanuts cartoon a long time ago. Charlie Brown and Linus are inside all bundled up and Snoopy’s out in the cold shivering in front of an empty dog food bowl. Charlie and Linus are having a discussion on how sad it is that Snoopy is hungry and cold. “He’s cold and hungry. We ought to do something about it.” They walk outside and say to Snoopy, “Be of good cheer, Snoopy.” Do you know where Charles Schultz got that idea? From this verse.

What good is it if you see someone in need and you say, “I feel for you!” He’s saying, “It’s more than just words. It’s more than just feelings.” If, after church, you’re getting into you car and you happen to slam eight fingers in your car door, and you’re standing there in agony with blood on your fingers, and I walk up and say, “I really feel for you!” — is that any help?

Real faith is more than just sympathy and feeling and emotion. You give assistance. You move. You act. You do something when you see someone in need. Real faith takes the initiative. A real believer has real faith and it’s real practical. When you become a part of God’s family you have some family responsibilities. A real believer will care about other believers.

1 John 3:17 says,  “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” Real faith is generous. It wants to give. Who can count on you in a crisis? How many Christians have the freedom to call you up in the middle of the night if they are in an emergency? Not just talking the talk. Not just feeling for people. I John 3:14 says that one of the proofs of salvation is that we love other Christians. Do you have fellowship with believers? Real faith wants to be around other believers. You love them. It is known we are Christians by our love.

Here’s the unvarnished truth – we are a lot better at verbalizing our faith than practicing our faith – and that should not be. I can’t meet everybody’s needs but I can meet somebody’s. We have a saying at COV that goes like this – “See a need – meet a need”.

James is saying that if my faith doesn’t lead me to share with others, and serve others and care for others, I’ve got a useless faith. A dead faith. v. 17 “In the same way, faith by itself if it’s not accompanied by actions is dead.” If I don’t feel like helping other Christians, I don’t have a sick faith, I have a dead faith. James is laying it on the line. He says, “Do you want real faith? It’s more than just something you say and it’s more than just something you feel.” Evaluate yourself here.

 

Day #16

James 2:14-26 (NIV)
14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?
15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.
16 If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?
17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.
19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shudder.
20 You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?
21 Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?
22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.
23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend.
24 You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.
25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?                 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

I want to talk to you today about what James has to say about how to have a real faith. There are a lot of phony religions out there — people who think they are Christians and really aren’t. In this passage James talks about the difference between real and counterfeit Christians, authentic believers and fake believers. He talks about how you have a real faith.

The entire New Testament teaches that we are saved by faith alone. “By grace, through faith, we are saved.” James comes along and says, “It’s not just faith but faith and works.” What is he talking about? James and Paul. They are both right. They are talking about different things.

Paul was fighting the problem of legalism — the problem of “I’ve got to keep all the Jewish laws and regulations to be a Christian.” Paul is talking to that group.

James is not fighting legalism but laxity — those that say “It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you believe.”

They are fighting two different enemies. But they both use the word “works” in different ways. When Paul uses the word “works” he’s talking about Jewish laws like circumcision and things like that. When James uses it, he’s talking about the lifestyle of a Christian — acts of love. It’s totally different. Paul focuses on the root of salvation — what happens to me internally. James focuses on the fruit of salvation — what happens on the outside. Jesus said, “By their fruits you will know them.” Paul is talking about, “How to know you’re a Christian.” James is talking about, “How to show you’re a Christian.” Paul is talking about his passages on faith alone, how to become a believer. James talks about, how to behave like a believer. It is not a contradiction.

It’s summed up in Ephesians 2:8-10 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, for a life of good works that God has already prepared for us to do.” There are three prepositions in this passage — “by grace”, “through faith”, “for good works”. If you get those out of order, you’re in trouble. If you think you’re saved by works, for faith you’re in trouble. But he’s saying we’re saved by grace through faith. We’re saved just by accepting God’s gift. But how do I show I am a believer? James says there’s five ways you can know you’ve got the real thing. He gives us five steps or principles here in this passage. We’ll look at one a day for the next five days.

#1. REAL FAITH IS NOT JUST SOMETHING YOU SAY

v. 14.  Real faith is not just something you say, something you talk about. “What good is it my brother if a man claims to have faith, but has no deeds? Can such `faith’ save him?”      James doesn’t say this guy actually has faith, he just claims to have it. He talks about it. He knows all the right phrases. There are a lot of people who claim to be Christians. They know some things about the bible. They know some key phrases that a lot of Christians use. They may look like a follower of Christ and sound like a follower of Christ. But something is off.

George Gallup says that 50 million Americans say “I’m born again,” but you don’t see anything in their lifestyle that backs that up. Today we tend to label people as Christians if they make the slightest sound of being a believer. It’s more than just talk that is involved in real faith. Jesus said, “Not everybody who says to me `Lord, Lord’ is going to enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Not everybody with a Christian bumper sticker is a believer. Not everybody who is a professor of Christianity is a possessor of Christianity. “Can such faith save him? What value is this kind of faith?” Nothing. Talk is cheap. Remember when Larry Flint, the publisher of Hustler, said he was born again? But you never saw any change in his life. He kept right on printing pornography. No difference. No change.

James is saying that real faith is not just something you say. Do you know anybody that claims to be a Christian but you don’t see any evidence in their life? That’s a phony faith.Real faith is not just something you say. Evaluate yourself here. Does your walk match your talk?

 

Day #15

We’re half way through our 30 days. I want to follow up the devotions from yesterday. Yesterday was about not showing favoritism. Today, just the opposite – how to be the loving person God has created you to be. Three simple truths.

#1. Accept everybody.

Have you ever been in a church of spiritual snobs? Do you know why people have a hard time accepting others? They confuse acceptance with approval. There’s a big difference. You can accept somebody without approving of their lifestyle. They may be doing something totally contrary to the word of God, but you can accept them as a person without approving of the sin they are involved in.

Romans 15:7 says, “Accept one another just as Christ accepted you.” That’s the start — If you want to grow up more and more like Jesus you love all. You serve all. You accept all..

Some of you are not going to like Heaven because it’s not exclusive enough. If we can’t learn to get along together here on the earth, what makes us think we’ll get along together in heaven? Accept everybody.

#2. Appreciate everybody.

This goes a little bit further than acceptance. Philippians 2:3-5 says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourself. Each of you should look not only to your own interest but also the interest of others.” Appreciate everybody. Find something you can like, not just accept. Tell them so.

With some people this may require a little creativity. You may have to look a little while. Maybe you just need to value them for their uniqueness. Like Baskin-Robbins — 31 Flavors. What if we were all vanilla? What a boring church we would be! God has 31 flavors of personality and more than that.

#3. Affirm everybody.

Give everybody a lift whenever you can. I Thessalonians 5:11 says,  “Encourage one another and build each other up.” When people stumble, don’t criticize, sympathize. Be an encourager not a complainer, not a condemner, a critical person, not a judger. You can encourage people just by smiling at them.

What is God saying in James? The church that accepts, appreciates and affirms people is the church that God blesses. Absolutely nothing can stop the church that’s filled with love. Nothing. Love draws outside people in. I want our church to have a reputation for love. I believe that God is just waiting for a church that will love people unconditionally. He can use that kind of church to spark a spiritual awakening in this valley that all the forces of hell couldn’t stop. It would change the climate of this community for Christ. Nothing can stop a loving church. Galatians 3:26-27 says, “For now we are all children of God through faith in Jesus Christ. We are no longer Jew or Greek or slave or freemen or even men or women.” We’re all the same. There is no distinction in the body of Christ. We are Christians. We are one in Christ Jesus.” Let’s be a church like this.