Posts referencing the book of James

Twisted Scripture: 1 Corinthians 10:13

March 4, 2017

Today’s focus verse is one that is an encouraging principle and promise from the Word about how we can live the Christian life. Let’s start with the verse itself, 1 Corinthians 10:13.

13No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV)

The common twist on this is actually in the way it’s usually quoted; it becomes…

God won't give you more than you can handle. - Misquotations 7:15

There are at least two problems with this twist. First, it simply isn’t true. I’m in my 40th year of knowing Jesus as my Savior, and I can assure you that God gives me more than I can handle all the time; just my past 7 days have had way more than I alone could handle. If we tell struggling people “Well, you know, the Bible says that God won’t give you more than you can handle!”, we are seriously damaging our credibility, which will, in turn, hamper our further ability to share the things of God. If God never gave us more than we could handle, why would we need Him once we have obtained salvation? The Bible is replete with examples of people who were getting more than they could handle; let’s look at one such instance in Psalm 40.

11As for you, O Lord, You will not restrain
    Your mercy from me;
Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness will
    ever preserve me!
12For evils have encompassed me
    beyond number;
my iniquities have overtaken me,
    and I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head;
    my heart fails me.

13Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me!
    O Lord, make haste to help me!
14Let those be put to shame and disappointed altogether
    who seek to snatch away my life;
let those be turned back and brought to dishonor
    who delight in my hurt!

Psalm 40:11-14 (ESV)

The Psalms, being poetry, often speak to feelings common to mankind, and this is one of those places. The theme of the psalm is God’s deliverance, something David cannot manage to do himself - it’s literally “more than he can handle.” Yet, this bigger-than-him situation causes David to cry out to God for help, and to depend on Him for his deliverance. God brings us through situations that are more than we could handle ourselves, to demonstrate His love that is not just a saving love for our souls, but a living and active love for our lives as well. How could He do that if He never allowed “more than we could handle”?

The second problem with this twist is that it completely misses the actual promise of the text. 1 Corinthians 10:13 is talking about temptation, and comes immediately after a verse that is usually quoted correctly, even when snatched from its context.

12Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.

1 Corinthians 10:12 (ESV)

In the even larger context of this chapter, Paul has warned the Corinthian church about idolatry, sexual immorality, and testing God. He then writes vv. 12-13, telling them to be on guard, yet encouraging them that God will not allow a temptation so great that they, through Him, cannot resist. This is a very big deal! We all face temptation; if you have tried to resist it yourself, you’re likely thinking back to the time when you failed in those efforts, and gave in to the sin you had been resisting.

Why are we so bad at resisting temptation on our own? The main reason is that resisting temptation is spiritual warfare, but our fallen nature (what we use when we do it “on our own”) is ill equipped for that battle. Paul writes that we have a way of escape provided; let’s look at a few of different strategies given in the Bible. The first is from Jesus Himself, speaking to His disciples after He returned from praying in the garden of Gethsemane and found them asleep.

40And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And He said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with Me one hour? 41Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Matthew 26:40-41 (ESV)

The next is from Paul, instructing his protegé Timothy.

22So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace…

2 Timothy 2:22a (ESV)

The last is from James, Jesus’ brother.

7Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

James 4:7 (ESV)

Did you pick up on any common themes in those three passages? “Pray” (Matthew 26:41), “pursue righteousness” (2 Timothy 2:22), and “submit[ting]…to God” (James 4:7) are three different ways of saying the same thing - we must have God’s power if we are to be able to resist temptation. We must actively pray, pour His Word into our hearts, and be vigilant. This is the only way for us to be able to recognize the “way of escape” so we can take it.

There is one final caution, back in vv. 12-13, where Paul says that this temptation will not exceed our “ability.” Ability is developed through practice, and God, in the process of refining us to make us more like Him, will provide opportunities for us to increase our ability. Don’t lose heart if, after successfully resisting temptation, another stronger one appears. Conversely, you may reach a point where most temptation is pretty easy to resist; that’s where the warning in verse 12 becomes even more important. When we let our guard down, we become the most vulnerable to temptation.

As we have looked at what 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, and what it doesn’t say, I pray that you have been blessed. It truly is an encouraging promise for us who are trying to live our lives the way Christ would have us live them. I hope you also realize how much damage this common misquotation can do, both to the truth and to our witness. The Christian life is great, having Jesus to guide, warn, and protect us; I wouldn’t want to live any other way. That being said, though, we would be lying if we say that it is easy, and saying this to a hurting person will provide the opposite of comfort.

You May Already Be Qualified

June 10, 2013

Hypocrisy is a charged often leveled against Christians. “How can you say you believe ‘x’ and still do ‘y’?”, the unbeliever asks. While the merits of this claim probably deserve an entire devotional on their own, the implication is that these hypocrites are unqualified - unqualified to be taken seriously, unqualified to speak the truth of the Bible, even unqualified to be a child of God. If someone hears this charge, particularly the latter one, with enough repetition, they may actually start to believe it. What exactly qualifies someone to become a Christian, or to at least claim that they are?

Believe it or not, the list of qualifications is quite short.

1Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” 3Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

John 3:1-3 (ESV)

30Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

Acts 16:30-31 (ESV)

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ - that’s it!

This is the culmination of a long process. God created man (Genesis 1:27) in a perfect state, but man chose to sin (Genesis 3:1-7). There were stiff consequences for that sin (Genesis 3:16-19), but in the serpent’s curse, God alluded to His plan (Genesis 3:15). Throughout the Old Testament, many prophecies were made concerning the Messiah, both literal (Isaiah 9:1-7, Isaiah 53) and figurative (Leviticus 4). Jesus came, born of a virgin (Matthew 1:18), and lived a sinless life (Hebrews 4:15) while ministering on earth. He was crucified (Matthew 27:22-26), but resurrected from the grave (Matthew 28:1-7) and ascended to heaven to be with His Father (Acts 1:6-11) until He returns to call His own home (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17).

Throughout the Bible, there are many, many examples of those who would likely be called hypocrites today. Abraham lied about Sarah being his wife - twice! - (Genesis 12:11-20, Genesis 20:1-18) and is still the father of the nation of Israel. Jacob stole his brother’s blessing (Genesis 27:5-35), but was still the father of the 12 tribes of Israel. David committed adultery (2 Samuel 11:2-5) and murder (2 Samuel 11:14-24), yet God used Bathsheba to give him Solomon, his successor as king. Paul persecuted and killed Christ’s followers (Acts 8:1-9:2), yet he was used to write nearly half of the New Testament.

Were these people hypocrites? Some may say “yes.” The thing is, while salvation is an instant change in state, learning to live in a way that pleases Christ takes a lifetime. As we work to allow the Holy Spirit to control our lives, and deepen our relationship with Him, we can see significant growth. Habits can be changed, thought patterns can be transformed, and we can experience peace and joy that are not possible in our own strength. We will get better, but we will never be perfect.

This is also a great example of God’s redemption. The more cynical person would look at the people above and think “If these are the founders of this religion, I want nothing to do with it!” When you look at each life, though, you see God working to bring about a changed heart, which results in a transformed life. These people weren’t used by God to do those sinful things; those people were used by God to do amazing things for Him in spite of those sinful things!

(A note on leaders - Paul sets out qualifications for deacons and pastors in two different places (Titus 1:5-9, 1 Timothy 3:1-13). James echoes this along with a warning.

1Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2For we all stumble in many ways.

James 3:1-2a (ESV)

These guidelines are good for all, but the church should hold their leaders to these standards as a condition of continued leadership. The Bible contains several examples of God removing people from leadership when they turned from Him.)

How, then, do we get qualified? That’s just it - God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called. If you have accepted Christ, you are qualified! Don’t let your failures get you down; rather, use them as reminders of how much you (and we all) need Jesus. If you haven’t accepted Christ, the good news is that you’re only missing one qualification. There is no credit check, and no test for which you have to study. God is waiting with open arms to welcome you into His family! All you have to do is ask; God’s Simple Plan of Salvation can show you how.

How to Cause Disorder

August 1, 2007

This week, let’s look at James 3:16.

16For where envy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every kind of evil.

James 3:16 (HCSB)

In the passage leading up to this verse, James had been telling us about controlling the tongue, and then he explained that the wisdom we need comes from above. The two problems in this verse are the source of many of our self-inflicted problems.

Envy is jealousy - wanting what someone else has, disliking someone else for the good things that they have in their life. Paul gives a pretty good comparison with envy and jealousy (emphasis mine)…

19Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, 20idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, 21envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar, about which I tell you in advance - as I told you before - that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22But the fruit of the Spirit is love…

Galatians 5:19-22a (HCSB)

But, just as Paul followed up his list of negative things with one of the most famous passages in the Bible, James also does not stop with verse 16. He continues…

17But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without favoritism and hypocrisy. 18And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

James 3:17-18 (HCSB)

So, the remedy to “disorder and…evil” is the fruit of the Spirit. By setting aside our own selfish desires, we can allow the Holy Spirit to grow these other qualities in us. May we be able to say “no” to ourselves and “yes” to Him!

How to Settle God's Stomach

May 30, 2007

Revelation 3:16 is our text for this week.

16So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of My mouth.

Revelation 3:16 (HCSB)

We first should look at the context of this verse. This is the part of Revelation where Jesus is writing the letters to the seven churches, and this is from the letter to the church at Laodicea. Verses 14-22 comprise the entire letter to the Laodiceans…

14To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

"The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Originator of God’s creation says: 15I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were cold or hot. 16So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of My mouth. 17Because you say, ‘I’m rich; I have become wealthy, and need nothing,’ and you don’t know that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked, 18I advise you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire so that you may be rich, and white clothes so that you may be dressed and your shameful nakedness not be exposed, and ointment to spread on your eyes so that you may see. 19As many as I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be committed and repent. 20Listen! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and have dinner with him, and he with Me. 21The victor: I will give him the right to sit with Me on My throne, just as I also won the victory and sat down with My Father on His throne.

22"Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches."

Revelation 3:14-22 (HCSB)

In verse 14, the Author of the letter identifies Himself as “the Amen,” the “faithful and true Witness,” and the “Originator of God’s creation.” The first term is not an uncommon term - most people, when they pray, will end their prayer with “Amen.” This means “so be it,” and implies that what has preceded it is valid and true. The next term, “Witness,” reminds the readers that Jesus came and remained a faithful Witness to the Father (John 14:24b). The final term, the “Originator,” speaks to the power that the Author has over the people to whom He is talking. He existed long before they did (John 1:1), and their very existence is due to His working.

The biggest problem that Jesus has with this church (expressed in verse 16) is that it is no longer working for Him. The members aren’t actively supporting evil, but they have become lulled to sleep, as it were, while on the watch. It has been said that all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing*. This is all that Satan has to do. He doesn’t have to get us to turn to evil, he just has to get us to turn from good! He can do this through distractions, busyness, or, in the case of the Laodiceans, complacency.

As is always the case, though, Jesus doesn’t just find fault; He tells the church what they need to do. They had a false view of themselves in their minds, which He identifies in verse 17. They think that they are rich, and have fine clothes, and are well-fed, not realizing that they are actually poor, naked, and hungry. They are like the person described in James 1:23-24, that look at themselves in the mirror, then immediately forget what they just saw. The church knew better, and Jesus had better things in store for them. In verse 18, He offers them the very best in wealth, clothing, and food; and, in verse 19, He assures them that He rebukes those that He loves. This echoes Hebrews 12:8, where the author contends that if you don’t receive correction, you are not a child of God.

If the passage stopped there, that would be good enough. But it doesn’t! In verses 20 and 21, Jesus offers them even more - a personal, intimate relationship with Him. The picture is beautiful; ever a gentleman, He stands at the door and knocks. If we let Him into our hearts, we can have fellowship with Him; and, though this fellowship begins here on earth, we will also be together with Him, victorious over sin, and will be with Him on His throne! What a transformation - from making God vomit (v. 16) to reigning with Him (v. 21)!

The key to this is in verse 20. He is standing at the door and knocking. If you have never let Him in before, I pray that you will consider it. If you have, but have been shutting him out, filling your heart with everything but Him, I pray that you will let Him back in. He can do wonders in cleaning out the dust and grime, but He’s not interested in making you feel badly about it. He simply yearns for that fellowship with you - whether you let Him in is your
call.

* This quote is commonly attributed to Edmund Burke, but cannot be confirmed to him - see the “Quotes” section of the link.