James says, “don’t show favoritism.” He’s not talking about giving one person two cookies and another person one cookie. He’s talking about respect. Don’t respect one person over another based on what they wear or what they have.
We know this because the next thing he writes is about honoring a man that comes in dressed well with nice jewelry over one that comes in dressed in shabby clothes. They offer the man that is dressed well a good seat, but they tell the other man to stand over there or sit in the floor.
Now I don’t see us telling anyone that comes into our church to stand over there or sit in the floor, but here’s what may be a more relevant scenario for us. A neat, cleanly-dressed family comes in the door of our church. The children are well-behaved and polite. Then a single mother comes in the door. She’s dressed more appropriately for the night club than church. Her children are wild. One grabs all the candy during children’s church and another drinks from the baptistery. None of them say ma’am or sir, please or thank you.
Now, which family are you going to ask to come home with you for a meal?
While appearances can be deceiving, more than likely, it’s the single mother and her kids that probably need a meal more than the well-dressed, well-behaved family.
Taking care of the wealthy, more affluent looking people is what the world does. We, inside our community that shares in our belief in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ should be different from the world. We are called to be different from the world and we should not discriminate amongst ourselves.
“When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.”
While I was preparing this sermon, I read a sentence that struck me to my core. “We can never resist temptation as we should, so long as we hold God or any one else responsible for our sins.”
It’s easy to sit back and say, “Well, if they’d quit doing that, I wouldn’t lose my temper.” or “I wouldn’t act that way if so and so didn’t force me to.” Nothing like putting the blame for our own actions onto someone else huh? “It’s not my fault, they shouldn’t push me!” “If God didn’t let THEM act that way, I wouldn’t be tempted, I wouldn’t fail.”
Instead of holding on to that right hand that God holds out for us to grab hold of, we, instead, turn away from it and rely on ourselves and that, loved ones, is a recipe for disaster. If we rely on ourselves for anything, we fail.
When God looks down and sees what we do as a church, how we live our collective faith, is He pleased? Does He feel honored and glorified? When God looks down and sees what you do, how you live your faith, is He pleased? Does He feel honored and glorified?
That’s where it starts ya know? If we want our church to bring honor and glory to God then we, as individuals must first work on ourselves.
Y’all, we, generally, can’t prevent the trials that come our way. But when they come, we basically have three options. We can stick our head in the sand and hope and pray that they go away; we can get mad at God and everyone around us; or, we can face them, deal with them the best we can and let them help us grow in our faith and dedication. Sometimes, we may do all three before we settle on a way to handle trials, but, at some point, we have to choose how we handle them. Trials are going to come. Not just big trials either, but little ones. James says trials of many kinds, while I can’t say what they are, I can almost promise you that anyone that is hearing my voice will face a trial of one form or another today. Some commentators stress that James is only talking about big obstacles, but I think he’s talking about any of them because if it’s only big stuff like the loss of a loved one, job, or a health crisis, that’s not, relatively, many opportunities to grow stronger in our faith. So, while I pray it’s nothing big, but even if it is as small as being stuck in traffic, it’s still a trial and James says we should consider it joy because these trials make us stronger, they help us develop perseverance.
Instead of a prosperity gospel that says if we are right with God we are exempt from trials, James is trying to teach us about a faith that grows in the middle of trials and adversity. It’s how we deal with the little trials we face throughout our day that prepares us for the big ones. Just like athletes who train to grow stronger and get better at their chosen sport, we must train to grow stronger and get better in our walk with Jesus and that means facing trials and using them to grow as Christians.
Can you imagine the world we would live in if just the Christians in the world concentrated on pleasing their neighbor? Not all the people in the world, but just the Christians. I’ll say this, if we would be more concerned with pleasing our neighbor, having the grace of Christ with others, there’d be a lot more Christians in the world.
Paul goes on to say that our role model is Christ. Christ who was strong, became weak for our sake.
We talk about it being hard to hold our temper or our tongue, maybe for some it’s hard to hold our fists. But how hard do you think it was for Christ to allow Himself to go through being tortured and crucified when He could have thrown off the ropes that held them and turned His torturers to ash with just a thought. But He didn’t because He loved each and everyone of us enough to die so we wouldn’t.
But go on, let that temper, or that tongue, or that fist fly. Go on, ‘cause it’s all about us right?
Look at verse seven, read it and commit it not just to memory, but commit it
to your life. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. Do every thing to God’s glory because it’s not about us.
Did Jesus die on the cross for us to be able to go around glorifying ourselves?
That’s kind of a trick question, because yes He did. Jesus died on that cross so we could be hateful, ugly, opinionated, self-serving donkeys and not go to hell.
However, because Jesus died on that cross so we could be hateful, ugly, opinionated, self-serving donkeys, we should be trying not to be.
Because it’s not about us.
In Galatians 5:23, Paul lists one of the fruits of the Spirit as self control, in 1 Corinthians 9:27, he talks about the measures he took to subject his own body and bring it under control so that he would not be “disqualified for the prize.” Paul knew that through Christ, he had the freedom to do many things, but he also knew that if he did those things he could harm someone else’s walk with Christ so he trained himself out of love for others. Last week we talked about not being a stumbling block for others and part of not being a stumbling block is, through self control, not doing a thing that you believe, through Christ, you can do.
Romans 14:15, If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died. Paul is saying that if you flaunt the freedoms you have in Christ, you are abusing that freedom. Our rights through Christ are less important than our responsibilities to Christ. We live in a world that tells us “me first,” “my rights,” “it’s all about me,” but Paul says no. For the Christian, it’s all about God. Freedom says that we can do a thing or say a thing, but love asks is it going to harm a fellow Christian. Romans 14:13-23
We are all guests at Christ’s table; invited by Christ alone. The question Paul asks in verse four is who are we to judge. None of us have the right to make someone feel unwelcome. Paul says that if someone needs to be corrected, that’s for God to do, not us.
Y’all think about something. One of the last things Jesus spoke was “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Jesus died welcoming people to the table, who are we to think that we have the right to uninvite them? Think about it, we will stand before our Savior. Jesus Christ who suffered torture and an imaginable death so that we could be with Him in Paradise.
Imagine the feelings that we will have when Jesus looks at us with His love for us showing in His eyes and His face and He tells us of the things we did that broke His heart – the times that we lived for self, for our glory. The times that our self-righteousness led us to judge another’s faith.
Paul says in verse ten, “Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
Think about that, think about the difference between keeping the law out of love verses keeping the law out of consequence. Now, for most of us, the consequences of cheating, stealing, or murder would keep us from breaking those laws even if we weren’t Christians. But what about bearing false witness, what about telling a lie about someone, what about spreading gossip that may or may not be entirely true? Typically, there aren’t legal repercussions for these things but, as Christians, we know that these things could bring harm to a neighbor and is not showing love to them, it’s not the way Christians should act, and definitely not anything we want done to us so we don’t do it. The law itself doesn’t keep us from it, love does. Love therefore, as Paul says, is the fulfillment of the law. We love God and we love each other to the point that we are basically saying, “I owe you my very life.”
If we are going to be the people God calls us to be, we can’t just love Him, ourselves, and those inside the church, we have to love those outside of the church. In some cases, we will have to have much patience to show them love, but we have to remember how much patience God has with us.
Verse 19 says Do not take revenge, but leave room for God’s wrath. As hard as it can be, we must leave this judgement up to God. We cannot be plotting revenge if we are truly trying to love others. We cannot be praying for their salvation if we are dreaming up ways to get them back for something.
If you have to do something to get over your mad then do something for them instead of to them.
Y’all the power of good that we have is so much greater than evil. We need to use that power to overcome evil. Don’t waver from good, feed your enemy, and help them in every way that you can think of.
Do you want your enemy to find Christ? Then be Christ. He is your silent witness and He lives in you, give Him a voice!
The world says pay people that wrong you back, Jesus says feed them. Overcome evil with good.
Jesus died thinking about each one of us, shouldn’t we be living thinking about Him?
Consider whether your activities, actions, and words are an acceptable offering to God. In Malachi 1:8, God says that offering less than is acceptable to Him is showing contempt for His name. It’s wonderful to gather on Sundays and worship together, but so often, we are not showing our true self. Paul says that offering our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God is our true and proper worship. So the measure of our living sacrifice to God isn’t our best moment, it isn’t when we’re all spiffed up and on our best behavior to come into God’s house, the measure of our living sacrifice, our offering of ourselves is our worst moments.
Paul continues in Romans 12:4-8 to list the spiritual gifts that God gives us to bring glory to Him. Paul is saying that it takes us all but remember, in this section he is talking how our attitude toward ourselves in cooperation with others as we go about the tasks that utilize our gifts. Basically, he’s telling us to stay in our own lane. How many cooperative projects get derailed because folks spend more time worrying about how someone is using their gifts than they spend utilizing their own?
If you are unsure what gift(s) you have, go to this website and take the survey. Every believer has been given one or more spiritual gifts for a very specific purpose: to glorify God by ministering to people. God invites each one of us to reach out in His name. Spiritual gifts are God’s provision for the Holy Spirit to minister to people, through people.
How is God calling you to be part of the body? If you truly want to offer your body as a living sacrifice, if you want to be holy and pleasing to God, you need to discover and answer your call. Are you willing to do that?
The Jews ignored the fulfillment of prophecy, refused to see it, refused to believe it, and were bound and determined that nothing could be except what had always been. Their stiff-necked pride caused God to harden their hearts to the point that then they couldn’t see truth.
I hear and see people these days talking about microchips coming that will be the mark of the beast, a moneyless economy coming as foretold, a one-world government blah, blah, blah!
What are they doing with what they see? Is it reaching their hearts or have their hearts already hardened to the point that they are only concerned with themselves?
This week, I have seen many posts about the lack of news coverage of the senseless murder of a five-year-old child. Instead of people posting and talking about the depravity of a society where someone executes a baby, many have chosen this horrific event to use as an example of how the mainstream news ignores some and highlights others. These posts aren’t as much about that precious child as they are about how individuals themselves feel persecuted. Frankly, that is missing the point that Christians should be focusing on if we are going to fulfill the mission that God has for us.
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