17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. — James 3:17,18 NIV
As we read yesterday, wisdom is defined as more than just getting facts and knowledge of things, places and people, It includes the ability to use that knowledge to make proper decisions that lead to correct actions. We can have knowledge upon knowledge, but it is worthless, perhaps, even dangerous, if it is built on the wrong foundation, a foundation of inerrant knowledge. That is why the Holy Spirit, through the writer of Proverbs, tells us
7 The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. – Prov. 4:7
Later, in Proverbs, He tells us this:
10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. — Prov. 9:10
So, we lay the foundation with knowledge, we build walls with wisdom and the finishing touch is understanding. Therefore, we must be very sure that our knowledge is based on a foundation of knowledge that includes The Holy One (Jehovah God) and Jesus Christ. Then we must be sure that our wisdom comes from heaven. We can know this if it is ” first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere”‘ So, any so-called wisdom that advocates anything less than these qualities is not from heaven and is not of God. (Kind of reminds me of the parable of the houses — one built on the Rock and one built on the sand,) If we want others to recognize us as the children of God, then we must show love to our brothers and sisters.
10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister. — 1 John 3:10
Since the wisdom that is from above is impartial, we must show love to all of our fellow human beings. This love requires us to be peacemakers.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. — Matt. 5:9
If we want to be obedient to our Father in heaven, we will endeavor to become peacemakers unless that action requires us to violate the Holy Scriptures. Jesus was/is the ultimate peacemaker, but He had limits as shown by His words to the Pharisees and His actions when chasing the traders out of the temple. He had perfect knowledge, perfect wisdom and perfect understanding.
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. — James 3:13-16 NIV
Wisdom is defined as “the quality or state of being wise; knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action; sagacity, discernment, or insight”. So, what we consider wisdom is largely determined by whatever belief system we adhere to. Since worldly religious systems are based on beliefs that do not believe in and accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord are laid on an erroneous foundation, then any wisdom based on those beliefs will have error in it. So, it is very possible to be religious, have tons of knowledge, be worldly-wise and still be wrong. Such wisdom is considered foolishness by God.
18 Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness” — 1 Cor. 3:18, 19
This difference between beliefs in worldly wisdom and Christianity is used by satan to create chaos and violence. The people committing the acts of violence do so because in the “wisdom” of their religion it is “just judgment” to those who do not adhere to their beliefs. This “wisdom” does not come down from heaven. . The wider and deeper the differences in Christianity and any particularly world religion, the more problems and issues it will create. Some worldly religions teach their followers to hate and destroy the enemy. We should be thankful every second of every day that we serve a Savior who teaches us to love. His love for us not only requires that we love Him, our family and our friends, but also our enemies.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. — Matt. 5:43-45
9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. — James 3:9-12 NIV
These verses come at the end of a passage that speaks of the tongue and how our inability to control it causes us some many problems. No human can tame his or her tongue. We can pray about it and we can strive to do it, but it is an impossible task for a human. Only one man was able to do so and that was Jesus, the God-Man. Nevertheless, that does not relieve us of the responsibility of asking the Holy Spirit to help us do better every day. Our goal is to be that person who would never say or do anything to hurt someone else and that is the mark at which we should be aiming. Words that we speak without any intention of hurting anyone are often taken in the wrong way and cause pain to others. Our prejudices, and we all have them, sometimes lead to a “slip of the tongue”. Our thoughts lead to words and actions that show our true feelings and attitudes about others. We need to always pray this prayer:
14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. — Psalm 19:14
The things that we talk about most are the things that are truly important to us. The words and actions that we say and do are the fruits of our mindset and our hearts’ desires. Just as a tree produces fruit after its kind, we will produce like fruit, be it good or evil. Our tongues were made to give praise, glory and honor to our Father in heaven. Just as He spoke creation into existence, we have the power to speak words of life or death. Let us always speak the words of life.
68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” — John 6:68, 69
10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker. 12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. — James 2:10-13 NIV
God gave the Old Testament law to the children of Israel to show them that it was impossible for a mere human to live a life free of sin. No one was able to live a life without sin, so God, in His mercy established rituals and procedures for them to keep. As long as they stayed obedient to these rituals, they were not punished for their sins. Mercy is the lack of or a lesser punishment than our sins deserve(d). Just as the people back then received mercy, we can and do receive mercy without receiving salvation. It is God’s mercy that allows us to go on living, even when we choose a lifestyle of sin. We live under the law or covenant of grace. This does not mean that we don’t sin, it just means that we have a way of being forgiven without the rituals. Grace is God choosing to bless us even though we don’t deserve it. It is our faith in His grace that saves us. When we feel that someone has wronged us in any way, we must show them mercy because of the mercy that God has shown us. We must temper our judgment with mercy, realizing that we have received so much more than mercy from Jesus Christ. We should also show them grace, in the sense that it means showing them affection and kindness even though they are not worthy of it. Neither were/are we worthy of God’s mercy and grace, yet He went so far as to die for us.
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. — Romans 5:6-8 NIV
This is why we must show mercy, grace and forgiveness to those around us. We can and must forgive them of their sinful acts toward us. But only God can forgive us for all of our sins. Our mercy and grace is limited to what is done to us. God’s mercy and grace is unlimited. Only His grace can restore our relationship with God the Father. We must ask for His forgiveness believing that by grace through faith we have been saved, are being saved and will be completely saved.
24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. – Hebrews 7:24, 25 NIV
8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. — James 1:8, 9 NIV
The Greek word translated as love here in James is “agape” or “agapao”. It is a word that describes the very nature or essence of God. “God is Love”. It is not an emotion and it is not based on feelings or the other person’s actions. It is a fact, plain and simple. There is nothing we did or can do to cause God to love us more or less than He does. It was agape that required God to send His Son to save us. It is the kind of love that we strive to show but rarely, if ever, are humans able to reach that level of love. Nevertheless, our goal is or should be to get as close as we can to doing so. Just as agape required God to give His only Son to demonstrate that kind of love, it requires us to give of our time, energy and resources in an attempt to show others the love that Jesus had for us. We must show it to everyone equally without showing favoritism. “To love your neighbor as yourself” means that we must be willing to do everything for our neighbor that we would do for ourselves. Agape is not passive, it requires action(s) on our part. It does not require the one receiving the agape to do anything to deserve it. We certainly could not and did not do anything to deserve what God and His Son Jesus did for us. Our efforts to show agape to others is how we accomplish the good works that accompany our faith. It is also how we can do what Jesus said to us:
11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. — John 14:11, 12 NIV
1 My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? — James 2:1-4 NIV
If you google “verses concerning first impressions in the Bible”, you will only find verses that warn against using first impressions as a guide for measuring a person’s worth. Yet, society teaches us that first impressions are all important and determine whether we will be accepted or rejected. And certainly, that is the worldly view. How many of us use the way another person dresses, our opinion of whether they are beautiful or handsome, their popularity, talent or success as our criteria for selecting friends? If this is really our criteria, then perhaps we should change the name of our church to “The Church of The Beautiful, Handsome,Talented, Successful and Well-Dressed”. But, wait a minute, if we did that, we would have to be very egotistical and self-centered to think that we are qualified to attend and we all know that Christians are not egotistical and/or self-centered. I, for one, am ecstatic that Jesus doesn’t use that criteria to determine who can be saved. If you spend any time talking to those outside the church about why they don’t go to church, one of the reasons you will hear quite often is that “church people” make me feel uncomfortable or unwelcome. We can change our dress codes for churches (most churches have) but that will not solve the problem. Hurting people come to church to find relief and in most cases, they have come to the point in their life, that how we dress is not what attracts or deters them. It is how we make them feel that is important. Most people come to church for one of two reasons; we were either raised to go to church or we came to the end of our rope and we haven’t found satisfactory answers to our problems anywhere else. We need to welcome guests and strangers in our church with the love, warmth and enthusiasm we would show a long lost brother or sister who has decided to come home. Why? Because that is exactly how Jesus sees them and what they could become to us if we greet them and accept them as we should.
26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. — James 1:26, 27 NIV
In the days that James lived and penned this book through the leadership of the Holy Spirit, people were weighed down with ritualistic religions. They were bound by rules that said “you must do this”and “you must not do that”, particularly, in the areas of eating and drinking. Those that did a decent job of following the rules considered themselves to be “religious”. They attended the services at the temples or synagouges and prayed at the right times, etc. Much like today, when we go to church on Sunday morning for a couple of hours and mumble a few (if any) prayers or spend anytime reading the Holy Scriptures during the week. We seem to feel that if we do those things, we are fulfilling our duties as Christians. We can spend the other 166 hours of the week doing whatever we please. We can gossip, criticize and say and do all kinds of things. We Christians would never steal, kill or destroy, we don’t commit the “big” sins. But the two areas in which we do fall short are in our speech and in our “not doing”. Jesus gave us a solemn warning about the things we say:
10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” — Matt. 15:10
We must take this warning seriously and be very careful of what we say.
There are also many verses about how we should treat others. Jesus says that if we see a brother or sister in need and take care of that need for them, it is the same as doing it for Him. If we don’t take care of that need, it is the same as refusing to do it for Him. Helping others is how we show them the love of Jesus Christ. It is these actions that will draw others to Jesus.
16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. — 1 John 3:16, 17
22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. — James 1:19-21 NIV
Do works save us? Certainly not!
8 For it is by grace you have been saved,through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. — Eph. 2:8, 9
Then why are works important? If we look back at the Great Commission that Jesus gave us in Matt. 28:18-20, we find that He tells us to do more than just get people to confess their sins. Jesus commands us to “go and make disciples.” What is a disciple? Webster defines “disciple” in this way:
someone who accepts and helps to spread the teachings of a famous person
One can be a Christian without actually being a disciple. You can accept Jesus as your Savior and go on with your lifestyle pretty much unchanged (I don’t know how that is possible, but some claim to be able to do so). But a true disciple follows after his chosen leader, uses His life as an example to follow, spreads His doctrines and teachings and encourages others to do the same. Those who are disciples of sect leaders and worldly religions take the idea of being a disciple much more serious than a lot of us Christians. Some of them take it so far as to be considered “militant” in their actions. Their actions are governed by anger and hate and wrong teachings. Our actions are governed by love, but that just means that we have to be kinder in spreading the Gospel of Jesus, not less active or effective. We have a message of perfect love and freedom, which is what the world really desires. We have the Holy Spirit inside us and working with us using the same resurrection power that raised Jesus from the dead. If we are obedient to Jesus’s words that we should “make disciples” then we will “be about our Father’s business”. That requires us to do the same works that Jesus did when He was here on earth. As Christians, we are not called to be spectators but, rather to be participators, in the work. Why did God give us the gift of being saved by grace through faith?
8 For it is by grace you have been saved,through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. – Eph. 2:10 (emphasis mine)
19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. — James 1:19-21 NIV
As the end of time draws nearer and nearer, satan seems to be reacting like the cornered, trapped animal that he really is. That same spirit of anger and violence seems to be permeating our society. We see it in all the headlines, the senseless murders and crimes that are being committed on a daily basis. Yes, these things have been happening every since Cain slew Abel but the frequency and the intensity seems to be magnified more and more everyday. That is on a worldwide basis, but what about each individual? There was a time when we could laugh at our mistakes and have a little fun with each other over those issues on which we disagreed. But, more and more we have to be much more sensitive to these things. Statements that once would have been seen as light humor are now taken seriously and great harm is done. Even small, unintended injustices suddenly become someone’s newest campaign against whatever was mentioned. We see over and over the truth of the verse that “human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” Therefore, we, as Christians must put aside all our foolishness and fill our hearts and minds with the Word of God. Meditating on and storing God’s word in our hearts is our strongest defense against any kind of unacceptable behavior.
11 I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.
12 Praise be to you, Lord; teach me your decrees. — Psalm 119:11, 12 NIV
In a world of violence and anger, we must stand as lighthouses to lead others to Jesus, the Prince of Peace. We must let the light of Jesus shine through us. We must be the ones to show others that in the middle of the storm, there is a safe harbor, a place of calmness and peace. More and more, the world needs individual peacemakers. By blessing others with our examples of peacemaking, we ourselves receive God’s blessing.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God. — Matt. 5:9
16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created. — James 1:16-18 NIV
When God created the world, after each day’s work,we are told that “God saw that it was good” except for the sixth day when He made man, we are told that
29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day – Genesis 1:29 – 31 NIV
Everything in this world was created good and perfect to last forever and was given to man by God to enjoy and have dominion over it all. Then man sinned and decay and rot started in all of God’s creation. But God had a plan to fix all that even before He laid the foundations of the earth . So, He gave us “THE good and perfect gift”, Himself, to die on a cross to redeem all of creation. He is still in the business of giving good gifts to us. This very moment is called the “present” because it is a gift from God. The good earth we enjoy, the very air that we breathe, every particle of food that we eat are all gifts from God. When He gives them, they are good gifts, but we have chosen to belittle and desecrate those gifts by refusing to give thanks to the Creator of all things. Every second of our life is a gift from God and we need to give Him praise, glory and honor for those precious seconds. Our attitudes should always be an attitude of humility and thankfulness. We should stand in awe of our awesome God.