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Truth in Palmyra

By Wally Fry

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faith in action

Faith In Action-Men Make Plans, God Laughs?

faith in action

James 4:13-16

Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.


Read all of James Chapter 4 here

In an earlier devotion, we spent some time discussing the plans these men were making; we discussed the fact that God certainly approves of planning. In fact, God encourages us to live a responsible, ordered, and industrious life. God absolutely does not expect us to sit around awaiting manna from heaven to fall into our supper plates. He clearly expects us to get our own manna, so to speak.

There is an old Italian proverb that states:

Men make plans, but God laughs.

Okay, for those of you looking to find fault with God, that doesn’t mean He is up in heaven laughing hysterically at our mess-ups and troubles. He’s not a cosmic meanie mocking and deriding His creation. But, it does show us some things.

We know that the making of these plans was not sinning. God likes plans. There were several things that were done incorrectly here. We are going to take some time and review some of these.

Read our passage closely; determine what is missing. It’s not hard, really to see(or not see.) These men had a great plan with almost all of the key steps included, except what should be the first step for any Christian. There is no allusion to God being included in their plans; apparently, He was not consulted. James even refers to this in Verse 16 when he says, “ye ought to say.”

God will provide us direction; God desires to provide us direction. Let’s look at a couple of things God tells us.

Proverbs 3:6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Psalm 37:4 Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

God wants to direct us, and He wants to give us the wishes of our hearts, but there are disclaimers; He has to be included in the process. We must “acknowledge Him,” and “Delight” in Him.

God frowns on being left out of our plans. Jesus taught this parable about planning without God which shows God’s thoughts in this matter.

Luke 12:16-21 And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

These men did not sin by planning; they sinned by leaving God out of the equation. Isn’t that our entire problem anyway? We think we know better than God. Adam and Eve thought that it was their desire to know what God knows that caused The Fall. Remember Lucifer and the 5 “I Wills?” He thought he knew better than God also.

Do we think we know better, or do we trust Him?

Faith In Action-Make Plans for the Future

faith in action

James 4:13-16

Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain:Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil.


Read all of James Chapter 4 here

Here James begins speaking, apparently, to a group of businessmen who were making plans. We need to say, first of all, that God does not oppose the making of plans, and God does not oppose success in business or even the accumulation of wealth. There is nothing to suggest in all of God’s Word that we are to just drift around life, awaiting God to drop things into our lives. What we see over and over is that hard word and industriousness is commanded by God. A look at men such as Abraham or Job would also show us that God certainly does not oppose His people becoming financially successful.

The men even had what seemed like a model business plan. They had a plan, a place, a period, a purpose and a profit all calculated out to ensure their success. Once again, it seems to be a model business plan on the part of these gentlemen. What were they being faulted for, then?

As we will see as we study this passage in more detail, the fact of the well thought out plan was not the issue; the issue turns out to be the fact that they had left God out of their plan. They had a well thought out plan, but not a well prayed out plan.

Let’s look quickly at some things the Bible says about the value of planning for the future.

The story of Joseph counseling Pharaoh to plan for the future famine coming to Egypt in Genesis 41.

Proverbs 21:5 The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness; but of every one that is hasty only to want.

Proverbs 24:27 Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field; and afterwards build thine house.

The entire book of Nehemiah is about a man who had a well planned and executed plan.

The entire Book of Proverbs is simply packed with guidance to be diligent, well prepared, and industrious in the conduct of our lives.

The reason I have placed so much emphasis on this is to dispel a somewhat common perception among non-believers, and even among some believers that because God is sovereign(and He is!) that we just drift through life awaiting whatever way or direction God will push us in. We can see easily and clearly that this is simply NOT true.

What was the problem then? These fellows had a great plan; it seemed extremely well thought out and developed. Why it seems like a Biblical model of planning. What could be wrong here?

Stay tuned and see.

Faith In Action-When Our Plans Are Not God’s Plans

faith in action

James 4:13-16

Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil.


Read all of James Chapter 4 here

It almost seems as if James has taken a change of direction here, as he moves on to another subject. Now the subject is the audacity of a group of men and their plan making without considering the plans and wishes of God in those plans.

A case can be made that this section still bears a substantial relationship to some of the previous discussions. The linkage here is pride. We can see from earlier writings in this chapter the things pride and a desire to operate our lives independent from God causes. In the first part of Chapter 4 we saw how this has made us love the things of the world rather than God. We saw later how this has made us think we can be the judge of our brethren instead of God.

Finally, we see here that James’ readers just had to seize one more opportunity to use their pride as a reason to shake their fists in God’s face and go their own direction. We will explore in the next day or two exactly what these men were about to do, as they put together their own plans with no regard for God’s desires.

But, let’s chase a rabbit for a bit first and recap some things we know about pride so that we can truly understand the seriousness of this issue. We tend to treat our pride as somewhat of a minor issue, when in fact a case could be made that pride is actually the driving force behind every other sin.

It was pride that made Lucifer fall and take one third of God’s angels from heaven with him. We can read how Lucifer started out as one of God’s most beautiful creations and chose to rebel in Ezekiel 28.  We can read of Satan’s five “I Wills” and how his pride caused his fall in Isaiah 14.

Of course, we all know the story of Adam and Eve’s Fall in the Garden of Eden as described in Genesis Chapter 3. The Apostle John later tells us that the “Pride of life” is one of the things which places us in the world rather than in God. 1 John 2:16

So, is pride serious? Of course, it is. Is it the most serious? Maybe so.

Faith In Action-Speak No Evil

faith in action

James 4:11,12

Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?


Read all of James Chapter 4 here

Now James is going to address some apparently bad behavior among the members of the churches he is writing too. To illustrate again that grammar counts, the tense and person used in the first verse of our passage today carries a particular meaning. It’s not simply general guidance that this sin of speaking ill will is bad. This is basically a directive that they stop something they are, in fact, doing. James is basically saying, “Stop speaking ill will of your brother.” This is something that is happening, and James is saying to stop.

How serious is slander and speaking ill will? Well, let’s start with the fact that slander and false accusations are the work of The Devil. In fact, the word from which we get the term Devil, diabolos simply meant in regular Greek to be a backbiter, slanderer of the false accuser.

Here are some passages which speak of God’s thoughts on this matter.

1 Timothy 3:11 Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.

2 Timothy 3:3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,

Titus 2:3 The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;

Lest we are confused, David has this to say in Psalms.

Psalm 101:5 Whoso privily slandereth his neighbour, him will I cut off: him that hath an high look and a proud heart will not I suffer.

Why does God feel so strongly about slandering, lying about, and speaking ill will of our brother? The answer is right in our passage for today. It is because God is the Judge, not us.

How serious is slanderous behavior? Again, we see in our passage that it is a violation of the God’s Law. We learned back in James 2:10 that to fail in one point of The Law is to fail in all of them, if readers recall.

So, then, how are we to conduct ourselves in this matter of how we speak about the brethren? What should be the purpose of words exchanged among believers? God’s Word also gives us that answer, as we see in Paul’s letter to the Ephesian Church.

Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

There we have it. Speak no evil, so to speak. Additionally, what we do speak should be for the building up of the church and believers.

Faith In Action-Justified? By Works?

faith in action

James 2:20-26

But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

Read all of James Chapter 2 here

Well, here James gets right into something that might seem quite controversial. Is he really saying that we are justified by works? Well, yes and no. To really understand what is going on here, we just have to understand what the word translated justified means.

Translating one language into another is simply not an exact business sometimes. Often a word in one language doesn’t correlate precisely into an exact match in another. So, let’s just briefly look at what is going on here; understand also not that this is not intended to be a lesson in Greek grammar. I am not, and most of you are not, Greek scholars. Thus, we will keep this very simple.

Justified in English can have two meanings. The first is the one most of us think about. In this meaning, justification is what happens to us at the moment our salvation, by God’s grace through our faith. We are justified in the eyes of God by the payment Jesus made for our sins. We are declared to be righteous in God’s eyes. There is, however another use for word translated justified. That one translates “shown to be righteous.”

So, we are declared to be righteous, or justified in God’s eyes. Alternately, we are shown to be righteous in whose eyes? Well, the eyes of others, of course. In fact, some translations translate it that way, saying Abraham and Rahab were considered to be righteous by their actions, and not just their faith.

Note above the order of events in the life of Abraham described by James. Verse 23 refers to Genesis 15:6, and clearly shows us that Abraham had faith and believed God, and at that point, righteousness was imputed to him by God. It was by the offering of his son Isaac, much later than the first event, that was the illustration of Abraham’s faith to the world.

Rahab the harlot was likewise saved by her faith and belief and subsequently put her faith into action as she saved the Israelite spies. Read her story here.

We can summarize the thought by saying their faith made them righteous before God, and their works made them righteous before men. A person may say that they have faith, but only if they can show that they have works can the rest of the world see that claim is valid. Faith without works is dead.

 

Faith In Action-Dead Faith is Useless Faith

faith in action

James 2:15-17

If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

Read James Chapter 2 here

 Faith without works is dead; it is alone. That is a strong statement, for sure. Previously we discussed the idea of a verbal only type of faith. This, again, would be a verbal and/or mental profession of faith. James continues on with his point that this faith likely is not a true saving faith. Only this time, James uses a very practical example to illustrate his point.

At some point in the next few devotionals we may take a look at some of the possible things James means in his references to dead faith, or faith being dead; for now, however, we are just looking at this very specific scenario.

Suffice it to say that simple verbal faith can only not save; it cannot serve. But, let’s jump right into what has actually happened in our passage.

This one is easy. A needful brother has shown up at a believer’s doorstep, quite obviously in need; naked and destitute is needy for sure. But, rather than providing some actual assistance for the need, the believer has sent them away with good tidings and a promise of prayer.

As many would say in today’s vernacular…..really? Did we actually do any good whatsoever for that brother or sister in need? Well, of course not. When we sent them away promising prayer the question should be asked: What if they showed up at our doorstep as the answer to somebody’s prayer who could not help the needful brother or sister?

Why would such a thing happen? Why would anybody send a needy brother or sister away and not offer actual help, but simply empty words? Well, John the Apostle also had something to say about this in 1 John 3:17 “ But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?

What did John just say, and what did James basically repeat? If we claim that God dwells in us(salvation), and we do not act accordingly(works) , then our claim that God dwells in us might be simply false.

Faith In Action-Yes, Faith Saves Us

faith in action

James 2:14

What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?

Read James Chapter 2 here

How many times do we see people walk an aisle during an invitation time at church, make a “profession of faith,” then are never or rarely seen or heard from again? How many people do we see do that and never follow The Lord in Baptism, or show any other outward results of their salvation? How many do we see do that, and we know that outside the church walls they are living like the devil? Well, that is exactly what James is talking about here.

Though a man “say” he have faith. That really represents the person who merely makes a “profession of faith.” Then James asks the question, “Can faith save him?” Let’s clarify quickly before anybody gets concerned. Of course, faith saves us; we are saved by Grace through faith, period. That verse in some translations can be misleading. What is really meant is something to the effect of, “Can that faith save him,” or “can such a faith as that save him.”

James is not, by any stretch of interpretation, teaching that works contribute in even the smallest way towards our salvation. So, then, what is James trying to teach us?

It’s quite simple. A simple verbal “profession” of faith does not represent a genuine conversion. A mere intellectual assent to the facts of Jesus Christ does not represent a genuine conversion. James’ point during the entirety of his book is that true, saving faith will produce works, or fruit, in the life of a believer. James will repeat several times over the course of his letter that faith without works is dead.

Not only is there the chance that faith not accompanied by works is not true saving faith, but our works are the only way believers have to illustrate to a nonbelieving world that our faith is a real faith. Here is a quote I found in The Wilmington’s Guide to the Bible that seems to express the thought perfectly.

The proof of the pudding is still in the tasting. The only test of a man’s salvation is through his works. A silent believer may be indeed considered a saint before God, but he remains a sinner before man until he walks the walk and talks the talk of Christian service

Faith In Action-Judged? What Does THAT Mean?

faith in action

James 2:12,13

So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.

 Read James Chapter 2 here

James is taking us now into some territory which might be considered controversial. We have talked about this a couple of times, and we will continue as we go through James just to prevent any misunderstandings of what is being taught here.

Earlier, James just put in his writing what any Christian already knows; this is the simple fact that any sin, whether large or small, separates us from a perfect and Holy God as surely as any other sin. His point was simply that the sin of partiality is as serious in the eyes of a perfect and Holy God as the sin of murder, or adultery.

One thing to bear in mind throughout James’ epistle is that James is writing to believers. Any conflict between James’ discussion of works and salvation by grace through faith is merely imaginary and quite explainable.

So, when James speaks of judgment in this passage, he is not speaking of any judgment where a person’s eternal destiny will be decided. If his listeners were truly saved individuals, then that determination had already been made. Nonetheless, believers will answer for the things they have done in their lives, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10)   This is at the Judgment Seat of Christ and is for the dispensing of rewards to the believer, not the judgment of Heaven or Hell.

A full reading of the Book of James clearly shows the lesson which permeates the entire book. James’ point throughout is that faith which is real will produce a change in the person who exercises that faith to salvation. James is saying that we demonstrate the reality of our faith by the way we live.

Faith In Action-Showing Partiality Is VERY Serious

faith in action

James 2:8-13

If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.

Read James Chapter 2 here

Hi all! Life whacked me in the had the last two days, and I had to beat it back into submission. Nice to see you all again!

James is about to take a serious turn with his dialogue here. He has been talking about the wrongness of partiality towards people using invalid criteria. Now he is going to illustrate precisely just how serious this issue is. We may come back to this passage in more detail in later devotionals, but for now, we are going to just look at the basic meaning of what James seems to be teaching us.

James, as usual, just calls it as he sees it; more precisely he calls it like God sees it. Showing partiality to others is more than just bad judgment or an error in our ways. Showing partiality to others is, in fact, sin and transgression. That is serious business.

James takes Jesus’ teaching on the totality of the law and uses it for our illustration. We all know that teaching. We must first love God with our all, then others as we love ourselves. If we do that we will essentially be doing all things God would desire that we do. All other law flows from those two thoughts. If we do those two, the rest will follow naturally. If we do not do those two, then it is not possible for us to do the rest.

James clearly, literally says to be a respecter of persons is transgression. He also points out that adultery and murder is transgression. The final link is pointing out that even one tiny transgression of God’s law makes us guilty of transgressing all; that is very interesting. What is James saying?

Remember that, “All have sinned and come short of the Glory of God?” In the eyes of God, being partial or unfair to others is every bit as serious as committing murder or adultery. That should remove all doubt as to the seriousness of this offense.

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