Truth in Palmyra

By Wally Fry


james chapter 4

Faith In Action-The Evil of Boasting

faith in action

James 4:16,17

But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil.Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.

Read James Chapter 4 here

We have been discussing James’ writings concerning the men making plans to conduct some business in a far city and make great profits. We have discussed the fact that while God certainly does not oppose prior planning or even the accumulation of wealth, He certainly opposes those who would make plans with no regard to what the will and desire of God might be.

It seems here that James has taken a sort of a change of direction in his tone towards these men. Certainly before these fellows had left God out of their planning. They had even been rather presumptuous in their planning, by making assumptions that things would go exactly the way they planned.

What we see here seems far worse in terms of actions and attitudes. Previously we might have been able to make the case that the actions of these men were more or less a casual disregard for God’s will(If that can, in fact, be casual.) Here, the text seems to indicate quite clearly that these men clearly understood the will and direction of God, but were more or less thumbing their noses in God’s face.

One writer stated that those guilty of this type of action affirm God’s existence and even the supremacy of His will, then proceed to disobey it. We can see this by the phrase “Him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not.” James here is addressing willful disobedience and rebellion towards God.

To him it is sin.” There we have it, the basic condition of mankind. Here we see pride, arrogance, and boastfulness. Here we see a group of men who are determined to be the masters of their own destiny, regardless and perhaps in open defiance of the will of God.

Does this sound familiar? Pride and arrogance, of course, led to the fall of Lucifer and his demon angels. Satan then used pride and desire for autonomy to induce Adam and Eve to rebel and disobey.

What keeps us from God now? Pride, arrogance, desire for control and desire for self-determination. These are the things which still keep saved believers from the full relationship they could have with God through His Son Jesus Christ. These are also the things which keep the lost ones from repenting and accepting the rightful place of Jesus as Lord of their lives.

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-Cleanse and Purify Ourselves

faith in action

James 4:8

Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.

Read James Chapter 4 here

We are still talking about God’s offer of grace to help us work through the conflicts which arise among us, and some steps we can take to appropriate, or take full advantage of that grace. We have talked about submission to God, resisting the Devil, and drawing near to God. The next section has to do with how we approach the topic of sin in our lives.

Sin, if we are unsaved, has separated us from God; the only way that relationship can be restored is, of course, through the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Even for those who are saved, sin in our lives can interfere with our daily fellowship and communion with God. That is why it matters that we come to God with clean hearts and minds.

We can see the beginnings of this thought back in the priestly system of the Old Testament when the priests washed their hands and feet in the bronze basin before approaching God in the Tabernacle. Exodus 30:17-21. Even James seems to be drawing from the Old Testament when he teaches us this lesson.

Psalm 24:3,4 Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.

The word “purify” carries the meaning and usage in the Greek of the day,”to make chaste.” That is an interesting usage when compared to the earlier discussion of James 4:4 of adulterers and adulteresses. There does seem to be a strong parallel between the idea of being spiritual adulterers and that of presenting ourselves as chaste to The Lord.

And, finally, we see the idea of being “double minded.” This would be a reference it seems to people vacillating between their allegiances. Are we friends with God, or friends with the world? Are we chaste and loyal or are we spiritual adulterers?

A final question is appropriate. If we are saved, are we daily washing in the forgiveness of our sins through the power of the Holy Spirit? Are we washing our hearts and minds so that God will give us the daily grace to overcome the obstacles in our lives? More importantly in terms of washing is this question: have you been permanently washed in the Blood of Jesus Christ for the eternal forgiveness of your sin?

Faith In Action-Draw Nigh To God

faith in action

James 4:8

 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.

Read James Chapter 4 here

 As we covered earlier, God has provides sufficient grace for us to overcome the obstacles we face, in this case, particularly the conflicts we face among ourselves. But, we do have to claim or appropriate that grace. First, we submit to God. Next, we resist the Devil. The next item in our list is to draw near to God because in so doing He will then draw near to us.

We draw near to God by our worship of Him. We can seem some Old Testament examples of this from the Priests.

Exodus 19:22 And let the priests also, which come near to the LORD, sanctify themselves, lest the LORD break forth upon them.

Leviticus 10:3 Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the LORD spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace.

Today, of course, we have a High Priest in the form of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the writer of Hebrews had this to say while writing about the superiority of the priesthood of Jesus:

Hebrews 7:19 For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.

To draw near to God, we have to be like God. A.W Tozer wrote a book entitled “Nearness is Likeness.” The following quote is from that book.

The more we are like God, the nearer we are to God.  I many be sitting in my living room with my Siamese cat on my lap, and my wife may be twenty feet away in the kitchen, yet I am nearer to my wife than to the cat because the cat is unlike me. We have very little in common.

How much do we have in common with God? How near to Him are we?

Faith In Action-Let’s Get Sad Over Sin

faith in action

James 4:9

Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.

Read James Chapter 4 here

 Is James telling us here to be sad, sober, gloomy faced Christians? Just a cursory reading of that might lead us to believe that way. But, that is not what James is saying at all.

As always, we have to look at anything we read in God’s Word in light of the context in which it appears. James is still talking about God’s grace for our daily lives and how we can best get our hands on it so to speak.  He has just finished teaching about making ourselves pure in heart and mind to properly approach God. Now he is simply talking about our attitude toward sin.

Sin in our lives should make us sad. We should be distressed and upset about the sin in our lives, as an affront to a Holy God. In other words, we should certainly never take joy, or rejoice in, our iniquities.

Remember David, repenting over his sin with Bathsheeba? He recognized that the true sin was not against even the man he had murdered, but against God. We see this in Psalm 51, when David prayed to God, “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned.” Paul even instructed the Corinthian Church this way in the great Love Chapter, when he issued this instruction,  love “Rejoiceth not in iniquity

If we even pause for a moment to consider how our sin came to be paid for, we could never be anything but sad about it. A great, great price was paid to cover the debt of our sin. Because of the price Jesus paid on The Cross, our sin should never be something to rejoice over, but should cause us much grief.

There is a song which captures well the attitude believers should have over sin in their lives.

Feel The Nails By Ray Boltz

They tell me Jesus died
For my transgressions
And that He paid that price
A long, long time ago

When He gave His life for me
On a hill called Calvary
But there’s something else
I want to know

Does He still feel the nails
Every time I fail?
Does He hear the crowd cry
Crucify, again?

Am I causing Him pain?
Then I know I’ve got to change
I just can’t bear the thought
Of hurting Him

It seems that I’m so good
At breaking promises
And I treat His precious grace
So carelessly

But each time He forgives
What if He relives
The agony He felt on that tree?

Does He still feel the nails
Every time I fail?
Does He hear the crowd cry
Crucify, again?

Am I causing Him pain?
Then I know I’ve got to change
I just can’t bear the thought
Of hurting Him

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord

Do you still feel the nails
Every time I fail?
Have I crucified you, Jesus
With my sin?

I’m tired of playing games
I really want to change
I never want to hurt You again

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord

As an added bonus here is my lovely Bride singing that very song.

Faith In Action-Resist the Devil

faith in action

James 4:7

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

Read James Chapter 4 here

Earlier we talked about submission to God as a thing which must be done willingly and voluntarily. Now James tells us that there is something else we must do, and that is to resist the Devil. Now it is time for another short grammar lesson! In this case, the term “resist” is an imperative. There is the implication that nothing passive is going on here, but that we are being directed to actively and purposely resist the temptations of the Devil. In other words, there are actions we can and should take to resist.

This theme of active resistance to the Devil appears elsewhere in God’s Word. The Apostle Peter had something to say about it himself.

1 Peter 5:8,9 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.

What things do we need to do in order to resist the Devil?

Put on the full armor of God as contained in Ephesians 6:8-10

Prepare with the Word of God as our Lord Jesus Christ did during his temptations in the desert.

Matthew 4:4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

Matthew 4:7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

Matthew 4:10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve

After that, in Verse 11 we see that Satan left from the presence of Jesus. This clearly teaches that in the face of a person well prepared with the Word of God, the Devil will flee.

To resist the devil, we must pray. John 15:7; 1 John 5:14,15; Ephesians 6:18.

Our adversary, Satan, is very powerful. He is certainly more powerful than the individual Christian. We are called and directed to resist him, but notice that it is never by our own strength that we resist. We rely on God’s armor, God’s Word, and prayer TO God for our strength in this battle. If we resist the Devil with those things as our arsenal, Satan will have no choice but to flee.

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