Monday, April 30, 2007

Who is the Blame for our Temptation?

On Friday we began a look at James 1:13-18. In this six verses, James gives us insight into temptation. First he tell us not to blame God when we are tempted because God is untemptable. Now he tells us in verse 14 where the real blame lies—in ourselves. The idea that “each one is tempted” is universal. “Each one” Gr.hekastos (singular), “each individual” — this stresses that the universal experience of being tempted is an individual matter, assailing each individual. It is also internal. James says, “When he is drawn away by his own desires.” This names the true source of temptation! “By his own” shows the individuality of each person. James uses the preposition of direct agency (“by” - hupo). The word he uses for “desires” or “lust” is epithumia (neutral term), it denotes a strong desire. It may be good (1 Tim.3:1) or evil (Jas.1:14) depending on the context.

The Scriptures teach that man is evil at heart. In Genesis 6:5 it says that “every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” In Genesis 8:21 the Lord said that “the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth.” Jesus said similar words in Matthew 15:18-20 about the heart of man when he said to the Pharisees, “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.”

So the first thing we need to understand is the evil of our own heart. Having that in mind will help us to understand who is the real blame for our temptation. Tomorrow we will look at how temptation operates.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Sunday Spotlight on Stephen Charnock

"All worship is shot wrong that is not directed to, and conducted by, the thoughts of the power of God, whose assistance we need."

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Saturday Spotlight with Thomas Brooks

"Satan promises the best, but pays with the worst; he promises honour, and pays with disgrace; he promises pleasure, and pays with pain; he promises profit, and pays with loss; he promises life, and pays with death. But God pays as he promises; all his payments are made in pure gold."

Friday, April 27, 2007

Stop Blaming God for Your Sin

We have completed our study of trials from James 1:2-12. Now we’re considering temptation. James says in James 1:13-18, “Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. 18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.”

In this passage, James gives us three truths about temptation. The first one appears in verses 13-14 where James exhorts his readers to understand who is the blame for temptation. He states emphatically that God is not the blame for temptation in verse 13, so this should never be our claim. He says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God” (v.13a). The phrase, Let no one say” is in the present tense which means, “Let no one keep on saying.” I also occurs in the middle voice. So the verse actually reads, “Let no one keep on saying to himself.” Last but not least, this is a command.  “James warned against rationalizing our sin and blaming God in the midst of our battle against temptation” (MacArthur). “The prohibition, stated in the singular, demands that ‘no man,’ not a single individual, however severe his testing, is to make such a claim” (Hiebert).

He states in the next phrase when he is not to say this—“When he is tempted” (v.13b). The word “tempted” (periazo) means, “to solicit to evil.” When you are solicited to do evil, you are not to say to yourself that God is the cause. The words “by God” is not hupo, the preposition of direct agency, referring to whomever is the direct cause of something; it is apo, a preposition of origin conveying the idea of remoteness. “The quoted claim does not crudely blame God as directly tempting him, but rather charges that God is behind the situation which produced the temptation. God is responsible for bringing him into such a situation” (Hiebert). Adam said to God in Genesis 3:12, “Then the man said, "The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate." Job said in Job 31:33-35, “If I have covered my transgressions as Adam, By hiding my iniquity in my bosom, Because I feared the great multitude, And dreaded the contempt of families, So that I kept silence And did not go out of the door—Oh, that I had one to hear me! Here is my mark. Oh, that the Almighty would answer me, That my Prosecutor had written a book!” In Exodus 32:21-24 we read, “And Moses said to Aaron, "What did this people do to you that you have brought so great a sin upon them?"  So Aaron said, "Do not let the anger of my lord become hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. For they said to me, 'Make us gods that shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.' And I said to them, 'Whoever has any gold, let them break it off.' So they gave it to me, and I cast it into the fire, and this calf came out." We even read in 1 Samuel 15:7-9, “And Saul attacked the Amalekites, from Havilah all the way to Shur, which is east of Egypt. He also took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed.” Samuel questions Saul’s actions in 1 Samuel 15:19-24, “Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you swoop down on the spoil, and do evil in the sight of the Lord?" And Saul said to Samuel, "But I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me, and brought back Agag king of Amalek; I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But the people took of the plunder, sheep and oxen, the best of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal." So Samuel said: "Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king." Then Saul said to Samuel, "I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.” All of these passages illustrate how man blames someone else––ultimately God—for their sin. Proverbs 19:3 says, “The foolishness of a man twists his way, And his heart frets against the Lord.”

James rejects this kind of rationality and states his reason in verse 13. He says, “For God cannot be tempted by evil.” “For” introduces a twofold reason for the rejection of this claim. It rests on the character and activity of God. The claim is inconsistent with God’s character because “God cannot be tempted by evil.” “Cannot be tempted” translates the verbal adjective apeirastos, which does not occur elsewhere in the NT or the LXX. Moffatt suggests that it was coined by James. This negative adjective is derived from the verb perazo, “to tempt,” used 3 times in this verse alone. Such verbal adjectives can be either active or passive in meaning. The active would mean “not tempting to evil,” while the passive means “not tempted of evil.” The context here calls for the passive meaning. The word for “evil” is a neuter plural adjective without an article and denotes things that have the moral quality of being base and degrading, the opposite of the morally good, the wholesome and beneficial. God is unsusceptible to evil; evil never has any appeal for Him. It is repugnant and abhorrent to Him (Hiebert 103-104). Psalm 5:4 says, “For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, nor shall evil dwell in You.” Hab.1:13 says, “You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness.”

God tempts no man to sin (v.13d). James includes that thought in the next phrase—“Nor does He Himself tempt anyone.”This claim is also contrary to God’s actions. The argument is that His character makes such conduct impossible. D. Edmond Hiebert says, “The fact of human temptation is a sad reality, but God ‘himself’ (autos), because of what He is, never solicits anyone to do what is morally wrong. It is corrupted human nature which turns into evil that which God meant for our good” (105). Ps.23:3 says, “He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”

So James says, when you are tempted or solicited to evil you are not to keep on saying to yourself that you were tempted by God because God is untemptable. He doesn’t lead people into sin, He leads them into righteousness. Where does the blame for our sin lie? We will consider that question tomorrow. For now, stop blaming God for your sin. You say, “I’m not doing that.” You are if you think He orchestrated the events that led you into sin. God is a holy God and He does not tolerate sin.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Difference Between Trials and Temptations

I would like to begin today by reading to you an apt description of what sin is by the Scottish preacher Thomas Guthrie:

“Who is the hoary sexton that digs man a grave? Who is the painted temptress that steals his virtue? Who is the murderess that destroys his life? Who is the sorceress who first deceives and then damns his soul?- Sin. Who with icy breath blights the fair blossoms of youth? Who breaks the hearts of parents? Who brings old men's grey hairs with sorrow to the grave?- Sin. Who by a more hideous metamorphosis than Ovid ever fancied, changes gentle children into vipers, tender mothers into monsters, and their fathers into worse than Herods- the murderers of their own innocents?- Sin. Who cast the apple of discord on household hearths? Who lights the torch of war and bears it blazing over trembling lands? Who by divisions in the church rends Christ's seamless robe?- Sin. Who is this Delilah that sings the Nazarite asleep, and delivers up the strength of God into the hands of the uncircumcised? ....Who turns the soft and gentle heart to stone? Who hurls reason from her lofty throne, and impels sinners, mad as Gadarene swine, down the precipice into a lake of fire?- Sin."

Sin is the savage beast that preys on every heart. It is the “monarch of man and the Lord of the soul from whom nobody ever escapes” (John MacArthur, The Consequences of Sin 81). Sin disturbs every relationship that exists in the human realm. It attacks everyone at birth and before it’s done it degrades, debases, and destroys in an eternal hell. Every broken marriage can be attributed to sin. So can every disrupted home, every shattered friendship, every argument, every disagreement, every pain, and every tear. It is referred to in Joshua 7:13 as “the accursed thing.” It is compared to the “venom of snakes and the stench of death” (MacArthur). And I agree with John MacArthur, when he says, “Anything that is sinister and powerful must be faced and dealt with–and sin is such. We cannot ignore it, gloss it over, or change the label–we must face the reality of sin” (82). As we come to our next section in our study of the epistle of James, we must understand the deadliness of sin. And in understanding sin we must understand how we are tempted to sin.

James has just completed his discussion of trials and now he turns his attention to the subject of temptation. The trials that are to test and refine us and reveal the strength and genuineness of our faith can also become a solicitation to sin. The key for both is found in how you respond. If you respond to trials with a joyous attitude, an understanding mind, a submissive will, a believing heart, and a humble spirit, then the trail remains only a test. But when you fail to respond to the trial you’re experiencing with what James says in verses 2-12, then the trial now has become an opportunity for sin. That’s where James begins his discussion in verse 13. In verses 13-18, James will not only answer the question, “Who is the blame for temptation?” but will also show you the process of temptation and how to overcome it.

James 1:13-18 says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.

17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. 18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.”

Verse 14 points out a reality for every person: “each one is tempted.” Temptation is a common experience of every human being, whether he is a Christian or not. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that temptations are “common to man.” One ancient writer said that even when we are saved, we must remember that our baptism did not drown our flesh. How we deal with the battle of temptation is another mark of the genuineness of our faith or the lack of it.

In verse 3 and verse 12 James uses the Greek word peirasmos for the word trials. In verse 13 he uses the same word but its verbal form when referring to temptations. “Instead of the noun peirasmos combined with adjectives suggesting thought of anticipated approval (vv.3, 12), James now uses the verbal form (peirazo) and combines it with the thought of sin” (D. Edmond Hiebert, James 101). “Every difficult thing that comes into my life either strengthens me because I obey God and stay confident in His care and power, or it leads me to doubt God and disobey His Word. The difference between a trial and a temptation is how you respond to it. Every trial has the potential to become a temptation” (John MacArthur, Benefitting from Life’s Trials 72).

This week we will begin to look at what happens when you fail the test and see three truths that James gives about temptation. But for now realize that trials are tests and when you fail them they become temptation. Don’t fail the test today!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Blessed Man

Today we come to the conclusion of James’ treatment on the subject of trials found in James 1:2-12. As we conclude today, we end on the subject of the one who is considered by James as “the blessed man.” He says, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

The word “blessed” (makarios) means, “happy,” “blissful,” and refers to an “inner contentment that is not affected by outward circumstances.” James is not saying that happiness comes in freedom from trials but in victory over them. The individual that James has in mind “is the man.” That is, the man who “endures temptation.” The word “temptation” is the Greek word peirasmos (noun) and should be translated “trials” (NASB). James says in 5:11 that “we count them blessed who endure.” Enduring trials is the necessary ingredient needed to pass the test. This test takes us back to 1:3-4 where verse 3 says,  “the testing of your faith produced patience” (literally “endurance.”). Verse 4 continues: “But let patience (lit. endurance) have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” Endurance is to “hold up under pressure, to be steadfast, to stand firm” (Doersken). James continues in verse 12 by saying, “For when he has been proved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

The Greek word “Proved” (dokimos), “was the term used for the testing of coins when determining their genuineness. The aorist participle suggests that the test is over and the person has demonstrated to be a genuine believer” (Doersken). “As the believer steadfastly endures each trial and temptation that comes his way, there is increased proof of his faithfulness to God and the genuineness of his character” (Doersken). The approval results in an eternal crown. 1 Peter 1:7 says, “That the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

The “crown of life” that James mentions is the stephanon or victor’s crown. It was a “head wreath or circlet which was the victor’s prize in the Greek games; it might also be given to a man the public wished to honor and it was worn in religious and secular feasts” (Fritz Rienecker, The Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament 723). The phrase “crown of life” is an appositional genitive in Greek which literally means, “a crown which is life.” The crown is “eternal life, which God promised to those who love Him.” Paul mentions in 2 Tim.4:8 the “crown of righteousness.” Peter mentions in 1 Peter 5:4 the “crown of glory.” Jesus mentions in Revelation 2:10 the “crown of life” We will receive the same crown consisting of the rewards of eternal life, righteousness, and glory. The promise is to “those who love Him.” Those who endure trials are those who love Him. This is a frequent designation of the people of God. Paul uses this phrase “those who love Him” in 1 Cor.2:9 when he says, “But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’” He also uses it in Romans 8:28 when he says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (NAS). Implicit in the concept of love is obedience – to love God is to obey Him (1 Jn.2:5-6; 5:3). “The Christian who is undergoing difficult times can rejoice on two counts; in the present life he is being perfected, and for the future he has the promise of life” (Doersken).

In verses 2-12 we have talked about the proper response that you’re to have when responding to trials: They were: a joyous attitude, an understanding mind, a submissive will, a believing heart, and a humble spirit. If this is your response in your trials, you will come through your trial as having been “proved” and join with the rest who are counted “blessed” who endure. But most important of all your faith will have been validated as being genuine. You will “receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to [you] who love Him.”

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

How are the rich to respond to trials?

Yesterday we looked at James 1:9 where James says, “Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation” and saw that the “lowly” or poor “brother” is to “glory” or boast in that Christ has exalted him. Today we’re looking at verses 10-11 where James focuses on the rich brother. As I said yesterday, trials have a way of putting everyone on the same level whether your poor or rich.

Notice what James says in 1:10-11 about the rich brother. He says, “But the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away. For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat that it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits.”

James begins by defining the rich brother’s social status. He is “rich” (plousios). This word denotes “one who does not need to work for a living.” In chapter two, the rich man is described as having “ “gold rings...fine apparel” (2:2), “gold and silver” (5:3). But aside for what the man possesses, James says in verse 9 that this man is a “brother.”

James gives the same instructions to this rich brother as he does the poor one. He said that he is to “glory” or boast “in his humiliation.” The word “humiliation” (tapeinosis) refers to “abasement” or to be “made low.” Spiros Zodhiates says, “The natural thing for the rich man is to be proud of his possessions. But, declares James, the rich Christian brother ought not to boast in the things of the earth, in his possessions, but rather in his position in Christ Jesus, just like the poor brother” (The Work of Faith 49). The rich can boast in his humiliation because he realizes that at the cross he stands on a level with the poor brother. Jeremiah 9:23-24 says, “Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches; But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the Lord.” Paul commanded Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:17 to “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.” Linski says, “Faith in Christ lifts the lowly brother beyond his trial to the great height of a position in the kingdom of Christ, where as God’s child he is rich and may rejoice and boast. Faith in Christ does an equally blessed thing for the rich brother: it fills him with the Spirit of Christ, the spirit of lowliness and true Christian humility...As the poor brother forgets all his earthly poverty, so the rich brother forgets all his earthly riches. The two are equals by faith in Christ” (The Interpretation of the Epistles to the Hebrews and the Epistle of James 534-535).

James illustrates his point in verses 10-11 by referring to “the flower of the field” and “the burning heat.” The “flower of the field” (v.10) that James pictures here is of the flowing grass of Palestine. The anemone, cyclamen, and the lily that flourish with beautiful color in February are dried up by May. The point is: the rich man who flourishes in his material possessions will become like the beautiful “flower of the field,” he will soon “pass away,” and his possessions will be left behind. The second illustration is from Isaiah 40:6-8. The burning heat, which could refer to the scorching wind known as a sirocco, destroys vegetation in its path. That is illustrative of the fury of death and the judgment of God that put an end to the rich man’s earthly life and his material possessions. The rich man should rejoice in his trouble because it divorces him from dependency on his material resources. When they are burned up, he will have true riches, just as the poor man does. The wealthy Christian has a true spirit of humility that says, “I don’t put my trust in the possessions of life, which pass so fast.”

So whether you’re poor or rich, you are to “boast” in the exaltation that comes through Jesus Christ. Are you “boasting” “about [your] weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in [you]”? (2 Cor.12:9).

Monday, April 23, 2007

How are the poor to respond to trials?

We are continuing in our study of James chapter 1. Today we are beginning a look at verses 9-12 learning what is involved in “Responding to Life’s Trials.” James begins this letter with this subject.

He says, “Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, 10 but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away. 11 For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits. 12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

As we look at the proper response to trials, we can’t help but to think of Job. Job had a tremendous trial as recorded in the book bearing his name (Job 1-2).

Job 1:3 tells us about his possessions: 700 sheep, 3000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 female donkeys, and a large household. Verses 15-19; 2:7-10 tell us of his predicament with his possessions (vv.15-17), with his family (vv.18-19), with his body (boils, 2:7-8), and with his wife (bad advice, 2:10). Verses 20-22; 2:10 tell us of his praise. Verses 20-22 tell us his response regarding the loss of his possessions. 2:10 gives the response he had concerning his painful boils and his wife. Job 42:5-6 records Job’s response at the end of his trial. He says, “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You; Therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes.” James makes note of his response in 5:11 to his trials as an “example of suffering and patience” by saying, “Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord–that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.”

All trials are geared to drive you to God. And by putting all your trust in Him you can go through any trial with the instruction that James gives here in verses 2-12. You can have a joyous attitude (v.2), an understanding mind (v.3), a submissive will (v.4), and a believing heart (vv.5-8). Now as we look at verses 9-12, we see another response we are to have to trials, and that is a humble spirit.

Trials have a way of putting everyone on the same level, whether you’re rich or poor. Proverbs 22:2 says, “Rich and poor have this in common: The LORD is the Maker of them all” (NIV). And as such both are to be treated fairly and not with partiality. God told the Israelites that they were not to charge any interest to the poor (Ex.22:25) or to show favoritism in his lawsuits (Ex.23:3), nor were they to deny justice to them in their lawsuits (Ex.23:6). In the 7th year when the land was to rest from sowing and harvesting, the poor were to be able to get food from the land (Ex.23:11). In the words of Psalm 82:3 they were to “Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed” (NIV). If they oppressed “the poor,” they were showing “contempt for their Maker.” (Prov.14:31 - NIV) And if they didn’t listen to the cries of the poor, they too would cry and not be answered (cf. Prov.21:13). So as Proverbs 28:27 says, “He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses” (NIV). When your “kind to the needy” or the poor that “honors God” (Prov.14:31 - NIV).

James also addresses the problem with the unjust treatment of the poor when they come in the assembly. Instead of showing partiality to the rich because of their riches, they were to treat both the poor and the rich the same but instead they were showing favor to the rich and contempt to the poor (See Jas.2:1-2). In our text we see that trails are no respecter of persons. Trials affect both the poor and the rich. And in James 1:9-12, James addresses 3 types of people: The poor or lowly, the rich, and the blessed man.

Let’s look at the lowly brother in verse 9. James says, “Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation.” The word “Lowly” (tapeinos) is used in the LXX to translate the Hebrew word for “poor,” “without possessions.” It is one who is financially poor, “one who is lowdown on the socio-economic scale” (Douglas Moo, James 60). This word is translated “humble” in 4:6. The word “brother” (adelphos) means, “coming from the same womb.” He is also referred to as an heir of the kingdom in 2:5 and a brother or sister in 2:15. James is addressing in verse 9 – poor Christians. The poor are identified in James letter in various ways: First by his clothing in 2:2: “A poor man in filthy clothes.” Next by his identity in the world in 2:5: They are “the poor of this world.” And third by his destitution in 2:15: He is “naked and destitute of daily food.” Though he is in this “lowly” state, he is to “glory in his exaltation.” His attitude is to be that of “glory” (kauchastho, pres.mid.imp.), “to boast,” “to rejoice,” “be glad,” “take pride in” (UBS). It refers to the boasting of a privilege or a possession. It is the joy of legitimate pride. D. Edmond Hiebert says, “It denotes a strong personal reaction, a feeling of pride or exultation in the condition mentioned. It encompasses the individuals total reaction, both his inward feeling and his outward expression of exultation” (James 89). It is “boasting in a good sense of an attitude of confidence in God” (Friberg). Paul said in Romans 5:2-3 that “we exult (boast) in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult (boast) in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance” (NAS). What is he to “boast” in? James says, “In his exaltation.” This is the Greek word hypsos which means, “in his height,” or “high state.” This “refers to the present spiritual status which, by virtue of his relation to Christ, the Christian now enjoys” (Fritz Rienecker, The Linguistic Key to the Greek NT 722).

A Christian has every reason to boast of his position in Christ. The poor as well as the rich. He is “chosen by God” (2:5); He is “rich in faith” (2:5); He is an “heir” of the kingdom (2:5). In Mary’s Magnificat, she says in Luke 1:52 that “He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble” (NAS). To the church at Smyrna, Jesus said in Revelation 2:9, “I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich)...” (NAS). John MacArthur says, “The poor Christian may have nothing in the material world to rejoice about, but he can rejoice in that he is exalted in the spiritual realm in his standing before God. He may be hungry, but he has the Bread of Life. He may be thirsty, but he has the Living Water. He may be poor, but he has eternal riches. He may be cast aside by men, but he has been received by God. He may have no home here, but he has a glorious home in the life to come” (Benefitting from Life’s Trials 66-67). Hattie Buell said, “A tent or a cottage, why should I care? They’re building a palace for me over there; tho’ exiled from home, yet still I may sing; all glory to God, I’m a child of the king.”

If this describes your condition, you can “boast” in that you are exalted by God. Rejoice in Him today and remember all trials bring us to the same level: humility.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Accept that Great Bible Doctrine

"John Newton used to tell a whimsical story, and laugh at it, too, of a good woman who said, in order to prove the doctrine of election, "Ah! sir, the Lord must have loved me before I was born, or else He would not have seen anything in me to love afterwards." I am sure it is true in my case; I believe the doctrine of election, because I am quite certain that, if God had not chosen me, I should never have chosen Him; and I am sure He chose me before I was born, or else He never would have chosen me afterwards; and He must have elected me for reasons unknown to me, for I never could find any reason in myself why He should have looked upon me with special love. So I am forced to accept that great Biblical doctrine" (C.H. Spurgeon).

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Saturday Spotlight: Spurgeon on Calvinism

"The old truth that Calvin preached, that Augustine preached, that Paul preached, is the truth that I must preach to-day, or else be false to my conscience and my God. I cannot shape the truth; I know of no such thing as paring off the rough edges of a doctrine. John Knox's gospel is my gospel. That which thundered through Scotland must thunder through England again."—C. H. Spurgeon

Friday, April 20, 2007

Conditions for Wisdom

James 1:6-8 says, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

Here James is giving us the condition for wisdom. It begins with asking in faith (v.6a).  “Let him ask” is the same as verse 5, but this time it’s used as the condition for the asker. “The present imperative ‘ask’ suggests perseverance in prayer” (Vernon Doerksen, James, 21). The demand that our prayers must be offered in “faith” underlines James’ view that there can be no acceptable prayer without faith. Faith is a prerequisite in pleasing God. Hebrews 11:6 says, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Paul said that “whatever is not from faith is sin” (Rom.14:23). This is a prayer of faith (not saving faith) but faith in knowing that God can and will give you the wisdom needed  for your trials. D. Edmond Hiebert makes the following comments:

“‘Faith’ here is not merely a body of doctrinal truth to which we adhere, but rather that wholehearted attitude of a full and unquestioning committal to and dependence upon God as He has revealed Himself to us in Christ Jesus. It is the proper human response to the goodness of God. When we approach God with our petitions, we must believe not only in His ability to grant our requests but also in His willingness to answer in harmony with His character and purpose. Believing prayer takes its stand upon the character of God” (James, 83).

Jesus said in Matthew 21:22, “And all things, whatever you ask in prayer, believing you will receive.” The condition of this verse is in verse 21, “If you have faith and do not doubt.” “The answers from God depends on our assurance in God” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary, 820).

Notice what James says next. He says we are to ask “with no  doubting.” This phrase comes from the Greek word diakrinomenos and suggests “vacillating,” “to waver.” It refers to “someone who is divided within himself as to his thinking.” Paul told Timothy in 1 Timothy 2:8, “Therefore, I desire that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.” “The antithesis to faith is doubt...Doubting speaks not of uncertainty but of internal indecision. It is wavering between two competing desires: self-interests and God’s interests. That doubting suggests a reluctance to commit oneself wholly to God’s care” (Vernon Doerksen, James, 21). “The present tense denotes that this ‘halting between two opinions’ has become habitual, while the middle voice indicates that the conflict is rooted in his competing personal desires” (D. Edmond Hiebert, James, 84). “One may doubt because he is not fully assured that God will respond, or because he is not sure he wants God to answer” (Doerksen).

James gives an illustration concerning the one who doubts. He says he is “like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.” This doubting petitioner is pictured as the unsettled, unstable waves of the sea. The word “wave” (Gr.kludon) does not mean an individual wave (Gr.kuma), but rather a succession of waves, one long ridge of water after another being swept along by the wind (Hiebert). Vernon Doerksen describes it as a “a violent, wind-driven, turbulent storm out in the ocean.” He says, “That is a vivid contrast to the individual resting securely by faith in the Lord” (James, 22). James uses two participles to suggests continuous agitation—“driven” and “tossed.” Marvin Vincent says, “The emphasis falls on the tossing; not only moving before the impulse of the wind, but not even moving in regular lines; tossed into rising and falling peaks” (Word Studies in the NT). James’ conclusion from this illustration is “let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (vv.7-8). The demonstrative pronoun, “that man” implies that this man should stop entertaining any thought of receiving an answer to his prayer” (Doerksen). He is a “double-minded man” (dipsuchos). This literally means, “two-souled.” It’s “almost as if the man has two personalities in constant conflict with each other” (Doerksen). William Barclay describes this man as a “walking civil war in which trust and distrust in God wage a continual battle against each other.” He is “Mister Facing Both Ways” as John Bunyan puts it in his classic allegory, Pilgrim’s Progress. Because of this he is “unstable in all his ways.” The word “unstable” (akatastatos) “is a compound verb occurring only here and in 3:8 in the NT. It is built on the verb histemi, “to place or stand,” with the preposition kata, “down,” while the alpha privitive, like our English un, gives the whole a negative quality; it conveys the thought of being unsettled, unstable–not having been put down to stand solid” (Hiebert). It lacks a foundation, which makes the man “unsteady and wobbling in ‘all his ways’” (Hiebert). Regardless of how he may view himself, the double-minded person is trying to serve two gods, which, as the Lord declares, is impossible. ‘Either [you] will hate the one and love the other, or [you] will be devoted to one and despise the other’ (Mat.6:24).

Which describes you today? Are you one who has a believing heart — a heart that asks in faith with no doubting? Or are you the person who continues to crumble under his trials and therefore vacillates in his asking for wisdom. What’s the proper response that James is calling for in our trials? A joyful attitude, an understanding mind, a submissive will, and a believing heart.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Have You Asked God for Wisdom?

What provision does God make for us when we are going through trials? He grants wisdom to those who ask. Listen to what James says in 1:5, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” Why do we need wisdom when going through a trial? We need it in order to evaluate trials with a joyous attitude (v.2); to understand the purpose of trials (“the testing of your faith” vv.2-3); and to submit to what God is producing from the trial (“endurance...perfect and complete, lacking nothing” v.4). But it all begins with the request for wisdom. Again, James says, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God.” James begins here with the petition for wisdom. He says, “Let him ask.” The word “ask” (aiteito) means, “to ask, request.” It has the idea of asking for “something to be given rather than something to be done.” It’s used in the present tense to indicate that we are to keep asking. It is also an imperative which means it’s a command. We are commanded to ask God for the wisdom we need when going through trials. James 4:2 says, “You do not have because you do not ask.”

Notice in verse 5 the source. He says, “Let him ask of God.” “The supernatural wisdom needed to understand the trials of life is not available in the world around us. If you need wisdom, you must acquire it from God” (MacArthur). God is the source for wisdom. James says in 1:17, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” All good gifts come from God, so does wisdom. In Proverbs 2:1-6, Solomon gives some great advice to his son when he says, “My son, if you will receive my words And treasure my commandments within you, 2 Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding; 3 For if you cry for discernment, Lift your voice for understanding; 4 If you seek her as silver And search for her as for hidden treasures; 5 Then you will discern the fear of the LORD And discover the knowledge of God. 6 For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. 7 He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity." We must recognize Him as the source and ask for wisdom like Solomon did (1 Kings 3:1-15). In 1 Kings 4:29 it tells us that “God gave Solomon wisdom and exceedingly great understanding, and largeness of heart like the sand on the seashore” because he ask for it.

Notice also the character of God in our petition. He is the “God who gives.” The Greek puts it so that giving is emphasized as an attribute of God. The verse literally reads, “Ask of the giving God,” or “God the giver” (Vincent). John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave...” Paul said to the Athenians in Acts 17:24-26 that “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their habitation.” Jesus said in Matthew 5:45 that God the Father “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” He gives His wisdom to all who ask: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all.” He gives “liberally.” This is the Greek word haplos which has two meanings. First, it is the “simple or single” motive of God’s giving; to further the welfare of His children; second, God’s manner of giving is “freely, without restraint, generously, liberally.” Both are true about God’s giving of wisdom. “He gives to all with singleness of purpose and with a wealth of liberality” (Hiebert). He also gives “without reproach.” He does not scold us for asking. The idea here is that “God permanently abstains from such a practice” (Hiebert). A good example of this is seen in the parable of the prodical son in Luke 15:11-22.

There is a promise attached to those who ask God for wisdom. James says, “And it shall be given to him.” “The future indicative places God on record that He will respond favorably when we turn to Him in our need” (Hiebert). If a person who lacks wisdom will ask God for the wisdom needed, it will be given to him. That is coming from a God who cannot lie.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

What is Needed When Going Through Trials

All of us experience trouble. From the terms that James uses in chapter one, verses 2-3, the trouble that we experience cannot be determined beforehand, avoided, or determined to their degree. But we can be sure of this, they are “tests!” Specifically, the “testing of your faith” (v.3). The fact that we are sinful beings, living in a sinful world gives indication that we will experience trouble on a regular basis. Even when we succeed in getting our own little worlds under control, something inevitably messes them up. We do everything we can to attain peace and comfort by protecting ourselves from trouble, but trouble arises nonetheless. Take marriage for an example, it was designed by God as a source of fulfillment and happiness, yet 1 Corinthians 7:28 says those who are married “shall have trouble in the flesh.” There is going to be trouble even in the best of what God gives us because of the sin principle that is active in the world. Jesus Himself experienced trouble and warned His disciples to expect tribulation in the world (John 16:33). John 11:33; 12:27, and 13:21 record Jesus’ troubled responses to the devastating effects of sin.  In all three cases it says He was “troubled.” Troubled at sin – its cause and its effects. Paul said the same thing when he stated he was “troubled on every side” (2 Cor.4:8). It is reasonable to expect trouble in our lives as well and not be surprised or overwhelmed by them when they come. Trouble is a way of life, so don’t think you’re alone if you’re experiencing it right now. What we need to learn is what Paul said in Philippians 4:12, “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” In other words, as we said last time, we need to have a joyful heart, an understanding mind, and a submissive will. Because we are commanded to rejoice, we are not to let our troubles rob us of our joy. True biblical joy does not find its basis in the positive circumstances in our lives, it is based on the command of Scripture. We are to rejoice in the Lord regardless of the pains and difficulties in our lives because we know that trials test the strength and validity of our faith; they reveal what we really love; they enable us to help others; and they produce endurance and strength. Notice in verses 5 what James says you need so that you can have a joyful heart, an understanding mind, and a submissive will: Divine “wisdom.” He says, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” Notice the need we have for wisdom. He says, “But if any of you lacks wisdom.”

Everyone needs wisdom. James is not making this statement as if you have arrived and don’t need wisdom in your trials. He is stating it as a recognized fact. The verse could read this way: “If any of you lacks wisdom, and he does....”

Ralph Martin says, “The conditional clause does not imply doubt or suggest a contingency. Rather it presupposes "a standing fact" (Hiebert, 79). The readers are facing some real problems arising from persecution, and it is the gift and application of wisdom to see these trials in their proper light and respond accordingly” (Word Biblical Commentary, Vol.48).

You do not need philosophical speculation or worldly wisdom, you need wisdom “that is from above” (Jas.3:17). The first step in gaining such wisdom is the consciousness of our need of it. “If any of you” indicates that this consciousness of a wisdom shortage must come as an individual recognition. Proverbs 3:7 says, “Do not be wise in your own eyes.” Romans 12:16 says, “Do not be wise in your own opinions.” Ephesians 5:17 says, “Therefore do not be unwise.” All of these passages reveal the need that we have for divine wisdom.

D. Edmond Hiebert says, “The believer needs ‘wisdom’ to see his trials in a true light and to profit spiritually from them. James knew from Psalm 73 and the book of Job that the trials that often overwhelm the godly do create struggles and call for God-given wisdom to resolve them. For James, wisdom is more than wide knowledge...As a Jew, James viewed wisdom as related to the practice of righteousness in daily life. It is that moral discernment that enables the believer to meet life and its trials with decisions and actions consistent with God’s will” (James, 79-80).

As you go through a trial, realize the need you have for divine wisdom so that you can respond with a joyful attitude, an understanding mind, and a submissive will.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Do You Want to be Spiritually Mature?

We are currently looking at what James says about trials. So far we have heard his call for a joyful attitude and an understanding mind. He says in verses 2-3 of chapter one, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.”

As we consider this subject again today, I want to focus on the last phrase of verse 3. He says again, “knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” We said that trials test what we really love. Notice that they also produce endurance. Thomas Manton said that “while all things are quiet and comfortable, we live by sense rather than by faith. But the worth of a soldier is never known in times of peace. One of God’s purposes in trials is to give us greater strength. As you go through one trial, your spiritual muscles (faith) are exercised and strengthened for the next one. That means you can face greater foes and endure greater obstacles, thus becoming more useful to the Lord. And the more useful you are, the more you will accomplish His will in the power of His Spirit for His glory” (James, 19).

The word that James uses for “endurance” is the Greek word hupomone. This word is composed of the preposition hupo, “under,” and the verb meno, “to stay, abide, remain.” It presents the picture of being under a heavy load and resolutely staying there instead of trying to escape. The reference here may refer to the act of endurance or that frame of mind which bravely endures the trails and pressures encountered. James Ropes calls this “staying-power.” D. Edmond Hiebert says “It is the virtue of steadfastness, constancy, and endurance. It is a virtue that grows under trial and testing.” Mayor notes that Philo called it ‘the queen of virtues.’ Hiebert again says “It is not a passive attitude of quiet submission or resignation, but rather, a brave manliness which confronts the difficulties and contends against them.” Joseph Thayer calls it “the characteristic of a man who is unswerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to the faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings.” Whatever you call it, it is “that tenacity of spirit which holds up under the pressure while awaiting God’s time for reward and dismissal” (Hiebert). Herbert Lockyer adds to our understand by saying that “Noble patience is the cheerful bearing of what is inevitable and unavoidable. It implies the willingness to endure uncomplainingly the different forms of sufferings, wrongs, and evils that surround us and the determination to bear injustices which we cannot remedy and provocation we cannot remove.”

We are to “let endurance have it’s perfect work” or result in our lives. That means we are to allow it to work out its intended effect in our lives. Arndt and Gingrich, in their Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature translates this as “Let endurance show itself perfectly in practice.” We must understand that the development of endurance under trial is not in itself the final goal of the Christian life, it is maturity of character. And that is not the result of the number of trials encountered, but the way in which those trials are met. In the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 5:3-4, he says, “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance, character, and character, hope.” He told the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” Peter told his readers to add to their self-control, “perseverance” (Gr. Hupomone) (2 Pet.1:6). We are to “be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” This is a double purpose clause. It states the final outcome they must realize: “that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” “That you may be” points to the intended outcome as in the realm of character development. “The present tense indicates that this is not merely a future ideal but a present progressive attainment” (Hiebert). The intended outcome is stated both positively and negatively. Positively, that they may be “perfect and complete.” “Perfect” (teleios) does not imply absolute perfection (cf. 3:2) but the ethical character of the mature believer. It denotes that which has attained its proper goal. When this word is used in connection with animals or people, it indicates adult growth and maturity—the opposite of babyhood. James is thinking of someone who has reached full development. Johnsone says “the word describes a ‘maturity,’ a ripeness and richness of knowledge and character, such as might be supposed to mark the full-grown man, as contrasted with the babe in Christ.” Vernon Doerksen says, “It speaks of completeness, maturity, full-grown, brought to its end, finished. Impatience, complaining, or bitterness would not be a ‘perfect’ result” (James, 17). Hiebert agrees when he says, “Unfortunately, many believers succumb to spiritual infantile paralysis and remain in a state of childish backwardness in their spiritual life” (James, 77).

The word “Complete” (holokleroi), is a compound form of holos, “whole, complete,” and kleros, “a lot, a portion received by lot.” It denotes “that which retains all that was allotted to it. “It was used of that which is complete and intact in all its parts, such as animals that were sound and possessing all their parts and thus acceptable for sacrifice on the altar” (Hiebert).

Negatively, “lacking nothing.” This is the counterpart of being complete. Literally it means, “in nothing being left behind.” “To lack is the exact opposite of being complete. All areas of the personality need to grow, and these testings provide a means whereby growth will take place. No area in Christian development will be in want” (Doerksen, James, 18).

How do you view trials? Do you see them as a “testing of your faith?” Are you letting endurance “have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing”? Trials are given to test the genuineness of our faith. You can either crumble and become bitter under them or you can rejoice at what is being produced. We are to have a joyful attitude, an understanding mind, and a submissive will.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Trials Test Your Love

This past Friday I asked the question “What do trials reveal?” My question was posed because James 1:2-3 says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” In this passage, James calls for us to have a joyous attitude and an understanding mind toward trials. The Greek word for “knowing” (ginosko) “suggests a knowledge grounded in personal experience. “As they adopt the attitude called for amid their trials, they will come to the personal realization ‘that the proving of your faith worketh patience’ (Hiebert). Trials reveal the strength and validity of our faith and they reveal what we really love.

In revealing what we really love, Genesis 22 records the story of Abraham and Isaac. God tells Abraham to go to mount Moriah and sacrifice his only son Isaac. This is the test that he is given. Abraham loved God more and was willing to give up that which was precious to him. In the end he was told, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me” (v.12). So the test God was giving Abraham was the test of his love for Him.

Notice a second test that is found in Matthew 6:19-21. Here Jesus asks, “Do you love your money more than God?” He says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

John MacArthur says, “Trials test our love for God by how we react to them. If we love God supremely, we will thank God for what He is accomplishing through our trials. But if we love ourselves more than God, we will question God’s wisdom and become upset and bitter. If anything is dearer to us than God, then He must remove it in order for us to grow spiritually” (Benefitting from Life’s Trials, 17).

Trials don’t just test our love for God they also enable us to help others. The comfort and lessons you learn from the trial are to be passed to others. 2 Corinthians1:3-4 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

A joyous attitude and an understanding mind are two essentials attitudes we need to have in trials. How is your attitude today?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

What is Needed Today by A.W. Pink

"What Is needed to-day is a Scriptural setting forth of the character of God-His absolute sovereignty, His ineffable holiness, His Inflexible justice, His unchanging veracity. What Is needed to-day Is a Scriptural setting forth of the condition of the natural man-his total depravity, his spiritual insensibility, his inveterate hostility to God, the fact that he is "condemned already" and that the wrath of a sin-hating God is even now abiding upon him. What is needed to-day is a Scriptural setting forth of the alarming danger in which sinners are-the Indescribably awful doom which awaits them, the fact that if they follow only a little further their present course they shall most certainly suffer the due reward of their iniquities. What is needed to-day is a Scriptural setting forth of the nature of that punishment which awaits the lost-the awfulness of it, the hopelessness of it, the unendurableness of it, the endlessness of it. It is because of these convictions that by pen as well as by voice we are seeking to raise the alarm."

Saturday, April 14, 2007

God Gives Mercy to Whom He Chooses

A quote to ponder: “From Genesis to Revelation, God is emphatically represented in Scripture as being absolutely determinative in bestowing His mercy. He is shown as choosing before the foundation of the world those whom He will save and then, within time, bringing it to pass.

The apostle Paul clearly announced God’s sovereign grace in man’s salvation. He wrote that, from eternity, God chose, willed, decided, and planned to save some sinners. To elect is to choose, and God chose who would be saved. Paul wrote: ‘For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy’” (Rom.9:15-16). This is to say, God decides whom He will save in order to display His glory” (30-31).

Steve Lawson, Foundations of Grace, Volume 1.

Friday, April 13, 2007

What Do Trials Reveal?

Yesterday we took a peek at what trials actually are. Today I want to say more from the passage found in James 1:2-3. James says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” In the first part of this passage, James says we are to have a joyous attitude. In the second part, he now says we are to have an understanding mind. He says that as he is revealing that trials test the strength of our faith. He says in verse 3, “knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” The Greek word for “knowing” (ginosko) “suggests a knowledge grounded in personal experience. “As they adopt the attitude called for amid their trials, they will come to the personal realization ‘that the proving of your faith worketh patience’ (Hiebert)

James defines “various trials” as “the testing of your faith” (v.2) The word “testing” (dokimion) refers to “a means or instrument of testing.” Their trials are the agents which test their faith and reveal its true nature” (Hiebert). In the words of Johnstone, “Affliction lets down a blazing torch for him into the depths of his own nature—and he sees many things which he little expected to see. He finds his faith weak he thought it strong, his views dim where he thought them clear.” And these trials lead to a purging and purifying of his faith.

D. Edmond Hiebert said, “Faith is such a vital matter to the children of God that it must needs to be put to the test, first in order to prove that it is genuine, and second to purge and strengthen it” (James, 69). Peter said it this way in 1 Peter 1:7, “That the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” In Job 23:10, Job said, “But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.” The Word of God brings tribulation and persecution and serves as a test of the kind of soil the Gospel fell on. In Matthew 13:20-21 we hear these words as Jesus interprets His parable of the soils. He says, “But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.” Whether you a real or dead faith, trials will reveal it. Does that mean if I fail a trial I am not saved? No but it does bring a legitimate question to your faith, whether it is weak or strong or no saving faith at all. God tests the hearts of all people. The psalmist said in Psalm 66:10-12, “For You, O God, have tested us; You have refined us as silver is refined. You brought us into the net; You laid affliction on our backs. You have caused men to ride over our heads; We went through fire and through water; But You brought us out to rich fulfillment.” Consider these things today and remember as a child of God the tests are for you not Him. He already knows your heart—you don’t.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

What Are Trials?

We are currently addressing the topic of trials. For the last several days I have been sharing how you can have joy in the midst of trials. Today, I want to look at what James says about trials themselves. The “trials” that James has in mind here in verse 2 refers to “a testing being directed toward an end, to discover the nature or quality of the object or person tested” (Hiebert) (See verse 12).

D. Edmond Hiebert says, “The verbal form periazo denotes the action of putting something or someone to the test. Such a test may be applied with either a good or a bad intention. In a good sense, the test may be applied in order to demonstrate the strength or good quality of the object tested. But when the testing is applied with the evil aim that the object will be led to fail under testing, then the thought of temptation comes in. Since it is a melancholy fact that men often break down under the testings of life, the term peirasmos is often used with the meaning of temptation, a solicitation to evil. But under either meaning the term ‘has always the idea of probation associated with it.’ Both the noun and the verb are rare in secular Greek, but they are common in the Septuagint and the New Testament. Since the Scriptures are concerned with moral values, the concept of testing is an essential one in the Bible.

In human experience the two aspects of testing and temptation may be closely related. That which is intended as a test may in fact become a temptation for the person tested because of his inner response to the situation. Well aware of this close connection in actual experience, James deals with both aspects of peirasmoi in this opening section of his epistle. In verses 2-12 he deals with the nature and use of the external tests that come to the believer in daily life, while in verses 13-16 he deals with the experience of temptation to evil. In verses 17-18 he shows that God’s beneficent activities toward the believer establish that He cannot be associated with peirasmos in the sense of solicitation to evil. God does test the faith of His people, but He does not allure them to evil” (James, 69-70).

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

You Can Have Joy in Trials

For the past two days I have been sharing how you can have joy in the midst of trials. James 1:2 says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials.” This perspective that James gives enables you to have joy regardless of your circumstances. When you examine it carefully, joy is a privilege in Scripture given to us by the Holy Spirit. When you obey God’s Word, He produces “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal.5:22-23). In the words of Paul to the Romans: “The kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom.14:17). This is the means by which we are able to “glory in tribulations” (Rom.5:3). It’s due to “the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom.5:5).

James says, “Consider it all joy—joy in the highest degree, unmixed joy, pure joy.” Joy is to be as varied as the trials. It is probable that James intended it to balance with “various trials”; all the varied testings to have their counterpart in every kind of joy. “The joys are as varied as the manifold tests themselves” (Hiebert). Since trials can come at anytime you are to rejoice when they come. But you cannot prepare yourself for them beforehand because they are undetermined. The word “when” is in the subjunctive mood here and it means “whenever” therefore indicating that trials come at undetermined times. Their arrival cannot be pinpointed beforehand. He also uses the word “fall” to indicated they are unavoidable. The word “fall” (peripipto), literally means, “to fall in the midst of.” It is used in Luke 10:30 and Acts 27:41. The third word he uses is the word “various” (poikilos) which means, “many colored,” “variegated.” It emphasizes the diversity not the number so trials can be of great diversity. Warren Wiersbe says, “The trials of life are not all alike; they are like variegated yarn that the weaver uses to make a beautiful rug. God arranges and mixes the colors and experiences of life. The final product is a beautiful thing for His glory” (Be Mature, 22).

As you reflect on this today, realize that you can have joy in trials because trials should not affect the joy that is available from the Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Is Joy Possible in Trials?

Yesterday I introduced you to the subject matter found in James 1:2-12. In this section, James tells his readers how to respond to trials. In verse 2 he told them to “count it all joy.” Joy is a command in Scripture. Paul said in Philippians 3:1, “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe.” Joy was such a priority for Paul that he told them again two times in 4:4 to “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” In both of those verses he uses the Greek word chairo, which translates a present, active, imperative. The present tense is the continuous tense. This is to be going on all the time. The active voice means the subject is causing the action. You are to rejoice. It’s not based on circumstances. It’s based on a command. This verb is in the imperative mood, which is a command. Paul commands the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord! You say, “How is that possible?” “How can I rejoice during a severe trial or any trial in my life?” First, Paul doesn’t say, “rejoice in the Lord if...” He lays no condition on the command. He says “rejoice in the Lord period.” Second, you have to understand the purpose of trials. Yes trials are painful and “grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Heb.12:11). Stop looking at how difficult your trial is and focus on what it will produce and remember what Paul said in Romans 8:18: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

When Paul told the Philippians to “rejoice,” he said that after being beaten and thrown in jail. Further, he didn’t call for them to do something he didn’t do. Luke tells us in Acts 16:23-25, “And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.” They could have joy because their trial drew them to God and they knew God was in control of their lives.

After David confessed his sin in Psalm 32, he said in verses 10-11 that “Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; but he who trusts in the LORD, mercy shall surround him. Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous; and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.” In chapter 33, he continues: “Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous! For praise from the upright is beautiful. Praise the LORD with the harp; make melody to Him with an instrument of ten strings. Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully with a shout of joy” (vv.1-3). Paul said of the Thessalonians that they “became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit” (1 Thess.1:6). In his second letter to the Thessalonians, he said “We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of everyone of you all abounds toward each other, so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure” (1:3-4). There faith was growing and their love was abounding because of the “persecutions and tribulations” they endured.

What is your attitude today toward trials? Are you rejoicing like Paul and Silas? Do you understand that joy has nothing to do with your circumstances? Ponder that today and join me again tomorrow as we consider more on this subject.

Monday, April 09, 2007

How to Have Joy in Your Trials

It is very clear that we live in a fallen world. And as such we experience the consequences of that fallenness on a daily basis. As we will see, it manifests itself in various forms and by various degrees but all in a fashion, as Peter describes as “grievous” (1 Pet.1:6) and how we respond will determine if we have genuine saving faith or dead, demonic faith.

The writer of Hebrews describes the great men and women of faith in 11:36-38 as those who “had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.”

Why? Because of their “faith” in the promises of God – His promise of a redeemer! Paul described his life as being “hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body” (2 Cor.4:8-9). He says all of this was so that “the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” This is what Jesus described to His disciples as “tribulation” in the world (John 16:33). Job said, “Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1). Why? Because of sin and because faith in Jesus Christ.

For the next few days I want to us to consider James 1:2-12. This section forms the unit of thought as James describes how we are to respond to life’s trials. This section is for believers because he begins by referring to them as “my brethren” in verse 2 and ends with describing them as “those who love Him” in verse 12.

In verses 2-12, God gives every believer the answer as to how they are to respond to trials. No matter their difficulty – we are to have the same response. No matter their timing, again, we are to have the same response to every trial. What attitude does James command from his readers in the midst of their trials? The answer is “joy” — “all joy.” He doesn’t say, “complain, murmur or become bitter.” He says to “rejoice.” This is not the natural, human response to trouble. That’s why it is commanded. Every trial that you encounter, you are to evaluate as a basis of joy.

The word “count” or “consider” is from the Greek verb hegeomai, which is an aorist imperative that calls every believer to “evaluate” their “experiences of testing as the grounds for ‘all joy’” (D. Edmond Hiebert, The Epistle of James). One writer says, “Don’t rebel! Don’t faint! Rejoice! These problems are not your enemies, bent on destroying you. They are friends which have come to aid you to develop Christian character” (Believers Bible Commentary). The “All joy” that James says we’re to have stands emphatically at the beginning of this verse and literally reads, “All joy account it.” Simply put but not simply received — We are to have a joyful attitude.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Resurrection Day!

Today is the greatest day because it illustrates the greatest gift ever given. If there were no resurrection then there would be no salvation; if there were no resurrection you and I would still be in our sins; if there were no resurrection then what we're doing is pure foolishness and God is a liar. But the resurrection of Jesus did happen and as He rose so will we, so rejoice today in what our Savior did on our behalf. Rejoice elect ones your salvation is made complete!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Celebrating the Resurrection of Christ

Just one more day before we celebrate the resurrection of our Savior the Lord Jesus Christ. As we focus our attention on the resurrection, I want to point you to a passage of Scripture that speaks of the entire plan of redemption.

2 Corinthians 5:14-15 says, “ For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; 15 and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.”

That last phrase He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again is the resurrection life. It also prompts a question: What does it mean that Jesus died for me? It means: He bore your sin (2 Cor.7:21); He bore the penalty for your sin (Rom.6:23); He defeated death and Satan. 1 John 3:8 says, “For the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.” He has prepared a place for us (John 14:1-3).

As you prepare for this time of celebration, remember that God has called us to Himself to confess Jesus as Lord and to live our lives “for Him who died for (us) and rose again” (2 Cor.5:15). We are therefore to follow after those things that promote godliness and holiness and flee from the desires of the flesh. As Richard Baxter well said, Let “nothing else but the habitual and predominant devotion and dedication of soul, and body, and life, and all that we have to God; and esteeming, and loving, and serving, and seeking Him, before all the pleasures and prosperity of the flesh.”

Friday, April 06, 2007

Out of the Pit of Destruction

Psalm 40:1-3 says, “I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me and heard my cry. 2 He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. 3 He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear And will trust in the LORD.”

Here in this passage, the psalmist describes his life. He describes it as previously being in “the pit of destruction,” in “the miry clay” (v.2). But something happened. Verse 2 says the Lord “brought me up out” and “he set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.” Verse 3 continues, “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.”

When the Lord saved me 23 years ago, I was in “the pit of destruction,” I was in “the miry clay.” I was seriously involved in drugs and saw no way out. My life was disastrous and heading for an ultimate disaster. Everyday was a party for me. I played in a rock and roll band and desired no other way of life. But twenty-three years ago on March 18, 1984, a friend shared with me for about the second or third time the Gospel of Jesus Christ and on this day God opened my eyes and made me one of His children. Since that day my life has been a series of changes.

I began attending the church where my friend went but after three months decided that tongues-speaking was not the biblical norm for today, so I began attending another church. It was at this church where the Lord led me to two brothers who I later worked with in starting a church. During that time I met Theresa. I was attending Bible college and considering moving out of town to attend a different college. The day we met she came with her mother to church. She was home for a summer break from FSU. At first there was no attraction other than my desire for her to know Jesus Christ as her savior. Over the next few months I spent my time sharing with her about Christ and building a friendship. One night when I was getting ready for bed, I was praying and she came to my mind. But this time it was not for salvation because she had now become a believer but it was for something more. I remember asking the Lord if she was the one He was giving me to be my wife. A verse of Scripture that became dear to me during that time was Psalm 37:4-5 which says, “Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.” We became good friends. It took a little time to convince her of something more. I remember one occasion where she asked our pastor if I would leave her alone but I was hard-headed and persisted. On another occasion she told me herself after which I responded by vomiting by my car. Eventually the Lord convinced her that I was the one and we began courting. I was still looking for another college to attend so we went to visit the Master’s College in California. During our four day stay, I concluded that this was not the Lord’s will at this time. We then moved to Tallahassee so Theresa could continue her schooling at FSU while I attended the local community college. While we were there I asked her to marry me and she said yes but wanted to wait a year, so we did. We were married in May of 1988 (almost 19 years ago) and moved to Columbia, SC so I could attend Bible college. I had the usual problem of finding a good job, so I worked several different jobs before working for the government. I also pastored my first church with my friend Charlie Swann. It was during our time there that the Lord gave us Jeremy. We stayed there for two years before moving back to Jacksonville. After we moved back we got involved in a church down the road from where we live now. A year later I was invited to pastor another church in our area. During our time there the Lord gave us Naomi. We stayed there for about eight months before leaving to work in youth ministry at another church. While we were there the Lord gave us Karrah. Following that church, I worked with four other churches before starting Changed By Grace. It has been during our time working in this church that God has grown me in areas of ministry that I hadn’t previously experienced.

Our life has been the church. It hasn’t been just for my life but it has permeated every part of our family. We live and breath the church because this is has been the call on my life. In addition to being committed to the church, we have been committed to our family. God has given us 17 wonderful years with Jeremy, 16 with Naomi and 14 with Karrah. We have been able to teach them how to read and write as well as many other things through home schooling for the past 13 years and to follow Jesus Christ. From the time of their birth into this world, they have been under the teaching of God’s Word—in the church but most importantly in the home. God has blessed my life tremendously and He continues to do so today.

David says in this passage: “I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He has put a new sone in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear and will trust in the LORD. How blessed is the man who has made the LORD his trust, and has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood. Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders You have done, and Your thoughts toward us; there is none to compare with You. If I would declare and speak of them, they would be too numerous to count” (Ps.40:1-5).

Here the psalmist is expressing his satisfaction of God. John Piper has a statement he always makes which says, “God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in Him.” He is always the object of our praise and I want to thank Him for saving me. As you celebrate His resurrection this weekend, remember without it there would be no salvation. We would be left in our sins. Recall how He brought you “out of the pit of destruction” and praise Him!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Basics of Christianity (Pt.6)

For the last two days we have been looking at Romans 12:6-8 where we find Paul’s list of spiritual gifts. If you remember, I said that spiritual gifts is one of the three basics that we need to constantly return to. The first two were prayer and Bible study.

Today, I want to focus on the last four gifts found in verse 8. Paul says, “he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness”“ (NKJV).

The word “exhorts” is the Greek word parakalo. It means “to comfort, help, advise, strengthen.” This is also a broad term but is one “which enables a believer to effectively call others to obey and follow God's truth (see note on v. 1). It may be used negatively to admonish and correct regarding sin (2 Tim. 4:2), or positively, to encourage, comfort, and strengthen struggling believers (cf. 2 Cor. 1:3-5; Heb. 10:24, 25)” (John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible).

The gift of exhorting or exhortation is the Spirit-given ability to “come alongside to help, to strengthen the weak, reassure the wavering, buttress the buffeted, steady the faltering, console the troubled, and encourage the halting” (Flynn).

The next gift listed in verse 8 is “Giving.” This is the Greek word metadidomi and it means to “super-give.” Jesus gives us some instruction on our motives in giving in Matthew 6:1-4 when He says, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.  2 "So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 3 "But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,

4 so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you” (NASB). In Proverbs 22:9 it says, “He who has a generous eye will be blessed, for he gives of his bread to the poor” (NKJV). This gift denotes the sacrificial sharing and giving of one's resources and self to meet the needs of others. The one who has this gift has the Spirit-given ability “to be sensitive to and to provide for the needs of the saints with great joy and generosity” (Swindoll).

Also included in verse 8 is the gift of “leading.” This word (proistemi) has the basic meaning of “standing before” and gives the idea of leadership. “In the New Testament it is never used of governmental rulers but of headship in the family (1 Tim. 3:4, 5, 12) and in the church (1 Tim. 5:17). In 1 Corinthians 12:28, Paul refers to the same gift by a different name, "administrations,” which means "to guide." In Acts 27:11 and Revelation 18:17, it is used of a pilot or helmsman, the person who steers, or leads, a ship. Although it is not limited to those offices, the gift of church leadership clearly belongs to elders, deacons, and deaconesses. It is significant that Paul makes no mention of leaders in his first letter to Corinth. Lack of a functioning leadership would help explain its serious moral and spiritual problems, which certainly would have been exacerbated by that deficiency. "Free-for-all" democracy amounts to anarchy and is disastrous in any society, including the church. The absence of leaders results in everyone doing what is "right in his own eyes," as the Israelites did under the judges (Judg. 17:6; 21:25; cf. Deut. 12:8)” (John MacArthur, Romans).

The gift of leading is the Spirit-given ability “to preside, govern, plan, organize, and administer by example and service in humility with wisdom, confidence, efficiency and ease” (Flynn).

The last gift is “showing mercy” (v.8). This is the Greek word eleon and it “carries the joint idea of actively demonstrating sympathy for someone else and of having the necessary resources to successfully comfort and strengthen that person” (MacArthur). This is one of the beatitudes Jesus mentions in Matthew 5:7, “Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy” (NKJV). James makes reference to it 2 times in his letter (James 2:13; 3:17). Probably the illustration that is most familiar is the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37. The Greek word eleon, as seen in Luke 10 “embraces loving-kindness, though pity is included” (Kittel). Applying this to the church we would say that this is the Spirit-given ability “to sense needs and to manifest practical, compassionate, cheerful love toward suffering members of the Body of Christ” (Flynn). This is what is meant in Romans 12:14 where Paul says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”

All of these gifts listed in Romans 12:6-8 are in operation today and they are needed among God’s people. My prayer is that you will examine your heart and motive as you serve the body of Christ and never forget the basics!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Basics of Christianity (Pt.5)

In our last time together, we looked at the first two gifts that are found in Romans 12:6-8 which were prophecy and ministry. Today, I want us to look at the gift of teaching. As we talk about the basics of Christianity, we need to understand that there are some basic foundation elements in our life that we always need to return to. We have already discussed prayer and Bible study and now we’re considering spiritual gifts.

Paul continues his list of spiritual gifts in Romans 12:7 by saying, “he who teaches, in teaching” (NKJV).

“Teaching” is the Greek word didasko. “The root word carries the idea of ‘systematic teaching or training’” (MacArthur). This was the activity of the early church (Acts 2:42) and an important element in the Great Commission (Mat.28:19-20). There are many examples that we can look at in the New Testament of those who had this gift. Notice first the apostle Paul. In 2 Timothy 1:11 he told Timothy that he was “appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.” Barnabas had that gift and ministered it in Antioch beside Paul, where they were "teaching and preaching, with many others also, the word of the Lord" (Acts 15:35). Jesus, of course, was both the supreme Preacher and supreme Teacher. Even after His resurrection, He continued to teach. When He joined the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, "beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.… And they said to one another, 'Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?' " (Luke 24:27, 32).

As we examine this gift today, we can say that regular, systematic teaching of the Word of God is the primary function of the pastor-teacher. As an elder, he is required "to teach" (1 Tim. 3:2) and to hold "fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, that he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict" (Titus 1:9). Above all, Paul entreated Timothy, "pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching" (1 Tim. 4:16). Pastors are not the only ones the Lord calls and empowers to teach. But if a pastor's ministry is to be judged, among other things, on the soundness of his teaching—as the passages just cited indicate—then it seems reasonable to assume that, in some measure, he should have the gift of teaching.

Leslie Flynn says that the gift of teaching is the Spirit-given ability to “explain clearly and apply effectively the Word of God” (Flynn).

Monday, April 02, 2007

The Basics of Christianity (Pt.4)

In our last study we talked about the concept of the body that Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians chapter 12. Up to this point, I have sought to share with you that the two basics that we always need to return to are prayer and Bible study. Now I want to talk about our function in the body of Christ. To do that, I want to focus our attention on Romans 12:4-8. Here in this passage, Paul gives eight gifts or functions of the body of Christ. He says, “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness” (NKJV).

He begins with the gift of “prophecy.” This is the Greek word propheteia, which comes from pro, “before,” and phemi, “to speak.” It means to “speak before.” It has the literal meaning of speaking forth, with no connotation of prediction or other supernatural or mystical significance. To put it simply, it is the gift of preaching, or of proclaiming the Word of God. Notice a few passages that use this word in this way: 1 Corinthians 14:3 says, “But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.” 1 Peter 4:11 says, “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” Acts 15:32 says, “Now Judas and Silas, themselves being prophets also, exhorted and strengthened the brethren with many words.” “The gift of prophecy is the gift of being God’s public spokesman, primarily to God’s own people–to instruct, admonish, warn, rebuke, correct, challenge, comfort, and encourage. God also uses His prophets to reach unbelievers” (John MacArthur, Romans). In Leslie Flynn’s book, “The 19 Gifts of the Spirit,” he gives the following definition: The gift of prophecy is the Spirit-given ability to “proclaim the written Word of God with clarity and to apply it to a particular situation with a view to correction or edification.

The second gift is listed in Romans 12:7 as “ministry” (NKJV) or “service” (NASB). This is the Greek word diakonia which is “a very broad term meaning service for the Lord” (Believer’s Bible Commentary) or “service of any kind” (Barnes). Specifically the word “refers to one who serves.” This is the activity of the servant. John MacArthur says, “Service is a simple, straightforward gift that is broad in its application. It seems to carry a meaning similar to that of the gift of helps mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:28, although a different Greek term (antilpsis) is used there. This gift certainly applies beyond the offices of deacon and deaconess and is the idea in Paul's charge to the Ephesian elders to "help the weak" (Acts 20:35). The gift of service is manifested in every sort of practical help that Christians can give one another in Jesus' name” (Romans). William MacDonald says that “The person who has the gift of ministry has a servant-heart. He see’s opportunities to be of service and seizes them” (Believer’s Bible Commentary). What is the gift of ministry or service? Flynn again answers by saying that it is the Spirit-given ability to “joyfully and diligently serve other Christians in practical and supporting roles, often freeing others to minister their gifts” (Flynn).

Do you possess any one of these first two gifts found in Romans 12:6-7? Tomorrow we will continue with our look at this list by examining the gift of teaching.