Wednesday, May 30, 2007

God's Will is that You Say Thanks

We have stated that God’s will is that you be saved, Spirit-filled, sanctified, submissive, and suffering. Today, we’re going to learn that God’s will is that you say thanks.

God hates grumbling and complaining. That’s why when Paul said to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” he also said to “do all things without murmuring and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Phil.2:14-15). When the children of Israel spent 12 spies into the land of Canaan and ten out of the twelve gave a bad report and the people believed them, God caused them to wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. He said, “The carcasses of you who have murmured against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above” (Num.14:29). When the sons of Korah complained and rebelled against the Lord, God caused the earth to open “its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the men with Korah, with all their goods” (Num.16.32) and then “a fire came out from the Lord and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were offering incense” (Num.16:35).

God, on the other hand, loves a heart filled with thanksgiving. Paul said in Ephesians 5 what should not be named among saints but then said “but rather giving of thanks” (v.4). Thanksgiving reveals a grateful heart. E.M. Bounds said, “Thanksgiving is the expression of an inward conscious gratitude to God for mercies received. It is an inward emotion of the soul, involuntarily arising therein. It is born of meditation on God’s grace and mercy, and it is opposed to all murmurings at God’s dealings with us. Gratitude and murmuring never abide in the same heart at the same time” (The Essentials of Prayer, pp.37-38, 40). We are to be thankful and be known as a people who are thankful. Paul said, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess.5:18). In Philippians 4:6 he said, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”

So are you saved, Spirit-filled, sanctified, submissive, suffering and saying thanks? If so, then you are doing the will of God and can be confident that God is directing your desires (See Ps.37:4). In our next blog we will look at grey areas.

(Main points taken from “Found God’s Will” by John MacArthur).

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

God's Will is that You Suffer

We are currently talking about the will of God. We have already seen that God’s will is that you be saved, Spirit-filled, sanctified, and submissive. Today’s we are to going to see that God’s will is also that you suffer. This is definitely an issue many question. The problem of suffering is due to sin but Paul says it’s also God’s will for believers. Philippians 1:29-30 says, “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.” Most Christians do not hear the second part of this verse let alone the first. God has graciously granted His children salvation and suffering. Paul told Timothy that this would be the result of living godly. He said in 2 Tim.3:12: “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” Jesus even said that “in the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). All of this is because they persecuted Jesus. He said, Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me” (Jn.15:20-21).

As you live the Word of God unbelievers will react—some in salvation others in retaliation. Don’t be surprised if you suffer for the gospel, for to this we were called.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

God's Will is that You Be Submissive

We are currently looking at the will of God. We have already learned that the will of God is salvation, being Spirit-filled, and sanctification. Today, I want us to see that God’s will is that you be submissive. We have already hit on this in our recent studies but let me give you a few reminders: We are to be submissive to authorities. 1 Pet.2:13-15 says, “Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, 14 or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. 15 For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.” It is clear from this passage, believers are to be model citizens. The word “submit” (hupotasso) means to “place or rank under, to subject, to obey.” This should be true of all Christians. As verse 15 says, “For such is the will of God.” It is by living a life of submission to those in authority do we “silence the ignorance of foolish men.”

Ephesians 5:21 teaches that we are also to be submissive to one another. Paul says, “Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” This is only possible as you obey what he says in verse 18 regarding being “filled with the Spirit.” Submission is the consequence or results of Spirit filling. As we yield control to the Spirit, we will respond to other by submission.

A third area of submission is the foundation to the first two. James 4:7 says, “Submit therefore to God.” The context of this passage is a call to salvation. When we respond by grace through faith (See Eph.2:8) we are in fact submitting to God. This submission, though, is not one time, but continual.  We are to submit to God on a regular basis.

As you can see submission is equally important for the believer. It brings harmony to society, to the church, and to our relationship with God. Are you being submissive?

Friday, May 25, 2007

God's Will is that You Be Sanctified

We are in a current study of the will of God. In our last time together, I shared that God’s will is not only that you be saved but that you be Spirit-filled. Today, I want to address a third area of the will of God.

God’s will is that you be sanctified. This means you were called to be holy. Ephesians 1:3 says, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.” God called us to be “holy and without blame before Him.” In the words of verse 10 we are “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” In both of those verses it talks about our sanctification. Holiness is not an option for the believer. It is our calling. Romans 6:22 says that since we have been “set free from sin, and [have] become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.” 1 Thessalonians 4:7 says that “God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.” Since this is the case, holiness then is to be a daily pursuit. We are to “present [our] bodies” as “a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God” and “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of [our] mind, that [we] may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom.12:1-2). If you are not being holy you cannot know what God’s will is. Colossians 3:5 says that we are to “put to death [our] members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” Peter said in 1 Peter 1:14-15, “as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.” When you are doing that then you are obeying the will of God to be holy.

Salvation, being Spirit-filled, and sanctification is God’s will for the believer. We will explore a fourth area in God’s will in our next blog.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

God's Will is that You Be Spirit-Filled

In our last blog, I shared with your where the will of God begins. Today, I want to show you how the will of God continues once you’re saved.

God’s will is that you be Spirit-filled. Ephesians 5:17 says you are “not to be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Then in the next verse he tells you what “the will of the Lord is.” He says, “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit” (v.18). The verb “be filled” is pleroo (pres.pass.imp) which is a command that can only be obeyed when you die to self. The passive voice is used here and indicates that you are the recipient of the action, which means you don’t fill yourself; the Spirit fills or controls you. You have to do what is necessary to not hinder the process. What hinders being controlled by the Spirit is sin. Paul says in verse 2 of chapter 5 of Ephesians that we are to “walk in love” and not let “fornication, all uncleanness or covetousness...even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which is not fitting, but rather giving of thanks” (vv.3-4). In verse 6-8 he says not to “let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes on the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.” In verse 11 he further says not to have “fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.” All of this has to be either affirmed or denied in order to carry out verse 18. Spirit-filling is different than Spirit-indwelling. Spirit-indwelling occurs one time at salvation (Eph.1:13; 1 Cor.12:13). Spirit-filling occurs repeatedly as you yield yourself to the Spirit’s control (Col.3:16; Gal.5:16).

Are you being filled by with Spirit? Are you being led by Him or by your flesh? What does it mean to be Spirit-filled? It means that you are letting the Word of God control you. When you examine Ephesians 5:18ff with Colossians 3:16ff, you learn that the results are the same. In Ephesians 5:18 it says to be filled with the Spirit; In Colossians 3:16 it says to let the word of Christ richly dwell in you. When you examine the results found in both of these passages, they are the same. So the conclusion is, to be filled with the Spirit is to be controlled by the Word or to put it more simply it is to obey God’s Word.

We will look at the role sanctification play in our next blog.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Will of God

If there is ever a subject that captures the attention of every child of God it would be one that addresses the will of God. For the believer this is where all of life revolves. All of us are faced with decisions. Some are more complex than others. Therefore, the will of God is an important matter. It’s so important that Paul has something to say about it in Ephesians 5:15-17: “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

He first says to see to it that you “walk circumspectly.” The word “walk” is peripateo (pres.act.ind.), which means, “to conduct one’s life” (Fritz Rienecker, The Linguistic Key to the Greek NT) or “to order one's behavior” (Wuest) or literally to “behave” (LN). Paul said to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 3:3 that they were “still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving [peripateo] like mere men? He told the Thessalonians that they “should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk [peripateo] and to please God” (1 Thess.4:1). The word “circumspectly” Gr.akribos, means, “accurately, carefully” (Rienecker), or “exactly” (Wuest). “The idea here is, that they were to take special pains to guard against the temptations around them, and to live as they ought to” (Albert Barnes, Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible). “As believers walk through the spiritual mine field of the world, they are to be constantly alert to every danger that Satan puts in their way” (John MacArthur, Ephesians). So Paul tells the Ephesians to be careful how they conduct themselves; be alert. You have to conduct yourselves as those who are wise and not fools “redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” I think it is important to note at this point if you’re not conducting your life in this manner it is impossible to know what the will of God is for you life. He’s not going to reveal to you anymore than what He has already revealed. In other words, if you don’t obey what is the clear will of God, as noted here in Ephesians 5:15, then don’t expect Him to reveal anything else. Paul goes on to say that we are to walk carefully as wise (see Proverbs 2). Verse 17 he says, “Therefore do not be unwise but understand what the will of the Lord is.” It is clear from this verse alone that we are to “understand what the will of the Lord is.” But before we can progress further in what he is about to say we have to back up to chapter 1.

In Ephesians 1:1 he uses an address to these believers that tells us where the will of God begins. Notice what verse 1 says, “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus.”

The will of God begins at salvation. You cannot know the will of God apart from salvation. Paul addresses the Ephesians as saints which is something he could not have done if they had not been saved (Eph.1:1). This is true of all his epistles. He said to the Romans - “To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints” (Rom.1:7). To the Corinthians he addressed them as “the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours” (1 Cor.1:2). He later challenged the Corinthians on their reception of the Gospel in chapter 15:1-2: “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved if you hold fast that word which I preached to you– unless you believed in vain.” He made the same statement to the Colossians: “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and irreproachable in His sight– if indeed you continue in faith, grounded and steadfast and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which, I, Paul, became a minister” (Col.1:21-23). All the wisdom and Word of God begins at Salvation.

In Matthew 13:10-11 the disciples asked Jesus “‘Why do You speak to them in parables? He answered and said to them, ‘Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.” Again, Paul writing to the Corinthians, tells them that “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. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches the deep things of God” (1 Cor.2:9-10). In verse 14 he says, “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

The will of God at this point is to repent and come to Jesus and be saved. John the Baptist told the Pharisees and Sadducees that came to his baptism to “bear fruits worthy of repentance” (Mat.3:8). When Jesus began His ministry He said in Mark 1:15 “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” Paul said this is God’s will “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim.2:4). Peter said, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet.3:9). These two verses stress the responsibility of man to repent at the hearing of the Gospel. The death of Jesus on the cross was sufficient for every man to believe, therefore, he calls all men to repent: Acts 17:30-31 - “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

The Will of God begins at salvation. It our next blog, I will show you how the will of God continues once you’re saved.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Christian Absolutes

John Wesley's Rule for Christian Living: Do all the good you can, by all themeans you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all thetimes you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever... you can!(Christian History, Vol II, No I). A great list that all of us can. In fact I wonder if any of us have ever made such a list. I have!! It is found right here in God’s Word. And in God’s Word there are absolutes that I like to call Christian Absolutes.

The first absolute is we are to believe God. When you examine the lives of Noah and Abraham that is exactly what you see. A life that was committed to obeying God. Genesis 6:8-9 tells us that Noah "found grace in the eyes of the LORD" and that he was "a just man, perfect in his generation. Noah walked with God." The characteristic that marked Noah's life was his trust in God. This trust or belief was not some mental assent to some facts about God. It was a belief that was acted upon. He "found grace in the eyes of the LORD" because he was a "just" and "perfect" man. The direction of his life was that of obedience and holiness. While his generation perverted their ways and the God who created them, Noah loved God by obeying Him. Abraham was no different. He believed God "and He counted it to him for righteousness" (Gen.15:6). Do you truly believe God? If so, your life will manifest a heart of obedience. If someone were writing a story of your life, would it be similar to Noah's or Abraham's?

Think about it.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Saturday Quote: "Evidence"

There are many today who profess to have a relationship with Christ. But when you examine their lives you see no evidence of such claim---Steve Hereford.

Friday, May 18, 2007

What Do You Do When You Blow It?

We have been asking questions this week concerning anger. Today, I want to ask one more, “What do you do when you blow it?” All of us blow it, but the real issue is what do you do about it or what do you do to prevent it from happening again? I want to give some basic principles that address this last question.

First, you admit it. Before you can move forward with any sin, you must admit you’re the one who did it. So you need to first admit it to yourself, then to the one you were angry with and ultimately to God.

The second thing you must do is repent and learn from it. Understand what it was that made you angry. Rehearse what you will do if this occurs again and then thirdly refocus yourself on what is right. To do that you must go back to what we said yesterday: Put others first, use discretion, practice patience, love without conditions and practice the example of Christ.

Three simple steps though no so simple to apply. As with all truth, you can only apply it as you yield yourself to the Holy Spirit. When you do you will see fruit.

So as you think over the issue of anger, ask yourself these six questions, and then find a way to glorify God in your anger.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

How Can I Control My Anger?

We have been looking at the subject of anger. Today, I want to ask another question—“How can I control my anger?” I have at least five ways to suggest in controlling anger.

The first is put others first. Anger that is sinful is selfish—it is focused only on self and lashes out at others when self has been violated. So to control this sinful anger, you need to put others first. Paul said in Romans 12:10, “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.” The last part of that verse is key. In order to “be kindly affectionate...with brotherly love,” you have to give “preference to one another.” This means, putting others first before yourself. Paul told the Philippians in 2:3-4 that this was the key to their unity in the church. He said, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Here in this passage, he commands them not to do anything by way of “selfish ambition or conceit.” But he doesn’t stop there. He continues by calling them to humility. Putting others first involves humility.

Notice a second way we can control anger—use discretion. Proverbs 19:11 says, “The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and it is to his glory to overlook a transgression.” Do you overlook it when someone sins against you? I know that’s not easy but this is also key in being “slow to anger.”

A third is to practice patience. We all have prayed for patience at one time or another. But believe it or not, it is needed to control anger. Ecclesiastes 7:9 says, “Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry, for anger rests in the bosom of fools.” Be one who is “slow to anger.” Don’t return evil for evil. Paul says in Romans 12:17-21, “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

A fourth way to control anger is to live without conditions. To do that you must love others unconditionally. We are all familiar with 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 which speaks about love. Notice what Paul says, “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” To love this way, means you set aside your expectations of others and seek to be this yourself. That means you “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good” (Rom.12:9).

A fifth and final suggestion is to practice the example of Christ. Jesus was all of these and more toward others, especially His enemies. Peter says in 1 Peter 2:21-23, “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.” Peter says that He did not sin (v.22), nor did He speak with deceit (v.22). When He was reviled, He did not revile in return (v.23), when He was suffering, He did not make threats but committed Himself to God (v.23).

Oh how we need to respond like Jesus! Let’s learn from Him today and control the anger that so easy hurts those we love as well as fuels fire among our enemies. Let’s practice the example of Christ. We will consider our last question in our next blog, “What do you do when you blow it?”

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

When is Anger Right?

We have been looking at the subject of anger. We have already asked what is it, how is it manifested, and what is its cause? Now we’re asking when is it right? With that question, we come to our passage in Ephesians 4:26-27. Paul is writing to the Ephesians and he says, “‘Be angry, and do not sin’: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.”

In this passage, Paul gives three answers to our current question. The first is when it is against evil. He says, “Be angry” (parorgismos, pres.mid.imp.) which is a “deep-seated, determined and settled conviction” (MacArthur). It is not momentary outward, boiling over rage or inward, seething resentment. This is anger that “abhors injustice, immorality, and ungodliness of every sort” (MacArthur). This is anger that is expressed when God is maligned or when others are mistreated. It is never expressed when hurt is against oneself.

In Exodus 32:19-20 we see an example of this type of anger in Moses as he responds to Israel worshiping a golden calf. It says, “So it was, as soon as he came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing. So Moses’ anger became hot, and he cast the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. Then he took the calf which they had made, burned it in the fire, and ground it to powder; and he scattered it on the water and made the children of Israel drink it.” Moses’ anger was justified because their behavior was sin against God. They had violated the very command that God had given them in the ten commandments regarding the worship of idols, so this made Moses furious. Another example of this type of anger is seen in Jesus as He is in the temple in John 2:13-17. The apostle John records, “Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the moneychangers doing business. 15 When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers' money and overturned the tables. 16 And He said to those who sold doves, "Take these things away! Do not make My Father's house a house of merchandise!" 17 Then His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up." Jesus was jealous for the holiness of God and when it was violated He drove those who violated it out of the temple. As seen in these two examples, there is a righteous anger that responds when God’s holiness has been violated.

Paul gives a second reason in our passage for when anger is right and that is when it does not cause us to sin (v.26). He says, “Be angry, and do not sin.” Anger that is sin is anger that is self-defensive, self-serving, and resentful. This anger leads to murder and God’s judgment. In Genesis 4:6-8 we see sinful anger as Cain murders his brother: “So the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.” Jesus said in Matthew 5:21-22 when we are expressing sinful anger, we are murdering our brother in our heart. He says, “‘You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.”

The third way that anger can be right is when it is resolved and not prolonged (vv.26-27). Paul continues by saying, “Do not let the sun go down on your wrath nor give place to the devil.” Anger is to be resolved before you go to sleep. Anger that is not resolved, even the best motivated, can “give place to the devil” to use for his purposes. “There should be no nursing of grudges, no harboring of resentments, no carrying over of irritations...Anything that mars fellowship with God or with our brethren should immediately be made right” (Believer’s Bible Commentary). “While believers may at times be legitimately angry (with righteous anger against sin; cf. John 2:13-16), they are not to sin. The way to prevent such sin is to "keep short accounts," dealing with the anger before the sun goes down. The reason is that the devil would like to intensify a Christian's righteous anger against sin, causing it to become sin itself. This then gives the devil a foothold (lit., "a place"), an opportunity for leading that Christian into further sin. Then anger begins to control the believer rather than the believer controlling his anger” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary). “While believers may at times be legitimately angry (with righteous anger against sin; cf. John 2:13-16), they are not to sin. The way to prevent such sin is to "keep short accounts," dealing with the anger before the sun goes down. The reason is that the devil would like to intensify a Christian's righteous anger against sin, causing it to become sin itself. This then gives the devil a foothold (lit., "a place"), an opportunity for leading that Christian into further sin. Then anger begins to control the believer rather than the believer controlling his anger” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary).

Is this the kind of anger that you are manifesting—the kind that is jealous for God’s glory? Or is it motivated by your selfishness? In our next blog, we will ask, “How can I control my anger?”

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

What Causes You to Get Angry? (Pt.2)

We have been looking at the causes for anger? Today, I want to give you a few more. We have already considered pride, harsh words, selfishness, and unrealistic demands. The next is lying. Proverbs 13:5 says “A righteous man hates lying.” Do you get angry when someone lies to you? Another cause for anger is disobedience. In Exodus 16:19-20 we are given an example of this with the children of Israel. It says, “And Moses said, “Let no one leave any of it till morning.” Notwithstanding they did not heed Moses. But some of them left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them.” This verse is referring to the Manna that the children of Israel received and serves as a good case for righteous indignation. Moses was angry that they did not obey God in regards to the manna. But this is not the only problem he had with Israel. They were also a complaining people. In Exodus 17:1-4 we read, “Then all the congregation of the children of Israel set out on their journey from the Wilderness of Sin, according to the commandment of the Lord, and camped in Rephidim; but there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people contended with Moses, and said, “Give us water, that we may drink.” So Moses said to them, “Why do you contend with me? Why do you tempt the Lord?” And the people thirsted there for water, and the people complained against Moses, and said, “Why is it you have brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me!” God hates complaining and it too serves as a cause for anger.

Some other causes are pain to a loved one (Gen.39:19), and injustice (Gen.44:18). Sam Ewing gives this insightful statement regarding anger. He says, It is wise to remember that anger is just one letter short of danger.”

Do you understand the causes of anger. Tomorrow we will consider our passage in Ephesians 4:26-27 and ask the question, “When is anger right?”

Friday, May 11, 2007

What Causes You to Get Angry? (Pt.1)

Yesterday I asked two questions, “What is anger?” and “How is it manifested?” Today, I want to ask a third question: “What causes you to get angry?”

The first cause is pride. When we survey David’s anger at Nabal it was not only because of Nabal ingratitude for David and his men for helping Nabal’s servants but also because David’s “name” and “reputation” was hurt. This was a form of pride. This is also one of the most difficult issues to address in our life because we don’t always see it as pride. Jesus said in Matthew 5:11-12, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” 1 Samuel 18:5-9 tells us that Saul had this problem with David.

A second cause for anger is harsh words. How we answer one another can stir up anger. 1 Samuel 25:3 says that “Nabal...was harsh and evil in his doings.” Verse 12 says, “So David’s young men turned on their heels and went back; and they came and told him all these words.” I could just hear David’s men as they shared with David Nabal’s harsh words. Regardless of how we are treated we are to respond differently. Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” “Soft” in relation to speech means “gentle,” “kind,” or “mild.” It is a response without anger or harshness. “Answer” in this context refers to a response or reply to what someone, perhaps in anger, has said. The words “Turns away” translates a causative form of a verb meaning ‘to turn back.’ The thought is that the anger of the first speaker can be set aside or calmed by a gentle response. “A harsh word” is literally “a word of pain,” that is, one that causes pain, and the expression refers to a word or utterance spoken sharply or heatedly. (William D. Reyburn, A Handbook on Proverbs, p.328). Proverbs 25:15 also says, “By long forbearance a ruler is persuaded, and a gentle tongue breaks a bone.”

The third cause for anger is selfishness. 1 Samuel 20:30-31 says, “Then Saul’s anger was aroused against Jonathan, and he said to him, “You son of a perverse, rebellious woman! Do I not know that you have chosen the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of your mother’s nakedness? For as long as the son of Jesse lives on the earth, you shall not be established, nor your kingdom. Now therefore, send and bring him to me, for he shall surely die.” Saul’s anger was motivated by his jealously of David as seen in this passage. This too is nothing more than pride and selfishness.

A fourth cause of anger is unrealistic demands. This provokes or exasperates a person to anger. A good example of this is found in Genesis 30:1-2 which says, “Now when Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister, and said to Jacob, “Give me children, or else I die!” And Jacob’s anger was aroused against Rachel, and he said, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” Rachel’s inability to have children and the envy she had toward her sister had caused her to lash out at her husband. Jacob’s was exasperated. This exasperation is what Paul says not to do toward our children. In Ephesians 6:4 he says, “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” “To anger suggests a repeated, ongoing pattern of treatment that gradually builds up a deep-seated anger and resentment that boils over in outward hostility” (John MacArthur, Ephesians, p.317).

There are eight ways that we “provoke [our] children to wrath”: overprotection, favoritism (favoring one child over another), pushing achievement beyond reasonable bounds (this causes him to see that nothing he does can please his parents), discouragement (never complimenting or encouraging him), failing to sacrifice for your children and making them fee unwanted (they are made to feel like an intrusion), failing to let children grow up at a normal pace (rushing them through their childhood years), physical and verbal abuse, and using love as a tool of reward or punishment (giving it for reward and withholding it for punishment) (MacArthur).

Do you see some of these causes in your life? If so, you need to actively pursue replacing your response with one of gentleness. I will consider some other ways in which we provoke in my next blog.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

What is Anger and How Does It Manifest Itself?

Ephesians 4:26-27 says, “‘Be angry, and do not sin’: do not let the sun go down on your wrath nor give place to the devil.”

This passage, which the first part comes from Psalm 4:4, is a call to righteous anger. Because anger can be selfish do we rarely understand that we can be angry without sinning. But much of that I believe comes from a misunderstanding of what the Bible says about anger. That’s why I want to take the next few days to talk about this subject.

I would like to begin by asking a simple question, “What is anger?”

Anger is an emotion, like laughter and sadness. To deny anger is also to deny other emotions you possess. What we need to understand is that it is normal and natural. All of us become angry, the question is, when is it the right kind of anger?

Anger is also a feeling of displeasure. Webster defines anger as “a feeling of displeasure resulting from injury, mistreatment, opposition, etc., and usually showing itself in a desire to fight back at the supposed cause of this feeling” (Second College Edition, p.53). The only problem with that definition is that it is one-sided. It is talking about YOUR “injury, mistreatment, opposition” and YOUR “desire to fight back at the supposed cause of this feeling.” That is not what Ephesians 4:26-27 is saying. But before we look at when it is right, let’s see this definition in action. In 1 Samuel 25:13 we learn that David was angered at how he and his servants were mistreated by Nabal. Verses 21-22 tells that he wanted to take vengeance because of his mistreatment. David’s anger was unjustified. It was “evil” (v.39) as he later admits. His pride was hurt and he was determined to avenge himself because of it. This is a good example of our definition of “a feeling of displeasure resulting from injury, mistreatment, opposition, etc., and usually  showing itself in a desire to fight back at the supposed cause of this feeling.”

A second example is found in Genesis 4:1-8. In this passage, Cain was jealous for Abel because Abel’s offering was accepted by God but Cain’s wasn’t. Cain’s “displeasure” toward God and his brother caused him to murder his brother but in reality he really wanted to kill God but since he couldn’t he killed Abel. 1 John 3:12 says that “Cain was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous.”   

Both of these passages illustrate the selfish anger that Webster’s dictionary refers to as “anger.” Before we address the other side to this definition, let’s ask the second question regarding anger, “How does anger manifest itself?” First is by rage. The Greek word for “rage” is chaloa and it “signifies bitter anger.” It means “to be enraged.” Rage then is a furious, uncontrolled anger. It is a “violent outburst of anger where self-control is lost” (Webster). You could say that our two passages illustrated “rage.”

The second way anger manifests itself is by fury. “Fury” is violent anger. It “implies a frenzied rage that borders on madness” (Webster). You could also say that David and Cain also possessed this type of “anger.”

A third manifestation of anger is “wrath.” “Wrath” is intense anger. This is the Greek word thumos which expresses more the inward feeling that quickly blazes up and quickly subsides. It is an outburst of wrath. It may issue in revenge, though it does not necessarily include it. “Wrath” is an action carried out in great anger, especially for punishment or vengeance. David definitely revealed this kind of “anger.” Cain’s was more of “rage and fury” which then resulted in “murder.”

The kind of anger that Ephesians 4:26-27 refers to is “righteous indignation.” Aristotle said, "Anybody can become angry—that is easy; but to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way-that is not easy." This is anger resulting from injustice or ingratitude. It implies righteous anger aroused by what seems unjust, mean or insulting” (Webster). All four types of anger are illustrated in the Scriptures and can be visible when anger is aroused. “It is difficult for us to practice a truly holy anger or righteous indignation because our emotions are tainted by sin, and we do not have the same knowledge that God has in all matters” (Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary). “When it is an emotion of malice, jealousy, resentment, vindictiveness, or hatred because of personal wrongs, it is forbidden” (Believer’s Bible Commentary).

So what are you angry right now? If so, you probably would not be reading this. Were you angry earlier? Was it any of the four kinds of anger listed above? The only way that we can control any form of anger is to “walk by the Spirit” (Gal.5:16).

Tomorrow we will ask a third question, “What causes us to get angry?”

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Lay Aside Envy and Evil Speaking

We are currently looking at 1 Peter 2:1. In this passage, Peter says, “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking. We have already looked at “malice, deceit,” and “hypocrisy.” Today, we are looking at “envy” and “evil speaking.” These too are vices that we are to put off.

The word Peter uses for “envy” (phthonos) refers to “the feeling of displeasure produced by witnessing or hearing of the advantage or prosperity of others” (W.E. Vine). This is a “Hatred of others on account of some excellency which they have, or something which they possess which we do not” (Albert Barnes, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible). John Gill says this is envy “at each other's happiness and prosperity, riches, honours, gifts temporal or spiritual” (John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible). “Envy is a sin that carries its own reward: It guarantees its own frustration and disappointment. By definition, the envious person cannot be satisfied with what he has and will always crave for more. His evil desires and pleasures are insatiable, and he cannot abide by any other person’s having something that he himself does not have or having more of something than he himself has” (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Titus).

Envy is a feature of our life before salvation. Paul includes it when he says in Titus 3:3, “For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.” Envy is also one of the works of the flesh. Paul includes it in the list found in Galatians 5:21. This also marks out those whom God has given up to a debased mind. Romans 1:29 says they are “full of envy.” When we read Mark 15:10 we learn that this was the attitude of those who delivered Jesus to Pilate. Mark records, “For he (Pilate) knew that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy.” Along with “all malice, all deceit” and “hypocrisy,” we are to put off “envy.”

Peter gives one more vice in his list in 1 Peter 2:1 and it is “evil speaking” (v.1e). This is the Greek word katalalia, which means to “speak against, often involving speaking evil of” (Lou-Nida). It is “hostile speech” (Friberg), “insult” (UBS), “evil speech, slander” (Kittel), “defamation - back-biting” (Strong). It is “‘speaking down’ a person, referring to the act of defaming, slandering, speaking against another” (Wuest). Many churches have been destroyed because of the tongue. Paul said that his fear in leaving Ephesus was “that from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves” (Acts 20:30). The church at Corinth experienced much division — all because of the tongue (See 1 Cor.1:10-12; 3:3-5; 2 Cor.12:20). The church at Galatia also experienced the power of the tongue to the point of leading many astray. Paul said in Galatians 1:6-9, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.”

We must make sure we do not slander or speak evil of others. Whether you’re an older person as Titus 2:3 says, “The older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things” or one who officially serves in the church. 1 Timothy 3:11 says, “Likewise their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things.” Slander or evil speaking is not fitting for a believer—it is sin. One person once said, “A slip of the foot may be soon recovered; but that of the tongue, perhaps never” (Drapers). Paul gives instructions concerning this when he says in Ephesians 4:31-32, “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” James also instructs his readers in James 4:11, “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.” Francis Quarles said, “Close your ear against him who opens his mouth against another. If you receive not his words, they fly back and wound him. If you receive them, they fly forward and wound you.” This sounds like good advice.

Peter says that in order to “desire the pure milk of the word,” you must lay aside sin. How are you doing? Ask God to search your heart today.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Laying Aside Hypocrisy

We are looking again today at 1 Peter 1:1. Here Peter gives 5 hindrances to our ability to desire God’s Word. We have already considered the first two, “wickedness” and “deceit,” and now we’re considering the next one which is “hypocrisy.” Not only are we to put off all wickedness and deceit but also “hypocrisy” (v.1c).

Warren Wiersbe says, “If we are guilty of malice, we will try to hide it; and this produces ‘hypocrisies’” (The Bible Exposition Commentary). The word “Hyprocrisy” (hupokrisis) “was generally used for flattery and deception” (Zodhiates). It is “pretense, to pretend” (Lou-Nida), “insincerity” (UBS Lexicon), “outward show” (BAG). This word also “was used of an actor on the Greek stage” (Rienecker) referring “to acts of impersonation” (Wuest). It occurs 7 times in the New Testament (QV). Jesus said this is what characterized the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23:28-29a when He said, “Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!”

John MacArthur says, “The Pharisees’ focus on external issues lay at the heart of their error. Who would want to drink from a cup that had been washed on the outside but was still filthy inside? Yet the Pharisees lived their lives as if external appearance were more important than internal reality. That was the very essence of their hypocrisy, and Jesus rebuked them for it repeatedly” (The MacArthur Study Bible).

“We are so accustomed to wearing a disguise before others that we are unable to recognize ourselves” (Francois, Duc De La Rochefoucauld). Jesus told His disciples to beware of the hypocrisy of the Pharisee in Luke 12:1. He said, “In the meantime, when an innumerable multitude of people had gathered together, so that they trampled one another, He began to say to His disciples first of all, ‘Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” Even Peter and Barnabbas played the hypocrite with the Gentiles so that Paul had to rebuke Peter to his face. Galatians 2:11-13 records the incident when it says, “Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; 12 for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. 13 And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.” According to 1 Timothy 4:1-3, hypocrisy will be prevalent during the last days. Paul reminds Timothy of this when he says, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, 3 forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.”

We need to constantly examine our lives for this deadly disease and forsake it. To do that we need to first examine our love. Romans 12:9 says, “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.” James 3:17 tells us that we need to next examine our motives. James says, “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.” Calvin Miller said, “It is easier to wear a mask. An ugly face is sometimes better than a real one. Thus are we afraid to show each other who we really are” (Drapers). Billy Sunday also said, “Hypocrites in the church? Yes, and in the lodge, and at home. Don’t hunt through the church for a hypocrite. Go home and look in the glass. Hypocrites? Yes. See that you make the number one less” (Drapers).

Everyone struggles at some point with hypocrisy. The only way to overcome it is to walk in holiness. Holiness will always expose hypocrisy for what it is and destroy it.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Laying Aside Wickedness and Deceit

This week we are going to look at 1 Peter 2:1 and learn what hinders our desire for God’s Word. In verse 1 he lists 5 hindrances to our ability to desire the Word of God. Notice what they are as he lists them in verse 1. He says, “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking.”

Peter’s desire for his readers to lay aside sin is due to the work of the Word in their life. He has already stated in chapter 1, verse 22 that the God’s Word purifies your soul and causes you to be “born again.” This “incorruptible...Word of God” he says, “lives and abides forever” (v.23). So in order to “desire the pure milk of the Word” as verse 2 says, we must first be involved in “laying aside” everything that hinders that desire.

Thomas Watson says in order to profit from the Word you must “remove the love of every sin...The Scripture prescribes excellent receipts; but sin lived-in poisons all. The body cannot thrive in a fever; not can the soul, under the feverish heat of lust” (Sermon: How We May Read the Scriptures with Most Spiritual Profit, 1674, reprinted 1844).

What does Peter mean when he says “laying aside?” (v.1) The phrase, “laying aside” (Gr.apothemenoi) means “to put off, to put away.” The word “had reference to the discarding of an old dirty garment” (MacArthur) and “suggests a once and for all action of separating oneself from sin” (Kenneth Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, Vol.2).

Kenneth Wuest writes, “In view of the fact that the divine life has been imparted to the believer, it is imperative that he ‘put away once for all’ any sins that may be in his life. The preposition prefixed to the verb implies separation. The believer is commanded to separate himself from sin. This act of separating himself from sin must be once and for all action, as the tense of the participle suggests. There must be a complete right-about-face” (Ibid., p.50). Ephesians 4:22-23 says, “That you put off, concerning your formal conduct, the old man which grow corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind.” Colossians 3:8 says, “But now you must also put of all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.” Peter is echoing the words of Paul here. We are to “put off” or lay aside” the old man. Notice again the 5 vices he lists in verse 1. He says, “laying aside, all malice, all guile, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking.”

First he says, we must put off “all malice” (v.1a). This refers to any kind of wickedness. Plato calls the love of sin magnus daemon, ‘a great devil.’ The word that Peter uses for “malice” (kakia) “is an all inclusive term” (Rienecker). It refers “to vice of any kind” (AT Robertson). It occurs 11 times in the NT “to indicate that wickedness which comes from within a person” (MacArthur). It is translated “evil” (Mat.6:24), “maliciousness” (Rom.1:29) and “naughtiness” (Jas.1:21). Peter uses this same word in Acts 8:22 when describing the “wickedness” of Simon who tried to buy the Holy Spirit. He told Simon to “Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you.” Paul uses this word in Romans 1:29 to describe those whom “God gave over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness...” James says in order to “receive with meekness the implanted word,” you must first “lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness” (Jas.1:21). This was part of the old life. It’s in Paul’s list of what we used to be like according to Titus 3:3. Paul says, “For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice...” It is something that we are to never grow up in according to 1 Corinthians 14:20. Paul says, “Brethren, do not be children in understanding; however, in malice, be babes, but in understanding be mature.” “The Christian’s new life can’t grow unless sins are renounced. When that purging takes place, then the Word does it’s work” (John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible).

Not only are we to put of all malice but also all guile. The word for “guile” (dolos) refers to “deceit.” This word comes from a verb meaning “to catch with bait” (Rienecker). It is “any cunning contrivance for deceiving or catching” (Liddell-Scott). It is “fraud or treachery” (Friberg). It means “to deceive by using trickery and falsehood” (Louw-Nida). Warren Wiersbe, says, “This is a word that refers to ‘craftiness — using devious words and actions to get what you want’” (Bible Exposition Commentary). This can refer to our tongue. 1 Peter 3:10 says, “For He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit.” Paul says that our tongues are to speak “what is good” not what is “corrupt.” Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” Our speech is also to always be with grace. Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your speech (general conversation) always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” The word “grace” (charis) refers “to that which is spiritual, wholesome, fitting, kind, sensitive, purposeful, complementary, gentle, truthful, loving, and thoughtful.” The word “guile” can also refer to our deeds. Jesus said in John 1:47 to Nathanael, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” Just as Nathaniel had “no deceit” that should be true of us. People should be able to look at our life just as Jesus looked at Nathaniel’s and say the same thing.

Deceit comes out of the heart. Jesus said in Mark 7:21-23, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, and evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” A.W. Tozer said, “You cannot study the Bible diligently and earnestly without being struck by an obvious fact — the whole matter of personal holiness is highly important to God” (The Quotable Tozer 1, p.110).

Wickedness and deceit are the first two things that are to be laid aside if we are going to desire God’s Word. How are you doing with this today? Survey your life and pray as David did for God to remove wickedness from your heart (Ps.139:23-24). Once you begin that process, you will see your desire for God’s Word increase.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

What God Produces in Your Life

For the last couple of days we have been looking at James 1:13-18. In this passage, James gives instructions on how to respond to temptation. In verses 13-14 we saw the need to understand the process of temptation. Today we’re looking at the need to understand the character of God. James says in 1:16-18, “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.”

God does not cause us to sin. To prove that point, James teaches us that the things that proceed from God are good and perfect (vv.16-17). He begins by telling his readers “Do not be deceived” (v.16). This word in Greek gives us our English word “planet.” It refers to something that wonders. James is saying here, “do not stray” in your thinking. The gifts that come from God are beneficial (v.17a). “Every good gift.” The word “good” (agathe) “describes the giving as useful and beneficial in its effects. The word “gift” (dosis) refers “to the act of giving.” The things that come from God are “beneficial in its effects” and “perfect.” That’s why God is not to be blamed when we’re tempted. “Every perfect gift” comes from Him. The word “perfect” (teleion) “marks the gift as ‘complete’ and lacking nothing to meet the needs of the recipient. The word “gift” is not agathe but dorema and it refers to “that which is given, the gift.” These beneficial and complete gifts proceed from heaven. They “come down from the Father” (v.17c). “Comes down” (katabainon, pres.act.part.) means “it keeps coming down” (Wiersbe). “God does not give occasionally, He gives constantly” (Hiebert) because they come from “the Father of Lights.” The “Father of Lights” was an ancient Jewish title referring to God as the Creator. The word “lights” (phota) refers to light given to the heavenly bodies. It describes God as being the creator of the heavenly bodies. The word “variation” (parallage), “denotes a change from an established course or pattern. It is referring to the heavenly bodies mentioned in the term ‘lights’. God’s gifts are established. They do not change. They are perfect.

James does not stop here, he continues by stating that God does not cause us to sin, He gives new spiritual life (v.18). “Of His own will He brought us forth.” In other words, by His will He saved us (v.18a). Our salvation resulted from the grace of the giver not the desire of the receiver. He says, “He brought us forth. ” This is the same as in verse 15. Sin brings forth death but God brings forth new spiritual life. Ephesians 2:1 says, “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” In verses 4-5 he says, ““But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).” In verse 10 he continues, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Peter tells us that He did this by His Word. 1 Peter 1:23 says, “Having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever.”

The gifts that come from God are beneficial and complete—they keep coming down from above, from the Creator. When we are tempted we are not to blame God because He is untemptable by sin. We are to blame ourselves. God does not bring forth sin, He brings forth new spiritual life. Verse 18b says that He saves us for a purpose: “that we might be a kind of first fruits of His creatures.” The words “first fruits” has its setting in the OT Levitical system. The Jewish readers would be reminded of that first portion of the harvest, which belonged to God” (Lev.10-11).

So what is James saying to us in this passage? Your understanding of who’s the blame for temptation, how temptation operates, and the character of God will give you the ability to overcome temptation. To state it another way: your use of what you know energized by the Power of the Spirit will pave the way for victory over temptation. As we close, let me sum up what we have studied in 4 practical steps for overcoming temptation: Feed on the Word daily so that your mind will be filled with the truth; Refuse anything that conflicts with the truth or causes you to compromise; Quote Scripture when you’re tempted (eg., Rom.6); and call on God (Jas.1:5; 1 Cor.10:13). My prayer is that you will live this way today!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Process of Temptation

We are currently looking at James 1:13-18. Here in this passage, James gives us the consequences for failing trials. When you respond to a trial with a joyous attitude, an understanding mind, and a submissive will, it remains a trial. But when you fail the test, it then becomes a temptation. As we consider this subject again today, we’re going to see how temptation occurs. Notice what James says in 1:14-15:

“But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”

James tells us that temptation begins with a deceptive allurement. He says, “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away.” This expresses the intensity of the lust drawing out the tempted individual toward the object of desire and pictures the movement of the tempted one toward it. The words “drawn away” (exelkomenos, pres.pass.part.) is a compound form: the preposition ek, “out,” and the verb helko, “to draw, drag” (Hiebert). It means “To draw out, to draw away, to lure” (Fritz Rienecker, The Linguistic Key to the Greek NT, 723). James uses the present tense to show that the process is always the same. The passive shows that something is luring him, “his own desires (lusts).” The second term “enticed” (deleazomenos) conveys the idea of catching with bait and depicts the juicy worm being dangled before the fish, and his inner craving to appropriate it for himself prompts him to bite. But he is deceived and caught. Instead of enjoying the anticipated pleasure, he is caught by the hook concealed within. It is an apt picture of the deceptiveness of lust.

James now tells us that it becomes a desire. He says, “By his own desires (lusts).” The word “desire” (epithumia) means, “lust, strong desires or cravings.” When you are drawn or lured away by your own lusts, it’s at this point where you begin to justify and rationalize your right to possess what you desire. This is what happened to Eve in Genesis 3:1-8. Satan offered her the baited hook (vv.1, 4-5). Eve desired and yielded to the temptation (v.6). Sin was conceived (vv.7-8, 12-13). David committed the same sin in 2 Sam.11:1-6. He saw the woman naked woman. He desired and yielded to the temptation (v.3). Sin was conceived (vv.4-5, 6ff). James says regarding this, “Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full grown, brings forth death.” “Then” points to sequence. The inner craving demands action. It must either be acted on or be resolutely repulsed. When you desire the object you’re tempted with it and yield to it, sin is conceived. D. Edmond Hiebert says, “The craving is an inner reaction of his own nature, but when it is yielded to it becomes malignant and is destructive of his own well-being. Our nature may involuntarily and instinctively feel a longing for a certain object when it is presented, but the craving becomes sinful when it is encouraged and acted upon and the will surrenders to the enticement of the harlot and unites with it in a guilty union. When the will consents to the illicit union, the lustful feeling becomes impregnated with sin” (107).

The word “conceived” (sullambano, aor.act.part.), is a compound form, derived from the preposition sun, “together,” and the verb lambano, “to take.” It has the basic meaning of clasping together.“ It suggests the man’s will bending toward the evil suggestion and seizing it. The sin produced is of one kind or another. It’s exact identity is immaterial. Each lust gives birth to its own kind of sin. The word “Sin” (hamartia, article is absent – used in general). The word “death” is the result of “full-grown” sin and seems to be referring to spiritual death, but physical death is certainly included, and ultimately eternal death also. “Death” is thanatos, which means, a “separation from the body (physical death) or separation from God (spiritual death). “If a certain sin is not cut short, that sin will reach full maturity; it will accomplish its full measure of evil, and the final consequence will be death. Sin becomes the mother of death, as lust is of sin. Adam and Eve responded to the bait of Satan and died. Paul wrote, ‘The wages of sin is death’ (Rom.6:23), and, ‘The mind set on the flesh is death’ (Rom.8:6)” (Vernon Doersken, James 33).

How are you responding to temptation today? Understand that the process is always the same and you don’t have to yield to it. Colossians 3:5 gives us the action we are to take towards sin. It says, “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry” (NASB).