“Faith Confirmed” – James, entire book

September 8th,  2013

James the book

“Faith Confirmed”

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Bible memory Verse for the Week:  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. —  James 4:10

 

Significant memory verse for the week: So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. —  Galatians 3:24

 

Background Information:

  • The most common way religion goes bad is when it becomes merely institutional–when it is viewed as just one of many elements in human life used to serve the desires of its practitioners.  This is the danger that all religions and all religious people face.  It is the temptation to substitute the authentic religious impulse that bows one’s head in humble adoration to God for some phony, ritualistic practice that one uses to serve his or her own ends.  When phony or virtual religion is substituted for true religion, faith becomes one more destructive element of sinful human life.

To counter the extreme dangers of phony religion, James writes his letter, calling for a return to authenticity.  He urges his readers to see that anything less than wholehearted commitment to God is ultimately going to be co-opted by the sinful human heart and bring curse rather than blessing into the human community.  (J. Michael Walters, James, a Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition, 213)

  • As we come to the end of James’ letter, it is fascinating to reflect on the tremendous amount of ground he has covered in such a comparatively short space.  He has written on subjects ranging from the sovereignty of God to the use of the tongue, from the doctrine of election to the stewardship of money, from Bible reading to temptation, from prayer to criticism.  Far from being a minor book in the Bible, we have seen that it is a treasure-house of divine truth, deeply spiritual and eminently practical all the way through.  (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 393)
  • Echoing the words of Jesus, James called for true, genuine saving faith.  It is a frightening and tragic reality that throughout the church’s history there have always been tares among the wheat; rocky, shallow, thorny soils that produce no spiritual fruit; those who draw near to God with their words while their hearts are far from Him (Isa 29:13); those for whom God is “near to their lips but far from their mind” (Jer 12:2); those who are hearers of the Word, but not doers of it (Jas 1:22).  To help people avoid being deceived, James has given a series of tests by which one’s faith can be evaluated.  True saving faith is marked by its proper response to trials, temptations, the Word of God, and God’s standards for holy living (chapter 1); its response to people from various social classes and its manifestation of righteous deeds (chapter 2); by proper speech, wisdom, and by not being a friend of the world (chapter 3); by humility and submission to God’s will (chapter 4); by a proper view of money and by truthfulness (chapter 5).  Those tests form the benchmarks against which a person’s faith can be measured.  (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 284)
  • In some ways, the letter of James is the most authoritarian in the NT.  That is, James issues instructions more profusely than any of the other writers.  In the short space of 108 verses, there are 54 imperatives.  (William MacDonald, Emmaus Correspondence Course:  The Epistle of James, 2)
  • The Jerusalem church had experienced tremendous growth.  With this growth there undoubtedly were many “hangers on,” spiritual groupies, people who wanted to be part of the Christian crowd but had no depth to their faith.  Ananias and Sapphira seem to fit into that category.  Their phony profession and dramatic deaths rocked the young church (see Acts 5:1-11).  Later in the NT, we hear of others, who left churches when the going got tough: “They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us.  But by going out they made it plain that none of them belongs to us” (1 Jn 2:19 NRSV).

To deal with this problem head-on, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit James pronounced that superficial faith, just believing the facts about Christ, is not enough.  True faith involves wholehearted and genuine trust in Jesus Christ and will be evidenced by a changed life.  In other words, true faith involves wholehearted and genuine trust in Jesus Christ and will be evidenced by a changed life.  In other words, true faith will produce good works.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, xix)

  • James knew as well that it is easy to slip back into old habits or spiritual neutrality when one has moved away and is surrounded by those who believe differently.  And so he challenged his readers to move beyond mere words into action–to live out their faith.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, xvi)
  • Genuine believers order their lives under the will and word of the Lord.  Then, when they fail to meet the standard, they plead for grace.  As James says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (4:10).  That is the gospel of James.  (Daniel M. Doriani, Reformed Expository Commentary: James, 13)
  • The religion that James encourages in this epistle is the most desperately needed quality in our world today.  We are dying the slow death of inauthenticity.  In a world crying for integrity, we are more often than not a generation of phonies.  The hypocrisy and shallowness of much religious profession has bred a whole generation of cynics toward the Christian faith.  The destructiveness of this kind of pseudo or virtual religion is apparent all around us as we witness the total devaluation of human life, the absence of peace in our world, and the encroaching secularity that sees God as irrelevant to human experience.

Only through a return to true religion–absolute submission to God–can we reverse this trend.  Only by having our hearts purified and released from the curse of double-minded faith can we become the instruments of righteousness that God intends.  Only by living out our obedience to God’s Word in practical ways can we become the vehicles through which God can again bless the world.  (J. Michael Walters, James, a Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition, 214)

 

The question to be answered is  . . . What does James hope to accomplish through his letter?

 

Answer:  James is attempting to encourage his audience to humble themselves and submit to God by demonstrating how far they still have to go in their sanctification.   Their faith is confirmed to the extent that they trust in Christ and not themselves for their salvation, sanctification and righteousness.  

 

There are four kinds of people here at HFM:

 

* There are those who are saved and know they are saved. (I can rest with you)

* There are those who are saved and don’t think they are saved. (You’re troubled but your future is secure)

* There are those who are not saved and know they are not saved. (Your heart is hard and only God can save you)

* There are those who are not saved and think they are saved. (It is my job to wake you up to the truth).

 

The truth shall make you free, but first it shall make you miserable.  —  Barry Stevens.

 

The sermon on the Mount was Jesus’ exposition of the Law showing that the standards of the Law were much greater and higher than anyone ever thought.   I believe Jesus does this for the reason Paul explains in Gal 3:24.  The Law was not given to be a standard of righteousness as we have made it.  The Law was given to drive us to a comprehension of our desperate need for a Savior.

 

The phrase for the Day is . . . Humble Yourself

 

There were two thieves on the cross.  One is there so that we might not presume.   The other is there so that you might not despair..  One is damned and the other is saved. — Steve Brown

 

How does James encourage our humility in light of our spiritual adolescence?:

I.  James tells us that the spiritually mature and wise see their trials as a great joy because trials develop perseverance and patience into their lives. (Jas 1:2-12; 5:7-11 see also 5/5/13 through 5/26/13 & 8/11/13 sermon notes online)

 

II.  James shows us that yielding to temptations reveals our own evil desires.  (Jas 1:13-18 see also 5/26/13 sermon notes online)

 

III.  James tells us that real faith has the conviction to put into action what it believes.  (Jas 1:19-27; 2:14-26 see also 6/2/13 6/23/13 sermon notes online)

 

IV.  James reveals that showing favoritism or promoting ourselves via corrupt business practices demonstrates that we trust in human resources more than divine.  (Jas 2:1-13; 5:1-6 see also 6/9/13 & 8/4/13 sermon notes online)

 

V.  James (like his older brother Jesus – Mt 12:34-37; 15:11-18; Lk 6:45) shows us that our unbridled or careless tongue proves the restless evil and poison that remains within us.  (Jas 3:1-4:6; 5:12 see also 6/30/13  & 7/14/13 sermon notes online)

 

VI.  James shows us that our boasting of what we will do in the future reveals a misguided and arrogant confidence in our ability to control our destiny.  (Jas 4:13-17 see also 7/28/13 sermon notes online)

 

VII.  James shows that the spiritually mature proves his faith in God by taking everything to God in prayer.  (Jas 5:13-20 see also 8/25/13 & 9/1/13 sermon notes online)

 

 

CONCLUSION/APPLICATION: What does James encourage us to do to confirm our faith in Christ?:

A-  Repent and humble ourselves.  (Jas 4:6-10; Mt 5:4, 6; Lk 6:21; 13:3, 5; Rv 3:3, 19)

 

Paul had written several epistles before he wrote, “I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing” (Rom 7:18).  In one of his earliest writings he rated himself as number twelve or thirteen, saying, “I am the least of the apostles” (1 Cor 15:9).  Later in his ministry he classified himself as number 500,000 or thereabouts, writing, I “am less than the least of all saints” (Eph 3:8).  But as an old man in prison and about to die, he wrote to young Timothy, “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” (1 Tm 1:15).  (Donald Grey Barnhouse, God’s Remedy/God’s River, 202)

 

God cannot use a proud man.  “God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble” (1 Pt 5:5).  The man who is puffed up with pride, self-esteem, cannot be filled up with the Holy Spirit.  Paul saw this danger for himself.  God saw it for him, and Paul writes, “Lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure” (2 Cor 12:7).  How many men have failed here!  They have sought God’s power, sought it in God’s way, and it has come.  Men have testified of the blessing received through their word, and pride has entered and been indulged, and all is lost.  (R. A. Torrey, The Baptism with the Holy Spirit, 78-79)

 

I believe that maturity in Christ isn’t so much being good, but realizing how many places one lacks goodness.   -Steve Brown newsletter, April 1998

 

When we rely on self, and when we trust in ourselves instead of God, then our natural default is going to be to look to ourselves to find our salvation and our righteousness.  And if we think we can achieve or merit God’s favor and blessing, then what do we need grace, forgiveness or mercy for?

Jesus spoke about this same subject when he told the parable of the two men who had come to pray.

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable:  “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’”

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk 18:9-14).

The first thing that we need to come to terms with, in order for us to be saved, in order to us to grow in Christ, in order for us to mature, in order for us to be effective in the Kingdom of God; is for us to understand that WE ARE THE PROBLEM!  And if we are the problem, we are not going to be the solution.  We must forget about “doing” or “being” something on our own to solve our own problems and to save us from our sins.

It is our sinful nature, our deceitfully wicked hearts that trick us into believing we are OK and that everything will be OK if we simply do our best.  That is where we go wrong.  And it is only when we come to repent of our sinful self, that we will ever have a chance of becoming all that God desires for us to be.  Likewise, the church must come to a point of corporate repenting of her sinful nature if she is ever going to grow and mature in Christ.  Therefore, we are desperately in need of God’s grace, forgiveness and mercy if we are to be saved and mature as Christians.

 

There was a time (Moral Majority – Religious Right) when the church had money, power and prestige and we could use those things for the benefit of the Kingdom.  But, now, more and more we are having less and less.  And that is bad.  NO that is good.  Cause now, the only thing we’ve got is to become like Jesus. (Steve Brown; “Beloved Pagan: Keeping the Church Honest; Pt 3, The Gift of Powerlessness” 2 Chr 20)

 

There is a direct correlation between God’s work, in and through His people, and the acknowledged helplessness of His people.  To wit: The greater the acknowledged helplessness,  the greater God’s power.

The ancillary to this proposition; “When the helplessness of God’s people is met with the help of God, God’s people properly do not get the credit.” (Steve Brown; “Beloved Pagan: Keeping the Church Honest; Pt 3, The Gift of Powerlessness” 2 Chr 20)

 

God allows you to go through a hard times so that God might bring you to the end of yourself.   (Steve Brown; “Beloved Pagan: Keeping the Church Honest; Pt 3, The Gift of Powerlessness” 2 Chr 20)

 

What sin makes God seem more irrelevant?  God wants to fill us with his Holy Spirit, but when we are proud we are already full of ourselves.  There’s no room for God.  Augustine characterized pride as the great political enemy in the City of God, the usurper that wants to unseat God and enthrone itself.  (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 82)

 

The most dangerous Christians are those who have forgotten their tendency to sin–and Satan’s agenda to capitalize on that tendency.  When Satan is allowed to move in the shadows, forgotten and without restraint, his power can be tremendous.  Thoughtful Christians have never forgotten that we have an enemy as well as a Savior.  (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 173)

 

Any desire of the heart for Christ, any secret brokenness, any godly sorrow over indwelling sin, any feeble going out of self and leaning on Jesus, is the gracious work of the Holy Ghost in the soul, and must not be undervalued or unacknowledged.  A truly humble view of self, is one of the most precious fruits of the Spirit: it indicates more real fruitfulness, perhaps, than any other state of mind.  That ear of corn which is the most full of grain, hangs the lowest; that bough which is the most heavily laden with fruit, bends the nearest to the ground.  It is no unequivocal mark of great spiritual fruitfulness in a believer, when tenderness of conscience, contrition of spirit, low thoughts of self, and high thoughts of Jesus, mark the state of his soul.  “Who hath despised the day of small things?”–not Jesus.  (Octavius Winslow, Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul, 163)

 

The great weakness in the North American church at large, and certainly in my life, is our refusal to accept our brokenness.  We hide it, evade it, gloss over it.  We grab for the cosmetic kit and put on our virtuous face to make ourselves admirable to the public.  Thus, we present to others a self that is spiritually together, superficially happy, and lacquered with a sense of self-deprecating humor that passes for humility.  (Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust, 122)

 

Franciscan Richard Rohr writes, “Humility and honesty are really the same thing.  A humble person is simply a brutally honest person about the whole truth.  (Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust, 124)

 

Failure is the best time to determine if you are a man after God’s heart.  The difference between David and Saul was this: When David failed his failure drove him TO God.  When Saul failed, his failure drove him AWAY from God.  Saul was trying to save himself and when he was forced to face his inadequacies, he despaired of even trying.  David looked to God for his salvation and so when he failed he simply clung tighter to God who was the Rock of his salvation. — Pastor Keith

 

Since I have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, the thing I fear the most is myself.  -Carole Jacobus

 

In this school and in this way, did the great apostle of the Gentiles learn that the most holy, deeply taught, useful, privileged, and even inspired saint of God, was in himself nothing but the most perfect weakness of sin.  (Octavius Winslow, Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul, 194)

 

The great supporter of the eighteenth-century ministries of John Wesley and George Whitefield, the Countess of Huntingdon, once invited a duchess to hear Whitefield preach and received this amazing written reply:

It is monstrous to be told, that you have a heart as sinful as the common wretches that crawl on the earth.  This is highly offensive and insulting; and I cannot but wonder that your Ladyship should relish any sentiments so much at variance with high rank and good breeding. (Arnold A. Dallimore, George Whitefield, Vol. 1, 132)

Only a twitty duchess, raised in the insular, racist, upper class of old England, would say such a thing.  But thousands have used such thinking to avoid applying Christ’s teaching to themselves–“Good people just don’t need that kind of religion.  Grace is for big-time sinners, not for people like me.  I don’t need it!”  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Luke, Vol. One, 279)

 

J. I. Packer once told me our view of God is like a pair of old-fashioned scales.  When God goes up in our estimation, we go down.  Similarly, when we raise our sense of self-importance, our view of God must, to that same degree, be lowered.  (Michael Horton, Putting Amazing Back into Grace, 16)

 

Lord, spare me from the lust of self-vindication.  -Saint Augustine

 

The most difficult lie I have ever contended with is this: Life is a story about me. (Donald Miller; Blue Like Jazz, 182)

 

I hear addicts talk about the shakes and panic attacks and the highs and lows of resisting their habit, and to some degree I understand them because I have had habits of my own, but no drug is so powerful as the drug of self.  No rut in the mind is so deep as the one that says I am the world, the world belongs to me, all people are characters in my play. There is no addiction so powerful as self-addiction.  (Donald Miller; Blue Like Jazz, 182)

 

The proud and lofty man or woman cannot worship God any more acceptably than can the proud devil himself.  There must be humility in the heart of the person who would worship God in spirit and in truth.  (A. W. Tozer, Whatever Happened to Worship?, 84)

 

O how mighty is the believer, who, in deep distrust of his own power, casting off from him all spirit of self-dependence, looks simply and fully at Jesus, and goes not forth to meet his enemy, only as he is “strong in the strength that is in Christ.”  (Octavius Winslow, Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul, 199)

 

Similarly, “Humble yourselves…casting your anxieties on God.”  One way to be humble is to cast your anxieties on God.  Which means that one hindrance to casting your anxieties on God is pride.  Which means that undue worry is a form of pride.  Now why is casting our anxieties on the Lord the opposite of pride?  Because pride does not like to admit that it has any anxieties.  And if pride has to admit it, it still does not like to admit that the remedy might be trusting someone else who is wiser and stronger.  In other words, pride is a form of unbelief and does not like to trust in future grace.  Faith admits the need for help.  Pride won’t.  Faith banks on God to give help.  Pride won’t.  Faith casts anxieties on God.  Pride won’t.  Therefore the way to battle the unbelief of pride is to admit freely that you have anxieties, and to cherish the promise of future grace in the words, “He cares for you.”  (John Piper, Future Grace, 96)

 

With this background we will see more clearly that pride is a species of unbelief.  Unbelief is a turning away from God and his Son in order to seek satisfaction in other things.  Pride is a turning away from God specifically to take satisfaction in self.  So pride is one specific form of unbelief.  And its antidote is the wakening and strengthening of faith in future grace.  (John Piper, Future Grace, 87)

 

James says that not believing in the sovereign rights of God to manage the details of your future is arrogance.  The way to battle this arrogance is to yield to the sovereignty of God in all the details of life, and rest in his infallible promises to show himself mighty on our behalf (2 Chr 16:9), to pursue us with goodness and mercy every day (Ps 23:6), to work for those who wait for him (Isa 64:4), and to supply us with all we need to live for his glory (Heb 13:21).  In other words, the remedy for pride is unwavering faith is future grace.  (John Piper, Future Grace, 93)

 

B-  Pray for wisdom and continually seek the Truth.  (Jas 1:5; 5:19-20; Mk 2:17; Gal 3:24)

 

Is the advance of the gospel hindered by the fact that too many Christians today already know far more truth than they could apply in a lifetime?  (Carl F. George, The Coming Church Revolution, 81-82)

 

Our values determine our evaluations.  If we value comfort more than character, then trials will upset us.  If we value the material and physical more than the spiritual, we will not be able to “count if all joy.”  If we live only for the present and forget the future, then trials will make us bitter, not better.  Job had the right outlook when he said, “But He knoweth the way that I take: when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Mature, 23)

 

Men are not turning to Christ because they have no sense of sinning against the Lord.  They are not convicted of sin because they don’t know what sin is.  They have no concept of sin because the law of God is not being preached.  You cannot improvise a hasty sop, ‘All men have sinned.’  You must dwell on the subject at length.  Exposit the Ten Commandments until men are slain thereby [Rom 7:11].  When you see that men have been wounded by the law, then it is time to pour in the balm of Gospel oil.  It is the sharp needle of the law that makes way for the scarlet thread of the Gospel.  (Walter Chantry, Today’s Gospel:  Authentic or Synthetic?, 43)

 

Real prayer is the breathing of God’s own Spirit in the heart; have you this?  It is communion and fellowship with God; know you what this is?  It is brokenness, contrition, confession, and that often springing from an overwhelming sense of his goodness and his love shed abroad in the heart; is this thy experience?  (Octavius Winslow, Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul, 95)

 

Prayer is the tangible expression of our dependence.  We may assent to the fact that we are dependent on Christ, but if our prayer life is meager or perfunctory, we thereby deny it.  We are in effect saying we can handle most of our spiritual life with our own self-discipline and our perceived innate goodness.  (Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace, 137)

 

My brother, only the heart is hard that does not know it is hard.  Only he is hardened who does not know he is hardened.  When we are concerned for our coldness, it is because of the yearning God has put there.  God has not rejected us. (Bernard of Clairvaux as quoted by A. W. Tozer, Whatever Happened to Worship?, 90)

 

C-  Trust in the forgiveness, mercy, grace and love of God in Christ.  (Jas 2:12-13; Ps 86:5; 103:1-5; Mt 18:21-22)

 

My wife and I once visited a world-famous weaver and watched his men and women work on the looms.  I noticed that the undersides of the rugs were not very beautiful: the patterns were obscure and the loose ends of yarn dangled, “Don’t judge the worker or the work by looking at the wrong side,” our guide told us.  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Mature, 23)

 

“I hear the Accuser roar, of ills that I have done;

I know them well, and thousands more; Jehovah knoweth none.

— “I Hear the Accuser Roar” a hymn by Samuel Grandy

 

 

D-  Nurture a discontented contentment in your soul.  (Mt 5:4, 6; Lk 6:21; 13:3, 5; Acts 24:16; Phil 4:11-12; Heb 4:11; Rv 3:3, 19)

 

“Here is where we Christians part company decisively with our modern culture.  Our modern culture says, ‘Ignore your self-doubts, feel only positive thoughts about yourself.’   But I say the opposite.   Pay attention to all those lurking doubts.  Listen closely to all that nagging discontent.  It is important to find yourself . . . sure.  But those who want the last in their lives to be the best, must face the worst at the first.  It is only in giving up on ourselves, that we can ever go beyond ourselves to find ourselves.  That is Christianity.  Why?  Because of the cross.” (Becky Pippert, Hope Has Its Reasons)

We need to be content with who we are in Christ and with God as our father and with Providence (Phil 4:11-12); but, we must be discontent with our holiness, our righteousness, our sanctification our progress in fulfilling our destiny as those conforming to the image of Christ (Rom 8:29-30; Mt chps 5-7).  — Pastor Keith

 

Lyle Schaller writes: “In any discussion of intentional change it is almost impossible to overstate the importance of discontent.  Without discontent with the present situation there can be no planned, internally motivated and directed intentional change.  And this is the job of the change agent:  to ‘rub raw the sores of discontent.’” (Aubrey Malphurs; Pouring New Wine into Old Wineskins, 129)

 

What if being human means to keep vigil, to long to be free, to battle with pain, to be discontented with the fallen world in which we live, to weep, to hunger, thirst, to mourn to wait.  What if to become inhumane is to accept this fallen world as the norm?  (Paraphrase of Henri Nouwen; Reaching Out, 24 )

 

Who hath a greater combat than he that laboreth to overcome himself?  This ought to be our endeavor, to conquer ourselves, and daily to wax stronger and to make a further growth in holiness.”  (Thomas A Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, I:3:3)

 

Many will fail of their salvation, not because they took no pains or care about it, but because they did not take pains and care enough; they only sought, but did not strive to enter in.  (William Law, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, 204)

 

It is amazing to see how eagerly men employ their parts, their sagacity, time, study, application, and exercise, how all helps are called to their assistance when anything is intended and desired in worldly matters, and how dull, negligent, and unimproved they are, how little they use their parts, sagacity, and abilities to raise and increase their devotion.  (William Law, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, 205)

 

Show me a thoroughly satisfied man, and I will show you a failure. — Thomas Edison

 

I find it terribly difficult to understand a person who is so satisfied with their present accomplishments that they have no desire to risk attempting something new.  There is nothing wrong with spiritual contentment with our possessions and resources, but each of us should carry to our grave a holy dissatisfaction with our achievements.  (John C. Maxwell, The Power of Leadership, 45)

 

Those who have tasted transcendental reality can never again be convinced that this world and the society that regulates them can satisfy their needs.  Those who have tasted of the heavenly gift will always hunger because they know there is more to life, and that something more is not controlled by the system but lies beyond anything that the rulers of the system can provide.  Out of such holy discontentment new movements are born.  The sense of what is absent makes us discontented with what is present.  (Tony Campolo, Carpe Diem, Seize the Day, 144-45)

 

There is something about an absolute demand for comfort, even in the littlest things, that wrecks our communion with God.  My natural man tells me I have a right to live in total comfort, so whenever this comfort is threatened because the climate control malfunctions or life circumstances push back a meal for an hour or two, I get a true picture of the demandingness of my heart and the bitterness and anger that cause my spirit to growl, like an untamed beast, at the slightest discomfort or inconvenience.  (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 179)

 

All men have not equally much to overcome and mortify.  Yet he that is diligent, though he have more passions, shall profit more in virtue, than another that is of a more temperate disposition, if he is less fervent in the pursuit of virtue.  (Thomas A Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, I:25:4)

 

To the degree that we feel we are on a legal or performance relationship with God, to that degree our progress in sanctification is impeded.  A legal mode of thinking gives indwelling sin an advantage, because nothing cuts the nerve of the desire to pursue holiness as much as a sense of guilt.  On the contrary, nothing so motivates us to deal with sin in our lives as does the understanding and application of the two truths that our sins are forgiven and the dominion of sin is broken because of our union with Christ.  (Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace, 108)

 

Worship point:  Our faith will be confirmed and our worship will be in Spirit and in Truth in direct proportion to our understanding of our sinfulness, our depravity and our deserving hell and in light of our gratefulness and appreciation for God’s grace, mercy, forgiveness, patience and love in Christ.

 

It is ever the Holy Spirit’s work to turn our eyes away from self:  to Jesus, but Satan’s work is just the opposite of this, for he is constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ.  He insinuates, “Your sins are too great for pardon; you have no faith; you do not repent enough; you will never be able to continue to the end; you have not the joy of his children; you have such a wavering hold of Jesus.”   All these are thoughts about self, and we shall never find comfort or assurance by looking within.  But, the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self:  he tells us that we are nothing, but that “Christ is all in all.”  Remember, therefore, it is not your hold of Christ that saves you—it is Christ; it is not your joy in Christ that saves you—it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument—it is Christ’s blood and merits; therefore, look not so much to your hand with which you art grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to your hope, but to Jesus, the source of your hope; look not to your faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith.  We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul.  If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by “Looking unto Jesus.”   Keep your eye simply on him; let his death, his sufferings, his merits, his glories, his intercession, be fresh upon your mind; when you wake in the morning look to him; when you lie down at night look to him.  Do not let your hopes or fears come between you and Jesus; follow hard after him, and he will never fail you.  (C. H. Spurgeon as quoted in Pathway to Freedom; by Alister Begg, 228-29)

 

Spiritual Challenge:  Get to know the grace of God and the forgiveness that comes through Christ’s work on the cross well enough to give you the courage and the strength to face your sins and your sinful nature head on.  It is an understanding of Christ’s great love for you that confirms your faith and motivates you towards becoming like Christ:  mature, complete, lacking in nothing.

 

Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace.  And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.  (Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace, 18)

God allows you to go through hard times so that God might bring you to the end of yourself. —  Steve Brown

Christ: Our only hope to have our faith confirmed

 

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