Reflections of God

How many of you really, really, really like rules? Like, “don’t run” or “don’t talk with your mouth full?” I have tried, for my own gratification, grouped most people into 2 categories: rule breakers and rule followers. However, I find that does not always work because we naturally have rules that we like and are willing to follow, and then we have rules that we enjoy breaking. All of us, right?

Many people have tagged Christianity, and specifically the Bible, as a bunch of rules. There are the 10 commandments (which most people cannot recite) and the 2 great commandments – oh and the hundreds of other laws found in the Bible.

As we read this morning’s passage, you will find at least 8 things NOT to do and at least 1 thing TO DO. Follow along and see if you can identify the rules:

James 4:11–5:11 || 11 Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters. If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God’s law. But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you. 12 God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor? 13 Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” 14 How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. 15 What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” 16 Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil. 17 Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it. 1 Look here, you rich people: Weep and groan with anguish because of all the terrible troubles ahead of you. 2 Your wealth is rotting away, and your fine clothes are moth-eaten rags. 3 Your gold and silver are corroded. The very wealth you were counting on will eat away your flesh like fire. This corroded treasure you have hoarded will testify against you on the day of judgment. 4 For listen! Hear the cries of the field workers whom you have cheated of their pay. The cries of those who harvest your fields have reached the ears of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 5 You have spent your years on earth in luxury, satisfying your every desire. You have fattened yourselves for the day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and killed innocent people, who do not resist you. 7 Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen. 8 You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near. 9 Don’t grumble about each other, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. For look—the Judge is standing at the door! 10 For examples of patience in suffering, dear brothers and sisters, look at the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 We give great honor to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance. You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end, for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy. [NLT]

Why so many rules, James? What a fun-sucker, right? Well, not really. All rules have a reason. Some are stupid reasons. Others very legit and helpful.

In the end, we either respect the authority of the ones behind the rules, or we make ourselves higher or above the rules, which can certainly be dangerous and costly.

As we learned last week, living a life for God means being humble. Humility is the path to joy. When we are humble before God and others, we can fulfill the two great commandments.

Being humble before God means allowing him to BE God.

God [ɡäd] NOUN

  1. (in Christianity and other monotheistic religions) the creator and ruler of the universe and source of all moral authority; the supreme being.
  2.  (in certain other religions) a superhuman being or spirit worshiped as having power over nature or human fortunes; a deity.

As Christians, we see God as the creator and ruler of all things. Other religions also define a god as a being that has power over human fortunes. In both cases, a god is defined by a being that is greater than man and able to control or direct the future.

We talk about God. We pray to God. We have used God as a name, rather than a title for Yahweh. Yahweh is a god. That is how we must begin to retrain our minds.

Some people call me Mike, which is my name. Others call me pastor, which is my title. One refers to me as a person, the other refers to me my position or function. Who I am verses what I do. It makes sense to say, “Mike is a pastor”.

Yahweh is THE God. Yahweh is the one who is greater than humans, who made us and determines our future and our direction. Or at least He should be. Anytime we call him God, referring to his position as the one who control and sustains all things, we should pause and ask ourselves, “but am I living as if he is in charge and directing my life?”

While it is very easy to get bogged down in the specific words of this passage in the book of James, the primary message is not in the microscopic view, but the big picture view.

The question James wants his readers to ask is, “Who is the god of my life?”

11 Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters. If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God’s law. But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you. 12 God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor?

God is the lawgiver and the Judge.

I do not need to judge others or make up my own rules.

Criticism kills compassion. It is very hard to love someone that you talk badly about. Husbands and wives, take note of this!

If I am the judge then I have placed myself as god, and that is arrogant. If I understand that God is THE Judge and that I will be judged by him, then I also understand that I am no different than my brother or sister and can love and accept them even if they are different.

13 Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” 14 How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. 15 What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” 16 Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil. 17 Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.

God is the sustainer of all thing.

I do not need to be in control.

God is not saying it is wrong to make plans. Planning is a good thing! The issue is control.

Who is in control of your life?

Proverbs 19:21 || 21 You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail. [NLT]

How straight forward is that? You can make plans, but in the end, God’s plans are what will happen.

“God willing” is the key phrase. We mimic is as if in those words contains the magic to make things happen and if we fail to say them we fear that we have acted arrogantly. This is an issue of the sipirit, not of the tongue. I like the way the NLT puts it, “if the Lord wants us to…”

If I am making MY plans, for MY goals, I have made myself god again. If I am seeking God’s direction and focusing on his kingdom and not my own, then I am humbly accepting God as the leader and director of my life.

How might our plans change if we truly had a kingdom perspective? Perhaps instead of praying that God would help us get that job or that house because we want it, we might pray that God would place us in a neighborhood where people need to hear the gospel and a job where we can be a testimony of God’s grace?

1 Look here, you rich people: Weep and groan with anguish because of all the terrible troubles ahead of you. 2 Your wealth is rotting away, and your fine clothes are moth-eaten rags. 3 Your gold and silver are corroded. The very wealth you were counting on will eat away your flesh like fire. This corroded treasure you have hoarded will testify against you on the day of judgment. 4 For listen! Hear the cries of the field workers whom you have cheated of their pay. The cries of those who harvest your fields have reached the ears of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 5 You have spent your years on earth in luxury, satisfying your every desire. You have fattened yourselves for the day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and killed innocent people, who do not resist you.

God is the one who gives joy and value.

I don’t need to live for my own personal gain and pleasure.

Riches are not inherently sinful. Again, James is going back to the wrong motive (spend it on themselves) and the wrong actions (withholding wages, oppressing those under them).

When I live for my own pleasure, I make pleasure out to be an idol and myself the one to be worshipped (a god). I also have decreased the value of others. All of these are arrogance. When I live for others, I acknowledge that what I have is meant to be used for God’s glory and the benefit of others, then I have followed God with humility.

A second point from this passage is:

God is the Commander in Chief

I do not have to fight my own battles.

James say, “you rich people who abuse others, you think you answer to no one, that you are the only one that matters. Yet the “Lord of Heaven’s Armies” is ready to make you answer! God is going to return and judge and you will not escape.

We often feel that we have to fight for our rights and for our justice. Be confident that no matter how hard you fight, God is ultimately going to win – fighting for his children and against his enemies. You and I may suffer defeats in this world, but God is victorious.

7 Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen. 8 You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near. 9 Don’t grumble about each other, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. For look—the Judge is standing at the door! 10 For examples of patience in suffering, dear brothers and sisters, look at the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 We give great honor to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance. You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end, for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy.

God has a plan, and it will be accomplished in his time.

I don’t have to fret, grumble, complain or stress.

Would you define yourself as patient? For how long?

Imagine waiting like Abraham for over 20 years to have a kid that was promised by God. Imagine being Moses and having to wait 40 years to be able to stand at the entrance to the Promised Land? What about the disciples of Jesus who heard Jesus say he would come back for them… and then years pass and Jesus has not returned?

In our passage we had at least 8 things NOT to do and then a command given 2 times: “Be patient”. The word patience sows up 4 times in just a few verses.

Being patient is the practice of giving up control and letting God be god in your life.

When I go through tough times I might complain about others or my circumstances, which, if God is truly in control, means I am ultimately complaining against him. Basically, I am saying I do not like what God is doing/allowing – so obviously I have an idea of what would be better. I make myself out to be god. Do you believe Romans 8:28? Do you believe that God’s plan is best? Then we must be patient and submit to God’s plans, even if they are painful.

As James is wrapping up his letter, he is reminding us that our new life in Jesus must change the way we live. We must love others and we must love God. I think John summarizes it really well:

1 John 5:1–3 || 1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God. And everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too. 2 We know we love God’s children if we love God and obey his commandments. 3 Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome. [NLT]

But there is a bigger purpose than just our own joy in this. While it is true that we will find our greatest satisfaction in loving God and others, my life is NOT about MY SATISFACTION, is it? We were created for relationship, and we see that for sure. But we were also made for reflection – to be the image bearers of God. The way that we live our lives reflects the God we serve.

If we have been redeemed by God, then we HAVE been made new and we ARE accepted by God and we CAN love others. Jesus even sent us the Holy Spirit to help us live this way.

So why do we settle for so much less? Why do we allow our new lives to look no different?

We have the opportunity to demonstrate to the world around us the awesomeness of God and the joy that comes from being re-born into his family.

Listen to the things the Jewish believers were struggling with:

  • Critical
  • Judgmental
  • Arrogant
  • Self-serving
  • Cheating
  • Condemning
  • Murderous
  • Impatient
  • Grumbling
  • Complaining

They were reflecting their faith in God. Does this sound like a God you would follow and people you want to be friends with? Does this sound like a life that has been radically transformed by the power of God?

James 5:11 || 11 We give great honor to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance. You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end, for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy. [NLT]

James reminds us that God is kind, compassionate and merciful. You and I reflect the God/gods we live for. We were created to reflect, and that is not something that you can turn off. That has been the point all throughout James.

People see you and me and know (or should know) that we are Christians. That means that the fruit we produce, the life that we live is telling them about who God is and what God does.

What do your attitudes and actions tell others about the God you claim to follow?

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NCF was started in 1987 to minister to the growing population of Fort Drum and Jefferson County. Located in Carthage, just minutes away from Ft Drum, Lowville and Watertown, it is a blended congregation of local and military folks, single soldiers, young families and grandparents.

35206 Sayre Road
Carthage NY 13619
PO Box 823
Carthage, NY 13619
315-493-3958