Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Blinded by the God of this World

James 4:13-17

Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit"—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that." As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

Men want to be like God – knowing the end from the beginning. Have you heard politicians speak? They exude such a brazen confidence about how they will win the elections this year. They take it for granted that they would be alive, or healthy, or financially stable to be able to carry out successful campaigns. They don’t think that God may raise a more powerful contender. They assume that the Lord Jesus is not coming back before then.
For example, listen to the Deputy President speaking – he is not thinking about 2017, he is on 2022 elections! For him 2017 is already concluded! With all due respect for his person, position, and profession of faith, he does not speak like a believer for he does not say, ‘If the Lord wills’.
This is what Dr. John Blanchard calls ‘practical atheism’. Pastor James is concerned for those who live and speak in a proud manner that is without faith in God.

This is the character of a person blinded by the god of this world (vv. 13-14):

  1. Forgets God’s providence
a)      Plans – “Today or tomorrow we will go …”
b)      Places – “…to such a town…”
c)      Period – “…spend a year there…”
d)      Purposes – “…and trade…”
  1. Loves earthly profits“…and make profit.”
  2. Forgets the brevity of life
a)      You are ignorant of the future – “..yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.” (v.14)
b)      Your Life is short – “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”
Life is short – it is compared to “the flowers of the field” (Isa. 40:6-7); to the wind (Job 7:7); a leaf before the wind (Job 13:25); and a shadow (Job 14:2).
There is a heap of similes in Job 9:25-26. The Word uses all sorts of similes to remind us of our own mortality and brevity. This is order to check those proud human desires. At the heart of this presumption is faithlessness.
 Alec Motyer puts it this way:
What is this presumptuousness of which James speaks?
1.      It first touches life: “…today…tomorrow… a year.” (v.13). It is the presumption that we can continue alive at will.
2.      It touches choice: “…today or tomorrow we will go…spend a year… trade…” I tis the presumption that we are masters of our own life, so that we need to do no more than decide and lo and behold, it will happen like that.
3.      It touches ability: “… and trade and get profit.”  Of course we shall succeed if we want! We can do it![1]

 This is the character commended (vv. 15-17)
a)      Denounce worldliness“Instead you ought to say…”
Blatant arrogance and brazen bravado is denounced while holy reverence is commended. Pure lips produced holy forms of speech from a pure heart and conscience is encouraged.
b)      Faith & dependence on God“If the Lord wills we will live and do this or that.”
The children depend on the Lord for the next heartbeat. So Paul puts it this way:
·         But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. 1Co 4:19.
·         For I do not want to see you now just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. 1Co 16:7.
·         always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God's will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. Rom 1:10.
·         I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. Php 2:19.
·         Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear,
·         Gen 28:20.
·         And this we will do if God permits. Heb 6:3.

It is a vain thing to promise ourselves great things without the permission of providence. How can we do this?
·         Undertakings without prayer
·         Confidence in the future without God’s permission – like Benhadad (1 Kings 20:10-11).
·         Procrastination on repentance
c)      Denounce all boasting“All such boasting is evil!”
In boasting people assume that they are better and wiser. Yet we are to count others more significant than ourselves. When you put your hope on worldly pursuits and hopes, or you put your stake on human predictions or projections of success, then be sure to fall into this trap.
All boasting is evil because it is worldly complacency. Boasting is evil in its nature, since it defies God. It is evil in its effect because it hinders you from obtaining every good gift and every perfect gifts that comes from the Father of lights. It is evil because it brings God’s judgement for He resists the proud and gives grace to the humble.
Fallen man not only commits sin, he also glories in it. Man is so fallen that he is turned up-side down – his love is where is hate should be – loving sin. His hatred is where is love should be – hating God and His blessings instead of loving God with his whole soul, heart, mind and strength.
This arrogance is spoken about in 1 John 2:16  as the ‘pride of life’
d)      Willing obedience (v.17)
Some people may have objected to James’ teaching saying that they know that life is short and that God’s providence rules everything. So he deals with this thinking by telling them that since they know, all the more why they should submit to the Lord. In this James reveals the nature and effects of sin (C.f. John 9:41, 15:22):
1)      Sins of ignorance are sins, though more forgivable (1 Tim. 1:13) and not punished so hard (Lk 12:47).
2)      Affected ignorance renders us highly culpable (2 Pet. 3:5) – that is, when people shut the windows and resist the light, for then they could know but choose not to.
·         It is not enough to know what is good – we must willingly obey.
·         Sins of knowledge are the most terrible. They have more malice and contempt for God, His mercy and grace and His revealed word and law.
·         Sins of omission are aggravated by knowledge, as are sins of commission.

[1] Alec Motyer, p. 160

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Urgent Call for Missions

How do we prepare for the coming of our glorious Redeemer?

I wish to make an urgent appeal in the name of our Saviour Jesus Christ: Christian Brother, will you go out with the gospel? Do you not know that there are many communities who are yet to hear the gospel of Christ? The great commission (Matt. 28:19-20) is as fresh today as when it was given on the first century. The Lord does not wish that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Therefore, He said,
And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matt. 24:14)
What is the gospel? It is the glorious good news of the salvation of sinners from their sins, misery and eternal woe; by the most loving and gracious saviour, Jesus Christ. Christ perfectly obeyed the Law of God, which we could not obey, and so purchased the righteousness of God for us. He died our death and perfectly satisfied divine justice. The gospel brings sinners to the kingdom of God under the reign of Christ.
This gospel will not be proclaimed by the angels – it will be proclaimed by Christians. It is financially supported, not simply by the wazungus... it is by us, here in Nairobi, here in Kenya. So my friend, what are you doing for the gospel to be proclaimed?
The gospel is to be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations. As we speak, there are many communities in Kenya who are yet to know of Christ. Right here in Nairobi, there are Nubians, Somalis, Rendille, Boranas, and so many other people groups who are without God, without Christ! Believe it or not, there is a community that is devoted to moon worship here in Kenya – the Rendille. How are they going to hear?
The love of Christ controls us, (2 Cor. 5:14) so that we no longer live for ourselves, since Christ has died for us. You should consider leaving what you are doing and go out to make disciples of all nations. Remember that the coming of Christ is tied to this glorious enterprise of disciple-making.
The Lord says here, “…and then the end will come.” Shall we not ‘hasten’ His coming, humanly speaking? Surely we want others to see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Cor. 4:4). But this cannot happen unless they hear the gospel. And they cannot hear the gospel unless someone preaches to them. But no one will preach to them without being sent (Rom. 10:14-15). Are you going or will you send someone? Surely, those of you who have recently completed college can spare a year or five for the cause of the One who left the glory of heaven for you, and He is coming again to take you to His kingdom, can’t you? If you can’t go, then give for the support of those who have heeded the call to go. And you have sent someone, then commit to regularly visit him, will you?

Friday, December 16, 2016

Christian Ministry - Spiritual Power

1 Corinthians 18-21
Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness? 

Paul openly rebukes the Corinthians for their arrogance in his absence – this is hypocrisy. Paul was going to visit them undaunted by their arrogance. When he visits, he will discipline these arrogant people. He expected a confrontation in which the power of the Holy Spirit would reveal some disciplinary action against those who harm the church.
Paul, then introduces the kingdom of God (v.20). The phrase, ‘the kingdom of God’ means, God’s reign/rule in human life. Christ is the King of kings (Matt. 6:33; Mark 10:15; Isa. 41:21). Christians are members of the kingdom of God because of the Lord Jesus Christ who is enthroned in their hearts as King. Christ brought this kingdom by His coming. Christians possess an inheritance in the kingdom in the future (Matt. 25:34; Luke 22:16; 2 Tim. 4:18; Heb. 12:28).

But the problem is that the Corinthian church members were not living as citizens of this kingdom. They were more ‘Corinthians’ than pilgrims headed to the Celestial City. They loved divisions just like the world. They tolerated immorality. They spoke in arrogance and pride just as the world. The same word in verse 6 translated ‘puffed up’ is here translated as arrogance. Literally, it means, ‘bellows’ for it shows itself in big talk (v. 18; cf. 5:2 and 13:4). They were full of talk without any spiritual power (v. 19). They needed to appreciate that the Christian life and service is not a matter of empty words but of power in holiness, spiritual maturity and obedience to God.
We ought to judge a preacher's doctrine, in terms of its effects in godliness in himself and his hearers. Find out if one’s ministry is producing likeness to God, and to Christ. Are people getting more heavenly-minded or are they worldly? Do you see spiritual change in men's hearts? Are people killing sin? Do you see spiritual piety? Do you people tremble at the word of God?
Then Paul put it to their choice how he should come and deal with them. Shall I come to you with a rod (whip) or with love and the spirit of gentleness (v.21). The point is if they continued in wickedness then it would be essential to come with a rod to chastise them for their indiscipline demonstrated by their ungodliness and want of righteousness.
Stubborn offenders must be dealt with severely. In families and in Christian communities, paternal pity and tenderness will require to be shown by chastisement. Christian love and compassion sometimes force formative discipline.
Yet he was also willing to display to them the tenderness of a father. Christian ministry should always be tempered with the spirit of love and gentleness predominant, and yet to maintain its spiritual power, and discipline.

What are the characteristics of Christian service?
1.   Faithful Stewardship (vv. 1-5)
2.   Humble Ministry (vv. 6-8)
3.   Willing Service (vv. 9-13)
4.   Fatherly care (vv. 14-15)
5.   Exemplary Living (vv. 16-17)
Spiritual Power (vv. 18-21)