Thursday, March 17, 2016

We have Good God as our Father

James 1:13-18   
Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God," for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
What temptations are you going through in the moment? Let us take it that you have no job and so you are struggling to support yourself financially. Are you tempted to think that if you are dishonest or steal, that the Lord will understand you? Or perhaps your husband has turned to heavy drinking, and so has become irresponsible and careless (I can’t even imagine how trying this is), are you tempted to stop submitting to him? Perhaps you have serious financial struggles and debts, are you tempted to be dishonest in dealing with your creditors? It could be that your parents are unreasonable, and overbearing, are you tempted to be disobedient? It could be that your employer is unfaithful in paying your salary or other dues on time, are you tempted to grumble like the world? This are some of the real life circumstances that we contend with day by day. But we need to be very vigilant. Do not use your circumstances as an occasion for sin.
In the few years I have been a pastor of this church, I have seen a few people who are poor, or widows, or sick or under other unfortunate circumstances, and I really sympathize with them for these circumstances are no fun. But a good number of them, under the weight and pressure of these situations, have been untruthful, dishonest and sometimes even deceitful in order to obtain more financial help! Consider your difficult circumstance in life, may I convince you that God is very good? You need to be assured that our Lord is good so that you may be sure that He will uphold you through all the challenges of life. There is no way you can walk with God in life’s trials and temptations if you live in doubt of His goodness.
The people that James was writing to were tempted to use the persecution that they were going through as a justification for falling into sin. Once you start thinking that your life is so difficult that the Lord will understand if you fail in other areas then know that you are in the danger zone. On the other hand, there are others who reasoned that since the Lord sovereignly sent or allowed some trials that have caused you to be tempted, therefore God has tempted me to sin. This type of reasoning, which is very common with people and it is one of the evidences that we are true children of Adam! Adam did not only blame Eve but he also blamed God for giving Eve to him! But James in these verses clears God name and absolves Him of any blame, (not that God needs anyone to clear His name!) and shows that God is infinitely holy, too holy to be marred with any human temptation or sin. Not only that but also that God is infinitely good, that He only does good to His people. We must depend on Him, love Him and then His promises will be ours.
1.      God is Good is Because He Tempts No One
a)     Don’t blame God
Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God," for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.
We are pot-training our two year old son, Gaius. The other day I found his trousers wet and I asked him what happened and he said that the dog did it. I reminded him that we don’t own a dog. Then he responded that it was Asaph’s bunny that wet his pants. Then I asked him how did the bunny come into the house, since it can neither open it’s kennel nor our house. Then he said, Ruth, opened the door for the bunny and then it wet his trousers. Patiently I reminded him that Ruth had gone to school in the morning so there was no way she could have done it while in school. Then he innocently asked me if it was God! This serves to prove the little Gaius is as much a son of Adam as we all are. Blame it on others, even God! No wonder when Martin Luther and his wife Catherine got their first daughter, Elizabeth on December 10 1527, he wrote to his mother, ‘Dear lady, God has produced from me and my wife Katie a little heathen. We hope you will be willing to become her spiritual mother and help make her a Christian.[1]” Children are not little angels after all!
Stop saying that God is tempting you, because He is not. God is neither tempted with evil, nor does He tempt anyone. It is not in His nature, to be tempted with evil for He is the Holy God, separated from sinners. James appeals to the otherness of God to show that He is good, too good to be unkind. Gordon Keddie so well puts it here:
… all attempts to blame our sins on God, or His sovereignty (the biblical doctrine of predestination), or the way he made us (our temperament), or our circumstances in life (‘the breaks,’ people call them), or other people, must be rejected. These are no more than attempts at self-justification. And when God is blamed, they are blasphemies against His perfect righteousness.[2]
b)     You are the man to bear the blame
“Wait…” you say, “what about the temptations that have weeded all around and about me? From where do they come from?” Pastor James very wisely responds, But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (v.14-15). In fewer words, James is saying, blame it on yourself! In view of this, we are worse than Adam and Eve who were tempted by the voice of the serpent, for the tempting voice is the voice of our own sinful nature. James is responds here as Nathan responded to David, “You are the man!”
In these two verses James nails the problem right on its head. The one who is blameworthy is you, not God! You are tempted when you sing the tune of your own evil desires. You are constantly hatching babies called sin and that is why there are so many grandchildren called sin in your backyard and in your cabinet.
Sin is difficult to deal with for a lustful man, who is swollen with earthly ambitions. Temptations come in the direction of your desires. The language here is of fishing. So I will freely give you some fishing lessons. When you go fishing, you must carry at least three things, you must have your fishing line, a container to carry back the fish and the most important of all, you carry the baits that would attract the fish in  your direction. You put a hoot at the end the fishing line with the bait. When the fish smells the food it will come quickly lured and enticed by it and swallow it and soon the fisherman will shout, “Eureka! I caught the fish!”
Pastor James shows us that the life-cycle of sin begins with the conception of evil desires in our hearts. These evil desires then give birth to sinful action in our lives. Finally, these sinful deeds bring death and destruction. This is the nature of the dreadful life-cycle of sin.[3] God is very clear on this matter – the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). If you plant evil desires and sprout sin, then be sure that you will reap death.
Therefore, will you stop blaming God and blame yourself? Will you look at your own worldliness and fleshly passions, youthful ambitions, covetousness and lust and tame them? I can assure you that you can’t tame them by blaming others or God. Remember Cain? He was told by God, “… sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” (Gen. 4:7) Cain didn’t and the end is that he found the grandson of this dreadful evil desire - death. Amnon, David’s son lusted after his sister Tamar and went on to rape her, but not so long afterwards, he also kissed the grandson of evil desire, that is, death, by the hands of his own brothers! From these two cases, there is no mention of the devil as the temptor, even if I am sure he had a role to play in their downfall. The devil is the most blamed creature, everyone blames it on the devil. But be advised that the devil is not omnipresent. He is not all-knowing either. The pages of scriptures do not reveal so much culpability of the devil in temptations as much as the flesh! Therefore, James very strongly warns you against blaming God in your temptations.
Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. (v.16). This is a warning given by a loving brother to His brethren, for he would not want his own brothers in Christ to live in the deception. In this phrase, James communicates his love for the readers and his concern for them. he encouraged them that they ought not to be deceived. They have no reason to be deceived when the Lord  has revealed so much by the Scriptures. We would be wise to drink from the fountain of the Word of God instead of drink the poison of deception.
2.      God is Good because He Gives Perfect Gifts
God is good because it is His nature. This stands in sharp contrast with us, whose nature is to sin. God can only do good and not evil. This is true because, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”
From this verse, we can say two things:
a)       God is the source of every good and every perfect gift.
God is extremely generous in what He gives. For we see that He gives every good and every perfect gift. This statement speaks of both the quality of the gift – it is good and perfect. Besides, reveals that the manner of giving is good and perfect. It also underlines the fact that good and perfect gift can only come from God and nowhere else. In other words, the only source of every good and perfect gift is God, or God is the only producer and giver of every good and perfect gift. Motyer puts it this way, every need is fully underwritten by the endless and exactly appropriate gifts of God[4].
James is reminding his persecuted readers of God’s goodness so that in their trials they may not only realize that it is not God who is tempting them, but also that they have God on their side to endow them with all His goodness and perfect gifts. The negative statement, God does not tempt anyone is put in the right perspective by this positive statement. For God’s plan is to outwork what is good for them.
We must realize that the world is not the source of every good and every perfect gift. It cannot afford any good and therefore it has no good to give us. That which is truly good comes from above, that is from God. Only the Father of lights, who is the Creator, Sustainer of all creation and the Saviour of sinners, is the source and a constant dispenser of all good.
Why is God is called the Father of lights? Because from him we have both natural and spiritual light. Did He not say in the beginning, “Let there be light?” Did He not create elements and gave them specific instructions about emitting light? The physical light is from God. Who has conveyed us from the domain of (spiritual) darkness into the marvelous light? It is God who is light, in whom there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5) and He has made us the children of light (Eph. 5:8).
b)     God is unchangeable and dependable
God only gives the perfect gifts and He is immutably dependable. James tells us that, God is the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. We know that even if the sun gives light so consistently, yet there are times when it is obscured by clouds, eclipsed by the moon or too hot and uncomfortable. There is no comparison between the Creator and His creation because God does not change (Mal. 3:6). A.W. Pink puts this truth about God’s immutability so succinctly, God cannot change for the better, for he is already perfect; and being perfect, He cannot change for the worse.
This glorious truth about the unchangeable nature of God presents the LORD as the most dependable and faithful. This is what we sing in this famous hymn by T.O. Chisholm;

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not,
As thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be!

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy Faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand has provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

3.      God is Good Because He Made us His own Children 
Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures (v.18)
This is the climax of what James says in this portion of Scripture. That is, this sovereign divine birth through the Word of truth has made us the firstfruits of His creatures. And this is the supreme example of our faithful God’s gifts that we receive from Him. This is speaking of God’s redemptive work and it follows the same pattern of Paul’s question,
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Romans 8:32.
Because God has given us the Gift of gifts, all other gifts in One, then surely He will give us graciously give us all things. … if being a true Christian inescapably proves to us that God is good, then there need be no doubting his goodness in respect of everything else that He does for His people.[5]
Two points are clearly made from this verse:
a)      God has sovereignly birthed us by the Word of truth
A number of things in this verse leave no doubt that James is talking about the spiritual blessing of salvation. In the previous verse we have learnt that God is our Father. Now we learn that this act of God is God’s own initiative, for it is of His own will. This is sovereign work of the Holy Spirit, and it is what Jesus told Nicodemus –
The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." John 3:8.
Who can control the movement of the wind? None! In the same way, there is none who can control the work of the Holy Spirit in convicting men of sin. So we say, “I know not, how the Spirit moves convicting men of sin, Revealing Jesus through the word, Creating faith in Him[6]
In this passage we are told that we have been born again through the word of truth. This phrase, is the most important piece of evidence in favour of redemptive birth, as the instrument through which God brings people to (spiritual) life… it refers to the gospel as the agent of salvation (2 Cor. 6:7; Eph. 1:13; Col. 1:5; 2 Tim. 2:15)[7]. Which is not a strange idea, for the Holy Spirit gave the Word. And so James tells that this divinely implanted word… is able to save your souls (v.21). After all Peter himself says that we have been born again not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God (1 Peter 1:23). This spiritual birth by God is the greatest blessing, is the best gift, and is the eternal gift by which we tap into all other blessings of God.
b)     God has made us the apex of His creation in redemption
The purpose for which God birthed us or regenerated or recreated us is stated in the last part of the phrase. For James says that it was so that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures (v. 18b). The ultimate purpose of all that God does is His own glory. But in reaching this grand and glorious end, God has appointed the redeemed of the Lord as the first of the beings to worship Him, just as the Israelites offered their firstfruits as the mark of having realized the promises of God (see Deut. 26:2-10) so Christians are the ones who have been made the firstfruits.
What does it mean that we are God’s first fruit? We belong to God in a special way as believers, that is, set apart or consecrated for God’s use. He has not only owned us from the first time when He created us, but He has also bought us to be His own possession. As the firstfruit of all creation, we are the cream and apex of His creation. Notice how Daniel Dorian puts it so well;
James says God’s people are his firstfruits. We are the first and the best of His produce’. He will prove faithful. He will care for us year by year, even as He cared for Israel in the wilderness. This is what the tests should teach us. If we fail, our failure teaches us to turn to God for mercy, as he offers it in the gospel. Then as we persevere with him in love, come what may, we will receive the crown of life that He has promised.[8]
Therefore, we must acknowledge that we should be God's portion and treasure, and a more peculiar property to him, as the first-fruits were. We should become holy to the Lord, as the first-fruits were consecrated to him. Christ is the first-fruits of Christians, Christians are the first-fruits of His creatures[9].

[1] Roland H. Bainton, Here I Stand, A life of Martin Luther, (Peabody, MA, Hendrickson, 1894), P. 299
[2] Gordon Keddie, The Practical Christian, James simply explained, (Darlington, Evangelical Press, 1989), p. 50
[3] Anthony. Selvaggio, The 24/7 Christian,  (Darlington, Eng: EP, 2008), p.91
[4] Alec. Motyer, BST The Message of James, (Leicester, England, IVP, 1985), pp.56
[5] Gordon Keddie, The Practical Christian, James simply explained, (Darlington, Evangelical Press, 1989), p. 56
[6] Daniel Whittle
[7] D. Moo, The Letter of James, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000), P. 79
[8] Daniel Dorian, James, ……p. 42
[9] Matthew Henry, Commentary On The Whole Bible, (Peabody, MA. Hendrickson Publishers, 1991), p. 1934

1 comment: