Saturday, August 14, 2010

Reflections on James 1:21-25

Thomas Bilney, a sixteenth century English reformer, spoke of his encounter and ongoing experience of God’s Word. He described one of the early turning points like this:

I chanced upon this sentence of St. Paul (O most sweet and comfortable sentence to my soul!) in 1 Timothy 1: “It is a true saying, and worthy of all men to be embraced, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am the chief and principal.” This one sentence, through God's instruction and inward working, which I did not then perceive, did so exhilarate my heart, being before wounded with the guilt of my sins, and being almost in despair, that . . . immediately I . . . felt a marvelous comfort and quietness, in so much that “my bruised bones leaped for joy.” After this, the Scriptures began to be more pleasant to me than the honey or the honeycomb.

In order to see fully what is revealed in verses James 1:21-25 we must back up and look at verse 18. “In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the Word of Truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.”

The words “brought us forth” (greek – apokyeo) is in reference to being created or produced or born.

The “first fruit among all His creatures”, the first and the best. This is the description of the “first fruit”.

1 Peter 1:23 - for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.

Now, jump to verse 21.

Vs. 21 – putting aside all filthiness and all that REMAINS of wickedness.

It’s okay if you’re not okay…just don’t stay there.

Vs. 21 – “…in humility or meekness receive the word implanted…”

We need to take very seriously the command to "in meekness receive (greek – dexasthe which means to welcome) the word implanted". What is meekness? Meekness can be defined as submissive humbleness. Both are key characteristics of being like Jesus. The word also makes me think of being “teachable”. Do you have a teachable spirit?

This is why it is so important to keep this in context because verse 21 is not possible without what we saw in verse 18. We were dead. We had no place for the word of God in us. We did not desire it or love it. Jesus said of the leaders who were trying to kill him: “You seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you” (John 8:37). The word of truth was not implanted in them.

Pay attention to what is happening here though, these leader of whom Jesus spoke “knew” the Word of God…but , the Word of God “found no place in them”. It was not implanted in them.

Before we are born again, our hearts are so full of so many things that they have no room for the Word of God. It’s like when your kids do not want dinner because they snuck into the pantry and they were eating candy while you were making dinner…true story! When the real meal is ready, they have no place for it nor any desire for it.

Vs. 21 – “…is able to save your soul”

Do not underestimate the Words ability to save your soul. Please understand that the Word of God is not just a book that sits on your shelf of that you carried with you today. The Word of God literally has super natural power. The Scriptures are the inspired breath of God whispered into the hearts of men who cannot save themselves. The implanted Word is able to save your soul.

“So the word of God is “implanted” in us, and “is at work” in us, and “abides” in us, and (James 1:21 says) “saves” us. We cannot easily overstate how profoundly powerful and important the word of God is for our lives. If the word of God does not rank with your most cherished possessions, you need to do a reality check on your life. Nothing apart from God himself is more important and powerful than his word.” - John Piper

Vs. 22 – “becoming doers of the Word and not just hearers…”

This is quite simply allowing the words of God to affect your daily activities…everything you do in life can be held up to the light of the Scriptures.

Vs. 23-24 – Forgiven…but don’t forget…

For me personally, it is best for me to leave forgetting the way I use to be to God. I need His forgiveness and for Him to remember my sin no more. However, I think it's good for me to remember the way I was...It makes me more grateful for His grace and mercy and it makes me want to press harder for continued sanctification.

Vs. 25 – The Law of Liberty - this brings me so much hope because the natural results of the law is not liberty but condemnation. But, thanks be to God, that through Jesus Christ, I am not condemned.

At what point will the Word of God become the breath of God to you.

The implanted Word of God is the Gospel to which you have been called and saved. The external Word of God is what you have to live well in this life. But they are so united that they really cannot be separated. Our soul needs both. If you make the decision that you do not need the external Word of God, it is like you making a decision to stop breathing, which leads to death. Separation from the external Word will cause you to stagnate. The implanted Word is powerful, producing life and breathing and demands the life giving external Word. If the Word is implanted in you, you will not be able to hold your breath forever.



Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Place of Personal Discipline

I was reminded this morning of a time when God grabbed me by my ankles and shook me loose of everything that I held onto so tightly.

About 5 years ago I was serving at a church working with students. In the summer of 2005 I took a small group of young men through a little book that turned out to have huge implications on all of our lives. Jerry Bridges' "The Pursuit Of Holiness" is a book that God used to begin in me a process that pushed me to the Scriptures and made me more aware of my own depravity and need for the mercy and grace of Jesus. The beginning of a season of change and re-working (so to speak) in my life.

As I sat on the couch at my brother's house this morning, with my belly full of pancakes, I picked this book up off of his end table and turned to chapter 10, "The Place of Personal Discipline".

1 Timothy 4:7 - Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness...

This is so timely for where I am in life right now. God has really been working me over in the area of personal discipline...or discipleship. Specifically with regards to the Scriptures. I feel like the key to our churches moving in power and seeing the Gospel advance, both in our local context and globally, is that the Church make the Word of God a priority once again.

What we must understand, however, is that this is a process and not an instant, go to bed one night with no discipline or love for God's Word then wake up the next day more aware of your own sin and need for simply doesn't happen like that. We have to discipline ourselves to seek God, then allow Him to change our hearts. That He would give us over to the things that are life giving instead of that which robs us of intimacy with Holiness. Jay Adams put it this way, "You have sought and tried to obtain instant godliness. There is no such thing...We want somebody to give us three easy steps to godliness, and we'll take them next Friday and be godly. The trouble is, godliness doesn't come that way."

While I still have you, let me share this and I'll be done...for now. Webster's new Collegiate Dictionary list as one definition of discipline this, "training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character."

In order to pursue holiness in our own lives we must be willing to correct, mold and train our moral character.

Tough stuff...I know.

A worthy pursuit.

Let's go!


Friday, August 6, 2010

Occasionally you will encounter something that needs to be shouted about, last night I witnessed one of those things.

We have some very good friends, Scott and Christiana Finch, who have a couple of girls, Lily and London, who are very important to my boys. Seriously, they love each other. They've spent most of their lives together and a lot of the time they are kind of like brothers and sister. Lily is about to turn 5 years old and had her birthday party last night. Instead of gifts Lily encouraged everyone to bring a pair of new or gently used shoes. Yeah, you heard me, INSTEAD OF GIFTS! The shoes that were given will be sent to a great organization called Soles4Souls. You can find out more about them here. To date, they have given out more than 10 million pairs of shoes.

I'm thankful for friends like this because parenting is so hard. It's very difficult to teach your children how to put other people's very difficult to teach adults to put other people first. I'm thankful that we were given an opportunity to teach last night. As we enjoyed all the "normal" birthday party stuff (splash park, swings and gluten free cupcakes) Jacob asked me, "Daddy, when is Lily going to open up her presents?" I had another opportunity to talk to him about how important it is to put other people first.

We have been given so much and it's always refreshing to see people trying to teach their children that we are not to terminate the grace and mercy of Christ on ourselves.

Jacob gave a pair of Spider-Man sandals and Eli gave a pair of Buster Brown velcroes. All told I think Lily collected 49 pair of shoes. Thats 49 children in various parts of the world that will very soon have, possibly, their first pair of shoes.

Lily's doing her part...what will you do to change the world?