ONE with GOD or Is the World Keeping You Happy?
JAMES 4: 4-12
ROMANS 8: 1-9b
FAITH & ACTIONS PART 7
July 28, 2019
FAITH and ACTIONS … I’m really not sure what creative moment led me to put those three words together after Pastor Lewis’ books called me to visit this New Testament letter from James. But, it only makes sense that those two connected verbs or are they nouns. Perhaps a show of hands … how many of you consider the words FAITH and ACTION nouns? How many of you think of them as verbs?
To me those two words simply clarify the work of this mystery author to me … hopefully to you as well. Are you engaging in faith and actions for God and Jesus Christ. Are your faith and your actions defining reflections on the person you are today?
Because the book of James situated so close to the final words of our Holy book, the Bible … oh, if you don’t know what those words in the book of Revelation are they are these, “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. AMEN.”
Interesting isn’t it that a treasured book of faith with an opening we all probably know, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Ends with a mention of grace … God’s love for God’s people directly connected with Jesus Christ and then AMEN … it’s all over; just like church. Providing the opportunity to get coffee, breakfast, watch tv, prep the barbecue, relax, hit social media and yes today dunking. Are the amens a closure … grace a moment of Sanctuary time only?
But James is the clarion call … James in today’s world would be the urgent TEXT, FACEBOOK message, phone call that keeps the phone ringing to annoyance … James is doing all he can do to get the attention of those who wear the team jerseys whether as reminders of the old days such as the Phillies wore last night or the newest jerseys and caps that for onlookers identify individuals as Christians. James knows … James has great insight … Perhaps James’ day job was as a counselor, psychologist or perhaps he just had great insight into the human condition because friends James knew that there would be many who liked to wear WWJD bracelets, or who would feel comfortable taking the Jesus shirt out of the dresser drawer on occasion, or perhaps even had the wherewithal to quote a few words from the Holy Book now and then or at the very least have the capacity of writing JOHN 3:16 on a piece of cardboard <<WRITE THEM OUT>> to be held up at convenient moments to catch the attention of others.
James knew and he wrote of the fact that faith and life are not merely a random ‘LETS MAKE A DEAL’ moment of picking Door Number 1 or staying with what’s in the box of Mac and cheese that was in our hands. James knew the truth … and today in James chapter 4; James is getting down to the essential reality that we each know in our heart of hearts. There’s no fooling around … there’s no internal cover up that makes us think two ways … and if you really believe in the Creator God … If you really accept the reality that there is something more than the calendar days that rapidly push our lives towards a final moment … then that God … that Creator … that power that we cannot box into anything that a human-being truly comprehends … that God knows what you think and knows who you are. You can’t hide your thoughts nor your actions from God. God’s that awesome and that powerful. God knows anything God chooses to know.
And, despite all that we know about ourselves … that God loves us even in our weakness and sinfulness. My goodness, that God sent Jesus for us! Actually that God sent Jesus for everyone because we all need Him. That God never ever stops flashing the direction signals, sending the the warning signs, and providing us with a clear cut choice for living now and living eternally in one place or the other … but my friends if you are choosing a friendship with the world … James in a prophetic moment of clarity writes, “you become God’s enemy.”
Consider that for a moment … I can never imagine any person even those who are atheistic or agnostic in their personal definition of connection with a deity declaring that they are an enemy of a supernatural god. Now, some have said those words but to say or even think that you are God’s enemy … I have not met those making that declaration. But, here on Sunday July 28th in the year of the Lord … I always found that funny when people said in the year of the Lord because God is infinite and has always been and always will be and God’s time is not measured in human 24 hour, 7 day a week, 52 week a year cycles but in the year 2019 on this Sunday morning if you have never ever read nor heard the words of James before that declare your options … I am hear to ask you, ARE YOU ONE WITH GOD or is the WORLD KEEPING YOU HAPPY?
James gets it when in writing to people who are wearing their Jesus toga’s … people who know how to draw the ICTHYS in the sand <<HOLD UP A PAPER and DRAW THE JESUS FISH>> … people who perhaps even gathered with others in church on the Sabbath, which we are told by God to keep holy by the way. James declares “YOU UNFAITHFUL PEOPLE!” Now, he is writing to people who are scattered throughout the world but who consider themselves connected with God. James first sentence in his letter talks about joy albeit the joy as James writes that people of faith should consider as joy “whenever you face trials of many kinds because the testing of your faith develops endurance. Let this endurance complete its work so that you may be fully mature, complete and lacking in nothing.” So, now after writing that faith without a life of faith related actions is not a living faith … after warning people that their words need to be measured … that wisdom comes from living a good life filled with doing humble deeds .. that people of faith care for the poor not just with prayers and good thoughts … James gets down to it.
UNFAITHFUL PEOPLE James writes. “Don’t you know that friendship with the world” … following what world leaders insist is the right path while rejecting God’s directives; hating or disliking or rejecting those that voices on television say should be rejected and hated … doing our best to look, sound and act like those on the cover of GQ, Vogue, or on the Facebook message that is sent to us during church … “FRIENDSHIP with the WORLD means hostility towards God.” This is not a rejection of Jesus call to love all of our neighbors and that we shall be known as His followers by our love … this is not a repudiation of the Torah’s directives in Leviticus to “love the Lord our God with all of our heart soul and might and love our neighbors as ourselves.” Loving others is not a friendship with the world; it is following God’s direct commandment for true believers. Truthfully, loving all of our neighbors is a direct condemnation of the world’s call to humans because we don’t have to look far to see that the world’s power is built upon hate and fear whereas God declares that there is no fear in perfect love.
And, James goes one step further. And, church this is my challenge for the morning. This is where my prayers have been this week for those who worship with this church in person or online … Are you One with God? James reminds us that “whoever wants to be the world’s friend BECOMES GOD’s ENEMY.” It’s a choice … are you happy with the world clap your hands? Do you find your joy, joy, joy, joy down in your heart when aligning with your political party? When condemning those you are told are bad people? Do you relish the chance to get ahead; to outshine your neighbor, your co-worker, or even your family members? DO YOU, as James writes, “suppose the Scripture is meaningless” and just for Sunday lessons from a pastor who tries to challenge you? Do you readily reject studying the Bible because even a short study is waste of valuable personal time that might help you out in the world instead?
This is not a denial of happiness nor joy … Happy are people who are hopeless; happy are people who grieve; happy are people who are humble; happy are people who are hungry for righteousness sake; happy are people who show mercy; happy are people who have pure hearts; happy are people who make peace … be full of joy and be glad because you have a great reward in heaven thus said Jesus Christ; on the hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee in His sermon on the mount. In that message Jesus even says, “Love your enemies and pray for those who harass you so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven.” Yikes … guess this Jesus fellow is rejecting the world and calling those who take Him seriously to do the same.
Are you ready to start acting like a child of God? Have you been loving the world for your sake while setting aside Jesus … dismissing God as some distant creature? Today, is a great day to start to change again. God loves you as much today as yesterday. Today is a day for you to admit that you know that the answer to James question, “Doesn’t God long for our faithfulness in the life God has given to us?” Is an affirmative YES LORD?
James says it better than I can but right now I am asking you to close your eyes so that you are with yourself only in this moment whether you are here in church or watching online … close your eyes and hear God through James. Your faith … your words … your actions … they are in your control no one else’s. Do you want to be ONE with God this morning and tomorrow … is your happiness with the world or perhaps just with yourself an obsession that has pushed the directives that Jesus taught for living life aside. Now is the moment friends … we are church participants unlike others in the world who are sleeping in this morning, watching tv, or finding some other excuse. CLOSE YOUR EYES …
James wrote, “COME NEAR TO GOD … and GOD will COME NEAR TO YOU. SUBMIT to GOD … resist the devil and he will run away from you. GOD GIVES US MORE GRACE … MORE LOVE and LONGS for our FAITHFULNESS. WASH YOUR HANDS SINNERS … PURIFY YOUR HEARTS … HUMBLE YOURSELVES BEFORE THE LORD.”
Remember the words you heard this morning from Paul’s letter to the Romans, “Those who live in accordance with the Holy Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. “
You can open your eyes … James finishes today’s reading by reminding us again about our faith and our actions. “Don’t say evil things about each other. Whoever insults or criticizes a brother or sister insults and criticizes the Law of God. There is only one lawgiver and judge and God is able to save and to destroy. But you, who judge your neighbor … who are you?”
So, the question was put to music by Peter Townsend and John Entwistle … WHO ARE YOU? WHO? WHO? WHO? WELL WHO ARE YOU? … the song asks the question, “Because I really want to know …”. In the real world … God already knows and so do you.
Do you want to be one with God; loving for Jesus; and safe for eternity or are you happy with the world knowing that friendship with the world makes you the enemy of the One who created it all.
Together, we can do great things through Christ who gives us strength … Vacation Bible School … Red Bird … Family Promise … caring for those addicted … standing up for human dignity and justice … loving our neighbors … ALL of our neighbors because Jesus tell us to love ALL even when the political powers want us to reject Christ’s message so that we can empower and serve them.
Today’s a great day for change .. a day to go under the waters again.