Have you ever believed something, even studied it, became convinced of the truth of it, brought your observation and interpretation down to personal and practical application, and then acted in such a way as to completely disregard that knowledge and belief?… It’s just a little bit insane.
Here’s an example:
In the past few years…I have discovered that certain foods causes inflammation, which results in pain. Sometimes it’s dull and merely annoying, sometimes agonizing.
So I’ve detected those foods, and I mostly avoid them. But guess what? I love them and have an appetite for them. And when I’m not feeling the pain, when I momentarily forget the miserable reaction I will have, I let my appetite rule…and partake!
Crazy isn’t it? Make no sense. This is a contradiction to what I believe to be true.
For me, I’ll just hurt. Maybe a little, maybe a lot, maybe enough to whimper and whine and vow I’ll never do THAT again.
For others, with a different, or more severe medical condition, this kind of behavior could even be deadly.
Why would I eat those things? Why would I do something that can hurt me?
I think it’s complex,… and rather simple.
My desire, my appetite for self-comfort and self-gratification trumps what I know is right and best for me. In that moment of decision, I forget the reason for those eating rules and I forget the benefits of feeling well, and become willing to take the risk of suffering the consequences. I forget who I am and what my body needs to work well. I just want what I want, and I want it when I want it. I deceive myself into thinking that since I want this thing, I should be able to have it. And I act on it.
Isn’t that the essence of sin as well? Forgetting God the Father, Creator. Going my own way, following my desires, not His.
So it is with our passage today.
James continues in this very practical letter to address how are we to live as Christians. How to match up what we say we believe with how we act and live, particularly in relationship with others.
In our last lesson we saw the beginning of his argument about faith being lived out through doing that which we hear, that which we learn and know.
“But be doers of the work, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”
The passage ended with a nitty-gritty practical way to live out “pure and undefiled religion before God”; take care of orphans and widows, and “keep yourself unstained from the world”.
Immediately following today’s section is another significant theological passage about the connection of faith and works. Same message, re-written for emphasis and clarification.
And in between we have this example that leaves no life untouched. Can any of us claim to NEVER having grappled with something along these lines?
James focuses a laser beam spotlight on a sin so common and everyday that we don’t even recognize it as sin.
Two women (to contextualize the situation) come into a meeting, we size them up, come to some kind of conclusion, and show favor to one and not to another. “Have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”
When have I ever done that?!! To be honest, I
think know that I am very guilty of this very thing. And goodness, if I haven’t become aware of it these past couple of weeks as I have been preparing for this lesson! In my face – Really? Did you just think that about that person?!
But James very pointedly, in no unveiled terms, declares that this is exactly what it is – SIN! And a direct contradiction to what we claim to believe.
Why is this the case? How can we so easily deceive ourselves?
I think the reasons are similar to my situation with food. I forget, I want, I act.
James calls us back, again and again, “Don’t be deceived!” Instead, remember!
Start with remembering.
I see two things that James calls us to remember. In fact, these two things are foundation stones that in all that life brings our way we can stand upon and come back to. Rock solid Foundation!.
1. What God says about Himself.
2. What God says about me.
Or in other words:
Who does God call me to Worship?
What does He say about my identity?
Worship and Identity. These are theological words, having to do with what we believe about God, about ourselves.
Theology: that may seem remote, distant from our daily struggles. What in the world does theology have to do with who I choose to sit in a favored spot?
EVERYTHING! or it should, as we learned from the previous passages about hearing and doing.
First, What does God say about Himself? We start with God.
James 2:1 “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.”
Who is this Lord Jesus Christ? We spent all last year learning about him in our study on the Gospel of John. So you will remember that John 1:18 testifies, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him (God the Father) known.”
This is what Paul says about Him in the letter to the Colossians.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
And in Hebrews 1:1-3 he writes:
“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact representation of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.”
These passages show us that Christ is our formerly invisible God who came to live among us so that we may know exactly who his is.
As reflected in his name, Emmanuel, God with us.
The verse says more about Jesus, “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.”
As we look at the Old Testament we see God vaguely, in the blazing fire, the pillar of smoke, so impressive, so untouchable, can’t even get close.
In Exodus 33 Moses (one of the prophets that Hebrews talks about) boldly asks, ”Please show me your glory….”
God answers, “I can’t, it will kill you.” Because of God’s holiness and man’s sinfulness, we can’t see or touch the God of the Old Testament.
But, in the New Testament: the Glory of God is revealed through the Son.
And he gave up his glory on the cross, so that we might have a restored relationship with a holy God.
And our response is to worship.
Only when we remember who God is, and worship
So here comes the rich man (woman) with his fine robes and gold rings. What’s he doing? He’s showing his glory! How important he is, how influential he is, his weightiness in this world. Eye-catching for sure, Impressive? YES! and yet NOTHING compared to the glory of Christ. James reminds us here who God is, Who Jesus is…GLORY! with no man to compare to him. Like he’s saying, “You want to talk about glory? THIS is glory! The playing field is level when it comes to ANY human beings!
By remembering who God is, partiality becomes ridiculous! Ludicrous! Seriously insane!
“But you have made yourselves judges with evil thoughts.”
And can there be any other motive for showing partiality? honestly?
We stop worshipping the true God and start worshipping position, and favor, and gain, influence and importance.
Second, What does God say about me? What is my identity in Christ?
Mark Dever says this in regard to this passage in James, “Even one trespass shows that you fundamentally disrespect the authority of God! So whatever the particular infraction, whatever the statute broken, you demonstrate a disregard and misunderstanding of who God is and what your relationship to him is supposed to be.”
“We are deceived, but God is not deceived. He calls us to a radical confession, offers us radical forgiveness, because of Christ’s radical sacrifice.”
I am a sinner, but through the blood of Jesus, because Christ came and gave up his glory, his God-essence, on the cross, I am a saint. Sinner/saint – simultaneously.
What does God say about me?
James 2:1 James is writing to Christians.
“Brothers,… as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus…” This partiality James is referring to is among Christians.
We are in the family of God. I can’t say this any better than Paul as he writes to the Ephesians. Eph. 1:3-14
Our position in Christ! Our relationship with each other? Brothers, co-heirs with Jesus!!!
James 2:1 “hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ,…”
Michael (our pastor) said that “Jesus’ death makes us acceptable to God, clean, usable, so that His Spirit takes up residence in us.”
By relying on the Holy Spirit and following Jesus. Hebrews 12:1-2 “…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…”
Phil. 2:1-8, humility of Christ, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.”
In regard to our passage about partiality, Mark Dever wrote, “God did not measure us by externals that are passing, and neither should you, says James.”
“Our identity should be in our position as people of faith, rather than in our status as people of wealth or poverty.”
How do I, how do you, keep from deceiving ourselves?
What God says about Himself. (Worship)
What God says about me. (Identity)
And respond accordingly, with the power and love of Christ.
So as we look back at our experiences of showing partiality, favoritism(s), what is God prompting you to do? Is there an action to take? A person to reach out to? A phone call to make?
How can you move toward Christ-likeness in this regard?
I have some ideas of people who need a touch of Christ through the hand of a woman:
Your recluse neighbor
the friend that looks like she doesn’t need anything.
The elderly ladies in our congregation, they may look all content and put together, but I know of very few elderly folks that don’t experience loneliness in some degree. And these women have MUCH to teach us.
This verse may seem like an obscure, transition verse. James getting us on to the next example of right living as a Christian. But I think it is much more than a transition.
I see the foundation of our theology wrapped up in this little verse.
“My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.”
I challenge you to memorize this verse.
I have had several occasions this past week to recall this verse, to change my attitude toward people that were getting in my way, annoying me, or ones that I was tempted to impress and be partial to. God graciously reminded me that we are creations of the living God. And the field is level in relation to Him.
Take a card and write it out, in your own version, or this one. Keep the truth of God’s Word, truth of GOD, and of yourself, before you as you face each day.