Today’s Reading: James 3:13-18
If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. For jealousy and selfishness are NOT GOD’S KIND OF WISDOM. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.
But the WISDOM FROM ABOVE is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness. – James 3:13-18
I think Hollywood has greatly influenced our lives in many ways, but the one that comes to my mind this morning is our tendency to find dysfunction and idiocy humorous. Sitcoms have lasted season after season by causing us to laugh at bad decisions, goofy lines, and unhealthy relationships. What I am trying to say is that the influence of Hollywood has caused us to laugh at our own dysfunctions, somehow making them cute or “denying the truth” that our habits are sinful. We create whole conversations where we brag, “You think that’s bad, listen to what I do.” We use humor to cover up our feelings of conviction or guilt. Am I right? I know I have been guilty of this.
James stays consistent with the theme of his letter by stating again that our faith must be evident in the way we live out our lives. If we truly have faith, we cannot hang on to our old patterns of jealousy or selfishness. We have to stop finding them funny. True faith produces Godly wisdom, which is first of all pure. For something to be pure, it must be void of anything that does not belong in it, which adds to our list much more than just jealousy and selfishness. True faith is peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit (a tree is known by its fruit), impartial and sincere. True faith produces righteousness. We are saved by grace but the faith that God gives us is intended to make a difference in the way we live out our relationship with God.
Let’s look at those last two verses as translated in The Message: Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoys its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor (James 3:17-18).
In 2014, our family was listening to Tim Green, the chaplain of Trevecca Nazarene University, speak on Romans 12. He spoke of what it means to truly offer our lives as a living sacrifice to God – an ultimate surrender in which we are consumed by God as He fills us with who HE is so that He can use us and the gifts He has given us to advance His Kingdom. Consider these verses:
Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!
Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.
Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord. Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good. – Romans 12:9-21
God calls us to be intentional with our lives – living out our faith with brotherly love. But again God isn’t calling us to try to do all of these great things out of our own capacity or in our own strength. He is willing to be the source of our power and strength.
My husband, Scott, uses the illustration of how the old coal trains received their power and speed from the fire inside of them that was constantly being fueled by the “stoker”, who would shovel coal into the belly of the train to keep the fire strong. In order to have God’s character, we need God’s presence in our lives.
I do not have to do any of the things above. I only need to truly enter God’s presence and offer myself as a living sacrifice. This love described in Romans 12 will be an outflow of God’s presence in my life, not a result of my effort to be a good person. So, when God calls me to be intentional, the first place to start is to INTENTIONALLY enter God’s presence EVERY day, allowing Him to fuel the fire inside of me. It’s not my morning coffee which fuels the start of my day, it is my time in God’s presence.
As Oswald Chambers would say – “Let us not effort to counterfeit the work of the Holy Spirit but let’s determine to keep the Lord before us continually.” [http://utmost.org/dependent-on-god%E2%80%99s-presence/]