Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Category: James (page 1 of 2)

How to Love More

Last night in our small group we were talking about the ever-present problem in the Christian life of not being affected enough by the truth that we know. It’s the gap between knowing the gospel of grace and feeling the grace of the gospel. We want to be humbled by the gospel. We want to love God more. But how do we do that?

This got me thinking about a post I put up here about 4 years ago and so I decided to repost it.

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Wise Words from James

Even though we’ve moved on to chapter 5 in our study on James at GFC, I’m still marvelling at many of the things my Lord has been teaching me from his word.

Preaching big passages like I’ve had to do is great for seeing the big picture and covering more of God’s word, but it necessarily means that there are lots of stones left unturned in each passage. Particularly, I’ve been thinking through James’s promise in chapter 4: ‘Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.’

One thing that amazed me the other night as I sat and thought this through is the similarity between this saying and that declaration of Jesus that the one who is forgiven most loves most. On the surface, they don’t seem that connected, but I think there is a profound connection.

Our Desire is to Love

Every Christian wants to know how to love God more. The first and greatest commandment we have is this: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.’ The reason why we still sin, why we become discouraged, or why we fall back into old patterns of living is because our love for God falls short of our love for ourselves.

Our Enemy Wants to Hinder Our Love

The devil is our enemy. His greatest goal is to stop us from achieving our greatest goal, which is love for God, resulting in joy in God. We want to love God, but he’ll do anything to stop that. Every Christian wants to love God more; but how do you practically increase your love for God?

James connects resisting the devil’s work with drawing near to God. In response to our drawing near to God, God draws near to us. What kind of drawing near does James have in mind? He clarifies for us in the next couple of sentences, where he describes radical repentance, open confession of sin and sinfulness, and proper humility. In other words, draw near to God in humility, repentance, and brokenness, acknowledging the greatness of your sin.

Connect the Dots

We can begin to connect the dots here a little with Jesus’ saying. We will love God more if we acknowledge more readily the reality of what we’ve been forgiven. But our enemy will have none of that–which is why we need to resist him. How do you resist Satan? By confessing your sins and drawing near to God.

It is the work of Satan to get you to think little of your sins. He desires that you not confess specific sins, that you not be heart-broken over the ways you’ve denied God. He wants you to just ignore sin in your life and not confess to brothers and sisters. The smaller you think your sin is, the less your love for God will grow, and the happier your enemy will be. ‘He who is forgiven little, loves little.’

If your love for God has grown cold, you can probably draw a straight line back to your lack of confession of sin in your own heart, to God, and to others. When you don’t realize what you’ve been forgiven, you don’t love.

How do you grow to love more? Draw near to God in repentance. Acknowledge how horrible and ugly your sin is, and be specific in your confession. What at the things you have rejected him for? What are the things you’ve loved more than him? What are the lies you’ve believed instead of his truth? Confess to him that you deserve death and hell. The more you draw near to him, the worse you’ll see your sin is, the more you’ll see how much you’ve been forgiven and the more you’ll love — which will overflow into a life of God-glorifying joy in obedience.

Samuel and Confronting Sin

In the Lord’s providence, we finished up our morning series in James and our evening series in Galatians on this past Sunday. It was quite interesting to me that both sermons finished with exhortations to Christians to be confronting sin in the lives of their brothers and sisters.

As I sat and listened to my friend Paul preach on Sunday evening on a topic very similar to how my message had ended on Sunday morning, I thought to myself, ‘What is the Lord teaching us? What is he preparing us for as a church?’

This morning I was reading from 1 Samuel 12, and came across a very relevant passage. Here Samuel, the outgoing judge, has just appointed Saul as the king of Israel. Samuel then addresses the people and confronts their sin. While this is not the main intention of the passage, I think there are some great truths to be gleaned here when it comes to addressing sin in the lives of others.

  1. Samuel spelled out their sin for them.
    Samuel didn’t allude vaguely to some things that they had done which might be considered wrong, but he had specific sin in mind when he addressed the people, and he was direct in letting them know what it was they had done wrong. He called sin sin. Where they had rejected God and preferred other things, he showed them. They were not left guessing as to what he was really getting at, or whether or not it was actually sin.
  2. Samuel let them feel the weight of their sin.
    Granted, Samuel had a pretty cool trick up his sleeve when he was able to make a thunderstorm appear (I don’t know how many of us will be able to use that one), but one thing he was sure to do was show them how serious their sin was. He didn’t let them get away with a merely intellectual acknowledgement of their sin. He made sure they felt it. When Samuel had showed them their sin and how it had angered God, ‘all the people greatly feared the Lord …. all the people said to Samuel, “Pray for your servants to the Lord your God, that we may not die…”.’ His conviction about their sin had resulted in their own conviction, confession, and repentance.
  3. Samuel offered the grace of God.
    When they had experienced genuine conviction for their sin, Samuel said, ‘Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart.’ In other words, ‘Yeah, you’ve blown it pretty bad. But trust in the Lord and he will forgive you. Remember, he wants your whole heart.’
  4. Samuel assures them with the best reason to hope.
    Why should they trust him? Why should we trust God that we’ll be forgiven when we’re confronted with the reality of our sin? We should hope because of who God is: he will never change. Samuel offers this to his people: ‘For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself.’ In other words, God won’t forsake you, because he’s put his own name on you. You’re his people, called by his name and it has been his good will to make you that way. To forsake you now would be to forsake the pursuit of his own glory and his own joy–something which could never, ever happen. God will be faithful to you, because he cannot and will not abandon his pursuit of his own glory and the display of his righteousness. What a comforting thought! Unless God changes, I can never be forsaken. We who are Christians–who live this side of the cross chronologically–can look back and see that faithfulness of God to his people and the committedness of God to his own people infinitely more than even Samuel could. What comfort in the face of conviction!

This all calls for balance and wisdom. I pray that God will give me grace to be able to pursue my brothers and sisters, to confront them on specific sins, to let them feel the weight of those sins which cost Christ his life, but then to offer the grace of God and the comfort of his promised faithfulness.

The Purpose of Pain

The other day Stacey returned home with a special purchase for Susannah. It was a bottle of bright-coloured, foaming hand soap. Susannah has reached an age where we want her to be able to do more things (like washing her hands) on her own.

Susannah took to this task with joy! She stood at the sink (on a stool) like a big girl. She got her hands all soaped up, and then her daddy said, ‘Put your hands under the water and rinse them off.’ So she put her hands under the water… only to quickly pull them out and yelp, ‘Hot!’

I had accidentally left the tap turned a little too far too the left. She wasn’t badly hurt at all, but looked at me as if to say, ‘I’m not doing that again!’

That got me thinking about pain. I thank God that Susannah is able to feel pain. Not because I like the thought of my daughter hurting, but because I know God’s purposes in pain are good.

Medically speaking, it seems that the purposes of pain are generally straightforward: Pain alerts you to the fact that something is wrong in your body and needs attention. Something must be done now to avoid greater consequences later. Pain is a warning.

In James 5, James is alerting his audience–people who are undergoing suffering–that they must be patient to endure hardship and pain. He gives them several reasons. He argues that those who persecute them will be finally judged, and that the Judge stands at the door. He also refers to the prophets, and then to Job.

When he gets to Job, James becomes more specific and says,

you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

The Lord’s purpose in Job’s suffering was compassionate and merciful. At the end of Job’s turmoil, not only did he receive back more than he ever lost, he said these words:

I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. … I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust ashes.

The Lord’s purpose in Job’s suffering was to reveal more of himself to Job–and then ultimately to us, thousands of years later. God was revealing himself as one who is compassionate and merciful, even in suffering.

There are things which are eternal and there are things which are temporal; things which will matter when the Judge appears, and other things that won’t. At least a part of the purpose in our pain in this life is to warn us of a bigger problem: that this world and everything in it is cursed because of sin, and already under condemnation. We suffer pain, things fall apart, tragedy happens, all to warn us of a potentially greater tragedy to come: eternal condemnation and wrath against sinners for sin.

If Susannah didn’t feel pain at the little bit of hot water, she might leave her hands there until they were scalded and then permanently damaged. The pain was uncomfortable, but it let her know that if she didn’t act, worse would result. The Lord’s purpose in pain is–like his purpose in everything else–compassionate and merciful. He desires to show us that there is no ultimate life, no hope, no safety in this world. Those things can and must be found in him alone. He wants to ween us off our selfish joy-seeking in the creation so that we might pursue true joy-seeking in the Creator.

I Don’t Get It

The further along in the book of James we go, the more points there are when I think, ‘…Huh?’

It’s a bizarre experience to look ahead in the book, know that there are only a few weeks left to finish the last chapter and a half, and realize that you don’t really understand what they mean. It’s humbling and exciting.

I pray that our Lord would use these last few weeks to teach the saints at GFC through me… as he has taught me! Because if he doesn’t teach me, I’ll be in trouble.

My prayer now is that he’ll keep me back from trying to force my assumed interpretations on the text in a panic to say something. I know that ‘those who teach will be subject to stricter judgement,’ so I pray that he’ll show me how to ‘rightly divide the word’ in the coming works. If you get a chance, please remember to pray for me.

For Christian Husbands

As I lamented yesterday, preaching through James 4.1-12 quickly made me a little sad because I wasn’t able to pursue some rabbit trails that I would’ve loved to go down. One of those was how this passage should instruct us guys in our husbandry.

In verse four, the people of God are referred to as ‘adulteresses.’ Why? Because, in the metaphor of the passage, God is the husband of his people, but their affections and longings are for other lovers. They seek their joy, their pleasures, etc., in the things that this world has to offer. They are cheating on their spouse.

How does God respond to this unfaithful, disrespectful, immoral wife? The next verse tells us: He ‘yearns jealously’ for her. He remains unchanged in his devotion to her, even though she doesn’t long for him. He loves her with a steadfast love, even when she refuses to love him and treats him in the most horrible of ways.

That ought to teach us men something about the way we should husband.

  1. It is Good and Right for a Husband to Long for the Affections of His Wife.
  2. Too often the temptation is to slip into apathy. We love the chase while we’re dating, but once we’re married we presume that we will have her heart. The picture here is of a God who passionately longs to have all of his bride’s heart–not just a part. Christian husbands need to consistently pursue the heart of their wife.

  3. Our Affections Must Not Be Determined by Hers.
  4. Having a wife whose heart is not ‘wholly’ yours would be incredibly disheartening. I have seen friends and Christian brothers lamenting over the fact that their wives seem to love anything and everything else more than their husbands. That would be sad–and painful, to be sure. But the husband is to be the leader, and her lack of affections is no excuse for letting yours slide. It was while we were still sinners and had no affection for Christ (other than hatred) that he died to purchase his bride. Christian husbands need to consistently take the lead in expressing and winning loving affections.

  5. We Must Not Give Up.
  6. James wrote the very first book (chronologically) in the New Testament, and yet, even by the time he wrote this letter, the church had already proven herself to be an ‘adulteress’ with desires for other lovers. Just as God did not give up on his people in the Old Testament, we learn here that Christ will not give up on his bride in the New. Christian husbands must never give up, even when their wives sin against them horribly and repeatedly; this is the gospel.

  7. Take Heart, You Are In Good Company.
  8. As you seek to faithfully love your wife, with a single-minded devotion to her, and as you seek to win her affections even when she is not loving you in return, you are modelling the heart of God. You are following in the footsteps of Christ who went to the greatest, most extreme length imaginable to win his bride’s heart: he died for her. When we die to ourselves and continue to risk being hurt in order to pursue and love our wives, we’re in good company: Christ is the one who made the footprints in which we walk. Christian husbands must take heart here when all other outward comforts fail–he who went before us will not abandon us as we follow him.

Overwhelmed

There are benefits and drawbacks to preaching large portions of text. The benefits are too numerous to get into, but one of the drawbacks is that you don’t get to stop and to meditate for as long as you’d like on a single thought expressed in your passage, because there are so many other things to get to.

Yesterday I preached on James 4.1-12. As usual, I talked too long and said too little, but the text itself is absolutely amazing. The thought that gripped me the most, personally, as I laboured through the text last week (and even while I preached) was verse 5:

Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? 

That thought absolutely blew me away.

How could this be? The God of the universe not only puts up with me when he should obliterate me, but ‘yearns jealously’ for my devotion to him? He yearns with a jealousy of a husband for his bride (according to the analogy of the passage).

What an absolute shame that we take so lightly the thought that God loves us. Of all things in Scripture, this should be the thought that amazes us the absolute most.

God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5.8) 

And again,

By this we know love, that [Christ] laid down his life for us (1 Jn 3.16). 

In our chapter (James 4), James does something amazing: He contrasts our desires (which are at war within us, and bring quarrels and fights) with God’s desire for his people (which is singular, faithful, loving, and brings peace). This truth ought to humble us, amaze us, and increase our love for him.

Where the church’s desires are many, and illicit, and have grieved our groom, his desires are single, and faithful, and pure, and have brought our joy.

Where his one desire produces peace, our many desires have yielded enmity between God and us, and fights between us all.

And yet, he loves us still. And he ‘yearns jealously’ for our affections… what an overwhelming love! What an amazing God!

Thinking About How You Read

A few years back I was struck by the realization that the way I read the Bible was being handicapped by the way the pages were laid out. Here are just a few examples.

  • The pages are laid out in columns. What other book is laid out like that? When I read the Bible, I was subconsciously aware I was reading the Bible, and that affected the manner in which I read. It occurred to me that I couldn’t really read the letters like they are letters or the stories like they are stories because I was thinking ‘this is the Bible’ while I was reading.
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  • There are chapter and verse numbers everywhere. This means that all the problems from above apply, and more. Now I’m subconsciously inserting breaks in thought in wherever there are numbers on the page. But the writers of the Bible didn’t put the numbers there, and so very often the numbers are in awkward spots, creating divisions where there shouldn’t be one. I wasn’t seeing connections between sentences and paragraphs because my eyes were reading artificial breaks into the text.
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  • There are paragraph headings. While these are sometimes useful if I’m trying to find something in a hurry, they are a pain more often than not. They tell me the point of what I’m about to read before I read it–which necessarily limits my own ability to process the text and analyze it on my own, which would result in better learning, and longer-lasting ability to recall what I’ve read.
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  • The spelling is wrong. This only applies to those of us north of the border, and you can call me crazy or say I have OCD or whatever, but I do notice when a book spells words the American way (i.e. ‘Savior’ instead of ‘Saviour’). It just catches my eye and distracts me.

And then on top of these things, there is never enough room on a page of the Bible to write any good notes or draw lines connecting thoughts, or things like that.

So what have I done about it? I’ve taken matters into my own hands and created my own Bible. Sacrilegious as it sounds… it’s not. I go to the ESV website, adjust the preferences so that it doesn’t show chapter & verse numbers or paragraph headings, and then display a whole book. Copy and paste that into your word processor with Canadian spell check and bingo-bango, there ya go.

Once the doc is in your word processor, you can lay it out on the page however you want. I generally will do 1.5 line spacing, and leave large margins on the top, bottom, and sides of the page. Hit ‘print’ and you’ve got your own copy of the book to read, mark-up, and learn from.

Try it once and I guarantee it changes the way your read the book.

The way you lay out the words on the page will have a lot to do with your personality and the way you like to read and mark-up your Bible, so try a few different ways. Think hard about what distracts you from focusing on the words on the page and try to eliminate those to enhance your ability to freely read and understand the biblical text.

The only thing you need to do is respect copyright laws. Don’t distribute copies of your books. I think you’re okay to do this for your own personal use though (from the little I understand of copyright laws).

I’ve uploaded a couple pages of the book of James of my version, so that you can see it, if you like. I’ve only done the first little bit of the book here though, because I can’t reproduce more than 50% of the book.

Download the pdf of the first part of James.

Let me know if you meet with any success!

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