NLT Hebrews 12 and James 1 & 2 [NLT]
Hebrews 12:2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy [or instead of the joy] awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame…23 You have come to the assembly of God’s firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God himself, who is the judge over all things. You have come to the spirits of the righteous ones in heaven who have now been made perfect. 24 You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which `speaks of forgiveness instead of crying out for vengeance like the blood of Abel. 25 Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking…
You have come…. x4 to the place that “speaks of forgiveness.” When we ask God to forgive our behavior His response is the unmerited favor of His Grace. Forgiveness is the foundation of our faith that becomes this specific discipline of Grace; “Keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith” and “mediates the new covenant between God and people.”
Hebrews urges “Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking.” The first words I heard as I listened were; “forgiveness” [what only God can do] and “discipline” [what I can do]. Then I heard a familiar echo of those words with these from James 1 and 2 – “faith” and “actions.” They’re copied below for you to read with ‘forgiveness’ substituted for the word [faith], ‘discipline’ for the word [endurance] and ‘Grace’ as the verb that replaces [actions].
James 1:3 For you know that when your forgiveness [faith] is tested, your discipline [endurance] has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your discipline [endurance] is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing…2:14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have forgiveness [faith] but don’t show it by your Grace [actions]? Can that kind of forgiveness [faith] save anyone?
This post has become a perfect example for me of these truths:
ALL the books of the Bible work together for our good. The Spirit really does link truths from different Scriptures in new and meaningful ways. Forgiveness and discipline do help explain faith and actions AND faith and actions do help explain forgiveness and discipline.
AND finally the most important truth of all: God has saved the unmerited favor of His Grace IN us. Living with the reality of that forgiveness is the discipline of Grace that turns faith into action.
James 2:5-7 & 12-14. [NIV]
√ Re·new·al: the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken
5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?…12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. 14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?
It’s only a few days until the celebration of our nation’s freedom. We’re in another time of turmoil about freedom now, but this time it’s not our own. This time we’re confronted by the object lesson of current events demanding we consider who deserves to be free, what freedom demands of them and how much we’re willing to invest of what God has given us so they can be free? We are dependent on the mercy of God triumphing over the judgment of men as we struggle to find answers to those questions. Many others fought in 1776 for the freedom we celebrate this week but here’s God’s challenge for us to consider now.
“Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?”
Our challenge is to have mercy for the reality of physical need not judge the integrity of their desire to be free of tyranny and oppression. Our nation was built by many other people who were judged ineligible and exiled from their home, but by the mercy of God’s grace they were given a second chance to invest their lives and resources “in order to form a more perfect Union.” Were they perfect? Of course not!
This is the truth of freedom then…and it’s still the truth of freedom now. God will hold us accountable for our actions “because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.” It makes no earthly sense that “mercy triumphs over judgment” but it makes no heavenly sense that we have exploited the poor and honored “the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong.”
Lord help us! Help us this July 4th of 2019 to “speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom.” Lord make us so “rich in faith” that we can honestly promise we’ll invest our blessings in others seeking freedom and in your truth that “mercy triumphs over judgment.”
NIV 1:26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
Not all words are reliable evidence of truth. What is true is that our words as believers count as evidence of our relationship to Jesus and that requires we “keep a tight rein on [our] tongues.” James was writing to people just like us who struggle with the temptation to waste our words as weapons to wound or masks to hide behind.
Weaponized words to hide behind are everywhere today. They’re one of the easiest ways we can be “polluted by the world.” This is James urgent reminder to us that our words are part of our worship. The words we speak every day have an impact on Jesus’s reputation as as surely as those we speak in church on Sunday. William Barclay says it this way “…worship is empty and idle unless it sends a man out to love God by loving his fellow-men and to walk more purely in the tempting ways of the world.”
“No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” [NLT Micah 6:8].
Those are God’s words. Amen.
James 5:7 Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. 9 Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!
Seed: a plant’s unit of reproduction, capable of developing into another such plant.
Patience is a necessary thread that connects my mind to the idea of comparing faith, seed and farming. James has been challenging me through this whole book as I’ve considered my √ list of traits for a believer. Patience wasn’t even on my list but I see that it may well be the seed that reproduces the valuable crop of endurance, need, mercy, personality, relationships, integrity, prayer and happiness in life. Daily faith is more about seed gathering than crop production. Plant the seed you have, pray for rain and stand firm. The Lord will produce the crop.
James 4:7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you.
I’m struck by how complicated the life of a believer becomes with the reality of needing to submit [accept or yield], and at the same time resist [withstand the action or effect]. Submission and resistance are not as black and white as they may seem at first glance.
We all know our response to those complications is critical but sometimes the right choice slips by unnoticed in a world of gray. Ask the right questions. Comfort can make submitting to the wrong thing seem easy. Beware! We’ve all experienced the futility of wasting our energy resisting the “right” thing.
The right choice is all about the need to double √√ who you’re submitting to and who you’re resisting. Submit to the need to ask the right questions of the right person! Resist the lie this is a simple choice based on comfort or effort. “Come near to God and he will come near to you.”
James 2:18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds… 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.
James 3:13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.
The big debate about his book has always been verse 24: “You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.” James has taken a lot of flack for those words. The very human temptation is to make faith and deeds a competition of either/or but here’s how I fit that debate into my √ list of traits for the followers of Christ. I think James is addressing personality.
Personality is the fabric of our lives. The weaving of that fabric is the key here for me. The process of weaving is always the same: two distinct sets of yarns or threads [like faith and deeds] are laced together at right angles to form the strength of the cloth. It’s Christ’s righteousness, not ours, that turns those threads into something more than a loose pile of strings when he weaves both faith and deeds into the fabric of a unique personality of one of his beloved.
“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.”
James 2:12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
Mer·cy: compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.
Here’s my checklist from James so far: √ endurance and √ need. Next on the list is √ mercy. We learn what it means to endure when we become completely aware of our need for Jesus to work out within us what God has promised. Even before we “came to our senses” and spoke our own commitment to be a follower of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit was at work revealing our need to do just that. Walking into the arms of Jesus wasn’t an act of our own making. Those words we spoke were the result of God’s mercy seeping into the cracks of a stony heart and triumphing over judgment, his and ours.
Mercy is the beginning of our own baptism into the Kingdom of God. Shared mercy has other benefits that are just as real. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Love, Jesus