Living a Life of Truth

In Judaism, in the mind and the culture of the day in which James lived and wrote, truth was the basis of the law. Reading James 5.12 it would be very easy to hyper-moralise and say something like, 

You need to be so careful to tell the truth
so you don’t fall under condemnation.
Be a better, more truthful you.

The law-minded person would simply see this as a law to keep.

What about when we look at this through the lens of Jesus? We see that our character is lacking so we feel the need to make oaths, we feel we need to substantiate our claims by saying something like ‘I swear to God I will…I swear I didn’t…’

The fact that James is saying this at all is proof it was happening, isn’t it, you don’t teach about situations that don’t exist, do you? If we are honest, this is still happening; we feel the need to make stronger our own words, our own claims than with a simple yes or no.

Jesus, on other hand, didn’t.

Jesus spoke only truth in love. We fail, He succeeds. You will never be that more truthful you until you are a born again believer in Jesus with the Spirit of God living in you. How is that possible? 

Faith in Jesus makes this possible.

Truth, Biblical truth, Christian truth, Jesus-emanating truth is authenticity, Divine reality. John in particular in his account of the life, ministry, death, resurrection of Jesus uses this word ‘truth‘ to describe the fact that this reality, this authentic, Divine reality is actually possible for you and me as humans, but in our natural state, it’s out of reach. We are out of touch, out of step with it, but, through the revelation of the Word of God, the incarnation and work of and faith in the Word of God, it is reachable. 

So, with James writing about yes be yes and no be no, in our natural state, sadly, nobody is ever going to be able to get to that standard. No motivational speech, no self help, no self improvement, no amount of burden that you put on yourself will ever get you there. There is only one way to be able to live this life, there is only one way to practice truthfulness as God Himself is truthful and that is through the authenticity, the Divine revelation, the Word become flesh, through Jesus. 

Everything that we want, everything that we need to live a life of truth, true, actual, authentic, real truth, is available to us in Jesus, and nowhere else.

So, simply, your life of truth has to be rooted in, has to stem from, to grow out of, Jesus.

Living A Life Of Patience And Purpose

In James 5.7-11, James references the purpose of the Lord in the case of Job. We see from Job 42.10 and 12 that the purpose was to bless and to restore. The purpose was to take what was broken, and to restore it, and is that not a condensed version of the book of James?

Jesus wants to take what is broken and restore it, to restore this broken world to Eden; God, creation, and man living harmoniously and peacefully and lovingly together. James encourages us to have patience whilst we wait for this (James 5.7-9).

The question for you and for me then is are we willing to wait for this?

Are we willing to look at the examples of the prophets? 

To see God’s plans and purposes worked out through them and have patience?

Charles Simeon, the British preacher of yesteryear we mentioned earlier said this, 

So the Christian must wait upon his God: many things he will meet with to try his faith and patience: but he must commit them all the Lord, not doubting but that God will him “strength according to his day”, and cause “all events to work together for his good.

Again then, as this week and every week, it would be so easy to hyper-moralise James and say look, you are a bad person because you are not patient, be more patient. But that’s not helpful for anyone, is it, and it totally leaves Jesus out of the picture. Sure, we’ve referenced Him, we know He is in this text, but, with hyper-moralising it is He the hero of this text? No, He’s not, is He.

So How does He personify and exemplify the patience and purpose we have talked about today?

David Mathis wrote this,

How many times have we rebelled? How often have we misrepresented him? How frequently have we presumed upon his forgiveness? How much have we been impatient with him — only to find out how gently and kindly he handled us in return?

Think about it this way; if Jesus was not patient with you, if He did not personify and exemplify the life of patience and living for God’s purpose to bless and restore, we would all have perished. 

Let us go into today full of awe for the patience, the purpose, and the person of Jesus.

Living a Life of Wealth and Arrogance

In James 4.13-17 we are counselled strongly against having the pursuit of financial prosperity be the #1 goal in our lives. 

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

James 4.13-17

It’s a strong word, but a word we all need right now.

The crux of what is being taught is this:

God’s Will over worldly wealth.

Again with the book of James, it would be so easy to say something like, ‘Man, I need to work really hard to plan my life properly, to not prioritise money, to prioritise God’s will, His Word, His ways, His church, His people, I need to work really hard to plan my life better.’ 

The problem with that is that the burden is on you, the work is on you, the outcome rests on you. We all know, don’t we, that when that’s the case, the outcome is tenuous at best, negative often, and potentially disastrous. Rather than work hard to plan our lives properly, let us seek first the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6.33), and let the Lord Jesus plan our lives. Give Him the work of directing your steps, submit your ways to His will, and watch what He is able to do with a life fully submitted to Him. 

Don’t work hard to plan your own life, let Jesus do it!

Living a Life of Others

James 4.11-12 talks about how we are (and are not) to interact with others. Where is the ultimate example of how to view, interact with, speak to others?

Paul writing to the Philippians says, 

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Philippians 2.3-4

Sounds great, doesn’t it; don’t speak evil of one another, but think of others as being more important than yourself. Paul continues and gives us the ultimate example,

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Philippians 2.5-8

Did you catch the ultimate example of being others-focused;

he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Robert Lightner wrote that Christ is the supreme example of humility and selfless concern for others, and that

there will never be a better example of [a] selfless attitude for believers to follow…than that of Christ.

Living a Life of The Heart

We’ve said this before with James and no doubt we will say it again, but so often he demands from us that which we cannot deliver and this makes us go with all the more urgency to the refuge of the Gospel, where Jesus said “It is finished”.

Because, honestly, after reading James 4.1-10 how many of you can say yes, I can resist the devil, yes, I can cleanse my hands from all unrighteousness, yes, I can purify my heart, I can love the Lord with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength in my own power and of my own accord?

How many of you can say yes, I grieve over my sin and I do so because all on my own I realised that it is sin?

In Ezekiel 36 we read of a prophecy for the nation of Israel. We are not the nation of Israel, but we can look at the principle of what is promised and see that, you know what, there is now no Jew or Greek, we are all one in Christ Jesus, so whilst there are specific promises regarding the nation of Israel, in principle, the spiritual promises we can look at as being for us too.

So in Ezekiel 36 we read, 

Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

This is the spiritual transformation that we all need, a new heart. James 4.1-10 talks about your heart; what do we need to do with it?

It’s broken, isn’t it, it’s deceitful, it will tell you what you want to hear in order to get what it wants, which is fleshly and all too human. We need restoration, we need fixing, we need a new heart.

To his original readers, James is instructing them to take seriously the truth that this new way of life is deeper than surface level religious acts and you need to change from within. For you and me, going from there to here, we need to take a serious look at ourselves and be honest about our condition, about the condition of our hearts.

The moralistic teaching of this passage would say something like this – You need to work hard to fix the problem of your heart.

A Christ-centred view, however, would say this – You never will, give it to Jesus.

Living a Life of Wisdom

Where can wisdom be found?

The Word of God to us bound in our Bibles tells us that the wisdom of God once walked where we walk, lived where we live, and that true wisdom can be found exemplified and personified in Jesus.

In James 3.13-18 we learn that wisdom is how we show what we believe through our conduct; what we say and what we do. James writes,

Who is wise and understanding among you?

By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.

Jesus showed, and Jesus told.

The question about where wisdom can be found can be answered in the person and work of Jesus, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2.1-3), in Jesus who is the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1.20-25).

Let us then work hard to show what we believe wisely by what we say and do, but above that let us pursue relationship with Jesus, the wisdom of God.

Look at James 3.13 again and let’s put His name in there…

JESUS is wise and understanding…By his good conduct HE HAS SHOWN his works in the meekness of wisdom. 

Let us then work hard to show what we believe wisely by what we say and do, as He did, but above that let us pursue relationship with Jesus, the wisdom of God.

Living a Life of Words

There are things for us to do now we are believers in Jesus, and, sure, choosing words carefully is one of them; kind, loving, caring, encouraging, edifying, counselling, and consistent (James 3.1-12).

Imagine that Jesus was taking another walk on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24.27) with the New Testament in hand, how would He explain this part of James in relation to Himself?

I’m gonna suggest that He would say this – Words of life are found in one place only.

In John 6 Jesus said 

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. 

Basically, you will never tame your own tongue in your own power and never. 

Edwin Blum wrote that

The Holy Spirit, poured out in the world, gives life (salvation) to those who believe. Without the Holy Spirit, man (flesh) is utterly unable to understand Jesus’ person and His works [and then act accordingly].

Jesus continues and says

The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

He was talking about eternal life, how it is only found in Him, that we must partake of His life and work and sacrificed body to truly inherit eternal life, and that we must look beyond the physical rituals of religion to the words that He is saying and the things He is teaching. His Words carry meaning and truth, and because this is hard, some left Him. We read,  

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 

So He asked the 12, are you leaving as well? He had said some tough truths and people left Him…imagine that. Do you know what the 12 said to Him?

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

Jesus’ words lead to life. No one else, nobody else’s words lead to eternal life.

It’s so easy to look at passages like James 3.1-12 and be very moral: You need to be in control of your tongue and your speech. Words are powerful, words can heal, words can cut down, words matter, your words matter. 

That’s not incorrect, but it’s incomplete. 

Rather than be all moral and preach-y, we ought to look at passages like this with a Christ-centred lens: Your words do matter, but Jesus has the words of eternal life.

So yes, work hard to choose your words carefully, but ultimately let us rest in the promises of eternal life found in the words of Jesus.