JohnSWilson3 Blog

“Do Not Judge.”

I am constantly amazed by how quick we judge the acts of our natural world as either a judgment of God or not a judgment of God against people or a nation of people. Jesus said “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matt. 7:1-2) The context is about being hypocritical, being a critical person. Jesus did not mince His words with hypocrites, those who lived a false life, a life of wearing a mask. This is not living by the life of Christ but the flesh. In Christ, as we live by His life, by the Spirit, when we are tempted to judge the events or people around us, we should be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19)

Our earth is a dynamic one, it is obvious. We see how matter and energy are constantly interacting with one another. We see this in every cycle and process on earth in every field of science. The areas of science such as Geology and Meteorology are constantly on display around us. The motion of the tectonic plates, the resulting volcanoes and earthquakes. The motion of our atmosphere and the resulting changes in weather and the water cycle. They express a world that is constantly changing. As Paul says “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” (Rom. 8:22) But as we have often seen, these natural aspects of our earth can have tremendous consequences. No one is free from them. As Jesus said, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matt. 5:45) But Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:45 is in context of loving our neighbors and loving our enemies in verses 43 and 44.

Are we really manifesting the love of Christ to others, whether our neighbor or our enemy, when we judge them about a matter, such as a natural disaster, that is not ours to judge? Do we realize that the sun rises and the rain is sent on us as well? No one is free from natural disasters. Perhaps this is an opportunity for us to demonstrate the life of Christ by loving our neighbor and/or our enemy. Perhaps it really isn’t a matter of judgment at all but of salvation. Perhaps the judgment is one of testing our faith. Perhaps it is God allowing His creation to help reveal the sons of God. “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.” If we are living by the life of Christ together, then His life of love will be manifested when the difficult circumstances of life occur. “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Cor. 10:12)

So why do we judge a people or a nation of people when these “things” occur, saying it is from God? Or why do we judge a people or a nation of people when these “things” occur, saying it is not from God? In either case are we not talking “back to God?” As a teacher I have had a few students talk back to me, judging me without knowledge. Pretty annoying to tell you the truth. So why do we think we should be quick to judge others that when something happens it is of God or not of God? Do we really know? “But who are you, a mere human being, to talk back to God?” (Rom. 9:20)

I am reminded of the words that the Lord spoke to Job:

“Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Prepare to defend yourself; I will question you, and you will answer me.” (Job 38:2-3) “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!” (Job 40:2) “Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me.” (Job 41:11)

So dear brothers and sisters let us not be quick in attempting to judge the acts of our natural world as either a judgment of God or not a judgment of God against people or a nation of people. How do we know that what is occurring is for judgment or for salvation? When natural disasters occur they are opportunities to “do everything in love.” (1 Cor. 16:14) “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn…” (Rom. 12:12-15) “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoice with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Cor. 13:4-8a) This is the manifestation of the sons of God, this is the expression of the life of Christ in and to and through His body!

Some final thoughts from the apostle James:

“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. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear – not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’ Otherwise you will be condemned.” (James 5:7-12)

“…humbly accept the word planted in you…”
July 16, 2010, 2:14 am
Filed under: F Letter of James

James was writing this letter to those Jewish Christians who had left Jerusalem during the persecution as way of a reminder of the things they struggled together with when living by Jesus life together.

It is generally considered the first letter written to Christians who lived a shared life from house to house and wherever they gathered together. I think he brings reminders to them of the basics of how they did life together with Jesus, e.g. how does living by the flesh look as compared to how does living by Jesus look, the fruit? The letter is an excellent source of wisdom for every ekklesia learning to live by the life of Jesus and the consequences of walking in the flesh (similar to what Paul does in Galatians). So the letter is more outward manifestation of Jesus focused, versus inward focused, such as how Paul wrote to the ekklesias in Galatia, or at least it seems to me.

In the first chapter, James describes areas of listening and speaking within the body of Christ as they gathered in face to face community. So this seems to drive what James says in this section. Verses 19-22 says:

“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

When we meet together it is about listening to the Lord, who indwells His people, and speaking and doing those things the Lord tells us to to the building up of the body of Christ. The phrase “humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you” is literally “in meekness receive the implanted word (logos) – being able to save your souls.” (1) The word “humility” is better translated “meekness” as it is not the same Greek word used for humility, meaning humbleness of mind. This word “meekness” refers to “an inwrought grace of the soul.” (2) So this phrase seems to indicate the importance of an inward comprehension of Christ, The Word (Logos) of God, implanted within us, who lives in us. And not just an inward comprehension of Christ’s life but also at the same time as a result of Christ’s life. There is also a sense of following the direction of His voice as He directs the gathering of His people. Every person in the body of Christ has the freedom to fully function in the gathering so that all may learn Christ together! We are quick to listen to what the Lord is saying, whether through someone in the gathering or in us by His Spirit. We are slow to speak, in that we do not speak loudly or over someone who is sharing Christ through whatever gifting the Spirit has enabled the members of His body. If we are not in humility listening to our Lord through the members of His body or ourselves then we are focused on ourselves, not considering or respecting the Christ in others, and this tends to cause someone to become fleshly in thought and in deed, to speak over others, judge others, and mishandle truth. This causes anger and bitterness to occur. How important to humbly listen to our Lord!

We hear from the Lord and when we hear something of Him, He directs our sharing in and to and through the body. And because we live in this flesh, although it died when Christ died, we still have to remember to accept that it is dead, to put it away, so that Christ’s life will be manifested in and to and through us. If I hear Christ in me, in us, but do not believe what He says and focus on myself instead of others, if I do not put it to death, and see that it is dead in Christ, then I will not be following Christ’s voice which can save me from the consequences of walking in the flesh. As the NASB says: “But prove yourselves doers of the word (logos), and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word (logos) and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.” When Christ speaks I listen and then do what He tells me, even if I am unsure what it is He means. If I do not follow His direction, His guidance, then the body will miss something of the fullness of Christ and vice versa. We will miss opportunities to express love. We will only receive something less than Christ and we will deceive ourselves as a result. We will have forgotten who is our real life. How many times have followers of Jesus, not having put away the old man have misspoken or misled someone or themselves because of not first listening to the Lord and doing what He says, bringing undue consequences on themselves and others.

“But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty (freedom), and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does.” (NASB) When we hear Christ in us we are called to follow what He says and what He always expresses is love, “the royal law found in scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right.” As Paul would say, when we are living by the Spirit, Christ in us, the fruit of love will always be expressed, not the works of the flesh. May we hear from Jesus Christ, believe Him, and follow Him, and by so doing we will learn Christ and express Him together!

(1) Alfred Marshall, The Interlinear KJV-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, 1975, The Zondervan Corporation, 673, 675.
(2) W.E. Vine, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 314, 401.

“…As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead…”
August 17, 2009, 10:30 pm
Filed under: F Letter of James

After Acts chapter 14 this seemed a good place to read the Letter of James. Scholars seem to think it was written about the time the Jewish Christians left Jerusalem during it’s initial persecution and so had dispersed into Judea and Samaria and other parts of what we know as Syria.

As I read the letter by James I was struck at how much this letter can mean to the Body of Christ who meet together either in the marketplace or in homes. It seems as though James purpose for writing was to remind these Christians about the kind of life they had lived in Jerusalem while meeting together either from house-to-house or wherever they could in the marketplace, since they had been thrown out of the Jewish temple (it is my opinion that the temple was where they witnessed to the life of Jesus instead of having a “large church worship service”). I sure do need reminding!

The letter also reminds me that life lived close together can get messy and there is a bunch of messy stuff to be dealt with when people get to know each other in a shared life, warts and all! I remember from Acts that the followers of Jesus were devoted to the apostles’ teaching of the life of Jesus, devoted to fellowship, sharing life together, breaking of bread in each others homes, worshipping God, prayer and fasting. There is a way of living that we share in common, the life of Jesus!

James seems to contrast the life of Jesus to the life of the world. Almost like Paul who says later in the New Testament about putting off the old man and putting on the new man – Jesus! James reminds the Christians about being wise in how we conduct ourselves and describes how living a life of wisdom is practically shown within the Body of Christ, perhaps seeing it from his own experiences in organic church life. Every church meeting in homes together must read James, read it completely through, and think about and share what God is saying to them from it! How did I participate in the Body of Christ when we met together, was I selfish or humble? How does the Body of Christ look like when they are living Jesus’ life together?

James says “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James repeats what Acts has shown me in that Jesus is living his life, ministry, death, and resurrection through His Body! When the Body of Christ comes together in homes or wherever they can gather, “everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says…look after orphans and widows in their distress…don’t show favoritism….’Love your neighbor as yourself,’ (then) you are doing right…speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom…I will show you my faith by what I do (in helping someone who ‘is without clothes and daily food’)…Not many of you should resume to be teachers, my brothers, because we know that we who teach will be judged more strictly…Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be…show (wisdom and understanding) by his good deeds done in humility that comes from wisdom…wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere…’God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’…Submit yourselves, then , to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you…Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up…Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins….be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near…Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders (or mentors) of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, we will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective…Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” Man, what letter!

Life together isn’t a pretty picture, it’s messy, it’s difficult, but Jesus said it was not going to be easy, but praise God He said He had overcome the world! This is Jesus living His life, ministry, death, and resurrection life through His Body! James describes in practical terms what it means “to deny youself, take up your cross daily, and follow me” in loving one another as Jesus loved us. I need to by faith, submit to God and His grace and in so doing His fruit of patience, love, perseverance, and humility will be expressed as I relate to others. When the Body of Christ meets together everyone has freedom to share Jesus with each other! With all that life deals me/us how important living by the life of Jesus must be in how the Body lives together! The Body Christ living this kind of life, His life of love together, will provide God a home! God be at home in this place!