Basic Christianity - James 5:7-12
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James 5 v 7-12 “Basic Christianity”
Intro: The 30 second sermon and the human heart
1) A people of faith (v7-11)
Patience is Attitudes and Actions:
- Wait Expectantly
- Wait Enduringly
- Wait Uncomplainingly
2) A people of Truth (v12)
1v18 “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth.”
1v21 “humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.”
1v25 “whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom”
James 5 v 7-12 “Basic Christianity”
Intro: (Slide 1) On the 27th June 2021 a Christian pastor called Kyle Donn was on a plane going to Seattle when the pilot announced engine failure and told the passengers and crew to brace and prepare for a crash (Slide 2). Kyle and his wife reminded one another of the salvation that Christ had purchased for them and then Kyle began to speak to the passengers around him. This was part of his 30 second sermon as people prepared to face their deaths; “The God who made everything wants to make peace with us, even though we’ve broken his world. He loves you so much that he left heaven to make peace with sinners by dying on a cross. His name is Jesus. Confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus is the risen Lord, and you’ll have peace with God! No one laughed, no one scoffed”.
Well, the pilot managed an emergency landing and everyone got off that flight with their earthly life intact. Kyle reflected like this; “The precious souls around us need to hear—or be reminded of—the gospel of ultimate hope. That’s as true in a plane about to attempt an emergency landing as it is in a coffee shop or a cul-de-sac. But the wonder of it was that, once the passengers got safely off the plane and were holding their free meal vouchers while waiting for a replacement plane most passengers didn’t seem to care. Did they register what had just happened? Did it not jolt them awake to the precious fragility of life?”
That’s the reality of the human heart – because of our sin and pride we quickly put out of our minds any thoughts of our own condition – our needs and limits and weaknesses - and especially any thoughts about death and the Lord’s return and judgement; humans live as if it doesn’t matter. But Christians, with new hearts, are to be completely different to this, and as James leads to the conclusion of his letter in chapter 5 v 7-12 he wants us to fix our thoughts and attention on the conclusion of all things. As we live in this sin-torn world, battling the evil that is within us, enduring the persecution and opposition around us, considering the trials God sends us pure joy, we are to have eyes wide open to the return of Jesus Christ and as a result we are to be a particular kind of people; we are to be a people of faith and a people of truth.
1) A people of faith (v7-11)
(Slide 3) V7-11 we are to be a people of faith. “Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming.” This is absolutely basic Christianity. Christians are not to be living worldly lives obsessed with the here and now. We are not at home here because we are friends with God rather than friends with the world. It’s like we are out at work and when the work is done we can go home. We are investing now for a future return. And so we are to be patient, putting up with all the difficulties that come now with living as God’s family (dear brothers and sisters) in a threatening world. In faith we can be patient through all of the pain knowing that Jesus is returning soon.
What is this patience that James commands us to? It is certainly more than just waiting (Slide 4). Right now this very second in Hull there are people sitting in cars waiting because all the roads in the city seem to have been dug up at once. Those drivers are waiting, but I bet that most of them are certainly not waiting patiently. Patience means waiting with particular attitudes and particular actions.
(Slide 5) In verse 7 James uses a farmer to illustrate that patient waiting means waiting expectantly. The farmer has planted the seed (Slide 6) and knows that at the right time the rains will come and out of the dry, dead-looking ground, something very valuable will appear (Clarkson’s farm waiting for rain and then delight). What is the valuable crop that we are waiting for? In chapter 1 our perseverance through trials resulted in maturity which is indeed a very valuable crop in our lives. But here in chapter 5 it is even more basic than that. Quite simply the valuable crop is the return of Jesus Christ. We are to live consistently Christian lives in whatever multi-coloured trials we have to go through knowing that soon Jesus is going to come back and everything that God has promised to his people will be fulfilled and consummated.
Yes, the ground might look dry in your life right now, it certainly looks almost dead in this broken world at present, yes it has been 2000 years of our time since Jesus ascended into heaven, but, like the farmer who isn’t fretting because he knows that the rains are on their way, we must wait expecting Jesus’ return any day now. (No embarrassment to talk this way since it is basic to our faith – emphasis with everyone)
(Slide 7) And patience means we are to wait enduringly; verse 8 “You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.” There have been many encouraging conversations for me recently as a minister in Riverside and the Network, especially in the area of evangelism and trying to push for responses in people’s lives. Some brothers and sisters are listening to the word and very deliberately trying to go away and immediately do it. But this does bring with it some level of pain and discomfort that would not be there if we ignored God’s call on our lives. And it also brings with it the pain when a loved one makes no response to the gospel.
James says that living patiently while waiting for Jesus to return will mean we refuse to let this pain and discomfort move us from living out real faith. (Slide 8) I love these words from 2 songs that our home group have recently been listening to (they are words that speak to us in whatever colour of suffering or trial we are currently going through);
And I will build my life upon your love, it is a firm foundation
And I will put my trust in you alone And I will not be shaken (Housefires)
When You don't move the mountains I'm
needing You to move When You don't part the waters I wish I could walk
through When You don't give the answers As I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust I will trust in You (Lauren Daigle)
If you are living wholeheartedly for God right now, if your faith and deeds are working together, and yet you are having a miserable time in life, don’t change one little bit, stand firm, Jesus is coming back soon, the Lord’s coming is near.
And as usual James gets to our tongue (Slide 9). To be patient we must wait uncomplainingly. “Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The judge is standing at the door!” The fact that Jesus’ return is really close is supposed to be a wonderful comfort and encouragement to brothers and sisters who are living appropriately. But James is a very realistic pastor and he has seen how under the pressure of temptation from within and opposition from without, God’s people can very quickly start to live and speak in ways that are utterly inappropriate. They begin to slander one another grumble against one another – I see this all the time in my own little family. When the pressure is on words can be used that tear down and damage – and it is all out of impatience.
So James reminds us starkly that the Jesus who is soon going to return and make everything the way it should be is also the judge is standing at the door. We are not the judges, there is only one judge who has the power to save or destroy. So we are not to try to take his place. He is at the door (Look at those doors – when I was young Mum would always burst through the door at the exact time someone in a movie said a bad word or started shooting). If instead of allowing filthy damaging grumbles about the church family to come out of our mouths we instead had a glance at the nearest door, it might remind us to just shut up and show the patience with one another that God’s word demands. Which is a tiny percentage of the patience that God, the judge of all, shows to sinners such as us.
Actions: Patience means an expectant, enduring, uncomplaining attitude. But we know that the pattern in James is that deeds make our faith complete and so these patient attitudes will flower into persevering actions (Slide 10). These patient attitudes will mean we follow the example of the prophets in the Old Testament and keep speaking in the name of the Lord despite opposition and persecution. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ that has made us what we are at Newland and Orchard park and Riverside. We are here tonight because the gospel has been passed down to us over 2 thousand of years of pain and sacrifice and faithfully declared to us personally over decades of steadfast dedication.
Each Christian listening to this has a decision to make about the week to come – “Am I going to keep speaking in the name of the Lord, or am I going to hide in the background this week?” Speaking will mean pain but the Lord’s coming is near. Not speaking is far far worse. The judge is standing at the door.
(Slide 11) Patient attitudes work out in persevering action as we keep trusting in God’s righteous sovereignty and keep speaking well of him even when our suffering is very acute. “You have heard of Job’s patience and seen what the Lord finally brought about.” (Slide 12) Job suffered so much and yet he refused to curse God and die. He had many, many questions for God that he asked during his suffering but he always asked those questions in the appropriate posture – he was a creature and God is the creator. Job knew that the Lord gives and the Lord takes away. And when God finally comes to question Job, God doesn’t tell him all the whys and wherefores because that is not Job’s place to know. God is the righteous judge and no-one else is.
But what does God do? Full of compassion and mercy, he lifts Job up and we read this in Job 42 “the LORD blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part.” In your suffering and trials, know that the Lord’s coming is near and so deliberately keep putting your trust in him. There is great blessing to come from the compassionate and merciful God.
(Slide 13) That is a job we can help each other with; we are to keep exhorting and encouraging one another so that we see God’s compassion, kindness and mercy even amongst the most terrible brokenness of death and mourning. We want to be far, far better for one another than Job’s friends were for him. In your local church, your patient attitudes should flower into the actions that are most important of all. We must press home God’s word into one another’s lives so that we are full of thanksgiving and praise as we wait for Jesus to come back.
2) A people of Truth (v12)
(Slide 14) And I think that is why we get this “Above all” in verse 12 that on first reading seems so out of place, or even slightly strange. In verses 7-11 James has helped us to see that we are to be a people of faith and in verse 12, above all, we are to be a people of Truth. God’s people are to be so different from the world around. When we say yes or no we should never need to add anything else in there at all, no qualifying guarantees, no oaths, no swearing at all. The world around the Jerusalem church used oaths to try to bring weight to their yes’s and no’s. They needed to swear by altars and Temples because their actions did not match their words and without these oaths no one would take them seriously or do business with them(Liars). But that is not who God’s people are, it just can’t be. Truth matters so much to us. People have got to know that our yes’s and no’s mean exactly that. Why?
(Slide 15) Because truth is at the very core of our very existence. James set that out clearly in chapter 1; 1v18 “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth.”1v21 “humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” 1v25 whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom and continues in it – not forgetting what they have heard but doing it – they will be blessed in what they do.” We were dead in our sins and then God brought life to us through the word of truth and we were born as new creatures, people filled with the Spirit of God. God planted his word in us and it is what saves us. Freedom from sin comes from looking intently into the perfect law and it is this freedom that brings us all the blessings God promises.
And so the “Above all” followed by the stark warning “otherwise you will be condemned” makes simple sense. It is basic Christianity. Truth must mark us out – if we are constant liars then it says something very serious about whether or not the word has been planted in us at all. If you don’t have birth through the word of truth then you don’t have eternal life. If we aren’t people of truth then we have no hope at all.
(Slide 16) But praise God that there are so many Christians here who know that they have eternal life. Who know that if they were on a plane that was about to crash they could get on with the job in hand and that they would soon be closing their eyes on this life and opening them to see Jesus and all God’s people face to face.
Jesus shed his blood, died, rose again, ascended to heaven, is reigning now and soon will return. All of our sins can be forgiven and we can be born again as his family forever. Brothers and sisters, this is our faith and this is the truth. Amen.
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