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Revelation and Response: God's Will, God's Word and God's Way (James 1:17-20)
Sermon Notes
Sunday, 23 February 2014 00:00

Review: James is writing to fellow Christians to tell them to avoid “LSD!” No, I’m not referring to the drug lysergic acid diethylamide. I’m talking about what James tells us James 1:13-16.
I’ll read vv. 14-15 ~ 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
Here we read that Death is the grandchild of my own sinful desire or Lust.
Sinful desire (Lust)  Sin  Death (LSD) It’s what we called “Temptation Trail” last week.

The point James (and the whole Bible) makes is this:
Any sin leads to some form of death. It can literally shorten our physical life.

James reaffirms this same truth in James 5:20 ~ He who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death.
Death (of the physical body, of fellowship, of rewards) is the ultimate end of sinful conduct.
Our Bible verse says
Proverbs 19:16 ~ He who keeps the commandment keeps his soul, But he who is careless of [Literally, he who despises, figurative of recklessness or carelessness] is careless of his ways will die.

14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed (the bait).
But in order for lust to “conceive” there must be the joining together of our inner desire with outer “bait,” which refers to the temptation.
If there is no joining of these two forces, the element of sin is not present.
It is not the bait that constitutes sin – it’s the bite! I sin when I take the bait!
So temptation’s trail is clearly marked:
(1) Outer bait is dropped in front of us.
(2) Inner desire (lust) draws us toward it.
Then comes
(3) Persuasion, through curiosity and rationalization, carries us away. We are enticed to yield to the temptation (we bite!) when we believe Satan’s temptation instead of God’s testimony!

15 Then, when desire has conceived, {This is when it is time for a spiritual abortion!}
it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. {So then, before sin is full-grown, that is the time for spiritual infanticide!}


Abortion and Infanticide are much to be desired in this context!
Abortion: While Lust is conceiving and Sin is yet to be brought forth and born into a sinful action in my life, that is the time to stop the growth and prevent the sin from ever being born into action in my life. The more we toy with something in our mind, the harder it is to resist it. The longer we allow it to remain there, the longer we allow our minds to feed on it, the stronger it becomes, until finally the birth of sin is inevitable.
We need to cut it off while there is opportunity to cut it off.
Infanticide: But then, failing to abort it, and Sin is born as a result of Lust, kill it while it is still an infant! Confess it. Turn from it before it can mature and become fully developed. Because indeed, when it is full-grown, it will bring forth Death! It will enslave you and choke out your spiritual vitality and can indeed lead to physical (the sin unto) death.

16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Lust  Sin  Death
What does deceitfulness of sin look like?
It promises what it can’t deliver.
It assures of pleasures that it can’t produce.
It never warns of eventual consequences.
Talk to someone whose life is not working and they can point back to bad decisions, bad choices that have resulted in the consequences of my sin that I’m now experiencing.
It happens as a result of any number of excuses that we make. Do any sound familiar to you?
It’s just a little sin. It’s no big deal.
It’s just the way I am.
It’s not as bad as what he’s doing! (or, she’s done)
It’s just this one time. No one is ever going to know.
That’s what deceit does. It tricks us into thinking that God doesn’t take sin seriously.

So consider the consequences – think ahead & “Choose Life!”

On contrast to sin, our GOD is fundamentally a Giver, who gives us that superlative gift of eternal life from above, as James affirms in the following two verses, James 1:17-18.
17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. 18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.

Death is the dreadful consequence earned by our sins (the wages of sin is death).
By way of total contrast,
Life is the gift that God wants to bestow.


17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.
This verse tells us that God only gives good and perfect gifts. He is the Flawless Giver!

But it says way more than this! Wherever there is such a thing as a flawless gift, that gift is necessarily from above. All human gifts, by contrast, are flawed in some way or another, because the human giver is flawed. Only GOD can give perfect gifts!
The word for good (agathos) means “useful or beneficial.”
The word for perfect (teleion) suggests a gift “without defect or want.”
The emphasis here is on the quality of God’s gifts – good and perfect.
James’ point is simply this: God’s gifts always meet the need completely, fully.
They always meet a need because God knows exactly what we need. His gifts are without defect.
They never wear out and never need to be sent back for an exchange or repair.
You’ll never have to stand in a “return line” for any of God’s gifts.
Romans 11:29 reads, “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”

That is because He is the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.
The Greek words for variation (parallage) and turning (tropes) are astronomical terms related to the movements and changes in the heavenly bodies.
This suggests that the title “Father of lights” is a reference to God as the Creator of the heavenly bodies, or lights (Genesis 1:14-19).
But in contrast to these celestial bodies which undergo “variations” and cast “shadows” on earth because of their rotation in space (their “turning”), God is immutable in His activity of giving.

The Creator is therefore greater than His creation. When He gives, there is no fluctuation in the quality of His gifts. They are always good and perfect.
On top of that, no shadow of imperfection is cast by these gifts, in contrast, for example, to the shadows created by the rising or setting sun.
It is unthinkable that the shadow of death (the fruit of sin) should in any way mar our experience as a result of the divine Giver’s gracious bestowment upon man.

He never changes. There will never be a shadow cast over our lives because He has turned His back on us. God doesn’t rotate. If a shadow darkens our day, it is only because we have turned our back on Him. Men change. God doesn’t.
The only gift which will ever come down from heaven is a good, necessary gift, which is without want or defect. All of God’s gifts appreciate in value. They never fade or depreciate.
And the perfect example of just such a gift is found in verse 18.
18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.
Who is the “us” of this verse?
It includes the readers who are called “beloved brethren” in verse 16, but it also includes James.
James is writing to believers, to Christians, and therefore he can say of them and of himself ~
18 Of His own will He brought us forth. We must not miss the connection of this statement with the context.
This connection is obvious when we note the repetition of the word for birth used in both verses 15 and 18. We see the contrast: Sin gives birth to death, but God gives birth to us.
15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.

1:15 ~ “brings forth” ~ Sin gives birth to death.
Any sin leads to/brings forth some form of death.

1:18 ~ “brought us forth” ~ But God gives birth to us.
He gives us eternal life through the gift of the new birth.

The word (anothen) translated from above in 1:17 is the same word found in John 3:3 where it is translated born again.
Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)

The new birth is the example par excellence of a good and perfect gift!
Eternal life is God’s gift. It never fades in value. It is a complete package. It is good, useful, complete and permanent. What a beautiful picture of our loving God!


17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.
18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.
For James, new birth is a gift of God, a gift from above.
It is the chief exhibit, Exhibit “A” of God’s perfect giving.
Notice also that the text says that it is by God’s will He brought us forth.
Moreover, it is not related to the “will” of man, by which it could be flawed due to the corruption of that “will.” Rather, new birth finds its source in God’s will (of His own will) and is effected by the word of truth.
This brings to mind Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 4 ~
3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: 4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. 5 For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. 6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (KJV)

As James’ and Paul’s words reveal: Faith is not an act of the human will, but rather a firm conviction about the truth of God when we are illuminated by it.
Thus Paul can describe Abraham’s justifying faith as [21 and] being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. 22 And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.”
God’s role in our conversion may be described as revelatory.
As an act of His own will He commands the light of the Gospel to shine into our hearts so that we can perceive that light in faith.
Biblical saving faith is a conviction or persuasion about what God says to us regarding the message of life, the “living water.”
Rom 4:21 and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.
We become persuaded by the evidence that what He says is true.
When I am persuaded that what He has said is true, I have believed it.
There is no place here for man’s will – even as influenced by God’s Spirit.
God commands the light of His Word to shine into our hearts and, like blind men suddenly able to see, we perceive it as truth (2 Corinthians 4:6).
Once received as truth, i.e., believed, there is no room for man’s will to act.
Faith and regeneration have already occurred!

Obviously, in James’ great affirmation in vv. 17-18, there is no room at all, there is not so much as even a hint that good works somehow are related to the free gift of new birth.

Good works cannot be performed apart from man’s will. Some would say, “Well, good works are produced in us by God; it is God who enables us to will to do them.”
But even when it’s put like that, the human will is still active despite the fact that it is acted upon by God.
In new birth, however, as James has stated here, it is God’s will that is active through His Word, and our response. Our response to the revelation in His Word is simply believing that what He has said is true! God speaks and we believe!

The result of this amazing act of God’s will and Word is that we who are born again become a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.
18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.
“God has regenerated us with the result that we are already a kind of firstfruits . . .”

This reminds us of Paul’s words in Romans 8:19-21 ~ 19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope;21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

The kingdom aged is described by Jesus as “the regeneration” in Matthew 19:28 ~ 28 So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
The only other use of the word palingenesia is in Titus 3:5 ~ 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,

James’ point is that God’s gift of new life is so good and perfect that when we possess that life we are a foreshadowing of what God will do for all His creatures (all created things).
Just as the first crops from a field (firstfruits) suggest the quality of the harvest as a whole, so the miracle of regeneration in our lives is so wonderful that what God plans for the entire creation can also be called a regeneration (Matthew 19:28).
Although James recognizes that the analogy is not exact (we are a kind of firstfruits), yet it picturesquely makes his point.
There is no flaw in the gift of new life from above; otherwise it could not serve as a true model of what God wants to do and will one day do for the entire creation.
Next week we will study James 1:21 and celebrate the Lord’s Supper.

 

 

 

 

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