Blameshifting

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“When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone, but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.” – James 1:13-14 (NIV)

As we go through life, we face temptations. We are in a battle. There is an enemy that is baiting the hook and trying to take you down. In the end, it is our choice. Do we yield to temptation or do we stand strong? Temptation is solicitation to evil.

When we give in to temptation, we sin. Sin is anything that breaks our relationship with God. We try to shift blame to others or make excuses for our sins. How many times have you said:

“It’s not my fault!”

“I couldn’t help it!”

“Everybody’s doing it!”

“It was just a mistake!”

“Nobody’s perfect!”

“I was pressured into it!”

“I didn’t know it was wrong!”

or “The devil made me do it!”

Proverbs 19:3 says “A person’s own folly leads to their ruin, yet their heart rages against the Lord.”

In reality, we sin because we choose to. We’ll talk in a few days about the environmental influence to sin, but the bottom line is, we have a choice. And we often choose poorly. Romans 7:18 says “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” We are responsible for our own sin. Satan wants us to pass the blame. Don’t.

What about you?

 

Where are you passing the blame?

What sins do you need to own up to? Confess. Repent.

In what ways have you given in to the picture Satan is painting for you?

For what are you blaming God?

How can you be more honest with yourself (and others) about your sin?

Heavenly Rewards…

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“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” – James 1:12 (NIV)

When we are undergoing a trial or test, the last thing we want to hear is that there is some sort of benefit to it. We would prefer to be miserable and let everyone know we are! We also invite others into our misery. James tells us we are blessed if we are going through trials! This is of course on the heels of him telling us to consider trials a joy! The word blessed means to be highly favored. This is not always our attitude during tests, is it?

When I become a college professor, I found myself on the other side of tests! It was one of the most interesting changes when going from student to professor. You could watch (sometimes with amusement) as students took their seat for the examination and started sweating. They had prepared for the test, some more than others. In this passage, James is encouraging Christians to persevere, to take the test well, to face and withstand with courage, because there is a reward at the end of the test.

The crown of life that James references is not salvation, because salvation is a free-gift, we don’t have to do anything other than believe to receive salvation. This crown of life is heavenly rewards, where the Bible clearly teaches we can gain or lose heavenly rewards based on our thoughts, actions, and emotions. I must admit, I don’t completely understand this part of God’s kingdom, but I accept it because the Bible teaches it. We are to run the race, fight the good fight, and finish well. Jesus says in Revelation 22:12, “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.”

So, what are we to do? James 1:12 ends with “those who love him.” All of the 60 or so commands in James are driven by love. This shouldn’t surprise us. James was the half-brother of Jesus who summed up the entire Old Testament in the command to love. Jesus said in Matthew 22: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (vv. 37, 39).

This idea of love has been corrupted by those who push tolerance and acceptance. Yes, we are commanded to love, but that does not mean that we have to agree with, tolerate, or accept anything that disagrees with God’s design or will. Love is to be tempered with truth and delivered with grace.

What about you?

 

Does testing drive you towards God or away from God?

Do you struggle to love God during tests and trials?

What rewards in heaven are you looking forward to?

What does it mean to love God with all your heart? All your soul? All your mind?

What does it mean to love your neighbor as yourself?

What is one thing this week you can do to tangibly demonstrate your love towards God?

What is one thing this week you can do to tangibly demonstrate your love for your neighbor?

But the rich…

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“But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.” – James 1:10-11

Riches are transitory. You know the old cliché, “There are no luggage racks on hearse’s.” Now, I’m sure you can find a picture of one online, or at least one pulling a uHaul… but you know what I mean. You can’t take your money with you. But, you can send it on ahead! When you invest your life in things that truly matter, you are making deposits in heaven’s bank. True wealth is found in developing your spiritual life (and helping others do the same).

Since James talked about the poor in verse 9, I thought I should mention this: It is hard to convince the rich of their need for forgiveness, but easy to convince them God loves them. For the poor, it is exactly the opposite.

Material possessions and wealth is one of the greatest trials in American Christianity. We must be good stewards of God’s resources while here on earth. We know we can’t take it with us, but we can send it ahead by giving it away to worthy causes, to missions and people that are advancing God’s agenda, and those who need it more than we do. Hold your money with open hands and open hearts. That is true wealth.

What are you hoarding that you should be giving away?

What has God blessed you with to be a blessing to others?

Why are we tempted to keep everything for ourselves?

If everything was taken away from you, what would you miss the most?

How are you developing true riches?

Take pride…

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“Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position.” – James 1:9 (NIV)

You may be lacking material possessions, but you have undiminished possessions in Christ. As James exhorts us to grow up and mature in our faith, he reminds us to stay humble. We must recognize that our possessions, our material wealth, all come from Him. He is the provider of all.

Don’t judge your worth on man’s standards because we are royalty in Christ, co-heirs of His kingdom. This is a profound truth. So often we look to our possessions and bank accounts to determine wealth. How many suits in the closet? How many cars in the garage? How many bedrooms in your home? This is a worldly perspective. God cares a lot more about our hearts.

What does it mean to be royalty? It means we have been completely forgiven of our sins; it means we have been given an immeasurable gift; it means we have a responsibility to share this gift with others.

The Bible teaches that for us who are In Christ…

  • There is no condemnation for us (Romans 8:1)
  • We can never be separated from God’s love (Romans 8:39)
  • We who are many form one body (Romans 12:5)
  • We have wisdom from God (1 Corinthians 1:30)
  • Our labor is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58)
  • We are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  • We become God’s children (Galatians 3:26)
  • We have every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3)
  • We have the forgiveness of sins (Ephesians 1:7)
  • We were also chosen (Ephesians 1:11)
  • We are for the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:12)
  • We have been seated in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:6)
  • We’ve been given the incomparable riches of God’s grace (Ephesians 2:7)
  • We who were once far away have been brought near (Ephesians 2:13)
  • We are built together as a holy building (Ephesians 2:22)
  • We may approach God with freedom and confidence (Ephesians 3:12)
  • We are light (Ephesians 5:8)
  • Our joy overflows (Philippians 1:26)
  • All our needs are met according to his glorious riches (Philippians 4:19)
  • We are holy and faithful (Colossians 1:2)
  • All things hold together (Colossians 1:17)
  • We have our hope of glory (Colossians 1:27)
  • We become fully mature (Colossians 1:28)
  • Are hidden all treasures of wisdom and knowledge for us (Colossians 2:3)
  • We are rooted and built up (Colossians 2:7)
  • We have been given the fullness of the deity (Colossians 2:9-10)
  • We come into reality (Colossians 2:17)
  • Our life is now hidden (Colossians 3:3)
  • We will rise from the dead (1 Thessalonians 4:16)
  • We can give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
  • We have faith, hope, and love (1Timothy 1:1, 14)
  • We can gain an excellent standing and great assurance (1 Timothy 3:13)
  • We have the promise of life (2 Timothy 1:1)1

What a staggering list!

It is funny to see folks in this world act with an air of superiority. Some think they are better than others based on their economic position. They fail to realize that Christ paid the same price for the poor and rich. He died for all, that all may receive grace, forgiveness, eternal life.

So, Christian, be humble in this world, Christ has already exalted you in His kingdom!

 

What about you?

Do you act with humility?

Do you look down on others with an air of superiority?

Do you gauge success based on worldly or godly standards?

How might you take pride in your royal position?

 

 

1=List compiled by Soul Shepherding.

Single-mindedness…

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“That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” –James 1:7-8 (NIV)

The United States has already fought one civil war (or two if you are on the British side of American Independence…), and it is dangerously close to another one. The idea of a “Civil War” is what is conveyed by “double-minded” here in James 1:8. It literally means two souls. There is a divided allegiance in your mind and it feels like that allegiance shifts depending upon who is winning. This type of double-mindedness leads to instability. The Ancient Israelites were known for this type of instability. Throughout the Old Testament you see them going here and there to solve problems, but rarely do they go to God. James had just told us to go to God for wisdom in the midst of trials. We need to echo Joshua’s words, “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

Other aspects of being double-minded is not even knowing what you want, not being able to look both ways at once, and knowing that you need to leave it up to God but wanting to solve it all by yourself. Is that you?

What is the solution to being double-minded? It isn’t easy. That is, it isn’t easy to do on our own. No surprise here, but the solution is to decide who you will serve: The world or God? God is looking for 100%. Don’t misunderstand me, this is not an issue of salvation, but sanctification. All that is required for salvation is belief in Christ’s atoning work on the cross. However, sanctification is a radical call to obedience. If you feel like your life has been like a raft on the open ocean, up and down with no sense of direction, perhaps the reason is disobedience. As a friend once told me, “The way of salvation is easy, too easy for most to accept, but the way of discipleship is difficult, too difficult to do without help.” James would agree, we need God’s help.

Be single-minded in your devotion to the Lord.

Even if our nation is on the brink of another civil war, your life doesn’t have to be. You can choose who to follow, yield to His will for your life, and live a joyous life of obedience.

What areas of your life feel double-minded?

Do you have instability in your life? In what area? Could the reason be you are trying to solve it on your own without God’s wisdom?

What would it take for you to completely submit your life to God?

What is holding you back from committing to Him right now?

No Doubt…

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“But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” –James 1:6 (NIV)

We saw in verse 5 how we should ask for God’s wisdom if we lack it and God will give it to us. This sounds almost like God is Santa Claus! If we just write Santa a letter, we will get what we ask for. But James puts a condition on our request. We must believe. This means the prerequisites to God’s provision of wisdom are: 1. You are a Christian, and 2. you pray in faith.

In regard to the first prerequisite, it only makes sense that God’s wisdom is provided to followers of Christ. Why would those who don’t believe in God turn to God for answers? 1 Corinthians 1:18 says, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Believers have access to God’s wisdom through prayer. But, then comes prerequisite numero dos.

We must pray in faith. It is easy to trust God when things are going well, but if you sprinkle in some pain, testing, or trials, doubt creeps in. Doubt is pausing or holding back in uncertainty. We need to be honest about our doubts. Even pastors have doubts! We need to pray, “Lord, I believe, help me in my unbelief.”

If we have doubts, James says we are like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. One of my favorite places is the beach. I love seeing the expanse of the ocean, I love listening to the waves crash on the shore, I love the call of the birds, I love everything about the ocean. But it is also unpredictable. A wave may be bigger than we can tell, there is the undertow that can drag you out to sea, and a whole host of other things (sharks!). Our doubt is like the uncertainty of the sea. It blows us around from side to side. A mind that wavers is not completely convinced God’s way is the best. We try to retain the option to disobey.

How often have we said we believe and trust God, but then work at it as if He doesn’t exist?

What about you?

What are you trusting in? Yourself? God’s wisdom?

Why do we doubt God’s provision?

When you ask God, do you truly believe He will answer your prayer (especially when you ask for wisdom)? Remember, God does not always answer our prayers the way we think He will.

Need Wisdom?

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“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” –James 1:5

As we go through trials, we inevitably have questions. The biggest question is “why?” The good news is we are not left to strive or struggle (with joy) on our own. God tells us that if we don’t know something, we should ask! However, at this point, we must recognize the difference between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge comes through work and study, wisdom is the ability to apply that knowledge is every day decision making. This leads to another incredibly important issue: the source of wisdom.

Scripture is clear that God is the source of all wisdom. James tells us that if we lack wisdom, we should ask God. It is crucial to look to the right places for answers. If you go to the world’s system, you are going to be told what the world thinks you should do. Not surprisingly, the world is often wrong. God, and only God, has the proper perspective on our trial. Only He can see the big picture. Only He can see tomorrow. If we have access to this type of wisdom, which James says we do, why would we not ask God?!? To top it off, God gives us wisdom generously! That is a promise of God we can stand on.

God loves it when we come to Him, seeking His wisdom. We can’t afford to make decisions on our own. We need God’s wisdom.

How about you?

Do you look to the world or to God when you have questions?

What is stopping you from relying on God’s wisdom?

In what area of your life do you need wisdom? Stop. Ask God for it. Then wait.

When we ask God, we are talking to Him, this is known as prayer. How are your prayers?

How much time do you spend seeking Godly council or relying on earthly advice?