February 7, 2016 – manuscript

How do our lives reveal who God is?

How do we respond to what God has done for us? 

How does our church reveal who God is to the community?

How are we re-gifting Jesus?

These four questions are so important to the practice of our faith, that we will use them over and over as we discern what God has in the future.  Last week, we talked about our tongues, anger, how they are woven together and how they will cripple our influence.  We also talked about the difference between represent and re-present.  Represent is the conclusions people make about Christianity by watching us and then decide whether they want in.  Re-present is much more intentional and strategic.  It is a conscience effort to share something that we are exciting about.  One of the problems with re-presenting is that too often our lives communicate we that we aren’t all that exciting about Jesus.  Here’s one way I that is true.  If you were in a conversation with a Mormon, who would sound more convincing?  If you were in a conversation with a Jehovah’s Witness, who would articulate better?  If you entered a conversation with a person who thought all roads travelled to the same god, could you defend that?  A Muslim could.  In fact, it wouldn’t take him very long and he might make references to the Old Testament.  The reality is that we have done a poor job at re-gifting Jesus to generations inside the church and we don’t always know how to re-gift Jesus to individuals outside of the church.

Let’s read James 1:22-27 where we find three opportunities for re-gifting Jesus.  If you missed last week, you missed the first one – our mouths give an opportunity to re-gift Jesus.

Scripture Text: James 1:22-27 (ESV) – [22]But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. [23]For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. [24]For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. [25]But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. [26]If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. [27]Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

Our honest assessment gives an opportunity to re-gift Jesus

Scripture Text: James 1:22-25 (ESV) –  [22]But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. [23]For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. [24]For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. [25]But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

There is an immediate comparison of the person who is a hearer and the person who is a doer.  Each of us need to decide which one we are.

Doer Hearer
·      a doer listens to the message

·      a doer curiously inspects the message

·      a doer perseveres through his imperfections

·      a doer takes action based upon the message

·      a doer is blessed

·      a hearer thinks hearing the message is enough and misleads himself

·      a hearer dwells on the message

·      a hearer overlooks the importance of the message

·      a hear escapes the message

 

The progression of a “hearer” is subtle and can go unnoticed.  When we do not re-present Jesus consistently, it becomes very easy to fall into the trap of “hearer”.  There are two specific progressions in today’s text.

The first progression is the word deceive.  In verse 22, deceive means to mislead or misguide yourself.  Every person is naïve enough to be misled or misguided at least once.  We could probably tell stories.  In verse 26, deceive means to cheat yourself.  When a person a cheats, it’s intentional.  That person has convinced himself that cheating is an accepted practice.  The progression of being misguided to willful cheating is one that is decided internally.  Here’s an example of how this progression creeps into church.  Since Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent is this week, I’ll use fasting.  Fasting is the Biblical practice of giving up food & drink for the purpose of hearing the voice of God.  Over the past decade, people have decided to change fasting into giving up anything for a period of time.  Being misguided has progressed into a warped spiritual discipline and Christians all over the country are themselves.  This is only one example, but I wonder how many of us have convinced ourselves that cheating spiritually/doctrinally/theologically is an accepted practice.  I take very seriously when 2 Timothy 2:15 says to “rightly handle the word of truth”.  Therefore, we will be careful that we are never a church that misleads, misguides, or cheats spiritually in any matter.  Remember God cares about our holiness and God wants to bless us in our doing.

The second progression is the word forget.  In verse 24, the word forget means to overlook or to allow a thing to go unnoticed.  In verse 25, the word forget means to escape.  The progression of forget is evident throughout our country.  The progression is evident in churches and denominations.  The progression promotes the tolerance of sin.  The progression promotes compromising Scripture.  The progression warps our sensitivity to the voice of God.  The progression redefines holiness.  The progression creates a thing that I call “starbucks spirituality”; keep adding flavors until you come up with a form of Christian that suits you.

If we do not have an honest assessment of whether we are a hearer or doer (individually and collectively) we will not re-gift Jesus very well.  This brings three questions, “Where do you stand?”  Does your holiness matter?  Are you a Christian? 

Our actions are an opportunity to re-gift Jesus

 Scripture Text: James 1:26-27 (ESV) – [26]If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. [27]Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

If an iPhone had feelings and could speak, I wonder what it would tell us as we opened the package of our new iPhone only to replace our current iPhone that works properly.  Would it tell us we are wasting our money?  Would it tell us we are being too extravagant?  Would it tell us we missed the reason why we carry a mobile device?

If our religious efforts had feelings and could speak, what would they say?  Would they tell us we are wasting our time?  Would they tell us we are being too extravagant?  Would the tell us we missed the reason we come to church?

Did you know up to 20% of an average person’s life is spent talking?  If anyone claims he worships God, but 20% of his life isn’t disciplined and controlled, he cheats his thoughts, desires and affections.  In other words, his worship is worthless.  He didn’t give God the best he had to offer.  One commentary I read said this, “it is a faith so useless before God that it can be considered no faith at all.”  If that’s how Christians live, WHAT’S THE POINT?

James tells us there is a point to our worship and our holiness.  If we want our worship free from corruption, our re-gifting actions should include three elements.  There are certainly we could implement, but James chooses to focus on these three.

The first element James gives us is to visit orphans; this actually means to look after and care for the fatherless.  The water we sent to Flint is one way of caring for the fatherless.  Another way to implement this is by helping out single moms.  Another way to implement this is by having your kids friends over who have a dad that words too much.  Those kids need to see a father as more than just the guy who make money.  Another way to implement this is by sending a text message to college student.  Some of the latest data revealed that true adulthood happens at 28 years old.  That data also showed that 70% of kids that grew up in church leave church for at least one year.  A periodic text message from a non-parent adult cut that percentage in half.

A second element James gives us is to visit widows in their afflictions.  This translates that we are help them alleviate the pressures that burden their souls.  There is a Biblical definition of a widow found in 1st Timothy 5:3-16, but do not use those verses as an escape if God prompts you to care for a person.

A third element James gives us is to keep ourselves unstained from the world.  The principle within this element is the reason why we take showers, brush our teeth, wash our hands after using the bathroom, put on clean laundry, wash our dishes, etc.  You get the point.

We can’t do anything these verses describe without Jesus.  Jesus paid the penalty for our lack of compassion, our temporary satisfaction of sin and our lack of concern to live righteously.  Jesus paid the penalty for our lack of ‘hungering and thirsting after holiness’.  My questions for us today is DO YOU KNOW JESUS?  DO YOU REALLY KNOW HIM? DO YOU TRY TO KNOW BETTER?  CAN PEOPLE NOTICE?