Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Approximate notes for Sunday’s Message; 2 Sunday of Advent, 2013

James 4:1-2 NIV2010 Submit Yourselves to God

4:1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.

James 4:7-11 NIV2010

7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

11 Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.

James 5:13-16 NIV2010 The Prayer of Faith

13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

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Today is the Second Sunday in Advent. The Church has set this season to remember Jesus’ first coming (the First Advent) two thousand years ago, and to prepare ourselves for his final return (the Final Advent) sometime in the future.

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Today we will continue looking at the Epistle of James. The Epistle of James was written around 49 CE (less than 20 years after Jesus was crucified and resurrected). It is believed to be written by Jesus’ brother, who served as the head of the Church in Jerusalem at that time. (Here is the link to the first sermon in the series)

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Just like the Letter to the Galatians, the Epistle of James gives us a window into what life was like for the first Christians less than 20 years after Jesus’ resurrection; what they were struggling with and what it meant to be followers of Jesus living in a world that had beliefs and convictions different from their own. It is my hope that we will be able to draw parallels between issues that the Early Christians struggled with and issues that we face today.

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I understand the Epistle of James to be a concise, how-to guide on being a Christian. James wrote his epistle to the Christians who were struggling with the idea that through faith in Christ one is completely free from all Old Testament law, all legalism, all secular law, and all the morality of a society. Although James was the Bishop of Jerusalem at the time, the epistle is addressed not only to his churches but to all the Jews and Christians all over the known world (James 1:1 reads, “…To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.”); when the letter was written, the formal split between theological Judaism and theological Christianity had not happened yet (here is a link to a Wikipedia article about that split and the timing of that split).

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Paul struggled with this as well. In Romans 6:1 he raises an argument that although Jesus died to redeem the fallen world, that does not give us permission to act irresponsibly. In 1 Corinthians 10:23, Paul asserts that although everything is permissible, and there is nothing that will separate us from the love of Jesus, not everything is beneficial or helpful and that we will be held accountable for the way we live our lives.

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James’ epistle clarifies all this; James views “works” as a practical way to live out our faith and devotion to God in our daily lives. The Epistle of James encourages the young Christian movement to grow in their faith and gives the followers of Jesus practical ideas for how to do that. James asserts and emphasizes that actions follow convictions, that faith results in action.

Let’s look at some of the readings.

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James 4:1-2 NIV2010 Submit Yourselves to God

4:1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.

Our economy is based on “desires that battle within” (James 4:1) us; that is a polite way of saying greed and envy. In the last week or so, there were shootings in the mall, there were documented fights where shoppers argued over limited supplies of goods available at special prices…

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James 4:7-8a NIV2010

7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you.

In my mind, that last sentence is the key to understanding the whole epistle, “Come near to God and God will come near to you” (James 4:8a). All of us want God near us. We see the evidence of that in our church: packing meals for those without food, our holiday float in the parade, the cookie walk, the Thanksgiving joint service with our neighbors (just to name a few ways that we step out in faith and come closer to God).

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James 5:13-16 NIV2010 The Prayer of Faith

13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

“Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise” (James 5:13). It sounds easy, but in reality all I have to ask is how God has blessed you in the last week or whether there is a testimony in the congregation and quite often the silence is so heavy that we can cut it with a knife.

“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. … confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be restored…” (James 5:13, 16). How often the altar is open and nobody is willing or too scared to step forward.

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The truth is that salvation is not for wimps. Salvation takes courage, honesty, and faith.

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The reason I am talking about this today, during the second Sunday of Advent is because the Advent season is a time for us to remember that Jesus is coming back and that the way we live our lives matters. Someday we will face our maker and we will be asked what we did with our lives, how did we glorify our God and whether the world is a better place because we were here.

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The reason Jesus gave us to each other is so that we would go and make disciples for Jesus for the transformation of the world. Let me say it in a different way, the reason Jesus gave us to each other is so that we could be his hands and feet in the world, a world that would much rather get into a fight or a verbal argument over a toy than to experience the amazing love of God. The way James put it is, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Ask God to come closer and God will come closer to you.” (James 4:8).

That transformation starts when we experience the amazing love of God and when we are energized by that amazing love. That transformation starts when we get so excited that we cannot help but tell a thousand of our closest friends and neighbors about our amazing experience of God and invite them to church so that they could experience it too.

{Closing Illustration}

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{Open the Altar}

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