A Mack Family Special Request

6 Dec

I thought I could share something exciting, something amazing and something just a little bit scary.

Click here for reasons for thanksgiving and prayer: https://spark.adobe.com/page/7YlgGrAPluTML/

Faith and Favoritism Don’t Mix, part three

28 Nov

Favoritism is a serious sin.

Why?

One reason according to James is because when you show favoritism, ‘you become judges with evil motives.’

In other words, when you show favoritism you are setting yourself up in God’s place as a judge.

The Bible says there is only one Lawgiver and judge, but when you make decisions about people based on external factors alone, you are saying, I am judge. I get to make the call here, who deserves kindness and who does not.

And you are not just a judge, James says you are a judge with evil motives. 

That word for evil is the strongest word James could have chosen.  Your motives are not just wrong, or even evil, your motives are actively wicked.  You are being motivated by the same things that motivate the world. 

Now stop here.

I know some of you may be thinking I don’t have a problem with favoritism to the rich.  

But really, think about this, what is at the root of this kind of favoritism?  Why show favoritism to the rich?  What’s at the root of that?  You are looking to that person for what you can get out of them.  I will be kind to the rich person because he can give me something.  But I will treat the poor person with disdain because he’s got nothing for me.  

That’s why this verse is so convicting. 

You look at it at first and you think what’s this got to do with me, I don’t really care about a person’s money but really the problem is deeper than that, and it’s a problem we all struggle with:

When you respond to people on the basis of what they can do for you, you are being motivated by worldly values.  

This is not about respect, this is not about friendship, this is about what’s in it for me? 

That’s how the world makes evaluations about people. 

And that’s evil.  

To live as the world lives is not just unwise or a poor decision, it’s wicked. We’re so in to minimizing our sins and our actions.  C’mon it’s not that big of deal.  James you are going overboard.  What’s so wrong with looking out for yourself?  It’s not that bad.  

Don’t fool yourself about sin.  Don’t fool yourself about worldliness.  Don’t rationalize your sin, don’t try to put a spin on why you are preferring the rich over the poor, your motivation is absolutely evil.  God says when you think about life from a selfish perspective, when you make an idol out of this world and what it has to offer, and when you become proud and think you have the right to make these judgments, that’s not just a mistake, that’s not just a minor little problem, that’s not just a faux paus, that is not just inconsiderate, that is evil.  That’s evil. 

Faith and favoritism do not mix.

We are involved in a battle.  And one of the enemies we fight is the world.  We must resist its influence.  Just because we are a church, just because we have gathered together, just because we say our faith is in the Lord Jesus doesn’t mean  we automatically are not going to be affected by the world’s values.  

Here James is writing to a group of professing Christians and he says you are doing this and this is wrong, you have evil motives.  You are coming to church, you are listening to sermons, but your heart is wrong, and your motives are evil.  That means as individuals and a church we have to do some serious self-evaluation.  We can’t just assume that because we wear our suits and dresses and look nice on Sunday that we are thinking about things the way God does.  

We need to ask ourselves some questions. 

As a church what really is determining our decisions and setting our vision?  Is it God and His Word or is it the world and it’s agenda? 

It’s easy to say that our faith is in the glorious Lord Jesus Christ and that we are living for the world to come, but the proof is in the pudding.  If you asked the people receiving this letter if they went to church to worship God, I’m confident they would have said yes.  If you asked them where their faith and confidence was, I’m confident they would have said it was in Jesus Christ.  But James says here that their actions were saying otherwise.  They were saying with their lips that their faith was in Christ, but they were favoring the rich, which proved that they were just blowing smoke.  It’s possible for us as a church to be going through the motions saying all the right things when in reality the world is setting our agenda.  We don’t want to be a church that is wavering, making distinctions among ourselves, facing both ways.  This church is about Christ and His glory.  That means we’ve got to set the world’s wisdom aside.  

To get more specific, the church is made up of individuals, and we as a church aren’t going to set the world’s wisdom aside, unless we as individuals war against it. 

We need to each ask ourselves, what really is most important to us: Jesus Christ or our own selfish desires?  

Why do we do what we do?  One test is how we treat people.  That’s the test James gives us here. 

Faith in the glorious Lord Jesus Christ is incompatible with personal favoritism.  In other words the faith is incompatible with evaluating people on the basis of externals alone, and it is incompatible with selfish motivations. 

Do we love people primarily because of what they can give us?  Do we only make friends with the people who are easy?  

The fact that God forbids favoritism tells us something about God.  God is concerned about your attitude.  There are certain attitudes that are absolutely incompatible with true authentic Christianity.  Your faith in Christ is to affect everything about you.  Sometimes people relegate their faith in Christ to one little compartment of their lives, one that they bring out on Sunday mornings when they sing their songs and listen to sermons, but James makes it clear here you can’t do that, your faith in Christ has to do with every part of your life, even down to how you treat other people who are different than you are.  Your faith in Christ has to do with how you respond to a poor person.  Your faith in Christ has to do with how you treat someone whose personality you don’t prefer.  Your faith in Christ has to do with how you react to people at work.  The unbeliever has a perspective on life and it affects everything about them.  We as believers have put our faith in Christ and it should affect everything about us.  

We as a church should stand out.  When people walk in our doors, and when we go out those doors and interact with unbelievers, they should notice a radical difference in the way that we treat people.  We’re to love others the way God loved us. “Therefore be imitators of God as beloved children and walk in love…”(Ephesians 5:1) How did God love us?  Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  We were reconciled to God while were His enemies.  God did not love us on the basis of anything good in us.  If He chose to love only those people who deserved it, guess what, none of us would be loved.  Think about the sacrifice that Christ made to save us.  If I could somehow take one of you to heaven, you would never want to leave, you would want to stay there forever.  What could possibly tempt you to leave?  Yet Christ came down.  Why?  Why would He come to earth?  Love.  What a sacrifice.  “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”  We’re to go out and imitate that love in the way we serve one another.   

Our lives shouldn’t make sense to the world. 

You are sacrificing for that person who hates you?  You are showing kindness to the person who can’t give anything back?  You are laying down your life for that hurting, needy person?  Why?  Why would you do something like that?  You are loving your enemy?  What are you thinking?  What do you get out of it?  

It’s not about me.  That’s the point.  It’s about my Savior.  I live by a completely different standard.  I’m not bound by the world’s wisdom anymore.  

The problem with the church today is that it is too normal. 

The world looks at us and sees that we are professing Christ, we’re good at that, and we’re good at sticking to our little list of do’s and don’ts but besides that the basic pattern of our lives is not all that different.  The world’s agenda is still guiding us.  

Real practically, we’ve got to stop looking at people in terms of what can I get from them; and start asking how does Christ want me to view them, and how can I show the love of Christ to them?  

“My brethren don’t hold your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism…”

Faith and Favoritism Don’t Mix, part two

21 Nov

We’ve seen James condemns favoritism in James 2.

But what does favoritism look like?

He illustrates.

Picture this scene in your minds.   

The church has gathered together. They’ve come to worship.  In enters a man who is obviously very wealthy.  You know he’s wealthy because he is wearing gold rings.   Literally James calls him a gold-fingered man.  So don’t think wedding ring, think Mr. T.  A man whose hands are just loaded with rings.  And the reason he is wearing so many rings is to let you know that he is rich.

The gold ring was a status symbol in James’ day.

Kind of like driving to church in a Mercedes Benz.  Somebody has a Mercedes Benz you know they are pretty wealthy. And, somebody walks in with gold rings all over his fingers you know he’s got some cash.  It’s funny, sometimes people lease expensive cars to look like they are wealthier than they really are; and that even happened in James’ day, you could rent these gold rings to look like you were wealthier than you really were.  Things haven’t changed all that much.

But he’s not only wearing gold rings, he’s also got fine clothes. 

If you look at this phrase in your Bibles you’ll probably see a little 2 right by it, and you check down in the footnote and you see that this word fine literally means bright.  He’s wearing literally a shiny garment.  This guy is just emanating wealth.  Brightly dyed clothes were very expensive so you can imagine that he’s wearing the Armani suit, the brightly polished shoes, one look at him and you know, boy’s got bank!  He looks like he just walked off the cover of GQ.  

Immediately after he makes his entrance, a poor man shuffles in.

 He’s wearing dirty clothes.  You smell him before you see him.  Picture the typical homeless person, his clothes are all mismatched, he’s got holes in his outfits, he’s got dirt under his fingernails, he hasn’t shaved in weeks, he doesn’t look like he’s taking a shower in a few days. 

O.k., maybe years.  

So how do they respond?

James says ‘you pay special attention to the one who is wearing fine clothes…’  You know who catches your eye.  You are sitting there getting ready for worship and immediately your face is lifted.  I mean here you are a refugee living in a foreign land, you’ve got no real connections, you are suffering, and in walks your ticket out.  You’ve got to make sure that man feels comfortable, that he has a good time, you need him to come back.  He’s got so much to offer the church.  Imagine if he just started to tithe!

In the synagogues of that day, there were only a few benches to sit on.  There were a couple up front and then probably some that were scattered around the outside walls.  Most people were standing.  But you know what to do.  This guy needs the good seat, he needs to be able to hear what’s going on.  So you say to him, “You sit here in a good place…” 

Now there’s nothing wrong with giving a good seat to someone. 

The problem is why they did it.  You find out their motives real quickly, look how they treated the poor man.  “and you say to the poor man, ‘you stand over there, or sit down by my footstool…”  You can just hear the brusqueness in their voice.  “You, yeah, you over there, or you know what even better, here’s my footstool, yeah, what I put my feet on, why don’t you sit under that.”  The NASB reads by, but the preposition literally means under.  Could you hide yourself?  Could you try to stay out of the way as much as possible?  I mean it’s kind of distracting, it’s embarrassing, the smell and all.  

That’s favoritism. 

That’s what it looks like.  

Making decisions about people on the basis of external factors alone.  

Now try to put yourself in the place of the people who originally received this letter.  Can’t you hear the excuses the people in the church might give? 

“This seems like such a minor issue.” 

“We’re just looking out for the good of the church.” 

“Nobody is going to be attracted to the gospel because of that poor man, but if we can just get that rich person to attend, then think of all the people we can help.”  

And perhaps you are looking at these verses and you are thinking, what’s the big deal here, why you getting all worked up James?  

But what James is pointing out is that although you think this is a minor issue in reality it is a major issue, because that action, showing favoritism, flows out of a much deeper and more significant problem, a problem in your heart.  

It’s not just a what you do problem.

It’s a why you do it.  

Favoritism reveals something about you.    

This is what you have done, James explains, when you show favoritism you have made distinctions among yourselves and you have become judges with evil motives.  

Let’s think about the first.

You have made distinctions among yourselves.  Remember that word distinctions?  It’s the same term used back in chapter 1 to mean ‘facing both ways.’  When you show favoritism as a believer you are facing both ways, you are professing your commitment to to Christ, but in reality you are actually committed to the world’s values.  You are thinking like the world thinks, and valuing what the world values.  As Joseph Mayor explains, when you show favoritism, “you are divided…?  You have made distinctions among yourselves.  You have not a single eye, but you are influenced by worldly considerations.  You look to the world and not Christ only.”  

You ask a non-Christian about this passage, and they say this makes sense.  It only makes sense to show some special consideration to the rich person, because the rich person is going to be able to do something for you that the poor person cannot.  But the point here is that we are not non-Christians.  We live our life by a totally different set of principles.  We’re believers, and that changes everything.  

God is impartial and He wants His people to be.  

The way Christians and the world evaluate people ought to be drastically different. Moses told the Israelites in Deuteronomy 10:17, “For the Lord your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty and the awesome God, who does not show partiality or take a bribe.”  Jehoshaphat explained to the judges of Israel, “Now then let the fear of the Lord be upon you, be very careful what you do, for the Lord your God will have no part in unrighteousness or partiality or the taking of a bribe.” (2 Chronicles 19:7)   Since God is impartial we ought to be.  Leviticus 19:15 lays it down, “…you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly.”  God’s people are to be radically different than the world around them in the way they treat others.  We as a church should stand out as completely different than the world, we should be a unique place, a haven, where there is no partiality.   

God’s perspective on the rich and poor is completely different than the world’s.  Because what does God’s wisdom say about the poor man and about the rich man?  2:8, “Love your neighbor as yourself…” Love them both sacrificially regardless of what they can do for you.  When you show your contempt for the poor, you are showing contempt for God.  Because God tells us back in 1:27 that pure and undefiled religion is this to visit orphans and widows in their distress.  God is concerned about the poor. 

True faith and favoritism do not mix.  

Favoritism reveals that you’re trying to live for both worlds, this one and the one to come.  And what’s Jesus say about that?  No man can serve two masters.  Either he’ll love the one and hate the other, or hate the one and love the other.   When you make judgments about people based solely on external factors, you are proving you are not concerned about what God is concerned about, and the world’s wisdom is really what is dominating your behavior.   

You are serving the wrong master. 

Video

Why Christians Must Be Courageous

19 Nov
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It is good to do right…

16 Nov

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Faith and Favoritism Do Not Mix, part one

15 Nov

Ever had a rude awakening?

I have nine children, so I have had plenty.

Honestly, probably more of them, have been cute awakenings, actually. Like the time, I awoke to my two year old daughter singing, I may never march in the infantry, ride in the Calvary, shoot the artillery, but I am in the Lord’s army.

A rude, cute, awakenening.

And, you know, even though I wasn’t incredibly excited to hear it around five on Friday morning, that song does remind us of an important truth.  We as believers are involved in a war. And the Bible tells us our conflict is against three great enemies; the flesh, the devil and the world.

We began to look at what the Scripture teaches us about the world last week.

And we saw that God has not called us to withdraw from the world, but to resist its influence.  Jesus Himself prays, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one.”   

This means God has called us to be holy in an unholy world.  That’s not always easy because the world we live in is not neutral towards biblical truth.  It’s hostile towards it.  And so it’s not content to allow believers to think and live biblically.  It wants to influence us. It wants us to think the way it thinks.  We have a responsibility to resist its influence.  That’s why Paul says, ‘be not conformed to the world…’  

So we as believers are involved in a great struggle.  We struggle to keep ourselves unstained by worldliness. We don’t want to think the way the world thinks, and we don’t want to live the way the world lives.  It’s not always easy, but we struggle. Now if there’s no struggle, we know we’re not believers.  Because true believers war against worldliness.  

That’s exactly what we see in James 1:27. 

Remember that in verses 26 and 27 James is giving us three tests to help us evaluate whether or not our religion is real.  And this is one of them, look at verse 27, “This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” Worship that is pure comes from people striving to keep themselves pure, and worship that is false from people who are false.  

Now, there’s something interesting about this particular test. 

It’s a bit different than the first two.  When James says that your religion is worthless if you don’t bridle your tongue, and that true religion visits orphans and widows in their distress, it is difficult to wiggle your way out of the conviction.  Either you are bridling your tongue or you are visiting orphans and widows in their distress or you are not.  These are very specific, black and white tests.  But this third test is not nearly as specific, it’s much more general and so there are some who when they read ‘keep yourself unstained by the world,’ may think they pass this test when they don’t because they are unaware of specific ways that they have been stained.   

But have no fear.

Because, James is ever practical. 

He doesn’t allow you to wiggle your way out of the conviction.  Instead he keeps pressing his point home.  One of the ways he does that is by providing practical illustrations of the truth he is teaching.  1:2-4, ‘Consider it all joy my brothers when you encounter various trials…’ what’s that look like? 1:9-11, ‘let the poor man glory in his high position and the rich man glory in his low position…’ 1:22, ‘prove yourselves doers of the word and not hearers only…’ what’s it look like to be a hearer only? 1:23,24 ‘a hearer only is like a man who looks in a mirror, goes away and forgets what he looks like…’  Here is the truth, here is what it looks like.  

And that’s what he does again for us here in 2.

Remember when James wrote this letter he didn’t divide it into chapters.  That came later.  What he writes in 2:1-13 flows out of what he has just written in 1:26,27. He doesn’t stop by simply calling us to keep ourselves pure from worldliness, he continues by giving us a very down to earth example of how worldly thinking so often infects the church. 

This is one illustration of what worldliness looks like.  

We often evaluate people using the world’s standards.  We show favoritism. The world is partial, which means that they make decisions about people on the basis of external factors alone.  And when the church shows favoritism you know it’s being stained by the world.  

Honestly this issue might not seem all that important to us, but it’s obviously very important to James.  So important that he spends thirteen verses arguing against it.  And although this particular topic might not be high on our list of issues to discuss, God shows His wisdom by including it here in the book of James, because we find that it is a major problem throughout history.  

In fact you could argue that this problem of favoritism is one of the major problems throughout history.  Think slavery, think civil rights, think caste system, think Oliver Twist, think the parable of the Good Samaritan, think World War 2, think Hitler, think Aryan nation. All just extreme forms of this very common problem: the sin of partiality, or favoritism, making decisions about people on the basis of external factors alone. 

And anytime you see the same problem occurring repeatedly throughout history it should cause you to put your guard up, because you realize, that biblically speaking, the same sin nature that resided in those individuals resides in you.  

Man because of his sinful nature is instinctively prejudiced.  I remember how this was driven home to me when I went to Latvia for a missions trip.  I found as I traveled throughout Latvia that many Latvians were incredibly prejudiced against Russians.  Now I couldn’t tell the difference between a Latvian and a Russian, but they could.  And it finally struck that racism is not about color.  If we were all the same color we’d still have problems with racism.  Because the problem is deeper than color, it’s in our hearts.      

It’s this sin of partiality or favoritism.  Making evaluations of people on the basis of the world’s standards, not God’s.  

This was a particular problem in the early church.  God commanded His people to be impartial, but it was difficult, because the church was the one place in all of society where it wasn’t about social status.  Slave, master, rich, poor, male, female, one in Christ.  Besides that most everyone in the early church was poor, so if a rich person was converted it would be very easy to get real excited not about his conversion but about what he had to offer the church.  

That’s the issue James is addressing here.  He’s writing to believers who are suffering.  And they are struggling in how they are responding to that suffering.  And he’s aware that one of the sins they are going to struggle with in particular is this sin of partiality.  Evaluating people the way the world does. And so he presents an air tight argument against favoritism.  

He begins with his thesis statement in verse 1:

Favoritism and True Faith don’t mix. 

“My brethren do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.”  He addresses these believers with a term of affection, my brothers. Perhaps he does so to soften the blow they are about to receive.  I love you and that’s why I am about to rebuke you. 

Notice exactly how James puts it. 

He doesn’t merely say “Don’t show favoritism.”  He says, “Don’t hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.”  This verse is not a suggestion.  So it must not be read that way.  It’s a command.  James is laying down the law.  To put it another way – he’s saying – true authentic faith in Jesus Christ is absolutely incompatible with an attitude of favoritism. 

Favoritism is not merely being discourteous. It’s not just bad manners. It is anti-gospel.  

In most of our Bibles the term favoritism comes at the end of the verse.  In the Greek, it’s right up front for emphasis.  Imagine it in bold print, almost like a title for the essay that follows.  The word for favoritism is a ‘distinctively Christian word.’  In fact, many scholars suggest that the writers of the New Testament actually coined it.  John MacArthur explains that “perhaps the reason they had to come up with this new word is because favoritism was such an accepted part of most ancient societies that it was assumed and not even identified as it still is in many cultures today.”  It literally means ‘receiving of face’ or ‘lifting of face.’  And it came to be a well-known term denoting the partiality of a judge who made biased judgments based on external circumstances, and more generically of preferring a person because of something you are enamored by.

Here favoritism is in the plural, which means that James is not just talking about an isolated act of favoritism, but instead about a pattern of life and a problem with wide-ranging applications.  That means he’s forbidding favoritism of any kind.  He’s about to show us one example of favoritism in verses 2-4, preferring the rich, but that is not the only kind of favoritism that’s sinful. 

Christians must not make a practice out of favoritism and they must not show favoritism in any way.  

The grammar of this passage strongly suggests that he’s calling on the church to stop a habit or action that is already in progress.  In other words, he’s not merely telling them to not do something in the future. He’s commanding them to stop something they are doing now.  

Just because we are believers doesn’t mean we are perfect, and we constantly need to humbly evaluate our lives and our church in the light of God’s Word, to determine whether or not we have slipped into worldly patterns unaware.   Wordliness is especially dangerous when it is subtle.  It often sneaks into our lives through the back door and instead of showing up in what we wear or what we do, shows up in how we think and what we desire.  And that’s what seems to have happened here to these believers.  They were going about their religious activities, while thinking the way the world thinks.  

James is going to tell us exactly why favoritism is such a serious sin down in verses 5-11; but for now I want you to notice the hint he gives us here in verse 1. 

He says our faith is in whom? The glorious Lord Jesus Christ. 

When you say you put your faith in Christ what are you saying?  One of the things you are saying is that He is glorious.  That He is worthy of exaltation.  That He is famous.  That He is worthy of our honor. 

When you show favoritism you are glorying in the wrong person.

These two terms Christ and glory go together.  They are inextricably linked.  We serve a glorious Savior.  Our Savior is exalted far above all.  There is no one and nothing here on earth that even compares to Him.  When you think awesome, when you think worthy of respect, when you think glory, you need to think Jesus Christ.  1 Corinthians 2:8 calls Him the Lord of glory.  Colossians 3:4 says that Christ is now in glory.  2 Thessalonians 2:14 explains that glory belongs to Him.   1 Timothy 3:16 says that he was taken up to glory, and Titus 2:13 tells us that when he returns that day will be full of glory.  Glory belongs to Jesus Christ.  He is the very definition of glory.  

True believers shouldn’t be overawed or bedazzled by passing temporary worldly glory because our faith is in someone whose glory far outshines anyone or anything here on this earth, the Lord Jesus Christ.   Your faith in the glorious Jesus Christ is incompatible with favoritism because when you show favoritism what are you doing?  You are giving glory to man that belongs only to Christ.  When you show favoritism you are giving the glory Jesus Christ deserves to some man who doesn’t.  

I like how one pastor puts it, “We know the glory of God when we look by faith into the face of Jesus Christ. In any Christian congregation there is only one glory and that belongs to Jehovah Jesus, and we have to make sure that that is so. We have nothing else to offer men and women except Jesus Christ. Isaiah saw him in the temple and we see this same one by faith. All the wealth and fame and power of sinners is less than nothing compared to him. The name of Jesus does not borrow a thing from us – all the glory of men is like the flower of the field, withering and perishing….If a congregation were full of millionaires, and beauty queens, and the Philadelphia Eagles, and had the leadership of Mensa men with their IQ’s going through the roof – all that would give no additional glory to Jesus Christ. It would, of course, detract from it. In the presence of his glory all earthly achievements are less than dust. If you reject my Jesus Christ I cannot say to you, “Well, what do you think of these moral guidelines, family counsels, our choir, ideas about government and social action ?” My one task is to persuade you of the Lord’s glory, and if you see that than everything is new. If you don’t see that then our church being full of beautiful people will not help you at all. I cannot discriminate and highlight the wealthy, and tell you where the talent is in the congregation. If you become a Christian all this congregation will be your family. For your brothers and sisters there will be very different kinds of men and women. I have to point you to Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.”

That’s why Favoritism and Faith Don’t Mix.  

The church is not about the glory of man.  It’s about the glory of Christ. 

Now you know James.  He’s not going to stop with just giving you the principle, or stating his thesis.  He’s got to move on and give us an illustration of just exactly what favoritism looks like, which we will look at next time.  

Click here for…

11 Nov

A Mack Family Update

Filled with pictures, a big announcement, an amazing testimony, singing and a video or two!

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