This fall we will consider the book of James and its application to us today. As you study the passage, look beyond your notes to glean more truth from this passage so that you know God better!
Continuing in our Red Letters sermon series, we come to Jesus’ comments about truth telling in the kingdom of heaven. His message here is a part of Jesus’ longest recorded sermon in the New Testament. We encourage you to read Matthew 5-7 in its entirety at least once each week during the series. Ask God to show you ways you can reflect His heart for the world during this season.
The work of the church in our world is spiritual formation and evangelistic outreach. We are called to make disciples who will make more disciples. In a culture that was quick to blame Christians for disaster and social ills, Peter responds with a call to stand firm in Christ. Peter’s audience was under attack by the government as a scape goat for some of the worst problems of their day. They were a minority and the leaders needed someone to blame. That church, like ours, was a group of sinful people who had turned to Jesus for salvation and were seeking to obey Jesus together. Like our church, life became messy as authenticity increased. In Christ, they are God’s treasured possession. In Christ, they are called to proclaim the beautiful work of Jesus. Peter reminds the church that they are the light of the world.
Haggai is the second shortest book in the Hebrew Scriptures. His message stands out for his clear call for repentance wrapped in hope for the nation of Israel. In 586 BC the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed and the people were exiled to Babylon. Under Cyrus, King of Persia, 50,000 Jews were allowed to return to Israel with Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah, Joshua, the high priest, and the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. Haggai’s was the first of several prophetic voices calling God’s people to obedience following their return from exile. After 16 years of being back in the land, little progress was made in rebuilding the temple according to God’s instruction. God raised up Haggai to call the people to repentance for their spiritual apathy. God used Haggai and Zechariah to spur the people on in trusting obedience.
God is. And He is holy. Psalm 139 exposes our hearts and minds to the omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence of God. He is all knowing. He is everywhere at all times. He is all powerful. We learn in the Scriptures that God is eternally self-existent; He is and always has been. The name, “Yahweh” occurs more than any other name of God in the Psalms. “Yahweh” captures more than any other this essential truth about the God of the Bible. God has not only created humanity in His image but has also entered into covenant relationship with His chosen people. In your English translations, Yahweh will often appear as LORD. In Psalm 139, David lays his life bare before God that any sin may be exposed and made clean in light of God’s holiness.
Mother’s Day provides a great opportunity for us to look at the life of one prominent mom in the Hebrew Scriptures. In the book of Ruth, we are introduced to a faithful Hebrew mom, Naomi. She, her husband, and two sons leave Israel during a drought to find a better life. Her sons marry and then tragically the men in Naomi’s life die. One of the daughters-in-law travels back to Israel with Naomi as she returns home. This young woman, Ruth becomes an important part of Israel’s future as the great-grandmother of King David, in the line of Jesus. We can learn much from a study of Naomi’s journey as we see her hurt, her heart, and her hope.
God the Father invites us to abide in Him through His Son, Jesus. As we abide, we discover that in Christ we have the power to overcome sin and Satan in our lives. The word’s system with all of its trappings is no match to the surpassing joy we find in Jesus. The desires and attractions that woo us to go back into the darkness of sin will soon pass away. In Christ, we realize that we are forgiven, we are made new, we are reborn into a life led by the Spirit of God. Through Jesus, we can resist the desires of the flesh, desires of the eyes and the pride of life.
The Samaritan woman of John 4 is one of the most unlikely of Jesus followers. Jesus pushes through society’s barriers to share a true message of hope and healing for this woman. As her heart is exposed, and her sins laid bare, she received the truth that Jesus is the messiah. She rushed to tell others and many believed in Jesus. Jesus teaches that many will believe in Him and their response will be to worship in spirit and truth. Our response to this message is to remember that the deepest hunger and thirst of our souls is only satisfied in Him.
Modern followers of Jesus can find great application in Paul’s solemn charge to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:1-8. Timothy had served the local church for years. He knew the challenges facing a church leader from inside and outside the congregation. This season of his ministry was especially challenging as his mentor, Paul, was awaiting death at the hands of the Romans. One can imagine how distressed Timothy may have been with so many things happening around him. And yet, Paul charged Timothy to preach the word of God. He commanded that he be ready at all times to reprove, rebuke, exhort and to do so with complete patience as he taught. Paul warns Timothy that a time is coming when people will less and less endure sound teaching. Paul didn’t seek to encourage Timothy with empty platitudes but with the truth that God is present and He will judge the living and the dead. Like Timothy in the early church, we face an uncertain future as people reject the truth of God for lesser loves. Like Timothy, we must endure knowing that there is hope in Jesus for those who finish well.
Last week we learned to be to be strengthened in the grace of Jesus as illustrated by the faithfulness of a soldier, athlete, and farmer with an eternal perspective. We express this by passing on our faith to those who will also be faithful. Paul further illustrates faithfulness with the image of a worker, a vessel, and a servant. In each, Paul emphasizes that God uses the one who is available to do His work. Just as a worker should do his best to present himself as one who is approved, without shame, so too should the Christ follower work to handle the Word in such a way that she is not ashamed. Just as some vessels in a large home are created for special use, so too are followers of Jesus set apart to be used by God for His purposes in this World. As the servant is available to serve the purposes of his master, so too the follower of Jesus must be available to serve God in such a way that honors Him. The values of the servant must reflect the values of the master. God has created you and me, rescued us from sin, and set us apart to do His work in such a way that many will be rescued from the snares of the evil one. The rescued become the messengers for the rescuer. As ones who are available to God, we are privileged to share His love with those needing rescue.