Sunday Morning talk given by Julian Finn on .
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[00:10] James 2:1–13: The Royal Law of Love Excludes Prejudice
1 My dear brothers and sisters, fellow believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ—how could we say that we have faith in him and yet we favor one group of people above another? 2 Suppose an influential man comes into your worship meeting wearing gold rings and expensive clothing, and also a homeless man in shabby clothes comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the rich man in expensive clothes and say, “Here’s a seat of honor for you right up front!” but you turn and say to the poor beggar dressed in rags, “You can stand over here,” or “Sit over there on the floor in the back,” 4 then you’ve demonstrated gross prejudice among yourselves and used evil standards of judgment! 5 So listen carefully, my dear brothers and sisters, hasn’t God chosen the poor in the world’s eyes to be those who are rich in faith? And won’t they be the heirs of the kingdom-realm he promised to those who love him? 6 But yet you insult and shun the poor in your efforts to impress the rich! Isn’t it the wealthy who exploit you and drag you into court? 7 Aren’t they the very ones who blaspheme the beautiful name of the One you now belong to?
8 Your calling is to fulfill the royal law of love as given to us in this Scripture: “You must love and value your neighbor As you love and value yourself!” For keeping this law is the noble way to live. 9 But when you show prejudice you commit sin and you violate this royal law of love! 10 For the one who attempts to keep all of the law of Moses but fails in just one point has become guilty of breaking the law in every respect! 11 For the same One who tells us, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you don’t commit adultery but do commit murder, you are still guilty as a law-breaker. 12 So we must both speak and act in every respect like those who are destined to be tried by the perfect law of liberty, 13 and remember that the judgment shows no mercy to the one who judges others without mercy. So by showing mercy you take dominion over judgment!
James shows God’s people …
- how to live a life following Jesus,
- how live a new life, and
- have a clear focus.
- Live it.
- Faith works.
[26:15] James believes …
- God is who He says He is …
- God can do what He says He can do …
- I am who God says I am …
- I can do all things through Christ …
All right well, good morning, the next episode of James; we’re on Chapter 2 now and I’m going to read the passage from The Passion translation and it goes like this. The title of it is ‘The Royal Law of Love Excludes Prejudice’:
‘My dear brothers and sisters, fellow believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, how could we say that we have faith in him and yet we favour one group of people above another? Suppose an influential man comes into your worship meeting wearing gold rings and expensive clothing and also a homeless man in shabby clothes comes in. If you show special attention to the rich man in expensive clothes and say, “Here’s a seat of honour for you right up front,” but you turn and say to the poor beggar dressed in rags, “You stand over here,” or “Sit over there on the floor in the back,” then you’ve demonstrated gross prejudice among yourselves and used evil standards of judgment. So listen carefully, my dear brothers and sisters, hasn’t God chosen you, chosen the poor in the world’s eyes to be those who are rich in faith? And won’t they be the heirs of the kingdom realm he promised to those who love him? But yet you insult and shun the poor in your efforts to impress the rich! Isn’t it the wealthy who exploit you and drag you into court? Aren’t they the very ones who blaspheme the beautiful name of the one you now belong to?
‘Your calling is to fulfil the royal law of love as given to us in this Scripture: “You must love and value your neighbour as you love and value yourself.” For keeping this law is the noble way to live but when you show prejudice you commit sin and you violate this royal law of love. For the one who attempts to keep all of the law of Moses but fails in just one point has become guilty of breaking the law in every respect. For the same one who tells us, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you don’t commit adultery but do commit murder, you are still guilty as a law-breaker. So we must speak and act in every respect like those who are destined to be tried by the perfect law of liberty, and remember that the judgment shows no mercy to the one who judges others without mercy. So by showing mercy you take dominion over judgment.’
I thought I’d read that rather than the NIV because I just love the title of that. ‘You must love your neighbour as yourself,’’ they call it the royal law of love and I thought that was a really special title for that very common, very regular --- it just trips off our tongue, doesn’t it? Love your neighbour as yourself --- but to actually add to it that it’s the law, the royal law of love, makes it, I think, a little bit more special.
Well we’ve all heard about James now; he wrote this epistle to encourage the persecuted believers who were once part of the Church in Jerusalem to live out their faith in everyday life and we can apply it as well. It’s an encouragement and it’s so encouraging to come here each week. I thought last week’s service was a real encouragement, people sharing some of the things that are moving on in their lives, moving with the Lord on; and I thought it was really special and it has really helped as I’ve been thinking about this morning.
So it was agreed that James was the half-brother of Jesus; we know that James later on became a very important player in Jerusalem as the leader, presided over the Church in Jerusalem and he seems the most likely author as we’ve already heard from people who shared about Chapter 1.
I’ve just read this, ‘I’m driving with this guy and he runs straight through a stop sign. So I say, “Hey, that was a stop sign!” And he said to me, “I drive like my brother.” A few blocks later on he ploughs straight through red lights, and I say, “You just ran through red lights!” And he says, “I drive like my brother.” And now you can just imagine it, we are coming up to some green lights, some green traffic lights, and he slows right down and I’m a bit confused, “Why are you slowing down, it’s a green light?” He says, “My brother might be coming.” ’
And I just wonder what the relationship was like with James and Jesus? I wonder what their relationship was growing up in that very dusty old place and I just wonder what their relationship was like. The suspicions from what I’ve read is that James and Jesus’ other step-brothers didn’t really recognise Jesus as the Messiah early on. They certainly didn’t know in his early ministry, didn’t really accept what Jesus was saying and what he was doing.
But that doesn’t really matter does it? What really matters is what we’re here for this morning, to hear about what James advised to the new believers, to those believers in Jerusalem. He had somehow changed. He changed his attitude. Like all of us here; we’re sitting here because we’ve changed because we’ve come under that special love and that appreciation and that special love of Jesus, our Saviour.
They are incredible that one of the people that Jesus in his resurrection visited was James and then he visited all the Apostles. You can read that in Corinthians 15 verse 7. It is also mentioned in Galatians 1, verse 19, that Jesus visited James. It implies the importance of James, whether it was brotherly love or that James was recognised as a future key player for the early Church.
So this morning, hopefully, we are going to cover these things:
- A life following Jesus and
- a new life,
- a clear focus,
- live it and
- faith works.
I hope that will all be explained as we go through it.
James became the head of the Christian community in Jerusalem and from non-biblical sources at the time he is actually described as, or given the surname of, ‘Just’. It’s believed he was eventually put to death by the Jews and in this letter James has an extensive use of Christ’s teaching. He builds on what is in the Gospels and he shares that in this Epistle, reminding the new believers what Jesus taught.
James helps the reader think about what does it mean to be a Christian in daily life? And that Christianity is not a matter of a word or words but it leads to righteousness, which exceeds what the Scribes and all the Pharisees taught about, that people will be very, very familiar with — well especially the Jewish Christians. But I think from the things like in Chapter 1, v21, I don’t think James really suffered fools gladly. He was pretty clear on what he said. Don’t merely listen to the words, do what it says. That’s what that verse is all about; don’t merely listen to the word, do what it says. So often we have to be reminded, don’t we? You know, Jesus’s love — live it, as I’m going to cover on a little bit more.
He’d been taught by God, our Saviour, personally. He, like very few, had been visited by the resurrected half-brother, Jesus Christ; James essentially is described as having a kindly disposition. He talks about there being no use for religious profession that’s not accompanied by a good life; a life that follows the teaching of Jesus. And in verse 3 of this passage that we’ve read, he was a great sympathiser of the poor, in v3. We read in v8 about ‘love your neighbour as yourself,’ this royal law of love. Don’t insult the poor, don’t show favouritism; whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. That’s in v10; so in those small number of verses that we’ve read this morning — a life that follows the teaching of Jesus needs to follow those.
What amazes me is that these words were written, it always — it really hit me at the beginning of the week, it must be, these words that we read this morning is probably something like — I’m not a mathematician as my wife will tell me, but it’s at least 50 generations of these words have been passed down, this letter’s been passed down at least 50 generations to us here at sunny Frodsham.
It’s mind-blowing that isn’t it? That those words that we’ve read about loving your neighbour as yourself, don’t insult the poor — you know, it’s come down all this way to us, it’s come down all the way, all through the generations to us and it was first written down by someone who grew up in the same house, had a similar lifestyle in a similar poor part of Palestine, with Jesus and we’ve got the words today handed down to us.
But when Jesus visited his sceptical brother after his resurrection he gave James new life, new belief, new hope, a new clarity; our Saviour does that for us today; new clarity, new belief, reminds us of our beliefs, reminds us of the clarity of the love of Jesus. So it’s so special this morning to be sharing together the breaking of bread; how important that is and how special it is. James was born again in such a powerful way that he became a big influence and became the leader of the Christian Church.
He had the authority to write to the Jews as well. He had the authority when he said in Chapter 1, we read this a couple of weeks ago, Chapter 1, verses 1 and 2: ‘Consider it pure joy,’ doesn’t mince his words does he? He doesn’t suffer fools gladly. To us here and now the living word, the same word that influenced … Do you remember that story, I remember hearing it in Sunday School, the little Welsh girl in 1800 apparently, Mary Jones. I used to teach with a Mary Jones but it wasn’t the same one, honest. And she walked 26 miles — 26 miles on her own, to buy her Bible and that little girl, with that simple act of walking a marathon as it were, inspired Thomas Charles to get up the British and Foreign Bible Society. It only needs a small incident doesn’t it to spark off things that escalate and build up and become very special?
It amazes me that here and now we can feel James’s commitment, his clarity of thought to actually say, ‘Consider it pure joy, whenever you face trials. My dear brothers, don’t show favouritism, don’t discriminate,’ (Chapter 2, v1 and v4). It’s a miracle we have these words here for us to read today; the freedom to meet, the freedom to read our Bibles, the freedom to pray, to meet together for prayer; so many places in this world where that can’t happen.
Even, I was talking to somebody up in Scotland over the New Year and he’s Syrian and he came over here about 10–15 years ago to Glasgow Infirmary to — he’s, I’m not sure what the specialist is called when you do hips and … well one of those. He’s one of those specialists and he came over from Syria because he needed to develop some of his skills and basically he’s never gone back. He hasn’t been able to go back. He also fell in love with a Scots girl as well but that’s another story.
But he can’t go back and he’s got two sisters in Damascus and they are quite safe there — well they’re safer — and his father’s there and he’s being looked after by the two sisters but he can’t go back. And he said, “But Skype’s, Skype’s a fantastic thing, I can communicate very well and I speak to them quite regularly.” But he said it wasn’t much help when he had to say goodbye just before his mother died of cancer. He could talk to her and he said goodbye to her but actually to be there to say goodbye to her would have been much better but he can’t go back.
So, you know, you hear of all these tragedies and all the drownings and all the deaths and the escapes but then you hear these individual tragedies and it brings home doesn’t it? It only takes something small to really spark.
You know, last week we heard about Joey, Joey Redhead, going, working with MAF, and others sharing and those little instances, those little comments are so special and we need to really think on them and develop them. But so often when we’re vulnerable the devil gags us, muffles our joy, destroys our confidence, creates distractions, temptations and worries and pulls us down. But we just have to turn our eyes back onto Jesus, read his word, the living word, and we have the freedom to do that. Praise him for it!
James’s answer to these kinds of excuses is in Chapter 4, which we’ll see in another episode of our study of James, and it says, ‘Resist the devil and come near to God and he’ll come near to you.’
Just moving on, this last week I had the privilege of going to a special school, a lovely place, amazing; and I was having to observe a trainee and this trainee was in the middle and there was a semi-circle of eight children and there’s one little girl that stood out in my memory already of that day. Seven and eight-year-olds, if you can imagine, in this semi-circle and in this group the whole range of disabilities; there was a little boy, a real little character, dwarfism; severely autistic; a Down’s syndrome and some others with medical issues. They can’t access mainstream school and to get into this school I think there’s a waiting list for every year group of over thirty children with that sort of situation.
The happiest group of kids I’ve seen for ages; well, maybe an exaggeration, but they were really happy and they were doing some maths and they were having to match shapes, mathematical shapes. And they had a variety of different maths shapes and this little girl, who stood out to me, knew exactly the two shapes that she had to match and she — it was her turn to get up to show the trainee that she’d learnt, that she knew the answer. She got up with such a clear focus, such a clear focus; she had to because she had to get up but then she had her oxygen trolley behind her with the tubes and she had to move her chair to get her oxygen trolley between the two chairs to get to the front of the semi-circle to pick up the two little mathematical shapes that she was matching. It was so obvious for me at the back that she knew exactly what the answer was. She got up with such purpose. She picked up the matching shapes and when she did her friends and the staff all applauded like they did with each of the children that got up with their shapes. She’d got it and she was pleased that she’d got it and she made the effort to do something about it.
And I thought, you know, that’s really all we have to do isn’t it? We get it, get up and do something about it. We have our Saviour’s approval. This little girl had her eyes on the trainee and she wanted to see what the reaction was but we have our Saviour’s approval already. We don’t need to keep checking. We don’t need to keep worrying. We’re saved.
I wonder what Jesus said to his brother, James, when he visited him after his resurrection. I’d love to have been there. What is it — a fly on the wall? Or a spider on the wall — one of those things; but whatever it was I would have loved to have been there to hear what Jesus said to James. “Now do you believe? Now do you see? Do you understand?”
All we know is that James got a new identity. That’s why James could write such amazing advice to us, 50 generations later and which is still important to us and still important to the Church. “Our focus each day is to look to Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith,” you find that in Hebrews 12, v2. James says in this letter, live it. There’s so much encouragement reminding us to put our faith in action. Genuine faith transforms lives, gives purpose: faith works.
James clearly has purpose; we have the same purpose. It’s easy to say we have faith but true faith will produce loving actions towards others. Love your neighbour as yourself — the bottom line of our lives through Christ, the royal law of love.
Chapter 2 is all about faith, the substance of spiritual growth. James is writing with experience, practical wisdom, God given. James met with the risen Lord, the same Lord Jesus that we walk with. So good to hear again, I repeat myself again, about Joey Redhead’s story last week; his enthusiasm was encouraging and uplifting.
I wonder if James could have written this? I think I found it or read it on a fridge door, you know those
magnets that stick. Sue, I wonder if you could put it up for us? But I’m sure James believed this.
I’m sure James could have written this:
‘God is who he says he is,
God can do what he says he can do,
I’m accepted I think this means: I am who God says I am,
I can do all things through Christ’
And I think, you know how salesmen get up in the morning apparently and say, “I feel great, I’m going to sell,” you know, and all this sort of stuff. I think we could stand up first thing in the morning, bounce out of bed, and say this:
“God is who he says he is,
God can do what he says he can do,
I am who God says I am,
And I can do all things through Christ, Amen”
Isn’t that special? James was given clarity of thought by his brother, or his stepbrother, Jesus Christ, our Saviour. Jesus made things happen in James and James makes things happen in us. You know, James lived at a time of unrest, occupation and many refugees. 50AD saw a growth in turmoil and violence in Palestine as Jews became more and more frustrated with corruption, injustice and poverty.
Soon after it James is murdered, after he’d written this. War broke out with Rome. War led to the destruction of Jerusalem, a scattering of the people and the destruction of precious buildings. Does that sound familiar? Themes that weave their way through James’s letter are all about encouragement; all about encouragement at a time of horrendous situations and issues, just like today, reminding us that a faith, a living faith, is faith that works, a faith that endures, a faith that pleases God.
Faith works and I heard this somewhere, “Don’t pray ordinary prayers for ordinary things but pray God-sized prayers and expect amazing things.” I’ll read that again because I love it, I think that’s so — Faith — “Don’t pray ordinary prayers for ordinary things but pray God-sized prayers and expect amazing things.” You have not because ye ask not.
This week I was given a little pamphlet — last thing, folks, last thing. I don’t know if you are aware of Revelation TV? But there’s a guy, one of the guys on there, a husband and wife do a service each week. Gordon and Lorna Pettie. Lyn and I used to work with them on Bude Beach Mission, when we were a little younger; and anyway, he doesn’t seem to have aged at all. Anyway he’s written this book about the Prayer Meeting Revival and it’s about a revival that started in New York in 1857–1858 and it’s about a young guy, it was — a visitor, what do we call him? A Church visitor, not even a Minister or anything like that, just a Church visitor and he prayed and had this real burden to set up a prayer meeting.
And at this time there was all sorts of turmoil on the Stock Market and everything else and he wrote actually six rules for a prayer meeting, quite interesting, but I’m not going to read that bit. What I want to read is just a little bit later on. C H Spurgeon described the meetings to his congregation in London, this was all happening in New York and he described it in London about ‘the petitions offered before God and the answers came, many stood up and testified that the prayer offered last week had already been fulfilled.’
And it goes on about the description of what happened in this one year and how they had to hold … they were holding lunchtime meetings, started at 12.00 and finished at 1.00 and how it just snowballed over that year into something amazing where they were holding prayer meetings on each floor of the Church and all sorts of things. But it was just the way this one man prays this simple prayer and how it snowballs into something really special. ‘You have not because you don’t ask.’ Faith works, faith endures.
You see James recognised we have trials and difficulties and living when he lived, at a time when he lived, he would know all about the difficulties. So James is saying to us, “God is who he says he is, God can do what he says he can do, I am who God says I am, I can do things through Christ.” It’s such an encouraging letter this and I suggest you have a go at reading a little bit more of it some other time as well.
Thanks for listening.
Oh just one thing, Martin, sorry, you highlighted this, the Bible Study notes, the UCB notes and the horrible colour; but the last paragraph of today’s reading is — and if you haven’t read it I really do recommend it, but I’ll read it to you anyway, — it says this, “Even small decisions can create anxiety. God wants us to develop good judgement and there’s no way to do that without making choices, taking risks and occasionally failing. He wants mature children, not robots. His purpose isn’t just to get us to perform the right actions but to become the right kind of people.” And that’s just in today’s. I do recommend it, it’s fabulous to read each day.
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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations on this page and within the talk are taken from Hebrews and James: Faith Works, The Passion Translation®, copyright © 2014. Used by permission of BroadStreet Publishing Group, LLC, Racine, Wisconsin, USA. All rights reserved.