life

How Do You Hear?

Following an explanation of temptation and discussing the fact that God does not tempt us (James 1:13-15), James reminds us that all good things come down from God (James 1:16-17). He then writes, “Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth” (James 1:18a). Christians are “born again” by the teachings of the Bible. Jesus taught us that the word of God is like a seed planted in human hearts (Luke 8:11). Peter declares, “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God...And this word is the good news that was preached to you (1 Peter 1:22-23, 25). New life (or a “newness of life") is granted to the children of God in Christ (see Romans 6:1-ff). The purpose of this new birth is “that we should be a kind of first-fruits of His creatures” (James 1:18b). God's people are very special to Him (first-fruits = first and best) and are to carry out His work in the world (Ephesians 2:8-10).

James continues his letter by exhorting, “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19). It has often been pointed out that God created us with two ears, but with only one mouth. Now this principle is quite useful in interpersonal situations, but is that the point James is making? What exactly does he want us to be eager to hear in this context? Keep reading. “Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21).

James wants us to put aside our anger (v. 19-20) and worldliness so that we then may humbly pull in Divine truth. If we properly implant the word in our hearts, it will bring about our salvation (compare 2 Timothy 3:14-4:6). As we begin to put this all together, we should ask ourselves certain application questions... How quick are we to spout our opinion? How easily do we get annoyed or even angry in life? Do we ever get mad at what the Bible teaches? Do we meekly, eagerly, and faithfully listen to the teachings of God?

But James is not finished with us just yet, for he says, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). As important as it is to believe and receive the words of God, it is essential that we actually practice what it says. Our saintly profession must include holy practice; our loving words must be followed up with loving deeds. Notice the contrast between salvation in verse 21 and deception in verse 21. Sobering fact: We deny our own salvation and lie to ourselves when we hear (maybe even gladly), but neglect to obey His truth. James goes on to compare a hearer only to someone looking at their face in a mirror, then walking away and immediately forgetting what they look like (James 1:23-24). Mirrors in the ancient world were made by polishing metals like tin and copper. The most accurate reflections were achieved with Corinthian bronze, but even their best paled in comparison to the accuracy of our modern glass mirrors. Most ancient people rarely saw their own faces, and James describes someone who quickly forgets their reflection. James warns us to not use the Bible like a rare mirror, but we must look deeply and intently into the word, retain a knowledge of it, and then follow it each day. “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” (James 1:25).

Let the record show that proper faith is always connected to actions of faithfulness. Our faith is tested by the trials of life (James 1:2-4, 12; 5:7-11). We are to pray in faith (James 1:5-8; 4:2-3; 5:16-17). Our faith should cause us to be careful of our speech (James 1:26; 3:1-12; 4:11-12; 5:12), to take care of others (James 1:27; 5:1-6), and to live above worldliness (James 1:27; 4:4). True faith in Jesus does not show partiality (James 2:1-13). Faith is dead without works of obedience (James 2:14-26). Genuine wisdom (or faith) is always displayed by a wise lifestyle (James 3:13-18).

For His infinite worth,

Gantt Carter

The Life

How valuable is your life to you? Life is a sacred gift from our Creator (see Genesis 1-2; 9:4-7 and others), and it is not to be considered lightly nor taken from another. Life is such a powerful concept, and such a valuable possession. If we had not been given the precious gift of life, then we would be nothing – no meaning apart from life. Consider how much time, money, and energy we spend to live as long as possible. It is certainly true that “nobody wants to die.” A wasted life may be the most horrible occurrence ever...

The Purpose

After Jesus heals a Centurion's slave, Luke records: “Soon afterward He went to a town called Nain, and His disciples and a great crowd went with Him” (Luke 7:11). Why did Jesus go to Nain? What is special about that location? It would have been a very small town with maybe a couple hundred residents. Did Jesus randomly pick this dot on the map?

John tells us that Jesus “had to pass through Samaria” in order to travel from Judea to Galilee (John 4:4), but most of the Jews would bypass Samaria (due to the animosity between the Jews and Samaritans). Luke later shows Jesus setting His face to go up to Jerusalem...for one last time (Luke 9:51). He was determined to go and to face His cruel suffering at Roman hands. Jesus always had a reason for all that He did...but what was His purpose in travelling to the little village of Nain?

The Procession

    “As He drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her” (Luke 7:12).

    Can you see this funeral procession? Can you feel the pain of a mother who has lost her husband to death and now even her only son (maybe even her only child)? Losing a loved one is horrible, but the utter grief of losing a child is unbearable (see Amos 8:10; Zechariah 12:10). Can there be any greater sorrow than losing your only son?

    The Presentation

    “And when the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.' Then He came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And He said, 'Young man, I say to you, arise.' And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus presented him to his mother (Luke 7:13-15).

    Who interrupts a funeral procession? Who tells a grieving mother to stop crying? Jesus, the one who is life (John 1:4-5), stops the funeral by giving a young man his life back and a widow her young son back. It seems that He could not stand her misery (see Judges 10:16). Notice the way He takes note of her as a person, and then compassionately resurrects her precious child. This is Yahweh in the flesh displaying His wonderful love and compassion on His own creation (Psalm 103:8-14). The King of the universe presents a son to his mother, but how does He do this? Maybe He says, “Woman, behold, your son” (John 19:26), and “Behold, your mother” (John 19:27). Perhaps He silently takes the man's hand and places it in the hand of his mother. What a picture of the Messiah! Do you see the King of glory? 

    I recall the time when Elijah raised a widow's son from the dead (1 Kings 17:17-24). "And Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper chamber into the house and delivered him to his mother. And Elijah said, 'See, your son lives.' And the woman said to Elijah, 'Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth'" (1 Kings 17:23-24). It is interesting to consider the possibility that the place where Elijah raised this young man may have been near the location of First Century Nain...

    But this is not Elijah or Elisha...this is the eternal Word (John 1:1-5, 14-18)! One day He will bring about an even larger presentation of the living from the graves. "Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment" (John 5:28-29).

    Consider this ultimate presentation one day in the future: "Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power" (1 Corinthians 15:24; see also Ephesians 5:25-27). Will you be a part of that presentation of the holy kingdom to the Father? 

    The Proclamation

    "Awe seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, 'A great prophet has arisen among us!' and 'God has visited his people!' And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country" (Luke 7:16-17). 

    The reaction of the people is not surprising. Would you not be struck with awe and amazement at the resurrection of this young man by Jesus of Nazareth? But their proclamation was only partly correct. Jesus was not just a great prophet...He was and is THE prophet Moses spoke of in Deuteronomy 18:15.

    Just as He had promised, Yahweh had returned, but in a much more physical and concrete way than they had ever imagined (John 1:1-5, 14-18). God was literally there in a temple of human flesh! Talk about a visit! 

    "And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, 'Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation'" (Luke 19:41-44). 

    Will we recognize our time of visitation? Will God visit us one day in order to punish us for our disobedience to His holy will? 

    God has visited...and will visit with blessings and beauty. Deity often visits in order to secure a people for His own name (Acts 15:14). Are we willing to recognize our time of visitation?

    For His infinite worth, 

    Gantt