September 9, 2018: 16th Sunday of Trinity

Let us pray: Dear Savior, today we’re told in Your Word to not just be hearers of it, but doers of it! In order to accomplish that, move all of us to listen carefully to Your truths, to ponder what they mean for us today and how they impact our lives, and then to put whatever the Spirit sends us into daily practice with both joy and boldness. Amen
TEXT: James 1: 17-27
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
I got an email this week from our synod president concerning an upcoming discussion at our synod’s bishop’s conference which I will be attending next week. We’re going to spend a little time on strategic planning for our synod. That is, analyzing our strengths and weaknesses, and also how to make God’s Word have a greater impact on souls to help foster a more blessed future. As I looked over today’s texts I had all this in mind. So, what’s the chief issue facing us today? What do we need to weave into everything we do so that God’s will is not impeded, but resonates in our modern world?
Well, our text gives us an outline. In summation, it’s all about relevance. We need to preach and teach God’s truths in a way which makes them all relevant and alive to our members, visitors, and other hurting souls. We need to explain things in a way which confronts people where they are at and then uplifts them to something far better. It’s really all about applying Godly truth in a timeless manner. And our lesson does exactly that.
The book of James is immensely practical. It begins with some lofty words: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us faith through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.”
God only sends good and perfect gifts to us because He is totally good. He doesn’t have anything to do with evil, or darkness. He doesn’t change His will or His mind. His purpose toward us is one of total love—revealed in Christ’s salvation. He always strives to give us the best of the best. So, we never have to fear going astray when following Him. He even gives us the gift of saving faith via the Spirit, so that we don’t dead-end our lives or our faith in human overconfidence. Yes, our confidence is in the Lord because He makes it so! And the result of all this is that we become the best of the best—the firstfruits—of everything ever created. In short, God our Maker, Redeemer, and Comforter puts us on a pedestal. He elevates us to the highest status there is: His beloved children.
When you’re feeling low and overlooked by life remember who you really are! Don’t despair! Rejoice! And then resolve to act out this newfound status of being God’s beloved. “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. For man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.”
What wise application this is! Do you monopolize the conversation in talking with others, or do you ask a few leading questions to get them to talk about themselves? Do you pay attention to their words or tune them out so that you can talk about yourself? Do you get angry if you’re not the center of attention? Do you let lewd stories or gossip gain your attention, and then repeat them? Or, do you look at another; think: how can I help them grow in Christ? And then humbly act out that concept? God’s loving truth of forgiveness for sins and help in all trouble—that’s what saves and comforts people. That’s what God planted inside of you!
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not what it says is like a man who looks at his face in the mirror and after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law (principle) that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.” Yes, God’s Word serves as a mirror to show us our sins and exactly what we look like apart from God’s grace; and it also serves as a fount of freedom and inner peace because it contains the Good News of complete forgiveness for all sins! Where else do you get that in this life?
Now comes some more pithy, wise, and Godly advice: “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
Words can and do hurt. Contrary to the old nursery rhyme: “Names can hurt.” They lodge in the subconscious and reek havoc with one’s coping skllls. Likewise, words can puff up the speaker in their own eyes and they can end up believing their own lies to their downfall. If you doubt any of this, think of modern social media and the hurt it causes.
But when you realize that God has saved little old you; when you realize that He loves you; when you realize that He has uplifted you toward fulfillment and glory in Christ, well, it moves you into action. Helping and assisting the downtrodden and overlooked—widows and orphans—does not bring on self-aggrandizement. But when done out of thanks to God for giving you a more blessed life, it does give Him glory and honor. And it also gives you a sense of purpose bigger than yourself.
Today America is a nation of psychological cripples who think they are strong. We all put up a good front, but inwardly we’re all brittle. Reliance on yourself for inner strength is doomed to failure. Unless, unless we turn to Jesus for our strength. The ancient mariners could not plot a course once at sea, unless and until they had a reference point that never wavered. Christ and His love for you is that reference point. It covers every direction since He is a 360 degree God. He never gets lost. So, ask Him for His help and He’ll always provide it. Amen