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Sunday, March 22, 2009

"We, The Ugly Heap of Sinful Humanity.... "

I know, all the posts these days have been on sermons - sorry about that. Actually I'm not. Sermons are good for you and the more the better! On that note, I'll launch into this one... :)

Mr. Harrod ~ Faith in Action #15 ~ Sin defined & applied ~ James 4:17
22 March 09'

Do we need to redefine sin? Often, when we think of sin, we class it in terms of 'doing bad stuff'. Unfortunately sin lies even deeper than the more outward show of, for instance, swearing, stealing or murdering. Jesus says in Mathew 5, that hating someone without cause, or lusting after someone, is the same as murdering or being an adulterer at heart. James talks more to the point of defining hidden layers of sin, when he says in James 4:17 that when we know to do good and do not do it, we sin. By the standards of God, we are murderers, adulterers at heart and we all miserably fail to do the good we know to do. Add to that all the other Ten Commandments we've broken, and you end up with an ugly heap of sinful humanity. :(

Traditionally, sin has been put into two different categories: The sin of omission and the sin of commission. These are fairly self-explanatory: omission is not doing the good thing you know you should do. The sin of commission is doing the (bad) thing you know you shouldn't do.

It's interesting that James does NOT say that when we fail to do good when we know we should, this is a mistake. He doesn't brush it away. Without exception, says James, it's sin.
All good fans of Spider Man will know that with great power, comes great responsibility. What James is getting at here is that with great knowledge (which is power) comes great responsibility. So...

- Once we're converted, we have absolutely no excuse for not doing good.
- God has given us everything, therefore, disobedience to Him is all the more heinous.

The Pharisees are great examples of people who microscopically kept the law, and failed to understand the big deal of Scripture: they'd tithe their ten percent on everything, even on bunches of mint - but would utterly fail to love their neighbour and see their own sin. It feels so good though, to have a group of people you can point the finger at and condemn - it makes us feel better about ourselves. Here comes the hard line: We are so often exactly like them. Often we go to church and bible study and feel churched for the week- get our dose of holiness, something like a drug but without the addiction.

- note - The sad thing is, it's not as though we always just fail to do good. Much of the time we aren't even thinking that doing good is something we should be doing - we wait for something to come up and then consider whether or not we should exert ourselves... instead of thinking up new ways that we can do good works, we wait for opportunities. Often, waiting for opportunities is a waste of God's time. He's given us brains, we're His new creation. We should be actively seeking new ways in which we can be in service to God- (more often than not, this means doing the measly jobs noone else wants to do, cheerfully and for Him). - end of note-

So. To sum up, our knowledge MUST flow through into action.

-What do we do? We're all totally riddled with sin when we judge ourselves us by this standard. The standard in James 4:17 beats me totally - I'm a dead dog when I measure myself by it. But-

God has sent His Spirit to us, to work in us and in our lives - through Him we can really-and-truly do good works for Him. Not only does He help us to do them, He helps us to want to do them.

This is exciting stuff. Wouldn't it be amazing if we christian brothers and sisters could build each other up to "love and good works"? All of us becoming rebels to what our society believes we should do with our lives - being totally immersed in scripture and growing more in love with God every day - then showing our love for God and the people around us, and doing good works...

Sunday, March 15, 2009


15 March 09'

Mr. Harrod - Faith in Action #14 : James 4:13-16

  • James is talking to a group of christians who are very self-assured. Confidently, they plan out their next business trips and are convinced that everything will work out well for themselves.
- it's ok to buy and sell or to make plans. Often we're just being wise stewards of what God's given us when we do that. But -

- in verse 14, James tells us that it matters how we carry out these activities. We don't know what's going to happen tomorrow, we can plan on things happening but they may turn out differently. Often, things that we don't expect happen which ruin our plans.

- Remember your limitations, says James. "...If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that."

- Your life is like a mist, smoke, a breath or cloud. Here, then gone. It makes sense to remember that when dreaming up big plans for ourselves. Often we put God on the sidelines - leave Him for Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights and live for our goals, rather than living for and with Him every day.

  • The problem is over-confidence and self-sufficiency. - This is the sin of presumption: when we are so sure of something that we can't actually be sure of.
- We have given our lives to God and so we have no right to try and grab them off Him to do what we want. We must rely on God: James says, we ought to say "If God wills" we will do this or that. In order to live this life in practice we need to:

1. Pray (James 1:5)
"If anyone lacks wisdom, let him ask of God..."

2. Psalm 119:105
"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path..."
-Read God's word

3. Fellowship - rather than a "I'm cool by myself, I don't need advice" attitude, we should talk to other christians about what major decisions we need to make, and what problems we're going through.

4. Sum up. Proverbs 11:14
"I am a rock, I am an island..." - Simon and Garfunkel.
-Uh-uh says James. You've got to stick around good christians to keep you on track.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Throwing a rope

Ouch. This hit me hard and made me feel completely ashamed of my complacent attitude concerning sharing the gospel. It hurts harder when you are told this by an atheist. But that is precisely the reason why it hurt: When an atheist tells me that I'm hating the people I could tell the truth to, but don't - It's like getting a kick in the guts when you don't expect it. Because it is true. As he said, "If I knew that a massive lumber truck was coming close to someone, and was bearing down upon them, you can be sure I'd tackle them some. But this is much worse.." - He's right. The problem with us christians is that we don't tackle these people and help them clear out before the lumber truck hell comes and squashes them.

He said "I know there is no God" - and "Religion does a lot of bad things" - but he profoundly respected the man who was no hypocrite to his beliefs and told him exactly where he believed he was heading. Hell. "He looked me straight in the eye," "He was kind, and genuinely complimentary," "He was a good, good man."

Wow. The fact is: Christians who don't tell the nonchristians around them the truth are unloving. Hell is a real place where most of this world is heading and yet we christians, who have been given the truth, the good news, sit around and watch them go there complacently. It's like we're saying - "Sure, you can go to hell for all I care." - when we have the opportunity to share the gospel but don't.
Of course, christians make mistakes and we don't always say things when we should. We often do a huge lot for the gospel and then slow down and feel like we've done "our evangelising." We don't get everything right when it comes to telling people the gospel. That, however, does not excuse us from living our lives as a witness to others and consistently and with real concern, telling people God's truth.

Telling someone the gospel is more than "sharing the gospel" and "evangelising." Explaining the gospel is throwing a drowning man a rope and letting God pull him out of the water.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The (un)Holy War

Sunday, 8 March, 2009. "Faith in Action!" - James 4: 1-12

-Rob Harrod

James tells us that there should not be wars and fights between us and fellow christians. "Where do these things come from?" He asks. Christians have been given everything - the Holy Spirit, eternal life, cancelled debt and God blesses us every day - and yet we fight with each other. This is incompatible with Christianity, says James, in effect. We are one body and yet we members fight with each other. To shock us out of our apathy and complacency - our acceptance of this as a natural thing to happen in God's church, James uses some strong words.

- He calls these fights a "war". By doing this he is trying to show us just how horrific it is when christians fight each other. It breaks down our relationships with each other, and it very often damages our relationships with God - sometimes to the point of people totally turning away from God. The casualty lists of these wars are always high.

- Jesus commanded us to love each other! Our love was to be so strong, that it would mirror the love that God showed us when He sacrificed His own Son for us. (note: if we kept this love very strong between us, there would not be the same chances that we fought with each other).

-James says: "Adulterers and adulteresses!" Many of these fights come from selfishness, of Christians wanting pleasure and things that they cannot have. It is worldliness, and James says that worldliness in christians is the same as being an adulterer/adulteress. Instead of being totally content with what God has given us (and He's given us a fair bit!) we lust after what the world says we should have - and when you keep in mind that the church is the Bride of Christ, you get a horrible picture of this Bride of Christ becoming an adulteress - falling in love with the world.

Scary stuff.
  • James does not become politically correct here and blame the environment for our sin. He nails the problem and blames it on our own sinful hearts.
(note: if you let the environment determine the way you act, you are not exercising self control- you are letting your feelings take over and then unfairly blaming the people around you, or the circumstances that helped you to your actions).
- we all do this - becoming worldly, loving the things of this world rather than our one love being Christ. We enjoy having something that we love on our little throne that we worship - sure, Christ is there but He's off to the side and second place.
- often noone will know, if we have replaced God for some idol in our lives. We go to church and look pretty decent outwardly. Inside, we're pagans.

  • God jealously longs for us to love Him best.
So, to do this and to sort through problems with other christians:

1. If we ask Him, God will give us the grace and forebearance to love other christians the way He loved us. (wow, wouldn't that be an amazing church, if we all did that.. didn't Jesus say that other people would know we were christians because of our great love for one another?)

2. Be humble. Submit to God.

3. Resist the Devil. He will actually and fantastically, flee from you - (you with the help from God of course. He wouldn't flee just because of you).

4. Draw nearer to God and He will draw near to you. Have consistent meetings with God: make your love for Him THE biggest, the best, the most important thing in your life. If you get this part right, every other relationship will benefit from it.

5. CLEAN UP YOUR ACT!!!!!! - As in, right now. (Mr. Harrod didn't say this quite as loudly or emphatically as no. 5 makes out, but I reckon it's the main point. Didn't want you to miss it..)
-Make God your first priority.

6. Be serious about sin. Repent, mourn, weep - it's easy to get accustomed to sin - on TV, the newspaper, covers of magazines, books - anywhere. Don't become immune to this, says James.

7. Humble yourself in the sight of God - He will lift you up. That's an amazing promise.

8. Do not speak evilly of another christian. (note: this one made me wither up and die of shame. How easy it is to diss other people and not see your own sin.)
- Rather, speak uplifting words about them - if you have to mention their bad points, then balance it fairly with their good points.

- Evaluate yourself rather than others. There will usually be something staring you in the face if you look at yourself first. (perhaps this is why we tend to skip the self-evaluation part.)

I haven't done justice to the sermon of course, but you get the general idea. Some things really hit home with me - for instance, speaking negatively about other christians, evaluating myself rather than others, making God my number 1 priority. After all, we only live once so why not be the best people we can for God?

I'd love to hear what you think about the sermon. It would be sooo great if we GBC people (Grace Baptist Church, for the uninitiated) could discuss the sermon a little more. We would get so much more out of it if we did that, and we'd also be accountable to each other to be applying these sermons effectively to our lives.

Monday, March 09, 2009

The Plan


It's the second week after listening to a riveting sermon by our pastor. I still get thrills about how good it was and think vaguely on what I planned to do about it - how I was going to apply it. As I think back on it, my memory strains to remember what it was about. In fact, I discover to my horror that I can't even remember what it was about. Not the chapter and verses, not the title, the main theme, the grand finale. Nothing. Blank.

Because of this memory blank, I concocted a plan. I write notes: therefore, I might just be able to write a wee blurb about the sermon each Sunday afternoon/Monday. That way, the sermon might cement itself in my brain and other like - minded, forgetful people from our church (and anyone else who's interested) can read it and think again on the glory of that sermon.
I just hope our pastor doesn't mind me dishing up his sermon again on my blog. ;)
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