James 5:1-6 Run from the love of Riches

Tonight, I have the honor of preaching at Red Oak Church in Andrews, NC Red Oak Church

The passage is James 5:1-6 in continuing Red Oak’s study through James. These notes are intended for Red Oak and anyone who listens to the recording of the sermon so that they can follow along.

Thank you guys for having me!

James 5:1-6

Run from the Love of Riches!

Context

James has been called “the proverbs of the New Testament”.

James reminds Christians how to live.

James is a practical outworking of saving faith in Jesus.

James is full of “faith that works”.

Personally, James is refreshing because I am growing more and more weary of a subculture that accumulates more and more knowledge with very little output, and James calls that subculture to repentance through action, first, recognizing that faith/the accumulation of more spiritual food without works is dead. Second, James calls us repentance by calling on God’s people to act.

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine  and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, an it fell, and great was the fall of it.” Matthew 7:24-27

Many a faith has been shipwrecked not because of hearing the words of the Lord but by not doing the words of the Lord.

The answer to the question of how to grow in faith is not second, third and fourth bible studies to learn more but the practice of what we already know becoming practice thus turning theory into rock hard experiential fact as we experience the Lord being faithful just like we learned in bible study that he would be.

A tested faith is a faith more precious than gold (1 Peter 1:6-7). An untested faith that continues to pile up untested information may result in an epic crash and burn.

James forces us to act on what we have come to believe to be true. 

What truth does our passage today hold up that we must obey?

Our Passage Today: James 5:1-6

Run From the Love of Riches!

James 5:1-6 takes a “fire hammer” to the love of riches.

“Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord. I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, ‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed! ’ How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, who think to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Baal? Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the Lord. Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, declares the Lord, who steal my words from one another. Behold, I am against the prophets, declares the Lord, who use their tongues and declare, ‘declares the Lord. ’ Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, declares the Lord, and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them. So they do not profit this people at all, declares the Lord.” – Jeremiah 23:23-32

James has just finished challenging the notion that the more affluent folks (particularly those alluded to already in 1:9-11 and 2:5-7) should presume to go and set up a business and make a profit when they don’t even know what tomorrow may bring (see 4:13-17).

Note: James is not rebuking good planning.

James is addressing some folks in the mix of the people of God who are not believers and have made riches their god and have ran over the people of God and caused those folk’s financial demise.

James’ message here “…is aimed at his wealthy, non-believing countrymen (Remember, James is a Jew and this book’s primary audience is the Christian Jewish population that is dispersed 1:1 among the nations. Much apostolic work began in synagogues and the mixing of followers of Jesus and adherents to Judaism was common until the Christians were persecuted and expelled.) who were exploiting the poor, many of whom were in the church (see 5:4, and if they were not in the church why is he addressing them in his letter to the church?). Specifically, James’ targets were wealthy farmers who owned large tracts of land and were squeezing everyone and everything for profit…James’ message is also meant to steel his people (the church) against such folly.” In other words, James wants the church to not be lured into the love of riches.

So, the message is aimed at unbelieving Jews mixed in the church who have taken advantage of believing Jews in the church.

The message must also be aimed at wealthier Christians who may make distinctions in the fellowship around poverty and riches (see 2:5-7 regarding the poor man either being made to sit at a rich man’s feet or stand while they give the rich man a seat).

The message is also aimed at Christians in general to keep them from making riches their god and thus evidencing they are truly not regenerate, alive, saved, transformed.

So, there are none who can escape the “fire hammer” of the word regarding the love of riches.

What do we see in James 5:1-6 and what does it mean?

What does James command and warn about?

1. James Commands Those Who Love Riches to Come and “Weep” and “Howl” at the Terror of Judgement Coming on Them 5:1

Verse 1 is a command.

This is a command to come and literally shriek and howl in anticipation of the misery of judgment coming for those who love riches.

“Howl” is an onomatopoeia. Saying the word “howl” the way it’s pronounced is to be like the actual sound of one “howling” in terror at the judgment coming.

Not pleasant.

James invites the guilty to come and peak into the devastation of hell for those who love riches over God and experience the awfulness of it.

We can’t see this as anything other than a warning and an opportunity to repent before they meet the King in eternity or taste his vengeance for their sin in this life.

Romans 12:19-21 “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

God can and will bring vengeance on those who have harmed his people. 

2. Do not hoard because it’s an indicator who / what you worship 5:2-3

The whole idea here is that they have take up, through sinful activity (see v. 4), more than they need and it’s rotting and wasting to their condemnation.

What is the difference between “hoarding” and “saving”?

One hoards what they treasure to an overabundance. It’s a heart issue and its an amount issue. Because it’s a heart issue it leads to an overabundance issue.

One saves what can be a useful tool for greater ends in the future and only what is needed because it’s a tool not a treasure.

A “hoarder” values what is hoarded. The “hoarded” is the end.

A “saver” values the end for which what is “saved” can achieve.

These guys have not saved. They have hoarded and done so at the expense of God’s people.

3. The Lord hears the cries of his people who have been defrauded 5:4 

The language of verse 4 reminds us of the blood of Abel crying out from the ground against Cain and the cries of the Lord’s people in Egypt being heard by the Lord in such a way that he responds to rescue his people.

The intentional withholding of what is due through deception is a grievous evil that took root in the heart of one who loved riches more than truth.

4. Beware of self-indulgence that feeds sin 5:5

The one’s who love riches have indulged at the expense of the poor.

The reference to the “day of slaughter” has connection to verse 6 in which the person’s defrauded are left without any sustainable way of caring for themselves and thus will die.

This, James calls the “day of slaughter”.

It is in this day that those who love riches have made their “bank”. They have profited at the expense of God’s people who happen to be economically impoverished.

5. Do Not “Murder” 5:6

James is referring here to “judicial murder”. This is where one takes away the means of another making a living.

“He is not speaking of literal murder, for the Greek term translated ‘condemned’ indicates that the courts are involved. Nor does he mean that the righteous were executed. He is probably thinking of lawsuits in which the rich took away the wages or land of the poor. Left without adequate resources, the poor Christians starved or, weakened by poor food, died of diseases.”

The land owning “gentry” controlled the courts, and therefore the poor man could not “resist”, as James says at the end of verse 6.

Basically, do not leave image bearing people without the dignified opportunity to work and reap from their labor for survival and thriving while you/others/institutions make bank or advance personal cause.

To force someone into a place where they can’t provide for themselves is, according to the text of Scripture, murder. 

What do we do with this? What application do we make?

1. Be resolved to love God not riches. Be resolved to save not hoard. 

We have to take a deep and honest look at our motivations and ends.

 

Jesus was clear on this subject.

Luke 12:13-21

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops? ’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be? ’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.

Luke 12:22-34

And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens:they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Matthew 6:19-24

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

Mark 4:19

“…but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.”

2. Never advance ourselves, our businesses, or our ministries at the cost of people. 

3. Money is not evil and having lots of it is not sin (Abraham, Job, Josiah, Philemon, Joseph of Arimathea and Lydia), but we must resist money as our end rather than a means to God’s ends. 

This is hard. 

Mark 10:23-27 (10:17-22 sets up 10:23-27 with the rich young man who went away sad because he loved his riches more than Jesus.)

“And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

4. Beware of a desire to gain riches, even if the desire is noble on the front end.

1 Timothy 6:9-10

“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”

5. We must have discernment to know our times and speak prophetically to systems that advance on the poverty of image bearing men, women and children as James did.

Matthew 16:1-4

“And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red. ’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening. ’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.”

6. Read: “When Helping Hurts” – Corbett and Fikkert and “The Poverty of Nations” – Grudem

Learn about sustainable, Christian endeavors to build sustainable prosperity among those who need it.

7. We have to begin to make sense out of Leviticus 19:9-10, Leviticus 23:22, Deuteronomy 24:19-22.

“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner:I am the Lord your God.”

“And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner:I am the Lord your God.”

“When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over them again. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not strip it afterward. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this.”

8. Pray for discernment on how to personally and corporately obey the Word.

9. Trust in the Lord to be gracious and help us to repent if we need to and to be gracious to keep us from the love of riches in the first place and rest in the powerful justifying work of the cross. 

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Acts 8:1-25 Kingdom Advance to New Frontiers

Acts 8:1-25
Kingdom Advance to New Frontiers

NOTE: SUNDAY POSTS ARE INTENDED TO BE USED ALONG WITH THE SERMON. IF YOU MISSED THE SERVICE, YOU CAN FOLLOW THE NOTES AS YOU LISTEN ALONG JUST LIKE YOU WERE THERE. http://www.threeriversc.org/#/sermon-audio

Remember, the testimonies of the Lord are a treasure to us. They teach us what to expect and how to proceed.

Acts is loaded with the testimonies of the Lord’s work to advance his kingdom.

As we are engaged in the work of the kingdom, let’s keep looking to the text to inform our work and expectations!

Acts 1:8 is our framework for Acts as a narrative but also for Jesus’ plan for his church in these early years.

Jesus will be worshiped among all nations. The framework of Acts is based on the Lord’s words about the “how to” of the mission Jesus gave them.

“You will be my witnesses…”

Jesus didn’t tell them exactly, with minute details in Acts 1:8, how the “how to” would come about, but he did tell them what to expect before his death, burial and resurrection.

So, the methods of the kingdom were no surprise.

The Spirit was going to use difficulty and challenges to advance the kingdom to new frontiers, use normal Spirit empowered folks, confront spiritual strongholds and break fallen cultural barriers that cannot exist in the kingdom (outline of the sermon!).

In order to lead us into our first observation, listen to what Bob Roberts says about persecution / opposition:
“When we experience persecution (or at least opposition), God accomplishes three important goals in our lives: 1. The difficulty clarifies our beliefs, passions, and loyalties. We can stop and ask ourselves, ‘What do I really believe about God, about my purpose in life, and about the people who are harassing me? Do I really believe Jesus died on the cross for Muslims, gays, inner-city black men, immigrants, and any others who might easily be written off? Do I believe Jesus loves them as much as he loves me? Do I believe it enough to die for Jesus, to suffer for him, or at least to be inconvenienced for him? 2. Opposition purifies our hearts by burning off the impurities of selfishness, pride, and irrational fear. Heartache has a way of cutting through the surface layers of our lives to expose our true desires. Do we really want God and his kingdom more than anything in the world…?” 3. Struggles can propel multiplication in a congregation, as hearts are opened for people who were formerly outside their comfort zones…”

So, what do we see in our text today?

Observations: What do we see/What does it mean?
1. Persecution is a mobilizing instrument in God’s providential hands to export the kingdom rule of Jesus to new frontiers 8:1-4

Persecution is nothing more and nothing less than God’s kingdom and God’s people clashing with Satan’s people and Satan’s petty kingdom.

The hard thing is that due to the fall we are having to invade enemy held territory.

What do we do with this?
1. Believe that the course of history is in the hands of King Jesus.
Revelation 1:4-5 “Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.”

2. Believe that Jesus delights in saving the hardest of the hard, like Saul, who he will transform into Paul. This will lead to you loving and serving those who are enemies and praying for your enemies just like Jesus said to do.

3. Believe that God can use hardship to mobilize his people to multiply and make disciples.

4. Don’t wait for difficulty to preach he gospel wherever you are.

5. Embrace hardship as a grace filled opportunity to know and grow in the Lord not as an anomaly that is to be gotten through to greater blessing. The hardship is a blessing.

Philippians 1:10 “…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”

6. Know that the church may be entering a time of difficulty in the west.
http://www.nationalreview.com/article/436380/religious-liberty-threatened-california-new-law-gender-identity

We may be facing times when to uphold what we believe are biblical standards will cost us something.

7. We have to learn how to operate in the public square without compromising the Scriptures.
– This will require backbone, courage, resolve, conviction, winsomeness, kindness, gentleness, love of enemies.

2. Philip, a normal guy, goes to the outcasts (Samaritans) and the power of the kingdom is put on display in his ministry as evidence of Jesus’ kingdom rule 8:5-8, 12

1. Philip is a normal guy not a ministry professional.

2. The persecution made opportunity for Philip to engage Samaritans.

3. Philip preached, people saw powerful signs, they listened, they believed and followed Jesus in baptism.

What do we do with this?

1. Believe the kingdom does not need superheroes. The gospel of the kingdom is powerful.

2. Know all of us have access to the powerful gospel of the kingdom and filling of the powerful Holy Spirit.

3. Realize that signs and wonders are not the point. Rather, signs and wonders are by-products of the kingdom taking enemy held territory.

4. All of us are vehicles for supernatural kingdom work. Don’t look for the flashy, just engage your domain, make disciples and have eyes that see and ears that hear to see the miraculous.

3. Fake conversions really happen and must be dealt with prophetically as Satan fights against Jesus’ kingdom rule 8:9-13, 18-24

The kingdom is taking enemy held territory and that comes with spiritual battles.

Bob tells a story about a pastor in India in “Lessons from the East”:
“Very often, when we hold a gospel meeting, a demon possessed person comes to the front of our meeting and dances. This is a direct challenge to God’s authority in front of all people. We have to drive off the evil spirit immediately. Unless people realize the power of the Holy Spirit, they will not understand that our God is more powerful than the evil spirits.”

As we make disciples we can expect some that are not real and some that challenge the authority of God, bible, the church and simply refuse to obey God.

The section on Simon is introduced with a “But”. This indicates a departure from the other joyous converts in the city.

Simon practiced magic.

Simon said that he was someone who was great.

Simon had a following.

Simon was thought of as powerful and even thought of as the power of God that was great.

Simon not only had a following but he had power over people. The people paid attention to him.

People hear about the rule of Jesus (Philip preached about the good news of the kingdom of God and Jesus’ powerful name v. 12) and they believed and were baptized.

Simon sees that his crowd and power are gone.

He has a competitor in Philip. He better try and keep up with the new act in town.

So, Simon “believes” and is “baptized” along with everyone else.

Jesus was used as a vehicle for keeping power, so why not follow this majority trend and hold on to as much power as one possibly can?

(Simon is presented here as a magician. And he is. I’m convinced that much of our “magic” in the post-Christian south is the lie that we and our ends are more vital than God and his kingdom and we use the gospel to sooth our consciences and give us a fake assurance we won’t go to hell so that we can feel good about doing what we want and then running to the church to make it all better when all falls apart.)

Simon then tries to buy the ability to manipulate the Holy Spirit.

Simon misunderstands, because he is not a follower of Jesus.

He thinks the power to “summon” the Spirit lies within the apostles.

He doesn’t know that the Spirit moves as he wills (John 3) and that the Spirit is giving evidence to the apostles of his inclusion of the Samaritans into the kingdom and their equal status with Jews.

Simon just wants the power.

The apostles have to rebuke him quite harshly. Simon was in bitterness, probably for losing his magic business and crowd and he was bound up in sin (v. 23).

Simon gives his motives away when he requests they pray that nothing terrible happen to him rather than repenting (v. 24).

What do we do with this?

1. We are going to have to deal with people who are into Jesus for what they can get out of Jesus rather than the surrender of themselves, their agenda and everything to Jesus.

2. We are going to have to discern the difference between people who use Jesus for power and those who truly follow Jesus and be careful to keep ourselves in a position to speak prophetically to them.

This situation sounds much like our political landscape. Being a Christian is a good instrument in the hands of people wanting to gain, maintain or expand power.

The apostles saw through Simon’s antics and rebuked his sin.

Many today practice “Simony” (playing for power and influence for selfish gain) and “Christian” leaders follow “Simon” rather than prophetically rebuking the “Simony” practices of “Simons”.

4. The gospel of the kingdom makes peace between former enemies and is witnessed to by Jews laying hands on Samaritans and the Spirit being given to display the equality of Samaritans and Jews in the kingdom 8:14-17, 25

The Spirit is not channeled by the apostles laying on of hands. The Spirit is given through the laying on of hands.

The apostles learn that the Samaritans had not received the Spirit. So, they lay hand on them, as is custom to do when praying for someone, and through human touch (which no good Jew would do to a Samaritan) the Spirit is given.

This is key!

It’s not a prescription for a second work of the Spirit, this Samaritan Pentecost. It is evidence given to the apostles that the Kingdom makes two formerly separate people into one new people.

The gospel of the kingdom makes peace between former enemies…
Ephesians 2:11-22
“Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”

Acts 10:44-48 Makes it clear
“While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.”

What do we do with this?

1. The gospel of the kingdom is to go to all nations not just our own and we must expect this and make provision for this.

2. Recognize that distinctions within the kingdom are sin and we must not make them.

3. Anticipate and prepare for integration of those God brings into his kingdom who are not like us on the outside.

5. Worship
Acts 8:8 “So there was much joy in that city.”

The gospel of the kingdom saves. Saved people are people liberated from death. That comes with much joy.

Worship, whether from the depths of despair or the mountain tops of elation, is produced form a joy that we have been rescued from the domain of darkness and death and transferred to the kingdom of the Son.

So, worship is the only joyous and fitting response for citizens of the kingdom.