Dr. Candida Moss, a historian, professor and expert of New Testament and early Christianity whose research and writings often draw the ire of conservatives and liberals alike, recently said that she hasn’t encountered anything in her extensive research that would lead her to abandon faith in a higher power.
My readings today were from the book of James, which I have a particular fondness for. One part of it struck me again and would not leave the forefront of my mind. It is a familiar passage, but one that bears mentioning. James 1:13-17. I want to begin with what “John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes” has to say on these verses.
But let no man who is tempted – To sin. Say, I am tempted of God – God thus tempteth no man.
Every man is tempted, when – In the beginning of the temptation. He is drawn away – Drawn out of God, his strong refuge. By his own desire – We are therefore to look for the cause of every sin, in, not out of ourselves. Even the injections of the devil cannot hurt before we make them our own. And every one has desires arising from his own constitution, tempers, habits, and way of life. And enticed – In the progress of the temptation, catching at the bait: so the original word signifies.
Then desire having conceived – By our own will joining therewith. Bringeth forth actual sin – It doth not follow that the desire itself is not sin. He that begets a man is himself a man. And sin being perfected – Grown up to maturity, which it quickly does. Bringeth forth death – Sin is born big with death.
Do not err – It is a grievous error to ascribe the evil and not the good which we receive to God.
No evil, but every good gift – Whatever tends to holiness. And every perfect gift – Whatever tends to glory. Descendeth from the Father of lights – The appellation of Father is here used with peculiar propriety. It follows, “he begat us.” He is the Father of all light, material or spiritual, in the kingdom of grace and of glory. With whom is no variableness – No change in his understanding. Or shadow of turning – in his will. He infallibly discerns all good and evil; and invariably loves one, and hates the other. There is, in both the Greek words, a metaphor taken from the stars, particularly proper where the Father of lights is mentioned. Both are applicable to any celestial body, which has a daily vicissitude of day and night, and sometimes longer days, sometimes longer nights. In God is nothing of this kind. He is mere light. If there Is any such vicissitude, it is in ourselves, not in him.”
Wesley’s explanation is good I believe even if the language is a bit dated. I was to talk about the application of this however. The whole of scripture must be taken together. In that spirit, I want to talk about how this practically fits in with our lives and how we choose to live them. We are, upon salvation, called to be Christ like. That means that we are called to live a life as He did…we are called to be a good and perfect gift. We are called not to evil, but to holiness. Called to be a gift that tends to glory. In our bickering, how are we a good and perfect gift? In our insulting of each other, how are we being a good and perfect gift? How often is it that we are confusing our lusts- the lust to be right, to be liked, to be heard, to be famous or rich or etc etc etc…and then claim it as from God? To often I suspect.
We are to be Christ like. Christ came into the world not to condemn it, but to save it. That should be our mission as well. That does not mean that we ignore or condone sin, but rather we seek to show people a better way. Saying something is a sin is not condemnation. Jesus stood not only as a voice for those that did not have one, but took action as well. He didn’t just talk about feeding the hungry, He did it as well. We, like Jesus need to be sure that our words are balanced by our deeds. Talking about it is not enough, we must take action as well. We can not just hear the word, we must live the word. Jesus prayer was “Thy will be done”. Ours needs to be as well. Christ stands alone as the only pure example of a good and perfect gift from above and He is the example we are to follow. My hope and prayer for all of us will now include that we become closer each day to being a good and perfect gift in a badly flawed world. I hope yours will as well.
I was sitting in my car listening to Sirius 58 (Prime Country) when Reba’s “Fancy” came on. I have come to hate this song. I mean, here is a girl forsaken, orphaned, and downtrodden who turns to her body to help save herself.
There are a numerous amount of prosperity, believe it and achieve it type pastors out there, and I want to begin by laughing at them and their flawed concept of scripture. They would have you believe that if you are “good” you will somehow be rewarded and if you have not been rewarded you are not good enough, have not given enough etc. I am going to be talking about positive attitude, but not in that framework.
I do believe that a positive attitude is valuable for the Christian faith. God is love, light, truth. Every good and perfect gift comes from Him, so maintaining a positive attitude makes those things easier to find in the world. I don’t mean to minimize the sinful nature of the world, but rather to glorify God as He has revealed Himself to us through Christ and the scriptures, so that in the n=midst of the sinful nature of the world, we find the things that are of God. A positive attitude makes this easier as we view the world through our eyes. Our attitude will affect what we see. There are those who will say that God is no where to be found, but we, with a healthy and positive attitude can see Him much easier and refute the claim.
Some will tell you that a positive attitude will change things. They are wrong. No matter how positive your attitude, you will not make more money (although you may become a better employee and advance further), you will not stop hunger (although you may see the beauty of the hungry and become possessed of a desire to ease their suffering), it will not stop disasters (but it may allow you to see the opportunity to show God’s love by aiding in the recovery). The trend here is pretty simple to follow really, a positive attitude will not change anything…except you. I won’t say that a positive attitude is necessary in order to be conformed to the likeness of Christ, but it is a big help and makes the process of transformation much easier.
Finally, our attitude, whether positive or negative will slant how we view the world around us. Some of the cliches are true. Do we see problems or do we see opportunity? Are we overcome and paralyzed by suffering or do we see the chance to show love? Do we pray hoping for answers or do we pray that God will send us as the answer? These things and so many more are the results of something so basic as our attitude.
So to the overall topic really…the space. How do we fill the space in our lives? When we allow God to fill those spaces with His word and His mercy (both are necessary) then that space is filled with truth and love and our attitude naturally reflects that. When we do not allow God to do this, then our attitude sours as does our view of the world. People will notice. We claim to be Christians, then we need to represent that all the time. In the grocery store checkout that is to long, at the red light behind the car that won’t go on green, on the highway when we are cut off, etc. Those around us are going to notice and by our actions each and every moment, they are going to consciously or unconsciously make one of two observations. They are going to look and think “God is nowhere” or they will look and think “God is now here”. The witness that we show the world will be one of those two things…and if you look closely, it is all about the space.