Tuesday, November 24, 2020

96. James

James. Thru the Bible #53 J. Vernon McGee. 1975. 120 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: The Epistle of James is the first in a group of epistles customarily called General Epistles, which includes James, 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2, and 3 John, and Jude. They are designated as general or “catholic” epistles in the sense that they are universal, not being addressed to any particular individual or church, but to the church as a whole.

I am reading the Bible in 2020 using the daily M'Cheyne (Robert Murray M'Cheyne) plan. I thought it would add a layer of substance to in addition to the four chapters a day, to also read commentaries for those chapters. For that I am using Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible. But the plan goes through the New Testament (and Psalms, I believe) twice. So now that I've finished Henry's commentary for the New Testament, I am tackling the New Testament commentary section of J. Vernon McGee's series.

This is not my first time reading J. Vernon McGee. I've read probably twenty or so of his commentaries. Most recently Hebrews.

I really am LOVING McGee. This has been the best idea--to correspond my Bible reading with commentary reading.

James is a little book with a BIG, BIG, BIG bite. McGee's bite is mighty as he shares his insights on James.

  • The question is often asked whether the Christian is to experience joy in depth in all the trials and tensions of life. Very frankly, the answer is no—that is not what James is saying here. It leads to unreality to say that you are reconciled to the will of God when troubles come to you when you really are not reconciled. People piously say they have accepted God’s will yet go around with a long face and weep half the time. My friend, you are not reconciled to the will of God until you can rejoice.
  • Trials are meaningless, suffering is senseless, and testing is irrational unless there is some good purpose for them. God says there is a reason for them, and it is a good reason. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).
  • I must hasten to add that this does not necessarily mean that we will understand what purpose God has in it. This is the test of faith. We walk by faith and not by sight. Someone in the Middle Ages said, “God nothing does, nor suffers to be done, but what we would ourselves, if we could see through all events of things as well as He.”
  • It is patience which will make you a full-grown Christian, but how does God produce patience in you? The very interesting thing is that patience is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. You will never become patient by trying to be patient, but neither will the Holy Spirit place it on a silver platter and offer it to you as a gift. Patience comes through suffering and testing.
  • “But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” You will never be a “perfect”—that is, a complete, fully mature—Christian without patience. Some Christians therefore have never really grown up but have remained babes.
  • I made the statement as a pastor one Sunday morning that there were more babes in the church service than there were in the nursery downstairs. I tell you, I didn’t get too many laughs from that comment. The difference, however, is that the babies in the nursery were beautiful, but the ones sitting in the church service were not very pretty.
  • God must send us trouble so that we learn patience, which will also produce hope and love in the lives of men and women.
  • When I teach the Book of Proverbs I liken it to a young man who is considering the catalogs he has received from different universities—among which is the University of Wisdom. Here in the Epistle of James we find a different school—the School of Hard Knocks. That is the school most of us are in today.
  • William Penn, the man from whom the state of Pennsylvania got its name, made this statement: “No pain, no balm. No thorn, no throne. No gall, no glory. No cross, no crown.”
  • Someone else has expressed it like this: “If I must carry a burden, Christ will carry me. Sometimes we must be laid low before we look high. In ourselves we are weak, even where we are strong. In Christ we are strong, even where we are weak. It’s not how long you’ll live, but how you are going to live.”
  • One year a flood washed out the wooden bridge on which the Santa Fe railroad crossed the river. They replaced it with a steel bridge, and when they completed it, they brought in two locomotives, stopped them on top of the bridge, and tied down both of the whistles. All of us who lived in that little town knew for sure that something was happening. We ran down to see what it was—all twenty-three of us! When we got there, one of the braver citizens asked the engineer, “What are you doing?” The engineer replied, “Well, we built this bridge, and we are testing it.” The man asked, “Why? Do you think it’s going to fall down?” That engineer drew himself up to his full height and said, “Of course it will not fall down! We are proving it won’t fall down.” For the same reason, Jesus was tested to prove that you and I have a Savior who could not sin. God cannot be tempted with sin, and God will not tempt you with sin.
  • Is temptation sin? Of course it’s not sin; the answer is definitely no. It is when the conception takes place—when the thought in the heart is carried out in action—that temptation becomes sin.
  • Martin Luther expressed it in this novel way: “You cannot keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from nesting in your hair.” Sin is the consummation of the act inwardly and outwardly.
  • Now we rationalize sin today. We rationalize our bad tempers. We rationalize our gossip. We rationalize a lot of polite sins, and we even rationalize gross immorality; but the Bible calls them sins.
  • God is not on a yo-yo like a lot of Christians are today—up today and down tomorrow, and round and round they go.
  • “Let every man be swift to hear.” Swift to hear what? To hear the Word of God, of course. After you have been begotten by the Word of God, you are not through with it. You are going to grow by the Word of God. You have something that is living, powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword (see Heb. 4:12). Oh, how we need to be alert and quick to hear the Word of God.
  • “Slow to speak.” God gave us two ears and one mouth—there must be a very definite reason for that. There is a real danger of our talking too much.
  • Christians need to be very careful not to reveal their ignorance of the Word of God. Listen to Him. Yes, the Bible says, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,” but we need to be very careful what we say.
  • My friend, God isn’t asking anything of you until you become His child. But to those of us who have become children of God, He says, “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.”
  • The Bible is not a popular book today. It is the best seller but the worst read.
  • Many years ago in eastern Tennessee the story went around about a mountaineer’s contact with some tourists who had camped in the hills around his area. Because the mountain folk didn’t see many tourists in those days, when the tourists left, this particular mountaineer went to look around the area where they had camped. He found several things they had left behind, including a mirror. He had never seen a mirror before. He looked into it longingly and said, “I never knew my pappy had his picture took!” He was very sentimental about it, of course, and took it home. He slipped into the house, climbed up into the loft and hid the mirror. His wife saw him do that but didn’t say anything. After he went out of the house, she went up to see what he had hidden. She found the mirror, and when she looked into it, she said, “So that’s the old hag he’s been running around with!” May I say to you, it is so easy to read the Word of God and to think it is a picture of someone else. It is a picture of you, and it is a picture of me.
  • The most difficult people to reach are those who are the most poverty-stricken and those who are the richest; it seems to be almost impossible to reach either class with the Word of God.
  • The problem today is not between political parties, and it is not even between the races. The problem in the world is the imbalance of wealth.
  • How we need to recognize today that it is sinful to think that we are better than someone else and to look down upon others. It does not matter who the man is, before God that man is on the same plane as you are.
  • we need to come to the Cross and accept Christ as our Savior.
  • Another story is told that took place in London when a great preacher, a very fine young man, by the name of Caesar Milan was invited one evening to a very large and prominent home where a choice musical was to be presented. On the program was a young lady who thrilled the audience with her singing and playing. When she finished, this young preacher threaded his way through the crowd which was gathered around her. When he finally came to her and had her attention, he said, “Young lady, when you were singing, I sat there and thought how tremendously the cause of Christ would be benefited if you would dedicate yourself and your talents to the Lord. But,” he added, “you are just as much a sinner as the worst drunkard in the street, or any harlot on Scarlet Street. But I am glad to tell you that the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, will cleanse you from all sin if you will come to Him.” In a very haughty manner, she turned her head aside and said to him, “You are very insulting, sir.” And she started to walk away. He said, “Lady, I did not mean any offense, but I pray that the Spirit of God will convict you.” Well, they all went home, and that night this young woman could not sleep. At two o’clock in the morning she knelt at the side of her bed and took Christ as her Savior. And then she, Charlotte Elliott, sat down and, while sitting there, wrote the words of a favorite hymn “Just As I Am”: Just as I am, without one plea, But that Thy blood was shed for me, And that Thou bidd’st me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come! Just as I am, and waiting not To rid my soul of one dark blot, To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot, O Lamb of God, I come! And then the final stanza: Just as I am—Thou wilt receive, Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve; Because Thy promise I believe, O Lamb of God, I come!
  • How then are we going to reconcile Paul and James? As someone has said, “Paul and James do not stand face to face, fighting against each other, but they stand back to back, fighting opposite foes.”
  • The story is told that the Devil had a meeting with his demons to decide how to persuade men that God was nonexistent. Since they themselves believed in His existence, they wondered just how to do it. One demon suggested that they tell people Jesus Christ never really existed and that men should not believe such fiction. Another demon suggested that they persuade men that death ends all and there is no need to worry about life after death. Finally, the most intelligent demon suggested that they tell everyone that there is a God, that there is Jesus Christ, and that believing in Him saves, but all you have to do is profess faith in Christ and then go on living in sin as you used to. They decided to use this tactic, and it is the tactic the Devil uses even today.
  • The tongue is the most dangerous weapon in the world. It is more deadly than the atom bomb, but no careful inspection is made of it. Some wag made the statement that it was a miracle in Balaam’s day for an ass to speak, but today it is a miracle when he keeps quiet. Someone else pointed out that it takes a baby two years to learn to talk and fifty years to learn to keep his mouth shut.
  • I believe fervently that the most dangerous thing in the world is the tongue. I think the church is more harmed by the termites within than by the woodpeckers on the outside.
  • Frankly, it is frightening to realize that God will judge us for the way in which we teach His Word, and we will be under His condemnation if our teaching is wrong. My friend, the more opportunity you have to give out the Word of God, the greater is your responsibility to God Himself.
  • My friend, I am of the opinion that if you had a tape-recorded message of everything you have said this past month, you would not want the world to hear it.
  • A brother of Henry Ward Beecher, a pastor in upper New York state, had a clock in his church that never would keep accurate time. So this man put a sign under that clock which read: “Don’t blame the hands. The trouble lies deeper.” This is what we need to recognize in ourselves. What we call worldliness is just the hands of the clock; the real trouble lies deeper.
  • Someone once asked Thackeray, “Why don’t you have some wonderful heroes in your novels? You always present little people.” Thackeray replied, “I hold a mirror up to nature, and I do not find heroes among mankind. They are filled with littleness and pettiness and strife and sin.” When you get to the end of Vanity Fair, Thackeray does a masterly thing. He says, “Come, children, let us shut up the box and the puppets, for our play is played out.” That is man. As Shakespeare said, he “struts and frets his hour upon the stage.” Man is filled with worldliness.
  • Since World War II there has been a breakdown of the wall of separation between the church and the world. The separation that many had practiced was legalistic and, I think, unscriptural. The church was like the little Dutch boy who was keeping his thumb in the dike. Then, in the aftermath of the war, along came television, lawlessness, immorality, and juvenile delinquency; first the beatniks, then the hippies, then dope and marijuana, and the philosophy of existentialism. A tidal wave swept over the dikes of separation, and even the little Dutch boy was washed away.
  • There is no simple answer to the question: What is worldliness? But I am going to let James give what I think is his very definitive answer. What is worldliness? James says that worldliness is strife and envy. We need to go back to chapter 3 to pick up his thoughts. In James 3:16 we read, “For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.” That is worldliness. And worldliness in the church has produced all the cults, denominations, factions, divisions, and cliques which have arisen and abound in the church today. Selfish desires, James makes it very clear, lead to war. This spirit of strife is worldliness; it is not Christian, and it is not the Christian approach. These are the things which represent the old nature. A man must be regenerated by faith in Christ and be indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
  • What is the cure for worldliness? It is prayer. It is, therefore, faith in God. The apostle John put it like this, “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4). The answer is to trust in God absolutely, to go to Him in prayer and commit to Him that which is in your heart.
  • Sin is never to be treated lightly. When I hear a Christian make light of sin, I have a sneaking notion that, on the side, when nobody is looking, he is indulging in sin. You are not to treat sin lightly, my friend; you are to mourn over your sins. The problem today is that Christians are not mourning over their sins.
  • We are told in the Word of God that covetousness is idolatry; it is the worship of things. But selfishness is when you worship yourself. There is a lot of that going on today; in fact, it is even being taught as a Christian virtue. We are told that we are to have great respect for ourselves and great confidence in ourselves. But the Lord Jesus said, “… without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).
  • If you think that by changing a political party you will somehow get a good deal for the poor, you are wrong. I don’t mean to be a pessimist, my friend, but you simply cannot look to mankind, to men who are grasping for power and money, and expect them to act righteously.
  • It would be very embarrassing if the Lord should come while you are sitting in judgment on someone else. You would suddenly find yourself in His presence with Him judging you.
  • The afflicted are to pray. The merry are to sing psalms. Some people go to church and then try to work up some enthusiasm. We ought to have the great passion and enthusiasm in our hearts even before we go to church, but we do not need to put on a false front.
  • If you say that it is God’s will for every Christian who gets sick to be healed, you must agree that the logical conclusion of that line of thinking is that the Christian will never die. He will be healed of every disease which causes death. May I say, that is ridiculous.
  • It is a cruel hoax perpetrated upon simple believers that it is God’s will for all to be healed.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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