Sunday, July 19, 2015, 7:31 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “He Lifted Our Burdens.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read James 2:1-13 (NASB). Personal Favoritism (vv. 1-4) My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? Favoritism can be defined as personal preference, partiality or prejudice. Partiality can be defined as: “a special fondness, preference, or liking for.” Prejudice can mean “an unfavorable opinion or a feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason” (dictionary.com). Prejudice comes in many forms. I have seen just as many underprivileged people (in the eyes of this world) be prejudiced toward those who are privileged, as I have those who are privileged be prejudiced towards the underprivileged. This idea of favoritism, in other words, is not confined just to favoring the wealthy, powerful, or most popular while dishonoring those who are poor (materially). Those who some people deem the despised of this world may be equally opposed to those who are esteemed as worthy by the world. In other words, prejudice (or favoritism) knows no bounds and is not reserved for just one class of people, for all people are born with sin natures, and thus we are all prone to showing partiality, based on our own personal thoughts or opinions, so we must all guard against such thoughts and behaviors. Yet, this determination to not show favoritism (personal preference or prejudice) toward a particular class of people, while showing poor treatment toward another class of people, must not translate into us being tolerant or accepting of sin, so we must guard against that, too. We must continue to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ for the salvation of all people, and we must be consistent in showing deep concern for those who call themselves followers of Christ but who are trapped in sinful behaviors. We must speak the truth in love one to another, so that we can help one another grow in Christ to maturity, and we must warn of the dangers of false teaching, so that others do not fall into the devil’s trap. We must also not participate in the sinful behaviors of others in any way in order to avoid showing favoritism or prejudice. We, who are holding to the truths of scripture, and who are preaching the gospel according to Jesus Christ, are being accused today of being bigoted because we don’t tolerate sin, because we refuse to participate in the sins of others, and because we are preaching repentance and obedience to Christ and to his commands. So, let us not confuse the two together, for many people are trying to trap followers of Christ into compromising their faith in Jesus Christ and their convictions about sin, on the threat that they will be tagged as bigoted, hatemongers, intolerant, judgmental, and the like. We should never treat others badly, i.e. we should be kind and loving toward all people, but as Jesus was, not as the world does. It is not kind to placate or to ignore sin or to forget the eternal destiny of those without faith in Jesus Christ. It is definitely not loving to join with the sinful in their sin just so they will like us or just so they won’t persecute us for our faith. It is not prejudicial to stand on what we believe, to hold to the truths of scripture, to preach against sin, and to call people to repentance. It is love for God and for others which compels us to preach the gospel, and to live what we say we believe. In the World’s Estimation (vv. 5-7) Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called? “The poor of this world” might be better translated as “The poor in the eyes (estimation) of the world, or the poor with respect to the things of this world.” In other words, “poor” is relative, i.e. it is in relation to the perspective of others as to what or who they deem as poor, or it is in relation to the societal standards of what constitutes poor and rich, in any given location, on the basis of material possessions and personal wealth. For instance, a poor person here in the USA might be classified a well-off person in another country, or what we might regard as middle class here in America might qualify as the wealthy in another. Also, a truly poor person in relation to material possessions might be more fulfilled and happy in this life as one who has lots of possessions and is continually lusting for more. I certainly like being able to pay our bills and to have extra to minister to the needs of others, and to treat ourselves occasionally to special things we didn’t use to be able to afford, but I also was blessed richly in other ways when we had to live completely on faith, not knowing, at times, how we would pay the next bill, not because we were living foolishly, but because we had taken a step of faith to trust God with our circumstances during some hard times. Yet, in reality, there are no guarantees in this world. My husband could lose his job tomorrow, and instantaneously we could be numbered among the poor in our country. The Apostle Paul said he knew what it was like to have plenty, and he knew what it was like to do without, yet he learned the art of being content in all circumstances. So, what is intended here by God choosing the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom? Certainly not all who are poor with regard to material possessions are chosen by God to be heirs of the kingdom of God, nor does this imply that all who are wealthy with regard to material possessions are not chosen by God. It appears to me that this has more to do with those who realize they need God, who are humble, and who know that they must depend upon God for all things. Those who are poor with regard to material wealth are perhaps more likely to look to God to meet their needs than those who are rich and who think they have possessions because of their own accomplishments. Yet, this also may be a reference to those who have humbled themselves before God, and who have surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ, for we cannot be heirs of the kingdom of God apart from faith in Jesus Christ. There are those who do not share the same faith in Jesus Christ as what we, who follow the teachings of Christ and those of the apostles, do. And, they may be guilty of dishonoring those who have that child-like faith in Christ and in his word. In the church of today they seem to honor those who are living sinful lives while they dishonor the godly who are following their Lord Jesus in obedience. So much of the institutional church of today patterns their meetings and their strategy around marketing the church to the sinful world, not to win them to faith in Jesus Christ, but to win them to the teachings, mission and purpose of the institution (business, corporation). Rather than preach the gospel of Jesus, they teach a diluted and twisted version of the gospel and they proclaim a false Jesus who tolerates sin, and who is pleased with us no matter what we do. So many church congregations have become followers of man in place of being followers of God, and those who refuse to compromise and to follow man over God are thus kicked to the curb, i.e. they are invited to leave and to go someplace else. I have seen this over and over again. The Law of Liberty (vv. 8-13) If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not commit murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment. In 1 Corinthians 12 we read that all believers in Jesus Christ are one body, and that we all need each other. One part can’t say to another part “We have no need of you,” but yet they do. In fact, they are trained to do this, and if you point this out to them, they just ignore you or they tell you that they were trained to be on the lookout for those with “strong convictions” and in how to get rid of them. I have seen this from church to church to church, and my husband and I went through church planters training, so we know from personal experience that this exists. So much of what is being taught in the institutional church today barely even resembles the gospel of Jesus Christ. So much of the teaching is drawn from Middle Eastern mystics or from human psychology and humanistic philosophy. In many churches you can’t even study just the Bible. You have to study some book written by some person who may or may not be teaching the Bible at all. So, favoritism is being shown, not only to the unbelieving world, but to false teachers who are teaching what is contrary to scripture, while those who are following the truths of scripture are being tagged as “extremists” who need to be reprogrammed or discarded. God will judge his church for such showing of partiality to those of this sinful world while ignoring or discarding those “extremists” (saints of God) who are still holding on to the gospel as taught by Jesus and the apostles. And, he will judge the church by that gospel (the law of liberty), because Jesus Christ died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24). He died that we might put away our old lives of living for sin and self, that we might be born anew of the Spirit of God, and that we might put on the new lives we have been given in Christ Jesus, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:20-24). He died that we might no longer live for ourselves but for him who gave himself up for us (2 Co. 5:15). He set us free from slavery to sin so we might become slaves of righteousness (Ro. 6). And, he died that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. If we walk (conduct our lives) according to the flesh, we will die, but if by the Spirit we put to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live (Ro. 8:1-14). By this gospel of Jesus Christ we will be judged. So, we need to believe in Jesus and live by the gospel according to Jesus and his NT apostles, and we need to reject every teaching which is contrary to God’s Holy Word. We need to not show favoritism to this sinful world while discarding and dishonoring those who are truly following Jesus with their lives; or by forsaking God’s word in favor of the teachings of man; or by dishonoring our Lord and his gospel of salvation in order to show honor to humans who are not walking according to the truth of scripture, but who are leading God’s people to follow after what is false; or by showing favoritism or prejudice in any other manner. Yet, we must never compromise the truth or our convictions about sin and holiness in order to not be tagged as intolerant and bigoted. God sets the standard of right and wrong, not man, so we need to follow God’s standard, which is found in his gospel (in scripture, the Bible), and we must stop following human standards for right and wrong. He Lifted Our Burdens / An Original Work / February 15, 2014 Based off Isaiah 9:2-7 People walk in darkness. They abide in their sin. It has power o’er them. True belief escapes them. Jesus Christ came to save them. He gave His life up for them; Crucified; died for our sin, So we might be forgiven, And have life up in heaven. Many come to know Him. God’s love now o’erflows them. They rejoice in vict’ry. Their sin is but hist’ry. We were once bound in slav’ry. Jesus lifted our burdens; Set us now free from Satan, So we now walk in freedom. Sin has no more dominion. Praise be to our Savior! He showed us His favor. He took all our burdens; Cast them all upon Him. He is our mediator; The Light which shines in darkness. Counselor in our troubles; He gives peace now in our hearts; Joy which is everlasting.