Our conflicts start from our desires. The Greek word is hedone. From this word the word Hedonism is derived. In philosophy, hedonism means the pursuit of pleasure as a purpose. Hedonism is pleasure-seeking as a way of life. â€œTaken to its extreme, it is relentless and ruthless pursuit of personal pleasure without regard for the others.â€(David Roper)
Why arenâ€™t dictators stepping down from their thrones? Why do nations dominate or kill the other? Why do we fight with our loved ones at home? Why do we fight even within the church? Why did Cain kill Abel, the first homicide in the universe?
Paul was honest about his past. He wrote to young Titus: â€œAt one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.â€ (Titus 3:3 NIV)
Desires, do we know what we want?
-Psychologists say because we are social beings, we strive to fulfill two important innermost desires: to be loved and to feel that we are significant.
Where can we find love? How do we feel we are significant?
C.S. Lewis writes in his sermon â€œThe Weight of Gloryâ€(1942):
â€œIndeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.â€
We are confused and sometimes lose our aim and direction. Little â€œmud piesâ€ give us temporary satisfaction. We stop there and lose the greater picture of the wonderful things God wants to offer us.1
So what are we going to do with our desires?
Do we need desire? Is desire an emotion created by God?
Let me clarify one thing. Pleasure and desire are good, God created them.
â€œForÂ everything created by God is good, andÂ nothing is to be rejected if it isÂ received with thanksgiving,Â 5Â for it is made holyÂ (put to its intended use) by the word of God and prayer. (1 Tim 4:4-5 ESV) (Italics added).
God created all these feelings and desires in us. We distorted them by sinning. You see pleasure becomes unlawful when we steal a watermelon, and we lose the enjoyment of eating it. We need to be domesticated. (The meekness of wisdom)
But because of our wrong desires, we envy, fight, quarrel and kill.
You desire and do not have, so you murder.Â You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. (James 4:2ESV)
King David stole Bathsheba from her husband Uriah (2 Sam 11,12). The pleasure of marriage was lost. His self pride was dominating in stealing the â€œonly lamb of the neighborâ€ as prophet Nathan said to King David, when confronting him with his sin.
Josephâ€™s brothers were jealous of their brother, they sold him as slave.
Coming back to James, the argument was not a theological debate; I believe their argument was based on power, who controls who? They craved influence. They wanted to be in control. They fought because their hearts were filled with envy, with desires for things they wanted but did not have.
Is this a problem today in our lives? Of course, and brother James is warning us today as well.
You do not have, because you do not ask.Â 3Â You ask and do not receive, because you askÂ wrongly, to spend it on your passions. (James 4:2b, 3)
How much time we give to God in prayer? We are too busy to ask; we donâ€™t want God to be involved in our lives; we donâ€™t even believe He can help; and if we try to bring God in the equation, it is all about US, me, my wants and desires.
Another reason that we donâ€™t ask God is because we are asking someone else or finding our satisfactions in something else.
So sad some attend church or even accept Christ for personal desire and gain. God is not a genie bottle that will grant your wishes. Others bargain with God: â€œGod, if you do this and that to me, then Iâ€™ll be faithful to you.â€
It does not work that way.
-What matters Most?
You adulterous people!Â Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?Â Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.Â (James 4:4 ESV)
Let us be careful how we read those verses. I have friends from the world. I believe we should have friends from the world. We are in the world but not of the world. The point here is in the context of priorities. I mean when your worldly values take over. The point here is when other things replace God. Is God first for you? Does God come first in your life? What matters most in your life? What is the most important thing in your life? Is there anything else taking the place of God? What are your idols?
Thus, James turns around gives an important point:
-Submit to God
Submit yourselves therefore to God.Â Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.Â 8Â Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.( James 4:7,8 ESV)
This is the key verse in this passage: Submit to God, surrender yourself to God
Some wander why we are moving to Fresno. Some think Fresno is too hot. Some think Fresno is a boring place. Some think no one leaves San Francisco to go to Fresno.
My simple answer to you is we are obeying God. We basically prayed and asked for new doors for ministry; and His will is not based on the beauty of cities or the weather. Let me remind you how we came to this church 12 years ago. Some thought we came to the US so that we leave Lebanon (the Middle East). Some thought we came because my brother lives here. Some thought we came because of my childrenâ€™s future. People misjudged us. When I left Beirut, my ministry was booming. Emmanuel church was full of people. We had made new pews and they were filled. I loved Lebanon and I do until today. We prayed and came here because we obeyed God. We knew God is leading us for a purpose; we obeyed His will. And now in the same way, we continue praying that God will bring a new pastor to CACC and may He use us in Fresno.
My first sermon to you 12 years ago was get out of the boat, so God can use you. Get out of your comfort zone and be useful in His Kingdom. After 12 years, I will repeat the same message: Surrender to God, ask His will for your life, and be a useful instrument of God. Brother James is practical; he is challenging us by putting our words in action, our faith in expression and manifestation.
Thus, my last words to you:
Be empty, come poor, be ready to be filled with Godâ€™s Spirit.
Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you,
I know this is the Bay area, and the financial challenge is enormous comparing with other places in the world. Yet, financial challenges can become a hindrance for each of us to submit to His Will. Watch outâ€¦
Draw near to God, and God is there in open arms waiting to embrace you.
1 Please read more about what C.S. Lewis said in that sermon about desires. You can find online at: http://www.verber.com/mark/xian/weight-of-glory.pdf
I have been married for 31 years. It took me long time to understand that there are two kinds of conversations: emotional conversations and problem-solving conversations. If you have not figured it out until now, this can help you. I donâ€™t know about you but as a man, I always think I should fix the problems. But you see sometimes our wives like to have an emotional conversation where the intention is not to fix things. The intention of that conversation is listening and understanding without trying to fix. By the way, if you try to fix, it ends up in a worse situation. Yet, there are conversations intended for problem solving. If you just stand there, listen and do nothing, it doesnâ€™t go anywhere. She is waiting for you to jump in, fix the problem or find a solution. Donâ€™t stare at her face and say you understand. But get out and do something.
Brother Jim is not having an emotional conversation, my dear CACC family; he is having a problem-solving conversation. James interested to solve a key problem in our lives. We are sinners and we need Christ; Christ should be manifested in our lives. He is practical, direct, to the point. He likes to see our faith and wisdom manifested, revealed. Our words and our faith, our mouth and our action should be in harmony. In todayâ€™s passage, James goes further even to the point of being offensive. Donâ€™t get offended; be open to hear what God is saying to you from His WORD.
What is bothering you? What needs to be fixed? Are you facing financial problem? Are you facing health issues? Is it emotional, sociological? Are you alone? Do you have genuine friends? Are you betrayed? Are you worried about what will happen to CACC after Badevli leaves?
Perhaps the problem is getting along with people in the church or outside the church. Brother Jim already brought forth so many problems, anger, too much talking and too little listening, ignoring the needs of the poor, greed, hypocrisy, pride and selfish ambitions, it is all about meâ€¦. And it seems in todayâ€™s passage brother Jim is dealing with a split in the church. There is a division. There is war. He will see how God would help us solve this problem.
He starts with a question (like last weekâ€™s passage):
â€œWhat causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?â€Â (James 4:1a ESV) He knew that there was a fight going on in the church. He knew there was some kind of division in the church. We donâ€™t know the nature of the argument. But from his answer, one can see that there is a serious problem within the church.
Brother Jim answers his question with another question:
â€œIs it not this, that your passions areÂ at war within you?â€ (James 4:1b ESV) â€œDon't they come from your desires that battle within you?â€ (James 4:1b NIV) Let us assume you had an important appointment with your wife and you forgot it. After some time, she will say: â€œDidnâ€™t we have date today?â€ Then she will ask, â€œDid you forget to write it down and save the date?â€ The second question is making the point. James is raising a second question making the point about our desires. Desires are great motivators; yet desires can be dangerous if they are not â€œdomesticated.â€ Jim says, the problem is more than quarrels; the problem is in your heart, in your soul.
In the beginning of 2017 a movie was released called â€œThe Last Words.â€ The main actress was Shirley MacLaine. She represented a retired businesswoman who wanted to control everything in her life, including her obituary. Strange, she hired a young writer from the local newspaper to write her obituary while she was alive. Poor writer! She interviews 20 people who knew this rich woman to get some information about her. She got nothing positive about her. And the story starts there. Suddenly this elderly, selfish, retired businesswoman faced what is important in life. Suddenly she faced the reality of life. Who has the last word in your life?
Brother James moves deeper in his writings about the essentials of a Christ-centered life. We all want to live meaningful lives and I believe this desire is God-given. We all want to live significantly and leave a legacy that will survive. Brother James is bold when it comes to the basic principles in Christian life, such as church leadership, teaching, being the Christ-like person from the heart, not just on the lips. We should be â€œdoersâ€ rather than â€œhearersâ€ only. We cannot claim we have faith when we ignore the poor, the orphan, the widow. If our actions do not match our words, there is something wrong.
Today Brother James raises an important question: Who is wise and understanding among you?Â (James 3:13a ESV)
â€œWisdom in the Bible originally meant technical experience or the ability to do a job wellâ€ (David Roper). It means having the right skill in dealing with whatever happens in life: the capacity to live a life that ought to be lived. James is not interested in whether one knows about wisdom. It is not what we know that makes us wise, but what we are. Thus the source is not our abilities; it is not our DNA. You can be a genius but not wise. The source is from God, from ABOVE. Wisdom from ABOVE.
Evidence that one has wisdom from above:
â€œBy his good conduct let him show his worksÂ in the meekness of wisdom.â€ (James 3:13b ESV)Â
Wisdom from above is revealed, just like genuine faith is revealed and manifested.
Two important words here need to be discussed: Good and Meekness. (????? kalos, and ???????c praotes.)
In Greek, there are two words describing good: Kalos and Agatos.
-Agatos means: purely, intrinsically noble. Something that is good whatever someone notices it or not; it is good in itself.
-Kalos means attractive, beautiful, delightful.
James uses kalos here. Wisdom will appear on the person whose life is beautiful, attractive, holy, a life that makes our invisible Lord visible.
Peter expressed it best: â€œKeep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers,Â they may see your good deeds and glorify God onÂ the day of visitation.â€ (1 Peter 2:12ESV)
We will continue in English.
â€œBy his good conduct let him show his worksÂ in the meekness of wisdom.â€ (James 3:13b ESV)Â
-Good conduct and Meekness.
-Kalos: means attractive, beautiful, delightful.
James uses kalos here. Wisdom will appear on the person whose life is beautiful, attractive, holy, a life that makes our invisible Lord visible.
-Meekness: The word meekness in Greek is Praotes.
Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the world.
In the sermon on Mount we discussed this word. My sermon title was the Power of Meekness. Meekness is not being a doormat. No, by all means, no.
It has two applications:
1. Aristotle saw it as the happy medium between too much and too little anger. William Barclay translates this word: â€œBlessed is the person who is always angry at the right time and never angry at the wrong time.â€1
2. Another meaning one can find in Greek language for meek, Praus. â€œIt is the regular word for an animal which has been domesticated.â€2
There is power in meekness. Blessed are the meek, the ones who trust God, the ones who make a choice to give the control to God, the ones who listen, who wait for the Lord, who are not envious and jealous, the ones who restrain their tongue, the ones who are angry at the right time for the right cause.
So in my own words, James seems to be saying: â€œWho is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good and beautiful life, by deeds done in the gentle meekness of wisdom.â€
A life lived wisely is beautiful to behold; it is gentle and humble in nature.
Brother James spoke about genuine, true faith in chapter 2; faith should be expressed and manifested, right?
Wisdom from above, genuine wisdom, Godly wisdom will be expressed also. Its qualities will appear and oneâ€™s character will changeâ€¦
Now, watch out:
First, how do we get Wisdom from above?
James already mentioned in chapter one:
If any of you lacks wisdom,Â let him ask God,Â who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.Â 6Â ButÂ let him ask in faith, with no doubting.. (James 1:5-6 ESV)
We pray for different reasons. We ask God for different things. I wonder if we pray to God and ask for wisdom, not any kind of wisdom, but wisdom that is from ABOVE. Wisdom that is meek and gentle. Wisdom that leads you to trust God and obey Him.
Let me ask the question James raised again:
Who is wise and understanding among you?
This is a relevant question to ask in Bay Area. This is the city of wisdom and understanding, right?
Last week I was saying we live in the abundance of information. What are we doing with that information? Are we becoming better citizens?
Let me quote you Bernard of Clairvaux from the 11th century (1090-1153)
â€œThere are those who seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge, that is curiosity. There are those who seek knowledge to be known by others, that is vanity. There are those who seek knowledge in order to serve, that is love.â€
Brother James is interested in genuine faith and wisdom. And the source is not us; it is God who gives it to all of us. Be ready to receive it in meekness.
-Wisdom which is earthly
Brother Jim describes wisdom from below:
But if you have bitterÂ jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.Â 15Â This is notÂ the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual,Â demonicâ€¦(James 3:14-15ESV)
Bitter jealousy, selfish ambition, boasting; talking false truth; in other words, a prideful person who just thinks about his/her ambitions.
Listen to what C.S. Lewis said about pride: â€œPride is essentially competitiveâ€¦Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better looking than others. If everyone else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking, there would be nothing to be proud about. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest.â€ 3Â This is the wisdom from below.
-Wisdom from ABOVE
ButÂ the wisdom from above is first pure, thenÂ peaceable, gentle, open to reason,Â full of mercy and good fruits,Â impartial andÂ sincere.18Â AndÂ a harvest of righteousnessÂ is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:17-18 ESV)
Pure: Sourp hagonosâ€¦
It carries the sense of having moral and spiritual integrity;
Peaceable: someone who believes in having the right relationships. Many of us are all too willing to sacrifice purity for the sake of peace. First pure, if you need to live in right relationships with each other, the truth should come out to be peaceable. No inner peace in cover-upâ€¦
Gentle (considerate): We will not be quick to anger or harsh with others; instead we will show kindness and generosity.
Open to reason (Submissive): Have you worked with people saying: my way or highway? Nothing for reason, nothing for talking and learning..
â€œDo nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.â€ Philippians 2:3-4
Full of mercy and good fruits: The merciful person handles people with sensitivity and compassion. He/she understands when people suffer to make stupid mistakes. He/she feels with them and offers them love, care and compassion.
Impartial andÂ sincere: We already discussed about being impartial, no favoritismâ€¦
Harvest of righteousness. In sermon on the mount I defined righteousness having right relationshipsâ€¦.
Dave Dravecky. Dave was a very successful pitcher for the San Francisco Giants baseball team (1987-89) and was quite open about his Christian faith. After seven years in the major leagues, he had to have his arm and shoulder amputated due to cancer. Which means he could not play anymore baseball. A reporter asked him if he was bitter about losing his arm, resulting in the end of his professional baseball career. Dave responded, â€œAs a follower of Christ I have come to measure success not in the height of my achievements, but in the depth of my relationships.â€ Wisdom from above teaches us to face life with this attitude.
In the Armenian sermon I said: Godly Wisdom means having the right skill in dealing with whatever happens in life: the capacity to live a life that ought to be lived. James is not interested in whether one knows about wisdom. It is not what we know that makes us wise, but what we are. Thus the source is not our abilities; it is not our DNA. You can be a genius but not wise. The source is from God, from ABOVE.
Again, I will ask the question brother Jim asked: â€œwho is wise and understanding among you?â€
Or let me ask in different way: â€œWhat is the quality of your relationships? Are they characterized by meekness, gentleness, purity and peace? Is there evidence of peace, open to reason, submissiveness, mercy, impartiality and sincerity?â€
Ask wisdom from above, and you will receive.
Be Thou my Wisdom, Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee, Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.
1. William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible, Matthew P 96
3. C.S. Lewis,Â Mere ChristianityÂ (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Collier Books, 1952), 109.
We hear so many sad stories about bullying. Last year I heard a story about a young boy was bullied and, as a result, he killed himself.
We speak around 8 million words in our lifetime. That is a lot of words. What are we saying to each other?
Words can be either harmful or fruitful!
Please check yourself this morning. Are you an edifier, encourager or a criticizer who always sees something wrong in people and situations?
-Words can lead us to the right or wrong directions. We need to discipline our words. How many times you said things about which you regretted and wished you had held your mouthâ€¦
If we putÂ bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well.Â 4Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs.Â 5So also the tongue is a small member, yetÂ it boasts of great things. (James 3:3-5)
Two metaphors: a bit in the horseâ€™s mouth and a ship rudder. Both metaphors draw the picture of a huge thing (whether a horse or a or ship) that can be directed to the right destination.
Illustration: Last year I met former students from the Ainjar School. These twin brothers came to school neglected from their family. We raised them in Ainjar. Those kids had behavioral issues in the school. They were always in trouble. The worst thing was that some teachers told them: â€œYou guys will never be someone.â€ Tovk mart bidi [ullak1 They saw me in Beirut after many years. They were successful restaurant owners in Lebanon. They said: â€œBadveli, you always encouraged us with your kind words when no one believed in us. Thank you for your words.â€
Words can lead people to despair (wrong direction) or to success with encouragement (right direction).
Brother James adds a new metaphor: an undisciplined tongue is like fire.
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!Â 6AndÂ the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members,Â staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life,Â and set on fire by hell. (James 3:5-6)
How do you stop bad words? How do you stop spreading rumors? How do you stop gossip? Once the word is out, you cannot catch it anymore, like a small fire that can burn thousand acres of land. In California, we see that happening every summer.
In the following verses, Brother James encourages us to tame the tongue, because the same mouth is cursing and praising God. That is not right.
Wordsâ€¦ words matter.
-How about looking back to Genesis and seeing how words mattered to God.
In the beginning, nothing was thereâ€¦ â€œand God saidâ€¦â€ For six days, we see â€œGod saidâ€¦â€
Wordsâ€¦ God said and it was createdâ€¦God filled the void. God spoke and the day and the night, the moon and the stars, light and darkness, waters and lands, animals eventually humans were created. Let there be LIFE!
These words were intended to tell us something very true about the character and the nature of God. God fills voids. God brings life. God is the master artist who speaks and createsâ€¦ Isnâ€™t this wonderful?
God brings something into being, and then he affirms it. He adds value. He uses His words to bless. A.W. Tozer sums this part of God's character. He says, "This word of God is the breath of God filling the world with living potentiality."1
Genesis chapter 3 brings another reality, where words can deceive and destroy. When the Devil speaks, it destroys. The serpent deceived humanity with words. And it is like a domino effect. The blame game started each blaming the other for their disobedience to God. Until today, we play this game, never taking responsibility of our sin and blaming someone elseâ€¦
Words matter: words can destroy or build; words can bless or curse; words can create or deceive and destroy.
-Words are from your heart
A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. (Luke 6:45NIV)
The tongue, the mouth is where the words are uttered. But the tongue is actually just a muscle which is controlled by our heart, our innermost being.
-If you examine yourself and find that your words are destructive, it means there is something wrong in your heart. There are dark parts in your heart. You heart needs cleansing.
Jesus criticized the Pharisees and the Scribes because their heart was not cleansed. Jesus made a point that related with the people who looked at the outside. â€œThese people honor me with their lips,Â but their hearts are far from meâ€ (Matthew 15:8NIV)
David Roper says:
â€œOur words are formed deep within in our hearts. Good words come from the good in us; evil words flow from the evil we have accumulated within. If we want to deal with our tongues, weâ€™ve got to get our minds right.â€ 2
Solomon warns about the heart:
â€œWatch over your heart with all diligence,
For from it flow the springs of life.
Put away from you a deceitful mouth,
And put devious lips far from you.â€ (Prov. 4:23-24 NAS)
There is a story attributed to Cherokee wisdom:
One evening a grandfather was teaching his young grandson about the internal battle that each person faces.
"There are two wolves struggling inside each of us," the old man said.
"One wolf is vengefulness, anger, resentment, self-pity, fear...
"The other wolf is compassion, faithfulness, hope, truth, love..."
The grandson sat, thinking, then asked: "Which wolf wins, Grandfather?"
His grandfather replied, "The one you feed."
Paul says it best in the Word of God:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Phil 4:8ESV)
1. AW Tozer: The Pursuit of God. - World Invisible, chapter 6: The Speaking Voice
2. David Roper: Seeing God
I hated it when teachers showed favoritism at school. Some students came from certain influential families and they were the chosen ones. I hated favoritism.
Favoritism existed in the life of the early church. People of high class in the Roman world of the 1st Century would be wearing golden rings on their fingers. Only senators, high-rank officials or rich men could wear those rings. If you were not one of them, you could be punished or beaten for wearing a golden ring. Wearing certain clothes was also exclusive for certain people. Clothing was all about reinforcing status. Everyone knew it and everyone accepted it. Not so for Brother James. Society was built around the recognition and preservation of rank and status. That meant you would get your seating arrangements according to your status. Like when you enter a flight these days, you walk by the first class till you get to your seat in economy class.
This was engrained in their culture. Is it also true in our culture as well?
Even disciples asked for favoritism. John and James (Son of Zebedee) pleaded Jesus: â€œGrant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.â€ (Mark 10:37ESV). Jesus said you donâ€™t know what you are asking for.
Brother James, the brother of Jesus teaches us there is no favoritism when we are facing our Lord Jesus Christ. God sees each of us a unique person, His beloved child. God loves His creation, regardless of our social status.
Let us clarify one thing. The rich does not automatically mean oppressor and poor automatically the favorites of God. On the other hand, the rich usually depend on their wealth and do not seek God; and the poor in their poverty tend to seek God.
The turning point in this passage is this verse:
Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? (James 2:5 ESV)
Paul also says: â€œBut God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong. (1 Corinthians 1:27ESV)
The point is this. God chose one side, the side of the poor. This is not favoritism. God chose the poor, because there is no other way to come to God. One has to be poor in spirit to be ready to be filled with Godâ€™s presence in his/her life.
Therefore: â€œBlessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heavenâ€. (Matthew 5:3 ESV)
In my sermons on the Beatitudes, I was teaching you that Jesus taught us values that the world will reject. His teaching was about â€œliving right-side up in an upside down world.â€ N.T. Wright says: â€œGod is acting in and through Jesus to turn the world upside downâ€¦ to pour out lavish â€˜blessingsâ€™ on all who now turn to him and accept the new thing that he is doing.â€
Dallas Willard says: "The great inversion. God now is turning everything upside down. This transcends human arrangements, culture, politicsâ€¦everything."
What can I learn from this short passage?
Jesus Christ is the Good News, Avedis. It's good news for the poor, the orphans, the widows, the trafficked, the hungry, the bullied, the refugees, as well as the engineers, the startup CEOs, the venture capitalists, for all.
Our prayer is: "God, you're watching over me all the time, you donâ€™t look at my worldly status, you care about my commitment and heart. Here's my heart. How can I love you more?"
Joy is something everyone searches. People want to live happy lives. Last week the United Arab Emirates appointed a minister for the newly founded Ministry of Happiness. There is another country that has such a Ministry. It is Venezuela.
Life, Liberty and Purse of happiness
Top 20 'Happy' Songs of All Time according Billboard.com
-Happy Together (The Turtles) (1967)
-Donâ€™t Worry Be Happy (Bobby McFerrin) (1988)
-â€œThe Happy Organ,â€ Dave 'Baby' Cortez (1959)
-â€œMy Happiness,â€ Connie Francis (1958)
-â€œIf You Wanna Be Happy,â€ Jimmy Soul (1963)
-â€œYouâ€™ve Made Me So Very Happy,â€ Blood, Sweat & Tears (1969)
-â€œLove Can Make You Happy,â€ Mercy (1969)
-â€œHappy Days,â€ Pratt & McClain with Brother Love (1976)
- Happy (From Despicable me2) Pharrell Williams (2013) (800 miliion hits)
Many and many songs are composed about happiness. Even governments are interested in creating happiness in the society in raising the happiness index.
What Jesus is saying in the context that we will have joy and the joy will not be taken from us.
These things I have spoken to you, that myÂ joyÂ may be in you, and that yourÂ joyÂ may be full. (John 15:11)
You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. (John 16:20 ESV)
So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take yourÂ joyÂ from you. (John 16:22 ESV)
Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that yourÂ joyÂ may be full. (John 16:24 ESV)
But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have myÂ joy fulfilled in themselves. (John 17:13 ESV)
Seven times Jesus mentions JOY. My Joy may be in you; your Joy may be full; your hearts will rejoice; no one will take your Joy from you; my Joy will be fulfilled in themselves.
Having a joyful heart is like medicine to you, to your household, and to your environment. The world seeks happiness and joy. We use these words interchangeably. â€œLife, Liberty and the Pursuit of happinessâ€ is a well-known phrase in the United States Declaration of Independence.
Let me remind you again the context of John 13-17 which contains the last words of Jesus before completing his earthly ministry. Those chapters are called the Upper Room discourse. Jesus is departing. The disciples are saddened and confused. Jesus is preparing them for those times by repeating the phrase, â€œLet not your hearts be troubled.â€
The world will reject us. The world will hate us. But the world cannot take from us the JOY that Jesus promised to give us.
What is this joy that no one can take away? Is it a feeling? How can we have it?
- Jesus found joy in obeying the will of His Father
Jesusâ€™ life was fulfilled by pleasing His Father. Jesus experienced joy by obeying the will of His Father and remaining in his Fatherâ€™s love. â€œMy food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. (John 4:34)
Jesusâ€™ incarnation has a goal. He came because he obeyed his Father. It was his Fatherâ€™s will that Jesus would be born and go all the way to the cross to pay the penalty of sin. Humanity was fallen in sin. There was no other alternative to repair this world.
I searched songs about happiness and joy. I found interesting songs:
What are those things that Jesus taught us?
1. JOY in knowing God
Which means you acknowledge that there is only one God, (who expresses himself in triune way, God the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit) that we glorify and worship.
But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. (Isaiah 64:8)
Knowing that our God is supreme, the BEST, the creator, the redeemer, the Alpha and Omega, and I am his creature is the sense of having inner peace and joy.
Funny, we do this in sport. We go and watch basketball games where they are really supreme (just watch a Warriors game). We go and listen to musicians who are masters of the instrument. We go to museums to see paintings of giants of art. Why? We enjoy watching, observing, listening to the MASTERS.
John Piper says it well:
Why are we willing to be exposed in all these places as utterly inferior? How can we get so much joy out of watching people magnify their superiority over us? The biblical answer is thatÂ we were made by God to get our deepest joys not from being superior ourselves but from enjoying Godâ€™s superiority.1
Do you enjoy Godâ€™s supremacy on your life? God is my potter, and I am the clay. If this concept does not enter in your heart, you will never, never, never find HIS JOY.
2. Joy in Experiencing Godâ€™s Presence
Psalm writer says:
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness ofÂ joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)
You love your spouse and you enjoy your relationship not only when they do something for you. You enjoy being with hour spouse. Our joy is not based on merits. We cannot get the approval of God. His Grace is sufficient. By the way, Joy and Grace come from same word Chara. Godâ€™s grace is given to us as gift. His joy is knowing Him and being in Him. IN your presence there is fullness of JOY. Do you like to experience Godâ€™s joy this way?
Rick Warren says: Everyday relax in Godâ€™s grace. I need to remind myself everyday who God is in my life. That is a great source of JOY.
3. Joy in obedience and trust
The best example is Jesus. His obedience to His Fatherâ€™s will. He constantly reminded us in his words that he comes from the Father. He does his Fatherâ€™s will. He trusts his Father.
God is my GPS. (Godâ€™s Pointing System). I do not see the future. I do know He knows and He leads me. I obey and trust Him. It means â€œI get out of the boat and walk on the waterâ€¦â€
Let me just remind you one of the parables. When Jesus said the parable of talents, the one who got 5 and 2 invested and brought everything to their master. They obeyed and the commands of the master. The response of master is so important:
His master said to him, â€˜Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.â€™ (Matthew 25:21 ESV)
Learning to trust God when I see how God is using Nanorâ€¦.
4. Joy in waiting for the LORD
How do you start your day? What are you looking forward everyday to happen to you?
â€œBe still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!â€(Psalm 46:10)
Dallas Willard said once:
â€œYou must arrange your days so that you are experiencing total contentment, joy, and confidence in your everyday life with God â€“ that and that alone is what makes a soul healthy.â€
â€œBLESSED are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they go right on producing delicious fruit.â€(Jeremiah 17:7-8 NLT)
Let me repeat the four ideas:
1. JOY in knowing God
2. Joy in Experiencing Godâ€™s Presence
3. Joy in obedience and trust
4. Joy in waiting for the LORD
What are you waiting for? Recvice His Joy in your heartâ€¦
Donâ€™t we like giving opinions about everything? We often give opinions even when weâ€™re not asked. Whether we know the topic or not, we share our views. I donâ€™t mean to say Christians should have no opinions. In fact, we need convictions and not just empty opinions. We need to believe in what we say, and courageously stand behind our beliefs. We may be experts in sharing opinions, but when it comes to obedience to the Wordâ€¦ I am not sure.
Quick to Listen and Quick to Obey: Do IT
â€œDo not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.Â Â Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirrorÂ and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.Â (22-24)
Our Lord Jesus said:
Why do you call me, â€˜Lord, Lord,â€™ and do not do what I say? (Luke 6:46)
We keep hearing and not obeying. â€œWhy do you call me â€˜Lord, Lordâ€™ when your life does not show that you believe in me? When you listen and not obey the Word, you deceive yourself.â€
In fact, Jesus continues with the parable of wise man who builds his house on a rock (commitment to Jesus, foundation on the solid ground of His Word) and the foolish man who builds his house on sand (easy to build, instant results, no commitment, no strings attached...).
James gives the example of a mirror. How long do you remember what you saw in the mirror? Do you take action to fix whatever needs to be fixed? If you just go by and forget what you saw in the mirror, it will be like reading the Word of God and doing nothing about it.
When you hear something, do it, take action. Do not postpone or ignore.
Do not be like young Augustine who said: â€œMake me pure, Lord, but not yet!â€
You see, when we hear the Word of God, like just now when you are in the listening mood, data will go in. The process of thinking is the next thing. Then comes applying and taking action. James says, â€œActâ€. Jesus says, â€œStop saying Lord, Lord when you are not going to obey me!â€
Here is the advice Screwtape (Big Devil) gives to Wormwood (Little Devil):
â€œThe great thing is to prevent the Christian from doing anything. As long as it does not convert it into action, it does not matter how much he thinks about this new experience. Let him wallow in it. Let him write book about it; this is an excellent way of sterilizing the seeds which is the Enemy plants in the human soul. Let him do anything but act.â€1 (CS Lewis)
I donâ€™t care how religious you are. If the Word of God is not actively transforming your life daily into a Christ-like character, there is something wrong in your walk. Walk the talk.
1. CS Lewis, Screwtape Letters
What does it mean to be slow to speak?
While you are slow in speaking, allow God to talk to you. While you are slowing down, allow God to appear in your relationships.
Some of us talk too muchâ€¦ Just imagine a STOP sign. Just please ask yourself right my voice?â€
This week, I would like to work on this. Slow down in your talk and do not interrupt others who are talking with you. I am not good in this. I always interrupt others. I am asking you and myself: allow others to talk and do not interrupt.
You see I think we interrupt because we like to be in control. Just allow the control to be in the hand of God and not yours. Relax, be calmâ€¦ allow God to work in your lifeâ€¦
When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. (Proverbs 10:19 ESV)
Donâ€™t talk so much. You keep putting your foot in your mouth. Be sensible and turn off the flow! (Proverbs 10:19 NLT)
My mom often advised me those verses.
Words and words and wordsâ€¦
Are you hiding behind words and wordsâ€¦? Ask yourself: â€œGod, what are those words telling me? Is there something going on in my soul that needs to be healed? Am I afraid to expose my soul to you and words are just coming out covering my real problems?â€
2. What does it mean to be quick to hear?
The word quick or swift can give us a wrong impression about the act of listening. It does not mean to listen to someone superficially.
Quick here means EAGER to listen, having the desire to understand or hear the person.
Listening is an act of HUMILITY. Listening is SERVANTHOOD.
It has two folds: hearing God and hearing people around us.
Counselors teach us the skill of active listening; it helps communication and the building of good relationships.
I have already spoken about listening to â€œothersâ€ carefully when we speak less.
Do you listen to God? Do you hear God? James is asking his audience to be EAGER to listen to the word of truth, having the passion to meet God and the patience to pay attention to God. It means it is a priority to listen to God. To listen or to hear the word of God in OT had one meaning: obey Godâ€™s voice. To listen and hear is not just a cognitive exercise; it is a relationship of obedience to God our maker.
-My example in listening carefully (to be EAGER to listen) is God himself.
Do you know our God listens?
Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear. (Isaiah 65:24 ESV)
God hears our prayers, God listens. It does not mean He obeys us, but God is my Father, Daddy. He listens to his children communicating with HIM.
Illustration: I have witnessed this many times in my life. I have seen how God listens to me; and he answers according to His will.
-My next example of learning how to listen is Jesus himself. He loved us; he asked questions, important questionsâ€¦ good listeners ask questions.
"What do you want?" "Who do the people say I am?" "Who do you say I am?" "What were you arguing aboutâ€¦?" he asked his disciples. "Why do you call me good?" "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" "Do you love me?" He asked Peter that question three times.
I was listening to pastor John Ortberg about this topic and he gave me those ideas about Jesus asking questions. How many questions do you think Jesus asked in the bible? 307 questions, and he answered only 3 of them.
Ortberg gives two reasons:
1. Jesus asked questions all the time. Very often, he'd pose a question and then not even give people the answer. Part of what that tells us is Jesus would ask questions of tax collectors, prostitutes, fishermen, religious experts, and Gentiles because he was more interested in them than he was in himself. Life works that way in the Kingdom of God.
2. Then I think another reason Jesus would ask so many questions is he understood that a lot of times a good question can help somebody more than the right answer. Sometimes in the church, people of faith are so into wanting to make sure we know the right answer, we get other people to affirm the right answer. It's interesting how often Jesus just posed questions, because a lot of times people have to grow way more wrestling with the question than they do just hearing an answer.1
Jesus is the answer to the deepest searches in our lives. He is the answer to deep theological questions. The triune God works in mysterious ways with humanity. There are many questions raised in the Bible. Teachers say the best way we learn is asking questions. Struggling to find answers is another way to grow in faith. This is simple way to understand the triune God working with us.
3. Slow to Anger
James adds that people who speak a lot and they do not listen to God, eventually become angry and uncontrolled.
Paul said in Ephesians 4:26, â€œin you anger do not sinâ€.
However, human anger is usually destructive because it is self-centered.
â€œAnger is a means of communicating what we care about â€“ usually ourselves. It is a chemical and psychological reaction to our displeasure that the world is not as we wish.â€2Â
We are often angry for selfish reasons.
-Someone is driving slowly.
-You come home and there is nothing to eat. (ThisÂ is me)
-You go to the movie theater and there as a long line.
-You come to the church banquet, andÂ you areÂ seated at a table you donâ€™t like.
James says: for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.Â 21Â ThereforeÂ put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive withÂ meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
Can we become angry for good reason?
-God was angry when His people were in sin and committing injustice.
-Jesus was angry when the Pharisees and scribes misused Godâ€™s law. Instead of worshiping God, they worshiped the â€œlawâ€.
-John StottÂ says, â€œThe person who does not get angry does not care.â€
See what motivates your anger?
One â€œQuickâ€™ and two â€œslowâ€s
We give an opinion about everything. I mean we give opinions more than necessary. â€œChurch attendeesâ€ are experts in giving opinions, but when it comes to obedience to the Wordâ€¦ I am not sure. We need people of transformed character, and not just opinion givers. Therefore:
Be angryÂ and do not sin;Â ponder in your own heartsÂ on your beds, and be silent. OfferÂ right sacrifices,Â and put yourÂ trust in theÂ LORD. Psalms 4:4-5ESV)
Complain if you must, but donâ€™t lash out.
Keep your mouth shut, and let your heart do the talking.
Build your case before God and wait for his verdict. (Psalm 4:405 MSG)
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
Be quick and eager to listen and obey. Take time to recline quietly in your bed (in your quiet place) to search your heart so you can hear His voice. Ask questions like: â€œLord, how is my heart? How is my soul doing?â€ â€œWhy I am angry?â€ â€œHow can you heal my bitterness?â€
2Â NIV commentary on Ephesians p 256.