Beating Bias to Save Souls

We have hidden biases which damage our witness to Christ. For example:

  • We bias to the wealthy and against the poor
  • We bias to the powerful and against the weak
  • We bias to our nation/color and against others

Who can deny this problem or the damage it does to our witness to Christ? Can we beat bias and improve our witness? Yes, with the help of the Apostle James in James 2:1-4.

1. THE RICH CHRIST SHOWS NO BIAS

  • Christ is rich and powerful: He is described as “our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory” (1). You can’t get richer or greater than that, can you? And yet…
  • Christ shows no bias: Despite being the richest and greatest, Christ did not show favoritism to the rich and powerful. And he still doesn’t.

Christ was better than all, yet least biased of all.

Well, that’s beautiful, but so what?

2. FAITH IN CHRIST SHOWS NO BIAS

  • You have faith in Christ: “My brothers…you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory” (1).
  • You should show no bias: “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory” (1-4) James forbids favoritism towards the rich and powerful. Why? His basic argument is that who Christ is changes who believers in Christ are. What Christ did changes what believers in Christ do. If Christ is rich and powerful and showed no bias, and you are believers in Christ, neither should you show bias in your dealings with people.

Faith in the unbiased Christ produces fairness in unbiased Christians.

That’s tough but is it such a big deal?

3. BIAS DIVIDES AND REVEALS (2-4)

  • Bias is divisive: James describes a common scene from many a Sunday morning. “For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves” (2-4)
  • Bias reveals an evil heart: That visible evil reveals an inner evil. You’ve “become judges with evil thoughts” (4) You’re as evil as a biased judge in court.

Divisive bias is demonic bias.

Do you see how bias is a big deal and damages our witness to Christ?

LIVING THE BIBLE

Be unbiased in all areas of life as a powerful witness to Christ’s person and work.

PRAYING THE BIBLE

Creator of all people in your image, we confess that we have hidden biases which damage our witness to Christ. We are biased towards the rich, the powerful, and people like us, and we are biased against the poor, the weak, and those different to us.

We praise you for revealing your unbiased heart in Jesus Christ, the friend of sinners, who though he was great and rich, yet showed no sinful bias or favoritism based upon wealth, power, or similarity 

Increase our faith in Christ so that we are purged of evil and divisive thoughts, and become more like Christ in our hearts and conduct towards others.

Enable us to be unbiased in all areas of life as a powerful witness to Christ. Amen


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James 2v1-4 Pic


How valuable is your religion?

So many wrong ideas of religion abound today. How do we know what is true and what is false religion? How do we know if we have true religion? These are difficult questions to answer today for three reasons.

  • People are confused about what true religion is, leaving them in a state of uncertainty.
  • People are deceived about their religious status, thinking they have something valuable when they don’t.
  • People damage the cause of true religion, thinking they have something true beautiful when their words actions show it is false and ugly.

How do we get over these difficulties? Is there any way to know what is true and what is false religion? Is there any way to know if I have true religion? Yes, there is. In James 1:26 27, James helped his readers to distinguish between counterfeit and true religion in two ways.

1. WORTHLESS RELIGION HAS TWO FATAL FLAWS

“This person’s religion is worthless” (26). What characterizes this person with worthless religion? What devalues a person’s religion? There are two fatal flaws:

  • The fatal flaw of an unbridled tongue: “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue” (26). James pictures a tongue that is as uncontrolled and dangerous as a wild horse.
  • The fatal flaw of a deceived heart: He “deceives his heart” (26). beautiful a person’s religion looks from the outside if the person’s heart is not right with God, if it’s all a pretense, an act, it’s got a fatal flaw in God’s eyes and is therefore ugly and unacceptable to him.

Summary: An ungoverned tongue reveals an ungoverned heart.

Question: That helps me to identify what’s false and worthless. But how do I know what’s true and valuable?

2. PURE RELIGION HAS TWO BEAUTIFUL DIAMONDS

Pure religion is defined by God. “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this” (27). He then shines the spotlight on two beautiful gems.

  • The beautiful gem of visiting widows and orphans: “To visit orphans and widows in their affliction” (27). In James’s day, they were widows and orphans. Today they may also include single parents and refugees.
  • The beautiful gem of a holy life: “And to keep oneself unstained from the world” (27). James sees true religion as involved in this world but unspotted by the world. Getting our hands dirty but not our hearts.

Summary: Give yourself to the weak of the world, but keep yourself unspotted from the world.

LIVING THE BIBLE

Prove your religion is true, valuable, and beautiful by caring for widows and orphans and by holy living.

PRAYING THE BIBLE

God of truth, there are so many wrong ideas of religion around today.

Sometimes we are confused about what true religion is. We can even be deceived about our own spiritual state. We also grieve that so many claim to be Christians but their life contradicts their words and therefore damage true Christianity.

Steer us away from worthless religion by ridding us of the fatal flaws of an uncontrolled tongue and a deceived heart.

Steer us towards valuable religion by adorning us with the beautiful gems of caring for the weak and a holy life.

We see the truth, value, and beauty of Christ’s faith on earth by his perfect tongue, perfect heart, perfect care, and perfect life. What a beautiful savior he is!

Prove our religion true, valuable, and beautiful by giving us the grace to care for widows, orphans, single parents, and refugees, and by holy living. Amen.


Index to Living Faith in Testing Times series. Download Infographic here.

James 1v26-27


Change the Pace to Finish the Race

Trials and temptations can upset our spiritual pace.

  • Our anger and sin speeds up
  • Our listening and obeying slow down

Getting our pace wrong leads to spiritual defeat. But there’s a way to change our spiritual pace right that leads to spiritual victory. In James 1:19-25, James shows us two training strategies to change our pace and finish the race.

1. SLOW DOWN YOUR MOUTH AND YOUR RAGE

  • Be slow to speak: “Let every person be…slow to speak” (19).
  • Be slow to anger: “Let every person be…slow to anger… for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (19, 20)

Summary: Slow your mouth and rage to speed up your race.

Question: That’s easy to say, but how do I do this?

2. SPEED UP YOUR EARS AND YOUR HANDS

  • Be fast to hear: “Let every person be quick to hear…receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (19, 21). But hearing is not enough.
  • Be fast to do: “But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing” (22-25).

Summary: Hear and do the Word to run and finish the race.

LIVING THE BIBLE

Change the pace of speaking, raging, hearing, and doing to finish the race.

PRAYING THE BIBLE

Lord, you are calm in all circumstances. We are not. Trials and temptations can upset our spiritual pace. They can make us speed to anger and sin, but slow our listening and obedience.

Slow down our mouths and our rage. Speed up our ears and our hands.

We are amazed at you Lord Jesus because even when you faced the greatest ever trials and temptations, you were slow to speak, slow to anger, speedy to hear, and speedy to do.

Therefore, change our pace of speaking, hearing, and doing in order that we finish the race. Amen.


Download Infographic here. Index to Living Faith in Testing Times series.

James 1v25


Christless Christianity

These are dangerous days. Our health is in danger. Our economy is in danger. Our jobs are in danger. Our mental health is in danger. But the biggest danger we are facing today is Christless Christianity. It always has been, is, and always will be.

  • It’s serious because it concerns your most valuable asset  –your soul.
  • It’s serious because it’s a constant threat – we can never let our guard down
  • It’s serious because it is so common – easy to get sucked in.
  • It’s serious because the consequences are so awful – eternal punishment.
  • It’s serious because we are all at risk – we are all in the vulnerable group.

Just as we need to take steps to protect ourselves from the coronavirus and its effects upon our lives, so we need to take critical steps to secure our spiritual safety. What should we do? In Colossians 2:8-10, we learn how Paul directed the Colossians towards spiritual safety when they were facing similar danger.

For more, see my sermon notes.  Scroll down a bit further and you’ll find a one-page sermon summary infographic. Index to other sermon notes here.

Sermon Notes

Christless Christianity

Infographic

Christless Christianity Infographic

 


Beating Temptation by Worshipping God

People wrongly blame God for their temptations. This results in:

  • Dark view of God
  • Denial of personal responsibility
  • Diminishing of worship
  • Defeat in temptation

Do you see how false ideas can have so many serious personal consequences? But what if we could correct these falsehoods and replace them with truth? Would that not reverse these consequences?

In James 1:12-18, we’ll see how James helped his readers replace false ideas with the truth, and therefore changed the consequences for good.

1. OUR GOOD GOD NEVER TEMPTS ANYONE

  • Temptations are a trial: “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial” (12a). The context makes clear that the trial here is temptation.
  • People blame God for their temptations: Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God” (13a).
  • God cannot be tempted with evil: “For God cannot be tempted with evil” (13b).
  • God tempts no one: “He himself tempts no one” (13c).

Summary: God tries us with evil but never tempts us with evil.

Question: If our temptations are not from God, where do they come from?

2. OUR EVIL DESIRES ARE THE SOURCE OF TEMPTATION

  • The conception of desire: “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived” (14-15a).
  • The birth of sin: “Desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin” (15b).
  • The growth of sin: “sin when it is fully grown” (15c).
  • The end of sin: “brings forth death” (15d).

Summary: Our hearts give life to sins that kill our lives.

Question: Wow, I’m more evil than I ever thought. What hope do I have before God?

3. OUR GOOD GOD GIVES ONLY GOOD GIFTS

  • Every good gift is from God: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (16-17).
  • Our new birth is from God: “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth” (18a).
  • Our new status is from God: “That we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” (18b).
  • Our new resilience is from God: “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial” (12a).
  • Our new future is from God: “When he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (12b).

Summary: You are worse than you ever thought possible, but God is better than you can ever imagine.

LIVING THE BIBLE

Beat temptation by praising God for his gifts, especially for how he uses our temptations for our good and his glory.

PRAYING THE BIBLE

Perfect God, we sometimes wrongly blame you for our temptations. In doing this, we cast aspersions on your character, deny our responsibility, diminish our worship, and ultimately give in to temptation.

We confess our own evil desires are the source of temptation. We testify that you are good and give only good gifts.

Help us to beat temptation by praising you for your gifts, especially for how you even turn our temptations to our good and your glory.

We praise you for Jesus Christ, your greatest gift to us. We thank you that worshipping him is our greatest weapon in the battle against temptation. Amen.


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James 1v12-18


Role Reversal for Rich and Poor

We often value and evaluate people by their financial value.

  • We favor the rich
  • We despise the poor
  • We pursue financial value
  • We forget spiritual value

This was a problem in biblical times too. But James addressed it in a surprising way. Let’s hear James’s surprising double answer to this problem in James 1:9-11.

1. LET THE POOR BOAST IN THEIR FUTURE RICHES (9)

  • The lowly brother’s exaltation: “Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation” (9). Why? Because God sees the spiritual value of his poor children and their future riches.
  • The lowly brother’s exultation: ““Let the lowly brother boast” (9). Boast in God’s valuation of you.

Summary: Your savings may be very low, but God’s saving lifts you high.

Question: That’s all very well for the poor, but what if I’m rich?

2. LET THE RICH BE HUMBLED BY THEIR FADING RICHES (10-11)

  • The rich person’s fading: “Let the rich boast in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grasshe will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits” (10-11). The rich and their wealth are passing away
  • The rich person’s humbling: “Let the rich boast in his humiliation” (10). Be humbled by God’s valuation of your riches and by their passing away and you’ll be a spiritual billionaire.

Summary: The rich are flattered and feted, but their riches are fading and falling.

LIVING THE BIBLE

Value and evaluate yourself and one another by spiritual value not financial value.

PRAYING THE BIBLE

You, Lord, are rich beyond all measure and therefore value people differently to us.

We confess that we often value and evaluate people by their financial value. We favor the rich, despise the poor, pursue financial value, and forget spiritual value.

If we are materially poor, help us to boast in our future heavenly riches. If we are materially rich help us to be humbled by our fading riches.

We praise you, Lord, because you evaluate us based on spiritual value not financial value. Help us therefore to lay up treasure in heaven especially when our treasure on earth is fading fast.

Thank you for Jesus Christ who though he was rich, for our sakes became poor, that we through his poverty might become rich. Amen.


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James 1v9-11