Tuesday, January 28, 2014

January 28 - James 4

Today's reading in our daily plan is James 4. Take a moment to pray, asking God to speak to you from this passage. Then read, using the following notes and questions to help you get everything out of the passage.

SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
  • This chapter warns of selfish pursuits that can destroy us personally, as well as the church at large.  We are all controlled by these selfish desires. They cause us to fight and judge others, while boasting about ourselves. The good news is we don't have to live this way. Verse 7 tells us that if we come to God for help, he will help us resist these selfish pursuits.
  • James makes it clear that we should not be friends with the world -- or, more specifically, the things of this world (money, possessions, popularity, power). When we care more about these things than God, we are committing adultery against him (verse 4)
  • This chapter also reminds us once again about the dangers of the tongue from chapter 3. Christians were "judging" one another in a very slanderous, derogatory way. The word "judge" here does not mean to discern right from wrong; it means to condemn or despise. They were judging one another without mercy, in an effort to feel superior and hurt each other. 

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • We must make God, not self, not others, not things, what we worship. To put anyone or anything before God is adultery. But, with God's help, we can resist all selfish ambition.
  • In a culture of excessive social media, everyone's a critic. We criticize everything from clothing to intentions to character.  With shows like Fashion Police and Real Housewives of Whatever, it has become "normal" to openly condemn and despise one another. Some of our judgments are petty, and others are serious. But the Bible warns us to be careful. Judging someone in order to feel better about yourself is dangerous business. 
  • It is so easy to get lost in our daily planner that we forget to invite God into our day, our week, or even our year. But no one really knows what tomorrow holds. Only God does. James reminds us that our life is short, and ultimately, everything we do is by the grace of God. 

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • We all struggle with selfishness in different ways. What way do you put your personal desires above God's? What are the ways you put things above God? Whatever they are, ask God to forgive you, and commit with His help to change.
  • Do you find yourself constantly criticizing those around you? Do you feel better about yourself when you look down on others?  Maybe you don't say it out loud, but you think it.  Let God help you let go of that bad habit.  Easier said than done, right? Just remember, judgment is in God's hands, not yours. 
  • Do you wake up every morning and plan your day? Don't forget to invite God in. Take a moment each day to talk to him.