James 1:17-18 17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. 18 In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.
The church that God has blessed me to pastor and to be a part of is a church that reaches out to people. However whenever I look at this passage of James 1:17-27, I discover that there are specific ways in which we or any church can be more effective in being a church that reaches to make a difference. Today's post is all about encouraging every church and every born-again child of God to reach out to make a difference. Five specific ways of "reaching" are mentioned here in James 1:17-27. We will list them and then briefly expound on each of them:
1. Reaching out with the Gospel 1:17-18
2. Reaching up in prayer 1:19-21a
3. Reaching for the Bible
4. Reaching towards holiness 1:26
5. Reaching the hurting 1:27
So how can churches and disciples of Jesus reach to make a difference? Notice first of all....
Churches reach out with the Gospel. James 1:17-18
The Book of James is the earliest New Testament we have and contains the earliest instructions to the church following Jesus' ascension. The Gospel in James' letter centers around the miracle that is regeneration. Regeneration, in the words of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 is: "a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ." The Gospel message is the vehicle through which the Holy Spirit works to bring the gifts of faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) and repentance (2 Timothy 2:25-26). In-as- much as the local church is composed of Christ's royal ambassadors telling sinners to "believe, repent and be reconciled to God", the Gospel's results cannot occur without the Spirit working through us. God desires to make a difference in the lives of people and has so ordained the preaching and teaching of the Gospel. (1 Corinthians 1:21) This effort of reaching out with the Gospel is the primary task of the church and the chief reason why Jesus has to occupy until His return. (Matthew 28:18-20) So churches that reach in making a difference reach out with the Gospel, but notice secondly....
Churches must reach up in prayer. James 1:19-21a
The wording of James 1:19-21a reminds me of two other passages of scripture that exhort believer's to pray. The first is Paul's admonition in 1 Timothy 2:8 "Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension." A heart full of bitterness will never be able to be a heart full of prayer. This is why we see the second passage of Ephesians 4:30-32 "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you." Whenever we see James writing his words, implied in the instruction is the need to reach up to God in prayer. Notice what he says in James 1:21 "in humility receive the Word implanted...". How else do you humbly receive what God has, except through prayer? As Peter reminds us in 1 Peter 2:4-5 "And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." Or even more so consider Jude's instructions on the need to reach up to God in prayer in Jude 1:20 "But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit." So any Christian or church that is going to reach out to make a difference needs to reach out with the Gospel and reach up in prayer. Lets consider one more way of reaching for today, namely.....
Churches much reach for the Bible. James 1:21b-25
Clearly the bulk of James' instructions centers around the Christian's individual life and the church's corporate life being transformed by the scriptures. Notice the following statements in 1:21b-25:
1:21b - "in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls."
1:22a - "But prove yourselves doers of the word...."
1:23 - "For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror."
1:25 - "But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does."
Why does James so emphasize this point of reaching for the Bible? Because the same Words that convert in James 1:17-18 are the same words that cleanse the soul of the saint in 1:19-25. James cites or alludes to nearly 90 passages from the Old Testament and the words of Jesus in his short letter of five chapters. James' instructions are so saturated with scripture that not a verse scarcely goes by where he is not alluding to an Old Testament statement or a word of Jesus. This ought to tell us something as disciples of Jesus and churches living in the 21st century - we need to be Bible saturated. Unless we are Bible saturated people, we cannot saturate our culture with Jesus Christ. Churches that reach to make a difference reach out with the Gospel, reach up to God in prayer and reach for their Bibles.More tomorrow....
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