Friday, July 25, 2014

P3 Reaching out to make a difference - James 1:27

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, like yesterday's, is all about encouraging every church and every born-again child of God to be the type of church or disciple that reaches to make a difference. Five specific ways of reaching are mentioned here in James 1:17-27.  We have explored four thus far, namely....

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

Today we finish up this study on reaching out to make a difference. So how can a church or an individual follower of Jesus Christ reach out to make a difference? Notice...

Churches must reach the hurting 1:27
James 1:27 states: "Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world." Once again James is using standards of measurement to discern the genuineness of one's profession of faith. The standard here has to do with how well we respond as Christians to two particular groups that are often "out-of-sight, out-of-mind", orphans and widows. The word translated "orphan" is only found twice in our New Testaments, here in James 1:27 and Jesus' words to his disciples in John 14:18 "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." This word speaks of those who lost their parents due to death or those who were abandoned. The closely related idea of being "fatherless" is found some 40 times in the Bible, with reference being made quite often to how God extends a specialized form of the goodness of His benevolent grace towards such little ones. If we ignore orphans or treat them badly, we are in effect opposing God.

The other group, widows, speaks of those who have lost their husbands (and by logical extension husbands who lost their wives). Passages such as Acts 6 and 1 Timothy 5 speak of the early church's efforts to care for widows. Luke's writings (Gospel of Luke and Acts) presents roughly half of the total occurrences of widows in the New Testament, with every verse presenting them in a positive light as examples of piety, faithfulness and love for the Lord.

These findings demonstrate to me the importance for every church to have some type of visitation to either the homes or long-term care facilities to encourage widows. Too often today we see churches so concerned about advancing their names among the notables of a given community that those who are less visible are neglected. Little do churches and pastors realize how much those dear widows pray on behalf of their churches. To ignore those dear people is to oppose God's hand of favor. Indeed if Christians and churches are going to reach to make a difference, we must reach out to the hurting - spoken of here in James as orphans and widows.

Closing remarks
These past couple of days we have been concerned with how we as disciples of Jesus Jesus Christ individually and churches corporately can reach to make a difference in our communities. James 1:17-27 reveals five such ways:

1. Churches must reach out with the Gospel. 1:17-18

2. Churches must reach up in prayer. 1:19-21a

3. Churches must reach for their Bibles. 1:21b-25

4. Churches must reach towards holiness. 1:26

5. Churches must reach out to the hurting. 1:27

When we do these things, the power and presence of the Lord Jesus Christ through the Person and work of the Holy Spirit will reside upon, within and through our lives to make a difference in our community and our world.

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