Be Humble and Pure, Not Full of Rage (James 1:19-21)

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Anger is rarely a good thing. Usually, this powerful emotion leads us to be harsh, mean, and even violent towards our friends, family, and neighbors. An “anger problem” is a “sin problem” with very serious consequences. Rage can cause us to lose control of our words and actions so that we say and do things that hurt others and our relationships with them. That is why James warns use today that we should all be “slow to speak and slow to become angry.” If you struggle with a quick and sharp temper, than one clear way that God wants to transform your character and conform you to the image of Christ is by helping you to get your rage under the control of the Holy Spirit’s peaceful influence. Our anger does not accomplish God’s will of promoting love, joy, and unity among believers. Our anger does not provide an attractive witness to lost people to persuade them to want to be Christians. Instead, our tainted “human anger” produces “moral filth and evil.” God wants us to repent of our anger and be kind, forgiving, and self-controlled.

How can a person win victory over their rage? By humbly, regularly receiving God’s Word into a heart that has been softened by the grace, mercy, and love of Jesus. When we listen with open minds and hearts during church and chapel sermons, Bible class lessons, and homeroom devotions, we allow the Holy Spirit to slowly transform our hearts away from selfish anger and towards kindness and love. When we read our Bibles on our own and listen to Christian songs with solid doctrine, the Holy Spirit cuts into our anger-hardened hearts like a hot knife through butter. As we walk humbly with Jesus and listen to His words instead of our selfish desires, we gradually find ourselves experiencing his peace that surpasses all understanding. So for all you rage monsters and even occasional top blowers out there, let God’s Word soften your heart today to keep repenting of your anger and pride and submitting to God’s will of peace for your life.

The Text – James 1:19-21

19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

Questions to Think About

  1. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being “Not at All” and 10 being “All the Time,” how much would you say that you struggle with sinful anger? Explain your answer.
  2. Can you think of a time when you became really angry and said or did things that you later regretted? What happened?
  3. When you hear God’s Word at church and at chapel, how do you receive it? Do you listen closely with an open heart wanting to know and do God’s will, or do you usually ignore the message and think about other things? Explain.

Sin is Our Fault, Not God’s (James 1:13-18)

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God is the source of all that is good in this world and in your life. Evil is not God’s fault. Sin is a corruption of the good that God created. Evil comes from Satan and his demons, but it also comes from our own wicked hearts. Therefore, says James in today’s passage, we should never blame God when we feel tempted to break His law and violate His commands. God does not desire or lead people to sin. Instead, sin begins in our hearts when we take our eyes off Jesus and try to do what God has told us not to do. God has always warned people against temptation because He knows that it will lead to sin, which will in turn lead to death. Jesus came to give us life, not to kill and destroy us.

In God’s amazing mercy, grace, and love, He sent His only Son Jesus Christ to rescue us from death, sin, and temptation. He came to reverse the curse we justly received in the Garden as well as all of its evil effects. Our salvation is a good and perfect gift from an eternally good and perfect Father. He chose to give every Christian a second birth, a birth from above, that we might have spiritual life and be free from the chains of sin. That gift should lead us to worship and thank our God forever and forever. May we never lay the blame for our sin at His feet, and may we never stop giving Him the credit for all that is good in our world and life, especially the miracle of redemption.

The Text

13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

Questions to Think About

  1. Have you ever been angry with God for something you or someone else did? Explain.
  2. What is the difference between temptation and sin?
  3. Today’s passage teaches that God is eternally unchanging and perfectly good. What other character traits does God possess that people do not?
  4. List the good things in your life that you can thank God for today.

To the One Who Overcomes (James 1:12)

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There is something to be said for survival, for finishing what you start despite all obstacles and setbacks. In James 1:12, we are encouraged that those who persevere in their faith through the trials of life have a crown of awaiting them in heaven. James has just finished discussing how Christians should rejoice in the midst of our troubles. Why? Because we know that those trials strengthen our character and make us more like Jesus. In verse 12, we now see another purpose to our trials – to test our faith and prove it as genuine. It is easy to profess Christ before others when it does not cost us anything. But what about when following Jesus leads us through suffering and persecution? What about when the easy path of sin and disobedience tempts us from the difficult path of godly obedience? Hardships and pains are not pleasant when we go through them, and we should never wish for them. But when we look back on the troubles we have endured and see God’s power carrying us through without losing our trust in Christ, then we can rejoice that our faith has been proven as real. The faith that perseveres is saving faith, the faith that leads to eternal life, both now and forever. It is the faith of all those who truly love Christ. In whatever trials you are facing now, look to Jesus and live, knowing that the reward of heaven awaits all those who overcome.

The Text

12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

Questions to Think About

  1. What trials did you face in elementary school? How did God carry you through them?
  2. What trials are you facing now? How can God help you to persevere through them?
  3. How can you tell that you love Jesus?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Be Happy in Jesus, Not Your Stuff (James 1:9-11)

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The Bible rarely has good things to say about riches. The Bible does talk a lot about money, but usually it is warnings for people not to love their stuff more than God. Being rich tends to make people proud and think that they are better than others. Rich people often have trouble realizing that they need God. In our school, many students judge each other based on how much money and how many high-value possessions they and their families have. This is not good. Worshiping wealth hardens our hearts against God and makes it difficult for us to love Him and love each other as we should. Furthermore, even those students who think they are not wealthy are actually very wealthy compared to the rest of America and the world. Rather than seeing our money and stuff as tools to help us serve and glorify God, we turn them into false idols. We evaluate our success by what we have instead of by our love for and obedience to the Lord. This attitude is wrong and very harmful to our souls.

This is why James gives us the seemingly strange teaching that poor believers (those in “humble circumstances”) should be thankful and happy for “their high position” in life. How can a poor person be happy about being poor? Simple. The poor Christians realize that because the riches of this life are usually a barrier to a healthy relationship, they are actually better off having less money and stuff. Worldly possessions disappear quickly. We have them for a brief time on this earth and then are separated from them for all eternity. James compares our stuff to a flower that blossoms pretty in the morning and then burns up and dies in the heat of the afternoon. Therefore, the poor should not envy the rich and the rich should not put their trust in their wealth. Every Christian should instead focus each day on being happy in Jesus, not looking for joy in their stuff. That is our prayer for this entire school.

The Text

Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.

Questions to Think About

  1. Do you consider yourself to be “rich”? Why or why not?
  2. Can you remember a time when you looked down on others because of what they did not have and then felt guilty about it afterwards? What happened?
  3. Why do you think that the Bible includes so many warnings about the dangers of earthly riches?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Need advice? Ask God! (James 1:5-8)

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All of us need direction and guidance. Life is full of trials and decisions. Some choices are harder than others, but all of our actions work together to shape the course of our lives and the kind of people we become. As students now, you are learning how to manage your time in doing homework and studying. Each night and week, you must figure out how much time to spend on different assignments for different classes. Each season and year, you face choices about which sports teams to play on, which fine arts opportunities to pursue, and which clubs to join. You must also make choices in friends and friend groups. In middle and high school, friends have a powerful influence on how you think, talk, and act. Godly friends who are following Jesus can lead you on the path to life, while worldly and unsaved friends can lead you down the path to death. Even with your free time, you choose what to do: read (or so your teachers hope!), spend time with family, watch T.V., play games, browse social media, or work on hobbies like cooking, crafting, or keeping bees (yes, we a few NRCA families who do this!). The point is that even as students, you are constantly making decisions and whether you realize it or not, God is waiting for you to seek His help in those choices.

James tells us directly in today’s passage that we should ask God for wisdom whenever we need it. The immediate context from verses 2-4 is probably wisdom in dealing with trials and difficult circumstances. But the truth is that in making all of our choices, we should ask God to lead us to do His will. The Bible gives us many clear instructions for much of what we need to know. For example, God tells us to love Him with all of our heart and to love our neighbors are ourselves. Those are the two greatest commandments and they should guide all of our interactions with others. God tells children to obey their parents, a commandment that when obeyed keeps you under the protection of people who are older and wiser than you and who love you very much. God tells us to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy, not because He does not want us to have fun on Sundays but because He knows that we need one day a week to rest and refocus on our relationship with Him. This command should influence your decisions about which sports teams to play on, though sadly for many students it does not. You see, while God’s Word may not give exact answers to every specific situation, it gives us basic principles to follow that often make the right choices more obvious than we would like to admit. And when the choice does come down to two or more options that all seem equally wise and godly, than we turn to God in prayer and let the Holy Spirit guide us through circumstances and the counsel of godly Christian mentors and friends.

But what if you don’t want to follow what God’s Word says? What if you ask God for advice but don’t like the answer that you get? Well, then you are like the tragic person described in verses 6-8. Your unwillingness to obey God’s Word and the leading of the Holy Spirit reveal that your heart is not wholly committed to God. Therefore, you cannot expect to receive wisdom from God. You see, wisdom is not just not knowing the right thing to do but also choosing to do it. If you find yourselves unwilling to submit your decisions to the Lord’s guidance, you can expect to bounce around like a wave on the ocean, constantly moving one way and then the next with no firm direction in your life. The unstable life is the foolish life that leads only to sorrow and suffering. Our prayer for you is that you will instead choose to submit to God and follow His path of wisdom. That is the road that leads to joy, peace, and life. Ask God to guide you in every decision, and be ready to do what he says.

The Text

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

Questions to Think About

  1. In what areas of life or with what decisions do you need to ask for God’s wisdom right now?
  2. Have you ever been tempted to doubt God’s love, power, or wisdom when it comes to what has been going on in your life? What happened?
  3. What commands of Scripture have you found difficult to obey this school year?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel