Waiting is not just something we have to do until we get what we want: waiting is part of the process of becoming what God wants us to be.
Jesus tells His disciples to sit and wait for the power God has promised. They are not simply hanging around with no0thing to do at this point but are being prepared for the next step. Without the preparation and the power, their mission to spread the Good News would have been totally ineffective.
The whole of our life should be directed by what is taught by Christ, what is pleasing to him and what is right and proper for his people.
Our witness and ministry to this community is not to be determined by a chart or a set of rules but from living with Christ, and following the way he guides us. We can only be light when we live out the truth of our own relationship with Christ.
What about it? Surely I can’t be forgiven for that? (Whatever that might be).
The good news is that, yes you can. Be forgiven; have the slate wiped clean; find your relationship with God restored. If we doubt that, then we are calling God’s ability into question.
It all begins with honesty: seeing where (not if) we have done wrong – sinned as the bible puts it – and thereby broken our relationship with God and others. It also involves confession (recognising our sin) and the big step of seeking to deal with any consequences that follow from what we’ve done.
Christians are called to be distinctive. We are not only a community but also a family and a working team - we are called for a purpose outside of ourselves. Our distinctiveness is seen and experienced in our attitudes and the way that we conduct ourselves. Our calling is to make real the character and effectiveness of the Love and presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, made real through us in the world. Jesus, by His spirit, present and active!
I realise now that there’s something I should add to the sermon title. It might not be plain to everyone but it’s clear to me that I’ve missed a word out.
When …. (just add it after “God” and before the question mark).
Thinking about the power of Grace in drawing us to God is one thing. It’s a bigger picture, though, when we consider (as the Psalm writer and Paul both do), the pressures on us to conform to other thinking, finding our reference points from culture rather than them being given by God.
True discipleship reflects the character of God being lived through the believer. As verse 6 tells us, when we are committed to holiness (right living) we’ll find real satisfaction, not just temporary relief.
Paul begins his letter by giving his readers a theological perspective or framework for their faith. Faith is not just a matter of belief, it has to be expressed (lived out). It’s inclusive, built on Christ (2:20 – 21) and open to all (Jews and Gentiles) who believe & recognise Christ as Saviour and Lord
Moving onto practical considerations, today’s message considers the essential character of the church if it is to be considered an authentic example of a Christian community. We begin with the church’s call to unity – how we get it and how we maintain it.
The whole matter of evangelism and ministry to the World in Christ’s name is located in pursuing and perfecting Christ’s love through our lives and life together. We are nothing without that Goal.
Church is not a building nor a particular denomination. Church is people, church is you and I, whenever, wherever and however we meet.
The bible tells us that the church is like a body: there’s infinite variety in its make up but unity in the way it all fits together. We are part of something special (God’s church); we’re connected for a common purpose (serving the world); we’re growing up (directed and refreshed by the Holy Spirit).
Hanging on to faith, persevering in the face of trials, temptation, struggles and suffering is not easy. But, as James illustrates, if our attitude to the way we use our material resources is not right, then our perseverance is in vain.
These verses are a corrective towards selfishness, a selfishness that apparently manifested itself in an extreme form in James's experience; so keen were some to get wealth and keep it, in that they were prepared to do anything to achieve their goal (v.4).
It all boils down to a question of attitude - a matter of what we are inside, that affects the way we deal with and how we respond to the needs of others.
If there is one thing we have learned from James over these past weeks, then it is that our responsibility as believers extends beyond ourselves and that our actions and our attitudes have a significant impact on the life of the church as a whole.
Now, as James comes to the end of his letter he reminds us once again of our responsibilities towards each other. Unless all we do is backed by consistent Christian behaviour, attitudes and, above all, the continued presence of prayer, then what we do will be useless and without fruit.
We all suffer from conflict at some time or another and it often appears that it is really part and parcel of our everyday lives. After all there are so many things or situations that can trigger it off aren't there? Workmates, other car drivers, members of our families, others within the church fellowship and even from within ourselves?
In these verses – having recognised the need the for Godly wisdom (3:13 – 18) James again looks at the uglier side of human nature. This is the conflict that exists between our desires and God's will.
What is the source of this conflict? What is its substance? Where does it lead and how can we resolve it? These are the questions that James addresses and, in doing so, provides us with a solution to the spiritual conflict that is at the very heart of our human condition.
Words are part of our day to day communication; they can build and maintain or they can destroy relationships. They can cement or they can fracture confidence and trust.
Words have power; they can communicate love or hatred, acceptance or rejection. Words can just as easily libel people's reputations and spread false information as much as they express praise or encouragement.
To maintain the bond of peace, before we speak let’s first think – is it True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary and Kind?
I sometimes think that James is like the little boy in the Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Story who exposed the emperor's nakedness.
James has a painful habit of exposing our own spiritual pretence: do we just talk a good game? Do we know the language, read the right books, sing acceptable songs, go along to the right meetings?
Fine, so far as it goes, but James argues that if that is our faith, then it needs to go a whole lot further: much, much further in fact, into a different way of living. We are not just to listen (although that’s crucial because you have to know what you are hearing but we must think through and engage with what we’ve learned and heard and out it into practice every day. It’s not enough to hear and to know about our faith, we are called by Christ to do something about it.
Tough times face us, it is true but the Good News of Jesus Christ and of God’s provision is always the Good News.
Faith and trust is truly the key to facing up to the tests that our daily lives set us.
It is faith in the Lord who will equip us not just to stay still and survive but to thrive and grow to maturity through His Grace. We will not achieve perfection in this life, but it is as we are refined in the face of trials and hardships, as we trust God wholeheartedly, as we are single minded about serving him and making him known, that we will grow closer to him and to each other.
Whatever trials we face - and we may be facing them now or may do so this week - then I pray that we will face them with God at our side, with prayer on our lips and with hope in our hearts.