In his epistle, James warns the church not judge people by how they dress. He tells us not to show favoritism to people whose attire would suggest they are rich, as compared to people whose clothing would indicate they are poor.
Have you ever met someone, as the saying goes, who was “all talk and no action”? They went to church religiously but they never got engaged in kingdom work. They claimed to love Jesus but outside of church no one could tell by how they talked or walked that they even knew Jesus. Religion for the sake of religion, or religion as a set of repetitive rituals, is empty and powerless, but religion as the overflow of a right relationship with Jesus Christ is a powerful force in the world.
THE TRIFECTA FOR CONSTRUCTIVE CONVERSATION
The people to whom James was writing had returned to hostile environments where they were marginalized by the Gentiles for their race and religion, and ostracized by their own people because their faith in Jesus Christ put them at odds with the prevailing dogma and culture of their Jewish communities. James knew that this daily reality could easily lead to hostile confrontations, which would be detrimental to the witness of the church. To these believers James gives godly guidance, and in verse 19 we find the trifecta for open, clear, and calm communication: "So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath."
In a fallen world we cannot keep the devil from putting things in our path that appeal to natural human desires, but by the same token the devil cannot force us to pursue anything we don’t want to pursue. One preacher observed that we cannot keep the devil from knocking on our door, but that doesn’t mean we have to open the door and let him in. The reason Satan has been so successful with temptation is because too many people are looking for the opportunity and temptation is just an excuse to open the door and do what they already wanted to do.
In a world of such uncertainty, the only thing we know for sure is that everything changes. Things that seem permanent and unshakable, tremble and fall. Empires may last a thousand years, but in time every empire that has ever existed met its demise at the hands of fallen and corrupt humanity. There is only one kingdom that shall never pass away.
If you could ask God for one, and only one thing, in your life, what would you ask for—more money, health, a long life? What would you ask? In fact, there’s an account in the Old Testament where God actually gave a man the opportunity to ask for anything he wanted, and this man asked for wisdom. You probably know the story from 2 Chronicles chapter 1—Solomon became king of Israel following his father David, and he became a great king because the Lord was him. One day Solomon went up to the tabernacle his father David set up for the ark of the covenant, and he offered a sacrifice on the bronze altar. That night, God appeared to Solomon and said, “Ask! What shall I give you?”
The personal journey from being the unbelieving brother of Jesus to a believer in Jesus as the Messiah, had been difficult, but James shows us that it doesn’t matter how you get there, just get there.
Jude opens his epistle making it clear that his intention is to sound the alarm about “certain men” who have “crept in unnoticed.” Jude intends to expose these people and to warn the church not to let these men to seduce the church with their twisted message. These people taught that it is possible to be a believer while also engaging in sexual behavior that violates the very precepts of God’s Word, including the teaching and example of Jesus Christ. Indeed, these people even denied “the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.” So why were these people in the church, how did they get into the church, and why should these people be forced out of the church unless, of course, they repent and observe whatsoever Jesus commanded? In verses 12 and 13 Jude provides a compact but powerful answer to these questions.
Like Israel, the history of the church shows that when things go from bad to worse in society, if a remnant will humble themselves, pray, repent, and seek God’s face, God can turn it around. Some of the greatest revivals in church history were sparked by some of the most unlikely people who simply fell on their faces before God. For example, in the late 1940s Christianity in the New Hebrides Islands (located off the coast of Scotland), was complacent and declining, with the young people turned off by a spirit of legalism and empty ritualistic religion. Alcoholism and despondency were serious problems plaguing the local communities. However, two sisters, Peggy Smith and Christine Smith, were not ready to surrender their island to Satan, so they began to pray fervently for revival. Who were these two women? Peggy was 84-years-old and blind, and her 82-year-old sister, Christine, suffered from severe arthritis, but they were committed prayer warriors and together their prayers and petitions sparked a revival.
A common misconception of Christians is we must always be non-confrontational and passive … no matter what. Even within the Christian community there is a rather pervasive view that believers should always be smiling and agreeable while conceding to others in our attempt to keep the peace. It is true that we are called be peacemakers, ministers of reconciliation and ambassadors of Christ (2 Co 5:19-20), yet the example of Jesus clearing the temple with a whip, along with various militant metaphors employed in the epistles, demonstrate that there are, in fact, times when we must fight for what we believe. Jesus Himself said that “from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force” (Mt 11:12).