What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. (James 4:1-3)
Yesterday, I spent a lot of time talking with my cousin about some family issues we have been having. It is sad to see how our family has been divided over conflicts. My girlfriend and I were also talking about arguing and how we wanted to avoid conflict. We shouldn’t ignore conflict, but we also should not seek conflict. In both of these scenarios, the best way to reach a resolution is to have selfless love for each other. Arguments start when we are selfish and want something from someone else. Often we look for things from other people that only God can provide. Father, thank you that you are faithful to provide everything that I need when I ask you. Help me to run to you when I am in need instead of looking to other people. Please give me selfless love for others.
From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. (James 3:10)
What I say has a huge impact on people. Especially if I aspire to be an educator, the cost of each of my words is very important. I can choose to praise God with what I say. I must not be careless with talking to others. If something does not edify or glorify God, I should not say it. God had been bringing attention to how I use my words lately. He blessed me with some conversations with my brother and cousin. He has reminded me of the cost and result of everything I say. I received a book about words that heal for Christmas and I read the first chapter about words for the church. Father, may my words be seasoned with the witness of your love and grace for me. Please remind me to weigh each word carefully before I speak so that you would be glorified.
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:14-17)
Genuine faith requires action. If I believe that God will provide for me, I should live in such a way that demonstrates that. If I have faith that God forgave me of my sins, I will forgive others as I have been forgiven. Faith is not genuine unless I reorient my life around the truth. What I know in my head must be engraved on my heart so that I earnestly desire to obey the will of God. Father, please give me faith that evokes my emotions to obey you wholeheartedly.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. (James 1:5-6)
God promises that if we need wisdom, He will give it to us when we ask. It would be foolish not to ask God for wisdom, which is strange because it is wise to ask for wisdom. But asking God for wisdom should be done through faith and without doubting. Sometimes, if I am not sure what to do, I complain about it to God, but then make my own decision based on my own desires. I am not trusting that God knows what is best for me. Since God has been faithful to bring me to where I am now, I know that He will be faithful to provide for all of my needs in the torture. Father, thank you for offering me your wisdom. Your ways are higher than my ways, and you always know better than I do. You have provided for me and drawn me to you. Please give me wisdom and help me to depend on your word rather than my own wisdom.
Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:7-8)
Faith depends on what we know about God from a combination of personal experiences and stories from other people. There are so many examples of how God has kept His promises, and we can take comfort in knowing that He is faithful. He has also promised us many things through His word. We know that because He is the same yesterday, today, and forever, He will keep His promises. To live with faith is to completely reorient my life around the constancy of God’s promises. Father, thank you for being constant and for revealing yourself to me. Thank you that you desire to be known, and you have made yourself known. Thank you for your many promises that you have given me. I know that you will be faithful to complete every single one of them. Please help me to live with full faith in these promises.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
After talking to my girlfriend last night, I was motivated to overcome lust to keep myself pure for her sake. This is a good reason for actively fleeing temptation, but God is reminding me that ultimately, Jesus is my motivation. Because of the victory of so many people in the old testament who had faith in God, I know that I can also be victorious. I need to conquer every bad habit and temptation so that I will not be weighted down. I need to persevere and endure. Father, thank you for running the race before me and showing me everything that I will face. I know that I will be victorious in you. Please help me to persevere with unwavering faith.
By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. (Hebrews 11:24-25)
This chapter is often referred to as the hall of faith. There is a lot that can be learned about what faith is through the stories of these old testament characters. I will be writing about pursuing faith soon as part of the series on 2 Timothy 2:22. But the part that stuck out to me the most is where Moses gave up the Egyptian lifestyle in faith of a more complete life with the God of Israel. He chose a more difficult life that was void of earthly pleasures. He was heavenly minded, not considering himself a citizen of this world. Father, thank you for the home that you are building for me in heaven with you. I am sorry for pursuing worldy pleasures that distract me from you. Please remind me that eternity with you is far better than all the things this world can give.
For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? (Hebrews 10:26-29)
Under the new covenant, we are transformed through the knowledge of Jesus. Sacrifices in the old testament would only cover unintentional sins. Israelites who disobeyed the law in full knowledge of the existence of that law could be sentenced to death. But I know that I often disobey God’s laws although I know what they say. Or rather, under the new covenant, I am not acting in accordance with the will of God. Sometimes I dismiss this disobedience as imperfections that have not been fully corrected through the process of sanctification. But I think the issue is deeper than that. In the days of the law, if I did not know about the law, my sin would be considered unintentional. The new covenant is based on a knowledge of Jesus instead of the law. If I am not obeying His will, it is because I have an incomplete knowledge of Him. This knowledge is more than just knowing about Him in my head. It is a knowledge that deeply convicts my heart, mind, soul and spirit. I am sad for my disobedience, and the only solution is to run to Jesus so that I will know Him more fully. Father, when I disobey you, please teach me more about yourself so that I will not displease you again. I am sorry for intentionally running away from your will and ignoring your voice. I want to know you fully so that I will not disobey you.
Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. (Hebrews 9:15)
I have previously been confused by all the ritual sacrifices and offerings that God required during the days of the tabernacle. Why does God require that an animal be sacrificed in order for us to receive forgiveness? God has made us joint heirs of righteousness with Christ, but inheritance does not take affect until a death occurs. The sacrifices represented the death of Jesus. When He died for us, we were able to receive His righteousness. But the new covenant that Jesus establishes requires that we lay down ourselves so that we would be saved not from our sinful deeds, but from our sinful nature. Father, thank you for the new covenant that you have made that relies on a living relationship with Jesus. Thank you for giving your life for me so that I may inherit your righteousness.
“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:10-12)
The new covenant with Christ applies to the entire church as a whole, but affects each person individually and specifically. No longer does our knowledge of God come through word of mouth or reading books, but directly through a personal encounter with Jesus. Our relationship with God cannot be from someone else. It is interesting to think that the most natural response to encountering Jesus is to tell others about it. God promises to write the law into our minds and hearts. This does not mean that He will make us legalistic, but that we would become intimately familiar with the law, which is defined by the person on Christ Himself. Father, thank you that you desire to have a personal relationship with me. You want me to know you fully, just as you fully know me. You have done everything to pursue me and draw me towards you. Please continue to grow my desire for you so that I will know you more and more.