James 005 – Not Charging God FoolishlyJames 1:13b-18 • Dr. Andy Woods • October 21, 2020 • James
James 05 — Not Charging God Foolishly
James 1:13 — Pastor Jim’s series on Biblical Dispensationalism would be a good series to tune into if you are struggling with that.
James 1:13 — James, is the half-brother of the Lord Jesus Christ who writes a ‘little’ book, the first New Testament book, from Jerusalem to the scattered believing Jews in the Diaspora — those Jews who had been pushed into dispersion through the persecution of Saul of Tarsus. These scattered Jews wee believers, and he is writing to them — this ‘little’ book on practical righteousness. He isn’t teaching them how to get saved, as they are already saved, but he is talking to them about how to please God in their daily lives. So our position as Christians has already made us pleasing to God; we are in a walk of sanctification where we are allowing our practice to catch up with our position. So how do we walk in daily life as Christians in a way that is pleasing to the Lord? That is what the book of James is essentially about.
We went through verse 1 where James identified himself as the writer, and he is writing to the scattered twelve tribes — that is all in verse 1. I’m somewhat of the view that James is writing to the Jews in Babylon, and I gave reasons as to why I thought that way. Now we come to the first major section/half of the book, which spans from James 1:2 – 3:12. It is essentially about faith — not saving faith but serving faith. It is trusting God for salvation; and we have to keep trusting Him as we step out in faith as Christians, and evangelize, serve in the local church, give generously, whatever God has called us to do — requires faith also. Just as it took initial faith in Christ to be justified.
James is actually dealing with the subject of serving faith in that first half of the book. The very first thing he talks about is how our faith is being perfected through trials? So how do we please God in daily life as Christians. The first thing we have to adopt is God’s mindset on the whole issue of trials and suffering, because when we encounter trials, the first thing we tend to see them as unwanted intruders in our lives — ‘how dare suffering enter my life as a Christian! And if I am suffering, then maybe I have mis God’s will somehow. So what James tells us here is that trials are present because God placed them in our lives, and actually they are there to make us not bitter, but better! So in James 1:2-12, is to explain that we should rejoice in the midst of trials. My last reaction when I encounter a trial or problem or adversity as a Christian is ‘what a weird thing to do.’ I don’t normally rejoice.
So James gives three reasons why we should rejoice in the midst of adversity.
- Trials are producing patience and maturity — James 1:2-8. Now you may react that you don’t normally think that way — none of us do, so James says that if you don’t think that way, then ask God to give you wisdom on this matter, and He will give it to you generously without reproach. So if we lack the mindset of God on tribulations, the tribulations in our lives worketh patience and maturity; in other words, if I don’t ever go through any troubles or difficulties in my life, then God can’t build patience and maturity in me. If I lack that perspective, then I should ask God and He will bountifully give me His wisdom, which will ultimately give me His mind on suffering. You won’t be able to get this perspective from the world. The world system will essentially tell you that you are missing on the will of God or on life — if you are suffering. Yet the book of James tells us the opposite. When you hit a trial and we have this wisdom from above, then we have the incentive to rejoice in the midst of it — akin to ‘Wow, God is doing a work in my life whereby He is building patience and maturity because of tribulation. 0819
- The second reason we are to rejoice in the midst of trials is because trials have a way of causing us to be dependent on the Lord; I don’t normally trust God when times are good because I don’t have to trust Him. Generally, when times are good, I can walk in such a way that I’m no longer in moment-by-moment fellowship with God. After all, I’m strong enough on my own to figure everything out — ‘Lord, I’ll check in with You when I need you.’ But isn’t it interesting that suffering or problems coming into our lives that we can’t handle by God have a way of causing us to be dependent on God moment-by-moment. So James says to ‘rejoice then, in your high position,’ because you’re not like the rich man who is fading away as he goes about his business. You are actually walking in intimacy with the Lord.
- The third reason we should be rejoicing in the midst of trials is because every ounce of suffering experienced in this life will be rewarded in the next life, so God is going to give us, as we persevere in the midst of trials the Crown of Life, a reward above and beyond salvation (James 1:12).
Having completed that thought about rejoicing in the midst of trials, he next takes up a different subject in James 1:13-18, this idea of charging God foolishly in the midst of trials. When we do encounter suffering, we are very prone to say that God is trying to ‘destroy my life; that God doesn’t have my best interest at heart; God is trying to cause me to fail spiritually.’
James then begins to explain why, that in the midst of trials, we shouldn’t do that. He spends verses 13-18 explaining why.
What do I mean by charging God foolishly in the midst of trials? As the children of Israel did, we do things. They had come out of Egypt; had seen the ten plagues; passed through the Red Sea — there wasn’t a generation who had seen more signs and wonders than that one. When they got out into the Sinai Peninsula, (my friend, Randy Price stated that there was a reason they were complaining out there as it is very hot, having been there himself). They’re going along, are hot with no signs of water, so they start to complain. In the process of complaining, they begin to make reckless reckless charges against God saying things such as in Exodus 14:11, “Then they [the people] said to Moses,…[God’s representative at this time, so when making a charge against Moses, they’re making a charge against God]… “Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? [They asked this after having just walked through the Red Sea — if God wanted to kill them, He could have easily have drowned them, but they forgot about that within a few days, and they accused Moses of taking them ‘out here to die.’]…Why have you dealt with us in this way, bringing us out of Egypt?” So it was there in Exodus 14:11 that they made a reckless charges against God.
In the book of Numbers 21:5… [that same generation], it says, “The people spoke against God and Moses… [now, notice that they’re no longer speaking against God’s representative, Moses, they’re speaking against God]. Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this miserable food.” The problems came and they quickly forgot the delivering hand of God, so they started to make reckless charges against God of trying to destroy them; trying to kill them; trying to make their lives miserable, because they wrongly believed that God was like that, mean.
We are very vulnerable to this attitude when we suffer; to quickly make reckless charges against God as the children of Israel did, thus, this is why James is dealing with this subject in the midst of his discussion regarding tribulation. Notice James 1:13 where he gives a command, “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God;” [when it says, ‘let no one say’ that is a command, in Greek, it is called an imperative, and James is giving a command that, as we begin to experience suffering, that not to raise reckless charges against God; ie, attack His goodness, His character or to develop the mindset that God is trying to destroy our lives, as the children of Israel did].
So you see this particular command here, and it is important to understand the difference between a test and a temptation — two completely different things. Going back to James 1:2-4, that is dealing with the subject of a test. Then when getting to James 1:13, they took the knowledge of a test and charged God with bringing a temptation. A test is designed for your benefit, to bring you to the next level of spiritual growth. A temptation is designed to get you to fail; to solicit you to sin; to hurt or destroy you. What James is articulating here is that God is in the testing business, not in the temptation business. There is a reason why satan is called, the tempter in the New Testament — because he is the one in the tempting business; soliciting you to sin. He is the one who wants to expose us as failures; God doesn’t set out to do that; God sets out to give us tests, not temptations, that are designed to make us better, not bitter.
So in the midst of tribulation, we confuse the two quickly, ie, we don’t distinguish between a test and a temptation, and we wrongly charge God with tempting us, trying to destroy us.
So in James 1:13-18, James gives three reasons why it can’t be so; why attacking God’s character of goodness in the midst of tribulation is wrong and we should stay away from it.
- Temptation, by definition, cannot emanate from God, and James is very clear about this in the second part of verse 13. The first part of James 1:13, “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God.” That is the command to not charge God with tempting us. Why should we follow that command?
The second part of verse 13, “…for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not temptation anyone.” So when we charge God, not with testing us but with tempting us, we must understand that God can’t even bring a temptation any more than God Himself can be tempted. It is contrary to God’s nature to place you in a situation designed to get you to fail. Satan will do that because satan operates, not on the basis of tests, but on the basis of temptations. God Himself cannot do that as it is contrary to His character to tempt you. If we don’t have a firm handle on this as Christians, when we encounter a trial, then we will confuse the test with the temptation, and we will accuse God of something that satan can and will do, but that is impossible for God to do.
This raises the question that if temptation does not come from God, where does it come from? One answer to that question is that it comes from the devil, but James, in James 1:14,15, gives another source of temptation. When we are tempted, we cannot blame everything on satan. In fact, in verses 14,15, James doesn’t even mention satan, and he actually gives the other source of temptation as being man’s fallen/sin nature.
So why is it wrong to charge God with tempting us in the midst of tribulation?
First, God cannot tempt us any more than He can be tempted.
Second, when facing a temptation, if it isn’t coming from satan, it is coming from our own fallen natures. James develops this in verses 14,15, “But each one is tempted…”[the very thing that James’ audience was accusing God of doing, James tells them, ‘Let me tell you where that temptation is actually coming from’]… “when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.”
So temptation doesn’t come from God, and if it isn’t coming from satan, it is coming from our sin natures. Because at the point of conception, we are born into this world with a nature that is at war with God. That is part of the predicament of original sin; what we call biblical anthropology — a biblical understanding of the doctrine of man, and this comes out very clearly right after the flood. The flood cleansed the earth, but it did not cleanse man’s inward parts, so this is what God said right after the flood in Genesis 8:21, “The Lord smelled the soothing aroma; and the Lord said to Himself, “I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth;…”
When you have children, you see this quickly, you don’t have to take them aside and tell them that ‘mom and dad are going to give you a lesson today; here is how you throw a tantrum, I realize that you don’t know how to do this, but let me show you how it is done; or here is how to be selfish with your toys; let’s role play. No, throwing a tantrum, having impatience, being selfish are things that never need to be taught to us; it is part of the sin nature that has been transferred to us through Adam’s rebellion; our very sad condition in original sin.
So it isn’t my sin that makes me a sinner; I didn’t suddenly become a human being because I sinned. My sin does not make me a sinner, rather I sin because I am a sinner. When I sin, I am fulfilling my natural bent, my natural job description.
In the Old Testament book of Jeremiah 17:9, one of the very clear passages on this concerning the human heart says, “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?”
So God is taking the human heart, human nature, placing it under a microscope to explain what our real problem is: our heart, which comes from within, is deceitful, it fools us; we think we are fine, but we aren’t. In actuality, we are sick, and who can even understand it, our condition is so bad.
In Mark 7:20-23, Jesus was in a big scuffle with the Pharisees. They were all bent out of shape because Jesus was allowing his disciples to eat on the Sabbath. Jesus takes the opportunity to tell them where evil really comes from — it isn’t what man takes into him, by way of food, that makes him evil; it comes from inside out — his heart. So in Mark 7:20-23, And He was saying, ‘That which proceeds out of the man,… [see that it isn’t something going in, it is the wicked heart manifesting itself from the inside out]… For from within, out of the heart, proceed evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness.
[That’s quite a list there]. All of these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.’”
This is the very thing James is dealing with here in James 1:14,15. He is explaining where temptation is coming from — our sin nature. In fact, in James 4:1-3, he addresses the issue here, saying, “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? [Why do Christians fight with each other all the time?]
Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. 3You ask and do not receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.” [Where do wrong motives come from — from the inside].
So James doesn’t say as modern psychology does, that if people in a church can’t get along, then everyone needs to take a personality or temperament test, and if we can just get similar personality types to work together, then all of the conflict in Christianity would stop. That is a diagnosis from secular psychology that almost has nothing to do with biblical revelation and biblical truth. The Bible is very clear that dissensions, many of which emanate from, envy [wanting something that someone else has that you can’t have leading you to murder them]. You may say, ‘I haven’t murdered anyone;’ well, you can murder someone with your tongue as James 3 states. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that you can commit murder and wish people dead without actively doing anything.
So James is very clear, as is Christ in Mark 7, Jeremiah in Jeremiah 17, and Moses recording the Lord’s words in Genesis 8:21 that temptation is not to be blamed on God in that He is trying to set you up for failure. Temptation comes from within, from the sin nature.
It is interesting that he doesn’t even mention satan here. Can satan tempt? Because I can be completely rotten without satan’s influence at all. What time in history illustrates this? The Millennial Kingdom. In the Millennial Kingdom, after the Tribulation period, when Jesus returns to planet Earth, He will take satan and bind him for 1000 years in the bottomless pit. Satan’s defeat goes through various stages and in stage #6, he is bound in the bottomless pit. Those who will survive the Tribulation period, enter into the Millennial Kingdom in mortal bodies and will have children who will procreate, and the sin nature will be passed down to them.
What does the human race do during that 1000-year time period? The prophet, Zechariah says in Zechariah 14:16-18 that people won’t want to go to Jerusalem to worship the King even though the King has brought in perfect world conditions, that is, there are no health care problems, no poverty issues and people are born into that world.
They will look at Jesus Christ on David’s throne in Jerusalem who has brought all of these wonderful conditions to the earth and they hate His guts! They won’t even go to Jerusalem to worship Him as they should, and in that time period, Jesus will be ruling with a rod of iron so He will deal rapidly with that type of rebellion.
In Zechariah 14:16-18, it says, “Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths. And it will that whichever of the families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, there will be no rain on them. If the family of Egypt does not go up or enter, then no rain will fall on them; it will be the plague with which the Lord smites the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths.”
Why not go to Jerusalem to give Jesus His proper homage? Because they don’t like Jesus. You can’t blame that on satan because he is bound in the abyss during this time period. You can’t blame it on a bad environment either because Christ has brought in perfect conditions.
In fact, it gets so bad that at the end of that time period satan is released from his abyss to reveal what is happening in the hearts of people. Satan gives people the opportunity to express what is already in their hearts, and those involved in this rebellion are as the sand of the seashore — this is huge. Think of all the sand on the seashore, that’s how John describes how many become involved in this rebellion.
Revelation 20:7-9 says, “When the thousand years are completed, satan will be released from his prison, 8and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for the war [look at verse 8], the number of them is like the sand of the seashore. 9And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and the fire came down from heaven and devoured them.” Why did that happen? Because Jesus’ Kingdom age is ruling with a rod of iron.
These are all examples in the Bible to communicate what James is saying here: it isn’t God who is tempting you because He can’t do that, nor does He do that anymore than He can be tempted. That temptation is actually coming from your own fallen sin nature.
By the way, have you noticed that since you became saved, that your sin nature didn’t just disappear? Galatians 5:16,17, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.”
So you get saved and you have the new nature, but what happened to the old nature? It has been disabled but not defeated. It has been defeated but not eradicated. Romans 6 says that you have resources in Christ to say ‘no’ to that sin nature. But just because you have that ability doesn’t mean that the sin nature just disappeared. The sin nature will not disappear as long as you’re in this body. Our predicament will change either at death or at the rapture of the Church, whichever comes first. But until that day in history arrives, we are largely two-natured. I have a nature that desires to please God that I received at my spiritual birth and a nature that hates God, and I received that one at my physical conception. The walk of sanctification involves regularly saying ‘yes’ to the desires of the new nature under God’s power and reckon as dead the desires of the old nature. But the desire to return to the old nature is always there. James explains here that this is where temptation comes from; not from God; but from within.
In James 1:14,15 there is a four-step process. “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished it brings forth death.” This is a process. The process of temptation has four parts:
- You are tempted. What is tempting you? Not God. If it isn’t satan, then it is your old sin nature.
- That temptation turns into lust. What is lust? It is desiring what God has placed as off limits. Desiring what God has forbidden is lust.
- When we yield to lust, at that point, it becomes sin.
- This last step is stated at the end of James 1:15 — DEATH. Satan, and the sin nature, when placing you under temptation, never tells you about this last step of DEATH. The deal is that you get to pick your sin, but you don’t get to choose your consequences. DEATH follows sin as night follows the day. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is DEATH.” It is inevitable.
Sunday mornings, we will moving into Genesis 3, and those four things I just mentioned: temptation, lust, sin, DEATH will begin to be seen as God is dealing with Eve and Adam for that matter. You can see this same four-step process in other parts of the Bible. David, for example, in reading the story of David at the height of his career when everything was going great.
In 2 Samuel 11,12, he sees a woman bathing. Who is she? The wife of, oh, she’s a married woman — the wife of Uriah the Hittite. So he has moved from temptation to lust; if he commits adultery with her, then he is violating what God has said not to do. Then, we aren’t given many details, but he summons her and sleeps with her. Now it is no longer in the realm of temptation or lust. Now it is in the realm of sin. And he probably just thought, ‘Well that’s the end of that and I’ll forget about her, she will forget about me; we had our one night stand and let’s just go back and live the rest of our lives.’
Sorry. You left out #4, David. Satan nor the sin nature told you about #4, DEATH? DEATH came. Remember when David was confronted by Nathaniel the prophet? He said, ‘the sword.’ 2 Samuel 12. What do you do with ‘the sword?’ You kill people; that’s DEATH. ‘Because you have done this, the sword will never depart from your household.’ DEATH. Also what happened to that child that was born from that unholy union? The child died, so DEATH came. Now in the midst of sin, temptation, and lust, I guarantee you that David wasn’t thinking about that any more than Eve and Adam were thinking about it, but it came.
This is why I appreciate very much this four-step process that James describes. Notice, in James 1:14, the word, ‘each?’ ‘But each one is tempted…’ There is a strange teaching out there in legalistic circles that says, that if a man commits adultery then obviously it is his wife’s fault, or that something is going wrong in his marriage because man doesn’t just go out and commit adultery, so apparently his wife is doing something wrong.
What does the Bible say? It says, ‘each.’ When you move into sin, you can’t blame anyone but yourself. That’s the significance of this word, ‘each.’ So James is describing this four-fold process. So I am going through a trial and my desire is to charge God with tempting me — not testing me, but tempting me; to destroy me. James says that I should not do that because, #1, temptation cannot emanate from God per James 1:13. And #2, when we are tempted, assuming that it isn’t satan putting us under the temptation, then that temptation is not coming from God but from the sin nature. So Flip Wilson, who famously said, “The devil made me do it” was not biblical. Satan cannot force you to sin; he can certainly place opportunities to sin in front of you, but that desire to sin comes from the old nature that I don’t have to believe or submit to anymore because of my resources in Christ. I don’t have to yield to sin and experience an inevitable DEATH because of the resources that I have in Christ to say ‘no’ to the sin nature.
What is the third reason that we should not charge God recklessly with tempting or trying to destroy us in the midst of adversity? #3, James 1:16-18, the only thing that God could ever give you is a good gift. It is impossible for God to give you anything other than a good gift. Something that comes into your life designed to destroy and bring DEATH, by definition, cannot come from God. It certainly can come from other sources: the devil, the world system, and the sin nature, but not from God because the only thing that God is capable of giving one of His children is a good gift. By the way, that good gift includes your test. ‘Lord, bless my life’ and we expect a Cadillac or Ferrari or something to show up in the driveway. ‘Lord, bless my life, so then the Lord says, ‘Ok, I’ll bless your life; here is a problem.’ ‘Woops, I didn’t think about that as a good gift.’ The Lord says, ‘Yeah, it is a good gift because it will develop patience and maturity a lot better than your driving around town in a red Ferrari will.’ I’m not against Ferraris myself, I may go through a midlife crisis and get one myself at some point. But having fun all the time, and I’m not against fun; I think we ought to put fun in fundamentalism sometimes, but I don’t really grow a lot when I’m having fun all the time. I do have a propensity to grow when I’m under adversity. So then you can start to look at adversity as something better than a red Ferrari or a cruise or something fun like going to Disneyworld. Actually, going to Disneyworld is something of a trial itself.
In James 1:16, he develops his third point, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.” Now it is quite clear that his audience is saved because they’re called brethren, not only are they called brethren, they’re called beloved. That description is never used anywhere in the Bible of an unbeliever, so he is dealing with the growth of the believer. “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.” Are you saying that the beloved brethren or believers can be deceived? It must be true, because it says, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.” That means that a believer has the ability to be deceived, and there is another strange teaching going around that says that if you have the mind of Christ, you can’t be deceived. Are you kidding? Christians are deceived all the time. That doesn’t mean they’re going to hell when they’re deceived because they’re eternally secure, but they just introduced a lot of problems into their lives that bring forth DEATH. In 2 Thessalonians 2:3, it says, “Let no one in any way deceive you,…” That means that as a New Testament Christian, there is a potential for me to be deceived. If the potential for me, as a Christian, was not to be deceived, then why does Romans 12:2 say to renew your mind? Why does Ephesians 6:17 to put on the helmet of salvation? What the helmet protect? Your mind, which is where deception comes from. Those commands wouldn’t be in the Bible if I had no potential for being deceived.
Look at James 1:17, “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.” So what he is saying there in verse 13 is the only thing that God can every introduce into your life is a good gift even if you don’t recognize it as such because it hurts. The hurt is designed to produce patience and maturity. So verse 17 is very clear that every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above. If we understand that that is the foolishness in the midst of suffering is charging God recklessly. Why would I charge God recklessly? Everything that is happening in my life is for my own benefit; for my own betterment.
By the way, do you know how to give good gifts to your children? Some of you say ‘no.’ How about your grandchildren? You certainly know how to bless your children; you really know how to bless your grandchildren. If we know how to do that, and we are tainted by a sin nature, then how much more will God in heaven know how to do that who is untainted by a sin nature?
So obviously if God can only give good gifts, then see the silliness of charging God foolishly in the midst of trials, saying ‘God, You’re trying to destroy me.’ In Matthew 7:9-11 Jesus says, “Or what man is there among you who when his son asks for a loaf will give him a stone?” “Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he?” “If you then, being evil [that’s us] know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!”
So if we know how to bless our children, and we are tainted by a sin nature, then how much more is God, who is not tainted by a sin nature, the giver of good gifts to His children? So everything that’s happening to you, that has come into your life by the permissive will of God, is there because God gave it to you as a gift. Now, I am not talking about suffering that we bring on ourselves by yielding to temptation. I am just talking about trials and tribulations that we experience as Christians as we walk with God. We shouldn’t be in a position where we tell God that He is trying to wreck our lives; trying to destroy our lives — because God can only give good gifts.
Notice in James 1:17 that these good gifts are coming down from the Father of lights. Notice that God is called the Father of Lights. Very significant because there are a lot of people running around telling us that the USA was founded on Masonic principles because Benjamin Franklin referred to God as the Father of Lights. Obviously, Benjamin Franklin was involved in a masonic conspiracy, in the Illuminati — because what Christian would refer to God as the Father of Lights? Benjamin Frank is quoting James 1:17, in fact, in this quote by Benjamin Frank, a good thing to think about around election time, he quotes the Bible two other times. He says that a sparrow cannot fall without His notice — Matthew 6:26. Then he said, ‘except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.’ That is the Psalms, somewhere around Psalm 127-133; then he talks about the builders at the Tower of Babel — Genesis 11, and then, this man allegedly involved in the Illuminati, says, “…I therefore beg leave to move that, henceforth, prayers imploring the assistance of heaven and its blessings on our deliberations be held in this assembly every morning [he is saying this at the Constitutional Convention] before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service.” ‘Hey folks, were not going to get very far with this Constitutional Convention until we get the pastors of this city, Philadelphia, in here and start praying for us.’ And in the process, he quotes Genesis 11, Matthew 6 and also one of the Psalms around 127. Then he refers to God as the Father of Lights which is right out of
James 1:17. I don’t have a lot of patience with people rewriting history, making sound like the USA is somehow less than it is. I think God has blessed our country, because though it wasn’t a perfect country, it was started on biblical principles.
Look at the rest of verse 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.”
So, God’s character has within it, no variation or shifting shadow. That’s why the only thing that God can give you is a good gift even if it is tribulation. It is impossible for Him to give you anything else. It is a tremendous statement in verse 17 about God’s character. 1 Timothy 6:16 says that God “alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light.” 1 John 1:5 says, “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.”
See how foolish we look when we charge God recklessly and attribute wrong motives to God? We are charging God with doing something that His very nature prohibits Him from doing. That is James’ point. I like what it says in verse 17, that not only is there no shifting shadow or no variation — shifting means to change, and James is getting here at one of God’s great attributes, which is His immutability, which means He doesn’t change. Malachi 3:6 says of God, “For I the Lord do not change.” ‘I have been nothing but good from eternity past, and nothing is going to change Me from that point on.’
Think about Muslims. Do you realize that to Islam, Allah is a deceiver and can change his mind at will? ‘Hey, I told you that you had to have x amount of good works to work your way into my presence, and I gave you the impression that you were getting pretty close, and that you were going to enter heaven, but I changed my mind. You don’t have enough good works.’ That’s why Muslims are in a state of fear all the time; why they’re obsessed with good works, because they don’t know if they’ve done enough to merit their god’s favor in the final judgment, and even if they have done enough, their god can say, ‘Today I changed my mind. I told you that you’ve done enough before, but today, I think differently, and you haven’t done enough.’ See how different the God of the Bible is? His immutability; the fact that He does not change. When you trusted in Christ, and your sins were forgiven, that’s a done deal. You shouldn’t think that one day God will say, ‘Well, that’s not quite enough.’ Because for God to say, ‘that’s not good enough, is to contract one of His attributes — immutability where He is not of variation or shifting shadow.
He concludes here with verse 18 by talking about the ultimate gift that He already gave you — your salvation. Verse 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.” You think that God is not a giver of good gifts? He already gave you the ultimate good gift, your salvation. He gave us our status as a child of God. Notice it says in that last verse, “In the exercise of His will.” The Calvinists have a field day with that, ‘Oh, God only wants some to be saved.’ That’s not what the Bible says.
2 Peter 3:9 says, “God is not wishing or willing for any to perish but all to come to repentance.”
1 Timothy 2:4 says, “God, who desires ALL men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
When it talks of the exercise of His will and about the salvation of some, you should not interpret that God only wants some people to be saved just because some people respond to the message of grace, and some don’t. God’s desire is that everyone will be saved. Sadly not everyone will be saved because some respond to the free gift of Jesus Christ, and some do not.
He gave you His status as His child. By the way, did you see how He gave it? “He brought us forth by the word of truth.” That’s how salvations happen.
Romans 10:17, “Faith comes from hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ.”
1 Peter 1:23, “…for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring Word of God.”
Christ brings people to salvation through a proclamation of His Word. That’s how He works. Remember the rich man who died and went into hell, and he wanted to go back and warn his 5 brothers and the response to him? ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’
But Abraham said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’ They already have the Word of God; they have everything they need to come into a right relationship with God. They don’t need anything else.
This is the point that James is making when he talks about our salvation: the most precious commodity that you can have was brought forth by the word of truth. The end of verse 18, “so that we would be kind of firstfruits among His creatures.” Firstfruits among His creatures means we are like a special crop within God’s created universe. There are God’s creations and God’s creatures, but then there is a select group of people who are His children. God wants everyone to be His child, but becoming a child of God only is a gift given to the person, who by volition, respond to His Word. So not all of His creatures are His children. Not all people are God’s children. A lot of public prayers today by some make it obvious that the one praying is godless and acting like they have some kind of right because ‘we are all God’s children.’ ‘No, we’re not. We are all God’s creation. You only become His child when you respond by faith to the message of salvation. Jesus said that in John 1:12,13, “But as many as received Him, He gave them the right to become children of God even to those who believe.” A person has to respond. Just being a creation of God doesn’t make you God’s child. “…even to those who believe in Him were born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man but of God.” Only a born again Christian is a child of God, and only a born again Christian is a born again Christian because they heard the Word and they responded to it by way of faith.
So what James is getting at here to his audience is, ‘this has already happened to you.’ Look at the gift you have in that alone. That’s evidence in and of itself that God can’t do anything in your life as a Christian other than to give you a good gift. He can’t set you up for destruction; He can’t tempt you, now the sin nature may do that, and satan may do that, but God cannot do that because He already gave you the ultimate gift — salvation, therefore, everything else coming into your life is lesser gifts. By the way, one of your lesser gifts is a little bit of suffering, and I say a ‘little bit’ because it pales in comparison to eternity, and hat suffering is there to help not to destroy you.
So don’t charge God foolishly in the midst of temptation. Why not? Three reasons:
- Temptation cannot come from God — James 1:13b
- Temptation when it comes, assuming it isn’t from satan, comes from our fallen nature, which we still have, which is why we have to reckon it dead. If I don’t reckon it dead, then I am going to keep suffering DEATH — James 1:14-15
- The only thing God can ever give as the Father of Lights whose character is without variation or shifting shadow is a good gift, and He already gave you the ultimate good gift — your salvation — James 1:16-18
That is good stuff, and I take no credit for it; it is right out of the Bible. Next time, we will look at James 1:19-27 as we move away from trials and into obedience as a way to manifest practical righteousness.