Isa 54:7 "For a mere moment I have forsaken you, But with great mercies I will gather you.
8 With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment; But with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you," Says the LORD, your Redeemer. 9 "For this is like the waters of Noah to Me; For as I have sworn That the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth, So have I sworn That I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you. 10 For the mountains shall depart And the hills be removed, But My kindness shall not depart from you, Nor shall My covenant of peace be removed," Says the LORD, who has mercy on you.
Jas 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror;
24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.
25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. 26 If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one's religion is useless. 27 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
Joh 16:23 "And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. 24 "Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. 25 "These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; but the time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but I will tell you plainly about the Father. 26 "In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; 27 "for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God. 28 "I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father."
The first thing I’d like to do this morning is to just let our OT lesson sink in for a while. In your baptism, God came to you with all the blessings that Jesus won for the world on Calvary. And He says here through the prophet Isaiah , that He will ever remain faithful to His part of the bargain. His mercy and peace is always available to those who will receive it and remain in it.
“My kindness shall not depart from you, nor My covenant of peace be removed!” But what happens? Who moves? We do! We either spend all His grace on worldly living, like the Prodigal Son, or we stay at home like his dutiful brother, and never take advantage of the grace that has been given us.
We go through all the religious motions, but we never really “taste and see that the Lord is good.” The older brother here is in worse trouble than the younger brother. Even though he was home, he was just as far from the father as the Prodigal was when he was eating with the pigs.....because in his dutiful, graceless obedience, he still thinks it is his obedience to the father that entitles him to his inheritance.
I hope today, that as you hear this Word of God, that you will examine where you really are with your walk with the Lord, and that the Holy Spirit will show you what you need to believe and do to either come back to God or remain and grow in His covenant of mercy and peace with you.
In our epistle lesson, James, speaks to all baptized believers, those who have been brought forth by the Word of truth. This same faithful Word that brought us the same mercy and peace that Isaiah spoke of, now needs to be heeded, in order to show forth the evidence of our faith.
Now, we are to be doers of this same word. If we just hear the Word, we fool ourselves into a false form of Christianity. The Greek word for “deceiving” here is “cheating.” When we refuse to “do the Word of God, we are cheating ourselves. If you come here week after week and listen to a sermon, but don’t apply it in your life....you are cheating yourself out of the intended blessings of God.
James likens such a person to one who takes a glance at a mirror and walks away forgetting what kind of a man he really is. Ultimately what happens is we wind up thinking more highly of our Christian walk then we ought.
Think about it, if you were only to check yourself out in a mirror, once a day, what would you look like at the end of the day? You would likely look a little or maybe a lottle disheveled and unkempt. But without looking in another mirror, the image in your mind would be the last one you saw in the mirror.
Pretty spiffy, but not a true image. So as we check that mirror throughout the day we obey it’s correcting qualities. We straighten the tie, comb the hair, adjust the makeup, in short we become a doer of the work of the mirror. The mirror provides us with the true picture and allows us to take corrective action.
Without corrective action on our part, the work of the mirror is useless. Our trust (faith) in the mirror’s accuracy, without corrective action (works) is dead. I think a great experiment would be for Christians to remove all mirrors from their houses and purses for one week. Think about how you would look at the end of that time without a mirror. Ha! Think how you would look at the end of a day!
Then what makes you think, you can do without the mirror of the Word of God in your daily living? Do you really think you can come to church once a week or less, get spiffed up, and remain spiffed up till the next time?.....I don’t think so!
Here’s the thing about mirrors. Unless you are in a FUN House mirrors are inerrant. They reflect the truth. There’s a whole slew of “Fun House” churches out there now who are distorting the Word of God. They wink at all manner of sin, and thereby give you a distorted view of who you really are.
May Living Word always reflect the truth of God’s Word, so that when you come here, you see who you really are....a sinner in need of God’s grace! A pilgrim in need of periodic course corrections.
And, at the same time, may we, through Word and Sacrament enable you to receive God’s forgiveness for your sins, so that you can leave here on Sunday’s totally spiffed up and empowered to confidently live in Christ.
So you come to church. You hear the corrective Word of God being preached, but you refuse to use it to tidy up your life. A lack of corrective action on your part would indicate either a disbelief in what the mirror is trying to tell you, or a desire to remain unchanged. We become spiritual slobs. Hardly the attitude of one who professes to be a Christian!
It should be our heart’s desire to be more Christlike every day!. God uses His Word and the Holy Spirit as He continually attempts to conform us to the image of His Son.
Ro 8:29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
Sometimes a mirror can show us things about ourselves we’d rather not see. Things we’d rather not face. I either have to do something about my weight or by a t-shirt that says B.F> Goodrich around the middle.....or if it keeps getting worse....Massey Ferguson.
Maybe we’ll see a mole that is getting larger, or teeth that are getting stained and crooked, graying hair, and so on. God’s Word is like that, sometimes it shows us things that we would just as soon not see, but to ignore them is to invite more trouble. To ignore them is to be a hearer of the Word rather than a doer of the Word.
I suppose I could preach like that. I could preach like we’re all okay, we have no imperfections, I’m sure our attendance would increase.....but what good would I be doing anyone if I preached like that?
In v 25 James tells us to look into the perfect law of liberty......He of course means God’s Word....the Bible. Please note that he called it the perfect law of liberty not the perfect law of bondage!
To “look” here is not just a casual glance...it is to bend over, inspect, peer within. SLOW DOWN PEOPLE! Read this Word looking for gems. Ask yourself questions as you go through it. “Is there something here for me to trust? Is there something here fo me to obey? Is there a sin here that I need to confess? Is there a promise for me? Is there a condition attached to that promise?
As we read this Word, we can’t let it go in one ear and out the other! We gotta walk the talk! The proof of our Christianity is never in our words it is in our actions. Works are evidences of the presence of faith. Faith in Jesus Christ is the wind that produces the works, that blows the flag of saving faith. If the flag is limp....faith is dead.
Anyone can talk a big game...but can you play it? We talk about our love for Jesus, we talk about being a born-again believer, we know all the right religious words and religious responses, and after a while we even start to believe our own empty speech.
We deceive ourselves and others with our outward show of religiosity. James has a word for that type of religion....he calls it ....useless. DO you want useful religion? Then stop talking about it , and start doing it!
Start by bridling your tongue! Put a cap on that filthy wellspring of a heart you have. Every one of us have two springs in our heart. We have the old nature of our flesh and the new nature of Christ given to us in our baptism.
Cap the old and give place to the new! Let blessing come out of your mouth instead of cursing! The mouth does not just represent our oral speech here, it is the spillgate of action that comes from our heart! O Lord, help us to control the switch! Forgive us when we don’t!
Pure and undefiled religion.....the pure wellspring of your heart, that part that has been made new by Jesus, that part that He desires to spill out is the part that visits orphans and widows in their trouble, and remains unspotted from the world and it’s ways.
The word visit here is more than stopping in a nursing home and singing a few choruses of Kum by yah. It means to inspect and relieve. We are to inspect and relieve orphans and widows in their trouble, in their “tribulations of body, soul, and spirit.
Who are the orphans and widows of today? The same as they were in the day of James, they are synonymous with the needy. So the uncapped wellspring of true religion is reaching out to the needy expecting nothing in return. Jesus sought to touch the needs of body, soul, and spirit, and if He is living in us, so should we.
Pure and undefiled religion is what we are trying to capture in our mission statement at Living Word, “to learn to live for the sake of others rather than ourselves” But that’s not all that God expects from those whom He has birthed in His Word of truth. It’s not all that He expects from His baptized children.
We are also to remain unspotted from the world. Now that doesn’t mean that we are to withdraw from the world. Oh my, we could use a little more mess on our Christian garments. Sometimes I think we act like a little girl with a brand new white dress, and we don’t dare go near anything that might splash mud on it.
We choose to not associate with the sinners, lest they stain our spiritual garments. Is that what Jesus did? I don’t think so. The idea of being unspotted from the world is that no one have a charge against you.
It is to steer clear of sin! We will never be perfect in that regard, but that’s what we have confession for. I can’t help but think about Mother Theresa here. She lived in the slums of Calcutta, in the gutter with the untouchables....I wonder how often she soiled her garment, yet she remained unspotted from the world.
The world had nothing to sling at her. They had nothing to charge her with because she had an intimate relationship with Jesus and allowed His wellspring to flow from her rather than the wellspring of her flesh.
Okay, we have God’s promise that He will never break His covenant with us. We have James telling us how to live in that covenant, but the truth is we still need help. We need enlightenment. And that’s where our Gospel reading comes in today.
These words of Jesus have always baffled the church. I hope we can do a little “unbaffling” here today as we look at this matter of prayer in the name of Jesus. It’s not the blank check that many have tried to make it be....it’s actually better than that.
At our prayer meeting last week, someone prayed “Show me Lord! I want to do what’s right, I want to know and do your will....show me.” Little did this person know.....little did this pastor know that the Lord would affirm that prayer so quickly.
It is affirmed here in this portion of John. Let’s note some things here about these words from Jesus. First of all, note the word “Whatever.” He says Most assuredly, (highest truth) whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you.
Oh boy, imagine a lifetime of sitting on Santa’s lap and just naming off whatever you want! Is that what’s going on here?
No! The key is in understanding the word “give.” We think of the word “give” and our mind turns to thoughts of gifts.....presents, physical things, maybe healings, and so forth. I mean wouldn’t they be included in “whatever?”
Well, the word “give” here has a broad variety of uses here and while it could include things like a new car, or a healing, it also means “to show.” And in context of what Jesus is talking about here “show” is the better definition.
He has spent a couple of verses telling His disciples that He won’t be around for this flesh to flesh interrogation anymore. He won’t be there in the flesh to “show” them the meaning of His words or actions anymore. He won’t be there in person to show them the Father’s will.
But He gives them this great promise.... “but whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will “show” you. One of the duties of the Holy Spirit is to “guide us” into all truth. He will “show us what we need to know! He is in the business of “showing”....enlightening.
Think about it. When Jesus walked this earth He often went away to pray and almost every recorded incident involved Him asking the Father to “show Him what to do. “Father show me the disciples I should choose. Father show me if I should stay in this place or move on. Father, if there’s another way other than the cross....show Me....and the Father did.
Should we pray any differently today? Father.....show me! What a great prayer was prayed last Sunday night at our prayer gathering. Show me Father!
This should be our prayer. Show me the way of your truth! Show me the way out of this temptation! Show me what to do! The promise here is that if you ask in the name of Jesus, if you ask with the same motivation you will receive it. Proper motivation is the key.
His motivation for asking was to always do the will of the Father. His desire was always obedience. He went to prayer with the attitude that He would be obedient to whatever God showed Him. This must be out attitude as well. God knows our hearts. He knows how we will respond to what He shows us.
This is where true joy comes from. Responding in trust and obedience to whatever God shows you in His word brings fullness of joy, because you are now living the life that God intended for you to live!
Try this brothers and sisters! Pray, “Father, show me what You will in Your Word today that I might respond in obedience and bring You glory.” I guarantee you that God will answer that prayer.
He will start showing you the things He desires from you. Now, let me warn you here lest you get discouraged. You will pray that prayer, God will respond and He will show you how you can visit an orphan or a widow...how you can help someone in need, and you will miss it....or blow it off.....carry your own mattress buster!
This business of responding to what God shows you takes practice! Our flesh is strong! Thankfully the Lord knows our imperfections and He is willing to forgive them as we sincerely confess them. Keep at it! Keep praying, you will notice an increase in opportunities to show that you have heard!
Seize them, that your joy may be full! It may seem out of your way...it may seem to be a pain....it may even seem a little silly, but if God is nudging you....follow through....there is joy at the end of the tunnel....ask anyone who has ever gone through it.
Ask anyone who has asked the Father to show them. The promise is faithful because it is from God. Whatever you ask to be shown in the submissive attitude of Jesus He will show you! Like the mirror spoken of in James...you may not like what you see, but there is joy and blessing for those who act on what has been shown!