BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 26, Day 5: James 2:14-26

Summary of passage:  James asks what good is it to have faith without deeds? Faith by itself without action is dead. You show your faith by what you do.  As shown by deeds, Abraham offered his son Isaac on the altar which showed his faith complete by deeds.  A person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

Rahab was considered righteous when she gave lodging to the spies and sent the soldier off in different directions.  Faith without deeds is dead as the body without the spirit is dead.

Questions:

13) This is subtle and tricky.  Faith in Jesus Christ alone will save you.  You are saved by faith and receive salvation and a place in heaven when you accept Jesus in your heart.  But when you do have this faith, you are a changed person.  This new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) you have become has a new kind of faith: a faith that desires to prove itself through works.  This saving faith that we not have has works along with it.  James says in verse 17 faith now has action that accompanies it.

It mimics the saying “Actions are more powerful than words.”  You can say you believe in Jesus all you want.  You show you believe in Jesus through the actions of your heart.

14)  According to many commentaries I read, this is considered by some to be the most difficult verse in the entire New Testament to reconcile.  Wonderful (read sarcasm here). Further, one said the faith of demons should not be compared with the faith of human beings according to Hebrews 2:14.

Demons know Jesus is the Son of God (Matthew 8:29) and they yield to His Lordship (Mark 1:24;  5:7; Matthew 8:29-30).

As in Hebrews 11, we see the pillars of faith (Abraham and Rahab) mentioned here yet again.  How by faith they followed God without question (Hebrews 11:8-13; 31).

I’m going to make my own conclusions here on the difference:  Man/Abraham/Rahab followed God out of love; the demons followed/obeyed God out of fear.  This I believe is the crux of the matter.

Side Note:  One commentator I read said demons are angels who have sinned.  This was interesting so I wanted to share.  Of course, we don’t know but it’s something to ponder anyways.

15a)  No.  I don’t despite the evidence in this passage.  I would like to hope so.  But I don’t.  I believe those who are converted on their death beds don’t have the opportunity. But Jesus is happy to have them despite the fact they didn’t have time to do good works. This is what Paul says (Ephesians 2:9).

It also brings into my mind the falling away passage we studied in Hebrews 4:4-6 (another passage I have difficulty with).  I believe once you accept Christ you are his.  You can’t fall away unless you deliberately deny him afterwards.  But those who stumble still have him.  For there is nothing in this world you can do that Jesus will not forgive.  He has claimed you and even after you accept you, you sin.  But He always remains.

Do I believe most people who are born again will produce good works?  Yes.  You have no choice.  If you accept Jesus, you are a new person and His.  Therefore, the deeds will follow.  But as I mentioned I do believe in exceptions.  So I don’t think every person will accomplish this.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  I don’t know honestly.  I can’t see myself through their eyes and no one has come up to me and said, “Wow!  You are obviously God’s as I see through such-and-such evidence.”

I hope they see something but I have such a low opinion of myself right now I would say nothing.  For I’m not where I want to be in my daily walk with Christ.  I’m just not.  So I’d say there is no evidence of my faith right now.

And to me I could care less what others thought/think of me or if there is evidence (in their eyes) of my faith.  It only matters what God thinks of me and what He knows I am accomplishing.  And right now I feel I am failing miserably.  It’s my daily prayer for God to heal my heart from past pains so I can move on to what He has for me.  For the devil will not claim me.  And I will win.

Conclusions:  This passage was very, very difficult for me to chew on.  Very.  For I believe once you accept Jesus in your heart you are in Heaven.  You do not get into heaven by works.  Yet works is what makes us alive in Christ.  Christ puts works in our heart once we have him and the Holy Spirit within that we must act on.  Otherwise, we are dead.

Yet I believe there will be people in heaven who do not have works to show for their faith.  But they have faith.  This is what I believe at least.

This concept is very difficult for me to reconcile.  You don’t need works to get into heaven yet if you have faith you produce works.  And I just don’t see works in my life.  So does that mean my faith is dead?  It’s a bit of a dichotomy, isn’t it?

I just believe in my heart God wants our faith first and foremost.  He wants us.  He wants our hearts paramount.  Everything else is secondary:  our works and whatever else we do for Him.  As long as our hearts stay true to Him the rest falls into place.  Including works. We shouldn’t have to think about works.  They should just flow naturally out of our heart that is now God’s.  It should be joyful and unforced.  It should be with love and a deep gratitude.  It should be God/Holy Spirit–not something I could ever do or take credit for.

End Note:  Question 15b did not sit well with me after pondering it for a bit.  In this world where it’s a daily struggle to counter our culture of always being in each other’s business and trying to keep up with the Jones, I thought this question was in the same vein.  This was my first response at least.

We are not of this world and this question could be taken in the context of “Well, what have you done lately to show your faith?”, promoting pride over humility.  Yet, at the same time, we are to walk our faith and show non-believers what a believer’s life should look like.  So taken in this context it makes us ponder, “Are we walking our faith?”

I hope it’s the latter.  But for me, having been raised in the culture of nothing less than perfection will do, I did not like the wording of this question.  It makes me feel like I’m not doing enough and I’m inadequate in some way (something I already feel anyways.  Is any of us truly doing enough?  Consider Paul’s life…).  I’m doing the best I can under the circumstances God has given me.

I would have preferred apparent to “God”.  For He is all that matters.

If you are broken like me, you probably took this question hard like I did and immediately threw up walls because that’s what you do when you are reminded of past pains.  Then I read Matthew 5:16 where Jesus says, “Let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

So it is all for God.  It’s for others to see God through us.  For His glory.  Never ours.  We do good deeds not for ourselves or what it brings us but what it brings God:  other broken people who need Him as much as we do.

Hopefully, in the end, maybe just a bit of our brokenness will be mended in the process.

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BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 26, Day 4: James 2:1-13

Summary of passage:  James tells believers bluntly not to show favoritism because Jesus didn’t.  Favoritism is discriminating and passing judgment on others (Jesus’ job, not ours).  God judges the heart, not appearances.  God chose the poor to be rich in faith and yet the people (you) insult them.  The rich often sin against you (the people) in their quest for money.

If you show favoritism you sin.  Even if you stumble and break just one law you are guilty of breaking them all.  We are not to choose which laws are more important.  We are called simply to obey.

We are free to show favoritism or not but out of mercy we must choose not to for this mercy will then be shown to us on Judgment Day and mercy is greater than judgment.

Questions:

10)  Preference is “to like better or best; the act of giving advantages to some over others”

Favoritism is “the showing of special favor; partiality; a special privilege or right granted or conceded”  Both according to Webster’s Dictionary.

Preference and favoritism is much the same.  If you prefer or favor someone you grant them special favors or concessions.  Friends by definition (“one attached to another by affection or esteem” Webster’s) is someone you show favor to.  Not everyone is your friend.  Why not?  Because you don’t like them.  So not for sure what BSF is aiming for in terms of friendship here.

Co-workers and Christians should all be treated the same.  Much of the time however favoritism is involved and it’s hard not to do this.  If you like someone better, you are partial to them.  It’s human nature and something we must fight against in a professional setting.

My guess is the answer is this:  it’s okay to show favoritism to your friends because you choose your friends.  Your co-workers and Christians you should treat equally because God chose them.  Just a guess here.  Still not sure what BSF is aiming for here.

11a)  Any thing in the political world.  The rich are courted because to win an election unfortunately these days it all comes down to money raised.  I would say schools as well at least charter and private schools that rely on outside funds.  They constantly solicit money for this project or that project and in my limited experience the administration knows who has money and who doesn’t and plays favorites.  Sports as well at least in the early years.

Favoritism is a human trait and must be a choice to be overcome.

b)  Well, I’m not a member of any group to be honest with you.  Yes, I vote.  I homeschool.  My kids do sports. And I go to church.  But I am not intricately involved in terms of the nitty-gritty.  I choose not to be.  My calling is elsewhere.  And I don’t see favoritism in any of these places I traverse.  Not saying it doesn’t exist. Just saying I don’t see it on my level of involvement.

12)  James is saying in this verse that you cannot pick and choose which laws to follow.  You must follow all of God’s laws or you will be guilty of breaking them all even if you just break one (basically you will have sinned and need forgiveness).

Personally, I would not use this verse to speak to an unbeliever.  I don’t know about you but I sin every day of my life and I repent every day of my life.  I am a sinner and I need Jesus.  Every day of my life.  This verse is hard for us to swallow.  Yes, it’s true.  But it’s not a good place to begin a conversation with an unbeliever.

Some unbelievers don’t even know what a Savior is.  You have to start with the fundamentals before diving into the nitty-gritty.  First, talk about Jesus, who he is, what he did for you, and how Jesus can save the unbeliever.  THEN, dive into the laws of God and keeping them.  First, explain the Savior.  Then explain the reasons behind.

Just my opinion, of course.

Conclusions:  Not for sure what these questions have to do with the passage to be honest with you.  Didn’t like Question 12 at all.  In truth, I wouldn’t begin a conversation with that verse.  Most people don’t like to hear the fact they are guilty of anything but this says if you break just one little law you are guilty of the whole crime.  Not for sure unbelievers would jump on the band wagon after this verse.  Better to start off with “Jesus loves you” than this one.

Did not get much out of this.  I just didn’t.  Favoritism is everywhere and being that we can only control ourselves and the rest is in God’s hands I’m not for sure the overarching lesson in these questions.  The passage conveys my role much better than the questions.

Maybe I’m missing something here.  Any thoughts?

End Note:  Lesson I learned from the passage:  I liked the verses (9-11) that compared and contrasted adultery and murder.  For we are not here to choose which laws to follow and which ones not.  We are called to obey.  God decided.  He made the laws.  We do not question.  We do not judge.  We merely obey.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 26, Day 3: James 1:19-27

Summary of passage:  James offers some practical advice, saying everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger for man’s anger does not bring about righteous life.  Get rid of all moral filth and evil and humbly accept the word planted in you.

Do what the word says.  Anyone who doesn’t is like a man who just looks in a mirror and forgets what he sees.  Anyone who follows the law will be blessed in what he does.  Keep a tight rein on your tongue and look after orphans, widows, and keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Questions:

8a)  Quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger, get rid of all the moral filth and evil and accept the word planted in you.  Do what the word says to do.  Keep a tight rein on your tongue.  Look after orphans and widows and keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  I don’t listen very well and I do get angry easily.  I don’t guard my tongue as I should.  All of these I need to work on.

9a)  Well, widows and orphans.  The homeless.  Kids on the streets.  Latchkey kids.  People in nursing homes.

b)  We have a responsibility to all those less fortunate than ourselves.  We can donate to charities that help these people.  We can serve in food kitchens.  Donate to food banks. Visit nursing homes (especially with our kids).  Be vigilant when God puts certain individuals in our way to help.

Conclusions:  Not as meaty as yesterday in terms of personal application but just as important.  Important to heed James’s advice on how to live and to remember we are here to serve others.

My favorite was “to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”  So often these days no one takes responsibility but we are just as responsible for being influenced by the world as the world is.  Probably more so.  We must keep ourselves away from situations where we are more likely to fall, limit what we are exposed to, and live according to the Word.  This goes for our kids as well.

For I believe we cannot help/serve others effectively if we ourselves are “polluted”.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 26, Day 2: James 1:1-18

Summary of passage:  James is speaking to the 12 tribes scattered among the nations. He tells them to consider it pure joy when they are faced with trials because it tests their faith and develops perseverance, which we need in order to finish the work God wants to do in us.  If we lack wisdom, ask God and believe the Lord will answer and He will.  The humble brother should be prideful in his position but the rich should take pride if he becomes low; otherwise he will fade away like the flower if he puts his trust in material things of this world.

Blessed are those who persevere under trial for he will receive the crown of life from God.  God does not tempt anyone.  Temptation comes from our own evil desire, which leads to sin and then to death.  Every good and perfect gift is from God who never changes.

Questions:

3)  We learn in 1:1 this letter was written after the diaspora in 70 AD when the temple was destroyed by the Romans so the tribes are no longer in their homeland but in foreign nations and amongst unbelievers.  The rich are apparently exploiting the poor and dragging them into court (2:6-7) and are being favored.  And 1:2 tells us they face “trials of many kinds”.  Living in the first century AD was a struggle just to survive for many people.

4a)  Personal Question.  My answer:  As I’ve said before, I don’t face anything like what Paul did or the other early Christians.  My main trials are doing the right thing (which I try to do) and living according to God’s calling and not according to the world’s.

b)  I think 1:4 says it best:  look at trials as working in you, giving you perseverance and maturity to finish the work God has for you.  There is a reason for whatever is happening in your harried life and even if we can’t see it, we must trust God and believe in the end we will come out stronger for Him.

5a)  Ask God for wisdom and it will be given.  But you must believe and not doubt that God will answer.

b)  Great question!  Depends on what kind of doubt we are talking about here.  In my mind, doubt is human nature.  We all question whether we are doing the right thing or not, making the right decisions, or if we are following God’s will.  Sure, we must ask and believe but that doesn’t mean Satan is not throwing darts to pop our balloons.  We must be wary as well.

According to Webster’s, doubt is:  fear; to lack confidence in; distrust to be uncertain; uncertainty of belief that often interferes with decision-making.

Sin is “offensive to God; an offense against religious or moral law; transgression of the law of God” says Webster’s.

Jesus said in Matthew 21:21 “If you have faith and do not doubt”.  Doubt is the antithesis of faith.  If we doubt then we lack faith.  We must have faith to have Jesus.  So can we make the jump to saying all doubt is sinful?

I would argue no.  To have doubt in the first place you must believe in something. Otherwise, why would you fear repercussions?  I believe you can doubt and still have Jesus.  You can’t doubt Jesus.  But you can doubt whether or not your new job offer is a God-thing or not.

We doubt because we are human.  Because we have an Enemy who attacks us daily.  And, yes, because we are unsure of God’s answer.  But it strengthens us.  Gives us perseverance to finish the race.  When we doubt, we pray.  When we pray, we become closer to God; we hear Him more.  So the next time doubt surfaces, we can believe and trust Him more.

Doubt is a symptom of weak faith.  Can we have God and still doubt?  Yes.  Because we are growing in Him.  And every time we pray and ask God to remove doubt from our lives, to show us the way–clearly–we grow in Him.  And our doubt lessens every time.

Mark 9:24 “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” is a prayer we all need to pray at certain moments in our life.

6)  Personal Question.  My answer:  I think it’s saying that we all (no matter if we are wealthy or not) face trials and ups and downs in life and all the material goods will fade away like a wild flower.  We must put our faith in God who never fades.

7a)  Temptation–desire–sin–death.  Temptation is everywhere.  We are told sins are okay (premarital sex, indulging in whatever our heart desires, etc).  That life is short so live it up.  If we are not grounded in God, we will Fall.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Use the word of God as a shield and sword.  Pray.  Trust and believe everything is for my good. (Romans 8:28)  “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).  I think we all know our weaknesses so avoid situations where we are weak and tempted.  When the desire arises, pray and flee from it or the situation if possible.  If we do sin, repent immediately and God will forgive.

Conclusions:  Great lesson.  I liked the personal questions and it’s a great passage to study.  James certainly doesn’t mince any words.  I’ll be interested to see what BSF says about doubt.  I could be wrong on this but I think doubt is so common and is used by the devil so much against us that I see it as part of the life we must traverse and not as a sin. It’s part of our Fallen nature, one we must overcome.  Another step in God’s direction. Our growth process.   Another test of our faith in Him.  Another trial we must persevere. Until the day comes when we can fully trust in Him.

End Note:  In lecture this week we talked about the process of sanctification (the process or result of being made holy).  Our leader mentioned how we are all born as infants, starting out in doubt but growing up in faith.  Thus, doubt is a process, one we are meant to go through as we grow in our relationship with God.  One we all go through.