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James 3 – Sticks and Stones

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words…

…are uncontrollable and are like wildfires that can lead people astray and destroy you all.

We’ve all had those moments when words left our mouth and our hands began grasping in front of our face trying to grab the words and shove them back into our mouths.  Alas, we could not and the damage was done.  I can distinctly remember times when I spent nights sleepless with a sick feeling in my stomach just wondering how badly things would go because of words I wished I could have back.  As you remember those moments, we’re going to put this on hold for a moment.

Most people, if asked to name the most influential people in their lives, would name family members, close friends, and likely teachers.  Each of us could quickly name our favorite and most influential teachers from our lives (and least favorite and least effective as well).  We all know this to some extent and it’s because we do that people get so upset when their children have teachers that teach a religious or political view different from their own.  We know how influential teachers can be.

When we combine the two thoughts above, we arrive at the warning in James 3 that teachers must be so cautious because words are so powerful and teachers are so influential, the words of teachers have great weight.  As my friend Lee would say, this is a good place to cite the Spiderman clause, “With great power comes great responsibility.”  

The larger point is rooted in Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 12 or Luke 6, that what comes out of the mouth is the overflow of the heart.  So start by controlling what comes out of your mouth and it will begin to have an impact on the matters of the heart.  James goes so far as to imply that if you can master your tongue, the hardest and most difficult part of the body to control, that you can master the rest.

You might be tempted to think that words are just words, but evil and good can’t come from the same source.  So if evil is on your tongue…maybe you need to reevaluate what your saying.

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2013 in James

 

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Romans 2 – Circumcision of the Heart

Israel’s Failure

In the Old Testament, the Prophets frequently pleaded with Israel to be God’s nation and a light to the world.  God promised Abraham that his offspring would be a blessing to the nations.  And yet, the Prophets also condemned Israel over and over again for their failure to be any sort of light to the nations or even to follow God’s law, which was intended to set them apart as his Holy Covenant people.  In this chapter, Paul begins to echo this sentiment that Israel has failed and that judgment and a total restructuring of Israel is now necessary.  This judgment and destruction took place in the form of God’s own son, Jesus dying on the cross.  And now God is beginning the rebuilding of his people.

Justification

For centuries, most of Jewish thought has been that if you are Jewish and know God’s law, then you are judged to be one of God’s people.  However, Paul says in this passage that it takes much more than knowing God’s law or hearing God’s law to be righteous.  What matters is when people obey the law.  Verse 13 says that it is those who obey the law who will “be declared righteous” or “justified.”  While those words are very churchy and have meant different things to different people at different times, the basic idea is simply that those who live the way God tells us to live will be judged by the one almighty impartial judge to be “in the right.”  And if you can imagine how much a person’s life can change when a judge on our earthly courts determines that they are in the right, imagine how much greater it is to have the one true judge determine that you are ultimately in the right.

Mark of Being In the Right

But don’t go assuming that it’s as easy to tell as we often think it is.  You can’t tell that somebody is one of God’s redeemed people because they are circumcised.  People can be circumcised and live far outside of God’s will for their life.  It is those who allow God’s law to be written upon their heart who are internally and spiritually circumcised who are God’s People.  If you want to be a true “Jew,” Paul tells his audience, it isn’t about physical markings, national heritage or paternal birthright.  It’s about living faithfully according to God’s law.

In my church today, we would say that baptism isn’t how you tell if somebody is saved.  Certainly, somebody can get baptized and come out of the waters and live a life far outside of God’s will.  If your body is washed but your heart remains filthy then you’ve done nothing.  Don’t assume that the outward markings are indications of salvation.  God’s mark of the saved is on their hearts because of their living as God wants them to live.

(I am not implying that circumcision or baptism aren’t important.  They were/are.  I’m simply saving that for later, like Paul does as well…see Romans 6.)

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2012 in Bible Blog, Pauline Epistles, Romans

 

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