“Man sakes alive did he or she ever stand the test of time!”
So often in life we hear about those rare individuals that really proved to be the genuine article.
They really practiced what they preached….they got the job done…when times got tough they were the tough who got going…
…Relatives, teachers, coaches, bosses, employees, volunteers and community leaders that totally seemed to fit the definition of what inspired the opening of James’ epistle today.
BUUUUT…there’s a catch…almost immediately in verse 14, which betrays the reality of our human condition and the real results of our innermost desires.
When we act solely on our desires; the result is not what any of us truly want, and we definitely don’t want to experience unless we have too.
Being the one who endures to the end; means first confessing who we really are…
…and when we know who we really are, then we know from whence the blessings came that gave us the strength to remain steadfast under trial.
But when we ignore that truth, our desire to choose our own identity causes nothing more than death for the unrepentant sinner.
We have a lot of problems with our true identity in our culture today. It’s a society where some people are confused by what they really are!
Just this week my Son Micah called from college and recounted a protest that had gained some steam on campus.
Apparently the transgender community was up in arms about how they were being treated in society and decided to tell everyone in a rally on campus…you know free speech and all…
Now can someone explain to me why free speech requires a tax payer funded institution to set up a stage and give them cordless microphones and loudspeakers so you have to hear them virtually everywhere in the city? Ahhh but I digress.
Anyway, Micah told us that one student in particular got up on stage and grabbed the microphone and immediately started to go into a tirade that started like this…
(in the high pitched voice)
“I am a gay transgender man….”
Now Micah told me he tried to stop himself from doing this; but before he even knew what he was saying he cried out loud enough for everyone in the crowd to hear him,
“HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE!!!”
As I shared this story with a friend he mentioned, “If you don’t laugh you’ll cry at how nuts it’s all gotten!”
No doubt a generation in denial of who they are makes our Lord cry too!
But, temptations come to all and we should never think we are above it either, because the seeds of sin are already dwelling in us, just waiting to sprout forth.
We may think we can somehow keep it deep down under where God can’t see it, after all if our friends and neighbors don’t know our sinful desires, we think we have somehow kept it under wraps.
But Jesus comes along in Matthew 5 saying, “…you shall not commit adultery. But I say to you that everyone who looks…with lustful intent…has already committed adultery.”
The desire of our hearts is already inclined to rebelling against God, and that is just the beginning.
On our own, rehabilitating our sins, is not unlike a doctor operating on himself when he is unconscious. You’re certain to die.
And knowing that full well leaves us open to Satan’s manipulation. St. Augustine Says, “There are three things which go to complete sin: (#1) the suggestion of, (#2) the taking pleasure in (#3) and consenting to.” (NPNF 1 6:15)
1 John 2:16 seals Augustine’s Godly words of wisdom saying, “…all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions – is not from the Father but is from the world!”
What a tragedy that the Christian heart is so easily swayed to sins motivated by the desires of the heart, the siren songs of the world and the Devil Himself.
We get caught up in the race, dress to impress and titillating talk fills our Twitter accounts. Our televisions tell the tales Lucifer wants told and our search histories have so much to be sorrowful over.
We simply sell out to the world, making it our master that provides nothing but spiritual pain.
1 John 2:17 continues, “And the world is passing away with all its desires”
Some say you have to see it to believe it, but if we waited to see the world’s end, then it’s too late to believe how we could have ever been saved from being destroyed with it.
UTIOTHS James cries out to us today, “DO NOT BE DECEIVED MY BELOVED”
Our sinful desires, the world and Satan himself have nothing to offer us but eternal death.
Like grabbing onto a boat anchor as if it were a life preserver, only insures our demise by spiritual drowning.
But Christ, when He calls to you from the ship of His church, looking to Him we no longer need to see to believe, rather we now believe to see salvation in Him.
In Religion class this week we studied the office of the pastor. Our opening exercise tasked us with comparing a pastor’s role with that of: The head of the family, the CEO of a corporation, a teacher, a sharecropper, a counselor and finally an advertising agent.
Of all the comparisons, the one that caught their imagination was that of the advertising agent and inspired them to come up with other jobs as well not listed in our curriculum.
They suggested a pastor is like a customer service agent on the phone; a spiritual help line if you will. They thought a pastor is like an insurance sales person, only he sells eternal life insurance for free!
And I realized that while they were focusing on what a pastor does, the reality is they were describing what everyone is called to do, and equipped by the Holy Spirit to do it.
Their enthusiasm was fun, not because they were interested in the topic, but because I could tell they got it…it’s never about what we want, and it’s about what Christ wants for us, and the hope we have in Jesus.
Pastors are not the only ones called by God to do Ministry, and they are certainly not the only ones that get the spiritual gifts necessary to carry out said ministry.
Everyone, by faith, gets the perfect gifts that come down from the Father which push the evil seeds of sins out of our hearts.
Not just the Teachers, Ministers and Preachers; but also the civic leaders, the Laborers and the Managers, the soldiers and the sailors, the educators and the builders, craftsmen and journeymen, skilled and unskilled alike have all been given gifts by God to manage His creation.
Enabled by the Holy Spirit we can do the good works the world needs and not the evil deeds that destroy it.
This was the life for which we were baptized, and the reason for the death Jesus died for us.
We know what happens when we act on the desires of our hearts, we all die…
But do you know what happens when God acts on the desires of His heart? Only His son dies. And He dies so we can have life eternal in Him.
Our Gospel lesson says this perfectly for our first Sunday in Lent in verse 15, pick up your bulletin and let’s read it out loud together, as people who believe Jesus Death was meant for sinners like us.
“The Time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel.”
Now may that peace which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus throughout these forty days of Lent.