Set the world ablaze

Yesterday, we talked about making waves.

Today we’re going to talk about setting a blaze.

Read James 3:5-8, below:

So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind,but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

Notice the connecting piece between our segment yesterday and what we are studying today. One tiny verse –

So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

Write that verse out somewhere if you can. What is the connection between the tongue and boasting? How does the tongue find trouble on it’s own sometimes without our help? Our friend, the tongue, needs to be steered or bridled.

James points out another reality – our tongues can also set the world ablaze. The Greek word for unrighteousness in our translation is adikias, from the root word adikia, meaning unrighteousness, but also injustice, and hurt. That hits the nail on the head. How is our tongue down right hurtful sometimes? Fires can be glorious and also destructive.

Let’s look at another passage that speaks similarly about waves and wind, selfish words, and growing out of them.

Ephesians 4:14-16:

…so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

We are not tossed by waves, but we are driven by the Holy Spirit and God’s Word. In Christ, we are not left to idle in a sea of doubt and chaos. We have Hope. Let us start a fire, a fire for Christ, firm in the Holy Spirit and the Word that we are given!

God’s Word says that 2 things ignite – truth and love. So we can ask ourself this question before we open our mouth…

Am I speaking truth in love?

It sounds too simple. But God knows that it’s just so easy for us to speak one without the other.

Am I speaking truth with no love?
Am I speaking love with no truth?

Brothers and sisters, if we are aiming for setting the world on fire for Christ, we are intended to speak both as one.

I fail miserably at this. Dear children, pick up your toys! Dear husband, plan a date night! So many necessary commands, that definitely speak truth. I unfortunately forget to include the love. It’s easy when we are in a conversation with a friend about their struggle with sexual sin to speak only love and care – “It’s ok! It’s no big deal!” – without the truth that they so desperately need in order to see Christ’s forgiveness and love.

Where do you have the hardest time sharing truth with love and love with truth?

We’re in this together. Reread James 3:8 and hear the comfort there…

but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 

Did you find it? Don’t blink or you’ll miss it. Dear friend, you are not the first, nor will you be the last, to struggle with tongue taming. It’s a daily work of sanctification. Christ’s mercy was given to us on the cross. It works in us every day, to set fires that point to His Life, rather than death and destruction. We will daily struggle with this, but it’s a good work, a good walk with our Savior who knows boundless grace.

Work that good Grace in us today, Lord. Truth in love and love in truth – we leave it at Your feet every day. Set some fires around us in Your name, for Your glory. Amen.

 

Discussion:

What areas of your life do you struggle with your tongue the most?

What examples can you point to of speaking the truth without love?

What examples can you point to of speaking love without the truth?

 

I hope you’ll join us for Good Gifts Live at its special time today, 2pm CST, on the I Love My Shepherd Facebook page. The topic for tonight is I Am Covered. Find out more tonight, and if you can’t be with us live, catch the archive tomorrow morning right here or on the I Love My Shepherd Youtube channel.

Hearers, Believers, and Doers


In this week’s video lesson we discuss being hearers, believers, and doers and the difference between each. How do Paul and James intersect on this subject and what does Reformer Martin Luther have to do with it all?

What passive work of Christ and what active work of Faith can be found in hearing, believing, and doing?

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vainOn the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. 1 Corinthians 15:10-11

This weekend, share ways you hear, believe, and do by the Grace of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit. Tag #ilovemyshepherd so we can see, share, and be encouraged together!

 

Notes:

Grocery shopping and the steadfast fruit of forgiveness


I love the produce department at the grocery store. It’s full of colors and textures. There are piles of just-ripe oranges and pretty see-through containers of any kind of berry you could want. Displays are round and square and triangular. It smells fresh. Sometimes if you inhale just right there’s a snap of citrus for the sinuses.

The biggest bummer about the produce department is that there are seasons. I could buy blackberries right now, but only if I want to break the bank. And if I want a ruby red grapefruit in the middle of the summer, I’m gonna pay. I live in America. I can get what crazy outlandish fruit I want, when I want it, but it may be four times the price or traveled across miles to overripeness, because fruit can’t be controlled by my desires and whims.

God’s fruit is unlike the fruit at the supermarket. It doesn’t have a season or region. It just is. But like the fruit at the store, I can’t make it happen for me just whenever I want it. I can’t demand what I want and get exactly that. Fruit grows when and where it will, based on God’s plans. Still, God does promise we will never be without His fruit, because it is of His Spirit. This week, we’ll discover all kinds of tidbits about God’s fruit in us. James highlights a few different fruits in particular that come from a God who plants Himself in us to water and grow and build up one another in all we do.

Turn to James 2:17-20, to remember a discourse central to James’s viewpoint of fruit.

17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?

The word written work in our translation is from the Greek root word ergon – an action that carries with it the desire within. It’s not just work, it’s work done with purpose. It’s work done with the knowledge of the Creator. This is one reason we call it fruit. It’s the natural growth of the tree planted and watered by Christ in our baptisms, as we read the Word and worship together.

Our work is steadfast because He is steadfast. Our work is a sure thing, because He is as certain as the sun, and more so. Look back at James 1:17. Just how certain and sure is our Creator and Lord?

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 

The physical manifestation of His steadfastness in us creates doers. Look at Matthew 7:24-25 for a passage that shares what the fruit of a steadfast doer looks like:

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 

We don’t just change with shifting shadows either. Let’s honor that for a moment. Thank goodness for security in Christ when everything else seems to be crumbling around us.

That said, we are sinners. We can surely separate ourselves from the Word, whether by avoiding opening it or listening with one ear closed. Then it becomes harder, not impossible, mind you, but harder to be doers of the Word, producing bountiful fruit. How do fruit trees do in a drought? Not so well, I hear.

Jesus puts all the pieces together. Read Luke 3:8 –

Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 

While Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees here, James is also calling out our pharisaical tendencies.

The secret to fruit is repentance.

Whether we can see the fruit of God in us or not, whether we feel like the produce department at the grocery store or the dried and cracking field of a too hot, too dry summer, we simply turn to Him in repentance every day.

Lord, I have failed to love You and Your Word most. Lord, I have hurt others and put myself first so many times. Lord, open my heart to hear You, follow You, and know You more each day.

Christ is faithful. The Spirit in us is steadfast, not a shifting shadow. Forgiveness is His primary fruit that brings Life and Salvation and is that which all other fruits come from. In taking the time to admit our sin, we can be more aware of the work He is doing in our lives on any given day. Look- He offered forgiveness when I yelled at my kids. Look- He offered forgiveness when I avoided my neighbor. Look He offered forgiveness when…you fill in the blank.

Repentance keeps us steadfast in the Spirit, turning back, turning back, and turning back again and again to a God who loves us.

Let Him work that fruit of forgiveness and see what comes from it, friends. The grocery store produce section holds nothing on God’s bounty of abundant Life.

 

Discussion:

What is your favorite fruit to pick up at the supermarket?

When have you seen Him stay steady and faithful when the world seems to waver?

What repentance can you offer today, privately or with a friend or study group for accountability? What fruit do you think He can bring from that situation when forgiveness enters the picture?

He saves me, and saves me, and saves me some more…



Session 2 – He saves me, and saves me, and saves me some more…

Jesus is a once and for all kind of God. He tells us in His Word that the battle is over, the fight has been won. The cross paid the full price for our sin. The resurrection gave us eternal life. It is finished, it is done. (See Romans 8:37-39, John 16:33)
But he’s also an every day kind of God, a not quite done with me God. (See Philippians 1:4-6, 2 Timothy 4:6-8) We are still in this race, still slapping our armor on each day. He is still working out His plan on our lives, every day.
2 Samuel 22 is filled with David’s words of exultation and thanksgiving for God’s salvation. This beautiful testimony to God’s saving action in our lives is repeated again in Psalm 18. And it is indeed worthy of repeat. Let’s read at least 2 Samuel 22:1-7. Feel free to look up the whole chapter. It’s beautiful!
“And David spoke to the Lord the words of this song on the day when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. He said,
“The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my 
God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation,
    my stronghold and my refuge,
    my savior; you save me from violence.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
    and I am saved from my enemies.
“For the waves of death encompassed me,
    the torrents of destruction assailed me;
the cords of Sheol entangled me;
    the snares of death confronted me.
 “In my distress I called upon the Lord;
    to my God I called.
From his temple he heard my voice,
    and my cry came to his ears.”
David was miraculously saved from Saul’s torment of him, through an enemy. God’s ways of rescue and salvation are ceaselessly amazing. He used a manger and a cross to save us. Who would have seen that coming?
But David’s days of battle were far from over with Saul’s death. 2ndSamuel is packed with battles and there is a reason that the passage above goes on for 51 more verses! God continued to save David, to shelter and protect him, as well as to discipline and forgive him, for His whole life, day in and day out.
That is the message of 2nd Samuel 22 and Psalm 18 – an almost endless praise for the saving works of God, both those done and those he continues to do.
What has God saved you from? Maybe you were premature at birth, maybe you were in a terrible auto accident, maybe adolescence almost got the best of you. Maybe hopelessness seeped in at one point in your life, maybe you are struggling with the loss of a child. Perhaps mental illness, anxiety, or depression has walked in your front door. Where ever you have been and whatever battles lie ahead, He is the same Savior.
He saves us yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He died once for all, but we are daily made new.
Lord God, I don’t know what battle each person faces, but I pray for each and every battle. Jesus, you are our salvation. You rescue, you heal, you set us on a solid rock. We praise you today. Thank you for your goodness, your love, and your mercy. In Jesus name, Amen.
He’s not done with you yet, sister!