From time to time, we blog to keep you updated with lessons from God’s Word, special events and memories to cherish.

You will find our prior blogs at https://northsidehbc.blogspot.com which we have called "The Chronicles of Northside." Newer blogs, starting 10/6/2020 and onwards, will be available here at northsideharvest.org or on Faithlife. May you be blessed and encouraged!

“Nothing More, Nothing Less, Nothing Else” –Notes on James 4:13-17
“Nothing More, Nothing Less, Nothing Else” –Notes on James 4:13-17

NorthsideHBC • November 23, 2020

 There’s a story about a grandfather who tried to give advice to his grandson. He said, “Johnny, “Fools are certain, wise men hesitate.” Johnny, in reply, asked, “Are you sure, Grandpa?” With unequivocal confidence, the grandfather answered, “Yes, I am absolutely certain.”

      This rather amusing story provides a good backdrop to the warning in James 4:13-17. In this passage, we see James calling out to those whose boasting is evil by virtue of their self-confidence. “Look here,” James says, “you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit’” (James 4:13 NLT).

      First, let’s look at how James describes those who are so certain of themselves that they are pronounced guilty of such boastfulness:

  1. their mind is set to work (“we will go... and do business”);
  2. they have a targeted location (“to a certain town”);
  3. they have a plan and a goal (to engage in business and “make a profit”);
  4. they have a set time frame (“stay there a year”).

      Now, let’s look at what James is NOT saying. James is NOT saying that those who engage in work with plans in place and goals in mind are wrong to do so. On the contrary, Scripture teaches the importance of hard work and planning. Just take a look at Proverbs 21:5 and you will find other explicit principles like it! Just think of the apostle Paul, his intense diligence and the clarity of his passion and purpose!

     What, then, is James saying? For the answer, we’ll have to look at what James utters next: “How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that” (James 4:14-15 NLT).

      Evidently, James is calling out to those who have become so self-confident that they have left God out of the equation. In the words of Pastor Cedar of NorthsideHBC, “no one can argue against the fact that [one hundred out of every one hundred people die], no matter one’s health, education, or economic status. James makes clear that every human life has a limit and every human life is short. James’ point is this important truth—our continued existence and our capacity to do things rest solely on the hand of a sovereign God. Our plans for the future are only as good as He wills them to be. When God says, “Yes,” no one can say, “No.” And when he says, “No,” none can say, “Yes.”

      In James’ own words to those who in their self-confidence think themselves sovereign over their own lives, “you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:16-17 ESV). Thus, in light of the truth of the limitation of the human mind and life, James says, “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this and that.’” In the words of Pastor Cedar, in keeping with James’ message, “let us recognize God’s sovereignty in our lives.” Jeremiah 9:24 and 1 Thessalonians 2:19 are just two examples from Scripture of the things that we can rightly boast about. Not all boasting is evil. It is the object of our boasting that makes the difference. Is our boast in ourselves or in our own abilities? Or is our boast in God who created us, gifted us, and who alone sustains us?  

      Let us echo the prayer (attributed by some) to Bobby Richardson, a retired major league baseball player whose Christian faith is described as “key to his outstanding career, his marriage of 60 years and his witness for Christ” (Rudy Gray, 2016)—

                  "Your will be done. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. Amen.”


 For further study: When thinking about the will of God and His sovereignty, there is often the question about what that means in view of what is endowed to us—the human will. If God is sovereign, does it even matter what we do? First, consider what we have studied so far. Before arriving at this passage about God’s sovereignty, James gave us quite a number of imperatives, which make clear that our motives, choices and our actions do matter. However, before going on to more imperatives (yes, there are more in James 5!), it is significant that James takes a pause and gives reminder of the fact that God is ultimately in control (and there’s no cause for boasting in self!). Think about and consider Scripture passages that deal with the human will and the sovereignty of God (Here’s one resource for finding applicable passages). Then, compare your findings with the THIS article and see if you arrive at a similar conclusion. (Please note: the links provided are meant to be of help as resources for your personal study. We have found the resources, to date, to be reliable and helpful, but they do not necessarily mirror our own views and cannot guarantee all content. Then again, no human being has perfect understanding or viewpoint! Thanks be to God whose Spirit is our help! And so, as you study, don’t forget to pray and ask God for wisdom!)

 


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The Matter of Slander - Notes on James 4:11-12
The Matter of Slander - Notes on James 4:11-12

NorthsideHBC • November 16, 2020

The particular subject of James in James 1:36 and James 3:1-11 is the tongue. He again returns to this subject in James 4:11-12. 


Based on our prior studies, it is clear that “what you say flows from what is in your heart” (Luke 6:45). In James’ imperative to “not slander one another,” the heart of the problem, as one has aptly put it, “is the problem of the heart.” 


The term “slander” speaks of having the intent of defaming or of falsely accusing another. Note that in 1 Peter 2:12, the apostle Peter speaks of slander by unbelievers against believers, which is to be expected, since unbelievers speak from a heart that is fallen in Adam. In contrast, James, in 4:11-12, confronts believers who are slandering fellow believers. Ponder on Matthew 7:1-5, which calls for believers to not condemn fellow believers. Rather, believers should love one another, for “by this all people will know” that they belong to Christ (John 13:34-35).


James reasons, quite aptly, that a believer ought not to speak evil of or judge another believer because “[t]he one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?” (4:11b-12 ESV). (With respect to the “law,” see James 2:8 referring to the “royal law.”)


If God, THE one lawgiver and judge, has not condemned the believer He has redeemed, how can we who are recipients of His mercy condemn another? Ponder on Romans 8:1-2.


“Therefore, each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body” (Eph. 4:25). Consider the numerous verses that call for believers to be kind to, forgive, give preference to, and love “one another.”


For reflection: How are we as believers? Is our love for one another genuine? Is it such a love that others know that we are the disciples of Christ? 


For further study: check the Holy Scriptures if there is any context in which a believer is called to judge. Put another way, is judgement wrong at all times or are there instances when we should judge others?


Listen to the sermon here.

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“No Laughing Matter” - Notes on James 4: 9-10
“No Laughing Matter” - Notes on James 4: 9-10

NorthsideHBC • November 09, 2020

It is often the case that we encourage one another to rejoice. In the beginning of his letter, James explicitly exhorted the brethren to count it as joy when they meet various trials. Why, then, would the command be given in James 4:9-10 that the brethren “be wretched and mourn and weep” and to let their “laughter be turned to mourning” and their “joy to gloom?” *


Think back of the sins addressed in James 2:1-13 (partiality), 2:14-26 (faith without works), and 4:1-5 (affinity to the world). It is in view of these sins that James is calling for them to be wretched, to mourn, and to weep. Indeed, despite the grace they have received, they have chosen to act treacherously. They were disloyal or faithless to their Savior and Lord. For this reason, it is only right that they should be miserable for having committed such sins. 


With the same force, James commands them to let their “laughter be turned to mourning” and their “joy to gloom.” It is implied in these phrases that those being rebuked were actually taking delight in their wrongdoing. They were taking sin lightly and allowing the things of this world to be their source of gratification. Note what James says after his command that they grieve over their sin-- “humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” See also 1 Peter 5:6-7. 


As an example, recall the sin of David when he took Bathsheba. He fell into temptation, and he did so for the temporary pleasure of sin. However, when he was convicted through the prophet Nathan, he repented in dust in ashes. He acknowledged his transgressions and cried out to God for mercy (Psalm 51). In the same manner, the child of God should be ashamed when falling into sin. He should not remain in it. He should not delight in what is evil but cling to what is good (Romans 12:9). 


Clearly, we as believers need to realize that it is not a light matter to do wrong or to fall into sin. Sin is to be hated, not desired. Believers should lament and be grieved when falling into temptation, remembering the cross and all that it means.


If you are a child of God, meditate on what the Apostle Paul declared to the saints in Rome and in Colossae, as found in Romans 6:1-14 and Col. 1:9-14, respectively. Let us never forget: sin is no laughing matter.


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* For the command to “be wretched,” consider the word “wretched” in Rom.7:24. For the command to “mourn and weep,” consider the usage in Mark 16:10. These words, together, express both external and internal sorrow. “Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief” (James 4:9 NLT).


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“Draw Near With a Pure Heart”— Notes on James 4:8
“Draw Near With a Pure Heart”— Notes on James 4:8

NorthsideHBC • November 02, 2020

The recipients of James’ letter are repeatedly addressed as “my brethren.” In James 4:8, however, they are addressed as “you sinners” and “you double-minded,” and are explicitly commanded to “draw near to God,” “cleanse their hands” and to “purify their hearts.” 


Why would James describe his “brethren” with words that would not be fitting of fellow believers? To answer the question, we must look back to what James has communicated beforehand.


First, in James 1:5-8, he who lacks wisdom is told to “ask God who gives generously to all.” In this context, James describes the doubter who will not receive anything from the Lord because he is ““double-minded, unstable in all his ways.”


Next, in James 1:26-27, he who thinks he is “religious” is addressed, for “if... he does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” 


Finally, in James 2:14-26, a hypothetical is given to drive home a point that James makes explicit— that is, “Show me your faith apart from works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” 


In keeping with James’ line of thought, it may be concluded that within the group of “the brethren,” there are those who merely profess faith in Christ but are not genuinely a part of God’s family. They associate with and are in the gathering of believers, but they remain “double-minded,” whose “religion is worthless,” as their belief is no different than the belief of “the demons who believe—and shudder!” 


The command in James 4:8, then, makes perfect sense when addressed to “sinners” and the “double-minded.” They are commanded to “draw near to God,”— a command that comes with a promise, “and He will draw near to you.” To draw near is to approach or to come close. In the O.T., only the priests could come near; and, only by consecrating themselves (Exodus 22:19). Nadab and Abihu’s death makes clear that among those who come near to God, He “will be sanctified” (Leviticus 10). To come near to God required that one did so on God’s terms. To come near any other way equaled judgement. 


In the N.T., we discover the reasons behind passages like Exodus 22 and Leviticus 10. To discover these reasons, take time to study Heb. 4:14-16, Heb. 10:19-22, and other similar passages that speak of Christ’s priesthood, of his death and resurrection, of his being “the only way” to God. 


James, in calling for sinners to cleanse their hands and for the double-minded to purify their hearts, also calls believers to enjoy the privilege of being able to come near to God! Coming near speaks of the intimacy that a child of God has with his Father, “since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus” (Heb. 10:19). Recall Jesus’ earthly life, leaving us an example to follow in His steps. Recall also the exhortation of the writer of Hebrews: “since we have a great priest [Jesus] over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Heb.10:21-23). 


How are you in your relationship to God? Are you the double-minded whose religion is worthless? Come to Jesus, the High Priest. He is the only way through whom you can draw near to God. 


If Christ is your Lord and Savior, are you drawing near, growing in your relationship with Him as a genuine child of God? Are your steps separate from the world because you are now following Jesus? Ponder on 1 John 3:1-10.


Listen to the sermon here.


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“Submit. Resist.” - Notes on James 4:7
“Submit. Resist.” - Notes on James 4:7

NorthsideHBC • October 26, 2020

The verses prior to James 4:7 remind us that we all need God’s grace--favor which cannot be earned, but which can be received only by faith through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (See Romans 3:9-31 and Ephesians 2:1-10). Saint Paul himself testified as an apostle, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Cor. 15:10). 


In James 4:7-10, James gives several imperatives: 1) submit to God; 2) resist the devil; 3) draw near to God; 4) cleanse your hands; 5) purify your hearts; 6) be wretched; 7) mourn; 8) weep; 9) let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom; and, 10) humble yourselves before the Lord.


Let’s look more closely at the first two imperatives:


  1. “Submit to God”— to submit to God means to place yourself under His control. All the other imperatives hang on this command. Submission means obedience, a picture of a soldier acting under the command of his superior. See 1 Peter 2:18, where the same root word for submission is used when servants are commanded to be subject to their masters. Ephesians 5:24 speaks also of the same root word when wives are commanded to submit in everything to their husbands as the church submits to Christ. In Luke 2:51, we see Jesus as our ultimate example-- He, being fully God, submitted himself, being born in the likeness of men, to the authority of his earthly parents. Jesus humbled himself, as Paul so aptly described in Philippians 2, taking the form of a servant. His submission to the Father was to the point of death, even death on a cross. Praying in the garden of Gethsemane, his soul being very sorrowful, Jesus prayed to the Father, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (Matt. 26:39).
  2. “Resist the devil”—to resist the devil is to withstand him, to oppose, or to set yourself against him. This act of resistance is dependent upon your submission to God’s will first of all. After all, how can you resist the enemy unless you first become subject to God’s control? Consider Matthew 26:24 where we are told as a matter of fact that “no one can serve two masters.” Also, note Paul’s question to the saints in Rome: “Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? (Romans 6:16).


How are you? Are you trying to resist the devil without first yielding yourself to the control of God? Prayerfully read and meditate today on Romans 5:12 - 6:23. Remember Christ’s words as written in John 8:31: “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”



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Abundant Grace - Notes on James 4:5-6
Abundant Grace - Notes on James 4:5-6

NorthsideHBC • October 19, 2020

James 4 speaks against spiritual adultery, citing the history of Israel’s idolatry by using the phrase, “Ye adulterous people,” as appears in similar terms in the book of Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Hosea. James calls the believers to faithfulness or fidelity to the Lord, and not to be “a friend of the world.”


James 4:5– “Do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, ‘He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us’?”— This verse is one that is challenging, for even Greek scholars differ somewhat in how the original is translated: 


(1) James attributes his statement in verse 5 to “the Scripture.” James’ exact quote, however, cannot be found in the O.T. Nevertheless, the sense of what James is conveying is undeniably laid in the O.T., which is referred to in the N.T. as “the Scriptures.” James directs the believers’ attention in this verse to the whole of the Scriptures! 


(2) The word, “spirit,” in James 4:5 is not capitalized in some translations (eg., ESV, NLT), but capitalized in others (eg., NASB). Here are two differing translations:


  1. The NLT translates verse 5 in this way: “What do you think the Scriptures mean when they say that the spirit God has placed within us is filled with envy?”
  2. NASB translates verse 5 as: “Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: ‘He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us’?”


On the one hand, the NLT is in keeping with the context, as James did rebuke the quarreling that is occurring in the congregation, the cause of which is bitter jealousy and selfish ambition, characteristic of an unregenerate heart— that is, James is speaking to those who profess belief but whose works deny their profession of faith.


On the other hand, the NASB is in keeping with the context, too, for James does speak against spiritual adultery, which is committed by those who are considered the people of God. In this context, James is speaking to genuine believers-- reminding them that the Spirit of God dwells in them. Therefore, they are to walk in fidelity to the Lord. 


In sum, James’ words in verse 5 speak to both groups-- those in the congregation who merely profess faith but deny it by their works; and, those in the congregation who possess genuine faith but are in need of reminder to walk worthy of their calling. (Such is God’s Word— described in Hebrews 4:12 as “sharper than a double-edged sword,” able to judge our innermost thoughts and intents of the heart.)


James 4:6– “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”— To oppose signifies to rage against, as in a battle! James makes this truth explicit-- “God opposes the proud.” Therefore, his call is for humility-- “God gives grace to the humble.” 


Therefore, for the sinner who humbles himself in repentance before a holy God, there is grace! For the believer who humbles himself before His Father, confessing his sins, there is grace! He is faithful and just to forgive! Consider listening to the words of these hymns: 1) He Giveth More Grace; 2) Marvelous Grace of Our Loving Lord; 3) The Lord is My Salvation. Ponder upon the truths on which these songs are based; and marvel again at God’s Amazing Grace



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Fidelity and Friendship - Notes on James 4:4,5
Fidelity and Friendship - Notes on James 4:4,5

NorthsideHBC • October 12, 2020

In the prior verses, we are reminded against the works of the flesh, reflective of the famous saying—“The heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart” (Oswald Smith). Consider Romans 6:14-25. This passage is not meant to be an excuse for committing sin against God, as evident in the beginning verses of Romans 6. The point of Paul is to recognize the apparent struggle within. This point brings light to the verses we focus on today: James 4:4-5.


James 4:4– “You adulterous people.”— In the Old Testament, this description is one that is used repeatedly of Israel for committing idolatry against or of breaking covenant with Yahweh. God alone is worthy of worship. Read Deut. 6:4-5, which can be considered to be Israel’s statement of faith. Time and time again, Israel broke faith with the One true God and they were disciplined. Prior to judgement, they were warned by God who sent to them prophets to call them unto repentance. Read Jeremiah 3 and the book of Hosea, where we read of God providing Israel with an actual, real-life demonstration to Israel of her unfaithfulness as a nation in committing adultery and of God’s steadfast love in calling her to “return.”


James point is as was communicated to Israel in Old Testament times—that is, unfaithfulness to God is spiritual adultery. Consider reading the Amplified Version of James 4:4. 


James 4:5a— “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?”— James is making a serious pronouncement here of the adulterous nature of “friendship with the world.” This phrase does not mean isolation from personal contact with unbelievers. What this phrase does mean is evident in   1John 2:15-17– “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him;” Matt. 6:24– “You cannot serve God and money; John 15:18-19– “I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” 


James 4:5b— “Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God”— How can we be friends with the system of the world if it means being God’s enemy? For a believer to desire friendship with the world is contradictory to what he professes! Matthew 6:24 is clear— “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” 


James’ call is to remain faithful to the true God, not looking unto other things for hope and comfort. Guard your heart against the things of this world! We cannot serve God and wealth at the same time. Read and meditate on Rom.12:1-2!



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The Issue of the Heart - Notes  on James 4:1-3
The Issue of the Heart - Notes on James 4:1-3

NorthsideHBC • October 06, 2020

Review: The prior passage provided for us a contrast between earthly wisdom and wisdom that is from above. The first is characterized by jealousy and selfish ambition; the other is characterized as, first of all, pure. The latter cannot be attained by mere human effort, for to be first pure, one must be MADE pure by God through Jesus Christ.


James 4:1-3 


These three short verses reflect the truths that James has already presented to us concerning earthly wisdom. Thus, this passage is a continuation of James’ discourse, but from a different angle, which can summarized in this way—“The heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart” (Oswald Smith). 


The core of the issue: 1) What is the source of conflict among you? Sagaciously, James provides the answer in the form of another question: Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? 


Evil desires or “lust,” as some translations put it, is used here by James to speak of the kind of craving for which one would be willing to kill, so that the object craved would be obtained.


How can a believer have such evil desires? James, after all, is writing to “brethren.” It must be remembered that within the community of believers, there are those who merely profess belief. In Galatians 5, the Apostle Paul calls believers to stand fast in the “liberty wherewith Christ has made us free…. only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another…. Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh…. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry...and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”


How are we? What characterizes our life— the works of the flesh or the fruit of the Spirit? Paul says it well: “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another” (Gal. 5:22-26 ESV).



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