Today's Verse

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

O the Deep, Deep Love of God: James 1:17-18

We are fast approaching Thanksgiving. It's only three days away! Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. I am thankful for each of you who have told me you are reading my blog. You are my sisters and friends. I am thankful for the ways you have impacted my life, and I love those times we get to spend together face to face. Although we should be giving thanks every day of the year, our thoughts seem to be more tuned in with giving thanks on this particular day of the year.

So, let me ask you. When you give thanks, what are those things that you include on the list? I'll tell you some of mine.
Some things are obvious. I give thanks for my husband and for my kids. I am so grateful that God has brought them into my life. I give thanks for my mom and siblings. I give thanks for my in-laws (they are wonderful). I give thanks for God's constant provision in our lives and ministry. I give thanks that I can homeschool. I give thanks for our home church and the friends we have made in the churches we have been able to minister in. I give thanks for health and strength. Some things to give thanks for are not so obvious. I give thanks that my dad found his longed for home in heaven last February. I continue to miss his presence with us here on earth, but I am so thankful that he has a glorified body now free of pain. I am thankful for the example that he has left behind. I am thankful for the "hard" things in my life. I am thankful for the way those difficult times draw me closer to God and cause me to learn how to depend on Him more. I am even thankful for the snow up here! My kids enjoy playing in it, and they are thankful for the hot chocolate they get some times upon their return back into the warm house.

Where do these good things come from? We've already seen in James that our nature is inherently sinful. Isaiah 64:6 tells us, "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags." Even the good things that we attempt to do are in the eyes of God an unclean thing. So where does this good in our lives come from? James 1:17 tells us, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." God Himself gives us all the good and perfect gifts in our lives. Everything that is good and perfect in our lives comes from God. On the flip side, and perhaps the more difficult side, all that comes from God is good and perfect. Even when I don't understand it, God is working out all things for my good and His glory.

The word for good here means beneficial. Every gift of God is beneficial. My son was able to stop patching for a while. Now he is back to wearing that seemingly ever present patch back on his strong eye. Thankfully it's only for a few hours a day now. The first time I put the patch on him since he was able to stop wearing it, he did not want to wear it. He told me, "But I can't see as well with the patch on!" I had to tell him, "Well, that's really the point. You wear it so your other eye can get stronger." He was good and didn't protest beyond that. Was he happy about the patch? No. Is the patch good? Is it beneficial for him? Yes. Should we give thanks for the patch? Yes. It is the same way in our lives. Sometimes the strengthening process is no fun. Our weaknesses become so apparent and, I don't know about you, but I don't like to see my own weaknesses most of the time. I like thinking that I'm pretty hunky dory. That is not in my best interests though. I need to see where I am weak, so by God's grace I can become strong.

God also gives perfect gifts. Perfect--complete. God's gifts are complete. They have nothing lacking. This Christmas you may try to put together a new toy and find that some of the components that you need are not there. Not so with God. Every gift He brings into your life is complete. There is nothing lacking in the hand of God. He brings a circumstance in your life for your growth, He also brings the grace along with it to bear it and grow. At no time can we turn to God and say, "You forgot this!" The hand of God is complete.

Note how James describes God: "The Father of lights." This phrase alludes to the fact that God created the lights: the sun, moon and stars. The phrase also somewhat compares God to those lights. We look at the sun, moon and stars and they are ever present in our lives. At no time do we rationally get up in the morning and wonder if the sun is going to rise. The sun may alter at times though. We have solar eclipses where the sun is blotted out of the sky for a time. The sun does not always seem to give an even heat. Now, we understand science and the fact that the sun is farther away in the winter and closer in the summer. But it is so disappointing to see the sun shining fiercely outside in the winter time only to walk outside and see the temperature is still 9 degrees. James compares God to these lights, but James qualifies the comparison. With God there is, "no variableness, neither shadow of turning." God does not change. He does not have seasons. His view is never blotted out. He is constantly and consistently the same. What we expect from God yesterday (good and perfect gifts) He will still give us tomorrow (good and perfect gifts). God never misses an ingredient in His recipes and gives us a cake without sugar. He does not change. Ever. His gifts do not change. Ever.

Now to a beautiful truth. James 1:18 begins, "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth." Without getting into a lot of debate, the Scripture is very clear that "We love him, because he first loved us (1 John 4:19)." Also, in John 6:44 Jesus states, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him." The wonderful truth here is that while we were enemies to God (Colossians 1:20) He died for us. There was no spark of divinity in us that He appreciated us. We had no intrinsic worth that caused Christ to desire us. Not a one of us did. "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). It was God's own will that drew us to Himself. God desired us for no other reason than it being a part of His will. By His will He gave us the Word of God because, "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). The love of God is absolutely amazing. So then, because we did nothing to earn the love of God in the first place, we can do nothing to separate ourselves from the love of God. After a wonderful telling of the truth of the love of God, Romans 8 ends with verses 38 and 39 saying, "For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Of His own will, James 1:18 tells us, God began to produce in (begat) us with the Word of truth, "that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures." Why did God do such a marvelous working in our lives? In the Jewish culture, the first fruits that were received in the harvest were dedicated to God. They were given out of thankfulness for His working and allowing the farmer to have a harvest. The farmer was in effect saying that God was worthy of the best that the farmer had. In his sermon "All of God" Phil Newton says, "God has set apart those he has regenerated as the first fruits, or the best of the creation for himself. It is not that we who are regenerated are better by our labors, but our worth is due to the work of God in our hearts. We are therefore, as the first fruits, to be the evidence of God's gracious work, care, and purpose for his creation." What a beautiful picture, that we, sinners saved by grace, can bear the fruit of God; evidencing in our lives what God's purposes are for mankind -- "that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).

This Thanksgiving let's not forget to thank God for who He is (unchangeable, ever loving, and longsuffering) and what He has done for us (loved us with an everlasting love, drawn us to Himself, and made us to bear fruit for Him).

No comments:

Post a Comment