Monday, August 29, 2005

Our Good and Gracious God: James 1:18

It is clear that God has not brought about this ugly cycle of sin and death (vs15). In fact, By His will the opposite has been made possible. Here we have an even better example of God’s goodness. God’s gift of salvation is even better than the “dome of the heavens.” James is not really speaking of our creation, but rather our re-creation. Through the work of Christ we can be regenerated, and made anew. Our regeneration is a very real part of our salvation. In Ezekiel 36:25-26 we see what regeneration is:

Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. "Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.

Finally, through God’s grace, we can live the way God intended for us to live from the very beginning. Here James has given us the remedy to our sin problem.

Do you want to stop the cycle of sin in your life? Do you want to live the way that God created you to live? Do you want to be made anew? The remedy is God’s Word of Truth. The word of truth is the means that God uses to regenerate us. But what is this word of truth? It is the Gospel, the Gospel which is the power of God unto salvation. God’s will is not to tempt man unto evil; rather God’s will is to regenerate man through the work of Christ so that man can resist evil. We must not excuse sin, and place the blame for sin somewhere other than ourselves. This will only leave us vulnerable to further sin. Our sin-prone heart must be acknowledged. It is when we acknowledge this sin that we will finally depend upon God’s grace. And through this grace God will bring forth in us a new life where sin no longer rules unbridled, and where glorious life not death is the prospect.

God made all of this available to us through his will. Remember, God does not change, nor can anything change him. It was by His will, not influenced by anything (including works), that He chose to save us. God acted freely to save us from our own sin. And so if God providing for the lilies, and the birds was not proof enough to you that God is good then this should be. God freely choosing to save us is completely inconsistent with him tempting us to evil. The seed of sin and death is found in man’s desires. The seed of righteousness is found in God’s word.

James tells us that God is working for our salvation so that we might be a kind of first fruits. That leaves us with a couple of questions. What are first fruits, and how are we first fruits? In the Old Testament God established this system of first fruits. In Deuteronomy 18:4we see this law:

You shall give him the first fruits of your grain, your new wine, and your oil, and the first shearing of your sheep.

The Israelites were to give the first fruits from their yearly crop as a sacrifice to the Lord. The first fruits were usually the best crops, and would serve as an indicator of what the rest of the crops would be like. Do you see what God was doing? The people were to give those first fruits to God to show that new that these first fruits were from God, and that they were just the first installment of what God would provide for them.

But how are we the first fruits among what is created (NASB translates this as “creatures,” but it could also be “what is created.”)? We are as excellent as the first fruits because God’s image has been renewed in us. If we have identified ourselves through faith with Christ then when God looks at us He sees Christ’s righteous sin sacrifice instead of our unrighteous sin. And so we have become the first fruits among all that is created. There are a couple ways that we can interpret what James is saying here. First, the Jews to whom James was writing were some of the first Christian. They were the first installment of God’s new Creation, the Church. In the second way that we can interpret what James is saying all Christians are the first fruits. We as Christians are the first phase in God’s re-creation, and ultimately God is working to re-create the heavens and the earth. Our salvation has been assured of, but it has not been completed. We await our ultimate adoption, and the redemption of these sin cursed bodies. And Romans 8:23 tells us that we can be assured that this will happen because we have already received the first fruits of the Spirit. The existing manifestation of the Spirit in our lives is only a first fruit in comparison with what shall be in eternity. We know that Christ is returning, and that he will complete the re-creation that He has begun in us. Look at what Paul says in Philippians 1:6:

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

God is coming to finish the work, and we cannot even begin to fathom the greatness of this work.

The God who is redeeming creation is a gracious God. Such a gracious God is incapable of sin, and is not leading his people into sin. Rather, God is providing us with good and perfect gifts so that we might be preserved until the end; so that we stand approved before God despite our sin; so that we might be just the beginning of the redeeming work that God is doing in creation. God is the potter and He is trying to mold you into a useful tool for His work, will you let him do that work. Or are you going to blame him for your failure?


Blogger Morgan said...

Great post! Go vote on my new poll.

29/8/05 7:36 PM  

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