Fourth Sunday after Easter Morning Prayer (15 May 2022) James 1:17
Today’s sermon is based on our Epistle reading from James. We all know that the epistle of James was written by the brother of Jesus Christ. Jesus’s brothers did not follow Him when He ministered in this world. But after His crucifixion and resurrection, His family believed and followed Jesus. Jesus’ two brothers James and Jude wrote the two epistles after their name. Around 49AD, James wrote his epistle to the first-century Jews who lived among the gentiles. Researchers say this might have been the first book that was written in the New Testament period. In his epistle, James wrote about the relationship between faith and work. This book is known as ‘Proverb of New Testament’ and James is called as ‘New Testament Amos’. Most of his writing was about the second coming of Jesus.
All through the Bible, humans have received many blessings from the Almighty Father. In James 1:17, James speaks about the good and perfect gift that the Father of lights sends from above. “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”. Today, let us meditate on two good and perfect gifts that we have received from above and the purpose of the gifts.
THE FIRST GIFT: JESUS CHRIST
Two weeks back, we heard about the LORD God giving Old Testament laws and commandments to His chosen people. The Old Testament laws and commandments could not save Israelites from sin and eternal death. Committing sin and offering sacrifices was a routine practice in Israel. In order to save the people whom He loved from eternal death, God the Father gave the greatest and most perfect gift to human race. We read about this in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”.
When Jesus ministered in this world, “The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up” (Matthew 4:16). In John’s gospel 1:4&5 we read, “In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not”. The Messiah came as the Word and Light. He preached the word of God and called the people to prepare themselves for the kingdom of God. Before His crucifixion, Jesus made a new covenant with His people by His precious blood. He fulfilled the Old Testament Laws when He laid down His life as the Passover Lamb. In Luke 24:47 Jesus said, “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem”. Jesus, one of the good and perfect gifts from above, came as the Light of the World. He came to save humans from the shadow of death. He came to show us the way to eternal life. He lived His life as an example and preached the Gospel of repentance. When His own people did not accept Jesus as the Messiah and crucified Him on the cross, salvation was extended to the gentiles. The Blood of the Lamb of God gives salvation to those who believe in Jesus and accept Him as their personal saviour. His Blood washes away the sins of anyone who truly repents and turns to Him.
THE SECOND GIFT: HOLY SPIRIT
In John 16:8, Jesus spoke about a gift that He will be sending. He promised to send us the Comforter Holy Spirit. He also told us about the role or the purpose of the comforter Holy Spirit: “when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment”. When cautioning His disciples about the end time events and signs, Jesus said in John 16:33, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world”. Jesus expects us to overcome the world. We are given another precious gift, the ‘Holy Spirit’, to guide and support us. Jesus lived a holy life in this world. Following His example, we are expected to live our lives pleasing in His sight. This gift of the Holy Spirit was given to us on the day of Pentecost. When those gathered in the upper room were anointed, reformation took place in Judaism based on Jesus’ teachings.
This gift of the Holy Spirit is given to us to re-align us and to bring us into a proper relationship with Jesus and fulfil our part of the salvation. The Holy Spirit plays three important roles in our lives:
1. Reprove us of sin: The first role of the Holy Spirit is to convict us of our sins and to renew us again unto repentance. He does this to lead us in the narrow path that leads to eternal life. Isaiah 30:21 says, “thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left”. We are weak and need the Holy Spirit’s guidance every day.
2. Reprove us of righteousness: The second role of the Holy Spirit is to sustain us in Holiness. We know that the wages of sin is death which is eternal death (Romans 6:23). James 1:15 says, “sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death”. We easily yield to temptation and sin against our Lord. We need the Holy Spirit to remind us that it is necessary to live righteous lives every day.
3. Reprove us of judgment: The third role of the Holy Spirit is to remind us about the judgement that awaits us. James 1:12 says, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.” We need the comforter to guide us to endure to the end. We need the Holy Spirit to help us to endure unto the end and face our Lord on the judgement day.
We have been given two good and perfect gifts from our Almighty Father. Have we received the gifts? James 1:18 says “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” Jesus came as the Word to redeem us as His first fruits. He laid down His life to save us from eternal death. Have we received Jesus and the salvation that He offers us? Have we received the Word that can save us from eternal death? We are given the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide us in the right path. In Matthew 10:22, Jesus said, “he that endureth to the end shall be saved”. We need the Holy Spirit’s guidance to keep ourselves holy. 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour”. Jesus expects us to live our lives as His witnesses until our last breath. We are expected to be on our guard. We are to renew our relationship with Jesus and come into a closer relationship with Him every moment of our lives. Are we giving heed to the Holy Spirit’s voice that guides us every day? In Revelation 2:10 is a promise: “be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” Are we endeavouring to live faithful lives to receive the crown of life?
In a few minutes, we will be taking part in LORD’s table. Before we come to His Table, let us ask ourselves if we are taking part realising the real meaning and purpose of our Lord’s covenant. Romans 8:6 says “the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered”. As we prepare ourselves, let us listen to the Holy Spirit’s voice and pray following His guidance. Let us rend our hearts and turn away from the ways of the world and flesh. Let us turn and surrender ourselves to the Lord. Let us receive the assurance that we are cleansed by the blood of the Lamb of God. Let us be comforted that the LORD Jesus is our personal saviour.
Recently, I read a statement that challenged me. It said, Instead of using “I’m human” as an excuse to walk in the flesh, try using “I’m saved” as a reason to walk in the Spirit. We can choose to live our lives like King David or the people of Nineveh who repented when they were convicted of their sins. Or we can be like King Saul or Solomon who chose to turn a deaf ear to the Lord’s voice. Our lives and decisions will determine what we have done with the good and perfect gifts that we have received from above.
I pray we use the gifts that we have received from above and bear fruits for our Lord as His first fruits. I pray we live our lives as witnesses for His glory and fulfil His will in our lives. I pray we open our spiritual ears and listen to the Holy Spirit’s guidance that prepares and preserves us to eternity. Amen!