Phil Cox - The Epistle of James - Godly Values, Part 13 - Keeping the Law is in our own interest, James 2v12-13
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The Epistle of James - Godly Values

Part 13 - Keeping the Law is in our own interest

James 2v12-13

27th July 2018

James tells us to:

James 2v12-13
Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!

The law here is the Law of Moses. The law gives freedom:

  • If we don't commit murder, we're free to live.
  • If we don't commit adultery, we're free to have long, happy marriages.
  • If we don't tell lies about people, we're free to keep our reputations intact.
  • If we don't steal, we're free to keep the money and property God has blessed us with, or to give it away.

The law was summarised by Jesus:

Mark 12:28-34
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"
"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these."
"Well said, teacher," the man replied. "You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."
When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." And from then on no-one dared ask him any more questions.

Loving other people, regardless of their background or status, is more important than any religious observance - more important than meeting together, and singing hymns, and preaching. If you actually understand that all that truly matters is loving God with all that you have and all that you are, and loving your neighbour as much as you yourself, then, Jesus says, you are not far from the kingdom of God.

In Matthew's record of that conversation, Jesus also says "All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22v40). If you truly love God with all that you have and all that you are, and you truly love your neighbour as much as you yourself, you will keep all the other laws.

  • If you love your neighbour you will not murder him.
  • If you love your neighbour you will not him commit adultery with his wife.
  • If you love your neighbour you will not tell lies about him.
  • If you love your neighbour you will not want what belongs to him. You'll be glad that he has it. You'll rejoice is his prosperity, even if it's greater than your own.
  • If you love the Lord you will not blaspheme His holy Name, you will not worship other gods, you will not desecrate the Sabbath.

You will live right because you love. All the rest, really, is just a checklist to see if you really do love God and your neighbour as you should.

Speak and act as if you're going to be judged by the law, because you are. There is a heresy going around that says Christians will escape judgement. No we won't! It's true that on the Day of Judgement, to use Jesus's analogy (Matthew 25v31-46) some people will be sheep and some of us will be goats. The sheep will be welcomed into glory and the goats will be condemned to Hell. That's true, but that's not all there is to say about the Day of Judgement. On that Day the sheep will be rewarded according to the way they've lived, and the goats will be punished according to the way they've lived. Knowing that this is true, knowing that there is reward in heaven, and that it depends on our conduct on earth, live like it's true. Live like every act of kindness will be rewarded, because it will.

You've got an amount of gold stored up in heaven. Kindness, gentleness and godliness will increase your store of treasure in heaven. Live as though every decision you take today, every kind word you speak, every generous act, will affect your eternity - because it will.

I've got my ticket, and I hope you've got yours. But I want the best eternity I can have. And I want you to have the best eternity you can have.

Please understand this. There's no communism in heaven. It's not like an old East German tower block where everybody has exactly the same flat, with exactly the same furniture in it. But I won't mind living next door to a person with more treasure than me, because I'll have been completely cleansed of the sin of envy. And I'll be so grateful to God that I'm there at all, that I really won't mind is somebody has a faster car than me. But I'd like some nice stuff, too, when I get there.

So live as if you'd like some nice stuff when you get there. Live as though you're going to be judged by the law - because you are. You won't lose your ticket. Your ticket is secure. But your reward is in heaven, and your life on earth will determine how much treasure there will be for you.

When James says that "judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful " it makes us stop and think. If we expect mercy from God, surely we must show mercy to others.

Keep the royal law. Love your neighbour as yourself. If you judge others, you will be judged. And as Jesus said, just after teaching us the Lord's Prayer, if we don't forgive others, we will not be forgiven. Believe James's words: judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.

There are people living near you who've done some bad things to you or to someone you love. Show them mercy because God has shown you mercy. Forgive them, because God has forgiven you. Love them because God loves you. Try to include them because God has included you. Blessed are the merciful. Seek to be people of mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment!

If there's anybody you haven't forgiven, forgive them today. If you've judged anybody, or if you're judging them now, repent. If anybody needs mercy, and you're not showing it, show them mercy because judgement without mercy will be shown to you if you don't.

God saved you to make you like Christ, full of forgiveness and mercy. Christ died to make you and me full of grace and kindness and gentleness and godliness and forgiveness and mercy. May we allow him to touch our hearts. May God forgive us for all the judgements we have made, and transform us into His wonderful character, in Jesus's name.