I love the treatment of Eugene Peterson as he paraphrases this text that I read from 1 Corinthians 1, 26 to 31.
He says, take a good look, friends. I don't see many of the brightest and best among you, not many from high society. Isn't it obvious that God chose men and women that our culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these nobodies to expose the hollow pretensions of the somebodies for everything that we have? Right thinking, right living, a clean slate and a fresh start comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. Even though everything we have is a gift from God and evidence of God's grace to us, we're tempted to think of ourselves as special, unique and important. Sometimes we're tempted to think of ourselves as better and more important than others. And when that happens, it leads to prejudice, bigotry and other sins. Today on Wisdom for the Heart, Stephen Davey returns to James chapter two.
We're in a passage which teaches us that in Christ we are all one and the way we live is supposed to reflect that reality. After a bit of review, Stephen will conclude a message started last time called Don't Be a Snob. I mentioned earlier that an usher seated these men.
I need to correct that in order to show you how deeply rooted this problem was and I didn't want to bring it up until now. You'll notice if you look at verse three that the speaker is unidentified. He isn't actually an usher. You would think of the ushers who help people find the seat. Maybe you were helped today. In James Day, we know again from church history, the usher would have actually been someone appointed to meet visitors just as today.
But we can't be sure exactly when the practice started. But we know in the early church, it was actually the deacon that made sure people were cared for in the service. It was the deacon who ushered people to their seat. It was the deacon who kept the service free of any disturbance. In fact, if anyone came in late, the deacon's job was to write down their name and charge them a fee.
Okay, I made that part up, but everything else was true. We know from history that the pastor would appoint the deacon, assigning them to help the late comer to be seated so that the pastor would not be interrupted as he delivered the sermon. In fact, you go all the way back to the fourth century and it's interesting and I read one early church document that revealed that one of the reasons they had the deacon do that is so that when a wealthy person came in late, the pastor would not be tempted to stop the service and direct that man to the best seat. So they protected one another because that has no business in the church.
So I say all that to tell you that the problem isn't an unspiritual usher. This is a problem with the character of church leadership, that it's made its way down to the pew. In fact, that never really changed, but it's now exacerbated because of the attitude of the man and the pulpit and the deacons. Elders and deacons were as partial and prejudiced and so the church is not the reformation of culture, it is adaptation to culture.
I wonder if the average church, you know, could today begin their services on Sunday morning by effectively saying, now while the instruments play, please stand up and shake hands with at least two people who aren't in your clique. James provides a summary of the scenario. He writes several things. Verse one is the first. Have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil motives? See, this is the summary of what's going on in the church. James, first of all, says it is nothing less than sinful thinking. He says, how evil is it to come into the assembly and make all these distinctions among yourselves to create classism in the church? And he just calls it what it is.
Evil, injurious, harmful, call it what you will. It's not right. Partiality and favoritism and prejudice, none of that is a face issue. It's a soul issue. It's not a skin problem, it is a sin problem. So the guy with money and the guy with connections gets the chief seat while the poor guy gets his clothing dirtied even more by having to sit on the floor or maybe on undoubtedly weary feet he's told to stand over there by the wall, keep out of the way, and you just stay there and everything will be fine. The church, ladies and gentlemen, must be, must be the one place on planet Earth where this is wiped out in here.
And then we demonstrated out there the same attitude. The church should be the place to demonstrate how to think correctly, how to place value on people correctly. And James has already upset the apple cart by starting with orphans and widows and now poor people.
This is convicting, isn't it? Ken Hughes, long time pastor of the Wheaton Bible Church, told the story in his commentary on James of a poor woman, committed believer, moved into town. She was on the other side of the railroad tracks from the church that she thought she'd visit. She'd heard it was evangelical and so she went and visited the church. She stayed around afterward and talked to the pastor about joining. She could tell he wasn't too happy with how she looked and talked, wasn't too sure, he wasn't that is, that she'd provide anything for the church. So he told her not to be too hasty and I'll just read, but to go home and read her Bible every day for an hour and see how she felt about the decision after that.
She did. A week later she was back. She waited around and laughed at the service and approached the pastor again who was a little irritated. He thought he'd taken care of the problem but said to her, well, I'll tell you what, why don't you go home and pray every day about this decision and ask the Lord if he really wants you in this fellowship? He didn't see her for several months. Finally, one day he was walking downtown on their paths crossed. He kind of coughed nervously and then asked, well, what have you decided? And she said, oh, I did exactly what you asked me to do. I went home and prayed every day and one day while I was praying, the Lord said to me, don't worry about not getting into that church.
I've been trying to get in there for 20 years and I can't either. Well, it is tragic, isn't it, when the church does in here what the world does out there? See your pigeonholed out there.
Your value is based on what you happen to wear and what you drove to get there and how much you have in the bank and on and on and on. James says to them, stop doing that in here. Now, he not only condemns their sinful attitude but he also challenges the fact that their thinking is contrary to the nature of the gospel. Look at verse 5.
Listen, my beloved brethren. Now, note that he's speaking to believers. Listen, my beloved brethren, did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs to the kingdom which he promised to those who love him? Now, don't misunderstand like liberal theologians who say, well, all the poor are getting to heaven.
He says it here. Now, what he's effectively saying is that the gospel is available to the poor man just like it's available to the rich man. God is no respecter of persons. In fact, the gospel of Christ's love is especially precious to the poor person who has nothing, isn't it? To someone who is considered without value. It's stunning to them to learn that they have eternal value. They're amazed that the gospel levels the ground. Haven't you ever wondered why it is that when you share the gospel of Jesus Christ with a poor man or woman, they're more receptive immediately than the rich man? And James is telling them that they're not thinking correctly and contrary to the gospel. Just look at how the gospel is received is his point. Even the historical movements of Christianity.
I'm plowing through Spurgeon's biography and it's interesting. I thought everybody famous went to hear him. And yes, the queen did and the prime minister and many others, but his movement was classified as a movement among the workers. It was a blue collar movement. Why is that?
I had all week to think about it. Perhaps it's because the poor have little optimism that this life is going to offer any solution and they long already for a better ending. Maybe it's because the poor have no unrealistic sense of self-importance.
Maybe it's because the poor person more immediately recognizes the good news in the gospel. Maybe it's because the poor have little, if anything, to hold them back from embracing Christ. Maybe it's because the poor anticipate with greater joy the thought of a future with a benevolent sovereign. Why not more wealthy? Perhaps it's because the rich are lured into believing that God is blessing them. They confuse financial security with spiritual security. The rich depend on themselves and look down on anything that's free. Maybe it's because the rich are interested in joining only those things that will enhance them and their reputation, not humble them. Maybe it's because the rich aren't intrigued by a heaven that promises much of what they already have.
Maybe it's because having all their earthly needs met, they fail to consider their greatest need. But isn't it interesting that the apostle Paul would speak of the church and he would say, consider your calling, brethren. Not many wise, not many mighty, erudite, well-connected, powerful, not many noble, those of the rich and wealthy classes are called.
You got anybody important going to your church? In his newsletter, Leonard Ravenhill tells about a group of tourists visiting a picturesque village in England. They walk by an old man sitting beside a fence and one of the tourists in a rather patronizing way asked him, were any great men born in this village? The old man responded, no, just babies. I love the treatment of Eugene Peterson as he paraphrases this text that I read from First Corinthians 1, 26 to 31.
He says, take a good look, friends. I don't see many of the brightest and best among you, not many influential, not many from high society. Isn't it obvious that God chose men and women that our culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these nobodies to expose the hollow pretensions of the somebodies for everything that we have? Right thinking, right living, a clean slate and a fresh start comes from God by way of Jesus Christ, who was, by the way, a poor man. There was nothing about him that we would have esteemed. So how dare we treat people differently than Jesus Christ treated them?
How would we have treated him? How can we look down our noses at nobodies when they happen to be God's favorite flavor? Are we in agreement with the gospel or not? And do we demonstrate it even in the assembly while younger Christians watch us, younger people? If you could climb back into this scenario, this church service, if you're sitting there and you're a younger Christian, this is why it's injurious. If you're a younger person, you might watch this. Oh, he got seated there.
Oh, that guy in the back. And you might come away with some wrong conclusions. You might assume that the rich man must be more important to the church than the poor man. You might conclude that God likes this guy better because he made him rich or that maybe God doesn't like poor people because the church obviously doesn't either. Or maybe poor people deserve to sit on the floor or it looks like money does talk even in there. See, all the above could be learned in one morning service in the seating of two men in this manner.
And the congregation learns just a little better how to play the role of snob and receive people because of their faith rather than their faith. James also goes on in the summary to say your favoritism doesn't even make a logical sense. I mean, it's hard for us to climb back in here, but this was so offensive. This was so confronted. And now even he even goes one step further. Verse six.
Look there. You've dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court?
In other words, what in the world are you thinking? You're fawning on Sunday over the very person who may drag you into court on Monday. In the first century, there was the legal custom called summary arrest. If a creditor met a debtor on the street, he could seize him by the collar of his robe and literally drag him into court. And oftentimes the wealthy then were able to use their influences in property disputes and gaining what they could from the poor because the poor couldn't afford representation. And Roman law pandered toward those who could be represented by the best.
That is the foundation of our own legal system and all of its warts and blessings. Again, James is not condemning the rich for having that kind of connection. He's condemning them for using it to gain advantage over the poor.
We recently saw that in Beijing, which ordered the bulldozing and dismantling of hundreds of homes of poor people to make room for Olympic buildings, they had no voice. Quickly, James goes on to add one more reason. Partiality is sinful. Verse seven tells us, do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you've been called? I mean, these are the unbelievers. And not only that, they are the scoffers. They are the mockers. They are those who blaspheme.
So when the church kowtows to them, they are effectively forging friendships with blasphemers. I read a lot more than I'm able to share with you, but all is just as a sidebar, give you this one note. I was reading one author who was talking about people who came to see Nixon and he served in the White House and he was in charge of traffic. And he went on to talk about it. He was a believer. He talked about those years and he would talk about people in the lobby who were infuriated with Nixon. Some policy, some issue, just really angry.
Just wait till I get in there. They would be lions in the lobby, he wrote, and lambs in the Oval Office. He said it was remarkable to watch them as they came in and as soon as they were in the presence of the most powerful man in America, they wilted. They forgot their arguments. If they brought up anything negative, it would be with an apology.
They would find themselves agreeing with the president, shake his hand, be thankful he saw them and leave. And then this author went on to say, the group that did that the most of any group were those who were religious leaders. James writes, we are blaspheming the fair name of our Lord by which you have been called and you're honoring them. You're honoring those who dishonor the Father. In fact, the phrase translated by which you have been called is the same Greek word used for a woman taking the name of her husband in marriage. You've taken the name of Christ.
He's your bridegroom, you're his bridegroom. Are you going to pander after? Are you going to fuss over someone in the assembly who blasphemes the name of your bridegroom? Will you give the chief seat of honor to someone who will dishonor the Lord's name and reputation? James would say, how wrong is that? See, if you go back to verse one, he hints again at why favoritism and partiality are especially sinful.
Go back there and we'll wrap this up. He says, my brethren, don't hold your faith in whom? In our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. In other words, we have come in here and we as an assembly in this unique manner of worship are in the presence of our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. You could translate it, our Lord Jesus Christ who is glory. Daxa is the word which gives us our word, the doxology. He is the glory of God, a reference many believe to the Shekinah glory, the demonstration on earth of God's glory in heaven.
That's the idea. Isaiah prophesied the glory of the Lord will be revealed, Isaiah 40 verse 5. Paul wrote to Titus, we have this hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Christ Jesus, Titus 2 13. This is the glory of Christ, the bright shining Shekinah glory. And we have assembled here in the presence of Jesus Christ who is glory. Shekinah glory is his thought. And here's the point.
This is the point. When you think about coming in here in his presence, we are all shabby. Compared to his holiness, we are all dirty. Compared to the glory and security of his eternal home, we are all homeless. We're all clay pots.
And how do you act like a snob? Oh, but the glory of Christ and his gospel is this. Though we are shabby compared to him, he has now made us saints. Though we are dirty daily, we have been made clean through Christ's atonement. We understand forgiveness. Though hopeless, we've been granted a future and a hope. Though homeless, we've been now given equal standing and an equal inheritance together as sons and daughters of the king. Though clay pots, he has chosen to pour into us the treasure of his gospel which he wants us, if we are willing to grow up, to pour out on others. We are not to be snobs.
We are to be spigots of grace. I'll never forget a mechanic who was working on my truck years ago, my original F-150 given to me by my father-in-law who worked on a Ford assembly line. That was the first F-150.
I'm on my fourth one now. He was working on my truck in his backyard. He was a backyard mechanic. He was the guy I could afford. And while he worked on my truck, I was working on him. I had a couple of hours.
He could go nowhere. I was paying him to listen. I was telling him about the church, the gospel, Christ, the Lord, my own testimony. I'll never forget.
His name was D'Angelo. At one point he pulled his head out from underneath the hood of the truck and he said, you know, I work late on Saturday nights to make ends meet. This is my other job.
And many times I'm working early on Sunday morning. And then he looked at me and he asked me a question. He said, do you think it would be okay if I came to your church with grease on my hands? And the answer church is yes, absolutely.
It's a demonstration that we have taken the education of our world and we have left it out there. And we have a reformed culture in here. In fact, I had a lady come up to me and she said, our first service, we came here from California and we'd been visiting around. She said, we sat on the very back row and in front of us was a guy who had his arm around his wife and he had grease under his fingernails.
It was obvious he was a mechanic. And she leaned over to her husband and she said, look at that. This is the place for us. Come join this collection of clay pots. You're welcome to join the assembly of nobodies. As Jim Elliott put it so well, the missionary to the Alka-Indians, we are nobodies attempting to exalt somebody who is our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. That's a powerful quote from Jim Elliott, reminding us that we are nobodies who are trying to exalt our Lord and savior, but it's not easy to live that way in the way we treat others. Even though we're bringing this lesson to a close, Stephen actually has one more lesson to teach on this topic.
The series that we're in is entitled the law of love from James chapter two. You're listening to wisdom for the heart, the Bible teaching ministry of pastor and author, Steven Davey, Steven pastors, colonial Baptist church in Cary, North Carolina. And you can learn more about us by visiting wisdom online.org. We've heard from some listeners recently and Steven's here with those letters in hand.
Yeah, I am Scott. It's great to be joining up with you here in the studio. Friends, it's a delight to hear from you.
Linda writes from West Jordan, Utah. I love to listen to wisdom for the hearts program while I work as a security guard. I spend my day sitting, watching cameras, and at the same time listening to you through the computer and podcasting, and I'm encouraged by the word of God that you are clearly preaching. Thank you so much. Thank you, Linda.
Marty writes from Eatonville, Washington. I listen daily to wisdom for the heart, some days for several hours at a time. My wife and I hit rock bottom recently, and your program was one of the biggest supports during that time. Your messages helped us continue walking forward in faith, even when it seemed that our prayers weren't being answered. Thank you for challenging us with the word of God and reminding us of who is making all things work together for our good in the end. We give all glory to our risen Lord and Savior. Marty's so grateful to hear about that and what's happening in your own life and marriage.
LaVon writes, and I don't have a city, Scott, but an email note from LaVon. I love your preaching, Pastor Davey. I listen to it on my phone every day. I heard you mention J. Vernon McGee, and you preached like he did. Wow, Scott, that's a kind compliment. LaVon, you're my favorite radio listener, by the way. She mentions because I'm teaching verse by verse. She goes on to say, well, I teach a home ladies' Bible study, and I do it verse by verse, too. And I use many of your transcripts for my lessons.
Your web page is so easy to get around, and I love the archives and the fact that you teach from every book. Thank you, and may God continue to use you for many years to come. Steven, I know you have one more letter to read, but before you get to that, I just want to mention to LaVon and anyone else who might be listening that in addition to the transcripts, we have actual Bible study guides that people have found useful for not only personal study, but taking a small group through. You'll find those at our website, wisdomonline.org, in the resource section, several Bible study guides that are based on the teaching ministry of wisdom for the heart.
Yeah, good point, Scott. Joe writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia, words cannot describe how much your program means to my heart and mind, and I've decided to begin sending something each month to your ministry, as I believe the whole world needs to be able to hear wisdom for the heart in your studied presentations of the gospel. I'm looking forward to partnering with you as a faithful and thankful listener, Joe. Thank you so much, and friends, here we are on the threshold of a very important month for our partners in ministry, our churches, and it's a wonderful thing to be in this country where you still get a tax deduction and, Scott, because of that, people make sure that they get those last gifts in the mail. If we've been a blessing to you, let us know that we are, as we say around here, empowered by your prayers and enabled by your gifts.
And I have to admit to you, I've listened to a lot of wonderful Bible teaching on the radio, and I have rarely written to any of these Bible teachers, and even more rarely given a gift, so I'm always so moved to receive letters and emails and financial gifts, because I know God is at work in your heart to lead you to want to do that. The easiest way that you can do that is through our website. You'll find us online at wisdomonline.org, and it's very clear on the homepage, there's a donate button, and you can click that and just follow through the procedure to make your gift to us.
We'd be so grateful. We can also assist you over the phone. If you prefer to speak with us personally, we would enjoy doing that. You can call us at 866-48-BIBLE. We're here in the office each weekday from 830 a.m. to 4 o'clock p.m., and we would love to hear from you. We have staff and volunteers on hand to take your call right now.
Once again that's 866-48-BIBLE. That's all for today. I'm Scott Wiley, and on behalf of Steven and the entire Wisdom team, thanks for listening. Please be sure and join us again next time here on Wisdom for the Hearts. Thank you.
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