Living Faith Builds Culture

Building a Biblical Culture as Jesus’ Church, is all about the foundation of beliefs and values found in The Scriptures. We want to take those values & beliefs and use them to form the actions and attitudes that mark our lives, our culture.

The whole book of James is one big lesson on culture formation based on God’s way

The formation of Biblical Culture does not happen by accident; it takes constant work and a desire to be aligned with what the Scriptures says rather than what ‘Feels’ good.

The whole Body can participate in the formation of the culture and then everyone benefits…everyone who is committed and present and part of the culture (family)

James 5:7-20

7 Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen.

  • Building a culture that is based on the anticipation of Christ’s Return (Patiently)
  • They know the crop is coming, it’s a matter of when…
  • Living in light of eternity (what matters most: ‘A Cultural Value’)

8 You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near. 9 Don’t grumble about each other, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. For look—the Judge is standing at the door!

  • Does our culture reflect complacency about Christ’s return?
  • Do our relational actions as a community reflect Christ’s Lordship?
  • Do we live like Jesus could come back at any second?

10 For examples of patience in suffering, dear brothers and sisters, look at the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 We give great honor to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance. You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end, for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy.

  • We pattern our lives after those who are most profoundly influenced by God
  • Suffering so that the truth about God may be revealed: that is building culture
  • The suffering always has purpose when it is done from a God honoring place
  • God reveals Himself through His people when they suffer

12 But most of all, my brothers and sisters, never take an oath, by heaven or earth or anything else. Just say a simple yes or no, so that you will not sin and be condemned.

  • Why is it such a big deal to James NOT to make oaths? (Elevates ‘Free Will’)
  • Simplicity & transparency of communication is what biblical culture is built on
  • This also means we are to give God His due, He controls, Not us!

13 Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. 14 Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord.

  • We are to live life with God involved in the good and the bad
  • We are to leverage the power of ‘The Church’, through it’s leadership, to heal
  • The faith of the person who calls for the Elders is the key

15 Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven.

  • Our properly functioning as ‘Christ’s Body’; through order & faith brings healing
  • A culture of commitment to the Body and seeking what we need AS a body…

16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.

  • Transparency about sin with other members of the Body is a cultural value
  • What kind of a culture of prayer are we building?
  • Is it marked by ‘Earnestness’?
  • Do we pray based on the the ‘Righteousness of Christ’?

17 Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! 18 Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops.

  • We can have the same culture of prayer Elijah had, it is possible!
  • How do we emulate Elijah and his closeness to God

19 My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, 20 you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back from wandering will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.

  • Do we have a culture that gives second chances and welcomes prodigals?
  • We all need to know that if we screw up we can find forgiveness and family
  • We are to be people of reconciliation and humility
  • Our motivation is to care for each other’s souls
  • But that only happens when you go all in (True Biblical Culture)

Application Questions:

What is your personal culture regarding Christ’s second coming?

How does our ‘Body’ culture support suffering members? How can we do better?

How do you value & practice transparency in your relationships here @ Midtown?

How can you participate in building a more earnest culture of prayer?

Who might you reach out to that has wandered away from the truth?

Skilled Living Requires Biblical Theology

The Book of James provides solid advise, principals that each of us can apply. There is a critical truth informing all of this good advise: God’s Total Sovereignty. As much as he is calling us to act out our faith, he is also making it clear God is in charge, of everything, no matter how we ‘feel’ about that.

Our modern information & technology based culture creates the illusion that we have some amount of control of our world. But the situation is the same as when James wrote this letter: God alone is in control. Through networks, education and possessions we can build our own deception that makes us think we can control our circumstances… until a loved one suddenly dies or a child gets sick or a terrible accident happens, then the reality of our lack of control is painfully pointed out.

What James is advising us to do is to live our lives in deference to HIS actual control, realizing we will have to answer for whether or not we have honored HIS lordship. In recognizing the truth of God’s total control we think rightly about God based on the Scriptures, this is Biblical Theology. With that scripture based view of God’s sovereignty we can then live skillfully here in God’s world.

In today’s passage James gives us a couple of examples of how we act like we are in control and how God truly is in control; over today & eternity.

Ch 4:11-17

11 Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters. If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God’s law. But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you. 12 God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor?

  • How ‘family’ should talk about and to each other
  • Judgement is not for us, obedience is our role
  • Any judgement we have is meaningless since we have no power to enact it

13 Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” 14 How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.

  • This is an illustration of the previous point about God’s complete sovereignty
  • Jame’s point: We think we have some control of our lives but we have ZERO
  • He is pointing out how little significance we have
  • Biblical Theology: Our ‘free will’ is totally subject to God’s ‘Sovereign Will’
  • Man-Centric Theology: My brains, talent, and experience impact my life
  • Either everything is God given & determined or it isn’t: what does the Bible say?

15 What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” 16 Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil. 17 Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.

  • The Scripture teaches God’s will is what determines everything
  • Biblical Theology: we do what HE wills, not what we will
  • Believing that you are in charge is not just wrong it is evil…
  • If you know something is wrong and evil and you do it is is SIN
  • It is right in front of us: God is totally in control, to erode His sovereignty is SIN!

Ch. 5:1-6

1 Look here, you rich people: Weep and groan with anguish because of all the terrible troubles ahead of you. 2 Your wealth is rotting away, and your fine clothes are moth-eaten rags. 3 Your gold and silver are corroded. The very wealth you were counting on will eat away your flesh like fire.

  • The definition of rich people needs some context; Ruling Elite / Those in Power
  • Being a part of the accumulation of wealth & power bring eternal consequences
  • The temporal nature of what we can amass rots our souls

This corroded treasure you have hoarded will testify against you on the day of judgment. 4 For listen! Hear the cries of the field workers whom you have cheated of their pay. The cries of those who harvest your fields have reached the ears of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

  • What you spend you life doing testifies for or against you when God judges
  • The connection of power to corruption and oppression
  • God is aware of people who accumulate wealth by taking advantage of others

5 You have spent your years on earth in luxury, satisfying your every desire. You have fattened yourselves for the day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and killed innocent people, who do not resist you.

  • A life spent satisfying self is the opposite of loving God
  • Valuing things over people is the opposite of how Jesus’ church lives
  • How we treat people says something about who we think God is

Application Questions:

What are some situations where you judge others motives?

If you realize your ‘right’ to judge others comes your pride, how is that overcome?

How much control of your life do you believe you have and why do you have it?

In what ways are you aware of materialism coming between you and God?

What are you spending your years on earth satisfying; your desires or God’s?


Our Relationships with each other flow from our relationship with God. Humility is the essence of our relationship with God, so it can be with each other. Humility is the essence of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Humility is not friendship with this present world, this world tells us to be proud…

If we want to walk with God experiencing His grace fully we have to become humble. God has given us this scripture to point the way to the life He has for us…Humility is opposite all of our natural impulses, we need God to make us humble. It is only because God humbles us that we surrender our lives to Him for eternity, but it is the same humility we are to cultivate in our relationship and transformation with Christ.

Ch. 3:17-18 (End of last week’s message)

17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. 18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.

  • God’ wisdom should direct our living (Christ’s Living Body)

Ch. 4:1-10

1 What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? 2 You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them.

  • Conflict we have with others comes from within us (our sin of selfishness)
  • Our desire for things, approval & status lead us into conflict
  • We are taught by this world to value stuff & self more relationships

Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. 3 And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.

  • The more we rely on ourselves the less we ask God for (self reliance)
  • Even as followers of Jesus Christ we don’t depend on God
  • Then we turn to God as a last resort…and not to please Him but to use Him

4 You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God.

  • If we put our time, talent & treasure into ‘Worldly Priorities’ we are adulterers
  • James makes it cut and dry…we like to hedge and fool ourselves
  • We need to honestly evaluate what we are valuing with our lifestyles

5 Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him. 6 And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (Proverbs 3:34)

  • When God puts His Spirit in us He expects us to be true to Him
  • The message of Scripture: God wanting His people to be ‘Set Apart’ for Him
  • The only way we can be faithful is to embrace humility

7 So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.

  • Knowing that in and of ourselves we will be proud & betray God, we need help
  • God’s telling us how to get where we want to go; will we adopt these practices?
  • God’s wisdom is: asking Him for humility & to increase the value of humility
  • God wants us to be undivided; and He wants us to be honest about falling short

9 Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy.

  • I believe God wants us to honestly mourn our sin… Emote… Process Reality
  • We are not to always be ‘all fake happy’; there is a place of ‘Holy Sorrow’

10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.

  • There is no more important thing we can do in every aspect of our lives
  • True humility before God is essential part of salvation
  • True humility before God is the only way to live if He is who we say He is
  • Who would you most desire to lift you up in honor?

Application Questions:

What are ways you can connect god’s wisdom to your relational world?

In a normal day, what do you specifically ask God for?

What are your strongest lures to ‘befriend’ the world?

Describe how passionate you believe Jesus is that You be His faithful follower.

Are verses 7-10 a prescription or a suggestion to you?

James Chapter 3: Words & Wisdom

The practical application of God’s Word should be the Lifelong Goal of all ‘Biblical Christians’. Two key areas to concentrate on are: our words and what we consider ‘Wisdom’. These two issues will impact our relational life more than just about anything else. The two are connected in our lives just as God’s Word & His Wisdom are.

1 Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.

  • Teachers are ‘Thought Leaders’ and have influence in leading Jesus’ Church
  • Leadership in Jesus’ Church is not like leadership in the rest of the world
  • If teaching is not aligned with Scripture / Gospel it is a great offense to God
  • We are all fallen, here is where God’s grace comes in…(judged with Grace)
  • The control of our speech & language leads other aspects of self-control

3 We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. 4 And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. 5 In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches.

  • The power of our ‘Tongue’ is the disproportionate power our words have to influence people
  • Little things mean a lot

But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. 6 And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.

  • Small things can do great damage, our words have great capacity to harm
  • Our words are the primary outlet of sin in each of us
  • In our ‘Immaturity’ we abuse the power of our words without realizing it
  • God wants us to be aware of the importance of our words (Devil wants the exact opposite)

7 People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, 8 but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. 9 Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God.

  • GOD’S WORD says no one can completely control their words… It is a war against pride!
  • We should use our words like we are handling a live explosive (careful & slow)
  • The dual nature of our words is a heartbreaking reality
  • We can intentionally ask God to grow our praising and decrease our cursing

10 And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! 11 Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? 12 Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.

  • As true followers of Christ we are called to imitate Him, so HE is the standard
  • If we have given over our lives to Christ should not our speaking reflect HIM?
  • IF Christ is the source of who we are there should be constant spiritual growth
  • Our spring should keep being less and less ‘Salty’…

God’s Character and how He desires us to be is displayed through His Messiah. Jesus Christ is our example in all things! Two examples from the Scriptures:

The Coming Messiah: Isaiah 53:7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.

Jesus Before Pilate: Mark 15:1-5 Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, made their plans. So they bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate. “You have said so,” Jesus replied. The chief priests accused him of many things. So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.” But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.

Jesus is the standard for how we use language & speech: yielded to and led by The Holy Spirit

13 If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying.

  • Wisdom & Words, Words & Wisdom… The are intertwined
  • Biblical definition of Wisdom: Living God’s Way
  • Jesus Incarnated God’s Ways : Ultimate Humility / Ultimate Good Works
  • Don’t confuse God’s Way with Your Way (lay down yourself)

15 For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. 16 For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.

  • God’s wisdom is consistently opposite what is valued by our popular culture
  • If you don’t think a great deal of our popular culture is demonic; WAKE UP!
  • The predominate culture is built on self-centered, non-communal individualism
  • Disorder & Evil flow from the ambition and hate that are given place when everything is about ME!

17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. 18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.

  • Wisdom that reflects Christ is uncorrupted by sin (poop in brownie, no prob)
  • It does not seek conflict: loving peace can require conflict, but resolving is goal
  • Being gentle and yielding to others is not valued
  • All of these are crucial to relationships being built and strengthened (recap)
  • The actions of peace making have tangible results (fruit, a harvest of rightness)

Application Questions:

How do you view ‘Teaching & Leading’ in the church? Is your perspective Biblical?

How do you intentionally make your spring (Words) less ‘Salty’

What practices do you employ to intentionally fight jealousy & selfishness?

Where does your life (not your words) reflect Verse 17? Were does it not?