The Single Eye
A Study on James
In the first lesson we studied trials, tribulations, temptation, and wisdom. In essence we learned to count it all joy when we encounter various trials. As Norman Grubb says in The Deep Things of God, the trial is to stimulate faith, and faith is seeing the glory of the deliverance, the invisible, before it comes about (p. 97). The whole point of faith is that we believe and act on a thing before it is ever visible to us. It would not take faith if the result was visible. The key to successful living is having an attitude of ‘count it all joy’ in the midst of our trials and tribulations. It is believing God has already met the need in what appears as a difficult circumstance. Continuing our study will bring light on the fact that faith is believing that all things work together for good to those who love the Lord–no matter how the outer circumstance appears.
From verse 1:16 forward James is full of instructions, warnings, and what we should and ought to do. Let’s examine a few. He tells his beloved brethren, "…be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger" (1:19). He tells us to not only hear the word, but to do what one hears (1:22). "…Keep oneself unstained by the world" (1:27). He discusses how his audience treats the rich and the poor, and if we pay special attention to the rich man merely because he is rich that is showing partiality and such is a sin (2:9).
From there he delves into the topic of faith and faith without works is dead. Then he follows with the tongue and that none can control the tongue and "it is a restless evil and full of deadly poi-son" (3:8). With our tongue we bless the Lord on one hand and curse men on the other–and he qualifies men here by reminding his brethren that they have been made in the likeness of God. He goes on to say that such doubleness "ought not to be this way" (3:10).
He admonishes by saying "… if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth" (3:14). He then equates those who have friendship with the world with adulteresses. He continues on in the same vain by informing us that if we are a friend of the world then we are an enemy of God. Therefore he warns "Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double minded" (4:7-8). Thereby…"Be miserable and mourn…Humble yourselves…Do not speak against one another…" (4:9-11). And finally, "Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin" (4:17). This last warning is all encompassing.
Powerless to Keep the Law
The instructions, the shoulds, the oughts–how can we ever be able to keep from doing all we should not do and do what we ought to do. It seems overwhelming. And it is also James who reminds us that "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all" (2:10). It is reminiscent of Paul’s search in Romans 7. "For the good that I wish, I do not do: but I practice the very evil that I do not wish" (Romans 7:19). How can we ever keep the law?…This is the whole point: we can’t, and the glory of it all is that we were never meant to. While we were under the law we were destined to fail and to sin. The law is there to show us that we will never overcome the law–we are helpless–and we are sinners. Does this mean we are destined to live defeated lives? Certainly not, as Paul would say. At least not once we are saved and have Jesus Christ living inside of us. We are only double minded and fail because we have seen our life as something we must live. We have believed it is just us living our lives. The result was we kept failing and sinning. So, what is the answer? To look upward and "…in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls" (1:21).
Receive, implanted and able–all we are meant to do is receive–and who we receive is Jesus Christ–the perfect lawgiver. He, the spirit of living water, comes in and out goes the spirit we are born with. He is implanted and it is Christ who is able to keep the law. Romans 8 exhorts the same. Paul says we are set free from the law of sin and death, because Jesus Christ, the law of the spirit of life, lives inside us (Romans 8:2-4). James affirms the following by his explanation in the next section "But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it…this man shall be blessed in what he does (1:25).
As said previously, the only way to keep the law is to know Christ Jesus. Of course, we have to first be believers, but James is not writing to an unsaved group, but to a body of believers. That is why Romans 7 and 8 is applicable. James is not writing about salvation, but how to live life in the world amidst all the temptation, the devil and the world system.
"Self" Reliance or God Reliance
The reason believers fail is because they do not see with a ‘single eye’ as Norman Grubb so eloquently puts it in his chapter on James in Yes I Am. Seeing and believing we are on our own to live life is where the double mindedness comes from. Our duty as believers is to believe who we are, Christ-operated, and to abide in that. It is not myself, separate from God, but in union with God. I think of the verse "I am in My Father, and you in me and I in you" (John 14:20). The two have become one, yet we remain two in order that Jesus may be manifested in us (II Cor. 4:11).
It is when we start relying on our-selves that we fail because we believe we have to live life on our own by our-selves. Before we were born again, we believed it was just ourselves running our lives–we did not know that Satan was running and ruining our lives–we were deceived. But now we know something different and we are of the Spirit and not of flesh. Yet it is hard for us born again believers to abide in that knowing in the midst of all the world around us. The Holy Spirit lives in us yet we have this earthly body tempted by all things. We easily forget who is implanted within us and we are enticed by our own lusts and desires until we permit them to drive us and we allow them to reign rather than serve. "Instead of abiding in Christ and walking in Him we take the pressures around us upon ourselves–and then we have slipped into law" (Deep Things of God, p.63).
Once we are under law, we are in bondage and sin and no longer can Christ, the perfect law keeper, lead a life of liberty by us. We have stopped the flow of the Spirit by not abiding. It feels overwhelming and we do fail, because we stopped believing "…it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me…" (Gal. 2:20).
I think about the story of the Lion King and Simba, the son of the ruler of the Lion Kingdom, who stopped believing who he was out of fear and pain and therefore saw himself as incapable of ruling the kingdom. But the moment he was reminded of who he was and that his father lived within him then he had his power back. He was able to fulfill his commission–to save and rule his failing kingdom which had been in the clutches of an evil ruler. The same with us. The minute we stop believing who we are–merely vessels that Christ lives His life through–then we are useless to God. We are living under Romans 7, rather than the victorious chapter of Romans 8.
The Power of Faith
The idea of vessels leads us to the next section–the topic of faith. James says faith without works is dead, and if we are truly vessels then this makes total sense. If we say we have faith in God and do nothing, then we are use-less to God, because how can He get His work done. If we take no action, His attributes cannot be manifested. And this is the very purpose of temptation: when we abide in the midst of tribulation and dire temptation and resist the devil, then God is able to manifest Himself. Think of the verse "when I am weak, then I am strong" (II Cor. 12:10); we are the perfect negative for the positive fulfillment of God to be accomplished.
James uses Abraham as an example of a man of great faith. He believed God and did not doubt His promise as he was heading to sacrifice Isaac, his only son. He believed that God would pro-duce a great nation out of him. Abraham did not try to control the situation by saving his own son, but he obeyed God. He trusted him completely. He abided in the midst of great tribulation and against the absurdity of the circumstance. This is faith–"the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Heb. 11:1). And by his faith the promise was completed and made perfect, especially in the light of the coming of Christ through this nation. Faith is active and not passive.
Next in Chapter 5, James tells us what faith produces. "Be patient, there-fore, Brethren, until the coming of the Lord…Behold, we count those blessed who endured" (5:7-11). The coming of the Lord will bring about our final union with God when we will no longer be hindered by our earthly body. "For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened…knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord–for we walk by faith, not by sight…and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord" (II Cor. 5:4-8).
So the words be patient and endure are true, because faith endures. An excellent example is Job; his endurance and his continual abiding in the midst of great pain and suffering brought glory and honor. He is a perfect example of how God can implant faith. God’s word is implanted and neither any temptation of the world nor infliction of Satan can turn a man of faith away from God. And abiding when all appears hopeless is God’s perfect opportunity to manifest Himself in the glory of the results. With Job we have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealing and the Lord is full of compassion and mercy. We look beyond the suffering. We look upward and keep our eyes upon Him and not in the external. We see only Him in it all. "God is all in all" (Col. 3:11). Once we experience this for ourselves then we are able to pass it on to someone else.
Laid Down Life
James discusses at the end how our experience can benefit others. After a11,
our life is for others and the great command of the New Testament is to love the Lord your God with all your soul and to love your neighbor as yourself. As James comments, the effective prayer of a righteous man may accomplish much (5:16). He gives us the example of Elijah. His prayer produced action, but his prayer was not passive. His faith was not without action. He was an intercessor. And to be an intercessor entails three things: commission, cost and completion. It is far from passive.
The last two verses are perhaps my most favorite and leave me very hopeful. "My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth, and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins" (5:19-20). It takes faith, love and action to do the above and will most likely involve intercession. But we know that the great prophets got results by their intercessions and turning whole nations around. Jesus Christ, the greatest of intercessors, saved a whole world by His death and resurrection on the cross. If He saved the whole world by His action, then He can accomplish the turning around of one individual by us. Because of the One who lives in us we do not see the one that strayed as hopeless, but we see him as God sees him. We, as He, jealously desire the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us (4:5).
So, brethren, I test your faith by asking you, are you ready to commit yourself to the saving or turning around of a loved one?
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 11 No 3
- The Deep Things of God
- Editor’s Note
- Moments with Meryl
- Annual Business Meeting
- The Single Eye
- Prayer Without Works
- The Letter to the Romans
- Birmingham Fellowship Weekend
- British Easter Conference
- Questions & Answers
- My Dark Hidden Secret
- New Light on the Twelve Steps
- God’s Promises
- A Look at a Book
- The Mailbox
- Tape Talk
- Words to Live By