MS Week #20: Pursuing Holiness Brings Happiness

Brad Libolt continuing through the book of James. In these three verses we are reminded that God never changes, that true happiness comes when we pursue his holiness, and that the gospel is what showcases his love, mercy, and justice to the world.

James 1:16-18

16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

  • We should not be deceived, and think the good things in our life come from someone other than God but it is easy for us to do that.
  • We are taught that from a young age. We earn money, we earn respect, we earn good grades, these are all things we work for, and work hard for!
  • So when we get the money, respect, or the good grade, we are proud and feel accomplished by what we have done
  • We think that these good gifts that we have received come from our own doing, our own hard work
  • James is challenging us, saying don’t be deceived. The good things you have in your life, every good and perfect gift, comes from God. God is the Father of lights. He is the creator of the universe, he spoke and there was light.
  • But, unlike the created light, God does not change. Light gets dimmer and brighter, it varies in color and size, it casts shadows and those shadows change as the light moves. God never changes.
  • Think of the sun, when it moves through the sky throughout the day and how the shadows move with it. God is not like this. He is unchanging, unmoving, the same for eternity.
  • God has given us the greatest gift of all, and that is the gift of salvation. The gift of grace, the gift of forgiveness, the gift of the gospel.
  • These gifts are not earned. There is nothing we have done to receive these gifts. Those are the best kind of gifts right? When you give someone something for no reason, just because you love them.
  • That is why God has given us good and perfect gifts, not because we earned it but because God loves us. God has given us so many things, and they are all good and perfect.
  • Now, sometimes this doesn’t seem to be the case, right? Sometimes the situations God puts us in and the things he gives us don’t seem good and perfect.
  • Even the best gift of all, the gospel, didn’t seem good. Jesus had to die, he was tortured and crucified, how is that good and perfect?
  • We have to remember that God is not primarily concerned with our happiness, he is primarily concerned with our holiness.
  • God wants to make us more like Christ. He wants to sanctify us and change us into Christlike people. All the gifts God gives us are good, because they make us more like Christ. 
  • This includes the gospel. That doesn’t mean God doesn’t want us to be happy, but what we have to understand is that true happiness only comes when we are pursuing holiness. God makes us happy by first making us holy.

18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

  • Remember, God is unchanging. He gave us the gift of the gospel, he will continue to give us good gifts in the future.
  • The first gift God gave us was the gift of life. He chose, it was his own will, that we would be created. He created us by the word of truth, by his own words. He spoke and man came into existence.
  • The word of truth also means the gospel. The gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, was God’s plan all along. God brought us forth by the gospel, because of the gospel, so he could showcase his love, mercy, and justice to the entire world.
  • And when he made us he made us special, better than any other creature in the world. First fruits were the best fruits, the best of the harvest.
  • We were the best of God’s creation, created in his image and commissioned to rule over the world.
  • Then the fall happened, and we could no longer have relationship or responsibility in God’s kingdom. But it was all part of God’s plan, all along, he is unchanging and the giver of good gifts.
  • His plan is to restore us to our place in his presence, where we have relationship and purpose, where we are the best of all creation, a prized possession before God.
  • This is coming, and we should have hope in the future.
  • We should look back and be thankful for the best gift God could have ever given, and that was his son Jesus to die on the cross in our place. We should be thankful for the gifts he continues to give us, that are good, even when we can’t see the benefit right away. And we should look ahead hopeful, knowing that he will continue to give good gifts and restore us to our position in the garden, where we can be God’s prized possession, the first fruits of all creation.

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