God’s Good Gifts (James 1:16-18)

First Baptist Church http://fbcbartow.org

“God’s Good Gifts”

(James 1:16-18)

Series: Living the Faith [on screen]

Rev. Matthew C. McCraw, EdD

First Baptist Church, Bartow, Florida

November 5, 2017

Welcome

Good morning, church.  Please be seated.

We’re so glad that each and every one of you is here today!

My name is Matt McCraw and I’m the pastor here at First Baptist Church of Bartow.

I’m glad to see you all.  If you’re a guest, please take some time to fill out the “What’s Up?” card in the bulletin.  You can drop that off in the offering plate later in the service.  We would love to have a record of your visit with us!

As we come to worship, let’s focus our hearts and minds by turning to the Word of God.

Scripture Reading

Let’s look at Psalm 148 on the screen.

(Read Psalm 148)

1 Hallelujah!

Praise the Lord from the heavens;

praise him in the heights.

2 Praise him, all his angels;

praise him, all his heavenly armies.

3 Praise him, sun and moon;

praise him, all you shining stars.

4 Praise him, highest heavens,

and you waters above the heavens.

5 Let them praise the name of the Lord,

for he commanded, and they were created.

6 He set them in position forever and ever;

he gave an order that will never pass away.

7 Praise the Lord from the earth,

all sea monsters and ocean depths,

8 lightning and hail, snow and cloud,

stormy wind that executes his command,

9 mountains and all hills,

fruit trees and all cedars,

10 wild animals and all cattle,

creatures that crawl and flying birds,

11 kings of the earth and all peoples,

princes and all judges of the earth,

12 young men as well as young women,

old and young together.

13 Let them praise the name of the Lord,

for his name alone is exalted.

His majesty covers heaven and earth.

14 He has raised up a horn for his people,

resulting in praise to all his faithful ones,

to the Israelites, the people close to him.

Hallelujah!

Prayer

(corporate prayer)

Stand now as we continue to worship!

(worship through music time)

Introductory Comments:

Here we are again in the book of James, continuing our series called “Living the Faith.”

James has spent extensive time explaining trials, how we should handle them, and where our real value is found.

Last week we learned that we are to seek the crown of life and avoid the curse of death.

This week we’re going to study a very famous passage.

Let’s get right into it.

Read the Passage

Read James 1:16-18

16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 By his own choice, he gave us birth by the word of truth so that we would be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

Let’s pray together.

(Prayer)

You know church, one of the greatest things that can happen in the life of any of us is when we put on a pair of jeans, or we take out a jacket that we haven’t worn since the previous winter, and slip our hands in the pocket and find what?  Money!  You put your hand in there and feel that crisp $20 bill.

Now, I’m being a bit exaggerative.  That’s obviously not one of the greatest things that can happen to us.  But that is really cool, isn’t it?  In that moment, do you thank God?  Do you praise Him?

Why would we do that?  (pause) Because every good and perfect thing comes from Him!  That’s what James is teaching us in these verses.  Every good gift comes from God, including the greatest gift of all.

Let’s dive a bit further into this passage.

There are only two points this morning.

The first is . . .

I. God is the Giver of Good Gifts (vv. 16-17) [on screen]

James says in verse 16, “Don’t be deceived.”  Deceived about what?

Well, remember that in the previous passage James has just told us that God does not tempt us.

What James is saying is, “God does not tempt us.  He doesn’t give us bad gifts.   Don’t be fooled into thinking that!  Instead, realize that God is actually the giver of good gifts!”

James speaks affectionally to his hearers.  He says, “my dear brothers and sisters,” or “my beloved brethren.”  He cares for them and he wants them to know this.

He wants them to know that every good and perfect gift is from above.

Every good gift comes from God!

Every good gift comes from the Father of lights.

Who is the Father of lights?

James 1:17 is the only place in the Bible that uses this phrase.

The Father of lights is indeed, God the Father.  The Creator of all things!

God created the light of our world and universe.

Indeed, He Himself is light.

Revelation 21:23 speaks of the New Jerusalem, the heavenly city in God’s eternal kingdom, this way, 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, because the glory of God illuminates it, and its lamp is the Lamb.” [on screen]

First John 1:5 tells us, This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in him.” [on screen]

God is the creator of light; He Himself is light; He is the Father of lights.

Unlike the light in our world, God does not change.

James says God, “does not change like shifting shadows.”

When you watch shadows you can see them change based on how the sun changes.  The shadows will shift based on the changes of the sun.

In the same manner, James uses the phrase “shifting shadows” to refer to change.

Just as we learned last week that God cannot tempt us towards evil because there is no evil within Him, so also do we learn in this passage that every good thing is from God because God is the author of good and He is the very definition of good.

James says that God does not change!  He is constant!  He is always good!  His goodness does not shift!  His character is consistent and steadfast!

God has been, God is, and God always will be the giver of all good and perfect gifts!

In the context of James’ letter, we must remember that some of those good gifts that James is referring to are trials and testing in our lives.

This makes sense in the context of what James has been talking about in the previous part of the letter.

Remember, James says that we should count it all joy when we suffer trials.

Also, just last week James said that the one who endures trials is blessed.

So, trials are one of the good gifts that comes down from the Father of lights.

We are to remember that every good gift, including trials and testing, comes from God the Father.

One helpful thought to remember in the midst of troubles, trials, and suffering is to remember that good things come down from the Father.

A commentary that I read did a great job pointing this out.  Because good things come down, that means that we must look up to receive them.

When we need good blessings from God, we are to look up to Him.

Just like James said that we are to seek God for wisdom, we are also to seek God for all good gifts.

We are not to be deceived.  God does not tempt us; He does not bring us harm. God brings good and perfect gifts.

Not only is God the giver of all good gifts, but specifically . . .

II. God is the Giver of New Life (v. 18) [on screen]

Let’s look at verse 18 again (read verse 18).

18 By his own choice, he gave us birth by the word of truth so that we would be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

God is the giver of new life!

He gave us birth by the word of truth!

Let’s talk about this “new life.”

We see first and foremost that this was by God’s choice.

Verse 18 says, “By his own choice.”

God is actively involved in our salvation!

He is calling us to Himself!

He wants to save us and He calls us to new birth; to be born again!

Also, this new birth is different than our first birth.

Some other translations say that “He brought us forth.”

The KJV says that He “begat” us.

This idea is that we are brought into God’s family, or born again, or begotten by God!

Our first birth was physical; our second birth is spiritual.

Our first birth begins our life here and now; our second birth begins are life for eternity!

This is speaking of our spiritual salvation from the curse of sin.  We are made new!

We are now born again, brought into the family of God.  This is indeed a good gift from God.

We are born again, we are brought into the family, by the “word of truth.”

This word of truth is the supernatural action of the Holy Spirit speaking to us through the power of the gospel.

This is the word that brings truth to a heart and mind that would otherwise be deceived.  God opens our blind eyes and softens our hardened hearts so that we hear and understand the truth!

In the same way, as God spoke at the beginning of creation when He created light, God also supernaturally speaks to us and the word of truth penetrates our hearts and minds, and our very lives, and brings about new life.

James also says that we are to be a kind of firstfruits.

Well, what does this mean?

Usually, when firstfruits are spoken of in Scripture it has to do with the first and best offering of a crop or harvest.

The first and the very best are usually offered to the Lord.

Speaking of Christians we can think of believers being firstfruits in two different ways.

First of all, among all of God’s creation, humans are special and first in God’s heart because they were created in His image.  God breathed the very breath of life into humans and made us like Himself.  We are unique.

But, further, Christians are also special and unique because of the work of Christ in our hearts!

Because the word of truth has changed us, we now have special value.  We are now the best of God’s created order.  We are His prized creation.  We are the firstfruits of His creation!

Furthermore, in the Old Testament, the firstfruits were not only the first and best, but they also belonged to God.  James is reminding us that since we are in Christ, we belong to God!  We are His!

So we are given new life, by the work of God, through the word of truth, to be the firstfruits of God’s creatures.

God is the giver of good gifts, including our salvation.  He does not change, we can trust Him, we can follow Him, we must not be deceived.

Concluding Thoughts:

James is here to remind us that God is worthy of following because of His steadfast goodness and because all good gifts come from Him.

James has spoken of many of God’s good gifts.  Let us seek God for those gifts.

In the midst of trials, turn to God for faith and joy.

In the midst of confusion, ask God for wisdom.

In the midst of your poverty, seek God for true provision.

In the midst of your wealth, seek that which is truly valuable in God.

In the midst of temptation, seek holiness and the strength to be faithful from God.

Seek God’s good gifts.

Here’s our bottom line for this week.

Bottom Line: New life and good gifts are from Him, so be encouraged and thankful for them. [on screen]

(repeat)

Here are two weekly challenges for you this week:

Weekly Challenge: [on screen]

  1. Thank God for His good gifts. [on screen]

Spend some time this week thanking God.

Write down what you are thankful for.

  1. Spread God’s generosity. [on screen]

God is a generous God who gives good gifts.

You can be like God by also being generous and giving good gifts.

Get creative with this.  Be a blessing to somebody and model the character of God.

Closing:

As we close I want to remind us all that God is the giver of all good gifts, first and foremost our salvation from sins.

Give God glory for saving you.

(Gospel Presentation)

If you have never received God’s greatest gift, you can do so this morning.

The Bible says that God so loved the world that He gave His only son.  Whoever believes in His Son, Jesus, will not die but will have everlasting life.

You can receive that gift.  In just a moment we will sing and if you want to receive the gift of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins, I would love to talk to you about that.

Before we sing our invitational song, I’d like to take a moment for us all to thank God for His good gifts.

Stand now and let’s spend some time thanking God for His good gifts.

(moment of silence)

(Invitation Prayer)

Benediction:

All right church, thanks for being here today!

Join us tonight for evening worship and the ordination of one of our deacons (Lord Willing 😀)

(Sing Doxology)

God bless you church!  I love you and I’ll see you tonight!

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