Monday, October 2, 2006

Don't Be Fooled: Understanding the Source of Good

Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures. (James 1:16-18)
“Do not be deceived,” James says. The Greek verb for “deceived” is the same word Jesus used when He told the Sadducees, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Matthew 22:29).

Deception is a trick of the devil played upon a willing heart. He does not want you to know the Scriptures or the power of God. He will be happy enough for you to fill your head with religious theories, but he does not want you to have a personal experience of the Word of God at work in your heart or the power of God at work in your life, for that is death to his plans and destruction to his works. So he tries to lead you astray in your thinking.

Like Jesus, James identifies how it is possible to be deceived about the power of God and the Scriptures. “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.”

This is about the manifestation of God’s power. Everything that is good, mature and complete comes from above, from our Father in heaven. God is not the source of evil, but only of good. Many Christians, however, have been deceived into thinking that God sends diseases upon people or causes bad things to happen to them — to punish them, get them to repent, teach them a lesson, humble them, etc.

But that is simply not so. Nothing evil comes from heaven. There are no diseases there waiting to be unleashed upon the earth. There are no car crashes or any other tragic accidents there. God is the Father of lights, not the Father of darkness. But we know who is the father darkness—the same one who is the father of lies — and we have been delivered from his power into the kingdom of light (Colossians 1:13). Anything that is lacking, anything that is not mature and complete, anything that is not good—it does not come from our Father in heaven, but ultimately traces back to the evil one, in whom there is nothing but darkness.

Do not be mistaken. Anything the attributes evil to our Father in heaven is a deception.

James goes on is this same passage to comment upon the Word of God: “Of His own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.”

God did not send His Word — neither His the Scriptures not the Living Word, Jesus Christ—into the world to condemn you, but to save you and deliver you from the works of the devil: “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17). “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse here through the washing of water by the word” (Ephesians 5:26).

In context, James has been addressing specifically the question of being tempted to do evil. His point is that such temptation does not and cannot come from God, for He is the giver of all good things.
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and entices. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full grown, brings forth death. (James 1:13-15)
James makes a comparison of sources by noting what each “brings forth” (the Greek verb is apokueo). Temptation to evil “brings forth” (apokueo) death. But the Word of God is the word of truth, whose purpose is to “bring us forth” (apokueo), “that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures,” that is, reflecting the glory of His goodness.

Any idea that God is out to condemn you, destroy you or do you harm in any way is mistaken — a lie of the devil. The devil is the thief who comes to steal, kill and destroy. But Jesus is the Good Shepherd who has come that you might have life and have it in abundance (John 10:10)