Sermon Notes – September 16, 2018

Word of Mouth – James 3:1

   Lies My Teacher Told Me is James Loewen’s best-selling critique of American History Text-books.  In his new preface, Loewen quotes George Washington’s complaint that news-papers were trying “to destroy the confidence which it is necessary that the people should place in their public servants.”[1]  There has always been yellow journalism and “fake news.” Loewen points out we can all find sources of news (hard left to hard right and all points in between) that best suits our positions and ratifies our biases.  Sometimes, however, we need objective, authoritative truth. The most important occasion for objective and authoritative truth is when it comes to the question of our salvation.

   In our text for today, James, bishop of Jeru-salem and half-brother to Jesus of Nazareth, tells us, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”  In the first century (as much as in the twenty first cen-tury) there was a need for objective truth—but subjective “truths” kept interrupting and over-riding.  When the objective truth needed happens to be the Gospel, the good news of our salvation through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, there is no room for error.  The worst kind of fake news is fake good news.

   James introduces a barrage of analogies, all emphasizing little things that have great impact: the bit, the rudder, the small fire.  With bit and bridle one can control a strong, large horse.  A small rudder guides a ship to where it needs to go.  Just a smidgen of fire can set a great forest ablaze.  All three are little things that can have great consequences.  A false teacher’s tongue leads the horse in the wrong direction, crashes the ship, and sets the forest ablaze.  “The tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness…staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.” (3:6) 

   We are warned about false christs who “will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.” (Matt 24:24)  We are told that the false prophets will come to us “in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”  (Matt 7:15)  We are cautioned that “the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Tim 4:3-4) 

   Sound the alarms!  The false teachers are in our midst and they are not all wacky cultists telling outlandish lies.  Some of them just simply steer the wagon on to a different path, subtly captain the ship into new waters, and cleverly tell you that the tongue of fire you see is the new Pentecost just before they incinerate you.  They will be judged with greater strictness. (Matt 7:22-23)  You need to judge them now.  Ask only one question: are they feeding me with the objective, authoritative Gospel of Jesus Christ?  “Remem-ber you leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God…Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings…” (Heb 13:7, 9)

   In our Old Testament Reading a true prophet, Isaiah, speaks about the true Christ, Jesus of Nazareth.  The Christ says, “The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary.” (Is 50:4) No misguiding, misleading message here.  Jesus, the One who has “the words of eternal life,” (John 6:68) will speak the good news to us, forgiving our sins and assuring us of life everlasting.  Here the tongue of fire really is fire of the Holy Spirit, the fire from heaven, not hell.  Peter, a true teacher, on that first Pentecost, said, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself.” (Acts 2:38-39)

[1] ©2018, page xvii



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