Study # 6
Thesis: Adopting the proper perspective toward difficulties requires that we understand that there are some real and final gains and losses that derive from our decisions.
Introduction: The doctrine of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone, has always carried with it a certain dangerous false tendency: the tendency to think that a single decision at a single point in time in this life opens all of the glory of heaven up to the justified one. But this is a deceitful lie. It is a lie that James understood clearly and one which he was adamant about unveiling. This evening we want to look into James' perspective on heaven.
October 1, 1997
- I. First Question: Was Heaven What Was On James' Mind?
- A. Our definition of 'heaven', for this study, is simply our post resurrection experience of the glory of God in all of its infinitude.
- B. Indications of James' real interest...
- 1. His use of 'all joy' indicates a future with no negative irruptions.
- 2. His focus upon a future day of 'lacking nothing' indicates a future beyond this life.
- 3. His focus upon the transitory reality of our experience in this world makes too great a focus on this world foolish (1:10-11 and 4:14)
- 4. His central promise in chapter 1 of the coming of the crown of life indicates a time beyond this world.
- 5. His warning of the deceptiveness about sin leading to death makes very limited sense if physical death is his meaning.
- a. Everyone is destined for physical death whether we sin or not.
- b. The problem with physical death is not physical death: it is what comes afterwards.
- c. Thus, James' real interest was not the believers' physical longevity, but the believers' final condition.
- 6. His focus on inheritance in the Kingdom to come (2:5) means he is more interested in Heaven than he is in our present experience.
- 7. His demand that we live in light of the coming judgment (2:12-13; 3:1; 4:12; 5:1-3; 5:7-9) points to his greater interest in our future than in our present.
- II. Second Question: What Was James Worried About?
- A. First, Middle, and Last, he was concerned that believers would yield to temptation and, by so doing, lose big time in Heaven to come.
- 1. There is no point to the level of his concern in chapters 1 and 5 if his only interest was in the losses we sustain in this transitory vapour of smoke called life on this earth.
- 2. There is no point to the exhortation to resist temptation with a proper perspective if there is no such thing as a real loss for the justified believer.
- B. Clearly James saw the 'crown of life' as something more than what justification offers.
- III. Third Question: What IS the issue of the judgment of believers prior to their release into the pursuits of the glory of God?
- A. If nothing is immutably settled by judgment, judgment means nothing.
- B. What is at stake is what is FIXED immutable by the judgment of the believer.
- C. James reveals his understanding of what is fixed by his exhortation in 1:2: JOY is the fixed commodity in heaven; i.e., how much can you experience?