Sermon Notes

May 19, 2024

The Crown of Life

James 1:12

James, the brother of Jesus, asks a very thought-provoking question that is recorded in scripture in James 4:14 when he asks, “What is your life?” How a person answers this question tells us a lot about them personally. It’s even a powerful question that you can use to share Jesus with others as well.  As a matter of fact, there is a great tool based upon this question to help you carry out the Great Commission by connecting people to Jesus at li6w.com. There is a wonderful smartphone app that goes along with it as well that you can use to share Christ with others called “Life in 6 Words”. It helps you have gospel conversations by asking them, “What is your life?”. If you ask this question to others, you will get some very different answers depending on if the one you are asking is a follower of Jesus or not. However it’s in the light of this question that I want to look at the last crown that is mentioned in the Bible ― Crown of Life. James himself already answers the question previously in this letter. When it comes to those who have made Jesus the Lord of their lives the answer is recorded in James 1:12. That is what we will be looking at this morning. What is the Christian life?

It’s a Trying Life. - James 1:12a

God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation.

James starts his answer to this question by focusing on the Christian life in the present. He makes it very clear that the Christian life is not an easy one, but rather it is a blessed one. The blessing does not come because there is a lack of trials and temptations in the Christian’s life.  James starts off this letter by saying the seemingly unthinkable, “Count it as joy when troubles come your way.” This seems ridiculous and it is outside of a life that is in Jesus Christ. Inside of a life with Jesus it’s not only because we can endure all things through Christ who gives us the strength we need, but we can grow closer to Jesus through our trials. It’s in those trials and temptations that we learn to endure. That causes our faith in Jesus Christ to be strengthened because we must trust Him more. As that trust and faith grows, we begin to know Jesus in a deeper and more intimate way. One of the trials that James mentions here is how we deal with temptation. We are told in the next few verses that God is not the one who brings us into temptation, but rather it’s our own desire that does that. Our old sin nature was ultimately defeated on the cross, so we are no longer slaves to it. It still likes to poke its head up every now and then and it will until the day we are called home. To experience this blessing that comes from enduring testing and temptation we are going to have to learn to deal with our temptations Biblically. The first thing we need to do when we feel like we are being tempted is go to God’s Word and look at what it says about the situation we have found ourselves in.  When we recognize that the situation is a temptation to us, we are already recognizing it as being wrong, so we go and see what God’s Word says about it and replace the lies of temptation with the truth of the Bible. This is exactly what Jesus did when He was tempted by satan in the wilderness. Memorization of scripture works very well when it comes to this. Therefore when temptation shows its ugly head we can say with utmost confidence “It is written…”. The problem with temptation is most of us start out thinking that we are strong enough to resist any temptation that comes our way. How many times have we been wrong?  We wouldn’t even call it a temptation unless we failed at it before. Jesus told His disciples in the garden to “Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!”  We need to pray for our temptations. We need to make plans so we do not find ourselves in situations where we know where we will be tempted to. No matter the amount of planning that we do (even though it will lessen the opportunities we have to fall into sin). We need to understand that we will still find ourselves in situations where we will be tempted. What should we do? Romans 13:14 tells us to make no provision for those fleshly temptations, so when we find ourselves in those situations, we should literally flee from them and run toward Jesus. This Christian life becomes difficult the moment we accept Jesus as our Lord because it’s at that moment that we start to swim upstream and start living counterculturally. It becomes hard because the Christian life requires growth. Growth can be painful, but even though it can be tough and painful it is a blessed life. Like we said before, James started off by talking about our Christian lives here and now. We know for a Christian when it comes to our lives, the best is yet to come.

It’s an Eternal Life. - James 1:12b

God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life. 

When the trials and testing are over in this lifetime, there is a Crown of Life to look forward to, or rather a life that is crowned in eternal life. Eternal life can only be found in Jesus Christ (John 11:15, Romans 6:23). It's a gift that He procured for us on the cross and offers it to anyone who confesses with their mouth that Jesus is Lord and believes in their hearts God raised Him from the dead. When we ask folks what eternal life will be like, we will get more answers based upon Tom and Jerry cartoons than we will base upon what the Bible says about the eternal life we have through Jesus. There is so much that the Bible says about our eternal life, but I want to just mention a few things about it this morning.

Contrary to popular belief, when a Christian dies, we don’t get our own cloud and harp, or become angels, but rather our eternal life has something much greater in store for us. We are given a new incorruptible body that will reflect the Glory of God perfectly. We are also told in scripture about a place we will spend our eternal lives ― a place called Heaven and it is a place of “No-Mores”. No more death, no more tears, no more sorrow, no more crying or no more pain (those are the no-more that we are told of in Revelation 21). However just think of all the other things that will be no more of as well. No more worries, or as a famous preacher once said ― nothing irritating, agitating, or hurtful. Nothing harmful, hateful, upsetting, or unkind. Nothing, sad, bad, or mad. Nothing harsh, impatient, ungrateful, or unworthy. Nothing weak, sick, or broken or foolish. Nothing deformed, degenerate, depraved or disgusting. Nothing polluted, pathetic, poor, or putrid. Nothing dark, dismal, dismaying or degrading. Nothing blameworthy, blemished, blasphemous or blighted. Nothing faulty, faithless, frail, or fading. Nothing grotesque or grievous, hideous, or insidious. Nothing illicit or illegal, lascivious, or lustful. Nothing marred or mutilated, misaligned, or misinformed. Nothing nasty or naughty, offensive or odious. Nothing rancid or rude, soiled or spoiled. Nothing tawdry or tainted, tasteless or tempting. Nothing vile or vicious, wasteful, or wanton! Heaven is going to be mind blowing just because of the few things we have listed here. For me I have a hard time imagining a life that doesn’t have to deal with even one or two of these things. Can you imagine what it’s going to be like to live in a perfect paradise?  It’s overwhelming to think about what our eternal life is going to be like without all of this, let alone what it’s going to look like or what we will be doing there forever.  If you want to see a little more description of what heaven is going to be like, read all of Revelation 21. However, understand that this doesn’t even scratch the surface of what God has in store for His children. We cannot experience this eternal life by being good. We cannot experience this eternal life by reading our Bible. There is only one way to experience this eternal life and that is to put your faith in Jesus Christ alone to save you from your sins. In John 14:6, Jesus says “I am the Way”, so without Him there is no going to heaven. He says, “I am the Truth”, so without Him there is no knowing about our hope of Heaven. “I am the Life”, so without Him there is no eternal life. Eternal life only comes through Jesus and only by His grace through faith.

It’s an Inalienable Life. - James 1:12

God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

If you are familiar with our country's founding documents then you are probably well acquainted with the term “inalienable”, but if not, it means something that cannot be taken away. The eternal life that is promised through Jesus Christ is just that, something no one can take away or cannot be forfeited. It’s at this point that we find many disagreements. It is hard for us to understand eternal life because it depends on grace alone, and we just can’t get our minds wrapped around grace. We tend to think that we have something or some part in our salvation. Once you are saved, truly saved, you cannot lose your salvation because it’s a promise God made to us. God never fails in His promises. The Bible says, “Whosoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved”. There is no qualifier there. There is nothing that says, “as long as you do everything right”. It only says that you must call upon the name of the Lord (making Jesus the Lord of your life). I’m not saying that you can just “get saved” and then do whatever you want. That kind of faith produces no good works, and that is a dead faith that can never save (James 2:18). It’s not just this idea of a promise that James is talking about that tells us that we are secure in our salvation in scripture. The rest of the Bible declares this truth as well. We are told God’s grace is sufficient to cover ALL our sins. If we could lose our salvation, then God’s grace would not be sufficient, and Jesus would not be all sufficient Savior (Ephesians 2:8). Jesus said in John 10: 28-29 that” I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand.” Thinking you are greater than God removing yourself from His hand by something you do is what brought sin into the picture in the first place. Trust in Him and know He will not let you go. Your righteousness will fail you, but the righteousness of Jesus has been imputed onto your account and will never falter. It’s by HIS righteousness that you are judged. This list could go on and on, but I want to end with one scripture that is my favorite to go to when discussing our eternal security: it's in Romans 8:38-39. “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, nor our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” There is nothing that can separate us from the Crown of Life that will be given to all who have trusted Jesus as their Lord and Savior, because our receiving it had nothing to do with our worth, but just because of the grace, mercy, and love that God is.  

These are the 5 crowns that we can obtain in this life and will be awarded in the next: The Imperishable Crown, The Crown of Rejoicing, The Crown of Righteousness, The Crown of Glory, and The Crown of Life. But what does it matter? What do we do with these crowns? Are we supposed to just sit around and show them off as we enjoy our eternal life that only came through Jesus? No, Revelation 4:10-11 gives us an idea of what we do because it’s what the 24 elders did with theirs and it is that we give these crowns back in worship to the One who made it possible to earn them in the first place.  We lay them down at the feet of Jesus ― King of King and Lord of Lords.  Then we see what happens after that when He is wearing all the crowns that were given back to Him in worship in Revelation 19:11-16. Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war. His eyes were like flames of fire, and on his head were many crowns. A name was written on him that no one understood except himself. He wore a robe dipped in blood, and his title was the Word of God. The armies of heaven, dressed in the finest of pure white linen, followed him on white horses. From his mouth came a sharp sword to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod. He will release the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty, like juice flowing from a winepress. On his robe at his thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords.” Can you imagine what it would be like to stand before Jesus’ empty handed on that great day of worship, with nothing to give Him because of the decisions you made in this lifetime? 
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