Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, January 27, 2019 0 comments

by Logan Ames

Over the past year, I have separately preached a sermon series at my church and also written a series of blog posts on the various tenets of the Christian faith as stated in The Apostles’ Creed. Anyone who writes or preaches knows that you often get those “aha moments” when God shows you something you never saw before. For me, one of my favorite such moments going through those topics was when I was addressing the belief that we are “one holy catholic Church." We all typically think of “catholic” as the Roman Catholic church, but it’s important to recognize that the word “catholic” means something way beyond the specific Roman Catholic denomination. God showed me something through Google (God is not against using any source to share his truth). I searched for the definition of “catholic” and looked at the synonyms. At the time I researched it, one of the Google synonyms was “latitudinarian."

Most of you probably learned way back in elementary school about lines of latitude, such as the Equator, and lines of longitude, such as the Prime Meridian. Longitudinal lines are vertical, while latitudinal lines are horizontal. Based on this reality, a group of people who would be referred to as “latitudinarian” would see themselves as equals across one long horizontal line, figuratively speaking. If they were longitudinarian, some would be placed above others. All believers are part of one, holy, catholic, universal Church because Christ is in authority over us and, compared to his glory and power, we are all on equal footing. As sinners saved by grace through faith in a great God, we are latitudinarian.

The Book of James explains this concept using our circumstances and the ways we view them. If you remember from previous weeks, James has been talking about how we should endure hardships and times when our faith is tested because God is using them both to develop maturity and bring about humility when we turn to Him for help. In James 1:9-11, he tells the believers that they should always view themselves as Christ views them. For those who are poor or “in humble circumstances," they should “take pride in their high position” in Christ. Those who are rich “should take pride in their humiliation” in Christ. A German-American pastor and theologian, Richard C.H. Lenski said, “As the poor brother forgets all his earthly poverty, so the rich brother forgets all his earthly riches. By faith in Christ, the two are equals."

What is it that makes each forget about his earthly lot? It’s the knowledge that everything that’s in front of us will eventually change when we get to dwell with God in heaven. In 2 Corinthians 4:18, Paul declares, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." This doesn’t happen by chance. It requires a person to be intentional about guarding his own mind and taking his thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). The temptation will always be there to look at one’s circumstances in life and either complain or gloat. But Paul is telling us that we have to be willing to look beyond this life and see the big picture that includes eternity. Paul told the Christians in Corinth in earlier verses that “we don’t lose heart” even when things are difficult because “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17). Paul understood that the more one suffers in this lifetime, the more opportunity he has to endure his trials by faith in Christ. It’s not that a poor person automatically gets to heaven, but a poor brother who remains steadfast in his faith despite his suffering receives eternal comfort that makes him forget about the life of hardship. Paul knew that being in humble circumstances presented an opportunity that being rich would not have presented.

So then, what about the rich? Since they have fewer opportunities to endure hardship by faith, how can they “achieve that eternal glory”? Well, that’s why James directs more of his words toward them. He reminds them that “they will pass away like a wildflower” (James 1:10). And just when we think that James is talking about the rich person’s wealth, he reminds us in the next verse that it’s not just the material things that will disappear. “For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business” (James 1:11). The rich PERSON will fade away just as easily as the RICHES themselves. James seems to be echoing his older brother, Jesus, who told the story of a rich fool who arrogantly focused on himself and assumed his wealth would always be there, only to have his life demanded of him and his wealth given to someone else to enjoy (Luke 12:13-21).

Jesus also told his disciples the story of a separate rich man who desperately wanted to have eternal life but wanted Jesus to tell him what he could DO to earn it (Mark 10:17-22). Jesus recognized that his wealth was standing in the way between him and God, so Jesus said he’d have to sell it all and give the money to the poor so that he would have treasure in heaven. But the man was unable to accept this and became very sad at the thought of parting with his great wealth (v. 22). Following that discussion, Jesus told his disciples that it was hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God - harder than passing a camel through the eye of a needle in fact! But, as the disciples then questioned how anyone could be saved, Jesus reminded them that it might be impossible with man, but all things are possible with God (Mark 10:23-27).

Friends, whether you have experienced much suffering in your life or you’ve had a relatively easy go of things, it’s important to remember that this is all going to pass away and we are all going to die unless Jesus comes back first, at which point our circumstances would become irrelevant anyway. Since this life is but a fraction of time in all of eternity, we all ought to consider what God wants us to do with what He’s given us. If He allows you to suffer, you have a great opportunity to overcome and endure by faith. If He blesses you with wealth or comfort, you have great opportunity to worship Him with it and give to those less fortunate than yourself. Either way, you should be asking God what He wants you to do with the circumstances He has given you. Because God is the same God over both the rich and the poor, we are indeed latitudinarian and we are ALL looking up at Him. Remember this the next time you let your circumstances define you, either positively or negatively.

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