It is always exciting when the Holy Spirit reveals an important truth to you. This happened recently as I pondered James 3:1-12, particularly verses 9 through 12:
With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water (James 3:9-12; ESV).
James wrote that there are two uses for our tongues. Our tongues can bless God and people or our tongues can curse God and people. Of course there is a spectrum on which our words fall, but ultimately we are speaking to build others up and praise God or we are speaking to tear others down and curse God.
What James taught in this passage has wider implications than just the words that come out of our mouths. It also applies to how we live.
With these bodies God has given us we can either sin and rebel against Him or we can obey and worship Him. Just like our words, our actions fall on a spectrum between these two realities, but in the end we are either living in obedience or we are living in sin.
In his book Surprised by Hope N. T. Wright devoted a whole chapter to Building for the Kingdom. In chapter 13 Wright wrote:
“But what we can and must do in the present, if we are obedient to the gospel, if we are following Jesus, and if we are indwelt, energized, and directed by the Spirit, is to build for the kingdom” (p. 208).
We need to ask ourselves the question, “How do we build for the kingdom?”
I would suggest that we build for the kingdom whenever we devote our lives to doing good works in the name of Christ Jesus.
Here is the point I want us to get today: Just as our tongues can praise or curse God, our lives can either work for His kingdom or they can work against His kingdom.
Ultimately, sin is rebellion against God. Since sin is contrary to God’s will for us it corrupts, not only our lives, but also the world. Remember, this world was created good, and Satan, sin, and death have been corrupting it ever since Adam and Eve, through sin, rebelled against God’s will. The reason repentance in necessary is because sin joins us to Satan’s effort to corrupt the good nature of creation. Through repentance we denounce our participation in Satan’s rebellion and declare our allegiance to God and His kingdom.
We are created for obedience and good works. This leads us to join God in the work of redeeming His creation, which includes other people. When viewed through this lens it is made clear that our good works are not the way we earn salvation, but the way we join God in His redemptive work.
By devoting our time in energy to good works we are not only building for the Kingdom here on earth, but we are also avoiding sin, the force that corrupts God’s good creation in the first place. When we are involved in doing good not only will we have fewer opportunities to sin, but we will witness the devastating effects sin has had in this world. Just as salt corrupts fresh water, sin corrupts good works. Consider what the apostle Paul wrote in Galatians:
Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:7-10, ESV).
In this passage Paul revealed the key to good works: being led by the Spirit. If we are to be led by the Spirit then we need to be students of God’s Word and we need to be actively involved in a local church family.
We will not build for God’s Kingdom by accident. The only way that it happens is to make it a priority in our lives. If it is not a priority then there will always be something else that is more urgent for us to do. When we are intentional about doing good works, then we partner with God and work for His kingdom, rather than trying to work against Him.
In the end God’s Kingdom is going to be built. We need to decide whether or not we want to be part of the process.