Free From Self-centeredness, Free to Live for Others

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English service on April 15, 2018

Messenger: Pastor Jim Allison


James 1:26-27


“Free From Self-centeredness, Free to Live for Others”


Hello again, everyone, those with us here at Open Door and those joining us online.  Here we are just two weeks past Easter.  With music, the spoken word, an Easter egg hunt, lots of good food, an egg-decorating craft event, and more, we celebrated Jesus’ setting us free.  He gave us freedom from sin through His death and then freed us from death through His resurrection.  True liberation of human beings from all that takes away our freedom grows out of the cross and the empty tomb.  That is the faith on which we stand.  Without that, all the political, economic, and military struggles for liberty will in the end fail to bring us the deep, lasting freedom we need.      


These are grand truths that we remember each year at Easter.  But inside them there are many more specific teachings that we must receive if we are to have a deep and full understanding of what it means to live as free human beings.  God’s word has much to teach us about not only getting our ticket punched so we can go to heaven when we die.  It also shows us how to live our best lives here each day in this world.  


The letter of James gives us one of the clearest pictures in the Bible of what Christian freedom looks like.  It is an extremely practical guide to our life of faith.  The version of freedom it presents is pretty different from the ones we hear people in our various cultures describe often, so you may be surprised sometimes at what you find here.  In praying about messages to bring you in the coming months, I feel drawn to this letter, and I would like to explore it with you.  


As we do, we will see that when God sets people free, He not only makes us free from things that hurt us (hate, fear, worry, other sins).  He also sets us free to—to love deeply, enjoy life fully, to imagine a better world and work to build it under His guidance and in His power.  It’s a very positive type of freedom—not just constantly fighting against something or some group in power but living out of an awareness of the almighty, all-knowing God who is present in all places and deeply loves every person. 


One part of God’s liberating work in our lives is the way He sets us free from self-centeredness and free to live for Him and other people.  When we meet Christ, come to know Him, and make a commitment to follow Him in faith, we place our lives in His hands.  We begin a transformation process.  We begin growing into people who see as He sees, love as He loves, and value what He values.  Sadly, we never complete the process while we are in this world.  That will happen some day in heaven, but we’ll always be incomplete, broken, in process in some ways as long as we are human beings in this world.  


Yet Christians are people who have begun the transformation process.  It’s not brainwashing or choosing to stop thinking freely.  Becoming a Christian does not mean checking your brains at the door when you enter the church like you leave your car in the parking lot or coat on the coat rack.  In fact, if you do that, you will misunderstand Christ and faith and fail to live by His teachings.  Yet when we become followers of Jesus, there is a transaction.  We freely choose to place our lives in His hands.  And He promises to take them and form and fill and guide and use them according to His good plans for us.  He assures us that He will meet our needs as we trust them to Him. 


When we begin to see from our own experience how that is true, we learn to become free from the fear that we might not have enough and the pressure we feel from believing we have to provide for ourselves.  The most miserable people I know are ones who think about their own problems all the time.  They often don’t notice it, but this is a type of selfish behavior.  It keeps all their thoughts focused on them.  But living in your own world can be a pretty lonely and boring experience.  It can often leave you in chains on the inside.   


As we come to know Christ, we can give all those stresses over to Him and refuse to hold on to them.  That’s why James says in 2:7b, “Remember, you belong to him.”  One key part of this process of growing in faith is moving away from self-centeredness and to living for others.  That means living for Him first and most, and as a result choosing to live in ways that help other people.  So in today’s message, let’s focus on this truth: God is working to shift our focus from constantly looking inward and living for ourselves to looking outward and living for others.  By setting us free on the inside, He enables us to turn our attention to the world around us and make the best contribution we can to it.  


As this happens, we quickly find that the world’s problems are far greater than our power to solve them, and the needs go far beyond our resources to meet them.  There is struggle, pain, failure, and loss in living for others.  Yet people of faith for many centuries have discovered an amazing thing at the same time.  That is, there is joy in working together with Christ for other people.  As we often say, real joy comes from living first for Jesus (J), then for others (O), and finally for yourself (Y).  J-O-Y.  That’s the value system God teaches us to choose, and we find our deepest joy in doing so from day to day.         


When we talk about serving people in Christ’s name, we often hear discussions about helping four categories of people in particular: widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor.  That’s because these often come up in the Bible again and again.  God loves all people, fully, deeply, and completely, He clearly teaches.  Yet He has a special kind of compassion for suffering people, and people in these specific situations are often the ones who have an especially difficult struggle.  


James tells us that the way we act toward them is not only a matter of social justice but also tightly linked with our faith.  Good actions such as helping them are not the basis for our salvation.  We are not saved by our works.  We are not saved by faith plus works.  We are saved by a faith that works.  James is telling us that real faith is not just a set of correct beliefs.  In fact, he goes so far as to say, “. . . Faith without works is dead” (James 2:16, King James Version).  More than a set of great teachings, faith is a relationship, he shows.  First and most it is a saving relationship with God, and through that, healthy ways of relating with other people and all the rest of His creation.  But out of all that comes actions, behaviors that lift people up, set them free, and help them thrive.  


So James tells us (1:27b), “When widows and children who have no parents are in trouble, take care of them.”  God will be happy with that, not the hollow type of Christianity that is just a nice set of beliefs.  


Our societies do not always lead us to take care of these “at risk” groups of people.  For instance, recently in the news we read about Iceland’s proclamation that it had wiped out Down syndrome nearly 100%.  Since the year 2000, screening of pregnant women for this condition has been used, and nearly all the women finding that they were going to give birth to a Down syndrome baby have chosen to have an abortion.  So should we celebrate the fact that a disease is nearly gone, be horrified at the taking of these human lives, or what?  


The Bible’s God does not spell out all the answers to these difficult questions, but He clearly comes down on the side of life, not death.  He encourages His people not just to protest the taking of a life but to be willing to step in and care for children who are born but not cared for by their parents for whatever reason.  Promoting adoption and actively helping care for children without parents are natural responses for people who have Christ in our hearts.  Another reaction that celebrates and supports life was in the news recently.  A baby food maker, Gerber, chose the Down syndrome child you see in the picture as the symbol of its product, Lucas, to put in its advertisements.  Isn’t he cute?        


The words in James’ letter often echo those of the Old Testament prophets who show God’s great passion for social justice.  For example, God speaks in Jeremiah 7:5-7, saying:


If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors for ever and ever. 


Throughout the Bible, God tells His people to treat foreigners with justice and acceptance.  He often reminds them of a special reason for this—that they, too, were foreigners in the land of Egypt before He freed them.  They enjoy the benefits of having their own land and being the majority ethnic group only because of His goodness and kindness in setting them free, through Moses in the Exodus.


So today, too, as in Bible times, closing our hearts, minds, and borders to people of other countries who are in real need cuts against the kinds of lives that followers of Christ find sensible and honorable.  As you know, there are passionate arguments happening now in many parts of the world over how many people we can accept into our nations safely and fairly.  My country, the U.S., accepted about 1,500,000 legal immigrants in 2016 and 1,400,000 the year before, besides many illegal ones.  Japan accepted around 150,000 in 2016 (about 1/10 of the U.S. number).  


Some people think that is too many, some think it too few, some think completely open borders is the way to go, and some think they should be totally closed.  There are many opinions which reasonable and loving people can take without being racist haters or so open-minded that our brains fall out.  But Christians see our God in the Bible as taking a stance that basically accepts and does not reject people.  He calls us to discover and create specific ways to actively be like Him in this way.  And at least in democracies, God does seem to give ordinary people responsibility for the leaders we put in power, who do much to make decisions in this area.  There is at least some Christian teaching in the saying that, in a democracy, in the end people get the leaders we deserve.  


God continues to call His people to work for justice and for peace, as a way to live out the faith He has given us.  


The final group God cares about in a special way is poor people.  Widows, orphans, and foreigners often fall into this category, as well.  James says to us in 2:5-6a:


My dear brothers and sisters, listen to me. Hasn't God chosen those who are poor in the world's eyes to be rich in faith? Hasn't he chosen them to receive the kingdom? Hasn't he promised it to those who love him? But you have put poor people down.


Later in the letter, he continues forcing Christians to look at the cold reality of their history and its powerful continuing impact.  They have failed to act in Christ-like ways, and it has led to unjust economic disparities.  In 5:3b-6 he makes this claim against them.


You have stored up riches in these last days. You have even failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields. Their pay is crying out against you. The cries of those who gathered the harvest have reached the ears of the Lord who rules over all. You have lived an easy life on earth. You have given yourselves everything you wanted. You have made yourselves fat like cattle that will soon be butchered. You have judged and murdered people who aren't guilty. And they weren't even opposing you.


The way we treat poor people is not a minor thing to our God.  He talks about it again and again throughout the Bible.  In James 2:14-16, he asks:


My brothers and sisters, what good is it if people claim they have faith but don't act like it? Can that kind of faith save them? Suppose a brother or sister has no clothes or food. Suppose one of you says to them, “Go. I hope everything turns out fine for you. Keep warm. Eat well.” And you do nothing about what they really need. Then what good have you done?


Earlier this month we passed the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.  One of my childhood memories is going to Memphis, Tennessee, to visit my aunt not long after he was killed there.  I remember seeing the Lorraine Hotel, where he died, and the buildings burned in the riots that followed.  He was in Memphis supporting the sanitation workers, who were trying to get fair working conditions.  


One of the men who worked there, Elmore Nickelberry, is still on the job at age 86.  He recalls that as they worked, . . .


the trash tubs would leak, dripping onto his clothes. Sometimes he would have to climb into the back of the truck to help load the garbage.

“And when I'd load the truck there would be maggots in my shoes,” says Nickelberry.                                            

But the city didn't let African-American workers shower at the barn – that was reserved for the white drivers.


Dr. King did not speak out against that type of racism just because he was a black man.  He opposed it because of his Christian faith.  It is often filtered out of news reports today, but if you read his speeches, you’ll see that belief in Christ was the power behind his work.  About the workers in Memphis, he said this:


That's the question before you tonight. Not, “If I stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to my job?” Not, “If I stop to help the sanitation workers what will happen to all of the hours that I usually spend in my office every day and every week as a pastor?” The question is not, “If I stop to help this man in need, what will happen to 8


me?” The question is, “If I do not stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to them?” That's the question.


When he was killed the next day, he made a sacrifice that was possible because he was following his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  He had been freed from the temptation to live just for himself and freed to live for others in Christ’s name and power.  Now 50 years later, his life still brings hope and inspiration to many people because he was willing to invest it, to plant it as a seed that he believed God would bring to a great harvest.  He was obeying the teachings of God in James 3:17: “Those who make peace should plant peace like a seed. If they do, it will produce a crop of right living.”


God calls us as a church and individuals to make the same type of choice, to live for Him by serving people in His name.  It may not be in such a dramatic way as M. L. King, and we may never be as famous.  But we each have our contribution to make, thanks to the various skills, experiences, and resources He has allowed us to have.  What will we do with them?  Who are the widows, orphans, foreigners, poor, or other hurting people around us?  Are they able to see Christ in us, in the way we treat them?  What do the people living in Fukuzumi and other parts of Sapporo see in us as we live among them each day?  What could we do to show them the love of God in a way they could understand more readily?  


I won’t try to answer all these questions here and now.  They are for you individually and us as a church family to answer together.  It may be as simple as starting with one person you know who is facing financial trouble and committing to pray with him or her until God meets that need.  It could be inviting to your home for dinner someone of another culture who needs a friend.  Maybe God is giving you a vision for a larger, more structured type of ministry in His name to a group of people with special challenges.  But however the Lord is telling you to do it, let’s each commit to becoming the tools that He wants to use in this city and beyond to build His Kingdom, where people live in the freedom of the risen Christ.  


Let’s pray together.


God of freedom, we ask you in this quiet moment first to set us free, completely and for always.  In every area of our lives which have not yet been delivered from the power of sin and committed to your control, come in and be our deliverer and our Lord.  Take us out of bondage and enable us to walk in the freedom of your Spirit.  


But, please Father, do not stop there.  As you liberate us from all that pulls us down and holds us back, please do the same through us for the people in our homes, our places of work, and the larger community.  Use us as your hands and feet.  Through us let your own loving, redeeming presence be known in the lives of people around us.  Use us to set people free in Christ’s name in all the ways you choose in your good plans.  In His name we ask it, amen.




Elliott, D. (March 28, 2018). “When MLK Was Killed, He Was In Memphis Fighting For Economic Justice. All Things Considered. National Public Radio. Retrieved April 8, 2018 from 28/597308044/the-memphis-sanitation-workers-strike-kings-last-cau se-for-economic-justice                                     

Klein, A. (February 8, 2018). “Lucas was just named 2018 Gerber baby. He has Down syndrome.” The Washington Post. Retrieved April 8, 2018 from was-just-named-2018-gerber-baby-he-has-down-syndrome/?utm_term=.8dd 0cd0de0ea

Quinones, J. and Lajka, A. (August 14, 2017). “‘What Kind of Society Do You Want to Live in?’ Inside the Country Where Down Syndrome Is Disappearing.” CBSN on Assignment. Retrieved April 8, 2018 from


Smith, N. (September 4, 2017). “How Japan Needs to Change to Welcome Immigrants.” 

Bloomberg View. Retrieved April 8, 2018 from hange-to-welcome-immigrants


Zong, J., Batalova, J., and Hallock, J. (February 8, 2018). “Frequently Requested Statistics on Immigrants and Immigration in the United States.” Migration Policy Institute. Retrieved April 8, 2018 from rants-and-immigration-united-states



ヤコブへの手紙 1章 26、27節



 ここにいらっしゃるオープンドアの皆さん。またオンラインで礼拝に参加されている皆さん。今日は。イースターから二週間が経ちました。賛美で、語られた言葉で、イースターエッグハントや沢山の美味しい料理で、またイースターエッグ作り、その他の多くの事を通して、イエス様が私達を自由にして下さったお祝いをしました。 イエス様は、その死を通して私達に罪からの自由を与えて下さり、復活を通して死から私達を解放して下さいました。








  これからの数ヶ月の礼拝メッセージをどうしようかと祈りながら考えた中で、私はヤコブの手紙に惹きつけられたのです。 それではご一緒に探っていきましょう。
























 私達の社会は、これら”危機的な状態にある’人々を世話するよう常に私達を導いている訳ではありません。例えば、最近、ダウン症をほぼ100%一掃したというアイスランドの宣言がニュースになっていました。2000年以降、これを実現するため妊婦検診が行われ、ダウン症児を出産することが分かった、ほとんど全ての妊婦が中絶を選択したのです。私達は、病気がほとんど無くなったと喜ぶべきなのでしょうか? それとも人命が奪われたとして怖がるべきなのでしょうか? それとも他になにかがあるのでしょうか?



 ’ もし、本当に、あなた方が行いとわざとを改め、あなた方の間で公儀を行い、在留異国人、みなしご、やもめをしいたげず、罪のない者の血をこのところで流さず、ほかの神々に従って自分の身に災いを招くようなことをしなければ、私はこの所、私があなた方の先祖に与えたこの地に、とこしえからとこしえまで、あなた方を住まわせよう。“

 聖書の至るところで、神様は従う人々に、在留外国人を公平に扱うように言っています。そして、神様は度々、そのようにすべき特別な理由を思い起こさせています。それは、かつて神様に解放されるまで、エジプトの地で外国人の立場であったからです。 彼らは、自分の土地を持ち、最大規模の少数民族である恩恵を享受し、また、神様の善性と優しさ故にだけによって、モーセを通して自由にされたのです。





  しかし、クリスチャンは、聖書の神様が基本的に人々を受け入れ、拒絶しないという立場を取っていると見ます。 神様は私達に、この立場を積極的に、神様と同じように特別な方法を発見し、作り出すよう呼びかけています。少なくとも民主主義においては、神様は、私達が権力を委任している指導者達ー彼らはこの問題について決定権を多く持っているのですがーに対する責任を普通の人々に負わせているようです。キリスト教の教えの中には、一応ことわざとして、結局、人は自分達に相応しい指導者を得ると言われているものがあります。




 “ よく聞きなさい。愛する兄弟たち。神は、この世の貧しい人達を選んで信仰に富む者とし、神を愛する約束されている御国を相続する者とされたではありませんか。それなのに、あなた方は貧しい人を軽蔑したのです。”











  “ ゴミの桶は漏れて、作業服に滴となって落ちる。度々、ゴミを積み込むためにごみ収集トラックの背によじ登らなければならない。






“ これが今夜の皆さんへの質問です。「もし、私がゴミ清掃員への支援を止めたなら、私の仕事に何が起きるでしょう?」ではなく、「もし、私がゴミ清掃員への支援を止めたなら、私が毎日、毎週、通常自分のオフィスで牧師として費やす全ての時間に何が起きるのでしょう?」でもなく、聞きたいことは、「もし私がゴミ清掃員の支援を止めなかったら、彼らに何が起きるのか?」これが私の質問です。”






 そのような人達は、私達がその人達を‘遇する仕方で、私達の中にキリストを見ることができるのでしょうか? 福住地区に住む人々やその他の札幌の地域に住む人々は、毎日の生活で、その中に暮らす私達の中に何を見ているのでしょうか?










 でも、お父様、どうかここで止まらないで下さい。 私達を引きずり下ろす全てのものから私達を自由にされたように、私達の家庭で、職場で、もっと大きなコミュニティーで、私達を通して同じことを他の人々にして下さい。私達をあなたの手、足としてお使い下さい。私達を通して、あなたご自身が、愛のある、贖われるお方であることを、私達の回りの人に、その生活において知られるようにして下さい。あなたの良き計画の中であなたが選ばれる方法で、キリストのお名前により人々を自由にするため私達を使って下さい。キリストの御名によって祈りお願いします。アーメン




Elliott, D. (March 28, 2018). “When MLK Was Killed, He Was In Memphis Fighting For Economic Justice. All Things Considered. National Public Radio. Retrieved April 8, 2018 from  tion-workers-strike-kings-last-cause-for-economic-justice                                     

Klein, A. (February 8, 2018). “Lucas was just named 2018 Gerber baby. He has Down syndrome.” The Washington Post. Retrieved April 8, 2018 from https://www.wash baby-he-has-down-syndrome/?utm_term=.8dd0cd0de0ea

Quinones, J. and Lajka, A. (August 14, 2017). “‘What Kind of Society Do You Want to Live in?’ Inside the Country Where Down Syndrome Is Disappearing.” CBSN on Assignment. Retrieved April 8, 2018 from down-syndrome-iceland/


Smith, N. (September 4, 2017). “How Japan Needs to Change to Welcome Immigrants.” Bloomberg View. Retrieved April 8, 2018 from 03/how-japan-needs-to-change-to-welcome-immigrants



Zong, J., Batalova, J., and Hallock, J. (February 8, 2018). “Frequently Requested Statistics on Immigrants and Immigration in the United States.” Migration Policy Institute. Retrieved April 8, 2018 from statistics-immigrants-and-immigration-united-states