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Sunday March 19th
The Book of James 3
What a joy to be with all of you today. I’m Pastor Paris of The Journey Church.
Have you been reading your bibles? James is short and easy to read. He says what he means and means what he say. We are entering chapter three now but you can catch up if you go to our website and watch or read. Let’s jump right in.
James has been extremely emphatic about our “doing”, needing to accompany our “believing”. He has made a powerful case for faith without deeds being simply dead. Next, James meddles in their real life some more. He addresses their words and how they are affirmed or denied by their actions. He starts by giving those who instruct a bit of a high bar of consideration. He reminds them that to lead others comes with responsibility and even burden. Are the words that you speak important to you? What do you think happens to words we put into the air and can we really still hope they have no impact on our lives?
James 3:1–2 (NIV) Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.
James is one of the foremost instructors about how to use our tongue for good or evil. Your mouth is your responsibility and no one else’s. Training your kids to use their words carefully, it is critical to their future. Your mess, is often your mess, made by your words. (The toothpaste tube illustration). Have you ever wished you would have stopped talking, just a few minutes earlier.
Don’t misinterpret this text, we need teachers. Some of you might be sitting here thinking you are not a teacher. Have you had children? Then you teach. Do you have coworkers? Then you are a teacher. Are you on an athletic team? You are a teacher. The point is your mouth matters because others are watching and learning from your example, even little brothers and sisters. Now James goes on to explain his truth about the power of the tongue by comparison.
James 3:5–6 (NIV) Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
Wow! Our tongue is quite a force to wield. It can be a weapon or a healing balm. It can divide and it can unite. How do you choose to use yours? Don’t think that small misuse is a small thing. Off color humor, profanity and coarse jesting is a big deal because others are learning from our example, especially our children. Every word matters. Train yourself and then train those around you to choose carefully what come out of their orifice. James is making a case for proper use of our tongue and what it looks like when we have the benefit of using God and His wisdom over our flawed human intelligence.
James 3:17–18 (NIV) But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
I referred to this next topic covered by James early in the series. History tells us that James had quite a reputation when it came to prayer. He acquired the nickname “Old Camel Knees” due to the incessant amount of time he spent on his knees in prayer. I wish I had that reputation. I have ugly knees but not for that reason. Become a person who talks and listen to God more often every day and you will enjoy tremendous benefits. The followers of Christ in James’ day struggled with the same battles we all do, so James was about to tell them where they were off course toward a successful Christian life of faith.
James 4:2–3 (NIV) You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
Do your prayers to God always sound like a request for stuff? Are they grocery lists of wants or times meeting with God to discern what He wants? Are your prayers typically selfish or others focused? James is answering the age old question of why didn’t God answer my prayer? See if this could be possible in your prayer life. If it is, repent and start your prayer over.
James then makes sure again that they realize that the world will soil your faith, so stay clear not to be influenced by it. Have you ever heard of the Apostle Paul or Jesus or Moses speak about avoiding the world system because of its power to influence? If you have, are they also just kidding or overstating their point? Does God really have to have one of His leaders tells us this again? Apparently! Here goes.
James 4:4 (NIV) You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.
What does the word adulterous mean? Sleeping with another person’s spouse. Do you know the Bible refers to believers as the bride of Christ? For the bride to get into bed, or become intimate with the world is adultery personified. We should be much more concerned about this in our progressive and godless world. By the way, we commit adultery when we vote for killing babies and destroying marriage. Adultery should be seen by believers as a sin to be repented of and not a simple expression of an acceptable kind of love between consenting adults.
Another way to express this pollution topic, is when people say; “he used to be a really nice person, quiet and polite, but then he began to hang out with the wrong crowd, and eventually he became the wrong crowd. But here James is not only stating that if you walk through a room of manure you will get stink all over you. He is telling them that they become and enemy of God by adulterating themselves with the world.
This text tells us we can become God’s adversary. Do you think you will ever win a battle between you and God? I used to be a pretty good arm wrestler in college. I was one of the coaches for the wheelchair basketball team in college. These men had huge upper body strength and I could best them most of the time. But today I wouldn’t want to arm-wrestle even my little brother, maybe not even my friend Randy. So can you agree that having God as an adversary is a bad move? However God has the solution.
James 4:6–10 (NIV) But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
We should never choose a life that opposes Almighty God. How dumb can we be? His name alone should be a simple cue to even the simplest mind, “Almighty God”. However I see so many people opposing God in life and wondering why life seems so hard. Knock-Knock puddin head.
Now let me ask you, “who are the three players spoken of clearly in this one simple text example?” If you missed it, it’s; God, the Devil and you. This should help us simplify the source of our problems and the true source of our solutions. If we’ve been attributing the wrong responsibility to the wrong player, then how can we confidently know how to walk this faith life we have? If you’re on the wrong team then make an adjustment. God wants us to identify our friends and identify our enemies, then we will be much better off in all our battles. Who is your ally and who is your advisory? This must be made clear to you. I have spent much of my pastoral life shouting these truths from the rooftops whenever I am invited to speak.
Then the text spells out quit clearly the steps to take when you find yourself opposing God.
Submit to God
Resist the Devil
Come near to God
Grieve and Repent
God assures us of the amazing results of taking this course of action. He says that you will be lifted up as a result of these 5 simple steps.
Next James hits the topic of a world reality. He tells them to use their time and their choices carefully. He chastises them for having a wrong view of reality and yet negating the results that are promised for that reality. It’s like knowing that if you build an ice castle in the desert it will melt, but you determine to go ahead and do it anyway.
James 4:17 (NIV) If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.
As we conclude today’s section in James, please be sure you know that God has made a provision for repentant sin but we should be maturing in life to minimize our need to repent for something over and over again. Actually true repentance is seeking forgiveness for a sin committed and then changing the course of your life so as to avoid the same trap in the future.
Next week Pastor Ben will tackle chapter 5