The faith we saw in the book of Hebrews most be matched with practical application. This is one of the highlights we will find in this flight; we'll need to fly at a low elevation because the book of James is a down to earth book; which saws how to walk and work your faith out in real life.
Pastor Skip Heitzig: Well I don't remember where I read this little poem but I got it somewhere, about a little boy name Jimmy Brown and it says, "Say a prayer for Jimmy Brown, poor Jimmy is no more." For what he thought was H2O was H2SO4, H2O being water H2SO4 being Sulphuric Acid.
So poor Jimmy didn't have the right stuff and it killed him and tonight we are going to look at another Jimmy, if you let me call James that. This James this Jimmy tells us that Christians needs to have the right stuff and take the right stuff and be the right stuff because faith without works is dead, that's what this book is all about. It's a very practical book about growing up.
I heard that while I was growing up by my three older brothers, I heard it every week grow up and of course, the answer is well, I am doing that. It takes time to do that. But that's what James would say to a group of believers. We don't exactly know where they were located he just simply says James to the twelve tribes that are scattered abroad these would be Jewish believers that were scattered all around the Roman Empire.
But the theme of this book is mature Christianity and if James were here he would say, we should live what we know. What we know is good, it's foundational, it's important. Okay, now it's time to live what you know, time to grow up. Birth is exciting, how many of your parents tonight and ever had children, anybody raise your hands up. Okay, that's a lot of people. You know what that's like. When a babies gives its first sounds, it's exciting, first words specially "dada" exciting. The first a baby spits up is exciting. No I am just kidding that wouldn't that be exciting at all, take that back.
But as exciting as birth is you would expect that as a child grows physically there would be a correspondent maturing that takes place and when I first heard my son say "dada", it was like the greatest day of my life, but if at this age of his life he came to me and talk that same way I would be very disappointed, he would show no growth.
Well Christian birth is exciting. We love seeing people come forward at calls. We love seeing them respond to the gospel, it's a brand new start, but it was John who will say I have no greater joy then to see or hear that my children are walking in the truth and so we need growth and James is talking about that here. The book of James is a part of a section of the New Testament.
So now we are in a whole new section of the New Testament called the 'General Epistles'. They are 'General Epistles' because they are not written specifically to a group or an individual or a church in a particular city but these are 'General Epistles', they could be to any group because we don't exactly know to whom they are addressed.
So they are called 'General Epistles' or the old term 'Catholic Epistles', not Roman Catholic Epistles but Catholic in the true sense of the word general epistles and the so the book of James, First Peter, Second Peter, First John, Second John, Third John, and Jude are all in that category of 'General Epistles'.
Now this book is not a doctrinal book. So it's very different from say the book of Romans or the book of Galatians. It's very practical book not a doctrinal book. Here is an example; Jesus Christ is only mentioned twice in the book of James. There is no mention of the cross or the resurrection, or the Holy Spirit, really what it's addressed to is Christians who know stuff already and James is just saying, it's great that you know it, now you got to do it. You got to put it on and wear it.
So there are five chapters and each of the five chapters I formed an outline with based on the theme 'Christian Maturity'. Chapter 1 mature Christians are robust, that is they are patient in trials. Chapter 2, mature Christians are real, they practice the truth. Chapter number 3 mature Christian are restrained, they have power over their tongue. James chapter 4, mature Christians are reserved; they're poor in spirit, in other words they're humble, they're not prideful. And then in James chapter 5, a mature Christians are resigned, they persevere in trials; they are resigned to going all the way through no matter what, they persevere in trials.
So the main theme of the book is 'Christian Maturity' and if you are going to expand on that just a little bit it's this, genuine faith will produce evidence of genuine faith, genuine faith will produce evidence of genuine faith and there are two key verses in the book.
James, chapter 1 verse 22 where he says, "Be doers of the work not hearers only lest you deceive yourselves." And then James, chapter 2 verse 26, "Faith without works is dead." Those are the two main component key verses of the book.
So verse 1 James chapter 1, "James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes who are scattered abroad: Greetings."
So we know it's from James. The question is which James? There are four James that you can choose from in the New Testament. Number one, there was James, the father of Judas, not Iscariot but another Judas. He probably wasn't the author. He really is not note-worthy and he is never mentioned really any where else except that one place that's one.
Number two, there was James, the son of Alphaeus, also called James "The Less", one of the disciples of Jesus mentioned in Mark chapter 15, but he never was in consideration as the author of this book. There at least two other James left. James, the brother of John, the son of Zebedee who was a fisherman in the sea of Galilee among that's tight-knit group of disciples that follow closely with Jesus, Peter James, and John, it probably wasn't him because he died too early to match the language of this book.
In fact, it was Acts chapter 12 that records that, it was Herod that wanting to do the Jews a favor had a sword taken to James and he was martyred, he was killed. So that leaves us with the last possibility and it seems to fit. This is James, the brother of Jesus or actually the half brother of Jesus. One of the children that Joseph and Mary had together and the scripture declares plainly that Jesus had brothers and sisters and they are even named in the gospel and one of those brothers or half brothers, the oldest half-brother was this guy named, James.
At first, the brothers of Jesus including James did not believe Jesus was the Messiah. It wasn't until after the death and resurrection of Jesus, they started to believe this is the one. Now can you imagine having the only perfect older brother in the world? You just imagine what that would be like to grow up with such a person, mean he never gets in trouble he is always perfect.
Now you will tell me gets in trouble when he is in Jerusalem and he comes back with well I have to be about father's business and you are not like a normal child in dealing with somebody like that, that's what James had to grow up with. But later on he came to believe that his half bother Yeshua was indeed his Messiah as well.
Well this James, this author of the book appears in Acts chapter one and he is in the upper room with a 120 of the disciple before Pentecost and they are gathered together in prayer. His name is mentioned also Mary the mother of Jesus.
By Acts chapter 15, this James the half-brother of Jesus is already in charge of the church in Jerusalem. It wasn't Peter, Peter was not the first Pope. If anybody fit that description it would be James, because Peter will take orders from James.
In fact, James is the one who writes the letter and deliberates at that great council of Jerusalem in Acts chapter 15. Now according to Josephus, James the author of this book the oldest half brother of Jesus died in A.D. 61 when there was a Jewish revolt after the death of a guy name Porcius Festus. You will remember from Acts 25. Well after he died, the Jews revolted and according to tradition the Jewish leader so hated James that they threw him off the temple and then after he fell to clubs and beat him to death and that's how he died; that is this James who writes this letter.
So chapter 1 then mature Christians are robust. They are patient in trials. Notice that James writes to the 12 tribes that are scattered abroad. The reason they are scattered because people don't like them. They are persecuted, they are hassled, they are hounded, they are hunted and so they have to leave Jerusalem and they have to leave Judaea and leave where was their home and find different places in the Roman Empire to hide out, they suffered a lot, which leads us to the theme of the chapter.
There is really a couple of different factors in Christian maturity, ready you are not going to like either one of them. Number one trials, number two, temptations or you might say testings that come from God, temptations that are sent from the devil. Trials or testings are sent from God as tools to mature us whatever bad happens in your life God will use it as a tool. So Romans 8:28, "All things were together for good to those who love God." But Satan sends temptations as a trap not a tool, a trap to ensnare the believer.
So look at verse 2, "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials." First of all notice not count it all joy if you fall into trials but when you can be assured you will. The Christian life is not easy. So count it all joy. Now who is he talking to and what is he thinking to tell a group of suffering Christians count it all joy. Why? Whatever for. Well here is one of the paradoxes of the Christian life is true joy in the midst even of suffering and why is that? It's because of what they will do to you for you.
Notice it says in verse 3, "Knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience but let patience have its perfect work that you may be perfect and complete lacking nothing." The word patience, hypomonē means to bear up under or to endure. It's the ability to stick to something trials or temptations and keep going on. Now here is the twist. Patience is what helps you endure trials but patience is also produced by the trials.
So if you want to grow as a believer and you want to become a very stable rooted patient individual, don't we all want that? You don't get it by reading the latest Christian book or turning into Christian television or radio and listening to truth. Though that is important for you and for me, but you'll get it through trials, hardship, it will produce patience.
If you go by a shore of a lake or the ocean you will notice that where it's calm, the quite coves, the rocks are sharp. Where the rocks are round and smooth as where the waves have the ability to pound and beat that shore and by that incessant upheaval and motion it produces the smooth round beautifully shaped stones. I think it's that way with us.
Verse 5, "If any of your lack wisdom, [I always raise my hand when I read that verse that describes me], let him ask God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him." Now notice that this asking for wisdom is in the context of going through trials. So the idea is when you are in a tough spot you are going through a testing or attempting that's when you ask God for wisdom. You stop and you pray, God I don't get it, give me wisdom.
Now usually we do not pray for wisdom what do we pray for? Deliverance, get me out of this mess. He says, when you are going through these trials you should be asking God for wisdom because God will freely give that. But verse 6, "Let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind." Now why is so we need to ask for wisdom in trials? I think it's simply because we need to know what to learn from that particular trial. Instead of saying, Lord I want to get out of this, say Lord what I can I get from this. I don't want to get out of it I want to get something out of it, I want to learn from it.
There is an example, you lose your job, and for some that's more than an example I realize that, for some you have lost your jobs. So the question is in that trial what do you do? How do you respond? There is a number of ways you could respond. Number one, you could go out and get drunk to wash your sorrow away. Number two, you could figure out a way to get back at the boss like beat him up or perhaps a better way would be to ask God for wisdom. Lord help me to learn from this. What can I get out of this? Give me your wisdom. What is the wisest thing?
True story, there was a pastor who had an assistant and she had some kind of an episode, I think it was a stroke. Around the same time her husband went blind and had to be admitted to the hospital. The pastor saw her at church one Sunday and went right up to her and said I want you to know I am praying for you and she said exactly what are you praying for me, pastor? So well, I am praying for strength for you and your husband and I am praying for comfort as well. She said, that's good and I appreciate it but would you ask God for one more thing, ask God to not let me waste any of this, that's wisdom.
Lord what I can learn from this. I do not want to waste this very difficult time because frankly I don't want to go through it again and learn the lesson all over again. I want to learn it now and graduate and go to the next grade and the next grade, in the next grade.
Verse 12, "Blessed [or oh how happy] is the man who endures temptation." And again, temptation different from testing different from trials, has its source in the devil. "For when he has been approved he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and entice. Then when desire has conceived it gives birth to sin and sin when it is full grown brings forth death."
This is an interesting statement and it causes us to wonder why would James feel the need to tell believers who are suffering that when there is temptation that comes their way which most of us would automatically know comes form the devil. Why would any one be even brought to the brink of saying this must be from God?
I think it's because James knows the human tendency to want to blame someone else and ultimately God gets the blame. It's never my fault, it's always somebody else's fault or when somebody is dealing with some kind of behavior, I will say well God made me this way I can't change the way I was born. This is part of my genetic code. So James is very careful to state that God doesn't get the wrap for our propensities, proclivities of the flesh or our behavior patterns, you can't blame God.
And yet more and more our entire culture has become a culture of victims. It's never my fault, it's always my parent's fault or it's always something happen to me fault or it's the way God made me fault. It's gotten so out of hand that there is one magazine in Britain called The British Economist that in looking at American culture wrote a little commentary about us. The magazine article says, "If you lose your job you can sue for the mental distress of being fired. If your bank goes broke, the government has insured your deposits, so you can sue them. If you drive drunk and crash you can sue someone for failing to warn you to stop drinking. There is always somebody else to blame."
So James says, can't do that here. Temptations don't come from God, they come from within us, from our very desires and he describes how that process works. So chapter 1, 'Mature Christians are Robust'. They are patient in trials and the trials take the form of testings' from God or temptations from the enemy. Takes us to chapter 2; James would say 'Mature Christians are Real', they are authentic because they practice the truth. Mature Christians don't just talk, they walk, they live or as Warren Wiersbe put it, "Immature people talk about their beliefs, the mature person lives out his faith."
Now the example that James gives in this chapter is, two visitors going to a church service. One is rich, one is poor and let's now see how the church members receive and respond and deal with these two individuals. Will they show favoritism, will they show partiality to someone who can give them more benefit, i.e., a wealthy person or will all be treated the same? And it takes us down to verse 8 after he brings up that example, by saying, "If you really fulfill the royal law, according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors."
Why is this called the royal law, why is love called the royal law? Well, the easy answer is because the king gives this law to his subjects. It's is if God is saying, it's my kingdom and the law of my kingdom will be the law of love. The one thing that will make unbelievers attracted to your whole enterprise as people of faith will be the love that you have for one another as well as for them and it really sticks out.
There is a great author, one of my favorite thinking men he is now in heaven, Malcolm Muggeridge. He was right when he said, "The biggest disease today is not leprosy nor is it tuberculosis but rather the feeling of being unwanted, uncared for and deserted by everybody. The greatest evil is the lack of love and charity. The terrible and difference towards one's neighbor who lives at the roadside assaulted by exploitation, corruption, poverty and disease." Remember that truth that's tucked away in Roman's chapter 5 where Paul says, "The love of God has been poured out into our hearts by his Spirit."
So if here we are and the Holy Spirit has been poured out into our lives. It means that nobody around our lives should be starved of love because now the love of God is poured into us and we thus have a great capacity to show love, not just receive it. So no one around us should be love starved. That's the royal law. That's like the ultimate law. Love God with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. James calls that the royal love.
Verse 14, "What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works. Can that faith save him?"
A better way to translate it, can that kind of faith save him? Now he is going to mention three types of faith. Dead faith, it's not real, it's not alive, it's just in the mind only, dead faith. Number two, demonic faith. You believe all the right things, you might even be convicted about all the right things but didn't go any further than that or dynamic faith, that's the real faith that he is talking about, that's belief put into behavior. These three are highlighted here.
Verse 15, "If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself. If it does not have works is dead."
Now some suppose a contradiction between the theology of Paul, the apostle and the theology of James who wrote this book, because Paul in the book of Romans and Galatians makes a huge deal out of the fact that, we are saved not by works but by faith and he uses the example of Abraham, who believed in God and was counted him for righteousness and he believed in God before there was ever the giving of the law.
Now we have James who says, this man says he has faith, can faith save him? And he says faith without works is dead and he too uses Abraham as an example. But this is what I want you to notice. James is not saying that we are saved by works.
In fact, in chapter 1 verses 17 and 18 he says, "Salvation is one those gracious gifts given to us by God the Father, the Father of lights."
This the works part, this is test of faith. This works is how you can really tell the difference between dead faith, demonic faith and dynamic faith. Does the faith actually work? Hey, I got a car. Do you really? Does it work? No. What do you mean no, don't you drive it around? Do you have an engine in it? No. So you really don't have a car that you drive around in, you really don't have a legitimate transportation, you have the shell of a car.
So faith without works is dead. Works is the test that shows that the faith is real and you see anybody can say they have faith and that's what he says, look at the point of verse 14, if someone says that he has faith, that's dead faith. It's just faith that person is claiming without really actually having what they claim to have. Oh yeah, I believe in God, I always believe in God, believe in Jesus, really? You can say that and not necessarily have that. How can you tell the difference? Because dynamic belief produces dynamic behavior. Faith produces work. Real faith will work, it will function and that is not a contradiction, that's exactly what our Lord Jesus Christ said.
Latter part of the Sermon on the Mount he declared, "Not every one who says, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter into the kingdom of heaven; but the one who does the will of My Father." Same truth.
Verse 18, "But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." [He continues.] Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works."
See if you can show me your faith without works then I will say it's illegitimate, it's dead, it's just words but I on the other hand can show you may faith by the demonstration of my faith which are the works that he mentions here.
Verse 19, "You believe there is one God you do well." Well let me rephrase that. You say that you believe in one God, whoop--de--do? Because notice the next little phrase, "Even the demons believe and tremble." Think about that. Do you think tonight, Satan believes there is one God? Absolutely, he is dealt with him. Does Satan believe in Jesus Christ? Sure he believes in Him, he knows there is a Jesus, he is dealt with him. Does Satan believes Jesus is the only way to heaven, only way to salvation?
Absolutely, he is as orthodox in his belief as anyone. He knows the truth but he is still the devil, he is still in moral personal practical rebellion against God. He is really a practical atheist, he claims something. He knows other things but he is not living in submission to him. And so James concludes this in verse 20, "But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?" So here it is obedience proves relationship. Don't misunderstand that, I did not say obedience produces relationships, but it proves it, it demonstrates it, it shows that it works.
Jesus said in Luke chapter 6 something very penetrating. "So why do you call me Lord but you don't do the things that I tell you to do." Now that's actually a very good question, isn't it? Because the word Lord infers that I will do whatever You as my Lord tells me to do. Okay master says to the slave jump, I don't want to. What would you want me to do Lord? Whatever you want. I want you to jump, I don't forget it. Okay I want you to go get me some food. No I don't feel like it. Okay, eventually the master then say why do you call me Master or Lord if you don't do what I say? That's the point of James as well.
It was Erma Bombeck who cleverly wrote, "Never go to a doctor whose house plants have died." There's just some good conventional wisdom in that, isn't there? I mean if that doctor can't just keep a plant alive you're going to entrust that doctor with your life and so are you going to trust somebody who claims to have all the right knowledge, right belief system that has no matching lifestyle.
So 'Mature Christians are Robust', they are patient in trials. 'Mature Christians are Real' they practice the truth. In chapter 3, 'Mature Christians are Restrained', they have power over the tongue. Nobody that I know likes this chapter. Let us get that out in the open, it's a sensitive issue, it's some things we all struggle with. There is an interesting list and I bet you know where it is, it's in Proverbs chapter 6. There is a list of seven things God says he hates and whenever there is list where God says I hate this I hate that, I want to know what that is.
Three in that list, three out of the seven have to do with sins of the tongue. God says he hates a lying tongue. God says he hates a false witness and God says he hates one who sows discord among the brethren. And so here we are and the average human being the average person spends one-fifth of his or her life talking that's the average, you can go above or below that. That's the average you will spend one-fifth of your life uttering words in your language.
In a single day you will speak enough to fill a 50-page book. Some people I know can fill a 150-page book but this is the average. The average person in one year will speak so much so as to fill 132 volumes, each book having 400 pages, so that in your life time you could fill 3000 volumes with what you say.
So Verse 1, "My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we, the teachers shall receive a stricter judgment." There were no doubt then as are today people who saw the teachers of the early church, saw and heard the prophets utter what they uttered and thought, now that's what I want to do because that's a place of notoriety. James is saying listen it's a place of accountability. You are accountable for what you say because if you lead somebody the wrong way with the wrong truth, it's not truth at all.
You are accountable to speak truth into people's lives and use your tongue for that reason and he develops a thought. "For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. Indeed we put bits in horses' mouths that they may obey us and we turn their whole body."
"Look also at ships, although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles!" Just like a forest fire words can spread very quickly and destroy a life very rapidly, just get enough people talking about something even if it's not true or if it has a little bit of truth and you can destroy a whole reputation in an entire character.
Verse 6, "And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity." [Now watch this it gets really heavy]. The tongue is so set among our members [that is the members of our physical body] that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and is set on fire by hell." You know if you think about it more sins are committed with the tongue than any other single member of our body. I just came up with the short list this afternoon, profanity, lying, angry words, flattery, gossip, boasting, verbosity, the tongue can destroy.
My dad was in the Army Air Corps in World War II, so he told me about all these sayings that they had and one of the sayings going around the World War II, put on posters everywhere was this, "Loose Lips Sink Ships, Loose Lips Sink Ships." Don't talk about what you know as an American, because it might get in the wrong hands, and you might be responsible for the outlay of many other lives, by what you say, "Loose Lips Sink Ships." Loose lips also sink churches, sink individual Christians, and we sin with our tongue, and that's why, he says, "If you can control your tongue, if you don't sin with your tongue, you are a perfect person."
Now there are some people, and you don't even have to rub anybody's shoulder right now, or whisper somebody's name in your ear, but you all know of people who have a reputation for this. They just can't keep a secret, they just can't hold their tongue, they just have to say something or spin something, or have a little edge to it, so it's biting. Some people have such a reputation. They live a whole lifetime like this.
I have heard, that there is a tombstone, somewhere in England, over the grave of a woman named, Arabella Young and it says this, "Beneath this stone. A lump of clay. Lies Arabella Young. Who on the 24th of May, began to hold her tongue." Get it? She died on May 24th. She was a blabbermouth her whole life, the only thing that saved her from being a blabbermouth, was her death, that's how bad she was. So, "Beneath this stone. A lump of clay. Lies Arabella Young. Who, on the 24th of May began to hold her tongue." James would say, "Brethren, these things ought not to be so."
Verse 7, "For every kind of bird or beast and bird, reptile, creature of the sea, is tamed, and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison, with it we bless our God and Father, with it we curse men, who have been made [in the likeness or] the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth, proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so."
Several years ago, on a radio calling program, somebody called in and said, "I think the problem with the church today is that, so many are disrupted by this gift so-called in the Pentecostal Church, the gift of tongues, where people will stand up and speak in tongues and disrupt the service." I remember another caller called then and said, "I think that the problem with the church today isn't that but the Christians don't operate in the fullness and gifts of the Holy Spirit and speak in tongues." Arguing back and forth.
Finally I don't know, if it was myself, or somebody else said, you know, I think the real problem within the church is that we are not controlling the tongue we have, we bite, we devour, we gossip, we do things with just our tongue in our normal language, there is enough to ruin things and make problem for people.
James continues his diatribe, "Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs?" [Answer, rhetorical, no.] "Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh. Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct, that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom."
Now in Greek Mythology, there was a story, a myth. A mythical character named, Proteus, who could morph into different forms, different beings, different entities. And he could easily and quickly become a rock, or a serpent, or a lamb, or a lion, or a tree, and because of that he was very unpredictable. The human tongue is a lot like the ancient mythical God, Proteus. It seems that we can quickly morph and change, and one hand we can, bless God, and the other hand we can get out in the parking lot and, curse men. And you know we can on one hand express loudly our worship to God, on the other hand, we can whisper, gossip, and slander. Same source, two different things, these things, he says, "Ought not to be so."
So to sum up where we have come from, 'Mature Christians are Robust'. Chapter 1, "They are patient in trials." Chapter 2, 'Mature Christians are Real', they practice the truth. Chapter 3, "Mature Christians are Restrained", they have power over the tongue.
Takes us to chapter 4, 'Mature Christians are Reserved', they are not quick to act, and when they act, they do so with reservation, with humility, not in pride, they're poor in Spirit.
Verse 1, "Where do wars and fights come [notice], from among you?" The chapter opens up on a battlefield, and the battlefield isn't the wars that are going on in the Roman Empire, or in our culture, Iraq or Gaza. Where do wars and fights come from among you, as God's people? He answers it. "Do they not come from your desires, [or your cravings] for pleasure [in other words, you want, what you want, when you wanted] that war in your members? You lust and you do not have. You murder and you covet, and you cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have, because you do not ask."
In just two verses, the word 'war' or 'wars' and 'fight' or 'fights' appear five times, that's the thrust of it. So this dispersed group of Jewish believers must not only be facing persecution from the world, but perturbance from inside the churches itself, fights, and disagreements that are splitting it. "You ask and you do not receive, [verse 3], because you ask amiss that you might spend it on your own pleasures." Now once again, notice the source is selfishness, you ask, you want, your desire, your pleasure, all the personal pronouns that are used.
So conflict, wars, fights, it's a fact of life. No matter where you work, no matter where you fellowship, no matter who you live next to, you and I are going to have conflicts. Question is, what do we do about that? How do you solve a conflict? How do you cure a conflict? By being a mature Christian. And how does a mature Christian solve a conflict? And the answer is, well he fights harder and he wins the argument. He pushes harder, he just, kind of, asserts himself, in the name of the Lord. No he didn't do that.
You think back to Proverbs, a soft answer does what, turns away wrath. How about, when somebody lashed out at you go, I am sorry. Not, well I am sorry that you are so wrong, and so blinded. How about just, "I am sorry, I will work on that, would you forgive me?" You will diffuse that, right then and there. "So you ask you do not receive, [verse 3], because you ask amiss that you might spend it on your pleasures."
Down to verse 6, "But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." I am haunted by that little word, resists. God resists the proud, what that means to me, is that, if I want to be at odds with God, the quickest way to be in conflict with God, is to be a proud man. In an argument with my family. If I am a proud man, God will be against me, if in the business world, I am a proud person. God resists the proud, it's a military word, it means to fight against. You want to fight with God, be a proud person.
Remember, you can't come to Christ, unless you are humble. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, theirs is the kingdom." And that attitude of humility and poverty of spirit is one of the great marks of the grace of God in our lives, he gives more grace.
Therefore, verse 7, "Submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." Don't carry on long conversations with the devil. Now Satan I wants you to know that I bind you, don't even talk to him, don't talk to him. So many people talk to the devil about God, talk to God about the devil. Don't talk to him, it says resist him. And what will happen? He will flee from you. You don't stop there, you just don't turn from, you got to turn and do something. If you are running from him, here is where you run to. "Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you."
A. W. Tozer, has a little saying, it was in a -- one of his chapters and one of his books, a little paragraph, it says, "Nearness is likeness." Once again, "Nearness is likeness," and he explains, "The more we are like God, the nearer we are to God."
An example, if I am in the living room of my house, and my dog is sitting right next to me, and my wife is 25 feet away in the kitchen, actually that would never happen, because wherever she is, the dog is, it's like her dog. But let's just hypothetically, say the dog is actually sitting next to me, while she is in another room. Though the dog is right next to me, I much nearer my wife, than I am to the dog.
We really have nothing in common, except we are breathing and our hearts are beating, but her and I, are alike, we have a lot in common. So nearness is likeness, the more we are like God, the nearer we are to him. Resist the devil, draw near to God, he will draw near to you.
Verse 10, "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he will lift you up." So the way up is down. You want God to exalt you? You want the God to lift you up? Then don't you lift yourself up. Ever hear somebody say in a conversation, you could be doing something or have done something. Well, I did that once. In fact, what I did in the kind of try to up on you, I will try to make you know that they are also really good at that, or they should be recognized for such and such, they are always trying to push themselves up.
Now the Bible says, "The way up is down." You humble yourself and God will raise you up. You don't have to be your own promotion agent, let God do it. Promotion comes not from the east or the west, the Bible says, but from the Lord.
Verse 13, "Come now, you who say, [this is all part of the boasting part], you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city and spend a year there and buy and sell and make a profit;" whereas you do not know, what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that. But now you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil." See the whole theme of this section, is pride, as opposed to humility. Boasting as opposed to bowing.
Pride, it was pride, think of it; pride took Lucifer out of heaven. It was pride that took Adam and Eve out of paradise. It was pride that took, Saul, the king, out of the kingdom. It was pride that took, Nebuchadnezzar out of the Babylonian court. It was pride that took Haman out of the Persian court. It's pride that divides friends, back then and still does today. Humility, however is rewarded. God will resist the proud, but he will bless and reward the humble.
Now just a word, about these last few verses, James is not saying, it's bad to plan in advance, it's bad to take out the little book and pencil and say, okay, Tuesday I am going to do this, Wednesday I am going to do this, that's not what he is talking about. It's the arrogant boasting of trying to plan my life as if I really know, what's going to happen tomorrow or next week, apart from God.
Apart from God's intervention, see God's infinite, I am finite. He knows the whole story, I don't. I don't have that knowledge. And how many times have we made plans, and they get changed like that, by any kind of incident that happens, or accidents that happens.
Somebody once wisely said, "God speaks to us, through the regularity with which he disappoints our plans." If something happens in your life, you didn't plan on that, you planned for the other thing, and now you are being taken in this direction, and you go, Oh God, Speak to me, and God, maybe saying, "I just did. I just did. I am not letting you go in that direction, those aren't my plans, that isn't in my little planner, it's in yours, but I put something else in it."
So arrogance is -- and really what he is describing here is a practical atheist, "I believe in god, man, I believe in god." But they live and they plan their life as if God didn't exist. They are not praying about it, they are not submitting their plans to God, they are just living their life, checking in with God, once a week, or once a month, but they are practical atheist, there is no plan, or no thought of God.
So before we get into the chapter 5, review. 'Mature Christians are Robust', they are patient in trials. Chapter 2, 'Mature Christians are Real', they practice the truth, Chapter 3, 'Mature Christians are Restrained', they have power over the tongue. Chapter 4, 'Mature Christians are Reserved', they are poor in spirit, Takes us to the fifth and final chapter 5, 'Mature Christian are Resigned', they persevere in troubles. They won't pick up their little football and go home, no matter what happens to them they are resigned to the will of God, whatever it is, and however it comes. They are persevere in troubles.
Now chapter 5, remember James is addressing persecuted suffering believers. So in the first part of chapter five he addresses the rich, who typically in that culture oppressed the poor by their practices and by the laws and now in verse 7 he speaks to the oppressed who are oppressed typically by those who are rich.
Verse 7, "Therefore be patient, [a better translation long-tempered] be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain." Now farmers have to persevere. For one simple reason they cannot control the weather whatever comes, comes. And they have to take what they get and they have to work around it and so a farmer once you own or buy a farm you have to persevere. I am going to be in this for the long haul come what may. We're going to have good year, we're going to have bad years. I would very diligent of fertilizer and how I water this field etcetera. The farmer is a good example of patient and perseverance. Growing something takes time.
So verse 8, "You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand."
Verse 10, "My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful."
Job is a classic example of somebody who persevere, right? Because what Job went through he didn't understand. Job did not have the advantage of going behind the curtain and listening to the conversation that Satan and God had together about Job. He is just living in real time and not knowing what's really going on behind the scenes. What happened to him was just horrible but he persevered. In fact, boy did he persevere, when he lost his children and his home and his health. The Bible says he fell down on his face and he worshiped. He said, Bless it be the name of the Lord. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, that's perseverance.
Better than a farmer. This faithful man name Job becomes an example. Well the chapter goes on and comes to an end. There are beautiful promises that he shares with us. If you are happy he says saying out loud, if you are sad and if you are sick have people pray for you especially the elders of the church.
Verse 16, "For the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." And Elijah is the example.
The last two verses 19 and 20, "Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins."
This then as a mature Christian and this is exactly what James is hoping that his audience will turn into. They are shaped by trials and by their temptations. They remain humble, they are patient, they persevere, that's a mature believer.
Now just a couple of things about spiritual growth okay. Number one, spiritual growth should happen, this is real obvious. Spiritual growth should happen, it's the natural-supernatural result of having a life connected to God. You and I should grow. I love seeing people come to Christ but Christianity is a whole lot more then obstetrics, its pediatrics, all of the way up to geriatrics, growth, growth, fruit, productivity, mentorship, discipleship, growth should happen.
Second spiritual maturity has really little if anything to do with age, with age. I have met relatively young men and women who are very spiritually mature and I have met relatively older men and women who are relatively infantile in their spiritual faith. There is nothing to do with age.
Number three, spiritual growth is a process, it's not instantaneous, it's not an absolute. You can be a spiritual person, lot of people these days say they are, without being spiritually mature person. It's a process. You need patience and perseverance to come to maturity and I will close with this. You can grow, it's the best part, you can grow as much as you want. Nothing is restraining any one here from growing to a mature Christian, mature man or woman in the Lord, nothing. You and I have the controls and I will tell you what they are. It's like you tell a human being how do I become physically mature? Diet, exercise.
James would say the same thing along with Peter, diet feed on truth, exercise do what it says. Faith without works is dead but faith with works is dynamic, so keep going, keep growing, keep going, keep growing. In the Alps somewhere on one of the mountain peaks is a monument to a guide who died while trying to rescue somebody who is up there. He failed in the attempt, died in the attempt and was buried. His monument is up there in the Alps and his name is written on the front of the tombstone with a simple epitaph, "He died climbing."
That's how I want to die, not literally climbing a mountain but figuratively spiritually climbing, growing, going, moving not stagnating. Isn't that what Paul said, did Paul ever say I beseech you brethren, veg out in the spirit. I beseech you brethren, cruise in the Holy Ghost, now but walk in the spirit, walking denotes going, growing, climbing, maturity.
Let's pray for that. Heavenly Father, we pray whatever level we are tonight and many here tonight in this church that has been well taught and well fed for 26 years. I know that I am addressing fathers in the faith, men and women who are mature, others who are on their way toward maturity.
Others who were just recently born again, but all go in the same path with a same goal, having the same spirit and all having the same ability. As Peter said to add to our faith, patience and to patience, self-control and the self-control, perseverance and to perseverance, love. I pray that we would always be in the process of growing, adding, going, climbing, not stagnating.
And finally Lord that last bit of information in James where if anybody turn someone back who has wandered from the truth that he saves a sinner, turns a sinner from the error of this way and saves his soul from death. And Father we pray that if anyone here has thought about becoming a Christian toyed with the idea of seriously devoting their lives to Christ but hasn't done it, that they would do it tonight. That this would be the night where they begin the walk, where they are born again and they began that growth spiritually, in Jesus name, Amen.
Well now we come to the last part of the service and that is the communion part. So take out that little cup that you have near or at your seat and we will take the elements together. I am going to be joined by a few friends, I will tell you why I am having another people come out is, every Sundays it's been my practice the last few months to take the Lord supper, to take the elements of the communion, every single week every single Sunday.
So up in my office between one of the services we will get a group of guys typically pastors and we get together and we share and we break bread together.
I have got inspired by that by reading the biography of a great man of God who has become an inspiration to me for many-many years his name is Henry or Harry A. Ironside, H. A. Ironside and when he was pastor in Moody Church, he had communion with his eldership every Sunday and so I get to do it with typically these guys and a few more, Nixon on it, Kenny is in on it and sometimes Jay is on it; we get few of us. But here is what this represents, what this represents is that no matter what level we are at tonight in our walk whether we are spiritually immature or spiritually very mature, when it comes to the cross we are at the same level.
We are all at the same level at the foot of the cross, at the foot of the -- that's a good thing, yes. At the foot of the cross we have all come the same way. We are all sinners who have been saved by a gracious God through a gracious act and so whether you are spiritually mature or you are just a babe in Christ you take these elements tonight with great confidence.
None of this, well I'm not worthy to take communion tonight, that's the whole purpose of it. The whole point of communion is nobody is worthy of it and we are receiving His worthiness, His work and God will ascribe that and apply that to our own lives. So we are at the same level. Now when Jesus was on the cross for six hours, he uttered seven statements, seven sayings on the cross and these become windows in to the heart of the God.
The first statement that he made, perhaps the most important relevant to us tonight, was Father, forgive them because they don't know what they are doing. And really that's what we are testing to tonight is God's forgiveness of us, that God would reach down and forgive us through his son, Jesus Christ.
So, we are going to be worshiping and taking communion; but before we do; I know you brought a microphone. Does anybody here have anything they would like to add or share?
Pastor Nate Heitzig: As I was, as we were listening to the sermon on James; I noticed that one phase that was frequent was 'come now' and one of my favorite 'come now' passages is in Isaiah 1:18 where is says; "Come now let us reason together though your sins are like scarlet they will be white as snow." And it is through Christ's blood and Christ's body that was broken for us, that our sins can be made white was snow. And that is a beautiful thing and it's a beautiful thing to ravel in is God's grace and glory that washes us white as snow.
Amen! Preach it. Um, Nick is going to lead us in a song and let's just mediate upon how good God is to us and what God has planned for us not only as individuals but as a church, as a body. Now we are a family here, this is the body of Christ, this is a church. One of many churches in Albuquerque, meant to demonstrate love to each other here and do other believers in the community and into the community at large. But God has a plan for us as a family, a testimony in this community and let's just mediate on where God wants to take us; as His representatives here and then we'll take the elements together. [music playing]
Within, within the last part of the book of James, you felt like he was describing you, maybe you have turned and wondered from the truth and your soul needs to be turned back from death. If you have been wondering down roads that you have no business being down. You've been living in a time of rebelling where your heart is rendered now and left dissolute and empty. And tonight you're crying out for forgiveness and for the reestablishment of intimacy with God, relationship with His Son. And right now before we even take communion pray and say; "Lord forgive me; I come to you; I come back to you. Forgive me of my sins, as I turn from my sin; I turn my life to You; I trust You; I believe You; I believe Jesus died for me and rose from the dead. I want to be Your disciple. In Jesus' name, amen.
If you prayed that pray then when we are dismissed; you come up and see on of us pastors or us counselors. There will be a whole slew of us right over here to your left at the prayer room. But I'm going to ask Chip and Dave if they would pray for the elements. One for the bread and one for the fruit of the vine here the juice. I love these guys and I love sharing communion with them. And I'm going to, I'm going to let them take it.
Pastor Dave Row: Oh, Father we come before you, very grateful. Lord reminded of all the trues in Your word Lord that we learned tonight. Um, you feed us so richly, each week from Your word Lord from Your servants. But Lord we to thank You for Your body which was broken for us, we live is this tent this dwelling place and um our desire Lord is to spill out our lives just like You did for us and we know that You give us opportunities but Lord You have given us such a divine example of what it means to really sacrifice Yourself and we thank You for Your body that was broken and we take this Lord. In Jesus' name.
Pastor Chip Lusko: And Father, I wonder why You chose the cross for Your Son because there must have been easier and quicker ways to accomplish His death and pay for our sins but You've given us this mystery to ponder Lord as we think about Jesus lingering in agony, in suffering so deeply for so long to the absolute maximum of human endurance Lord. And I can't solve that puzzle but I know You want us to consider it; to think long and hard on those minutes that stretched into hours Lord, hours that stretched into eternity of Jesus' suffering; it wasn't simple and it wasn't clean, it was very very messy. An awful death Lord and we just stand in awe of that; that's why we're coming to the bread and the wine now to consider Your blood and the terrific price You paid to redeem us. Dear Lord help us not to take it lightly. In Jesus' name, amen.