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Shaky Foundations and Deadly Off-ramps

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
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January 19, 2024 9:00 am

Shaky Foundations and Deadly Off-ramps

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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January 19, 2024 9:00 am

The Book of James takes the lofty doctrines of the gospel and brings them down to earth. You can’t read James without being confronted, and Pastor J.D. Greear continues introducing us to one of the most practical books of the Bible in this teaching called “Here Comes Trouble.”

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Today on Summit Life with J.D. Greer.

Reflect on the fact that you got a Heavenly Father who loves you and sings over you with rejoicing, who has promised never to leave or forsake you, who has promised to bless you and to make you a blessing to others, who has promised to work every single thing in your life for good and soon to take you home to an inheritance of incalculable value. That's real power, James says. That's real security. That's real riches. Thanks for joining us today on Summit Life with pastor, author and apologist, J.D. Greer.

As always, I'm your host, Molly Bitovitch. Let me ask you a big question. Have you ever stopped to consider the foundation that your life is built on? Does it feel safe and secure, or are there cracks that make life feel unsteady? Today, as Pastor J.D. continues our teaching series in the book of James, he shows us how trials can work to reveal these foundations for better or worse. Just like a house when the storms of life come and they always eventually do, the only thing that matters is what kind of foundation we've built our lives upon. And the gospel is the only foundation that can sustain any kind of storm. How do we build our lives upon the rock of the gospel?

Let's find out together. Grab your Bible and let's return to James chapter one. James one. Last week we saw that trials are a defining moment in the life of a believer. Trials, James explains, reveal what you really believe about God and how much you trust him. Trials show what your faith is really made of. You can talk a big spiritual game all day long, but trials show where your faith really lies. These defining moments are, they're never fun, but they play an important role in your life. A trial is a defining moment where God looks you in the eye and says to you, do you actually trust me?

Do you actually trust me? What are you really leaning the weight of your life on? James continues his counsel about persevering through trials in verse nine, where we're going to be today, by giving us more perspective and then giving us a very important warning. Listen, okay, trials and suffering are the hardest part of the Christian life.

Nobody enjoys it. Trials often leave you wondering if you've done something wrong or why God doesn't seem to care. You're like, God, what about me? What about me? I just want a good marriage. I just want to have kids. You've given me this desire for mothering.

Why can't I have kids? Or maybe it's like, God, I just want to feel good. I just want to be healthy and strong. There are so many things that I want to do in life for other people. I want to serve other people and I can't when I feel like this.

Or I just want to have a little financial stability, a little bit of freedom. James was no stranger to suffering, nor was his audience. These people have been unjustly driven away from their homeland. But James wants them and you and me to know that God is up to something good in these trials. And again, today he's going to give you a new perspective. He's going to say, number one, that trials reveal our false foundations. That's going to be the first four verses we look at.

And then he's going to give us a very dire warning. And that is, number two, beware the deadly off-ramp of sin. That's the next six verses. Let's look at those one at a time.

Number one, trials reveal false foundations. Here's what James says in verse nine. Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation.

And let the rich in his humiliation. Because like a flower of the grass, he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass.

Its flower falls and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. One of the things that trials do is reveal where your life is built on faulty foundations. You see for many people that thing that they build their whole lives on is money.

Getting it, saving it, keeping it. And that will not endure. So James tells the rich, those who have a lot of money, he says rejoice in the humiliation that your trial brings. And by humiliation, by the way, he just means when things happen to you that your money is not able to protect you from.

He says rejoice in those things because that is helping you see that money is no foundation to build your life on. During the COVID pandemic, I told you the story of a lumberjack who was preparing to cut down several trees in a mountain forest. And just before he began, he noticed a beautiful bird that was building its nest atop one of the trees. Well, not wanting to harm the bird or its young, the lumberjack took a mallet. Before he got out of the saw, he took a mallet and he began to pound on the base of the tree until the bird, quite annoyed, flew away to another tree to begin to build its nest there. But the lumberjack was planning also to cut down that tree. So he repeated the process with the mallet and that tree. And so the bird moved to a third tree, which the lumberjack was also planning to cut down.

So he did it again. The bird and the lumberjack repeated this dance a half dozen or so times until the bird abandoned the forest altogether and built its nest on the side of a rock face. Now, I imagine the bird never understood why the lumberjack was attacking each tree he attempted to build his nest in. But the lumberjack's motive was not meanness, it was compassion.

The lumberjack knew that every tree in the forest was about to come down and he wanted the bird to build its nest in a place that his axes could not touch. Well see, that's what God does with us in trials. God reveals those places to us that we have put our confidence that will not sustain us. For most people, again, they base their whole lives on the premise that money is security. Money is significance. Money is beauty. Money is enjoyment. And if you got money, you can obtain all of those things, all the good things you want in life, and you can protect yourself from the bad things that you don't want to happen.

And if you don't have money, well then you're powerless. You know, it's helpful to consider that in James' day, the line between the haves and the have-nots was really stark. The wealthy tended to be crazy wealthy. They owned all the land, they had seemingly infinite resources, and the poor, they just worked the land that the rich owned. They were like sharecroppers. This meant that the poor had almost no possibility of upward mobility. If you were poor, most likely you would be poor forever. The result was that you had two very distinct classes in first century society. The rich felt invulnerable and the poor felt helpless. But trials comes, James says, trials come to the rich and the poor alike, and they reveal that the rich are not really that invulnerable.

There is nothing like a disease diagnosis or divorce papers or a dissolving relationship that will show you how powerless your money actually is. Pastor Brian tells a story of several years ago being on a plane when one of the engines went out. He said, we heard this loud boom, and I saw smoke coming out of the engine at about 8,000 feet in the air, followed, he said, by an eerie silence. Brian said, but then all of a sudden, something beautiful happened. All of us spontaneously began to reach across the aisle and held each other's hands and started praying together. He said, in that moment, we were classless, a bunch of people in the same predicament.

Nobody cared who was sitting where or what kind of watch that was on your wrist. We were all uniquely aware of our own mortality, and in those moments, class did not matter. Well, see, that's what a trial does, James explains.

It reveals weakness. In a trial, he says, all your riches are useless to stop disease or death or divorce. All flesh, rich or poor, is just grass. A couple of hot weeks with no rain and the rich fade away as easily as the poor. It doesn't matter if you're a hydrangea or a dandelion.

The sun comes out, and if you don't get any water, you all end up the exact same way. Truth be told, not only is money unable to save you in the day of death, it also won't really satisfy you now. Trials reveal that also. Maybe you're here this morning and you are financially comfortable. You got every kind of insurance, every kind of convenience you can have, but now you're going through a divorce and you're seeing that all that money was unable to build you a stable home.

You can't get insurance on that. Or you got a kid who's wandering that you're really worried about. Or you just got a bad report from the doctor and all your money cannot remove the tumors. Or maybe after all you've obtained, you still feel unsatisfied and empty. I heard Tony Evans say this recently, money can buy a bed but not sleep, books but not brains, food but not appetite, finery but not beauty, a house but not a home, medicine but not health, luxuries but not culture, amusements but not happiness, religion but not salvation. Money can get you a passport to everywhere except heaven. So again, James tells the rich, rejoice in your humiliation because it is keeping you from building your lives on false foundations. Before I discuss the flip side of this, what James says about the poor, don't just think about this in terms of being financially rich. Anything you're rich in, you are likely to start trusting in that. Some of you, for example, are rich in popularity. You may not have that much money, but maybe you're in high school, you're in college, whatever, but you're rich in popularity. The result is that your identity is built on people liking you.

If so, if that's you, you should rejoice when other people don't speak well of you, when you're not roundly praised, when you don't get invited to the party. Because only then will you see whether you've built your foundation on what God thinks about you. If I'm used to being roundly praised for my gifts, it's only when that's not there that I will consider I can consider, all right, how weighty is God's approval actually?

How weighty is that actually to me? For example, I love when people write the encouraging notes here at the church and say that God has used me in their lives, that they enjoy my preaching, whatever. But I'll tell you, when I look back, it's been those seasons where those notes weren't really coming, when I was really being criticized, that I had to consider whose opinion really matters to me. Is it yours or is it God's?

Is my identity built on his approval or is it built on yours? I'm only saying that when trial and humiliation comes, which it always does, then and only then am I forced to consider what the real foundations of my life are. For those of you who are rich in anything, trials reveal false foundations. The flip side of James's counsel, to the poor, verse nine, who basically live in a state of trial. James says, you should boast in your exaltation. You're like, well, I'm poor, I don't feel very exalted. What he's saying is reflect on the fact that even when you're poor in Christ, you have riches beyond anything money could buy or offer to anybody else.

Reflect on the fact that you got a heavenly father who loves you and sings over you with rejoicing, who has promised never to leave or forsake you, who has promised to bless you and to make you a blessing to others, who has promised to work every single thing in your life for good and soon to take you home to an inheritance of incalculable value. That's real power, James says. That's real security. That's real riches.

That's stuff that the rich people around you don't have, so rejoice in your exaltation. It's like that 80s movie, Coming to America, in which Eddie Murphy plays a prince from a faraway land named Zamunda, I think it was, who comes to America and through a series of unfortunate circumstances has to live like a poor man, even takes a job as a lowly custodian at a McDonald's knockoff called McDowell's. Can't even get a job at McDonald's, that's McDowell's. Well, while he's there, he falls in love with a girl who has this kind of rich boyfriend who always condescends, always looks down on Eddie because he's poor. Eddie's never bothered, though, by all these insults. He's always whistling at work. Seems like the oddest thing to every other character in the movie, but we, we, the viewers, we know why Eddie's so happy.

Eddie knows that he's not really from there. In his real home, in Zamunda, he's a child of the king. He knows that soon and very soon he is going to see that king, and he's got an inheritance of incalculable value that's waiting on him. He's got an inheritance of incalculable value that's waiting on him. James says to the poor, rejoice. You're a child of the king, and soon and very soon you're going to see that king. And in the meantime, you can rest assured that that sovereign king is working in all your trials to produce something in you far more valuable than silver or gold.

And that is the beauty of Christ's likeness. You may be poor in you are rich in Jesus. We're listening to Summit Life with Pastor J.D.

Greer. For more information about this ministry, visit us online at Did you know that Pastor J.D.

recently released a brand new book? It's called Twelve Truths and a Lie, Answers to Life's Biggest Questions. And just like the title suggests, it tackles some of the biggest questions we all face, like how could a good God send people to hell and how should Christians handle political differences? And can I know that I'm going to heaven?

I mean, talk about some hot topics. No doubt you've encountered friends, family, and loved ones who have asked questions like this, so why not get some solid biblical answers to equip yourself for those difficult conversations? You can get your copy at or wherever books are sold. And if you can't find the time to actually sit down and read it right now, you can also purchase the audiobook version read by Pastor J.D.

himself. We've already heard incredible stories of what listeners just like you are learning from Twelve Truths and a Lie, so don't miss out and get your copy today. Now let's get back to today's teaching. Once again, here's Pastor J.D. In trials, let the lowly brother rejoice in his exaltation and the rich brother in his humiliation. And then verse 12, James repeats this theme. Blessed you see is the man, rich or poor, who remains steadfast under trial. For when he has stood the test, he will receive something way better than riches, something way better than earthly security, and that is the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him. By the way, many Bible interpreters wrongly divide up all these verses in James 1 like it's a collection of many sermons.

That's a mistake. They are all united by this theme of suffering, which is going to be true of this next little set of verses, too, verses 13 through 18. Again, it's almost like its own little mini-sermon.

We're going to switch topics here, but it's all in the theme of how to go through a trial. So James warns us in a trial, he says, number two, verse 13, beware the deadly off-ramp of sin. Let me first just read these verses for us, okay? Starting in verse 13, let nobody say when he is tempted, I am being tempted by God, because God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desires. Then desire, when it is conceived, gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is fully grown, brings forth death.

Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good and every perfect gift is from above, comes down from the father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change of his own will, you see. He brought us forth by the word of truth that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

Now first, James gives us a clarification. Any temptation to sin in a trial, he says, that's not from God. You see, in almost every trial, there's going to be a chance for a shortcut, a compromise, a sinful stress reliever, some replacement for God. That temptation to sin is not from God. The reason James takes time to clarify this is because in Greek, the word for trial and temptation are the same word. In English, we use two different words. Trial typically means a difficulty, whereas temptation means an opportunity to sin. In Greek, however, they use one word for both trial and temptation.

The temptation to sin in a trial is never from God, he says, because God only ever gives good gifts. And that's because God, verse 17, he says, is like the sun. The sun is always shiny. You can hide yourself from the sun. You can get far away from the sun, but the sun is always the same.

And any time you're in the presence of the sun, it is only warmth and light that radiate off of it. That's what God is like, he says. God does good all the time because God is good all the time.

Bad cannot come from God because God is infinite goodness. God is not like a shadow, he says, whose goodness lengthens or shortens depending on what time of day it is. God is not moody. He's not capricious. Sometimes you look at him and he's leading you with tender love, but then other times he's irritated with you, so he's gonna just mess with you a little bit, or he's gonna ignore you or lead you toward destruction. God has one thing in his heart.

It never changes. Constant, unfailing, forever goodness. And just as a way of proving that, James throws in one little line at the end. He says, after all, it was of his own will that he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures. In other words, here's how I'm gonna prove to you God is only good all the time. Even when you deserved anger and wrath, God gave you a new life of his own will. He brought you forth by the word of truth. He's the one that decided to save you in the first place. Just in case you don't know this, your salvation was not your idea.

It was his. Sometimes we present coming to Jesus like it was like a joint project. Oh, I wanted to be near God. I felt like something was missing in my life and I knew I needed to get things straight, so I came back to him and thankfully God received me.

According to Scripture, I know it felt that way to you, but according to Scripture, even those feelings you had of wanting to get close to God were actually from God. Real quick, here's your key verses on that. John 644, nobody can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. If you came to Jesus, it's because the Father drew you, period. Philippians 2 13, it is God who works in you both, watch this, to will and to do of his good pleasure. In other words, God not only gives you the power to obey him, he also gives you the desire to obey him. Or how about this one, John 1 12 and 13, but as too many as received him, Jesus, to them he gave the right to become the children of God to those who believe that his name.

All right, so far that sounds like I'm the one doing all the action, right? I received, I believed. Well, yeah, look at what John says next. Verse 13, who were born not of blood nor the will of the flesh nor the will of man, they were born of God. Whose will did all this happen by?

It wasn't my will, it wasn't your will, it was God's will. I've heard salvation sometimes presented like we were drowning in our sin, calling out for help. Jesus came along by the lifeboat and he was like, hey, friend, do you want some help? And we said, yes, please, Lord, I'm tired of being in this ocean of sin and I want to be up in the boat with you. Jesus threw us a line, hallelujah, Jesus, take the wheel.

Beautiful image. But truthfully, y'all, according to James, when Jesus came to us, we were already face down in the water, no longer breathing and no pulse. And God pulled us into the boat and breathed new life into us of his own will, he brought us forth. So James says, you should rest assured if this is what God did to you when you were his enemy, when you were spiritually dead, then you can know that only good comes from God. Thus, any temptation to sin cannot come from him. God's only ever been leading you toward goodness, never has he been leading you towards sin.

Anytime you look to him, you're going to find only goodness and truth and help and love. Well then, you ask, where does my sin come from? In verse 14, James is going to give you the anatomy of a sin. Check it out, verse 14, each person, he says, is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Look at that, sin always starts within you. It's never the devil, it's not your ex-husband, it's not your kids, it's not your boss. You sin when you are lured away by your own desire.

A lot of people in a trial want to start blaming their sin on the trial itself. Well, the way I got treated in my divorce made me a really mean and vengeful person. I wouldn't have stolen, I wouldn't have cheated unless I'd been wrong this way. James says, yeah, you may indeed have been wronged, but all the situation did was provide an opportunity for the bad parts of you to come out. That divorce, that quarrel with that friend, that overbearing boss, those did not make you the way that you are. Those situations just gave an opportunity for those parts of you to come out. And listen, we saw this when we studied the life of David, you will never really be able to deal with your sin. You'll never really be able to confess it and really deal with it until you acknowledge that the primary source is you. And that's hard. It's hard because since the beginning of the human race, we've been trying to blame other people for our sin. And what did Adam say when God confronted him in the garden? That woman that you gave me in half of a sentence, he blamed two people, the woman and God, the woman that you gave me, both of y'all responsible for this. She made me do it and you were in charge of it. Even now when something happens and we get caught in a sin, we want to distance ourselves from it and say, oh, that's not the real me.

How about this? Have you ever had one of those moments where something slipped out of your mouth, totally embarrassed you? And later you felt really bad about what you said because it really is embarrassing. And so you go back to the person you said it to, to apologize. And what do you usually say in that apology?

What do you say? I'm sorry, I didn't mean that. In the moment you meant it. And if that's not really you, then where exactly did it come from?

We don't want what's inside of our heart to come out and embarrass us for y'all, but just because we don't verbalize something doesn't mean it isn't in there. The real unfiltered us is a swirl of toxic desires. We've all taken the deadly off ramp of sin. What matters is getting back on the highway of God's grace. You're listening to Summit Life with Pastor JD Greer. Pastor JD, since the beginning of the year, we've focused heavily on ways to create a solid start, like you talked about today, a firm foundation that applies to all areas of our faith.

And our newest resource is a step in that direction. Yes, Molly, when we kick off the new year, we like to restart and reset a lot of different things. It's like a big reset button, right? So what better way to reset your life than to make sure that you are building a firmer foundation for your life, for how you think, for your relationships, for everything. So you ask, what does it mean to live out the gospel? Well, it means thinking rightly about God, applying what you know about God and the gospel to situations that you're in. It means speaking God's word to others. That's why we've gone ahead and prepared something especially just for our Summit Life listeners that we think will make living out your faith very practical. And that is a pack of 52 memory verse cards. So if you're one of our listeners, I feel like there's a lot of you who are looking to infuse your life in a very practical way with the timeless wisdom that is in God's word, then head on over to and you can reserve your set of these brand new Summit Life memory verse cards.

It's a great way to get started. Ask for the scripture memory cards when you give today by calling 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220 or give online at I'm Molly Vitovich. Thanks again for joining us today and we hope you have a fantastic weekend of worship. See you next time for Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-19 12:17:17 / 2024-01-19 12:27:56 / 11

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