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How to Get Out of Your Own Way | Sunday Message with Pastor Jonathan Laurie

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie
The Truth Network Radio
January 22, 2023 4:00 pm

How to Get Out of Your Own Way | Sunday Message with Pastor Jonathan Laurie

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie

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January 22, 2023 4:00 pm

In this special Sunday message, Pastor Jonathan Laurie gives a practical message on humility from James 4. Get insight on how to find a life of joy and blessing through submitting to the will of God. 

“He who thinks of making no claims shall have all that others claim and by claiming cannot obtain… Only an empty vessel can God fill with His gifts. And the emptier we are of anything that is due to ourselves, the more can God pour into these vessels His eternal riches, honors, and glories.” —R. C. H. Lenski

Scripture Referenced

Romans 7:15 

James 4:1

Psalm 16:11 

Luke 8:14

Titus 3:3

2 Peter 2:13

Matthew 18:4

Matthew 23:11–12

James 1:17

James 4:7

Jeremiah 17:9

James 4:4

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Learn more about Greg Laurie and Harvest Ministries at harvest.org.

This podcast is supported by the generosity of our Harvest Partners.

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Hey there. Thanks for listening to the Greg Laurie Podcast, a ministry supported by Harvest Partners. I'm Greg Laurie, encouraging you.

If you want to find out more about Harvest Ministries and learn more about how to become a Harvest Partner, just go to harvest.org. Amen. Good morning everybody. Welcome to church.

I'm Jonathan Laurie. You guys can have a seat. It's good to see you all. I'm just going to get my notes ready here. We're going to be in James Chapter 4 today. We're continuing in our series, James Walk This Way.

It's been a blast going through it together. And hey, just a quick word about today. Today is Sanctity of Life Sunday. And we here at Harvest believe and acknowledge, rather, that life begins at conception. And you heard a little bit during our offering time. Yeah, you can clap for that.

Absolutely. During our offering time, you heard us mention that we partner here in Orange County with a ministry called Young Lives. And in Riverside, we partner with a ministry called Heartline. And these are wonderful organizations that help young women with unexpected and even unwanted pregnancies, carry these babies to term and deliver them and give them resources and minister to them and help them through this process.

This is an issue that's close to my heart. My dad was the product of a one-night stand, a fling, really. And how easily, if times were a little bit different or if my grandmother had made just the wrong choice, abortion did exist back in the 1950s, and how easily my dad could have just been another statistic, another one of those numbers.

But here he is 50 years later, not 50 years later, 70 years later, 50 years, though, that he's been leading our church. I'm just so thankful that she chose life. That was a difficult choice. And he had a difficult childhood and it was hard.

But you know what? God had his hand on his life the entire time. And so we're thankful for that. I married a single mom. My wife, Brittany, had our daughter, Riley, before we got married. And I was able to come in and adopt Riley and make her my daughter recently and so thankful for that. And so I'm thankful that my wife chose to carry that little girl to term. It was hard. It was difficult. For those of you that are single moms, you know that it's, man, this is a hard thing to do and how easily you could just go down to the clinic and take care of this.

Nobody has to know and it's secret. And you know, I'm just thankful for the fact that these people in my life chose life. Some of the greatest blessings in my life are a result of single mothers. And because of these things that have taken place, I'm thankful to God that they made these decisions. And I want to tell you today that if you have chosen to have an abortion, listen, there is forgiveness. You can know beyond the shadow of a doubt that that child, that little baby is in the arms of Jesus. And you can have the hope of seeing that baby again. And we want to encourage this next generation to be the post-Roe generation.

They would choose life. And also our daughter, Allie. My wife and I, when we did get pregnant, after we got married, little Allie was born. But when we were at the doctor's office getting one of our very first ultrasounds, they told us that she had something called a two vessel cord. Basically, in the umbilical cord, there's supposed to be three vessels, two arteries in a vein or two veins in an artery. I always get it confused.

And she only had one of each. And so they said, in and of itself, this is actually not a problem. Everything's okay.

But oftentimes, children that are born with various disabilities have a two vessel cord. And so if you want to talk about alternatives, they told us, now would maybe be the time to do that. And Brittany and I were just mortified. We were so afraid. And we said, look, you know, regardless, we're going to carry this child to term. And I'm so thankful that we did, because if you know Allie, she's one of the smartest kids you'll ever meet. Full of life, full of joy, full of the Lord. She loves Jesus.

And she's completely healthy. And I'm just sometimes I just am so afraid to think back. If I was a different person, what choice I would have made upon hearing this news.

And how many people have been given incorrect information or been given false, you know, given a fear over something that isn't really reality. Listen, we need to stand up for the unborn. We need to stand up for single mothers. And we need to help them. And we need to be a church regardless that is encouraging and welcoming and supportive to those who are making the right decisions. Amen.

Amen. And so, James Chapter 4, I'm going to talk a little bit today about how to get out of your own way. How to get out of your own way.

That's my message title. How to get out of your own way. I don't know about you, but when you first learn a new activity, especially if it's physical, like if you're learning baseball or if you're learning golf, it just seems like you can't get out of your own way. It's difficult to do. Your swing is off and you have to adjust this and it just doesn't feel natural. And then as time goes on, these things come more naturally. But especially when you're, there's a new term they've learned, an adult learner, an adult learner.

When you're an adult trying to learn some of these things, I will be honest with you, as somebody who's grown up at the beach and has surfed nearly my entire life, watching adults trying to learn how to surf who have never surfed before is maybe one of the saddest sights that you'll ever see. You don't look cool. It doesn't look good. I feel sorry for you, honestly. I mean, I appreciate the fact that you're doing it and I respect the fact that you're going out there and trying something new, but you look really bad and it doesn't look cool. And so it's hard. It's hard learning something new. And hey, there's plenty of things that I haven't learned how to do.

And so I'd be in the same exact boat. It's nothing against you personally, I promise. Just don't drop in on me. But learning how to do something new. It's hard. You get in your own way.

You trip yourself up. We see this with little kids, right? Toddlers, they're first learning how to walk and they're stepping and they've got their eye on the prize. They look like they're doing good.

And then they like just will cross their other leg in front of the other leg and completely catch themselves and face plant. It's like, oh, man, you've almost got it. Keep going.

Keep going. I don't think I am alone when I talk about, you know, I believe that sometimes spiritually we can get in our own way. We can get in our own way. I find myself nodding my head. And I don't think I'm alone when I look at the words of the apostle Paul in Romans seven, where he says, I don't really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don't do it.

Instead, I do what I hate. OK, now, if we're in agreement with the apostle Paul, we're in good company. The apostle Paul was an amazing man of God, but he knew there were areas in his life that he didn't want to do. But he went into him and the things he wanted to do, he didn't do. He didn't understand. And that's where you get into Romans chapter eight, which talks about the grace of God and his love for us.

And it's really encouraging. But I really remember feeling this way in particular, this conflicted way when I was in my early 20s. I wasn't walking with God at the time. I was living the cliche, prodigal, pastor's kid life that everybody expects you to.

Being rebellious for really no reason. I had a wonderful family. I knew the truth of God's word. I even believed in it, but I just didn't want to live it out. I was being selfish.

I don't know what to say. But I do remember going to bed each night after living this way and after partying or whatever else and laying in bed and feeling absolutely emotionally and spiritually torn. I was torn. The things I was doing I knew were wrong because my conscience told me they were wrong. I felt guilty about them, but I was searing my conscience.

I was doing them anyways. And also I knew what the Bible had to say about so many of these topics. But even though I had my conscience, I had the scripture which told me I was wrong, I still made the wrong choices. I found myself doing the things I didn't want to do and not doing the things I wanted to do. I saw the spiritual promise land within reach and I wanted to get there, but I would just get in my own way. There were times I made attempts to get close to God and step toward God. And every time I took a step or two in that direction, I always managed to get in my own way and fall back into old patterns. But once I did give my life to Christ and I really did repent and I gave those things up and I made him the Lord of my life, everything changed.

Well, not everything, but a lot of really, really big, important things changed. First of all, he forgave me of my sin. That's what he does for every believer who gives their life to them. He forgives us of our sin. He delivered me, God delivered me, not only from my sin, but also from my addictions, the bondage that I was in, the habits that I was unable to break on my own. God delivered me from those things.

He broke the chains of addiction. He also gave me a hunger for his word. I found God's word jumping off the pages like it never had before.

I had an appetite for it like never before, and I loved it. God's word, I had a hunger for it. I also had a love for his people. I had a desire for his will in my life.

And I came to this realization that the very thing, his will in my life, which I was running from, was the very thing that I was actually chasing after. I was looking for fulfillment. I was looking for satisfaction. I was looking for joy. And I was looking in everywhere but the right place.

Isn't that ironic? The thing that I was running from was the very thing that I was looking for all along. And the really stupid thing was I knew this the entire time. I just neglected to do it. I failed to do it.

I got in my own way. The appetite I had for sin never really did deliver on its promise. I always felt more empty than when I started off, but when I made Jesus the Lord of my life, suddenly I was satisfied, I was content, and I had peace.

Now, don't get me wrong. Sin can be fun, right? The Bible even says sin can be fun for a season, for a short time. Yeah, there was, man, there were some great times. I can look back and I can even laugh and think about, wow, that was pretty cool that we got to do that. But it always left me more empty because as soon as that event was over, that experience was over, I found myself either wanting more or just feeling more empty than when I started off.

The appetite I had for sin never delivered on its promise. And I, oh, I mentioned that part already. That's great when you have your notes verbatim and you read the paragraph that you already read. Sorry about that. And so I said that.

Full transparency here. I didn't find what I was looking for, but I did find it in a relationship with God. He gave me beauty for ashes. He gave me joy instead of mourning. He gave me praise in place of despair.

Isaiah 61 three. And so I'm thankful that I arrived at this place and God called me to himself. But as I grew in my relationship with God, I found I had a whole new set of challenges I had to conquer.

I was still getting in my own way spiritually, even after I came to Christ. It was kind of like when the Israelites entered the promised land of Canaan. They came in through the Jordan River. They had been wandering the desert for 40 years after being freed from captivity in Egypt. And they arrived in the promised land finally. And when they got there, it was beautiful.

And there's grapes that are huge and all that stuff. We know the stories. But when they got there, they found that there was a slight problem. There were still enemies of God occupying the promised land. There were still enemy strongholds in the land of Canaan. You remember how they conquered those in Jericho, the great city of Jericho with the giant walls that were so thick and so large.

And they were unable to do anything to conquer this this city. And so God showed up in a supernatural way and told them exactly what to do, which made absolutely no sense logically. But they were obedient. And as they did it, those walls came crumbling down.

We know the story. And so I found in my life that even though I had arrived in the promised land, I was now walking with God. There were still strongholds in my life. I found I still had things I had to overcome. I had pride, I had anger, I had materialism, these kind of things. And once again, I found myself getting in my own way, taking one step forward and two steps back. Oh, I've got a good devotional life. I'm waking up and I'm doing this and this is great.

I'm spending time in prayer, but I'm not practicing the things that I learned. Learning about forgiveness, denying myself, but still only focusing on how things affected me. And once again, I was in my own way. You know, today we live in a generation that is really big on telling everyone that they are a victim. That you're a victim and you're not responsible for the decisions that you make. You are a product of your environment. And yes, some of that can be true and it can help to understand our upbringings and our childhoods and the things that happen to us and why we are, you know, inclined towards certain things. That's all okay, but ultimately scripture, the Bible is here to remind us that we reap what we sow. We are responsible for the decisions and the things that we do. This is not a popular thing to believe today. Everybody wants to say, again, rather that they are a victim and they're not responsible for this. Oh, I'm a product of my environment. The Bible tells us we reap what we sow. And so whether you're a brand new believer or you're a battle-scarred saint or somewhere in between, the process of sanctification, looking more like Jesus, becoming more like the image of God's own dear son, is a lifelong process.

It's never over. I've mentioned in other messages that to me, as we read our text, and you're going to see this too, James kind of comes off as like an older brother that just doesn't find himself impressed with you at all. My older brother, Christopher, was 11 years older than me. And growing up, I was the baby of the family, obviously 11 years younger, nobody in between us. And so I was, you know, catered to and coddled. I was the baby.

I never did anything wrong. And Christopher was like, he got in more trouble than I did. He was naughty, and so he got punished, and he saw through whatever I was trying to put out there. He called me out for stuff like nobody else.

He was more like an uncle in some ways than a brother. And so we'd be, you know, riding bikes or something. He taught me how to ride a bike, and he's pushing me down the sidewalk. And I'd crash, and I'd start crying, and he'd tell me, suck it up, get back on the bike, you're fine, you know. And I was fine.

And I'd keep riding the bike, and then another time, there's kids in the neighborhood that were picking on me. And he said, you need to go down there. And he went down there with me, and I'm expecting him to go and fight these other 12-year-old kids in my place. No, he made me get in a fistfight with the kid. I lost the fight, by the way. But by going and fighting this kid and standing up for myself, guess what? I may have lost the fight, but that kid didn't pick on me anymore. Oh, this kid's too hard. He's too hard of a target.

I'll move on to somebody else. He taught me good lessons. He was the good older brother. He saw through the stuff that I was putting out there. He called me out. He gave me a hard time.

And I needed that in my life. And I feel like as we read James, James is that older brother in the faith. James comes off as kind of tough love at times. We read other parts of Scripture, and it's beautiful and encouraging, and we need that. But James, there's no punches pulled.

You think you're great, but you're actually a jerk. Again, kind of the older brother in the faith. And so that's what we see James doing in our text today. He reveals to us, and I want to show to you a couple of areas that we are tripping ourselves up. We are tripping ourselves up spiritually. And then we're going to see what the remedy is for these things and how to overcome them.

And then lastly, we will look at the results if we follow the instructions. Again, I've titled this message, How to Get Out of Your Own Way, James 4, starting in verse 1. Let's read together. What causes quarrels and causes fights among you? Is it not this that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask.

And when you do ask and do not receive, it's because you ask wrongly to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people, do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose, verse 5, it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, he yearns jealously over the Spirit that he is made to dwell in us, but he gives more grace.

Therefore, it says, God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourself, therefore, to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.

Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you. Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy.

But who are you to judge your neighbor? And so, Lord, as we read these words, important truths for us today, we pray that you would speak to us now through this time of Bible study. Lord, that you would help us to see the areas in our own lives that we need to stop tripping ourselves up in, that we need to get out of our own way. Lord, would you help us in our short time together to be further aligned with your view on things as opposed to our own view.

We love you. We thank you for your word. We believe it is perfect. It is sufficient, Lord, to help us to see the things that we need to do.

It is the instruction manual for life. We believe that. It's in Jesus' name we pray together. Amen. Amen. Okay, so James just comes out punching everybody in the face in this section here, right?

I mean, just going right after it, calling people adulterers, telling us that we don't know how to pray for things appropriately, we're not getting things because we're praying for our own passions and not for God's will. He tells us that we're speaking evil against each other. It's great.

I kind of chuckle at reading it. It's so direct, landing all these spiritual combos on us. And if there's any question you may have as to who James is speaking to here, let me just point out that he uses the word you, yourself, and yours 30 times in 12 verses. Okay, so it's pretty clear. He's talking to you. He's talking to you. Not the neighbor next to you.

These words are for you. And so James starts off the section by asking a series of questions followed up with some conclusions, almost like a prosecuting attorney, right? Where were you on the night of the 11th? Ah, was it not there that you saw so-and-so, right? He starts off asking these questions and he asks a rhetorical question. What causes fights and arguments and wars and quarrels among you?

And then he answers it with another rhetorical question. Is it not your own passions that are at war within you? And of course, the answer here is yes.

The answer here is yes. Whether it's within the church, whether it's within our homes or our workplaces, our personal lives, our own passions, we are looking out for ourselves, for our own best interests. And so often, this is the cause of these quarrels that we get into. As James continues, he points out to us that even when we ask God for something, we often do it in the wrong way, asking God to grant our wishes like a genie in a bottle, right? Lord, I pray that you would grant me this wish, that you would bring this woman into my life, you would bring this guy into my life even though I'm not being the right guy, even though I'm not being the right woman. Lord, would you give me this raise in my job even though I don't deserve it and he's some kind of genie in a bottle.

That's not right. That's not how we're supposed to pray, asking for our will to be done. Again, verse 1, James says, Do they not come from your desires for pleasure? So often this is what motivates people, their happiness, right?

Their happiness, their pleasure, the things that make them happy, the things that make them feel fulfilled and make them feel special. Now, before you do get all defensive, it is important to know that pleasure in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing. It's actually not a bad thing. Pleasure is not sinful. Pleasure is not bad. It's when we get these things kind of reversed and we begin to instead pursue pleasure, pursue the chase of these things that things can go wrong. After all, it was God who gave us the dopamine, serotonin and endorphin receptors in our brains, right? In fact, we see in scripture in Psalm 16, 11, the psalmist says, You will show me the way of life, granting me joy in your presence and the pleasures of living with you forevermore.

Now, what is wrong is when we get these things out of order. In the parable of the sower, Jesus talks about a sower who went out and was casting seed and some fell out on the dry ground and birds ate it. And some fell among the rocks and some fell among the thorns and the vines and the weeds. And specifically, Jesus describes in Luke 8, 14, those who fall among weeds and are choked out by life's pleasures, by life's pleasures. The spiritual life was choked out of these people in this parable because of life's pleasures. Titus refers to those who get things out of order as being enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures.

Peter points out that these people love to indulge in pleasures in broad daylight, and they are a disgrace and a stain, delighting in deception as they break bread with us. See, sometimes in our pursuit of what we really want, we get in our own way. There used to be a really popular bumper sticker. I don't see it as much anymore. And it would say on this person's bumper sticker, it would say, God is my co-pilot.

Right? Did you ever see that bumper sticker? I've seen one now that says, Dog is my co-pilot.

I'm like, OK, that's actually I kind of like that one better, honestly. But God is my co-pilot. God is my co-pilot.

That's a way that we think of God a lot of times. Yeah, God, I like the heading you're taking us in. But if I could just take a quick detour over here, I want to land over in this area. I'm going to jump in the captain's chair real quick.

Let me squeeze in. And then two minutes later, we're in a flat spin. Both engines are on fire and we're headed to the ground in a fireball. And we say, Jesus, take the wheel, right? We mess things up when we take control. A lot of times we want Jesus to be our savior, but we don't want him to be our Lord. We don't want him to be the Lord of our life.

We still want to be in control. We just sang a song a few moments ago. Open every door. You have my permission. Enter every room. Sometimes we invite Jesus into the home of our lives, right? Jesus tells us that he stands at the door and knocks. If anybody will hear his voice and open the door, he will come in. And as Jesus comes in, maybe we want to let him in the living room. We want to let him in the kitchen, but we don't want to have a mess with the stuff in our bedroom. We don't want him going in that closet.

Definitely don't go in the basement, right? And we compartmentalize and we want to still retain these areas because, oh, well, this isn't a real problem. Meanwhile, the room is like decaying and falling apart and there's dry rot everywhere. Jesus wants to come in and renovate everything. He wants to remodel and his plan for our lives, his plan for that home, proverbially speaking, is to make it so much better, something that we can never even fathom.

He wants to take it down to the studs and he wants to lay a new foundation upon himself. And so, so often when we are compartmentalizing and we're not allowing him in, we are not accepting God's best. James tells us we do not have because we do not ask. And even when we do ask, we do not receive because we ask wrongly, wanting to spend it on our own passions. That's us being in the driver's seat, us thinking we know what is best. This is because some part of us often thinks that we still know what is right and what is good for us. But the reality is the pursuit of pleasure rarely brings what one is searching for, but rather an emptiness.

Let me let you in on a little secret. God doesn't want part of your life. He doesn't want just part of your life. He doesn't want one hour of your morning every day.

He doesn't want two hours of your time on a Sunday. He wants your family. He wants your job. He wants your marriage. He wants your hobbies. He wants your life.

And the reason he wants these things is not because he's possessive and he's some kind of tyrant. No, he's a loving father who wants to bless us. And every area that we give to him, he perfects and makes it better and he gives it back to us and he blesses us. He wants to bless us.

That is his goal. And this is what James is revealing to us in these verses that we are getting in our own way of what is actually promised to us and what we are desiring deep down. The heart of what James is trying to tell us, we find in verse 4.

Listen to these words. You adulterous people, I love that, do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God. Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

He spells it out really clear for us. He draws the line in the sand. Friendship with the world, alignment with the values of the culture, tolerance of worldliness in our lives is to be an enemy of God. This is what spiritual adultery is.

This is what the nation of Israel was guilty of so many times. They would worship God, they would follow him and then they would let their guard down. They would get comfortable and they begin to worship false idols and they begin to offer sacrifices to these false gods. And what would happen? God would not accept it and so he would send a wake up call and it would get their attention.

They would be sold into captivity or somebody would come in and they would be in big trouble and then they would turn back to God and they would recognize their need for him. So often we do the same thing with our lives as Christians. We'll allow God to come in but then we get comfortable and we start going down a road that we shouldn't or we start getting complacent in our faith and stop spending time in God's word. And then we realize, oh my goodness, I'm blowing it.

I need to get back to where I was before. This is what spiritual adultery is. To say you are committed to God while simultaneously engaging in ungodly behavior. So how can we get out of our own way? How can we get out of our own way here? Most of us know what we really want. We know what we ultimately want to get to. It's in a closer relationship with God. But when we have dual natures warring against each other, how can we make sure the spiritual nature wins?

James shows us how to do that in our text now. Let's look back at verse six. He says, God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands you sinners and purify your hearts. You double minded, be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. And again, look at this verse.

This is what we want to highlight here. Humble yourself before the Lord and he will exalt you. Verse 10. And that's our first point together on how to get out of your own way. Number one, humble yourself. Humble yourself.

We find that in James 4 verse 6 and James 4 verse 10. In a culture today where the squeaky wheel gets the oil and self-promotion is often the way to the top, humility can be seen as a weakness and even as a liability. But we see that this humility, humbleness, is actually a godly attribute that we are called to strive after.

We are called to pursue because this is an attribute of God. Jesus said in Matthew 18, whoever humbles himself like this child, and he had a child with him there, probably a little toddler, right? Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

What does that mean? Well, when you think about a little child, they know there are things they can't do, right? They know they need help and they're not afraid to ask for help, are they?

My goodness. Our kids sometimes are willing all too often to ask us for help. I asked my daughter the other day, hey, can you go set the table and put the pitcher of water on the table and put the glasses out? And I have her brother go and set the plates and the forks and everything else out so I'm breaking it up so it's even. And I told my daughter, Ali, I said, can you go and make sure, you know, you set the pitcher out of water and then put the glasses on there? And she said, okay, and she goes and she gets the glasses and she said, can you put these on the table? And I almost said okay. But then I realized this is reverse delegation here. I just asked you to do this.

I'm in the middle of trying to cook dinner and you're asking me to say, what are you doing right now? Our kids so often are willing to ask us to do things for them. There's a humbleness there and it's not quite humbleness on her part. But as a little kid, they know there are things they can't do. They can't reach that top shelf.

They can't make themselves a meal. They're happy to come and ask us and that's what we need to do with God. In the areas in our life that we know we can't get to, instead of trying to manipulate our way to get our goals, let's ask God. Let's be humble. Let's come before him and ask him to help align our will with his, first of all. And secondly, that he would answer our prayer. The verb behind humble is tapino.

Tapino, not tapatio. And it has a literal meaning of making low. To make yourself low. I mean it literally means to make yourself low, to lay prostrate, to go down, to bow down. In God's eyes, the one who lowers himself is the one who is elevated. The one who genuinely considers themselves to be the least in the kingdom of God is the one who God considers to be the greatest. This is a wild concept.

Completely contrary to what we hear in culture today. Matthew 23, Jesus said, The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

R.C.H. Lenski, a Bible commentator, said, He who thinks of making no claims shall have all that others claim and by claiming cannot obtain. Only an empty vessel can God fill with his gifts. And the emptier we are of anything that is due to ourselves, the more God can pour into these vessels his eternal riches and honors and glories. I love that.

I love that part. The emptier we are of anything that is due to ourselves, the more God can fill us up. And this is what James is saying in verse 10. Humble yourself before the Lord and he will exalt you. Lower yourself and God will be the one to raise you up. And so practically speaking, how can we practice humility? How can we live a humble life?

Does it mean we have to just sell all of our possessions and wear, you know, sackcloth and walk around and just, you know, have a low countenance all the time? No, that's not humility. That's not humility. I think a practical way to practice spiritual humility is being in awe and have a reverence for God. To have an awe and reverence for God, recognizing him as your creator, counting your blessings from the breath in your lungs to your career, to your health, to your family. Having gratitude is a great way to live your life.

Another way you can practice humility is, again, by giving God the glory for the blessings that happen in your life. Now, you might think, well, it was actually me that did all that studying in college. It was actually me who made all of these connections. Friend, do you not realize it was God that put the brain inside of your skull? It was God who put the breath in your lungs. It was God who allowed you to be born into a family, into a country, into a place that you were and you were able to be blessed as a result of those things. Nothing happens by accident. You can give God glory for those things.

When you take all the credit, this is the epitome of pride. From the job you just landed to the food you just enjoyed, the affection you feel when your kids or grandkids embrace you and tell you they love you, the ability to create something and feel accomplished. These are blessings from God, and we can be thankful for them.

James 1 17 says, every good and perfect gift comes from above, coming down from the father of light with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. It could be maybe that you feel you are called to something by God that is beneath your ability. And you are, you know, I don't want to have to humble myself to that. I'm a professor at a university, and I could never serve in a place at church like in children's ministry, you know, teaching children. I should be up on the stage teaching the message. So often the best place for somebody to start is at the bottom and to see that God is going to bless them, not because of their skills and what they bring to the table, but because of their obedience and their willingness to say, Lord, here I am. Use me, use my gifts. Don't use my gifts.

Help me grow in this area. Whatever you want, Lord, I am yours. So often we want to be put in the position where we think is best, but the fact is we are imperfect tools in the hands of a perfect God.

Leave the results up to Him. The second way we see James instructing us on how we can get out of our own way, we see in verse seven, number two, submit yourself, submit yourself. Verse seven says, submit yourself therefore to God, resist the devil, and he will flee from you. These are two words that are pretty unpopular in our dictionary today, submission and obedience, unless we're talking about our dogs, right?

We expect our dogs to be submissive and obedient. You remember last week, my dad was talking about how the world today puts such an emphasis on how we should all be following our own hearts, right? Follow your heart. It'll never steer you wrong.

That's not what the Bible says. We see that really this is coming down to our own emotions, our own emotions. What do you feel is right? What do you feel is going to make you happy? What do you feel is going to make you satisfied in life? And if you've been like myself or much of the population, as you pursue these things, you find that they leave you empty. One commentator said that the loneliest moments in a person's life is when they achieve the thing that they thought would deliver the ultimate satisfaction and it just let them down. It could be that you thought that getting married and having a family was going to deliver the ultimate satisfaction, or it could be that you thought having children was going to be the thing that brought you the ultimate satisfaction or getting that car or having that position at work or getting that degree at school or getting, you know, that marathon under your belt and you finally achieve that accomplishment and you think that is going to be it and you realize it's just another step on the ladder that goes on forever. It never is going to satisfy.

It's always going to let you down. Paula Abdul, who's a musician for many years, and I don't know if she's doing music anymore. I know she was a judge on American Idol for a long time, but she had this quote, which I thought was pretty good. She said, break the rules, stand apart, ignore your head and follow your heart.

Well, that sounds nice, doesn't it? And it even rhymes, so it must be true, right? False. No, just kidding. It's not true.

It's not true. Jeremiah 17 nine says the heart is deceitful and wicked above all things and desperately sick. Who can understand it now to break God's rules and to stand against him to follow your heart rather than his heart is a recipe for disaster. Now, I will say I don't think Paula Abdul was talking about breaking God's rules in particular and probably more breaking the rules of Hollywood or breaking the rules of the music industry, whatever those might be. But it is funny that the way that people break the rules today is actually by conforming in a lot of way. Right.

A lot of ways. If you want to break the rules, they tell you, oh, you should go get a tattoo. OK, wow.

Really, really edgy these days. Or that you would get a piercing. Right.

A facial piercing. OK, great. Or you would dye your hair blue. OK, welcome to 90 percent of Orange County. But we can see that the things that the culture is calling for, that it is saying, oh, it's rebellious, it's punk rock, it's whatever. It's no longer rebellious. It's actually conformity. And that's what the devil has always been after is not just rebellion against the status quo. It's conformity to himself.

It's rebellion against God. And I'm not saying that tattoos and piercings are rebellion against God. I'm just saying those are the visual things that we so often see that are identified and associated with being different. But so often they are now the standard.

They are popular. If you really want to go against the grain today, follow Jesus. If you really want to be countercultural and you want to go against the grain, say that you serve somebody other than yourself and somebody other than the dollar. Say you serve Jesus and you lay your life down for him.

That is the most countercultural societally rejected thing that you could do. To say that you live not for yourself or for your career or for whatever, but you live for Jesus, could be considered social and career suicide. We're told today that the truth is relative, that we need to be tolerant and open-minded.

But really what they're saying is they want an ABC culture, anything but Christ. When God defines things very clearly as good and evil, as righteous and wicked, as prosperous and destructive, being submissive means we don't try and redefine things or argue with God about it. It means that we, as the creation, operate the way that the creator created us for.

He's the designer. We are the product. We are the creation.

We should look to him, look to his word to see what he wants us to do and how we should operate. It means we yield. We lay down our pride. We spiritually tap out and say, not my will, but yours be done. Let's be honest. This is a hard thing to do. Just because I'm standing up here behind a pulpit, I hope you know, does not mean that I am in full perfection of this by any means. My wife's in the front row. She'll be the first one to tell you that I am not perfect.

I have messed up. And it is a lifelong process that we will lay down our life and say to God, not my will, but yours be done. And so I want to share with you what that looks like practically now.

What does it look like practically to be in submission? There's a website that I like to use called GotQuestions.org. Some of you may be familiar with it. It's actually a really great place to find out kind of obscure Bible questions that you're trying to answer in a really succinct way. And so I'd encourage you to check it out if you're ever looking for something. Of course, we have pastors here, but a lot of times I'm like, that's a great question.

GotQuestions.org. Here's what it says. This is what GotQuestions.org had to say about being submissive to God. It says this, God does not require us to submit because he is a tyrant, but because he is a loving father and he knows what is best for us.

The blessings and peace that we gain from humbly surrendering and submitting ourselves to him daily are a gift of grace that nothing in this world can compare to. To submit to God, you must first be familiar with the will of God, which is the Word of God, which is the scripture. I found that the more familiar that I become, the more easily I am reminded, and I know what God wants me to do in various situations. The more familiar I am with scripture, the more I know what God wants me to do. Psalm 119 tells us that we should memorize God's Word, your Word I have hidden in my heart that I might not sin against you. He is talking about scripture memorization, right? Knowing these things intimately.

The more familiar you become, the more easily you will be reminded of how we should act in those situations. To forgive, to respond gently, to avert our eyes, to avoid temptation, to spend time in prayer, to love your fellow believers and to share your faith. The will of God is the Word of God. Proverbs 3, 5 to 6 tells us that if we trust in the Lord with all of our hearts and we lean not on our own understandings, he is going to show us which path to take.

He will show us which direction, which road we should go in our lives. What I love about that is that as a guy, I use my GPS system all the time, but I don't like to ask for directions. I would much rather type the address on my phone, obviously. But sometimes you get in these places where your phone doesn't have reception or your phone took you the wrong way or something's going on.

You don't have your phone. And so you have to ask for directions. Listen, God will always tell you the direction that you need to go if you will seek him. He will direct you in the right path.

He will never lead you astray. And that brings us to point number three in closing. Lastly, number three, the result.

The result. It tells us this, but God gives more grace. Therefore, it says God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourself, therefore, to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.

Humble yourself before the Lord and he will exalt you. The result of getting out of your own way is God's grace, is closer proximity to him, is being exalted by him. You see, when you sow to the spirit, you reap spiritual fruit. When you sow to the flesh, you reap the alternative, which is destruction, which is death, which is disaster. When you give in to temptation, you indulge yourself, you view your relationship with God as something to leverage for personal gain. The reality here is that the more you focus on yourself, the more you are actually depriving yourself of. The more you're focused on what's good for you and what's comfortable for you and what you want, the more that you are depriving yourself of what God wants for you, which is what we really want in this life. When you focus on the gifts and not the giver of gifts, when you worship the creation rather than the creator, you are not only missing the point, but you're also missing out on the greatest blessing you can experience in life. And that is a relationship with the creator of the universe as your personal friend and savior in God. And so in closing today, there may be some here who have not put their faith in Christ. And you were like myself and you have found that everything in this world is letting you down. And maybe you're getting along in years and you know that you know that you know these things aren't satisfying you, but you're still going on about them because you don't know what else to do. Friend, you need Jesus. You need God to come into your life and show you what this life is really all about.

He comes to give life and life more abundantly. He's not going to make you have to stop all the things you don't want to do. That's going to come naturally.

That's not a bunch of rules and regulations you have to follow. It's a relationship with Him that is so rewarding. All you can do is say, this stuff is a distraction. This stuff is pulling me away from you, God. You're going to organically want to walk closer with Him because He is so good. Amen? He has done that for so many.

He's done that for me. And I want to tell you, He can do that for you today. And so again, in closing, if you haven't put your faith in Christ, I want to extend an invitation to you now to receive Him as your Lord and Savior. You can walk out of here, a new creation. Scripture tells us that any person who is in Christ, they are a new creation.

Old things are passed away. All things have become new. And so, Lord, we do thank you so much for your Word. We thank you for the directness of your servant, James, to tell us the things that we are doing in our life, to reveal to us the areas that we need to improve. And, Lord, we pray that we would look in the spiritual mirror and see our reflection for who we really are. For those of us who have been walking with you for many years, for those of us who are brand new Christians, Lord, that we would know, even now in this moment, supernaturally through the power of your Holy Spirit, would you show us, Lord, the areas that we need to repent of, that we need to humble ourselves of, and we need to submit to you on?

Would you do that now? Would you speak to us, Lord, individually, the things that we need to repent of as Christians, the things that we need to let go of, the things that we need to ask for help in? Lord, show us these things that we need to do. And now, Lord, while our heads are bowed and our eyes are closed and we're praying here together, there's some we know that have not yet made a decision to follow you. They have not yet made you their Savior, and they have not yet made you their Lord of their life. And we know that you are not willing that any should perish, but all should come to repentance. But, Lord, we also know the wages of sin is death. You have done everything you can to get us into heaven.

You've paid the price. All we have to do is receive that free gift in faith and begin to walk with you as the Lord of our life. And so while our heads are bowed and our eyes are closed and we're praying here together, who here might say, if that's me, I want to know that when I die, I'll go to heaven. I want to make Jesus the Lord of my life. I want him to save me. I want to know that I will see him in heaven one day, that I'll see loved ones who have gone before me.

Maybe that child that you terminated, you want to have the hope that you would see that child in heaven one day. If that's you, I want to invite you to just raise your hand up, and I want to lead you in a prayer. Here at Harvest Orange County in the sanctuary, somewhere on the campus here at Harvest OC, you might be watching at Harvest Riverside. You raise your hand as well. I can't see you, but the Lord sees you, and that's all that matters. You raise your hand wherever you are, and we'll pray together.

Raise your hand now. God bless you. God bless you here in the front.

Anybody else? You raise your hand up. God bless you. You're saying yes to God. You're saying, I want to walk with him. I want to have that forgiveness. I want to have that joy that he promises, that pleasure that he promises to me that is divine, that will never bring me guilt or shame or remorse. God can give that to you by walking with him.

Anybody else? You raise your hand, and we'll pray together. God bless you guys.

Awesome. Okay, I'm going to ask that if you raise your hand that you would just pray this prayer out loud after me, and wherever you are, mean it in your heart, this is you talking to God, your Father in heaven who loves you and wants to hear from you. Pray these words. Dear God, I know that I'm a sinner. I've fallen short of your standard, but you've sent your son Jesus to die in my place, and I believe in him, and I turn from my sin, and I turn to you from this moment forward. Would you fill me with your Holy Spirit? Would you make clear to me the path that you want me to walk in? It's in Jesus' name I pray now.

Amen. Hey everybody, thanks for listening to this podcast. To learn more about Harvest Ministries, follow this show and consider supporting it. Just go to harvest.org. And to find out how to know God personally, go to harvest.org and click on Know God.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-23 02:11:41 / 2023-01-23 02:32:53 / 21

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