We're studying together the book of James, and I want to ask you to turn with me to James, Chapter 3, and our time together in the book of James will be short this evening. When they had accepted this idea, I was a Christian.
Not with the best of receptions, but they had accepted it. All right. That's what he wants to do.
Fine. But when I came in and said I'm going into the ministry for a vocation, I'll never forget my mom said, the ministry? For a vocation? How in the world can you make a living in the ministry? No money in the ministry. Look, you can be a good Christian doctor or a good Christian lawyer, good Christian businessman, but the ministry!
It's normally quite different. And my mom could not understand my going in the ministry, because to worldly wisdom it made no sense. And yet I could stand here this evening and, echoing our time of praise and thanks, praise God myself for having had some years in the ministry and being where I am today. God has provided, and He always will. And James this evening, it's really interesting how this evening James echoes what we've been studying in 1 Corinthians. I didn't plan it this way. Maybe the Holy Spirit 19 centuries ago realized we'd be doing these two books at the same time.
I don't know. But we still are going to come upon something this evening in James that really is not something new. It's just a reinforcement of all that we've been doing. And we're in James 3, and I trust that you'll follow along and allow God just to cement in, with a different book and a different writer, to a different group, the same spiritual principle. Remember, God's principles are timeless, culturalist, and unchangeable. And that's why a different man writing to a different group at a different time in a different book still ends up saying the same thing, because it's God's principles.
It is earthly, sensual, demonic, for where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing will be there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James starts off in verse 13 by repeating his basic premise that actions speak louder than words. He says in verse 13, Who is wise and understanding among you? That is, with spiritual wisdom.
Let him show by good conduct that he's really this way. The word here means behavior or conduct. Now, the old King James will translate this word conversation. But in 1611, conversation meant behavior, not talk. And so it really leaves a little bit of a false impression with us. Of course, our conversation, our talk, is included in our behavior.
Abba James is going far beyond just what we say. He's talking about our entire way of life, and he's saying specifically that we should display a proper attitude in relating to one another. That if we say it, that we're believers. If we say it, that we love one another. Let's prove it by our actions.
Those of us who have been studying the book of James together know this is his stress. As we've said once before, in somewhat colloquial terms, put your money where your mouth is. He says that our actions will make clear what kind of attitude we really have.
Now, you might say, What is this, James? Are you just repeating what you've already said? Ah, no, he's repeating a principle that he wants to apply to a new circumstance. He's applied it to being partial. He's applied it to our tongue. He's applied it to having love and concern for widows and orphans, and now he's going to apply it to something else. But he just repeats it so we haven't forgotten the principle. Where will he apply it this evening for us?
Well, let's look. He talks about the wisdom of the world, in particular when it comes to personal relationships between believers. And he says in verse 14, if you have bitter envy and self-seeking, that this verse 15 is not wisdom that comes from above.
Wherever this may be from, James says, it is not from God. He mentions bitter jealousy, enviousness. He mentions self-seeking, going after what's good for me, and putting me first.
What did he mention? Which, as we all know, is characteristic of the wisdom of this world. Most of you know I was taking classes a few years ago at Johns Hopkins working on a doctorate, and I've done all the classwork and I'm trying to work on the dissertation. It's slow. Most people who've had to write a dissertation haven't had to pastor a church at the same time.
So it's slow, but you pray for me. Well, when I was going to classes there, the students who were there, some of the older students, were telling me about a former student who used to be there, who, when they would be assigned in a class articles or books, one copy of which existed in the library for reading, this character would sneak down there first right after class and take the book off the shelf and go hide it so that only he was able to do the reading. And no one else could find the book. The library had no record of where it was. It wasn't on the shelf where it was supposed to be. It wasn't on anyone's carol. And then they'd come to class and no one had done the assignment but him.
It didn't take too very long before the others began to catch on. This is the world, though. This is the world. You don't worry about other people. You do whatever you have to do to get ahead. If you have to discredit an employee to get his job, you do it.
If you have to sort of step on somebody in order to get beyond them, you do it. This is the world. Self-seeking, strife and envy.
I want what you have and I'm going to get it. And I'm out for me, myself, and I. That's the world. And James tells us in verse 14, don't boast in this. Don't be proud of this. It's shameful. This sort of thing is not from God, verse 15.
It's of this world. And you might ask yourself the question, well, how do we know this isn't from God? Well, James tells us, verse 16, for—here's why—for this kind of thing, envying, self-seeking, where this exists, what it produces is confusion. And what does the Scripture say? Our God is not a God of confusion, 1 Corinthians 14. And every evil thing. And our God is not a God who rejoices in evil. So something that produces evil and something that produces confusion cannot be of our Lord. Can't be.
Because He doesn't want those things produced. So the only alternative is, as James says, they're from this world. They're earthly.
They're sensual. They're demonic. As Satan uses our world system of values to produce in people value systems that don't coincide with our Lord's. Now Cain and Abel illustrate this quite well. It's clear that Cain had this kind of wisdom.
He operated on this kind of system. God said, bring an offering. Abel brought the right offering.
Cain didn't. And God was displeased with Cain's offering. And He said, I'll be pleased with you. I'll show you acceptance.
Just go get the kind of offering I want. Ah, but Cain was angry. And you know why he was angry? He wasn't angry because God was displeased with him. He was angry because God was pleased with Abel. That's why he was mad. Self-seeking, envious, jealous. Not jealous of God's favor or envious of God's approval, but envious and jealous of a human being.
And you know what happened. Every sort of evil. Murder. And in 1 John chapter 3, if I may read that to you, Cain is mentioned. And the Scripture says in verse 12, that we should love one another and not be like Cain who was of the wicked one and murder his brother. And why did he murder his brother? Because his works were evil and his brother's righteous.
He was envious and self-seeking and jealous of his brother. And this is the human view of life. I handle it on my own. I've got to protect myself. And if I'm going to get ahead, I have to make sure I get ahead. And if I have to step on people in the process, so be it.
Sometimes they'll preface that with, I don't like to do it, but so be it. I knew a secretary when I was going up to Hopkins. If ever I met a woman who typified this philosophy, it was that woman. Sweet.
Nice. But I'll tell you something, brother, you would not want to get in her way. She told me one time, we were talking.
I had broken my foot one of the years I was up there, and I was in this big leg cast and I was on crutches. And so rather than going to the dining hall or someone else to eat, she just let me sit in the back of her office. She was the secretary for the department and eat my lunch there.
So for a matter of months, I ate lunch in her office and had a good chance to talk. And one day we were talking about something and she said to me, do you want it? Go get it. Make a stink.
If you yell enough and scream enough and step on enough people, they'll give it to you. That's how I get ahead. That's how I got where I am. Well, I sort of smiled and said, oh, well, yeah, what do you say?
The world's philosophy encapsulated in this woman, but it's just not biblical. Now, I should balance and say, I'm not talking about healthy competition. There's nothing wrong with getting out on a ball field or a ball court and playing your heart out and competing and trying to win.
There's nothing wrong with that, in my opinion. I don't think that's what James is talking about. He's not talking about athletic competition, healthy competition. He is talking about bitter, hateful envy, bitter, hateful division that will cause you to step on anyone if he gets in your way.
That's what he's talking about. God's wisdom in life involves a different system. Would you look at verses 17 and 18? Verse 17, but the wisdom that's from above is pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruit, without partiality, without hypocrisy. Everything in that verse speaks the opposite of envy and strife and bitterness and contention and hatred and self-seeking.
Do you see that? You can't be genital and have envy. You can't be willing to yield and have self-seeking.
You can't have them both. And only this kind of attitude in verse 17 will produce the fruit of righteousness that people get to harvest when they've sown peace. World peace?
No. No, that's not what James is talking about. He's talking about peace between the brethren. If we as an assembly want to harvest peace, then we need to all memorize verse 17.
Because the harvesters of peace, in verse 18, are the ones who make peace and sow peace and not discord. You know, I was sharing with several of the elders how I have never been so gripped by the importance of unity in an assembly. And between believers, as I have been these last weeks in preaching through 1 Corinthians.
Well, I'd read it and studied it and been through the Greek. But I'll tell you, God has really made me see, like I've never seen before, what he's trying to get across. That without unity, anything else we do is doomed to failure.
We can't get things done without unity. And unity is the only thing that heals the wounds and rubs salve on the sores of human relationships. And isn't it interesting that our brother James sees the same thing?
I want you to listen. In fact, I want you to turn to Galatians chapter 5 with me. In Galatians 5, we're told in verse 15, but if you bite and devour one another, take heed that you are not consumed by one another. Don't you love that verse?
Paul can really take a bunch of words and weave them together to say a lot and a little, right? Because it's the Spirit of God who's saying, if you bite and devour each other, be careful somebody doesn't bite you. But I want you to notice, in the list of the works of the flesh, how many of these involve things that break unity, that create strife.
Would you notice this? Verse 19, Now the works of the flesh are evident—adultery, fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery. Now listen, hatred, contention, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissensions, heresies, or schisms is what that really means, envy, murder, and then he goes on to say drunkenness and revelry. Did you see how many of those all pertain to your relationship to your fellow believer?
In fact, if you add those that deal with the sins of the flesh, the moral sins, with the drunkenness and the revelry at the end, you still numerically come up smaller than all those sins that deal with our relationships. That's the flesh. And the best place to see how powerful, how alive your flesh is, is to watch how you respond to your fellow Christian.
And you'll know just how alive it is. That's where, if I could use the term advisedly, the flesh really shines. But listen to Colossians 3, and I don't have to have you turn, but just listen. Therefore, now here's God's side, here's the Spirit, Colossians 3, 12. Therefore, as the elect of God, holy, beloved, put on, now listen to the list, ah, we could preach a sermon on every term in here, put on tender mercies.
Don't you love that? Tender mercies. Alright, I'm going to be merciful to you, because God says I have to.
Here it comes, pow! No, tender mercies. Kindness. Oh, how we could use a little of that in this world. Kindness. Humbleness of mind. Meekness. Longsuffering.
Patience. Bearing with one another. And forgiving one another.
If anyone has a complaint against another, even as Christ forgave you, so do you also. And above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection, and let the peace of God reign in your hearts and be thankful. There's the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit. Now, you know, peacefulness does not mean weakness.
That's not what I'm after. We can be committed, we can be firm in our convictions, we can be fundamentalists, and still be kind, and still have unity. Why is it that people think fundamentalist always goes with the word fighting? There's a place to fight. Ah, but there's a place to love. A place for unity.
God help us, we're so busy fighting each other, we're not getting anything done with the real enemy, as I've said before. Now, I'd like to conclude by just suggesting something with regard to our assembly. What causes envy, strife, dissension, trouble, all sorts of evil in the church?
Well, I've got a few ideas. Gossip. A number one cause.
Do it every time. Unforgiving attitudes. Welcome to dissension. Desire for human glory or recognition. That's self-seeking.
That's what produces bad problems like this. A higher opinion of yourself than is proper. Self-righteousness. That'll do it. Self-centeredness. Thinking you're the most important person here this evening.
That'll help. Generally, just lack of Biblical love and concern. Living in the flesh. You live in the flesh and you will do a good job of causing trouble.
Everywhere you go, you'll cause it. And I meet people all the time who say, you know, I'm not doing anything to disturb the unity here. Fine.
That's good. But the real question is, what are you doing to build it? Eldridge Cleaver once said, if you're not a part of the solution, you are part of the problem. You see, there is no fence-sitting. If you're not solving our problem with unity, then you're part of the problem. So how are you going to consciously promote it? What's the gesture? The next time you hear someone engaging in a conversation that produces strife and contention, don't participate. Don't even stand there and listen. Rebuke it. Gently, but in love. The world says, let's start some trouble. God says, squelch it. A little comment like, I don't really think that builds up our unity, do you?
Squish, cold water. It's great. It works every time. Even if they don't agree, they're so embarrassed, they stop talking.
Normally. Now there's a few here and there that that won't stop it, but oftentimes that's all it takes. A lot of times people are doing it and they don't even realize they're doing it. How about asking God to convince you that the needs of that person sitting in front of you or behind you or next to you are more important than your own needs? That's what Philippians 2 says. Have this attitude in us, which was in Christ Jesus, that he considered the needs of others more important than himself. I could handle that verse easily if it even said as important, but it says more. Who's the most important person in this church service tonight? If you're really honest, most of us would say me. But God says, no, not you.
Everybody else but you. How about fully forgiving others when they've wronged you? The world says, look what he did to you. And God says, what difference does it make what he did to you? Forgive him anyway. People will say, well, if he'll come and ask me, I would.
I would. I'm afraid God says you are under obligation to do it anyway. Whether he ever comes or not. Now, I could go on. I know you know I could go on, but we're going to stop.
I want to challenge you. Doing nothing to disturb our unity is not sufficient. We need people who will consciously do something to build it and to keep it. And it just won't happen by itself. We have to make it happen. We have to work at it. Just to make this church, this local assembly, one that when people walk in they sense so much love and unity that they go, wow. I've never seen a place like this before.
What are these people taking? And we can answer them and say nothing but a healthy dose of the Word of God. And may I remind you that God never said that people would know us by our correct doctrine. God said people would know us. The thing that would distinguish us was our love.
Correct doctrine? I'm all for it. But let's remember our real distinctive is the love that we have for one another. Let's look to the Lord in prayer. Heavenly Father, we thank you for reemphasizing to us what you've already told us over and over again. And Lord, perhaps the reason that we're hearing this so much is because we need it. So Father, again, we pray the same prayer that we've prayed for weeks on end. Work in our hearts and make us a unified assembly. Not for our glory, Lord, or even for our happiness, but that Jesus Christ might be manifest in our midst and as we reach out to others. Lord, thank you for our good time together tonight. May it change our lives for your glory. Amen. Thank you.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-18 20:18:19 / 2022-12-18 20:27:03 / 9