Revival is for believers. An unbeliever is spiritually, apart from Christ, dead.
Ephesians tells us. You do not revive a corpse. You revive an unconscious person. Revival is not for the spiritually dead. Revival is for the spiritually delinquent.
And James is sort of holding the smelling salts of truth under our noses. He's saying to the apathetic, the unrepentant believer, the wayward son or daughter, wake up. Think back to when you were younger. Can you recall times when you needed a stern reminder that the path you were on was wrong and that you needed to adjust your course?
How about more recently? Has someone loved you enough to confront you and encourage you to get back on the right path? Today, the apostle James is going to do that. It was his desire that you as a believer live a satisfied life. But true satisfaction comes from living and thinking a certain way. Your Bible teacher, Stephen Davey, explores this issue on today's broadcast.
Let's get started. Well, some time ago, I came across a story written by an author whose friend, a pilot, was in desperate trouble. He was flying his single engine plane toward a small county airport. And he was behind schedule. He'd left later than he wanted to. By the time he reached the airfield where he planned to land, the sun had dropped down behind a mountain and it's like somebody had turned the lights off and he was in trouble. By the time he maneuvered around into position to land, he couldn't make out the runway from the field.
He had no real lighting on his plane and there was no one on duty at this little airport. He circled around. In fact, for two hours, he flew around overhead in the darkness trying to decide what to do. He knew that he probably faced certain death when his fuel ran out.
And just as his panic began to sweep over him, a wonderful thing occurred. A man who lived near that little airfield had heard the droning of the plane had finally put two and two together. He'd run out of his house, jumped in his car, raced to that little airfield, and he drove back and forth on it with his high beams blazing. Then he parked at the end of the airfield so his beams could cast light over that little strip of pavement and the plane came in over the car and landed safely and his life was spared.
The apostle James, to me, has been that gracious man. He is showing us the lights along the path that leads to not just a safe landing. In fact, he isn't just interested in that. He's interested in us living. For the casual reader, if you've been with us, if you treat the Bible like a magazine in the doctor's office, you flip through the pages, you look at the pictures, you skim the titles, and then toss it aside. To that reader, James is a little too much in your face. In fact, for those of us that are serious about it, it's a little too much in our face. He's deadly serious about these issues because he knows these issues are deadly serious.
Not only does James not want us to run out of gas and crash along the way, he doesn't want us landing on the wrong airstrip either, and there are many, and many are better lighted and more alluring. So he's aligned the path with inspired, God-breathed, state-of-the-art lighting managed by the Holy Spirit who was never off duty. And what he does now in this next paragraph is deliver to us ten imperatives, ten verbs in quick succession. Each could be ended with an exclamation point, and I want you to think of them as ten brilliant spotlights to illumine your walk with Christ.
Let me make it very clear. We're going to cover nine. I'm going to give you five points, and we're going to stuff nine of these under those five points. The first few will just have one imperative. Some of them will have several. We'll get through nine, but I'll only give you five points, okay?
So you do get your money's worth, whatever that's worth. Now, go to chapter four of James' letter and verse seven where we left off. Submit yourself to God.
You could write an exclamation point there. Resist the devil. He will flee from you. Draw near to God.
He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners. Purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable, exclamation point. Mourn, weep.
Let your laughter be turned into mourning, your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and he will exalt you. Now, someone might easily say, James is obviously not writing to Christians, but to the unconverted. I mean, you don't talk to Christians like this. James is showing people the path to salvation. I mean, they contend, and I read them, men I respect, by the way, that James can't be talking about a believer who can't be addicted to pleasure, verse one. He can't be a murderer, verse two. He can't be a spiritual adulteress hostile to God, verse four. There's no way a Christian could ever be guilty of that, so James is writing to unbelievers. He's telling them to get right with God.
At first reading, it may seem that way, but nothing could be further from the truth, and I think it's important to stop for a moment. This is not the language of redemption. This is not an invitation to the cross for the unbeliever. This is not a description of the atoning work of Christ alone for salvation. James is not talking about unbelievers who need to be redeemed. He's talking to believers who need to act like it, and that's the tone of his letter. By the way, as you interpret Scripture, one of the critical questions you've got to answer is to whom is the author writing? If you miss that, you can miss the application, and that's one issue where here we find that critical, hermeneutical question.
To whom is he writing? And then once you discover that, you can move on. Our problem in our Bible studies in America is we typically sit around a circle, we read a text, and then we say to each other, well, what did that mean to you? It doesn't matter what it meant to you until you first learned what it meant to them. Otherwise, you could be off.
You could be headed to the wrong airstrip by way of application. You see, James is writing to Jewish Christians, and they're going to understand immediately his military language. They're going to understand his ceremonial cleansing type of language, and we'll cover that as we go through this. James is not telling an unconverted person, by the way, to submit to God. They have no relationship with God to begin with. They're running from God. They're not interested in drawing near to God.
How can you draw near until you first belong to him? Millions of people, by the way, are trying to draw near to God in their own way. They're trying to merit their justification.
That's why it's so critical to understand this. They're trying to merit their salvation, earn it, so that God will accept them. Okay, good, you're going to give me nine, ten more things to do. I'll do it.
I'll get them right. An unbeliever can't wash his hands and purify his heart. He has not yet plunged into the flow of Christ's cleansing blood. See, James 4 is not the language of justification. It is the language of reformation. In fact, one author correctly said that you could refer to this paragraph as the language of revival. This is how to be revived as a believer. And keep in mind, there again is another word misused by the American church, revival is not for unbelievers. Revival is for believers.
An unbeliever is spiritually, apart from Christ, dead, Ephesians tells us. You do not revive a corpse. You need a resurrection for that.
You need a rebirth, new life. You revive an unconscious person. You revive a comatose person. You revive a slumbering, sleeping person. Revival is not for the spiritually dead. Revival is for the spiritually delinquent.
James is sort of holding the smelling salts of truth under our noses. He's saying to the apathetic, the undisciplined, the unrepentant believer, the wayward son or daughter, wake up. Here's the path. Land here.
Live here. The original construction, I think, makes it even clearer. These are imperatives. These are things we do. Everything we do as Christians follows who we've become. The last thing you ever want to do is tell somebody, listen, if you'd like to become a Christian, do it. He says, here, they will simply do what many people are doing today, and I've talked to far too many of them who are attempting to turn over a new leaf, and they have yet to find life in Christ. These imperatives are for the redeemed who need to turn their faith into life.
And James, the in-your-face apostle, will not hold back. Here's the categorical heading. We'll cover one imperative under this heading. Fall in. Fall in. Look back at verse 7. Submit, therefore, to God.
Stop. The word submit is a combination of two Greek words, the word for under and the word for or the verb to station. To place. It was a military term in James' day that literally meant to rank under.
Fall in line. Rediscover, and we do daily, our rank, which is under God. We tend to forget that.
Sometimes we try to outrank him. No wonder we have to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, which takes a lifetime and more. Romans 12, 1, and 2. And by the way, James is delivering the idea here of voluntary falling in. Voluntary willing submission under the authority of our superior.
This is not coerced. This is cooperative. We used to pile into the car, make a 24-hour trip to Minnesota, a place of my father's birth and upbringing. I was born in Worthington, Minnesota. We'd gather that summer, and there were cousins by the truckload brought in.
I didn't know half of them. We just would meet, and a lot of boys about the same age, and as soon as we met in that reunion, we'd race. We'd wrestle. That's a nicer word for fight. Have you ever had your arm pulled behind your back by your cousin who says, give up, and you say, no, I'm not going to give up. Give up. You prove you've given up, you say, uncle. I don't know why.
That relative was chosen of all the words, but that relative was mentioned often in our reunions. This is not the kind of submission James is talking about. He's referring to the reviving believer who voluntarily and willingly says, I have no greater desire than to fall in under your authority.
That is my great delight. You can see this by the way, this word illustrated in the workplace. This is the employee who doesn't just submit to the letter of the job description. I'm not going to do that. That's not in my purview, and that's not in my job description. That's outside my cubicle. I've got this eight by six. This is mine. It's not in here.
That's out there. This is the employee who understands the goals of the company and desires to take initiative to see it accomplished. This is the athlete who in the off-season runs laps because he knows ultimately it will please the coach. See, this attitude transcends your immediate authority and tracks all the way to your heavenly authority. Like the apostle Paul who said, it is my ambition. It is my ambition to be pleasing to Christ. 2 Corinthians 5.
This is one of my favorite profs from days gone by that are now further and further away from where I am today. Howard Hendricks once sat on a plane. It was delayed for takeoff. After a long wait, the passengers became agitated.
You've been there. You know the air conditioner doesn't work until it finally takes off. It's hot, and they were becoming more and more irate.
Hendricks noticed. He wrote that one particular flight attendant remained gracious as she spoke with irate and upset passengers after the plane finally took off. He said, I told the flight attendant how amazed I was at her gracious spirit, and I wanted to write a letter of commendation for her to the airline, and the stewardess looked at me and said, thank you, and smiled, but then added, she did not work for the airline company.
She worked for Jesus Christ. Wow. See, you are not just submitting to someone you can see. You are submitting to someone you will one day see.
So James isn't referring to the believer who says, all right, Lord, you got me, I'll say uncle. No, it's, Lord, there's nothing more that I want to do right now, nothing more satisfying to me than ranking under your authority and falling in. Number two, second imperative, also the second point.
Of five, although we'll cover nine imperatives. Look at verse seven again. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Again, James uses a military term, resist, means to take a stand. Eyes open, armor on, and you're taking your stand. Against the devil, interesting, he uses the definite article, and it makes it clear James is not buying into the superstition of his generation and all the way to ours that the devil is just this mystical force.
If he has a form, he's probably got a tail and a pitchfork in his hand. He's just, you know, this is just a reference to evil, bad stuff. There's no real devil, no the devil article. He's referring to a real person, a real created being, like the highest created of the angelic host who wanted to be greater than his creator God, Isaiah 14. Now, the name devil is interesting.
He has many names. He chose the devil here, literally means accuser, and it is one of Satan's chief attempts to accuse God before you, and I think it follows well with this other imperative and the ones to follow. You want to submit to God?
Well, the enemy is going to come and accuse God to you and say, are you serious? When's the last time you saw him? Never have. When's the last time you heard his voice? Never have. You mean you're submitting to an invisible, inaudible God?
You've got to be kidding. You see, he'll accuse God to you. He doesn't know what you're going through. He doesn't really care about you. He's missed some of the details.
You're on your own. Stand strong against the accuser. It is his chief desire to subvert worship away that God deserves. It is worship that Satan most envies.
This was his chief desire in his pride, and it became his downfall. And he loves nothing more than seeing worship that belongs to God not given to him. That's why he troubles the believer and is not really all that interested in the unbeliever who already belonged to him.
And he's read the end of the book, by the way, which I find fascinating because he knows how it ends. But he so hates Christ, he so hates the Christian, he so hates the church that until his final and eternal incarceration in hell, he will attempt to do all he can to diminish, divert, dilute genuine worship to Christ. And that means you're in his way.
So stand strong. Resist him. Which isn't, by the way, some call that has been so mystically defined here that you engage in name calling and blustering and statements of authority and incantations and special prayers known only by the Christians who went to the seminar or read the book.
Most of that is mumbo jumbo. In fact, the greatest way to resist him is to follow the next imperative, draw near to God. We'll get to that in a minute, so slow down just a moment. The Puritan pastor and author, I think, illustrated well our foe when he reminded us, the devil cannot force you, he can only persuade you. Thomas Manton wrote, he is like a dog that stands looking and waving his tail ready to receive something from those who sit at the table. But if nothing is thrown to him, an angry word, an unclean glance, gestures of wrath, discontent, without any of that being thrown to him by those seated at the table, he goes away.
He'll be back, then he'll go away. Listen, he cannot lead you into sin without the consent of your will. He is a defeated foe who has no power over the Christian except the power of seduction. And he and his demons are relentless with it, returning again and again and again.
So be on the alert. We stand firm against his schemes, methodius is the word from which we get our word methods. We stand against, alerted to, not ignorant of his methods, his schemes, his strategies. He is a student of you. I like the way one author put it, I referenced it several sermons ago.
I'll mention it again, Satan studies us. He has game film on us, one author said in this analogy. He studies it like a football or a basketball coach, along with his players. He knows what he's up against, he knows your weaknesses, he knows your strengths. It's as if he has a playbook. He knows what you like to do, he knows the buttons to push, he knows how you respond to certain things, they've studied you.
They know what you like to talk about, they know the places you like to go, they know the people you like to hang around. So what you do as you submit to God, standing firm, you get up to the line of scrimmage and the coach calls a different play and you carry it out and that messes the enemy up. They weren't expecting that. You take the call in from the coach, you dribble the ball, you take a shot the enemy had not planned on. Fall in, stand strong, third, draw near. Look again, James writes, draw near to God and he will draw near to you.
This is the positive side. He isn't just saying stand there all by yourself and resist. You resist the devil, you relish God. This is David who wrote, When you said to me, O Lord, seek my face, I said, Thy face, O God, will I seek.
This is David who wrote this one thing I desire of the Lord that is above all other desires that I may dwell in the house of the Lord forever that I may behold the beauty of thy face. See, this is the deliberate action of the believer to worship God. It's the verb and the Jewish audience would have immediately picked up on it. Draw near is the same verb used in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. For the priest who is approaching God with sacrifices, the priest is drawing near, following the prescription of God. By the way, this verse places the initiative on us, doesn't it?
Did you notice that? Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Somebody might say, well, look, if God wanted me to be closer, why doesn't he draw near to me and then I'll draw near to him?
I like that way. See, James here is emphasizing the actions of a reviving believer who wants to live a satisfied life. God will not pull you out of bed, open the Bible, put it under your nose and say right there is where you left off two and a half weeks ago. He isn't going to keep your computer turned off until you've talked with him.
He isn't going to set your radio dial to Christian programming. See, these are your decisions. That's the mystery of sanctification where your surrendered will collabors with the divine will. And James is emphasizing our will, that side of the coin.
These are your decisions. Do you really want to be close to God? Do you want to draw near to him? Well, how long?
For how long? In what way? This is the one who is reviving while serving as a missionary in Paraguay. Stuart Sacks, a missionary, wrote of an Indian named Raphael who came one day to sit on his porch. Stuart wrote, I was eating at the time, went out to the porch to see what he wanted. He responded in his native tongue, Ham hanachmet. Again I asked him, what can I do for you? The answer was the same, Ham hanachmet. I knew what the words were, but I didn't understand them until later when I talked to a veteran missionary. He explained this was Raphael's way of honoring me.
The words he said, Ham hanachmet, mean I don't want anything from you. I have just come near. I've just come near.
How convicting is that? To find satisfaction just being near. How many times do I go to God only because I want God to do something or I need something or I want him to fix something. I want him to step in and act upon something and so I go, okay, I'm here, but here's my list and I want to check off how well you do against what I've written down. That's the temptation. I'm ready to line up for my miracle.
In other words, there's got to be quid pro quo. No, this is someone who just draws near. I love this story I came across just the other day. A man by the name of Ed, Big Ed, they called him, went to a local tent revival, not the guy that runs the restaurant downtown Raleigh. He went to a revival, listened intently to the preacher, this big tent revival. After a while, the preacher asked anybody with needs to come forward to be prayed over for their miracle. Big Ed got in line. When it was his turn, the preacher said, what's your name? Well, folks call me Big Ed. He responded, well, Big Ed, what do you want me to pray for?
What do you want me to pray about? Big Ed said, well, I need you to pray about my hearing. So the preacher put one hand on Big Ed's ear and the other hand on top of his head and began to pray and holler and eventually shake and after a few minutes of that, he removed his hands, stuck a microphone up to Big Ed and said, how's your hearing now? Big Ed said, well, I don't know, preacher, it's not until next Wednesday at the courthouse.
I love that on so many levels, but I don't have time to go there, but I love it. So where's the lineup for people who just want to draw near? And what's the line look for people who want the miracle?
Who want stuff? The reviving believer cares more for the company of Christ than anything else. And before we leave this particular imperative, I want you to notice what's easy to miss. He's actually giving us a wonderful promise. At your first reaction, I might sound like, well, this is one-sided, but no, James is giving us a promise. Whenever you want to draw close to him, guess what?
What does he do? He responds. We're not that way. Somebody wants to get close to me, I may not want to get close to them. I may not want company. I may want to be alone. I might be in a bad mood, yet he's your imagination for this illustration. I may not want to respond in like kind. Somebody's interested, I may not be. You want to worship God, he's ready.
That's the idea. You never have to get out of bed and wonder if it's too early for him. You never have to pray wondering if he's saying, I heard that already. You draw near to God, and God responds in kind. The Apostle James has more admonitions for us, but we don't have time to explore them all today. We're going to stop right here and resume this lesson on our next broadcast. Your Bible teacher here on Wisdom for the Heart is Stephen Davey.
Stephen's working his way through a series entitled, Satisfied. If you joined us late and would like to listen to this lesson in its entirety, visit our website, wisdomonline.org. We've posted today's lesson so that you can listen to it or you can read the printed manuscript. And please, join us again tomorrow for our next Bible lesson here on Wisdom for the Heart.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-08 01:05:26 / 2023-06-08 01:16:00 / 11