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Faithlife

Fundamentals for Fools

James Series  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  34:17
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Introduction:
I’m not sure how many of you follow techie news or perhaps I’m the only geek here, but big names have been talking lately about A.I. (artificial intelligence) Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk (headed Tesla for a while), and Bill Gates have all recently in the last few weeks warned us that A.I. will either take over the world or kill off humans or both. However, actual AI technicians that are on the bleeding edge of this technology say that these guys are wrong and fantasizing about the power of A.I.
But just in the past couple days, I’ve been reading a few articles talking about how Facebook has now come up with artificial intelligence that can talk to each other to improve. These AI computers were supposed to use English; however, as the claim goes, they’ve invented their own better language:
[here is a sample of their own language]
Now as you can see this language is gibberish and cannot make sense. Anyone with any linguistic knowledge would be able to recognize that these computers tried to use English but failed. Now, the pride of these Facebook researchers does not allow these FB researchers to say that is indeed the gibberish so instead they have claimed that it is not gibberish--it’s some kind of super advanced computer language that no human can understand, and because of this super language, it scared them to the point of turning off those computers since humans are too feeble and their creation is smarter.
Transition:
Obviously that’s a ridiculous degree of pride. These Facebook researchers were unable to humble themselves to the point of saying, “we failed.” The Apostle James has something to say about pride and the cure for it:
James 4:7–10 LEB
7 Therefore subject yourselves to God. But resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded! 9 Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to gloominess. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
What a roller-coaster of emotions! James first starts this chapter with a sharp rebuke on their fighting and identifying the root of their fighting, then to their prayers are all wrong, and finally to: “you’re worldly and that makes you an enemy.” James ended that portion from last week with:
James 4:6 LEB
But he gives greater grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
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here lies the crux of the whole chapter: last week I mentioned that the summation of all these problems was selfishness, but James here calls it pride.
Transition:
And so in our passage James has essentially called those belonging to the dispersed messianic Jews a biblical ‘fool’ through his terms of endearment: sinners, double-minded, and from last week: adulterous, murderers, jealous, and so forth—a stark contrast to the more preferred term ‘brothers’ as in the first three chapters. James now offers a threefold solution to the problem of pride, of self-centeredness.
Bring yourself down to where you belong: at the feet of Jesus begging for mercy and forgiveness! and for those of you that love to claim the devil made me do it James has the solution for you!
James 4:7 LEB
7 Therefore subject yourselves to God. But resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
here’s a great example of how our deeds authenticate our faith: how does your subjection/submission to our Lord measure up? Do you obey the Christ? Is your obedience total or does it fall short when things get tough? At first it might be, “Oh Lord, of course I will do that for you!” and then as you get started on the project, you realize it comes at a sacrifice—maybe it is taking too long, or it is hard labor, and you think, “maybe I should just quit and say it was a mistake” No, it is not a mistake! Don’t quit so easily! it is that God calls us to hard things, but he never leaves us ill equipped!
James 4:7–8 LEB
7 Therefore subject yourselves to God. But resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded!
Paul commands us Believers in 2nd Timothy to be more like soldiers rather than Social Clubbers:
2 Timothy 2:4 ESV
No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.
You might be saying, “Josh, surely I’m not guilty of this!” however think about it for a moment, who here is too busy to attend church functions? who here has such a busy work schedule that prayer and bible study get pushed off to the last thing on the to-do list--if it’s done at all? if you could honestly raise your hand to these questions then you are entangled in civilian pursuits! So the answer is to humble yourself, or another Parts Paul calls us to die to ourselves and please the One who enlists us.
James 4:8 ESV
8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
Yeah, but how? Well, where do you draw closest to God? is it with your personal devotion time or is it when you’re with other believers perhaps at church? Visit this place frequently! In the Old Testament the only way to cleanse and purify yourself was to go to the temple to offer a sacrifice.
listen to what [Jeff] Thomas the Baptist preacher had to say about this:
You are God’s servant, and you are never to forget that. You will never be more than a servant, even in heaven. We will serve God for ever. Servants frequently do wearisome tasks, because much of our lives is humdrum. [...] That is the first lesson we all have to learn, We do not have our own agendas. A servant has the one great task of discovering what his master wants and then doing it. We are not perplexed as to what our Lord requires of us day by day. He has made the programme spectacularly clear in the Bible. God is secretly at work transforming us into the image of his Son. We have been given a new nature, and now we bring every part of our lives under the sway of God, “perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord” (). We are going to be changed. Change is not easy and it is often painful. That is why many professing Christians will look for a church that suits them, which confirms and rearranges their own prejudices, and will let them go on through life just as they are. --Thomas
James 4:7-8
--Geoff Thomas
--Geoff Thomas
Mr. Tomas leads to the question: “How do you choose a church?” how did you or why did you choose Grace this morning?
Choosing a church to join can easily appear cumbersome since many options are available even in our small town. Some good churches have strong denominational ties, while others are content in being known as just evangelical. Some churches have a traditional style to worship and others strive to be more contemporary. Some churches are many decades old, while others may be just a couple years in development. And if one is not conscientious, choosing can become as humdrum as choosing a movie to watch, or a favorite food to eat--basing one’s decision about church solely on personal preference, but certainly something as sacred as church deserves more attention and effort. People actually do make their church choice based solely on if they “like” particular peripherals of a church that are only a matter of personal preference, but should they? And while certainly each church has unique opportunities and undeniable drawbacks, prayer and obedience are key in finding the right church. After prayer, at least six considerations should be explored:
The doctrine
The worship
The members
The growth
An opportunity to exercise one’s gifts
The locality
and if I only had the time to explore each of these six considerations with you, we would see that it has nothing to do with personal preference, but everything to do with how does it bring glory to our God. The central focus of any church must be to please God, not to please our preferences.
An advertising campaign for the American Unitarian Church years back announced, “Now I have found a church that suits me!” The true Christian can never be lured by that. The genuine Believer is looking for a church which suits God. And, over some time, the Christian will change himself to please his Lord—not the other way around.
As a reminder, no church exists in this age that fulfills these considerations perfectly. Nonetheless, every church ought to have some measure of these categories to properly thrive. While there is no "perfect” church, there are living churches that please God and are pleasing to join. Choosing a church may seem daunting at first; however, when using these biblical guidelines coupled with prayer, wisdom in choosing the right church will come through the Spirit.
You see, we are not here this morning for ourselves, we are here for our LORD!
Illustrations
I’ve told this next story before, but I think it bears use repeating it here:
A lady once approached her pastor with a pressing dilemma: “Pastor, I have frequented your church, as well as a variety of other congregations in the area. While your church is nice, something is missing--it’s not quite right.” She continued, “In fact, with all of the churches that I have visited, I have not found the perfect assembly yet.” The pastor urgently retorted, “When you do find the perfect church, whatever you do--don’t join it!” Now very confused, the lady asked, “Tell me, why not?” He confidently answered, “Because, if you were to join, that particular body of believers would no longer be perfect!” This anecdote reveals a truth: there is no “perfect” church. This is because people are not perfect, however, the church is made up of people. Nevertheless, one can trust that God has provided some essentials in His Word, shedding light on how a healthy church community ought to look and how a believer thrives in the local body of Christ, despite imperfect people.
but as imperfect people we can go to our Lord to cleanse ourselves and that’s what James calls us to do:
James 4:8 ESV
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
Since we don’t have the temples and we’re not under the law like the Old Testament saints were this is how we are today to cleanse ourselves not by sacrifices made by animals but our lives being the sacrifice.
Now, I thought that it was the work of the Holy Spirit that purifies us so how are we then responsible for “cleansing our hands” and “purifying our hearts?” Well yes, it is the holy spirit however scripture makes it clear that we are responsible too for our sanctification. Pastor Kimbrough used to call this: the Divine-human cooperation: it is the holy spirit in the work of Christ that purifies us however we are responsible to respond in to not resist the holy spirit’s work. The Apostle John knew this so that’s why he leaves the responsibility on us:
James 4:
1 John 1:9 ESV
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1jn
What is John talking about? he’s talking about repentance! Repentance cleanses us! “yeah, but real repentance hurts bad!” well that’s why James tells us fools to:
James
James 4:9 ESV
Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.
1 Corinthians 7:30 ESV
and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods,
1cor 7
He’s telling us that we really need to get serious about grieving our sins. Not that grieving our sins is the actual act of repentance, but in full repentance, it includes a realization of the depravity and seriousness of our sins, but Did James just really command us to mourn? What would his half-brother think of this? Although Jesus didn’t really ever command us to mourn, He did speak of mourning, at least once, in such a way as to condone it:
Did James just really command us to mourn? What would his half-brother think of this? Although Jesus didn’t really ever command us to mourn, He did speak of mourning, at least once, in such a way as to condone it:
Matthew 5:4 ESV
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Now, I realize Jesus is not saying the same thing at all here, he is only confirming that there is a blessing on those who mourn. James tells us to mourn our sin and when we do, we are blessed by YHWH!
1 Corinthians 7:29–31 ESV
29 This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, 30 and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, 31 and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.
1 cor 7 29-
1 Corinthians 7:28–32 ESV
28 But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that. 29 This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, 30 and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, 31 and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away. 32 I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord.
Ellsworth says in his commentary here:
Matt
Few verses of Scripture are looked upon with less favour than these. This is the day of lightness and {frivolous attitudes], a day in which we prize laughter so much that we have turned it into an idol. We prize it so much that we regard as good anything that makes us laugh. We confer virtue on anything that brings a chuckle.
Now James is not calling for his readers to be joyless and miserable. But he is clearly telling them that our sins are not things that we should be laughing about. Gordon Keddie writes, ‘When James appeals to world-infected Christians to change their laughter to mourning and their joy to gloom, he is not rejecting Christian joy, but showing them the way to its true enjoyment.’ He also writes, ‘James wants us to be happy Christians … but he also wants us to understand that any joy which co-exists with a worldly spirit and practice, and includes the assurance of being right with God, is a dangerous [illusion].’ Kent Hughes offers this observation: ‘… while gloom is not a Christian characteristic, mourning over our sin is.’
Why should we mourn over our sins?
The first and most obvious answer is because they defy the authority of the God who has made us, the God who has blessed us with innumerable blessings, the God who has given us the supreme blessing of eternal life and the God before whom we must finally stand to give account.
We must mourn over our sins because they so grievously impede the work of the Lord. The sins of Christians cause unbelievers to think that Christians are no different from themselves and, therefore, that the gospel is nothing in which they should be interested.
We must mourn over our sins because they rob us of true joy. The devil, ever the liar, tells us that keeping God’s laws brings misery, and breaking them brings happiness. But the long history of mankind shows us again and again that sinful living destroys and wrecks. It can destroy our health. It can destroy our homes. It can destroy our churches. It can even destroy life.
Where is the joy in all of that? Yes, sin brings pleasure for a season, but the season is always short and the consequences are always great.
We have looked, then, at James’s prescription for getting back to where we as Christians should be. It is not an easy road, but it is a tried and true road. It is the road of submission, cleansing and brokenness.
Christians often wonder why we do not see true spiritual awakening. Could it be that the awakening we need waits at the door? It waits for us to follow the formula that James has laid out for us.
Why go through the torment of humbling ourselves? This morning, our Apostle gives us our answer to our “So What” in verse 10:
James 4:10 LEB
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
like here is yet Another Blessing of a Divine Paradox that the more we humble ourselves the more the Lord exalts us even Jesus himself had taught the disciples that it is the lowliest ones on Earth that gets the highest positions in heaven. And to be Christ-like, we must always strive to be humble! why? well who was the most humble on Earth?
Philippians 2:6 ESV
who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
Philippians 2:6–7 LEB
6 who, existing in the form of God, did not consider being equal with God something to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself by taking the form of a slave, by becoming in the likeness of people. And being found in appearance like a man,
Philippians 2:6–8 LEB
6 who, existing in the form of God, did not consider being equal with God something to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself by taking the form of a slave, by becoming in the likeness of people. And being found in appearance like a man, 8 he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, that is, death on a cross.
phili 2
Christ humbled himself literally to death! The Creator of the heavens and the Earth, and even you, humbled Himself for you, and so now can you humble yourself for Him? If you cannot, you’re no better than the person who is freshly hired at a new job somewhere and thinks he/she knows it all from day one, and therefore refuses to listen from any instruction from the boss or from experienced coworkers. He/she is employed to assist you but he keeps on doing things his/her way despite instruction, which then fails at obedience. In effect, this person does not work with you. He thinks he knows better than you, in fact, that you must learn his way. Tensions grow until the boss stops using him. His pride and arrogance made him useless. Servants must serve. We are God’s servants and every servant must humble himself/herself. Every day we awake we ought be asking our Lord what Paul asked Him on the road to Damascus, “What shall I do Lord?” (). That is where humility begins.
Christ humbled himself literally to death! The Creator of the heavens and the Earth, and even you, humbled Himself for you, and so now can you humble yourself for Him? If you cannot, you’re no better than the person who is freshly hired at a new job somewhere and thinks he/she knows it all from day one, and therefore refuses to listen from any instruction from the boss or from experienced coworkers. He/she is employed to assist you but he keeps on doing things his/her way despite instruction, which then fails at obedience. In effect, this person does not work with you. He thinks he knows better than you, in fact, that you must learn his way. Tensions grow until the boss stops using him. His pride and arrogance made him useless. Servants must serve. We are God’s servants and every servant must humble himself/herself. Every day we awake we ought be asking our Lord what Paul asked Him on the road to Damascus, “What shall I do Lord?” (). That is where humility begins.
Christ humbled himself literally to death. The Creator of the heavens and the Earth, and even you, humbled Himself for you, and so now can you humble yourself for Him? If you cannot, you’re no better than the person who is freshly hired somewhere and thinks he/she knows it all from day one, and therefore refuses to listen from any instruction from the boss or from experienced coworkers. He/she is employed to assist you but he keeps on doing things his/her way despite instruction, obedience. This person does not work with you. He thinks he knows better than you, in fact, that you must learn his way. Tensions grow until the boss stops using him. His pride and arrogance made him useless. Servants must serve. We are God’s servants and every servant must humble himself/herself. Every day we awake we ought be asking our Lord what Paul asked Him on the road to Damascus, “What shall I do Lord?” (). That is where humility begins.
J
Acts 22:10 LEB
So I said, ‘What should I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Get up and proceed to Damascus, and there it will be told to you about all the things that have been appointed for you to do.’
Conclusion:
Opening Up James To Think about and Discuss

What can you do to cleanse your mind, will and affections?

2. What does the word ‘repent’ mean to you?

How will you respond? What is the large telling you to do right now?
What can you do to cleanse your mind, will and affections?
What does the word ‘repent’ mean to you?
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