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Todd teaches today on James 3:13-18 and what the Bible has to say about a life that is truly submitted to God. Those who are committed to an idea, and those who are submitted to God have some distinct differences. People truly submitted to God in love trust in what Jesus has done, and measure success by our partnering with God. James outlines how we can know if our faith is real, how we can know that it's not just a commitment to an idea but rather an embracing of a transforming truth.
Truth About Prayer and Healing
The Truth About Suffering and the Believer
The Truth About Wealth and the Joneses
The Truth About Slander and Silence
The Truth About Conflict in Our Lives and Communities
The Truth About Transformed People
The Truth About the Tongue
The Truth About Genuine Faith
The Truth About How to Treat People
The Truth About the Believer and the Word
The Truth About Temptation and How True Believers Respond
The Truth about Troubles and Trials
Man, the heartbeat of the faith. I love that little bumper we use. It talks about what it means to walk the line. Johnny Cash sang, "Because you're mine, I walk the line." I do this because of my relationship with you. Do you want to know what the heartbeat of having a relationship with Jesus is all about? Read the book of James. Study the book of James. Reflect on the book of James.
Embrace the book of James because it is just the younger brother of Jesus, the half-brother of Christ, who is sharing with you what he eventually learned that his older brother wanted all the world to know, and that is that God is good. He cares for you, provides for you, and wants to save you from a life of nonsense, a life of self-destruction, envy, bitterness, and chaos. He wants to bring order and peace.
So James is talking to the church, and he is just saying, "Hey, you called out ones, you who have been brought back into a relationship with God, let's make sure we walk with him. If we walk with him, our lives will look different."
Now sometimes when we end one week of study and move into a next, we can almost act like there's a whole new message. You have to remember when the Bible was originally written in the different letters and different recorded histories, there was not chapter and verse included. Those are breaks we put in hundreds of years later in order to allow us to turn quickly to different places in that which we as a church had affirmed as revelation from God.
As we get ready to look at James, chapter 3, verses 13 through 18, I want to remind you what we just came out of. James is saying, "Let not many of you be teachers. Don't aspire to teach just so you can have this position of honor and regard, because if you're a teacher you're going to be held to a stricter judgment. All of us in some ways are influencers and leaders of others. Make sure when you do teach, you use your tongue in a way that's a blessing to others and not divisive and self-promoting, self-concerning."
He is going to pick all that up, and I want to just read to you from James 3:13 through 18. Then we'll make some observations about it. In verse 12 (just to wrap up), he just says, "Listen. You say you're connected to God. You ought to look like the people of God." That's what it means. "Because you're mine, God, I walk the line. I walk differently."
Verse 12 wraps up by just saying, "Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh." In other words, if you have that which is bitter and acidic coming out of your life, it might well be an indication to you that there is not sweetness within. If there is unholy living, unholy talk, unholy practice, it might be because you know about the Holy One of God but you do not have holiness dwelling within.
You are an enlightened orthodox pagan. All you are is somebody filled with good information who sings, "He is alive! He is alive!" But there is nothing in your life that would seem to indicate you have a relationship with that risen Lord. I love what one man said: "May it never be that way about us." We don't just go through the motions. The reason people leave the church or never come to the church is they see a bunch of people going through the motions.
That's not who we are. We're not a dead, ritualistic people. We're not here doing things so God will love us. We are here because we know we're unlovable, and we've heard the story and the tale of a Father who loves and pursues those who are lost, redeems them, makes provision for them, welcomes them, restores them. We're just going, "How can we not respond to that kind of love?"
This gentleman (who had my particular privilege of being a teacher a number of years ago), talking to his church in the 50s when the church really started to move toward that dead Western American Christianity, said may we never go through the motions. May we never just simply go "…around and round—like a religious merry-go-round. Are we simply holding on to the painted mane of the painted horse, repeating a trip of very insignificant circles to a pleasing musical accompaniment?"
Doesn't that sound like the dead church? There is nothing that changes. We are just holding on to the painted mane of the painted horse, going around in insignificant circles (Sunday…my life. Sunday again…my life. Sunday again…) to some pleasant accompanying music. May it never be. That's the book of James.
Let me tell you what James is going to do too. James is going to tell you to not just be committed to a certain profession but to possessing a relationship with God. There is a difference between people who are committed to an idea and people who submit in love to God. Today in this little section of James, you're going to find out this is the difference.
Let me just give you a few things, though, about people who know about what Jesus has done as opposed to people who trust in what Jesus has done and abide with that Jesus who has reconciled them to him and whose lives changed. There are people committed to God, and then there are people submitted to God. I might say people committed to the God idea. People committed to the God idea partner with God when it's appropriate. People submitted to God say, "God is boss. We don't work together. He is not my copilot; he is my pilot."
The life which I now live, I don't live according to my consulting with him. It is in submissiveness to his love and revealing Word. The people committed to God always focus on the end, but people who submit to God focus on the process and being faithful all the way through. People committed to God say, "God is there to help me succeed." People who are submitted to God are people who say, "No, success is defined only by my ability to be on God's agenda."
So are you committed to the God idea? Do you think God is here to make you successful, or are you going to say, "No, success for me is partnering with God"? Committed people still have their identity in what they do. Submitted people have their identity completely in whose they are. It's hidden. Their identity is hidden with God in Christ Jesus.
I could go on and on all day on this. Committed people tend toward rules. Submitted people live in relationship. Committed people are going to be like, "I'm going to do these things, and this is going to make me better, probably better than you." Submitted people go, "No, I love God. If it weren't for God's love for me, which is why I love him, I would not only not be better than you. It doesn't matter how good I try and become, I could never be good enough for God to love me."
People submitted to God are the most humble people on the face of the earth. People committed to godly doing are prideful, arrogant, judgmental people. They look at others and go, "How can they be like that?" They don't really understand the reason they're not is the grace of God has been alive in their hearts.
You know, people who are committed are around God when they need God, but people who submit to God abide, abide, abide, abide. What I want to prayerfully walk you through in James 3 this morning is what happens if you just commit to God and the God idea and what it looks like if you really submit to him. James is writing to the church, and he is going to say, "Do you want to know if your faith is real? This is how you can know."
Christians need to be justified by grace through faith alone, and the way you know it's not just a commitment to an idea, but it is an embracing of a truth that transforms you is you justify (prove) the fact that you are justified, declared righteous by God, and reconciled to him by the way you work out your belief. People say what they think. They do what they believe.
Let me tell you why this is such a big deal, and this text really matters. The number one thing that draws people into a relationship with God is the sweetness that comes into your and my life. It's the number one thing. People just go, "Man, there is something different here. There's a hope. There's a kindness. There's a love that passes understanding." What's the source of that? We declare to them the work of what Jesus has done.
The number one reason why people have no desire to know God is because of Christians who hold the painted mane of the painted horse and go in absolutely unimportant circles with no real significant change from one week to the next to the tune of accompanying music, most of which they don't even like. May it never be! May it never be.
Let me just read you this. There's a guy named Sheldon Vanauken, and you don't really need to know who he is. If you're looking for some good late-summer reading, pick up his book, A Severe Mercy. It's outstanding. I highly recommend it. It basically is about his love with his wife, but also it's about how he, through his relationship with his wife, as a student later at Oxford University, bumps into a professor named Jack (who you might know as Clive Staples Lewis), who begins to build into his life and leads to a transformation.
Later he wrote this. As he was talking about what happens, he says, "The best argument for Christianity is Christians: their joy, their certainty, their completeness. But the strongest argument against Christianity is also Christians—when they are somber and joyless, when they are self-righteous and smug in complacent consecration, when they are narrow and repressive, then Christianity dies a thousand deaths."
That's not the way it's supposed to be. I can't tell you how many times I've talked to people, and I've asked them what led to their life change. It almost goes back to them meeting somebody who really loved them.
That's the story of Daniel this week in your Watermark News. "I met somebody who really began to love me. I came here, and others really began to love me. It's a love that I was looking for, a love to which all human are designed to respond. When I saw what God was doing in my life through them as vessels of God's love, I was open to meeting God. I needed that God, and he changed me."
I'm going to tell you I hear again sometimes people coming here, and they go, "Oh, that person was rude to me. No one greeted me. That guy cut me off," and they write off God, which is a terrible mistake. Nonetheless, it happens.
It's funny. I'm sensitive to how my house is presented when folks walk into it. This Tuesday, we had some friends coming over to hang out and enjoy some time together. We were getting ready to celebrate our kids and send them off to college. Tuesday night, I walked in just before that. I was meeting with some folks. When I got there, my wife had made some dinner. She and one of my daughters are really trying to eat healthy right now. They had made Brussels sprouts to accompany their salmon.
Now listen. I don't know the last time you walked into a house where Brussels sprouts were being prepared with salmon, but I opened that door. I was like, "You have to be kidding me!" It's like a locker room before the guys shower. That's what it smells like! I just go, "Sweetie, light some candles." She goes, "The candles are lit. Get over it."
She'd been in that house cooking those Brussels sprouts for a while. She couldn't even smell that our house was totally funkified by Brussels sprouts. I just walked out to the front of our house, and I just put a big sign on it. I went, "We don't usually smell like this. We had Brussels sprouts for dinner." My wife found it later. She wasn't all too pleased with me. Nonetheless, it was better than that they think it's just kind of the Wagner family smell is what I said.
All I would tell you is James is writing chapter 3, verses 13 through 18, and he is saying, "You ought not have a black tongue and Brussels sprouts B.O. Because if you have that, there's a real problem." Watch this. James 3: "Who among you is wise and understanding?" In other words, "You guys say you know God. You say you have wisdom, and the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. You have a right view of God, his holiness, and his kindness. You have understanding that that's not just something you're to ascribe to, but it really changes you. Well, that's awesome."
"Let him show by his good behavior…" Does this sound familiar? "Let your faith produce something." What is that something it should produce? It is (I will show you later) a fragrant aroma. It's your life ought to be more pleasing to those who are around you.
This is why so many children who grow up in homes of parents who attend the church but there's not a fragrant aroma, there's not a sweetness and love in the marriage relationship… There's a dad who says, "God is the most important thing," and yet he is never there because he is furthering the family trust instead of walking in trust with God.
He says God is the most important thing in his life, and yet the son says, "Do you know what's really important to my dad? He never misses a home football game of his alma mater. My dad has never sat with me and walked me through the goodness of God, the love of God, the Word of God but, boy, my dad will talk to me all day long about the new offensive coordinator." Kids go, "You can tell me all day long what you say you believe, but I'm watching what you do."
I think I said this wrong in the first service last week, but it's the old statement, "Your life is so loud, I can't hear what you're saying with your words." That's what James is going to say. He is going to move now from this idea of, "Do you know God? Then look it. It ought to change this thing inside of you that is wild and no one can tame. It's the tongue. Remember?"
I said you can throw that wild beast into a cave, but sometimes it picks the lock, and it goes out. The only thing that will keep that tongue from really being abusive is not intellect. There are some very smart people, very degreed people who have very devilish tongues. There are some very orthodox people (in other words, in terms of what they believe) who speak with venom, hate, and a lack of kindness that James says shouldn't be there.
What can change a man is not his degrees. What can change a man is his death to self. What is impossible for man is possible with God. James spent those first 12 verses saying, "This is how I'm going to know that what's operating in you is not just intellect but wisdom that God alone provides and the power of God, which will control this beast no man can tame."
It is the very first sign. Watch this, because I want to show you James is sometimes put out there on an island like he is this "faith must work" guy. It is taught all through the Scripture. I'm going to show you one more time, because everybody loves Paul. Paul is the "We're saved by grace through faith alone." He is the guy who says we're saved by grace through faith, not as a result of works, so no man should boast.
In Ephesians, chapter 5, verse 18, I want you to see again what Paul is saying. This is the mark that you really possess a relationship with Jesus. He says don't be a guy controlled with wine. "And do not get drunk with wine…but be filled…" The idea of filled again is be controlled by the Spirit. He goes on to say this is what a Spirit-controlled person looks like. It changes the way you speak. You speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.
It changes your attitude and your heart. You're thankful for everything. You're not overwhelmed by trials or troubles. You know why they're there, so that you might sing in a world that doesn't believe songs can still be sung, because you know this world is not your home, you know why evil is here, and you know what's going to happen to evil. You always can give thanks, and death, disease, and despair do not rule your life.
Then watch this. It changes your tongue, it changes your attitude, and it changes your relationships. That's the last thing. Be subject to one another in love. Paul says if that's not happening, you might be deluded. You're drunk with an idea, but you are not being possessed by the Spirit. That's all you're going to see here in James, chapter 3, verses 13 through 18.
James is going to say back there in verse 13, "You want to tell me you're wise and you have understanding about what Jesus did? Show it to me by your deeds." Proverbs, chapter 20, verse 11 says, "It is by his deeds that a lad distinguishes himself if his conduct is pure and right." My oldest son has been on a journey to learn what it means to really walk with Jesus. One of the reasons a lot of us never really walk with Jesus in the way we should is that those closest to us don't really ask us to.
Now my son, who has been a great young man, has always told me this: "Dad, you wouldn't believe what people out there think about me. I'm good." He thinks because he has never been drunk with wine, because his paw prints aren't places they shouldn't be on other human beings, that he has been a spiritual person.
I keep telling him, "Coop, as you get older, you need to know this. Not getting drunk at the company Christmas party is not the mark of a devout follower of Jesus Christ. Here is the mark of a devout follower of Jesus Christ. Is there kindness, sweetness, truth, and encouragement on your tongue? Do you serve others when you see no benefit to yourself? Do you grieve sin not when you're caught but because you want to run after that which is good? Do you express gratitude?"
We've been talking a lot about that, and we have had an amazing recent number of months in terms of learning. I keep telling him, "Buddy, you can't just will yourself into this. You can't tame the flesh. You have to crucify the flesh, and you need to learn not just to want to be a good guy but to die to yourself that Christ might live. The best way for you to show me that's happening is to show me you're going to do that with the people you're most comfortable with, where it's hardest, because you're always with us."
I've said a thousand times, "Bro, the light that shines farthest is the light that shines brightest at home." We've been talking about this for a while. During these months, he has even said this to me. He goes, "You can't make me not love Jesus." I go, "Bro, I don't know if you're paying attention, but that's not what I'm trying to do. What I'm trying to share with you is that there is a need to see your love for Jesus evidenced in what you do."
I'm going to tell you yesterday morning I got up. His brother had a 7:30 scrimmage. He was out late. I said, "Hey, we want to go to that as a family. You know we go and support each other at these things." I go downstairs. Brother had been reading his Bible. He was cooking breakfast for himself. He was starting to do the dishes. I go, "Hey, man, that's awesome, but we have to go." I told him not to do the dishes.
We walked out. I get in my car. The gate opens to drive out. He sees there's a bag of trash we'd put out back but not taken. He runs and gets it without me asking him. He takes it, and he puts it in the trash. He gets in my car. He talks to me on the way to his brother's game. We're a little bit late. I said, "Hey, would you go park the car?" He goes, "I'd love to park the car."
I go, "Hey, let me look for a piece of gum." He goes, "Oh, Dad, I have some gum in my pocket. I'll just bring it." I looked over. I go, "Girlfriend, where have you been my whole life?" I was like, "Oh my gosh! That is a son who loves Jesus." He wasn't doing it so I would tell him that. I just encouraged him.
Throughout the day, there was some stuff that happened. I watched his text messages to his brothers and sisters. I just went, "Hey, man, you have been excellent. You have spurred me on today. You have encouraged me to be more like Christ today. That wasn't because you told me you love Jesus. I just watched it."
Proverbs 20:11: "It is by his deeds that a lad distinguishes himself…" That's the word justified. He "…distinguishes himself if his conduct is pure and right." That's all James is saying. "Do you know God? Show me. Show me!" That's what Jesus said, by the way, when he was confronted with the Pharisees. They were on him, and they were talking about his life and how it didn't look like a spiritual life should look like.
So Jesus in Matthew, chapter 11, ending in verse 19, just basically says this. He goes, "You keep doing what you're doing. I'll keep doing what I'm doing. Wisdom will vindicate itself, justify itself by his deeds. We'll see who the person is who loves God." One of those two gave himself for others. The other killed the man they thought was taking from them what they needed.
Verse 14: "But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and ** so **** lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic."** Wow! That's what you call going for it right there. He is just laying it out.
He is going to say if you want to have deeds that are filled with gentle wisdom… I love that little melody right there in verse 13. It's the right use of power with the right use of knowledge. That's what gentle wisdom is. You're going to find it completely in Jesus. What James is saying is, "We should find that completely in you. You are his body! If he is your head, then the body ought to do what the head wants done. This is what the head always did!"
Now look it. The body sometimes rebels, aches, and doesn't do things right, but James has already got that covered. That's why we're not saved by what we do. What he is saying is if you're attached to your head, it ought to look this way. There ought not to be guys who teach with bitter jealousy and selfish ambition.
This is what James' problem was early on in his life. In fact, if you go back and look at John, chapter 7, watch this. In verses 3 and 5, this is what was going on early in James' life. Don't you know this? He had a problem with Jesus, because Jesus grew up in his own home. How many times must he have heard, "James, why can't you be like your older brother?" James, whose heart was not regenerate, was constantly mocking Jesus, telling him he was taking too seriously this God idea.
Look at John 7:3 through 5. "Therefore His brothers said to Him, 'Leave here and go into Judea, so that Your disciples also may see Your works which You are doing.'" Mr. Big Shot. "For no one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.""Quitimpressing Mom!" "For not even His brothers were believing in Him."
James remembered what it was like. There was bitterness and selfish ambition when he didn't know who Jesus was. It's because he said, "I wasn't believing in him." If there is bitterness and selfish ambition, if we're about promoting ourselves, if the way we teach…
By the way, I want to say this. You know, this week I had the privilege to go and speak to my friends at The Village Church in all their campuses. They asked me to come over. I got to talk to their Dallas Campus, their Flower Mound Campus, their Denton Campus, their Fort Worth Campus. They're opening in Plano (far from where we are, in another area of Plano), which we're so thrilled about.
I love what happens. You know, I just talked to them about how I emailed out our staff, and I just said to our staff, "A number of months ago, I committed to do this with my friends at The Village. Just pray for this today."
I got email after email from my staff that said, "Tell them we love them. Tell them how proud we are to be representing Jesus in this town with them. Tell them we have friends who are being discipled, encouraged, equipped, and unleashed at The Village. Tell them we love their zeal for truth, and their zeal for truth is being manifest in their actions and participation of serving others and sharing the gospel in this city."
I love what they tweeted out from The Village. "Grateful to have @wordsfromwags with us to encourage our staff. #sameteam." Isn't that awesome? I love that! I told them, "You guys are our brothers." When we pray for Christ to change people in the city, let me ask you a question. Do you want to see Christ change your city or do you want to see Christ change your city through Watermark?
I don't care who Christ uses to change the city. I hope he uses every single devoted follower of Christ. But if he is going to use every single devoted follower of Christ, he has to use us! This is where we are, and so you hear us talking a lot about Watermark, because this is the body of Christ gathered here. There's one 10 miles away, 30 miles away, 80 miles away.
There's a part of the body of Christ that we gather under this teaching and exhortation in Fort Worth. By God's will and grace, there's going to be one in Plano. We don't know where yet. That's up to you to respond if we can get the particular place right now with us in the next several weeks, but it's going to happen up there somewhere. We just have to figure out where. The reasons for that are going to be shared increasingly with you in the weeks ahead.
Bottom line is listen, gang. I want to tell you something. I don't care how Jesus makes himself more famous in other people's lives. I just want him to do it. When I pray that God changes the city, I don't pray he changes it through Watermark. I pray Watermark (because that's what I'm a part of) would be a part of that.
That's not selfish ambition or bitterness. Tell me another place where God is at work like The Village, and you'll find me celebrating, investing in them, doing everything I can to help them be more of what Jesus wants them to be. When you have folks who are trying to say, "It's about me," that's a problem, James says. That's a problem.
Watch this. "This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic." I keep wanting to show you this. In Ephesians, chapter 2, verses 1 through 3, I want you to see if anything looks familiar here. This is Ephesians 2:1 through 3. Paul says, "And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked…" Watch this. "…according to the course of this world…"
What would you call that? Earthly. Not just the course of this world but "…according to the prince of the power of the air…" What would you call that? Demonic. "…that is now working in the sons of disobedience." What would you call that? Natural man. He is saying, "That's the way you used to live before Jesus saved you from being earthly, natural, demonic."
I keep showing you this because I want to show you the Bible harmonizes. James and Paul are not enemies fighting each other. They are friends back to back taking on different foes of the gospel, but they both are saying the same thing. Jesus said the same thing. "I love that you say you believe in me, but it has to evidence itself in the way you go forward."
"For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist…" There are those words again that were up there in verse 14. "…there is disorder and every evil thing." But when God shows up, there is always restoration. There's always beauty. What is dark, formless, and void because there is judgment, God enters into and brings order, beauty, restoration. That's what God does. He takes dead men, and he makes them alive. He takes ashes and makes them beautiful. That's what he does.
James is just saying, "Church, there ought to be a sweet, fragrant aroma here. People ought to not walk up and run into black-tongue, Brussels sprouts-smelling people." By the way, guess what? Sometimes you cook Brussels sprouts. Okay? Sometimes we do things that are "Brussels sprout-ish." Do you know what you should do? Post a note on your door like I did, and just confess, "That is not the normal smell which comes out of me. I'm cooking Brussels sprouts, and it was nasty. I confess it to you, and I want you to know the origin of that odor."
James is going to say that's confession. Just let people know. Hey, everybody has some Brussels sprouts in their menu, in their diet, in their living. We're not perfect. I'm going to show you what the holy one of God should smell like in a moment. I'm going to tell you there is plenty of Brussels sprouts B.O. still in my life, but I don't just act as if everybody is going to put up with it, and I certainly don't make it the Wagner family smell.
The reputation of us ought to be that we are loving, but here's the deal. I had a buddy who taught this text, and he gave an illustration about the Zippy dog food company. Okay? You know, the Zippy dog food company is a company where the brand manager was talking to all of his people, and he basically said, "Do we not have the best dog food in the country?" They all go, "Yeah!"
"Do we not have the best shipping and distribution in the country for dog food?"
"Oh, yeah, we do."
"Do we not have the best advertising and marketing in the country?"
"Do we not have the best sales force for dog food in the country? Then why are we 15 out of 17 dog foods?" There was a first-year guy in the back who said, "Well, because the dogs don't like us."
That's just like the church, isn't it? What we're serving up… "Do we not have the holy inspired Word of God as our Holy Book? Do we not have a High Priest who can sympathize with our weakness, who offered a sacrifice before the very throne of God? Is not the work we express and talk about completely finished and done? Then why do we have 1,200 seats," he said, "and 200 people?"
Because the dogs don't like us. Because there's bitterness, anger, selfish ambition, and a lack of covenant commitment to each other. Jesus says, "May it never be." That's James. That's what he is trying to tell you. Here's what he is going to do. Watch this in verse 17 and following. "But the wisdom from above is first pure…" Let me just say this. That is the very first thing we have to make sure we do.
I was sharing with a guy this week about what we're trying to do here, and I just said, "Look. We're never going to compromise with what God gave us. The Word of God is our authority, our conscience, and our guide. We're going to be firm where it's firm." The Word of God is holy. That's what that word means.
It's not like anything else. It is pure and set apart. It is always uncompromisingly true, and we can't bend on that. There are going to be some people who call us people who speak with hate because of that. I just would say to them as lovingly as I can, "Hey, listen. Truth sounds like hate to those who hate the truth."
Notice if I say it in a rancorous way… This is why Colossians, chapter 4, verses 5 and 6 ought to be just central to everything we do. Colossians tells us to make sure we, "Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders [the dogs] , making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to every person."
When we talk about truth, we have to learn to do it in a winsome, loving way. What we don't want to do is change the message to reach people. We have to take the never-changing message to an ever-changing people. When we take it, we have to take it with grace, with love, and with constant stories of God's delivering us. We're not better than they are. We're not even smarter than they are. God has just quickened our heart and allowed us to believe what no one would believe unless God pursued them in a unique way.
All we want to do is sow the Word of God into their life that they might have it implanted in their souls and be, by his grace, redeemed the way we have been. The Word of God, he says in verse 17, is "…first pure, then peaceable…" Truth is what makes peace. If you tamper with the purity of God's Word, it will not make for peace. Let me just say this again to you guys. Love without truth is not love. When you try and love somebody and you just take back truth, that's not loving. Truth without love is never heard.
The church sometimes just thinks because it has truth, it can just go boom! boom! There is no seasoned with salt in what it says. You ought to know God's Word, and you ought to absolutely be fearless in declaring it, be willing to be hated for it. You'll do everything you can with humility, winsomeness, and wisdom to share it.
I will tell you, tolerance where people are concerned is a real virtue. "I'm going to love you no matter what you do." But tolerance where truth is concerned is a tragedy. When you're intolerant of people and hateful toward people, that's a problem. Now that doesn't mean we condone what they do, but we're very quick to say, "I myself have been redeemed by grace. Because I love you, I have to tell you the truth." Truth is what makes peace. You can't love somebody and not tell them the truth.
It's not just peaceable. It's gentle. It's velvet steel. That's what Carl Sandburg, Lincoln's primary biographer, called Lincoln. He was gentle and meek. He had velvet steel. I love the story of a guy who was like that. That word meek is just such a powerful word. It's strength informed by wisdom.
There was a guy who his neighbor had found his horse in his pasture. He put him in the pound. He bumped into that guy in the middle of town later that afternoon. He said, "I saw your horse last night on my land, and I took your horse. I put it in the pound. If I find him in my land again, I'll put him right back there."
The guy walked over to him and said, "Come here. Just by chance, the other night I found all your cattle in my field. I loaded them up, and I drove them back over to your place. I put them in the pen, and I fixed your gate. I drove back home. If I find them on my land again, I'm going to do the exact same thing." The guy was so blown away that he went, and he got that horse out of the pound and just put it back in there.
That is power. That is gentleness and wisdom. He had the right to be angry and go, "What kind of neighbor are you?" He just said, "I'm going to just model for you love, man. I'm going to take that anger, that spite, and the guy who treats me the way I don't treat him, and I'm going to love him." That's that gentleness that is there. That's what God does. We rage against God. God just dies for us. It's reasonable. He can be approached and listen.
You know, this week your elders met with a group of men we asked to advise us with real estate and business dealings here because we're not the real estate experts. We're not the business experts. They wanted to share with us about some things they were asking us and wanted us to do that maybe they felt like we hadn't done.
We sat with them, and we listened. We sought counsel from them. We said, "What do you guys think we should do in these situations?" We didn't just say, "We're the elders." We just said, "No, we want to be shepherded, listen, and be wise. We want you to see we're reasonable." Now there are some things we might do business-wise that don't make sense because we think there's something that is better to do.
One of those things is to go ahead and pay for land we were originally going to occupy until we can sell it because this church had given it to us thinking we were going to use it until we found a better piece of land that was better stewardship. They went, "You guys don't have to do that."
"I know we don't have to do that, but this is why we felt like we should. We had given our word."
"Well, you shouldn't have given your word before that thing was closed."
"Okay, now maybe you have a point there. Here's why we did."
"Okay, well, I understand why you did, but still. We're not sure we would have let you do that."
We just asked their forgiveness. We told them what our plan was. We asked them to help inform that plan. Reasonableness. Full of mercy and good fruits. Unwavering. I could spend all day talking about these. Without hypocrisy. Let me just do it to you this way. Just to wrap up, let me just show you how Jesus is all of these things.
The Word of God is pure. Jesus is without sin. The Word of God is peaceable. Jesus is called the Prince of Peace. The Word of God is gentle. Jesus says, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. …I am gentle and humble in heart… For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
The wisdom of God is full of mercy and good fruits. Luke talks about how he is merciful and kind to ungrateful men. Abounding in loving-kindness is what is said of him. Unwavering. He never backs off, even in the face of the cross. That's what Jesus did. Without hypocrisy. Jesus, when he was talking to the Pharisees at one point, said, "Which one of you convicts me of doing wrong? Does anybody see me saying one thing and doing another? Anybody, ever?"
What you're seeing is James is saying, "Be like your brother. Let the Spirit which created, made, and informed your brother inform you." Verse 18: "And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace." That's what you do. Sow that seed of peace.
Let me just close with this. When you go back and look at your Old Testament and you come across the high priest, what you're going to see is the high priest was adorned in white linen, covered by a robe of sky blue. He had a turban with sky blue on it and a golden crown that said, "Holy unto the Lord." That little robe had bells on the bottom of it and little pomegranates that were made.
Exodus tells us in chapter 30 there was a perfume that was put on the high priest that God said, "No one should ever make this perfume or put it on anybody except my representative." That perfume was of cinnamon and cane sugar. When he showed up, he was glorious in what he was adorned with. He had little gentle bells. It was just sweet in the coming. Like what you think of an ice cream truck, he was this gentle blowing coming of bells, glorious presence, and a "sweet, cinnamon sugar grandma's kitchen around Christmas" smell.
Jesus says, "That's my high priest. That's who represents me." That's what James is saying. When you show up, it ought to be just this glorious life redeemed by God with gentle bells and a sweet aroma of Christ. James says, "May it never be that we are black-tongue, Brussels-sprouts, angry people."
Father, I pray we would be your people who are called by your name who walk in accordance with you. We walk in the way you would have us walk. We live in the way you would have us live so that just like we long to get in Grandma's kitchen around Christmas because the smell is just so, so seductive, sweet, and pleasant, that aroma would inform this city and this world, and people would want to know the source of what we're baking.
We would tell them it is the work of the glory of God manifesting itself in our lives. I thank you, Lord, we don't have to be perfect. When Brussels sprouts make its way out, we can just put a sign up and go, "That was me. Don't think that was God." By your grace, may it continue to increase in our lives so others will know you are our portion and our great reward, and we abide with you. Would you do that? In Jesus' name, amen.
Jesus said, "If you love me, then love my sheep. Do what I would do if I were there. It's better I go because now the Spirit who indwelled in me because you've been reconciled to God, that Spirit of peace can be yours. You can go love the way I've loved when I was here." That's all James is saying. "Go be my church. Go be my body. Go complete what is lacking in Christ's affliction, suffering for the world because it's not your home."
If you're here this morning, we want to love God by loving you and just telling you the pure and peace of the Word of God. We want to declare to you that there is nothing you can ever do to make your life sweet enough that Jesus wants it in his kitchen. He gave himself for you. James is thoroughly convinced as Paul is convinced as Jesus declared that Christ alone (as we began our whole service today) is the means through which you could be reconciled to God, know of the love of God, receive that love of God. His Son offered for you.
If his Son has been offered for you and you have received that (you're not just committed to the idea, but you submit to him in love relationship, as is appropriate and what he calls you to do), then live with that great reward of the sweetness of Christ informing everything you do, not with a black tongue or Brussels-sprouts heart but with the beautiful feet of God, little, sweet bells and cinnamon and cane-sugar strength for the glory of God.
Adorn yourself as his people. Don't just get on an unimportant circular trip till next Sunday. Let's go to work. Let's be his people. Let's worship him. Come, let us tell you of Jesus. Go, and worship him. Take care.