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The first casualty of sin is relationships. God created us to be in a relationship with Him, yet we allow the pleasures of this world to come between us. "God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble." The solution to this brokenness is to submit to God as God, confess our sins and return to Him.
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
I got my friends who help me make this morning fun for you all to put cinnamon in the room, but I could not get them to put Johnny Cash behind that bumper just yet. I'm working on it. That little Johnny Cash song that really became, if you will, the impetus for how we titled the book of James; that famous song "Walk the Line," where Johnny Cash says, "Because you're mine, I walk the line." "I changed. My life is different because of my love for you."
That's what the book of James is saying. Do you love God? Do you know him? Are you aware of what he has done? Then walk the line. You don't walk the line so God eventually approves you as worthy of being loved. No. God has radically expressed his love to you. He has offered his mercy, and you have received it, so now you are responding. This is not performance-based acceptance. This is not works save us. This is acceptance-based performance.
This is the faith, which is the faith of God in us, always produces in us a transformation and a work. James is reminding the early church what that work should look like. He said, "May it never be said of us that we are part of a dead religion that has no effect, that doesn't care for the poor, oppressed, and under-resourced." I was so encouraged this week. I was talking to friends who were serving just three miles east of us where our little clinic is in partnership with QuestCare.
They talked about how five or six different nationalities came in, had different medical needs addressed, and every single one of them was personally loved, had the gospel presented to them, was cared for, and they were treated individually, spiritually and physically. I love how so many of you are invested in that mission over there. I love how you're invested in West Dallas and other places where the under-resourced are.
I love how under-resourced people have been assimilated into this body and that we share what we have with one another for the glory of God, following the servant example of our leader. James is saying, "May we never have a dead religion that doesn't care for the widow and the orphan, that's made up of people who are filled with prejudice and preference and favoritism, where the tongue is wild and loose and the teaching is not pure and where the tongue doesn't create a place where people can peaceably and lovingly learn what righteousness is."
That's James 1, 2, and 3. Today we get to James 4, and this is one of those sections of the Bible that if you read just by yourself you might go, "Okay, I can get something from that." This is kind of "cookies on the bottom shelf" stuff. Sometimes you kind of read a section and go, "Man, I need somebody to go over that with me or I'm not going to get anything." Almost any of us could get something out of today, because James speaks with imperative language.
At the very end of it, James 4:7-10, he's going to give us 10 things even a 5-year-old understands that you should do if you love God. We'll get to those, but let me start by telling you that what James is going to say here is the tongue that isn't tame produces a life that is lame. In effect, it's like if you don't teach well and kindly and teach truth, people are not going to know what truth is or they're not going to respond to truth.
I said last week love without truth is not love, and truth without love will be truth that is not heard. James is telling us we want to make sure we're people who appropriately teach God's truth and do it in a way that's consistent with God's nature. But now he's going to get to it. In James, chapter 4, you're going to start to see him very pastorally address the church and say, "Some things are not as they should be among you. There are quarrels and conflicts."
I love words, because when you start to understand the origins of words, where they come from, sometimes they just pop a little bit more. The word we find in James 4:1, where it says, "What is the source of quarrels…" is polemos. We get the English word polemic from that. What is a polemic? A polemic is an argument or a presentation you make to defeat another idea.
It can be a noun ("That's just a polemic") or it can be an adjective (a polemic argument), which basically means the way you do that is very decisive and strategic so that others would listen to what you're saying and understand it as truer than the opposing idea. It is a word that represents a major war.
What James is going to say is, "Listen. There is a major war among you, and then there are these little individual conflicts among you." Bitter, nasty, individual battles between this wider war. James is saying, "That's not the way it should be." He just got through saying that if we're God's people we ought to be instruments of his peace.
Jesus says, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." James said the tongue that is informed by God's Word sows peace and bears the fruit of righteousness in a peaceable way. Now he's writing to the early church and saying, "Hey, why are there factions and schisms and quarrels and broken relationships all among you?"
If you go back and look at the very first consequence or the very first tragedy, the very first thing that was compromised when sin came into the world, you'll find out it was relationship. That was the very first casualty of sin. Relationship is always the casualty of sin. Man was in fellowship with God. Man decided to offend God by ascribing to him things that were not true, that he wasn't good, that he wasn't trustworthy, so that relationship with God was broken.
God came after man because he's a loving and gracious God and wants to reconcile man to God. He said, "Adam, where are you?" Not because he didn't know where Adam was but because Adam himself was now lost and didn't know what to do because he was separated from the good God. And what did Adam do? He's saying, "Well, I'll tell you where I am. I'm in a world of hurt because the woman you gave me screwed this deal up."
To which the woman said, "Well, the guy you gave me, who you told what to do, didn't communicate to me clearly. You gave me some passive, weak male, and now I'm screwed up. By the way, that guy you told us was a deceiver and a liar? You didn't tell us he would disguise himself as something friendly." So there are all kinds of conflict right there in Genesis. Relationship is always the first and greatest casualty of sin.
One of the things you're going to find about James is James is going to faithfully share with you what Jesus shared with you. I'm going to show you this. In Matthew 19:3-9 there are some guys who come to test Jesus. They're trying to humiliate him and get some people against him, because his rising influence and fame was beginning to threaten them and even call into question their fitness for leadership.
There were two schools of thought within the Pharisees, the religious leaders of that day, about marriage. Some believed you should always stay married almost no matter what, and others believed if the wife burnt the toast you could basically move on. If she burns the toast, Match.com is your next stop. They knew if they asked Jesus this, no matter how he answered he was going to offend at least half of those groups.
Now before I read this, I want to say this to you. We don't and haven't done a good job historically in the broader church. I am proud of the way Watermark, the last 15 years, has addressed relationships and marriage. We're always very gentle here when we talk about this topic, because many of us have in the past made choices that have brought destruction to our family relationships. Father/son, father/daughter, brother/sister, husband/wife.
Sometimes, though, the church is so eager to be sensitive toward people who have gone through a broken relationship we have failed to teach appropriately a biblical view of love and marriage. As a result of that, I think, rightly, some of our friends who struggle with sexual identity have come after us and said, "Why do you care so much about marriage and that we marry? You haven't cared about marriage for years.
You let people divorce and remarry habitually. You guys have this thing called irreconcilable differences, where you blow up marriage and you get along, or you take one section of Scripture that has this thing called an exception clause and make that the rule for everything. Like if somebody offends you in this one area, you can just move on." The reason our country is suffering is the disintegration of the family.
The reason the family is disintegrating is that the church has not taught the family what it is. It hasn't raised up godly daddies, godly husbands, godly mamas, and godly wives. We've let our flesh and our little petty differences turn into wars and conflicts, so we have massive problems in the family unit, and they say, "You guys talk about what a big deal marriage is, and yet you have not rightly defended marriage." I think they're right.
I think the biggest problem with marriage in America is not that the homosexuals want to call what they're doing marriage. The biggest problem is that the church doesn't teach people who know God and who are to be reconciled to one another in peace and know that marriage is not about making me happy but about helping me be holy and that it be a picture of the holiness of God in his triune nature as you live in mutual submission, love, and commitment to one another. We disintegrate that and move on.
One of the things James is going to say is that shouldn't be the characteristic of the church. Now where did he get that idea? Watch this. James is going to tell you the source of the quarrels and conflicts among you is your individual, hedonistic worldview. It's your pleasure. It's your love for self. That's the word for pleasure: hedone. It's where we get the word hedonism. It's sin in you that wages war in your members.
The word for wage war is strateuo. If you're a kid, if you're a guy, you've probably played the game Stratego. Have you ever heard of the game Stratego? Stratego is for people who are too dumb to play chess, so you get a bunch of little plastic guys with numbers on them. (Now you're with me. "Oh yeah. The dumb guy's chess game.") It's called Stratego because it means to make war. It's how you go after the enemy.
What James is going to say is, "Listen. Your sin is going after what God intends. Your fallen nature is making war against God's intention of redemption and transformation in your heart. Sin is the reason you guys are having problems." Note to self. Every single problem you have is a sin problem. Every relational problem you have… It's not a marital problem. It's not a personality difference. It's a sin problem.
Watch this. Matthew 19. I told you I'd take you there. Let's see if Jesus agrees. They say, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?" I'm going to read you Jesus' response, and I'm going to ask you to summarize it in one word.
"Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh '? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." Period.
You now answer me in one word. "Hey, Jesus, is it permissible for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?" No. This causes a great confusion amongst them, because they knew that in the Mosaic law Moses told them, if a man was going to divorce a wife, to give her a public declaration. "I'm not going to be the man in this covenant relationship I told you I would be, so I'm going to move on."
It was to protect the woman. It was to allow her to be free to remarry, because in that ancient Near Middle East society that woman's sustenance, protection, and provision were to be identified by the covering and protection of that man. When that man was not caring for her, Moses is saying, "You have to declare you're out on that woman and she's back on the market."
They asked Jesus this question. "Okay, wait a minute. Why, then, did Moses have us give her a certificate of divorce and send her away?" Verse 8: "Because of your hardness of heart Moses [informed by God] permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way." Give me a one-word answer for why divorce is permitted according to Jesus. Sin. "Because you're hard-hearted, sinful people. Because you're hedonists who won't listen to me."
From the very beginning, it was never supposed to be that way. It was never supposed to be about you. Marriage, by the way, exists not for us to be able to sexually express our passions for one another. Marriage exists for the good of society and for the benefit of children, which is why we don't define marriage by what we want to do.
Sociologists will tell you this. People who have no interest in honoring God's Word will tell you that children who live in a home with a biological mother and a biological father who care for each other and love each other… Those children prosper more than children in any other home. Two daddies are not as good as a mommy and a daddy. A mommy is not as good as a mommy and a daddy.
Gang, we have to just acknowledge that, which is why when we get in the middle of something and it's hard, we don't just go, "This is hard. I'm going to bail out." My Bible tells you to take up your cross daily and follow him. My Bible tells you to not grow weary in doing good (this is not about you), to do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit. It's the opposite of hedonism.
I hear again and again people say, "Oh man, I'm out. This is no longer what I got in this thing for." I would tell you if you're a believer, the Scriptures make it very clear you don't do anything for you…you don't eat, you don't drink, you don't marry, and you don't divorce. You do everything for the glory of God.
The Bible says God hates divorce. Why? Because he loves kids. He loves society. He loves you. It never says he hates divorcees. God takes very seriously those who tamper with his righteousness, but he's a God of grace. We can teach grace, but we still have to hold up the ideal and what God calls us to, and we have to help each other be what God wants us to be.
I believe the reason marriage is compromised in this country is that the church has been ineffective in making disciples, not because a radical group that makes up about 2 percent of our nation want to redefine marriage. Let me just tell you one more time, serial monogamy, where I marry, divorce, and marry another and divorce her and marry another, is not monogamy.
We just have to love each other enough to say, "Look, gang. God wants us to live in peace with one another. Blessed are the peacemakers." That's who Jesus was. James is saying to the church, "What are all of these wars and irreconcilable differences that are happening? I'll tell you what's happening. You're living according to your flesh, and your flesh is making war against you. That's not the way you're supposed to live."
Verse 2: "You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel." Let me remind you that James is a realist. He doesn't want you to act like you don't have desires. We're not supposed to act like we have no sexual desire. There have been religious leaders in the past who have said sexual desire is the beginning of all sin. No, it's not. Sexual desire is a gift from God.
Our problem is not that we want rest. We're designed to want rest. Our problem is not that we want to eat. We're designed to need food. Our problem is not that we want to be glorious. We're designed to be made in the image of God. Here's our problem: we try and satisfy our desire for food with overeating and gluttony and make food our comfort, and we meet this God-given need in a God-forbidden way.
In other words, we take the wisdom from below to inform a need God says we have. James is saying, "Don't do that. Let your Father tell you how to meet that need." We have sex and we gratify our sexual need through pornography or illicit immorality. "No, don't do that. This is where sex is really good…without guilt, without shame, without disease, without problems. I love sex. I invented sex. Sex should be this way," God says.
We take our need for rest and turn it into laziness. We take our need for glory and turn it into self-exaltation and oppression of others. God says, "May it never be. You want to be glorious? This is the path to glory." James isn't telling you to suppress your desires; he's telling you to inform your desires with the God you say you know.
What he's saying to the early church is, "If you say you know God, then you won't listen to your flesh because you know your flesh led you away from God, your flesh led to sin and death, and you know God pursued you in your sin and death and has rescued you and brought you back into relationship with him and you know he's good and, oh, how he loves you. So lay down your life. Walk the line."
James is saying, "Hey, church, you're not doing that. You, as a kingdom of priests, are confusing people, because the world doesn't know your God is who he says he is because you don't look like you know that God." Do you see why this is the first letter to the church? One of the things that drives me crazy is that you have to come into church and act like you don't have these crazy sexual desires or act like other humans don't annoy you sometimes. They do. We annoy each other. We're annoying.
Whenever I marry somebody I say, "Hey, you need to know something. You are marrying a notoriously unpredictable person. It's called a male." I say to the male, "You need to know something. You are marrying a notoriously unpredictable person. It's called a female. Just so you know, male, marriage is not one big sexual bonanza, and, female, it's not one long meaningful conversation.
So you guys are going to have to figure this thing out together, and you're going to have to put aside your desire to sex it up all the time or just to hold hands and walk and rewatch some Tom Hanks movie. You're going to need Jesus or this isn't going to work, but with Jesus it ought to work. If it's not working, it's because you have a spiritual problem. You don't need to go to a counselor and get some wild insight into your family of origin. You need to get on your knees and confess sin."
I'll throw this in here right now. There is one piece of your family of origin you need to know. Here's a little theology for you. When theologians, people who love the Word of God, are trying to communicate what God's Word says about why our desires wage war against what God wants, we have to all try and figure out, "Okay, so why are we sinful people? Is it nature or is it nurture?" The answer is it's our nature that has been nurtured by other naturally rebellious people.
We go back to Adam. The question becomes…If all men sinned in Adam, as Romans 5 clearly teaches, how are we guilty if Adam is the one who screwed up? In other words, was Adam our federal or representative head? A lot of people go, "Because Adam sinned in God's presence and he represented all of humanity, all of humanity has been judged." People go, "That ain't fair! I don't want no damnation without representation. That ain't right. I didn't vote for Adam."
The federal representative view is saying that Adam represented all of humanity. There's another view. It's called the seminal view. The word semen… That's where we get seminal from. When you have a seminal truth, it's a central, beginning thought of great importance. That's why you go to seminary. You study original truth, the seed of light. That's why it's called seminary. It's why it's called semen. It's the Latin word straight up. It's a transliteration. It means seed. That's what semen is.
The seminal view of Adam is that all of us were present in Adam, so when Adam sinned we were there with him, and Adam and Eve, when they brought forth children… Because what was the law God gave them in Genesis 1? He said, "You should be fruitful and multiply." When God said that, he told this to two people who knew God, who loved God, who walked with God, who cared for each other, who were instruments of peace, and they were to bring forth other people who loved God, knew God, loved each other, and walked with God.
They were to fill the earth with those people and subdue it, bring the earth into subjection to the kind rule of God. But what happens when Mommy and Daddy become selfish, unwise, informed by the wisdom from below of rebellion people? They produce people after their kind. That's why you don't have to teach a kid to be selfish. They are born sinners. You are naughty by nature, and you are raised by parents who are not perfect either. My kids' parents aren't perfect. My parents weren't perfect. Your parents might have been more imperfect than mine. It doesn't matter.
What you need to do is realize, "At the end of the day, I'm going to break this chain, and I'm going to go, 'I am sick and tired of being sick and tired,' and I'm going to go and find healing and grace from God. I'm going to become part of another family, a family that is redeemed, a family that knows how to love, a family that knows how to die for itself, a family whose father is a servant, sacrificial leader who is unconditional in his care for me." That's the church.
James is saying, "Why are you acting like the person who wasn't born again and grafted into the righteousness of God? That's what the world does, not who you are." Verse 2: "You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask." This is an interesting little section. "You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures."
You might be thinking, "Okay, so that's what I have to do? I have to ask God for more concubines and I'll get them? I have to ask God for a wife who understands that a man can be moody and angry and selfish?" No, no, no. What James 4 is saying is simply this: "You ask God for the means to get life apart from God, so you don't get what you're asking for, because God can't give you what doesn't exist."
In other words, God is the all-sufficient, kind delight of every human heart. He's the desire of nations, the Scripture says. We go to God and say, "God, would you please give me a better job, a better car, a nicer wife? Please let me lose that 10 pounds. Please let that promotion come through," as if all of those things will give us what we want so our flesh will be satisfied, but the flesh is never satisfied.
In Matthew, chapter 7, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, "Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. You're wicked. You would never have a son who asked for a loaf and give him a stone. I'm your good Father. I'm not going to give you something bad if you ask for something good."
But I'll tell you what else Jesus says. "I can't give you what doesn't exist. You're asking for life, significance, glory, satisfaction, and peace apart from me, and that doesn't exist. Your motive is not to come and know me but to find life apart from me, and that life isn't there." What James would tell you is, "When you go to the Father, ask him for intimacy. Ask him for more of him."
I don't know if you believe this or not, but until you believe this statement you don't know the God of the Scriptures. Here's the statement: the person who has God and everything else has no more than the person who has God only. Do you believe that? Let me say that again. The person who has God and everything else has no more than the person who has only God. Another way to say that is God plus nothing equals everything. He is enough.
That's Psalm 37:4. "Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart." **That doesn't mean if you go to church, if you support the new work in Plano, if you stay married, if you read The Journey every day you can ask God for whatever you want, because you have been a good guy or girl, and he'll give it to you. No. What it means is a continuation of Psalm 37:3, which says,"Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord ; and He will give you** [what you're looking for] ."
Nobody else can give you what you're looking for except the Lord. He alone is your satisfaction. Mick Jagger would tell you you can't get satisfaction anywhere. Bono would tell you no matter how famous you are, you won't find what you're looking for until you find the one who is the all-sufficient, perfect lover God. James is saying, "Your problem is you guys are all asking God for things to make you happy when God is the satisfier. He is the delight of your heart. When you really know him for who he is, that's enough."
Look at what it says. In verse 4 he's going to kind of cut right through this thing. James has all along been saying, "My brethren, my brethren, my brethren," and then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, he says, "You adulteresses!" Wow. The reason he does that is he wants to cut through all the fluff and just tell you, "This is what you're doing when you say you love God and that he alone is your glory, he alone is the satisfaction, he alone is righteousness, and then you go and try to find satisfaction and delight and provision in other things."
What kind of person does that, says he loves one and gives his heart to another, says he has a covenant relationship with one and yet gives all of his strength to another? An adulterer. I have a guy right now whom I love who has been unfaithful to his wife, carrying on in illicit relationships with other women. Finally, we said, "Bro, you are an adulterer." He goes, "Don't you call me that!" I go, "What?" It was just out of the blue.
He goes, "I'm not an adulterer." I go, "What are you?" "Right now, maybe I'm a sex addict. I'm sleeping with other women." I go, "No, you are an adulterer." He was offended. He was okay saying he has a sex problem. He was okay saying his pornography addiction had taken a little leap over to real-life things. When we called him an adulterer, it all of a sudden shook him. He goes, "I am not an adulterer." I go, "Oh, yes, you are."
By the way, this is why when you confess sin you want to be very specific. Don't say you just struggle with pornography. Say, "I am consistently conceiving lust in my heart and having in my mind sex with another woman. I am being unfaithful to what is right and pure. I objectify women. I abuse women.
I don't mind that they suffer for my own perverted, temporary pleasure, because it's all about me. When I watch porn and pay for it, I am producing porn. I am a producer of pornography. When I send sex messages to another gal, I am a director and a pornographer." Don't say you struggle with porn. Go ahead and say what it really is.
You go, "I'll look at porn, but I'm not going to make porn. I'm not going to produce porn. I'm not going to be a porn actor. I'm not going to make girls go into pornography." Oh yes, you are. That's what you're doing. It ought to shake you. When you speak truth, the Word of God pierces through joint and marrow, soul and spirit, to where it hits you like, "Oh my gosh! How did this happen?"
James is not being mean here. Last week, somebody wrote down on a First Impressions, "Why is Todd so angry?" I am not angry. (I will be angry if you keep writing anonymous things and don't tell me who you are so I can talk to you. That'll make me angry.) Sometimes I'm just going, "Hey, gang, this is the truth," and I'll say it with passion. It's like James who loves these people. He's just grabbing them.
"You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." I've told you all along all James is trying to do is be faithful to Jesus. This is Matthew 6:24. "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other."
James is saying, "Which is it, church?" Isn't this what the whole world says about the church? "Hey, you guys go and sing love songs to Jesus, but you don't love Jesus. You're out here committing adultery with me." James is just saying, "Hey, let's not confuse them. Let's not be adulteresses. Let's be faithful."
Here comes one of the most difficult verses in the whole book of James to translate. Verse 5 says, "Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: 'He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us'?" Let me give you three options for how this could be translated. If you have an NIV it says one thing. If you have an ESV it says another. If you have the NAS it says yet another thing.
Here are three different options. Here's one of them. It could be translated this way: "Do you think that the spirit which God made to dwell in us is filled with envy?" In other words, the way that would be translated is, "The unholy spirit, which comes into us, that separates from God so we don't have the Holy Spirit in us is the reason we have envy." That's one way to look at it.
Another way is to say it this way: "Do you think the Spirit of God in us is what is responsible for our bitterness and envy?" In other words, he's saying to the church here, "Hey, come on. Think about it. If the Holy Spirit is in you, it wouldn't be envious and bitter and rancorous the way you are, so that must not be within you."
Then there's a third way, which is this: "Do you think the Scriptures say this for no reason?" In other words, I would say it, "You'd better pay attention to the Scriptures. They speak the way they speak for a purpose. Don't you know God jealously wants and yearns for you to abide with him and he loves you enough to discipline you, if that's what it takes, because he doesn't want you tramping around?"
So what God will do is if you want to go somewhere else to have your needs met, he'll let you go that way. This is a great verse. It's in Psalm 106. It says he gave Israel the desires of their hearts… There it wasn't a desire for God; it was a desire to be like all of the other nations. It says he gave Israel the desires of their hearts, but he sent leanness to their souls.
Let me ask you a question. How are you doing? If you're a person whose life is not defined by abiding joy, by a sense of goodness and peace… In other words, if there is despair, nervousness, overwhelming fear, doubt, insecurity, anxiety, I really believe that is directly related to your understanding of God and your intimate abiding with him. He is letting you go over here and try to find life in some other way that you cope or that you manage.
Here's the thing. The wisdom of the world is when you go there… "Oh, let's just talk about that. Let's get you over here to this doctor. Oh, let's make your anxiety a little less of a problem. Let's give you this medication. Let's have you deal with your sour state with this medication so you don't experience the symptoms of that." I really believe that a lot of times what we're doing is helping people stay in a spot where God wants them to be so they would go, "This is not where I want to be."
Pain is a gift, and it makes you realize, "Something is not right." That's why James is about to tell you this. It's like a guy who walks in to see a doctor and says, "Doc, when I do this it hurts," and the doctor will go, "Well, stop doing that." James is saying to the church, "Hey, your lives are a mess. You have anxiety and despair. You want to know if suicide is permissible. Stop that. Run to God. Know him, because God loves you, and he'll let you experience pain apart from him."
So what do you do? Here's the great news. Justice and consequence to sin are really there, but God's grace is greater still. Verse 6: "… God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. " In other words, here is the solution to sin. Don't medicate it. Don't manage it. Don't redefine it so it's not painful. Acknowledge that you have been living a way that's inconsistent with your loving Father and go, "No wonder my life is screwed up. I'm going to stop running my life."
There's a way that will seem right to me, including going to my Dad and saying, "Dad, I don't want to live in relationship with you anymore, but I'd like to have something you could give me so I can be really happy." He says, "I'm not giving it to you because you ask with the wrong motives. You ask with the motive of getting life apart from God." There is no life apart from God. He can't give you what doesn't exist.
He says, "There's greater grace. He's opposed to the proud." It's just a paraphrase of Proverbs 3:34, which says he scoffs at scoffers but gives grace to the afflicted. Are you afflicted? Are you here this morning and you're just tired? You're sick and tired of being tired? Well, guess what? Maybe you're ready to tap out and just go, "I give. I uncle. I'll follow you." Watch this. Here come the 10 different imperatives: submit, resist, draw, cleanse, purify, be miserable, mourn, weep (at your sin), turn to him, and humble yourself. Let me talk about them very briefly.
Submit. That's the word hypotassō. Hypo (under), tassō (to place). To place yourself under. Why don't you stop running your own offense and put yourself under God's will and way? Why does God give you his Word? Answer: so that it might go well with you. It's not going well with you. That's the Spirit of God letting you reap what you sow. Guess what? Turn to him (he is a gracious Father) and put yourself under his leadership.
Resist the Devil. Don't give in to him. Know the Devil. Second Corinthians 2:11 says, "For we are aware of the Devil and his schemes." You need to know about the Devil and his schemes. The Devil is a liar. He has always said this. "God is not good. His Word can't be trusted. Disobeying him is not that big of a deal. If you want to find life, you have to find it apart from God." That's what he always does.
You have to resist that. How do you resist lies? Answer: truth. But some of us don't do that. "I'm 28 years old and I'm a virgin. If I don't have sex I'm going to die." No, you're not. Stop telling yourself that. "Nobody would live with this woman. It's impossible to love a woman like this." No, it's not. Stop telling yourself that. "If God was good, this world would not be in the condition it's in. Therefore, there must be no God." That's not true.
God has told you exactly why this world is in this condition: because people have walked away from him, and the farther they walk away from him, the darker it gets. Some people have been walking away from him for generations, and now entire civilizations have walked away from him. There is no surprise the world is like this. It's because we bought the original lie. Resist the Devil.
By the way, this is why Jesus, in John 17, when he was getting ready to wrap up the whole thing, prayed the way he did. Watch this. Here's what he says. "I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world…"
"I want you to leave them in the world, because they're going to be the agents of change, the people of hope. They're going to be a church that loves. The sweet aroma that is intimacy with you and me, Father, is going to continue for generations until we come and fold up this whole kingdom program and take the people redeemed by me to glory."
"I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one." So how do we resist the Evil One? Here's the answer: "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth." Don't just be a person who goes, "I'm not going to look at porn. I'm not going to look at porn. I'm not going to be materialistic. I'm not going to speak a harsh word to my wife. I'm not going to speak a harsh word to my wife."
You have to draw near to God. That's the next thing. Submit to God. I'm going to be under his Word. I'm not going to listen to lies. I'm going to daily be transformed by the renewing of my mind. This is 2 Timothy 2:22. "Now flee from youthful lusts…" That's half of it. That's resist the Devil. But draw near to God. What does it say next in 2 Timothy 2:22? "…pursue righteousness, love, faith, and purity with those who seek God from a pure heart."
Some of us think our whole Christian life is "I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to do that. What should I not do? I'm not going to do that. I'm going to think about the thing I'm not supposed to do." No, that's not what you're supposed to do. "How blessed is the man who doesn't walk in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers, but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on that law he meditates day and night."
This is not new information. This is all over your Bible. "Draw near to God. Cleanse your hands, you sinners. Purify your hearts." Don't just wash your hands in church in a confessional behind some guy on a screen and then go out and do it again. No. Have a heart change. In other words, we do need to stop what we're doing. We need to confess that's wrong (that means clean) and forsake from a heart that has been transformed. Will you do that? It's external and internal transformation.
He says, "…you double-minded." You dipsychos. You two-souled person. The Greek word is dis (twice) psychē. When we say somebody is psychotic, what we're saying is that psychotic person has a mental disorder. They are deluded. That's why James says earlier, "Don't be deluded. Don't say one thing and do another."
Do you guys see how this is all tied together? "You two-souled person." May it never be. "Be miserable, mourn, and weep." You don't like what you have? Then get on your knees and plead with God. Don't ask somebody to numb your pain with prescriptions that will allow you not to realize that where you are is painful. Run to him.
That's why I say the healthiest people at Watermark are here on Monday nights. They're not the only healthy people, but folks on Monday night are showing up here and going, "I am powerless to get out of this cycle. I have to put myself under God's authority, resist the lies of my addiction, and trust God, and I weep over my sin. I mourn over what my life has become, and I am miserable. Would you help me?" And we would say, "Absolutely. We're the people of God, ourselves saved from that exact same thing."
At that point, "Let your laughter be turned to mourning. Humble yourself in the presence of the Lord, and he will exalt you." That word humble is a great word. It's the word tapeinoō, which means basically to… I think of it this way. It has no relationship to MMA, but sometimes when our lives are in trouble, we just have to do one thing: just tap out. "I am done running my offense. I'm tapping out." That's what humility is. "I'm no longer the king here. Your way is better than mine, and, God, thank you that you're loving, gracious, and true."
Let me close with this. Do you want to know what to do in the midst of your sin? There's a story in your Bible that you're infinitely familiar with. It's the story of the prodigal son, who basically walked up to his father and said, "I wish you were dead. You're dead to me. Do you know what I want? I want you to give me what I think will make me happy." When you ask for an inheritance, what you're saying is, "If you didn't exist, what could I have?"
That's what we did to God. "We don't think you're there. I'm going to do this on my own." That's what the Prodigal did. He walked up and said, "Dad, you're dead to me. I think I can find life and prosperity." So he goes out on his own, and he has a heck of a time. Don't you always have fun when you begin to rebel? If rebellion hurt the very first step we took, none of us would rebel, but it's like a waterslide for the first 100 yards. "Whee! This is awesome!"
But all of a sudden, you slide into ice and you slide into shards of glass and you hit a cliff. That's what that guy did. He ended up in a very sad place. So what did he do? It says in the Scripture he went to a counselor who sat down and said, "Well, tell me about your daddy. Was he abusive? Tell me about his relationship with his wife. What was it like? Did you have an older brother who was a little bit judgmental? I'm surprised you aren't far worse than you are. Do you want something that's going to make you feel better?"
That's not what he did. What he did, it says in Luke 15, is he said to himself, "I need to go to my father and say to him, 'Father, I have sinned, and I'm tapping out. I'm no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me as one of your hired men. That's all I have left.'" Watch this. This is what your Father is saying to you this morning.
"So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'" And the father rejoiced because his son was home, and there was a great celebration, great gladness. There was restoration of relationship lost, and there was the beginning of the restoration of glory in the family as God intended it.
This morning, it's time for you to come home and draw near to God and just tap out. Some of you guys are still in party mode right now. I'm telling you, it's better to come back now before the scars are deep and the shame and the guilt mount. You have a loving Father who's ready to rescue you, but you have to come.
The way to deal with your problem is to say that you're naughty by nature and all you've done is fulfilled that nature by rebellion. "Even having said, 'I know God,' I've maybe been double-souled, and I'm done. I'm going to abide with you. I'm going to pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace with those who seek God with a pure heart." It's called the church. James wrote to it, and we should be it.
Father, I pray that we are your people, called by your name, that we would clothe ourselves in the glory you intend for us and that we would have on us the sweet aroma of your presence that is marked by the fruit of love, joy, peace, gentleness, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control.
I pray that we would not be hedonists who seek our own pleasures and, as a result of that, we have all kinds of wars and conflicts among us, disintegrated families, disintegrated Community Groups, disintegrated entire church communities, but, no, Father, that we together collectively run after you and honor you with our lives.
Would you help us, Lord, wherever we are, maybe to come home for the first time and maybe others to really start to see, "This is why I'm not experiencing the abundant life, and I want to start to experience it now." Lord, if there's anyone out there who needs to come home, would they come? Would they see your tenderness and your kindness, that you are a Father who loves them?
And would those of us who have been trifling with you, saying one thing and doing another, being adulterers, may we just come back, receive your greater grace, submit to you, draw near to you, mourn, weep, and find restoration? Would you glorify yourself in us as we seek to be your people? In Christ's name, amen.