In the context of the book of James, Todd reminds us of the importance of being a doer of the word and not just a hearer. Today, we learn from James 4:11-16 about how we should rightly consider one other and our own lives. God's word teaches us to not judge or make distinctions, but to see ourselves rightly, in light of eternity.
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
Good morning. Can I tell you all I love what I have the privilege of doing? I really do. I want to thank you for letting me be your pastor and for letting me be a guy who gets to, every week, stand here with you and open God's Word and run with you throughout the week, to be encouraged by you, to watch your faithfulness in this community and this city and this world, to watch you give generously, to watch you intensely make disciples, to watch you grieve your sin, take new ground, love others, and welcome people.
I hear all the time that people connect here not because of what I say but because of the way you love them as you walk in this place, sit next to them, and engage with them throughout this city. I want to thank you, because of your faithfulness, the joy I get and the affirmation I get from others when they hear I'm a part of this body. When people say, "Wagner, you have a beautiful church," do you know what I say? "Who do you mean?" Because what makes this place beautiful is y'all who know the Lord and love the Lord.
If you're a guest here this morning, we're glad you're here. I'm just one of the gang here who has been saved by grace and who, by the privilege and calling of God and the encouragement of these people, gets to serve this body by just opening God's Word. I love doing it, so I want to thank you. I mean that. Thank you. What I want to do right now is pray. Fort Worth, we love you. We're glad you're here. Our friends up there in the Loft are heading to Plano. That's awesome. We're glad to be part of this community together. Let me pray.
Father, would you just teach us something this morning? We came in here because we need to be reminded how great you are, because we have little slippery souls that want to run away, but we thank you that you have a firm grip. We're no little fish that can squirt out of your hands. When you have caught us you have caught us indeed, but we do want to be wooed back to you this morning.
We want to see your majesty, your greatness, the awesome beauty of who you are, your kindness, and we don't want to take it lightly. We want to respond to it fully as a way that the world might know that we have fully understood. We don't want to be just mere professors who know about you; we want to be lovers who know you fully and completely and abide with you. I thank you for the privilege of getting to spend these next few minutes with my friends in Dallas and Fort Worth looking at the Word of God.
I pray it would radically affect us and would go deep into our hearts, be implanted into our souls, and bear fruit and people would see your kindness and goodness on us, our lives changed, our marriages renewed, our kids parented well, our dating relationships be pure and godly and filled with hope and selflessness so that people would want to know our Father and it would please you, that they would too come home, people you have died for and long to see forgiven and redeemed. You have work to do in our hearts this morning, Father, and we expectantly make ourselves available to your Word. Do your work for your glory. In Jesus' name, amen.
James is a pastor himself. That's what the word elder means. He is writing to his friends who are gathered in Jerusalem about 10 to 15 years after the resurrection of Christ. You understand that the very first church was largely Jewish people, almost exclusively individuals who were part of the nation of Israel who had collectively rejected Jesus as their Messiah, but now individuals began to see no, Jesus was the Messiah, and their eyes were opened.
Early on, those individuals, underneath that state where the Pharisees and rabbinical leaders had rejected Jesus as the fulfillment of all the Scripture, were deeply persecuted. All Jews were being persecuted. All Israelites were suffering under oppressive Rome that ruled over them, so they were getting doubly worn out, first by their national enemy Rome, who treated them as a vassal state and servants and slaves, and their own fellow Jewish racial people who rejected the revelation of God through Jesus Christ.
So they were being dispersed and scattered. Now here's what was crazy. Even within the church there was a class system that was set up, and there was not peace and there was not unity, so as a matter of absolute first importance, the very first epistle, the very first time God is going to send a letter to the church, he addresses the issue of love, of unity, of care for one another, of what pure and undefiled relationship with God looks like.
It is not just an understanding that Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God. People can know that. It's not just knowledge about his death, his burial, and resurrection. It is a full response to that. It is an intimate relationship with God, where his Spirit indwells you and you are one with him and you desire to be conformed into his image and no longer led by the way of the world and the flesh, which easily entangles you.
James is going to say, "Look, you guys have trouble with Rome. You have trouble with Jews who don't know Jesus. Why would you all cause trouble amongst yourselves?" The answer is because the church is not yet glorified. If you're here this morning and you wonder why… If you hang out with us here at Watermark, you're going to still run into people who sin. We are not sinless people. We are not yet glorified.
What's going on in our lives is having been declared by God righteous… We have been justified by him because Jesus is our sufficient offering. The death we deserved and the wrath we deserved God poured out on himself in the person of Jesus Christ. Now we are justifying or vindicating… We are showing that we have, in fact, believed in Jesus and are reconciled to God by the way we live our lives. That's called sanctification. We are being made more and more like he intended all of us to be.
The Scripture says, "All men have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." That's not a verse that is there to tell you the reason God is going to judge you is because you don't look right. It's a verse that is there to tell you you don't look right because you are not in relationship with God. In other words, just like a guy who drinks is a less effective lover, daddy, traveler on the highway… He is dissipated. Nobody becomes a better person when they're drunk.
Some guys are so violent and angry and worthless they're a better person when they drink until they pass out. We like that, but it's miserable getting them there, and they always wake up angrier and more filled with self-loathing and venom toward others than when they passed out the first time. The Bible is saying guys who are not operating with sobriety are really dysfunctional people. Our society says those folks have to be off the road. Those people can't shepherd kids.
In a much greater way, what God is saying is, "Anybody who's not living in relationship with me is less than the man I intend them to be." That's why you see men who are abusive toward women. That's why you see men who are racist. That's why you see men who are self-exalting and envious. They are separated from God, so they're living in a way that is less than a godly person would live.
We are people who have been justified, declared righteous by God because our sin has been paid for through Jesus Christ. We are vindicated when we believe in Jesus and have been reconciled to God by beginning to learn his ways and humble ourselves underneath him, and we are being sanctified, but we're not home yet. So when we mess up, what we have to do is confess our sins to one another. In other words, agree, "That wasn't what a godly person should do. That was the spirit of Todd working there, not Todd dying to self and letting the Spirit of God live in him."
When I do that, I seek your forgiveness, I make amends, I forsake that way, and I begin to rebuild trust and walk again with God. We're not a perfect people. We are not sinless people, but what James is going to say is, "Folks, if you know Jesus, you ought to sin less because you're seeing the goodness and the beauty of God."
There is a series of reminders all throughout the book of James. We're going to see it intensely next week. There was in the early church this kind of class system, typically between some of the more well-funded or rich people or people who were doing well in the world circumstantially and people who were suffering, maybe who were impoverished or sick, and there wasn't a love for one another.
Watch a few of these verses as we make our way through James. He says in James, chapter 1, right out of the chute, "But, brother, you of humble circumstance, glory in your high position." In other words, the high position is you are well aware that this world is not your home and that you don't have your hope in this world, so you're dependent upon God.
It is why every time somebody from Watermark goes overseas to a third world country, they come back and go, "Man! These people who have nothing are more in love with God and more satisfied with life than I am in the midst of my abundance." It is why we should pray for the persecuted church, but I want to tell you something. The persecuted church is praying for you.
The church typically grows in a time of great persecution. Why? Because it is weaned from all worldly things. All of the distractions that pull us away from God… During times of persecution they're gone. Sometimes the ability to make a living, sometimes the ability to live… It makes you put your hope in the right thing. So persecution almost always leads to greater godliness. Do you know what doesn't? Prosperity. Right here, 75251. That is really a hard zip code to live in and be faithful.
The persecuted church marvels at your faithfulness, when you have every means to look around you and think you can kind of cut God in on your deal, but you choose not to cut God in on your deal. You make your deal about God, and everything you do you do for him. You know you are a steward of everything he has given you. Your life, your beauty, your talent, your education, your 401(k), your retirement fund, your salary, your stocks… They aren't yours.
You're a steward of them, and you know that, and you live accordingly. That is a source of marvel to the world. It says in James, chapter 1, those of humble circumstance are to glory in their high position, and it says in verse 10, the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because all he has that makes him comfortable in the world's eyes you know is fleeting. It's not going to be around very long.
He's saying, "Both of you guys should be for each other," because in some ways, the poor and the circumstantially suffering are in a bad way but in a good place to seek God, and those who are in a comfortable place are in a good way but in a bad place to seek God. You need each other. That's James 1. Do you see that? He comes back to that idea in James, chapter 2. He's not going to let us run away from it.
"If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself,' you are doing well." In James 2, he's going to say, "You guys ought to love one another, and that's the whole law. That's Leviticus 19, the royal law: 'Love your neighbor because you love God.' God cares for people. If you love God, you ought to care for what God cares for."
He was reminding them not to be a respecter of persons. In James 3 he says, "Don't use your tongue to tear your brother down." Then James 4. We looked at it last week. I'm going to read it to you again, because verses 11-17 is one of those little passages of Scripture you come across and kind of go, "Why is this here? Why is this inserted?" Here's the reason why. James is a good pastor.
Whenever you study God's Word, you don't ever study it just to know something. It is not an intellectual exercise. It is a chance to snap the plumb line again and say, "This is the line you should walk." The plumb line when you're doing carpentry is that thing you hang down that helps you get a perpendicular line. What James is doing is he's just popping that chalk line and saying, "This is the way you should go."
Don't say you're interested in knowing and loving God and not walking the line. Thus the title of the book of James. Now we're not believing we are saved because we walk the line. We are saved because of Jesus walking the pan of sin and death and judgment for us. But if you have received him, James says, you will then walk with him and know him. That is the expectation, and the very first thing you should do, where it should be evidenced most of all, is in your relationships.
I've said it before; I'll say it again. The very first casualty of sin in the Scripture is relationships, and God wants a relationship with you. When you sin, it breaks that relationship. You have to be reconciled. Because he's holy, he can't have fellowship with an unholy creature. Therefore, he, in his lovingkindness, also satisfies his justice by paying your debt, offering you mercy and grace, and becomes the justifier of those he loves and still remains just, and then you're brought back into relationship.
Next week you're going to see in James, chapter 5, "Don't complain against one another," but watch what's going to happen here. Here is the application. Let's read all of James 4:1-4, and I'm going to focus on verses 11-17. This is some really great stuff. "What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you?" We taught this all when we were together last time. "Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?" It's sin in you.
I love what one guy said. He said we must picture hell this way: a place where people are perpetually concerned about their own dignity and advancement, where everyone has a grievance, where everyone lives the deadly, serious passions of envy, self-importance, and resentment. Is that not a good description of hell or Lower Greenville? It's the same thing. Everybody is down there angry at somebody, trying to drink it away, or they're concerned with their own dignity and self-advancement and their own lust and pleasure. That's why they're there.
They're not down there looking to meet somebody they can serve; they're down there looking to meet somebody they can exploit. It isn't just down there in Lower Greenville. It's in Wall Street. It's sometimes in offices in downtown Dallas. Here's the question…Is it in the church? Is there envy? Is there concern? This morning, when you came in here, were you concerned about your dignity and self-advancement?
As you prepared to come here this morning, did you spend more time trying to get yourself all coiffed up so people would look at you and go, "What a beautiful creature" than you did looking at the beauty of God and desiring to seek him? That's what James wants us to focus on right here. He goes on to say in the early part of this chapter that your problem is you're seeking life where you can't find life: apart from God. In verse 4 he gets our attention. "You adulteresses…" It's where he hearkens back.
Anybody who is after the things the world offers, who pursues the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes, or the boastful pride of life is not a lover of God but a lover of this world. What do you call somebody who makes a covenant commitment to somebody and pursues and sleeps with and follows somebody else? An adulterer. What James is going to say is we don't want to be a group of adulterers. That is an emotional shock to get our attention. Like, "What? Hey, I'm just struggling." No, you're not. You're an adulterer.
Listen, guys. When you drift off on porn; women, when you drift off in self-infatuation and body image; when you are cantankerous toward people because things aren't working out well for you and you choose to follow the prompting of your flesh; when you seek to become wealthier for your own comfort as opposed to using all of your gifts for the glory of God, bringing all of the resource you can, that you might move it where God wants it as you seek his will, you're not just struggling with materialism, you're not just struggling with lust; you are an adulterer.
Now here's the good news. God loves adulterers. What he says to you is, "I just don't want you to be that way. I don't want you to be wracked with sin, guilt, and shame. I'm not going to tell everybody else to throw stones at you. I'm just going to tell you what you're doing is a problem. Everybody struggles with this adulterous wandering. Neither do I condemn you." But then what does he say? "Go and quit committing adultery. Go and sin no more." What James is trying to do is bring the church back.
That's why we're here today. We don't forsake our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, because we know we're prone to wander, prone to leave the God we love, so we ought to sing songs about the greatness of our God. "Yes! Yes! That's the great one." Greatness is not having a Fantasy Football team and the season starts today. Greatness is not having a college program that's doing well so you can boast in your team colors. Greatness is not living in that house you always wanted. Greatness is intimacy with God.
Look, man. Enjoy your Fantasy Football team. I hope your college team won yesterday. I hope your wife is beautiful and your kids are having great success in their over-obsessed select sport leagues, but I want to tell you something. I hope you pursue greatness with God. If you're not, there's only one reason you wouldn't be doing that: you don't know God. Your God is too small. You haven't seen him for all he really is.
So what do you do in the midst of that? Verse 7 says, "Submit to God. Resist the Devil." Know his schemes. He always tries to distract you and put something bright and shiny and give you immediate payback here, but part of being an adult is you're not a person who is constantly tempted by the Twinkie at the checkout counter. Yeah, it would taste good for a moment, but it would take 46 years to digest through your system.
It's just not worth the 99 cents. For kids, it's always worth the 99 cents. They have to have the Slurpee, but you're supposed to walk away from that stuff and say, "No. People are throwing things at me, telling me I need those things, but I know the wisdom of delayed gratification." So resist the Devil and his schemes.
"Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep…" Of your futility of just trying to find life apart from God, that you've done it again. "…let your laughter be turned into mourning…" This rejoicing that this is a really great time and I'm finding life apart from God. No, mourn over that thought. "Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you."
What a great message. We covered that in about 45 minutes last time we were together. Check it out. Now James is going to say, "Now let me apply what humility looks like." That's what great pastors always do. You don't read your Bible as an intellectual exercise so that you might know facts about God. You read your Bible so you would do one thing.
"What does God say I should do? God is good, his Word is true, and I don't want to miss it, so I am desperate. Father, instruct me and teach me in the way I should go. I don't want to be like the horse or mule who needs bit and bridle that jerks him around. I know you're good. I love you. Teach me. Give me a word." When you go to read your Bible, that's the way you ought to look at your Bible.
This is the Word of God. Think about that, guys. What if I told you God would speak to you in kindness and love and direct you and tell you how to live? You would go, "Can I get a moment with him?" You can have all the time you want, bro. Do you guys know this? If you start in Genesis and read the Bible out loud, you can read every word God has sovereignly chosen to preserve for us in about 78 hours.
Some of us have never read through the Bible in a lifetime. There are about 8,600 hours in a year. If you spend 1/100 of your time reading the Bible out loud, you'll get through it every year. When we read it, we don't just read it so we know the story; we read it because the Bible says God loves us and he wants it to go well with us.
Part of the way God is glorified is people who listen to him have hope and joy that don't fit the circumstance of this world, because we know why this world is in the condition it's in and we know who our God is, and it changes everything about us, including the way we treat one another. Humility.
Let me just say this. So many of us are spending so much of our time like people who make up the citizenship of hell. We're filled with the deadly and serious passions of envy, self-importance, and resentment, and people go, "This doesn't look very heavenly." God is saying, "It shouldn't be that way with my body." We try to exalt ourselves through appearance and funding and fame.
I love the statement here. " God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble ." In other words, our job is to humble ourselves; God's job is to exalt us. Mark my words on this: if you try to do God's job, he will do yours. Our job is to humble ourselves; God's job is to exalt us. If we try to do God's job, he will do ours. James is saying, "Church, don't make God humble you."
Look one last time in the first section. In verse 5, he 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'?" In other words, God cares about his name. He wants his church to be beautiful. So, church, just pay attention to Daddy. He's going to lead you in a beautiful way. He's going to take your ashes and make them beautiful. He's going to restore the dignity you have lost.
I heard a couple of things that are kind of funny. One guy said, "I have a great sermon on humility. I'm just waiting for a bigger, more important crowd to preach it to." That's kind of funny, isn't it? There was a young seminarian who had done really well in his studies. He was all excited about the very first time to preach. He knew he had a message that was a humdinger that was going to impress the heck out of people.
He walked up to that pulpit all prideful. He got up there. He kind of lost his way, didn't do a great job. He came down kind of moping. "Dadgummit! I don't think the people are going to think I'm impressive." He sat down. Some old lady walked up to him and said, "Young man, had you gone up on that pulpit the way you came down, you'd have come down the way you went up."
That's what Jesus is saying to us right here. Just humble yourself underneath the Word of God. Let me teach you how it's going to look. James 4:11: "Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law…" What law? The royal law, Leviticus 19. "Don't bear false witness. Don't be a slanderer. Love your brother."
What it's saying here is if you judge another member of the church of Jesus Christ as not worthy of being a part of that church because they're despicable poor people or because they're well-funded rich people who think they're better than you… In other words, there was this class distinction that was going on in the church, and they were saying, "Rich people can't love God. Poor people must not love God or God wouldn't leave them in that circumstance."
James is saying, "That's crazy!" Do you know what else is crazy? What else is crazy is that people would mindlessly read the Bible and think we are never supposed to call evil evil because of verses like this. We are called to speak the truth in love, but it's not our love of self and our self-exaltation that makes us speak what we speak. In other words, I'm not to talk about you in terms of your standing with God.
What I should do, though, is lovingly… When there is something in your life that dishonors God, damages your relationship with me, is damaging or could be hurtful to other people, or that is detrimental to your witness for the King, I can't remain silent about that. Silence in the midst of sin is a sin. James 4:11 and Matthew 7 are not teaching you to not be discerning. Jesus tells us we're going to know a tree by its fruit. That means you make a judgment. "That wicked fruit would not come from a good tree."
What it's talking about here is looking at people in the church whose life circumstance is different than yours and saying, "There's no way that person could really be a lover of God," and then kind of factioning up. "Hey, people who really love God don't live in that zip code. People who drive that kind of car to church… There's no way they're a serious student of the Word." That's nonsense.
What James is going to say to us is, "Don't go around being divisive and slanderous." Can I tell you an amazing fact? The biblical word for slanderer is diabolos. Do you know what the biblical word for the Devil is? Diabolos. Dia is a prefix we have in English that we bring across from the Greek that means through. Ballo is to cast out or throw. When you act diabolically, you are casting dispersions at another person. You're throwing darts through them, accusing them.
The word for Satan in Spanish is Diablo. The word for a person who tears down a brother in English is diabolical. The word in Greek for slanderer is diabolos. The word in Greek for devil is diabolos. When you are throwing dispersions at another brother because they don't look like you think they should look, not in terms of sin but in terms of life circumstances and choices, and you're doing it in a very self-exalting way… "They don't love God like me or they wouldn't look like that." That is Devil's work. That's what the Devil is. He's an accuser of the brethren.
In fact, we get the word devil from that. They shortened diabolos to diabol, and then they took the D-I-A and just made it D-E. They took the B and made it soft into a V, and you have devol, devil. That's where we get the English word devil: from this idea that you are judging other people and saying, "There is no way you're as good as me." This is what Jesus said to us in the Sermon on the Mount when he said, "Pharisees, don't you go around judging other people that because of the way they look there's no way I could save them."
Jesus went on to say, "Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees, you won't get into heaven. None of you are going to be saved." Then he says, "Don't judge lest you be judged." In other words, "If you want to judge other people as not fit for God to redeem them because they don't fit into your little legalistic box, then I will judge you by the law. But here's a reminder: you have to be perfect."
That's why he says, "Unless your righteousness surpasses the Pharisees, you won't get into the kingdom of heaven." There is not a maximum square footage for a godly person. There is not a minimum square footage. People who teach health, wealth, and prosperity, who say, "If you really loved God, you wouldn't be sick, you wouldn't be poor…" That is nonsense. People who say you have to take an oath of poverty if you really love God… That is nonsense.
Let me tell you something. If you're rich, you'd better be rich in good works. You'd better use what God has given you well. You're going to have to give an account. If you're poor, you'd better make sure you're not that way because of your laziness, self-destructive ignorance, and lack of diligence to study and do the right thing, but let's care for one another. He says, "Don't speak against the law and judge the law." "…but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it." That is a problem.
What's he teaching us right here? How to (what verse 10 says) humble yourself in the presence of the Lord. The way you humble yourself in the presence of the Lord is not by comparing yourself to other people. The way you humble yourself in the presence of the Lord is you look at the Word of God and respond to it. The Word of God says, "Don't slander your neighbor." The Word of God says, "Don't bear false witness about your neighbor." The Word of God says, "Love your neighbor."
If you say, "I'm not going to love my neighbor, but I'm going to speak poorly of them to other people…" By the way, when you go to somebody who's stuck in sin, you're not slandering them. You're doing exactly what the Bible says. When you go to somebody who is sinning and say, "I love you. I'm coming to you. I'm not telling 20 other people why I'm better than you. I am going to you…" There are really only three things you should do when you see a brother in sin.
The first thing to do is you talk to God and say, "God, give me wisdom. Help me to first look to myself so I'm not tempted." In other words, "So I don't think I'm better than them or so I don't go in an unworthy manner. Maybe I'm part of the problem. Get the log out of my own eye." That's Galatians 6. The second thing would be you talk to them. Matthew 18 says, "Go to your brother first before you tell a bunch of other people and slander him."
The third thing you might do is go to somebody who's part of the solution if you don't know how to approach the person. You'll just say, "I'm going to tell you something, but the second I tell you this, you're now obligated by the law of God to go with me to this person, either to clear up my misunderstanding or to help me work through this conflict with this brother."
We taught about this a lot in the early days of Watermark, and this is one of the most unpopular things I do with people. This has made more people angry at me than anything else I do. When somebody comes up to me and starts to tell me something about somebody else, I go, "Uh-oh. Here's the deal, man. You just came to me, and I think you must have told me that because you're looking for counsel.
What you just said about that person over there… I want to ask you. Have you told them what you just told me about them? By the way, when you told me that, it made me feel like, 'Gosh, you must like me more because you don't think I'm like that person.'" Which is always ignorant. You do know that people who talk to you about other people talk to other people about you, don't you?
By the grace of God, what I do consistently when folks come to me and say that is go, "Hey, listen. While in my flesh that felt really good because, like I said, it made me think you must like me more than you like them, which I love in my self-exalting, envious lifestyle…" That's why the Bible says in Proverbs 18, "The words of the gossip are like dainty morsels. They go down to the innermost being."
It's like a small cupcake. You can pop it right down. Not a big one that'll make you sick right away. Just a little one, a little sprinkle. Just that little bad boy down there, and it's awesome. It's gone. You feel like you hardly ate anything. It's a doughnut hole, not a whole doughnut. Let me just tell you something. If you eat six or seven doughnut holes, you have eaten yourself a doughnut, and you're going to look like the old Elvis. It won't be long.
What's deceitful about the doughnut hole is that you think you just get a little one. The words of a gossip, a slanderer, are like a dainty morsel. It just goes in. You go, "That tasted kind of good." If I don't go, "Wait, I don't eat that stuff…" Because you can't just have one doughnut hole. I don't have one doughnut hole. I deceive myself that I'm not eating a doughnut when I eat a dozen doughnut holes.
The Bible says what you have to do is say, "Look, we have to go. I'm going to ask you to go to that person and tell them what you just told me about them, and I'm going to ask you in 24 hours, 'Have you been to them yet and shared with them your concern?' Because the reason you must be speaking about this is God has shown you there's something in their life that is not as it should be." They go, "Don't you dare tell somebody I told you that. If you do that, I'll never tell you something like that again."
I'm like, "Perfect. Less doughnut holes. Meanwhile, you just fed me, and I'm going to purge that so I can stay lean and loving." I'll do it. Anytime somebody comes to you about anybody at Watermark, a pastor, a fellow person who's seeking God here, a family member… I don't care. You say, "You have to go tell them what you just told me, because God might use you to lead them out of sin, if what you're saying is true. If not, then you need to go ask their forgiveness that you're out there being a devil, running through them with slanderous words."
There is going to be unity if we do that here, and we're not going to be going around feeding each other little juicy bits of gossip. James is saying if that's going on in your church, you are no church of Jesus. We're really serious about that here. Don't say God's Word isn't worthwhile, because what I just shared with you is very biblical.
You might go, "Todd, I've never heard anybody who does that." Well, first, you haven't been around Watermark very long, and second, you haven't been paying attention to your Bible. The reason people don't do that is they put themselves over the law of God. "God's Word…eh. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. We're not going to do that." Anytime the Bible is not your authority, conscience, and guide, you have a church that's in trouble.
Verse 12 says, "There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?" Cut it out. Again, this is not meaning we should not call sin sin. This is talking about slanderously speaking about other people. "There's no way they could love God or they wouldn't look like that." You go to them.
Let me ask you a question. Do you think the Devil goes to you and says, "Hey, I need to tell you something. You're drinking a little too much. Hey, you know what? Everybody takes a couple of glances at the girl when she walks by, and everybody clicks on that stuff when it pops up. They weren't really looking to go to a porn site, but when it is right there they go there. But hey, I don't want you to do that. I don't want you to let it get running away from you."
Do you think the Devil does that to people? Do you think the Devil ever confronts somebody in their sin? Say no. If you see somebody in sin and you're not lovingly going to go to them… If what they're doing is dishonoring to God, damaging relationships, hurting other people, or hurting their reputation, don't be a devil by not speaking up. Similarly, in a biblical way, don't be a devil by talking to everybody else about what's wrong with them, because they can't change if they don't know what's wrong with them.
So don't make the mistake of thinking you can't talk to somebody about sin. You must. Devils are the ones that don't speak up when rebellion against God is happening. Devils are also the ones that speak up about what someone is doing to everybody but the person who can change if they just were, by the grace of God, lovingly and kindly sharpened by you. Think about what our church would be like if we did this.
People would go, "Man, you guys love each other. You say hard things to each other. You say it kindly, but you say it, and guess what? People change." Do you know what kind of church never changes? When everybody just kind of looks the other way and goes, "That woman talks way too much. I can't believe she dresses like that. Man, that guy is self-absorbed. That brother is materialistic." Well, you aren't the only one who sees it. The whole world sees it. God says, "Love one another. Help each other."
Verse 13: "Come now…" We're kind of jumping categories. What James is doing is helping you apply God's Word. This is a so what. When you read the Bible, it's not just an intellectual exercise. He's telling you what it looks like if you're a humble person. "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.'" He said, "Careful. Bite your tongue."
The writer of Proverbs said, "Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth." James is going to say, "You who are doing well, don't brag about what you're going to get to do tomorrow." In fact, the Bible only has two groups of people God himself calls fools. First, in Matthew 7, people who hear the Word of God and don't apply it are fools. They build their house on the sand. Even though they have a Bible, it is far from their heart.
The other people are people who because of great success have built barns for themselves, and they say, "Eat, drink, and be merry. I shall live this way for a long time." The Bible says, "You fool! You do not know that maybe this very night your soul may be required of you." You don't know that you're going to have until next year to give away what God has given you. Be a good steward of it right now. Be faithful right now. Don't say, "I'll do that tomorrow after I do this, because I have plenty to do this and that." You don't know if you have another day.
"Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.' Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away." Folks, that is a very sobering verse, but it is true. "Instead, you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.'"
The Bible says words matter, and whenever you're making plans you ought to say, "If the Lord wills. This is what I think we're going to do. If the Lord wants us to, that's what we're going to do. If we're still around, this is what we'll do, but I want to make sure I am faithful today." All James is doing is teaching you what Jesus said in his most famous message. "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Tomorrow will take care of itself." Don't talk about what you're going to do tomorrow. Be faithful today.
There's a great story about Louis XIV. I don't know if you know who Louis XIV is, but he is an interesting bird. He became a monarch in France, which was the most powerful country in Europe at the time, at the age of 5. Can you imagine that? A preschool absolutist monarch? For the first 17 years he had some help, and then at 22, for the next 55 years, this brother reigned. He lived in the castle at Versailles.
He was so beautiful we made a movie about him, The Man in the Iron Mask. Leonardo DiCaprio played Louis XIV. This is Louis when he was a little bit older. Look at that. His clothes are like a comforter from Bed Bath & Beyond. That guy would wake up every single morning and be dressed by nobles. They used to trim his toenails and encrust them with diamonds and send them out as gifts. It's true.
What happened is Rome used to have an iron grip over the entire world because of the idea that you could only get to heaven by being rightly related to God through Rome. There was this Protestant Reformation that was happening, so what happened is there was a break apart of Rome's rule, and there was a lot of anarchy that happened. So what people said was, "The only way we can bring peace and order is to have monarchal absolutism," which is, by the way, what always happens.
Mark my words. Stamp it. September 7. Go back and look when you see increasing moral chaos in America. We have something we call martial law. In other words, you lose your rights as a people. There's so much anarchy, there's such a lack of order because we have no morality, because we say everybody gets to do what they want to do, so what all of a sudden happens is people will trade their freedom for a tyrant.
It's coming, America. You're giving away your right to rule yourself, because people will always take a dictator over lawlessness. God says, "I don't want you to have a dictator. I want me to dictate the order of your lives." As I will teach you here in the coming weeks, as I go through my little series called Declaration, God declares to you, "This is the way you should go. If you don't, this is what's coming." I'll tell you what's coming: absolute monarchism, if you cannot live civilly.
What Louis would do is he and his buddies… There were thousands of people who lived at that castle of Versailles with him, 4,000 servants. They would spend their days in dances and balls and concerts and receptions, gambling and hunting. They'd spend the rest of their time gossiping and in lechery. That's what the guy did for 55 years. He was called the Sun King. That was his moniker. His emblem was the sun because he was the center of the world.
His preferred name was Louis the Great. He used to say, "I am the state." "Years from now they'll make a movie about me, and Leonardo DiCaprio will play me." As he got older, he realized that sun was going to set. There was a quiet Catholic priest who lived in that town who Louis started to listen to. This priest kind of ascended his way up because he taught the Word of God the way James did. He was asked to give the Advent messages in 1699, just a few short years before Louis died.
Louis would say this about this particular priest: "When I hear most preachers I am contented with them, but when I hear Jean-Baptiste Massillon I am discontented with myself." That, my friends, is a good preacher. I'm not here to give you tips and techniques and make you be contented that you just had a happy life. You can get that five hours south of here. (I am judging that teaching as errant, lest you think I've violated verse 11. Where they are with the Lord I'll let God shake out, but what they're doing in his name I will speak to.)
Louis died, like all men do, and they asked this young preacher to come do his message. He was in Notre Dame, this great cathedral. They darkened the entire place because sadness and gloom had come over the land because the Sun King was dead. There was a single candle by his casket right by his face. This preacher walked in there, and everybody wondered what he was going to say.
He walked into that great cathedral with all of France and all nobility around there, and he walked right up to that casket and blew on it. Then he stood up and said, "Only God is great. Louis isn't great. He is a vapor. Louis is gone. There is only one grand monarch. All flesh is grass. The Word of the Lord will endure forever." He preached it. That is right out of James 4. Our lives are a vapor.
I was thinking about this last night as I laid in bed. I thought, "What is the most evil character in movie history?" Just think about it for a second. I thought to myself… I guarantee you they didn't think about this when they did it, but I did, and I hope every time you hear this guy the rest of your life you are reminded why you don't give yourself over to evil.
This is what it says in Psalm 37. (In a second I'll tell you who I think it is.) In Psalm 37, it tells us, "Do not fret because of evildoers, be not envious toward wrongdoers." I don't care if they are elevated throughout the entire universe. They are a vapor. "For they will wither quickly like the grass and fade like the green herb."
Who am I thinking about when I talk about the person who, over the entire solar system, is the epitome of evil? This guy. Listen to him. Darth Vader. I was lying in bed and thinking about that, and I thought, "How awesome that every time that guy shows up you are reminded, 'I'm just a vapor. I'm just a breath. I know it looks like I'm the king and the Vader and never going to go, but he is gone.'" All men are but just a vapor.
James is saying, "Quit popping off about what you're going to do for God. Just be faithful today, church. Stop popping off about one another. Love one another. Speak the truth in love to one another. Deal with sin in each other's lives, but humble yourself under the Word of God. Don't put yourself over the Word of God and tell God what you're going to do. Don't say, 'I'll take this part of the Bible. I'll leave this part of the Bible aside.'"
That is a bastardized church. That is a godless, dead church. Study that book not so you can know it. Study that book and ask, "What must I do?" I have so much I wish I could do with you today. I'll take you to Hebrews 10. This is what made Jesus who he was. Have you ever thought about what it was about David that made him a man after God's own heart? David, after all, made some pretty spectacular mistakes. He was an adulterer. He was a murderer. He treated himself like the Sun King at a certain point.
But what David did is in the midst of that he was approached by a guy who rightly understood James 4:11 and knew he had to judge David's sin by speaking the truth to David. Here's the truth. Everybody knew Louis was not the grand monarch. Few people cared to think about it. Even fewer cared to speak up about it, because it cost them their head. You need a Nathan in your life who will come to you and speak the truth to you.
David was called a man after God's own heart. Do you want to know why? Here's why. In Hebrews, chapter 10, it's talking about the Messiah. This is Jesus. "For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins." But Jesus can. "Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, 'Sacrifice and offering You have not desired …'" This is the Messiah. This is attributed to Jesus.
"… but a body You have prepared for Me; in whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have taken no pleasure." He is using the words of David after David sinned. It's what's said of the Messiah. " Then I said, 'Behold, I have come…to do Your will, O God.'" This is what is attributed to Jesus. The Messiah came and said, "I have come to do your will, O God." David, even in the midst of his sin, repented of his sin, dealt with his sin, and said, "This is why I'm here. I am here to do your will. What I just did was not God's will."
The Messiah never said that, but the reason David was considered a man after God's own heart is he wrote in Psalm 40:6-8, "Behold, Lord, I'd give you a bunch of bulls and sacrifices if that would get you off my back, but that's not what you want. What you want is a repentant and contrite heart that acknowledges when it doesn't live according to your Word and that purposes to live today according to your Word, who doesn't put himself above the law, like I just did with Bathsheba and Uriah, who repents, takes the consequences of it, but who commits himself today to do your will, O Lord."
God said, "That's my boy. That's my man." This is what James is saying in James, chapter 4. "You want to be God's man? This is what you do. If you know the right thing to do and don't do it, it's sin." James is saying, "You're the church. You have the law of God. You know the right thing to do. Don't sin."
I close with this. What's the right thing to do? Listen to the Word of the Lord. Don't delude yourself by being hearers of the Word and not doers. That's what fools do. Be humble men who read their Bible every day (it's the Word of God) and ask, "What does it say for me? What should I do today? How should I redirect my course today based on that book?"
There's a story (it's a fable, it's not true; it was told for a long time like it was a true story) of a US Navy vessel that was sailing along, and in the middle of a foggy night, all of a sudden it saw right there in its course, directly in front of it, the light of another ship. The captain quickly got on the radio. He didn't know how it didn't show up on the radar. He said, "Divert your course 10 degrees to the north!"
Right back over that radio came back, "No, divert your course 10 degrees to the south!" The captain said, "I am a captain! Divert your course 10 degrees to the north." The voice came back, "I am a petty officer third class. Divert your course 10 degrees to the south." The captain said, "I am the captain of a battleship in the United States Navy. Divert your course 10 degrees to the north." The voice came back and said, "I am a lighthouse. Divert your course 10 degrees to the south."
Let me tell you something, captain. When you go to the Bible, you ought to divert your course, because it's a light to your feet and a lamp to your steps. If you do anything but that, you're putting yourself above the Word of God, which is to say you are not a follower of God and you're not his church. We are people of the Book. We are firm where it's firm and flexible where it's flexible. Divert your course humbly, that he may exalt you.
Father, we need you every hour. We don't want to just sing those words. We want that to be true in every aspect of our lives. So we ask that you would today, having brought us together, remind us of these things. If there's anything in our lives that is inconsistent with your will, and we're sure there are many…
If we're just here catting around, listening, moving on, thinking that was a good message or it wasn't a good message, and we're not fellowshipping with your people, I pray we'd repent and begin to walk with others intimately and practice the "one anothers" and ask people to speak into our lives and we would speak humbly into their lives and we'd care for each other and love one another, just like we should.
I thank you for these friends, as I started this morning, who love me and give me the privilege of just looking at the Word with them, that we might follow you. Father, we ask that the Word would be implanted in our souls now and it would bear much fruit for your glory and the good of others, that we might be your church, your beautiful people. In Christ's name, amen.
As you leave and hear that song, "Lord, I need you," I pray it's not just a song in your ear. I pray it's a statement of your life. Divert your course. Let us know how we can serve you, and have a great week of worship.