The Submissive Life! — James 4:6-10

The Submissive Life! — James 4:6-10
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 27, 2014

But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (James 4:6-10 NIV)

In God’s mercy, he extends to us more grace. Sometimes I wonder if we do not take advantage of the love of God in our lives. What I mean is that we can forget what the grace of God is all about. It is his unmerited love for us. We did not earn it, we could not buy it, nor could we be good enough for it. God freely gave it through the sacrifice of his Son Jesus. We still have the desires and lusts of our natural lives and our prayers are often the result of these desires that battle with in us. And, often they are not what God desires for our lives; however in his rich wonderful mercy he extends to us “more grace.” God sets himself against us when we lust after those ungodly worldly things that do us no good or that which is counterproductive to the kingdom purposes of God. He opposes it with every part of his being because he is holy and righteous. Herein is the wonderful beautiful truth of the gospel, he gives more grace not because we deserve it, demand it, but simply because we require it.  God gives us more grace because of what Jesus has done for us! Paul taught that, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV)” We are taught that the gospel message is the message of God’s grace, “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:16-17 NIV)”

However, we learn that “God opposes the proud,” those caught up in their own desires, “but gives grace to the humble;” those who have submitted themselves to the Lord Jesus Christ. Humility is a lost characteristic in our day and age. We misunderstand its biblical definition and consider it a weakness to be avoided at all cost. Humility is not weakness nor is it meekness. It is the character quality that the Apostle Peter had to learn over and over again. In arrogance he jumps out of the boat, yet in his fearful pride he begins to sink beneath the waves. He took his eyes off the Lord. He proclaimed for all to hear that he would never deny Jesus, but he did three times and suffered the humiliation of his betrayal! Yet, in his magnificent grace Jesus extends his love and forgiveness to Peter the same amount of times he denied his Master and friend. Paul did the same thing in much of his life. Arrogantly he was educated in the Scriptures, was well-read, and even given a trust to persecute those he thought who were opposing God. The problem was, he never asked God what he thought about Paul’s prideful way of life. God in his grace took a spiritually blind man and blinded him physically in order to help him see clearly his sinful pride. We can get so caught up in our own lives that we think we only need God when we need him. We forget that at just the right time he pulled us to himself, extended his mercy to us, bought us with a horrendous price, and gave us eternity. He does not give us more grace so that we will squander it, misuse it, or ignore it. God does not give us more grace so we will have a great day. He gives us more grace when we humble ourselves, confess our sinful condition, and return to him. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2 NIV)” God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.

And herein is a wonderful spiritual truth, while he opposes the proud, he gives grace to the humble. However humility is a hard choice to those who are used to getting their own way. We are reminded by James to “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.” We do not like that word submit. But it is as necessary in the life of a believer as water is to the survival of a fish. Christians cannot exist in a sin driven world without it. “Why?” you might ask and the answer is simply because we so easily fall prey to the wicked condition; the “natural order” of the world around us. We forget our true nature as we swim in our fish bowl of life. We get used to the filth we have to survive in day after day and without the constant reminder of God’s presence in our lives, we begin to enjoy our surroundings. In fact, James reminds us that when we do we secretly invite Satan into our lives. Not for our eternal destruction but rather for our momentary gratification. He becomes our partner in pleasure, our cohort in crime, and the embarrassment of our existence. We get embarrassed because we know whose company we should be keeping instead. We get angered if our dirty little secret sinful condition is pointed out. We get prideful of the perversions we now enjoy and justify our actions and behaviors. “I need this!” I deserve this!” “This makes me happy!” and we cling to the filth we dig up as if it were the most precious treasure we have found. Yet here in our most pathetic condition there is hope, a lifeline thrown from the shore, a lanyard we can cling to. If we submit ourselves to God, resist the Devil, he will flee from us! He cannot stay where the presence of the Lord is. He cannot stand in the presence of a holy one of God bought with the precious price of God’s only Son’s blood! When the fellowship of the cross is tenaciously clung to, his usefulness in our lives is exposed for its worthless nature that it truly is. But old friendships die hard. They are not easily given up and forsaken. But they must be if we are to resist those who would drag us back into the depravity of the world. If we come near to God, he will come near to us, but we must resist the one who roars like a lion, is as sly as a snake, who seeks to devour our lives.

Again, Paul reminds us that “where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:20-21 NIV)” There it is again, the wonderful grace of God. In his mercy he reminds us through James, “Come near to God and he will come near to you.” It is the whisper of our heavenly father asking us to leave the muck of the pigpen, to put down the slop we are eating and are sustaining ourselves on, and come home to his warm abundant table. Come home to the warmth and friendship of the one who truly loves us and never seeks to destroy our lives. “Come home,” he calls. Yet, how do we do that when we know we are stained by the ungodliness we were once part of? How can we enter into the dining hall with its richness, the white table clothes, the abundant food, and the warmth of family and friends who are waiting for us? How can we enter in when we are so filthy with the world? We can because of God’s grace, his mercy, when we cry out to him from the depths of our condition. We are to admit and see our lives for what they truly have become. James writes, “Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” Those who came to dinner in a Jewish household always prepared themselves first before enjoying the meal or good company. Like my Mama who always asked before we dared eat, “Did you wash your hands?” we are reminded to do the very same preparation. As sinners we cannot enter into the good company of the Lord without doing so. It is a reminder of our need to confess our sins, to “purify” our “hearts.” Our entire lives are to be given over to the Lord, our Master, anew. We were once bought by his blood but we allowed ourselves the false company of strangers, the dirt of the road, and soiled our souls. We who once said we loved the Lord ran into the arms of another lover. We lied. And when we do not readily confess our adultery we cannot restore our relationship. We have to confess our sins and purify our hearts, all that we are, and no longer be doubled-minded. In fact, James says we should “Grieve” mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.” He is saying we should be totally devastated by our sinful condition, not making excuses for our ungodliness. Like those who would hire professional mourners to cry and wail over the dead, we are to “grieve, mourn, and wail” over our death to sin. After all “the wages of sin is death”, we are told by Paul. We should be distraught over our death to the Lord after he sacrificed so much to give us his grace.

James leaves us with the promise, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (James 4:10 NIV)” His teaching is what the Psalmist tells us about the Lord God, “The LORD sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground. (Psalms 147:6 NIV)” Those who are willing to leave their sinful pride behind, God will lift up and restore! The key is humility. If we debase ourselves before the Lord, he will indeed lift us up. Our way to soar is first of all found in falling down. Those who willingly give up their ungodliness, our God will dust them off and lift them up. There is a marked advantage to our humility — eventually it brings us honor! Jesus taught, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. (Luke 14:11 NIV)” Our problem is we do not like to give up our control. We think by humbling ourselves we lose part of ourselves, but nothing is further from the truth! This is why many young brides do not like the word “obey” in their marriage vows. They do not want to submit to anyone, thinking if they do they are less of a person. God, however, never asks us to be less than we are. In fact, he desires the very best there is for our lives! He desires us to be what he created us for, his kingdom purposes! This is why the Scriptures relate, “Before his downfall a man’s heart is proud, but humility comes before honor. (Proverbs 18:12 NIV)” Paul boldly wrote, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. (Romans 8:18-19 NIV)” And that, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (Galatians 3:26-27 NIV)” When we place our faith and trust in Jesus as our Savior and Lord we are no longer our own, we are bought with a huge price. When we arrogantly sin and pridefully continue in that sin rather than coming back to the one who saved us, we place ourselves above God himself and his purpose for our lives. We never have to sacrifice that which God desires for our lives. We are his alone and when we come back to him and humble ourselves before the Lord, he will lift us up!

Now, let me ask you, are you willing to live the submissive life and enjoy all that God has to offer you or will you take advantage of God’s grace and return to the pride of your sin?

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Just Wondering…

Just Wondering…

By Pastor Lee Hemen

July 20, 2014

 

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7-8 NIV)

 

I have always wondered how bad things have to get before we get it. Here’s what I mean: The Scriptures teach us over and over that we reap what we sow, so, if we are constantly being thwarted in what we are doing, whether it is for fun, sport, or a hobby; perhaps we are reaping what we’ve sown? If we face consistent struggles in what we plan, in what we invest our time, talent, and treasure in, instead of God’s kingdom, what does that say about our willingness to learn from God? I find it amusing and often kind of mystifying how when things go good we tend to think everything is okay dokey with God in what we are doing; even if we know it takes us away from being obedient to him. How can that be? Then, when things go haywire or contrary to our wonderful planning we fail to equate the lousy outcome with reaping what we have sown. God is not mocked no matter how hard we try to justify the outcome. A person reaps what they sow in life. If we continually think we are being blessed when nothing adverse happens, yet ignore the times when God is truly trying to get our attention, we may find that we may not like the final outcome. Perhaps when things are going kind of funky we need to ask the Lord what he is trying to teach us. Perhaps we are reaping what we’ve sown. Makes one wonder…

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Discover, Decide, and Defend! – 1 Peter 3:15-16

Discover, Decide, and Defend! – 1 Peter 3:15-16
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 20, 2014

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. (1 Peter 3:15 NIV)

Loyalty, we all like it when companies, family, or friends are loyal to us but are we loyal in return? And what does it mean for you to be loyal? You have to believe in the person, place, or thing you decide to be loyal to. God desires our loyalty. This is why Peter reminds us, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.” We are to hallow; honor as holy, enshrining God in our hearts as Jesus reminds us in the Lord’s Prayer where he reminds us to pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9 NIV). God’s holiness is thus glorified in our hearts, our entire lives, as the dwelling-place of his Spirit. This is where our loyalty is to begin and end. The very first commandment God gave the Israelites was, “You shall have no other gods before me (Exodus 20:3 NIV).” Jesus told Satan we are to “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only (Matthew 4:10 NIV).” And, this is why he reminded the teachers of the law that we are to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength (Mark 12:30 NIV).” One of the very last verses in the Bible tells us, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me (Revelation 3:20 NIV).” We have to decide to make Jesus the Lord of our lives. We have to decide if we will follow Jesus or not. We have to decide if we will hear his voice and give our lives to him. Paul said, “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved (Romans 10:9-10 NIV).” We have to decide with our whole heart exactly who we will be loyal to in life!

I believe we are to decide to follow him after we have discovered who Jesus is. We are to “set apart Christ as Lord”. It is a conscious decision that we are to make for ourselves. No one else can make it for us, nor can we make the decision for someone else. Setting apart Christ in our lives means we make a decision to follow him alone. Anything else would be adultery! James would say we are to, “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded (James 4:8 NIV)!” We are to repent of our lives without him. We are to repent, turn away from and ask forgiveness of our sinful condition. In fact this is a serious matter for the individual. There are those who have deluded themselves into thinking they serve God and love the Lord, but in reality their hearts are divided and they are not totally his! However, it is more than an emotional feeling; it is an act of will. We determine that we will set our hearts, our lives, all that we are to live for the Lord. We have forgotten that God only accepts a perfect sacrifice without spot or blemish. Jesus is that sacrifice for us. We become perfect, holy, when we give ourselves to him alone. When we act out of our emotions we can fool ourselves into thinking that as long as we feel good about ourselves, we are okay. Jesus warned, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers’ (Matthew 7:21-23 NIV)!” In fact, Jesus concludes, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock (Matthew 7:24 NIV).” We are to deliberately turn our lives completely over to the Lord’s will. Just as Peter warned the crowd at Pentecost, we are to “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord (Acts 3:19 NIV).” Refreshing comes as we walk in Him alone and change direction away from the things of the world. We are to “set apart Christ as Lord!”

Our lives in Christ do not end there however, we are to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” Far too many of us have never shared our faith with another individual. Yet, we are told over and over again to be able to witness and if fact we are commanded to go into the entire world. We are to help others discover the truth. We have fallen for the modern-day mantra of lifestyle evangelism. And while there is benefit in befriending others in order to gain an arena whereby we can eventually share our faith in Christ, far too many of us use it as an excuse to never actually mention Jesus to anyone. Cookies for Christ never won a soul unless you use them to comment on him. We are far more fearful of what others may think of us if we share our faith than we are horrified about their final outcome without Christ. When Peter remarked that we are always to be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks, he did not mean we are to wait until they come up to us and say, “Hey, I’ve noticed you are different today? Why?” Because the only way they will ever ask is if they actually see a change in our life and see us living for Jesus! What Peter meant is we are to be prepared, like Paul told his friend Timothy, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction.” The wording here does not mean like “preach it brother” on a soapbox or from a pulpit, but rather it means to speak out, tell others. Believers are to speak out; we are to tell others about the Lord Jesus Christ! Why? Peter goes on to say, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. (2 Timothy 4:2-4 NIV)” Now, let me ask you, “Don’t you think this is true in our world today?” So, what is the answer? We should be able to give anyone, at anytime, the answer for eternity – Jesus Christ! Yet, we are to do it “with gentleness and respect”. The wording here is interesting because in actuality it means “with meekness and fear”! We are to be humbled by the very prospect of sharing such a tremendous truth that we are to do it trembling because it is a sacred certainty that can change a person’s life forever! Plus, it was bought with such a bloody price. We are to sow the seed of the gospel and allow the Holy Spirit to germinate it in the life of those we share it with. We are to help others discover the truth.

Wherever we go and whoever we meet we are to be ready with the gospel. We are to be ready to defend what we believe, “keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” We are not to be deliberately abrasive, but we are to be willing to stand up for Christ. Far too many of us worry and wonder what in the world will I say, what if I offend someone, what if I lead someone astray by not being able to tell them exactly what they need to hear? This is all so much hogwash. Have you forgotten the promise of Jesus in this matter? He told his disciples and the curious crowds, “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say. (Luke 12:11-12 NIV)” We are not to be gospel scholars or Biblical professors, we are to be ourselves. Some of the best witnessing is when we simply share what Jesus has done for us, and it is most effective when we babble on about it! Why? Because it is sincere! It is us being us and sharing how God has worked in us! If someone wants to have a theological ontological pre-millennial post tribulational argument with you, respond by telling them, “What!?” And then share what you do know from your own life and if they do not want to hear it, be respectful and talk about something else!  If the God who knows the very number of hairs on your head, your coming and going, and everything else there is to know about you, don’t you think he can give you what you need to say about your walk with the Lord when you need it? (I do.) He promised to do so!

She was this petite, quite, little 8th grade girl who always sat in the back row when we did youth camp. However, one day she came to me and asked, with a whole lot of fear and trembling I might add, to be able to share a testimony during our share time at Camp. You see, we always asked the youth that if they felt God prompting them to share something during share time they could. (Most of the time it was punctuated by a lot of cricket chirping, scuffling of feet, and utter quite.) So, that night as we all sat around enjoying the worship music, the skits, and the devotions, the time came for me to stand up and again ask if there was anyone who wanted to share. She quietly stood up and began to share what God was doing in her life. This beautiful quiet girl was a foster child. She came to camp because her foster mother thought it would be a good idea. She hated church, she hated Christians, and she did not particularly like the outdoors and sleeping in a cabin with fifteen strange girls who snored. The very first day she had sat alone on her bunk and had determined to run away. She was overcome by her circumstance in life. She shared that a slight breeze blew through the open door and flipped the pages of a Bible lying on an adjacent bunk. Curious, she went over to read where it had opened and she read these words: “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (Revelation 3:19-22 NIV)” She sat down on the floor of the cabin and gave her life to Christ. Tearfully she asked the now quiet crowd of youth “Is there anyone else here who needs to do what I did? I just felt I needed to share this and ask.” Over a dozen came forward that night. To my surprise most came from foster homes and were sent to the camp by their foster parents in order to give them the experience. She did not argue theology, eschatology, or the social implications of faith; she just shared what she knew.

When was the last time you decided to follow Jesus, discovered who he is, and defended his gospel so others would come to know him?

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Just Wondering…

Just Wondering…

By Pastor Lee Hemen’

July 19, 2014

 

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness… (Matthew 6:33 NIV) For we know that our old self was crucified with him… (Romans 6:6 NIV) You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds… (Ephesians 4:22-23 NIV) Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace… (1 Peter 4:10 NIV) The greatest among you will be your servant. (Matthew 23:11 NIV)

 

What is up with all the “selfies” people take? What does this say about us? We go to different places and then stick a cell phone in our own faces, snap an intimate shot of our facial imperfections and nose hair to share with thousands of others. We cannot even see what is behind us because the whole focus of the picture is us! I am not speaking to the world here but to believers who say they love Jesus and want to live for him. Could this modern-day electronic digital affliction be problematic of what we have allowed society to implant in us? Perhaps this is true. If we take the snapshot selfishness into our church membership, our relationship with Christ, or our spiritual growth what we will end up with is a lot of the focus being on us instead of the big picture – namely God’s kingdom. Couldn’t we take one picture of our nose hairs and simply lie to others about where we are in our selfies? Are we so focused on ourselves that we do not serve, we do not seek ways to grow God’s kingdom, or we have become static in our spirituality? Perhaps we need to take the cell phone out of our faces and take a snapshot of our lives in Christ instead. Would we like the hairs and imperfects we would see there? If so, then what will you do about taking so many selfies instead of sacrificially serving the Savior? Makes one wonder…

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Just Wondering…

Just Wondering…
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 15, 2014

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 NIV

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

I was just wondering, why we don’t live the transformed lives in the Lord we are supposed to? Notice dear reader what Paul is sharing with us here. We who have placed our faith and trust in the One who brings “freedom” and whereby our faces are unveiled before him, are being transformed. We are not being transformed into ourselves, our old sin nature, nor our wretched past. We are being transformed into “his image”. If this is true why are you not living like it right now? Your transformation is not some day when you die, pie-in-the-sky, me oh my! It is a moment by moment occurrence. Why do you continually go back to the trash-heap of your old life? When you go to a fine restaurant do you enjoy the meal and then head for the dumpster outback? Do you wear your brand new garments and never wash them? Do you rub yourself with the filth you find in the gutter after taking your daily shower? Now before you answer, think for a moment how you treat your life in the Lord. We are free in Christ who saved us. We are free from a life of regulation or our own striving to get into heaven because of his grace, but our freedom does not mean we are to live eating refuse, to wear filthy rags, or to continually return to the muck of the world and wallow in it. As Paul would admonish, “be transformed”! If you say you love Jesus but live like hell, what does that display to the world? Certainly not a transformed life. Your glory is not to be found in the dirt of this world but rather in the transforming presence of your Savior. Makes one wonder…

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The Focused Life! – James 4:1-5
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 13, 2014

It amazes me how unfocused many in the world are today. They expect and sometimes even demand that others do all the work for them so that they can “focus” on whatever strikes their fancy for the moment. It has infected Christianity to some extent as well. There are those who simply cannot focus on how they are supposed to live for the Lord and expect a quick sermon, a Bible app, or the latest Christian book to solve their particular spiritual problem. James faced something similar in his day and he was trying to get the attention of those he was writing to. He had just told them that “the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” His readers were having difficulties in being peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy, and having the good fruit of the gospel! In fact, we discover they had a problem in being completely self-serving. When the believer’s life is not focused where it should be, on the Lord Jesus Christ, it usually is focused somewhere else – usually on ourselves! And, this is where they were, so much so that they were now fussing with one another about it. He told them, “Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.” They were not displaying lives immersed in the gospel, they were not displaying lives of righteousness, but instead they were feuding, fussing, and fighting with one another and within themselves!

James writes, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? (James 4:1 NIV)”

The focused life focuses on the Lord and not oneself! James literally accuses them of being at war and coming to blows! Not just with one another, but with their inner thoughts and desires! The word for “quarrels” is where we get our word for machete! They violently wanted what they knew they could not have! These folks had desires or “lusts” that had become the main focus of their lives! So much so that it may have been affecting their friendships and their church! They wanted things their way or no way! They plotted and schemed like army generals on how they could get what they wanted from each other! (Wow!) I have always been mystified how some folks will spend a whole lot of time scheming how to cheat the government, their places of work, or one another rather than spending the same amount of time and effort actually working for what they get in life! Sadly, believers can be guilty of the same kind of blurred vision. They can expect others to do the task they are called to do! It is becoming increasingly rare to see individual Christians witness, disciple new believers, or sacrifice their time talent or treasure for the kingdom! Fewer than 3% of church goers, which includes those who think they are members but never have actually joined the church, tithe. You know, give ten percent of their gross income. Less than 1% have ever actually shared the good news with another person or discipled someone else in Biblical basics. Is it any wonder America is not being converted to the gospel message? We focus our lives on the wrong things.

James bluntly writes, “You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4:2-3 NIV)”

There are those who declare that they pray or have asked God for direction, but what they really mean is that they thought about it a lot, perhaps even said, “Oh my God, why not me?” but they truly have not sought God’s advice. Here, we discover that the folks James was addressing wanted to go to battle with themselves and one another for what they lusted after! And isn’t this what causes many of the problems we have in our world today? We think we deserve something someone else has, whether riches, goods, oil, or whatever and then get mad when we don’t get it! We often do not receive what we desire “because [we] ask with wrong motives, that [we] may spend what [we] get on [our own] pleasures!” This is contrary to what God is all about. When in fact we are to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33)! We learn that Jesus said this because he knew that “the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. (Matthew 6:32 NIV)” Jesus knew that when we seek after what the world lusts for it can lead to alienation of our affection for the Lord. When we have more in common with those who are in the world than we do with fellow believers, something is drastically wrong.

In fact, James retorts, “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (James 4:4 NIV)”

James calls it for what it is, adultery! We forget in our greedy little lives that anything that pulls us away from God is committing adultery! We are not just his children we are also his bride, his church. We are commanded to be a part of a local church fellowship so that we can use the gifts he has freely given us to serve him and share the good news of Jesus! When we allow family, friends, things of the world or our simple selfishness to continually or consistently interfere with his kingdom work, we are committing adultery! This is why Jesus would bluntly teach, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God. (Luke 9:62 NIV)” Peter would write, “If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. (2 Peter 2:20-21 NIV)” And he would go on to equate it with a dog returning to eat its own vomit or a washed pig going back to the mud! Our lives in Christ are not about us! This is why Paul would remind us, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. (Romans 12:1 NIV)” In fact, he teaches us, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2 NIV)” Sacrifices do not demand from God. Sacrifices do not lust after what they cannot have. Sacrifices are sacrifices! Living sacrifices are not to crawl off the altar of their God but to give themselves away for his kingdom purposes! When we seek first our kingdom and our pleasures for our selfish selves, we become enemies of God! We are living contrary to God’s kingdom purposes because “friendship with the world is hatred toward God”!

James knew we often forget what our lives are to be about. We lose our focus. This is why he asks his readers, “Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? (James 4:5 NIV)”

One commentary relates that “This is one of the most difficult verses to translate in the entire letter.” However, what I believe James is relating is the fact that when God enters into our lives, through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, that he does so because he desires to do so! “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NIV)” Paul would remind us, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NIV)” We often forget that we were bought with a price and that we are no longer our own. This is why Paul would also write, “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. (1 Corinthians 2:11-13 NIV)” In fact, we are to be holy. And holiness is more than doing good things or being a good person or living once in a while with some kind of morals. Holiness is taking on the nature and characteristics of Christ! God is jealous of that which he came to die for! After all he gave his very best that we might be saved! It shows and proves his intense love for us! Why is it then that we so often take God’s love so lightly? A focused life understands what God did and just how much he cares and loves us!

A parent that truly loves their child always hurts when they hurt, even if they are the ones who have to momentarily discipline them! As a parent and grandfather I know this to be true. One day a father had to discipline his little daughter for running out in the street without looking both ways for cars. She had been told numerous times to “look both ways” but she wasn’t thinking and darted out into the street just as a car was coming. Fortunately the car was not going very fast, saw her, and stopped. The father’s heart skipped a beat. He ran to her and took her back to the curb where he began to sternly speak with her about her actions of not looking both ways. Didn’t he always remind her? Isn’t she always supposed to look both ways? Couldn’t her one careless act have caused her harm or even death? He told her that he would have to punish her for not listening, and gave her a swat on the bottom. She teared up but stopped when she saw her father weeping as well. She reached out her little hand and touched his wet cheek, “Don’t worry Daddy, it doesn’t hurt that much, and, I will get over it,” she quietly whispered to him. Doesn’t God continually remind us? Doesn’t our rebellious nature constantly cause us harm and death? The wages of sin is death. Aren’t we supposed to listen to his voice and follow him instead of the world? Why are we surprised when we are punished for our disobedience by our heavenly father who loves us?

James was frustrated with those he was pastoring. They were focused on the wrong things in life, wanting more and greedily lusting after what each other had. They actually thought they could use their prayers to God as a means to further their own fortune in life. He had to warn them that they were totally focused on the wrong things. Now let me ask you, what is the focus of your life?

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The Wise Life! — James 3:13-18

The Wise Life! — James 3:13-18
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 22, 2014

Where does wisdom come from? Does it come about because of age? Does it come from the amount of knowledge one knows or has acquired? Mark Twain retorted, “The person who has had a bull by the tail once has learned 60 or 70 times as much as a person who hasn’t.” Another quote that is often falsely attributed to Twain is the one that states, “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years!” My father used to remind us that “Just because you think you know something, does not make it true.” We find this pithy bit of wisdom to be quite true in our day and age whereby so many think they know God when in fact they know nothing about him at all. Both the psalmist and the writer of Proverbs agree that, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom…. (Psalms 111:10 & Proverbs 1:7 NIV)” What then is the wise life? James gives us a glimpse in what he defines as a person who is wise.

He writes, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. (James 3:13 NIV)”

We have to remind ourselves that James is writing to believers and not the world at large. So, his premise is that Christians would already understand that what he is so concerned about comes from a life that is already given over to Jesus Christ. If not, you will not understand or have the wisdom to discern what James is trying to teach. We all would like to be known for being “wise and understanding”, but for James it is predicated on that fact that Jesus is the focus of your life, then you would show your understanding and wisdom by your “good life, by deeds done in humility that comes from” the “wisdom” he has been writing about!  Remember James had just told us that he would show us his faith by what he did and not simply by the words he used (James 2:18). The fact remains if one has placed their faith In Christ, then Christ will affect their lives and in the humility of Jesus we will do the deeds we need to do that displays our wisdom is from following him!

However, James knew that “if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth (James 3:14 NIV).”

These kinds of characteristics in the life of someone who claims Christ cannot be! If we harbor, hold on to and tenuously keep, bitter envy and selfish ambition in our hearts, how could we possibly be a follower of Jesus! Bitter envy is like deliberately sucking on a lemon and expecting something sweet! We have those around us who would have you disdain others who have worked hard for what they have. Then, there are those who would walk over anyone to gain a nickel! We should not boast about bitterness or hidden envy that we have kept like pampered pets, nor should we try to deny the sin of it because when we do, such action denies the truth of the gospel that should have affected our lives!

In fact, for James, “Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. (James 3:15 NIV)”

Literally James is saying it is not from God at all but from world, earthly, unspiritual, and demonic! Much of what we hear today on the TV, read online, or are inundated with in the classroom and workplace is the ungodly sensuality of the world’s wisdom. It is thoroughly demonic! The demonic wisdom of the world tries to rewrite the definition of what love, marriage, family or faith is. It belches out the satanic propaganda that loves is what you feel at the moment, marriage is defined as to whatever you desire, family is anyone or anything in relationship and faith is any spirituality. This ungodly and demonic “wisdom” has given us unprecedented violence, dysfunctional families, perverted tolerance, and small-minded selfish mysticism! Recently Fox Channel 12 News gushed how wonderful it was that Portland, Oregon has become a Mecca for gay men to come and have women give birth to their children!

While some of the things we do in our society today are in of themselves harmless, they are perhaps symptomatic of the deeper spiritual sickness that has crept into our society. Instead of believers being the salt and light of the world, the gospel change agents they are commanded to be, we have become societal chameleons. Take for instance the rampant sexualization of our society. I believe it represents the self-absorb outcome of the culture we live in. We readily use our bodies without a care as to the ultimate psychological, physical, emotional, and spiritual result. The legalization of marijuana when we have not come to terms with the horrendous fallout of alcohol as a society, speaks volumes as to where our wisdom is coming from.

For James, the proof was in the outcome of what he saw in the lives of believers, “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. (James 3:16 NIV)”

My Dad used to say, “If you have to think up an excuse for what you’re doing, do you really need to do it?” James understood that when you’ve seen lives filled with the envy of what others have or where one was willing to do whatever it takes to get ahead, even lie, cheat, or steal – he knew there was a problem! The problem was a sin problem because when you see this kind of ungodliness of character, “there you find disorder and every evil practice.” In fact, as Paul retorted to the Roman church that, “Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools… Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another… Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them (Romans 1:22, 24, 32 NIV).” Paul would also later lament, “Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe (1 Corinthians 1:20-21 NIV).” The world today disdains godly wisdom because it understands that what itself teaches as clever is nothing but stupidity. This is why Paul would continue by writing, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14 NIV).”

James, however, would write, “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere (James 3:17 NIV).”

What a difference there is between what society prizes as sensible and what God sees as wisdom! Godly wisdom does not have to make excuses for its behavior because it is first and foremost pure. After all it comes from God himself! James is making reference to the fact of the gospel message. The message of the cross is always foolish to the spiritually or morally ignorant and corrupt. Yet we see that the life affected by gospel is “peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” He did not mean it accepted sin but that it was impacted by the Spirit!

The Daily Mail, a British newspaper, reported concerning how “Parents of children at a primary school in the suburbs of London, England are complaining after they were treated to a pole-dancing exhibition at a school fair. A four-year-old girl participated in the pole-dancing festivities at Crockenhill Primary School, the Daily Mail reports. Other performers ranged in age up to 12.”

“‘A lot of people were upset about it,’ a father who endured the pole-dancing routine told the Mail. ‘They were performing a routine to music in inappropriate clothing and they had children doing it and I just thought, “This is so wrong.”’ Of course, School official Sarah Warshow defended the pole-dancing performance.”

“‘There was one performance by the teacher and some by the children,’ she added. ‘It’s great for the children to keep fit and it’s fun as well.’”

We have an economy still cannot provide jobs for millions of Americans, there are rumors of $6 gasoline, the Middle East is aflame but we have time to support the gay agenda? This is despite the CDC’s warning that one in five homosexual males in the U.S. is infected with HIV/AIDS and new studies proving children raised by same-sex parents are far more likely to commit homosexual acts and abuse than other kids.

James ends this section by reminding us that “Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness (James 3:18 NIV).”

Calvin wrote that “Those truly wise towards God, while peaceable and tolerant towards their neighbors, yet make it their chief concern to sow righteousness, not cloaking men’s sins, but reproving them with such peaceable moderation as to be the physicians, rather than the executioners, of sinners.” Far too many believers have instead become enablers of sin in our world today so that they can be seen as “tolerant” instead of righteous. Peter reminds us, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil (1 Peter 3:15-17 NIV).”

Isaiah warned his nation, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight (Isaiah 5:20-21 NIV).”

What is wisdom? The wise life “fights the good fight of faith” that Paul encouraged Timothy to do. Wisdom comes from God himself as we walk with him daily, as we fight the good fight. As James would say, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom (James 3:13 NIV).”

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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