TWO KINDS OF HEART Trinity
James 4:6-10 19.09.21
Here is a social worker who cares for orphaned children in Afghanistan. Over here is the Taliban rebel who killed their parents. Here is a good, upright, moral person. Over here is a man who is a rapist or a paedophile. To which of these should you offer God’s mercy in the gospel?
Religion divides people into good and bad groups. God does it differently. He has much more to say about whether you are wise or unwise … a friend of his or a friend of the world.
Or to use the marker to which we come this morning in James 4:6-10, what really matters is whether you are proud or humble. Verse 6 says “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Might the social worker or the citizen of Tamworth be morally good? Sure, and at the same time proud? Confident that they are higher on the good/bad ladder than these others? Thinking that while these others might need mercy, they don’t? Able to judge others, but not themselves? Sure.
Might I as a real Christian be proud? Sure. During the past 2 weeks:
I said something in our small group which I then realised was stupid. Pride said “don’t admit it, you’ve an image to maintain”.
God exposed a sin in my life. Pride said “Tell him what you’ve done for him over many years.” And “Don’t tell anyone else about it, or you will lose their respect.”
I read about the sins of a failed politician. Pride said “Just thank the Lord that you are a much better person than he is.”
I was doing a good deed that no-one would know about. Pride said “Do it later when someone will see you, and praise you for it.”
On the morally good scale, I’m somewhere near the middle. On the pride-humility scale, I’m off the bottom of the chart.
Pride is a big issue for most of us. For some of us it shows. For others of us while it’s not that obvious it is nonetheless embedded deep in our hearts. Right now, pride might be saying to you, “But it’s embedded more in other hearts than in yours.”
In these words in James 4:6-10, God is asking us to deal with pride. Let me see if I can sum up his 8 exhortations in 2 sets of two.
RANK YOURSELF UNDER GOD
A corporal takes orders from a sergeant, and a sergeant from a lieutenant and a lieutenant from a captain, and a captain from a major. There is an order based on rank.
When God says in verse 7 “Submit yourselves to God”, he uses a word which literally means “rank yourself under”. In other places we are told that citizens submit to governments, servants submit to masters, children submit to parents and so on. Some have this rank, and others submit to that order of things.
When it comes to God and me, we don’t each get a vote. I am not the centre of the world; God is. I am not in charge; God is. I don’t get to decide what’s right or wrong; God does. Life is not about my looking impressive or guarding my reputation; it’s about God looking impressive and my doing what I can to guard his reputation.
It is not as though Satan is king of the world, and I take my lead from him. What he wants is always evil. What he says is always false. When he promises I’d be better off going his way, rather than God’s, I won’t be. That won’t lead anywhere good.
In the movie Titanic Leo stands at the bow of the ship, spreads his arms to the horizon and says, “I’m the king of the world.” Then the ship sinks, and he goes down with it.
While ever God is not big, then I will be. That’s why I’ll quarrel and fight to get the reputation or the recognition or the comfort of the something else I think I deserve.
True humility starts with a big God, and a resolve to live under his sovereign ways and gracious words.
DRAW NEAR TO GOD
God says in verse 8 “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” This is the language of intimacy and closeness.
Captain Lucas was the commander of our High School army cadet corps. As far as I can recall, I obeyed every order he gave, and I really respected him. We were not close friends.
Must I submit to the Living God? Of course. He is Lord and I am not. At the very same time, he is the God who by Jesus has brought me into his family – into a close and intimate relationship of love and openness
I get to call him “Father”. I enjoy his smile, tell him I love him and be open with him about what is on my heart.
You might write me off as a dill, or a failure, but he won’t. You might not want me in your group of friends, but he does. I may be on a lower rung than you on your good/bad scale, but he says “in Jesus you are saved and you are safe.”
If I give you a cold shoulder, or disagree or disapprove of you (or a parent, or a spouse or a friend does that), that’s worth nothing. Not when you know God says “Draw near to God (with your doubt and your sin and your mess), and he will draw near to you.”
When God is small to you, and you do not rest in his intimate acceptance of you, you’ll have to do whatever it takes to get the approval of someone who is big to you. Perhaps you fight to get the recognition your heart craves. Either way, the devil wins.
Submit to God and draw near to him … and he will draw near to you, and the devil is sent packing every time.
WASH OFF YOUR SIN
The rest of verse 8 reads “Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”
“Sinners”? Though my sins are all wiped by Jesus, I am a sinner still. I have set my heart on submitting to the Living God, but so often I face two ways at the same time – I am “double-minded”.
Yes, these are words for me. What is God asking me to do? What I did the first day I turned to Jesus more than 60 years ago – and to do every day. Make a break with sin. Not play with it or excuse it but do whatever I need to do to wash it out of my life.
That starts with calling it for what it is:
When I look down on someone as being inferior to me, James says I have become a “judge with evil thoughts” (2:4).
When I can help someone in physical need but don’t, James says in 2:11, that that is as evil as murder or adultery.
While I downplay gossip, dirty talk or demeaning words, James says my words are “full of deadly poison” (3:8).
Selfish ambition is not nothing. James says it is “earthly, unspiritual and demonic” (3:15).
Ruffling people by asserting my opinions and my desires is not nothing. James says it “enmity (hostility) to God” (4:4).
Delaying payment on debts is smart, but later in James, God calls it “self-indulgence” and “fraud” (5:4,5).
What my culture calls ‘innocent’, God calls lust. What it calls an ‘affair’ or a ‘fling’, God calls adultery. What it calls ‘living the good life”, God calls greed.
If we don’t call it God’s way, we’ll never turn our backs on the sins he hates. We’ll always be double-minded, trying to follow Jesus and hold onto sin, at the same time.
Maybe during 2021 you’ve been washing your hands and purifying your heart like never before. That is wonderful.
Maybe like me, your hands are dirty, and your heart impure, and you don’t want to admit it. You have secret life that pride won’t let you admit even to yourself, let alone to Jesus.
Are you living with unforgiveness? Or a judgmental spirit? Greed perhaps? Are you feeling to keep your word? Have you dumped a friend without good reason?
Don’t try and find a way around these words, will you? Or trade off what God says here for something else. He may be saying to you right now, today the day to call it for what it is, and to wash it off.
Don’t let pride stop today being a new day for being God’s man, God’s woman, God’s boy or girl without that sin.
John Blanchard says “There are two views the Christian ought to covet more than any other; one is the devil’s back and the other is God’s face.” The devil sent packing. No cloud between you and God. Now that’s worth doing whatever it takes to be clean, isn’t it?
WASH WITH PASSION
In my first theme, I spoke about the fact of seeing God out there, supreme over all, and submitting to him. In the second, I spoke about being close to him “in here”, from inside.
Just now I have spoken about washing off your sin – ins of what I do and how I speak and what I spend. Part of this is what goes on “in here”. God says to wash with passion and conviction, inside.
Verse 9 says “Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.”
Do I need to say that God created joy and laughter and is strongly in favour of both? Jesus is found as much at parties as just about anywhere. But there is a time for no longer laughing things off.
Sin is not funny. Carelessness is not funny. Lack of self-control is not funny. Burying what God hates under an easy-going “let’s not get too serious” is not funny.
I can be fairly respectable on this outside, and get approval that feeds my pride, while inside I’m a mess of greed and lust and self-indulgence and stinking pride.
How would I know I am serious about washing my hands of sin? When I hate what God hates, and lament that my sin offends him, because I have sinned against the one who has loved me the most.
Some of us weep when we watch the television news, or when a pet dies. Sometimes over wayward kids – and so we should. How about tears are shed over a double-minded life and heart. Will you ask God to give you what he calls a “godly sorrow” (2 Cor 7:10).
Without it, you may be moral, but you won’t be humble.
Rank yourself under God and at the same time draw near to him. Wash your sins, and do it with a heart-passion.
There is a bookend to all this in verses 6 & 10.
Verse 6 says “He gives more grace”. More grace than he gives when he deals with my sin and declares me innocent?
Grace to be able to resist Satan and his lies. Yes.
Grace for a heart that wants to be free from sin? Yes.
Grace to fight in a way I have not fought before? Yes.
Grace to stop making excuses for myself? Yes.
Grace to see myself as I really am, without needing to compare myself to others? Yes.
Grace to be honest with God about what I am really like, without feeling he’ll walk away from me? Yes.
Grace to be confident that as I draw near to him like this, he will draw near to me? Yes, yes, yes.
He gives MORE grace. More than I’ve known before. More than I saw I needed before. More grace for more sins. We sing that lovely new song “My sins, they are many, his grace it is more.”
This grace has no bottom … the Lord Jesus is never less than fully sufficient for all I need. Never.
The other end of the package is in verse 10. “Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you.”
Let’s be honest. No longer comparing myself with others feels like suicide. Especially when I’ve spent a lifetime doing that. Giving up Satan’s suggestion that I’ll look better to others if I cut a few corners on what God says sounds crazy in 2021.
Don’t I know that in most religions, pride in who you are and what you have done is the big deal? In most of them, humility is despised? Yes I do know that.
The God of the Bible hates pride – it reeks to him. While humility smells sweet, and he loves it. What God loves wins.
Though it may feel like suicide to humble yourself, it is the absolute requirement to know and be for Jesus. Not goodness. Not importance. Not religion. Humility that bows before God, the King of creation. Humility that names and hates sin. Humility that says being close to God is what it is all about.
God could not have spoken any more plainly to all of us who are sinners this morning. “Draw near … and I WILL draw near to you … resist the devil, and he’ll run … cleanse your hands and purify your hearts … humble yourself, and I WILL exalt you.
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