This Wednesday, February 14th, Grace Students will be visiting with the residents of Texoma Healthcare Center in Sherman, Texas. The older generation should never be made to feel that they have been thrown away and forgotten. Nursing homes are filled with former doctors, nurses, and engineers and on and on. Our tendency is to look at the elderly as just an aging people group in a nursing home, instead of seeing them as people who have lived a life before us. They have made their mark on this life. They have performed well, and have confidence that their life was well spent.
Leviticus 19:31 says, “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man.” Older people are to be respected. They have a wealth of practical wisdom to share and experiences to relate. It is a blessing to get to serve and visit with this group of people!
Students, be at Grace Bible by 6:00pm ready to leave! We'll be at Texoma Healthcare Center from 6:30-7:20. Then, we'll be back by at Grace Bible by 7:45.
Last week, we talked about false wisdom versus true wisdom. We talked about the wisdom that comes from God versus the wisdom that comes from man. James tells us that there's a way to live your life that's categorically false. It's out of step with reality. Then there's a way to live your life that lines up with what he calls true wisdom or living in step with the way God designed things to work. The litmus test on whether or not you're walking in false wisdom or true wisdom was what you do with the two truths we stated last week.
First, we stated that God is God and we are not. You and I are limited, finite human beings. We are creations made in the image of the holy God, but we are not gods. The holy God of the universe is unlimited and infinite. He is the creator of all things. He is all-knowing. He is all-powerful. He is the one who exists outside of time and can see past, present, and future all at the same time as a memory because it is. God is God and we are not.
Second, we said that because God is God and because he is the Creator of all things he has designed things to work a specific way. There is a truth to be known and practiced and submitted to. Truth is not relative or subjective. What I mean by that is you and I don't get to decide what's true. There is a truth that can be known and must be applied if we're going to walk in step with reality.
Rejecting these truths is false wisdom. And false wisdom leads to bitterness. This leads to selfish ambition. This leads to jealousy, because anytime somebody has more than what I have, that's outrageous and wrong. That's an offensive to you. Like you deserve that. You should have that. That's rightfully yours. It sows seeds of dissatisfaction. It leads, according to James, to chaos and every vile, evil practice.
On the flip side, true wisdom embraces the truths that God is God, and that God has designed the world to work in a specific way. True wisdom lives in light of these two truths and seeks to obey God’s commands because he or she knows that they are for our good and ultimately for the glory of God. True wisdom leads to joy, peace, and life.
That was where we left off in James. Now James is going to shift gears a little bit. He’s is going to take all of that true wisdom, false wisdom, how to grow in it and he is going to put it right on the ground. He’s going to take all that and bring it right into the grittiness of life with other sinful human beings. It’s moving from intellectual discussions in the clouds to the ground level. Look there in James 4, starting in verse 1.
James 4:1 says, "What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?”
What causes quarrels and fights? What’s the cause of the problems between you and your fellow man? What’s the cause of our problems? All of us get into fights and quarrels. Right? Has anyone here over this school year been an exception to this? No quarrels, no fights, just peace in your world? From time to time, most of us have conflicts and quarrels. Sometimes those fights are started out of legitimate wrongs, legitimate sins, legitimate harms upon us. Sometimes fights are legitimate. Some fights are good to have so not all fights are evil.
But James isn’t talking about those kinds of fights. James is describing here the type of conflict that start out of a messed-up heart. The conflict is not external but rather internal. Look back at verse 1. "What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?" What causes the quarrels? What causes the fights? It's not really what's going on around you. It's not your crazy teacher. It's not your stubborn parents. It’s not your circumstances. It's something going on inside of you. The cause is our hearts.
Look at verses 2-3. “You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”
Did you notice that the problems James pointed out were all matters of the heart? Desires, coveting, envying, and pride all things in the heart. Then, they make themselves known by resulting in some sort of public, physical response. The problems in the heart are the disease and the symptoms are the public, physical actions.
You know a good word that can be used to sum up the attitudes of those who quarrel and fight? Entitlement. They murder, or they fight because they see something that they want and are felt entitled to. If you feel as though you are entitled, you grow in hatred. When you think you deserve, you're owed, God should give you and you don't have, then you grow resentful and hateful, first against others and then against God himself. When you see other people get blessed, you can't rejoice in that. That's an offense to you, because, in your mind, you deserve that.
Look at what James says next in verse 4. “You adulterous people!” Effectively, James says “You are promise breakers!” We are people who constantly make promises to God and then break them.
He keeps going. “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity [hostility] with God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy with God.” In breaking our promises, we choose to side with the world. Being friends with the world means your enemies with God.
When we’re walking in entitlement and growing in contempt toward those around us and toward God, here’s what our actions say, "If God won't give me what I deserve, I'll take it myself. If I have to wait on him or wait for him to do this, I won’t. I don't trust him to be good. I don't trust him to give me what I want. I don't trust him to be enough for me. So, I'm going to take my friendship away from God, and I'm going to give my friendship to those who are most hostile toward him."
Friendship in the first century would carry a completely different meaning than today. James is not talking about social media friends. If we’re being honest, at best, most of those relationships are acquaintances. They’re shallow. James is talking about a deep and intimate relationship.
Friendship in the first century would have been highly sought after, and it would have been restricted. If you watch Jesus do ministry, you get a sense of this. Jesus had the three. Peter, James, and John. You always saw him with these three. Then he had the 12. Then there were the 70. Then there were the 144. Then we see finally there's the 500. But Jesus spends the most time, the most intimate time, with the three. Friendships are restricted because you can't go deep with everyone.
So, here’s James' argument: Those who are entitled and growing resentful toward the Lord have decided to remove their friendship with God. They have taken away their "Shape me, mold me, lead me” away from the Lord. And they give it to the enemies of God and say, "You shape me. You mold me, because there’s something else I want that's better than what God’s giving me." This is a rejection and an assault on the mercy and beauty of God. And we're all guilty.
As blasphemous as that is, what's even crazier, what’s even more scandalous than that is the response of God to that. Look at verse 5. "Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, 'He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us'? But he gives more grace."
God is jealous for you. Let’s be clear, James is not talking about the type of jealousy that we all experience. Our jealousy is rooted in fear and insecurities. When we get jealous, it’s usually out of fear of something be taken aware from us. We’re scared of being the one without something or losing something or someone. But God is not jealous of you.
God's jealousy is not built around, "Oh, look at all they have" because, in reality, you don't have anything! It’s all God’s. He is jealous for you and for his own glory. He is jealous for you because it’s His name, His glory, and our good that is at stake when we go back to the ways of the world. His jealousy is rooted in, "I put my Spirit in there. My glory is at stake. Their joy is at stake." His jealousy stems from the love of his own name and the hope that your joy in him might reflect more perfectly His goodness and grace.
Here’s what you have right here. You have this picture of someone rescued, ransomed, cleaned, and put in a place of honor who then betrays that rescuer and runs back to his or her shame. The Lord is jealous for the spirit he gave us, and he is jealous for us to experience the fullest joy possible, made known only in knowing, loving, and following him.
What's God's response to this type of adultery? What's God's response to this kind of blasphemy, this type of hostility? What's God's response to, "You're not a good king. You're not a good God. I'm going to go to your enemies, and your enemies will take care of me"?
Well, it's that crazy sentence. "But he gives more grace." I love that verse.
Listen to me, there is no sin with more power than the cross of Christ. There is no sin that can’t be forgiven. There’s no sin that could ever outweigh the sacrifice of Christ. That's the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Grace abounds all the more.
How does God respond to our adultery? By turning up the volume of grace so loudly that the volume of rebellion is no longer heard but eliminated all together. That's the good news of grace and it truly is amazing.
Everyone one of us is guilty of making friends with the world and turning our backs on God. But God, according to his steadfast love and mercy made a way for us to come back to him even while we were still sinners. He didn’t leave us out in the cold to die. Though we deserved far worse. But God gives more grace. He sent His own flesh and blood to save us. Jesus left the comforts of heaven, he entered into space and time, he took on the humiliating form of a servant, and He laid down his life to redeem us back to God. The hero laid down his life for the villains. That’s the scandalous gospel of Jesus Christ.
So, let me ask you this, where do you stand today? In regard to your relationship with God, where are you? Is your life marked by a sense of entitlement or by thankfulness? Are you constantly fighting with everyone or is there peace? Are you a friend of the world or are you a friend of God? Don’t leave here tonight without knowing your answer to those questions. Jesus loves you. Jesus wants you. This is your invitation to step into something greater than yourself.
1. What is the root cause for all our fights and quarrels?
2. Do you ever find yourself befriending the world? When and how are you tempted to do that?
3. What does it mean that God is jealous for us?
4. Where are with your relationship with Christ?
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What is wisdom? Wisdom is the application of knowledge. Knowledge understands the light has turned red; wisdom applies the brakes. Knowledge sees the quicksand; wisdom walks around it. Knowledge memorizes Scripture; wisdom obeys it. Knowledge learns of God; wisdom loves Him.
Before we get too far into tonight’s text, I want to make sure we all get on the same page with two points. Everything from our text tonight in James, sort of flows from the understanding of these two truths. Therefore, I need to make sure we’re all on the same page.
First, God is God and we are not. For any of us who has lived longer than 10 minutes, this should seem obvious. You and I are limited, finite human beings. We are creations made in the image of the holy God, but we are not gods. The holy God of the universe is unlimited and infinite. He is the creator of all things. He is all-knowing. He is all-powerful. He is the one who exists outside of time and can see past, present, and future all at the same time as a memory because it is. God is God and we are not. That’s theology 101.
Second, God, being God, has designed the world to work in a specific way. God has designed the entire known and unknown universe to function and work in a specific way. Therefore, as the creator and designer of the world, his commands about how to navigate the world transcend ours. He’s the one who made it. He knows how it works. We did not make it. We’re fumbling our way through.
And by His grace, God has not abandoned us to fumble our way through life, but rather He has revealed to us true wisdom as opposed to false wisdom. Proverbs 16:25 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” And Proverbs 8:35 says this, “For whoever finds me [wisdom] finds life and obtains favor from the Lord.” Here’s what He said. “If you walk in true wisdom, you find life and you’re blessed by the Lord. If you walk in false wisdom, you hurt yourself and that way will lead to death.”
God is God and we are not. And God has wired the universe to work a specific way for his glory and our good. Those are our two lenses that we’re looking through. With those lenses on, let’s look at what James says about false wisdom and true wisdom. Let’s look at James 3:13-18.
Right off the bat, in verse 13, James asks the question, “Who is wise?” Who is the wise person? What does true wisdom look like? Then, James outlines two types of wisdom: False wisdom and true wisdom. Let’s work through false wisdom first.
False Wisdom rejects everything we just stated at the beginning. False wisdom says, “No, no, no. God isn’t God. I am God and I am at the center of the universe.” Even if it doesn’t audibly say those things, it lives itself out in that way. False wisdom says, “No, no, no. There’s not a right way to live life. There are preferences, and everybody has their own preference, and it’s up to you in your heart to find out what’s best for you.” False wisdom is rooted in me being at the center of the universe, and that there’s no right way to live life. There’s only a right way for me to live.
So that’s false wisdom and, according to James, here are some of the ways it makes itself known. False wisdom is marked by bitterness and jealousy and selfish ambition. Look at verses 14-16. “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.”
Bitterness, jealousy, and selfish ambition…these are the traits of false wisdom. And why wouldn’t they be? Think about it. If you think life revolves around you, like you’re the whole point of it all, and if you think there’s no real right way to live, then forget the Bible! Forget God! Forget other people! False wisdom says, “There’s a way that seems right to me, and I’m going to live that way.”
How could you not be selfish? How could you not be bitter and jealous and frustrated constantly? False wisdom is marked by bitter jealousy and selfish ambition because I am all there is. I am top priority in my own heart. You are top priority in your own heart. You are your own god.
Listen to this, you make a crappy god. I make a crappy god. You and I will constantly disappoint ourselves because we’re sinful and our hearts are deceitful. This false wisdom that makes you god will absolutely wreck you.
Look at what false wisdom ultimately leads to: disorder, vile practices, and death. With false wisdom, anything goes. Why can’t I cheat? Why can’t I steal? Why can’t I kill?
Here’s how you spot false wisdom in your life. This will sting a little bit, but that’s why I love James. It’s like an MRI machine. Here’s how you spot false wisdom:
James said that false wisdom is earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. False wisdom never considers eternity, but only operate in the here and now. It relies completely on yourself and not on God. And it feeds you nothing but lies that contradict the character of God. In the decisions you make, in how you spend your money, and how you spend your time, is all focused in only on the here and the now? Is this it? Because that’s earthly, unspiritual, and demonic thinking. In that type of living there is no room for difficulty, no room for suffering, no room for loss, no room for things that actually happen in the real world. You don’t have time or any of that.
Is not this false wisdom what causes people to do such idiotic things trying to enjoy all they can right now? It is. This is false wisdom – earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. It’s just stupid stuff and we try to justify it by saying, “I’m just doing what makes me happy.” Where are you getting that doing that will make you happy? Better question: Do you even know what would make you happy except for what might possibly make you happy in the moment?
Be honest, how many times in our lives have we sworn this one thing would make us happy only to get that thing and find out it didn’t make us happy at all? Isn’t there some relationship back there that you were like, “If I could just get in that relationship,” it’d make you happy, and you got it, and how did that turn out? We think we know what will make us happy. We’re fools. We don’t. That’s false wisdom working itself out from an earthly, unspiritual, and demonic perspective.
Then James shifts gears and shows us true wisdom. True wisdom’s root, according to this text, is from above. So false wisdom is rooted in earthliness. It’s where the here and the now is all that matters, but true wisdom is rooted in eternity. True wisdom plays the long game. True wisdom is driven by that day I stand in front of God and give an account for my life. I know a day is coming where I’m going to stand in front of my Creator and give an account for all I’ve done with all he has given me.
On that day, I’ll plead the blood of Christ and say, “I did all I could by your grace,” and I’ll worship. But that needs to be the driver in the wisdom that I live my life by. It is rooted from above, not from the things of this world.
And look at how James describes true wisdom and what it leads to. Read verses 17-18. “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”
How beautiful are those things compared to bitterness, jealousy, and selfish ambition? Purity, peaceable, reasonable, merciful, producing good fruit, impartial, sincere. These are the marks of true wisdom. Note that these are things we are growing in and not things we perfectly attain right now.
When you believe that God is God and you’re not and that He has designed the world to work a specific way and then you seek to live life according to His design, these things begin to happen. Purity, peaceable, reasonable, merciful, producing good fruit, impartial, sincere. These are the marks of true wisdom.
Here’s our question: How do we grow in true wisdom and how do we all the more spot false wisdom? There are two ways. Here’s the first thing. If you and I will grow in true wisdom and spot false wisdom, we must grow in our knowledge and understanding of God through His word. What we want to grow in is an understanding of the God of the Bible. We don’t just want to memorize Bible verses, although that is a good thing to do. We want to know God as he has revealed himself to us in the Scriptures.
This is why we preach from the Bible. This is why every week I say, “Grab your Bibles.” It’s important you see this is not me, but these are the very words of God. And through studying His words, we gain a deeper understanding of who He is.
Second, if you and I will grow in true wisdom and spot false wisdom, we must walk with the wise. Proverbs 13:20 says, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” If you’ll get around other men and women who are serious about Jesus and who are growing in their understanding of the God of the Bible, they enter into our lives and help us walk in true wisdom. They’re able to point out to us false wisdom and encourage us in true wisdom.
There’s a way to live our lives where we find, joy, peace, life and are blessed by God. If you want to live a life that is pleasing to God and that also lends itself to peace, it all begins with a right view of who God is. It begins with first admitting that God is God and you are not. It begins with you recognizing that you are not fit to be lord of your life and that there is only one person fit to be called Lord. His name is Jesus. Then, having recognized Jesus as Lord and Savior, you turn away from your own false wisdom and begin living for God. God has made this true wisdom available for everyone by the power of the gospel.
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and life. No man comes to the father except through me.” This is the only way. This is where true wisdom and understanding begin. The gospel of Jesus Christ, the person and work of Jesus Christ has made a way for you to walk and to truly live life. It’s true wisdom. But there’s also a way to live your life that ultimately injures you, hurts you, and leads you to death. My plea with you tonight is to choose life. What say you?
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We are constantly talking. We talk to ourselves. We talk to others. Yes, texts and tweets do count. We are a communicating creature created by a God who communicates via words, and so we are constantly talking, thinking, and sharing what we think. We are never not communicating.
One-fifth of your life, 20% of your life will be spent with your mouth open. That’s a lot of opportunity to bless and that’s a lot of opportunity to curse. So, in chapter 3 here, it should not surprise us that the Word of God would have some things to say about how we use a fifth of our lives, right? It shouldn’t be surprising that God has an idea, a design for how we are to use our words.
Already in the book of James, he has alluded to some of it. In James 1:19, he said, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak…” Be quick, be speedy to listen. Be slow, be patient when it comes to talking. In chapter 3:1-12, we’re really going to dive into this topic. Here’s the premise of verses 1-12:
Words are powerful. They bless and they curse. With that said, let’s read through verses 1-12.
Words are powerful. With them we bless and we build up. With them we curse and we burn to the ground. This is a very common theme throughout the Bible. Solomon said in Proverbs 18:20-21, “From the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach is satisfied; he is satisfied by the yield of his lips. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”
We all love to hear ourselves talk. And with the words that we say, there is serious power associated with them. Death and life both come from the tongue. That may sound overstated, but if you think about it for a little bit, you’ll realize how spot on this is.
Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of teenagers, college students, and young adults have ended their lives. Not because of a deep depression, not because of chemical imbalance. No, but rather, because the incessant, constant, non-stop ridiculing, mocking, and tearing down by other people either via social media or in their life led them to take their own lives. Words have the power of life and death.
James gives three illustrations. They all point to the same thing, but they are three different illustrations. Look there at verse 3. “If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well.”
The second illustration is the same. It’s a ship. “Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also, the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.” See, both examples here emphatically illustrate the power of speech. If it is controlled well, it is effective and wonderful, but if not controlled or controlled poorly, the disaster can be enormous. Then, his third illustration is that of a fire.
"How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue.
It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.” If you pay attention to history, the highest of heights in human history and the lowest, most depraved moments are marked by the same thing…words.
Think about Adolf Hitler. How did Hitler gather the Nazi party and set out to take over the world? He did it with words. There is no great movement in human history that did not have an amazing communicator somewhere in the midst of it, who used words to incite fury, love, or hate. See, one of the truths of human history is that words can lead us to some of the most awful, wicked things imaginable. Things we couldn’t fathom doing we’re now able to do because words have defined reality for us.
Words are powerful. With them we bless, with them we curse. Then here’s another point of James’ we need to spend some time on.
Words reveal our progress in our faith. One of the principal marks of maturity is self-discipline. Self-discipline with regard to one’s speech is rare. Look there in verse 2. “For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.” And then look at what he says in verse 10-12, “From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.”
Now here’s something I need to clarify. James is not saying that if you simply learn how to control your tongue all your other struggles will magically go away. No, but rather the work of taming the tongue takes us right into the core of all that is wrong with us, namely our hearts.
Our words take us to the source of our problem – our hearts. You can’t give fresh water if your filling you bucket from a pool of salt water. This is the way Jesus would say it in Luke 6:45. “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil…” Here’s the sentence. “…for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth…” What? “…speaks.”
So that one-fifth of our lives spent talking, the words that come out of our mouths, where do they come from? Our hearts. Why are they so powerful? They’re powerful because it’s our heart saying to another soul, “This is what I think about you.” Our words reveal what’s really going on in our hearts.
Now think about how good of a gift this is from God. You don’t have to wonder if you have an angry heart. You don’t have to wonder if you have a jealous heart. You don’t have to wonder what’s going on. Your words reveal it. Your words reveal what your identity is tied up in.
And what happens when your identity is threatened? If your identity is wrapped up in being the best athlete in school, what happens when someone else gets praise for their achievements? You say or do whatever you can to make sure everyone sees the flaws in that person’s achievement and you build up your own. You cut them down and make yourself appear bigger.
Our problem is this misplaced identity that results in us using our words for tearing down others. If your identity is not rooted in who you are in Christ, then you will have no choice but to point out the weaknesses of others as it relates to your identity, because you cannot be dethroned.
Because if you’re dethroned as the smartest, strongest, prettiest, or funniest ever, then you don’t matter anymore because your identity has been taken from you. And once your identity is gone, you’re lost. You don’t know who you are.
So, what causes such awful speech to come from our mouths? It’s a misplaced identity in things that can be taken from us rather than our identity being rooted in the one thing that cannot be taken from us – namely our relationship with Christ. Our identity should be that we are his, that we are called, loved, and kept by God. That I am being perfectly used by God in the measure that he would use me.
Once your identity is in Christ, it changes how you see the world. It frees you to see people as brothers and sisters and not rivals. When you’re secure in Christ, you know that you are loved so much and that you have been forgiven of so much that you can’t help but be loving and forgiving to everyone else.
What if everyone here in this room lived like their identity was in Christ? What would that look like? How might that affect this community? How might that affect the world? My prayer is that God would so establish this gospel identity in our hearts and that we would be a group marked by love and encouragement.
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