Summary: Introductory Comments 1.
1. The Christian life is a deep struggle as we face a big dilemna. Even though we are believers we still struggle with sin. We have one foot in the world and one foot in God’s kigdom. We try to live a holy life but we succumb to sin time and time again. How can we become the mature Christian that James challenges us to be in His letter? James has already told is in chapter 4 that we fight together, we fight or struggle within ourselves, we try to live in both worlds, we try to satisfy our old pleasures.
2. God says that we have to choose. And while that may be a one-time decision to follow Him it is also a daily choice as to how we will live. For James says that if we are friends with the world, the way of evil, then we are enemies of God.
3. I don’t want to act like an enemy of God. I want to live for Him. I want to experience His love and holiness. I believe that anyone who takes his or her faith seriously struggles with this very thing. Between living for God or living for self. The problem is real and its tough.
1. There is only one way that we can gain victory in this struggle. As hard as the struggle is, as much as we fail, as high and unattainable God’s standards are, God gives us more grace. His grace is even greater than the rigorous demands which He places upon us. And so, in order to gain victory, we need but receive His grace.
2. God’s grace is needed for our salvation but also for our sanctification or victory over sin. This grace is there for the giving.
3. But God will not force His grace, this grace, upon us. We could say that He sets conditions upon us receiving this grace. Or we could say that unless we do not fulfill these conditions, we will not even be open to receiving this grace or wanting it.
4. And so James tells us this evening how we are able to receive this bounteous, victorious grace. He issues a series of 10 commands - submit, resist, come near, wash, purify, grieve, mourn, wail, change and humble. These commands are in a Greek tense that is imperative, commands which call for immediate response. It is so easy to let things be, as we slowly drift to the way of the world and drift away from God. And we will continue in the same direction unless we take immediate and decisive action.
5. There are different ways of grouping or organizing these 10 commands, but they all point to one thing and that is that we are to be humble. James is not telling us how to overcome our dilemma and the sin that remains in us, for that we cannot do. Only God can - through His grace. And so what James teaches us is how to receive that grace. How we are able to do to open the door for God to do His work. And to receive the grace we must be humble. Get rid of all pride and be humble before God.
6. This is hard for us to do, and so could say that James gives us three steps we can take to become humble.
7. The first is to resist the devil. He is the source of all pride. He prevents us from being humble. It was pride that led him to rebel against God and which led to His downfall. It was pride he used to tempt Eve when he said "you will be like God." It is a pride that says you do not need God, you can do it yourself. He used pride when he tempted Jesus in the desert.
Mat 4:3 The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread."
Mat 4:6 "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written: "'He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'"
Mat 4:8-9 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. "All this I will give you,"
Each of these three temptations had to do with pride - if you are God and the giving the kingdoms.
8. The devil says we do not need any help. Have you ever tried to help anyone who did not want your help? It's almost impossible. Sometimes as parents its very hard. We see children get into relationships that will do them harm. We try to tell them and help them but they reject our help. Perhaps because of their pride, they will not admit they are wrong. They are blinded to the dangers ahead. Often when damage has been done already, will their eyes be open and will they seek your help.