Summary: The 6th in a series of 6 from the book of James. The basic outline comes from a "Tale of Two Selves" by J. Douglas Duty Jr. which can be found on Sermon Central.
The Powerful Paradox of Being Humble
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way- in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
These words were not written about September 11. They are the opening lines of the book written by Charles Dickens titled: "A Tale of Two Cities". The story takes place during the French Revolution in London and Paris. It’s about a family caught up in the best and worst of times. It’s about love, loyalty, intrigue and sacrifice. It’s about life. That’s why the line "It was the best of time, It was the worst of times" is so powerful.
All of life is a paradox. Two statements. Both opposites. Both True. We see it clearly in “A tale of two cities”. When Charles Dickens wrote this opening line in "A Tale of Two Cities" he caught the paradox of life itself in just a few well-chosen words. This opening sentence captures the joy and sorrow; ecstasy and tragedy; power and helplessness; as well as the good and evil in contained in every persons life.
We saw it clearly on September 11. We see it all around us every day if we will just look.
The Wisdom of James tells a tale – the tale of two selves. In James 4 he speaks of the "Selfish Self" which says, "I need to take care of ME!" and then he speaks of the "Selfless Self" which says, "I need to take care of YOU!”.
Both of these selves are in you. They are both in me. It is the best… and the worst of us all poured together in a fragile vessel for a bit of time. But the real paradox is contained within the two selves. The real paradox is that when you let loose the selfish self to take care of yourself – you lose. And when you give up everything to let loose the selfless self you gain it all.
It’s the powerful paradox of being humble. When you humble yourself - God lifts you up! Let’s explore the Wisdom of James in chapter 4…
THE SELFISH SELF
Selfish PLEASURES (verse 1)
Jam 4:1 CEV "Why do you fight and argue with each other? Isn’t it because you are full of selfish desires that fight to control your body?"
The word hedonism is used here and it means to so absorb in the pursuit of your own personal pleasure that you will do what ever you have to in order to please yourself.
Much like we see in the “reality shows” like Temptation Island or the new Love Cruise. This self will seek to make itself happy no matter the cost, no matter who it hurts. Dating shows. It’s all about me and my personal pleasure.
And there is no shame in it! It’s a matter of pride. I did a little search on the word "hedonism" on the internet and discovered that the Starfish resorts in Jamaica advertise their “Hedonism” packages with phrases like, “Be wicked for a week” and “Lush gardens of pure pleasure.” People aren’t even blushing over their selfish search for pleasure.
But the result is not pleasure… it’s fighting and arguing with each other. Wars start, people die because of this kind of shameless demanding of all the resources for me.
Abraham Lincoln was once asked why people in the world were so prone to fight. He pointed at three boys fighting in the yard and said that it was just like these three boys. They had two walnuts between them and and all three wanted them all.
Selfish PASSIONS (verse 2)
Jam 4:2 CEV "You want something you don’t have, and you will do anything to get it. You will even kill! But you still cannot get what you want, and you won’t get it by fighting and arguing. You should pray for it."
Is what James calls here “LUST” – that overwhelming, unhealthy and excessive craving to get what you want simply because you want it. That driving urge with a life of it’s own. That hunger that must be fed and will not be denied – even to the point that you will kill.
Selfish PLANS (verse 2)