art 3

The book of James is all about a faith lived out, a faith expressed in the way we behave, our behaviour the advertisement of what we believe.

We are living billboards declaring that God is real and that God is love and the way we live has a massive influence on those around us.   It has been quoted here before someone will read the Bible or come to a church they will read our life first, we are the first Bible most people read.   What a challenge.

In James 4:8 we have one of the most familiar and popular verses of the book.  If there was a bible verse countdown of greatest hits of the bible James 4:8 would be on it.  I share it almost every time I have a mic at church.  But there is a part B to James 4 that I never read out loud.

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.  James 4:8-10

 

James is going after Christians who say they love God with their mouths but live life their own way.

He’s going after Christians who use their perseonality defaults as excuses for their character flaws.

He’s going after Christians who pick and chose what parts of the Bible they accept and believe in.

He’s going after those who look great on Sunday but whose workmates wouldn’t even know they’re Christians on Monday.

He’s going after those who think they’re fine living one foot in the world and one foot in the church.

He’s going after you and me.

 

We live in a world that lives for self – if it feels good do it – and that pushes against the boundaries that God sets.

We live in a world that has made sin so accessable and acceptable.

In fact if you hold to biblical values you are often branded as bigoted, judemental and narrowminded.

 

But this world is God’s world.  He makes the rules.  Not because He is a kill joy but because of His great love for us.  His boundaries are to bless us, to bless our relationships, to bless our future, to bless us with wholeness and the peace that comes from right living.

In Genesis 25:29-34 we can read about a shocking exchange between Esau and Jacob that illustrates the danger of trading God’s ways for our ways, for sin.

 

Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. 30 And Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!” (Therefore his name was called Edom.[a])31 Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright now.” 32 Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” 33 Jacob said, “Swear to me now.” So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.

 

This has to be the worst negotiation in history.  Esau’s birthright meant that not only would he get DOUBLE inheritance but it would mean that he would become head of the family and all the benefits that brings.  It is the door to wealth and prestige.  It is the key to future opportunities and provision.  It was designed to be an incredible blessing for his life and his family, onwards even past his lifetime down the generations.

 

And he swaps it, he exchanges it for a bowl of lentil stew.

 

I’m sure you’re all thinking what I’m thinking.  How dumb can you be and still breathe?  What was he thinking?

Yet everyday we can make the same choice.

Obedience for sin.

Laying down our life for living our own agenda.

Taking up our cross for taking what we want.

We give up what we want most for what we want now.

We give up the ways of God for the ways of the world.

We give up our calling for compromise.

We trade our treasure for the temporary.

And exchange our dreams for day to day

“The core problem isn’t the fact that we’re lukewarm, halfhearted, or stagnant Christians. The crux of it all is why we are this way, and it is because we have an inaccurate view of

God. We see Him as a benevolent Being who is satisfied when people manage to fit Him into their lives in some small way. We forget that God never had an identity crisis. He knows that He’s great and deserves to be the center of our lives.”  ― Francis Chan

 

We choose the stew because we forget how amazing and awesome God is and the benefits for of walking closely with Him.

 

Sin affects our closeness with God.  When we receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we become God’s children (1 John 3:1) and he becomes our father. We cannot change our relationship with God any more than we can change our relationship to our earthly father. Our earthly father will be our father no matter what may come between us. Our heavenly father will always be our father but just like in a human relationship there are things that will affect the closesness and intimacy.

 

God is calling us to get real.  He is going after our heart.  He wants us to be whole and free, to have great relationships and success but success to God isn’t defined the same way it is by the world.  God is more interested in WHO you are becoming and WHO you look like vs your own personal happiness.   He calls us to lay our lives down, take up our cross and surrender.   He calls us to lay down our selfishness and agendas, the things that cause the conflict and entrap us in sin.

 

It’s like Adam and Eve, who were invited by God to walk with Him in the garden every evening until they made that terrible choice to break His heart and break His one commandment, to do things their own way and to eat the fruit God had said don’t eat.   Right from the beginning we see the strategy of the cover up.   Adam and Eve up to this point had been naked and unashamed, physically, emotionally and spiritually, but now they were broken on the inside and tried to cover up their nakedness with fig leaves.    God, in His love, reaches out to them.  He knows what has happened.  At the very moment they ate the fruit, God knew that His children had sinned.  Yet He comes to the garden and calls out to Adam, Adam where are you?

 

 

So what do we need to do to live differently?

  1. Perspective

One of the enemies tactics is to minimalise sin.  It’s a mistake.  A flaw in personality.  A small compromise.    We need to call a spade a spade.  We need to get real and as James says, turn our laughing into mourning.    When we are honest with ourselves we can then be honest with God.  Having a right perspective of how GOD feels about sin will change our heart towards it.

2  Repent

An often used description of repentatance is that it is a u turn.  We are heading in the wrong direction and then we repent, we change the way we live and do a u turn and then live the other way.    Confession is not repentance. Repentance is change. – Danny Silk

3  Change

When we step into a new way of living we often have to make lifestyle changes that set us up for success.  If we have an addiction to chocolate its not a good idea to stock the pantry with the new M&Ms chocolate blocks.  To live for God we have to make changes for success.   In the gospels it says if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out, if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.  Harsh.  I’m not advocating any of that but it shows the seriousness of the situation and the extent at what we should go to eradicate the things that influence us to sin.  It might be tv shows, or sites on the internet, or our friends or places we go.

  1. Grace

The good news is that we don’t do any of this on our own.  We have a loving God who did everything for our forgivness.   Jesus came and lived the perfect life we could not live and died the death we should have died to make a way for us to be made clean and innocent, to be forgiven.  1 John 1 says that If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.    God then also empowers us to make those changes as we surrender to Him.

James 4:7 says submit to God, resist the devil and he must flee.

James 4:10 says Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

God lifts us up so we can live according to His ways.

As we draw near to God and He draws near to us the process of transformation, of changing the way we think, of transforming our character, helps us to become more and more like Jesus.

 

Advertisements