Let’s turn to James chapter three. James first of all warns against a desire to teach the Word of God that would stem or emanate just from your own desire to be in front of people or whatever.
My brethren, [he said,] be not many masters [or teachers] (3:1),
The idea of master there is a teacher,
knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation (3:1).
Teaching the Word of God is an awesome responsibility, because when I stand here to teach God’s Word, than I am responsible to be teaching the Word of God correctly. For if I do not teach the Word of God correctly, then those people that I may be leading astray, will be people for whom I will have to bear a responsibility. It is a heavy obligation to be a teacher of God’s Word.
Now, you can teach any other subject, doesn’t matter if you are teaching something that will latter on be proved to be wrong, but if you are teaching the Word of God the consequences of the false teaching are so vast that as the teacher you will be held responsible. So don’t be many masters knowing that we will receive the greater condemnation. That is why I seek to be so careful in teaching the Word of God to keep, as much as possible, my own opinion out of it and speculation out of it completely.
A lot of times people want you to speculate on a subject and to me that is extremely dangerous. There is a danger always in approaching the Scriptures with a certain mind set. “I have a particular doctrine that I have embraced, I adhere to, and though there are Scriptures that would seemingly contradict the position that I believe in. I then feel the necessity of somehow explaining away those Scriptures. That is dangerous. I don’t think that we should meddle or tamper with the Word of God. I think that we should keep it just as pure as possible as we seek to teach the Word. And so James warns that if we take upon ourselves that position of teacher just know that along with that position goes that awesome responsibility and that one day we will have to give an account before God of how straight forward we were in handling His Word.
Now the Bible warns of those who handle the Word of God deceitfully, and I have met so many people who handled the Word of God deceitfully.
Now James is going to talk to us about something of which we all have a problem now or then, and that’s our tongue.
For in many things, [he said,] we offend all. And if any man offends not in word, the same is a perfect man, and is able also to bridle the whole body. Behold, we put bits in the horse’s mouth, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body with that bit. Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor desires. Even so the tongue is a little member, but it boasts great things. Behold, how great a matter just a little fire can kindle! (3:2-5).
So in talking about the tongue, it's a very small part of our anatomy. But yet what trouble it can get us into. What fires it can spark. The tongue is something that has a capacity for great blessings or for great evil. We can use our tongues to bless people, to build them up, to encourage them, or we can use our tongues to destroy them. And he likens the tongue though it is such a small part of the body and yet able to do such great damage move so many things like the bridle in a horse's mouth, small but yet you can move that big horse around with just a little bridle in its mouth. The rudder on a ship, a small part of the ship, but yet it turns the ship. A huge ship turned by such a small rudder, so our tongues can really control in a sense our whole lives. An especially if we don’t seek to control the tongue.
The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, it is capable of defiling the whole body, it sets on fire the course of nature; and is set on fire of Gehenna. [Now,] every kind of beasts, and bird, and serpent, and things of sea, is tame, and has been tamed by man (3:6-7).
It is interesting how that man has been able to tame all kinds of creatures. We can tame lions, we’ve seen the lion tamers and we’ve watched them in the circus. Birds can be trained to talk, and to say phrases. Even serpents can be trained and you see the... in India the guy with his flute and the Boa constrictor you know doing its thing. And of course you can go down to Sea World or over to Marineland and see how they have trained the fish. Man has learned how to train and to bring into control all these of these wild things in nature. One thing man hasn’t been able to tame is his own tongue,
but the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, and fully of deadly poison (3:8).
Jesus, one day, said something that is worth considering at this point. He said, “It’s not really that which goes into a man that defiles a man, but that which comes out of a man that defiles him. For out of the mouth comes blasphemies and evil speaking.” And then He said it is “out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks” (Matthew 15:11, 18-19). That doesn’t speak too good for our hearts does it? The mouth is the voice piece of the heart of man. The man revels what’s inside of him by his tongue. And sometimes that frightens me.
With the tongue we bless God, even the Father (3:9);
and isn’t that the highest capacity of my tongue is when I use it to praise the Lord. We were singing tonight the praises unto God and that is the highest capacity for which I can use my tongue is use it to declare praises unto God. With our tongue we bless God even the Father,
but with the same tongue we curse men, who are made after the similitude or the likeness of God. Out of same mouth there proceeds blessings and cursings. Now this ought not to be. [James said there is an inconsistency here.] Does a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can a fig tree bear olive berries? can a vine bear figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh (3:9-12).
And so there is a paradox in our tongue it’s different from anything else. From the same mouth, there can come glorious praises unto God and horrible curses unto men. The tongue, God help us that we might be so yielded to the Spirit that He would do for us what we can’t do for ourselves and that is bring our tongue under control.
I’ve said so many things that I wish I had not of said; said in a moment of anger. How I wished I could have taken them back. And there are a lot of things that I wish I had said that I didn't a word of encouragement, a word of forgiveness, a word of comfort. You know we sometimes just don’t want to give that person that consolation of saying, "Well that’s all right, I understand." If I only had said it though, I could have saved them so much mental anguish and turmoil. I could have let them know that it really didn’t matter.
Now he goes on to another subject and that is of true wisdom.
Who is a wise man endued with knowledge among you? let him demonstrate it by his manner of life, by his works, with the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envying or strife in your hearts, that’s not wise, don’t glory in it, and lie not against the truth. [That is a lie against the truth, the bitterness and striving and envyness within your heart.] For this kind of wisdom descends not from above. It’s not Godly wisdom, it’s earthly, it’s sensual, it’s devilish. For where envying and strife is there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then it is peaceable, it is gentle, it is easy to be intreated, it is full of mercy and good fruit, it’s without partiality, and without hypocrisy (3:13-17).
Oh, what a difference. That wisdom that is earthly, sensual, devilish, envying, striving, bitterness.
Now, what marks your life? What kind of wisdom comes forth from you? He says that you should show forth the wisdom by your manner of living. Demonstrate the wisdom. In reality our manner of life does demonstrate the source of our wisdom. And if I am constantly in strife, constantly in turmoil, constantly stirred up, constantly, you know, bad mouthing this person, that person, this thing, that thing, then that wisdom that I have is not of God. For the wisdom that comes from God has such marvelous characteristics, it’s pure, it’s peaceable it’s gentle, easily intreated.
And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace, of them that makes peace (3:18).
So this is just good practical advice for getting along with people.
This chapter could be entitled how to win friends and influence people. Guard your tongue, bring your tongue under control, use it for good, use it to encourage to build up, don’t use it to tear down, to destroy, to cut, to hurt. Your wisdom, let it be Godly wisdom let it be demonstrated in your manner of life, that is your life let it be pure. Let your life be peaceable, merciful. Now this fruit of righteousness that we desire is actually sown in peace and that fruit of righteousness will come. It is sown in peace of them that make peace. So seek to live in peace with each other, and that fruit of righteousness will come forth.
But in contrast to the peace,
Where does the wars come from the fighting’s among you, [the strife]? do they not come from your own lust that is warring in your members? You lust, and have not: you kill and desire to have, and cannot obtain: you fight and war, yet you have not (4:1-2).
Here James is declaring that most of the problems of man come basically from man’s greed, and I would have to concur with this. I think it is the failure of our society. I think it is the failure of our government. Man’s greed sooner or later gets in and corrupts. How corrupting is the greed of man, how it corrupts governments, the horrible thing of greed, and it’s behind the wars. It is behind the fighting. It’s behind the striving. That desire to have what belongs to someone else. The fighting, the wars among us. And yet we have not because he said,
because we ask not (4:2).
You know a lot of these things that we desire, if we would just ask the Lord about them, and if it is right, God will give it to us. If it is not right he won’t, because you can ask and receive not because you ask amiss, just to consume it on your own lusts. You see, people misunderstand the purpose of prayer. The purpose of prayer is never to get your will done upon the earth. And yet, how often we think of prayer as just that, the agency by which I can get my whims and wishes accomplished. “Now Lord I want you to do this and I want you to do that and I’ve got this list of things I want you to do before Friday.” And we think of prayer as a marvelous agency by which I can get all my wishes and all my desires accomplished.
I thought of prayer in that light for years. I was always trying to make deals with God. Now you do this and I will do this. How can you lose, trying to strike a bargain with the Lord? And I used prayer, or sought to use prayer, as a means by which I could fulfill my desires. I know a lot about this verse,
you ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss, to consume it upon your own lusts (4:3).
I prayed for some of those beautiful custom cars that use to drive around Santa Ana when I was in High school. Man, how I prayed for some of those cars. Well, they were for sale, but believe me; I was wanting it to consume it on my own lusts. Oh, I tried to strike a deal with God. I told him I would pick up kids and bring them to Sunday school. “You know Lord, I will give you the use of it a couple hours a week, after all.” Boy, did my mind have plans for the rest of the week, cruising down Newport Beach.
So many of our prayers have selfish motivation behind them, and many times the selfish motivation is actually hid from us. But if I really begin to probe I find that behind the prayer there is a strong selfish motivation. There’s my son; he’s going astray a little bit. He is doing things I don’t approve of, I wish he wasn’t doing these things. I’m becoming concerned. He is coming in too late at night. He is running with bad companions. "Oh, God, turn my son around, bring him to a real commitment with Jesus Christ." In the deep deep of my heart, I’m thinking what if he should get in trouble, be arrested. Boy, what kind of headlines would that make? “Pastor’s Son Arrested.” I will be a disgrace to the family. We would have to go through the embarrassment of him being in jail. “Oh Lord save him, you know, bring him around,” but what am I really thinking.
Here’s a husband, not walking with the Lord; “Oh God save my husband. Lord help him make a commitment to Jesus Christ.” And in my heart I am thinking, “Boy it would be so nice if he were saved, I think he would treat me nicer, he would probably say grace before the meals and I think it is so wonderful when a family says grace before the meals. He would even go to church with me, and oh I wish he were sitting by me in church. Oh, Lord, save my husband.” You see it is not that he is a rebel against God and he is going to be destroyed if he is not changed. It’s not really for him, but it is for the conveniences that it might bring to me.
Prayer is not an agency by which my will is to be accomplished upon the earth. The purpose of prayer is to get God’s will to be accomplished upon the earth, and so many times we ask and receive not because the motive behind our asking is really that of accomplishing my will rather than God’s will. And if my will is in conflict with God’s will, God is not going to change His will to accommodate me, for God is not subservient to me, I am subservient to Him. And the purpose of prayer is never to change the mind of God to see things my way. It isn’t to persuade a reluctant God to do things my way. The real thrust and purpose of prayer is to get God’s will done. That’s why many times we ask and receive not because we ask amiss. Our own desires are too much entwined into it.
Now speaking in a spiritual sense he says,
You adulterers and adulteresses (4:4), This is speaking in a spiritual sense not physical in this particular passage. There are other passages that speak about in a physical sense but this happens to be spiritual because it is dealing with the love that is in your heart, the love for the world and the worldly things. You have been joined to Christ as His bride. Your chief love is to be directed towards Him. He is the one to whom you have been joined in marriage and if you begin to love something other than Him, more than Him, than you have committed spiritual adultery in your heart.
As God in the Old Testament was constantly accusing the people of Israel of adultery when they began to worship the other gods, so God speaks here against your love for the world.
Know ye not that the friendship with the world is enmity with God? and whosoever therefore would be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do you not think that the...do you think that the Scriptures speak in vain?” [The question mark should be there. And probably the second should also be a question.] do or does the spirit that dwells in you lust to envy? (4:4-5).
Now surely the spirit of God doesn’t lead us to envy, it doesn’t desire to envy. The Scriptures do not speak in vain. The love of the world, the things of the world is spiritual adultery. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. For he that hath the love of the world in his heart, hath not the love of the Father. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, are of the world and are not of God” (1 John 2:15-16). Coupled, “know ye not that friendship with world is enmity with God.” If you’re going to be a friend of the world, if your going to be doing the worldly things, engrossed in worldly things, caught up in worldly things, your heart is in the worldly things. You’re putting yourself in the position of being an enemy of God.
But God gives more grace. Wherefore He saith, God resists the proud but He gives grace to the humble. Therefore submit yourselves to God and resist the Devil (4:6-7).
Now it is the Devil that seeks to entice us to find fulfillment in the world by lying to us and telling us that we can find all the contentment, and joy and happiness that we desire if we will just turn from God’s path and walk after our own desires of the flesh. Satan’s appeal is so strong because he appeals to that, which I am interested in, my flesh, the desires of my flesh. And he is basically saying, “Hey, go for it. You’ll find that fulfillment, you’ll find that excitement, you’ll find what you’re looking for, just go for it. Go for the flesh.” And God is saying, “No, that’s death. If you really want life, spiritual life, then seek after the Spirit, and the things that are of the Spirit. Walk after the Spirit.”
There is a warfare between your flesh and your spirit. And Satan is there to encourage you to go after the Spirit and the Lord is there to encourage...I mean he is there to encourage you to go after the flesh and the Lord is there to encourage you to go after the Spirit. So submit yourself to God, and resist the Devil,
and he will flee from you (4:7).
I like that. I think that many times our problem is just that we really aren’t standing up for right. We’re not really resisting, as we should, the Devil. I think that there are important keys in life and in this spiritual life and this warfare that we are in. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against these principalities and powers” (Ephesians 6:12). And I think the first thing is the recognition that they do exist. And I think that we need to recognize the source of the attack against us. Many times we can’t deal with it because we don’t recognize that is a spiritual battle and I’m really involved a battle against this force of evil, this spirit of evil, Satan himself or one of his emissaries. Once I recognize the source of my problem, than I can begin to deal with it. But so many times we are told to pass it off. “Well I’m just irritable today. I’m just miserable. I’m just ready to chew up anybody that gets in my way. Out of sorts, didn’t get enough sleep last night. But you know.” But we don’t recognize that this is a real spiritual conquest. This whole thing that I feel, this heaviness and all is actually a satanic source, a power that is trying to defeat me.
Now if I failed to recognize it I can just go on in this miserable way all day long. But if I recognize that “hey this isn’t of God, this isn’t of God’s Spirit, this isn’t how God would want me to be, this is an attack of Satan against me.” Recognizing it, I deal with it by resisting it. Resisting the Devil and he will flee.
And then the third “R” is rejoicing. So recognize, resist and then rejoice in the victory we have in Jesus Christ, over every principality and power that might come against us. I don’t have to be irritable. I don’t have to be cranky. I can resist the Devil, that mood, that spirit that he is trying to bring me under. And I can rejoice for I have the full victory in Jesus Christ, and it’s amazing how it can change the whole atmosphere around you.
Now the second part of this is
draw nigh to God and he will draw nigh to you (4:8).
You see here I am, in the midst of the battle here. Resist the Devil, he’ll flee, but on the other hand draw nigh to God and he will draw nigh to you. I love that. All I have to do is just start drawing near to the Lord.
It’s so important it’s how we program our minds. It’s so important what we’re feeding into our minds. And God help us in this corrupt age in which we are living. With all of the technology that has brought into our homes such filth. The television has been a purveyor of such evil. It can be good; television itself I mean it’s a thing. It’s not evil in itself, but it has the capacity to bring evil into your mind into your life, and it also has the capacity to bring good but it’s how you control it, where your dial is turned. But I think of the evil that we will program into our minds as we sit there and watch the TV. And and it’s terrible. No wonder we’re having all of these marital problems and immorality just flooding our nation. It’s being planted into the minds of people day after day as they watch TV. Murders, thievery, adultery, the whole thing, it’s all there. And Paul when he made the list there in Romans of these horrible things that people were doing, he said not only do they do them but they take pleasure in those that do. And how is it that a person takes pleasure in watching someone snuff someone out you know. We see these TV and on movies. People pay to see that kind of filth. Pay to pollute your mind.
And then we get caught up in the law of nature “whatsoever a man sows that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7). I’m sowing to the flesh and I begin to reap of the flesh, envying, striving, seditions, murder. How well if we would just get good inspiring music and play it in our homes. What a difference it makes. What a difference it creates within the atmosphere you see we’re sowing now to the Spirit. If in the morning as your children are getting ready for school they come in for breakfast there’s praise music on or maybe one of the kids albums on. You’re planting into their minds and into their hearts the things of the Spirit. God knows when they get to school they’re going to get all kinds of crud thrown at them. We need to counterbalance it within the home. And rather then allowing them to listen to a lot of this junk music with filthy lyrics. That we would actively encourage them by ourselves playing and listening to inspiring music. Again whatsoever a man sows that shall he also reap. And if you have that kind of atmosphere, sowing to the Spirit you’re going to reap the Spirit.
Cleanse your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, you double-minded (4:8).
You know, that’s the problem. David said, “Lord, unite my heart to serve thee” (Psalm 86:11). The divided heart that’s the problem of so many people. Yes, I want to serve the Lord. Yes, I want to follow Him. Yes, I want to spend eternity with Him, and yet there is another side of me that wants to go after the flesh and indulge the flesh.
The afflicted and mourned, weep let your laughter be turned to mourning, your joy to heaviness. Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord and He shall lift you up. Speak not evil one of another brethren. He that speaks evil of his brethren judges his brother, speaks evil of the Law and judges the Law, but if you are a judge of the Law than you are not a doer of the Law, but a judge. And there is one lawgiver that is able to save and to destroy, and who are you to judge another? (4:9-12)
So forego that condemnation or judgment on another. You’re not a judge of the Law. We’re to be the doers of the Law, obedient to the Law.
Go to now, ye that say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain. Because you don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is only a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Therefore you ought to say, if the Lord wills, and if we live, we will do this or that (4:13-15).
So that exhortation, by James to us, to take into consideration, God’s will in all of our planning, to make that a contingency to every plan. It isn’t that you should’ve planned the future, but you should always have the contingency of the Lord’s will, if it’s the Lord’s will. Because I don’t know what tomorrow holds. I don’t know whether or not I will even be here tomorrow, but if the Lord wills this is what I desire, this is what I plan to do. If the Lord doesn’t will it, than I don’t want to do it, but that should always be a contingency to every plan I make. I need to realize that my life is short. It’s just a vapor that appears for a short moment and then vanishes. I’m here for just a short time, that I need to spend the time that I’m here in something that is worth while, in something that will last eternally. Too much of our life, too much of our effort, too much of our time is spent on things that are not eternal, things that are going to pass away.
Too many people spend their life eating cotton candy. It maybe sweet, but there is no substance. It dissolves it’s gone. Those things that you do, things of the flesh, things for the flesh, they are dissolved. They are gone. They're wasted. I have so many times come to the end of the day and thought what a wasted day. Usually it’s New Years Day after I’ve watched all the football games, and you finally get to the Rose Bowl and the Big Ten won, and I think, "oh what a wasted day." You know you use up a lot of emotion and everything else, but all I did was sit around all day long eat and watch the game. And there was a lot of things that needed to be done out in the yard. I could have spent the time more profitably. We waste too much time. We need to spend our time more profitably, in things that profit for eternity.
But you now rejoice [he said] in your boasting, and you now rejoice in that which is evil. Therefore to him who knows to do good, and doesn’t do it, to him it is sin (4:16-17).
In other words, sin isn’t just something that I do that I shouldn’t, sin is also something that I don’t do that I should. Oh, I know I ought to do it, oh, I know I ought to go over there and help him out, but I don’t. To him that knows to do good and doesn’t do it, that’s sin. The sin of omission, the failure to do that which I ought to do.
Now in chapter five he takes on the rich. So this doesn’t apply to many of us.
Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days (5:1-3).
So he speaks of the rich and heaping up treasure for the last days, talking of their gold and silver. And to me it is extremely fascinating how that the rich people have to worry about the security of their money. What is safe, what is a safe investment? You know, how safe are the banks? What if Mexico and Argentina default on their loans, what’s that going to do to the whole banking community? Is it going to bring it down like a row of dominos? Oh but it’s guaranteed by an agency of the federal government. Read the fine print. You know the whole banking system goes down, there isn’t enough in that agency to bail out American savings and loans.
So where can I put my money so that it can really be safe? How safe are T-bills, how solvent is the government? Man, it’s the greatest debtor of anything in the world; I guess 300 billion dollars. Well, buy gold buy silver. A lot of people bought gold and silver, and they bought gold and silver for 900 dollars, gold for nine dollars an ounce, and now they can get 349 dollars an ounce. But that is all an artificial value. I mean what can you do for gold, with gold, except to say, "Well, I’ve got so many Krugerrands." It’s all an artificial. Diamonds, buy diamonds, invest in diamonds, you know. It’s all artificial value. It’s just a stone. Hey, when things get really bad you can’t eat it. You know when things are really bad that’s what you think about, “what am I going to eat?”
The Bible tells us that there’s coming a time that it’ll take a bag of gold to buy a loaf of bread. So when it really gets down to it and you really need something to eat you’re going to have to get rid of that gold, and who knows what value will be placed upon it at that time I mean. You know I like a gold ring, this is not really a gold watch, it's gold plate, cheap. But as far as true value, where is true value? The true value is only in spiritual things. That’s the only true value that we can really know, in spiritual things, not in the earthly material things. That value is all artificial. It’s like one poet said, “It’s only worth what you can get for it.” “Well,” but he says, “I have a house that’s worth 500,000 dollars.” Well, how much can you sell it for? "Well we’ve had it on the market you know for three years for 350,000 we haven’t sold it, but it’s worth 500." No it’s not; it’s only worth what you can get for it. Artificial values. And those that have placed their whole thing into gold, those that have bought up gold and silver for the last days, how disappointed they’re going to be.
“Weep and howl,” James said, “for the misery that is coming upon them,” cause you’ve tried to set yourselves up for these last days, you’ve tried to hedge against inflation by getting into gold, by getting into silver but now they’re worthless.
Behold, the hire of the laborers who have reaped your fields, which is of you kept back from them through fraud, they cry: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabbath. You have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; you have nourished your hearts, as in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and killed the just one; and he did not resist you (5:4-6).
So the Lord or James speaks out against the oppression of the poor or the oppression of the laborer by management, cries for inequity.
Verse seven he changes and now he is exhorting us to
Be patient for the coming of the Lord. For behold the husbandmen waits for the precious fruit of the earth, and has long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; establish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord is drawing nigh (5:7-8).
Now it is interesting to me that so many places in the Scripture we are exhorted towards patience, as far as the return of Jesus Christ is concerned. Peter, exhorts towards patience for much the same reason, that the long suffering of God is the salvation of the lost. Here exhortation to patience because the Lord is waiting for the precious fruit of harvest.
If the Lord had come ten years ago where would a lot of you been tonight? Five years ago where would a lot of you been? So the Lord is waiting for the latter rain, that is the final harvest of souls. And I believe that we are beginning to see a tremendous harvest of souls through out the world that I do believe is the foreshadowing of the return of Jesus Christ. I think that the Lord is giving the final opportunity to man. We’ve come just about the end of the rope and God has thrown out for the final time the opportunity of people to get right with God, and I think that it will soon be over. But have patience establish your hearts. The Lord, the husbandman is waiting for the precious fruit of harvest.
Grudge not on against another, brethren, unless you be condemned, because the judge is standing at the door. Take the prophets who have spoken in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering affliction, and of patience (5:9-10).
So look what they endured, the prophets. Look what Jeremiah endured, look what Isaiah endured and others of the prophet, Elijah and Elisha, the things that they suffered because of their stand for God. They are an example of suffering, affliction and of patience.
Behold, we count them happy which endure. You’ve heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very full of pity and He’s of tender mercy (5:11).
God is full of pity. And in the Psalm, 103 the Lord is full of pity. “For He knows our frame that we are but dust” (Psalm 103:14). God, when He looks at you, doesn’t expect to see a superman, or a super saint. He knows you’re dust anyhow. That’s why He’s so merciful, because He knows your frame. That is why we are not so merciful so many times on ourselves, because we think we are more than dust. "Well I’m a rock, I’m strong, I’m able, you know I can do it." And then we get fractured, and we get discouraged and disappointed and we think that God is all upset with us. No, no, no. He’s not upset. He’s merciful. He knew all the time you were but dust. It was you that made the mistake, you that over estimated your capabilities, not God. You didn’t disappoint Him. He knew all the time. It was important that you know what He knows and so He lets you fall on your face. The Lord is full of pity and tender mercy.
But above all things, my brothers, swear not, neither by Heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yes be yes; and let your no, be no; lest you fall into condemnation (5:12).
Now a man often times, if he is a liar, is constantly swearing that he is telling the truth. And that is why I am often suspicious of the person that is constantly affirming, “Oh, this is the God’s honest truth man.” I become very suspicious when they are constantly affirming that what they tell you is true. If it is true, than you don’t need to constantly affirm it. And James is actually saying don’t swear. “I’ll do it, I’ll do it, I promise I’ll do it, you know. Swear by Heaven, I’ll be there.” No, no, no. Just let your yes be a yes, and let your no be a no. Jesus said the same thing in the Sermon on the Mount. Be a man or a person of your word. If you say yes, mean yes, and if you say no, mean no. And don’t be the kind of a person that you have to swear to cause someone to believe you are telling the truth.
[Now] is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any happy? let him sing psalms. Is there any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of the faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up (5:13-15);
Now it is interesting a distinction is made between afflictions and sickness. And I don’t always know that we can discern between is this an affliction or is this a sickness. But it would seem that afflictions are used by God for the purposes of correction. That when afflictions come than I need to pray, I need to find out from God what He’s trying to teach me, what He’s trying to tell me.
You see our problem is that we are not often sensitive to the things of the spirit. There seems to be a spiritual dullness that is quite prevalent among the church. It's like Romaine said, "He’s gotta beat you over the head with a two-by-four to get your attention before He can talk to you." If God has to beat you over the head with a two-by-four and you’re afflicted then you need to pray and find out what God is trying to say. And so if you are afflicted than it says, “let him pray.” That is, God is probably trying to get your attention in some area of your life, and He sometimes has to use rather harsh or painful means.
In psalm 32, as the Lord speaks to the psalmist, He said, “look, I want to guide you with my eye, don’t be like a mule who you have to put a bit in its mouth to lead it around” (Psalm 32:8-9). Now the bit is very painful and the reason the mule will turn when you pull on the reins is because it pulls the bit up against his mouth. It hurts. So he will turn his head, because it hurts.
Now God is saying to you don’t be so stubborn like a mule that I have to use painful processes to get you to turn. I would guide you with my eye, I want you to be sensitive to my will and my plan, and I’ll be glad to just guide you with my eye. God doesn’t want to guide us with painful processes, but He loves us so much that He will, because it is that important that I be guided by the spirit of God, and He knows it is for my best welfare that I walk in this path. And if I start to stray and it I won’t listen, He’ll use the bit or the bridal. He’ll pull me back into position. It maybe a painful experience, “Oh Lord what’s happening.” Well, you were off track. I wasn’t listening, I was headstrong, I was going to do it.
Paul the apostle, the Lord used the bit and bridal with Paul because he was so headstrong so many times. But if you are afflicted, pray. If you’re merry, sing psalms, rejoice. If you’re sick, then call for the elders of the church. The elders of the church meet here on Saturday nights to pray for the sick.
The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord shall raise them up; and if they have committed sins they shall be forgiven (5:15).
It is interesting that there seems to be a correlation here between sickness and sin at least in the deliverance of sickness and in the forgiveness of sins. And it is interesting how many sicknesses can be related to sin in a very direct way. And yet on the other hand, let me say that I think that it is a very dangerous error to try to relate all sickness to sin. And you are then putting yourself in the position of a judge and you’re judging wrongly many times, saying, “well they’ve got it coming to them.” And I think that is cruel and dangerous to say that all sickness is the result of sin in a person's life. Not at all.
[Now] confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed [that is of your faults.] (5:16).
I think that...you notice it doesn’t say confess your sins, it’s confessing your faults one to another. We confess our sins to God, and He’s faithful and just to forgive us. I may have a weakness in my life and I am very often confessing my faults to you. Not for you to just laugh at me, which you often do when I tell you of my problems on the freeway. Hey, but freeways are coming along. I'm improving. On the way to church this morning, two cars pulled out in front of me and I counted it all joy. I passed the test today, but that doesn’t guarantee tomorrow, but pray for me. “Confess your faults one to another and pray one for another.”
We each of us have our faults our failures, those areas in our lives where we need to yield more to the Spirit of God and find His strength and find His help. It's good to have a prayer partner that you can just open up to and say, "Hey, I'm having a problem in this particular area pray for me will you."
Confess your faults one to another, pray one for another, that you may be healed. For the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much (5:16).
Our son in law was getting after our little three-year-old granddaughter, because her prayers seem to be developing sort of a rote. And he said, "Now Kristen, when you pray, you should pray not just quick little prayers, and the same prayer every time, but really start praying from your heart and really mean your prayers. Think about them and really mean your prayers when you talk to God.” Because she was usually just praying, "God bless our food, strengthen our bodies, in Jesus name, Amen," and then start eating. So dinnertime came and they called on her to pray and she said, "Lord, bless our food. I mean really bless our food Lord."
The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. And this is the thing that I always get a charge out of.
Elijah was a man subject to the same things that we are (5:17).
He was just like you. A man of like passions just like us. We usually read of these people in the Bible: Elijah, Elisha and Joshua and Moses and Paul and Peter. We usually think of them in a category that is sort of up here and I am down here. And we sort of think of the things that they did as completely unattainable by the common ordinary person. But Elijah was a man of like passions just like you, no different from you.
And yet he prayed earnestly that it might not rain and it did not rain on the earth for the space of three years and six months (5:17).
Now can you imagine that? A man just like you praying and earnestly saying, "God don't let it rain. Let these people learn through a draught to call upon Your name and all and cut off the rain." A man of like passions just like you.
And yet he prayed again and the heaven gave rain and the earth brought forth her fruit (5:18).
Here was a man controlling the weather with his prayers. A man just like you. That amazes me.
Years ago when a lot of hippies were around here we had a (the hippies are still here but they have disguised themselves now. They shave.), but we had a summer camp up here at Idyllwild. In fact I think there is still a picture in the office of the summer camp that we had up there. And this one afternoon at dinnertime it started pouring rain, just pouring down. We had a tin roof and it seems to magnify even the intensity of the rain. But you know how the mountain summer rains are the thunderheads, and just really pouring. So at dinner time in the announcements, I announced that we would have the outside Victory Circle meeting, and the kids said, "We can't have it. It is pouring rain." I said, "No, I've asked the Lord to stop the rain at six o'clock so that we can have our Victory Circle. So we are going to have Victory Circle six o'clock outside."
Five minutes to six the rain stopped. We had victory circle. At five minutes to seven, I said, "OK you better get into the Fellowship Hall pretty quick, because I asked the Lord to hold off the rain until the evening service." So we got into the evening service, and at five minutes after seven it started pouring again. They said, "Ah ha, you said seven o'clock you told the Lord, and it's five after seven." I said, "Well, He knew better than I did that you needed more time to get into this place."
All during the service it poured rain. And so I said after the service, "OK you can go up to snack bar for a half hour, but be in your cabins by ten thirty." It quite raining. They went up and had their snacks and those that didn't get in by ten thirty got soaked. It started raining again. Hey, I'll tell you after that those kids sort of left a distance between themselves and me for a while.
But Elijah was a man of like passion and he prayed it would rain not and he prayed again and it rained. We so many times are guilty I think as the children of Israel of limiting that which God would do just by our unbelief.
[Now] if any of you err from the truth and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converts the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins (5:19-20).
Now if one errs from the way and you convert him, you don't convert him by confirming him that everything is all right. "Oh go ahead. God is merciful. God is gracious. It doesn't really matter." But you convert him by bringing him away from that sin, not giving him assurance in his sin. I don't think we should ever assure anybody in sin. I don't know that the Bible assures anybody who is in sin. It assures those that are in Christ. And all the Scriptures that speak of assurance are to those that are in Christ. “There is therefore now no condemnation to those that are in Christ” (Romans 8:1). But if you are not in Christ there is condemnation.
So if a person errors seek to turn them back to the walk of faith in Christ, for you will save their soul from death and you will hide a multitude of sins.
Next week we get into Peter's epistles, which are fascinating and rich, and so we will do the first two chapters of first Peter next Sunday evening. And now Father, even as James has exhorted us, help us that we might be doers of the Word and not hearers only. And as we have heard these exhortations from Your Word tonight, and as we were listening Your Holy Spirit spoke to our hearts about different areas, to some of us about our tongues, to others about envying and strife, to others about the lust, to others about the friendship with the world and the desire for worldly things. Lord, even as Your Spirit has spoken to our hearts tonight, let us give heed to the Word and be doers of the Word. Help us, Lord, that we might indeed love one another, pray one for another, encourage and strengthen one another, use our tongues to bless and to strengthen each other and to encourage each other that we might indeed be the children of God and bring forth fruit unto eternal life. In Jesus name, Amen.