J. Gordon Duncan

Culture, Business, Fitness, Etc.

Sermon Notes and Family Devotions for James 2:8-12

Big Idea:  Mercy triumphs over judgment.

James 2:8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.

·    How does this command enable you to fulfill the law?
·    Why would obeying that mean you are doing well?
·    Have you ever, in even one instance done this?  Give an example.

9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

·    How does partiality violate the command to love your neighbor as yourself?
·    Where are areas where your favor certain people over others?

10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.  11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.

·    What about God’s character makes this statement true?
·    How does this truth protect us from partiality?

12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

·    How does the law of liberty judge those who have faith in Jesus?
·    What is the connection between knowing mercy and showing mercy?
·    How does mercy triumph judgment and God still be holy?

Once an expert in Biblical law tried to trick Jesus, so he asked him this question.  Matthew 22:36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  We guess that what the teacher was trying to do was trick Jesus into emphasizing something that would get him into trouble.  I guess the lawyer hoped that Jesus was state something Jesus Himself was not doing.

But as always, Jesus is wise in understanding the human heart and wise in the scriptures.  37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Jesus takes all of the scriptures and reduces them to two commands.  Love God with everything in you.  Love others as much as you love yourself.  You would think with Jesus’ emphasis here that the church would overwhelmingly concerned with loving God and loving others.  You would think that every church that has ever hung a shingle anywhere in the world would have incredible ministries and actions of care within the church and especially outside the church.  Remember, Jesus defined who our neighbor is in the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10.  Basically your neighbor is any single person in this world in need.  See each person as your neighbor and be a neighbor to them by extending both physical mercies and spiritual mercies.

Unfortunately, the church, even this one, falls woefully short in obeying these verses.  We skip the neighbor part or at least we just focus on certain areas in which we want to be neighborly.  Love the Lord God with all your heart soul and mind and love your church as yourself.  Love the Lord God with all your heart soul and mind and love your family as yourself.  Love the Lord God with all your heart soul and mind and love your college friends as yourself.  But my neighbors?  Those people that I don’t really know well and don’t really want to let in my house?  Well, let me just work on my family and friends first and then I’ll get around to loving my neighbors.  And there lots of reasons we don’t love our neighbors as ourself – time, worry, money, but the biggest issue we face is that we just judge them and their lifestyles.

Our heart and minds are bad as TMZ’s.  We either know who they are and declare them out of bounds by the mere fact that we don’t interact with them  or we assume we know who they are and just declare that we don’t have the time.  We judge them as unworthy to hear the Gospel by the fact that we just don’t care enough to actively love them.  But our hope this week, and it is going to be a challenging hope is this.  Despite how bad our judgment is, there is something greater than our judgment. There is something more powerful than our lack of care and our indifference.  And that is our Big Idea this week:  Big Idea:  Mercy triumphs over judgment.

James 2:8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

As always, let me remind our hearts where we left off last week so we can see these verses in their proper context.  Last week, we saw the daunting proclamation from James that the God hates favoritism.  He cannot stand it when someone is treated better than another for such silly, trivial things as their appearance and how much money they make.

God himself is unimpressed with these things.  Every creature has value in God’s eyes as they are created in the image of God.  Yet, every creature is a sinner justly deserving God’s displeasure.  No one earns their way before God.  No one is good enough.  But God pours His grace out even to His enemies so that they may be forgiven.  So when we hear the daunting command to not show partiality and favoritism, the correct thing for us to do is to figure out when we do that so we can repent and obey.  Verse 8 is going to show us just how we might know if we commit the sin of partiality and favoritism.

James 2:8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.

Loving your neighbor as yourself means wanting the same thing for others that you want for yourself.  Any Godly hope that you have for yourself, you should want for your neighbor.  Do you want to have family devotions?   Then want it and work for it for your neighbor.  Do you want to have peace in the home?  Then want it and work for it for your neighbor.  Do you want to have marital faithfulness?  Then want it and work for it for it for your neighbor.  Do you want to have Godly children and safe home?  Then want it and work for it for your neighbor.  Do you want your family to worship as a family at SK?  Then want it and work for it for your neighbor.

If it is a good and Godly desire and you want it for yourself, then you are to want it and seek to make it happen for your neighbor.  The amazing thing is that the true worship of God means wanting those good and Godly things for your neighbor just as badly as you want them for yourself.  You are not given the freedom from James or Jesus to just want a private life that just happens to make inroads into the world that then run back to safety of your home.

I was thinking about this command this week and wondering why its application is so difficult for the American or the church in general or just for our church.  Part of it I think is when we hear a command like “Love your neighbor as yourself” we feel enlightened and say, “Well I don’t love myself that much,” when we actually do.  So let phrase it in such a way to get the impact that perhaps is intended by the passage.  And love your neighbor as much as you love your child.  Love your neighbor as much as you love your down time.  Love your neighbor as much as you love running.  Love your neighbor as much as you love your spouse.  Love your neighbor as much as you love playing video games.  Love your neighbor as much as you love making money.

These aren’t options.  These are the commands of God.  Love Him.  And love everyone else, and I mean your neighbor, co-worker, that person with whom you disagree with politically, love everyone else as much as you love whatever it is you love a lot.  Now, James says that obeying that verse enables you to fulfill the law.  How does obeying this command enable you to fulfill the law?

Well, every command in the Bible, everything you do for personal holiness and worship is about these two things.  Worshiping God with everything in you and reflecting that love to others, especially to your enemies and those folks you just can’t stand.   That obedience fulfills the law because that is how God shows you His love.  I John 4:9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.  10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

God showed His selfless love by sending Jesus to love us when we didn’t love Him.  We worship God when we do the exact same thing.  We love others, not just each other or our spouses or our kids, but we love others as Christ has loved us.  How do you know if you are doing this?  Well if your life is not presently upside down in actively loving someone who is hard to love and actively loving someone who does not know Christ, then you are not obeying this verse.  If you are, James says “good job”  If you are not, you and I found ourselves in the verse 9 category.

9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

This was the emphasis of last week’s passage.  Showing partiality and favoritism is forbidden because it does not reflect the character of God.  God is not impressed.  None of us have been good enough to earn His favor.  He loves us as we are His creation born in His image.  Partiality literally means “to judge one’s face” so when we show favoritism what we are doing is pointlessly showing favor towards some to the neglect of others.  We are making superficial judgments based on what we like and not based on anything of actual eternal value.  It’s just what we like.

You see Jesus is the only one who should receive glory and honor.  When we show favoritism for the arbitrary reasons that we do, we are giving Jesus’ glory and honor away.  If you choose not to get to know your neighbor or your co-worker or fellow student because you disagree with them politically or you are offended by their sexual orientation or because they just seem so damn needy, you have shown favoritism and partiality to those with whom you do associate.  You have judged one as unworthy and made your circle of friends the worthy.  And in doing so, you have giving Jesus’ glory away and James says, “You have not loved your neighbor as your self, you have shown partiality and are found guilty under the law.

Can you imagine the revolution that would take place in this church, this community, your neighborhood and this world if we got even close to loving our neighbors as we love ourselves?  The temptation in the church is to think, “Well, listen I’m going to work, I’m doing all I can to raise my kids in Godly home, I just…just…don’t have time to for this loving of my neighbor.  You might ask in more Godly way, “Well, what does God want me to do?  Spend less time with my kids?  You know how hard it is to raise Godly children in this world?  I’ll just let those people who are gifted with evangelism do all that love your neighbor stuff.”

Well verses 10-11 addresse that line of thinking.

10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.  11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.

This is hard teaching and Gang, I promise you it cuts me just like it cuts you.  Verses 10-11 explain to us why we never get to be self-righteous or judgmental against anyone.  If we fail in any one part of God’s commands, then we have failed in all of it.  You might ask, “Well why does God have to be so exacting and so hard?”  Well, it is not because God is the most strict grading teacher that you have ever had.  It is not that you either make a 100 or a zero.

The reason one sin makes us culpable for every sin is this.  The commands of God are not arbitrary.  They are the expression of God’s character.  Our sin is not a slip up; our sin is cosmic treason that demands that God leave His throne so that we can sit on it.  One act of obedience doesn’t cover another act of disobedience.  So if you commit one sin, you have transgressed the character of God.

This is why we so desperately need Jesus Christ.  Our only hope is that Jesus obeys perfectly on our behalf, gives that goodness to us and that He pays the penalty of our sin.  Oh we can pay for our sin just fine, but we can’t earn the goodness necessary before God.  So Jesus says, “I’ll do both.  I’ll pay your penalty of sin, and I’ll give you my obedience when you have faith in me.”  So, through Jesus, you can now obey as the Holy Spirit indwells in you, and that obedience is a glorious offering of thanks to Him, but you and I never get to feel like we have arrived or that we are better than anyone else because we are always interacting with God on the basis of Jesus’ obedience, not ours.

Understanding that nature of the Gospel enables us to obey and care about God’s command.  We don’t get to say, “That loving your neighbor as yourself stuff is just too hard.  I’m going to go to work, hang out with Christians, you know the ones I like, and I’m going to leave the investing of my life into the rest of the world to those extroverts like Gordon or whoever you think is going to do it.”  James doesn’t give us that option.  Do not show partiality.  Do not only hang out with people that are like you or only with people who can help get you what you want and call that Christianity because it is not.

Let me tell you a story about a rebuke I once received.  Sometimes I find the stories about me messing up are more helpful than any story I can tell you about me getting it right.  First of all, if you are a sinner like me, I have more messing up stories, so let me show my error so that you see the Holy Spirit help you avoid it.

When I was in college, I was part of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship.  I was the large group coordinator, which meant that once a week I would organize what was essentially our worship service and then I would assist in organizing things like retreats and such.  Well, we went on our annual beach retreat, me and 100 other folks.  During the retreat, I was having a great time.  3 of my best buds were there and we spent the first day just having a blast, playing football on the beach, and that kind of thing.

Well, that night our staff worker pulled us aside, but focused on me and gave me a pretty strong rebuke.  He began by asking me, “What do you think you are doing?”  I said, “Having fun at the beach retreat, what does it look like I’m doing?”  Well, he went onto explain this verse.

There were 100 people, many of which I didn’t know and many of which didn’t know Jesus.  My purpose there was not to take a personal vacation with my buddies.  I was to love and serve every person there whether I related to them or not whether liked them or not.  There would be time to hang my friends, but do not squander the opportunity to love this other people and ultimately share Jesus with them.

I know analogies can be rough but bear with me.  We are hard wired to love the folks we love and spend time with the folks that we like to spend time with.  We also love justifying our actions basing them on things like our personality and our commitments and our skill sets.  God does give us those outs.  No partiality.  Love your neighbor as you love yourself.

Now, I hope at this point and time you and I are struggling a bit.  If we are not wrestling with the challenges of this passage, it is my fault, it is this poor pastor’s fault because the scriptures are clear.  Most of us, probably all of us should be moving towards repentance right now.   Saying something like, “God I love my job, my wife, my child, and my hobbies all much more than I love my neighbor and I don’t quite honestly know if can change that, and to be honest, I don’t know if I really want to change.”

Reckon in your heart where you are now with this.  Many of us have made idols out of things that we love and serve.  The order is, according to Jesus and James, is “Love God, love your neighbor”.

Now, you might push back and say, “But Gordon, my love of my wife and kids is part of my loving God,” and I won’t argue with you, but that doesn’t mean that you get to leave the loving neighbor part out.  It is the fulfillment of the royal law of God, and the church is weak because we think obedience to it is an option or we have mollified our conscience to it by rationalization.  Verses 12-13 help us know what to do light of these truths.

12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Speak and act as one judged under the law of liberty.  What does that mean?  Are we those judged by the law of liberty and if so, what does that mean?  Well, there have been rivers of ink spilled on this one.

The idea of being judged by the law of  liberty should be contrasted with the law of death.  Apart from Jesus’ goodness, each person stands before God on the merit of their own goodness.  The law condemns us if we are trusting on our own goodness.   The law of God becomes the law of death to us.

But if you have faith in Jesus Christ, it is His goodness by which you stand before God, and you now have the enabling power of the Holy Spirit that helps you obey.   The law is actually freedom because you are not enslaved to sin but alive in Christ.  You are freed up to obey.  We see this illustrated for us in Romans 8

7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.  8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.  10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.  11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

The Spirit of God enables the believer in Jesus to obey.  You have life in your body.  The impossible commands of God are now possible because Jesus Christ has made you alive and His spirit gives you that life to obey.  Ligon Duncan, no relations though I wish, speaks to how all of this works together.

He says, What is, “The law of liberty. The fact that when you stand before the throne you won’t be judged according to your works, because if you’re judged according to your works, you’ll be condemned. But you’re judged according to Christ’s works, and you’re accepted according to Christ’s works, and you’re declared righteous according to Christ’s works. And you’re invited into the kingdom of heaven because of Christ’s works. That’s the law of liberty. And he says, now, if you’ve received that mercy from God, if you’ve received that liberty, that freedom from the bondage to sin and condemnation through the mercy and grace of God, how are you going to treat other people? Isn’t your heart going to overflow with mercy?”

This transformation from death to life in Jesus is so sure that your demonstration of love and mercy to your neighbor is in some measure guaranteed.  How do we know that?  James says that there will be no mercy for those who don’t show mercy.  That’s because it is a guarantee that if you know mercy, you will show mercy.  Your mercy doesn’t save you.  Your mercy shows you have been saved.

You and I may not be loving our neighbor well now and we may not be innocent from showing partiality, but the Spirit of God in you is the promise that you are going to be moving in that direction.  That should give you hope; it should give me hope; it should give this church hope.  Let’s be honest.  We’ll all say that we enjoy time with our spouses and our children and our friends more than our neighbors, and we’ll make every justification from DNA to providence to explain why we don’t love our neighbors well.

But the hope I offer to you and to me and to this church is that the Spirit of God dwells in you and change is not only promised but to some degree in your life, assured.  If you are a neighbor here, you might say, “Well I’ve never seen anyone act like this to me.  And if you are a Christian, you might say, “I don’t see how I’m going to do that, Gordon.”  Well, part of the way to address that is to focus on James’ last statement “Mercy triumphs over judgment”

Well, what does that mean?   Does that mean that God just chooses to forgive people instead of judge them for their sins?  Well, the answer to that is no.  God is going to righteously judge every sin ever committed as sin is an afront to God’s character and holiness.  So if you don’t have faith in Jesus, you will be judged and pay the penalty of your sin.  But if you have been forgiven by God, it is not because He just chose not to judge you.  If you are forgiven by God, your sins have been judged and placed on Jesus.  God’s mercy triumphed in placing the judgment of your sins on Jesus and not you.

Mercy always triumphs over judgment.   That doesn’t mean that judgment was just done away with.  It just means that in the face of judgment, someone took the penalty for someone else.  So when James commands us to speak and act as those judged by law of liberty with mercy triumphing over judgment, he is echoing the command of Jesus.  In Matthew 18, Jesus tells a parable about a man who was forgiven a massive debt, one so large that he could never hope to repay it.  And then that man went out and refused to be forgiving to another man who owed him very little.

The command of Jesus as this Matthew 18 “And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?”  Gang, I’ll say it again and I’ve quoted the scriptures and every person smarter than I that I can find.  The extent in which you move out of your comfort zone and love your neighbor is in direct proportion to the extent of mercy you think you have received from Jesus.  If the sum of your Christian looks like the building of Christian enclave away from a sinful world, then you know little of Jesus’ mercy though should know much.  The mercy of Jesus towards you should burden your heart for others.

I implore you and I beg of the Holy Spirit to make this true of SK.  Show us how Christ has been our neighbor is His obedience, death, and resurrection.  And then implore you and beg of the Holy Spirit for God to give us a burden that moves us to share Jesus Christ with our neighbors.

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March 4, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized |

1 Comment »

  1. Reblogged this on gpg ministry.

    Comment by gpgministry | December 8, 2016 | Reply


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