J. Gordon Duncan

Culture, Business, Fitness, Etc.

Sermon Notes and Family Devotion for James 4:11-12

Big Idea:  God loves so we don’t judge.

James 4: 11  Do not speak evil against one another, brothers.

·    What are examples of the way we can speak evil against other Christians?
·    Very few people will own up to this.  Ask the Holy Spirit to show you if this is something in which you need to confess.

The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.

·    Why is speaking evil against your brother also judging your brother?
·    How is judging speaking against the law?

12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy.

·    Why do we judge when we know only God has that right?
·    How do you reconcile what you know about God’s character when you read that God saves and destroys?

But who are you to judge your neighbor?

·    Why do we think we can judge?
·    Including neighbors here in addition to brothers means we are not allowed to judge non-Christians either.  Why do we feel like we have that right?

I don’t know many Christians who will regularly admit, “You know, I really struggle with judging people.  I judge Christians.  I judge non-Christians.  I just think I am better than everybody else.  Oh, we’ll own up every now and then, but I’m afraid the day to day for most of us is a joyful judgment of the rest of the world.  Even when we have low views of ourselves, we still think we are better than most everybody else.   And when we judge, we justify it by saying, “No, the Bible says that’s wrong.  I’m just being biblical.”  Goodness we are a mess.

You want to know many times the Bible tells us not to command?  Take a guess?  10?  15?  20?   I lost count somewhere in the 2-3 dozen, gang.  Let me give you just a quick sample.

·    Matthew 7:1“Judge not, that you be not judged.
·    Luke 6:37 “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven
·    John 7:24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”
·    James 4:11 But who are you to judge your neighbor?
·    Romans 2:1-3 Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.
·    Matthew 7:5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Now, you may hear this and think, “But Gordon, aren’t we supposed to speak out against sin and unholiness in this world?  Won’t this world just go to hell in a hand basket if don’t stand for what the Bible says?”  Listen Gang, I’ve been on both sides.  I have judged people straight up as if I personally sat on the throne of God.  And I have had people tell me that the reason our church doesn’t grow is because I dress like I do and I enjoy a glass a wine in the evening.

So again, I ask, what then do we do?  Well, I don’t know if our passage in James is going to answer every one of those questions, but it is going to answer one very simple questions for us.  So with this intro in mind, let’s pursue this Big Idea this week from the book of James.

Big Idea:  God loves so we don’t judge.

Now, before jump into this audacious topic, let’s as always do a bit of reminding ourselves of what James has been talking about.  Last week, James reminded us once again that the path to be lifted up and encouraged before God is to pursue humility.  Humility is the path of walking before God.  We heard commands like, Submit yourself to God and He will lift you up coupled with truths like, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  Humility is always recognizing that God alone is good and holy.  We are not.  Always.  Well, after exhorting us to walk in humility before God, James is now going to encourage us to walk in humility before each other.  Listen to James 4:

James 4: 11  Do not speak evil against one another, brothers.  The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.   12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy.  But who are you to judge your neighbor?

Before we jump into this verse by verse, just reckon for a moment.  I think we are here in some part because we recognize that we should walk in humility before a holy God because are sinful.  But James is putting in front of us that walk in humility before one another is the natural extension of humility before God.  Know humility before God and know humility before each other.  No humility before God and no humility before each other.  Let’s jump into this verse by verse.

James 4: 11  Do not speak evil against one another, brothers.

So James commands us to not speak evil against one another.  This is a specific command about how Christians should interact as James is personally addressing “brothers” or fellow believers in this passage.  So let’s ask a couple of questions here.  What does it mean to speak evil against another Christian?  And, why does James care if we do it or not?

Well, Biblically, there are several ways that we can speak evil against one another in the church.  Well, for the sake of time, I’ll just focus on 3 – literally we could be here all day.  We can say things about each other that are not true.  We can condemn each other for things in which we are guilty.  Or we can just speak in such a way that is not gracious. Let me briefly speak to each one of those.

We are so often guilty of the first one which is saying things about one another that are not true.  Now I don’t imagine many of you are walking around making up lies.  For example, I don’t think any of us are accusing one another of beating our wives or stealing from our employers.  But we are extremely guilty of then when we speak of motives.

What we do, because we are oh so spiritual, is that when folks disappoint us, we decide why they did what they did or didn’t do what we wanted them to do.  This happens in marriages all the time.  One or the other will say something straightforward and the other person will immediately say, “Well, you only said that because you feel this way,” as if we were psychic or something.

Kids, you do this to your parents all the time.  They won’t let you do what you want, and you’ll say awful things to them like, “You just don’t want me to have fun,” or “You don’t trust me,” or whatever else you want to throw out at them.  I’m not immune to it.  I’m tempted to decide why some of you aren’t as committed to the ministries of the church like I wish you were.  When some of you show up Sunday after Sunday but never or rarely commit to the ministries in the church, I’m tempted to determine why I think that is.

And here is thing.  Every time we do that, we are committing this sin.  In our hearts, we are speaking evil against one another because we honestly have no idea why people do what they do.  We just feel better about ourselves when we make up our mind and start judging.  Towards that end, let’s shoot for this Mission #1

Mission #1:  Stop sinning by accusing people of motives that you don’t know anything about.

Now another we speak evil about one another is by condemning each other of things in which we are guilty.  Of course we are hypocrites.  Remember Jesus words to the “Godly” of His day.”  Matthew 23: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.

Jesus condemned the Pharisees of trying to look good on the outside so as to judge others while at the same time they were guilty of the very sins that they condemned.  James and Jesus are saying, “Stop speaking evil against one another about what sin they commit.  Inside many of you are committing the very same sin.”  For example, in the church, we love to talk about how other people raise their kids.  We’ll see them act up in church or speak back to their parents and goodness we will speak evil against them.  When all the while, we really should just be walking in humility about the struggle all of us have with raising our own kids.  We can be so judgmental in this.

Missions #2:  Stop judging people for things in which you are also guilty.

And finally, we are guilty of speaking evil against one another when we just don’t speak graciously to one another.  Parents, and I’m speaking to myself as much as I am to you, just because you kids are your kids, that does not give you the right the yell at them, call them names, and humiliate them.  We are commanded to speak to each other in this way, Colossians 4: Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.  Brothers and sisters, you are speaking evil against one another when you curse at each other, make fun of each other, and basically troll to your own pleasure.

Mission #3:  Speak graciously to one another with gentile, kind words.

Whew, Gang, we are just getting started here.  James is telling us to stop speaking evil against one another, so in then next verse he explains why should stop speaking that way.

The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.

When we speak evil against one another, what we are doing is making ourselves out to be judges.  James says when we speak evil against each other, we are actually speaking against the law itself, judging the law.  When you read Romans 7-8, you see the purpose of God’s law is threefold.  Show us our sin.  Restrain sin.  Show us our need of God.

Whenever we use begin speaking evil against one another and judging one another we are using the law for purposes other than what God intended.  We are misusing and therefore judging the law itself.  Guys, God takes the way we speak about one another incredibly seriously.  James is saying, “Your off-hand comment about how another Christian is living or how they are talking or how they are raising their kids or how they are doing whatever is quite often sinful.”  And when you sin by speaking evil against one another, you are sinning against and judging the law of God.

In the end of verse 11 tells us exactly what we are when we do this.  It says if you judge the law, you are a judge.  We are saying that we are the not only the standard bearers but we are the standard maker.

Gang, these kinds of commands will typically move us in one of two directions.  It will make us never speak about obedience and righteous ever again for fear of sinning.  Or it will make us dig in even further with justifications of why we should speak up more about the sin we see in each other’s lives.  In case, you are tempted towards either, James gives us this command in verse 4.

12    here is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy.

The rightful view of our hearts that will keep us from judging one another is found in verse 12.  God alone is the lawgiver and the judge whoever breaks that law.  And coupled with that, He alone is able to save those who break that law and He alone is able to destroy those who break that law.

We can’t do either.  We can speak evil about each other when we break the law but we can’t destroy each other – that is God’s right as a righteous judge to destroy those who break His holy law.  We can perhaps even speak graciously towards each other, but none of us can save someone who has broken the law.

As always, the proper understanding of who God is transforms us.  God is the lone lawgiver and the sole judge and destroyer of all of violate His law.  Why?  Because the law is much more than a list of to do’s and don’ts.    God’s law is the expression of His character.  Obedience to it causes us to reflect God’s character.  Psalm 19 makes that abundantly clear.

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure,      making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean,     enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.

Because of the law’s nature, God alone has the right to destroy those who disobey it or save those He chooses to save.  When we speak evil against each other, we are attempting to take God’s place as lawgiver, saver, and destroyer.

Gang, there is no doubt that scripture gives us God’s commands, and then subsequently when we have faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins, we are to teach those commands to one another, raise our children in Godliness, and proclaim God’s holiness to the world.  But we must walk lightly when we begin to speak of others in light of their supposed disobedience.  We are to in all humility proclaim God’s holiness, and we are to do it as though who have absolutely no help of obeying apart from God’s help.

In fact, the goal of proclaiming the laws of God to one another is not first and foremost to get people to obey.  I’ll be careful here because I know that his initially sounds like heresy.  No, the reason are to proclaim the holiness of God through the law is found in Galatians 3.

Galatians 3: Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith

Ask yourself about your motives.  When you joyfully pointing how every Christian in the world is getting it wrong, and how you are subsequently getting it right, is your goal to lead them to Christ so that they can be saved by faith?  Rarely, I’m afraid, right?

Most of our judgmental conversation is to just point out how everyone else gets it wrong.  This takes so much wisdom, grace, and discernment.  We have to ask God, “How in the world do I mention the commandments of God to anyone and point them to Christ?”  God, how do I do it and not speak evil of them or to them?

But the answer is found in the question.  God, help me keep my mouth shut unless my speaking of your commands lead that person to Christ.  Either leading them to repent of sin and seek forgiveness through Christ.  Or to move their heart to realize how desperately they need Christ because they can’t obey what God has commanded.

Think about it for a minute.  Let’s get radically different here for a minute.  What if anytime you thought about the commands of God, whether it was for your own sake, your family’s sake, or another Christian’s sake, what if you thought about it in terms of that law leading others to know Christ and know Him better?  That would remove all speaking of evil and all judging because you would be using the law correctly.

Let’s try to think of an example or two to make this practical.  What if when you spoke about another Christian and the way they loved their wife or loved their husband, you did it in such a way that you led them to Christ.  Hey man.  I know it’s hard to be patient and its hard to be forgiving to your wife.  But that is the way Jesus is with us.  We are His bride and He is patient and forgives us.  That is so much different than, “Pww, I can’t believe the way that guys speaks about his wife.  See the difference?  Instead of speaking about someone’s sin, which is just evil, you are leading them to the commandments of God and pointing them to Jesus.

Let’s try another.  What if when you heard about another Christian believing something or some piece of theology that seemed to be completely unbiblical, what if you spoke to them to lead them to Christ.  What if you said, “Hey, you know Paul tells us to rightly divide the word of truth or other words, piece out theology together correctly so that we can be assured that we know Jesus.”  Let’s talk about our theology and see how it points us to Jesus?  That’s radical isn’t?  That is completely different than saying, “That is some rat house crazy theology they’ve got over there.  Our denomination would do well just to model this humility btw.  Instead of just making phone of other’s theology, which is sinful and speaking evil, we could be leading ourselves and others to a stronger relationship with Christ.

Let’s go for one more.  What if when we spoke to our children about their disobedience we were really trying to point them to Jesus?  When our children openly disobey us by either speaking rudely to us or just flat out refusing to do what we tell them to do, what if we pointed them to Christ instead of just demanding obedience?  You see, a lot of time, when our children disobey, we are mad not because the laws of God have been violated or God’s holiness has been violated.  We are mad because we think we have been violated.  But all the authority we have as parents is just borrowed authority from God.  So we can yell at our kids and say obey me or we can talk them about how we personally struggle to obey God and so we understand how they personally struggle to obey God.  When you do that, you quit speaking evil about your kids and you start pointing yourself and your children to Jesus Christ.

So then Mission #4:  When we speak of the commands of God, let’s do it only as we point to Jesus Christ.

Now, you may have noticed that up until this point, every reference I have made has been about making sure that we do not speak evil about or judge other Christians.  Does that mean we get to judge the world and what they do?  The last half of verse 12 speaks to that.

But who are you to judge your neighbor?

Jesus has already answered for us the question, “Who is our neighbor?”  According to the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10, every single person on the face of the planet is our neighbor.   So, instant takeaway.  We don’t get to judge non-Christians either.

Why not?  Easy – same answer.  We are neither the lawgiver nor the judge.  Let me bring up a topic that I was very hesitant to bring up in the past month, but in this case, I think it just might be relevant.  In the past month, NC voted on what the legal definition of a marriage is.  Believe it or not, I’m  not even going to discuss the merits of either side, tell you how I voted or tell you what I think of the outcome because in the context of this verse, that is not what I need to talk about.

What needs to be addressed is the judgmental, harsh, dis-compassionate, angry, bitter, and ugly language that churches and supposed Christians used around that conversation in the past month.  I think rightfully the church should speak about the Biblical foundations of covenant marriage that were established in scripture about God bringing together a man and a woman to complete each other and become one.  But if we do it in any way other than a desire to point others towards Jesus Christ, then we are guilty of judging our neighbor.

I can honestly say that most of the conversation I heard about this topic in our culture in the past month were about one thing:  who is right.  And if all we are doing is using Biblical truths to make sure we are right in the public arena, then we are self-serving, judgmental Christians who bring shame to the name of Jesus Christ.  Speak truth but only in a way that it leads people to Jesus.  Do not speak truth just to be seen as right and with the sole purpose of winning an argument.  That type of Christianity is disgusting and far from the humble faith that James has been speaking to in Chapter 4.   If you want to address any area of obedience, holiness, or the commandments of God, according to James and according to Paul, we are to do it in humility, we are not to speak evil of others, and we are only to do it if we can point others to Jesus Christ.

Listen to Romans 8:1There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

God loved us even though we were guilty of disobeying His law.  And Jesus has now set us free from our disobedience to the law.  He did what we could not do:  obey the law.  And all of God’s righteous requirement in the law is fulfilled in us when we have faith in Jesus.  So we can’t judge anyone.  Our obedience is simple Jesus’ obedience.  So it is foolish for us to judge others because all we have has been given to us by Jesus.  So we sum that up in our Big Idea:
o    Our Big Idea was this:  Big Idea:  God loves so we don’t judge.
o
With that, let’s ask God to helps us live out these simple missions in application.

·    Mission #1:  Stop sinning by accusing people of motives that you don’t know anything about.
·    Missions #2:  Stop judging people for things in which you are also guilty.
·    Mission #3:  Speak graciously to one another with gentile, kind words.
·    Mission #4:  When we speak of the commands of God, let’s do it only as we point to Jesus Christ.

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June 3, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , ,

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