J. Gordon Duncan

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Sermon Notes and Family Devotions for James 4:6-10

Big Idea:  God loves humility.  We and everyone else hate it.

James 4: 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8  Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9  Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

James 4:6 But he gives more grace.

·    God gives more grace because we keep sinning, how is this an encouragement?
·    How can you describe God because He gives so much grace?

Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

·    Why does God oppose the proud and give grace to the humble?
·    Why is it so hard to seek humility?

7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8  Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

·    How do submitting to God and drawing near to God relate to resisting the devil and the devil fleeing from you?
·    How are the cleansings of hands, and the purifying of hearts acts of repentance?
·    What do those things mean?

9  Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.

·    Why would God want us to be wretched, mourn, and weep?
·    Why would God want our laughter to turn to mourning?

10  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

·    Theologians call this the “upside down nature of the Kingdom” – how is God’s plan of exaltation different than ours?
·    Why is humility hard for us to achieve?
·    What do want instead of humility?

Please forgive the typos.

Have you ever thought how incredibly insane this command from Philippians 2 is?

Philippians 2: Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus

The Bible commands each and every one of us to never have selfish ambition meaning never do anything, work, workout, make money, raise kids, never do those things for selfish reasons.  Instead, do everything in humility.  How does the Bible define humility?  Verse 3 tells us.  Look at every person in the world, every coworker, neighbor, family member, whatever, look at them and truly think and believe, “That person is more significant than I am.”  Insane.  Can’t be done.  Humility also means according to verse 4 that I don’t just look after my own interests but instead I look after your interests as well.  The Bible doesn’t give us the right to make decisions just for ourselves.

And the reason we are supposed to that is because that is exactly how Jesus was.  Philippians tells us this:  Though He (Jesus) was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross

Jesus said, “I’m not going to hold onto to being God.  I’m going to be humble, become a servant by becoming a human and I’m going to die.  Jesus considered others more significant than He considered Himself which He proved by dying for us while still hated Him.  So God commands us to be humble just like Jesus was humble.  God loves humility because humility is like Christ and glorifies God.  But we and everyone else hate humility because we don’t want to consider others more significant than ourselves.

I would love regale you guys with some cool or fun story about sometime in my life when I was really humble, but there are two problems with that.  First, there is no way to tell you a story about my being humble without me being prideful.  I would negate all humility by telling you.  I could tell of other people’s humility but not my own.  Here is the second problem with me telling you a story about me being humble.  I don’t have any of those stories.  I don’t think many of us do.

I’ve seen pride.  I’ve seen false humility, you know where we pretend to be humble, but really aren’t, but honest examples of imitating the humble nature of Christ are rare.  What we are going to see this week in the book of James is that he is going to not only command us to be humble, he is going to show us why humility is a better way.  So with that in mind, let’s try to tackle this Big Idea:

Big Idea:  God loves humility.  We and everyone else hate it.

As a quick reminder, let’s refresh our minds to what James has been talking about these past few weeks.  In the last two weeks, we have seen James tell us these things.  He has said, “Listen, Godly wisdom that comes from God and from the scriptures is pure.  And if the facts that you know are going to be considered Godly wisdom, then you will become more peaceable, more reasonable, and more merciful.  If you don’t see those qualities growing in your life, you are not growing in Godly wisdom.  Then last week we heard James tell us that our passions cause us to run after every single thing but God.  We think every single in this world but God will satisfy us.  He then commanded us to find that hope and comfort and joy in God alone.  Thankfully, James reminded us that when we sin, God yearns for us and gives us more and more grace.  That is where we start this week in verse 6.  In light of all of our sin, we read these verses.

James 4:6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8  Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9  Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

This challenging passage of scripture begins with the rich promise that God gives us more and more grace when we sin.  And we are going to need more and more grace because of the second half of verse 6.  It tells us  Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Wow, God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.  You could take this passage this way.  Those that are forgiven, called the children of God, the church, those called Christians, are such because they are humble and God has given them grace.  Everyone else, God opposes and judges.

Now, this is squirmy language, isn’t it?  I mean which one is it?  Does God give you grace because you are humble or are you humble because you received God’s grace?  The answer to some extent is “yes”

You see, the bible teaches us that every person is prideful apart from God but God gives us grace to make us humble and cry out to Him.  Listen to Gospel from the OT for a minute

Proverbs 16: Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished.  6 By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil.

These tiny verses from Proverbs teach us so much.  Arrogance is an abomination to the Lord which means that our pride and our arrogance is just that – a vile, shameful act against God.  Our pride says, “I do not need you God.  I’m smart, talented, and strong.  At best, I’ll talk you when I really need something, but otherwise I’m good.”  And this verse in Proverbs promises us that God punishes arrogance and pride.  God’s purity and righteousness necessitates that He will punish any that exalt themselves against Him.  However, God displays a consistent, steadfast love and faithfulness and those actions on God’s behalf through Jesus atone for our sin, and through that we grow in a healthy fear of God.  That humbles us and turn away from our pride and arrogance.

So God humbles and we display humility and God lifts us up – otherwise He opposes us.  Now hearing this, logically you would think that all of us would run around seeking humility and being humbled because what could be better than having God lift us up?  But I’m afraid our pride and arrogance is too strong.  None of us want to be humbled – that’s why humility is a gift from God.  He either gifts it to us or He orders our circumstances so that we grow into it.  Either way, humility is God wrought but it is His gift to us so that ultimately we can be lifted up  and not cast down.  Let’s try something news.  Let’s start making very specific applications each week along the way.  We’ll call them missions.

So today’s Mission #1:  Find some area in your life that is really tough, thank God for it and ask Him to lift you up.

Notice, that is not the same as asking God for your tough situation to go away.  Just ask God to lift you up.  So, okay having said all of those things, James wants to show how we walk in humility and teach us one its practical benefits.  Look at verse 7.

7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Now these passages go hand in hand:  true humility is submitting to God is resisting the Devil and causes the devil to flee from you.  What’s the connection?  Let me explain it this way.  When you are humble, you are submitting to God and telling Him, “You alone are wise.  Whatever you have planned for me is best, and apart from you, I am a sinner only deserving your grace.”  That posture says, “Sickness or health, poverty or riches, busy or slow, whatever you call me to and command to is not only best, God, but it is what I want.”  Now, I am going to make an audacious statement here and I think it true.”  Submitting to God by saying whatever you call me to do and whatever you command me to do is not some radical form of Christianity.  It is Christianity and anything less is a cheap knockoff form of religion that makes a mockery of Jesus’ sacrifice.

Because when we submit ourselves to God in such away, that is in and of itself resisting the Devil.  Submitting to God’s will and God’s command is resisting the devil because you are aligning yourself with God’s character and what God calls good and best.  Anything less is agreeing with Satan.

Hey Gang, I get struggling with difficult circumstances like finances, health, and craziness.  I get it and my life is full of all of that.  So we can humanly struggle with those things because we are weak and flesh.  But as we struggle with difficult circumstances, the posture of faith as a child of God says, “No matter how hard this is, and no matter how hard it is to obey your God and to attempt to be humble, that is what I really want because only you are good and wise.”  That is humility and that is submitting to God and quite frankly that is Christianity.

So, why in the world is submitting to God the same is resisting the devil and why does he flee when you do that?  Simple answer:  the devil flees you when you submit to God because he knows you belong to God, and he can’t mess with you.  You submit to God’s will and God’s commands, and the devil says, “Oh, that one belongs to God, and God won’t let me mess with Him.”

You know these days, the theology surrounding who the devil is is a mess and more shaped by movies like Paranormal Activity and the Exorcist than it is the scriptures.  But I like the ways guys like Luther and the later on the Puritans spoke about Satan.  Luther said “The Devil is God’s Devil” meaning that Satan only is allowed to do and go as far as God allows him to do and go.  God the Father is not some epic battle with Satan.  God is the creator of all, including Satan and the devil only can do and go as far as God allows Him to.

Remember the book of Job?  God picked that fight with Satan, not the other way around.  God said, “Hey Satan, have you considered my servant Job?”  Satan said, “Aaaa, he only loves you because you bless him.  And God said, “Fine, do what you want to do to him, just don’t kill him.”  In the end, Job lost his wife, kids,  and all his money, but ultimately gave God greater glory because He greater experienced the creator of the universe.

Satan only did what God allowed him to do.  As one Puritan writer said, “Satan is God’s lap dog.”  He cannot do a single thing without God allowing it.

So, when you submit to God, when you say, “God in humility whatever you want for me is best,” Satan says, “Oh, that’s one of God’s kids, and I can’t mess with them.”  Jesus purchased them by His blood and took them away from me by His resurrection.

Mission #2 – You submit to God and Satan will run away.

So what we see in verse 8 is a more intimate picture of this humility and submission.  Listen to the promises attached to verse 8.

8  Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.

If you desire intimacy with God, a sense of His closeness and His affection, submitting to Him brings you into the reality that is always there.  Here is what I mean.  I love a good praise song as much as all of you – I better if I’m going to lead all of you in singing them.  I love that rapturous moment where you find your soul lifted it up in praising God.  But we fool ourselves if we think that is the height of experiencing God’s presence.  It is incredibly sweet and one of the aspects that God calls us to as a body of believers.

However, we don’t have to wait for another Sunday to come around to enjoy God’s intimacy.  We don’t have to wait for that one song that we really, really like.  We don’t have to wait from super spiritual moment in the midst of even this sermon.

If you want to enjoy the intimacy of God, draw near to Him by submitting to His will and His commands.  As you draw near to Him, He will draw near to you.  It is not that God is not drawing Himself to you.  He constantly does Himself to you because He pledged His love to you in Jesus Christ.  We just happened to become aware of God’s drawing Himself to us when we submit to His will and His commands.  As you draw near to God in this way, you happily and willingly obey what James commands in the second half of verse 8.

Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

If you want to experience God drawing Himself to you, then cleanse your hands.  Cleansing your hands is biblical terminology for confessing your sin and repenting or walking away from your sin.  Listen, if you are a believer, this is clear.  The Holy Spirit residing in your heart is teaching daily areas in which you can confess your sin and repent.  Confess, ask for forgiveness and find your heart being purified to God.

Double-mindedness is that state of saying, “God is my God,” while you sin.  Sinning is declaring, “I am my God.”   So if you want to intimacy with God, here is

Mission #3:  Confess your sin to God and know His intimacy greater.

Then, James just gets weird at least to we human spirit triumphs over all Americans.  Listen to what he commands us to do in verse 9.

9  Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.

Why would God want us to be wretched, mourn, and weep?  Why would God want our laughter to turn to mourning?  Didn’t just tell you that you would experience an intimacy with God like no other if you submitted your will to God and confessed your sins?

Isn’t that supposed to make you happy or something?  Aren’t we looking for comfort from God here?  And the answer is yes, but remember the Kingdom of God is completely upside down compared to the Kingdom of this world.  To experience fully the comforting presence of God, we must align our hearts with His will and His commands.  Remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 5: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Comfort comes in recovery from something.  We mourn and weep as we find our thoughts, speech, and actions in conflict with God’s will.  Why?  Because if you love God, you want to follow Him in all things and as His child, you take no greater joy than giving Him glory by reflecting His character.

So when you start yelling at your kid and abusing their little hearts or when you secretly lust after another or when you pursue your career more for your ease than serving God, there will come a time where God will call those sins to light.  If you love God, you weep, mourn, and be wretch, as Job repented in ashes, because as a Christian, you have said, “Your will be done.  Not mine.”  The past down is the path up.  As verse 10 says

10  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

Exaltation comes by humiliation.  That may stink to some of you, and you would do well to wrestle with the desires of your heart right now.  Ask yourself, “Have I been asking God for forgiveness just so I skip hell all this time without realizing that what God calls me to do in that is to repent, walk away from my sin and find myself completely dependent upon Him?”  That is what we are called to, gang.  Nothing less.

Our Mission #4 is this:  Humility is our greatest path to experience the intimacy of God.”

You and I are to walk before God and recognize that every good thing is from Him.  We should look at every possession, at every skill, and every day as a gift from Him.  And we should ask the Holy Spirit to enable us to be humble so that we might experience God’s exaltation.

How scared might we all be to pray, “God make me humble so that I might be exalted.”  It is scary to think about that.  We wonder, “Oh no, what might God take away from me?”  If you can answer what you are afraid God might take away, you are this close to seeing what it is that your trust or enjoy more than God.”

And then you might just say, “Hmm, I love God but I don’t those things taken away.”  And I can’t tell you if God is going to take it away or not, but I can tell you that the path to enjoying greater intimacy with God is in humility asking Him to change you so that you trust Him and His word more than anything else.

But the heart of anyone who is a Christian and who has ask Jesus to forgive them of their sins you take joy in God doing whatever it is that is necessary to move us towards intimacy and loving God more.  Let me tell you a story, and then we’ll walk through a summary of what I hope God has taught us in these few verses.  I used to know this guy in college, and to be honest, I didn’t really like him.  He was arrogant and presumptive, and he was this way probably because he was short like me.  But during my time at ECU, I knew he interacted with a few of my female friends from college in ways that you couldn’t exactly call appropriate.  He took advantage of a couple of girls and didn’t really care.  Oh he claimed to be a Christian, but there was a real break between saying he was one and acting like he was one – at least it seemed that way to me.

And I couldn’t stand this guy.  Whenever I thought about him, I just wanted to punch him in the face.  Well, he was older than I was, so he moved away from ECU a couple of years before me and I lost touch with him.  Well, when I graduated, my first job was a teacher in Rocky Mount.  I  moved there not knowing a single person, not one.

So guess who I got a phone call from about a week in?   Yeah, you guessed it, this dude.  He said, “Oh Gordon, great to find you.  I’m a part of this Bible study  in town with 8-109 other folks.  We would love for you to join us.”

My first reaction was, “Dude, there is no way that I would want to spend any time with you.”  But you know what?  I was lonely, and I thought, “Well, there are going to be 8-10 other folks there.”  So I agreed to go to his Bible study despite pretty much detesting that guy.  Well, I went, met an incredible group of folks and believe it or not, that is where I met my beautiful wife Amy.

I have to thank that dude for that, but that is not the point of my story.  About a year in, I was leading that Bible study and I discovered that this guy had interacted with one of the ladies there just like he had with my friends at ECU.  This time, I was ready to fight.  I was fully prepared to go punch this guy in the face.  Well, I told him, “Dude, we need to talk.”  And without me saying a thing, he said, “Gordon, you have every right to just punch me in the face right now.”

And he went on and detailed how he had been less than a gentleman to several of my friend of whom I was very close.  He cried in repentance, spoke about the need to ask them to forgiven him, and he asked me to forgive him.  Again, he ended by saying, “I would totally understand if you just wanted to punch me in the face right now.”  And I wanted to so badly, but how could I?  He demonstrated humility.  He confessed to everything that I was mad with him about.

He talked reconciling his relationship with those girls but even more importantly, reconciling his relationship with God.  Now I have no idea where that dude is now and what the state of his heart is, but in that moment, he demonstrated humility and diffused what was going to be an incredibly tense situation.  He avoided a butt kicking.  Remember I was taller.

He was humble, and the proper response from me was humility as well.  I didn’t have any right to take it out on him.  Humility on his part created humility on my part.

That is exactly what Jesus has done for us.  Remember that verse from Philippians 2 we looked at earlier?  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Jesus’ humility on your behalf earning your salvation is intended to lead you towards humility.  Those things help us to live out our Big Idea and those 4 Missions that I mentioned earlier.

Our Big Idea was this:  Big Idea:  God loves humility.  We and everyone else hate it.  God loves humility because humility causes us to walk away from our self and our sin and lead us to trusting Him more.

As we do that, we can live out these 4 missions.

·    Mission #1:  Find some area in your life that is really tough, thank God for it and ask Him to lift you up.
·    Mission #2:  You submit to God and Satan will run away.
·    Mission #3:  Confess your sin to God and know His intimacy greater.
·    Mission #4:  Humility is our greatest path to experience the intimacy of God.”

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

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