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Sermon #21 — James Series
Title: “In Many Things We Offend All”
Text: James 3:1-14
Subject: The Flesh and the Spirit
Date: Tuesday Evening — August 25, 2015
Readings: Allen Kibby and Larry Brown
“In Many Things We Offend All.” — What a sad, sad fact; but fact it is — “In Many Things We Offend All!” I wish it were not so, but I know it is. I cannot and will not deny it. — “In Many Things We Offend All!” — I take those divinely inspired words written by the Apostle James as the title of my message. We find those words written by one of our Lord’s faithful Apostles in James 3:2. — “In Many Things We Offend All!”
If you will turn to the 3rd chapter of James, you will find my text in verses 1-14. While you are turning, let me make a few statements by way of introduction. The early Church, like the Church today, was a mixed multitude.
Because that is the way it has always been and the way it always shall be in this world, God the Holy Ghost, by his servant James, uses this fact to teach us again a fact that we are terribly prone to overlook and forget.
Proposition: As it is in the professed Church of God, as it is in this world, so it is in each of us. — Living here, in this body of flesh is both righteousness and sin, both faith and unbelief, both good and evil, both purity and pretense, both sincerity and hypocrisy, both the child of God and a child of the devil, that which is born of the flesh and is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit and is spirit.
Chapters 1 and 2
James has told us in the first two chapters of unstable, double-minded men (James 1:8), very religious men and women who are mere hearers of the Word. They hear the Gospel and loudly profess to believe the Gospel; but the Gospel they profess has not made them new creatures in Christ. Instead of making them godly people, James tells us that their religion has made them nothing but men and women who partially observe the law, pretending to be righteous because they do some of the things required by the law, failing to understand that to break the law in one point is to be guilty of all (James 2:10; Galatians 3:10).
(Galatians 3:10) “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.”
What multitudes there are among professed believers who are guilty of this evil! They are (at best) partial in their religion. — They pick and choose what they like and disregard the rest.
Illustration: The Young Lady at North Wilkesboro
In our text (here in James 3), the Apostle speaks of bitter envying, strife in the heart, and of lying against the truth. Truly, “in many things we offend all!” This is a fact that every heaven born soul knows; but a fact we appear too often to forget. — “In many things we offend all!” You have the evidence in yourself and I have it in myself. With the same tongue we bless God and curse men! These things, as James tells us, ought not to be, but they are! — Let’s read our text together.
(James 3:1-14) “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. 2 For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. 3 Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. 4 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 listeth. 5 Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. 7 For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: 8 But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 9 Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. 11 Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? 12 Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? Either a vine, figs? So can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.
13 ¶ Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. 14 But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.”
First, in verse 1 the Spirit of God teaches us again that we are not to set ourselves up as masters and judges over God’s elect. — “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.”
This might be applied to the great error men make when they set themselves up as preachers.
· Let none run who have not been sent.
· Let none assume to themselves the work for which God has not gifted them and called them.
· Yet, we are clearly taught to pray that God would raise up laborers from among us and send them out into the harvest.
· And we are clearly taught that the work of the ministry is a work to be desired.
Obviously, then, James is not here talking about preaching and warning men not to do that great work. Rather, he is telling us what we are told throughout the Scriptures. — We are not to set ourselves up as masters over and judges of God’s elect. That is a work, an evil work, we are specifically forbidden to practice (Matthew 7:1-5; Romans 14:4).
(Matthew 7:1-5) “Judge not, that ye be not judged. 2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. 3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? 4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? 5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”
(Romans 14:4) “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? To his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.”
It is not my business to govern your life; and it is not your business to govern your brother’s life. It is our business to help one another along life’s road (Galatians 6:1-5).
(Galatians 6:1-5) “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. 2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. 3 For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. 4 But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5 For every man shall bear his own burden.”
We are not to be censorious critics and judges of our brothers and sisters in Christ, acting as though they belonged to us, acting as though we are their maters. That’s the first thing. Second, James gives us one reason such behavior is both unreasonable and absurd. — “For in many things we offend all” (v. 2). You will notices James does not say and I do not say, “In many things you offend all.” He says and I say, “In many things we offend all!” God’s elect in this world, God’s saints in this world, from the least to the greatest, are sinners still; and that includes me. — “In many things we offend all!”
· All the Law
· All the Gospel
· All People
God’s saints in this world are sinners still. One of the greatest evidences of the inspiration of this Book is the fact that the Bible makes no attempt to conceal the sins of God’s most eminent servants. Rather, it plainly exposes them and makes no excuse for them.
· Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord; but one day, while he lay in a drunken stupor, one of his own sons defiled him.
· Abraham was the friend of God; but he lied to Abimelech, subjected his wife to adultery, and took Hagar.
· Moses was the meekest man who ever lived; but he once smote the Rock, the token of God’s presence, which typified Christ, in a fit of anger.
· Aaron was God’s high priest; but he once led Israel in idolatry.
· Peter was a chosen apostle of Christ; but he denied his Savior three times in one dark, dark night.
· Paul was, it appears, the most widely used, most influential of all the apostles. Yet, even Paul fell into the snare of legalism briefly at Jerusalem.
Illustrations: Paul – “I am the chief of sinners!”
William Huntington, S.S.
“I am a poor sinner and nothing at all;
But Jesus Christ is my all in all!”
Salvation is by the grace of God alone (Ephesians 2:8-9).
(Ephesians 2:8-9) “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (9) Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
We all stand before God as guilty sinners upon the footing of free grace alone!
(Psalms 37:23-24) “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. (24) Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand.”
(Proverbs 24:16) “For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.”
These things are written in the Book of God to teach us that the whole of our acceptance with God is the Person and work of Christ. — “Accepted in the Beloved!”
And these things are written in the Book of God, over and over again, because we must never cease to be aware of our personal weaknesses arising from the depravity of our own hearts. How often have you thought to yourself, or said to others, “I do not understand how a true believer could do such a thing?” What you are really saying is, “I would never do that!” I know that doctrinally we all believe in total depravity; but by some proud, foolish imagination we all think we are the exception. We would never say so, but we all naturally think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. The great cause of Peter’s fall was his pride (Luke 22:31-33).
(Luke 22:31-33) “And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: (32) But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. (33) And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death.”
He had to learn that he did not love Christ more than the rest of his brethren. There was no difference between him and James, John, and Thomas; and he had to learn it.
The secret of steadfast commitment and consecration to Christ is a genuine awareness of personal depravity (Romans 12:1-3).
(Romans 12:1-3) “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (2) And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (3) For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.”
That person is in grave danger who imagines that he or she is above committing some sin that would bring reproach upon the Gospel of the grace of God, the name of Christ, and the Church of God.
Illustration: Peter walking on the water — As we walk across these troubled waters we must never cease to look to Christ! As soon as we take our eyes off him we begin to sink.
Have you got this second point? Have I? — “In many things we offend all!”
Here’s my third point. — The instrument of the greatest possible benefit and the instrument of the greatest evil is the tongue.
(James 3:2) “If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.”
This very small, commonly unseen member of our bodies produces amazing and disastrous things.
What great benefit comes by the good use of our tongues!
· In Preaching the Gospel!
· In Telling Others What God has Done!
· In Comforting and Encouraging One Another!
· In Promoting One Another’s Name and Honor!
But, oh, what great evil is done by the evil use of our tongues!
· Idle Gossip!
· False Accusations!
· Malicious Words!
“He that soweth discord among brethren” (Proverbs 8:19) is described by Solomon as one of those things which God hates, one of those things which are an abomination to him. Very few people are so openly malicious as to announce that it is their intention to divide and destroy a family, or friends, or the fellowship of a church. Satan is more subtle than that. He moves men and women to stir up strife by whisperings of slander, rumor, and innuendo. They come in the name of honesty and candor, to “air their feelings,” or to “express their concern.” First, they speak privately to individuals. Then, when they think they have mustered enough support to force their way, they are more open, willing to divide brethren for their petty grievances. Be warned. This spirit is not of God. God hates it. It is fleshly and devilish. Have nothing to do with it. — “Only by pride cometh contention” (Proverbs 13:10).
“Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins” (Proverbs 10:12). — Hatred is the selfish principle of an unregenerate man. It may be varnished by religion and smoothed by hypocrisy; but it is a subterraneous storm, continually stirring up mischief and evil. Hatred creates and keeps alive carnal strife. It causes coldness. It creates disharmony. It stirs up “envyings and evil surmisings.” Hatred carps at the least infirmity in others and aggravates the least fault. Hatred resents the most trifling offence. It is provoked by the least imaginary wrong.
“An ungodly man diggeth up evil.” — Such strife is kindled to the dishonor of God. It mars the beauty of the Gospel. Let us resist this evil of the old man by watchfulness and prayer; “and grieve not the Holy Spirit of God.”
Love is the fruit, of the Spirit. It covers a multitude of evils. Let us study 1st Corinthians 13 in all its detail, and make it the pattern for our lives. Let this be the standard of our profession.
· Love covers, overlooks, forgives, and forgets. Love invents reasons to avoid strife.
· Love puts the best possible construction on doubtful matters.
· Love seeks unity and agreement.
· Love does not rigidly examine a brother’s failures.
· It will not deliberately expose a brother’s faults.
· It refuses to uncover the sins of another.
To refrain from gross slander, while leaving room for needless and unkind doubt, is not covering sin. Nor is “seven-times forgiveness,” the true standard of love. Love, like its Divine Author, covers all sins.
Who among us does not need the full extent of this covering? What is our brother’s sin against us, compared with our sin against God? Can we hesitate to blot out our brother’s few dollars who look for a covering for our debt of ten million dollars to God? Let us imitate Christ’s spirit of forbearing, forgiving, self-sacrificing love. —– “Even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” — “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover a multitude of sins.”
(Psalms 141:3) “Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.”
The tongue is a world of iniquity, set on fire of hell, a wild beast, an unruly evil, a poisonous asp that no man can tame. Never trust yourself to tame it. You can’t do it (vv. 8-12).
(James 3:8-12) “But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 9 Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. 11 Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? 12 Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? Either a vine, figs? So can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.”
Here, again, God the Holy Ghost reminds us that every child of God in this world, every heaven born soul, every believer lives in this world in a constant state of conflict and warfare with himself. Such opposite things a blessing and cursing, sweet water and bitter, figs and olives cannot come from the same nature (Romans 7:14-25; Galatians 5:14-25).
(Romans 7:14-25) “We know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. 16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. 17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. 19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. 20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. 22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.”
(Galatians 5:14-25) “All the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 15 But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. 16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. 18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”
Opening my heart’s door, as best I can, entering into its most secret chambers, I see the most foul, abominable, and frightful things imaginable. In my sinful heart of flesh I see every evil thing that man has ever done, or imagined against God and his fellow man. I make no exceptions (Matthew 15:19). I see evil thoughts, murderous imaginations, vile adulteries, fornications, and perversions, deceit, thefts, lying, and blasphemies. Let other men talk of progressively getting more sanctified, holy, and righteous, and less sinful if they dare speak so proudly. As for me, “I know,” by the testimony of Holy Scripture and by painful experience, “that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing!” — “I am carnal, sold under sin!”
Before God saved me I thought things would be different, if ever he was pleased to save me. I knew my sins would not be eradicated. But I did think they would at least be fewer, weaker, and less troublesome. But things are not as I dreamed! I was shocked to wake up one day and realize that I am still just as sinful as ever by nature. My flesh is still flesh. And it always will be. Until this body of flesh dies, my sin will never die, or even diminish! The outward deeds are not so bad as they once were. But the inward corruptions are worse, far worse.
I am trying to be honest with you, because I want you to be honest with yourself and with God. Before God saved you, did you ever imagine that a saved person could be so vile as you are? I never thought a saved man could love Christ so little as I do and love the world so much, trust God so little and fret so much, have such a cold heart of indifference to the things of God and such a lively spirit to the things of the world, have such a hard time praying and reading God’s Word, and be so impatient, murmuring, and resentful of God’s providence. In myself I honestly see nothing good, righteous, or holy. I pray. But my prayers are full of selfish desires. I read God’s Word. But my mind runs to every evil thing. I love Christ. But my love for him is shameful. I trust my God. But my faith is mixed with unbelief.
This is my confession: I am a sinner, nothing else. My only hope is God’s free grace in Christ. My only acceptance with God is the righteousness and shed blood of Christ, the sinner’s Substitute.
Fourth, look at James 3:13-14 and learn that the grace of God that brings salvation gives us that wisdom from above that teaches us to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present, evil world for the glory of God (Titus 2:1-15; Ephesians 4:25-5:2; 5:17-20; Colossians 3:1-17).
(James 3:13) “Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.”
(Titus 2:1-15) “1 ¶ But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: 2 That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. 3 The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; 4 That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. 6 Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded. 7 In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, 8 Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you. 9 Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again; 10 Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.”
“11 ¶ For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; 13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; 14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. 15 ¶ These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.”
(Ephesians 4:25-5:2) “25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. 26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27 Neither give place to the devil. 28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. 29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. 30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
“5:1 ¶ Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; 2 And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.”
(Ephesians 5:17-20) “17 Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. 18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; 19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; 20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
(Colossians 3:1-17) “1 ¶ If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. 2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.”
“5 ¶ Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: 6 For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: 7 In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.”
“8 ¶ But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. 9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; 10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: 11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.”
“12 ¶ Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. 14 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.”
Look at our text one more time, my brother, my sister, and ask God the Holy Spirit, who’s Word this is, to unceasingly teach us what great grace we need, day by day, that we may honor him and benefit others and not harm them.
(James 3:14) “But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.”
(1 Corinthians 12:27-13:8) “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. 28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? 30 Have all the gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.”
“13:1 ¶ Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”
“4 ¶ Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 8 ¶ Charity never faileth.”
Thus I have been and am loved of God. Thus, my God, teach me to love your people, for Christ’s sake.