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Sermon #27 — James Series
Title: Lessons for Living
Text: James 5:1-20
Subject: Living for God
Date: Tuesday Evening — December 1, 2015
Readings: Allen Kibby and Cody Henson
When I was a young man and a young believer one troubling question was on my mind and weighed heavily on my heart all the time. I am now 65 years old, and that same question troubles me and weighs heavily on my heart all the time. I awake with it on my mind every day. And, at night, when I’ve turned off the lights and kissed my wife good-night, I review the day with this question. Are you interested? Here’s the question that has been pressing me every day for nearly 48 years. — How can I live for God?
How can I live in this world for Christ, for the glory of God my Savior? This is the question by which I try to survey each day of my life night by night? — How have I lived this day for him who loved me and gave himself for me? Needless to say, the answer is never satisfactory. The answer always lays me in the dust and forces me to confess my shameful waste, and abuse, and sin. Still, the question keeps haunting me. — How can I live for God? I hope you are interested in that?
If you will open your Bibles to the Book of James, I’m going to show you some answers to that question given to us by God the Holy Ghost in the Book of God. The title of my message is — Instructions for Living. My text will be James chapter five. — Instructions for Living (James 5:1-20).
Before we look at our text, let me say this — You can’t live for Christ until you live in Christ. Many people have the idea that they should “start living for the Lord.” You can’t live for him until you live in him. Salvation is not reforming your life, turning over a new leaf, or getting religion. Salvation is new life in Christ. Salvation is Christ living in you. Salvation is you living in Christ. So, before I talk to you about living for Christ, I call upon you to trust Christ, to believe on the Son of God.
The Lord Jesus Christ lived and died for me. He redeemed me with his own precious blood. And he lives in heaven today for me, interceding for me as my Advocate on High. The Son of God is utterly and totally committed to me. It is my prayer that God the Holy Ghost might give me grace to utterly and totally commit myself to him. I want to live for him who loved me and gave himself for me. — Don’t you?
Proposition: I think I can say, without reservation that — Every heaven-born soul wants to live for God, for the glory of God, according to the will of God, for the benefit of the people of God.
Father, I long to live as one
Who knows Your matchless love,
As one who has been heaven born,
Who lives for things above.
Savior, I want to honor You,
And do the will of God,
In thought, and word, and deed to live
As one redeemed by blood.
Holy Spirit, guide my steps,
And guard my heart and tongue,
Subdue my sin, grant grace to live
As one that’s heaven born
Here, in the last chapter of this great Epistle God the Holy Ghost inspired James to give us Instructions for Living. Hold your Bibles open on your laps, and I will show you five things, five statements, by which James teaches us how we are to live in this world. — May God the Spirit, whose Word we now have before us, be our Teacher!
1. Beware of worldliness (vv. 1-6).
(James 5:1-6) “Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. (2) Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. (3) Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. (4) Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. (5) Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. (6) Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.”
I must first point out the fact that James is not here telling us that it is sinful or wrong for a child of God to be wealthy. Some of God’s saints are given the responsibility of very great wealth.
· Joseph of Arimathea
God gives wealth and God gives poverty to his elect as he sees fit both for their own good and for their appointed usefulness in this world. But we are warned repeatedly by our Lord to beware of worldliness.— “The cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the Word and it becometh unfruitful” (Mark 4:19 — 1 John 2:15-17).
(1 John 2:15-17 “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (16) For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. (17) And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.”
What is worldliness? Religionists say that it is worldly to dress according to the fashion of the times, to wear your hair in a given way, to wear a beard, or to drink a glass of wine.
The Pharisee’s rule is, “Touch not, taste not, handle not.” These commandments and doctrines of men are satisfying to the flesh, and they make a show of humility; but Paul calls this “will worship” (Colossians 2:23) and “the doctrines of devils” (1 Timothy 4:1). And he warns us to shun these things.
The Lord Jesus dressed according to the fashion of the common man in his day. He wore a seamless robe and sandals, like all other men. Our Savior wore his hair much longer than modern styles, and he wore a beard, according to the custom of his day. Jesus of Nazareth drank wine with his disciples, and turned water into wine at the marriage feast of Cana. Was the Son of God worldly? Perish the thought!
Men look upon the outward appearance. They place great stock in a man’s outward dress and conduct. By these things they determine who are and who are not worldly, who are and who are not the people of God. But God has no regard for such things. Our Lord made it plain that it is not what a man wears, or eats, or drinks that reflects his relationship with God. Rather, it is his heart.
(Romans 14:17) “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.”
What is worldliness? — It is the love of the world. Be sure that you do not love the world. — “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Do not allow your heart to become fondly attached to this world,
“Love not the world.” — It is perishing. Everything in it is marked for destruction. — “Set your affection on things above,” even Jesus Christ and the riches of God’s grace and glory in him.
Worldliness is an undue attachment to this world. It is living for this world, its riches, its honor, its joys, and its cares. It is living by the principles of this world: greed, covetousness, deceit and lasciviousness. Godliness is living for God. It is living as unto the Lord, for his honor and glory. It is living by love and faith toward God as he is revealed in Christ. Godliness is living in submission to the Lord our God.
Are you a worldly person, one who lives for this world? If so, you will surely perish with this world. James specifically says to you, “Weep and howl.” “Weep and howl,” because your everlasting damnation is sure! This word, “howl,” is found nowhere else in the New Testament. But it is found in three consecutive chapters of Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah 13:6; 14:31; 15:3). In each place, the word is used in connection with the sure and certain judgment of God. — “Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you!”
Nothing is more dangerous to the souls of men than the love of the world. Nothing more effectually chokes out the influence of the Gospel in a man’s heart than the cares of this world. Nothing is more difficult to avoid than an undue attachment to this world. So James begins this chapter by telling us to beware of worldliness.
Beloved, this world and all that it offers is just a bubble that soon must burst. Your money, your farms, your houses, your influence, your families, everything here is temporary. All the property, position, praise, and power you crave from this world will soon vanish away. We laugh at the small child who cries when the bubbles he is playing with burst. But, for a rational man to be so attached to a bubble is a most irrational thing.
Are we God’s? Are we risen with Christ? Do we live in the hope of eternal glory? Then count this world to be a dead thing. Live no longer for this world. Set your heart on things above. Live above this pile of rubbish that must soon burn. Live to do the will of God, seek the glory of Christ, further the Gospel of the grace of God, and serve the people of God. Quit seeking those things for which unbelieving men live; and seek those things which are above: life, immortality, and glory. — “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” — “Love not the world!”
2. Be patient (vv. 7-11).
(James 5:7-11) “Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. (8) Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. (9) Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door. (10) Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. (11) Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.”
How many times have you seen or known some terribly painful, traumatic, almost devastating thing, and thought to yourself — “What good can come of this? How can this work for good? How will this benefit anyone? Can this be honoring to God?” We know that our heavenly Father is too wise to err, too good to do wrong, and too strong to fail. Yet, when tragedies come close to home we cannot help asking, “Why did this thing happen?” We may not openly say it, but in frustration, perhaps even in anger and resentment, we ask, “God what are you doing?”
This is our God’s gracious, merciful answer to our astonishment, confusion, and unbelief. — “Be ye patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord.” — “Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh!” — “The Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy!” Do you remember his word to us in John 13? — “What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.”
· Ever be mindful of the patience of Job.
· Always remember that “the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy” (v. 11).
When Jacob awoke from his dream, he said, “Surely, the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not” (Genesis 28:16). When Samson’s strength was gone, we are told, “He wist not that the Lord was departed from him” (Judges 16:20). What is said of our God’s presence and absence, of his comings and goings, may also be said of all his providential doings. “What I do,” he says, “Thou knowest not now.”
“God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform.
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.”
Jacob cried, “All these things are against me” (Genesis 42:36), because he did not know what God was doing. Joseph’s path of experience never seemed to match God’s promise of grace, until he was on the throne in Egypt and his family was saved. I am sure Moses’ was terribly confused when he announced that God had sent him to deliver Israel and Israel turned against him, because their sorrow was increased. — “Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary; thy way is in the seas, thy paths in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known” (Psalm 77:13-19). — “Thy judgments are a great deep” (Psalm 36:6).
Sometimes God’s providence appears to contradict his promises. Sometimes his acts of mercy and grace in providence look and feel like acts of wrath and judgment. Sometimes God appears to be favorable to the wicked and angry with the righteous. Many, many things in this world are confusing to God’s saints. He often seems to lift with one hand and cast down with the other. He appears to heal with one and wound with the other. But this should not surprise us. He told us plainly. “What I do thou knowest not now.”
And there is a reason for it. Our Lord will not let us walk by sight in this world. He demands and deserves that we walk by faith. Yet, he gives us this blessed promise, to assure and comfort our troubled hearts — “But thou shalt know hereafter.” — “Be patient.” — “The coming of the Lord draweth nigh!” In God’s own time, everything will be cleared up; and we will know what God has done (Romans 11:33-36).
(Romans 11:33-36) “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! (34) For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? (35) Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? (36) For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen.”
3. Be honest (v. 12).
First James tells us to beware of worldliness. Then he tells us to be patient. Third, in verse 12, he says be honest.
(James 5:12) “But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.”
Above all things, be honest.
· Honest with God.
· Honest with yourself.
· Honest with one another.
· Honest with men.
James does not condemn taking an oath in court, or taking oaths when needed to assure someone of your commitment or your word. What he does tell us is this…
· Don’t swear rashly.
· “Let your yea be yea; and your nay be nay.”
If you live and behave soberly and honestly, you will not need to affirm your word with an oath. If you do not speak and behave in a suspicious way, people who know you will not be suspicious of you.
· Beware of worldliness.
· Be patient.
· Be honest.
4. Learn to pray (vv. 13-18).
(James 5:13-18) “Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray. Is any merry? Let him sing psalms. (14) Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: (15) And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. (16) Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. (17) Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. (18) And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.”
I don’t pretend to know much about prayer, but I know this — All true prayer is prayer is according to the will of God. It is found in the heart, being wrought in us by God the Holy Ghost. When you read the words “effectual, fervent prayer” (v. 16), James is not talking about excited, emotional, demanding prayer, by which men foolishly imagine they can get God to do what he appears reluctant to do!
· The words “effectual, fervent prayer” would be more accurately translated “in wrought prayer.” — James is talking about prayer wrought in the heart by God the Holy Ghost.
· The example James gives of Elijah praying for it not to rain for 3 and ½ years and then praying for it to rain (1 Kings 17 and 18), are examples of a man calmly and confidently asking God to do something. — He asked it once and never mentioned it again.
I repeat, true prayer is prayer found in the heart — “For thou, O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, hast revealed to thy servant, saying, I will build thee an house: therefore hath thy servant found in his heart to pray this prayer unto thee” (2 Samuel 7:27). Prayer is one of those holy, spiritual activities that is better practiced than written about or discussed. It is an intensely personal activity, an activity that modesty always keeps hidden away in the closet, out of public view. Again, I do not pretend to know much about prayer. But I do know that prayer is a subject about which there is much confusion. Here are three things revealed in this Book about prayer that I do know. May God the Holy Spirit, the Inspirer and Creator of all true prayer, stamp these three things upon our hearts and minds. — Here are three facts about prayer.
First, true prayer arises from the heart. It is a heart work. David did not find a prayer in his books, or in his memory, or even in his mouth, but in his heart. Far too often, I fear, my prayers arise from my lusts, my personal desires, rather than from a heart of faith that seeks the will and glory of God (James 4:2-4). God listens only to what the heart speaks in prayer. He has no regard for the sounds of our mouths, or the thoughtless, selfish, self-centered desires of our flesh.
Second, if prayer is found in the heart, God put it there. Prayer is the communication of a believer’s spirit with God, who is Spirit, by the power and grace of God the Holy Spirit. He teaches us to pray by showing us what the will of God is. He does this by his Word, by his providence, and by putting a burden upon our hearts that will not go away. Then he graciously inclines our hearts to pray, to seek what God has purposed to do. He has many ways of doing that (Psalm 107:1-31).
Third, God will perform the thing that he puts in our hearts to seek by earnest prayer. — “The prayer of faith shall save the sick” (v. 15). True prayer is seeking the will of God by the Spirit of God, through faith in the Son of God. And whatever we ask according to his will, he will do (1 John 5:14-15). Prayer is not an attempt by man to conform God to his will, but the cry of a heart conformed by grace to God’s will. — It is breathing out to God what God has breathed into our souls. — “Lord, teach us to pray!”
The Righteous Man
Perhaps the “righteous man” whose effectual, fervent prayer avails much is Jesus Christ the Righteous who intercedes for us on High (Romans 8:26-27; 1 John 2:1-2).
(Romans 8:26-27) “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. (27) And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”
(1 John 2:1-2) “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: (2) And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”
· Beware of worldliness (vv. 1-6).
· Be patient (vv. 7-11).
· Be honest (v. 12).
· Learn to pray (vv. 13-18).
5. Help the fallen (vv. 19-20).
(James 5:19-20) “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; (20) Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.”
· Apply this to the conversion of the lost.
· Apply it to the restoration of the fallen.
· What an honor!
(Galatians 6:1-2) “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.”
Would you live for God? Would I? Do we really want to live for our Savior? In these twenty verses of Inspiration God the Holy Ghost tells us by the pen of his servant James how to do so.
· Beware of worldliness (vv. 1-6).
· Be patient (vv. 7-11).
· Be honest (v. 12).
· Learn to pray (vv. 13-18).
· Help the fallen (vv. 19-20).
Savior, I live to Thee,
The Loveliest and Best;
My life in Thee, Thy life in me,
In Thy blest love I rest.
Savior, I’ll die to Thee
Whenever death shall come;
To die in Thee is life to me
In my eternal home.
Whether to live or die
I know not which is best:
To live in Thee is bliss to me,
To die is endless rest.
Living or dying, Lord,
I ask but to be Thine;
My life in Thee, Thy life in me,
Make heaven forever mine!