James 1-5 - The Bible from 30,000 Feet - Skip Heitzig - Flight JAM01
The Bible from 30,000 Feet, soaring through the Scripture from Genesis to Revelation.
Turn in your Bibles to the Book of James, please, five chapters in this short Book of James. Let's pray together. Father, you know the condition of-- our hearts are weak. You know what we are thinking, what we've gone through, what anxieties are present. As David said, try me and know my anxieties. See if there's something in me that is wicked or displeasing and lead me in the way everlasting. We make that our opening prayer.
We pray, Lord, that you would use this overview of the Book of James. Some of us know it so well. For some of us, it is the favorite, or at least one of our favorites. Thank you for his life and ministry and for using him to record these words. Speak to us and then work through us, we pray, in Jesus' name, Amen.
Book of James-- my oldest brother is named James, Jim, Jimmy, depending on who was talking to him and for what reason they were talking to him. And he, as my oldest brother, felt that he should be the one to sound the need for the younger brothers to become mature. So one of his favorite lines to us, but more to me, was, grow up! He'd say, Skip, grow up.
Well, I was growing up. That's just part of life. You can't help but grow up. But I know what he meant by that. He thought I should take certain things more seriously than I did. And so his message was, become more mature in the way you deal with things and handle things. Grow up.
Well, that happens to be the theme of this Book of James. It's that we would become more mature believers, that we would grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Those were Peter's words. But that really is a theme of this book. He wants his audience to continue to grow in practical ways.
A maternity ward is one of the most exciting places in a hospital because new life is happening there. And then when that child comes home, that child starts growing up and starts taking on certain features, at first you look at the baby and you think, I don't know who that baby looks like. But as time goes on, he or she starts picking up characteristics of mom, dad, grandpa, uncles, et cetera. And you notice that, and then even character traits.
And one of the most exciting days is when a child utters his or her first words. They're usually indiscernible, though you swear they just spoke your name or said dada or mama. But even if they say, lala, it's like, wow! Did you hear that? That is so exciting!
And even though it's not greatly articulated, and even if the child were to spit up before or after those meaningless articulations, it's still a great day. However, if that child is 5 or 10 or 25 years old and says dada, now it's not that exciting because by that mile marker, you would certainly expect much more maturity than just an inarticulate mumbling of words. So growth is necessary, and growth is expected, same with salvation.
I love seeing people come to Christ. We get excited around here when somebody raises their hand or walks forward, and we have had all alter calls. And hopefully soon, when all this is over, we'll be able to do more and more of that.
But as excited as we get about watching a conversion take place, I wonder why we don't get more excited about growth, as if, they're saved now, next, when that is just the beginning. There is so much more ahead potentially in that person's life, where that person could become a great tool to be used by God. The discipleship that takes place, that is what is paramount on the mind of James when he writes his book.
Now, we get into what is called the general epistles, or what are called the general epistles. The Book of James, first Peter, second Peter, first John, second John, third John, and Jude, those seven books are called general epistles, general letters, meaning they're not written to a particular person or a particular church group. They are written to a general population of people. It was circulated, nonetheless. But it has no address of group or person, like so many of the other books.
What's interesting about the book of James is that it is not a doctrinal book. It is a practical book. Now, I'm not saying doctrine isn't practical. If you know me, you know I believe that it is. But the way Paul would generally write is he would be doctrine heavy at the beginning of his letters, and then he would have a transitional section, usually a therefore section. And he would take and apply the doctrine of the previous chapters and get very practical.
James just is practical all the way through. It's not doctrinal. It's practical. Now, let me underscore that a little bit. In the Book of James, Jesus Christ, the name Jesus only appears twice. And the doctrine of the cross, the doctrine of the Resurrection-- these are principle doctrines-- and the doctrine of the Holy Spirit aren't even mentioned, only because that's not the intent of the book.
The intent of the book is to take people who already believe that and know that into a place of living out what they know. So the theme of the Book of James is that genuine faith produces genuine proof. Or better put, genuine faith produces genuine proof of faith. If you have faith, it will show. If you have doctrine, you'll see it in duty, in what a person is doing with their lives.
So there are a couple of verses that sum up the entire Book of James along those lines. Chapter 1, verse 22, look at it. "But be doers of the word and not hearers only deceiving yourselves." And then he gives an illustration. Over in chapter 2, verse 26 is another key verse. "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also."
If you're looking for an Old Testament book that is like the Book of James, I suppose it would be the Book of Proverbs. Proverbs has short, pithy, punchy, spicy sayings. So does the Book of James. It's just sort of in your face, in your grill. Here's the truth. Live this out. Do this. And it's highly exhortive, not much plowing deeper than that.
Now, it says, as we begin James, "a bond servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ." So the author has stated James. Now, the problem we have is well, James who? Because in the New Testament, there are four different individuals by the name of James.
The most famous is James the brother of John, the son of Zebedee. And he was in that inner circle with Jesus. There was always Peter, James, and John. So he would be the most likely candidate.
The only problem is, by the time this book is written, he's dead. We know how he died. Acts, chapter 12 tells us a persecution arose in the church by Herod Agrippa, I. And he had James, the brother of John, killed during that time. So that pushes him aside.
There's another James in the New Testament who is an apostle of Jesus called James the son of Alphaeus called, in Mark, chapter 15, James the Less. Not because he was less of a person, but he was less famous than the first James that I just mentioned. So he is called in Mark 15, James the Less.
We don't know much about him. He was an apostle of Jesus. But this doesn't fit that he wrote that. Well, let's move on to the third. I don't want to explain too much because I realize I start getting into these books, and I start approaching them like I'm doing my verse by verse through the Bible. And I have to realize I'm doing a whole book of the Bible, so I don't want to get bogged down.
A third James is James, the Father of Judas. Now, James, the father of Judas, was somebody who is known in the early church in Jerusalem because he's mentioned in Acts chapter 1. The Judas that was his son was not Judas Iscariot. He's called Judas, not Iscariot.
That's how he appears in the Book of John. Judas, not Iscariot, because Judas was a very common name. And it was one of the disciples of Jesus, not just Judas Iscariot, but this other guy named Judas. His dad happened to be named James.
But there's a fourth. And the general consensus is that this fourth person is the one who authored the Book of James. And that is James, the brother of Jesus, the half brother of Jesus, the sibling of Jesus, the oldest half brother of Jesus. We know from reading the New Testament, though I didn't know, growing up in the church that I grew up in. I always thought that Mary was perpetually a virgin because they told me she was until I read my Bible and found out, oops, they were wrong, that Joseph and Mary, after Jesus was born-- Jesus had a virgin birth.
Joseph and Mary had normal physical relationships and produced a number of children, brothers, and sisters to Jesus. And they're named, even, the brothers are, in the gospels. Number one was James, the oldest half brother, followed by Joseph, or Joses, depending on which version of the Bible you read, followed by Judas, not Iscariot and not the other Judas who's not Iscariot.
Let's call him Jude because that's how his name appears in the Book of Jude. And then finally, Simon, not Simon Peter-- again, these are common names-- but a guy by the name of Simon, all half brothers of Jesus, besides having half sisters. So the author of the Book of James grew up in the same home with Jesus.
Just imagine, if you can, living with an older brother who's perfect. How annoying would that be? How difficult would that be? How untenable would that be? Something goes wrong. Well, whose fault is it? Well, it's not Jesus.
Who didn't take out the trash? Obviously, Jesus wasn't around, or he would have, right? So this oldest half brother-- and again, I wish I had more time to explain it. I'm just trusting that you'll chase these things down on your own. But James is even recorded as mocking Jesus. His words are recorded.
But the short story is that these half brothers did not believe Jesus was the Messiah, did not believe in His mission, had no faith in Him at all until after His Resurrection. After the Resurrection, Jesus made a special appearance to them. They came to not only believe, but they came to be part of the early church.
James appears in chapter 1 in the upper room in the Book of Acts with the other apostles. And Mary, the mother of Jesus, she's there too. But later on, James becomes the leader in the church at Jerusalem. He becomes the primary leader.
So this is that James. And notice he doesn't say anything except he's a bond servant. So this is interesting. And again, I'm sorry if I'm plowing too deeply. I'll try to speed up after this point.
Paul will often say Paul, an apostle and a bond servant. What's interesting is James, the half brother, and Jude, the half brother of Jesus, just say bond servant. I've got to commend them for that. Because if I were writing this book, I would want to make sure my audience knew that I was related to Jesus, Skip, a half brother of the Lord Jesus Christ and a bond servant.
But he just goes-- he just leaves that out, because what's important is that he's a servant of Jesus Christ. He is a bond servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, "to the 12 tribes that are diaspora." Have you ever heard that term before, the diaspora? They're scattered abroad. And they were scattered abroad because of what happened in the Book of Acts, chapter 12.
I'm just going to read you this. Now, about that time-- this is Acts 12, verse 1. About that time, "Herod, the King, stretched out his hand to harass some of the church. And he killed James, the brother of John, with a sword. And because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to seize Peter also." Now, it was during the days of unleavened bread.
So James, the brother of John, is dead. The church gets scattered because of persecution. They are all throughout Judea, all throughout different parts of the world. And James, the half brother of Jesus, writes this letter to those dispersed Jewish believers to tell them to hold fast, basically, grow up. Stick this one out. Grow in Jesus Christ. Don't stop.
So he gives this general epistle to them, to the 12 tribes that are scattered abroad. "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials." Now, I didn't give you the outline of the book. And I'm not going to give it to you at first. But I'm going to give it to you as we go through.
There's five chapters. And each chapter has its own emphasis. And the emphasis of all five chapters is maturity, growing up. So chapter 1, I would title it this way, Mature Christians are Robust. They're robust. They don't fold. They don't quit. They don't give up easily. They keep pressing on. They are patient through trials.
So he says, "brethren-- my brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience, steadfastness, endurance. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." So mature Christians are robust. They're patient through trials.
Now, there are two factors in life that will bring you pressure, trials and temptations. And they're very different. God allows trials. Trials come because you're alive. You breathe air. You live in a fallen world.
It can come from a number of places. But trials are allowed by God and used by God to mature you. Trials are a tool that God uses to mature you.
Temptations don't come from God, James will say. Temptations are used by Satan to entrap you. One is to mature you. The other's to entrap you.
But if you are patient, even the temptations that Satan uses or tries to use against you, God can use for you. The very temptation can become a trial that God uses to purify you, because God promised He won't allow you to be tempted above what you're able but always give you an escape. So the bottom line is God manages those, and we should be patient during trials.
Now, a word about patience. The trials of your faith will produce patience. But you need patience to go through the trial. And so the reason you go through the trial is to produce more patience so that when you go through the next trial you'll have even more. And so it is a cycle.
You need it to be able to handle it. But the only way to get it is to go through a trial. So when the high-schooler came to the pastor and said, Pastor, I'm such an impatient person. Pray that God will give me patience. He said, OK, Father, send this young man trials, tribulations, heartache, hardship.
And the kid said, wait, a minute, Pastor. Why would you pray that? I prayed for patience. He said, well, Paul said tribulation works patience. It produces it. That's James' point as well.
And look at verse 5, following on the heels of that. "If any of you lack wisdom--" I'll put my hand up there. I so often do. "Let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally, freely, generously, and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith with no doubting. For he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose he will receive anything from the Lord."
The asking God for wisdom is in the context of trials. Of course you can ask God for wisdom anytime. But I would venture to say you're going through a trial frequently, probably daily. And so probably you're asking for patience. When you do, it's probably because you're going through a difficult time, and that is the context here. It's asking God for wisdom while you are facing a trial.
For example, God forbid you lose your job. You have no employment. COVID wiped out your company. Now you're jobless. But your boss let you go first, and you've always felt your boss had it out for you or had it in for you, however you want to look at it. And so you're mad at your boss now. And you're thinking of ways to retaliate, get back at him, write him nasty, vapid, stupid things on Instagram or Twitter.
I'm sorry for all those adjectives. It's just sort of what sums up the platform, generally. Or you're going to threaten him. Now, that's your flesh. Once you stop and pray for wisdom-- God, what do you want to show me through this? That's where this comes into view.
Warren Wiersbe told a great story when he was a pastor. He had a secretary who got sick. She had a stroke, had to be admitted to the hospital. Right around the same time, her husband also was admitted to the hospital and almost died. And Pastor Wiersbe said to her when he saw her, he goes, I've been praying for you through this. And she looked at him and said, what are you praying?
He said, I'm praying that God will help you. I'm praying that God will strengthen you. And she said, thank you, Pastor. But would you pray one more thing? Would you pray that God gives me the wisdom not to waste this. That's insightful. And that is the thought here.
Lord, what is it you are doing why? Are you allowing this? I don't want to waste this lesson because I don't want to go through this lesson again, right? The worst thing in the world is you get put back a grade because you didn't graduate well from that grade. And so it's like, I want to learn the lesson. And let's have graduation.
Go down to verse 12, "blessed is the man who endures temptation. For when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, I am tempted by God. For God cannot be tempted by evil. Nor does He himself tempt anyone."
Do you see those two factors, those two components of the pressures of life? Trials of life he writes about in the first part of the chapter. the temptations in life. He says, don't blame the temptations on God. God can't be tempted, nor does God tempt anyone.
But verse 14, "each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin. And sin, when it is full grown, brings forth death."
Why did James have to write all that? I think because James understood human nature. And he understands that we humans don't like to be responsible for our own junk, our own mess, our own sin.
We like to shift the blame. Well, it's not my fault. It's somebody else's fault. Or I was born this way. I can't be held responsible. It's the way I was born.
I was reading an article some time ago how that in genetic research, some scientists have tried to say that you might have a genetic propensity for a number of things, including adultery, including anger. So you might be a promiscuous person, but it's not your fault. You were born that way.
And so in our culture, we have elevated the victim to the patron saint of humanity. Oh, you're a victim. Oh, God bless you. Awesome. That's what we all aspire, to be a victim.
So James understood this about humans. And he says, when you get tempted, don't you blame this on God. It starts within you. The problem is endemic to human nature. And you are in a world that has fallen that takes advantage of that.
So chapter 1, mature Christians are robust. They're patient in trials. And they manage through temptation. Chapter 2 is mature Christians are real. Mature Christians are real. That is they practice the truth. They just don't know it. They practice it. They live it.
And he gives an example. "My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly--" the word assembly, by the way, is the Greek word "sin-a-go-gay," synagogue. James was Jewish, writing to the diaspora, dispersed Jewish believers throughout Judea and other regions.
But when they would gather together, they're gathering-togethers were called synagogues. So if somebody comes into your synagogue, "there's a man with gold rings and fine apparel. And there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes. And you pay attention to the one wearing fine clothes and say to him, you sit here in a good place. And you say to the poor man, you stand there, or sit here by my footstool. Have you not shown partiality among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?" So don't play favorites if you have these two visitors.
Now, I'm going to take you down to verse 8. "If you really fulfill the royal law-- according to the scripture, you shall love your neighbor as yourself-- you do well. But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors." I like that he calls this the royal law, not the Mosaic law, not the good law or standard law. He calls it the royal law. Why is that? Because it's given by a king.
And the king has a kingdom. And the king is saying, in my kingdom, the prevailing law is the law of love. Jesus said that is what fulfills all of the commandments. Love God with your heart, mind, soul, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. So its royal law. The king has given that as the mandate for his kingdom, love. Let love mark the believer. Love marks a mature believer.
How do I know if I'm really growing in Christ? How much do you love? How loving are you? How patient are you in trials? How do you put up with temptations? And how do you love people? These are very basic, simple, practical tests, the law of love.
Malcolm Muggeridge, who's an author that I've come to admire, greatly said the biggest disease, the biggest epidemic, let's say the biggest pandemic, just for the sake of modern times, in our modern culture, and he listed several diseases. He said the biggest problem aren't those diseases. It's an epidemic of lovelessness, lack of love, people feeling unwanted, uncared for, unloved.
In the Book of Romans, Paul said the love of God has been poured out in our hearts or shed abroad in our hearts, if you follow the old King James. I like poured out. So God pours out His love in our hearts. Just think of God with a big bucket of love. And here you are. And He's just guzzling, boom, boom, boom, boom, pouring as much love into you. Now you're full of what? Love, which means when you're around people, no one should be love starved because you've got so much.
Oh, I'm just-- I'm tapped out, man. I got no more love. It's impossible. If God is pouring out His love in your hearts, you always have plenty to go around. Oh, but I feel-- no, but let God do it through you, then. Admit Lord, I need wisdom in this. I lack wisdom. Help me out here. And allow the Lord to flow His love through you.
If God's love flows in you, then God's love should flow through you. And when you run out, He'll pour in more. So that's the royal law.
Down to verse 14, "what does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?" Now, if you were to isolate that last four-letter question, you would have to answer it in the affirmative. Can faith save him? Yes, faith can save him.
But this translation is not as good as what is I think a better translation. Can that kind of faith save him? So what does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? He's not proving it by what he does. Can that kind of faith save him?
"If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food and one says, depart in peace, be warmed and filled, but don't give him the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus, also, faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." The Book of James has suffered because of this chapter, these verses over the years.
People have not liked it. People have felt, some have felt that James contradicts Paul, the apostle, in his great treatise in the Book of Romans, which is salvation by grace through faith alone. And they see James as a contradiction to the teachings of Paul.
Martin Luther at a difficult time with the Book of James. He didn't like it because he was struggling with a theology that when he read this, he felt like it was going back to his salvation of works. And he called the Epistle of James, the Epistle of Straw. He didn't like it. There was no meat, no substance to it, like the Book of Romans.
But I submit this is not a contradiction. This is a complement. He is complementing. He's giving the same truth, but flipping the coin. Heads, that's Paul. Tails, that's James. Same coin, but you're approaching it from two different angles.
You see, Paul talks about the root of salvation, which is faith. James talks about the fruit of salvation, which is works. Now, if you have the root, you'll have the fruit. If you don't have the root, you won't have the fruit. And he's saying, if I can't see no fruit, you ain't got no root.
That's James in the NSV, the New Skip Version.
"Can that kind of faith save him?" So he's not denouncing salvation by faith, because, well, back in chapter 1, he says in verse 17, "every good gift and every perfect gift is from above," comes down from God. Verse 18, "of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures."
So he acknowledges that even the gift of salvation is a gift from God. You don't earn it. So when he says, can that kind of faith save him, he's simply just saying that real faith has accompanying proof. You're able to see it.
So he's giving here, as he did at the beginning of this chapter, little tests to see if your faith is authentic. Because you can have faith in God-- because a lot of people, I believe in God, man. I believe in Jesus. He's my homey. He's my best friend. He's my-- we're like this. But you can have faith that's dead faith.
You can also have faith that's demonic faith. The devils believe and tremble. James says you should have not dead faith, not demonic faith, but dynamic faith, real, active, powerful, life-changing faith. That's also "faith by itself, if it does not have works--" root and fruit-- "is dead. You have faith--" or verse 18, "someone will say you have faith, and I have works. Show me your faith without your works. I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe and tremble."
He's saying, big deal. So what? Ooh. You have faith in God. Yay! Next. Because the devil is doing the same thing. Every demon in hell believes there's a God in heaven, believes the doctrine of the Trinity, believes the deity of Christ, believes all the cardinal doctrines of the faith. They are not saved. It's not a real, active, life-changing faith.
"But do you want to know, oh, foolish man, that faith without works is dead." Simply put, your response to truth shows your relationship to the truth. Response reveals relationship.
So maturity, that's the theme of the book. Chapter 1, maturity is-- a mature Christian is robust. Chapter 2, a mature Christian is real. Chapter 3, a mature Christian is restrained. What do I mean "restrained?" He watches what he says with his lips or tweets with his thumbs.
"My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment, for we all stumble in many things. If someone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. Indeed we put bits in horses mouths that they may obey us. And we turn their whole body. Look also at ships. Although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires.
Even so, the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how little or see how great a forest a little fire kindles. And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body and sets on fire the course of nature and is set on fire by hell." Wow.
Why such a big deal? Well, I think more sins are committed by our mouths than probably just about any other part of our bodies. It's so easy to do. It's so effortless. You don't even have to be intelligent. Usually it reveals a lack of intelligence.
In Proverbs 6, Solomon has a list of things God hates. Do you ever look at that list? It bears a reminder because as I read it, three out of the seven things God hates is a misuse of the human tongue. Six things the Lord hates. Seven are an abomination to Him, "a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies and one who sows discord among the brethren."
You will spend a total of 1/5 of your life talking. Some of you will do more. Some will do less. But you will average 1/5 of your life talking. You will generate in words a 50-page document every single day, or the equivalent of, in your words.
It equals to be about 132 volumes per year of about 200 to 400 pages per volume and over a course of a lifetime, over 3,000 of those volumes. That's how much you will speak. But notice how easy it is to sin in this area, how a little fire so is easily set. It's very, very picturesque, as James puts it.
Back in World War II, there was a poster that was quite famous in the United States. It showed a boat going down in the water, and it said, "loose lips sink ships." It was famous all over Europe, famous in the United States. And the idea is that be careful what news you tell to neighbors because there could be spies that are among us who are listening to you and will tell powers that be in other countries. So loose lips sink ships.
And James is basically saying that. Loose lips can destroy lives, can ruin a person's life. Sort of a humorous tombstone in England that was found. On the tombstone are the words inscribed, "beneath this stone, a lump of clay, lies Arabella Young, who on the 24th of May began to hold her tongue." You get it? She died on May 24. It took her death before she could get her tongue under control.
OK, James, thanks for that. Verse 7, "for every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly, evil full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father. And with it we curse men who have been made in the likeness or the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth perceived blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.
Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives or a grape vine bear figs? Thus, no spring yields both salt and freshwater. Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in meekness of wisdom."
The ancient Greeks had a god by the name of Proteus. And what made Proteus unique is that he was a shapeshifter. He could change identities. He could be a stone. Then he could be a person. Then he could be a ship. He could just be a number of things.
So the idea is that he could always escape punishment. You couldn't corner him. The gods couldn't get a hold of this guy because he always shifted into something else.
Some people are like that with their mouths. They say one thing to one other person. But they're very, very different with another, and it just depends on what company they have. They're like Proteus. Their tongues shifts into different forms.
I was on the radio one time. And I had a caller call in and wanted to give me an earful about the problems in the modern church. And this was a charismatic Christian who said, the problem with the Church today is more Christians don't speak in tongues. And I said, well, I don't know that that's the biggest problem in the church today. I would say that one of the biggest problems in the church today is there are a number of Christians who can't control the tongue they have.
It's not that they can't speak in other tongues. They just need to keep their tongue tamed, under control. Now, no man can tame the tongue, James says. The inference is only God can do it. And so that's the thrust of this chapter.
Mature Christians are robust, real, and restrained. Number four brings us to chapter 4. Mature Christians are reserved. Look at how it begins. "Where do wars and fights come from among you? " He's writing to believers who have an assembly. They gather together, chapter 2.
And he's writing about wars and fights. The chapter opens on the battlefield. Wars and fights appear five times in two versus, so wars, fights, wars, fights, wars. "Where do wars and fights come from among you, believers in Christ, brothers and sisters? Did they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and you do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight in war. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask, and you do not receive because you ask amiss that you might spend it on your own pleasures."
Conflict is a fact of life. Am I right?
Conflict is the fact of all aspects of life, married life. That's why you say vows at the altar, till death do us part. Come on. Let's make this pact in front of God and men, but till death do us part, because there's going to be conflict.
I was reading earlier this afternoon actually that in medieval Germany, husbands and wives were allowed to settle disputes physically. So if they had a disagreement, they'd go outside, and they'd duke it out, husband or wife. You say, well, that's not fair. The man's stronger.
So because of that, there were certain parameters. The man had to be in a hole, with one arm tied behind his back. And his wife could have a sack of stones to pelt him with. And then they would duke it out, and they would settle their argument that way.
Of course, things have changed. We don't quite do that the same, or we shouldn't. But notice that he says-- he's speaking of believers not getting along. Let me just give you, so I can move on-- here's the short answer to conflict. Proverbs, 15:1, you know it. You know it. Speak it out. A soft answer. You got it.
A soft answer turns away wrath. Somebody comes at you just yelling at you, just talk to them like this, (QUIETLY) pardon me. Excuse me. Well, I've thought about that, and/or I'm sorry if you feel that way. You'll just de-escalate. [VOCALIZING DESCENDING SOUND]
And police, God bless them, they're skilled in de-escalation. I've watched some of our security guys with law enforcement backgrounds. They're just so good at taking high-amp situations and just with a soft answer, making the person just tame. Skill-- it's like, wow, it's really good.
Go down to verse 6, chapter 4, same theme. "But he gives more grace. Therefore, he says, God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble." Now, he just said, where do wars come from, battles? And then look at verse 6, the word resists. That could be translated literally battles against. God battles against the proud.
So where do wars and fights come from among you? Well, they come from your own desires. But you want God to fight against you? So if you're in a battle, and you want God to be against you, just be a proud person. As soon as you are proud, God mounts a resistance against you.
You want to get God on your side, humble yourself. Soft answer, humility. You want God as your enemy? And nobody that I know with a rational mind does. God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. "Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil. And he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners. And purify your hearts, you double minded."
It was AW Tozer who used to say, nearness is likeness. Now, it says here, "draw near to God, and He will draw near to you." Nearness his likeness. He gives an illustration. You could have a husband sitting on a couch in the living room next to his dog.
His wife is 25 feet away in the kitchen. He is near to his wife, even though he is in proximity to the dog, because he has more in common with his wife than he does his dog. So draw close to God. Get in near proximity to God. Nearness his likeness. Draw near to God. He will draw near to you.
Verse 10, "humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up." Verse 13, "come now, you, who say today or tomorrow. We will go to such and such a city spend a year, there buy and sell and make a profit. Whereas you don't know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a time then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, if the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that. But now you boast."
There's the pride again. "You boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil." Pride took Lucifer out of heaven. Pride took Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Paradise. Pride took Nebuchadnezzar out of the Babylonian court. Pride took Haman out of the Persian court. Pride turns friends into enemies.
Humility is the great counterbalance to that. You say, well, I don't feel humble. It'll be hypocrisy if I humble myself. Do it anyway. Just try it out. Try to speak a soft answer because what's going to happen is you might not feel humble right now. But as you humble yourself, you'll start feeling it as you make a decision to do so.
Humility is better than humiliation. You humble yourself. If you don't humble yourself, humiliation comes from an outside source. So you take your choice.
So mature Christians are robust, real, restrained, and reserved. In chapter 5, mature Christians are resigned. That is they are fully resigned, no matter what comes their way. Conflicts, trials, temptations, whatever it might be, any kind of trouble, they're resigned and steadfast and patient.
So he returns now in chapter 5 to where he started the book in chapter 1, with the trials and troubles of life, the pressures of life. If you look at verse 7, "therefore, be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord." Now, we've been waiting for the coming of the Lord for 2,000 years. That's being patient.
The churches had to be patient for two millennia. And every generation has to hear the same message. The Lord is coming. But until He does, be patient, endure, be steadfast. I believe the Lord is coming soon. I do. And I could state a number of reasons why. But have 7 minutes, 28 seconds left, so I won't.
Just say, until He does come, be patient, be steadfast. "See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until he receives the early and latter rain? You also be patient. Establish your hearts. For the coming of the Lord is at hand."
He likens our experience to that of a farmer. There's a lot of circumstances a farmer cannot control. The farmer can't control the weather. A farmer can observe the weather, can plan for the weather, can strategize with the weather, but can't control it.
Verse 10, "my brethren, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed, we count them blessed to endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job. And you have seen the end intended by the Lord, that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful. But above all, my brethren, do not swear either by heaven or earth, with any oath. But let your yes be yes, no be no lest you fall into judgment."
Verse 13, "if any one among you is suffering--" here's how practical James is. Is there anybody among you suffering? Some would say, yeah, I am. Yeah, I am. Yeah, I am. What do we do? Let him pray. Practical.
Is anyone cheerful? Yeah, I'm cheerful. I'm happy. Let him sing songs. You sing. You guys pray, depending on the situation. He's just highly pragmatic. Verse 16, "confess your trespasses one to another and pray for one another that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man gets a lot done or avails much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours. And he prayed earnestly that it would not rain. And it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit."
I challenge you to go back at some point and count the number of words in Elijah's prayer in 1 Kings, Chapter 18. Not very many. Could do it in about 20 or 30 seconds, his prayer. Take that very short prayer compared to the prayer of the prophets of Baal, which was from morning, the text says, till noon. Four hours they prayed. It didn't work. 20 or 30 seconds he prayed. It worked.
Why? It's the fervent, effectual, or effective prayer of a righteous man, a man in relationship to the living God gets a lot done. And Elijah, interestingly, becomes the example for that. Let's close out the book. Look at us. We did it!
Verse 19, "brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins." He was speaking to brothers. He's speaking in the context of a church assembly. But he acknowledges another group will be present, and that is professing believers who are unsaved, unregenerate.
They come to church. They're in their assembly. But notice he calls him in verse 20, "a sinner." That's a New Testament term for not just everybody who has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, but a category of person as opposed to a saint, one who lives that lifestyle. Let him know that he turns a sinner from his error.
So he is acknowledging there are unregenerate people, false believers among true. So if somebody makes a profession of faith but then seems to backslide, do everything you can. You could say, well, it proves that they weren't saved. OK, you can look at it theologically.
Or you could look at it practically and go after them and try to turn them back and bring them back to a place of real repentance and acknowledgment of their sin and a faith in Jesus Christ. And if you do that, you turn a sinner from the error of his way, and you save a soul from death, that is spiritual death, and cover a multitude of sins, because now his sins are atoned for by the blood of the lamb. So the Book of James, mature Christianity, spiritual growth.
As we close, let me give you a few tidbits about spiritual growth. Number one, spiritual growth is expected. Spiritual growth should happen. It's the normal course of life.
Baby is born. You feed the baby, You burp the baby. You change the baby's diaper. You don't have to do much. You don't have to take it to special classes. It's going to grow into an adult.
Growth should happen. Christian growth is expected. It should happen. Discipleship should be a normal part of our life.
Second, spiritual maturity has nothing to do with age. We would like to think that there is a correspondence, that the older a person gets, that the more mature they become, but not necessarily so. Charles Haddon Spurgeon said, in some churches, you have children who are 70 years old. Babies, he called them. They're just being weaned from the bottle. And then you have mature men and women, who are of a relatively young age, but mature in other ways, in spiritual ways. So it doesn't have really anything to do with age.
Third, maturity is a process, not a performance. It takes time. It's not a light switch. It's not like, well, I got filled with the Holy Ghost last night. Now I'm sanctified, wholly sanctified.
Yeah. Good thought. But it takes a lifetime to get sanctified. And even when you die, if you are growing and becoming robust and real all these other Rs we said tonight, by the time you kick the bucket and they bury you, they're still room for you to grow. It's a process. It's not a performance.
Number four, and I close with this, best part, ready? You can grow as much as you want. As much as you want. It's not like there's a favored few. Your growth is directly proportional to your desire.
If a person wants to grow strong, you'd probably say, well, you need the right diet, and you need exercise, right? It always boils down to those two things. I don't care what fancy title you're after and much money you spend on some fancy diet. It comes down to food intake and exercise, right? Same in the spiritual life.
Diet-- what are you eating? What are you feeding on? What are you reading? What are you meditating on? And exercise-- are you praying? Are you sharing your faith? Are you discipling others? So input and output, you can grow as much as you want.
I close with this story. There is over in Europe in the Alps, a tombstone, not like the one in England about Arabella Young. But this is a tombstone to a guide who died while trying to rescue a tourist for a noble reason. He died in rescuing a tourist, a hiker.
And what I love is the epitaph that is written on the tombstone. It has his name. And then it says this, "he died climbing." He died climbing. He died doing what he loved to be doing. But he died making progress, going higher.
James was written as a tribute to those who are climbing, going higher. And James says, no matter where you're at, keep going higher. Keep growing up. So whether it's James, my brother, or James, our brother, same message. Skip, grow up.
Father, thank you for the growth that is possible. Thank you for the salvation that is given as a free gift. Thank you for all the ways you are committed to our growth through the pressures of life, the trials of life, even the temptations that come from Satan that you can co-opt for your own purpose to strengthen us so that we come out the other end better for it and able to instruct others who are going through similar circumstances.
Thank you for this practical Book of James. It has been a companion to so many of us for so many years. And no matter how long we've read it, it's always convicting to read it afresh.
Thank you for your spirit working through it in Jesus' name, Amen.
Let's all stand.
For more resources, visit calvarynm.church. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from The Bible From 30,000 Feet.