James: The Christian Attitude/The Wordly Attitude

Sermon by J. Ligon Duncan on October 6, 2002

James 4:6-10


James 4:6-10
The Christian Attitude/The Worldly Attitude

If you have your bibles I invite you to turn with me to
James chapter 4. Since James began to talk about heavenly wisdom towards the
end of James chapter 3 he has been slowly turning our attention to the issue of
worldliness. Worldliness is a tremendous challenge. It’s always a challenge for
the Christian church, when the church dwells in a peaceful and prosperous
setting and is in some measure identified with, and admired by, and takes a
leadership role in the culture in which it finds itself . And that means that
worldliness is an issue for us in various ways. We ourselves are relatively
prosperous. We dwell in the most prosperous nation in the world, in the
greatest time of prosperity the last three years, the stock market not
withstanding, ever known in the history of the world,and consequently we are
very comfortable. And in that situation of comfort in which we have some say
and play in cultural leadership, we are tempted to think like the world, to
think in its categories, to agree with its assessment of the world around it,
the problems of the world, the possibilities and solutions to the problems of
the world, andwe are tempted to believe like the world and to want our beliefs
to be acceptable in the sight of the world. We’re tempted to behave like the
world, and if we are not tempted to go whole hog in behaving like the world we
at least want to have one foot in both worlds;one foot in the church and one
foot in the world, behaving sometimes like a Christian ought to behave, and
other times behaving like the world. Worldliness is a problem for us. We begin
to want the things that the world offers and to want them inordinately, or to
what them in preference God. We begin to value the things that the world values
above the things that God has told us to value in His word. We seek to fill our
desires and our satisfaction with temporary things offered by the world rather
than by those eternally things offered by God Himself,and so worldliness is a
challenge

Now James knows that and he is talking to Christians
in the first century who are facing that same challenge, and in James 4:1-5, he
gives a diagnosis of this problem. He says the problem of worldliness is not a
problem of you, a Christian being plopped down in an environment which is a
temptation. It’s a more dire problem than that. The problem of worldliness,
James says, is a problem that actually originates in the heart, Yes, it’s seen
in the world around us, it’s seen in, for instance, he says, in broken
relationships. He says broken relationships, divisions between friends and
family, between Christians in local congregation, he says this can be traced,
if you look at verse one of James chapter four, this can be traced in our
pursuing the selfish desires of our own hearts. That selfish desire is itself
worldly. It shows itself in broken relationships, and therefore worldliness can
be evidenced, even in the Christian community. But the problem, you see, is not
that Christians have been plopped down in a setting and they’ve been influenced
by that which is outside of them, you see, some of the problems actually well up
from their own hearts. So the problem is not just what’s out there impinging
upon us, it’s what’s in here, producing at least, in some measure, what’s out
there. The external broken relationships, he says, are evidences of internal
worldliness and he gives the example in verses 2 and 3 of prayer. He says some
of you aren’t praying, and that in itself shows a problem with your relationship
with God,and it shows that you don’t see God as the One who is the source of
your real needs or you’d be going to Him in prayer. On the other hand, he turns
to some who are praying but they are praying for the wrong things, and he
says,you’re not having your prayers answered because you want the wrong
things. You’ve been impacted by worldliness and so your prayer life is actually
an evidence of that worldliness in the way you’re conducting it. And then in
verses four and five, he talks about how serious this is. James uses strong
language, you cannot be a friend of this world and a follower of God, because
friendship with this world means hostility with God. It reminds you of his
older brother’s words, “You can not serve God and mammon.” So James makes it
very clear this is a dire situation. It’s a very important thing to consider.
That’s the negative side. That’s the diagnostic side. So, what do we do, what
do you do to combat worldliness,that’s what James talks about in the passage we
are going to study today. So let’s turn to James 4:6-10, and hear God’s word:

“ButHe gives a greater grace. Therefore it says God is
opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble. Submit therefore 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. Be miserable and morn and weep, let your laughter be turned into
mourning and let your joy be turned to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence
of the Lord and He will exalt you.” Amen

This is God’s word. May He write His eternal truth upon
our hearts. Lets pray. O Lord, we ask this day in the midst of our uncomfort,in
the midst of our own struggles with worldliness, that You would speak to us by
Your word. Shake us from our spiritual slumber. Show us our spiritual poverty.
Remind us of our spiritual dangerand then give us the answer of Your holy word,
and by Your grace grant that we would seek the answerand follow in Your ways
for the good of our souls and above all for Your glory. We ask it in Jesus
name,amen.

Sohere we are,surrounded by a world, a culture,a
community,a peer group, a social network, a status quo, that is enticing
us to worldliness,and maybe in some of us, many of us, most of us,its
prevailing. The world offers its wares, and we like its wares,we’d like to
buy some and have them in our own home. The world offers us its thinking, its
belief, its behavior. We like that thinking and belief and behavior to some
measure and we want to have some of it in our own life. The world says to us
that some of our ways are out of step, and we begin to think,now we do need to
be instep with the world, and so we begin to abandon the ways of the Lord and
walk in the ways of the world, and we feel this pressure, this pull, this
attraction from the world around us. But that’s not the only problem. That’s
the outside situation; on the insidewe’re being tugged in that same direction
by our own selfish desires. We’re fighting a two front war. It’s not just that
out there which is waging a war against our hearts, there is a division in our
own hearts,there’s a worldliness resident in our own hearts that’s tugging us
in the direction of the world.

How in the world do you combat thathow can you hope
to prevail when the enemy is not simply without, the enemy is within. You see,
some people would suggest that you need to look within to find to find the
answer James says that would be futilebecause the answer isn’t within. In
part, at least, the problem is within,so how do you combat worldliness?

James gives two simple but brilliant answers to that
staggering important question right here in James 4:6-10, and his answers
aregrace and obedience. Trust and obedience. And I’d like to look at those
answers with you this morning.

I. Don’t look for resources
within to battle your worldliness; Look out and up; Seek Grace
.
First of all, in verse six,James makes it very clear that God’s
grace is the source of our sanctification. God’s grace is not only the source of
our new birth, God’s grace is not only the source of our becoming Christians,
God’s grace is not only the source of our being justified our being declared to
be righteous only for the righteousness of Christ, God’s grace is also the
source of our growth in grace. God’s grace is also the source of our
sanctification. God’s grace is the source of our ability to be separated from
the world, or ability to be consecrated to God. We live in a fallen and sinful
world that is in rebellion against Him. God’s grace is the source of our
sanctification and our victory over worldliness. James makes that very clear in
verse six, wherehe says, “He gives a greater grace,therefore it says God is
opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble.” You see what James is
saying. James is saying, here is the dire picture. James 4:6-10, worldliness is
a problem, it’s a problem in your hear, it’s a problem all around you,it’s a
dire problem because you can’t love God and love the world. You can’t be a
follower of God and be a follower of the world. You can’t be a friend of God
and a friend of the world. It’s a dire situation. So what do you do? He says,
don’t look within yourself for the resources to fight this battle, look up and
outlook out of yourself. Don’t look in yourself. Look up to God, seek His
grace.

In other words, James is saying, for heaven’s sake
don’t look within. And that message is being taught to us everywhere we turn.
We’re told that the solutions to our problems are to look within and to summon
up some dormant principle in us that we simply haven’t actualized before.
Confidence men are telling us this in infomercials all the time,whether they’re
a half hour, an hour, whether they’re selling products that will grow you hair
or whether they telling you how to be a better salesmanor a better whatever
else,constantly we are being told that the answer to our facing the challenges
of today is to look within,awaken the giant within you,actualize all the
talents and potentials which lie within you which have been dormant and have not
been exercised to their fullness. If you look within you will the answer.

And you know, there is a spiritual equivalent to this
message. Turn on the television or the radio, and six times out of ten the
spiritual message that you will hear is the equivalent of that message. It
substitutes the ‘word faith’ for the word ‘will power’ or’ self-confidence’ or
‘awaken the giant within you’ but it is teaching the same message. You see,
faith preachers, that is those preachers who preach that the answer to our
problems is only to believe more and then we’ll get everything we want, we’ll
have more health, we’ll have more wealth, we’ll have more happiness, and if we
don’t have those things it’s because we haven’t believed enough, and if we would
only believe more we’ll have all those things because God does not want us not
to have those things, He wants us to have those things, but we can only have
those things if we believe more, these‘faith preachers’ preach faith in the
same way confidence men preach the power within. And in that way faith becomes
the spiritual equivalent of will power. Just believe harder and you’ll have all
your answers to all your problems, and if you have problems it’s because you are
not believing hard enough. And James is emphatically not giving that answer to
this battle here.James is emphatically not saying to you to rely on your
willpower here.

I was having a conversation with a dear friend on
Friday and she said to me, “You know, if will power worked I’d be a size six.”
Another friend that same day, in an unrelated conversation, and I didn’t provoke
this it just came out in the course of the conversation, said, “Willpower is
like using a squirt gun to put out a forest fire.” See, James is not saying
that the answer is within you. This is not Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker,
“Look within you, Luke.” You know this is not this is not the force,the answer
is not within you. James asserts here, that in spite of the monumental nature
of the challenge there is an answer, but that answer is not in you. It’s
outside of you,you look out, and you look up, it’s with God, it’s with His
grace,he says.

And revel in this for a minute, friends,bath in this
for a minute. He says that God gives a greater grace. He piles up an enormous
challenge, that challenge of worldliness. It’s within you, it’s around you, it’s
everywhere, you’re struggling with it every minute of every day of every week of
every month of every year,and he says, God gives greater grace. I know your
circumstances are hard. He gives greater grace than that. I know that the
temptations are profound. He gives greater grace than that.I know that the
challenge is unimaginable. He gives greater grace than that. We’re in a mess
but He gives more grace then the mess. We are weak but He gives more grace than
our weakness. We are tired but God is tirelessly on our side,He is never less
than sufficient, He always has more to give. We may be beaten but He is never
beaten. And we may even in our sinful frustration claim against Him that He has
not given us enough, and He simply replies then, “Child, I’ll give you more.”
He is ready to give grace and His grace is greater not only than all our sins,
but all the challenges and temptations that face us day by day. And James is
saying that we must look to God for fresh and greater aid, not within, but look
to God. We must renew our siege of the kingdom of grace by prayer, we must
acknowledge our poverty and need, and like that unfortunate widow, pound on the
unjust judge’s door until the blessings come down, and until we are humbled to
that point, until we are looking only to His grace we are not yet in the
position to grow and conquer.

Isn’t it interesting to you that God has so ordained
that all the great strides of our sanctification all the great movements forward
in our growing into conformity to the image of His Son,all of our becoming more
holy, all of our becoming more sanctified, more holy, more God-like in our moral
qualities, begins with our relearning the first principles of our
justification. In justification we learned that we couldn’t save ourselves,
but that His grace was sufficientand in every great step of sanctification we
relearn that truth, that His grace is sufficient and that His power is perfected
in our weakness. So the first step to fighting worldliness is acknowledge that
you do not have the resources to fight worldliness and that only God can provide
those resources, but that His resources are so magnificent that they over
shadow any weapon that the enemy can bring to bear against you from without or
within. God’s grace is greater, but it’s God’s grace, it’s not your strength.
That’s where the war against worldliness begins,with recognizing that you are
weaponless except for the provision of God, but that God’s weapons are so much
more powerful than the weaponry of the world that they are beyond compare.
That’s where this battle begins. You don’t look for resources within you to
battle your worldliness, you look out, and you look up,you see grace, you trust
God to be true to His word, and you rely on His grace. That’s where it begins.

II. Don’t think that relying on
grace means passivity or inactivity; no, walk in obedience to grace.
That’s the first thing that James says, but James isn’t
done,James doesn’t just have an answer to you that says ‘believe something,’
‘trust in God,’ ‘do nothing else,’‘let go and let God.’ That’s not James’
answer. James’ answer has both a passive side and an active side. Yes, you have
to admit that you don’t have the resources in yourself and that only God has
those resources and only He can give those resources, and that those resources
are more than sufficient to answer the need of the day, but there is something
else you need to do as well,and James spells that out in verses seven through
ten. We can sum it up in the word “obey.”

You see our obedience is the proper response to God’s
grace, and it’s not only the proper response to God’s grace, it’s the tool that
God’s grace uses in our lives,it’s the instrument of God’s grace. Don’t think
that relying on God’s grace means passivity. Don’t think that relying on God’s
grace means that you are inactive. No, you walk in obedience to grace.

Have you counted up the commands in verses seven
through ten? There may be ten commands in verses seven through ten. First, look
to God for grace, He gives a greater grace. But then ten commands, submit to
God, resist the devil, draw near to God, cleanse your hands, purify your hearts,
be miserable, mourn, weep, let your laughter be turned into mourning and your
joy to gloom, humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord and He will exalt
you. Alec Motyer says this, “In verses seven through ten there are no less than
ten commands to obey.James does not see the indwelling Spirit as a means of
instant and effortless sanctification.”You know sort of the Holy Spirit
microwave, just pop it in and thirty seconds it’s done, that’s not how
sanctification works.It’s not easy, it’s not effortless.He goes on to say, “In
the same way that James does not see the inexhaustible supply of God’s grace as
sweeping us along to an effortless holiness, he knows of no such easy victory.
The God who says, ‘Here is my grace to receive,’ says in the same breath,
‘Here are My commands to obey.’”

And James in the midst of these ten commands gives
four great directives, and I would like you to look those directives with
me.Trust in God’s grace and then walk in these ways, he says.What are
they?Fight, Fellowship,Focus, Forgiveness. Forgive the alliteration, but
maybe it will help you remember.Fight, fellowship, focus, forgiveness.Fight in
verse seven.Fellowship in the first part of verse eight.Focus in the second
part of verse eight.Forgiveness in verses nine and ten.Look at them with me.

Two key commands are given in verse seven; submit to
God, resist the devil.That language is military language. You may
misunderstand it. Submission sounds like you are sort of relinquishing, you’re
giving up, you’re saying ‘uncle,’but the fact of the matter is, submit
here means active allegiance, active allegiance to God.It doesn’t mean
passivity; it’s enlistment language, it means being ready to do the Lord’s
bidding. Have you heard Ric Cannada tell that wonderful story of Sam Patterson
in the early days of RTS when they were facing a tremendous challenge, and they
had no idea where they would get money from for students, for buildings, for
faculty, for anything, and Sam Patterson stood up at the board meeting and
said, “There are only two answers I have, men, there are only two things that I
know:God is able and we are willing.” Well, there you have it James 4:6-10 ten
summed up: God is able, we are willing.

There’s the willing language, you submit to God, you
enlist in His army, you be prepared to do His bidding.

Resistance is the other side of thatresistance
means to man the defenses to be prepared for conflict with Satan. James
is simply reminding you that when grace invades your life the battle is only
just beginning, and for some reasons Christians forget that. They think that
when grace invades your life that the battle is over,and James is simply saying
to you here, you need to be in the mindset that grace is there for the
fight,grace is there so that you can pick up the armor,grace is there so that
you can get into the fight, into the conflict. It doesn’t end it, it begins
it,and Christians need to remember that.

I have Christians coming into the office all the
time, and they are confused because they are in the midst of a fight, and I have
to say, “Excuse me, have we read our New Testaments recently? Ofcourse you’re
in a fight. That means you’ve got a heart beatit means you’ve got a spiritual
heartbeat.” I’m encouraged at this. It’s the ones that come into my office
without a fight that I worry about. If you got a heartbeat and you’re a
Christian, you’re in a fight,and James is reminding you, submit to God, enlist
in His army, and resist the devil. The first principle is fight. Can
you imagine Erskine Wells on the beach of Guadalcanal calling up his colonel,
“Ah, colonel, we’ve got a problem here.” “What’s the problem, Erskine?” “Ah,
we’re in a fight.” “Ok, I thought that’s what we sent that marine division in
for. You were sent in for that.” The fight is not the problem, folks, a lack of
a fight is a problem, but the fight’s not the problem. The fight is evidence
that grace is at work,the fight is evidence that you’ve got a spiritual
heartbeat. You don’t need to be surprised by the fight. I’m not making fun of
the kinds of fight that you come in overwhelmed with. Understand thatI’m just
saying, don’t be surprised when that happens,don’t be surprised when the fight
is engaged. That’s his first principle, be ready for the fight.

Secondly, fellowship. Look at what he says in the
first part of verse eight,draw near to God and He will draw near to you.
What’s James doing? He’s calling you to cultivate fellowship with God. What is
the thing that you need most for the fight that you are going to be in? God.
What is the thing that you need most in order to conquer worldliness? God. You
need a relationship with Him, you need Him, you need communion with Him, you
need His presence, you need His power, you need His favor. How do you get
that? You draw near to God. What’s James saying? Draw near to God through the
means that He has appointed for you to draw near to Him. What does that mean?
It means coming to worship the Lord on His day, week in, week out, year after
year, being under the preaching of the word in public worship where the Bible is
read and preached and prayed and sung and seen in the sacraments, cultivating
every appointed avenue whereby we have fellowship with Him. Look, the skies
don’t have to part, and the angels don’t have to sing, for God’s grace to sing.
It may be imperceptibly working in you in ways that you have no idea, ways that
you cannot comprehend, and James is saying, draw near to God. Fellowship with
God isn’t a call to go out and have some ecstatic spiritual experience, just
draw near to God in those means that He has appointed. So, there’s the fight
and there’s fellowship.

Then, there’s focus. I apologize for that word,
but I’ll explain laterlook at the end of verse eight thathe’s clearly talking
about the struggle of double-mindedness that exists even within believers. On
the one hand we want to follow God, and on the other hand we want to follow
after the world, and he says, don’t be double-minded sinners,purify yourself.
James is calling us here to purify our lives,to do spiritual pruning, to do
some spiritual weeding in our garden. He wants us to be focused on God and that
means pruning things that detract from that focus.

Isn’t it interesting, by the way, that first James we
draw near to God and then we prune. He doesn’t say, “Get your act together so
that you can draw near to God.” You can’t get your act together unless you’ve
been drawn near to God. You can’t ever get your act together. But, it’s “Draw
near to God” and then work on the pruning. Don’t try to fix yourself up enough
that you will then be able to draw near to God. Draw near to God and only then
will you be able to work on the pruning that needs to be done.James is calling
for a thorough purification of our lives. This is what the older Christian would
have called mortification, killing sin, going after sin in the Christian
life.

And then finally, he speaks of forgiveness. Look at
verses nine and ten. What does he mean when he says, “Be miserable, morn, and
weep let your laughter be turned into morning and your joy to gloom.”? Is he
saying, Christians shouldn’t laugh, Christians shouldn’t be happy, Christians
shouldn’t enjoy life, Christians should never smile,no smiling allowed?
No,he’s using language of repentance,he’s saying, repent. What happens when
you see your sin and how it has hurt someone else? You mourn,maybe you
weep,your laughter is turned to mourning and your joy to gloom,and he is using
the language of repentance.

And you should quickly know that it is in fact grace
alone that enables us to do each of these four things,to fight, to fellowship,
to focus, and to seek forgiveness through repentance. The fact of these things
in our lives is an evidence of God’s sanctifying grace at work within us,but
isn’t it interesting that God has so ordained that all the great strides of our
sanctification should proceed with a decisive taking of sides,with a seeking of
God, with a longing to be like Him, with a mourning that we’re not like Him.

And then, having been brought to the depths, what do
we read in verse ten, “Humble yourselves and He will exalt you,” so that in
sanctification, just as in justification, it is the hour of despair which is on
the verge of victory, because it is when we come to the end of ourselves that
we find the victory of God over sin and self and the world. That’s the battle of
worldliness. It is a dire battle. There’s no battle that we need to engage more
than that battle. May God grant that you use these spiritual weapons, the
source God’s grace,the weapons, the means, the tools of God’s grace, to win
that victory over worldliness. Let’s pray.

Our Lord and our God, we not only admit our
worldliness, we admit our weakness against our worldliness and we ask for Your
grace, and then we ask again for your gracethat we would love You, that we
would hate the worldthat we would fight the fight of faith, that we would seek
Your fellowship, and above all elsethat would prune sin in our lives and repent
for it with godly sorrowin Jesus’ name,amen

© 2019 First Presbyterian Church.

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