************ Sermon on James 4:7-10 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 11, 2007
"Ten Commandments for Repentance"
We have had the great privilege of celebrating the Lord's Supper today. We have celebrated God's forgiving love. Now, we are called to live as saved and forgiven people.
James, as you know, speaks as a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ (1:1) to brothers and sisters in the faith (1:2). In other words, his audience also are servants of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. With James, they have been saved and forgiven by the blood of Jesus. Like us, they have been partakers of the Lord's Supper.
James speaks to these saved people – and to you and to me – and he tells us all how to live as saved people. He tells us all how to put our faith into practice. He tells us, this evening, the ten commandments – the ten commandments for repentance.
In Pastor's Class we discuss the Ten Commandments. I always ask the class where the Ten Commandments are to be found. Everyone knows they are in Exodus 20. A few know they are also in Deuteronomy 5. No one has ever mentioned James. But in our text James give us ten commands, ten verbs, that describe the life of someone who has received God's grace and experienced His love. Listen to the list:
-submit to God
-resist the devil
-come near to God
-wash your hands
-purify your hearts
This is quite a list, isn't it?! This is James' ten commandments for sinners saved by grace, washed by the blood, and redeemed by Jesus. Ten commandments for James' audience. Ten commandments for you and ten commandments for me.
I Like the World
A In our Bible reading James talks to those who are double-minded (James 4:8). This is not the only time he has used this phrase. In chapter 1 James says some Christians are double-minded when it comes to prayer (James 1:8). They believe God answers prayer and yet they doubt God answers prayer. They ask God for wisdom, yet they also depend upon human wisdom. One moment they trust and believe in God; the next moment they rely on self. These people are like the wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. James is thinking of waves on the Sea of Galilee. One moment the wave is driven North, South, East, West, or points in-between; the next moment it is driven in the exact opposite direction (James 1:6). Those who are double-minded are like the waves of the sea.
B What is James talking about this time? James is talking about Christians who act exactly like the world.
The Bible is filled with stories of double-minded people. I think of Jacob who pretended to be Esau and stole his brother's birthright. I think of Abraham who used his wife's maidservant to father a child. I think of David who grabbed his neighbor's wife and had her husband killed. I think of Peter who denied knowing the Lord when faced with danger. I think of Israel at the time of Elijah and Ahab. If ever there was a people who were double-minded, it was Israel limping between two opinions; Israel tried to follow Baal and God; they tried to serve Baal and God; they bowed in worship before Baal and God. These are God's people we are talking about. Yet, they are double-minded.
Is it any different today? Regrettably, in much of the world today it is difficult to observe any difference between those who call themselves Christians and those who are not Christians. Different surveys show that many church members are double-minded, professing faith in Christ while embracing the lifestyle of this fallen world.
Did you know, for instance, that the divorce rate among Christians is exactly the same as among those who are not Christians? Did you know that Christian teens and adult singles have pre-marital sex almost as much as non-Christian teens and adult singles? Did you know that Christians have the same problem with controlling the tongue as the unbeliever? Did you know that Christians exalt rich people and cater to them in much the same way as the world does? Did you know that many Christians have the same problems with anger management as those in the world? Did you know that many Christians have alcohol and drug problems, just like many in the world? Did you know that Christians, like many in the world, are not able to exercise self-control? James has expressed concern about most of this double-mindedness in the course of his letter.
We claim to confess Christ. Yet, we act like the world. That is what James means by "double-minded."
Now, let's be honest. To a certain extent each one of us has areas of life in which we are double-minded. I have that and you have that. We claim to be Christians but we don't act like Christians in every area of life. We are that way because we don't really want to put every area of life under the control of King Jesus. We are that way because we all have some reluctance to be full doers of the Word.
II Resisting Double-Mindedness
A Elijah told Israel to stop being double-minded (1 Kings 18:21). He said,
(1 Ki 18:21) "How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him."Jesus tells us to stop being this way. Jesus said,
(Mat 6:24) "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money."James tells us to stop being this way.
(James 4:8) Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded ...
Servants of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, those who have taken the Lord's Supper and been reminded of God's wonderful love, need to fight any and all tendencies to be double-minded.
How do we go about doing that? This is where our text comes in.
B I mentioned earlier that James gives us ten commandments – ten commandments for repentance. In order to stop being double-minded we need to follow these ten commandments for repentance. Sinners saved by grace, washed by the blood, and redeemed by Jesus obey these commandments for repentance.
I keep using the word "repentance." Because that is what James is talking about in our Bible reading. He is calling us to repentance and he is telling us how to repent. When we are double-minded we are sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. When we are double-minded we are showing the sin within us. When we are double-minded we separate ourselves from God. When we are double-minded we need to repent. We need to repent because repentance is always the path that leads God's people back to fellowship with Him.
And, repentance always starts with me. I am the one who is double-minded. I am the one who doesn't put every area of life under the control of King Jesus. I am the one who is not a full doer of the Word. Don't look at someone else and what they need to do. Begin with yourself. Because repentance always begins with me.
Topic: RevivalsIf you want to change the world, start with yourself. If you want to improve the church, start with yourself. If you want Christians to fully live for Jesus, start with yourself. Because repentance always starts with me!
A man once asked Gipsy Smith, the famed evangelist, how to have a revival. Smith asked, "Do you have a place where you can pray?" The man answered that he did.
"Tell you what you do," Smith said. "You go to that place, and take a piece of chalk along. Kneel down there, and with the chalk, draw a complete circle all around you. Then pray for God to send a revival to everything inside of the circle. Stay there until He answers... and you will have revival."
Gipsy Smith knew that true revival begins in the heart of each person.
C Jesus sums up God's royal law into two categories: love God above all and love your neighbor as yourself. Similarly, we can divide James' ten commandments into two categories: we must be sorry for our sinful deeds and we must turn to the Lord or – as James puts it – we must resist the devil and submit to God.
These are the two parts of repentance. Repentance requires a turning away from a life of sin. And, repentance requires a turning to the Lord in obedience and faith. The Bible often emphasizes this twofold action. In Ephesians 5 we are told to put away darkness and to live as children of light. In Galatians 5 we are told to not gratify the desires of the sinful nature and to live by the Spirit. In Colossians 3 we are told to put to death our earthly nature and to set our hearts on things above.
Those who are servants of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, those who have taken the Lord's Supper and been reminded of God's love, need to follow James' ten commandments for repentance. They need to turn from sin and to God. They need to resist the devil and submit to God.
D But we don 't have to do this on our own. In fact, we can't do this on our own. None of us have it within ourselves to stop our sin, our evil, our double-mindedness. None of us have the power, the self-control, the spiritual fortitude, to totally resist the devil and turn to God. And, if we do rely on our own strength, we can only expect to fall, again and again.
You need to realize that the devil loves it when we rely on our own strength. The devil loves it because he knows we are no match for him. The devil loves it because he knows he is going to take us down. Remember Peter's boast? He said, "Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will" (Mat 26:33). So Peter relied on his own strength and came crashing down quicker then a house of cards. He denied the Lord not one time, not two times, but three times. I think it was only after this that Peter realized three things: first, that he is so weak; second, that the devil is real and powerful; third, that only by God's grace can anyone prevail.
Topic: SatanThat's what the second commandment of James is: "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7).
Subtopic: Satan Is Real
This reminds me of the man who came to Charles Finney, the well-known evangelist, and said, "I don't believe in the existence of a devil." "Don't you?" asked Finney. "Well, you resist him for a while, and you will believe in him."
However, if we humble ourselves before the Lord and rely on His power and His strength and His Spirit, He will give us His grace. That is God's promise through James:
(James 4:6) But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."
(James 4:10) Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
The best example here, of course, is Jesus. He humbled Himself. Did He ever humble Himself! He did not grasp His equality with God. He made Himself nothing. He took the nature of a servant. He was made in human likeness. He became obedient to death, even death on a cross (Phil 2:6-8)! He relied on God. So He was able to resist the devil and his temptations in the wilderness. He was able to resist the devil and the devil fled from him.
The only way to resist the devil is to seek the presence of God. The only way to beat the devil is to stop depending on ourselves and depend on God. The only way to live the victorious Christian life, as servants of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, is to center our living on worship and Bible study and prayer – for that is when we are in and seek and experience God's presence and strength.
On this Lord's Supper Sunday you need to realize that a godly life is characterized by its conflicts with sin and the devil. It isn't the man or woman of the world who has conflict with sin and the devil. But the Christian should. The Christian should be in a state of perpetual conflict.
As fallen creatures in a fallen world, we all are double-minded. The question is, do we like this or do we fight this? Do we submit ourselves to God and resist the devil or do we submit ourselves to the devil and resist God? Do we follow James' ten commandments for repentance?
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