Living Out the Light Pt 6: Extra Grace
Pastor Terry Inman
There are two major challenges when it comes to Living out the Light. In James 4 Jesus little brother takes this battle on with a winning strategy.
One of these struggles is internal. It is self-centeredness. “Hedonism” comes from the ancient Greek hedon. It’saterm, translated lusts. Hedonism is pleasure seeking or self-indulgence. Living for pleasure is the direct opposite of living out the light.
The other fight in focus in James 4 is external. It is worldliness. We call it materialism. These two issues, self-centeredness and worldliness threaten to extinguish our light. We can win this fight with the light!
God has given us a powerful weapon for winning. James calls it Extra-Grace! Verse 6 is a natural bridge in chapter four. James 4.6 But he gives us more race. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
So let’s begin at the top with James take on the human condition He says a war with-in us causes wars outside us! What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. James 4.1-2 (NIV)
Wow this not living out the light it’s more like living out the fight! James ended chapter three with a description of heaven’s wisdom. He said, It’s pure; peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Then added, Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. James 3.17-18 (NIV)
These folks he’s writing to may be religious but they aren’t very peaceful and they aren’t righteous. Some church people can be very contentious.
In the last chapter James also revealed where this kind of wisdom comes from. If you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. James 3:14-16 (NIV)
Apparently some of James readers needed to hear this. They were believers, brothers and sisters, but living with some antagonistic attitudes. That will really put the lights out! They were also living in denial.
So he probes this problem with a question. “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” James 4.1 We usually think it’s somebody else’s problem.
James says this “disorder” is hellish. Self-interest is the breeding ground for discontent and disorder. The enemy stirs up our unmet desires. When some somebody has something we don’t have, we want it all the more. We covet it so much he says we might even kill for it!
The tenth commandment says don’t covet your neighbor’s house, wife, servants, animals or anything else.
Troops are lining up on the Ukrainian border right now. There must be something there somebody wants. In Iraq a radical group from the same race and religion is ready to kill their brothers for power and control.
Now I doubt these folks James is writing too were killing each other. “Kill” maybe hyperbole for hate. James is probably thinking about Jesus words in Mathew’s gospel.
I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill. Matt. 5.21-22 (Message)
We call this character assignation. Someone may have some pleasure, some possessions, power or influence that we would like to have. We can’t have it so we can subtly destroy their power and influence.
We just can’t resent our brother and live in the light. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him. 1 John 3.15 (NIV)
Hedonism, self-centeredness or self-indulgence leads to anxiety and antagonism. It may maybe even break out in violence. Maybe you have some favor or some friends that I don’t have I may not commit murder but--if looks could kill--hey! So this stuff snuffs out the light right?
James says the reason we don’t get what we want is because we aren’t asking the right person for the right reasons. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. James 4.2b-3 (NIV)
What are we doing with what we have? Are we just consumers or givers? No wonder we want something someone else has? Were spent! The story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 uses this same word derived from hedon. The prodigal spent his inheritance on his pleasures (gr: hedonais).
A hedonistic and antagonistic atmosphere is created in a Godless vacuum. If we are not seeking God we will seek the wrong things for the wrong reasons and we will never be satisfied. God knows what we really need.
He knows what really satisfies. If we’re not consistently praying we will default to lusting and fighting!
That’s the internal battle now James exposes the external battle. It’s the darkening influence of the world and it values. James readers, Christians were envious and angry but he says they were also spiritual adulterers.
You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. James 4.4 (NIV)
Self-centeredness makes us enemies of each other--worldliness makes us enemies of God. Adultery contaminates the glue of marriage with alien affection. The mixture weakens the bond.
James says, our affection for the world and its enticements alienates us from God. We become enemies not because he rejects us but because we leave him for another lover.
James adds (v.5), Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? Again James is probably thinking of the commandments. Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. Ex. 34.14 (NIV)
God our father has a deep unselfish love for us. He is so passionate that he sacrificed his own son for our unfaithfulness. We define envy or jealously as something unstable maybe even immature. Maybe longing or yearning is probably a better word for God intense desire for us.
This is an incredible contrast God deeply desires us, but we so easily attracted to what we think the world has to offer. But James has a wonderful solution for our internal and external battle.
But he gives us more grace. (EXTRA GRACE) God’s expectations are high. He is jealous for our fidelity he desires our loyalty. But we are weak. We are so easily distracted by self-interest and worldly attractions. But His grace is more than adequate to help us overcome our battles.
The apostle Paul struggled with what he called a thorn in the flesh. There’s a lot of speculation of what that thorn was. It could have been a physical condition. It could have been a painful relationship or even a personal insecurity. We do know that pulling out a thorn is very painful. Whatever this thorny situation was it made him feel weak and vulnerable?
God spoke to him. My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore, Paul said, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Cor. 12.9
That is exactly the posture we must take to receive God’s extra grace. James said, But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. James 4.6 (NIV)
James is quoting a proverb; He mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble. Prov. 3.34 (NIV)
Self-gratification and the world’s attractions are manifestations of arrogance. They become idols that never satisfy. We are in conflict with-in ourselves, with others and with God. The opposite is submission to God.
Here’s how to access extra grace. James says, Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4.7-8 (NIV)
This makes total sense. Since “God opposes the proud” but helps “the humble,” we should submit to him. We confuse submission with subjugation or subservience. It simply means relinquish our will to him.
We don’t become less he becomes more--more grace! Total surrender of our weakness to his will releases his extra grace. That grace empowers us to resist Satan. Earlier in v.4 James seems to suggest that our spiritual unfaithfulness of is the result of the devil’s influence. Submission to God that puts Satan to flight is not passive! )
In these final verses (7-10) James gives us ten strong action steps that require extra grace.
1. Submit yourselves, to God.
2. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
3. Come near to God and he will come near to you.
4. Wash your hands, you sinners,
5. Purify your hearts, you double-minded.
9. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.
10. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
When God’s spirit moves in our church there are outward signs of what is happening in our hearts. One of the most obvious is tears. Crying out!
James says there is extra grace available for our internal and external struggles. Pride pursues self-centeredness and worldliness. Humility submits to God’s extra grace!
I like the verse 9 and 10 read in the message. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet. James 4.9-10 (MSG)
Humble submission is the pathway to EXTRA GRACE!