01 May The matter of the heart
If you are new in RSI, welcome to RSI. If you are wondering why today Ellis and I are preaching; not our beloved Pastor, once every quarter, either Timmy, Ellis or I are trusted to preach Gospel. We will do duo preaching. Today, Ellis and I will continue from book of James Chapter 4: 11-17 and 5:1-6. Few days ago, I watch video in Jejep facebook how to use can opener. I always use can opener by placing the cutting edge of the can opener on top of the lip of the can. The video shows that you don’t hold the blade vertically but, instead, you hold it horizontally. This new method is easier and safer. It is just mind blowing. My reaction is same as Jejep’s reaction “What? I have done it wrong since I was born!” If you are wondering, you can watch it after the service. Not NOW! The moment of you just realized that you have done it wrong for long time – that is what I experience when I was preparing this sermon.
Remember? We learned from Ps Yosia few weeks ago that the Word of God is able to reveal all our sins, including the sins that we are not aware of. When I was preparing this sermon, it was like heart surgery for me which God really open my heart and reveal and rebuke the sin inside my heart. That’s the mission of James today to reveal the sin that we may not be aware or the sin that we may be aware but we keep doing it. James is very practical person. The sins that he will reveal is sin that we often stumble upon in our life. Are you ready?
We learned from Ps Yosia that the Word of God is able to reveal all our sins, including the sins that we are not aware of. Now, that’s what James is trying to do. Today we are going to learn 3 particular sins that we so often stumble upon in our lives.
- Judging Others (James 4 :11-12)
11 Do not speak evil against one another, brothers.[d] The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?
Our first example is judging. It is sin to judge another person.
Now, I want to you imagine that you are good Christian lawyer like our friend Josh Tie and then you are assigned to take care one simple case which is drink driving. The case is like this that one guy was caught driving under influence of alcohol. He just had Friday party at office and don’t realize he drank too much. This guy has a blood alcohol level twice the legal limit. It is very clear it is serious offence. The penalty could be big fines as well as Police may suspend his driving license. It is your task to assess and decide the penalty because you are the judge. Then, you are given the complete case information; huge piles of paperwork with the photo of the guy and when you see the picture, he seems very nice guy. He doesn’t look like a trouble maker kind of guy. And then you start contemplating inside your heart “wow he seems like a very nice guy” “I think if I drink that much, I still can drive without problem” but you remember you are the judge “Oh not I could not do that, I am a judge”. You are thinking really hard. Boom! Out of nowhere, you remember one verse that you just read this morning during daily devotional; Matt 7:1 – “Judge not, that you be not judged”. Then at the end you say “I could never convict her because The Bible says “Do not judge so that you will not be judged”. Do you think what the judge did is correct? NO!
How many times you have heard people telling “Hey don’t judge so that you will not be judged” “Hey you are Christian, don’t judge other people, you are not real judge”. How many of you heard that sentence before? I think most of us have heard those or could be we are the one is saying that verse Matt 7:1 – “Judge not, that you be not judged”.
When we read these two verses, those verses seem quite simple message – Do not judge! As simple as it is. But, Church, do you know that “there is hardly any verse of the Bible that is more misunderstood than this verse. But in same time, this is one of verses that frequently ignored and disobeyed by Christian. Let me explain bit more about this statement. Many time when we read Matt 7:1 and James 4:11-12, we straight away think that every Christian should not do make judgements about others. We think that we as Christian never judge anyone and we should treat everyone the same. We interpret this verse as if you dare to make judgment about anything or anyone, you will be big trouble with God. If we think that way, we read the verse out of context.
In fact, it is Christian’s duty to exercise judgement but.. there is but. But we have to make careful judgement according to word of God. The Bible told us to judge adultery, false prophet, murder. If anyone does these thing, we must judge them as being sinful. That’s why Jesus said in John 7:24 “Do not judge by appearance, but judge with right judgment”.
I believe everyone has one question now “What is the right judgment?” “What is the border line of right or wrong judgement?” The Bible forbids us to have “judgmentalism” – the spirit to judge others in order to run others down. The critical thing that we need to be careful before you make judgment is what your motivation. What makes it different between right and wrong judgement is your motivation. What is your motivation when you judge other? Do you judge them because of your prideful heart; you criticize other out of jealousy and selfish ambition? Or, judge them with motivation to build him in Christ.
When you read the verse 11 – ” Do not speak evil against one another, brothers”, what does come up in your mind when you read judge or speak evil?. Hm.. you don’t gossip about someone else because the information might be untrue. If that sentence is what we believe, does it mean that we can talk about someone else if the information is reliable or true? Kent Hughes says that the word “speak evil or slander” in here if we have a look in Greek language, it means more than that. Literally the command is “Do not speak down on one another, brothers!” Thus, this verse does not tell us to stop speech that is untrue. But this verse tells us to forbid any speech (gossiping, criticizing, chitchat, Instagram, facebook chat) whether is true or false which runs down another person. It is all about whether the information is true or not but it is all about our motivation. The sin of judgmental is sourced in our prideful heart. We wrongly judge other when it doesn’t come out of love. We wrongly judge other when we judge other out of revenge, out of self-righteousness, out of need to elevate ourselves. We think we are much better than others.
Therefore, James says in verse 12 – “who are you to judge your neighbor?” James use the word “neighbor” in here, I believe he has in mind about second greatest commandment which is to love your neighbor as yourself. When you wrongly judge your neighbor, it means that you don’t love your neighbor and you break the second greatest commandment. Basically, James says in here that if you speak against each other and criticize them to make yourself look good, you are loving yourself not others because love does not tear down others but it builds them in Christ. Love doesn’t put your prideful heart above everything.
- False Security of our future (James 4: 13-17)
13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
The second sin that James wants to rebuke is wrong way dealing with our future. Have you ever heard or may be experience when you are looking for job or looking for subject to choose then you ask your friend or your parents? And this is their answer; “Son, please do not take that degree because it is hard to get job. Please make sure you get into profession where you will make good living.” Or some of them are going into another extreme “Son, just to be more detail, please don’t be Pastor or any Christian work because it is hard life”. Some of you are smiling now. “Yes my parents said exactly like that. They did not allow me take subject that I like”. That is not the point as well.
In previous verses; James 4: 1-12, James rebuke people who pridefully judge others and causing conflict. James says humble yourself! Now he turns to another topic of humility. James rebuke people who have arrogant spirit about the future. James rebukes those people who think their future are secured in their hand and ability.
In verse 13, James calls all these people “13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”.
There are 3 problems that James tries to rebuke these people;
PROBLEM 1: PRESUME ARROGANTLY UPON THE FUTURE
These people talk as if they know what it is going to happen tomorrow. These people arrogantly assume that they would wake up tomorrow then they would safely get to the city. Then they assume their business would successful within a year , based on their effort. Wow! Very confident and very arrogance.
REMINDER: OUR LIFE IS MIST
This is the answer from James for these people – 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. James reminds them that your life is like mist.
Have you seen mist in the morning? When you walk in the morning and see mist hanging on top of grass, it just appears for a little while and then vanishes. Or steam rises from your kettle that will disappears against the ceiling. You see the steam coming out of your coffee and in just a second, it disappears into the air. Like is like that. James reminds us that duration of our lives. I don’t really mean our duration of life is only few seconds but James tries to tell us that our life is short.
None of us know what tomorrow holds. It could be tornado or accident or the return of Christ. Do not talk about tomorrow, we even don’t know what will happen ten minutes from now. Therefore, in verse 15 James says 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live..” He teaches us our duration in this life is in hands of God. God is ultimately in control of life and death.
PROBLEM 2: PURPOSE OF LIFE
Second problem is purpose of life. In verse 13, James says Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”
In another words, James says “Hey you who pride-fully plan out your future on the basis of profitability; not on basis of God’s will.” Ellis will the talk more about this in the next point. James specifically attacks them who live life according to their will and without serious reference to God’s will. James asks them “So you think that what can hold your life is money. Is that purpose in your life?”
REMINDER: GOD’S WILL
This is the reminder from James –verse 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” Many times we don’t believe that God is the one who holds our future. We may say that “I believe God holds our future” but in reality, how we make decisions are based on things other than God such as our job or our money. As I said before, James doesn’t rebuke the planning. We should plan. In this verse 15, James reminds us that how you view your life is important. Your mindset matters. What is your mindset? Your will or God will. – “IF LORD WILLS”. Right mindset -> right plan
When I say your mindset matter, it does not mean “ok tomorrow I will make plan for this year and before I make plan – I will say “If the Lord wills””.. What James is saying in here that when you are making plan for your future, do that with faith and submission to the will of God. Plan with point of view of God’s will. James talks about our mindset. Don’t put your will as your mindset when you do planning. Do not put your arrogance spirit when you do planning. But plan with point of view of God’s will. Ask God whether this thing make you closer to God or not? Or make it you run away from God? Make you become more like Christ or not?
This is quote from Matt Chandler, “All of our plans – the fuel, the weight,/ the drive of all we’re doing/ is Christ who is our life.” Repeat again. THAT’S SO TRUE
James closes this chapter 4 with the warning in verse 16-17 – 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. In another words, if you think you can control your life – you are arrogance and it is evil. It is like you talk to God “God, yes you gave me life but it is my brains, my plans and my energy – don’t touch it! Go away!” That is why James called it arrogance and it is evil.
The question that we should ask ourselves “How do I plan my life? Have we been planning our own way? Do I put God’s will as my priority in our plan?” The common mistake that we make is we know that we should live according God’s will but when God asks us to do something; to do His specific will or give up something, to go somewhere that not according to our expectation, we are resisting. We manipulate God to give us comfortable, convenient and stress-free life. We say to God “God, your will is too hard for me, it is not comfortable for me. I prefer my plan”
It is easy for us as Christian to think “I have succeeded because of my own hard work and smart brain” But we forget what Paul says in 1 Cor 4:7 – 7 For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? Everything that we have comes from God by His grace. There is nothing that we can be prideful of.
PROBLEM 3: Love of Money (James 5: 1-6)
The Bible does not say money is the root of all evil, but that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Tim. 6:10).
Money is dangerous because our heart is deceptive.
James is showing us 3 symptoms of the love of money:
- We use it for our own pleasure
V 1-3 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. 2 Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days.
Instead of stewarding the resources, we keep them for ourselves.
Instead of clinging to God with open hands and saying “use this gift for your Glory”, the good things Lord has given us in our lives slowly become our idols and we worship them. James said one of the best example is money. We become addicted to them and we keep them to ourselves. Jesus is no longer our greatest treasure, because our hands are grasping idols.
James talks about garments, gold and silver. He’s talking about living a life in pursuit of pleasure. We pay attention to things, our clothes, our house, our cars, our gadget – things that we use to tell the world something about ourselves. Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Funny story, I posted a photo on my IG story of a grilled salmon that Edrick made for dinner. FYI, Edrick makes the best grilled salmon. And one of you replied to me saying “Ellis, you live such a great and healthy lifestyle”. I laughed and I teased her, I said “Not really, that’s just because I don’t put up a photo of myself eating chips and instant noodles in the middle of the night!”. The same analogy with money. How we handle our money and our desire of it reveal our heart more than our words and actions. You can put up the life you want people to see, you can be known as the most generous guy or girl at church or at work, but if you really want to know what’s going on in your heart, go to the bank, look at your bank statement, open up your wallet. Other people would not know, only you know. And it is for you to judge, because our heart is deceitful about what you truly value in life.
- We use it for our security and hope for the future
The second reason why the love of money is so dangerous is because we often put our trust and hope in them. We thought in the future, everything will be all right because we have saved well and prepared for it.
For us who live in Australia, we save a lot. Some of us buy some shares, some of us manage our retirement funds, put some on investment property – all of them are good things. Yes, you should be a good steward of your money. Don’t tell your parents that Ellis taught me to spend all your money all you want – that’s foolish. That’s not being a good steward.
What I’m trying to say is there is a fine line between being a good steward and placing your hope in the things that we are stewarding. They are not the same thing.
OK, I have a responsibility NOW to live as a steward of the good gifts from God, but my FUTURE is secure. That’s what I know. My hope is not found in my savings, not in my investment, not in my retirement fund.. My hope for the future is that I’m His and He holds me and will provide on the days of my need. That’s where my hope is. Do you get me?
Most of us are so good and so busy being a good steward – that’s good. But because our heart is deceitful, James warns us that if we are not careful, along the way we often forgot the difference between our responsibility now (being a good steward) and our hope in the future.
- We use it for our personal gain at other’s expense
4-6 Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5 You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you
There are some of us who has been entrusted with more, but these people abuse their privilege by cheating others and making fraud – just because they are hungry for more. And James said, God hears the cry of those being cheated and God hates it. If we are not careful, our desire for earthly gain can possibly lead us to harmful desire that leads other people to destruction. We will be so blinded to use whatever cost and whatever means to get what we want, even if that means to sacrifice and cheat other people. Church, Isn’t it what the world has been teaching us? Do whatever you can, whatever it takes for your own happiness. Keep as much as you can, as long as you are happy. James says, even Christian is not immune to that. Our heart is indeed very deceitful. If we are not careful with it, we will follow the path of this world. We will not be different than the world we live in.
THE SOLUTION: THE GOSPEL
Every time we study about James, we always remind you that all the teaching of James will only be correctly interpreted when we realise that it is rooted in the Gospel and motivated by the grace of our faith in Jesus Christ. When you read it, no matter how long you have been a Christian, or how good you are as a Christian, the book of James will never fail to show us our short falls on repeat. Before long it will lead us to guilt and condemnation, because we know we will never be able to make it. But only when we look at it through the cross of Christ, we will find hope because all these short falls James pointing out to us are eventually leading us to our Ultimate Saviour, Jesus Christ.
In Romans 1:25, it says because of sin, everyone in this world has preferred creation more than the Creator. “I want your gift, God. I want your benefit. Yes, please! But I don’t necessarily want you, God.” We’re all guilty of that. We deserve to be thrown to hell. But the bible says two of the most powerful words, BUT GOD! In Ephesian it says, “BUT GOD, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us”. Instead of giving us His wrath, God lavished on us His generosity. He sends. He gives His only Son. Jesus came. He died on the cross, absorbing God’s wrath for those who believe. He has come to rescue and ransom us. He has come not to condemn us.
Some of you may think that, Oh.. I know all that, God died for me. But you don’t understand, Ellis. When I see my life, when I myself, I see failures. All I keep doing is stumbling into sins. I don’t think that “LOVE” is for me. I don’t deserve that. That “LOVE” exists for other Christians who seem to run well and do well in their Christian walk. Looking righteous and spiritual. Not me. I love what Matt Chandler said, he said Jesus knew what he was buying on the cross. He has no regret. Unlike us buying toys, “Hey, this barbie is broken. It was in the box. It looked neat but when I opened it up and the leg fell off. Here, I don’t want it anymore, I want a refund.” Jesus knew exactly, precisely, what he was getting into.
He knows He can’t trust our words. He knows we says A but we do B. We made promises just to break it. But God’s response to us is Yup, knew this was coming. Don’t you think I know you well, my child?
We stumble 9.9 times out of 10. God’s response to us is Yup, I knew it, but I got you.
We’re so weak we gave in to sin again. God’s response to us is Yup, you blew it again, you messed up, but I got that covered on my blood.
We’re stubborn in our foolishness. He gave us His promises but all we do is doubt and disbelieve. God’s response to us is Yup, I saw it from the beginning, I knew it but I’m not giving up on you. Let’s keep going. I will get you there.
Not only He saves us, He also sustains us in every single step of ours until the end of finish line.
Yes, there will be ONE day when we no longer struggle, when every battle has been won, but that day is not today. That’s why we need the good news of the gospel every single day. Some of you may think that the good news is only valid once on the day when you finally received Christ for the first time – and that’s it! No! The truth is, for us Christians, the good news of the Gospel is valid for every single day of your Christian walk, it carries the same power, gives us the same hope and offers us the same amazing grace for every crack, every fall, every weakness you have, every mess you created in our daily mundane life. The good news is not just for those who is yet to know Christ, but even more so for you and me who already in Christ.
Like Edrick said, the word of God reveals us. Every conviction, every rebuke from the word of God, every awareness it makes of our sinfulness is good news – do you know why? Because it gives us the opportunity to repent and turn back to God. The wonderful thing of being convicted again and again is that means God is still speaking to you. He is pursuing you. He’s calling you to Himself over and over again.
Our problem is that our heart is dead sick, but God made a way, only the gospel that can heal us from our sickness. So I’m going to give you quick three applications.
- For the sin of prideful heart, pursue humility
Matt Chandler said, there are two types of arrogance: one who thinks he is not weak, and the other one who feels like they’re so weak God can’t do anything with them. In other words, those people are saying “God, you are not strong enough, not powerful enough, and not good enough to use me because of my lack of perceived ability.” That’s not humility. That’s arrogance. The Bible is just filled with broken, messy people, full of weaknesses. But in their weaknesses, God came and made much of His name.
Every one of us is given specific strengths and weaknesses. The Bible says we are one body of Christ, some of us are eyes, some of us are hair, some of us are ears, but nobody is the entire body. The Bible said to each God has given according to His grace.
John Piper said, humility agrees that everything we have is a gift from God. What does that mean? That means that it takes away our boasting and pride in whatever strength and all good talent you have. At the same time, it also takes away self-pity and despair in whatever weakness or lacking you think you have. Why? Because they are gifts of God. No reason to boast, and no reason to despair. So pursue humility, realise that everything is given by God according to His grace.
- For the sin of false hope, trust God’s sovereignty
Like Edrick has said, James is not teaching that making future plans is sinful. James is also not saying that every time people ask you about a future stuff, you reply them with “If the Lord wills” every single time. No, don’t! it creeps people out.
What James is trying to say is “plan all you can, by all means, get as good as you can get. But remember what drives our plan is Christ who governs all things. Col 1:17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. I can make my plan, but I know everything in my life will only keep beating and keep going as long as God chooses it to do so.
John Piper says it best, he says “You can make as many plans you can, then walk in the peace and freedom that when it shatters on the rocks of reality, which it will most days, you’re not being measure by God by how much you get done. You’re being measure by whether you trust the goodness and the wisdom and the sovereignty of God to work this new mess for His glory and the good of everyone involved, even when you can’t see how.”
So go on, make your plans, but we hold our plans with open hands because we know it is God who governs all things. We are not God. Things may not go my ways, but things must go His way. So I can trust in His wisdom and sovereignty to work it all for my good.
- For the love of money, pursue contentment
Marshall Segal says this, contentment is not simply about settling for what we have but trusting in what God has said. “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, FOR he (God) has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5)
The moment we forget God’s words, we become anxious and restless in a sense that “Oh my Gosh, I need to save myself, so I will keep as much as I can”. But Hebrew says the true contentment rest in the word that says ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’. Look at the next verse, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5–6) When we are content, we can rest because our deepest joy does not rise and fall based on what we have, but it is based on WHO we have eternally – Christ.
When you are tempted to worry about how much you have, remember of what God has said. If God is your God, He goes with you. He knows what you need. He know what you are facing, and He promised that He will never leave you nor forsake you. Therefore, we can be content and rejoice in what we have. Most of all, we can rejoice that we have Him.
The gospel in and of itself is the generosity of God flowing out of His love and grace, giving to us a new identity, making a new creation in Him. The gospel is the generosity of God in giving us the only possible cure to our sinful hearts.
I’m going to close with 3 statements.
The Gospel frees us from boasting in our strength, it frees us up from despair in our weakness because the Gospel tells me that God steps in and make much of His name nonetheless. It is never about me.
The Gospel frees us from false hope of controlling our own future, because the Gospel tells me that I am no God. It is God who governs all things. No matter what difficulties come my way, I know my future is secure and God will never fail accomplishing His will and purposes. I can trust in His sovereignty.
The Gospel frees us from the anxiety of lacking, because the Gospels tells me that my God is with me, He will never forsake me. I may not have everything that I want, but God makes sure I have everything I ever needed. And my joy is not based on what I have, but it is based on Christ whom is already mine.
The cross is the proof, every time we forget, every time we fall again, every time we get restless and anxious again, look to the cross again. We need to preach the Gospel every single day, inside and out.
At the cross, God is saying to you, I knew even before you fall, I knew from the beginning, but I choose you anyway and I’m not giving up on you. So let’s keep going. I will get you there.