Nov 18 2018 Wisdom in Judging vs. Discerning - James 4
20th November 2018
James 4:1 What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. 4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
5 Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: "He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us"? 6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, "GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE." 7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.
Let’s close in prayer and go home!
James is an encouraging guy, isn’t he? He’d have made a great hospital chaplain… not.
What in the world was going on in the churches that James was writing to, that would cause this kind of language to be used? As we go through this passage, we will get an answer to that question, and that answer will challenge us in our day.
James 4:1 What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you?
All churches have quarrels and conflicts – do you know why? There are people in them! The only way to stop that would be to start your own church with just you, and don’t let anyone join. But then again, you would still have quarrels and conflicts even in THAT church.
Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel.
Vanity. People are centered on themselves.
He jumps from conflicts to murder!
Maybe James is looking back to:
Matthew 5:21 21 "You have heard that the ancients were told, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER ' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.' 22 "But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, 'You good-for-nothing,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.
Jesus may be using hyperbole to make a point.
We can say, murder and being angry are really different things – aren’t they? At least the outcome is different.
But Jesus wants us to realize that it starts in the heart. Only by getting the heart right can we change the outward activities of our lives. And James wants these folks to focus on hearts. A heart of anger can do so much damage to relationships.
Some folks spend their lives overcoming anger in a household as children – having to work through that. So James is showing just how important it is to get our hearts right first.
You do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.
James is saying that the motives are wrong. You might think that this means that we are not to ask for things for ourselves – we are! It is perfectly okay to ask for good health and good things. But not for selfish pleasures and greed and pride.
4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
What is going on? Their heart and motives and value systems were no different from the world – and it is coming out in their prayers. Friendship – meant a lifelong pact of loyalty and faithfulness. It was a serious thing to say someone is a friend – and unfaithfulness in a friendship was like adultery.
What might that look like here?
First – we spent four weeks on this – money and things. Simple question to ask ourselves – are our attitudes and relationship with money and things any different from the world around us? Do we have the same approach as the overall society? How are we different? And as much as tithing is an important thing to do – and I won’t get into that now – if all it is is that you tithe – then you haven’t moved – God wants us to have really different attitudes.
Morality – is your morality any different than the morality of the world – in whatever area you want to put it in? You might look at the negatives – I don’t do this, that, and the other things – but what about the positive? The doing side matters even more – going back to the Sermon on the Mount – does my morality match THIS? We have that as foundational for what it looks like to be a disciple of Christ. The kingdom belongs to THESE people – my disciples look like THIS.
Politics and power. Does your approach to politics and power look different than what we see all around us? We can probably think of many ways this works out.
Relationships – God wants us to be different people.
James 4:5 Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: "He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us"? 6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, "GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE." 7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
James is saying that there is pride in the church – and grace is given to the humble – we must have an attitude of humility – we must submit to God, that is humility does.
8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.
When I am not doing what I am supposed to do – I draw away from God. What did Adam and Eve do? They hid.
When we are struggling, our tendency is to hide. But James is saying we need to do the opposite – and part that is knowing whom we are drawing near to
Hebrews 4:16 For we do not have a high priest incapable of sympathizing with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
No matter what you are going through – you can draw near with confidence because it is a throne of grace, not of judgment. And when we come to that throne, we receive mercy and grace. You will always receive mercy and find grace. But what if I did THIS this week? No. You will always receive mercy because of the high priest – because of what He has done – not because you are so wonderful, but because we have a high priest who understands, who has gone through it – and has taken all of it on Himself. So we need to live as clean people – with a free spirit – washed – and having taken communion – we are seeing our souls cleansed from the sins – completely forgiven. This table is always before us – we always partake in His shed blood. We need to learn to live before God in that confidence. But we tend to think of how well we did this week – and that is the wrong way of looking at it! It is the totally wrong way of looking at it. The only way to look at it is to look at who He is and what He has done.
Believing that your performance allows you to come to God confidently DRIVES YOU FROM JESUS. It makes the focus on ourselves.
James’ writings are all in the context of relationships. Discipleship is relational – and Christianity is an intensely relational thing. You will spend eternity with Jesus – but not just you and Jesus – but everyone else who goes to heaven and Jesus!
James 4:11 Do not speak against one another, brethren.
Very practical! How do we do that? Slander, gossip, cutting lies, backstabbing, receiving accusations against a person. It is great to hear about someone else’s problems, isn’t it? Not really. But our flesh likes that.
He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?
So speaking against someone is really an aspect of judging. Judging is at the heart of speaking against people. It always involves a level of self-righteousness and pride. It requires us to distance ourselves with an attitude of superiority – saying – in effect – I am better than that person or group.
That gets us back to the acceptable and unacceptable sins. What are the acceptable ones? Mine. What are the unacceptable ones? The ones everyone else does.
Matthew 7:1 "Do not judge so that you will not be judged.
“Judge” – for Jesus, this means to condemn and blame.
2 "For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 3 "Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 "Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye? 5 "You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.
Dallas Willard said these two things: Condemnation and judging is a big part of our human experience. We have done it and had it done to us.
We falsely believe that condemning and blaming will straighten out the other person. We think – they need to get this straight. There is a difference between judging, blaming, and discerning and correcting.
Say someone has a smudge of food on their face. There is nothing wrong with that. Say someone has an area where they don’t know they have a smudge.
We can never discern another’s faults correctly if we believe we are better than that person.
When we discern a speck in someone’s eye, we must always look for the log in our own eye. Usually, the ability to see specks might be TELLING us that we have a log! There is a good chance of it, actually.
The goal of judging is to condemn and manipulate, but the goal of discerning is to restore.
Galatians 6 – restore in the spirit of gentleness. Each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted – like looking back to Jesus – is there a log in my own eye.
Bear one another’s burden – walk with them through whatever they are going through. If we are unwilling to walk all the way through with them, we are not the person to go with them.
For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself, but let each one examine his own work.