Three Cautions

Scripture: James 4:13-17

13 Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” 14 How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. 15 What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” 16 Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil.

17 Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.

INTRODUCTION

This study through the epistle of James has been life changing. James is a powerful book, there is conviction in every word and tonight’s message is no different from the previous 14. Again tonight, we are looking as some admonitions, some cautions, warning from James.

I. THE FIRST CAUTION THAT JAMES RAISES IS–DO NOT BE PRESUMPTUOUS ABOUT THE FUTURE.

The Jews were very gifted at commerce and when new cities were established in the Greco-Roman world, Jews were actually invited and welcomed in these new cites because they brought wealth and commerce. James uses such a businessman for an illustration:

“Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.”

There is no sin in planning: the sin is in presuming. Solomon said, “Don’t brag about tomorrow, since you don’t know what the day will bring.” My is fond of saying, “We are not in control.” He is right, we aren’t. We have absolutely no control or say about the future. Man proposes but God disposes.

Certain things in this life are a fact; you need no faith to believe them. The uncertainty of the future is one of them. I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow and neither does anyone else. The rich fool in Luke 12 presumed on tomorrow: matter of fact, he assumed he would have many years but he died that very night. He never enjoyed one dime of the wealth he had amassed.

Although we are certainly not in control and do not need to boast about tomorrow; God is most definitely in control and He holds the future in His hand. So there is no need to panic or fear. Jesus said, “Don’t worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will bring it’s own worries. Today’s trouble is enough to worry about.”

Live one day at a time and trust the future to Christ.

My mother was a firm believer in divine providence. Any time she heard me boast about what I was going to do, she would always interrupt and say, “Son, LORD willing you are going to such and such.” It became a habit. Last night coming home from the MBA Annual Meeting which is a 3 hour business meeting, I said to myself, “One more of these boring babies and I’ll be through with annual meeting.” The still small voice said, “Lord willing.” I immediately confessed to the LORD and acknowledged the fact that I may not be here next year. We don’t have a day promised, let alone a year.

Don’t leave God out of your plans. This applies to Merchants and Missionaries, Businessmen and Clergymen. It is foolish to leave Him out

II. THE SECOND CERTAINTY THAT SHOULD SERVE AS A CAUTION IS THE BRIEVITY OF LIFE.

James said, “Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.”

Job said, “How frail is humanity! How short is life, how full of trouble! We blossom like a flower and then wither. Like a passing shadow, we quickly disappear.

David said,Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered—how fleeting my life is. You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath. We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. We heap up wealth, not knowing who will spend it.”

All the health food in the world is not going to keep you here long. Plastic surgery certainly will not help. It is what it is: we are all aging and aging fast. No one has found the fountain of youth: the liberals have discovered the fountain of stupid.

I see people driving those tent pegs deeper each day and I think, what a waste of time, we are not staying here. We are simply passing through. Life is short and it will soon pass and only what you do for Jesus will last.

III. THE THIRD CAUTION IS THE MOST SOBER ONE ON THE LIST: DON’T SIN AGAINST YOUR CONSCIENCE.

James said, “Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.”

What was Dives sin [Rich man in Luke 16]? Was it gluttony, greed, sexual immorality, drugs, what sin sent him to hades? Was he a thief, did he embezzle, did he acquire his wealth is a less than honest way? Jesus mentions none of the above.

His sin was that a beggar named Lazarus laid at his front gate and he didn’t do one thing about it. Did he know Lazarus was there? Did he feel an oughtness to help him? Dives has millions, he lives in luxury every day and Lazarus is sick and starving. How intelligent would a man need to me to know that he ought to help the beggar? He knew what the right thing to do was, he just didn’t do it and James says, that is sin.” Basically, Dives did nothing just like the unjust steward in Matthew 25.

I am sure there is a Lazarus at your gate. Have you seen him/her or do you do like Dives and pretend that he is not there? Could it be that we move too fast, that we are too busy to notice? Could it be that we just don’t care?

What about the sheep and goat judgment in Matthew 25. What did the goats do? What was it that they failed to do? {minister to those in need around them}

What was the sin of the Priest and Levite in the story of the good Samaritan? Too busy to stop…too afraid to stop…too self-centered to stop…too indifferent to stop.

Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.”

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Speaking Evil Against A Brother

SCRIPTURE: James 4:11-12, NLT

11 Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters. If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God’s law. But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you. 12 God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor?

I also like the NCV on this text…11 Brothers and sisters, do not tell evil lies about each other. If you speak against your fellow believers or judge them, you are judging and speaking against the law they follow. And when you are judging the law, you are no longer a follower of the law. You have become a judge. 12 God is the only Lawmaker and Judge. He is the only One who can save and destroy. So it is not right for you to judge your neighbor.

INTRODUCTION

First of all, I want to make a confession. In my study, preparation and preaching of this series in James, every passage has been convicting. When I started previewing these two verses, I hung my head in shame. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am guilty of judging others. When we speak evil of another brother, we make ourselves Judge and Jury. In so doing we become law breakers instead of obeying the law ourselves. We assume a responsibility that God has not given us. It becomes a sin of arrogance and presumption. We did not create the law: there is one law giver and that is God. We are under the law the same as everyone else. We put ourselves above the law when we judge.

In preparing the message, I noticed something as I was reading a new translation that I got last week: Whereas I have separated verses 7-10 from 11-12, I now see a connection. I spoke to you last week about four admonitions but there are more, many more in this passage.

  1. Don’t flirt with the world
  2. Don’t give in to pride: God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves!
  3. Don’t compromise with the devil: resist him and he will flee from you.
  4. Don’t dabble in sin: confess and repent of sin. Wash your hand you sinners.
  5. Don’t carry a hidden agenda: purify your motives. Don’t be hypocritical and double-minded.
  6. Don’t make light of sin: there should be tear, sorrow and deep grief about your sin and those that are hurting others.
  7. Don’t exalt yourself: humble yourself and let God do the exalting.
  8. Don’t speak evil against each other dear brothers and sisters.
  9. Don’t criticize or judge each other.
  10. Don’t assume God’s responsibilities: its His responsibility to judge, nor ours.

There are three things I want to point out about tonight’s text:

I. I WANT TO LOOK AT THE WORD TRANSLATED ‘SPEAK AGAINST’ OR ‘SPEAK EVIL’.

  • NASB– Do not speak against one another
  • NLT–Don’t speak evil against each other
  • NCV–Don’t tell lies about each other
  • VOICE–Don’t assault each other with criticism
  • NIV–Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another.
  • MSG– Don’t bad-mouth each other
  • HSCB–Don’t criticize each other

The Greek word is katalaleō to speak against one, to criminate, traduce. To traduce is to speak maliciously and falsely of; slander; defame: to traduce someone’s character. It is a compound word coming from kata [against] and laleō to speak. You can see why the NIV translated it slander.

William Barclay says that katalaleō means to speak evil of someone else in that person’s absence, to criticize, to insult, to slander someone who is not present to defend themselves. It was this very thing that the writer of Psalm 50 was addressing…

The heavens proclaim that God is righteous, that he himself is Judge…..

19 “You are always ready to speak evil;
    you never hesitate to tell lies.
20 You are ready to accuse your own relatives
    and to find fault with them.
21 You have done all this, and I have said nothing,
    so you thought that I am like you.
But now I reprimand you
    and make the matter plain to you.

There is a very interesting verse in Psalm 101:5…Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy;
No one who has a haughty look and an arrogant heart will I endure. [NASB] In 1 Peter 2:1, we have another strong admonition….Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander [katalaleō].

There is a point to all this scripture–the sin of slander, malicious gossip is condemned in scripture and carries very strong warnings. We would do well to remember what God things of slander and gossip. My advice, when you find yourself in one of these small groups that meet secretly to discuss things that are not their responsibility is to either rebuke them or get away from them. God does not take lightly the evil of destroying another person’s reputation.

II. THE SECOND THING I CALL TO YOUR ATTENTION IS RATHER OBVIOUS: JAMES IS ADDRESSING BELIEVERS

Verse 11…Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters. If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God’s law.

We would expect the world to operate like carnivores but not the church. Again, I want to point out that 99% of our problems go back to verses 1-2…What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel.

The word envious in NASB is the Greek word zēloō which means to burn with zeal, to be heated or to boil with envy, hatred, or anger. It is translated most often as jealous. We don’t here it confessed but it is a huge problem in the church and the source of evil speaking.

As I said up top, this passage convicts and frighten me because I am guilty of judging others and of being too critical. At the same time, I have been the victim of slander on more than one occasion and I am telling you from my own experience that it hurts deeply. Don’t be naive, lies are powerful. The mess we are in today goes back to a lie told some 6,000 years ago. Hitler used the lie; he believed in propaganda just like the democratic party of today. Everyone knew that Bill Clinton was a liar and yet many professed believers voted for him. Sometimes we had rather hear a lie than the truth. Penny told me Sunday, “Bro. Jack, you are losing weight–your getting thin.” Ruth overheard what she said and she chimes in…”He is not skinny, he is fat–look at that gut.” Someone got on to her and she said, “Well, he looks pretty good to be his age.” Sometimes we don’t want to hear the truth.

Almost 40 years ago, I was in another place serving a small rural church just outside a very small town. I had become friends with some of the pastors in the area and one is particular was doing a very good work. He had taken an old traditional church and revitalized it to the point they had outgrown their space. So they got into a building program and ended up with the nicest building in town. As a part of their growth, the church hired a secretary. They made a critical error in allowing members to fill out applications for the job and it boiled down to two women in the church. This thing had disaster written all over it. Of course one got the job and the other did not. About a year later, a vicious rumor spreads like a fire that the pastor and the new secretary were doing more than taking notes. It was hotter than the soup opera’s, practically everyone was talking about it. I wasn’t one of them; in spite of my youth, I understood there are two sides to everything and this is something you do not discuss unless you have proof and even then you discuss it with the right people.

The pastor called me and asked me to come to his office. He told me the entire thing, not about hiring the secretary but about the rumor. He was heart broken and ready to through in the towel. He was 15 years my senior but I advised him not to resign. I asked him how he found out about the rumor. He said a friend told him. I said, “go to the friend and find out who told him, then go to that person and find out who told them, keep doing this until you find the source.” He took the advice and began tracing the rumor. Guest where he landed, on the door step of the woman who did not get the job. She got even with both parties with one malicious rumor. There is some good news: guilt was eating her alive and she confessed and not just to the preacher but to the church. He did not resign but things were never the same afterwards. A traducer is the master of innuendo. They know how to plant doubt in your mind. When the truth comes out, it does not remove all the doubt. The man’s reputation was damaged.

I had rather a person kill me as to defame my character. I’m not leaving wealth behind but I want my kids and grandkids to have good memories. They think I am an honest man and I want to keep it that way. If someone were to destroy their image of me with a malicious lie, it would be worse than death.

You’ve all heard the story of Naboth. Ahab wanted his vineyard and Naboth would not sale. Naboth was an upstanding man in the community but wicked Jezebel organized a plot based on the lie that Naboth had blasphemed God and the King and he was stoned to death. The poor man didn’t even know why he died. They asked him to come so they could honor him and then they murdered a good man and then stole his property. Don’t underestimate the power of a lie nor the judgment that is coming on those who defame and destroy others with the lie.

III. THE THIRD THINGS THAT I DO NOT WISH TO POINT OUT BUT MUST IS THE PROHIBITION NOT TO JUDGE.

12 God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor?

It is never wise for us to assume a undeligated responsibility: it always leads to added stress and worry. The think about judging others is…

  1. We are flawed ourselves: as my mother would say, “People who live in glass houses don’t need to throw rocks.” If I have time to find fault with you; it might inspire you to work a little overtime looking into my life. Remember Jimmy Swaggart: he hired a PI to dig up dirt on a competitor and then his competitor did the same.
  2. Only God has the facts. We do not know background, motives or all the details. We are just not in a position to judge.
  3. God is the Judge. When we assume the role, it is a slap in His face. It is the same as saying, “LORD, you need a little help. You are not doing this the right way. I’m going to show you how to do it.” I love James Russell Lowell’s poem… Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne,—
    Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown,
    Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.

CONCLUSION

I think we have the same problem with justice that we do with answered prayer: we want an immediate response on both and God does not work in this way. One of the greatest Christian virtues is to ‘Wait upon the LORD.” He will do it in His time and His way and it will not be anything that we have imagined or envisioned.

A Tragic Trilogy

SCRIPTURE: Luke 6:46-49, NLT

46 “So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say? 47 I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. 48 It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. 49 But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.”

INTRODUCTION

If you look up the word tragedy in the dictionary you will find two definitions: [1] An event causing great suffering, destruction, and distress, such as a serious accident, crime, or natural catastrophe. [2] A play dealing with tragic events and having an unhappy ending, especially one concerning the downfall of the main character. Shakespeare wrote ten plays that are labeled Tragedies. Romeo and Juliet, Anthony and Cleopatra, Hamlet, Othello to mention a few. We were forced to read Hamlet and Othello when I was in high school. Who wants to read a tragedy?

Since I had to read and watch Othello on film, I will use it as the example. In a tragedy, the protagonist [hero] always has a flaw and the flaw leads to his/her downfall. For Othello, he was insanely jealous. Iago, a man who pretended to be his friend planted and seed of doubt in Othello’s jealous mind that his wife Desdemona was being unfaithful. In fact, she was not unfaithful but Othello’s jealousy lead to paranoia and he killed his wife in a jealous rage. Then of course he kills himself because a part from her, he had no reason to live.

We all die so the tragedy is not in his death. The tragedy is that he and she died needlessly. They died because he believed a lie. South Carolina just experience a horrible flood. Over one billion dollars in damages and 14 deaths. Here is the tragedy: some of the 14 drove around barricades and warning signs. These people would be alive today had they simply heeded the warning.

In Luke 6 we have a trilogy of tragedies.

I. THE FIRST TRAGEDY IS NOT TO HEAR THE WARNINGS OF CHRIST

I am going to allude to the Sermon on the mount where Jesus says in Matthew 7:21–Those of you who are listening and do not hear—you are like a fool who builds a house on sand.  How can with listen and not hear? It’s easy, we do it all the time. Let me give you a test: two weeks ago, my introduction was about ‘hearing’, do you remember what I said? You were listening, but you were not hearing.

This is the statement I made: If the only voice you hear today is my voice, you are not listening [hearing]. What do all active listeners do? They take notes. Taking notes is a discipline. Bobby James was a good note taker: He had a record of my Genesis 1:1 sermon in his bible. I didn’t have a clue as to when I began the journey of preaching through the entire bible which took me some 27 years.

Folks, we have the recorded words of Jesus in the four gospels–it would be a tragedy for you not to hear what Jesus is saying.

II. THE SECOND TRAGEDY IS TO HEAR AND NOT OBEY

Jesus said, “why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say?” Oh the tragedy of a disobedient life. Jesus is not impressed with our profession of faith or our lip service. He wants more than to be acknowledged at LORD, He wants us to obey His teaching.

You are probably thinking: “His teaching are so hard.” I can’t love my enemies; I can give without expecting something in return. I tell you what, lets just start with the GOLDEN RULE found in verse 31–“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Lets me honest, have you tried to practice the golden rule?

To help us understand the tragedy of hearing Jesus but not obeying, let me tell you the story of the Rich Young Ruler. One day when Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, a rich young man in a place of authority came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said, “Why are you calling Me Good, only God is truly good but to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother.” What commandments did Jesus not mention: notably One and Ten. The young man said,  “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.” Looking at the young man in  genuine love, Jesus said, “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Here is the tragedy: the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

It is tragic to hear Jesus and not to obey.

III. THE THIRD TRAGEDY IS TO BUILD YOUR LIFE ON THE WRONG FOUNDATION

Jesus said, I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. 48 It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built.

Jesus is not talking about building a house: He is talking about building a life and the wise person builds their life on Christ. But Jesus tells us about a second person who build on the sand [surface]. He built his life on the wrong foundation and when the storms came, his house collapsed and he lost everything.

Herein lies the tragedy: to build one’s life on the wrong foundation and lose everything.

Again, let me give you an example from the bible, from Luke. This story is found in chapter 12. We call this story, the story of the rich fool. He was a fool because he left God out of his life. He raked and scraped to amass a fortune. He had so much that he didn’t have room to store it; in other words, he had more than he needed. He never thought about giving anything to anyone. This guy is so in love with himself that he doesn’t think of wife, children, anyone other than himself. He was totally selfish. His goal in life was to amass so much that he would no longer have to put on his work clothes.

This story is a tragedy: here is how it ends. God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ Jesus said in Matthew 16:26, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? The poor fool built his life on the wrong foundation and in the end, he lost everything, including his soul.

CONCLUSION

The greatest tragedy of all tragedies is to die without Jesus and spend eternity in hell. Let me explain: Jesus has paid your sin debt in full; He has done everything necessary to secure you a home in heaven. All you have to do is hear HIM and obey HIM. You must repent of your sins and surrender control of your life to Jesus. There is no need for you to die without Christ. What a tragedy to reject the One who can save you.