Warning Signs That Could Save Your Life
JD Rodgers | 2021-05-04
We often ignore warnings that we think will prevent us from getting what our hearts desire. It’s more natural for us to trust ourselves instead of trusting God, but that leads to painful consequences. In this message, we study James 4 to learn three warnings that will prevent us from ruining our lives.
Warning Signs That Could Save Your Life
We often ignore warnings that we think will prevent us from getting what our hearts desire. It’s more natural for us to trust ourselves instead of trusting God, but that leads to painful consequences. In this message, we study James 4 to learn three warnings that will prevent us from ruining our lives.
Welcome back, Porch. We are going into James. Our friends watching live in Porch Indianapolis; Porch Des Moines, Iowa; Porch Houston; and of course, my friends tonight here in the room in Dallas, how are we doing? Love it. I'm so excited to be with you guys. Tonight, James, chapter 4. We've been navigating through the book of James. James is the half-brother of Jesus, if you haven't been tracking with us, and we are discovering the full truth, what it looks like to follow Jesus, from his literal half-brother, a blood relative, James himself.
We've been committed to going verse by verse, teaching you guys what it looks like to navigate through an entire book of the Bible together. We've been enjoying it. Last week, David talked about the power of our words. Tonight, James is going to give us what my Bible… I study the ESV translation, so before I prep for a message like this, I like to just open up the Bible I do my quiet times in.
You know those little subtitles? The subtitle for mine was "Warning Against Worldliness." I was just thinking about this idea of warning. Before we read James' warnings to us tonight, I want to tell you about a time where I didn't take heed to a man named Billy Bob's warnings. I was trying to think, as I was articulating this story out loud earlier, I just need to draw pictures for you guys to help better illustrate it. I'm not an artist, but they'll come up as we tell the story. Here it goes.
It was summer in college. I was given the task of leading about 40 leaders in our church to go and bond and get to know each other. They're like, "You can do whatever you want." I was like, "What better way to bond and get to know someone than a canoe trip?" If you've never tried it, you should take someone out. Go canoeing. I don't know. So, we go on this canoe trip. We Google "Cheapest way to go on a canoe excursion for 40 people," and this place called Billy Bob's Yo-Yo Canoe Trip pops up in Louisiana. We're like, "Do it now. Do it."
So we get in the cars. I make everyone dress up in Indian headwear and paint and teeth. I don't know. It was weird. We're getting in the cars, we're going, and then we start to get off road and go onto a dirt road, and we're going farther and farther and farther back. I'm just looking for a sign, anything that says "Billy Bob's Yo-Yo Canoe." Suddenly, sure enough, we pull up on this little log cabin, and it says "Billy Bob's."
This guy… I mean, when you hear the name "Billy Bob," what do you think? He walks out, overalls, no undershirt, one is undone, trucker hat, missing teeth. "What's up? Come on, y'all!" He welcomes us in. He's like, "Who's the leader of this here excursion?" and I'm like, "Me," and my friend and I walk up. He tells us how it's called a yo-yo canoe trip because you go down the stream…
He's like, "This is important. You go down the stream for four miles or so, and then it's lunchtime. It's really important where you choose to eat lunch, because the reason it's called a yo-yo is because then, during your lunch, you're going to hear the dam open, and when that dam opens, it's going to release water, and it's going to shift the current back this way, so you'll zip back exactly the way you came with the current."
I'm like, "Okay." He's like, "But here's the warning." He gets out this napkin, and he draws a picture like this. He says, "There's the dam. Eat here. Don't eat here." So, we're coming where that arrow is. We travel for four miles. I drop the napkin in the water. It's all soggy. They're like, "All right. I'm starving. It's time to eat our peanut butter and jellies and Cheetos and all of that." I'm like, "Okay." They're like, "Where should we eat?" and I'm like, "Hmm." I look at the napkin. I throw it away. I'm like, "Here." So that's where I decide to take us.
So, I'm there with about 40 people, and I want to be the guy everyone likes. They're like, "It's hot," and I'm like, "Well, the water is so nice and clear and shallow. Go eat there." So, they're all happy. They're eating out in the middle of the water. The reason Billy Bob said, "Hey, you don't want to be eating anywhere else but here" is because when this dam opens, it releases class 4 level rapids. I'm like, "We are in Louisiana. This is not National Geographic kayakers. What are you talking about?"
So, they're eating out there, and sure enough, right on time, you hear a beeping. You see where this is going. They're sitting there, and suddenly the water starts to rise. They're like, "Oh look, JD. Class 4 rapids. Billy Bob. What's he talking about?" I'm like, "Yeah, you guys." Then before I could say "Look out…" I mean, it was like a stampede. We look over, and rapids take away people who were with us who I barely know. I'm like, "Grab the canoes!"
So we're grabbing the canoes, and I'm watching girls get swept into these rapids. Just one by one losing people, and I'm supposed to be leading these people. So they go, and we're just watching people disappear into class 4 level rapids. Wives are losing their husbands in these rapids. They're praying. I look over. Girls are like, "Dear Jesus…" They're praying together. People are trying to climb up the bank to escape as the water is rising up our knees.
I look at everyone, and the rapids finally subside, and I'm like, "I don't know where half of our crew is." Like a good leader, I'm like, "Every man for himself. Get back however you can. Just get back." We're losing canoes. We lost all of our food. So, people just get back to the destination, and we sit there. Guys, it is nighttime before, finally, you see people in a pack dragging canoes, soaking wet. Their feathers from the Indian headwear are on their face. The paint is smeared.
I'm like, "Hey, guys!" and they're like, "Nuh-uh. We don't want to hear from you." They're like, "Why would you do that?" The guy is like, "I told him." They all look at me. I'm like, "Ah." I start there because, just like I did not take heed to crazy Billy Bob's warning, tonight we're going to hear from James, the author of this book, and he's going to list out a lot of warnings for young adults like you and me and what it looks like to have a relationship with God in the world.
I think when we hear warnings, a lot of things come to mind. In our young adult years, we get a lot of warnings in front of us. Our parents, pastors, leaders, coaches are constantly saying, "Hey, I wouldn't buy that new shiny car. You're going to get in debt. I would go with an older car for a season until you get more money," and you're like, "No. I'll be making bank. It'll be fine. I'll pay it off." You get the new car.
Or pastors oftentimes up here are like, "Hey, I would not have sex before marriage," and you're like, "What are you talking about? Everyone is doing it. You're so behind the times. It's an expression. It's an act of love. It'll be fine. There are no consequences from it. It's fine." We're not taking heed to warnings in our young adult years. I think there are a few reasons you and I don't necessarily listen to warnings.
One of the first reasons I don't think we listen and why I didn't listen to even Billy Bob is because we don't trust the person the warning is coming from. We don't know them. We're like, "Hey, why would I dictate my choices based off of what you say? You don't have any credibility with me. I don't trust you. You're out of touch. What are you talking about?"
Another reason we don't listen to warnings is because we think we're outliers. "This'll pan out maybe for everyone else, but I'll be different. My story will be different. I'm exempt. I won't have that consequence" or "I'll work my way around it" or "I can go past the system." The third reason is we think someone who is giving us warnings is not doing it out of love and care but actually to keep us away from fun and a good time. They don't want us to experience. They're withholding. They're trying to keep us back. For whatever reason, we're like, "I don't want to listen to you."
But when I think about tonight and the warnings we see in this passage… Think about the person who is giving us these warnings in James, chapter 4…the literal half-brother of Jesus, someone you can trust, someone who walked with Jesus, ate with Jesus, talked to Jesus, learned from Jesus, watched Jesus die for you and me. He's like, "You can trust me."
He has no ulterior motive. He's not alive. He died for this stuff. Really think about that. Why would James take the time to die for this? Why would he give his life over to living a life for Jesus this kind of way? It's because he loves us. He loves you and me enough to write down these things and go "Trust me. I saw Jesus. I walked with Jesus. Take heed to these warnings."
Tonight, I'm even asking you, as the messenger of God's Word, as I'm just reading from the book of James… Guys, it's a weighty text. It's a hard text. This thing shifts so many gears and goes so many different directions I'm getting whiplash. I'm like, "What's going on?" But as I stand up here, I'm asking you…
As we study James together, trust me. I love you. You guys are my people. You guys are my friends. We are in this together. We are in this walk together. So, may we all not be people who walk with a blind eye and deaf ears but may we take heed to warning, which is why tonight we're going to look at three warnings to prevent us from ruining our lives found in James, chapter 4. Here we go, starting in verse 1.
"What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don't they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don't have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can't get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don't have what you want because you don't ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don't get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.
You adulterers! Don't you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God." That's heavy. "Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him. And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say, 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'
So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor." This is a lot. I was reading this like, "Phew! Here we go."
- Trust God, not yourself. Simply put, always, always trust God and never, never trust yourself. Look at verse 1 again. "What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don't they come from the evil desires at war within you?" What does he mean, these evil desires at war within you? Here's what he means. When you were born, you had something inside of you we talk a lot about here called a sinful nature, a sin nature.
That is a result of the fall of man all the way back in the beginning of the Bible, the first book, Genesis, chapter 3, when Adam and Eve chose to partake of the fruit and disobey God. They sinned. They brought sin into the world, and there was a curse, ramifications because of that sin, that produced a sin nature in every human being. You and I don't have to earn it. We don't have to work for it. We have sin inside of us. We are born with it. We naturally crave to satisfy ourselves with the desires and the things of this world.
Because of that sin nature, we go chasing after the world, but if you call yourself a Christian tonight… If you're here tonight and you have surrendered your life over into God's hand and claimed yourself as a son or daughter of God, you no longer are identified by your sin; you're now identified by the Spirit in you. When you accept Jesus, he gives you something, a gift, called the Holy Spirit. That is now who he identifies you by: no longer your sin but now the Spirit.
The problem is the Spirit is light and your sin is dark. The last time we all checked, light and darkness cannot coexist, so those two things are creating this friction inside of you. They're at constant war. When you are faced with that decision to not choose God and to choose sin, and when you're sitting there faced with temptation and you're like, "I really want to do that, even though I know it's no good for me," there's this war James is talking about going on inside of you, where your spirit is like, "Hey, you know better. Don't do it. Trust God, not yourself," but your sin is like, "Do it. Give in. Do it. Do it. Do it." That's the war he's referring to.
When you choose to not trust God and listen to this warning and trust yourself, the product of that is you fight, he says. You quarrel. You search. You're full of jealousy and hatred and anger and frustration and stress and striving and anxiety and depression and exhaustion. You're going and you're going and you're going, and you see what you think is the right desired outcome. You have this image of what life should look like or what you should have or what you should achieve or what you want, whatever it is…
Your flesh is like, "I want that," and you think you are the means to get your solution. You think you are the solution to your problem, so you do whatever it takes to get what you want, because you trust yourself and not God. You think the problem is you don't have what you want, so you do all of these things that result in hurt and frustration to get it, but James would say that's not your problem. What does James articulate is the actual problem?
He says at the end of verse 2: "You are jealous of what others have, but you can't get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don't have what you want because you don't ask God for it." He goes even a step farther and says in verse 3: "And even when you ask, you don't get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure."
I think a lot of times, you and I, if we're real with ourselves… When you think about your prayer life and you think about the things you ask God for, how often is it to meet your agenda and not to bring him glory? How often on the end of your prayers is this secret motive in the back of your head that's like, "Yeah, God, I'm coming to you, and I'm talking to you, but you'd better do what I want. You'd better do what I'm asking. You'd better give me what I want." James is saying that's not what being a Christian is.
The definition of a Christian is someone who is Christlike, someone who has surrendered their life to God's authority. You don't trust yourself anymore. You don't want to satisfy yourself anymore. You want to live for God and God alone. You want to come to God and say, "God, I trust you, whatever it is. I know I have this idea of what I think I want. I know I have this idea of success. I know I have this idea of a relationship. I know I have this perfect timeline set out, and I think I want what I want when I want it, how I want it, but I trust you."
He's a good Father. He wants his children to come and make the request, but that request can't be like this: "Okay, God. I guess…" No. It has to be like this…palms up, openhanded, saying, "God, I'm coming. I'm telling you what I want, and I'm trusting you with the results." Your problem is… Yeah, you have wants. Yeah, your heart wants things. That's not bad, though. Your actual problem is that you're not trusting God with the outcome of your wants. You're not trusting that he will actually give you what you need. James would say, "Here's the first warning: trust God, not yourself."
I was with a friend this weekend. Practically in his life, he's memorizing the verse in Proverbs 3 that says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your path straight." So when something happens in his life that goes against what he wanted, he takes a deep breath, opens up his hands, and says, "Jesus, I trust you." It's so simple, but I was like, "Dang, Matthew. That kind of hit. That was good." So I wanted to do something. Everyone open your hands right now. Take a deep breath, and let's say, "Jesus, I trust you." Are you ready?
Everyone: Jesus, I trust you.
JD: It's that simple, but you have to believe it in every situation. What if we woke up every day and said, "God, whatever it is today…" Inhale, exhale. "Jesus, I trust you, not myself." Why can't we trust ourselves? Because of that war that's going on. Jeremiah 17:9-10 puts it like this: "The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve."
You don't have to sit in this tension of going, "Man, I know I'm in a war. My heart, my flesh, and then the Spirit… How do I know if this is God's will or my will? I'm so stressed out." It's like, hey, hey, hey. God is in control. Open up your hands. Ask him what you want, but trust him with the results, not yourself. Trust him. A lot of times, though, I know for me trusting God can be really hard, and it doesn't make a lot of sense.
There are things that you're like, "Well, I tried to trust him, and he let me down or he didn't show up, and that caused a lot of pain and a lot of hurt." I was thinking about a time in my life a couple of summers ago where… I don't know if y'all heard this or not, but all of my best friends my senior year of college got married, and they ended up pretty much in Austin together. They all kind of live in the same neighborhood. They're all on their second round of kids together.
There was this season of such loneliness for a summer, where I was like, "God, what are you doing? I'm so lonely. I'm so behind. I'm missing out. I have FOMO. I'm 26. What is going on? I want to find my person. I want to find my spouse. Don't you say a spouse is a good thing, like, a man should not be alone? Where are you at, God? What are you doing?" Over time, I didn't feel like he was answering me according to my time, so I went on my own way.
In the name of praying and asking God, I was like, "God, you know what sounds good right now? My ex." We've all been there. Okay? You get to that point. I'm like, "God, I know you wanted that door to close. You're the God who wanted that door to close." I knew deep, deep, deep down God did not want me to go back to my ex, but I thought maybe if I would knock he'd surprisingly open. So I knocked. I'm just being real.
In the name of prayer and trust, I went around this roundabout way, and I didn't listen to God. I listened to myself, and I trusted myself, and I knocked. She opened the door, and she said, "No, thank you," and she closed it. Praise God. But I say that because after that moment, I remember being so frustrated with not her, not myself, but God. I'm like, "Hello! What's wrong with you? She's a godly girl. The breakup wasn't bad. This could work out. Why don't you want this to work out?"
He was like, "Because, JD, I want you to see that I am enough, that I will never leave you nor forsake you, that I am with you, that I can meet the deepest longings of your soul in a way that a human being was never created to. That's my job. Trust me, not another person, not yourself, not another relationship. Trust me." I had to learn in that season of what was such loneliness to surrender and trust God.
I know a lot of us are there tonight. What do you need to stop putting your trust in yourself in and start trusting God? Do you need to listen to James' warning tonight? If you don't, it'll set you up for the second warning. When you choose to not trust God and not trust his heart, you will no longer see him as good, and what was once this amazing, loving relationship will start to grow stale and dry, and you'll go looking for love somewhere else.
- Love God, not the world. Verse 4. James takes this hard left turn. He's like, "You adulterers! Don't you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again…" I find that so interesting. I mean, this man is sitting here with a quill and a scroll, and all of that, and he's writing, and then he's like, "You know what? Double tap. They need to hear that again. I'm going to write that down again." "I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God."
I don't know about y'all, but when I read the Scriptures, a lot of times I like to see things that feel really good and be like, "Yes, Lord. Repost on the Gram." But when I see verses like this, I turn the page, because I find myself, deep down, super convicted. I'm like, "An enemy?" Friendship with the world, to be an enemy of God… What does that mean? An adulterer? A cheater? Nobody likes a cheater. He says, "You're an adulterer." Why does he use that language?
Think about how adultery takes place. No one is in love with their spouse and in a good healthy marriage and wakes up one day and is like, "You know what? Today is the day I commit adultery on that person." No one does that. No one just wakes up and decides that. It's this slow, gradual process where you begin to forget about your love that you committed your whole life to, that you said, "You and I, ride or die until the end."
You begin to look at that person. The things that once attracted you to them are kind of annoying. That laugh when she snorted? Now you can't tolerate it. All of these different things… You begin to fall out of love with this person. The things that brought you in are now kind of getting dry and stale, and you just don't feel the thing you once felt. The sex hasn't been as passionate. The things aren't that good. So you start to slowly drift away.
It's a slow, gradual process where you're arguing more, you're fighting more, and then one day you're at work. You're maybe at a happy hour function or something. You're relaxing, and you meet a cute girl from the fifth floor. She's vibrant. She's new. She's fun. She makes you laugh. She doesn't snort. At the end you're like, "Hey, we have that function in the spring. How about I get your number so we can talk about work?"
You get the number, and then you find yourself talking about work, forcing the conversation, and now, without your spouse knowing, you're talking to them. You've seen it on Netflix. They start talking. They start emotionally connecting. They find themselves alone at the office, and the next thing you know…Boom! Adultery is committed. Then this process begins where this person now has to live in this tension of two worlds, where they're a father or a wife, a mother, they have kids looking up to them, needing them, yet there's this scandal going on. They're living in both worlds.
You know how the story goes every single time. You can't do it. You can't be married to two people. You can't live two lives. You get caught. James is saying, "Hey, warning. When you begin to love the world and fall in love with the world and leave your first love, that commitment you made with God, it's going to result in so much hurt, so much pain." That's what you and I do. You have that camp high experience.
You all remember that moment where you were at youth camp, and you went with a friend, and you decided to surrender your life to God. Or you had that moment in college, that night of amazing worship that hit you, and you were like, "I'm going all in. I'm going all in with you, God. Take my life." You found yourself at rock bottom, and you were like, "I'm never going back. I'm never going back." You enter into this covenant with God, this surrender to God. James would say it's like a marriage. We are the bride of Christ as the church. He is the bridegroom.
You enter into this deep, intimate relationship with God, and then slowly but surely, when he doesn't seem as good, when he doesn't seem as faithful, when you can't feel him in your quiet time, when you're reading the Bible and it just isn't hitting, when your prayers feel like they're hitting the ceiling, when you come here time and time again and it's just stale and stagnant, and you're like, "This isn't as fun. I can't go out and do the things I once did. I've lost my friends. I've lost everything," you slowly start to drift into friendship with the world.
You go back, and you fall out of love with God and back in love with the world. James would say you're committing adultery on your first love. If you want to make yourself a friend of the world, you're knowingly making yourself an enemy of God. I'm warning you. I'm showing you. You cannot be a friend of the world and in love with God.
You might be wondering right now, "What do you mean by a 'friend of the world'? What does it look like to be a friend of the world?" We always say around here, "You are the sum of your five closest friends." When you look at somebody, you are looking at the sum of their five closest friends, because when you hang out with people enough, you start to talk like them, act like them, walk like them, laugh like them, dress like them.
You become the people you hang out with. How are you doing? When you ask yourself, "What does it mean to be a friend of the world?" well, in the same ways I would look at a person and go, "How do their friends dress? How do their friends act?" I would look at you. You can do a self-evaluation right now and ask yourself, "How do I dress? Do I dress how culture tells me to dress?"
Fellows, do you wear things with brands or to look a certain way to give off a certain image or confidence? Ladies, do you dress a certain way because the world says, "Celebrate you. Life is all about you" or "Hey, I'm going to reveal this so guys want to come up to me and seek… I want to get affirmation and validation from them, so I'm going to show a little more skin than usual when I go out on the weekends"?
What dictates how you dress? Is it your friend the world? Do you do it the world's way or what God would say is best as you honor him with your body and with your clothes and with your decisions? How do you talk? Do you talk like the world says to talk? Are you one of those hard users of the F-word? You know what I'm talking about…those people. You're like, "Ah! Lord." Do you talk inappropriately? Do you use vulgarness or slang? Do you gossip? Do you complain?
Do you just talk and talk and talk and never listen? Do you talk the world's way or God's way? How do you act? How do you live? What do you do? What do you listen to? What do you watch? How do you spend your time? How you spend your time says what you care about. Do you care about the things of the world or the things of God? Do a self-evaluation. Do the hard work. Do the proper heart work and ask yourself right now, "Am I a friend of the world?"
If you're a friend of God, if you're around other friends of God who are saying, "I don't care what the world says; we are going to do it God's way, because we have lived and experienced and seen that God's way is the best way," you should not look like the world. We have produced in the church today a lot of Christians that you cannot tell the difference between the church and the world. You cannot tell the difference between Christ followers and world followers. They have blurred the lines, and they look a lot alike. James is saying you cannot do both. You can't.
Guys, when I read this, I was convicted. I thought about the songs I listen to, the Netflix shows I watch, the conversations I partake in, the things I do, and I'm like, "Man! I don't want to be a friend of the world. I want to be in love with God. I want to do things God's way. I want to look different. I want to be set apart. I want to walk like God calls me to walk, because I love him and he loves me." So take heed to the warning. Love God. Don't love the world. Don't be an adulterer. Don't cheat on your first love. Stay in love with God, not the world.
I thought this was so interesting. Verse 5: "Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him." A lot of your translations there where it says, "They say that God is passionate…" Yours probably translates to jealous. God is jealous for us. What a wild concept that we commit adultery on God, we cheat on God with the world, and his response…
Our response to a cheater is divorce, rebuke, push away, exile, cancel. Everyone around you is like, "How dare they?" They push them. They unfollow them. They get them out of their life. But God's response is jealousy. Like how God can have a righteous anger, he has a righteous jealousy. Why is that? Though we abuse his love, though we go to the world and forsake him… Why would God be jealous and want us after all we do and after we cheat on him time and time again? It's because he wants us.
He's like, "That's mine. That's my son. That's my daughter. That's my child." He wants a better way for us. He wants a better life for us. He wants life and life to the full, and he's like, "I love you too much to leave you out there. I'm not divorcing. I'm not canceling. I'm not going anywhere. I'm jealous for you. I want you. Come back to me."
Some of you tonight, as you've done your self-evaluation, might be like, "Oh, I've been a friend with the world; therefore, I've been an enemy of God." The invitation tonight is he's jealous for you. He wants you back, so come back. But when you come as you are to God in the midst of maybe the shame and guilt you feel, and you're like, "I'm so sorry, God, for leaving and abandoning you," and you come back to him…
Yes, he invites you to come as you are, but because he loves you, he does not want you to stay as you are. He wants you to change. No one goes back to a relationship and is like, "I'm so sorry I cheated on you. Let me just continue to cheat on you and cheat on you and cheat on you." That's not love. You never came back.
So you come back, and you acknowledge who you are and who you've been, but then, because you recognize that he wants you back and that love for you, you have no choice but to want to change out of love for him. You don't change to get his love; you change because you've been loved. When you do that, you have no choice but to want to lift him higher and higher and higher in your life, which would be the third warning.
- Exalt God and humble yourself. What do I mean by exalt? I just mean to elevate him in your life as Lord and as King. You go to him with decisions. You go to him with your love. You go to him with the things you cherish, the things you want. You lift him higher above everything else in your life. He gets more time from you. He gets all of your affections from you. He gets everything. You surrender yourself to him, and you exalt him, and then you humble yourself.
You lower yourself, and you're like, "God, I need you." That's what humility causes you to do. Why James has to warn us is because we spend our young adult years doing everything we can to exalt ourselves. Think about it. Even the best Christians in the room… You want the résumé. You want the influence. You want the followers. You want the side arm candy. You want all of these different things to raise yourself up higher, because you want to exalt yourself.
But when you recognize God's love for you and in the midst of your sin he calls you back to him, you want to come and then you want to change. You want to lift him higher and lower yourself. Romans 6 says this: "Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?" Read James 4:6: "And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say, 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'"
James is articulating, "Hey, you've cheated on God. You've run from God. You recognize that he's jealous for you. He wants you back. You come back. He gives you grace generously." The problem with that is I think a lot of us abuse that grace. We abuse God's love. When you're faced with temptation, you're rationalizing with yourself. You're like, "Well, I could do this. I could do this bad thing. I could forsake God and satisfy myself, because, I mean, grace. Grace abounds. More love. I get to experience more grace."
That verse we just read in Romans says, "So, should we keep on sinning so we can get more grace? Absolutely not! That's ludicrous. That's crazy. How can someone who says they died to sin still live in it?" What does he mean by that? Well, he's referring to our parallel with the story of the gospel, the good news. When Jesus came and left heaven and came down to earth because of our sin and its separation between us and God, he paid our penalty, our price on the cross.
He was the perfect sacrifice because he never sinned, knowing that you and I would, and he hung on the cross. He died, they buried him, he rose again, and he defeated sin. He conquered sin. Now we get to experience freedom. We get to experience grace. We get to experience love. I think a lot of us like to experience the risen Lord. We like to be the same with Christ and experience freedom and grace and love, but you can't experience the benefits of the resurrection without sitting in the reality of the death.
So many of you want to experience… I want to experience grace and love from God, but I don't want to sit in the reality of why I need it, of my sin, because I continue to disobey him and go back to the world and trust myself. I don't take heed to these warnings. So, what Paul and James are saying is, "Hey, when you come back to God, there should be a change in you." Like I said, you get to come as you are, but there's nothing loving that would allow God to want you to stay as you are. There should be a change in you because of the realization of his love for you.
So, how does that change come to be? Well, he lays it out. He closes out this section, which has gone verse by verse. When you recognize God's love for you and it produces that change in you, when you take heed to these warnings, when you don't trust yourself and you trust God, when you don't love the world and you love God, when you begin, because of his love for you, exalting him and lowering yourself, the changes look like this. What does he say? "So humble yourselves before God." What does that mean? What I've been saying.
It's getting up every day and, like Matthew, saying, "Jesus, I trust you," creating that posture of dependency where you get down on your knees and say, "God, I need you. I want you. I invite you into my life every day. I need you. I want you. I trust you. I need you. I want you. I trust you. I have no good apart from you. I'm going to try and try again to make life about me, but I want to decrease. I want you to increase. I want to exalt you above everything I have."
Then he goes on to say, "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." Don't forget that you have the power to resist the Devil. I know the temptation seems hard. I know the sin seems great. I know it seems fun and you'll get a quick fix and a short-time satisfaction, but I know you also know on the end of that sin is guilt and shame. You know you don't want to do it, but it feels so heavy and so hard.
You can resist the Devil because you have the power of the Holy Spirit inside of you. You can say, "No. I resist you. I'm not giving in. I'm choosing God. I'm loving God. I'm trusting God. I'm taking heed to these warnings, and I'm not giving in. I resist you, Satan." It says he will flee. When he's gone, you now get to come in and come near to God. That's amazing that God would want adulterers, cheaters, lovers of the world to come near to him.
Because of Jesus, we get to come near to God. What's even crazier is he then comes near to us. When we exalt him, he exalts us. He comes near to us and begins to listen, meet our needs, give us our wants, because we are choosing to make him Lord of our lives. He says, "Wash your hands. Purify your hearts." He's talking about confess. Be changed. Be transformed. Be healed. Let your life begin to change. Put off the old self of sin and put on a new life with Christ, washed by the blood of Jesus. Be pure. Be clean before him.
Then this is the part that I was like, "Man, this is a Debbie Downer." To end on this is like, "Really, James?" Here's what he tells us to do. "Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy." I was reading that. I was alone in a room, and I was prepping.
I read that, and I'm like, "But wait. I thought following God and, like, grace and freedom and love and just this happy life of blessings and favor and happiness all the time and joy all the time. I thought if I was obedient to God that would be the case." The reality is there needs to be a season, a time, where before we sit in the weight of God's love for us we sit in the weight of our need of God's love.
I think we don't like that. We like to laugh. We like joy. We like happiness. We like feeling good. That's okay, but do you know what will make that laughter sweeter, that joy longer? When you truly take time to understand how you have access to it, when you take time to sit in the weight of your sin. Guys, as I was writing all this stuff, here's what I thought about. The Bible talks about how it was our sin that put Jesus on the cross.
He did it for your and my sin because of his love for us, that while we were sinners he died for us. By his stripes, by the whips on his back, you and I are healed from our sin. I was thinking about how when I read these warnings and it says, "You cannot love the world and God, yet, JD, you love the world, and then you try to love God. If you continue to sin, it's going to bring you farther from God, and you're committing adultery," and all of these different things… I'm like, "Why would I do that?"
Right now, I want you to think about the person in your life who loves you the most and how they would do anything for you, how they would die for you. Imagine you walking up and hitting that person, spitting on that person, whipping that person. We don't like that. I don't like that. I think about my dad. I would never do that to my dad. He loves me. Then I was prepping, and I was like, "God loves me. Jesus loves me so much more than my dad."
James is saying you need to sit in the weight of your sins and let it produce tears and be okay with mourning and grieving how you've turned your back against God. I sat in it. I thought about my sin and the stripes on Jesus' back and the price he paid for me, and I thought about how some of us tonight will hear these warnings and still not listen and still not believe that God is enough and that he's worth it and that Jesus died for you and he's worth it, and it was just more stripes.
When I sat in that, I then was forced to sit in the weight of love, of grace. God was like, "Hey, it's okay. This is why he died. There's no greater love than this, that a man would lay down his life for his friend. This is why he died: so you could be free." And my mourning turned into joy. My tears turned into laughter. My sadness turned into happiness. I was like, "Thank you, God. Thank you, God, for the way you gave me out of my sin and for bearing my sin on the cross so I could be free."
Tonight, I wish with everything in me I could end with this hope-filled message, like, "So let's go and be free," but as I was wrestling with God of how to close this message, I think we need to actually sit, do that self-evaluation and sit in the weight of our sin, appropriately mourn and grieve our sin…not stay in it, but sit in it for a little bit and let that produce obedience, trust, love, change. People who once neglected warning, we now want to listen to it, because Jesus paid for our sin.
So, tonight, if that's you, if you're going, "I've been committing adultery. I've been running from God, and I want to run back to him," don't wait. As we respond in worship, just take a moment. Sit in it and go, "God, I need you. I need you." Exalt him. Humble yourself. Say, "God, I need you." Open up your hands. Say, "Jesus, I trust you." What have you not been trusting him with? Say, "Jesus, I trust you."
If you've been loving the world and not loving him, say, "God, I'm coming back. I love you. Thank you for loving me. I'm coming back." When you come back, say, "I want to lift you higher, and I want to be obedient, and I want to respond." Lay down your life. Give him your life, because he gave his life for you. Let that change you. Take heed to James' warning. Don't walk out of here the same. Hear the warning and change. Respond. Trust, love, and exalt God. Humble yourselves.
We're going to take a time right now to do that. This might be weird for some of you. If you need to get on your knees and turn in your chair, get on your knees. If you need to open up your hands and say, "I trust you," open up your hands. If you need to grab some people and get around and pray, do that…whatever it looks like.
Tonight, I think God is calling the people in this room and watching to sit and mourn how our generation has turned their backs on God time and time again, but the beauty of it is because of the gospel, we then get to be exalted. God exalts us, his children. We get to worship him. So let's take a time to do that.
Father, I know the weight of our sin is heavy here tonight. I know the weight of my sin is heavy here tonight, and I know we need you. I know that time and time again we choose not to trust you. We choose not to love you. We love the world. We exalt ourselves. We don't exalt you. I pray this would be a moment where we come back, where we lay ourselves down and say:
"God, I'm sorry. God, I need you. God, I trust you. God, I humble myself. God, I want to honor you with my life. I don't want to continue to cheat on you. I don't want to continue to be a friend of the world and try to love you and do both. I'm done doing both. I'm done being exhausted. I trust you. I love you. I'm coming back."
May we sit in our need for you, and then may we stand and sing with confidence because of your love for us, that you'd send your Son down to die for us. Thank you, Jesus. You are who we bow down to and humble ourselves before and exalt tonight. May you be glorified. In your name I pray, amen.