“AMISS – OR A MIST?” (James 4:11-17)
Series: JAMES July 23, 2017 10:30 AM
FBC Earlville, NY J B Stopford, Pastor
TODAY’S SPECIAL: “A Medical Funny”
Patient: It’s been one month since my last visit and I still feel miserable.
Doctor: Did you follow the instructions on the medicine I gave you?
Patient: I sure did. The bottle said “keep tightly closed.”
INTRODUCTION Last week, we entered Chapter 4, and the 6 “Warnings Against Pride”. Last week we studied WARNING #1 PRIDE PROMOTES STRIFE (4:1-6) James, in addressing the individual members of a church, warns about the battle within – the strife to pledge our wholehearted love for the Lord. When we allow pleasures and values of this world to overshadow that love – remember what he called us, “adulterous”! An OT word takes on a NT application. God is jealous (v. 5), and He wants His children to be humble before Him (v. 6). And then we studied WARNING #2 HUMILITY CURES WORLDLINESS (4:7-10) We were given a warning against using the world’s standards to determine the success or importance of our church. If we averaged 30 people in the am service, 10 in SS, 10 in youth group, our financial obligations met, and a good testimony in the community, these could be the marks of a spiritually healthy church! And we noted those terms James used to guide that person who desires to walk humbly before his Lord: submit, resist, come, wash, purify, take one’s worldliness to a funeral, and humble yourselves before the Lord. And we concluded that God is hungry for a rich relationship between Him and us – not to settle for accomplishments but to settle ONLY for Him! How is your/our walk with the Lord?
Today we add two more warnings, and each warning will have a word to zero in on. PRAYER
WARNING #3. DO NOT JUDGE A BROTHER (4:11-12)
The word for this section is, of course, “judge”. You and I are familiar with many verses which teach us on “judging” or being “judgmental”. Remember Matthew 7:1? In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives us that most oft-quoted, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” And Asaph in Psalm 82 talks about people being “gods” or “little judges”. What does that mean? How do these passages help us understand the passage in James 4:11-12? Remember Romans 15:4 says, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” So what do these passages teach us? Both the Savior and Asaph show us that when someone judges, he is actually representing the Lord Himself! Why is a judge deemed a “good” or “fair” judge? Usually because he has been consistently honest, just like the Master Himself. Let’s apply these wonderful principles to James 4:11-12. First off, to whom is the passage addressed: one brother versus another brother! In just one fell swoop, James under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit reminds the members of the church that the Lord Himself has elevated the body of believers of a local church to the wonderful title of “brothers” and “sisters” – the highest relationship an earthly person can have! James then reminds the reader of 2 thoughts: first, the brother is to be a doer of the law, not a judge of it; and second, any one who becomes a judge of the law is taking the place of the only Judge (Capital “J”) of the law, even the Lord Himself. How does that work out in the church? When you observe a brother or sister in Christ behaving or talking in such a way as to dishonor Christ, what is your response? To first share with someone else your disapproval so as to be more knowledgeable “prayer warriors”? To rush right up to that person and let him or her know what you think of that type of language or action – as if you are an expert? OR to come alongside that brother or sister and be just that, a brother or sister with them. Not a judge or a jury, but a brother or sister in Christ! As someone wisely observed, “When we keep our eyes on Jesus, we don’t have time to see the mistakes of others. We will reach out a helping hand to them and concentrate on our own walk with the Lord.”
Do not judge a brother. Become one with them. Walk with them, even through their shortcomings. Walk with them together back to the cross, to His Word, to His walk. Don’t judge – walk!
May I add one personal thought? We are often too busy to walk with another brother or sister. We have our own agenda for what supposedly absolutely needs to be done this day, this moment. What if your brother or sister is God’s assignment for you for this day, this moment? Would you miss God’s voice and shout over it to do your own thing? OR will you yield to God’s voice and come alongside the brother or sister who needs another hand to walk them along the path to holiness, to a fresh life in Christ?
WARNING #4. DO NOT BOAST ABOUT TOMORROW (4:13-17)
I call this section of Scripture “The Jim Deaver Rule of Life.” Not too many of you may remember Jim Deaver. He was a Marine true and true. He grew up in the Buffalo area and eventually found a job as a corrections officer for the State of NY. Throughout his life he was heavily involved in Boy Scouts and influencing young people. When I first met him, he was in his early 60’s. He and his wife had spent the month of June 1986 in California where he went to a reunion of his WW 2 Marine Corps troop. He ultimately was the last of the troop, and got to open the bottle of champagne reserved for the last surviving member. But he came under the teaching of Scripture. When he first heard this section of the Word, something amazing happened. He immediately applied God’s word to his life. From then on, he realized that there were many Scriptures that could become a vital part of his life. His life was never the same.
And what particular passage of the Word changed him? The phrase, “if it is the Lord’s will” or “Lord willing” or “God-willing”. Jim realized that he was living his life the way he wanted to. And from then on, he developed an intimacy with his heavenly Father that surrendered each day to the heavenly Father’s Lordship for that day.
But what one word changes this whole scene? The word in our NIV is the word “mist” in verse 14. Some versions call it a “vapor”. The best imagery of this word is the picture of the morning fog. The poet Carl Sandburg wrote a brief insight into this “mist”, in his majestic poem, “The Fog”: “The fog comes on little cat feet. It sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches and then moves on.” That’s it.
And to what is James referring to when he talks about this mist, this vapor, this morning fog? OUR LIVES!
Let’s look at 2 classic psalms that will be of great help. I trust you have become familiar with the second. The first is Psalm 62. Note the introductory verses of vs. 1-2. David then uses his position before the Lord to remind him of how the enemy often treat him, as found in vs. 9-12. Their lives are only a “breath” – a mist, a vapor, a morning fog. That should be a rich encouragement as we all struggle in a world where others seem to flaunt who they are before us or what they have accomplished more than us.
But also check out Psalm 39! David is sitting before a fire, watching the logs go from burning timber to dwindling embers. As he contemplates the dying fire, the Lord speaks to him through a heart-wrenching hunger and appeal in verse 4. And in verse 5, David comes to grips with the reality of his life: it is but a “breath” – same idea as “mist”, “vapor”, “morning fog”. Poof! It’s gone! So what am I to do with this revelation? Note verse 7 and exclaim with David, “But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.” What does David say that gives life its meaning? Life is but a dying fire. A mist. A breath. A vapor. A morning fog. Fleeting. But God gives each breath hope. He who numbers our days gives each one fulfillment.
So James says, since life is but a mist – a morning fog – then I will live each day in the Lord’s will. (v. 17) And when I do it, my life is full. And when I know what I am to do, and don’t do it – only for me is this judgment: it is sin to me.
This week, the wise Lord may do some really neat and unexpected things with you. He may bring before your path a brother or sister in Christ who is hurting. They may need a word of hope. Or they may simply need an arm or a hug to let them know that they will not be going through this season alone.
And this week the Lord may give you many options of things to do – how do you choose what is best? By seeking His will, His peace, His Lordship for that day. Living our life as a mist, a vapor, a morning fog, each day now will take on fresh purpose, fresh fulfillment.
So go live! And in living, bring great pleasure to the One Who has called you out of darkness into the light of His glorious life!
Close in Prayer