20 March 2017

THE DEADLY SIN OF SLANDER


James 4:11-12

Humility is vital part of the Christian Life as we look at last week! Why? When we have been humbled before God, it inevitably affects the way you and speak to one another. This is something that is of great importance, because James hasn’t stop talking about the issue of the tongue. I think we can all agree…….that we live in a fallen world that is filled with all kinds of sinful qualities, some more noticeable than others. But there is one particular sin that goes unnoticed/under the radar that has the ability to causes a great amount of damage …..It’s the sin of slander!

“Slander” according to the Bible is referring to mindless, thoughtless, careless, critical, belittling, untrue speech directed against others. A display of slander can be found throughout the bible from…. Laban sons when they accused Jacob of taking all of their father’s possessions. Gen 31:1. Saul’s servant Ziba who slandered Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth about him plotting to usurp David’s throne. 2 Sam 16:3. Slanderous remarks about John the Baptist having a demon. Matt 11:18. Our Lord and Saviour. “Now the chief priests, the elders, and all the council sought false testimony against Jesus to put Him to death,” Matt 26:59

We need to understand that “Slander” originated in the Garden The bible says “Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?" And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.' " Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." Gen 3:1-5. (v1) Satan slandered God’s integrity “indeed has God said..” (v5) Satan slandered God’s motives. “God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God….”

Which implies by the way “God is selfish and He is withholding something good from you.” Slander is a very serious sin! This issue is worldly speech and discourages one another and dishonors God. “These six things the LORD hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.” Prov 6:16-19. A person who stirs up trouble among the brothers. See slander strikes peoples dignity, defames there character, and destroys their reputation. To be honest this is a person’s most priceless worldly asset.
  
As Prov 22:1 says “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.” A person’s dignity is worth more than gold or silver…….and slander always has a way of crushing that dignity through means of words. There are many reasons why people love to slander others. Perhaps it is because they got their feelings hurt and are upset with a particular person or group/church. Another reason is envy. Some people slander others simply because they are carnally-minded and don't like that person. Sometimes it's because of self-righteousness, which causes one to view someone else as being a worse sinner than them self. Although there are numerous reasons for which a person slanders his neighbor, the Bible tells us that they are the foolProverb 10:18 says “The one who conceals hatred has lying lips, and whoever utters slander is a fool.” 

The bible has a lot to say about slander, for example in the Old Testament…

It’s never the character of a godly person. Ps 15:2-3 “He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart;  who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend;”

It’s always the character of the wicked. Ps 50:19-20 "You give your mouth free rein for evil, and your tongue frames deceit. You sit and speak against your brother; you slander your own mother's son.”

It is also one of the Ten Commandments. Exo 20:16 "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
  
In the New Testament we see the same examples…..

It’s the source of an evil heart Mat 15:19 “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.”

It’s so bad it defiles or pollutes a person. Matt 15:20 the verse that follows says “These are what defile a person.”

Every careless [slanderous] word will be brought into judgement. Matt 12:36 “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak,…”
Slander has devastating effects and it very harmful to the soul.
Slander has the capability to destroy friendships, marriages.
Slander has the capability to afflict deep wounds that takes months to years to heal.
Slander has the capability to destroy people….spiritually and physically.

How destructive are defaming remarks? How serious are slanderous remarks?
No matter how big or small it is the outcome is devastating and it destroys everything in its path. Slanderous act only takes a millisecond for the tongue and an angry heart to make things turn terrible for someone. That’s why it’s destructive it’s the silent assassin that comes in under the radar to destroy whatever is in its path. Remember what James earlier in his letter “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.” 
James 3:6

What is James is saying? Those who misuse the tongue are guilty of spiritual arson; a mere spark from an ill-spoken word can produce a firestorm that annihilates everything it touches. A slanderous tongue corrupts the whole person. It doesn’t take long for a fire to get momentum when we are motivated by rage, bitterness or resentment towards to the opposing party. James is very clear in this passage that we have no right to confront another believer if our mouth is filled with a slanderous heart! Again understanding the underlining theme to this letter is to present tests of a living, genuine, saving faith.

LOOK AT WHAT HE SAYS IN (v11) "Do not speak against one another" This is referring to speaking critically to someone else about another person. This is serious business! A person whose life is characterized by habitual slander and condemnation of others demonstrates an evil, unloving and possibly an unregenerate heart. As John MacArthur describes it as “their mouth become tunnels through which depravity exits their heart. This passage means: Lying with malicious intent to hurt someone.

This is damaging for the church…….this can kill a church.
This is damaging for your marriage…..it can bring about divorce papers
This is damaging for your children…..they could leave and never come back.
This is damaging in every aspect of your Christian life.
  
Listen to what John wrote in his epistle “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for His name's sake.” 1 John 2:9-12

“Judge” in this letter is not referring to evaluation, but to condemnation or blame.

Before we dive into this! We need to understand there is a misinterpretation when it comes to judging one another in the church! The saying you hear all the time “Who are you to judge?” sadly this is always taken out of context. A sinning brother or sister must be confronted with the end game of reconciliation. We (Christians) desire all sinners to repent and be restored back into fellowship. This outline is clearly explained in Matthew 18James warning in this passage complements or reflects what our Lord Jesus said in Mathew’s gospel.

"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye? 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.” Matt 7:1-5
  
Slander is a serious violation of the Law and if you judge above the Law as James is saying here! What you’re doing is making yourself superior over God and that’s a big no, no! What a person is doing is ultimately submitting to our own authority over God. Your self-righteousness and pride super exceeds the authority given over your own life by a holy God through the written Word.
  
By such fearful disrespect the sinner, judges the law as unworthy of his or hers……

Attention to gain knowledge and understanding.
Affection to hold as precious and delight in my life.
Obedience to live by in my own life.
Submission to the Living God who is sovereign over me.

If you place yourself above God's Law, this means you are not bound by the Law’ because you are above the Law. Look what James writes about that in the next verse (v12) “There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?” Basically what James is saying in today’s language! “Who do you think you are sitting in condemnation on someone else?”

Do not think that you are above the Law.
Do not think you have the right to judge with malice intent.
Do not think you can judge with self- righteous intent.

We are not the final authority………..the Lord of all creation is! Remember! God gave His law to regulate people's love for Him and our fellow human beings! The Great Commandments are non- negotiable to the Christian Faith! Jesus said “… 'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." Matt 22:37-40

Look at the language James uses in this verse!  “He who is able to save and to destroy” (v12b)

Why as Paul penned “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” Rom 3:23-26. James refers to this Just and Justifier as the One [the Lord Jesus Christ] who is able to destroy. This refers to eternal destruction in Hell! In the gospel of Matthew Jesus said this! “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matt 10:28. Paul puts it this way in 2Thess 1:8-10 “ in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed.” The sin of slander is no small matter it’s insolent, reckless, treason, deadly against a Sovereign Lawgiver and Judge of this universe.

But remember! The one that can destroy is also the same One that can save a soul. Save you from eternal damnation……save you from a place we all deserve [Hell] all He asks of you and me is to put our trust in Christ Jesus alone through repentance and faith. The One who bore my shame…….the One who was judged in my place by the Father. We are brothers and sisters of the Living God…….We need to stop destroying one another with malicious and slanderous behavior. Flee the evil of this present age and show Christian love by speaking truth with a pure heart. As Peter put it “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart,” 1 Peter 1:22
  
Listen to late great Richard Baxter "We must feel toward our people as a father toward his children; yea, the most- tender love of a mother must not surpass ours. We must even toil in birth, till Christ be formed in them. They should see that we care for no outward thing, neither liberty, nor honor, nor life, in comparison to their salvation... When the people see that you truly love them, they will hear anything from you... Oh therefore, see that you feel a tender love for your people in your hearts, and let them perceive it in your speech and conduct. Let them see that you spend and are spent for their sakes." That’s a heart that cannot, and will not, slander another! That's what true Christian Brothers and sisters are to strive for! What does the Word of God say about your heart this morning in the way you speak about others on a daily basis? Because our prayer should be this! “O God of glory, may I never stoop to this level in my Christian life. I submit my mind, my heart, my voice and my life to You” 

Can you pray that prayer!

13 March 2017

BE CAREFUL WHO YOU MAKE FRIENDS WITH? [PART 2]


James 4:6-10

Winston Churchill was once asked, “Doesn’t it thrill you to know that every time you make a speech, the hall is packed to overflowing?” “It’s quite flattering,” replied Sir Winston. “But whenever I feel that way, I always remember that if instead of making a political speech I was being hanged, the crowd would be twice as big.” Humility is something that each and every one of must strive towards each and every day as children of the Living God. But the sad reality is that our pride usually gets in the way! Pride goes before the fall and this is battle that we all face in this me “Kingdom of one world.”

Why is this battle? Jesus talked about what the natural man desires before salvation and the battle we face as God’s children in this fallen world. “….., "What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person." Mark 7:20-23

This statement is evident in our current world system in the…. 
Post-modern thinker
Social justice warriors
Snowflake
Safe space
Everything tolerant
Self-esteem movement is trying to force on you me today.

We live in a society that screams tolerance, but are extremely intolerant themselves. We live in a society that says “If you don’t agree or accept me you are a “bigot” or a “ism” of some sort.” This all stems from a prideful heart. But sadly they are not the only ones! We see pride amount Christian circles who want change things to suit them. Do you know that good intentional Christians have gone so far to change some of the words to some of the greatest hymns ever composed?

For example: In the hymn “Beneath the Cross of Jesus” there is a line that says “my own worthlessness” was changed to “my unworthiness” by one good intentional gentleman. This same person also criticized the working of Isaac Watts “Alas, And Did My Saviour Bleed” He said “such a worm as I….could convey to many people a quite unflattering self-image.” But that’s the point…..when you examine your wretched life as it lines up with a holy and perfect God. We don’t deserve His grace….and if you think otherwise then you are only fooling yourself and it’s the pride of your heart that thinks this way! This is the problem with today’s Christianity and a beautiful gospel that has been compromised to fit our narrative and acceptance. We need His acceptance and not the other way around. We desperately need Him. But this requires humility and understanding of my fallen state in light of God and His goodness.  As C J Mahaney said “Contrary to popular and false belief, it’s not those who help themselves whom God helps; it’s those who humble themselves.” God is personally and providentially supportive of the humble man or woman. And the grace He extends to His humble sanctified child is indescribably rich…and it goes beyond the riches of this life.

The Apostle Paul the most self-assured and proud person on the planet penned these words. “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,” Phil 3:7-10By nature we will never understand what humility means until the light of God’s grace illuminates our desperate need of His saving grace and breaks our selfish pride. This is why we need to be careful who and where we turn to! As J C Ryle said “Humility like this is one of the strongest evidences of the indwelling of the Spirit of God. We know nothing of humility by nature, for we are all born proud. To convince us of sin, to show us our own vileness and corruption, to put us in our right place, to make us lowly and self-abased–these are among the principal works which the Holy Spirit works in the soul of man.”

This is what the gospel does! 
Humility is what brought us to our knees.
Humility is what keeps in a right relationship with Christ.
Humility shows us where our worth is hidden.
Humility is what keeps us aware of our desperate need for the Good Shepherd every day.

We come to the continuation of what we talked about last week……here is these verses (v6-v10) And instead of running to friendship and intimacy with this world, we ought to run to friendship with God. This is the kind of friendship that is not birthed in the sinful desires of the flesh. But is pure, holy and filled with God’s grace. What does James say “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (v6b). Not only does He give grace, but He gives what? “more grace” (v6a) This letter exposes and makes us vulnerable to examine our worldliness and the truth can feel too difficult and overwhelming at times, I get it! It is not easy to resist the appeal of this world, and there are many areas of our lives where we have bought into this world. And when we realize the error of our ways we begin to doubt and wonder if these struggles will ever end.

But! This is where we see God’s grace in our lives if you are a child of the living God. The only hope we have in our spiritual darkness is more grace from a sovereign God. The only One that can save and deliver us from our sin nature and the sins that cling to our selfish desires even today. This can be anything from lust, to anger, covetousness, selfishness, gossiping, and favouritism and so on as we’ve looked at over the past few weeks. But in order for “more grace” something has to happen, we must be humbled and not be proud!

“Proud” in this passage could be rendered “arrogant or boastful” As seen in Romans 1:30 “slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,”. Pride is a great killer, and God knows this is a battle we face.

This is what pride does to the person according to God’s word.

It’s always accompanied by shame “When pride comes, then comes disgrace,” Prov 11:2 
It loves to fight “Pride only breeds quarrels,” Prov 13:10 
It tricks you in falling “The pride of your heart has deceived you” Obadiah 1:3 
The LORD detests all the proud of heart “Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord” Prov 16:5 
It’s the opposite of love “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant” 1 Cor 13:4

James is warning us because he loves us and he writing this to the church as a warning (v7) Humble yourselves under His mighty hand. He says “Submit” this comes from a military term which means to rank under. Who are we to submit to? The sovereign Lord who desires to give you more grace. But again in order to receive more grace we must come humbly before Him. And resist the Devil and all that he has to offer you sinful heart. “Resist” means “to take your stand against” or “to oppose” There is no middle ground that we can stand on…..it’s either this present world system or under His sovereign grace where we find forgiveness, mercy and eternal life. All people are either under the lordship of Christ or the lordship of Satan. 

Why do I say that? Who are we to resist according to James? “The Devil” ….James is not telling us to resist God, because we do a great job of that on our own. Why resist him? He wants to destroy you and me and we are to guard our heart and never give Satan a foot hold on our lives. As Paul said “nor give place to the devil.” Eph 4:27. The bible says that we are to Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” Eph 6:11. For this reason as Peter wrote Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Peter 5:8. He hates you and me because as a child of God through the gospel we have changed ownership or masters, so to speak. We are no longer bound to Satan and his fallen promises. He hates that because we are now property of Jesus Christ. Paul said “In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.” Col 2:11-15

And the more we seek God and His goodness; Satan will flee because he is a defeated foe. That’s the beauty and victory we have in the gospel. So to flee something or resist something you must have a “go too” and the “go too” is Jesus Christ. James tells us to resist Satan and…..“Draw near” means: to pursue and intimate relationship and humble one-self under the care and supervision of His grace where we taste and receive His sanctifying mercies each and every day. As John MacArthur said “Salvation involves more than submitting to God and resisting the devil, the redeemed heart longs for communion with God.” But in order to draw near to God and for God to draw near to us, we need to do something which is crucial for our communion and fellowship with Almighty God.

The first thing we need to do is “Cleanse your hands you sinners.” (v8a)

In the Old Testament the priests had to wash their hands before approaching God, and the same rule applies to our spiritual lives. (Exo 18-21; Lev16:4). James is telling us to draw near to God, which implies that we have turned away from Him because we are easily drawn away by this world system. This is a call to repentance and return to our gracious Lord, the place where we belong. This is a call to approach God with a humble heart that recognizes that we have sinned against a holy God. As Paul penned “Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.” 2 Cor 7:9-10

God desires that communion with us and he will give grace to the humble as He always does.

Isaiah reminds us of this truth! “Thus says the LORD: "Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest? For all those things My hand has made, And all those things exist," Says the LORD. "But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word.” Isa 66:1-2. The spiritual temple of the heart, though it does not dominant the outward place of worship, is God’s favorite dwelling place. Just as pride is the root of all sin, so humility is the root of all righteousness.
  
The second thing that is required is a “purity of heart.”(v8b)

This happens when the things of this world are no longer admired and sought after. When self-concern is replaced is concerned for the glory of God. We are to “purify our hearts” purity is both external and internal. James warns us to purify our hearts, our minds, our desires, our motives, and our core being. By God’s good grace we are to be clean inside and out. We are to meditate on the things of God, because He has given us a new heart and new passions and we have put on the Lord Jesus Christ.

How do I do that? “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.” Phil 4:4-9
  
If this not a part of your life you might be as James says “You double minded” people. This literally means “double souled” which is a person who claims one thing, but lives or does opposite of what he or she claims. It’s the idea I believe in Jesus, but I don’t live according to His word. It’s very similar to what we’ve already covered back in James 1:22-26 or in James 3:14-19The true Christian wants no part of this evil world system, because we want to focus on what is pure, good, noble, just, things that are praiseworthy, because we love the Lord with all heart mind and strength. As David said “Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully.” Psalm 24:3-4 

The third thing we are to do is truly hate our sin and never make lite of it “Lament and mourn and weep.” (v9)

James says “lament and mourn and weep.” This is an outward demonstration of an inward brokenness over sin. This is a picture of humility in the life of a believer. What does that look like in the life of a believer? “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me hear joy and gladness, That the bones You have broken may rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins, And blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me...Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.” Psalm 51:7-12. Do you realize it took almost a year for David to come to grips with this sin. And this was a man after God’s own heart. What does that say about us here this morning? When was the last time you grieved over your sin before God? We are just as equally weak with a godly man like David, and none of us are susceptible to sin. Despite the natural sinful heart of man, God nevertheless givers a greater, a higher and a wider grace to you and me. A broken and contrite the Lord will never turn away from. Why do I know that to be true? According to this passage and the work God is doing in my life today, because I know what I did yesterday.
  
What is He doing in your life? Are repenting, praying for purity of heart and mind and are you broken over your sin? What is the purpose of all this? The answer is found in (v6 and v10) James says “He will draw near to you.” This again should make your heart melt like a candle in front of a blast furnace. God desires that fellowship with you and me……Despite who you are or what you’ve become these past few hours, days, years. The gospel is all about God drawing Himself near to sinner like you and me. He came to save sinners like you and me. He will draw near and not only will He draw near the bible says “and He will lift you up.” He does the lifting, He is the one who extends more grace to you and me and He is the one who
  
What comfort there is from this verse! He gives more grace and that friendship we have with God not only comes from the gracious desire of God. But also is motivated by a longing of eternal satisfaction. IF we continue or seek this world for satisfaction we will be left lacking, but if we draw near to God’s grace it will overflow our cup of eternal riches. Draw near to God and humble yourself under His mighty hand of His overflowing grace. And resist the temptation of this world and all it has to offer, because it offers nothing of any value. And most of all……It offers nothing of eternal value!