Roger's Postings

Friday, September 21, 2012

James 3:13- 4:10.                                Double-minded???                              23/9/12

 13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
41 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
“God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble.”
7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

Our reading from James this morning and last week highlights a matter that is very important for us - particularly at the present time. Now more than ever before, there is the need for us to humble ourselves before the Lord and to submit ourselves to the will of God. And yes, to even grieve, mourn and wail. To be cleansed from our sin and failing to be the people that God wants us to be; and to purify our hearts.

 For too long now our nation, our own church and even ourselves, have been double-minded. We claim to be Christians - to know God and believe in him, but at the same time we think we can live as we please. More and more, we think of self first, last and only, even within the church context. We go to church only when it pleases us; try to change God’s Word to suit ourselves. We think we can go along with everything the world out there is doing and it doesn't matter: we murder our unborn babies; break our marriage vows; rip people off; we can quarrel, fight, covet and gossip as if it is the thing to do. And the list goes on and on.                  

 Even when we see the results of living this way: the worship service shifting its focus, the declining church attendance; then also the violence, murders, corruption, loneliness, suicide, and all the rest, growing daily – we still go on following blindly as if it is the only way to live.

 When is the penny going to drop? Do we have to lose everything first? Again recently I heard the comment from someone who should know better. He was complaining how God seemed to be giving us a hard time and how God was to blame for this and that: he looked at others out there and could see the seeming green grass over the fence. He complained about all kinds of things that were going on in the church and the world. Yet that same person has no qualms about missing Sunday after Sunday in Church. No thought or consideration for the next person; far less for the Lord and how he would have us live and act. But, he claims to be a Christian.

 Now before we become too judgmental toward him, we need to see that this same tendency is there in each one of us. We see all these things out there, but we seem to think that it does not apply us: or that we have a better handle on things: or that we are forgiven and so it doesn’t matter. We think we can say we are Lutheran but then not hold to our Lutheran teachings, and don’t really care. The reality however is that each one of us is all too blind to our own sin and have a higher opinion of our goodness than we should. We all know the old saying: ‘pride comes before a fall,’ yet we never seem to be able to apply this to ourselves.

 When are we going to wake up? Or do we want to be known in history as the greatest of fools? If we don't want to listen to what God has to say in the Bible, then have a look at history and see how we are fast repeating the great collapses of society in the past. Wake up before it is too late. Resist the devil and come near to God. Humble ourselves before him and submit ourselves to him and his Word before we really get ourselves into a complete mess and lose everything.

 Remember again that we cannot live without God. And we will have a hard time of life if we think that we merely can keep him right out at an arm’s length. So let us trust again that he can do a better job at running our lives than we can. That of course, means taking seriously what he has to say in his Word. It means holding to the Confessions of our church because they are a clear understanding of that Word. Let us follow his guidelines for living and acting. That means loving our neighbour as we love ourselves; and that is selfishness in reverse. It means forgiving others as we have been forgiven; knowing that in Jesus Christ we have all the security that we really need. It means that money and material assets are not seen as the ‘be all and end all.’

 We can have the confidence to know that God is true to his Word, even when it doesn’t fit into the thinking of our society around us. We can gather together Sunday after Sunday to receive from God what he wants to give us through Word and Sacrament, rather than simply looking for the experience of a spiritual high. We can daily look to, trust and live in accord with our Lord, instead of trying to do our own thing.

 No matter what the difficulties of life might be around us, we can accept that the Lord will give us what we need in order to be his people. We don't need run others down and get even - even if they are in the wrong; because God is in control - he will take care of things. We can set about being a positive influence on others; pointing them to what is important, because we know that God is there at work also. We can use our time as an opportunity to help and encourage others as well and know that we won't lose out in the other areas of life. Also through it God will give us greater sense of worth, peace, joy, feelings of belonging and much more; and I could go on and on.

 But we will not understand and experience this if we think we can be double-minded and get away with it. We can't have a leg on each side of a barbed-wire fence without doing ourselves great harm. To follow the world and its hollow promises is to invite disaster in the longer term. There is only one way:        submission to God: putting our whole life in his hands and following his way           - even if it seems a little silly and out of step with the rest of society: even if it means giving up a few selfish interests: even if it costs us dearly. There is no other way - no easy way out.

Jesus himself said -wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many entering through it. But small is the gate and narrow is road that leads to life and few thereon. He also says; take up your cross and follow me.

Here remember that we can do this - because not only has the Lord Jesus shown us the way, but he has also died and risen again for us: he has forgiven us and accepted us as his very own. He has promised to help us and has given us the Holy Spirit to guide, direct and encourage us. But we can not do it if we ignore him, push him away and keep him at a distance; or if we close our eyes and ears to his Word. The Holy Spirit is at work for us when we come into contact with the Word and the Sacraments. Yet we don't get fed, if we don't go to the kitchen and if we don't open our mouths to let any food enter. But God has made it all available to you and me. It is all there for us in and through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 So; Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.   AMEN

 Pastor Roger Atze
Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish


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