The Book of JAMES
James J. Barker
THE CURE FOR WORLDLINESS
- Last week we looked at the problems of strife and
unrest, "wars and fightings" (4:1).
- We looked at the problem of prayerlessness --
"ye have not, because ye ask not"
- And the problem
of "asking amiss," i.e., praying with the wrong motives
- And we spent
considerable time with James 4:4, which deals with the problem of worldliness.
Many years ago evangelist
James Stewart wrote these words, “The vast majority of Christians are living a
sub-normal Christian life."
- This is because of worldliness. Over 100 years ago, A.T. Pierson said,
“Adopting worldly maxims, catering to worldly tastes,
corrupted by worldly leaven, there has been a gradual letting down of the severe
standard of New Testament piety, and a constant effort to robe the gospel in
worldly charms, in order to attract worldly men to the church...These worldly
expedients have proved very successful in secularizing the Church, but have
sadly failed in evangelizing the world. They do not even draw the people except
so far and so long as their novelty attracts curiosity seekers, or feeds the
morbid appetite for excitement. It is time all such measures were abandoned as
helps to the work of evangelization. They are rather hindrances; for they
destroy the peculiar character of God's people as a separate people, they divert
attention from eternal things, and they grieve the Spirit of God, on whose
presence all power depends...The fact is, Zion's attractions are unique; like
her Lord, they are not of the world; they belong to another order of beauty,
'the beauty of holiness.' When the
Church robes herself in the charms of worldly attire and adornment, she not only
fails to draw the world to herself and to Christ, but she actually takes the
infection of the 'Spirit of the Age,' which, however disguised, is hostile to
God" (from Evangelistic Work, 1887).
- Albert Barnes,
a contemporary of Pierson, describes the "friendship
of the world" as "the love of that world; of the maxims which govern it,
the principles which reign there, the ends that are sought, the amusements and
gratifications which characterize it as distinguished from the church of God. It
consists in setting our hearts on those things; in conforming to them; in making
them the object of our pursuit with the same spirit with which they by those who
make no pretensions to religion."
- In our text tonight we have the cure for worldliness, as
well as a prescription for revival. We have in verses 7-10 ten
imperatives -- "Submit yourselves
therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to
- One expositor likened them to “curt military commands”
which “demand incisive action.”
- "But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble"
(4:6). We need
God’s grace to be submissive. We need God’s grace to be humble, because
pride is in the heart of man. “He giveth grace unto the humble”
- "God resisteth the proud." Pride is the
root of all sin. Pride is
devilish. Referring to the
qualifications for a bishop, I Timothy 3:6 says, "Not a novice, lest
being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the
- We need to be mindful of our own pride and our own
sinfulness. We need to stop making excuses for our sins.
- A.W. Tozer said, "It is
our wretched habit of tolerating sin that keeps us in our half-dead
- We need to acknowledge our dependence on God. We
must deny self and yield to God.
"And he said to them all, If any man will come after me,
let him deny himself..." (Luke
- A humble spirit and a submissive spirit go hand in
hand. You cannot have one without the other.
- “Submit yourselves therefore to God” (4:7). Submission
is seldom preached these days, and yet it is basic Christianity.
- “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God" (Eph.
- "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands” (Eph.
5:22; Col. 3:8; I Peter 3:1).
- “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is
right” (Eph. 6:1).
- “Children, obey your parents in all things” (Col.
- "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit
yourselves: for they watch for your souls…” (Heb.
- "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man
for the Lord’s sake” (I Peter 2:13).
- All of these ultimately touch upon our submission to
God – “Submit yourselves therefore
to God” (James 4:7).
- Submission to God means resisting the devil, and
resisting God means submitting to the devil. There is no middle ground. We must be completely and fully
surrendered to the Lord.
- Pride and stubbornness keep sinners from getting
saved. And pride and stubbornness keep Christians from getting right with
- God hates pride. "These six
things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A
proud look..." (Proverbs 6:16, 17).
- If my people,
which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek
my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will
forgive their sin, and will heal their land" (II Chron. 7:14).
- “Resist the devil, and
he will flee from you” (James 4:7b). The devil is constantly trying to
break down our resistance and our separation.
- Barnes said, "While you yield to God in all things, you
are to yield to the devil in none. You are to resist and oppose him in whatever
way he may approach you, whether by allurements, by flattering promises, by the
fascinations of the world, by temptation, or by
- Beloved, let us “draw
nigh to God” and He will draw nigh to us (4:8a).
- In II Chronicles 15, we
read that "the Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded: And
he went out to meet Asa, and said unto him, Hear ye me, Asa, and all Judah and
Benjamin; The LORD is with you, while ye be with him; and if ye seek him,
he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you" (II Chron.
- This was true for King Asa, and it is also true for me
and you (James 4:8a). When
King Asa stayed close to the LORD, the LORD blessed him. But when King Asa forsook the LORD, he
got into trouble.
- James 4:8 refers
to our hands and to our hearts.
- Our hands are
the instruments by which we execute our purposes,
whether good or bad. If they are
bad, we need to clean them (4:8).
- This of course
is symbolic, because merely washing our hands won't do us any good if our
heart's not right, so James also says, "and purify your
hearts, ye double minded" (4:8).
- James has
already referred to the "double minded man" in James 1:8. "A double minded man is unstable in all
- So merely
washing the hands will not help, if the heart is not right with God. Matthew 27:24 says Pontius Pilate
"washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am
innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to
- Pontius Pilate
went to hell with clean hands but a dirty heart.
- In Scripture,
the heart is the seat of motives and intentions.
- The Psalmist wrote, “Search me, O God, and know my
heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way
in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23,
- Conviction of sin, accompanied by godly sorrow leads to
genuine repentance. Then comes the cleansing (4:8).
- The filth of this world
is constantly splattering us. We are constantly stained and defiled and
contaminated by the pollutions of this world (cf. 1:27).
- Second Corinthians 7:1
says, "Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let
us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting
holiness in the fear of God."
- James is writing to
Christians because he refers to them as "brethren" in verse 11. Yet he says, “Cleanse your hands, ye
HUMILITY (4:9, 10).
- “Be afflicted” (4:9) – Strong’s Concordance says
it means literally, “be wretched, i.e., to realize one’s own
- It means to “grieve over your sin.” In fact James
calls us “sinners” in 4:8. We must see our sin the way God sees
- The word
rendered "be afflicted" means they were to feel distressed and sad on account of
- Ezra 8:21 says,
"Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict
ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for
- Notice Ezra
called for a fast. Prayer and fasting is a
good response to this feeling of grief and remorse, this feeling that we need to
get right with God.
- Barnes says the
words of James 4:9 "are those which are expressive of deep grief or sorrow. The
language here used shows that the apostle supposed that it was possible that
those who had done wrong should voluntarily feel sorrow for it, and that,
therefore, it was proper to call upon them to do it."
- Be afflicted, and mourn (James 4:9). Mourning and heaviness always
accompany a deep sense of sin.
- The apostle Paul cried out, “O wretched man that I am”
- “Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep…” (4:9). The
great evangelist Hyman Appelman said revival “is a time of weeping. I told
you that I have seen revival meetings without much advertising, but I have
never seen a revival without tears.”
- Our Lord said in Luke 6:25, “Woe unto you that laugh
now! For ye shall mourn and weep.” Most Americans are
laughing themselves right into hell.
- Most so called comedy shows and films are full of
dirty jokes and bad language.
- Earlier I referred to A.W. Tozer. In his tract, "A Formula For Personal
Revival," he said, "Be
serious-minded. You can well afford to see fewer comedy shows on TV. Unless
you break away from the funny boys, every spiritual impression will continue
to be lost to your heart, and that right in your own living room. The people
of the world used to go to the movies to escape serious thinking about God and
religion. You would not join them there, but you now enjoy spiritual communion
with them in your own home."
- During WWI a man wrote an immensely popular song that
went, “Pack up your troubles in your old kit back and smile, smile,
smile.” Later on, during WWII, he committed suicide.
- The Bible does not say to
pack up our troubles and smile, smile, smile – it says to "be afflicted, and
mourn, and weep…" (4:9).
- Worldly people are
laughing themselves silly when they ought to be on their knees asking God for
- "Let your
laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness" (James 4:9b). "Heaviness"
means sorrow on account of sin. Mourning and
heaviness always accompany a deep sense of sin (4:9).
- The worldly lusts that
once thrilled the old nature ought to grieve the new nature and cause us to
"be afflicted and mourn, and weep" (4:9).
yourselves in the sight of the Lord" (4:10). Our Lord said in Matthew 23:12,
"And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and
he that shall humble himself shall be
- Here in our text we find the cure for worldliness. This
passage in James 4 calls for repentance. God bends us and breaks us so
that He can restore us and use us (James 4:10).
- I have read a few books and heard quite a few sermons
about some of the great revivals. One thing these revivals all have in common is
that they started with prayer. Cf. James 4:2 – “Ye have not because ye ask