Study # 65
Thesis: God responds to man's condition according to how man responds to his condition.
Introduction: We have been studying within the context of James' thesis that external conflict arises from internal conflicts. His picture of man is that he is full of conflicting lusts that set him against himself with the result that he sets himself against others in his frustration and anger. James points to twin problems as the roots of this inner frustration and outer conflict: one is ignorance of a fundamental issue of commitment (that one cannot have his cake and eat it too with God and the world); and the other is a scepticism toward the Word that allows a person to think that it's contents are not necessarily final truth.
In pursuing the second of those roots, James pointedly says that the Old Testament Scriptures present a picture of man that can be summarized as "man as a spirit-being is an incurably greedy being who lusts in the direction of jealousy". Man's inner discontent is directly tied to his envy of those who have a "better" situation than his own.
Now, this is not only an uncomplimentary picture of man; it is a despairingly negative picture. Man, when energized and directed by his own spirit, is a greedy and jealous complainer who vents his inner lust-conflicts by generating conflicts with others in order to attempt to satisfy his lusts.
There are three ways by which men deal with this accusation: some deny it applies to them; others sink into despair because it makes them hopeless; and others turn to the God of grace who gives greater grace. This evening we are going to look into these responses as James highlights them in 4:6.
December 30, 1998
- I. Those Who Deny the Biblical Description of Themselves.
- A. These are they to whom James addressed verse 5.
- 1. They somehow think that whatever the Bible has to say that is negative somehow excepts them.
- 2. Their position is at root that the Scripture speaks vainly.
- 3. These are those mentioned in Numbers 15:30-31 who think that they are excluded from the description and, thus, permit themselves extraordinary license.
- a. This is called "despising the Word of the Lord".
- b. It results in defiant sin and expulsion from the people of God.
- B. These are they to whom James addressed Proverbs 3:34 [a direct quote from the Septuagint except for the its use of Kurios where James uses Ho Theos].
- 1. Proverbs 3:34 is, of course, another portion of that which these folks consider "vain speech".
- 2. But it tells us pointedly that God draws up in battle array against them.
- a. The battle motif is found in the Greek translation.
- b. The actual Hebrew of Proverbs 3:34 gives us an even clearer picture--God "scorns" the "scorner", i.e., He turns their very attitude and its subsequent actions against them by adopting it Himself.
- 1) This means that He "despises" them just as they despise others.
- 2) It also means that He actively seeks to subvert them just as they seek to subvert those who have what they want.
- II. Those Who Accept the Biblical Description and Sink Into Despair.
- A. Despair, as a consequence of accepting what the Word says about ONESELF, but rejecting what that same Word says about GOD, is a variation on the theme of despising the Word of the Lord.
- 1. Despair is, in some senses, simply another approach of disbelief IN ORDER TO BE FREE FROM MAKING ANY CHANGES.
- a. It is not, from a biblical perspective, a valid basis for sympathy.
- b. It is a valid basis for divine judgment.
- 2. Despair is the reaction of the wounded proud.
- B. When addressing spiritual adulterers, this response is always an anticipated possibility.
- III. Those Who Accept the Biblical Description and Turn to the God of Abounding Grace.
- A. Both Proverbs and James promise a gracious response by God to the one who accepts the Word of God in its entirety.
- 1. There is acceptance of the biblical description of ME.
- 2. There is acceptance of the biblical description of GOD.
- B. This indicates that though grace is unmerited and free, it is not without requirement at the attitude level.
- 1. God MAY be gracious to the proud for a season.
- 2. God WILL be gracious to those who allow the biblical description to lower them to dust.