“Faith’s Object” – James 4:13-17

July 28th, 2013  

James 4:13-17

“Faith’s Object”

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Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins. — James 4:17


Background Information:

  • (v. 13) The present tense legontes (“say”) seems to indicate that the situation under consideration was not an isolated instance.  It was something that occurred frequently.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 197)
  • (v. 13) Ropes suggests that it is a maxim that means something like “You have been fully warned” (p. 281).  It is like saying, “Now that I have pointed the matter out to you, you have no excuse.”  Knowing what should be done obligates a person to do it.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 198)
  • (v. 13) In verse 13 we have an example of the educated Greek style of James, as it begins with the construction age nun, translated by the NIV as “now listen.”  The construction is rare in the NT (found only here and in 5:1).  It is common, however, in the world of Hellenistic literature.  The term is meant to convey tones of insistent and even brusque address.  (David P. Nystrom, The NIV Application Commentary: James, 250)
  • (v. 13) The particular Greek word used here is kerdesomen.  The root noun is kerdos, which can mean not only making money but the love of making it.  (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 311)
  • (v. 14) James declares that human life is mere mist–literally, “vapor.”  The Greek word used here is the word atmis, from which we get our word atmosphere.  (J. Michael Walters, James, a Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition, 171)
  • (v. 16) The Greek text literally means “You are boasting in your arrogant pretentions.”  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 198)
  • (v. 16) Those who deny God’s will, James says, boast in their arroganceKauchaomai (boast) can mean “to be loud-mouthed,” or “to speak loudly,” either in legitimate rejoicing (e.g. Rom 5:2-3, 11) or in touting one’s own accomplishments (e.g., 1 Cor 1:19).  The context indicates James has the latter meaning in mind in this passage.  Alazoneia (arrogance) comes from a root word meaning “to wander about” and reflects empty pretense.  It was sometimes used to describe charlatans who traveled around selling phony goods.  Taken together, the two words picture someone bragging pretentiously about something he doesn’t have and can’t obtain.  (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 234)
  • (v. 16) Interestingly enough, the word “boasting” appears just two times in the NT–in this James passage and in 1 Jn 2:16 where it is translated “pride of life.”  (Paul A. Cedar, The Communicator’s Commentary: James, 89)
  • (v. 17) Verse 17 sums up all of chapters 1-4.  It sums up the entire ethical problem in the whole Epistle of James.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, 115)


The questions to be answered are . . . Why does James seem to get almost hostile here at the end of chapter 4 of his letter?  What is the big deal with making plans without including God?  And how can I offend God for what I fail to do? 


Answer:  James recognizes the extent of his audience’s depravity and the serious consequence of their being ignorant of their depravity.  So, James is attempting to get  his audience to wake up and see reality.  To make future plans without including God is not only foolhardy, but setting yourself up for a world of suffering, worry and frustration.  God designed and created you in His image, to be righteous, as He is righteous.  James is trying to tell his audience that righteousness has much more to do with what you do rather than avoiding the “thou shalt nots.”


The Word for the Day is . . . presume


What does James passionately want us to hear in these 5 verses?:

I.  James’ audience has pridefully presumed they know more than God about their future and can succeed without His sovereign providence.  (Jas 4:13-16; see also: Dt 8:3-18; 1 Sm 2:6-9; Ps 75:6-7; 115:3, 16; 127:1-2; Prv 16:7, 33; 19:21; 21:1; Isa 44:7; 45:11; 46:9-10; 48:5-6; Jer 1:5; Dan 4:28-37; Jn 19:11; Acts 15:18;  Rom 9:19; 1 Cor 4:19; 16:7; Heb 6:3)


The sin of presumption is the antithesis of the fear of the Lord.  It is the harbinger of future defeat.   (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 142)


Man proposes but God disposes.  –Thomas à Kempis


In Thomas Manton’s words, their hearts were “stupidly secure, and utterly insensible of the changes of providence.”  (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 311)


It is presumptuous to think that we can live and plan without God.  Presumption denies who we are, who God is, and how much we need God day by day.  Indeed, life is a gift of God which comes by His love and mercy.  (Paul A. Cedar, The Communicator’s Commentary: James, 88-89)


Seneca said: “How foolish it is for a man to make plans for his life, when not even tomorrow is in his control.”  And again: “No man has such rich friends that he can promise himself tomorrow.”  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: James and Peter, 113)


James sees that either God is honored as Lord in the place of business, or else the crucial factor of the humble spirit has been sacrificed on the altar of presumptuousness.  (J.A. Motyer, The Message of James, 162)


I know I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m glad I know you holds the future!


The most dangerous moments in life occur when a plan we have engineered succeeds.  That moment of satisfaction can more easily become pride than it can become humility.  But the Bible illustrates the truth that even our greatest successes ought to be submitted to God.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, 114)


James was not suggesting that they just sit back and do nothing.  He was not condemning their business but their boasting; not their industry but their independence; not their acumen but their arrogance.  What he is telling them is that the right attitude to life is to recognize that God is in sovereign control of it all, and that it should be yielded in humble submission to his divine will.  (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 315)


To disregard God’s will is tantamount to saying, “I am the sovereign ruler of my own life.”  Such a prideful attitude is antithetical to saving faith; as James has already pointed out “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (4:6).  Those who refuse to submit to God’s will give evidence that their lives have not been transformed by His saving grace (cf. Ti 2:11-12).  (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 230)


Anyone who says, “We will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money” surely suffers from pride (Jas 4:13).  Anyone who says his travels and business ventures will certainly prove successful also presumes he can master his destiny.  That, surely, is a proud thought.  For God is Lord of history and we are not.  James questions the self-appointed master of history: “What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (4:14).  (Daniel M. Doriani, James, 154)


Some interpreters, however, have taken en tais alazoneiais hymōn to be adverbial, describing the manner of the boasting.  But the verb kauchaomai (“to boast”) followed by the preposition en (“in”) occurs in 16 other NT passages, and in every instance the prepositional phrase expresses the ground of the boasting (cf. Rom 2:17, “brag about your relationship to God”; 2:23, “you brag about the law”).  Thus it is best to understand that it was about their arrogant pretentions concerning the future that James’ readers were boasting.  “Such boasting,” says James, “is evil.”  It not only lacks the quality of being good, it is aggressively and viciously wicked.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 198)


Life control illusion or  The American Myth:  You can be what you want to be.  You can do what you want to do.


II.  James’ audience has presumed that righteousness has to do with observing “thou shalt nots” rather than doing love. (Jas 4:17; see also: Lv 19:18; Mt 7:21-27; 22:37-40; 25:14-46; Lk 10:30-35; 12:15-21; 16:19-31;  Rom 13:8-10; 14:23;  Jas 1:22; 2:8-13, 17, 26)


James ends with a threat.  If a man knows that a thing is wrong and still continues to do it, that to him is sin.  James is in effect saying, “You have been warned; the truth has been placed before your eyes.”  To continue now in the self-confident habit of seeking to dispose of one’s own life is sin for the man who has been reminded that the future is not in his hands but in God’s.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: James and Peter, 114)


The obligation placed on man is the law of love; any failure in the performance of it is labeled “sin.”  (Vernon Doerksen, Everyman’s Bible Commentary:  James, 113)


Micah wrote, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (6:8).  Concerning our obligation, Paul commanded, “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves is neighbor has fulfilled the law” (Rom 13:8).  It is axiomatic that we more often fail to do the good we ought to do, than actively do what we ought not to do.  Arrogance, boasting, and a presumptuous attitude keep us from fulfilling the law of love, therefore they are sin.  (Vernon Doerksen, Everyman’s Bible Commentary:  James, 113)


To James the sin of presumptuousness is so important, so basic, that it is as if the category of sins of omission had been deliberately devised in connection with it: that is the force of the ‘therefore’ of verse 17.  We might consider it a small thing, a passing feature of life, if we forget how dependent we are and act in mere self-will.  He sees it as the hard core of vaunting pride which is the mark and curse of fallen man.  Here, above all places, we cannot afford to fall into the sin of omission.  (J.A. Motyer, The Message of James, 163)


It is a sin to lie; it can also be a sin to know the truth and not tell it.  It is a sin to speak evil of someone; it is also a sin to avoid that person when you know he needs your friendship.  We should be willing to help others as the Holy Spirit guides us.  If God has directed you to do a kind act, to render a service to others, or to restore a relationship–do it.  You will experience a renewed and refreshed vitality to your Christian faith.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, 115)


These men were not totally ignorant pagans.  They knew of the existence of God.  They knew that life was brief.  They knew that their powers were limited by providence, and to know these things but ignore them in practice was clearly sinful.  (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 319)


Everyone who ultimately misses heaven does so because of a sin of omission.  Talking about his coming into the world to save sinners, Jesus said, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (Jn 3:18).  Again, here is a sin of omission–the sin of not believing.  This whole question of sins of omission is not just a casual and unimportant one, something out of the circumference of biblical teaching.  For the unbeliever it is literally a matter of life and death.  For the Christian it is something that needs constant monitoring because, in R. V. G. Tasker’s words, “It is probably true to say that we more often leave undone the things we ought to have done than do the things we ought not to have done.”  (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 320-21)


We should always do what we know, as James likes to say (1:21-25).  (Daniel M. Doriani, Reformed Expository Commentary: James, 162)


James says that anyone “who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins” (4:17).  Since we know we cannot simply “do the good” no matter how well we know it, we must humbly ask the Lord to lift us up.  His grace does lift every penitent sinner who comes to him.  The path of the gospel is the path of humility, says James.  There is a path of meekness and peace or a path of ambition and grasping.  There is a way of peace or a way of striving.  There is a way of repentance and conversion or a way of arrogance and pride.  James bids us join him on the path of gospel humility.  (Daniel M. Doriani, Reformed Expository Commentary: James, 162)


In making this claim of sin resulting from our not doing what we know full well the good [we] ought to do (Jas 4:17), James gives us one of the classic biblical definitions of sin.  Knowing the good we ought to do and yet resisting doing it is the height of presumption.  (J. Michael Walters, James, a Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition, 173)


James may perhaps be building on the saying of Jesus in Lk 12:47: “That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows.”  Knowledge of right places us under a moral obligation to do right.  (David P. Nystrom, The NIV Application Commentary: James, 253)


Jesus put this sin into focus when he portrayed the priest and the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:30-35); the rich man who disregarded Lazarus (Lk 16:19-31); and the people who during their life on earth neglected to feed the hungry, entertain the stranger, clothe the poor, and visit the sick and the prisoner (Mt 25:40-46).  (Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: James, 150)


Consider the farewell speech of Samuel.  He says to the Israelites, “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you” (1 Sm 12:23).  Samuel shunned the sin of neglect.  Neglect is the equivalent of ignoring God and the neighbor and is therefore a sin against the Law of God.  (Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: James, 151)


Areas of our life where the sin of omission is more than likely taking place:

–   Are you praying as you should (Lk 18:1)?

–   Are you reading and meditating on God’s Word like you should (Psa 1:2)?

–   Are you living righteously with your family members as God asks you to (Eph 5:21-6:4; Col 3:19-22)?

–   Are you giving as the Lord is asking you to give to His work and building of His kingdom (Mal 3:8-10)?

–   Are you giving assistance to those who need help and you have means to help (Gal 6:10; Heb 13:16)?


We remember the things that are important to us.  How often do we remember to pray, read God’s Word?  Consult Him on day to day/ minute by minute decisions?


The issue in verse 17 is not the bad things but the good things that we fail to do. . . .

If you think about the parables of Jesus, and I  haven’t checked this entirely but I have a sneaking suspicion that the parables of Jesus, drive home the issue of what we fail to do rather than confront us and convict us of the things we have done.

So, for example, in the parable of the talents, the individuals with the one talent was condemned by the master, not because he used the one talent for an evil purpose, but because he squandered the chance to use of the one talent to do something good with it.

If you consider the parable of the Good Samaritan, the priest and the Levite are pointed out, not for what they did, but for what they failed to do.  They were so tied up in their ecclesiastical underwear that they were unwilling to get down and deal with real need when it presented itself to them.  They failed, on account of their own preoccupations, to recognize what a genuine expression of neighborliness would mean.  And it was left up to the Good Samaritan.

In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, you remember, the rich man dies and goes to hell and he is tormented in hell.  And the source of his torment in hell is when he realizes, not what he did, but what he failed to do.  That he allowed his wealth to become a screen which prevented him having to deal with the need of people who were around him.  Indeed, he was able to separate himself from contact with folks like the beggar, and he didn’t recognize the opportunity that literally lay at his doorstep. (Alistair Begg sermon “Planning Properly” – Pt 2)


APPLICATION: How does James propose we guard against Presumptuousness?:

A-  Recognize that sin and the Fall has made you ignorant.  You are not God.  You are severely underqualified for the job (Dt 4:39; 1 Chr 29:11-12; 20:6; Ps 33:11; Prv 27:1; Mt 23; Lk 4:18; Jn 9:39-41  Rom 1:18-32 ; 2 Cor 4:4; 1 Pt 4:2; 2 Pt 1:4-9; Rv 3:17)


God’s Will – exactly what I would choose if I knew all the facts.


Once more it is all so ordinary, indeed so natural.  That is exactly the point.  When James exposes the blemish of presumptuousness, he exposes something which is the unrecognized claim of our hearts.  We speak to ourselves as if life were our right, as if our choice were the only deciding factor, as if we had in ourselves all that was needed to make a success of things, as if getting on, making money, doing well were life’s sole objective.  (J.A. Motyer, The Message of James, 160)


I do not mean that when God wills to do something we can always see what the end is.  On the contrary, in countless cases, we can only see that it is His will, and that should be enough for us.  We are sure that whatever He does is done with a holy purpose.  The purpose is often hidden in the mystery of the divine wisdom.  For us to refuse to bow to God’s will just because we do not know what His purpose is–that is the very height of irreligion.  It is the sin of all sin; it is to pit our ignorance against His infinite wisdom and knowledge; it is rebellion and pride and madness.  May God save us all from such a sin as that!  (J. Gresham Machen, The Christian View of Man, 30)


Christian living, therefore, must be founded upon self-abhorrence and self-distrust because of indwelling sin’s presence and power.  Self-confidence and self-satisfaction argue self-ignorance.  The only healthy Christian is the humble, broken-hearted Christian.  (J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness, 196)


Two great enemies obtained dominion over man when Adam sinned–the world and self.  Of the world Christ says, “The Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him” (Jn 14:17).  Worldliness is the great hindrance that keeps believers from living a spiritual life.  Of self Christ said, “Let him deny himself” (Mk 8:34).  Self, in all its forms–self-will, self-pleasing, self-confidence–renders life in the power of the Spirit impossible.  (Andrew Murray, Receiving Power from God, 27)


“I have never felt peace about anything that was God’s will.  In fact, the place of my greatest turmoil and conflict has often come when I was in God’s will.  Now, if you think Jesus felt peace in that garden as He prepared to face the cross, I have some land to sell you in the middle of a swamp in Florida.  He was not peaceful, and if Jesus was not peaceful when He was in the center of the will of God, why in the world do we think we should feel peaceful when we are in the center of the will of God?”   (Steve Brown;  Living Free, 143)


All that man can do to thwart God’s plans are a part of His fulfillment of those plans.  — Steve Brown


Worry is taking upon yourself responsibility God never intended for you to have. — Bill Gothard


Among all created beings, not one dare trust in itself.  God alone trusts in Himself; all other beings must trust in Him.  Unbelief is actually perverted faith, for it puts its trust not in the living God but in dying men.  The unbeliever denies the self-sufficiency of God and usurps attributes that are not his.  This dual sin dishonors God and ultimately destroys the soul of the man. (A. W. Tozer; The Knowledge of the Holy, 35)


By definition, to forget God is to assume the place of God in your life and the world.  Now, what is so bad about that?  Oh my goodness, think about that for a second.  What do you think worry is?  Let me tell you what worry is.   Worry is a frustrated aspiration to omniscience.  Worry is saying exactly what James says we cannot say.  You are eaten up with worry to the degree you say, “I know.  I know what tomorrow holds.  I know what is right.  I know what has to happen.  I know how history has to go.  I know.  Now if you say that, you will be eaten up with worry because you are aspiring to omniscience.  (Tim Keller sermon “Worry”)


John Wesley, in his directions to his young preachers, goes out of his way to say, “Avoid pious jargon”.  There are people that feel that what James is saying is . . . what we are supposed to be constantly saying, “Well if the Lord wills.  And the Lord is really leading me. The Lord is really telling me this.”

. . . Instead of just saying, “This is what I think.”  We say, “This is what the Lord has shown me. Instead of saying, this is what we are going to do, I think the Lord is going to want us to do this.  God willing” and so on.. . .

Let me tell you something.  It is not just irritating to non-Christians to hear somebody talking like that.  James is against arrogance.  And when you talk like that (Whether you know it or not . . .I think you do at some level) you are putting yourself ten feet above contradiction.

When somebody says, “Well, I have been praying about this so much and the Lord has really worked on my heart and I think you ought to do this.”

What are you doing?  You are making it impossible for somebody to say, “I don’t think that’s a good idea.” . . .You sprinkle the Lord over everything.  It is the very opposite of what James is saying.

James is saying, “Your whole problem is you are putting yourself in the place of God. And if you make yourself hard to contradict (“the Lord has shown me this.  The Lord has given me this”) you are refusing to take responsibility for your opinion.  You are refusing to say, “ I’m not God.”  You are actually saying, “Well, I am.  I am telling you exactly what God said.” (Tim Keller; sermon entitled Worry)


Why are you bitter about your life?  Why do you feel like such a failure?  You know why you feel like a failure.  You say, “Look at all these other people.  They work hard and have gotten to this place in life and I haven’t.”  You know why you are so down on yourself and kicking yourself (it looks real humble) but it is an aspiration to omnipotence.  It is a mistaken belief.  It is assuming God’s place.  It is a mistaken belief that those people who have made it are better than you, that they did it by their own skill. That is ridiculous.


Self-reliance is not the way to holiness, but the negation of it.  Self-confidence in the face of temptation and conflicting pressures is a sure guarantee that some sort of moral failure will follow.  (J.I. Packer; Rediscovering Holiness, 92)


Pride closes man’s eyes to reality, so that he does not see the ridiculousness of his deeds.  Man makes plans and talks as if he were the master of his life and God does not exist.  Utter foolishness!  James has overheard this preposterous talk, records it, and shows his readers the senselessness of living a life or practical atheism.  (Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: James, 146)


B-  Recognize your frailty.  You are nothing but a mist.  (1 Chr 29:15; Job 8:9; 14:1-2; Ps 39:5-6, 11; 90:3-12; 102:3, 11; 103:15-16; Isa 40:6-8; Hos 13:3; 1 Pt 1:24; 1 Jn 2:17)


The moment a man is born he begins to die, and that death could come about at any time, by design, disease, decay or disaster.  Man is not here to stay; he is here to go!  (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 315)


When we visited Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, I was impressed with the maze of tunnels and the dense darkness when the lights were turned off.  When we got to the “Pulpit Rock,” the man in charge of the tour gave a five-word sermon from it: “Stay close to your guide.”  Good counsel indeed!  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Mature, 133)


It is said that long ago when an eastern emperor was crowned at Constantinople, the royal mason would set before his majesty a certain number of marble slabs.  One he was to choose then and there for his tombstone.  The ancients thought it wise for him to remember his funeral at the time of his elevation, for his life would not last forever.  (Kent Hughes, James, Faith That Works, 205)


Prayer is surrender—surrender to the will of God and cooperation with that will. If I throw out a boathook from the boat and catch hold of the shore and pull, do I pull the shore to me, or do I pull myself to the shore?  Prayer is not pulling God to my will, but the aligning of my will to the will of God. —E. Stanley Jones  (Kent Huges; Liberating Ministry From The Success Syndrome, 73)


Be thankful for your failures.  God does his greatest miracles at the margins of our self-sufficiency.


C-  Recognize your utter dependence on the God of the Universe for life and breath and everything else you need to exist. Seek God’s will for your life!  (Dt 8:3-20; 1 Sm 2:6-9; 1 Chr 29:12-16; Job 33:14-30; Ps 40:8; 103:3-5; 104:10-30; ch. 107; 143:10; Mt 6:19-34; Isa 42:5; Acts 17:24-28; Eph 5:15-17; 6:6)


Since life is so brief, we cannot afford merely to “spend our lives”; and we certainly do not want to “waste our lives.”  We must invest our lives in those things that are eternal.

God reveals His will in His Word, and yet most people ignore the Bible.  In the Bible, God gives precepts, principles, and promises that can guide us in every area of life.  Knowing and obeying the Word of God is the surest way to success (Josh 1:8; Ps 1:3).  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Mature, 132)


God’s will is not a cold, impersonal machine.  You do not determine God’s will in some mechanical way, like getting a soft drink out of a “pop” machine.  The will of God is a living relationship between God and the believer.  This relationship is not destroyed when the believer disobeys, for the Father still deals with His child, even if He must chasten.  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Mature, 136)


God wants us to understand His will (Eph 5:17).  This is where spiritual wisdom comes in.  A child can know the will of his father, but he may not understand his will.  The child knows the “what” but not the “why.”  As the “friends” of Jesus Christ, we have the privilege of knowing why God does what He does (Jn 15:15).  “He made known His ways unto Moses, His acts unto the children of Israel” (Ps 103:7).  The Israelites knew what God was doing, but Moses understood why He was doing it.

We must also prove God’s will (Rom 12:2).  The Greek verb means “to prove by experience.”  We learn to determine the will of God by working at it.  The more we obey, the easier it is to discover what God wants us to do.  It is something like learning to swim or play a musical instrument.  You eventually “get the feel” of what you are doing, and it becomes second nature to you.

People who keep asking, “How do I determine God’s will for my life?” are announcing to everybody that they have never really tried to do God’s will.  You start with the thing you know you ought to do, and you do that.  Then God opens the way for the next step.  You prove by experience what the will of God is.  We learn both from successes and failures.  “Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me” (Mt 11:29).  The yoke suggests doing things together, putting into practice what God has taught you.  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Mature, 137-38)


What are the benefits of doing the will of God?  For one thing, you enjoy a deeper fellowship with Jesus Christ (Mk 3:35).  You have the privilege of knowing God’s truth (Jn 7:17) and seeing your prayers answered (1 Jn 5:14-15).  There is an eternal quality to the life and works of the one who does the will of God (1 Jn 2:15-17).  Certainly, there is the expectation of reward at the return of Jesus Christ (Mt 25:34).  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Mature, 139)


The Perils of Activism: Or look at the activism of our activity.  Modern Christians tend to make busyness their religion.  We admire and imitate, and so become, Christian workaholics, supposing that the busiest believers are always the best.  Those who love the Lord will indeed be busy for him, no doubt about that; but the spirit of our busyness is constantly wrong.  We run round doing things for God and leave ourselves no time for prayer.  Yet that does not bother us, for we have forgotten the old adage that if you are too busy to pray, you really are too busy.  But we do not feel the need to pray, because we have grown self-confident and self-reliant in our work.  We take for granted that our skills and resources and the fine quality of our programs will of themselves bring forth fruit; we have forgotten that apart from Christ–Christ trusted, obeyed, looked to, relied on–we can achieve nothing (see Jn 15:5). (J. I. Packer; Keep In Step With the Spirit, 98)


God’s will is the very definition of what is good, pleasing, and perfect.  The good is the will of God.  The pleasing is the will of God.  The perfect is the will of God.  The will of God is nothing less than his character, shaped into laws for our conduct.  We can never change that.  It is the summum bonum.  But we can discover his will in its marvelous breadth and beauty.  His commands are never burdensome (1 Jn 5:3).  But they need to be practiced in order fully to demonstrate their liberating character.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 349)


The Scriptures give many marks of a true Christian, such as love for God, repentance from sin, humility, devotion to God’s glory, prayer, love for others, separation from the world, growth, and obedience.  But nothing more clearly summarizes the character of a genuine believer than a desire to do the will of God.  (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 229)


For James, doing the will of God identifies another test of genuine saving faith.  True Christians are characterized by “doing the will of God from the heart” (Eph 6:6).  They joyfully, willingly pray, “Your kingdom come.  Your will be done” (Mt 6:10).  The apostle Paul’s delight in God’s law (Rom 7:22) is another way of expressing the same attitude.  (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 230)


In the broadest sense, God’s will is expressed in all the commands and principles of Scripture.  Specifically, the Bible says that God’s will is that people be saved (1 Tm 2:4; 2 Pt 3:9), Spirit-filled (Eph 5:17-18), sanctified (1 Thes 4:3-8), submissive (1 Pt 2:13-15), and suffering (1 Pt 3:17).  To the person obeying those five aspects of God’s will, the Bible says, “Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps 37:4)–that is, He will both plant the desires, then fulfill them.  (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 235-36)


Acknowledging God’s will affirms His sovereignty over all aspects of life.  We live only because God so wills it, for He controls life and death (Dt 32:39; Job 12:9-10; Ps 39:4-5; 104:29; Heb 9:27; Rv 1:18).  God also controls everything people do and all the circumstances of life.  (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 237)


James would impress upon us this critical piece of knowledge: that God is the one who sustains our lives, that each day’s twenty-four hours are not “ours” automatically, that God controls time and gives it as one of his good gifts, and that we would be already blown away in God’s judgment were it not for his mercy.  The biblical worldview is that “we receive another day neither by natural necessity, nor by mechanical law, nor by right, nor by courtesy of nature, but only by the covenanted mercies of God.  (J.A. Motyer, The Message of James, 162)


Instead of presuming or boasting or missing the mark by failing to do God’s will, we should commit ourselves to the Lord and to doing His will.  Our planning is based upon the conviction that our lives and our future are not in our own hands but in the Lord’s!  We need a dual sensitivity to the world around us and to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  (Paul A. Cedar, The Communicator’s Commentary: James, 90)


If we are in the center of God’s will for our lives, we can bear up under any amount of stress.  But when we are out of God’s will, then even unbridled success can taste sour and bitter. (Patrick Morley; The Man In The Mirror, 102)


CONCLUSION: What does this message have to do with Christ and me?:

1-  Jesus perfectly obeyed His Father’s will and endured  the reciprocal curse of God’s forgetfulness for us as we have all forgotten God at various times. (Ps 9; Jer 2:13-19, 32; 9;1-16Mt 26:39-42; 27:46; Mk 14:36; 15:34; Lk 12:41-48; 22:42; Jn 4:34; 5:30; 6:38; 7:17; Heb 13:5; Rv 2:4)


There were two thieves on the cross.  One is there so that we might not presume.   The other is there so that you might not despair.  One is damned and the other is saved. — Steve Brown


Jesus endured the curse of God’s forgetfulness that we deserved for forgetting God when on the cross Jesus cried, “My God, My God, why have you forgotten me?”


Man often assumes he is the final arbitrator of his own life; he should rather walk humbly before God and trust in His providential care.  But man easily gets so engrossed in the pursuit of financial gain that he fails to take God into consideration in his planning.  (Vernon Doerksen, Everyman’s Bible Commentary:  James, 109)


James is not trying to banish planning from our lives, but only that sort of self-sufficient, self-important planning that keeps God for Sunday but looks on Monday to Saturday as mine.  (J.A. Motyer, The Message of James, 161)


Many people say they believe in God, but, in reality, they are practical atheists.  That is, in the way they make decisions and plan for the future, they live as if God didn’t exist.  They take no account of God’s sustaining care or common grace; they act as if they are self-sufficient and in control; and they take credit for all the good they experience.  Listening to these people speak, we would have no idea that God is a factor in their lives.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, 111)


The fact is that God has a prior claim on our lives.  First, because he is our Creator, his purposes can demand precedence over our priorities.  Second, for believers, this claim is reinforced by the knowledge that we no longer belong to ourselves: “You are not your own; you were bought at a price” (1 Cor 6:19-20).  God’s claim on us is both as Creator and Savior.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, 112)


The Bible tells us to walk humbly with God; these men chose to walk proudly without him.  (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 312)


In truth, this is what we today might term the sin of secularity, of moving God to the margins of our lives where He is not really a factor in our plans anymore.  We pay Him lip service, we do our weekly “nod to God” in worship, but out there in the “real world” we really don’t need Him.  Quite frankly, many of us would prefer that He just stay out of our way.  This is a very serious side effect of double-minded religion.  God is effectively ignored and relegated to the sidelines of life.  We call on Him in times of trouble, grief, and special need, but otherwise we are doing quite nicely, thank you.  (J. Michael Walters, James, a Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition, 170)


More Christians never seriously pray about God’s will regarding their vocation, family direction, or entertainments than actually seek God’s will.  They change Augustine’s “Love God and do as you please” to “Do as you please and say that you love God.”  (Kent Hughes, James, Faith That Works, 202-03)


For a believer to leave God out of his plans is an arrogant assumption of self-sufficiency, a tacit declaration of independence from God.  It is to overlook reality.  Whether men recognize it or not, they “will live and do this or that” only “if it is the Lord’s will.”  A study of the use of this conditional clause in the NT makes it clear that we are not to repeat it mechanically in connection with every statement of future plans.  Paul, for example, employs it in Acts 18:21 and 1 Cor 4:19, but he does not use it in Acts 19:21; Rom 15:28; or 1 Cor 16:5, 8.  Yet it is obvious that whether Paul explicitly stated it or not, he always conditioned his plans on the will of God.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 197)


The sin of failing to come to God in prayer is one of the most common offenses a Christian commits.  (Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: James, 146)


Although no one faults a person for eating, drinking, and marrying, the point is that in the life of Noah’s contemporaries God had no place.  These people lived as if God did not exist.  And this is also true of the merchants James addresses.  (Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: James, 147)


2-  Wisdom from above tells us that by casting all our cares upon Jesus, we can enjoy the best possible life in light of our current depraved, fallen, ungodly status. (Ps 1; Prv 3:5-6; Mt 6:19-34; Phil 4:4-7; 1 Pt 5:7)


The will of God never takes you to where the Grace of God will not protect you. 


We want to know and plan for the future because we want to be like God.


Just as the sin of presumption is a sign of double-minded religion, so too, the complete surrender of one’s tomorrows into the trustworthy hands of God is an important sign of authentic faith.  (J. Michael Walters, James, a Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition, 171)


Realizing the future is uncertain not only teaches us trust in God, it helps us properly to value the present.  To be obsessed with future plans may mark our failure to appreciate present blessings of our evasion of present duties.  (James B. Adamson, The Epistle of James, 180)


Listen to the rage of somebody in the airport when the flight is canceled or delayed.  I don’t want to suggest some way or another that I am taking the high ground and I don’t know what it is to be disappointed or upset about these things.  But, I must confess that for all of my impatience, I have never managed to understand what benefit there is from the kind of tirade that issues from these men (I guess ladies do it as well, but it is mainly men I’ve seen).

And they storm around with those big binders (Day-timers) and they go to the desk and tell the lady that if she was worth anything at all, she would have had this fixed, like she was in charge of thunderstorms in Atlanta, you know.

But, somehow or another she and her airline and everyone associated with the entire United States of America is to blame, . . .

And you listen to this and say, “What’s up with this guy?”

I’ll tell you what is up with him, he is arrogant.  He is proud.  And he is so consumed with everything that he put in that book (Day-timer) about who he is, about where he is going, what he is going to do , how successful he is going to be, when he is coming back, that the slightest interruption or interference with his plans, reveals the nature of his heart. (Alistair Begg sermon “Planning Properly” – Pt 1)


One of my favorite stories along this line was told by R. A. Torrey.  He was in Melbourne, Australia, and one afternoon at a meeting for businessmen a note was handed to him.  It said,

Dear Mr. Torrey:

I am in great perplexity.  I have been praying for a long time for something that I am confident is according to God’s will, but I do not get it.  I have been a member of the Presbyterian Church for 30 years, and have tried to be a consistent one all that time.  I have been Superintendent in the Sunday School for 25 years, and an elder in the church for 20 years; and yet God does not answer my prayer and I cannot understand it.  Can you explain it to me?

Torrey read the note from the platform and replied, “It is very easy to explain it.  This man thinks that because he has been a consistent church member for 30 years, a faithful Sunday School Superintendent for 25 years, and an elder in the church for 20 years, that God is under obligation to answer his prayer.  He is really praying in his own name, and God will not hear our prayers when we approach him in that way.”  (James Montgomery Boice, An Expositional Commentary: Romans, Vol. 3, 1462-63)


John 6:6 We say (When something bad happens) “my plans are ruined.”  But if the future is not going to be what you planned, then obviously, it was not what God planned.   Can we be so arrogant as to hold onto our own plans in opposition to what is clear to be God’s plan?   God has a plan and it WILL come to pass.  When our plans are ruined, realize it is God’s method of mid-course correction to allow us to be where we need to be.


“It is natural for us to wish and to plan, and it is merciful of the Lord to disappoint our plans and to cross our wishes.   For we cannot be safe or happy until we are weaned from our own wills and made simply desirous of being directed by His guidance.  Although we understand this we seldom learn to put it into practice without being trained for a while in the school of disappointment.  The schemes we form look so plausible and convenient that when they are broken we are ready to say, ‘What a pity!’  We try again, and with no better success; we are grieved, and perhaps angry, and plan another, and so on; eventually, in the course of time, experience and observation begin to convince us that we are no more able than we are worthy to choose correctly for ourselves.  The Lord’s invitation to cast our cares upon Him, and His promise to care for us, appear valuable; and when we have done planning, His plan in our favor gradually opens, and He does more and better for us than we could either ask or think.  I can hardly recollect a single plan of mine, which if it had taken place in the time and the way I wanted would, humanly speaking, have proved my ruin; or at least would have deprived me of the greater good the Lord had designed for me.  We judge things by their present appearance; but the Lord sees them in their consequences.  If we could do the same we would be perfectly of  His mind; but since we can’t, it is an unspeakable mercy that He will manage for us, whether we are pleased with His management or no; and it is regarded as one of His heaviest judgments, when He gives any person up to the way of their own hearts, and to walk according to their own wisdom.”  —John Newton  (Alistair Begg’s Truth for Life newsletter September 2004)


3-  One day, in Christ, we will once again be in God’s likeness and enjoy all God had for us in the beginning. (Rom 8:28-30; 2 Cor 4:17;  Eph 1:3-14; 3:14-21; Col 3:4; 1 Jn 3:2; 1 Pt 5:10; 2 Pt 1:4-9)


Worship point:  When one begins to understand what cocky, ignorant, annoying, arrogant, spoilt brats we are, and the fact that God continues to be gracious, patient, loving and kind in spite of our repulsiveness; how can you do anything but worship Him?


Spiritual Challenge:  Think about the brevity, fragility, and limited scope of your life.  Think about God and His character and attributes.  In light of the data, think about what is preventing you from coming to the life changing decision of who do you want calling the shots of your life?


Responding to God’s will is yet another test of a living and true faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  A strong desire to do the will of God is a sure mark of a transformed life.  (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 237)



May all your expectations be frustrated,

May all your plans be thwarted,

May all your desires be withered into nothingness that you may experience the powerlessness and poverty of a child and sing and dance in the compassion of God; who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  AMEN   —Brennan Manning


Quotes to Note:

When we love God, then His statutes become songs, and we enjoy serving Him.  When we serve God grudgingly, or because we have to, we may accomplish His work but we ourselves will miss the blessing.  It will be toil, not ministry.  But when we do God’s will from the heart, we are enriched, no matter how difficult the task might have been.  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Mature, 138-39)


It is God’s will that we yield ourselves to Him (2 Cor 8:5).  It is God’s will that we avoid sexual immorality (1 Thes 4:3).  All Christians should rejoice, pray, and thank God (1 Thes 5:16-18).  Every commandment in the Bible addressed to believers is part of the will of God, and must be obeyed.  But God does not call each of us to the same work in life, or to exercise the same gifts and ministry.  The will of God is “tailor-made” for each of us!  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Mature, 136)


Saving is the opposite of being in debt.  Saving is making provision for tomorrow, while debt is presumption upon tomorrow.  (Howard Dayton, Your Money Counts, 100)






Bulletin Picture here







Faith Confirmed









Hillsdale Free Methodist Church

Sunday, July 28th, 2013



Faith’s Object


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