ST. STEPHEN’S EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
Striving to speak God’s saving truth in love. Ephesians 4:15
St. Stephen’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School | Beaver Dam, WI | 920.885.3309
A sermon on James 4:7-12 for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost, September 27/30, 2018.
Some of the hardest words to speak are “I’m sorry.” Oh, they flow from our lips quite easily, but the meaning behind those words is lost. We say that we are sorry just to get someone off our back. We do not want to start a fight, so we quickly express our sorrow put on a sad face and let it go at that. We want to appease someone, so we quickly say “sorry” hoping the problem will go away. At other times we just do not want to speak those words. In our mind we did nothing wrong, so we do not need to apologize.
When we do something wrong, we should say, “I am sorry.” We swallow our pride. We come humbly owning up to our mistakes. When we do this, it does help our mood. A weight feels like it has been lifted from our shoulders.
The Christian comes often before God to say those words, “I am sorry.” We do it every week in our worship services. Our old self struggles with this confession. We do not want to admit our wrongs; maybe even we are blind to our wrongs. However, our heart comes in humility before our Lord and Savior in sorrow over our sins. Then the good news comes. We receive forgiveness and strength to go on with our life.
The Christian Rejoices in Forgiveness
James changed his tune. He turned his attention from pointing out sins to how a person should now live. He assumed they would come with the question, “What shall we do now?” How should they change? What should they do with their life once they recognized their sinful ways? James turned his attention to the answer to those questions.
“So, submit yourselves to God” (James 4:7). We need to recognize the mixed up priorities we have in life. The first commandment stands as number one for a reason. If our minds focus on the right things, everything else will fall into place. However, our disobedience of the first commandment makes all the other commandments crumble. Sporting events take place on a Sunday, which leaves us to neglect God and his Word. Our covetous nature leads us to place work and money above God. The thought that we are responsible to only ourselves leads us to dishonor those in authority, break the bonds of marriage, and use profane language.
We fall down a rabbit hole. We fall away from God to selfishly serve our own needs. We need to have a complete redo of our priorities. We need to fall in line with God’s will for our lives. It also means we need to withdraw from the devil’s schemes. In fact James tells us, “Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
We cannot let our guard down for one moment. The devil constantly lurks in the background waiting to pounce upon us. Everywhere we turn he lays out another trap trying to get us to fall from grace. We need to resist the devil and his temptations.
Easier said than done. We try to resist the devil in our daily life. At the same time He lays out temptations before us. The internet is a breeding ground for a person to find any fantasy a person desires, even if it goes against God’s will. The devil whispers for a person to get a divorce rather than working out their marital problems. Even our own sinful heart gets in on the action. Our heart leads us down paths of darkness. Our heart questions God’s goodness when a health crisis arises.
We need to resist the urge to follow the devil down the wrong paths. As we resist him, he will also flee from us. This will take strength. Our own strength to resist the devil proves useless. We might be able to stand for a time, but we will fall. We need to stand on God’s strength. The devil has already been defeated. In the Garden of Eden God promised to send his Son into the world to crush the serpent’s head. The serpent would inflict a blow. Great pain would come to Jesus upon the cross.
The devil lost the war. Christ defeated him. The victory becomes ours through faith. We suit up with the armor of God. When the devil comes in for his attack, we will confidently stand upon God and his promises to help us resist the devil in this world. When the devil sees the Conqueror fighting on our behalf, he will flee. He knows the victory is the Lord’s. He knows that he will not be able to overcome God and his strength in our life.
As great as a victory we have, we still battle in this world. We live our lives still as sinners in this world. We need to be purified in our life. “Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double –minded people” (James 4:8). Double minded is not a term of endearment in this verse. It highlights the inner turmoil going on inside of us. The age old battle of good versus evil rages on. Our sinful nature rises up to do the opposite of God’s will. Our new man, which came to us when the Holy Spirit created faith, desires to do God’s will. Every day they fight.
We see sin in our life. We commit sin daily in our life. We need to be cleansed. Just as after working outside in the dirt we come in and wash our hands, so our souls need to be cleansed. No water can remove the stain of sin. We wash ourselves in the blood of Christ. Blood, which usually stains, cleanses us from our sins. It purifies our heart. Sin, along with all its punishments, will be done away with.
When we confess our sins, when we come in sorrow, the joy over sin dissipates. “Lament, mourn, and weep. Let your laughter be changed into mourning and your joy into gloom” (James 4:9). Sin is no laughing matter. God hates sin. We do not want to take it lightly. Our sins should rightly bring down God’s condemnation upon us. We cannot joke around about it. We come in complete sorrow over our sin.
God sees that sorrow and he lifts us up. “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:10). We confess our sins. At the heart of confession is showing genuine sorrow over our many sins. We say, “I am sorry, Lord.” Those words do not fall from unthoughtful lips. We truly are sorry. We shed tears because of our many sins. God’s law cuts us down.
We do not remain down. God also lifts us up. The wonderful news of forgiveness comes from God’s loving lips. He knows what we have done. He sees our sins. However, the punishment has been taken away. Jesus died for us. We have peace.
God now only sees perfection. We are free from the curse of sin. The victory has been given to us. Our sorrow turns to joy. Our frowns become smiles. The good news of the gospel comes to our hearts. The Christian rejoices for they know their sins have been forgiven.
Confessing our sins goes completely against our human nature. We don’t want to come before a holy God saying we messed up. We do not want to point to all the wrongs. We need to do this. We need to come in humility. Then God will raise us up with his forgiveness. The Christian will rejoice over forgiveness. Amen.