September 23, 2018: 18th Sunday of Trinity

Let us pray: Dear Jesus, it is very easy for us to get so caught up in this world that we lose sight of the one to come.  It is so easy for us to compartmentalize and wall off earthly life, divorcing what happens here from our spiritual life.  Lord, prevent us from doing that!  Otherwise, sin is going to overwhelm us and destroy any relevancy when it comes to Your truth, Your mercy, and Your love.  Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE LORD OF ALL LIFE!

TEXT:  James 4: 1-10

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

90% of the average person’s hospital costs are incurred in the final 6 months of their life!  I’ve seen that statistic, and I’ll bet you have too.  It’s a whopping big number!  No wonder health care costs are a noose around everyone’s neck!  And exactly why is this so?  Boil it down and people are afraid to die and will do anything to cling to this world which is what they know.  So they and their families rack up 100,000’s of dollars in health costs just to stay alive for a few weeks or months longer.  I’ve never felt this way.  I’m really not afraid of dying because I know exactly where I’m going—to heaven, through faith in Jesus Christ.  In fact, many devote Christians that I’ve ministered to feel the same.  Some welcome death and hope it comes sooner rather than later.  I can’t tell you how many have told me: “Pastor, heaven sounds really good right now!”  So, if I develop some disease or malady from which there is  no recovery, let me die in peace.  It’s a much better alternative than stuck in a hospital bed with tubes and machines eking out a few more days here on earth!  I believe in letting God be God and not tempting Him by engaging in human measures contrary to His timetable.

I

In the church we often talk about “the world” and not in a good sense.  The world runs on totally different principles than God wants His people to.  Remember when Jesus said: “My kingdom is not of this world.”?  God’s kingdom runs on eternal truth, mercy, forgiveness, compassion, and peace of soul.  All these are wrought by Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Who won them for us on the cross and gives them to us via faith.  And yet, they often get pushed aside from our daily lives by “the world.”  The Apostle James addresses this issue in our lesson.  One translation has a summation at the beginning of our lesson: “Do Not Love the World.”  But it’s easier said than done, isn’t it?

James begins: “Where do conflicts and quarrels among you come from?  Don’t they come from your cravings for pleasure, which are at war in the parts of your body?  You want something but do not get it, so you murder.  You desire something but cannot obtain it, so you quarrel and fight.  You do not have because you do not ask.  You ask, and yet do not receive, because you ask wrongly, so that you may spend it on what gives you pleasure.”

Quarrels come from wanting things: “My way.”  They stem from pride and arrogance.  “My way” brings you a sense of superiority and thus prideful pleasure.  If we don’t get things to go “my way” we may not physically murder someone, but we do end up holding a grudge and/or hating another human being.  The Bible says that’s akin to murder.  (Of course, in the process we end up murdering our soul, don’t we?)  Considering what’s going on in Washington with the Supreme Court today, I wonder how many souls are angrily committing spiritual suicide?

We often don’t get our way because we pray wrongly for it.  James says that we often ask for things that massage our ego and thereby give us pleasure.  That’s a worldly viewpoint not a Christian one.  God knows our real motives better than we do.  That’s why He sometimes doesn’t give in to us.  That’s also why: “Thy will be done” should be part of any and every prayer.  Christians understand this.  The world does not.

II

Adultery isn’t always sexual.  It can be spiritual and psychological, too.  It’s really having an intimate relationship outside of what God intended.  Hence, our next section: “’Adulterers,’ don’t you know that friendship with the world means hostility toward God?  So whoever wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.  Or, do you think that Scripture has no reason for saying that the Spirit, who lives in us, yearns jealously?  But he gives greater grace!  That is why it says, “God opposes the proud, but he gives grace to the humble.”

Each of you is God’s dearly beloved child through faith in Christ.  Each of you has had your soul redeemed by His blood.  Each of you has been born into a new life by the washing of water and the Word via the Spirit’s power.  So right now, each of you is a  living temple of the Spirit of God!  He’s your eternal Friend and He expects you to cling to Him in such friendship.  That’s also why the Spirit yearns to protect us from being corrupted by this world and jealously works at preventing it from doing so.  Yes, humble repentance, putting Godly principles first in your decision making must come first.  To help make that happen, He gives grace to the humble.  For unless you empty your hearts through humility there will be no room for His grace to reside…..

III

Now comes the final Word of Truth: “So, submit yourselves to God.  Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.  Come near to God, and he will come near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded people.  Lament, mourn, and weep.   Let your laughter be changed into mourning and your joy into gloom.  Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

The world says: “Eat, drink, be merry, and don’t worry about death.  There is no afterlife.  There is no God.  There is nothing but you.  Look out for #1.  Take advantage of any and all situations.  Grab for power.  Grab for money.  After all, he who dies with the most toys wins!  And if anyone else is hurt in the process, tough.  Your life comes first.”  If this life is all there is, we can well understand the logic of those statements.  But you know better!  Say NO to Satan.  Right here God promises that the devil will flee from you because you’re armed with God’s Power.  Think beyond yourself and what’s good for me, and don’t try to straddle the line of playing with certain sins while acting pious and blissfully believing that God doesn’t care.  Don’t abuse God’s grace!  Take it seriously and cleanse your body and soul with repentance.  It’s O.K. to mourn the frailty of your flesh, too.  What good is earthly joy over ill-got gains compared to the price of your soul?

And finally, finally, as we fight the good fight with all our might, our merciful God will “lift you up” out of this spiritual morass.  We know that to be true because Jesus Christ was lifted up from it at Easter and later Ascended into glory to prepare a heavenly mansion just for you.  So, to go back to the beginning of this homily, why fall in love with “the world” and cling to it when heaven awaits?  Contrary to popular opinion, this life is but darkness masquerading as light. So, let’s get ourselves ready for the real thing!….Amen