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Saved by Grace [4-16-23]


April 16, 2023

James 4:6-10

“Saved by Grace”


There’s a minor controversy surrounding verses six through ten. Some commentators see this passage as written to unbelievers. They have attached themselves to the community of faith for reasons other than to be devoted followers of Jesus Christ. Otherwise, why would James call them to repentance? Another school of thought is there were problems with lukewarm believers who needed to be reminded of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.


Let’s now look at the passage:

But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.


Moving forward, I don’t think we need to overthink this passage. Like most churches today, there were people spanning the spectrum of spiritual knowledge and maturity. Some were immature believers. Some were pillars of the faith. Some stirred up problems while others were peacemakers. I like how one pastor captures it:

“In the course of this rebuke, James offers three things for those sinners to do, so as to revolutionize their lives and mend their relationship with God.

We may not be in the fallen state those rebuked were in, but these three things are not reserved for apostates and reprobates. Even the best Christians ought to do these things, because they promise the avoidance of sin as much as they promise its rectification.

I don't stand before you today accusing you of the sins with which James was confronting some of his readers. But I do urge upon you, as a means of preventing sin and growing spiritually strong and steadfast, these three commandments with promises from our wise brother James.”


That there is good work. It makes James 4:6-10 relevant to us wherever we are on our spiritual journey. For the rest of our time, we’re going to learn from James about the grace that saves. Here’s something you might want to write down:

GOD’S GIFT OF SUSTAINING GRACE CAN BE RECEIVED ONLY BY THOSE WILLING TO ADMIT THEIR NEED AND ACCEPT THE GIFT.

It is always a good thing for those who are saved to daily repent of their sin, beginning each day with a renewed commitment to serving Christ. Are you with me on that?


We have three primary paths we can follow from this passage:

  1. Convert the sinner from the error of his or her way, saving them from eternal death.

  2. Course correction for believers who are in danger of drifting away from the faith.

  3. Encouragement for those who want to do that right thing, growing in their faith.



There’s something for everybody.


Wherever we are, these verses are written to help us. As John 1:16 says, “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” The goal here is to build up true believers.


So, what is grace?


Simply put, grace is God’s favor given to sinners who are undeserving. That’s it. Within that gift is found forgiveness and love and the promise of eternal life in the presence of Jesus and the Holy Spirit to guide us through this life and Fruit of the Spirit and the desire to understand God’s Word and joy and peace and purity. All that comes as God’ grace given to sinners who don’t deserve it.


What’s that song we sing?

Grace, grace, God’s grace, Grace that will pardon and cleanse within; Grace, grace, God’s grace, Grace that is greater than all our sin!

Love that song. The lyrics were written sometime around 1911 by Julia Harriette Johnston, who was a Presbyterian teacher, author, and musician. She based it on Paul’s letter to the Romans.


God’s grace is available to all who have answered God’s call to put their faith in Christ. Grace greater than our depravity. Grace greater than the power of temptation and sin. Grace greater than death. No matter what your life is like…no matter how sinful you’ve been…no matter how much you love the world…now matter how proud or boastful you are…no matter how much of worldly wisdom you embrace…God still has grace. Grace upon Grace.


Therefore, James says:

HUMBLE YOURSELVES

RESIST THE DEVIL

DRAW NEAR TO GOD

BE CONSISTENT IN BELIEF AND PRACTICE

REPENT EVERY DAY

DO NOT DOUBT GOD’S PROMISES TO YOU


And here’s the best thing of all. Even when you struggle in any of those areas, God’s grace will see you through. It is always available to perfect your faith. Every believer who comes to God in Jesus Christ; believing in Christ is an act of humility; therefore, every humble believer receives God’s life lifting, affirming, and saving grace.


Make no mistake. God gives an abundance of grace to humble believers. Here are two Old Testament truths about that:

  • Psalm 24:3-4 – “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.”

  • Proverbs 3:33 – “The Lord's curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the dwelling of the righteous.”

Finally, from Matthew 18:1-4:

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

“Humble yourselves before the Lord,” James says. Psalm 69 says the heart of the humble will be glad. Grace upon grace is poured out on the humble.


We see it over and over in Scripture…God gives more grace to the humble. Here’s something else you might want to write down:

SALVATION IS A SOVEREIGN ACT OF GOD WHICH DEMANDS A HUMAN RESPONSE.

In other words, we understand that the Bible affirms that God sovereignly saves those He chooses to save. God is not dependent upon us in His choosing. We receive God’s grace and let it shape our lives. Again, God saves those He sovereignly chooses to save. But we must respond. That’s the point James is at here. He gives clear, unmistakable commands that

call for humility from those God chooses to save. Instead of asking, “Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?” the more appropriate question would be, “Have you submitted yourself to God’s sovereign authority as He determined to save you in Christ Jesus?” Doesn’t fit quite as neatly on a bumper sticker, but it’s more in line with James.


For James, there are clear signs that we understand what it took to save us from our sin. Do we understand how wretched our lives were without Christ? Do we mourn and weep over what Jesus had to do for our salvation? Grace cost us nothing, but it cost Jesus everything. Do we feel the weight of that gift? It’s not like James is telling us to walk around like sad sacks all the time, never enjoying the life God gave us. But are we more than vacuous, superficial automatons skipping blithely through life? In James’ day, there was the kind of laughter that scorned the seriousness of sin and separation from God. That’s why Jesus warned that, for some people, when life ends, “Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep” {Luke 6:25}. Instead, those who mourn and weep now will have every reason to rejoice in this life and in the life to come. As Jesus promised in Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be

comforted.”


Finally, the humility of verses six through ten is manifested in our lives in three ways:

  1. WE RECOGNIZE OUR OWN SPIRITUAL POVERTY.

  2. WE ARE DESPERATELY IN NEED OF GOD’S HELP.

  3. WE SUBMIT TO HIS COMMANDING WILL FOR ALL OUR LIVES.

Therefore, we then harken back to chapter three for the evidence of these three things taking root in our lives. If we are pure and peaceable and gentle and open to reason and full of mercy and good fruits and are impartial and sincere and overflowing with decency, then we’ll know what it means to be exalted in the Lord. We are no longer masters of our own lives. The God who calls us and saves us is preeminent in our lives. And His preeminence is seen in the love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, faith- fulness, goodness, meekness, self-control, and all other godly virtues produced in our lives.


Let’s Pray:

HEAVENLY FATHER, SHATTER OUR FLESHLY PRIDE. REPLACE IT WITH A DESIRE TO KNOW CHRIST, AND HIM CRUCIFIED. CAUSE OUR HEARTS TO HUMBLY TURN TO YOU. THANK YOU FOR YOUR GRACE AND THE WORK IT DOES IN OUR HEARTS. ALL TO YOUR GLORY. IN CHRIST’S NAME. AMEN.







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