Take a look at the “iceberg” that we gave you last week. Last Sunday we put the squiggly line or the waterline below behavior, I want you to put it under speech today. Because what we are going to learn from the book of James is that our speech actually will help us see what’s inside of us, our values, our beliefs, our identity, and our thoughts.
And for those that weren’t there, here’s the premise. The premise simply is that most of us try to change for the better by dealing with stuff above the waterline like behavior. In other words: I want to stop drinking. I want to stop smoking. I want to work out. I want to be a more patient husband. I want to be a kinder mother. I want to be. . .
We said a superficial focus and a superficial analysis always leads to superficial temporary change. And so if you only work above the waterline you are always dealing with symptoms. You are never dealing with core root issues, because God really isn’t about trying to get you from a size 14 to a size 10 dress.
And God is really not about trying to get you to get in better shape so your heart rate is lower and to lower your cholesterol and have this happy little family so that everything looks good. All those are byproducts. What God is really about is inwardly transforming you to become like Christ and not faking it. When we go below the surface of our lives and invite God to be a part of our transformation we actually have a chance to see lasting change.
Why is it so difficult to “get started” and almost impossible to “keep going?”
I want to talk about the difference between being motivated to change and why it so hard if you do it the wrong way.
1. Motivation by way of guilt feelings
This is the ought and should. You start to get motivated when you feel so much guilt and pressure. It kind of works like this; someone in your family keeps bringing it up or you may even just have natural guilt about it but guilt becomes your greatest motivation.
You finally say, “Okay, I ought to quit smoking or I ought to quit drinking or I ought to cut down watching so much TV or I ought to get in shape or I ought to spend more time with my family, or I ought to go to church more or I ought to start reading my Bible or I ought to start praying. And it’s ought, ought, ought, ought, should, should, should and you have guilty feelings. And now, the guilty feelings build up to a level that you are sick of the guilty feelings and so here is the motivation.
I want to get rid of the guilty feelings so I join the spa, get a patch to stop smoking, join a little group or take some initial steps. The problem is that six weeks later, you don’t change. You know why? Because the motivation was to get rid of the guilty feelings. The motivation was not, when my life operates like this, it is unloving to my family. I am not reaching my potential for God and he wants to do a magnificent work in and through me.
It is not a conviction from objective guilt where I repent and say, Oh God, I don’t want to be this kind of person. I have offended you. I’m hurting others. Will you change me? See, that will produce some long term change.
2. Motivation by way of selfish desires
The Bible calls it lust. Here is the idea. You want to change because there is this belief system that is tied into bigger, better, sexier, more acceptable, more successful and the goal of change is not an inward movement of the Spirit of God to be more pleasing to him. The goal is, if I change, then I will be happy.
If I quit smoking then my girlfriend will say my breath isn’t so bad. If I quit drinking, I’ll get to work on time and then I’ll get a better job and then things will work out better. If I start working out, I’ll look in the mirror and I’ll like that person I see.
If you are motivated by guilty feelings or if you are primarily motivated for personal gratification, they are both short term and neither of them work. By the way, every advertisement in a magazine and on TV is geared around what? Self and selfish desires.
Now, think this through. Do a little logical thinking. We are outside the media, just for this brief moment. If you do what they say, then they will come out with something new that will tell you what you have doesn’t work and you have to have it. Did you know that every year it’s a phenomena, they change the model of the cars. Why do they do that?
Every year, you know, like the skirts, this is in. The next year, they are in here. You know why they do that? To tell you that what you have doesn’t really match and you need to buy something new. And like fish, hook, line, and sinker. We think, if I do that the guilty feelings and selfish ambition, in fact the Bible warns against selfish ambition as a motive, the Bible says when we ask for things for selfish motives, God doesn’t hear our prayers, James chapter 4.
Now, open the notes, if you will, and let me give you an alternative. A biblical alternative to guilty feelings as a means of motivation and a biblical alternative to just selfish gratification. If self gratification worked, it would not be a multibillion-dollar industry. See, if it worked, you would try it and it would work and then you wouldn’t need them anymore.
The theme of the book of James is integration. That means you’re behavior will match your beliefs.
James opens up the book by talking about suffering with Christ in our life which is integration and then the three problems with integration at the end, people hear God’s word, but they are not doers of the word. No integration. And then chapter 2 opens up and then know how they should treat one another, but they treat the rich people well and the poor people badly. No integration. And then it goes to the end and chapter 2:14 through the end it will talk about demons and how they actually, intellectually believe what’s true. But they don’t have a relationship with God.
All through the book it’s your mind, your heart, that know these things, but your lifestyle is different then what you know, so chapter 3 opens up, basically with the question, unspoken, how do you change for the better? How do you change? How do you get where your walk and your talk tell the same story?
Now here is where it gets a little tricky and if you will hang with me for a few moments we will learn something and it will get clear. When we want to give out information we usually give a major premise like roman numeral one and then our points under it, A, B, C, D.
In Hebrew literature, they do it that way sometimes, but sometimes they use a different literary device. It’s called a chiastic structure. This structure means that the main point is not at the top, the main point is at the very center of the literature. And then on each side of the main point is information that builds into the main point and then on the far ends is information that builds off the main point as well.
And that’s how chapter 3 is. Let me give you one picture and you’ll get it, at least for all the ladies. In a house a person may have a fireplace and over the fireplace there is a mantle. Are you ready for this? It’s a chiastic structure. The mother/wife wants to make a point. And so, she has graduation pictures of one of the kids here and another of the kids here, like book ends.
And then she has some ceramic thing here and another ceramic thing here. And then there is like a family picture right in the center. What’s the focal point? What’s the main point? It’s the family. It’s what’s in the center. What James has done, inspired by the Holy Spirit is right in the center of the passage is his main point.
And so the way you would outline this is, A, B, C, B, A. And so as you look at it, let me read the main point and then I’ll show you how the others fit together. Follow along in versus 9 to12. James is talking about the tongue.
“Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. 10 And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! 11 Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? 12 Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.
If you are really a believer, you can’t use your tongue to praise God and then curse people. Now, notice he is going to picture it more. He says, can both fresh water and salt both flow from the same spring. Kind of a picture from nature. You know, a spring is a source, what’s underground. I mean, you can’t have fresh water and salt water come from the same spring.
It’s inconceivable in nature and his point is, it’s inconceivable for God’s children. Notice the next picture. He says, my brothers, notice there’s a little kindness, a little love here. This is written to Christians. My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives? No. Or a grape vine bear figs? No. Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
He identifies the problem. The problem is duplicity. If integrity is things that fit together, your behavior and your beliefs match up.
A. Promise of Judgment = Motivation through Accountability (v. 1)
B. The Tongue = Fruit of Our Inner Life (v. 2-8)
• Positive Potential = (v. 2-5)
• Negative Impact = (v. 6-8)
C. The Problem Is Duplicity = (v. 9-12)
• Identified = v. 9-10
• Roots of = v. 11
• Fruit of = v. 12
B. Wisdom = Roots of Our Inner Life (v. 13-17)
• Negative Roots = Negative Impact (v. 13-16)
• Positive Roots = Positive Impact (v.17)
A. Promise of Reward = Motivation Through Hope (v.18)
Three Motivational Principles from James 3:1-18
1. The Principle of Certain Accountability (v. 1)
1 Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.
What’s occurring is everyone is running to the front of the line saying, I’m a teacher, I’m a teacher, I’m a teacher. The most respected person in the community was the rabbi. They are in this new church and God is giving revelation and everyone wants to say, hey, this is how we ought to do it, but apparently they weren’t doing it very accurately, both officially or unofficially.
So, he says, stop this mad rush to everyone wanting to be teachers. And he says, you want to know why? Because the promise of judgment awaits, not just teachers, but everyone. But the motivation is through accountability. He is saying to them, hey, Christians, not only is your behavior not matching up with your beliefs, but before you jump in front living this double life and telling other people how they ought to live, I just want you to know a little piece of advice that’s probably pretty good to know.
God is going to judge every single believer, not only dealing with their sin, but with the judgment of their works. Once you trust in Jesus as your Savior you are forgiven But He’s in the process of changing your life. But from the moment you come to Christ to the moment you stand before him, there is a judgment in the Bible where your works, what did you do with your time? What did you do with your money? What did you do with your spiritual gift and why did you do it, what were your motives?
Second means of motivation is the very last verse. It says:
17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. 18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.
The idea of integrity, wholeness, by the ones that are making peace. And here is his point, the word peace in this early church especially has all the Hebrew meaning behind it. When we think of peace, we basically think of lack of conflict. But the shalom of the Old Testament wasn’t just lack of conflict. It was the blessing of God, the wholeness of God. It was the integration of his joy over you.
And so I would say shalom to someone. It’s not just, may conflict be removed from your life. May the blessing of God and the wholeness of God be integrated in all you are and all you do. And he says, there is a reward. He’s speaking to a group of people who are living duplistic double lives and he says, you know, if you will sow the fruit in peace, living a life of integrity, over time, as you do that, you will reap this harvest of righteousness. You will have this life where you are changed. You’re family is changed, your friends are changed. It will impact your kids. It will impact your fellow workers.
It will impact tons and tons of people. And there will be joy, unbelievable. And so he says, two reasons then to make it over the long haul of living an integrated life. One is you are going to be held accountable in judgment. And two, there’s a certain future reward.
Let’s look at I Corinthians chapter 3, for a moment and let me let you see this first hand. If you are a note taker and you are going to share this with somebody at work or in a Bible study jot down II Corinthians 5:8 and 9, you will find the same judgment. Paul has helped birth a church. There is a lot of divisions, a lot of struggles. This is a corrective letter to get them back on the same track and he’s going to make the point, all this division, Christ, the foundation of Jesus, his work, his resurrection, is the foundation for all life.
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ.
12 Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. 13 But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. 14 If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. 15 But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames. 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 NLT
The key word here is fear. I don’t know about you, I don’t know if you have thought about it much. I don’t think we think about it a whole lot but there is coming a day when we will stand before God as believers and professed Christfollowers. We very well may be saved from damnation but God is judging more than that.
Many of you may think that God’s dream for your life is for you get an SUV, live in a nice place and have a good comfortable income and your kids turn out right. That is not His plan for your life. If you happen to get all that, thank Him for it and be a good steward. But that is not God’s agenda. And the day will come when you stand