“CREATED FOR COMMUNITY”
(A Series on the Book of James)
Westgate Chapel 04/247/05 James 4:11-12
Proposition: We are called as believers into a sacred and safe community, which is participation in the community of God; and our task is to protect that community from division caused by speaking evil of other members of it.
- WE live in a culture that has made the individual, king.
- WE even have phrases that have become part of popular language that express the supreme value of the individual:
* He is a self-made man; she is a self-made woman….as if that person would be somehow diminished at the thought of getting help from others
* He pulled himself up by his own bootstraps…again, as if that person’s recovery would be less significant if others helped.
* Frank Sinatra’s popular song has become our national anthem, “I did it my way”….as if to say that you would be diminished if there were others influencing the direction of your life.
- THE problem is that those kinds of values make great-sounding saying…but they are not the Bible.
- THEY may be part of our culture, but they are 180 degrees opposite to the Christian life.
- THE Christian life is a community life from start to finish.
- WHEN you and I are born again we are, in reality, organically joined to the Body of Christ.
“For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (Romans 12:4-5)
- AND the Body of Christ is only found in each local expression of it....where members are living out their connectedness.
- THE Bible knows of no church other than the local congregation of specific people in each of its expressions.
- SO, if you consider yourself a member of the Body of Christ at large….and you wonder around from one to another without organic connectedness and accountability, you are attempting a Christian lifestyle the Bible rejects.
- BEING born again is not just getting your sins forgiven and a ticket for heaven….it is living the day-to-day life in a community of relationships with other believers.
- AND the reason this is so important to God, is because that is how the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit live….in a loving community.
- OUR lives together in the Spirit, in fellowship with God, and each other, point in the direction God is taking all of human history!
- WE are the people through whom God is going to bring about the completion of His work on this earth….specifically His rule and reign in the coming kingdom of God.
- GOD is establishing an eternal community….which is our eternal destination.
- BUT it also has incredible implications for how we live our Christian lives right now….because this future eternal community IS how God intends for us to live our lives in community right now.
- WE are a sign of life within the Godhead and life in the coming kingdom of God!
- ROMANS 14:17 says that the kingdom of God,
“…is not eating and drinking [prohibitions against certain foods], but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
- AND a few verses later, Paul spells out the ramifications of these qualities of the kingdom of God.
“So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.” (Romans 14:19)
- IT is precisely in the quality of our relationships in this community of faith that we are a sign of the coming kingdom.
* Rugged individualism falls away, as we become inter-dependant under the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit.
* Old racial/ethnic divisions fall away, as we become one new man in Christ….neither Jew nor Greek (racial), bond or free (economic), male or female (gender).
- (A FORMER professor and friend, Dr. Stanley Grenz, wrote a definitive theology of the Christian life several years ago entitled, “Created for Community.”)
- THE fellowship and life we share as a local congregation is not just based on common experience, common lifestyle, common taste or values….it is based on nothing less than our common participation in the divine communion between Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
ii. stop at once speaking evil of each other
- SO, what does this understanding of our Christian life AS community have to do with James 4:11-12 (page 1198)?
- IT is absolutely front and center of these two verses.
- IN verse 11, James writes,
“Do not speak against one another, brethren.”
- THE Greek word translated, “speak against”, includes slander, gossip, and any critical, nasty words that are spoken against another brother or sister in the community of faith….without them being present.
- THE next part of the verse includes the “judgmental” spirit that is behind these kinds of negative words.
- IT is a nasty, harsh, unkind spirit that sits in a place of assumed superiority and presumes to know all the facts and the motivations behind the action it is gossiping about.
- THE tense of the verb in verse 11, implies that this kind of activity had become a habit in the church, that it was being rationalized, and was going on between believers, unchecked.
- AND the Greek imperative in the verse also tells us that James is saying, “You, stop it right now!”
- NOW, there are four extremely important reasons we must not speak against each other in verses 11 and 12.
1. BECAUSE IT BETRAYS A PRIDEFUL HEART
- JAMES calls for humility in the lives of true believers twice, just in the previous ten verses of chapter 4.
- AND speaking against another member of the body you are connected to in Christ fails the test of true humility.
- SPEAKING against another member of the body has as its well-concealed but no less real motivation of making you feel better about yourself.
- THAT is why it is so enjoyable, so enticing to do it….because it leaves you feeling better about yourself. It is the sin of pride and self-exaltation.
- HUMBLE people will NOT speak against another because they are keenly aware that they themselves are under judgment and are too busy getting their own lives in order before the Lord to be spending time trash talking others.
2. BECAUSE IT SPEAKS AGAINST THE LAW
- LOOK at the next phrase of verse 11 with me,
“He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law…”
- WHAT is the law you or I are speaking against when we speak against a brother or sister in Christ?
- TURN with me in the Old Testament to Leviticus 19:16 &18.
“You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the Lord…..18 You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.”
- SO, when you insist of speaking against your brother or sister, you are putting yourself above the law and acting in a way that declares the law to be unnecessary or bad.
- RATHER than living in humble submission to the word of God, you are setting it aside.
3. BECAUSE IT MAKES YOU THE LAW-BREAKER
- LOOK at the rest of verse 11,
“…but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it.”
- IT doesn’t matter whether the offense in your brother or sister is real or fabricated….when you speak evil of them, you become the one who is disobedient to the law of God.
4. BECAUSE BY IT YOU TAKE GOD’S PLACE
- LOOK at verse 12 with me of James 4.
“There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?”
- WHEN you or I speak against another believer in their absence, we have pushed God off His throne and presumed to take His place.
- SINCE God and God alone gave us the law, and since the law is simply the reflection of His holiness, He alone is qualified to judge us according to the law.
- HE alone will enforce the law…for salvation and/or destruction (including the law in Leviticus 19:18).
- AND neither the judgment nor the enforcement is ours to assume.
- AND who are we to think and act differently???
- NOW, in case some of you are already asking the question in your minds, the Bible does provide for the healthy, life-giving, appropriate confronting, rebuke and correction for sin in the life of a brother or sister.
“Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1)
- WELL, first of all this is to be done by those who are spiritual. And gossips are not spiritual no matter how long they might have been Christians.
- SECOND, the purpose is restoration. So the attitude with which even the confronting must be done, has restoration in view….not trashing the person’s reputation to others.
- THIRD, the confrontation and restoration is done in humility….looking to yourself so you won’t be tempted.
- THERE are other passages that call for an assessment to be made concerning the sin of another….where discipline is to be measured out by civil authorities, employers, parents, church leaders.
- THE Bible is clear in every case concerning how it is to be done and the spirit in which it is to be done…and the goal, which is righteousness and peace.
- BUT James is not talking about Biblical rebuke, correction, confronting, and Godly discipline that produces a harvest of righteousness.
- JAMES is talking about that harsh, unkind, behind-the-back, critical trash talking that loves to find fault and divide the Body of Christ that Jesus died to make one!
iii. rather think and say the same thing about each other
- SO, what is our relationship to be like between us in the community of faith?
- TWO quick references outside of the epistle of James that will be food for thought…one has to do with how we think towards each other, and the second has to do with what we say about each other.
- IN the NIV, Romans 12:16 says,
“Live in harmony with one another.”
- THE New American Standard translates this verse,
“Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind...”
- THE Greek literally means “think the same thing towards one another.”
- WHAT is it that we “think” about each other that produces harmony in the community of faith?
- IT involves all of the things that God has done for all of us.....the great level ground at the foot of Jesus’ cross.
* That God’s love is the same for each of us.
* That our sins put us all under the judgment of God.
* That God’s grace through faith alone has saved us.
* That our debt for sin is canceled and each of us has been adopted into His family.....without partiality.
* That the gifts and abilities that we have are from God. They are not our own. We didn’t earn them nor do we deserve them. We cannot take credit for them.
* That even the measure of faith we have is determined from above, so I can take no credit for that either.
* That without Christ, none of us can do anything of eternal significance.
* That HE who began a good work in each of us will be faithful to complete it.
* That HE must increase and we must decrease.
* That at best we who serve God have the privilege of being called servants.
* WHEN this is our “thinking” about ourselves and each other....it puts us in a frame of mind that God can use to produce harmony in His church.
- BUT, the apostle Paul goes beyond what we “think” about each other to what we “say” about each other….which is the theme of James 4:11-12.
- IN I Corinthians 1:10, Paul writes,
“I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.”
- THE literal translation of the word, agree, is powerful. It means “to say the same thing.”
- THE word, harmony, meant to “think the same thing about each other.”
- THE word, agree, means to “say the same thing.”
- PAUL also writes in Philippians 4:2, to two ladies who were trash-talking each other in the church in Philippi. He says to them,
“I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord.”
- EUODIA and Synthyche’s mouths were getting them into trouble in the church in Philippi.
- EACH was telling their side of their dispute to their friends...in confidence of course.
- AND friends, being human, were forming opinions and taking sides depending on whose mouth they had heard from.
- AND as a consequence the body of Christ at Philippi was being divided.
- PAUL pleads with them.....to start saying the same thing.
- HOW do you do that when there are usually two sides to any dispute?
- BY putting a guard on your mouth!
- BY limiting your conversations with others to those things on which there is agreement.
* That Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God. He is fully God, fully Man.
* That He died on the cross for our salvation...and was buried.
* That we are saved by grace through faith in His blood....made righteous in His Righteousness, ready for heaven where He has gone to prepare a place for us.
* That He has sent the Holy Spirit who lives in you and me....and He empowers us for life and service.
* That He is coming again to take us to be with Him in His Father’s kingdom.
* But until then He has birthed us into this living temple called His church....His Body.
* And in that church we are ONE...with one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God.
* That He has sent us into His harvest field to gather in the lost while it is still day.
* LET’S focus our conversations on those things about which we can agree.
- THAT is how we will get into harmony around here.
- IT will take self-control...but that is why we have been given the indwelling Holy Spirit. Self-control is the fruit of the Spirit.
- SAINTS, the way of the world is to get your way whatever the cost.
- SO, in the process they use words to bite and devour others.
- THEIR words are full of sarcasm, criticism, and disdain.
- THEY see no need for discretion in what they say about each other.
- AND if they do restrain their words it is usually only for selfish motives.
- IS it any wonder the number of relationships that get demolished, how many reputations get sabotaged, and the peace that gets destroyed through the words we speak about each other.
- BUT, says James, in the community of faith, this cannot be!
- JESUS gave His life to make us one!
- LET’S put a guard on our hearts and our mouths and speak only those things designed to build each other up.
- WE are saved to be a sign to the world of the kind of community that exists in God, and the kind of life we are moving towards in the kingdom of God!
- WE were created for community!