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#4 Worldview on Circumstances

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                     (A Series on the Book of James)

Westgate Chapel 10/31/04                                     James 1:9-11

Proposition:      The Spirit-led life changes our worldview, especially in matters of material circumstances.

i.    introduction

-     FOR much of the full first half of his life, Joseph, in the Old Testament, looked like he had very little to brag about.

*     Raised in a totally dysfunctional family.

*     Intensely disliked by his eleven brothers.

*     Almost killed by some of his brothers and then thrown into a pit by them out in the fields.

*     Instead of killing him, they then sold him to some slave traders passing by on their way to Egypt.

*     Bought at the slave auction by an official of Pharaoh’s court named Potiphar.

*     Worked hard as a slave for his master and proved himself to be trustworthy…even though he had nothing of his own and no future other than as a slave.

*     Falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife of sexual harassment, and thrown into prison…disease-ridden and filthy beyond our understanding.

*     Worked hard in the prison and proves himself trustworthy…even though he had nothing of his own.

-     IN the world’s eyes, Joseph is a pitiful loser….judging from his circumstances Joseph is in a dead end going nowhere!

*     So, he didn’t complain! He was still a loser.

*     So, he didn’t fight back! He was still a loser.

*     So, he worked hard for whatever boss he had….He was still a loser.

*     So, he loved and honored God all through his hard times…but when you looked at his circumstances, Joseph was still a loser, rotting in jail (Genesis 40:23).

-     SWITCH Old Testament books and stories with me this morning….all the way from Genesis to Daniel.

-     IN this story, the character I want to bring to your attention is a king! But not just any king. The king of an empire that controlled the whole world.

-     JUDGING from this king’s circumstances, he is on top of the world.

*     More trophies for military victories on his walls than he had walls.

*     Assyria…conquered, and taken captive.

*     Israel…conquered and taken captive.

*     Egypt…conquered and taken captive.

*     Everywhere you turned in his kingdom you saw the spoils of battle….from mind-boggling wealth to the brightest minds and advisors from each of the conquered cultures.

*     He has it all…and no one big enough in all of the world to contest his leadership.

*     His name is Nebuchadnezzar.

-     IN the world’s eyes, Nebuchadnezzar is a winner! Just examine the circumstances all around him…Nebuchadnezzar lacks nothing and is literally king of the world.

-     DANIEL 4:22 says of Nebuchadnezzar,

      “…you have become great and grown strong, and your majesty has become great and reached to the sky and your dominion to the end of the earth.”

-     TWO bigger than life Bible characters from the Old Testament…about whom the apostle Paul writes,

      “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” (1 Corinthians 10:11)

-     WHAT is the example that Joseph and Nebuchadnezzar are to us in these two stories?

-     WHAT is the instruction we gain from their lives?

-     IT is this!

-     THERE is a secular worldview that makes its judgments and arrives at its conclusions by evaluating visible, measurable, external circumstances…because that is all this worldview admits as evidence.

-     BUT there is a Biblical worldview that pays almost no attention to circumstances because they are fleeting and temporal.

-     A BIBLICAL worldview rejects circumstances as the measure of reality, and instead embraces the kingdom of God and His priorities as the measure of Life.

-     2 CORINTHIANS 4:18 says,

      “…we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

-     ALL of those painful years that it looked on the outside like Joseph was a loser, that he had nothing and was nothing….God was preparing him for a place of prominence in the fulfillment of God’s plans for God’s people.

-     JOSEPH’S external circumstances bore no resemblance to God’s ultimate purposes for his life.

-     AND when the time was right, this loser became second in command over all Egypt and the savior of God’s people and plan to redeem humanity.

-     BY sharp contrast, Nebuchadnezzar, who was by all external measurements, the king of the world, within days of Daniel 4:22, and even after being warned of the dangers of arrogance by the prophet, still ended up eating grass in the fields like a madman.

-     HE lost it all! His palace. His servants. His wives. His wealth. His throne. The respect of his subjects.

-     IN a matter of days, every external element Nebuchadnezzar had based his life on was gone.

-     NEBUCHADNEZZAR’S external circumstances bore no resemblance to God’s ultimate plan for his life.

-     FOR today, and for James 1:9-11, Joseph and Nebuchadnezzar are examples that instruct us.

-     PLEASE turn with me to James 1:9-11.

ii.   for those in the church who have little

-     JAMES is a mirror, showing us the image of the Spirit-led life.

-     IT is not a list of principles to incorporate into our lives. We couldn’t do it if we tried.

-     BUT, as born again Christians we have the Holy Spirit in residence in our lives.

-     AS Spirit-baptized believers we have been immersed into the power of the Spirit…something that the Bible teaches clearly is subsequent to salvation.

-     JAMES is one of the first epistles written to many of the very Christians who had been baptized in the Spirit at Pentecost…but were now scattered throughout the Roman Empire by persecution.

-     SO, James lifts the mirror of God’s Word up for them to look into….to compare what their lives look like to the Spirit-led life.

-     AND the image in the mirror, from James 1:9-11, concerns the world’s preoccupation with judging by externals…specifically the externals of how much money and how much stuff you have.

-     REMEMBER, it is being conformed to the world that sets your heart and mine up for deception.

-     SO, in verse 9, James writes,

      “…the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position.” (NASB)

-     THE first thing I want you to notice is that James is talking about Christians that would make up some of the population of the local church. They are “brothers.”

-     THIS is written to Christians and about Christians living the Spirit-led life.

-     THE second thing I want you to see is that the Greek word for ‘humble circumstance’ literally means “lowly, insignificant, weak, and financially poor.”

-     SO, James says, as you look around you in the church, and arrive at conclusions about one another based on external measurements, you will likely find those who appear to be insignificant because they are financially poor.

-     RESIST that conclusion!

-     IT is based on a secular worldview.

-     THEIR value has nothing to do with externals….

*     With their annual salary.

*     With the fact that they drive a ’72 Buick station wagon.

*     With their clothes from Goodwill.

*     With the fact that they can’t afford to eat out.

*     And that their hair will never be featured on the cover of Instyle magazine.

-     THE world looks at them and counts people like that out as insignificant…of little or no consequence.

-     THAT is how Joseph was viewed by those around him in the prison, including the ones he helped.

-     WHAT is the Biblical worldview about the brother or sister in Christ that appears to be of low station in this life?

-     JAMES holds up the mirror and says,

      “…glory in [your] high position.” (1:9)

-     THE word, glory, in verse 9 means rejoice!

-     WHY rejoice?

-     BECAUSE the cross of Jesus Christ rejects all outward measurements of the Christian as utterly irrelevant.

-     THE cross of Jesus Christ picks up the born again Christian off the garbage dump of sin and darkness and says….

1.   You are valued by God.

*     He gave His Son for your salvation.

*     He lives in you by the person of the Holy Spirit. You are the temple of God.

*     The awesome living God desires to be in daily fellowship with you.

*     He wants to reveal His heart and His plans for you and to you.

*     Jesus has gone to prepare a place for you so that where He is there you also will be.

*     You are an heir of God. Romans 8:17 says,

      “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”

*     It doesn’t get any better than that!

2.   You are a valued member of the Body of Christ.

*     Romans 12:5 says that each of us are organically connected to each other,

      “…we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”

*     Each of us has a gift to contribute to the richness and success of the local body we are connected to (Romans 12).

*     God intends to build up His Body through you.

*     No member can be excluded as unnecessary….either by others or himself/herself (1 Corinthians 12:16).

*     What you are on the outside is irrelevant. Your value is in Christ and to the rest of us who are members with you in the Body of Christ.

3.   You are valued also in the world.

*     Oh, they probably would not see it or admit it….but the Bible says that you and I are salt and light in a decaying and darkened world.

*     The God, who is on a mission to reconcile the world to Himself, through His Son, Jesus Christ, has called you and sent you on the same mission, as an ambassador of His kingdom.

-     DO you see now why James says that the brother of humble circumstance,

      “…glory in [your] high position.” (1:9)

-     IT has nothing to do with what you wear, where you live, how much education you have, or whether you can afford McDonalds or Canlis Restaurant.

-     THE Biblical worldview says you have a high position.

-     SO, instead of spending your life wishing you were rich, or complaining about your circumstances, or hating anyone who has more than you do….rejoice!

-     WHICH worldview are you going to allow to direct your thoughts about yourself and the significance of your life?

iii.  for those in the church who have much

-     JAMES goes on in verse 10,

      “…the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away.”

-     NOW, just because James does not use the word, “brother” does not mean that he is somehow now talking about rich people in the world.

-     THIS verse is too closely tied to verse 9 to mean anything other than those in the Body of Christ who, based on external measurements, have more money and more stuff than those in humble circumstance.

-     AND this is important because sometimes the poor in the Body of Christ have just as much of an attitude problem towards those who are rich, as if being rich disqualifies them as true believers.

-     SO, to those brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ who are rich…based on external measurements, James writes,

      “…glory in [your] humiliation!”

-     WHAT does that mean?

-     JUST as the poor need to reject the world’s measurement of them….and see that they really are in a high position.

-     SO, in this verse, the rich are to reject the world’s measurement that if you have money, power or position, you have…

*     …all the security you need for your future.

*     …all the resources you need to cope with whatever comes your way.

*     …or that you can buy your way out of any situation you need to escape from.

-     THAT is a totally false sense of security that Nebuchadnezzar learned the hard way.

-     THE Biblical worldview is that…

*     Everything you have is from the Lord.

-     Your abilities are on loan and given for His glory.

-     Your stuff is on loan and given for His glory.

*     Everything you have belongs to the Lord and is at His disposal.

-     There are none of your things about which you can say, “Mine!”

-     You and I will give an accounting of how we spent our time, energies and resources given by God.

*     Without Christ you are nothing and can do nothing of eternal significance….regardless of your money, power or influence.

*     The only reason you have been blessed is to be a blessing to the kingdom of God!

-     IF you are a Bill Gates or a Rockefeller,  it would be humiliating to admit to a Biblical worldview I have just articulated.

-     JAMES says,

      “…glory in [your] humiliation!”

-     REJOICE in it!

-     BECAUSE just like a hot dessert sirocco wind can kill the grass and flowers of the field in one hour….so the wealth and security of this world can wither and vanish in a moment of time.

-     AND if you lost it all, you would still have the most valuable possession in all of the universe….your salvation and your love relationship with God and with the Body of Christ.

iv. conclusion

-     THE last part of verse 11 is a sobering final warning to the rich, and I paraphrase,

      “The rich man who is absorbed in and consumed by his pursuits…will fade away and be destroyed.” (James 1:11)

-     MOST of us in this room are rich by world standards…and need to examine our hearts in the reflection of these verses today.

-     IF you are Spirit-led and poor… reject the world’s perspective that you are worthless and insignificant.

*     You rejoice in your high position in God, in His Church and in the world.

-     IF you are Spirit-led and rich…you reject the world’s perspective that your riches insulate you from needing God just as desperately as someone who is homeless.

*     You rejoice that in spite of all you have and all you are, it all means nothing if you don’t have the Lord in your life in a vital daily dependant love relationship.

-     SO, (holding up the mirror), how does your life compare with the image James is holding up to us today?

-     IS it time to repent of the secular worldview that has been dominating your thinking and living?

-     IT is time to rejoice in God alone!


                 JESUS DRAW ME CLOSE



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