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James - Faith that Works  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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James 1:9-11 shows how to boast in the cross while experiencing poverty, riches and fading strength.

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Boasting in the Cross

The cross is the centerpiece of Christianity.
From eternity past, before anything was here, there was always this plan.
The plan was planned by God Father.
The plan was that God the Son would put on flesh, and dwell with man.
The plan was that Jesus would take on sin.
The plan was that Jesus would suffer.
The plan was that Jesus would die for sin.
The plan always involved the cross.
It started in eternity past.
Then there was that day, the first day, when God began creating, and He said, “Let there be light ...” and that plan was set in motion.
From that day, all that God had planned, predestined, and purposed began to be unveiled and progress.
Don’t read this line - The plan
Adam was placed in the Garden.
Adam sinned.
Adam was taken out of the Garden.
Mankind reproduced.
Eventually nations grew and developed, out of all the nations, God chose one man, Abraham, and promised that He would make a nation from this one man.
Abraham had a son - Isaac.
Isaac had a son - Jacob.
Jacob had 12 sons.
Those sons found themselves in Egypt.
They reproduced.
400 years later they were taken out of Egypt.
They wandered in the wilderness for 40 years.
Then under Joshua’s leadership they were taken into the Promised Land.
They asked for a king.
They received Saul.
God rejected Saul and chose David.
David was promised a Son who would rule forever.
Solomon became king when David was old.
After Solomon the nation split.
The northern kingdom was conquered by the Assyrians.
The southern kingdom by the Babylonians.
After the Babylonians came the Medo-Persian Empire.
After the Persians came the Greeks.
After the Greeks came the Romans.
Then at around 0 ad, what Galatians calls the fullness of time, Jesus was born.
There was a system of roads that allowed travel and news to spread.
He was born in a world where there was a single language that was nearly universally known.
A message could be carried throughout the known world with relative speed and ease because of that single language.
There was a system of roads that allowed travel.
This truly was the fullness of time.
History was always moving to that moment.
It’s the focal point of time.
This was God’s plan.
This was that plan, set into motion in eternity past.
Not only was history looking forward to the cross, but it will always look back at it, never to be forgotten.
When Jesus was with His disciples, He gave them the last supper, but it wasn’t meant to be only for them, it is something for the whole church.
And when we take communion, what do we do?
, Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.
The Cross is always to be remembered.
When our sins weigh down on us, where do we look?
To the Cross.
Because that was where Jesus paid for our sins.
When your sins condemn you, where do you look?
You look to the Cross.
And in the future, in eternity, where will we look?
To the Cross.
In fact the death of Christ on the Cross, even becomes a title that He wears.
- “and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood.
Always remembering His death.
In the throne room of heaven, as Jesus is given the scrolls, the saints there sing, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,”
Even in the very last chapter of the Bible, as John describes the eternal city of God, he says in , “No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.”
How is Jesus described in the final chapter of the final book?
As the Lamb.
The sacrifice.
The Cross is the center of it all.
The past was looking forward to it.
The future is looking back at it.
And for Christians, the Cross must always be the center.
It must be your center.
Picture in your mind a bicycle wheel.
The outside of it is the rubber tire, that is connected to a metal rim.
Coming off of that metal rim are metal spokes, that are connected to a hub in the dead center of it.
That hub keeps the wheel going straight.
If the hub is off, by even a fraction of a millimeter, the rest of the wheel becomes wonkey.
It will wobble, and not roll straight.
The Cross must be the center of your theology.
Everything connected to it, and everything coming off of it.
The Cross must be the center of your daily life.
Now what does that mean?
How does the cross affect you now?
How does the Cross affect you in your daily life?
What does the cross mean for you today?
says, “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ ...”
So let’s say you boast in the Cross.
You put all your hope in it.
You say, “I’m a Christian, the cross means everything”, -
What does that actually mean?
What does that look like in your every day life?
We recently started a series looking through the book of James.
James is a book that historically, has had a rough past.
For a while, Martin Luther thought it shouldn’t be included in the canon, because he thought that it was teaching works righteousness.
He thought the book said that you were saved by doing things.
He eventually changed his mind and trusted in it.
I think that James has a bad rap, but really, it’s a book about faith.
It’s about living by faith.
It’s about answering the question I’ve asked so far, how do you live a life that boasts in the Cross of Christ.
Or more specifically, what does a life that boasts in the Cross of Christ look like?
So in today’s text he presents to us a couple different extremes, that serve as examples and teachable moments for how to live a life that boasts in the cross of Christ.
The extremes are the rich and the poor.
The rich and the poor are the bookends, which mean we must apply it to everything in between.
James is continuing to talk about trials.
And how to persevere through trials.
Through the extreme of trials and in between.
Let’s read to see how to boast in the cross of Christ through a variety of trials in life.
Read :9-11.

First we look at Boasting in the Cross with Poverty.

James is talking to those who are lowly.
In comparison to verse 10, we assume that they are poor.
Verse 10 has rich people.
Verse 9 has poor people.
And what is it that poor people need … money.
James gives us a couple backward statements.
He says let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation,
Which is weird, because if he’s lowly how is he exalted?
And then the rich brother in his humiliation.
Which is weird, because how could a rich man with power be humiliated?
The rich brother is humiliated.
Then he tells the lowly brother, or the poor Christian, to boast.
Typically, this is a bad thing.
Boasting and pride are not something that we are typically encouraged to do.
And yet, that’s exactly what James tells these Christians.
In fact they are commanded to boast.
James is talking to those who are lowly, who are poor.
In comparison to verse 10, we assume that they are poor.
Verse 10 has rich people.
Verse 9 has poor people.
And what is it that poor people need … money.
These are poor Christians.
Christians who are struggling.
Christians who are hungry.
Christians who need money.
And the temptation is the thought is that if you had food or money, you’d have joy.
Isn’t that what we are told.
The temptation is to think that what you need is to be rich.
These Christians are struggling.
Have money,
When you are beat down, tired, abused, lowly, what is the temptation?
The temptation is to think that there is no God.
The temptation is to think that there is no God.
The temptation is to think that you have been forgotten.
The temptation is to to think that God doesn’t care.
Because if you had more, then you’d be happy.
And doesn’t God want you to be happy?
James words, are exactly what those who are lowly need to hear.
He gives a command.
And this is a command that any Christian who is struggling, doubting needs to hear.
The command is to boast in your exaltation.
Exaltation?
Again this is weird?
What exaltation?
They’re poor.
They’re lowly.
The text literally says to boast in your height.
So now, we begin looking to the Cross.
When you base your worth in this world on the size of your bank account, you are in trouble.
God judges you differently.
He says to boast in your exaltation.
Which tells me something.
They’ve been exalted.
If you are a Christian, you’ve been exalted.
It’s already happened.
But they’ve forgotten.
All Christians have been exalted.
You think your the bottom, but there’s more there.
When you are suffering and in poverty, you must boast in the Cross, it’s where you find your value.
To those who Christ died for, they aren’t just poor Christians, they are something different.
He says they are exalted.
Look at how the Bible describes Christians.
We are called children of God.
says, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”
We are a part of His family.
Not all the world gets to say that.
Naturally, you come into this world as children of Satan.
Evil doers.
Loving sin.
Doing sin.
Doing the work of the Devil.
But in God’s great love, He sent Jesus to die for you.
He adopts you.
And loves you with the very love that He has for His Son, Jesus.
And you’re not just children of God, but heirs of God, and coheirs with Christ.
Being adopted, means you get to share in the inheritance that is reserved for the natural son.
That means though we are lowly in this world, we have an inheritance ahead of us.
The riches that Christ has, will in fact be shared with us.
We are called more than conquerors in .
So even though in this world we may feel beat down and defeated by the world, we are conquerors with Christ.
And nothing in all this world can separate us from Him.
Why?
Because of the payment that was given.
You are citizens of heaven - Philippians 2:20.
When you are feeling low, think about how Peter describes you in .
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
You have been exalted in Christ.
This means that though in this life you may be miserable, there is an eternity ahead of you, which is completely different.
The chaplain, who had seen plenty of war, often thought about heaven.
A great example of this is found in , with the Rich Man and Lazarus.
He asked the chaplain, “Pastor, can you tell me something about heaven.”
This isn’t a parable, it’s a real event, that Jesus was passing on to us.
The chaplain said, “Well, yes, I can. The first thing I would like to tell you, is that in Heaven you won’t be a general.”
He describes this poor man named Lazarus, and a rich man.
Though the rich man was powerful in life, we never learn his name.
Lazarus was a poor beggar, covered in sores.
Lazarus died, and was carried to heaven, and there he sat by Abraham’s side.
Previously, he was so helpless that dogs licked his sores.
And now, he’s chilling next to one of the patriarch’s, the Father of the Jews, Abraham.
Meanwhile, there was a rich man, who lived a wicked life, and he was carried to Hades, think of Hell.
And there he was miserable, and in anguish.
He looks across this chasm, and sees Lazarus, relaxing in paradise.
He calls out to Lazarus to dip his finger in water, and just give him a drop of water.
Notice the change of events.
In this life, Lazarus was a nobody.
He was ignored.
He was forgotten.
People probably passed by him, thinking more of the dogs licking him, than the man himself.
And now he’s in paradise, next to Abraham.
But in Paradise.
Lazarus is known.
He has a name.
Meanwhile, the rich man has no name.
He’s the beggar.
He’s forgotten in Hades.
Why this exaltation? Why are those in Christ remembered?
Because of the great love of God for those He has chosen.
Salvation may not cost us anything, but it cost God the life of Christ.
It was the cross where you were purchased.
And this must be remembered.
When you are feeling the trials of life bearing down on you, you must go to the Cross and remember the one who paid for you.
When you are feeling as if you need something else … remember what was given for you … Jesus Christ on the Cross.
And there is an inheritance which is far greater anything else that you can have here.
Remember what you have in Christ.
says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
When facing trials we boast in the Cross with our poverty.
I am nothing right now, but Christ has something great.
Previously in verse 2, we were told to have joy.
Then in verse 5 we were told to have wisdom.
And this is the result of all of that.
You can have joy.
You have joy when you have wisdom.
says this all well, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
When you feel as if you are at the bottom of it all, go to the Cross.
Remember what you are promised there.

The next point may seem strange, but there is to be Boasting in the Cross with Riches.

James continues and in verse 10 he speaks to the rich.
He says something interesting about them, he says that the rich must boast in their humiliation.
Again, it’s strange, what is the humiliation, after all they’re rich?
He is talking about rich Christians.
I believe that he is talking about rich Christians.
You know the old saying, “The grass is always greener on the other side” it applies to rich and the poor.
The reason is because
Before you desire to be rich, know that there are unique temptations for rich Christians.
That’s why Paul said he had to learn to be content in all conditions.
You have to learn to have money.
And you have to learn to live without money.
The Bible has special warnings just for the rich.
For example, says, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. ...”
There is a desire to have money and to have lots of it.
Some of the stingiest givers are those with money.
Because they think they’ve earned it.
They’ve forgotten that it’s something given to them by God.
Those who lack money, may doubt whether God can provide, meanwhile the rich have a temptation, those who have money may wonder whether they even need God.
says, “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.”
The more people have the greater the temptation to think that they don’t need God.
says, “Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.”
Basically, rich are in danger of thinking they don’t need God.
They have so much, they don’t depend on Him for their daily bread.
They can buy their happiness.
So, James gives a special command to those who have it all, to rich Christians.
They are to boast in their humiliation.
You work hard, you make a name for yourself.
You build a reputation.
You establish an empire.
And you die, and what do you have in death?
Nothing.
That’s humiliation.
All that you worked for, gone.
One time a general was having lunch with a chaplain.
The general asked, “Pastor, can you tell me something about heaven.”
And the chaplain, looked into his eyes and said, “Well, yes I can. In heaven you won’t be a general.”
Solomon points this out in Ecclesiastes.
In death, the richest man suffers the same fate as the poorest man.
You ever play Monopoly?
It’s a miserable game.
Let’s say you play with your family.
You do well.
I
You get Park Place and Boardwalk.
You build hotels.
You get all the railroads.
You get the utilities.
And slowly you get all the properties.
And the other people slowly, mortgage all their properties, until eventually you have all of them too.
You win the game.
You know what happens when the game is over?
All the pieces go back in the box.
The winners pieces go back in the box.
The losers pieces go back in the box.
And in life that’s what happens.
The winners go into a box and are buried.
The losers go into a box and are buried.
The possessions no longer matter.
The things that you have now, that make you great, you are not going to have in heaven.
This is almost as if James is anticipating seeing a giant pick up truck, hauling a trailer, with sea doos and jet skis on it with the bumper sticker, “He who dies with the most toys wins” on it.
Because what you have in life, you don’t bring with you.
The saying is, you can’t bring a U-haul to heaven.
He compares the riches of this life, to the life of a flower.
It’s here for a while, then its gone.
Jesus told a parable about a rich man.
This man spent his life gathering as much wealth as he could.
He kept getting more and more and more.
And finally, thought’d he’d made a name for himself, and could relax in his power into the sunset.
And that very night, the Lord appeared to him and told him he’d die.
All that he’d spent his life for, all that wealth, what was it for?
It was a vanity.
It was useless.
His life was dedicated to attaining wealth, only for it to be gone.
And what for?
That is a wasted life.
Money is a strange thing, wealth is a strange thing.
Ask yourself, what are you earning it for?
James says you who are wealthy, must boast in your humiliation.
That means get used to the idea, that everything you have, the treasures that you have here on earth … they won’t last.
paints this picture of what I’m talking about.
“According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”
Paul is describing your life as a building.
Christ is the foundation of that building.
And as we go through life we are adding to that building.
When we die, it’s as if our life, and all these extra things pass through a fire.
And anything that isn’t eternal -
Anything outside of Christ.
Then there is the extra
It’s consumed.
It’s burnt up.
James wisdom for the rich is to boast in the temporary nature of what you have.
Get used to the idea that what you have now is not eternal.
Therefore, use it for the glory of God.
Use what God has given you for His kingdom.
In looking at wealthy godly people in the Bible, there is this trend, they used their wealth, for God’s glory.
Zacchaeus, the little tax collector who climbed a tree to meet Christ.
In his great repentance, he paid back four times what he took from people.
Joseph of Arimathea, was a wealthy man, who purchased a brand new tomb, presumably for himself.
He used that brand new tomb as home for Jesus’ body until He was resurrected on that first Easter morning.
He saw His treasure as belonging to Christ.
There were various women who supported Jesus during His ministry.
They prepared His body for burial by lavishly providing spices.
Philemon owned a slave named Onesimus.
Upon learning of his conversion, Onesimus was freed, and counted as a brother in the church.
He gave up a valuable servant, for the sake of the kingdom.
To boast in the cross with riches, means to find your value, not within your earthly possessions, but in Christ.
You do this by identifying with Him.
says, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”
Christ humbled Himself by putting on the weakness of humanity.
And the rich boast in the cross of Christ by emptying themselves of what they think gives them their strength … their riches.
You boast in the cross of Christ, when you are humiliated.
When you realize that what you work so hard for here on earth, is only temporary.
Let’s make this practical, how do you handle your riches?
Do you give?
And when you give lavishly, you demonstrate that you know what you have is temporary.
Do you boast in your weakness as you give?
How you give says something about where you think you get your strength.
If you don’t give, and you don’t give regularly why not?
Giving places you in a position of living by faith and on the strength of the Lord.
I hope you are able to give.
The rich are commanded to boast in their weakness.

And finally, we are called to Boast in the Cross with Weakness.

The two extremes in this passage are the weak and the poor.
Which includes everything in between.
James finishes with a parable, found in verse 11, “For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.”
This continues to describe the rich man, but even more so it describes our strengths.
It describes the things that you are good at.
It describes your talents.
It describes what sets you apart.
James is referring back to , which describes the frailty of your life.
“All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”
We now begin to apply this message to everyone.
The poor are to boast in who they are in Christ.
The rich are to boast in their coming humiliation and how they will lose all they have.
And for the rest of us … our life is far too brief.
He compares the rich man’s life to that of a flower.
In the morning it blooms in all its beauty.
By noon, the sun, with its scorching heat, dries the ground beneath it and the flower droops.
The pedals fall.
And it withers, it dies.
To the rich, their strength is their money.
To the rich, their strength is their money.
But it’s not just the rich, it’s all people.
You have some strength.
You have something that sets you apart.
Some skill that you have that I don’t have.
This is something that you can boast in.
Something that you take pride in.
And yet, all of this can be taken away in an instance.
Is it your physical strength?
Isaiah 40:39, “Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted.”
Strength isn’t found in the youth.
says that beauty is fleeting.
A woman’s value is not found in her appearance or her beauty.
As I get older, I’m learning that health is unpredictable.
One moment you think you’re Superman, and the next, it’s like I’m wearing a Kryptonite necklace.
Our bodies are breaking down.
What was strong is becoming weaker.
Our lives mimic the life of a flower.
If your life is like a flower, then this tells us what God is looking for.
God isn’t looking for people who are strong, or able.
He is saving the weak.
The sick.
The sinner.
The one who can’t save himself.
And it’s fading.
God is saving people who are weak.
He is saving people who are like the flower of the field.
Life is fading.
And you must realize this about you.
God isn’t asking for you to be strong.
He’s saving those who are weak.
says, “God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.”
The weaker you are, the more fragile you are, the more credit He gets.
He is glorified in saving you.
When you boast in the Cross of Christ, what you are doing is you are saying that your strength, cannot save you.
God isn’t saving people who almost were perfect.
He’s saving people who were sinners, and completely unable to save themselves.
Have you ever stopped to consider how strong you are?
Really, how strong are you?
Has your strength stopped you from sinning?
Has anyone been strong enough to never sin?
Of course not.
The only thing that your strength has done is steadfastly rebelled against God and earned you Hell.
And so, you must see your need for Jesus.
Not just a little.
But completely.
You don’t need Him as a crutch.
You need Him to carry your soul into eternity.
He’s calling for you to endure, and trust in Him.
Perhaps you are experiencing the weakness of the human body.
Then find your hope in Jesus.
Let the pains of this world, create a longing for something greater.
drives it home, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
Something better is ahead of us.
These trials are for a moment.
Anytime you find yourself being humbled.
Whether its your place in life.
The vanity of life.
Or the weakness of your condition.
Let these moments drive your soul to the Cross.
John MacArthur has said, “Trials are the great equalizer, bringing all of God’s children to dependence on Him. Wealth does not bring God closer, nor does poverty keep Him further away.”
As you look at your life what do you see?

Boasting in the Cross requires Faith in Christ

In your poverty - see your need for Christ.
In your riches - be humbled and see how it’s all temporary.
And in your strength - see that it’s short-lived.

The Cross is the Center of History

No matter where you are, it is what you need.
I hope you see your need for it.
Pray
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