Well, if you've bought a a bible with you, then do please turn to James chapter 4 or if you haven't, then the reading will appear on the screen behind me and Laura is going to come now and read all of James for that passage to us. What caused his fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires? That battle within you. You desire, but you do not have, so you kill.
You cover, but you cannot get what you want. So you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask you do not receive because you ask with the wrong motives, that you may spend or you get on your pleasures. You are dangerous people.
Don't you know that friendship with the world means unity against God, Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think that scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to duolimus. But he gives us more grace. That is why scripture says, God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble. Submit yourself then to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you.
Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands you sinners and purify your hearts you double minded. Grieve, morn, and wale. Change your laughter to morning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
Broads and sisters do not snan to 1 another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them, speaks against the law, and judges it. When you judge the when you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only 1 caregiver and judge. The 1 who is able to save and destroy.
But you, who are you to judge your neighbor? Now listen. You who say, today or tomorrow, we will go to this or that city spend a year there, carry on business, and make money. Why? You do not even know what will happen tomorrow.
What is your life? You are a mist that appears through a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, If it is the lord's will, we will live and do this or that. As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.
If anyone then knows the good they ought to do and doesn't do it, it is sin for them. Thank you very much for reading that Laura. And as ever, if you can keep the bible open in front of you, then that would be really good. Now I guess if I was to ask you right now to open up your Google Calendar or to get out a hard copy of a diary if you still use 1 of those, then it would be true to say that you've already begun to make some plans for the new year. There are people that you're planning to meet There are events that you want to attend.
There are meetings that have already been booked into your diary. There's probably a whole load of things beginning to fall into your your calendars at the moment. And that would certainly be true of the church as well. If you were to go onto our website and look onto the calendar page, Some of the things we've even mentioned this morning, we are starting to make plans for the new year. So we've got this new seminar series starting next week We got commissioned Sunday next weekend.
We're hoping to have an elders retreat at the end of the month, 24 hours away as an elder ship. It'll be media fast before we know it next month. There's all kinds of things that are beginning to be planned and that we're working towards. My question for you this morning is, how many of us, how many of you, considered James 4 verse 13 when you were making your plans. As you were filling up your diary for the New Year, did this verse come to mind?
Now listen you who say, today or tomorrow, we will go to this or that city spend a year there, carry on business and make money, why? You do not even know what will happen tomorrow. Did anyone either not make a plan or worry about making a plan because of that verse. Do you think I'll actually, I better not put anything in for the next few weeks and months because I don't want to be guilty in some way of breaking that particular verse. Now my guess is that almost none of us thought like that when our plans were coming in.
And that's because we sort of – when we read this, we instinctively know what it's probably not saying. And so I remember a few years ago when I was in Belarus visiting Paris and nuclear, there was an American missionary there who was just there for a short period of time. And he he was of the view that that we should never ever make plans really about anything. And so he he would not set an alarm for the morning because he believed that the holy spirit would wake him up at the time he wanted him up each morning, which was great if you're not a morning meeting sort of person. Because you always get to you always get to sleep in.
And that was his way of kind of approaching the Lord's will and guidance. And I think most of us though would instinctively know that that's not the best way to to approach life. You know, the book of proverbs would really commend thought for wise planning for the future. You can imagine Paul and his missionary journey sitting down with the map thinking, okay, here's where I want to go next. If I can't go here or the Lord prevent me than I'd like to go here.
I'd love to visit you over there. So there was so much planning that he did. And I think when we read a verse like this, we think, okay, it's probably not saying we should never make any plans thoughtfully, wisely about the future. But then the question is, do we know what it is saying. If we don't know if we know what it isn't saying, do we know what it is saying?
Because there is clearly a warning here about something, isn't there? There is according to James a way of making plans that wouldn't be very good there is a heart attitude that we need to beware of when thinking about plans for the future. And the question is, what is it? What is he actually warning about here? And it seemed to me that at the start of a new year, on the cusp of a whole year's worth of plans and activities and events, it would be good for us to consider what that is.
So that it can shape the way we think about the year to come. Now James is writing to a group of people here And in this particular section, he's addressing like how they're speaking. And so this morning, we're going to look at what they're saying We're then going to think about what they're really saying and then we're going to think about what they should be saying. What are they saying what are they really saying? And what should they be saying?
That seems to be 1 way to break it up. And so the first point then, which I think will come up come up behind me. I haven't got their clicker, I'm afraid, is what they're saying. And what they seem to be saying is, let's get paid. Let's get paid.
So as I say, James is writing to this group of people. And if you turn back to chapter 1 verse 1, if you've got a bible there, you see it says James, a servant of god and of the lord Jesus Christ to the 12 tribes scattered among the nations. So there is a sense in which he is writing to all of god's people everywhere. That 12 tribes language reminds us of all of God's people, the 12 tribes of the old testament, the 12 apostles of the new testament, it means all of God's people everywhere scattered. So he's writing to everybody.
But here, he also seems to have a a kind of sub class of people in mind or a subset of people that he is particularly addressing. And you can pick that up in chapter 5 verse 1, which which flows on really from this this section. It says, now listen, you rich people. Now listen, you rich people. So clearly at the end of James 4, he is writing to people or he's talking to people who have the freedom to make these kind of financial plans.
In other words, they're not slaves. They're not stuck in a household with their whole life and routine mapped out for them. They've clearly got the financial freedom to be able to say, why don't we go to this city or that city tomorrow? Why don't we invest in this company or that business? Why don't we stay there for a year or maybe longer?
We can earn some money that way. Then their life isn't mapped out. They're not slaves. They seem to have this financial freedom which enables them to be able to think and do things like things like that. And it's interesting, isn't it?
If you look at their plan, let's look at that. Look at the plan again in verse 13. Now listen you who say, today or tomorrow, we will go to this city or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money. What strikes you about the nature of that plan? What strikes you about it?
Just on a first reading. Well, it's full of certainty, isn't it? That's the thing that struck me as I was preparing this. It's full of certainty. They seem to know just about everything that is going to happen.
So they know when they're going to go today or tomorrow. They know where they're going to go. To this city or that city. They know for how long they're gonna stay there. They're gonna spend a year there.
They know what they're going to do there. They're gonna carry on business. And they know what the outcome will be end of verse 13. What is it? They're gonna make money.
Okay? So from beginning to end, there is this certainty We know when we're gonna go. We know where we're gonna go. We know what we're gonna do. We know what the outcome will be.
It's it's all certain. It's all tied up. They are very sure of the of the outcomes. It's like those meat machines you get, you know, where you get you get all your ingredients, your meat, you get your spices and herbs in there, you run it through the machine and your meatballs come out the end. You know, you control the inputs, the outputs will follow.
If we hire the right people, if we fire the wrong people, if we invest in the right thing at the right time, the outcome is certain. There's just certainty about what they're doing. But secondly, the other thing that strikes you is that from start to finish, it's a godless plan, isn't it? Whatever certainty they've got here is godless certainty. Essentially, when you read the old testament, 1 of the sins that the lord's people would discipline for time and time again is their refusal to inquire of the lord.
They inquired of the gods of the other nations. They inquired of themselves. But they did not inquire enough of the lord. And that is what you see here. Do they consult him at the beginning?
Do they ask him where they should go? Do they have a concern for his kingdom? Do they want to spend their profits on his work? From start to finish and in between the plan that is completely certain and yet completely godless. You might have heard of an American author called Kevin De Jong, who's written a number of books.
He wrote a book a few years ago called just do something. And the point of that book was to help Christians who are very concerned about finding the will of God. And he wrote the book to say, look, I wanna I wanna free up Christians to make biblical decisions without the need for visions from heaven or random bible verses or dreams or what he calls liver shivers, which I don't know really what that is, except the sort of feeling of doing the right thing at the right time. He wants to help them just to make biblically informed decisions about the will of God. He's writing to people who are concerned about that.
But there is an opposite danger that, isn't it? On the 1 hand, you might have the Christian who's so concerned about the will of God that they need everything confirmed by dreams and visions. On the opposite end, and it's what you see here, The danger is a kind of practical atheism, isn't it? A day to day atheism. And in some ways, what is being spoken of here, what is being challenged is not having riches.
It's living like a practical atheist. Someone who might do religious stuff on Sunday and use God language, but as they approach life and think about their life, they function like the godless. That's who he's warning against. And so James is not saying here beware of people's knowledge in the world. Beware of making plans based on people's experience.
Don't listen to any wisdom in the world because we just don't do that. Do we? If you're thinking about a school for your kids or a GP, you want to start visiting, or a mortgage you want to take out, we really value hard earned knowledge in this world. We value people's experience. In fact, we see other people's experience as God's guidance to us often.
But what is being warned about here is a type of self confidence which breeds pride. I'm so sure of my life. I'm so sure of how things work. I'm so sure of my experiences that I can plan, I can travel, and I can get the outcomes I want all without any consulting of the word of God. And what is that, except the self confidence that has led to pride.
James calls it boastful behavior, calls it arrogant schemes, and in verse 17, he calls it evil. This is an evil way of thinking. It's an evil way of approaching life. And so firstly, what they're saying is, very simply, let's just let's get paid. Secondly, what they're really saying is we've got the whole world in our hands.
Let's get paid. Secondly, what they're really saying is we've got the whole world in our hands. And in this section and that's why we had the whole chapter read, James is James is really trying to encourage humility in us by exposing pride. Seems to be 1 of his aims. Encourage humility by exposing pride.
And if you have a look back at verses 11 to 13, you you see an example of that. So in verse 11, he says brothers and sisters do not slander 1 another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it but sitting in judgment on it. There is only 1 law giver and judge, the 1 who is able to save and destroy.
And so again, just as it's not wrong to make plans about the future, It's not wrong to make judgments about the behavior of other Christians. But what he is warning about here is an attitude of the heart which says, I know why that brother or sister is sending that way. I know everything that needs to be known about their situation. I know what they've done and what motivated it. And because they've done something which I don't think is right, they have broken the law.
So do you see a person who judges like that has become the law of God in their own eyes? They haven't done what I think they should do. They're law breakers. Well, hold on, who's law are you measuring up to? Your own?
You're gonna sit in judgment on the law now? Look what he says at the end of verse 12. So this is like being winded, isn't it? It's like being punched in the stomach, this question. But you Who are you to judge your neighbor?
Who are you to judge your neighbor? You're the caregiver? You're the savior and the destroyer? You know everything that God knows. Who are you to judge your neighbor?
Same thing going on in this section. He is not warning against making plans. But what he is saying is look at the plan that you have made It is so full of certainty and so completely godless. Look at the way you're planning. Now verse 14, same as the end of verse 12.
Why? Why? You do not even know what will happen tomorrow. So true in there, what you do not even know what will happen tomorrow when I don't know about you, but I often find even in the same day, you know, you make plans in the morning, and by the afternoon, they've all gone wrong. Even within 1 day, let alone 24 hours, and how many people could testify to that kind of thing.
They've invested in something. They thought that something was the right thing to do. They've made a plan towards it. They've they've done it. And they've seen it turn to mist.
They've seen it collapse overnight. How many people have got behind ideologies or agendas where they thought, yeah, this is the popular thing. This is what we need to be about. This is where it's all gonna go. This is the future.
And they've seen the whole thing collapse and turn to dust overnight. That's what happens, isn't it? Why? You do not even know what will happen tomorrow? But it's not just true for the markets James is saying this is also true for your life.
Have a look at verse 14. Why? You do not even know what will happen tomorrow what is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. I remember summer 2009.
My younger brother was 18 months younger than me. He was driving along in his car and he started to feel sort of funny and a bit uneasy. He pulled over the car, got out, and he had a seizure and fell down on the pavement. It's the first time in his life he's ever had a seizure He's not epileptic. He's nothing like that.
It's ever happened to him before. We went to the emergency room and he had a scan. And that day, we saw the scan he had he had a tumor in his brain that was very obvious and quite sizable and that was the cause of his his his seizure. Never had anything like that before. Just 1 day, just driving along as normally, just picked up his A level results from that summer, has a seizure, and he's got a brain tumor.
Now he's okay now by the Lord's grace after a number of sort of surgeries and things. But it's just as as I was preparing this, I was just reminded I was just reminded that we do we do not know what will happen to our lives. Over the course of 1 24 hour period. A slight funny feeling becomes a diagnosis of some kind. We know it don't our lives are a mist.
Our lives are a mist. They are here 1 day and gone the next or more. They they they show up in the morning and are gone by the afternoon. Our our lives are like embers that are glowing, the last embers of a fire, and they are glowing soon to go out. Our lives like the shadows at evening soon to be swallowed up by the night.
We are a mist. We are a shadow. Interesting I saw an article on the BBC notable deaths of 20 22. And even the last few days, you know, Pellet and Vivian Westward and the pope and these characters who have done significant things with their lives and lived quite long lives. But in the end, it was only yesterday that they were born, wasn't it?
It was only yesterday. It was only this morning that they were born. And by this afternoon, they're gone. Our lives are a mist. Can any Christian say Yeah.
Let's let's go and spend a year there when even the afternoon is not promised to us. Let's go and spend a year and make money. What is your life? You're a missed. Here in the morning and gone in the afternoon.
You see, if anything should humble us, it is the distinction between us and God, isn't it? We do not live forever. We do not know the outcomes. We do not know everything. We are unlike him.
And that's why this is evil behavior in verse 17. Because this kind of boastful planning tries to remove the distance between us and God. That we actually are like him, that we can live forever, that we do control the outcomes, that we know what we're doing and when we're doing it. What they're saying is, let's get paid. What they're really saying is we've got the whole world in our hands.
We're just like God. So thirdly, and lastly, they're Let's look at what they should be saying. Look to what they are saying. We look to what they're really saying. Let's look at what they should be saying and that's your will be done.
Now James, when you read through this book, he seems to pinch from Jesus all the time. There's loads of kind of Jesus sermon on the mount parable material in this letter. And I think that 1 of the things underlying this particular teaching is the parable of the rich fall. And I just want to show you that on the screen for us to have a look at together. So this is the parable of the rich fall.
You might you might know this story. It says the ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, what shall I do? I have no place to store my crops. Then he said, ah, this is what I'll do.
I'll tear down my barns and I'll build bigger ones. And there I'll store my surplus grain and I'll say to myself, You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy, eat, drink, be merry. But God said to him, you fall. This very night your life will be demanded from you, then who will get what you have prepared for yourself.
This is how it will be. With whoever stores up things for themselves, but is not rich toward God. You see, what strikes you about his plan in verse 16 to 18. What 2 things strike you about it? Well, it's certain and it's godless, isn't it?
It's certain. It's got it. It's the same 2 things. This is what I'm gonna do. This is what I'm gonna get.
And this is the outcome I'm gonna enjoy. And I don't need to consult anyone about it. Particularly not God. But what does he realize in this parable? What does he realize in verse 20?
But God said to him, youthful, this very night your life will be demanded. He realizes that there is another will operating in the universe. There is a will bigger and more sovereign over here than his. Your life will be demanded from then who you will get what you have prepared for yourself. Materially, this man was completely sorted Spiritually, he was completely unprepared because god was absent in his plans.
And that is the problem with the plan in James 4. The goal of that plan in verse 13 is not to enjoy relationship with God not to listen to God, not to plan with God and use what they've got for his kingdom. The plan is just to ignore him and get on with what they already think they know. But verse 15, what does he say to them? Instead, you ought to say, if it is the lord's will, we will live and do this or that.
Now that is not a magic wash, which will just sanctify all your plants, you know, like a man You make all your own plans without God and then say, if it is the lord's will and that suddenly cleanses all the plans of the boastfulness. But what he's saying here is that it's all about relationship, isn't it? God, you are suffering. Your will is good. I want to lay this plan before you.
I want to be open to your guidance I wanna use my life and my resources to enjoy you. I want it all laid out before you. It's a relationship with him. That is what it means. To be rich toward God.
It's a rich relationship with him in our planning and how we use what we've been given. And so verse 17, see how he finishes. If anyone then knows the goods that they ought to do, and doesn't do it. It is sin for them. In other words, he's saying now that we know that this is the right way to live and the right way to plan.
Now that we know this, if you and I go away from this place this morning and do nothing about it, it is sin for us. You and I will be in sin this morning if we leave and continue to live and plan as if this word made no difference. And so how do we make sure then that what we have heard this morning really does make a difference? 3 very short ways I think this applies. Firstly, this should change how we plan and that perhaps will come up as well.
Firstly, this should change how we plan. You see in James chapter 4 and in the story of the rich fall, It's not that these people don't seek counsel. Did you notice that? It's not that they seek no counsel. They just seek the counsel of themselves.
So they say, this is what I will do. I will build this. I will go here. Come, let's do this together. They are just seeking the council of themselves.
But James is saying in verse 15, instead you ought to say if it is the lord's will. In other words, I am wanting to live inside the will of God. It's not that I'm not gonna plan. I will plan. I will think about jobs and houses and events.
I will do all of that, but I will not do it without the word of God. I won't. I want to consult him prayerfully and look at his word and to make plans in that way. So it's interesting if you've been a Christian for any length of time, you will have had other Christians come to you from time to time and ask you your advice about particular life struggles. What do you think?
Should we should we do this? Or am I wrong to think about this relationship that way? Or Is it mainly his fault or mainly my fault? Or do you think we should move over there and move? And what do you think?
And yet lots of times, when people come asking those questions. Once you talk to them a little bit, you discover that in reality, they have already made up their mind about what they want to do. Now that may be the right thing, but it may not be the right thing. And yet what you discover is that people what they really want is a kind of religious stamp of approval on what they have already decided is right. They've already decided what they wanna do.
They just want some pastor or some counts or some elder or some home group leader or some friend. Just to find 1 to say, yes, I think that is what God wants you to do. And actually, you discover that that initial openness is not really there at all. The horse is already bolted, the decision has already been made, the council has already been sought, and it's the council of me. But I think James would say to us from this, we ought to be open before the lord.
There is a will bigger than us and we genuinely want to listen to it and to plan in light of it and to change because of it. This ought to change how we plan. Secondly, in order to change how we serve, to change how we plan, it should change how we serve. If you look at verse 17 again, If anyone then knows the good they ought to do and doesn't do it, it is sin for them. Now we've seen how that applies to this particular teaching But the good here, I think, is much broader.
I think what James is saying is that boasting can stop us doing good to other Christians. Now how does that work? Well, you think about it. If I'm if I'm just so taken up with my own plans and schemes, if I'm boasting about myself where I'm gonna live, where I'm gonna go, what I'm gonna do, it's gonna be very hard for me to think about your needs. It's gonna be hard for me to think about how to serve you and to plan about how to do good to you, isn't it?
And so James is saying here, look, it's not wrong to plan for a new job It's not wrong to plan for a move of house, but the lord's will is that we don't check out mentally of where we are now. The lord's will is that we think about how to serve and do good to the people we're with now, not to be so taken up with what we're going to do next. That we begin to check out and ignore the very needs in front of us. That kind of boasting stops us doing good to other people because it's all about me and where I'm going. So it should change how we plan, it should change how we serve.
Lastly, it should change how we pray. And it was so good to read the Lord's prayer together because I think the opposite of the plan in verse 13 is the Lord's prayer, isn't it? It's the opposite. Why is it the opposite? Because it begins with God and his will.
Father in heaven hallowed be your name your kingdom come, your will be done. It begins with God. We I want father, I want your will to be done. I want I wanna do what you wanna do. I wanna love the things you love.
I wanna hate the things you hate. That's that's Lord, if it's your will, I will live or do this or that. Your will be done. And then the Lord's prayer goes on to just shatter boasting. Doesn't it?
There isn't a more needy prayer in the bible than the Lord's prayer. The only thing certain in the Lord's prayer is that we're needy. Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins lead us, not into temptation, deliver us from evil. That's a needy prayer, isn't it?
There's nothing certain and nothing godless about the Lord's prayer. The Lord's prayer is the opposite to what we find here. It begins with God. And then it just destroys any illusion of both. Your will, I need you.
Your will, I need you. Changes how we plan, changes how we serve, changes how we pray. And if you are feeling convicted about any of this, if you're feeling like you want to make a change for the year ahead in light of this, then the best news of all is in verse 6. But he gives us more grace. He gives us more grace.
But if we will humble ourselves under the lord's hand this morning, and prayerfully commit to this way of approaching life, then he will lift us up and he will give us more grace. And that is what we remember as we come to the Lord's table together. So the first Sunday of the month, It's an opportunity for us to take the Lord's table together, the Lord's supper, and to remember what the Lord Jesus has done. And isn't the Lord Jesus? Don't you think just the opposite of what we find here.
See, the Lord Jesus is interested because he did make plans, didn't he? I will go to this city. Come, we're going up to Jerusalem. That's a city plan. That's where we're gonna go tomorrow, next day, next week, that's where we're going.
But he did not go in order to serve himself. He went to that city and he made a plan in order to serve us by dying for us, giving his life for us sins. He did not think I'm going to Jerusalem so that I can just do what I want He said, father, I'm going to Jerusalem that your will be done. I'm going to do your will by dying for your people. So he made plans.
But they were not boastful plans. They were servant hearted plans. And as we come to the Lord's table, we remember that the Lord Jesus is the source of that grace. In verse 6. We take the bread.
We remember the body given for us on the cross. We drink the juice. We remember the bloodshed. To satisfy the wrath of God and to free us from our boastful hearts. And this is something we do as a family.
And so if you are a Christian here, and you love the lord Jesus, and you're walking with the lord Jesus, whether you're from this church or another 1, we would love to celebrate this meal with you. If you're not yet a Christian, you don't want to think or plan like James 4 would have us plan, then we would ask you just to let the bread and the juice pass you by and to think about what you've heard this morning and maybe even for the first time to say no, lord, I wanna be in your will. I wanna I wanna follow I wanna follow Jesus with my life. And so the bread and the juice are gonna come around. Do take the bread when it gets to you.
And then when the juice comes, just hold onto it and we're all gonna drink it together. And although it is like it looks like a very individual thing, my bread and my cup, we are actually remembering that we are 1 we are 1 family, we are 1 body, we take this as a body, not just as little individuals. Okay? So the Lord's supper is gonna come around, and then I'll pray before we take the juice together.