Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Romantic Radical Resistance - James 4

If we claim to follow Jesus, we will have nothing to do with the corrupt and unjust systems in this world. We follow a man executed by the empire as an insurrectionist. To follow him is to spend a life resisting, and in doing so we will spend our life falling deeper in love with he who has overcome the world.

James 4:4-10
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

You have been changed, me hearties. You have passed from death into life. The highest authority of unending love and grace, the Creator, the Redeemer, has made you his own. He bought you.

You were an orphan, kidnapped and enslaved. Your Redeemer purchased you, adopted you, defeated your captor, and gave you his own name.

You were an impoverished and addicted prostitute. Your Redeemer took you home, washed you, dressed you, and wooed you. He believed you are beautiful, and believing it has made it so. He married you, and gave you his name.

You have been crucified with Christ. You no longer live. The life you once lived in the flesh you now live by faith in the one who gave his life for you (Galatians 2:20).

Romance of the Eternal Divine

The holy one saw you and knew you. He loved you. Though you hated him, he loved you. Though you rejected him, he loved you. And in that state of being loved, he has reached into your being, removed your black black heart of stone, and replaced it with a heart of flesh. You are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). You carry within you the Spirit of the Living God, the resurrected life of Jesus (Romans 8:11).

Me hearties, the world, meaning the systems and patterns based on selfishness and empire and pride and those who worship them, does not want a Saviour. If we prefer the machine of power and self-gain that is the world as described in this passage we show that we want comfort over discipleship. We want security over faith. We want to live our lives for ourselves instead of submitted to a Creator, no matter how benevolent.

There is a striving in the world, an ambition, a desperate crawling toward power, control, prestige. Every culture, every society, every one of us have a piece that wants ourselves to attain and achieve and evolve before the good of others.

In the wisdom of the world, we need money. There is never enough. If not money, position. If not position, power. If not money or position or power, rebellion.

We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars, but we won't. Some of us slowly learn that fact. And then we get very, very pissed off.

And it is slavery.

This is the slavery from which we were rescued, me hearties. We’ve been saved from the machine and all its slavery. We’ve been saved from our rage against its machinists.

What is friendship with the world? This passage is very specific. James has been telling us about the wisdom of the world since chapter three. In this passage “the world” is all these things I’ve described so far. It is a campaigning spirit, searching for votes of affirmation, addicted to power. It is the desire to hoard and store up treasure and affluence. Friendship with the world is trusting in the security and wealth of our own independence rather than the provision of God, which frees us to share.

But we are not to store up for ourselves treasure on earth, but in heaven. Where we put our treasure is where we’ve put our heart (Matthew 6:19-21).

Where does your heart lie?

In what do you invest your treasure?

There is no greater vanity than to spend our life accruing the power and wealth of this world. It is slavery, and it is worthless. No matter what your status or wealth, there is a great equalizer that comes upon each and every one of us. We may assign greater status to some people over others, but mortality treats the richest man on earth exactly the same as the poor girl in a slum in India. On a long enough timeline, the mortality rate for everyone drops to zero.

"Okay. Stop that."
1 John 2:15-16
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.

This was our addiction, me hearties. This is the addiction from which we’ve been freed.

We were addicted slaves, and the treasures of this world were our narcotic. But we were rescued from the brothel. How can we go back and make friends with our former dealer? How could we leave our husband to go flirt with our former pimp?

Jesus, our new husband, is a romantic lover. He is a giving lover. He is a faithful lover. To have our affections for his own and not to be shared with the baubles of this world, he is a jealous lover.

He has given us a new life, and a new spirit. He has made us truly human, as Jesus is human.

And he longs intensely for that human spirit he has placed within us (James 4:5).

God longs intensely for the human spirit he placed within you.

And that new human spirit that God has placed within you longs intensely for him.

We’re smitten.

Romantic Radical Resistance

The true Jesus-following, Spirit-Filled life is necessarily radical. It is counter-cultural. It is shockingly different from the world around us, and a joy to be so.

No true story of the Christian life includes the search for worldly wealth or the need for worldly power. If it does, it is a false gospel. It is heresy. It is hateful to God. Its end result is to divide Christians from one another, the church from the world, and people from God. It is detestable.

Any worldview, or teaching, or doctrine that elevates the things of this world over the giver of all good things is hateful to God. It will not save anyone. It will enslave them. Do you understand? We cannot compromise this.

God is not great because you got yourself a nice big new apartment, or a sexy partner, or a promotion at work. God is great because when you lose that promotion, when you lose that apartment, or your partner, or your family, when you lose everything,

God is your all-sufficiency. God is your satisfaction, and nothing else.

This is the greatness of our God.

The Ten Booms, Nazi Resisters

During the Nazi invasion of Holland in 1943 and 44 there was a family named the Ten Booms (rhymes with roam). who chose to resist the oppression and hatred by risking their lives to hide Jewish people and Nazi resisters in their home. Their resistance to the unjust political power of their day was their life of faith in Jesus.
In 1944, they were arrested by the Gestapo. As they were taken away, the Jewish refugees and members of the resistance living behind a false wall in their home stayed hidden. Three survived the war.

Casper, the father, died after ten days in prison, when alive he had said, 
“It would be an honor to give my life for God's ancient people.”

His daughters, Betsie and Corrie were interred at Ravensbruck concentration camp. Betsie died in that prison. Before she died in that torturous hell on earth, she told Corrie,

“There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still. . . God will give us the love to be able to forgive our enemies.”

God will give us the love to be able to forgive our enemies. (1 Corinthians 4:11-13)

Luke 6:27-29 (Jesus’ words)
But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either.

That my friends,  is grace.

That is a grace that preaches. That is a grace that heals. That, brothers and sisters, is a supernatural gift that cannot come from this earth. It is a gift of God.

Nobody is impressed with your God because of your new apartment, or your new promotion. The grace of God is not the same as the wealth of this world, but just more of it. No, the prosperity that God has for us is one that goes so deep that in the pit of hell on earth, we are still free. We are still free to love, and to forgive. Our cup overflows.

That is a grace that moves the world.

That is the grace of God. Nothing can separate us from his love

Romans 8:35,37-39
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And we are bearers of that love.

What grace can forgive an enemy?

Romans 5:7-8
For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Every one of us has flirted with the corruption of the world.

We made ourselves enemies of God. We offended the only one true source of love and grace and goodness. And it is in that state that he gave his life for us. It is in that state that he said “I love you”.

And we are bearers of that love. We have been given the grace that says we are forgiven. We have been given the grace that empowers us to forgive

and to love

and to serve

even our enemies.

This new life we’ve been born into is without compromise. Like the birds in the air or the flowers in a field, we have no worries or need to strive for money, provision or power (Luke 12:22-34). Our new Father is pleased to give us the kingdom of heaven! What need to we have of the baubles and trinkets of this world? Our God supplies all our needs (Philippians 4:19). So we can live a life of service and generosity and love. Our cup overflows! We can live like the God we serve

Freely we have received. Freely give! (Matthew 10:7-10)

James 4:6
But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

How much grace do we need? He gives more. What an awesome amount is more. There is no end to his grace. There is no depth we can go, no distance we can run, no offense we can make, or can be made against us that his grace will not cover. He gives us more.

That demonstrates his love. That glorifies God. And it is in that satisfaction that the light of God can most be seen in your life.

There is no response one can make in the light of such glorious grace but to be humbled. Once we have been confronted with the immensity of the gift that has been offered to us, our strivings must cease, and our knees must bend. We are empty, me hearties, without God.

To proudly stand firm in the face of such a gift, to refuse it as though we believe that we ourselves are enough, is to make ourselves an enemy of all that is good.

Philippians 2:5-11
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 made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

God opposes the proud.

God gives grace to the humble.

Radical Submission. Humble Resistance.

So bend your knee. Submit. Give up your trinkets and your baubles and your rags of righteousness. Raise your chains of boasting and striving and working for power. Stop running from your rescuer.

Submit yourselves therefore to God. (James 4:7)

This submission is a submission to truth. This submission says that you will acknowledge that God is God, and you are not. That God is love. That God is good. That God is real. That God is just.

Submit to that secret you’ve known and fought: We do need God. We are sick and can no longer make it alone. We need God to help us give, because we are not capable of giving; to help us be kind, as we are not capable of kindness; to help us love, because on our own, to love like God loves, even an enemy, is beyond us.
(With apologies to Douglas Coupland. See the last two pages of his book Life After God.)

And in that humility, that willingness to stop lifting ourselves up, God lifts us up instead. He brings up high all who have made themselves low.

Jesus was tempted in exactly this same way. He was tempted by Satan with all of the wealth and power in the world, just as we are.

Matthew 4:8-11
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,
“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
    and him only shall you serve.’”
 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

Resist the devil and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)

This submission to God is resistance. Like Corrie Ten Boom. We will resist!

Like the antifascist Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who boldly preached and organized against Hitler and the nazis in Germany until he died by their hand. We will resist!

Like Jesus Christ, our King above all kings who willingly submitted to execution as an insurrectionist against Rome. 
We will resist!

We will stand in faith and in deed against all powers and doctrines and temptations of this world.

We will shout “no more injustice” and stand with the oppressed.

We will see the gospel of love and freedom and justice and peace go forth, as the perverse, unjust, and demonic ways of this world flee in the light of truth.

We will walk beside the poor, the lonely, the fatherless, the oppressed, the alien in their trouble, in their affliction. And we will refuse to let these worldly powers or the temptations thereof to corrupt us (James 1:26,27).

Me hearties, we follow a man who was born in poverty to a people in exile and oppressed by the fierce, ever-expanding empire of his day. His life and teachings inspired the hatred and jealousy of both the established church and its leaders, and the leaders of that ruling empire. He was called a friend of sinners. He was executed as a criminal.

This is our King. This is our God.

Listen to how Jesus describes his own ministry.

Luke 4:18-19
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour.”

All of the original founders of our faith were either exiled or executed.

At least four books in the New Testament were written from prison (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossions, Philemon).

When the first Christian church began, the members sold everything they had, and held it in common (Acts 2:42-47). They distributed their wealth among the needy (Acts 4:32-37).

The Christian faith is a faith of submission and resistance.

We submit to God. Therefore we submit to justice, to peace, to love, to truth.

We resist the devil. Therefore we resist the perverted “wisdom” of this world. We resist pride. We resist injustice. We resist the lust for power. We resist hatred.

We love our enemies.

This is radical by necessity, me hearties. Followers of Jesus are radically different from the world around them.

If your faith slips nicely into the patterns and customs of this world, it is no faith in Jesus. (Romans 12:2)

If this is you that James is speaking about, if you are flirting with the things of this world, storing up treasure on earth, corrupting yourself with worldly power and influence instead of humbly receiving the grace of God, repent. Turn around. Stop it.

James is speaking in no uncertain terms of this urgent necessity. For those who would continue to resist the freedom of Christ, he urges you to mourn. To wail. To weep.

You see, me hearties, repentance looks different from the front than it does from the back.
From the front it is an ugly thing.

You are on a path, going a direction you should not go, and justifying that journey. Repentance is the threat of a monster barring your way. It is an offence. It is guilt. It is a root strewn across your path that causes you to fall.

When repentance is seen as the necessary step that it is, it is a loss. It is the death of all you see before you. It is the end of your dream of the destination you desire. It is the recognition of the darkness of your own soul, and it is a terrible blackness. It is a fire, and you are sawdust. It is fear.

But it is fear most pure. 
(Joshua 24:14, Ecclesiastes 12:13, Romans 3:10-18)

But from the other side, repentance is such a lovely creature. Repentance at your back is the unending Grace of your Holy Redeemer. It is every path made straight, and every hill made flat (Luke 3:5-6). It is joy. It is the morning in Spring. It is every door and window unlocked. It is resurrection. (John 11:25)

Listen to
 “The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
    make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
    and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall become straight,
    and the rough places shall become level ways,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’” 
(Luke 3:4b-6)

I will close with Mary’s poetic eruption of praise, the Magnificat, from the gospel of Luke.

May this prayer be your own.

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
    and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
    For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
 And his mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
 He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
    and exalted those of humble estate;
 he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and the rich he has sent away empty.
 He has helped his servant Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
 as he spoke to our fathers,
    to Abraham and to his offspring for ever.”
(Luke 1:46-55)

Humble yourself before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

Click the above image to read the entire series from James

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