WHAT IS GRACEFULLY - REALLY
Well, brothers and sisters, we’re still in our little series about what “gracefully” really is. We’ve been going through the book of James because this book dives into many areas of our lives showing us what a graceful life really looks like. I’ve said this before but I believe it’s important to get ahold of - many true Bible teachers really believe that James gives a clear picture of what ‘undeserved favor’ or ‘grace’ really looks like in the life of a Christian.
So - last week, we went through the first 12 verses of chapter 3. So we’re going to pick up at James 3:13-14 - “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth.”
Boy Oh Boy - what a deep portion of Scripture! James is saying here that true Godly wisdom is shown in our lives, not just through our words, but in our actions. Did you get that phrase, ‘the meekness of wisdom’? In other words, if you truly are wise and are living in God’s wisdom, your conduct will show it AND YOUR WORKS WILL BE DONE IN THE MEEKNESS OF WISDOM. You know what? Sometimes, the “meekness of wisdom” will have you keep your mouth shut. Yes, there are times when He wants you to speak the truth concerning something, but He doesn’t want it done in a “know it all” kind of way but in a loving way.
This portion reveals to us that true wisdom and knowledge will be revealed in our actions - or in our way of handling things. It mentions that ‘bitter envy and self-seeking’, which boils down to ‘self-centeredness, and strife, will hinder us and is certainly not operating in WISDOM.
I just have to say here, that I believe that in today’s culture, self-centeredness is so common in our world that many Christians are living their lives in it - and don’t have a clue that they are. What it boils down to is, self-centeredness is all about ‘me - me - me - what I want, what I like, what I need, what I think, what I’m feeling, how I’ve been hurt, how they made me feel, why didn’t they pick me, how could they do that to me, don’t I matter - and on and on and on. Self-centeredness is rampant in our culture. It’s just become the norm.
Now - let me ask us all this question - and let us ponder on it - HOW CAN WE LIVE OUR LIVES AS THE BIBLE SAYS TO LIVE THEM - LIKE JESUS DID - WHEN HE GAVE HIMSELF UP TO BE HUNG ON A CROSS AND DIE FOR OUR SINS - IF WE’RE LIVING A LIFE WITH EVERYTHING CENTERING IN ON ME - ME - ME - ME? WHAT PEOPLE THINK OF ME - HOW THEY HAVE HURT MY FEELINGS, HOW THEY MADE ME FEEL, WHAT I WANT, AND WHAT MAKES ME HAPPY?
Self-centeredness has become so common that it seems weird to think about, “How would Jesus handle this?” Someone might say, “Well, I’m not Jesus!” But, you know what? He said, “Follow Me,” (or “Do What I Do”).
Now these two verses are saying that we should show our wisdom and knowledge not just in words but in action. Then it goes on to say that, if what we call ‘wisdom’ is full of envy and strife, then it isn’t God’s wisdom. I believe that this is making it clear to us that we shouldn’t make major decisions when we are mad or envious because those feelings aren’t godly and the decisions will be affected by ungodliness.
Now - listen to these next verses - James 3:15 - 16 - “This wisdom does not descend from above but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.”
Now remember - we’re talking about what living a graceful life really means. Like I’ve said before, many Christians haven’t gotten ahold of this truth - and they feel like if they just put on a good front - smile to people, etc., that all is okay. BUT, IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT WHAT IS ON THE OUTSIDE, IT’S ABOUT WHAT’S ON THE INSIDE! Living gracefully, with a pure heart before God, and toward the human beings around you, will bring a peace and joy into your daily life that is unexplainable! I mean that you just cannot find the words to explain it but you have a peace and joy on the inside of you - where worry, frustration, and fear used to be. Now, back in the verse, it said essentially that earthly wisdom, while in envy and strife, is demonic. It is often just coming out of the soul, where the emotions are and it has opened the door to the evil one. Therefore, it is not coming from the new spirit on the inside of you. Earthly wisdom makes you feel like you’ve got it all together, and you’re right and people ought to listen to you. Godly wisdom comes from your spirit (the new born-again part of you) and comes from God. Therefore, when you begin to operate in it, that peace and joy floods over your being. AND YOU CAN’T EXPLAIN IT! I have heard it said that envy and strife are the results of pride and selfishness.
So -o - o - o - what it really just boils down to is this. When we are dealing with pride and selfishness, it leads to envy and strife, which opens the door to the enemy, the devil, and we find ourselves being extremely self-centered. It hinders us from operating in God’s wisdom. Now, brothers and sisters - this is coming from God’s Word. The reason He put this in His Word for us is to help us overcome the stuff that hinders us.
Our Father, God, the Creator of the Universe, wants us to live graceful lives here on this earth - and walk in His blessings and promises. He wants us to walk in peace and joy! So - here in James, He’s showing us how to do it.
Now James goes on with this by talking about what God’s wisdom is really like. So - James 3:17-18 - “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” Now this is really a lot to take in. So we’re going to do it slowly - bit by bit!
Let’s talk about (1) PURE - I don’t think it’s talking so much about doctrine here as it’s talking about JUST TAKING THE PURITY OF THE WORD OF GOD AND SOAKING IN IT TO UNDERSTAND IT INSTEAD OF MAKING UP YOUR OWN LITTLE WAYS OF MAKING IT SOUND THE WAY YOU WANT IT TO - OR TAKING WHAT SOMEONE ELSE HAS DECIDED TO GET AROUND SOMETHING THEY DON’T REALLY LIKE. There has been much strife and even wars have been waged under the guise of doctrine. People have disregarded things that the Bible teaches because it isn’t what they were taught. There are so many denominations - and all of them disagreeing about things in the Word.
Now, actually, Pure leads us to (2) PEACEABLE! I’ve already mentioned PEACE - BUT LISTEN TO THIS. WHEN YOU BEGIN TO TAKE IN THE WORD MORE THAN YOU EVER HAVE BEFORE,
GODLY WISDOM PURIFIES THE MIND AND HEART OF THE PERSON WHO POSSESSES IT! AND IT BRINGS THE PEACE THAT PASSES UNDERSTANDING! I’m referring to Philippians 4:7 - which says, “And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Now that doesn’t mean that you can’t get mad or fight. If somebody came up behind you and grabbed your little child, or grandchild, you wouldn’t be going against God to protect your little one - God would be with you as you fought against evil! It’s just a peace that you live in, walking with Him through your life, knowing He is always there - He will never leave you or forsake you.
Now we’re talking about God’s wisdom and His wisdom is - (3) GENTLE. So, ‘gentle’ means ‘appropriate’ or ‘mild’. It also means ‘kind reactions’. Of course, we are familiar with with the word, ‘gentleman’. I think it just refers to the opposite of someone who is harsh, abrupt, or difficult to deal with. Living a life of gentleness on a daily basis is living in God’s wisdom. Now you can’t do that just out of your soul, which is the way you lived before you were born again. You have to access these abilities from your born-again spirit - THE NEW YOU - THE NEW CREATION! Living gently in this crazy world can only be done through the power of the Lord which He gave to us when we were born again.
Boy oh Boy - is this giving us a picture of what living gracefully really means - or what?!!!
Now next - (4) - WILLING TO YIELD - What this really boils down to is a person not being stubborn but willing to not always have to have things his or her way. Often, you can yield to the way somebody else wants to do something (as long as it isn’t something that God wouldn’t approve of) - but just day-to-day things that are the desires of people can be done sometimes another way than you are used to. You don’t have to always have your way. You can yield. Now, personally, I have found that the more I have learned to YIELD TO THE LORD IN HIS WAY OF DOING THINGS, THE EASIER IT HAS BECOME TO YIELD TO THE WAY SOMEBODY ELSE WANTS TO DO SOMETHING. It’s not about us always getting our way in everything and having everybody yield to us. When you really get down to the core of what this is teaching us, we don’t always have to have everything just the way we want it - we can rejoice in someone else being really happy. Now, I don’t believe that we should yield to ungodly things, or things that would not please the Lord. Discretion needs to be used when it comes to yielding to others’ desires.
- FULL OF MERCY - We’ve talked about mercy before - but just to remind us - it means not getting what you deserve. In other words, we all deserved hell, but Jesus took our punishment for us, when He didn’t deserve it, and all we had to do was believe and receive. Therefore, He desires for us to be merciful to others like He has been to us.
Now - remember - this verse is saying that the wisdom of God, if we will walk with Him and receive it from Him, will produce these things in our lives. Therefore, the more we see people the way God sees people (THE WAY HE SEES US), the more we will be showing mercy to others. Showing mercy does not mean that you approve of all the bad they have done. When God showed mercy to you and me, and accepted us into His family, He wasn’t approving of all the bad we had done - He was just putting the past IN THE PAST AND LEAVING IT THERE - and opening a new relationship with us because of His LOVE. God’s mercy toward us is a powerful blessing and He wants us to walk in that toward others while we’re here on this earth.
- GOOD FRUITS - Now, I know that not everybody was here when I talked about this - but this is referring to Galatians 5:22-23, and is therefore available in our born-again spirits. But we have to access this fruit. I’m going to read these two verses. Galatians 5:22-23 - “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such, there is no law.”
These wonderful fruits of the Spirit were given to us in our new spirits, the moment we were born again. People use the phrase, “born again,” but really don’t have a clue what it really means. We were born with a dead spirit, because of Adam and Eve’s sin. But, when we BELIEVED that Jesus took all our sin, and we SAID WITH OUR MOUTHS that we accepted what He had done for us, we received a brand new spirit, which was alive to God. He placed in that new spirit all these fruits of the spirit. However, they don’t operate automatically, because He also gave us a free will. He will not force anything on us. We have to, by faith, believe His Word which tells us these things, and talk to Him, and, thereby, spiritually, by our words to Him, access the wonderful things He has given to us. Man oh Man - when I began to get ahold of this truth, it was a whole new world for me. I didn’t have to keep trying so hard, out of my soul, to do everything right. He had already given these to me. I just had to believe it and receive it - the same way I got saved when I was 13 years old.
Now - just think about it for a moment! What a wonderful blessing it is that the LORD GOD, THE CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE, has placed in our new spirits all these wonderful things we need to live a good life while we’re here on this earth. All we have to do is access them. We have to believe it. Then, when we talk to Him we tell Him that we want to access what He has placed in us - that we don’t want to just try real hard, to do it in our own strength, but we want to do it in HIS STRENGTH. Man oh man - what a blessing it is to be a child of the Most High God!
WITHOUT PARTIALITY AND WITHOUT HYPOCRISY - Another word to describe ‘partiality’ is ‘prejudice’. So - God’s wisdom is without us making decisions about people based on just human, natural, or soul knowledge about people and us figuring that we know what they deserve and don’t deserve. I kinda’ laughed when I saw ‘hypocrisy’ with ‘partiality’ - and this is the reason why. When a person figures that he or she knows what a person deserves, or why they’ve done what they’ve done, and therefore refuses to give them ‘grace’ or ‘undeserved favor’, more than likely, they are hypocrits themselves and are operating with a “holier than thou’ attitude.
We talked about ‘partiality’ a couple of weeks ago in those verses which were about us judging people - the poor man and the rich man - us making judgments about people and their pasts - and dealing with them based on our own opinions of their lives. Each of them is loved by the Lord, and making judgments based on how they look, what they’re wearing, how much money they have or don’t have, and on and on - and, therefore, treating them differently. That’s being partial.
When it comes to ‘hypocrisy’, some of us have been in really bad circumstances in our own lives, but we don’t want anybody to know about it. Also, many of us would have been in really bad circumstances if someone close to us hadn’t assisted us at that time. And, for those of us who have never been in really bad circumstances, our attitudes should be giving thanks and appreciation to the Lord, and having compassion for those who are going through awful things.
Can you see why James is kinda’ known as the book that shows us what real GRACE is. The word ‘GRACE’ has been used so much in our lifetime that, very often, we have only related it to what God gives us and we have not related it to what we are to give others. So - if we’re feeling deep inside of us ‘partiality’ and are aware of it being ‘hypocritical’, we have to admit to the truth that we are not living in God’s wisdom. GOD’S WISDOM means that we see people through God’s eyes and act toward them based on that.
Now - James 3:18 - “Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” I really like what Andrew Wommack said in his Living New Commentary about this verse - so I’m going to quote him. He said this - “As it states in James 3:17, God’s wisdom tends toward peace. But it would be wrong to say that anyone who flows in God’s wisdom will always get a peaceful response. That wasn’t the case with Jesus, Paul, and the other apostles. Paul even said that everyone who lives godly will suffer persecution. So I can say that, most of the time, when we use God’s wisdom, it will disarm the hostility in others and we will have more peace in our relationships.”
Now, I think what it comes down to is this. If we are walking through our everyday lives, learning to live in the fruit in our new born-again spirits, we are going to experience more peace in our lives than ever before. In other words, we used to see people through the eyes of the way they have treated us. Now, we are seeing them through the way God sees them. It’s not all about US, the way we’ve been treated, hurt, embarrassed, stolen from, used, lied to, rejected, and on and on. We forgive them - and we begin to see them as people in deep need of a relationship with the Lord. IT’S NOT JUST AN ACTION ON THE OUTSIDE TO MAKE US LOOK GOOD - IT’S A NEW ATTITUDE IN THE HEART BECAUSE WE’RE SO IN LOVE WITH THE LORD AND WHAT HE HAS DONE IN OUR LIVES AND WHAT WE HAVE LEARNED ABOUT HIM AND FROM HIM!!!!!!!!!
Brothers and sisters - when we get ahold of the truth which is in these Scriptures that we have been going through, we will begin to experience a life of GRACE like we’ve never known before.
Now, I’ve made statements similar to this before - but I must say it again. AS WE GET OLDER, WE ARE NOT JUST OLD HUMAN BEINGS THAT ARE WORTHLESS, CAN’T DO MUCH, NEED A LOT, AND THEREFORE ARE GRUMPY, SAD, LONELY, AND ON AND ON. GOD WANTS TO SHOW THE WORLD AROUND US WHAT ‘GRACEFULLY’ REALLY MEANS!
As we’re going through the Book of James, we are getting a look at what “Undeserved Favor” or “Grace” really means. We older Christians have more time than the younger ones have to get a clear understanding of the truths in the Word of God - and to put them into practice in our lives. We have time that they don’t have - most of us are are not raising children, working at jobs, etc. We have time to spend in prayer that they don’t have. Through the years, I’ve known many older people that just kinda’ live in the ‘mully-grubs’, feeling sorry for themselves. I decided many years ago that I was NOT going to live that way, as I grew older.
Now, some in this room, are not in my ‘older-age-realm’ yet - BUT WE’RE ALL GROWING OLDER - EVERY DAY!
I believe that God wants to keep using us as we get older and older and older. In my own life, I’ve discovered that I have more time to pray than I used to have. I have more time to read His Word than I used to have. Now - this may be a shock to some of you - but I have also learned through the years that some of the most devoted prayer warriors in the Body of Christ are people who are in their 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. God is using His older children to pray His will into the lives of their families, their friends, their churches, their country, and on and on. And that’s the way He wants to use all of us.
Unfortunately, a lot of older Christians spend a huge amount of time daily in feeling sorry for themselves because life has more problems in it that it used to have. But our wonderful and loving Father, who loved us so much that He gave the best He had, His Son, to take the punishment for our sins - that FATHER - has peace and joy for us - in fact, He’s already put it in our born again spirits. But He won’t force it on us. WE HAVE TO TALK WITH HIM AND TELL HIM THAT WE WANT TO WALK IN WHAT HE’S ALREADY PUT IN US. THAT’S ACCESSING IT!!!!!!!
I’m going to make a suggestion. I suggest that all of us talk to the Lord about walking in His wisdom, as these verses have been talking about. He knows each of us inside out. You don’t have to put on a front to talk to Him about it. He loves you with that same powerful LOVE OF HIS that sent Jesus to the cross. He wants His wisdom to be the motivation in our everyday lives - because He knows it will bring the peace and joy to us that we all desire.
When you get right down to the truth, God has already given us in His Word everything we need to get a handle on how to live for Him here on this earth. But He will not force it on us. WE HAVE TO YIELD THE RIGHT OF WAY TO HIM AND DESIRE WITHIN US TO DO THINGS HIS WAY.
Brothers and sisters, He has already planned for us to live GRACEFULLY in our everyday lives and has given us how it all works, right there in His Word. Here in the book of James, He spoke through our brother, James, to tell us how it works. Thank God for the book of James!!!!!!!
Scripture used for this lesson