WHAT IS GRACEFULLY - REALLY
Well - here we are again - talking about what it really means to live a graceful life. That’s what God wants for every one of us - no matter what our age is. I tell you what - it’s much easier to get ahold of this truth before you get really old - because, if you wait, you’ll really wish that you had grasped it earlier.
We’re in our little series, going through the book of James in the Bible. I’ve said this before but I’m saying it again. Many Bible teachers believe that the book of James gives a clear picture of what “GRACEFUL LIVING” really looks like. Our brother James listened to the Lord and dug down to the nitty gritty of how our Christian lives are supposed to be lived. It’s not about rules and regulations - do’s and don’ts - and how to keep God from being mad at you!!! It’s about living, while we’re here on this earth, in the way that will not only please God but will help us live in peace, joy, love, and everything else that God has promised us. If we haven’t been made aware of this, we won’t be able to take advantage of what God has given us.
So-o-o-o - we’re starting Chapter 4 of James today. I’m going to read James 4:1 - “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?” I’m going to read it from The Passion Translation - “What is the cause of your conflicts and quarrels with each other? Doesn’t the battle begin inside of you as you fight to have your own way and fulfill your own desires?” Now, brothers and sisters, there comes a time when we just have to face up to the truth - which is outlined for us in the Word of God. We have to be really, really, really honest with ourselves and deal with the fact that the tendency for human beings is to be self-centered! But that’s not God’s way!
Remember last week, that we talked about Godly wisdom as compared to worldly wisdom. Now listen to Proverbs 13:10 - “By pride comes nothing but strife, but with the well-advised is wisdom.” Wow! Pride, in the simplest terms, is self-centeredness. Also, it isn’t just arrogance. Now don’t get mad at me - but shyness and timidness is also pride - they are just opposite manifestations of the same root problem - basically - “What will they think of me?” I’ve shared my background with you - but, in a nutshell, for the first 20 years of my life, I was an extreme introvert. My left eye was crossed and I knew everybody could see it and I did everything possible to keep them from looking at me. Believe me, I KNOW WHAT IT IS TO HAVE PRIDE GOVERNING YOUR LIFE THROUGH SHYNESS AND TIMIDNESS.
Now - when you’re experiencing that, especially as a child, you don’t have a clue that it’s pride.
Now - the opposite of pride is humility - or being humble. In other words, a humble person is not SELF-FOCUSED!
So - here in James 4:1, it is saying that, when you get right down to deep truth, all the harsh disagreements and fighting with our words and emotions, in every way, comes down to US WANTING THINGS OUR WAY AND CONCERN ABOUT WHAT OTHERS THINK OF US.
Now - let’s go to James 4:2 - “You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.”
This is just simply saying that, if we want things to be different in our lives, in any realm of life, instead of arguing and fussing and trying to get people to do it your way, all you have to do is ask this wonderful Heavenly Father of ours - instead of being in strife. By the way, when it uses the word, “lust,” it is not just referring to sexual lust. It is referring to deep desire for something. He has given us great and precious promises in the Word of God. But they don’t happen automatically, just because you’re a Christian. You have to believe in your heart and speak with your mouth, just like you did when you received salvation.
We have to realize that it doesn’t happen when we just do things from our soul (our mind, will, and emotions) like we did before we were born-again. We have to begin to operate from our new spirits. The Bible says that we are NEW CREATIONS. That’s not your body and that’s not your soul. That’s talking about your SPIRIT.
I have found, in my own life, that I have to spend time in His Word, reading slowly. Yes, I read the Old Testament - in fact, I started in Genesis a few weeks ago and am in Judges now - and yes - I learn. But I do have to be honest and say that, when I am reading in the New Testament, I love to SOAK IN THE PROMISES - BECAUSE WE LIVE UNDER THE NEW COVENANT. WE HAVE BEEN GIVEN PROMISES THAT THEY DIDN’T HAVE YET IN THE OLD TESTAMENT. They weren’t born again in the Old Testament - Jesus hadn’t died on the cross and taken man’s sins yet - They didn’t have all the promises that we have.
Now - let’s go to James 4:3 - “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” Boy oh Boy - I have actually known Christians, through all these years I have been living, who look at the promises in the New Testament and just figure, “Well, Jesus said all I had to do was ask - so I’m gonna’ ask and I’ll get to do what I really, really, really want to do. After all, He promised!” Let me say this slowly - IF OUR PRAYERS ARE PURELY SELFISH, THEY WILL NOT BE ANSWERED.
Think about Godly parents - do they grant the requests of their children when they know that it is not good for them? Of course not! I’m going to read 1 John 5:14-15 - “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him.”
Did you get that? It has to be ACCORDING TO HIS WILL! God’s will for His children - people who have been born again - is all the way through the New Testament (or we could say, ‘The New Covenant’). That’s the reason that it’s so - so important to read all of the New Testament - all the time - so we get a handle on what His will is and what He wants to do for us. I’m going to say something slowly here which is very, very important. YOU CAN’T BELIEVE IT IF YOU HAVEN’T TAKEN IT IN FROM HIS WORD. YOU CAN’T JUST SAY, ‘WELL, SO-IN-SO SAID IT SO IT MUST BE TRUE! THAT’S ONE OF THE REASONS THAT IT IS SO IMPORTANT TO TRAIN YOURSELF TO BE IN HIS WORD.
Now - let’s go to the next verse - James 4:4 - “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” Now - I believe that there’s more to this verse than our first glance at it provides. I believe that the whole verse is talking about BECOMING A FRIEND WITH THE WORLD AND THE WAY THE WORLD VIEWS AND DOES THINGS. When you do that, it is like committing adultery against your LORD GOD ALMIGHTY. I’m going to read 1 John 2:15-16 - “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”
Now I think what this boils down to is this - in as simple way to understand it as possible. The Word tells us that we are to love the people of the world. We want them to know God and spend eternity in Heaven and not in Hell. But, He does not want us to love, and go along with, their way of thinking and doing things. If we do that, we are following their ways - instead of leading them to the ways of the Lord.
Now listen to James 4:5 - “Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, ‘The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously?’” Now there are many verses in the Old Testament that talk about God being a jealous God. I personally believe that this portion of Scripture is just saying that God, who loved us so much that He gave His precious Son to go through death on a cross - FOR US - taking our sin and paying a price we couldn’t pay - desires deeply (or jealously) that we not depart from His way of doing things by following after worldly ways. Now I know that when we have friends that we’ve been very close to, it is sometimes very hard to back off (or away) from the way they want to do things. But, brothers and sisters, it just comes down to this. GOD HAS TO BE THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON IN OUR LIVES. HIS WAYS, HIS WILL, HIS WAY OF THINKING HAS TO TAKE PREIMINENCE OVER ALL ELSE IN OUR LIVES. WE ARE NOT WHO WE USED TO BE! WE ARE NEW CREATIONS.
I have learned to look at it this way. If God Almighty, the Creator of the Universe, can love me, individually, so much that He suffered so much by allowing His Son to be put on a cross - and pay the price for me - so that I could live in Heaven eternally, there is no one else in the Universe who should be more important to me than Him. He knows you and me inside out. He knows every detail of our lives, our personalities, our past, our family lives, our giftings which He planned for us, our abilities, our problems, and on and on and on.
I really believe that a lot of Christians just have never come to that point in their lives where they just surrender to Him. I call it, “Giving Him the Right-Of-Way,” to everything in my life. Think of yourself at a ‘round-about’ and there are cars coming on your left around it - you have to ‘yield the right-of-way’ to them. Well, I’ve learned to ‘YIELD THE RIGHT-OF-WAY TO THE LORD’. But, you know, it’s not just a one time thing in life - things come up that try to distract us and worry us - and when that happens to me - I just get by myself, and sit quietly with Him - and I see myself (in my imagination) parked at a round-about and Jesus coming on my left. I talk to Him and say something like, “I surrender to You, Lord - I yield the right-of-way to You - I’ll follow You - You lead me - I’ll go YOUR WAY!”
Now - listen to this next verse - James 4:6 - “But He gives more grace. Therefore, He says: ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’” Man oh Man - what a verse!!! Talk about learning to live gracefully!!!!!!
I think that God just wants us to concentrate for a bit on this whole thing of us living gracefully. That verse says that, “HE GIVES MORE GRACE.” No matter what your age is, God wants us to see ourselves as His children, whom He has taken into His family and whom He loves, loves, loves. He has taken our sins away - they’ve been taken off the ‘sin-slate in Heaven’ if there is one! It’s wiped clean! Laughing! I think that one of the things that hinders us the most, in our daily walk with the Lord - is that we don’t see ourselves the way He sees us.
I have said it often in my life - but I’m saying it again now. I BELIEVE THAT GOD’S LOVE AND HIS GRACE IS THE STRONGEST FORCE IN THE UNIVERSE. There is nothing that can overcome His love and His grace if we will just believe it and receive it. However, WE HAVE TO SEE OURSELVES THE WAY HE SEES US. WE ARE HIS CHILDREN AND WE HAVE BEEN TAKEN INTO HIS FAMILY.
Now, when we do think of ourselves that way, we are not being prideful - we didn’t deserve it - all we did was believe it. His grace has wiped the slate clean and how can we do anything but adore Him and honor Him. How can we not surrender to Him?
That kind of attitude in our lives not only has an effect on us but also on everybody in our lives. Can you imagine what an effect would be going on in the world if all the Christians in the world were living in His love and His grace?!!!!!!!!
Now - the next verse is kinda’ a follow-up verse - James 4:7 - “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
Now - think about this. The previous verse was talking about “MORE GRACE” that He gives us. In other words, when we’ve messed up, He has continued to give us grace. He never says, “OK - I’m done with him - or I’m done with her - I’ve given so much grace - I’m not gonna’ keep on giving grace - they just have to make it on their own now, even though they say they’re sorry.” NO - NO - NO!!!!!! THAT IS NOT OUR GOD!
So now He is saying, essentially, “My beloved child, I have continued to give you grace, and I will keep on giving you MORE GRACE. SO THIS IS WHAT I WANT YOU TO DO - I WANT YOU TO SURRENDER TO ME AND TAKE THE AUTHORITY THAT I’VE GIVEN YOU OVER THE DEVIL - AND YOU’LL FIND YOUR LIFE EASIER TO LIVE.”
Brothers and sisters - when I began to really, really get ahold of this truth many years ago, now, it was truly a LIFE CHANGER for me. I grew up and received salvation in the Baptist church and I am forever grateful for what I learned about God. When I got married and my husband and I started going to some nondenominational churches, I learned some things that I hadn’t known before. Then, came Bible School for my husband, and after that, we pastored two churches in Colorado, in the mountain area outside Denver. While we were pastoring the second church in Indian Hills, Colorado, the CHARISMATIC MOVEMENT was taking place all over America. In the area, we lived in, people were meeting in homes everywhere, and also in the basements of churches.
I fought against it at first because I thought the whole thing of ‘speaking in tongues’ had gone out with the Apostles. But, I finally gave in and received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Along with the ability to speak in tongues, came insight and enlightenment that I hadn’t had before. It was at that time, that I began to realize that I had been given authority over the devil - but I had to believe it and to operate in it. It didn’t just happen automatically.
THAT REALLY WAS A LIFE CHANGING TIME IN MY LIFE. As I began to study the Word more than I ever had before, I began to see myself as a CHILD OF GOD WHO HAD BEEN GIVEN AUTHORITY OVER THE DEVIL. I hadn’t seen myself that way before. I just kinda’ passed over verses like James 4:7 and ignored them - just like a lot of Christians do.
At first, it was weird and strange for me to actually talk to the devil - but, after I began to see huge changes in situations in my life, I began to see the WHOLE WORD OF GOD IN A DIFFERENT LIGHT. We can’t just dismiss verses like this because they seem weird to us.
Through the years, I have seen tornadoes turn and go a different way, because I told it to in Jesus’ name - I’ve experienced pain leaving my lower back, because I told it to, in Jesus’ name (when the doctor had told me I’d probably be in a wheelchair the rest of my life) - I’ve seen the lives of people close to me make a huge change and turn to God because I commanded the devil to ‘loose them and let them go’ in Jesus’ name - I’ve seen miraculous provision in my life, especially in the time since my husband moved to heaven 24 years ago, because I commanded the devil to back off - in Jesus’ name - and I could go on and on and on.
Brothers and sisters - WE HAVE TO BELIEVE THE WORD OF GOD AND ACTUALLY DO AND SAY WHAT IT SAYS FOR US TO!!!!!
Now, remember, the verse before had been talking about us receiving MORE GRACE and then it began to talk about us submitting to God and resisting the devil.
We can’t just pick and choose what we’re going to believe in the Word. Now, when we’re reading the Old Testament, we’re not going to read much about MORE GRACE OR AUTHORITY OVER THE DEVIL - because Jesus hadn’t died on the cross yet and people weren’t born again yet. They didn’t have NEW SPIRITS like we do. But, we are BLESSED, BLESSED, BLESSED TO BE NEW CREATURES IN CHRIST JESUS - AND WE’VE BEEN GIVEN AUTHORITY OVER THE EVIL ONE ON THIS EARTH. Sadly, a lot of Christians have not been taught this!
Now - as we grow older, it is very important for us to have these truths operating in our lives. That’s the reason that it’s so important to get ahold of them before we get to the point that we need them desperately. I am so grateful to the Lord for getting ahold of the knowledge of the authority of the believer. In fact, Andrew Wommack has a book called, “The Authority of the Believer.” I’ve listened to him teach on it, and learned a lot!
As we get into our latter years, our lives change bit by bit. We’re all going to die but I don’t believe that, as believers and children of God, that we have to be in terrible situations just because we’re old. I’ve read the stories of several older Christians, like Smith Wigglesworth, who weren’t sick or in pain, but were just enlightened by the Lord that it was time for them to move to Heaven. So they just told their loved ones that it was time and went to sit in their comfy chair - and then, just a short time later, they weren’t in their bodies anymore.
However, when it comes to our day-to-day lives as we go through our 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s (and perhaps more - giggle), we don’t have to live in agony, sorrow, loneliness, confusion, frustration, and on and on. He wants us to have such an intimate and personal relationship with the Lord that we are walking in His love and grace. In fact, He wants to give us MORE GRACE. He wants us to believe His Word - all those promises He has made to us - and really, really, really comprehend that He means them - He’s saying, “YES AND AMEN” TO ALL OF THEM FOR US.
He wants us to really get ahold of the fact that we have been given authority over the enemy and that we can exercise that authority! It’s not just a fairy tale! It’s the Word of God - THE TRUTH. The devil hates GOD and all God’s children - US! He will do everything he can to make our lives miserable. BUT IT IS UP TO US TO BELIEVE HIS WORD AND TAKE AUTHORITY OVER HIM! He comes to kill, steal, and destroy - BUT JESUS CAME TO GIVE US ETERNAL LIFE, AND HE GAVE US AUTHORITY OVER THE ONE WHO HATES GOD.
Back there in James 4:7, it said, “To Resist the Devil.” The word, ‘resist’, means to ‘actively fight against’. This isn’t a passive word. We must actively fight against what the evil one wants to do in our lives. You know what? The devil loves ‘passiveness’.
So - Brothers and Sisters - as we are all growing older, the Lord wants us all to live victoriously in the latter years. That’s the reason HE has given us all this information, in His Word, to help us get ahold of these truths that can set us free.
We don’t have to spend our older days feeling sorry for ourselves and feeling useless. The Lord wants to use us - not just for our own lives, but for the lives of others. We can not only pray for our kids and grandkids and great grandkids, but we can also give them a picture of what “LIVING GRACEFULLY REALLY LOOKS LIKE!” When we’re not around anymore, don’t we want for them to have pictures in their memories of what a graceful life looked like? Even if they don’t know the Lord yet, it can cause them to desire to know the Lord - the way we do!!!!!! You can be praying about that even now, while you are still here!!!!!
Now - I’m going to do something a bit unusual, as we bring this to a close - BUT GOD SAID TO DO IT! I’m going to read the 7 verses we’ve been talking about from the Amplified Bible. I’d like for you to maybe shut your eyes and just listen to these verses - kinda’ think of it as God giving these verses (or WORDS) to you personally.
James 4:1-7 - Amplified
What leads to strife (discord and feuds) and how do conflicts (quarrels and fightings) originate among you? Do they not arise from your sensual desires that are ever warring in your bodily members? You are jealous and covet (what others have) and your desires go unfulfilled: [To hate is to murder so far as your hearts are concerned.] You burn with envy and anger and are not able to obtain ]the gratification, the contentment, and the happiness that you seek], so you fight and war. You do not have because you do not ask. (Or) you do ask God for them and yet you fail to receive because you ask with wrong purpose and evil, selfish motives. Your intention is [when you get what you desired] to spend it in sensual pleasures. You are like unfaithful wives [having illicit love affairs and breaking your marriage vow to God]! Do you not know that being the world’s friend is being God’s enemy? So whoever chooses to be a friend takes his stand as an enemy of God. Or do you suppose that the Scripture is speaking to no purpose that says, The Spirit Whom He has caused to dwell in us yearns over us and He yearns for the Spirit [to be welcome] with a jealous love? BUT HE GIVES US MORE AND MORE GRACE (POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, TO MEET THIS EVIL TENDENCY AND ALL OTHERS FULLY). THAT IS WHY HE SAYS, GOD SETS HIMSELF AGAINST THE PROUD AND HAUGHTY BUT GIVES GRACE (CONTINUALLY) TO THE LOWLY (THOSE WHO ARE HUMBLE ENOUGH TO RECEIVE IT). SO BE SUBJECT TO GOD. RESIST THE DEVIL (STAND FIRM AGAINST HIM) AND HE WILL FLEE FROM YOU.”
We’ll pick up next week where we left off today. So let’s go through this next week in His wonderful and magnificent GRACE.
Scriptures used in this lesson
1 John 2:15-16
James 4:1-7 (AMP)