WHAT IS GRACEFULLY, REALLY
Last week, we were in James 4:1-7 and we talked about the difference between pride and humility and about the fact that these attitudes, like humility, must be coming from the inside of us - in our spirits - and that it’s not just about putting on a good show on the outside. We dealt with what true pride is and what true humility is. We dealt with the fact that the Lord just keeps on giving us MORE GRACE, as we go through our day-to-day lives. Then, we ended with the Lord’s instruction in verse 7 about taking His God-given authority over the devil.
We’re kinda’ just going to take up where we left off last week and go into James 4:8 - “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners and purify your hearts, you double minded.” Now, last week, we were talking about surrendering to the Lord - or yielding the right-of-way to the Lord. By the way, Pastor Gary has been dealing with some of these same things, both on Sunday and Wednesday night. You think God is trying really hard to get through to us on this whole thing of surrendering to Him? I THINK SO!!!!
When it talks about ‘drawing near to the Lord’, it’s really dealing with intimacy with the Lord. The Lord is already near to you - in fact, He knows every detail of our lives - past, present, and future. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Hebrews 13:5 - in the Amplified. It says, “Let your character or moral disposition be free from love of money (including greed, avarice, lust, and craving for earthly possessions) and be satisfied with your present (circumstances and with what you have); for He (God) Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up or leave you without support. I will not, I will not, I will not, in any degree, leave you helpless, nor forsake, nor let you down, (or relax my hold on you). Assuredly not!!!”
Man oh man - that verse has become precious to me. In those first few weeks after my husband moved to heaven (24 years ago now), I was laying on the floor in my little place where I was living (between Fort Pierce and Port St. Lucie), crying and praying. I just didn’t know what I was supposed to do, where I was supposed to go. I was feeling alone. I plopped open my Amplified Bible and my eyes fell on this verse!!!!! I knew, that I knew, that I knew that it was God speaking to me from His Word. I read it over and over and over and talked to the Lord, thanking Him for speaking to me in one of my worst moments in my life.
I began to pray differently and, in fact, spent quite a bit of time praying in the Spirit. It was just a short time after that that I got an email from some friends of mine back in K. C. - Jim and Kris Yeager - they had been part of our church in K. C. and now they were pastoring in the K. C. area. Essentially, they said that they would like for me to come back and they wanted me to be on staff at their church and do a lot of teaching. Within weeks, Debbie helped me make that move. Jim and Kris were so good to me. I found a little apartment to live in - but those first few weeks, they took me everywhere with them and they often paid for my meals when we were eating out. They even took me with them to a couple of conferences. THEY WERE SO-O-O GOOD TO ME. After a few weeks, I was teaching again in several different groups and from the pulpit at times. THAT VERSE IN HEBREWS 13:5 (AMP) WAS A LIFE CHANGER FOR ME!!!!!!! AND I WILL FOREVER BE GRATEFUL TO THIS COUPLE! YOU TALK ABOUT LOVING SOMEONE WHEN THEY’RE IN A REALLY TOUGH TIME IN THEIR LIFE. THAT WAS THE WAY THEY TREATED ME. JIM HAS SINCE MOVED TO HEAVEN, AND I HAVE CONTACT WITH KRIS NOW AND THEN.
Now, this verse in James about ‘drawing near to God and He will draw near to you’ is what happened to me that day. God is always with us - but often we are not being intimate and loving with Him. Often, we’re frustrated, worried, angry, and on and on, and it hinders us from receiving what we are wanting from the Lord.
Now it also talks about being double-minded. You have to come to a place in your life where what God wants, the way He thinks, what His will is, how much He gave to have you in His family and how His undeserved favor has changed your life - and those attitudes and thoughts must be the guiding force in your life. You can’t just want to do a little from God’s viewpoint, and then some more from your viewpoint. Double-mindedness will mess up your life - big time! GOD - AND HIS WAYS - MUST BE NUMBER ONE IN OUR LIVES.
Now - let’s go to James 4:9-10 - “Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. - Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.”
Now - so that we will understand what this is saying - If you’re going the way of the world, as the earlier verses have been referring to, then you often laugh about stuff, make fun of stuff, and deal with stuff just like the world does. Instead, He wants us to see what kind of horrible stuff in the lives of people is the result of their worldly thinking. Instead, He wants us to see things the way He does and what it is doing to the people.
Again, He talks about humility, as He did in those verses we dealt with last week. Walking in humility in your life is very helpful in drawing near to God. I have heard it said that, with God, the way up is down. When we begin to see things the way God sees them, we begin to realize that, without Him in our lives, we are ‘a nothing with the rim knocked off’! Now that doesn’t mean that we are to hate ourselves, or see ourselves as bad, bad, bad to please God - it means that we see ourselves as actual children of the Lord of the Universe - not because we deserved it - but because of His ‘undeserved favor’. That’s when we begin to walk in humility.
That’s when we really DRAW NEAR TO GOD AND HE DRAWS NEAR TO US - In other words, that’s when the communication with Him becomes what we all want it to be. I have found that humility really boils down to seeing yourself as insignificant as compared to the Lord - but realizing that, because of His wonderful GRACE, you can be close to Him and have a daily intimate relationship with the CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE. The way up is down! Feeling significant doesn’t come through accomplishments - but through humble relationship with the Lord.
Now, remember, the goal of this class is for us all to get a real understanding of what God’s grace is and how getting ahold of it, can have an effect on our lives as we get a little older, and then a little older, and then a little older. When the Lord talked to me about having this class, He told me that so many of His older children go through the last years of their lives feeling useless, grouchy, worthless, frustrated, and on and on. He told me that His desire is for them to be so aware of His grace that it changes their last years on this earth.
That’s the reason we’re going through the book of James. It’s kinda’ God’s ‘Grace Book’.
So let’s go to James 4:11-12 - “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But, if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. - There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?”
Now this is still speaking about how to draw close to God. If we go through our lives, watching in a judgemental way, in great detail, of every little thing that somebody does, you know what? It’s going to come back to haunt you. Remember, what you give out, is what you get back. Yes, there are people around us who do not do things like they should. Sometimes, it just drives us crazy and we end up concentrating on all they’re doing wrong.
I believe that what this is getting down to is this. If we are really humble, and receive the grace of God in our lives, we won’t be judgemental about those around us. Walking through our lives on a daily basis, in the ‘UNDESERVED FAVOR’ OF GOD, will motivate us to be gracious to others. That doesn’t mean you approve of what they’re doing, but if we get a handle on what grace is, we will be kind - AND THE GRACE OF GOD WILL BE OPERATING SO MUCH SO IN OUR LIVES THAT IT WILL HAVE AN EFFECT ON OTHERS.
That last verse says, “There is one Lawgiver,” and, of course that is referring to God. I have heard it said, “There is one Lawgiver and you aren’t Him.” Our job, here on this earth, is to show the rest of the world, as much as possible, what GOD’S GRACE looks like. We’ve experienced it in our own lives and we are to live it before others.
This is still dealing with the judgemental attitude that is very rampant in the church. People are judgemental about what others wear - about the things they say - and on and on and on. I think, if we will just get down to the nitty gritty, that we will continually be around people in the Body of Christ who say things about others, who are harsh, who don’t handle things the way you think they should, and on and on and on. Instead of us being judgemental about them and talking about them, the Lord wants us to treat them the way He treats us. The Lord does not go around telling all the others everything you’ve done wrong. He loves you - and He gives you more and more GRACE. That’s the way we are to be - and you know what? God will be able to use you as an example of what walking in GRACE IS ALL ABOUT.
That’s what living gracefully is!
Now - we’re to James 4:13, 14, and 15. I’m going to read them together. “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit - Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. - Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.”
Now, when it starts off by saying, “Come now,” it is meaning, as we would say it today, “COME ON! This is just still relating to what was being said about us drawing nigh to God and humbling ourselves. In other words, it’s kinda’ arrogant to make all these plans when, actually, when you get right down to it, we really can control very little. We should be saying and thinking that we’ll do this or that - the Lord willing. In other words, we, in every detail of our lives, want to be dependent on the Lord - and not on ourselves. I have learned, and am still learning, that when things don’t go like I thought they would, often there is something that God does, or brings to light, or works out regarding the whole situation. Therefore, we should depend more on the Lord than on ourselves and our plans - that helps us stay humble.
I do not believe that this is saying that it’s wrong to make plans. We have to do some planning to work things out with family and everything else in life. However, I do believe what the Lords wants us to get ahold of is this. We have to stay so in tune with the Lord, even in the midst of our plans, that He can show us things we need to see, and reveal things to us that will help us, or protect us, or enlighten us. That’s the reason I’m always praying for myself and everybody else I pray for, what it says in Ephesians 1:17-18 - “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, - The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.” I could teach on that for a whole teaching. I may do that another day after James.
So - now - we’re at James 4:16 - “But now, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” This verse is still just talking about having more confidence in ourselves than we have in God. That is not HUMILITY OR BEING HUMBLE. BOASTING IS JUST HAVING PRIDE IN OURSELVES AND MAKING SURE THAT EVERYBODY ELSE KNOWS ABOUT IT. That is the opposite of being humble - this verse calls it EVIL.
Now, this leads us down to the last verse - James 4:17 - “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” Now, I want to talk about this for a bit because there is a lot to get out of this verse. First - if you know what you should do (from God’s way of thinking) and don’t do it, it is sin. Second - if you know what you shouldn’t do (from God’s way of thinking) and you do it anyway, it is sin.
Now, a lot of Christians get all confused about all of this and it’s relationship to GRACE. So - some of them, think like this - “Well, God forgave me of all my sins, so I’m just clean now - it doesn’t matter what I do - I’m going to Heaven no matter what I do - so I’m just gonna’ have a good time and do what I want to do.” THAT IS NOT THE RIGHT WAY OF THINKING. Then, others think like this, “Well, I’m a Christian - at least I accepted Christ as my Savior - but I keep messing up - and I’m thinking that God’s just giving up on me - I’m such a wretched person - I can never do everything perfect like He wants me to - I wonder if He’s just done with me.” THAT, ALSO IS NOT THE RIGHT WAY OF THINKING.
The right way of thinking is this! “I am a child of God because I accepted Jesus as my Savior. He took my sins (past, present, and future) to the cross and paid the price that I couldn’t pay. He is with me all the time. I, now want to do things HIS WAY and, when I fail and don’t do something His way, I thank Him that He has forgiven me and I try to keep in my remembrance how grateful I am for His GRACE (UNDESERVED FAVOR). He is with me and will never leave me or forsake me and my desire is to get closer and closer to Him as I walk through this life here on earth.”
Not one of we human beings are perfect - there was only ONE and His name was Jesus. We are all a work in progress. But one of the things we should be thanking the Lord for every day of our lives is HIS WONDERFUL AND MAGNIFICENT AND LOVING GRACE!!!!! We should be so grateful that His forgiveness and HIS UNDESERVED FAVOR was His plan before we were ever born.
Now these verses we’re talking about today, first of all, referred back to the previous ones about drawing near to God and He will draw near to you. In other words, the closer we get to Him, the more we soak in His Word, the more we seek to do HIS will, the more we follow HIS way of doing things, the more we will experience closeness (or intimacy) with Him. Then it talked about us wanting to do things God’s way and that will draw you closer to Him. In other words, you become more humble, and He will lift you up.
Then it began to talk about not talking negatively about your brothers and sisters or being judgemental about them - but instead, being GRACEFUL toward them (like God is to you) and showing the world around you what GRACE REALLY IS. Then, it talked about us getting caught up in our own plans, rather than being open to God and how He may change things. In others words, it’s about, “LORD, WHAT IS YOUR WILL - WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO?” Then it talked about boasting being arrogant - and then, about our attitude toward sin.
I wanted to kinda’ put it all in a nutshell - because these ways of living are the way He wants all of us to live. The only way we can do that is by accessing the fruit that is in our NEW BORN AGAIN SPIRITS. The Lord told me that we all need a REFRESHING. So - I’m going to give us a brief summary of who we really are in Christ - and how much He loves us and wants to use us, no matter how old we are, while we’re here on this earth. So - this is why we can live and GROW OLDER GRACEFULLY.
First of all, of all the people who have ever lived on the earth, we, the ones born into the world after Jesus died on the cross, are some of the most blessed people that have ever lived. Yes, we were born into this world with a sin nature. We have a body, a soul (where the mind, will, and the emotions are) and a spirit, which was dead to God because of the sin of Adam and Eve. When we accepted Jesus as our Savior (we believed in our hearts and said with our mouths that Jesus was our Savior), we were BORN AGAIN. Those aren’t just pretty words. They are the TRUTH. Our dead spirit was replaced by a new alive spirit, which was alive to God. Our body was still the same, and our soul was still the same. However, we could take in the Word of God and RENEW OUR MINDS - in our souls - and therefore begin to think the way God thinks.
Now, the way I have been able to understand it, when the Word refers to our heart, it’s not talking about the heart that beats on the left side of our chest. I have learned that it is referring to that place deep in us where the soul and the spirit meet. It’s the place where the real YOU rules over your life. The deeper you go with God, the more your spirit and soul are in unity and all those crazy ways of thinking before you were born again are no longer running your life.
Some of the most life-changing things that I have experienced came through realizing that the new spirit in me had all the FRUIT, AND POWER FROM JESUS in it and all I had to do was believe it and access it into my soul and body by talking to Him, and thanking Him for it and receiving it. It’s already available to all born-again Christians - but most of them don’t know it. They’re begging Him for things, rather than accessing or receiving what He has already given them.
This truth was a life changer for me. AND YOU KNOW WHAT? IT DOESN’T CHANGE JUST BECAUSE YOU GOT A YEAR OLDER THAN YOU WERE LAST YEAR. He wants us to get ahold of these truths and WALK IN THEM - AND HELP OTHERS GET AHOLD OF THIS TRUTH. Now - I’m going to say this slow - YOU CAN’T HELP OTHERS GET AHOLD OF THIS TRUTH, THE WAY GOD WANTS US ALL TO DO, UNLESS YOU REALLY GET AHOLD OF IT YOURSELF!!!
I’ve mentioned Galatians 5:22-23 many times before but I’m going to mention it again. 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.”
This fruit came into your being, the moment you were born-again. You received a BRAND NEW SPIRIT FROM THE LORD SO THAT YOU COULD BE IN A RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM. ALL THE FRUIT FROM HIM WAS PLACED IN YOUR NEW SPIRIT. In other words, you don’t have to just try, and try, and try to be loving and all the rest - from your own strength and ability - all you have to do is access what has already been given to you.
We got so used to living our lives out of our souls - and just trying real hard to do things right - and, in our own strength, we can never measure up. We can’t live the good Christian life the way we want to by just trying really hard, just the way we lived before we were born again, and even then, afterwards, because we weren’t taught the truth.
Brothers and sisters, it just comes down to this! God has a wonderful life that He wants us all to live - with all that fruit of the spirit operating through us, which will be showing A LIFE OF GRACEFUL LIVING TO THE WORLD AROUND US. BUT WE CAN’T DO IT FROM OUR OWN SELVES JUST TRYING REALLY HARD.
The only way we can do it, is getting to know Him better and better, understanding His Word, surrendering to Him - AND LEARNNG HOW TO DO IT ALL IN HIS POWER, THROUGH ACCESSING THE FRUIT THAT IS ALREADY IN OUR NEW SPIRIT.
Brothers and Sisters - God has made a way for us to be able to live the Christian life gracefully. His power and His strength is available to every single one of us who has accepted the Lord as our Savior. I have personally learned that the WORD OF GOD IS THE TRUTH! If it says it in the Word, even if I don’t understand it, or I was taught another way of thinking, I must come to a point where I just give up, with my natural mind trying to figure everything out. I have to take the TRUTH OF THE WORD OF GOD AND ACCEPT IT AND JUST DO WHAT IT SAYS TO DO.
He wants what’s best for us - and He has shown us in HIS WORD how to live here on this earth in constant communion with Almighty God - Maker of Heaven and Earth. If you’re still breathing - HE WANTS YOUR LIFE TO BE FULL OF GRACE!!!!!!!
Scriptures for this lesson
Hebrews 13:5 (AMP)