Western Trail Cowboy Church
The Perfect Christian
- IntroductionWe just finished a section dealing with true humility. We now are looking at a section that teaches us how to have this humility.We see in this text this morning that James tells us to not speak evil or degradingly towards fellow believers. If we do we become the judge against them and the royal law. But as that we do not practice what we preach but become the Perfect Christian. But being the perfect Christian is not possible because there is only one who truly knows the truth completely, and we are not Him.I read this week a story from Chuck Swindoll. He wrote of a time when he was in seminary and a missionary spoke at chapel.This missionary delivered a terribly poor message. After it was over Swindoll and a few other students stood at the back and ripped the man and his poor delivery apart.He was grabbed by another underclassman and was told he did not know all the facts. Swindoll retorted that it was a pitiful message and did not understand what the underclassman was talking about.The underclassman then told him that two hours before the service the missionaries wife called and told him his youngest son had been killed. That three months before that his wife had been diagnosed with a terminal illness, but he still came and delivered the message.Swindoll said he was ashamed and by this rightful confrontation. He said he had judged a fellow believer for a poor message he had delivered under unimaginably difficult circumstances. A man who was being faithful to the Lord.He finished this with saying,Far too often, Christians criticize others before we get all the facts. We observe an event, catch a few words of a conversation, or gather a handful of random facts. We then leap to conclusions and start flapping our jaws about it. The jabbering catches on and spreads, and before you know it the “gossip” becomes “news.” He further stated there is nothing more “contagious than a negative spirit.”This is what James is telling us in this section. We are not capable of being the judge over our brothers and sisters in Christ. We try, we fail, but we continue to do so because they are not as Perfect a Christian as we are.If we say that is not what we think when we do this, we are only lying to ourselves. We only judge others on what they have done because we desire to be better and we want to demonstrate that we are better.Now, before we get too far into this I want to say here that we must discern whether someone is living in sin or not. That is not judging but coming to them in love to try and help. Judging comes when we make statements like, “I would never do that. They must have major problems to be acting like that. How pathetic they are to be living like that.” Or the worst of all, “I have a prayer request today. So and so is doing xyz and they need prayer.’We shelter our judgmentalism in the form of prayer and act like we are The Perfect Christian.Yet, we are not and that is why James wrote this section we will look at now. James 4:11-1211 Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?This begins with a strong command to not speak evil of one another. James starts this way because...We Become Degrading CriticsDo not speak evil against one another. The words speak evil carry the connotation of speaking in a degrading slanderous way.Slander is not just false statements like we think today when someone has been slandering someone. We see slander and automatically place it as someone speaking ill of another by lying to get them in a bad spot.Yet, slander here means people trying to undermine another’s authority by asking the right questions in the right way to the right people. This is envy working out to place you above them because well, being the perfect Christian requires knocking people out of your way.So “Slandering or speaking against another is a practical outworking of the envy and pride James addressed in 3:13–4:10.” (Samra, Jim. James, 1 & 2 Peter, and Jude, p. 58).We become degrading critics so we can have the authority and power and prestige that another may have. No different than when Israel began to question God and His ability to provide for them in the desert in Ps. 78:19 “They spoke against God, saying, “Can God spread a table in the wilderness?”They slandered God’s character because they thought they knew better. That is why we slander or criticize others. We think we know better and we want the power. We want control. We want what we want and we will do and say what we need to get that.James says, “No! Do Not do that! Stop speaking in critical slanderous ways against fellow believers.” But we need to not speak this way about unbelievers either.We need to let our Col. 4:6 “speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”Or as another eminent theologian of red dirt music, Stoney LaRue, sang in his one chord song, “You Catch more flies with honey, More with a whisper than a shout.”Take for example a dog. If you come at them talking in a threatening tone and acting like you are going to hurt them, they run and hide from you. Or at least they stay wary of you until you change your methods. But when you approach them with a calm and quiet demeanor, they usually stay and probably run to you.That is what James is saying to us. We can draw more people to Christ and have healthier discussions with each other if we stop prejudging one another. We can build one another up if we stop the pride and desires of our hearts and look at the desires of God for others. We will have more people come to us than run from us.But if we do not stop the slander we are...Acting Like Your Above the LawWhen we speak against a brother or sister, we judge them and we speak evil against the law. Now this law is not the Mosaic law. James does not speak of the Mosaic law but the royal law, the law of liberty. This being “Love the Lord with your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.” He focuses primarily on the latter part.So, if we judge and critique fellow believers we have judged this law as wrong. We have because when we judge another we are not living out what the law says we need to do.We are not even supposed to judge ourselves. Paul wrote in 1 Cor.4:2-5 “Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.”This is quite refreshing isn’t it? We see that we are not to even judge ourselves. That gives freedom because we are not to hold our own failures over our own heads. We have freedom in Christ and our failings are covered. We need to press forward.So, who are we to place a judgment on another? We are no one to do so. Yet, we act like we are above the law when we condemn another for a failing they have.Just like the missionary from the story from Swindoll, we do not have all the facts yet we judge. We deem the royal law as wrong. This is something we need to stop doing and something we can stop doing.Christ has given us freedom yes, but we need to control that freedom before we ruin another. We can control this by calling out to God for wisdom before we speak. We ask and He will give. We in an of ourselves do not have the power to stop this, but the power in us from Christ can.It is all Christ and none us. In Him we can overcome this failing we all have. In Him and through Him we can stop acting like we are above the law.Because if we do not then...We Critique The LawJames finishes this verse saying if we judge the law we are not a doer but a judge.Wow. This flips us upside down right here.We think when we are critiquing and criticizing others for their failures that we are doing the word. Yet, we are not we are judging and not doing. We are sinning and failing our savior who came and died for us. We are failing Him who has died for all great and small.We are failing our Lord who loves us all even if that person is not doing as good as we The Perfect Christians are.Take this Twitter exchange that took place between Anthony Kalla, a twenty-four-year-old Lions fan, and Brandon Marshall, a wide receiver for the Chicago Bears, in which Kalla slandered Marshall for disparaging comments Marshall made about the Lions a year earlier. Marshall responded by challenging Kalla to a fistfight. When you listen to his quarrel, Kalla’s comments seem motivated by envy—he would like to be a Pro Bowl wide receiver as Marshall is. Marshall’s comments seem motivated by pride. His team is doing poorly, and this fan has insulted him. Here is pride and envy at work in causing people to speak evil of one another. (Samra, 62).You see the issue in this exchange don’t you? The men wanted to be perfect but neither were. Yet they defended themselves like they were. Pride and envy, as the story tells, were the root cause.Not only that but each man in that exchange critiqued the law. They did because they wanted to be the best and it did not matter who they ripped apart.Sadly, this is a common story in the world. Sadder still, this is a common theme in the church amongst believers.We have disregarded the royal law and exchanged it for our law and we have forgotten what the word of God says.We have become like the man who looks intently in the mirror at his reflection and when he walks away forgets what he looks like. We are not doers of the word because we have forgotten the word and now we critique it because it goes against what we say it should say.We have decided that we are the judge, jury, and executioner of all things and God help anyone who gets in our way.Maybe it is a group of “Spiritual Elites” critiquing the speaker who flopped and failed even though they do not have all the facts.Maybe it is the “culturally relevant church” sport of “having “roast preacher” for lunch. [Where] Sunday lunch is the opportunity to discuss all the failures and shortcomings of the sermon that they just heard. To do so is to sit in judgment over the sermon, rather than to submit to what God might be saying to them through it. The same thing happens when we ignore the law and choose to speak evil of others. Rather than submitting to God, we sit in judgment over him and his law.” (Samra, 61-62).We do this not realizing...We Have No AuthorityJames concludes this with the knock out punch of “there is only One Lawgiver and Judge, He who is able to save and destroy.”We are not that. We are not able to do those things. We are not capable of judging our neighbor because we do not know their heart.Too many people in the church have become self-labeled “Fruit inspectors.” They look at everything another believer does and they rip it apart. They say they are not doing anything for the Lord and must not be saved.They say they are worthless because they are not doing what I do. They are not a perfect Christian because they only read their Bible a few times a week when I read mine every day and maybe twice a day.They must be evil because they only come to church on Sunday and sometimes they miss then.They must be evil because they do not give as much as I do.So forth and so on and we do not know what is happening in their lives.Only the Lord knows the heart. 1 Sam. 16:7 “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”Jer. 17:10 “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”Jer. 20:12 “O Lord of hosts, who tests the righteous, who sees the heart and the mind, let me see your vengeance upon them, for to you have I committed my cause.”Acts 1:24 “And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen”God demanded of Job 38:4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.”When we try and criticize others and judge the law, criticize the law, act as if we are above the law, we are trying to be God.This is a position we cannot hold or even begin to perform.Yet, we put ourselves in His role while we know nothing. We think we can be Him with our scant limited knowledge.We can only stay out of His seat when we recognize we are all the same.Yes, you may be tall and slender, you may be short and stout, you may be bald, you may have a full head of hair, you, may read faster, better, retain more, be more intelligent, be more athletic, be better at serving, be better at loving, give more, or whatever but we are the same body if saved.If we can remember this and see that God uses us all as we are, and lay aside our pride and personal passions, we can stop criticizing and start trying t understand one another.Now, again, this does not mean we do not confront another believer who is in sin, just as the underclassman did Swindoll. It does mean we do not cast judgment on another as Swindoll had done without seeing what the cause was.One commentator has said of this,James is not prohibiting the proper, and necessary, discrimination that every Christian should exercise. Nor is he forbidding the right of the community to exclude from its fellowship those it deems to be in flagrant disobedience to the standards of the faith, or to determine right and wrong among its members (1 Corinthians 5 and 6). James rebukes jealous, censorious speech by which we condemn others as being wrong in the sight of God. (Douglas J. Moo, The Letter of James, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000, 199).Another has said,many Christians cannot connect what James is saying to their own lives. Probably the primary way they deceive themselves is thinking, "if I am right, if I have the moral high ground, my speech and critical treatment of another is justified." I have repeatedly heard Christians say mean spirited things and then protest that they are "speaking the truth in love." Even if you are speaking the truth, and even if you have the moral high ground in some disagreement with another Christian, that is not a license to let your lusts win the war in your members. The empty God-talk that "I said it in love" is as absurd as it is useless when you have to give an account to Jesus. (Smelley, Enduring Storms, Loc. 1717).What this means for us in our every day living is that we cannot depend on our wisdom to guide us. We can depend on the Lord’s wisdom to guide us and we must depend on His wisdom if we are to overcome our lusts to be the Perfect Christian.ConclusionAs I conclude this you may be asking what the definition of a perfect Christian is. I will let the Babylon Bee answer that.A perfect Christian is one who conforms to the man-made standards of the Christian faith in any given age. Conforming to the status quo is the goal. Living out your faith in the way cultural Christianity dictates is the only way you’ll truly be satisfied in your Christian walk… The root of your problem is that you’re not trying hard enough to become perfect by your own efforts. You’re trying to do the Christian life by the grace of God, allowing Him to gradually change you by the power of His Word. This works for some people, but it’s not befitting a true believer. No, the true believer desires one thing above all else: conformity to the status quo of the modern church. (Bee, The Babylon. How to Be a Perfect Christian, The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition, 4,6).Yes, this is satire but the biting truth is that is what many in Christianity think. And if you do not align with what they hold as cultural Christianity, then you will be criticized, degraded, critiqued, and shamed out of the church because you do not fit.They will be the judge, jury, and executioner that demolishes others.That is exactly what James is telling us to not be. He is telling us to lay aside our pride and let God lead us so we will not fight and quarrel with each other, we will seek Him for the right reasons and not our own desires, so we will submit to Him, draw near to Him, and hate sin and mourn over it.When we do that we can love our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and even be better at loving those outside the church.We can be a light that keeps people from crashing into the rocks or we can be the ones that dash them down into the rocks.That choice is yours today.Choose to give it all to God or carry it with your wisdom. His wisdom is far superior and better.Seek Him and He will be found. Draw near Him and He will draw near you. Submit to Him and He will exalt you. Love Him deeply and follow Him and you will love others more.God opposes the proud because the proud are trying to be Him and take His authority. We can stay in our rightful place when we realize The Perfect Christian is the one who has believed in Christ and knows that they are an utter failure without Him and Him alone.Fail, yes. Falter, yes. Drift, yes. But perfection is in the one who we have believed not ourselves. That is what makes all Christians perfect.Not themselves or anything they do but He who has done everything for them.It is Him I ask you today to place your faith in if you have not and He will give you everlasting life and power to grow and love more rather than be bitter.