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About this series
Five Lies that Ruin Relationships
Wrong Beliefs Produce Wrong Behavior
Have you ever looked back over a situation or relationship in your life and wondered how it became so messy or difficult? In the series from the book of James, Five Lies that Ruin Relationships, we'll define five of the most common lies that have the potential to ruin relationships with those we love. We'll also uncover the source of quarreling, how our words wound, and how not to make decisions. And together, we'll ask and answer the question: do wrong beliefs produce wrong behavior? We will discover that when we confront the lies we believe, there is power in knowing and applying God's truth to our relationships.More from this series
I want you to allow your mind to go to a park. It’s a beautiful, sunny day in your mind’s eye. Big, fluffy white clouds. The sky is very blue. It’s a beautiful park with a lot of greenery. And as the camera of your mind’s eye zooms in, there’s a bench.
And in the background, there’s children running and playing and doing what children do. But it’s kind of white noise. And as you zoom in, you see that there’s a little girl who’s maybe about eight or nine years old. She has little pigtails. She’s really cute. She’s got a few freckles acrossed her nose. And you see a man sitting on the bench that’s obviously her father. And he looks very uncomfortable.
As you watch from a distance, he kind of moves here, moves there. And you can tell even from a distance it’s just chit chat. And he has his keys, and he keeps flipping his keys from one direction to the other because that’s what dads do when they have to say something very hard to a very young child. And they don’t know exactly how to say it or exactly what to say.
As he prepares this speech that he’s rehearsed in his mind over and over and over, and this is the moment of truth. He picked her up from their home that’s about a mile away. He thought the park would be kind of the best place to break the news. And as he fidgets and tries to figure out as a grown man how to break the news to this little eight or nine year old who is Daddy’s girl, the silence is broken by this little innocent comment.
And she looks up at him. And she says, “Daddy?” He goes, “Yeah, hon?” She said, “Are you gonna come home soon? Are you gonna come back to live with me and Mommy? I really miss you.” And he realizes that all the rehearsing of the speech in his mind didn’t prepare him for this. And everything in him wants to start crying. But he holds back the tears.
He says, “Well, honey, that’s why we came to the park today. I need to tell you something. See, Daddy’s not going to be coming home. And what I want you to know, sweetheart, it’s not you. I love you. I want to be with you. I wish so much that I could be with you but it’s me and your mommy. We just can’t get along.
We’ve tried. We’ve really tried, sweetheart. And you’ve heard us late at night. And we yell at each other and we scream at each other. And we’ve tried everything but we fight, fight, fight. And so we’re going to get what big people call a divorce. And I’ll still see you, honey. I’m going to make sure that I get to come by and be here on birthdays. And we even have it worked out where you get to spend a couple months with me in the summer time. But no, honey. I can’t come home.”
And she gives him that look that only an eight year old can give that says, “I don’t understand this. You love Mommy, and you love me. And I love you, and I love Mommy. How could two people that love each other this much not be able to work out whatever you need to work out?”
And he says to her, “I know you can’t understand. Maybe someday you will. And I just want you to know,” and now those little pigtails are kinda down on her shoulder. And now the tears – she’s not even crying, they’re just flowing and streaming down her face. And until she is 80 years old, that picture in that park will be etched in her memory forever and ever and ever.
And it will impact, regardless of what Mommy or Dad says, how she views herself. And it will impact how she relates to the opposite sex. And it will impact how she views God. And it will change everything about her life to some degree. And she didn’t understand it when she was eight. She won’t fully understand it when she’s eighteen. And she may never fully understand it ‘til she’s 80.
Why do we fight with those that we love? Why is it that two people that honestly, sincerely, deeply love one another can get at levels of conflict that they have to give up or choose to give up? And as I tell that story, for some of you – we have all kinda different ages – you were that little boy or you were that little girl. And for you, maybe it wasn’t you were eight. You could have been five. Or maybe you were twelve or thirteen. And you remember being on the receiving end of one of your parents – your mom or your dad telling you that it’s just not going work.
And maybe it happened in the bedroom, or maybe it happened in the mall, or maybe it happened in a park. But it’s etched in your mind. And it shaped a lot of you. And for others, it’s – you weren’t the little boy or little girl. You remember when you were the mom or you were the dad giving this speech to one of your kids. And it seems like a long time ago. And because your mind is made by God and you have an amazing, amazing ability to repress, sometimes you can push it way down deep and maybe that was then and you’re in a second marriage now and things are better.
But as I told that story, some things got really deeply uncomfortable inside of you that you haven’t thought about in awhile. And it keeps bringing back the question. And I’m talking about Christians. Why do we fight with those that we love? Spouses fight against spouses. Why is it in some of our homes, our children fight against each other? Why is it that when kids get to be teenagers that they tend to fight against their parents? Why is it that when you get to be an adult and you have grown parents that sometimes you fight with your grown parents?
Why is it that people can seem to get along and then someone dies and families that look in tact when they start talking about where the money is going to go and who gets the estate, some of the most ugly things can ever come out of believers’ mouths?
Why is it that people in the same churches that love the same God that have paid by the blood of Christ can just rip churches apart when someone thinks someone said something about them or someone’s doing something with the building or one of the busses or we disagree about what should happen to a staff member?
Why is it that there are families – maybe some in this room – who live within three to five miles of one another and you don’t even speak? You don’t even speak to one another. Why do we fight with those that we love? Because the fact is that we do. And what the Holy Spirit is going to say through Jesus’ Brother, who wrote the very first book in the New Testament, James – he’s going to explain to us not only the cause of fighting among us as God’s children. He’s going to talk about the consequences of what happens when we fight with one another.
And then here’s the good news. He’s going to give us the cure. He’s going to give us very direct, clear instruction about how we can stop the conflict. About how we can stop it and those things don’t have to go on. And restoration can occur. So with that, open your Bibles if you’re not already there to James 4 and let’s dig in together.
And you’ll notice what James begins. He raises the very issue. He says, “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you?” Rhetorical question. And by the way, it’s in the tense of the verb that says that these things are presently occurring in this church. I mean, this is written to a church. And he says, “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you?” In other words, it’s happening right now.
And then he’s going to answer the question. “Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?” Will you circle the word “pleasures,” and then circle the word, “war.” Literally he says, “Isn’t it your passions that wage war in your members, or literally among you?” “You lust and you do not have, so you commit murder. You are envious and you cannot obtain so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask.”
And then someone’s thinking to themselves, “Now, wait a second James. I pray.” And he says, “Yeah, you’re right. There is a second category. There’s some of you that ask but you do it with the wrong motives. And you do not receive because you ask with the wrong motives. Why? So that you can suspend it on yourself.” The summary of that is the root cause of interpersonal conflicts, according to James, is our consuming passion for self gratification. Jot those two words in, will you? Self gratification.
He says this word – what is the cause of wars? It means a protracted – the word for wars here is a protracted state of hostility. Why is it in the church there’s literal wars going on among the members? What causes the fightings? These are pictures of little outburst of anger that break out. And it’s in the plural here. It’s happening within and among them. He says, “Is it not your pleasure or your passions?”
And I had you circle that because we get our word “hedonism” from it. The Greek word is “hedonai.” Hedonism is one who lives for pleasure, the passion for lust to fulfill one’s desires, the cravings of the lust of the flesh, the losth of the eyes and the pride of life. It’s addictive self love. He says the source of your quarrels is your own selfish gratification. It’s the “me first” mindset.
You fight because you want this and someone else wants this. It’s your lust. It’s your passions. He says you envy, or literally you covet. You want what someone else has. And then you don’t get it, so you commit murder. Isn’t that strong? Those are strong words for a church, isn’t it? Whether that literally was happening in this context, or whether he’s speaking of murdering people as Jesus said. If you say, “Rocka to your brother, if you have hatred in your heart toward him, you’re committing murder.”
But whether it’s a metaphorical murdering with your tongue that is slander, or murder in your heart out of hatred, or whether it got to be literal, I’ve seen it become literal. I mean how many of us heard of a story in a local church where someone gets bent out of shape in a church conflict, right? And they come in on a Sunday morning – I’ve heard of this at least four or five times in the last ten years – they come in on a Sunday morning with a gun and either shoot the preacher or shoot one of the elders or leaders or deacons or whatever they call them in special churches. And this is a church – and I bet if you do the research – everybody in the room is born again.
That’s hard to imagine, isn’t it? But we don’t have to imagine it. This is reality. And he says the cause is that you want. You’ve got this pulsating desire – I have this pulsating desire, even as a believer, to satisfy or gratify my own way. We covet. And this is a strong word. It’s the idea of not the wholesome kind of God given pleasure, but the sinful, self indulgent pleasure, the hot desire to possess something for your own ego and self gratification. And you can’t obtain it. In other words, you get blocked.
And so you wage war. And then you don’t have things. And he says, “You know why? Because you’re trying to get it from other places instead of from God.” And some of you, you try to get it from God but you do it with the wrong motives. And so he says, “The source of interpersonal conflict is self gratification.” And if you wanted to summarize it, I put some notes down. Our problem? Just write two words – selfishness – selfish pride. That’s our problem.
So the inner passion within each of us that craves our own way. And behind that craving is the belief that pleasure and fun and sensual fulfillment must be achieved at all cost. The symptoms are conflict – conflict. And the conflict is evidenced in broken relationships. We want something, our goals are blocked, our desires are frustrated and so it leads to violence. Competing desires – it’s the classic picture of one cookie and two two year olds.
And what James says is is that one cookie and two two year olds mentality – and it might be a position in the church, it might be about money, it might be about sex, it might be about a number of different things. But that same passionate desire to possess and get your way and me wanting to get my way is at the core of interpersonal conflict.
Third, he says what’s the strategy? Our strategies are twofold. First, we attempt to fulfill our desires apart from God. We want something badly. Maybe we want something in our marriage. Maybe we want it from our boss. Maybe we want it in the church. Maybe we want it from one of our kids. Maybe we want something badly as a single person.
And he says the wrong strategy is you try and get it apart from God. Notice the line that he said. He said, “You don’t have because you don’t ask.” There’s some ways through either manipulation or intimidation or image management that we try and get what we want instead of going to God and saying, “God, this is my heart’s desire.”
The second way in terms of strategy is not just attempts to fulfill desires apart from God. But we try to use God to fulfill our selfish desires. We try to make God our self help genie. “God, I’m praying that you will give this to me.” And the goal isn’t the glory of God. The goal isn’t the agenda of God. And by the way, I’ve never seen this more popular than it is in our day. And I mean, I’ll tell you what – it sells.
Jesus can make you happy. Jesus can help you lose weight. Jesus can make you rich. Jesus can make you healthy, wealthy and wise. Jesus can eliminate all your problems. You know what? God is not the center or the core or the infinite one who’s Holy in the universe. You are the center of the universe and he’s your errand boy. And we’ll give you a little formula and tell you what you do.
You get him to run your errands for you. And I mean, it is being preached and it is being taught and it is being gobbled up. Because I tell you what, there’s something in all of us, right? And maybe Jesus is that ticket. I’ll be happy – Jesus is the ticket to – if I love him and follow this formula, I’ll have this big house on the hill. And I’ll have another house over here. And I’ll drive this kind of car and have this kind of watch and these kind of clothes. And beautiful women are going to jump in my car, or handsome hunks are going to serve me butter that we can’t believe it’s butter.
And I mean Jesus is my ticket to self fulfillment. And it’s a perversion of the Gospel. And it’s a perversion of the truth. And it’s not new. I mean, this is the first book written in the New Testament. And what he’s saying here is your wrong strategies are one, you try and get your stuff apart from God, or you try and actually use God. You’re asking God to do things but it’s not for him. It’s for perverted, wrong motives.
And then finally the results are our passions and our drives and the blocks of people’s goals result in frustration within and fights without. He’s saying to this local church – just remember this is a local church – “You have fights without and you have frustration within because the root cause of interpersonal conflict in marriage, with children, in the church, at work,” he says at the core is self gratification. Or literally hedonism. This commitment that I gotta have my way. I need to fulfill my sensual lust.
And in our honest moments, we all have to admit this is true of all of us. I mean we can make it very sophisticated and we can put some verses around it and we can act a little more pious. But you have conflict in your home. I have conflict in my home. If you’re married, you have some conflict in your marriage. I have some conflict in my marriage.
And for years and years – not really years and years but as I tell the story making it bigger and bigger to make it better and better, for years and years I said the whole key to our marriage is if Theresa just wasn’t so selfish. I mean, she’s just so lovely and pretty and nice and kind and sweet, and that’s what everyone thinks. But down behind that beautiful blonde hair and sweet countenance and wonderful mother and now grandmother, there is a very strong woman who wants her way.
And in private moments with probably a few ladies of trusted confidence that she really prays with, there’s probably been at least a moment or two that despite her husband’s role and job of teaching God’s word and working hard at being a good dad, some of the conflict I think she would say, “The problem is Chip is down behind all this is this really selfish guy that wants his way.” And when I want my way and she wants her way, guess what that’s called? Conflict.
Now as you mature in Christ, you handle it in a lot better ways, right? But hey, people? Let’s not act like this passage is for someone else. All right? And a lot of times what happens is we hit those conflicts, and the reason you don’t argue about them is they produce such conflict you don’t even talk about them anymore. And I watch marriages that are on parallel tracks with very little intimacy. Or I watch families on parallel tracks where, “Oh yeah, we don’t argue with our kids. That’s because we’ve decided anything that causes conflict we’re not going to talk about.”
So the kids are gradually going off their way and you’re going off their way. And then when they land over here in the ditch because you didn’t want the conflict, you pull out your Bible in Proverbs 22 – “Train a child up in the way it should go and he won’t depart, God, I don’t get this. He departed.” Oh really? Because at the heart of every little boy, foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, right?
And so you have to confront issues. You have to realize, I have to realize I gotta confront issues in me and you and you and in all of our relationships that we are people of the flesh despite this wonderful thing that God has given us, this new birth. Where the Spirit of God lives in us and the Spirit has healed us. And he’s given us gifts and we have power.
But we live in a fallen world, and there is a tempter out there. And we will do things, and we will struggle in areas that will cause interpersonal conflict. And at the heart of it is not, “The devil made me do it.” What’s James 1 say? You sin when you’re carried away by your own lust.
Well let’s get on the diagnostic side, and then we’ll quickly move to the solution side. James is going to say, “Okay, that’s the cause of quarrels.” Now, he’s going to give us God’s diagnosis. Our constant quarrels reveal three different things. He’s going to say there’s some consequences. But these quarrels are going to reveal something, and they’re going to reveal something all the way over here. He’s going to say that you have a belief system.
And in your belief system, because when you have this frustration within, conflict without, you have a belief system that you have believed a lie. And he’s going to tell us what that lie is in just a minute. And at the core of that lie is that we have believed the lie of hedonism. And I’ll address it in a second.
Then he’ll say that after believing the lie, once you believe a lie there’s a series of behaviors that have you beginning to move farther and farther and farther away from God and farther and farther and closer to the world and the world’s system. He’ll call it the cosmos. It’s this world system.
The world system is primetime TV, walking at the grocery stand, People, Cosmo, Forbes. There’s a world system that says, “The way to significance, fulfillment and satisfaction is how you look, what you make, who you know, how many people report to you, what you own.” And it’s when you can have the pleasures of the world, then you’re a somebody.
You’re just a house remodel away from being happy. You’re just a better sex life away from being happy. You’re just that first child away from being happy. You’re just getting married – you’re single now, but man if I was married, then you’ll be happy. You’re just something out there. And the world paints every evening on primetime, and now on 150 cable channels. And magazines and romance novels and billboards and songs.
And they’re all telling you a web that the world is saying, “This is what we’ll deliver – real happiness and fulfillment.” And God says, “When we buy into that, we become spiritual adulteresses.” We leave our first love and we embrace and fall in love with the world and we lose our relationship and our heart for God.
He says we believe a lie, we betray a trust and then it gets actually scary. He says we actually can come to a point where even though we are God’s people, we become enemies. God will literally in this passage, you’ll see in the next few verses, God will literally put on battle array when His children are being wooed away from Him and beginning to live like the world. He will put on battle array and go to war against us. It will be out of a heart of love.
And He will do what I call the velvet vice. It’ll be a vice and it’ll have velvet on the outside of it. And He will bring about a velvet vice of pressure in your life to get you to change your mind about what really satisfies and return to Him. It’s called the Hebrews 12 experience. “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful but sorrowful. Yet those who’ve been trained by it afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”
He says, “We believed a lie.” The lie, basically, is hedonism. And hedonism is a worldview that promises that I will be fulfilled by pleasure. How I feel is the value of what’s right, and what’s wrong. I know I’m married, I know I’m supposed to do this, but I don’t feel loved anymore, therefore…I know it’s wrong, and I know God says only to put pure things in my mind, but when I log on to the Internet, and I see all those naked pictures, it makes me feel alive. I know we don’t have the money, I know I shouldn’t spend it, but when I go through, and I buy one, two, three, four more pairs of shoes, and two more dresses, and I come home, I get a little rush, and I feel alive and good again, until the MasterCard bill comes, and I have yet another fight in our home with my husband.
See, the lie is, fulfilling your sensual pleasure will deliver significance, security, joy, and fulfillment. That’s hedonism. And we have three prominent passions in hedonism. Number one is the desire to have possessions. Number two is the desire to feel pleasure. And number three is the desire to have power.
Possessions, pleasure, and power. And that is why all the marriage experts say: what do couples argue about? Money, sex, kids, and in-laws. Did I miss anybody, here? And if you think through those four things, what you find is, in your heart, you have selfish gratification about how we should spend our money. And she thinks you need to remodel the kitchen, and those new Ping golf clubs are not that much. Or you could join the country club, or get a new motor for the boat. She thinks, he thinks, she thinks, he thinks, kids think – and it plays out.
We buy the lie that, “Sensual pleasure will meet my inner-longings for fulfillment.” And that lie leads us to betray a trust. And we become spiritual adulteresses.
I came across an interesting article by a scholar who does most of his research in the backgrounds of books of the New Testament.
And this scholar writes this. He goes on to say, “This form of expression may offend the modern ears, but the picture of Israel as the bride of God, and God as the husband of Israel, has something very precious in it. It means that to disobey God is like breaking a marriage vow. It means that all sin is a sin against love. It means that our relationship to God is not like the distant relationship of a king and subject, or master and a slave, but like the intimate relationship between a husband and a wife. It means that when we sin, we break God’s heart. And as the heart of one partner in marriage may be broken by the desertion of another, so when we sin, we become spiritual adulterers, and break our vow with God.” And that’s what James is saying.
So, what is the solution? He gives us the solution where He gives us a prescription. And we’re going to get the prescription in verses 7 through 10. It is very direct.
God’s prescription is: humble yourself, and God will heal your relationships. Humble yourself, and God will heal your relationships.
I’m going to read this passage and there are ten specific things that we need to do, that will be a picture of how to humble yourself.
Number one, “Submit” – circle – “yourselves therefore to God.” Two: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Three: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” Four: “Cleanse your hands, you sinners.” And five: “Purify your hearts, you men of double mind.” Six: “Be wretched and mourn.” Seven: “Weep.” Eight: “Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to dejection.” Ten: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.”
And as you study those things, what you see is it is developed in four clear steps toward humility, or to diffuse conflict.
Number one: Give in to God. Write that in the line above there. “Submit yourselves therefore to God.” The word submit, here, is in a tense of the verb that has a sense of urgency. It’s a compound word: hupo – “to be under” – and tasso – “to be under the rank.” It’s like falling into line, or rank, in the military. It’s to take God as your Commander, as your Captain.
It’s a picture of a group of military people all walking like this, and you are out of step. What he is saying is, “You’re out of step with the Spirit.”
Well, how do you get in step with the Spirit? Very, very clearly, it is: obey the known will of God revealed in Scripture. Give in to God. Voluntarily, from the heart – that’s the idea. Surrender. Submit your will. Submit your future. Submit your relationships. Submit your agenda. Submit your desires.
And you say, God, here is what I’m going to do. I have unconsciously – I didn’t mean to; I didn’t realize it. You’ve brought me to this place, at this time, to help reveal it. The light bulbs are going off in my mind. My spirit is so convicted. I want You to know, right now, I surrender. I submit to You. I want You to know that as I begin to think about Your Word – and I know it’s going to be a journey – but I’m going to submit my finances to You. I’m going to submit my schedule to You. I’m going to submit my relationships, my job, my ministry – I submit to You. You are the General; You’re the Commanding Officer. You’re the King. You’re the CEO, and I’m coming for orders. You tell me what to do. That’s what I want to do. That’s the first step in humbling yourself. It’s obeying what you know.
The second step is: Get tough with Satan. Notice the words, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Resist has the prefix anti-. It means to be against him, and to take a stand. It’s to take a stand against the enemy. There is no middle ground. You can’t play with him. And the word devil – who is this? He’s the slanderer, the liar, the deceiver. He’s the seducer.
Get tough with Satan – put an arrow – and write the word fight, and put a box around it. You have to fight. You have to fight. Ephesians 6 tells us how to put on the full armor of God. This is a promise. If you resist, he will flee! But you have to get angry with it!
You have to say, “I don’t want to be that. I don’t want to think of that.” You have to say, “No more Internet for me. I’m not going to watch that stuff.” You have to cut off the supply lines. You have to fight. You have to say, “There’s a world system – it is purposefully seeking to seduce me.” And you have to put up the guard, and the armor. And you have to say to yourself, You know what? I can’t let that in our home.
I have a good friend that had a pornography problem. He just doesn’t have the Internet. He just doesn’t have it. You say, “Well, that’s drastic.” Yeah, that’s drastic. He’s just saving his marriage, saving his life, walking with God, changing his life. He just happens to know he’s weak. Where are you weak? Where are you weak? In the area of media – I would dare you to do something. You probably won’t do this, but I’ll dare you anyway – double, double dare. I dare you to go on a media fast for ten days – no TV, and no videos, no DVDs. Not even the news. Ten days.
The first two days you’ll want to kill each other, because you will be so irritable. And then, you’ll recognize, We actually spend hours that we didn’t know in front of this thing. Then, pretty soon, you’ll start getting creative, and you’ll have all kinds of time to start doing some things you always wanted to do. About days number six through eight, you’ll start actually having some fun. Day number nine, you won’t miss it very much. Day number ten or eleven, you’ll realize, Oh, hey! And you’ll start watching something, and you’ll watch a commercial, and you’ll go, Oh, man, that is gross.
Because what will happen is, you won’t be dumbed down. Your spiritual sensitivities will come back alive. And you’ll realize, Man, there is a hook in that commercial. And did you notice how the camera panned and went to that guy’s body part, or that woman’s body part? Did you see? And all of a sudden, all of those subliminal messages, your spirit will pick them up, and you’ll fight, and you’ll say, “Man, I’m not buying that stuff.” But I’ll tell you what, the passive, I want to try harder, be a better person someday, someway, will not make it.
Third, he says, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” Write in there, “Get close to God.” “Get close to God” – and then draw an arrow, and in the box, write return. Return to God.
What He wants you to know: He loves you. He’s for you. He cares about you.
Anything you think the world, and power, or sex, or pleasure, or a boat, or a better golf score, or what plastic surgery could ever provide, Jesus says, “It’s all a lie! It’s all temporary. I love you just for you. I have joy that circumstances can’t change. I want to give you something in your heart that’s called “peace,” not pseudo-peace. I want you to be able to sit in a room where you don’t have to turn on the TV, or the stereo, or run over to the refrigerator every time you have a little bit of unrest in your soul. I want to give you joy that even when bad news happens, it wells up in you. I want to love you. I want to care for you. I want to tie you in to Me, and let you understand where real life comes, abundant life, to the full.
Isn’t that what He promised? “I came that you might have life, and you could have it to the max!”
This isn’t like getting second-rate stuff. This is like seeing the junk for what it is, and then, negatively, you have to fight, but then you draw near to God. You return. And what does the promise say? He will draw near to you. Isn’t that awesome?
This is the picture of the prodigal and the father. He didn’t run after the prodigal, did he? He allowed the consequences to get in the prodigal’s life. By the time the kid is eating the pig slop, he finally has an “ah-ha” moment. This ain’t good! The slaves have it better.
But the moment he returned, the word – right? – and began to come back to the father, what did the father do? Study that passage carefully. He does a number of things that break culture.
He runs to meet – that means he had to pick up his robe. That means he embarrassed himself in the city. He ran to meet his son.
God wants to run to meet some of you. And some of you are so overwhelmed with guilt, and have so much baggage, and so much junk, and feel like you’re so unworthy, and you’ve been through so much. He is a God of grace.
If you’ve fallen into a fifteen-foot hole, He will lower a sixteen-foot rope. And if you’ve fallen into a three hundred-foot hole, and you can say, “I had two abortions. I’ve had four marriages. I’m a perpetual liar. I’m stealing from the company right now. I only came here because someone paid my way. My whole life is a mess. I am in three hundred feet of just dirt, and I feel like a terrible person.” God said, I brought you here because I have a three hundred and one-foot rope. Just grab it, babe. I love you. I love you. I died for you. I have a plan for you. I want to restore you.
Well, how do you draw near to God? It’s not just an emotional experience. How do you draw near to God? Well, since many of you are on that media fast because I double, double dared you, and some of you can’t resist that, with all this time you know what you will find? Just start reading through the New Testament. Just start taking walks, instead of watching TV, and talk to God.
And when you’re hurt, tell Him you’re hurt. When you’re angry, just express it, and tell Him you’re angry. And the things and the needs that you don’t have, ask Him for, Lord, and say whatever you want!
Get in the Scriptures, begin to pray, and then, you know what? Every New Testament command I can find is in the second person plural. There might be an exception or two. That means I am never expected to live this radical, New Testament, revolutionary life alone. I have to do it with people.
And you get in the Scriptures, and you begin to pray, and you get with some people who are making progress with the Lord, and you find some music, and a Bible-teaching church that teaches the Word, and lives authentic lives. And you know what? You’re drawing near to God. He’s going to draw near to you.
And all the things you thought that were going to be delivered through your hedonism, that you’re being brainwashed, like I’m being brainwashed, day after day after day, God says, I’m going to give you better, and lasting, both now and forever.
The final thing he says is: Get right with others. Notice the phrase here: “Cleanse your hands; purify your hearts.” You know what? That’s the outward. What are you doing with your hands that is wrong? Cleanse them. Then, not just externally, but internally: “Purify your hearts.” Where are your motives? Let there be tears for the wrong that you’ve done.
And so, there’s a private purification where you cleanse your hands. And you know what it is? You don’t hear this much anymore. Are you ready for this? Some of you, a number of things have come up in your mind. I’ve thrown a few little bombs out, have you noticed? The soaps over here, romance novels over here, pornography over here, materialism…
Just in case you missed the bombs, this is a review, all right? A little bitterness in your heart; unforgiveness toward an ex, toward a mom, a dad, one of your kids, right?
You know what “cleanse your hands; purify your hearts” is? Stop sinning. Stop it. Are you ready? I’m going to do this again. It’s very complicated. Stop sinning. We get this, Yeah, I will. I’m going to have to process this, maybe see my counselor. You know what? Is it wrong? Stop it. Repent! That’s the word: right. “Get right with others.” Arrow, in a box, then write repent.
Now, do you need help? Yeah. Do you need to see a pastor or a friend? But if you have wronged someone, make it right. Cleanse your hands. If you have bitterness in your heart, if you have resentment, if you have anger fantasies, purify your heart. Purge it. Tell God you’re sorry. If you need to apologize to someone, go apologize to them! But just say, “I’m going to get right with God. I’m going to get right with others.”
Then, notice the final thing he says, in verse 10. He says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, unto the mighty hand of God” – why? – “that He may exalt you.”
He’s told us that the problem is interpersonal relationships, that it’s really selfishness. He said the lie that we’ve believed is hedonism. The whole “pleasure” mentality, the Playboy mentality of our day.
But he says, “You know something? Submit to God. Resist the devil. Draw near to God. And then, get right with others.” And then, he says, “That is the actions of humbling yourself before God.”
And here’s what He will do. He wants to – literally, here’s the word – He wants to lift you up. He wants to restore you.
I wish I had time to go over couple after couple after couple, and men who have had twenty years of pornography, Internet addiction, and people who have been on drugs, in the places I have had the privilege of pastoring, where I have watched them humble themselves, come and say, “God, I’m bankrupt,” and do exactly what we’ve talked about here. And the Lord has weaned them from the world, and they’ve been returned to their first love: the Lord Jesus.
And is it easy? No. Is it humbling? Some of you are thinking, Well, if I made it right, I might have to actually go apologize to someone, like an ex-mate, or an ex-boss. This could go public. This would be humiliating.
Humiliation comes from the same root word as humble. You see, when we finally get to where it ain’t about me, and this ain’t about you. It’s, let’s just be right. People don’t think any of us are near as good as we think they think they are anyway. Right?
We are all projecting a little bit better, and most of us see through what we’re projecting. It takes more energy to hide, and cover, and project that we’re better than it does to come absolutely clean and say, “I blew it. I was wrong. I’m sorry. God has forgiven me. Would you?”
And you know what I find? People are pretty merciful with people who are humble.