Chardon church of Christ

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Switching the Price Tags

Posted by Chardon in James 3

Switching the Price Tags
James 3:13-4:13

Years ago, Tony Campolo wrote a book about Christianity called “Who Switched The Price Tags”
He told about the time he and his best friend decided to break into the basement of the local five-and-dime store. They didn’t plan to rob the place they viewed themselves as “Sunday School boys after all”; instead, they planned to do something that was far worse for the owner. Their plan was to break in and change the price tags on everything. I don’t think they actually got beyond the planning stages... but they imagined customers arriving and discovered that radios were selling for a quarter and bobby pins were priced at five dollars each.
Campolo wrote: “With diabolical glee, we wondered what it would be like when... nobody could figure out what the prices of things really should be.”
In a store the price tags tell us the value of what we want to buy. But if someone switches the price tags, it’s hard to know how valuable something is.
In the book of James, God rebukes Christians who seemingly can’t read the price tags. They’ve lost the understanding of how valuable things should be. But now... how does God know they’ve misread the price tags?
James writes: 1 Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not comefrom your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 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. James 4:1-2
You see, when Christians get into quarrels and fights, something is wrong! And God tells is that THIS is what’s wrong: “You adulterous people!
Do you not know that FRIENDSHIP WITH THE WORLD is enmity (“becoming an enemy”) with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” James 4:3-4
In other words, when Christians fight and quarrel it shows that they’ve put a higher value on the world THAN they have put on God. In fact, Christians who fight and quarrel are called “adulterous” because they’ve apparently abandoned their commitment to God... for a commitment to the world.
So... what’s going on here? Well, the root of the problem James is talking about here is that some Christians have fallen in love with worldly possessions. And that IS an issue for many Christians. The lure of possessions and the promise of happiness is everywhere. People build their lives around how much money they have in 401K, and how many possessions they have in their homes and garages.
ILLUS: For example, say a man owned a business here in Chardon. He was always struggling financially and he came to you and asked advice. You noticed he always leased a brand new Trans Am car every couple years and suggested that maybe he should “downsize.” He was shocked and replied: “But God wants me to be happy, doesn’t He?”
This man’s problem was that he was hooked on the idea that happiness could be found IN his possessions.
ILLUS: Out West there is a General Store in the middle of nowhere. When travelers stop in - they see a sign that says "If you can't find it in this store, just ask us about the item, and we'll tell you how to get along without it."
Jesus said: “(You can’t) serve two masters, (you’ll) either hate the one and love the other, or (you’ll) be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Matthew 6:24
It’s a repeated theme throughout Scripture: Only a fool clings to things of this world
One writer explained it this way:
• Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit... and they weren’t even hungry! As a result they ended up losing all they had in exchange for shame, suffering, and death.
• Lot's wife, fled from Sodom as God destroyed it BUT then looked back at the home she couldn't keep, and became a pillar of salt.
• Achan stole a garment of gold from Jericho that he couldn’t wear, and silver and gold he couldn’t spend, and ended up losing all that he had... including his life.
• Judas, for 30 pieces of silver which he had no occasion or conscience to use, took his own life in shame and despair.
• Demas, a companion of Paul’s - loved this world more than Jesus, walked away from Christ and brought upon himself the wrath of God.
Jesus said: “What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul? Matthew 16:26
Trying to GAIN the world at the expense of walking with God... is DANGEROUS!!!
As a kid, did your parents ever put soap in your mouth? I can admit that it once happened to me. It is one of the earliest memories that I have. I can still remember sitting on the bathroom counter of our house, with a bitter, unpleasant, ivory colored bar of soap in my mouth that completely filled my mouth.
My Mom was “cleaning” my mouth from the bad thing that I must have said. The sad part is that I cannot remember what I said, but it certainly must not have been good. Mom wanted me to use my mouth better.
God has plans and uses for our bodies and members other than what we may choose. He has given us our reason, senses, eyes, ears, minds, and all our members, mouths included. God didn’t give us a mouth to have both blessings and curses to flow from it. In fact, God gives us our eyes, ears, mouths, minds, and members to receive gifts from Him. In James 1:17, the Apostle says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” As James finishes his teachings on the tongue, he tells us about a gift that comes from above, wisdom. Wisdom is what proceeds from the tongue and the heart. God’s wisdom produces right speaking. But what is the wisdom from above, this gift of God, that James tells us about?
James starts by telling us what it is not. Once when I was looking around in a book store I noticed a strange arrangement. Next to the theology books and Bibles was the...self help section. It was an interesting interpretation and placement. In the mind of the organizer, it seemed to be a logical placement. They thought they went hand-in-hand, and were not that different. But this couldn’t be any farther from the truth.
The wisdom that James is going to tell us about is not some sort of self-help advice. It isn’t wisdom about how Christians should behave or act. It is not a wisdom about how to make friends and keep them, or how to get ahead at business and to make some money. It is a wisdom completely different from the self-centered wisdom of the world.
What James means by wisdom is the understanding of the Gospel, made possible only by the Holy Spirit. But wisdom doesn’t just involve the acknowledgment that the Gospel is true, but also the expression of that Gospel in the life of a Christian. It is putting that truth into action.
Worldly wisdom, according to James, is often marked by jealousy and selfish ambition. It is not meek or humble. It goes against the truth. It is thoughts and actions that focus on me, and what is best for me. It is self seeking and self serving. It focuses on how to increase my influence and standing, even at the cost of others. It is about how to exert my will and influence to get what I want. The world calls this wise.
James describes and calls this wisdom for what it really is, though. He says it is earthly, that is, having no living awareness of God and lets its thoughts and behaviors be governed by the world. We hear it with phrases, “This is the new norm” or “everybody does that now.” He calls it unspiritual, that is, it directs all concerns of one’s soul and life to things this side of Heaven. It is an obsession with the self that has no regard for the spiritual. James also calls it demonic, that is, under Satan’s control and influence. We can see this with the great deception of our age: “It doesn’t matter what you do or who you are, what matters is that you are happy! Do what makes you happy!” It is often the logic to do whatever you want!
So, the root of quarreling & fighting that James is talking here is BASED on the fact that too many Christians fall in love with their worldly possessions. And when they cling to those possessions - they ultimately abandon God.
But there was something else that caught my attention here. It was that phrase where James 4:1 asks “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?” James tell us this often happens because we WANT something we can’t seem to get.
Now, sometimes folks argue over possessions (it happens a lot when families battle over inheritances). But other times, those conflicts arise because I want MY WAY. I want something MY WAY and you won’t let me have it! I can’t GET what I WANT (my way)... so I’ll argue with you.
Then, by contrast, James tells us “the WISDOM FROM ABOVE is first pure, then PEACEABLE, GENTLE, OPEN TO REASON, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” James 3:17-18
Thus, every time you or I get UPSET and argue and quarrel with someone we tend to reflect a WORLDLY wisdom... a wisdom filled with disorder and vile practices.
What’s that mean? It means that many Christians operate under the assumption that if I can insult someone enough, or curse at them enough or (and this is the most common practice) INCREASE THE VOLUME OF MY VOICE!!!! I can intimidate the other person into submission and surrender by the force of my anger and indignation.
John 15:19 “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
But, why do people get angry at us if we glorify Jesus? Mostly because – when we say Jesus saved us – we’re saying Jesus is the only way to heaven. “Jesus said ... ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” (John 14:6) That’s pretty definite!
ILLUS: In ancient Rome, this commitment by Christians to Christ led the Romans to hate Christianity. They even called Christians atheists. Atheists? Why would the Romans call Christians “atheists?” Because early Christians refused to worship THEIR gods. That made the Romans mad!
And that hasn’t changed for centuries. There are people TODAY who get mad at Christians because we refuse to accept homosexuality/transgenderism/abortion, and other life choices. Why? Because they think folks ought to have the right to do as they please. But, we know that the Bible tells us these things are sin and there are consequences to those sins. And so we reject those life choices as valid. And that makes them mad.
Ephesians 5:5-11 declares: 5 For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not be partakers with them. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.
So, we’re ALWAYS going to be at odds with the world. And we are going to be in conflict with the world because of our love and commitment to Christ. But we’ve got to be careful how we respond to worldly people. We’ve got to be careful NOT to get into arguments and quarrels because - when we do get into those quarrels - we become like the world. We imitate their style of conflict!
ILLUS: There’s old saying that says “You never want to wrestle with a pig. You just get dirty and the pig enjoys it.”
Now that’s a lighthearted jab at what happens too often to too many Christians. We get upset, we say things we shouldn’t say, and we even insult people who are non-Christians
But too often, we ALSO do it to people who are brothers/sisters in Christ. Christians get mad at each other because they can’t get THEIR WAY. They’ll insult and threaten and manipulate. And God says “Don’t do that!”
Why? My point is simple. We don’t accomplish the will of God using the wisdom of this world. We can’t argue or shame people into faith.
We must reflect the wisdom of God to accomplish God’s will.
James 1: 5-6 tells us 5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7).
In summary, to tap into God’s wisdom, we must diligently study God’s Word
(2 Timothy 2:15), 15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
meditate on the Word, pray for wisdom, seek it with all our
hearts, and walk in the Spirit. God desires to give His wisdom to His children. Are we willing to be led by that wisdom?

Based on a sermon given
by Jeff Strite


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