May 29, 2016 – manuscript

I stumbled across two articles this week that intrigued me.  They gained my attention because of the three levels of war within each of us.  The war with other Christians.  The war with ourselves.  The war with God.  Our text this morning dives into the war with God.  These two articles take this war deeper than I thought possible in my lifetime and they cover the topic of death.

All of us understand that we are going to die at some point, unless Christ returns to the earth first.  Did you know that physical death is part of God’s plan of redemption for our lives?  Physical death partners with the grace of God.  The only way for any of us to stop sinning completely is physical death.  If we continued to live forever, we would continue to sin.  We would never be released from the guilt associated with our sinfulness.  Nor would we ever be allowed to see the unfiltered fullness of God.  We would never reach Christ-like holiness that transformation develops within us.  Of course, the ‘never’ would disappear when Christ returned to earth, but the wait could become agonizing for so many people.

The first article appeared on the cover of Time magazine on September 30, 2013.  The cover read “Can Google Solve Death?”  and along with its matching press release introduced Google’s new venture that would make a serious attempt at extending the human life span.  The mission for this company is to one-day defeat death and mortality.  Calico Labs states on the company website, “we’re tackling aging, one of life’s greatest mysteries.”

The second article, also from 2013, was about five billionaires who pump funds into organizations with the same mission as Google’s new venture.  One Russian company claims to have technology that will make humans immortal by 2045, if we can make a leap into artificial, machine bodies.

The war with God began sometime between Genesis 1 and Genesis 3.  Genesis 1:31 reads, “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.  And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”  Genesis 3:1 reads, “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.  He said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say, You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’”  Everybody knows how Genesis 3 ends.  Adam and Eve disobey God’s instructions and sin enters the world.

Scripture tells us that angels were created beings.  In Genesis 1:31 we are told that everything God made was very good.  Does this include angels?  If it does, then Lucifer and his armies were in heaven.  In the gap between Genesis 1:31 and Genesis 3:1 the attitude described in Isaiah 14 happens.  Isaiah 14:13-14 reads, “I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”

Satan spends his energy trying to convince us that we also can set our throne on high and make ourselves like the Most High.  Check out Genesis 11.  Genesis 11:1-8 reads, “Now the whole earth had one language and the same words.  And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.  And they said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.’ And they had brick for stone, and bitumen (similar to asphalt) for mortar.  Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.’  And the Lord said, ‘Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do.  And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.  Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.’  So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.”

The war with God continued through the Old Testament.  Let’s fast forward to 1 Samuel 8.  1 Samuel 8:4-7 reads, “Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, ‘Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways.  Now appoint us a king to judge us like all the nations.’  But this thing displeased Samuel when they said, ‘Give us a king to judge us.’  And Samuel prayed to the Lord.  And the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.’”

The war with God is visible when we turn on the news, open our internet browsers, read the newspaper, look at our family calendars and gaze in the mirror.

James 4:13-17 – Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit” – yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.  What is your life?  For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.  Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”  As it is, you boast in your arrogance.  All such boasting is evil.  So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

  1. The war with God is visible when our pursuit of possessions and wealth overshadows our pursuit of God?

James begins this little section of Scripture with a loud call for attention.  His words were directed to those who were chasing the dream of affluence.  His finger pointed at the people who were so consumed with making money and accumulating stuff that they never stopped to consider what God had in mind for their lives.  The pursuit of affluence overshadowed everything else in their lives and became their god.  Their plans and goals were saturated with earning enough wealth to gain the attention of government officials.

I’m not sure why anybody would want their wealth to be noticed by the government.  Most likely, Americans accumulate wealth for reasons other than government notice, nonetheless many Americans become consumed with chasing the dream.  Maybe you fall into that category and you find to justify it.  I did a little research on the wealthiest Americans.  The top 10 wealthiest Americans on the Forbes 400 list equal a net worth of $459.9 Billion.  The very bottom of the list was $1.7 Billion.

One commentary said the people James is addressing have the attitude that he or she is the sovereign ruler of his own life.  Another commentary said that “making plans without considering God is evidence of idiocy (extremely stupid behavior).”[1]

It’s unlikely anybody in this room will make the Forbes 400 list, but what are you chasing?  Have you become so consumed with personal or family achievements that you have left God out of the decision-making process.  Are you teaching your kids that other things matter more than God or church?

Verse 14 says, “What is life?  For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”  The only legacy that you and I will leave behind is how we made Jesus a priority in our family (or not).  Basketball doesn’t matter.  Baseball doesn’t matter.  Soccer doesn’t matter.  Volleyball doesn’t matter.  Organ doesn’t matter.  Show choir doesn’t matter.  Unless Jesus matters more.  What is the legacy that we are leaving behind for our family while the legacy is still developing?

  1. The war with God is visible when the knowledge of right does not produce actions of right.

Jump down to verses 16-17.  It reads, “As it is, you boast in your arrogance.  All such boasting is evil.  So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”  This is translated as one who rejoices and trusts the empty assurance of his own power and resources.  The translation goes on to explain this person shamefully despises and violates divine laws and human rights.”  James calls this lifestyle evil.  He uses the word evil differently than we might think as we read through.  This word evil is pain from disease or blindness.  It’s a symptom of something deeper going on his life.  Remember James is writing to church members, to Christians.  The something deeper is how you and I answer this question, “Who has the sovereign rule over my life?”

When we do not involved God in future decisions, we try to make ourselves the sovereign ruler over our lives.  I have attempted this before and it never ended well because I was at war with God.  James tells us it carries an agonizing disease or blindness.  It affects everything else we do.

Finally, verse 17 says, “whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin”.  If the knowledge of right in your life does not produce right actions, you are guilty of sin.  Who has the sovereign rule over your life?  If the answer is not God in all things, you are guilty of sin.  You carry an agonizing disease and you are contagious.  You are blind and have a distorted view of the legacy you’re leaving behind for your family.

“Who has the sovereign rule over your life?”

 

 

[1] The NIV Application Commentary, page 252.