But God Gives More Grace
Topic: Grace Passage: James 4:6–4:12
But God Gives More Grace
Pastor Allen Snapp
Our nation said goodbye to our 41st President this past week. George H W Bush lived an amazing life: 6 months after the bombing at Pearl Harbor, on his 18th birthday, Bush enlisted and soon became one of the Navy’s youngest aviators. He was shot down on a bombing mission and parachuted into the open ocean where he waited for hours to be rescued by a US submarine. He went on to become a Congressman, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, the Director of the CIA, Vice-President under Ronald Reagan, and our nation’s 41st President.
But with all that he accomplished, what stood out to me the most as I listened to the things shared about him was that he was a good and decent man. He was a humble man. Once while campaigning in New Hampshire, Bush was shaking hands and asking for votes when he mistakenly shook the hand of a mannequin. When he realized his mistake he quipped, “Never know, you gotta ask.”
Former Senator Alan Simpson observed: “He was a man of such great humility. Those who take the high road of humility in Washington, D.C., are not bothered by heavy traffic.”
You’d think the high road of humility would be bumper to bumper traffic in the church, but when James picked up his pen to write this letter, it doesn’t seem that the high road of humility was all that heavily trafficked either. It’s the low road of pride that seems to have the traffic jams with bickering and quarreling in the church fueled by lust and selfish ambition and bitter jealousy and coveting and murder– all landmarks of the road of worldliness and pride. Then in verse 6 he gives us the hope of a better way.
But He [God] gives more grace.
What we need is grace from God. Grace is a word that encapsulates all of God’s undeserved blessings upon our lives: His power and forgiveness and blessing and help and love and redemption and mercy. We need grace to change. We can’t change ourselves by ourselves. We need grace to clean up the mess in our hearts. We need grace to clean up the mess our pride makes. Apart from God’s grace we can do nothing. We are desperate for God’s grace.
But God gives more grace. More grace than what? Just more. Always more. God always has more. More grace than we need. “Yeah, but you don’t know my life. You don’t know how bad my sin is.” The late Jerry Bridges wrote, “Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God's grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God's grace.” We need grace and God gives more grace. No matter how thirsty for grace you are, God has an ocean of grace to quench your thirst. God gives more grace.
But…there is a condition. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” James is quoting Proverbs 3:34 and tells us there are two possible roads to take: the road marked humility and the road marked pride. “I” is the letter in the middle of pride, and that’s what pride is all about: “I, I, I, me, me, me”. Selfish ambition and coveting and jealousy and slander and quarreling is all about promoting and pushing “me” higher. I want to be promoted, I want to be recognized, I want what you have, I want to be proven right, I want to be lifted up. The irony is that while pride seems to be lifting us up, it’s actually just taking us high enough to destroy us.
Recenty Janice, Matthew and I have been enjoying a nature series on Netflix called Planet Earth and recently watched an amazing segment on a plant called the Zombie Fungus. When an ant gets infected by its spores the Zombie Fungus takes the ant’s mind over, driving it to leave the safety of its nest and climb up a plant stem to the exact height of 25 centimeters – no more, no less. That’s because that’s the zone that is precisely the right temperature and humidity for the fungus to grow. The zombie ant then locks its mandibles around a leaf and stays there until the fungus sends a long stalk through the ant’s head, growing into a bulbous capsule full of more zombie spores ready to take over other ant minds. It’s like something out of the movie Alien.
Pride is like that zombie fungus. It takes over our minds and drives us to climb just high enough for the perfect conditions for pride to thrive and grow, but its end isn’t glory it’s destruction. Pride spores push us to boast about ourselves, selfish ambition spores press us to step on people on the way up. Narcissistic spores make it all about me. Pride makes us feel like we’re climbing higher but it’s just high enough to kill us and infect those around us with the deadly spores of pride.
- How many relationships have been destroyed because someone’s pride won’t let them apologize?
- How many marriages are drowning in conflict or coldness but pride keeps them from asking for help. Keeping up the image of a perfect couple is more important to them than healing their marriage.
- How many families are sacrificed on the altar of career? The husband and/or wife get so focused on climbing the career rungs that they have nothing left over for their family. In the moment it all seems so important but no one ever says on their deathbed, “I wish I spent more time at the office”. What seems so important in the moment seems so empty in the end. Pride spores are suicidal.
That’s why God opposes it – cause He loves us and wants what’s best for us and pride is never what’s best for us. God helps us by opposing us when we’re on the road of pride. Grace- God’s active help and blessing - is found on the road of humility. Humility is sanity. It is right thinking, wholesome thinking, realistic thinking. It lowers us before God, who will, in good time, will lift us up. James says, submit yourself to God. Peter also quotes Prov. 3:34 and then says “humble yourselves under God’s mighty hand that He may lift you up in due time.” (1 Peter 5:6)
What does humbling ourselves look like? Two things: submit to God and resist the devil. Submitting to God is to give our lives over to God, to trust in His plan, to take our hands off the steering wheel of our lives and let Jesus be the Lord of our lives. It is to surrender or yield our lives and our wills and our plans and our choices and our habits and our relationships to God. Submit to God
What does it mean to resist the devil? That word implies that we’re in a fight with the devil and we aren’t to give in, we aren’t to surrender, we are to resist. That’s exactly the right picture but what does that mean in daily life? It’s not like we’re physically coming into contact with the devil.
- Resist the devil’s temptations
- Resist the devil’s lies
Satan (the devil) works through temptations, but those temptations are always built on lies. In the garden the devil lied to Eve in order to tempt her, and he lies to us today to tempt us. Sin promises happiness but it delivers the exact opposite: misery.
One of the ways the devil lies to us is to tell us that God’s grace isn’t enough for us. That there isn’t enough grace for your sin, your failure, your struggle. He whispers to our hearts that God is sick of our mess ups. God is done with us. The devil even cloaks it as a compliment to God – God is so good and I’m so not that of course God is ready to write me off. That’s a lie. Resist it!
In an article called God Does Not Despise Your Struggle Stephen Altrogge addresses the lie that God is sick of our struggles. He writes:
Have you ever been deeply struggling and felt like God must surely hate your struggle?
You know you shouldn’t be discontent because you’re not married, yet you struggle so much. If you were truly mature, this wouldn’t be a struggle at all, which must mean God is unhappy with you.
Your finances are scraped thinner than tracing paper and you’re really wrestling with worry. If you had enough faith, you would always have peace. Right? So God must be frustrated with your failure.
You want to be patient but there are times when your kids are flat-out One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest insane. By the end of the day, you’re wound tighter than a piano wire ready to burst. Only a failure would be so impatient.
In those moments, a cloud of shame hangs over you. Yes, you know God is your father, but still…even he must get tired of you.
Everyone has their limits, and surely you’ve pushed God over the eternal cliff (whatever that is).
While these thoughts are understandable (I’ve had them many times myself), they’re false. They’re lies from Satan and your flesh.
There’s nothing he loves more than making you question God’s love for you.
Satan’s lie is we’ve worn out God’s grace. God is sick of our struggles, our weakness, our falling again and again. But God gives more grace. There’s always more grace than you could ever need. Always more patience than you could ever exhaust. Always more love than you could ever imagine. Here’s the truth: when we trusted in Christ, God adopted us as His children and He loves us so much! He delights in us! Yes, even with all our struggles and mess ups and weaknesses and sin, our heavenly Father loves us with a love that is inexhaustible. You have struggles. You have weaknesses. You have sins. So do I. A lot. But God has more grace. But God gives more grace.
Draw near to God
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. That’s a promise to hold onto! Like the father waiting for the prodigal son, when we walk to Him, He runs to us! But James describes drawing near to God in terms that sound pretty depressing:
Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.
Why does James get so heavy? What’s eating him that he writes Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom? Try putting that on a Christmas card. We wish you a Gloomy Christmas!
At the core of Christianity is joy, not misery, but when the church is polluted with the filth of immorality and pride and gossip and selfish ambition and bitterness and quarreling and other soul-destroying sins the way to get to joy is by cleaning house. Sin is serious and we need to take it seriously. Don’t make light of sin, weep over it. Repent of your sin, cry tears of sorrow over the harm that it has caused to you and others. It’s when we come to God with humble repentance that He cleanses us of sin and gives us true joy.
The laughter James is talking about is the kind of laughter that celebrates and makes light of sin rather than cleaning house of it. Sin is no big deal! That is a false view of the gospel and of God. God hates sin with a ferocity that should scare us to death. Apart from the mercies of Christ, Judgment Day will be more terrifying than any terror this world has known. The twin truths of the gospel is that God so loved and world AND God so hated sin that He sent His Son to be crucified to pay for our sin. As Jesus hung there, God poured out His fierce wrath upon Jesus for the sins of the world.
James says humble yourself before God. Weep over sin, don’t celebrate it. Confess sin don’t excuse it. Clean the house with weeping and you will have true joy.
10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. When we lower ourselves, God will, in due time, lift us up.
Vertical and horizontal grace
11 Do not speak evil against one another, brothers.[d] 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?
James brings it back around to the topic he raised in chapter 3: the tongue. This passage is centered around one word: slander. It shows up four times in these two verses and it means to speak evil about or to back bite and we are told not to do it.
Gossip and slander and back biting are not to get a foothold in the church. When we slander someone we are removing ourselves from the place of needing grace and are putting ourselves in the place of judgment over them. James is simply saying, we have received vertical grace, we need to show horizontal grace in how we speak to and speak of one another.
God always has more grace for us, but we need to place ourselves in the flow of grace. It’s not that humility earns grace for us, it’s that humility puts us in the flow of grace, on the road where God can give us more grace.
- Humble ourselves
- Draw near to God and Clean house
- Speak graciously of one another
And God, who is rich in grace, pours out on us grace upon grace. An ocean of grace. More grace. Through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come. Tis grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home. You need grace this morning. I need grace this morning. A lot of grace. How wonderful to know that God gives more grace.