James 4 ESV
1 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. 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. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. 11 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? 13 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”— 14 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. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
If you’re wondering why we aren’t in the Gospel according to Matthew, it is because this sermon is one of those rare occasions where I take a detour for the benefit of more time.
I want to study the next passage in Matthew in greater detail before preaching it.
I am hard-pressed on a theological issue that I want to resolve in my mind before preaching that text, and I am discussing with some of the brothers as I pray and think through this matter. As a church, you can pray for me as well.
So, as I was prayerfully considering which passage the Lord would have me preach from, I was drawn to this text in James which I thought lined up well with the last two sermons that Ashok and I delivered on the subject matter of the centrality of Christ in our lives.
It was an intentional attack in the face of superficial Christianity.
It did not start with sound theology but basic practical theology. But when God opened up the Scriptures to our mind, what we learned was not merely theoretical, it intensified our fellowship ten-fold.
The emphasis that we’ve placed from this pulpit time and again, especially in the last two weeks is that the knowledge of the Bible must awaken in you a godliness appropriate to that knowledge.
The extent of our knowledge, although righteous and necessary, is never the measure of our godliness. We never enter the kingdom of heaven on the basis of how much we know but on the basis of how much we’ve received of what we know. It matters how much of that knowledge has become faith.
And we know from this same author, James in James 2:26, that
James 2:26 ESV
26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
Therefore, if Biblical theology does not translate well into Practical Theology, you might be in danger of having your heads more puffed up than your hearts more transformed.
I like how Paul Washer said it [I’m paraphrasing here]. God is in the business of taking those that are of a far less theological pristine than you, and using them for far more glorious things than you.
So, how intentional are you in taking the Reformed Theology that is preached from this pulpit week after week, and from the Church Bible Study, and from the Cross Purpose Podcast, and from the countless other sources available to you on the internet; how intentional are you after having received so much, to pursue your wives romantically?
How diligent are you, O husbands, in making sure they feel loved and cared for?
How intentional are you, O wives, in preparing a home that your man longs to dwell in?
How patient, persistent and purposeful are you, O parents, in bringing your children up in the training and admonition of the Lord? Without frustrating them to anger but setting an example of Christian faithfulness through your own lives.
How often does your knowledge of God cause you to bend your knees and seek his face in prayer?
How willing has it made you in submission and obedience? How bold and courageous has it made you in your leadership and responsibilities?
The measure of your Christianity is not weighed in the midst of this service where you’ve put on your best possible self. Go measure it in the privacy of your homes.
The ESV Study Bible records the theme of James’s letter this way,
James’s primary theme is living out one’s faith, being a doer and not just a hearer of the word. This theme is developed in view of the social conflict between rich and poor and the spiritual conflict between factions in the church. James rebukes his readers for their worldliness and challenges them to seek divine wisdom in working out these problems and getting right with God.
In that sense, the entire epistle of James is an intruction in the way of practical Christian theology. It is an encouragement for men to live in step with the faith they confess.
Because of this, the book of James is also considered by many Scholars as being a NT Wisdom Literature, like Proverbs.
The State of Worldliness
In verses 1-6, James gives us the state of affairs, the heart of the problem. And in verses 7-17, he gives us the charge – how to go about dealing with that problem.
So, I’ve put it under two simple headings,
We will start with the first,
James 4:1–3 ESV
1 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
- James points to several relational conflicts here.
The word here translated as quarrel refers to verbal conflict and fight refers to warfare.
This isn’t just verbal disagreement, it is verbal fights. And it isn’t merely verbal but also strategic and sometimes leading to intense encounters.
- The instinctive reaction that you have when reading this verse should not be to look at how we never have such a problem in our church.
This may be more true of the situation in your home than it is in the church.
And just maybe, the reason that this is the case is because you know so little about each other and have very little interaction with each other that there never arises a reason for conflict.
Know how to read the state of affairs by looking where your true Christian self is made evident. Look for the conflicts.
- You passions are at war within you –
James likens all such strife and conflict as a reflection of the war that is wage in the inner man, between your passions.
Romans 7:22–25 ESV
22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
Anyone who considers himself so pious that he does not believe in such a war within him is a fool.
Proverbs 14:8 ESV
8 The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way, but the folly of fools is deceiving.
Christian prudence recognises this war. If you have absolutely no war in the inner man, I’m afraid that is more evidence not of the presence of the Holy Spirit but the absence of the Holy Spirit in your lives.
- James then brings up murder and covetousness directly from the 10 commandments.
I believe that he uses such harsh language to show the evil of the intensity of the infighting that was happening in the church in Jerusalem where he was ministering.
Matthew 5:21–22 ESV
21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.
The evils of this conflict are likened to murder and covetousness, which makes sense when you hear the Sermon on the Mount, how Jesus shows the intensity of what the Jews considered were nominal sins.
- You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions
Instead of taking the issue in prayer to the Lord and discerning his will, the war between saints ravages on as the church behaves more like the world.
If this simple truth is received, we would recognise the problem behind most of our quarrels, even in the home.
James 4:4 ESV
4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
- Here is the Apostle’s verdict. His judgment against those raising such conflict unhindered – you adulterous people!
This is a repeated biblical language that the Jews understood very well. The OT often called Israel’s idolatry, adultery. Because it was spiritual infidelity.
So when the Christians are at each other’s throats, it is an act of treason, an adulterous act because it is spiritual infidelity to God.
- Friendship with the world – The word friendship here is not referring to kindness or social friendliness with unbelievers. Rather it is referring to the ‘affection’ and ‘love’ that one feels for the world.
The friendship here is an issue of the heart.
- The pursuit of such affections for the world makes oneself an enemy of God. Because in the name of God, he hinders what God intends to do among the saints.
James 4:5–6 ESV
5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
- A direct verse is not quoted here but James rather paraphrases, probably with reference to
Exodus 20:5 ESV
5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,
Deuteronomy 4:24 ESV
24 For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.
The War of the Worlds
James 4:7 ESV
7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Ephesians 6:10–11 ESV
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.
James 4:8 ESV
8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
- If the first instruction is to submit to God’s authority, here we are invited to draw near in our affections to him.
- And no one draws near to God rejoicing in a lifestyle of sin. He is the all consuming fire. We draw near to him for mercy.
Our hands are not cleansed by our work, but his redeeming work. Our hearts are not purified by tradition or ritual but by the saving power of Christ.
- Here, when James calls such who import the world into their Christian lives as being double-minded, the word literally means ‘split in half’. It’s a reference to a spiritual schizophrenic.
James 4:9 ESV
9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.
Matthew 5:4 ESV
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
- This is our posture to the reality of sin in our lives.
James 4:10 ESV
10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
- May this be your rocking chair, your recliner where you love to sit, the seat of humility.
- God is in the business of exalting you righteously. To humble in order for self-exaltation is pride in humility’s clothing.
James 4:11–12 ESV
11 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?
- The Scripture calls us to be righteous judges, not unrighteous ones. To set ourselves as those who uphold the law of God, not as those who set themselves above the law of God.
- Speak evil – slander. The Greek word for ‘devil’ is translated ‘slanderer’.
How do you speak of a fellow believer?
James 4:16 ESV
16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.
- Any confidence in the flesh is a boasting of arrogance.
This is the word of the Lord,
Matthew 21:23–27 ESV: 23 And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” 24 Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.
As we’ve traversed through the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 21 has marked a stark distinction in how Jesus approaches his ministry on the earth.
He is no longer quiet about his Messianic identity. He is going all out. He has entered Jerusalem, the heart of the nation of Israel. He is marching to the cross.
He knows he will die here. His words and actions in Jerusalem will catapult the opposition into a blinded rage in an attempt to destroy this Jewish carpenter.
That is what the mind in the flesh does when it encounters the immovable and unstoppable truth of the Spirit. When you can’t argue or reason your way out, you suppress, you throw tantrums, and then you lash out.
Romans 1:18 ESV: 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
Today’s sermon is about the suppression of truth, which is the de facto position of the human flesh. And now, as Christians, before you assume that I’m talking about those who are out there in the world and of the world and now about us, let me say it as clearly as I can, I’m talking about suppression of truth in your lives.
Even though you and I are a regenerate people who have our sins crucified on Christ’s cross, who are freed from the curse of sin and death, we are still beings in the flesh and the effects of sin and temptation continue to wage war in our bodies.
Jesus said in his High Priestly prayer, in John 17:15-16
John 17:15–16 ESV: 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
He also told us that, Matthew 18:7
Matthew 18:7 ESV: 7 “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!
We are no longer under the bondage of sin but sin is still a very pressing reality in our lives. We are called to fight because we have been given the means to defeat our flesh. We are not helpless anymore for the Lord Himself is our help.
1 Corinthians 6:19 ESV: 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,
So, the force of temptation, the allure of sin and selfishness, pride, and all the weaknesses of the flesh are ever before us. The question is, “How intentional are we in this war?”.
Romans 6:1–2 ESV: 1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?
This is how unintentional Christians think about their salvation. Since we are no longer under the curse of sin, how bad can it be if we fall? And Paul’s basic response is that such thinking isn’t Christian thinking. The Christian response to all sin is, “How can I live in this when I have died to it? I’m dead to this!”
The Christian does not justify or make room for sin, he knows it to be wrong and deals with it accordingly, like one who is dead to that kind of life.
Unrelenting Sleuth On the Scent of Truth
The most crucial and transformative period of my life in coming to a strong and rooted faith in Christ, as I’m sure is the case for many of you, was when I resolved to pursue truth. At some point in my life, it suddenly mattered as it should for all of you, what the truth was.
And when I say truth, I mean it from top to bottom. Not just about the higher philosophical realities of existence and purpose, but also about the reality of day-to-day life and decisions. I realized that it matters that we know why we do what we do and whether we should do what we do.
Life hung in the balance for me at that point because I had to make sense of questions like,
- Why am I here?
- What must I do?
- How must I honor my Father and Mother?
- When and how do I disagree with my parents?
- When do I pursue marriage?
- What do I do with my money?
- Whom do I marry?
- Can I fall in love?
- How do I treat women?
- What are the boundaries of friendship?
- Why must I do engineering?
- Do my grades really matter?
- How high should I aim?
- Can I have ambitions?
- How do I make the right decisions about career and lifestyle choices?
- What movies can I watch?
- Do I need to be a part of the church?
- How must I steward my generosity?
- How must I steward my time?
- Do I join this college or do I accept this job offer?
Trust me, I can go on and on and on and on, and not stop. So many Christians are stuck on so many of these questions because they’ve never bothered to be intentional about their pursuit of truth (about reality, about what really matters) in the small things that suddenly they are caught off guard as though something strange were happening to them. Then, they run to their prayer closets to seek God’s magical answer to their problem while also praying that they wouldn’t catch a cold from all the dust in that unused closet.
John Piper in his poem, The Calvinist, has this phrase – unrelenting sleuth on the scent of truth. Are you unrelenting in the pursuit of truth? I was and that has always been the bottom-most foundational reality in my Christian life. Everything I pursue has to align with what I believe to be true, and what I believe to be true must be ratified by the Bible.
Romans 1 against the whole wide world
Allow me some time to take you through the nature of the flesh as it is revealed in Romans 1. Now, mind you that when a sleuth finds himself in this chapter, he may end up MIA – Missing in Action. Romans 1 is like a mirror maze. Whichever way you turn and run, you run headfirst into your exposed self and it hurts. If there was ever a chapter in the Bible that was written to send the worldliness inside of you reeling in horror and fear, it is this one.
So, have a prayer in your heart for me as I go into Romans 1 and try to navigate our way through some of this truth in under 10 mins.
Paul begins by mentioning his intention in Romans 1:15
Romans 1:15 ESV: 15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
• The apostle Paul is a very logically minded guy and you have to follow his reasoning. What we find after this statement is a cascade of causes. The conjunction ‘for’ in the Bible is a word that points you to the cause. It is a word that precedes the explanation, the reason.
• He is eager to preach the gospel. Not the five ways to please your wife or the 10 ways to hold your tongue. The Bible does speak about all these things and they need to be preached, but Paul’s talking about the essence of preaching, the centrality of the message regardless of what your topic might be. Everything comes out of this most central and unavoidable message, of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Your eagerness to preach anything must be at its most fundamental level a desire to preach the Gospel.
Romans 1:16 ESV: 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
• According to Paul, the eagerness of preaching the Gospel is an unashamed love for it. This means that the hesitation to preach the Gospel may be a strong indicator that you are ashamed of the Gospel.
• Paul can’t imagine how one could be ashamed about the power of God that saves everyone who believes, whether Jew or Greek.
Romans 1:17 ESV: 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
• The Gospel is the power that saves because it is the revelation of God’s righteousness that is revealed from faith to faith.
• So you have to work your way back from these three cascading ‘for’s and see how God’s righteousness which is his just approval, moral perfection, the purest right that has no wrong; how this perfection of light with all its power is presented or revealed in the message of the Gospel which is that Jesus died and rose again so that if you believe in him you shall not perish but this pure and perfect light shall cleanse you, but if you do not believe in Christ, you will perish without any hope of a salvation.
He hashes out this judgment in the next verse,
Romans 1:18 ESV: 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
• See how the Gospel is the revelation of God’s righteousness, his salvation, and those who reject this salvation are called suppressers of the truth.
Jesus, when talking about our salvation said, in John 14:6
John 14:6 ESV: 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
This is the glory of the truth, that Jesus is the truth.
When Moses asked God for his name in Exodus 33, God responded with ‘I AM’. There is a reason that this is the highest name. When you and I use our names we are using words to represent who we are. They are identifying titles to who we are as a person. But who God is as a Being is Existence as we know it.
John 1:3 ESV: 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
No creature can claim to exist apart from God. We exist because he exists.
In much the same way, when Jesus says that he is the truth, he means to say that there is no truth if there is no Christ. He is the Truth.
Paul tells that Christ is the One,
Colossians 2:3 ESV: 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
There is no knowledge apart from knowing Christ. The one who forsakes Christ is forsaking knowledge.
Therefore, what sin does, what the flesh in unrighteousness does, is forsake Christ because you can’t argue with truth, you have to yield. But if you don’t want to yield, the only thing you can do is ‘suppress’.
And when you suppress, you forsake knowledge, wisdom, and above all, truth.
And God’s wrath is revealed against such people.
Romans 1:19–21 ESV: 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
• God has made plain to us the truth. Every act of creation, the cosmos is a constant megaphone declaring to you the truth about God. You cannot escape it. Therefore, sin is not ignorant, it is intentional. It is foolishness.
Hebrews 1:1–2 ESV: 1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
God has always been speaking, and the coming of Jesus was the loudest and clearest speech. The Gospel is the loudest statement from Heaven.
So, in summarising this cascading causes in Romans 1, God has always been revealing the truth to the world, and the Gospel is the loudest and clearest message of truth. And through the Gospel is revealed the power of God for righteousness and salvation to those who are in the unrelenting pursuit of truth, but for those who suppress the truth the Gospel is the decisive stroke of judgment.
The Centrality of Truth
When the Gospel took such root in my life, I understood that I cannot answer any of the questions in my life meaningfully without the reality of this God in my life.
I understood that the only place that I can find the answers to all the questions pertaining to my life were in the pages of the Bible.
Cornelius Van Til, a Dutch-American philosopher and theologian was famously known to have said that The Bible is authoritative on everything of which it speaks. Moreover, it speaks of everything.
And this has been the foundation stone of much of my practical Christian life and even my apologetics.
Armed with this understanding, let us look at this short passage in Matthew 21
Matthew 21:23 ESV: 23 And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”
• Here we find Jesus back at the temple teaching the people. The Messiah had gone from cleansing the temple to healing the sick and now teaching them.
For all the parents in the room, here is a picture of how the rod of discipline should be used. Discipline is meant to drive out the evil, heal the wounded and to teach.
If you use the rod only to punish and not to heal or to teach, then you are in greater need of the rod than your children.
Be Christlike in your parenting. Let your anger heal and train, not destroy those whom God has placed under your care.
• If there was one thing that the people could not deny, it was the authority with which Jesus spoke and did what he did.
In an earlier passage we’d read,
Matthew 7:28–29 ESV: 28 And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29 for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.
So, when Jesus chases out the money changers and traders from the temple courts and then heals the truly needy and teaches them in the place where only yesterday was buzzing with trade, the crowds are watching an authoritative man.
In fact, such was the authority with which he conducted himself that none opposed him as he disrupted trade across acres of land overturning the table of the money changers, beating and driving out birds and goats and the people.
• This again is the nature of Christ, the truth. Since God is the I AM, the only uncaused cause, the very embodiment of existence as we know it; that when he shows up, the authority of his presence will be unlike anything else that exists. When God walks into the room so-to-speak, it’ll be unlike anyone else walking into the room. His very existence is existence.
And here, standing before these Jews was the very truth incarnate, the highest truth and instead of falling flat on their face, they wanted to know his credentials.
This is what the flesh does when it encounters truth. You cannot deny it, debate it, overpower it, so you suppress, you dismiss, and what better way to do that than you try and discredit it.
• By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?
This question is two-fold. It questions Jesus’ authority and the one who gave him that authority. They cannot question the reasoning behind his cleansing of the temple, they cannot deny the reality that people are healed, and they cannot argue with his teaching. So, they ask for his qualifications.
Matthew 13:55 ESV: 55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?
John 1:46 ESV: 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
Matthew 21:24 ESV: 24 Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things.
• For those of you here who are more technically aligned, here is an example of what we call pre-suppositional apologetics. Jesus does not rush to satisfy their request to see the evidence of his qualification. Instead, he presupposes their worldview according to which it does not matter if someone is speaking the truth or doing good things, it matters that he is officially given such authority.
Matthew 21:25–26 ESV: 25 The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”
• According to their worldview, if they denied John’s authority, the crowds would turn against them because they believed he is a prophet. On the other hand, if they agreed that it was from heaven, then they are caught for not believing him. Jesus knew that the Chief priests and elders were behaving inconsistently. That they were swayed not by credentials but by the lust for power and the authority they possessed over the people. This forced them to behave inconsistently in how they dealt with John’s ministry. Though they themselves did not believe John, they did not oppose him in front of the crowd.
• Now, see how when push comes to shove, they weren’t bothered about the truth. They did not want to answer truthfully. ‘If we say this, then…’
So many of us in our flesh deal with life in this manner. These chiefs, elders of the people would not answer truthfully because it would either lose them their popularity or it would hurt their ego.
Is Truth your higher treasure? Or are you all about truth when it is most convenient for you?
• How would you deal with sin if it were pointed out to you by your children? Would you receive it or would you question the maturity of their age, their authority?
• The piety of these elders of Israel was an outer display with no inward reality. They prayed aloud so that they could be seen by others, they were generous so that people would speak highly of them.
Are you the same Christian on the inside as you have shown yourself to be on the outside?
When push comes to shove, are you as heavenly minded as you say you are? Do you desire the glory of his name, the glory of his church, and building of his kingdom above all things? Or do you desire your own welfare more?
• Doug Wilson talks about how Christians like to put sin and righteousness on the stuff rather than weigh it upon their hearts. Some like to see their righteousness in the fact that they don’t watch movies, listen to secular music or hang around with unbelievers. Yet none of these things prove any measure of your righteousness.
If you must know, your pastor watches movies, listens to secular music, and hangs around with his unbeliever friends. The measure of my righteousness is not found in me avoiding this world because I am in this world. It must be measured by how much the world has not mastered me, but how in Christ I have mastered the world.
Have you not read Paul who wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:23
1 Corinthians 10:23 ESV: 23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.
• How true is your faith? How genuine is your confession? How passionate are you to want truth to be the banner over your home?
It is easy to be a Christian on a Sunday morning and behind a pulpit. But how Christian are you at home?
Matthew 21:27 ESV: 27 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.
• We do not know – In what they thought would be a wise response, they revealed their foolishness. These who came to question Jesus’ authority were people without knowledge. They were left empty and their response shows their lack of authority.
Christ who spoke and worked with such authority stood in stark contrast to these who could not answer his question.
So, Jesus establishes his superior authority by revealing the spiritual nakedness of the Jewish elite.
• And as John Piper pointed out, “Jesus does not deal with those who suppress the truth.”
Jesus who is the very embodiment of truth, does not deal with those who do not love the truth.
The spiritually mature person is one who has gone down further along the road of truth, those who are more aware of it and have aligned their lives to it.
• Anxiety – Trust
• Interests of others
• Dependence on God more than money
• Obey scripture more than culture
• Pray more
• Whose ambitions serve the Glory of God and the good of his Church