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Lord Willing - Part 1

Tom Pennington • James 4:13-17

  • 2020-03-29 AM
  • Sermons


Several years ago I came across a speech that was written by President Herbert Hoover. These are the words that he delivered to the American people. Listen to what he said. "We in America today are nearer the final triumph over poverty than anyone before in the history of the land. We have not yet reached the goal but given a chance to go forward with the policies of the last eight years, we shall soon with the help of God be in the sight of the day when poverty will be banished from this nation." What's remarkable about those words is that President Hoover spoke them in 1928. A few months later came Black Thursday, the first one day crash of the stock market. By noon on that Thursday eleven prominent investors had already committed suicide. The following Monday, October 28th, investors decided in mass to leave the market and the slide continued with a record 13 percent loss for the day. The next day, Tuesday, October 29th stock prices lost another 12 percent and reached a bottom that would remain that way for some period of time, in fact it took 25 years for the stock market to recover its 1929 value. As a result of the stock market crash and other economic issues as you know the Great Depression began and 25 percent of Americans became unemployed.

As I thought about that I was reminded that incredibly we find our country and our world today in a remarkably similar situation. In a situation caused not by economic collapse and issues, ultimately but by a virus and of course that gives up hope that the recovery once the virus has been addressed won't be as long as it was with the Great Depression. But nevertheless the circumstances are remarkably similar. I think it's fair to say that none of us would have ever imagined the events of the last month would happen in our lifetimes. These unprecedented events have reminded us that we are not in control and that we don't know even what the future holds. The problem of course is that we want to be, at least in part or believe we are in control of our lives and our circumstances. It's that illusion that James the Apostle condemns in his letter in the passage that we want to study together this morning and again next week, Lord willing. Turn with me to James chapter 4 and I want to read the paragraph to the end of the chapter, James chapter 4 beginning in verse 13. You follow along in your copy of the scriptures as I read.

"Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit." Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that." But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin."

The theme of this paragraph can be captured like this, you and I as followers of Jesus Christ must constantly acknowledge and joyfully accept God's sovereignty over our lives and all of the circumstances of our lives.

Really the philosophy that James condemns and confronts here in this passage is self-determinism. It's the popular idea that your life is solely the result of your own will and decisions. This is the philosophy that says, I'm in control and I can be or do anything I want. If I can imagine it, I can accomplish it. If I just believe in myself, if I have enough self-confidence, if I have enough self-esteem there is no limit to what I can be or to what I can accomplish. It's that sad illusion that James unmasks here at the end of the fourth chapter of his letter. He wants us to remember that instead of self-determinism there is a God in heaven who rules over all of the affairs of men instead of nature being the determiner or fate or chance or your own will; scripture teaches that the events and circumstances of your life come by order from the throne of God. And it is a foundational Christian truth and it is a foundational Christian response to acknowledge that truth and to submit to God's rule over the circumstances of our lives. The response that James calls for here is really two fold and we'll see this unfold this week and next, again Lord willing. We need to constantly acknowledge God's control over every facet of our lives, so there is first of all an acknowledgment, an understanding and acknowledgment of that truth and then we must gladly willingly accept what He brings. I think this passage could not be more appropriate for our day, because you and I are being reminded; the world is being reminded of these truths in a very practical way that I don't think any of us could ever have imagined. And so it's important that we embrace the lesson that God wants us to learn so that in God's good timing if things return to normal as we expect they will then we will be able to continue like this even when some degree of normalcy is restored to our lives. This is the lesson we must learn.

Now what I want us to do, this week and next, is to divide James' exhortation into three components or three parts and let's look at them together. Let's begin with the first component of his exhortation here and it's really what lies behind this passage. Let's call it the biblical truth of God's sovereignty. You see James wrote this letter to a group of Jewish Christians that he knew very, very well. In fact he had served as their pastor in their church in Jerusalem for more than ten years. But as a result of the persecution that had come, you read about it in the early chapters of Acts, they had been scattered all over that part of the world and he writes this letter to them to encourage them and to strengthen them. But James for the more than ten years that he had been their pastor had taught them the scripture. And all he had taught them was the Old Testament. How do we know that? Because it's likely that this letter, James, was the very first New Testament letter written. And so as he ministered to his flock there in Jerusalem for those more than ten years, he would have opened the pages to what we refer to as the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures and taught them. Because they knew the Old Testament James didn't need to re-teach them about God's sovereignty. So what he does here in this passage is he skips the instruction and jumps directly to the application because he knew that they knew what the Old Testament taught about the sovereignty of God. The Old Testament principles that lie behind this passage are the fact that you and I are not in control, but God is in control and He is in control of absolutely every circumstance in our lives.

Now I think you understand that this is not an excuse for laziness, it's not an excuse for sin, we can't justify our sin by blaming God. God holds us responsible. He holds us responsible for our sinful choices, He holds us responsible for the need to be wise, to make good decisions, to refuse sin and to pursue righteousness. All of those things are true but none of that changes the core reality that in the end, God rules. Now we often speak of this truth in two different ways, first of all we speak of God's sovereignty. God's sovereignty is what He is. When we use that word sovereign, we mean that God exercises total comprehensive, absolute control over all things and this is clearly what the Hebrew Scriptures teach. This is what James would have taught his flock in Jerusalem. Listen to just a few examples. Psalm 103 verse 19 says, "The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all." There is nothing exempt from the sovereignty of God. Psalm 115 verse 3, "Our God is in the heavens; and He does whatever He pleases." Whatever God decides to do, He does. He's not limited by the capacity or power to execute that will. Psalm 135 verse 6, "Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps." Whatever He pleases. Again, this isn't capricious, this doesn't mean God does what He does in some sort of a whimsical capricious way, instead it's simply saying that whatever our God decides to do, that is what He does. Isaiah chapter 46 verse's 10 and 11 says, "My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure…Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it." God says I create a plan, I say what I'm going to do and I do it." And nothing prevents that reality.

The Westminster Divines as well as those who then from the Westminster Confession put together the Second London Baptist Confession of 1689, they both understood the scriptures and that that's what these scriptures teach when they encapsulated these truths in this way. "God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy council of His own will, freely (that is nothing influenced God, nothing caused God to act in this way, instead) freely and unchangeably did ordain whatsoever comes to pass." In all of its details, all of the circumstances, there is not one thing that you have read in your news sources over the last month that ultimately doesn't come from the throne of God, either by direct command or by permission that He has allowed sinful men to exercise their will and sin in various ways. So, it's all in His plan. Now the Old Testament maintains that this concept of sovereignty is the very cornerstone of the character of God. And the reason for that is because if God isn't sovereign, if God isn't in charge then He's not God. He ceases to be God by definition if He is not ultimately in control of all things.

Now closely related to His sovereignty is God's providence. This is what He does. Sovereignty asserts that God is in control of all things. Providence explains how God's control works itself out over every event that happens in this world. So again, sovereignty is what God is, or sovereign is what He is, providence is what He does in the outworking of that sovereignty. Now James' readers would have understood the, again the Old Testament, they would have understood that providence means a couple of things. First of all it means that God preserves all of those things He created. God spoke all things into existence and God continues to sustain those things in existence by the activity of His own will. Psalm 36 verse 6 says, "You God preserve man and beast." Everything that exists continues to exist as a result of the exercise of the divine will and the divine power. Your heart continues to beat this moment because of the divine will. That's the idea. God preserves all that He created, as long as He chooses to preserve it; and when His will toward that living creature changes then that creature ceases to live in this world.

There's a second aspect of providence and that is this, not only does He preserve all that He created but God controls all things that He created to insure that His purposes for those things are in fact accomplished. This is really the primary focus of providence, when we talk about providence this is where primarily the thrust is. Listen to Isaiah 14 verse's 24 to 27. "The Lord of hosts has sworn saying, "Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened, and just as I have planned so it will stand." He's talking about Assyria here and what He was doing to the empire of Assyria, and He says, "what I intended that's what happened, what I planned that's what will stand." He goes on, "For the Lord of hosts has planned, and who can frustrate it? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back?" No one can thwart the plan of God. No one can change His plan, alter His purpose. Once God stretches forth His hand to act to carry out His plan there's no one who can turn it back. I love the way it's put in Daniel chapter 4 verse 35, these are the words of Nebuchadnezzar, the great king of Babylon who came to recognize these truths, and he says of the God of heaven, "He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, 'What have You done?'" So sovereignty then means God exercises absolute unqualified control over every event and circumstance throughout the universe in both time and eternity. Providence is how His absolute sovereignty works itself out in all of those events in our lives.

Now how does God do this? How does He accomplish this? Well the, again the creeds are very explicit in capturing what the scriptures teach in this way. Here's how God does it. God, and this is a great word, God superintends all secondary causes, that is, our actions, our decisions, the working of natural causes-those are secondary causes. He superintends all secondary causes to guarantee that they ultimately fulfill His will and plan, but He does so without violating the will of the creature or the reality of second causes. Those are great expressions that capture how God does this. In other words, you aren't a robot, I'm not a robot, we make real decisions, we really act and those actions are the expressions of our own hearts and will. But in the miracle of God's providence, God superintends every free act, every decision, every natural law so that in the end they perfectly fulfill His great and eternal plan. I love the way William Shakespeare puts it, I think this is a great expression of what theologians call concurrence which I've just explained to you. How God uses and mixes together all of these secondary causes to insure His plans are accomplished. Listen to Shakespeare, "There is a Divinity that shapes our ends, rough hew them how we will." That's a great summary. We rough hew our plans, we rough hew our lives we shape them according to our own wills and purposes, but in the end there is a Divinity who shapes the end result to accomplish His will and purpose.

Now understand that these twin truths of sovereignty and providence serve as a great theological watershed. On one side of these truths you have believers and on the other side of these truths you have unbelievers. You see, Christians, those who come to follow Jesus Christ, they love these things and they find great hope and comfort in the truth of God's sovereign providence, in the knowledge of His control over every detail of their lives. Unbelievers on the other hand, find this truth that I have just shared with you absolutely offensive. Charles Spurgeon put it well when he wrote this, "No doctrine is more hated by worldlings, no truth of which they have made such a football as the great stupendous but yet most certain doctrine of the sovereignty of the infinite Jehovah." And then he finishes this way, he says, "Men will allow God to be everywhere except on His throne." Like it or not, God is on His throne. There's not a stray molecule in the vast corners of His universe. That's what the Old Testament teaches and it was that truth that really lies behind James' exhortation here in James chapter 4 so it's important for you to have that background, to know that, just as his first century readers knew those truths.

So let's move on then to consider a second component or part of James' exhortation, and we'll call it an unintentional denial of God's sovereignty. This is the message of verse's 13 and 14. You see many unbelievers overtly deny God's rule, but most Christians aren't tempted to do so directly – to overtly question the sovereignty of God in our lives. But that doesn't mean that it isn't a problem for us who are followers of Christ. Instead of outright rebellion against the truth about God the temptations that most of us face in this category is subtler, much subtler. Our temptation is to think and to act in daily life as if God isn't sovereign all the while still affirming it to be true. You see the fact that your doctrinal statement says God is sovereign doesn't mean this is never a problem for you. The truth is this was a problem for those who sat under James' ministry and had heard the truths I've just shared with you for more than ten years in Jerusalem, and it is a problem for every one of us as well, without exception. And that's why it's here to admonish us, to encourage us, to exhort us. So you may be sitting there in your living room, or wherever I find you this morning thinking, oh I believe those things. Well, so did James' readers and yet they needed this exhortation, they needed this reminder, this admonishment because too often we function separate from our theological beliefs.

So to help us see how this unintentional denial of God's sovereignty actually happens, James provides us with a common example in verse 13, notice what he writes, "Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit." James takes this example from the everyday life of a traveling business man. His Jewish readers would especially connect with this illustration since the Jewish people often have a special penchant for business savvy and for business success. In God's providence this illustration also works well for us here in the US and in our culture here specifically in the Dallas area also. So let's look at it. Now, first of all let me point out a couple of misunderstandings to avoid. It's important that you not think these are the lessons behind this illustration. James is not here implying what is becoming increasingly popular in our culture that capitalism is immoral. That's a different message for a different time, but the Scripture's clear that God Himself is the One that establish private property and private industry, and so yes, like all of God's good gifts, like the gift of sex in marriage, it can be abused, but it is in fact a gift and it is God's plan, it's God's plan even for the millennium when Jesus reigns when everyone will sit under his own vine and fig tree. So don't misunderstand that somehow this is a diatribe against capitalism.

This is also not implying that business is the only area where we are tempted to question God's sovereignty. This is just one example. A third misunderstanding to avoid is this isn't a criticism of planning. In fact Scripture often urges us to plan carefully toward the future even as we acknowledge that the outworking of those plans is from the Lord. And a fourth thing that we should not conclude here is that James is somehow opposed to the activities in this illustration, that he's opposed to business or to travel, or to making a profit. No it's clear in the context that James isn't condemning any of those things, so with those sort of caveats understood let's look again at verse 13.

He says, "Come now, you who say," come now is just an attention getting device like if I said, 'listen up or now you guys listen.' "you who say," Who are these people who are saying this? Well the twelve commentaries that I've read on this passage are unanimous in saying that James is talking to believers here. Because of the call to respond and to think biblically, it's certain that James is talking to us. This passage is to us. Now look again at how verse 13 begins, "Come now, you who say." Don't misunderstand that, this passage isn't primarily about the sin of speech. Instead he's putting words in the mouths of these Christians, words that reflect what's going on in their hearts, their thinking. It's out of the heart Jesus said that the mouth speaks. Behavior is what betrays belief. What we say and how we think when we are not thinking theologically, that betrays our true theology.

Now notice the words and the thoughts, the thinking that James condemns here. "Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit." This is just a simple business plan. Here you have a successful merchant or merchants who have a plan to expand business into a nearby city. And this businessman has considered every detail. Notice first of all, 'today or tomorrow.' He's selected as start date for his new business. "We will go to such and such a city." Now that's not as indefinite as it sounds in English. In fact the Greek text sort of portrays this businessman pointing to a particular city on the map where he plans this start up business to begin. He says, "we will spend a year there" in his project planning, in his strategic planning. He's decided that it's going to take a full year to build a sufficient customer base in order to make this business successful. And he says, "we'll spend a year there and engage in business." This is the Greek word for which we get our English word emporium. It means to trade or to do business. We don't know exactly what kind of business and James isn't specific so just in a general sense, here's a businessman who intends to engage in trade to do business. And finally notice, he says, "we will make a profit." This businessman is confident that with his product or with his service with the market he selected and with the right amount of time he will turn and begin to make a profit. This man is a strategic planner, he's very deliberate and there is clearly a measure of self-confidence here in his capacity to execute all of this.

So the question is what's wrong with what this man says and thinks in verse 13? I mean after all we do exactly the same thing every day, we do it in our work, we do it in other aspects of our lives, we do it in our school work, whatever it is you do you do something very similar to this. So what's the problem here? Well again there's nothing wrong with planning, there's nothing wrong with strategic planning there's nothing wrong with looking into the future and laying out plans. When we do so we imitate God. God made plans in eternity past, called the eternal decree by theologians in which He decided all that would happen. And now He's working out that plan. When we make plans we are really just imitating God. So what's the problem here? The problem isn't so much what these people say or think as what they don't say or think. The fatal flaw in their planning is that they ignore, they unintentionally deny the sovereignty of God in their lives. They don't recognize, they don't express their absolute dependence on God.

D Edmond Hiebert, one of the commentators on the book of James puts it this way, he says, "The language reflects assurance and self-confidence. They assume that the execution of their plan is entirely in their control. No thought is given to their dependence on God." This is an arrogant attitude of self-sufficiency. Let me ask you as you work out your plans as you think about what you're doing tomorrow this week, the month ahead, the next year or two as you strategize and plan, what are you really thinking about those plans in reference to God, or are you? As these merchants plan their daily activities, they do so in total disregard of God, even though they're believers. In their daily activities, they are practical atheists. You see it's possible to worship God as we're doing this morning together and to ignore Him in the daily routines of life. That's what going on with these people. Here's how a couple of commentators have expressed it. John Blanchard writes, "James was not condemning their business, but their boasting, not their industry, but their independence, not their acumen, but their arrogance." Douglas Moo writes, "This is a world view that leaves God out of account, marked by boastful self-reliance. James is not rebuking these merchants for their plans or even for their desire to make a profit. He rebukes them rather for the this worldly self-confidence that they exhibit in pursuing these goals. What James rebukes here is any kind of planning for the future that stems from human arrogance in our ability to determine the course of future events." You see it is irrational to live daily life today or to do our planning for future days without the recognition that we are not in control and that God is. Again Ken Hughes puts it this way, he says, "So pervasive is our cultures arrogant independence of God, that even many Christians attend church, marry, choose their vocations, have children, buy and sell homes, expand their portfolio's, and numbly ride the currents of culture without substantial reference to the will of God." I think he's exactly right. This is a temptation that every single one of us faces.

So the question is have you given into this temptation? Do you acknowledge God's sovereignty over all of your daily decisions? Do you ask God to accomplish His perfect will in your life? Or instead do you live in a sort of independent, self-sufficient, self-confidence? Like a practical atheist? If so then you need to understand that that is an irrational mindset. Why is this spirit of independence such a problem? I mean after all, it sounds downright American. It's because it's irrational, and James goes on to tell us it's irrational for two basic reasons. First of all because life is uncertain. Notice the first half of verse 14. "yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow." You don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. Wow, have we seen that in living color over the last few weeks. Now notice James intends a stark contrast here, between notice in verse 13, "a year" and verse 14, "tomorrow." So you had the business man making a years plan and James says you don't even know what tomorrow brings. I mean how irrational, he's saying, to plan our lives a year out without acknowledging God's control, when we don't even know about tomorrow. The fact that you and I have no idea what's actually going to happen tomorrow is a reminder, should be a constant reminder that we are not in control. Proverbs 27 verse 1 says this, "Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth."

Years ago I came across an interview with a famous maritime captain by the name of E J Smith. In the interview Captain Smith said this. He said, "When anyone asks how I can best describe my experience in nearly forty years at sea, I merely say, uneventful. Of course, there've been winter gales and storms and fog and the like, but in all my experience I have never been in any accident of any sort worth speaking about. I never saw a wreck, have never been shipwrecked, nor was I ever in any predicament that threatened to end in disaster of any sort. You see, I'm not very good material for a story." Captain E J Smith gave this interview in the year 1912, just before the maiden voyage of his new ship, the Titanic. Life you see doesn't turn out like you and I expect or plan. That's what James is saying. And you see that even in the positive ways in your life, in the way things have unfolded. I look at my own life and I think about God's providence and how life has simply not turned out like I planned. I had no idea what tomorrow would bring. When I left for college I had certain assumptions about where I would go, where life would take me. I expected at that stage to become an attorney and to settle down in or near my hometown, Mobile, Alabama. But during my junior year in college I changed majors and I became a Bible major and that's a separate story in and of itself. Sheila and I married and after we married we decided to move to LA to get secular jobs for a couple of years and to attend Grace Community Church and then after a couple of years go to pursue the pastorate. That was the plan. Instead I ended up as many of you know, at Grace To You in Christian radio for twelve years. Then in 1999 we decided the time had come for me to leave LA for us to leave LA and for us to return to the South pursue the pastorate. I told John MacArthur that was my plan, instead he asked if I would join the church staff there at Grace Community and I would become his assistant. Four years later, we decided it really was time to pursue the senior pastorate, but to do so in the rural South. So here I am, instead of an attorney, I am a pastor – thank God. And after graduate school, I never lived in Mobile again, I never lived anywhere in the south again, after 16 years in LA here I am in Dallas, at Countryside Bible Church. That's pretty circuitous. That's unexpected, that's uncertain, and I'm fairly confident that your life is every bit as circuitous as mine. You see we are not in control, but thank God, He is. Life is uncertain, both on the negative side and on the positive side.

But there's a second reason that it's irrational not to acknowledge God's sovereignty, and that is because life is short. Notice the second half of verse 14, he says, "You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away." He says, listen, not only do you not know what's going to happen tomorrow, you don't even know if you will live tomorrow. The Greek word for vapor occurs only two places in the New Testament, here and in Acts chapter 2 verse 19, it can refer to a mist, it can refer to smoke, or it can refer to vapor. Regardless the point is the same and that is life is brief. Our lives here he says are like the mists that the rising sun dissolves. Our lives are like the smoke that a gentle breeze carries away. Our lives are like vapor from a boiling tea pot that as soon as it comes forth, disperses and is gone. Here one moment, gone the next.

Scripture uses a variety of metaphors to describe the brevity of our lives, to remind us of this. It's so important that we live in light of eternity and that we reflect on these things. It's easy for us to think we're going to live forever. But the Scriptures very clear, that by God's own design in light of the fall and in light of death that He's brought into the world that the average human lifespan is 70 to 80 years and we're to think of our lives in light of that. For example in First Chronicles chapter 29 verse 15, David says, "Our days on the earth is like a shadow." Job 7 verse 6, "My days are swifter than a weavers shuttle. " You can picture that ancient technology for making cloth and how quickly it flew back and forth, our days are like that. Job 7:7, "My life is but breath." Job 9:25, "it's swifter than a runner." Job 14 verse's 1 and 2 says, "Man, who is born of a woman, is short-lived and full of turmoil. Like a flower he comes forth and withers. He also flees like a shadow and does not remain." Psalm 39 verse 5 says, "You have made my days like handbreadths." In Psalm 90 verse's 5 and 6 it describes our lives like the wildflowers of spring which are here for just a very brief season. In Psalm 102 verse 11, our lives "are like a lengthened shadow." In Psalm 144 verse 4 like breath and a passing shadow. First Peter 1:24, "all flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass, the grass withers, and the flower falls off." The average life expectancy in the US has grown to 78 for women and 74 for men, but even so it seems to absolutely fly past. We just can't fully capture the brevity of life here.

Here's James' point; the fact that life is short and that you don't know whether you'll even be alive tomorrow should remind all of us that we are not in control, but God is. And the fact that if we live tomorrow, life is uncertain and we have no idea what will happen. That should also remind us that we are not in control, but God is. And God not only knows what's going to happen tomorrow, or whether or not we live tomorrow, but He decides both how long we live, remember Psalm 139 says that 'the days that were ordained for us were written when as yet there was not one of them.' We read this morning from Revelation chapter 1 in which Jesus says, "I have the keys", that is I have the authority over death and the grave. And God also decides what will happen tomorrow. You know I think this truth is a hard truth in one way, but it's an important truth. Solomon says it's better to dwell in the house of mourning than in the house of laughter, why? Because you reflect seriously on life and I think that's one of the things that's happened as a result of this pandemic, it's caused us all to think more soberly, more clearly about life and death and eternity. You see it's a reality. Hebrews chapter 9 verse 27 says, "It is appointed for men to die once, and after this comes judgment."

Now please don't misunderstand what I'm about to say, I don't say it to manipulate, I don't say it to stoke your emotions or fear, I just want to say it as a friend to you in these times, let me ask you directly, if you were to catch this virus this week and if you were to be one of those who gets a serious case, and within a few days as some of those have experienced, you were to die, you were to leave this life. My question for you and I mean it with all my heart is, are you ready? Are you ready? How do you become ready? Well the New Testament is filled with the message of hope and that is that there is hope for us in this life and at the judgement when we stand before God, that hope is found in the gospel, it's found in the good news about Jesus Christ. We've studied the book of Romans, I love the way that Paul puts it in Romans chapter 3, verse's 23 to 25, he says, "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." All of us, we're all sinners, we've all fallen short of what God requires of us. But those who are made right with God, he says, "are justified" that is declared right with God as a gift by His grace. How can God do that? How can a just judge like God declare righteous someone who's a sinner? Well Paul goes on to say it this way, "we are justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus." And at the beginning of verse 25 of Romans 3 he says, 'God displayed Jesus publicly on the cross, as a propitiation, that it as a satisfaction of God's wrath against the sins of all of those who would believe.' If you're willing to repent of your sin, to turn from what you know to be rebellion against God and to cry out for His forgiveness found through the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ His Son, then you can be forgiven, you can be justified, you can be declared right with God. Not on the basis of anything you are or have done but solely on the basis of what Jesus Christ has done, His life, His death, His resurrection. Here's how Paul goes on to describe the response that's required in Romans chapter 10 verse's 9 and 10, he says, "if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord" if you will turn from your sin and confess Jesus' right to be your Lord and Master and Ruler, and you will believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead. That's shorthand for saying you have to believe everything that Jesus is everything He said about Himself and everything that He accomplished in His life. If you'll do that, then you will be saved, that is you will be spiritually rescued from your sins, from the judgment, from the wrath to come. I plead with you today, if you're not ready, if you were to get this virus and you were to leave this life within a couple of weeks and you're not ready, then this is how you need to respond, here's the message of hope, here's the gospel to you, God's invitation to you.

I know for most of us though, we're followers of Jesus Christ already. Let me ask you in light of what we've seen in James 4 so far, do you affirm God's sovereignty theologically, but do you deny it practically in how you live and the decisions you make every day? Look again at verse 13, does the way you think and the way you speak and the way you live affirm or deny that God is sovereign over these things? Notice, let me just give you a little list here of what's included. God is sovereign over your decisions and your plans. The ones who say, that is the ones who plan, the ones who decide we will go. God is sovereign over your daily schedule. Today or tomorrow. God is sovereign over your future. We will be there a year. God is sovereign over your major life changes. We will go, we're going to leave where we are, we're going to go initiate a new plan somewhere else. That's a major life change and God is sovereign over that. God is sovereign over your location, such and such a city. God is sovereign over your occupation, go and engage in a certain kind of business. And God is sovereign over the results of your decisions, plans, and activities. We will make a profit. Do you affirm those truths? Do you understand them to be true? Do you acknowledge them to be true? And do you willingly and joyfully submit to that sovereignty of God over all of those details? That's where James wants us to go. Next week, Lord willing, we will discover what our personal response to God's sovereignty should be. You join me now as I pray.

Our Father, we thank You for these great truths. We pray that You would forgive us, forgive us for living as though we were affirming theologically the truth of Your sovereignty and Your providence, but practically living as though we denied that. Lord help us never, moving forward from this day on, never to make our plans, never to think about tomorrow or a year from now or what we're going to do without reference to Your sovereignty over all of those things and Lord may we understand those truths, may we embrace them, may we acknowledge them and may we willingly submit every detail of our lives to Your perfect all wise sovereign plan. Lord I pray for those who may not know Your Son. Lord thank You for this pandemic that You have brought that is in many ways an expression of Your grace, a reminder of death, a reminder of the judgement that's coming. Lord, may You use it even today in the lives of some who have joined with us to bring them to true repentance and true faith in Your Son. May they confess Jesus as Lord, believe in Him, turn from their sin and experience the fact that being justified, being declared right with You as a gift by Your grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. Lord, do that even today, we pray in Jesus' name, Amen.