Sunday, December 11, 2022

James 5:7-11; The Third Sunday in Advent; December 11, 2022;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” (James 5:7–11, ESV)
Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

It is very hard to be patient. With all that is going on in the world that stand directly against God’s Word. One of the primary examples is the “Respect for Marriage Act” that was passed by the Senate and House just recently. Our president will sign it soon. It codifies same sex marriage in law. 12 Republican senators and 39 House members voted for the legislation, that puts the Church in the cross hairs. It is evidence that “Government is not the solution to a problem; it is the problem.” And Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. (Psalm 146:3, ESV) At times like these it is good to remember God is in control, he calls us to remain faithful to what he teaches, and he calls for patience. Seems like a tall order, doesn’t it. There is a lot that we are troubled by in the world. There is a lot we would like God to fix right now. But God says, “Be patient.”

My other churches were primarily rural farming communities. Those communities understand patients. It is the example that James gives. Patients is required to put a seed into the ground and then wait… wait for it to sprout, break the surface of the ground, grow to its full height and bear fruit. There is very little for the farmer to do. Oh sure, he can weed the field, and fertilize it. He can fret over the growth. But none of that will make it sprout and grow. That is in the hands of the Creator. It is the spark of life created in all living things that makes them reproduce. Plants bear seeds that will grow. Humans have children that have other children. Dogs have puppies, cats have little monsters. It is creation, and God himself that put it into action, and he continues to cause it to happen. Planting season is busy for farmers, harvest is busy for farmers, in between there is lots of waiting and patience. God says, “Be patient, like the farmer.” It isn’t easy for the farmer. You should not expect it to be easy for you either.

James goes on to say, “Establish your hearts.” Another way to say that is “Strengthen your hearts or fortify your hearts.” It is confidence in Jesus, your Lord. Trust that what he says is true, beyond all that you see. James tells us why, “for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” Jesus coming in judgement of the world is closer today than yesterday, closer than when James penned these words. Trust in his Word from Revelation:
He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20, ESV)
What Jesus says is a warning and a comfort. When he comes, he comes in judgment. The whole world will stand before him. He will show each one every sin that they have done. And as the Athanasian Creed confesses:
And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil, into everlasting fire.
Evil here being defined as “all that is against God’s Word and will.” Those who reject it, will suffer punishment forever in hell. It is a terrifying thing for sinners to be placed “in the hands of an angry God.” God’s judgment is far worse than “throw the bums out!” or “Wait for your father to get home.” Those who go against God’s Word face eternal punishment. Hell was created for Satan and his angels, but sinners who reject God, will be placed there forever. It is just punishment. To reject the creator is to want to be away from him. Hell is the only place that can happen. We should not be so quick to say, “Come, Lord Jesus,” when we find people fighting against the church. We would not wish hell on anyone.

James continues,
Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.” (James 5:9, ESV)
Also, it is terrifying that it could (and should) be you and me, simply because we grumble. We so often go against God’s Word and will. Will we be judged and condemned with the rest of the world? Will the good we do be good enough to save us? If we put our “good works” on a scale with our “evil works” the scale will break by pounding down on the evil side. It is very common for people to say, “I hope I’ve done enough good to outweigh the evil.” But it is a pipe dream. It only takes a bit of inner search to see that that is true. And Jesus confirms it:
And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” (Mark 10:18, ESV)
He echoes Isaiah:
We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” (Isaiah 64:6, ESV)
Just to be clear, that’s the good things we’ve done, “our righteous deeds”. It is true because God judges the heart, not the actions.
And [Jesus] said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.” (Mark 7:20–22, ESV)
The Judge is at the door, ready to enter the courtroom. When we pray “Come, Lord Jesus.” We are praying for all human hearts to be opened and judged. It is a terrifying thought.

And yet, the church has always prayed, “Come, Lord Jesus.” How can it when it knows, above everyone else, what the world faces when he comes?

It’s what James finishes with in the text,
As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” (James 5:10–11, ESV)
It’s that last phrase, “the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” That’s the God we know, and the world does not. It is the God we confess. He is compassionate and merciful. He does not desire the death and punishment of sinners. It is what his righteous judgment demands. But he has done what is necessary to save sinners.

So, why here in Advent to we say so fervently, “Come, Lord Jesus.” Well, it is all about Jesus coming. Both times. First, when he came to save sinners. When he took on human flesh and was born in a stable. Fully human, he did everything humans should do. As a squirming baby he was unlike any baby before. He cried when he was hungry, he needed his diapers changed, he cooed at his mother. The difference is he did it all without sin. When he as found in the temple by his parents, talking to the priests, that too was without sin. When he was baptized in the Jordan river and preached repentance saying, “The kingdom of God is at hand.” When he healed myriad of sick that came to him. When he raised dead Lazarus. When he confronted the Pharisees and the Sadducees calling them “You brood of vipers”; When he drove the money changers out of the temple. When he stood before Pilate as “the Man”. When he was fastened to the cross. When he spoke words of comfort to his mother as he died. When he gave up his spirit. All was without sin. It was confirmed when he walked out of death to life. His resurrection is proof that God, the Father, the judge of all humankind, judged this single person righteous.

Most importantly, for his first coming, he showed God’s compassion and mercy. Because all that he did, without sin, was done for everyone, even those who hate him and disregard his Word. He sacrificed himself, in the place of sinners. He “became sin”, our sin. Taking punishment to the cross and death, and suffering hell.

So, when we say, “Come, Lord Jesus.” It is a prayer for our judgment to be place on Jesus. All that we have done outwardly, and even inwardly in our hearts, we pray is given to Jesus. “Come to me Lord Jesus! Take my sin. Take my guilt. Take my imperfect life as yours.” And in faith, God, the Judge does just that.
For our sake [God] made [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV)
We are not/will not be finally judged by our works or accomplishments. Be we become the righteousness of God. We are/will be judged on Jesus works and accomplishments. This transaction of the cross is based on faith. Sinners cling to Jesus for it, and only sinners. Our faith in all of this is faith in the promise of God, given in Jesus. If we find him to be faithful to his promise, compassionate and merciful.

Will you stand before the creator of the universe on the last day in judgement? It must be so. Because then, and only then, when you see the shambles you have made of your life, standing there in your filthy rags; your sin; your selfishness; your failure to heed God’s Word; your failure to help those in need; the sins you know, and those you don’t; your laziness; your lack of action for those who can’t protect themselves; and the total depravity of your sin; only then when you are declared guilty deserving eternal hell; and Jesus says to the Judge, “This one is mine, he has been gifted faith in all that I have done.” And he says to you,
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28, ESV)
Only then will you understand what it fully means to be saved by grace. Only then will you be able to have full joy at what God has done for you. Only then will you revel in the presence of Christ, your savior, forever. “Come, Lord Jesus.” Amen.

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