October 30, 2011

James 4:13-5:11

Here come da Judge!

I don’t know how many of you remember Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In from the late 60s and early 70s, but that TV show popularized the saying “Here come da Judge!”

We might say that “Here come da Judge!” is James’ message this morning, for he says in verse 9 of Chapter 5: “Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!”  The implication is that the Judge stands ready to judge us imminently.  Along with Paul, John (in his Revelation), and others, James seemed to think the Lord would come soon, soon that is from the perspective of the 1st century.  He says in verse 8: “The coming of the Lord is at hand.”

James’ teaching that the Judge is standing at the door colors all of his wisdom this morning, and it should color our lives.  James begins this passage by returning to the topic of pride (verses 13-16.).  To act as if we are the determiner of our fates and fortunes, to make our earthly plans without reference to God, is an act of pride.  But our lives are ultimately short, and who knows when He will be called before the Judge to give account?

The Judge is coming: do not be proud.

James returns as well to his teaching on the rich (5:1-6.).  The rich, he says, have heaped up treasure in the last days, they have oppressed or neglected the poor, and they have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury.  James says to them, in essence: “God has given you every good gift that you have so that you could provide for the poor and cause my kingdom to grow.  But you have used my bounty for yourself.  Very soon, all that you hold dear – the house you built, the cars you bought, the luxury you lived in – will vanish.  You will be left with nothing but a Day of Judgment before the Lord in which you will have to give account for every penny that God gave you.”

The Judge is coming: spend God’s gifts the way God intends you to.

James goes back to one of the very first themes in his book, the theme of patience in trials.  Are the rich oppressing you?  Are the things the Lord has given you difficult to do?  Are you tired of doing good and not seeing the fruits?  Then remember that the coming of the Lord is at hand (verse 8.)  Patiently wait for the coming of the Lord (verse 7.)  To not be patient is to be like the proud or rich man who thinks he has gotten everything for himself, because to be impatient is to seek to put yourself and your timing on the throne, instead of God and His divine timing.

The Judge is coming: patiently wait on Him in your trials.

The Lord is at hand.  This may mean the Second Coming of the Lord (or in a historical context, the “last days” of the Old Covenant which even then was passing away), but it also has application to our end of life appearance before the Lord and the daily coming of the Lord into our lives.  Because the Lord is at hand, be patient in your suffering.  Take the prophets (verse 10) and Job (verse 11) as your examples of how to patiently suffer.  A great comfort in the midst of suffering and one that produces patience is to remember “the end intended by the Lord” (verse 11.)  Though God allowed Job to suffer, God allowed the suffering as a means of testing and strengthening Job.  Job’s end, of course, was to be twice as blessed by God as he was before his suffering and testing.  We can have patience because each day the Lord comes to us in our suffering and trials.

The Judge is standing at your door.  Do you live as if He is?  James is not talking about a hypothetical coming.  The Judge is coming, and His question to you, since He comes without warning, is “Are you ready to meet Me?  Too many people don’t really believe the Judge is coming.  They may believe that in some undetermined future, far, far away, that Jesus Christ will return: but they have no sense of urgency in their lives, for God is very far away from them.  Too many people know that the Judge is coming, and yet continue to live as if this makes no difference in how they should live.

When the Judge comes in finality, it will be too late.  Once He has summoned you before His Judgment Throne, there will be no turning back.  There will be no excuses, no saying: “I meant to get around to it,” “If only someone had told me You were coming,” or “But everyone else was doing it.”

The Judge is coming.  In fact, He comes every day for you.  Every new day you have, God comes to you in His creation and in the daily circumstances He has given you.  If you are a Christian, He comes to you every day in His Word, in prayer, and in His Church – are you listening?

The Judge is coming, and fortunately there are a lot of whispers that He is on His way.  The Judge is coming, and you’d better settle out of court.  Providentially, the Judge Himself has given you the terms for settling out of court.  Listen to Him, for the Judge is also the Lawgiver James4:12, the jury, and the plaintiff.

Here are the terms for settling out of court with the Judge:

1.  Plead guilty (confess your sins)

2.  Show penitence (be truly sorry for your sins)

3.  Reform (show repentance, an actual turning from your sins)

4.  Make restitution where necessary

5.  Accept the Judge’s payment for your crimes (the sacrifice of His Son)

6.  Become the Judge’s slave

7.  Trust in the Judge’s decrees and live by them

 

Go out and do these things immediately, if you have not already done them.

The Judge stands at your door!

Prayer:  Almighty God, have mercy on me, a sinner!  Forgive me for my sins, cleanse me from all unrighteousness, and give me true repentance.  Overthrow my pride, make me poor in spirit, and give me the gifts of humility and patience.  Imprint on my heart such a dread of Your judgment and such a grateful sense of Your goodness to me that I may be both afraid and ashamed to offend You.  Above all, keep in my mind a lively remembrance of the Day of Judgment in which I must give an account of my every thought, word, and deed to the one You have appointed as the Judge of the living and the dead, Your Son Jesus Christ my Lord.  Amen. 

Point for Meditation:

If the Judge came to you this very moment, what would He find in your life?  What would be the first thing you’d be afraid He would see?  What is the first thing you should amend in your life? 

Resolution:  I resolve today to remember that the Judge is coming.

© 2011 Fr. Charles Erlandson

 

wikipedia entry on Last Judgment


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