Preached at Prosper Fellowship Church Youth Service on Dec 4, 2022.
Introduction (5 mins)
Peace to you, my brothers and sisters in Christ. I thank God for giving me the opportunity to speak God’s Word to you today. Let me introduce myself to you. My name is Ken Yeo. I was born and raised in Malaysia. I am married to Sarah, a godly beautiful lady from Chengdu, China. We have a 10-year-old boy, Isaac. I am a preacher. I moved here to continue my theological education at Dallas Theological Seminary a year ago.
(Image) Because I am new to Texas, I like to bring my family to visit interesting places in Texas. During Thanksgiving week, we went to the National Pacific War Museum at Fredericksburg. It is a fantastic museum about World War II. Do you know that three days from today is Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day? 81 years ago, on December 7, 1941, the Japanese launched an air attack on Pearl Harbor that plunged the US into World War II. War is a horrible thing. At the end of the war, a total of 16 million Americans served in WWII. 750,000 were Texans. 25,000 Texans died. The soldiers could be as young as 15. Imagine how stressful it was for those 15-year-old boys and girls.
(Need) Thank God that today we are not WWII. However, all Christians are involved in another kind of war. It is called spiritual warfare. You are at war with yourself, with the world, and with the devil. The devil is constantly using the world to tempt you to go against God. Conflict in life is a sign that you are in spiritual warfare.
What kind of conflicts are you facing right now in your life? Maybe you have a conflict with your parents? Maybe you had an argument with one of your friends? Maybe you are not in a good relationship with one of your classmates. Maybe you have a tense relationship with one of your teachers at school. Or maybe you have a conflict with someone at church. How do you feel when you are in a conflict? Maybe you feel depressed? Maybe you feel nervous? Or lost? Do you feel powerless?
(Subject) Today, my subject is “What can you do to win spiritual warfare?”
(Text) Our scripture for today is James 3:1-4:12. This section of James is a unit because it starts and ends with topics that are related to our words. Because I do not want you to stay here longer than you need to, and we have a large passage, I will only cover the main ideas.
(Preview) I have three main points. I will take about the problem, the solution, and the practical application.
Body (20 mins)
Problem: Our tongues are destructive, and we cannot tame them (3:1-12) (7 mins)
Main point 1 is the problem: Our tongues are destructive. What is the cause of conflicts in our life? Well, there could be main causes, but James is focusing on one major cause of conflict in our life, which is our tongue.
(Subpoint 1) Our tongues control the rest of our bodies. Let’s look at verses 2 and 4. “For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs.” He says our tongues, although small, control our bodies. Just like a small bit could control a large horse, and small rudders could control a big ship.
(Subpoint 2) Our tongues are destructive. They defile us and hurt others. Let’s read verses 5-6, “So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.”
(Subpoint 3) And we do not have the power to tame our tongues. Verses 7-8 say, “For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”
(Subpoint 4) Our tongues reveal our hearts. Let’s look at verses 11 and 12, “Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.” When you yell at your parents, your tongues reveal the pride of your hearts.
Our tongues are destructive, and we cannot tame them.
(illustration) Two ducks and a rather egotistical frog developed a friendship. When their pond dried up, the ducks knew they could easily fly to another location, but what of their friend the frog? Finally, they decided to fly with a stick between their two bills, and with the frog hanging onto the stick by his mouth. All went well until a man looked up and saw them in the sky. “What a clever idea,” said the man. “I wonder who thought of that?” “I did,” said the frog. Just like the frog, our prideful words hurt us. And in real life, hurt others as well. Our tongues are destructive, and we cannot tame them.
(Application) I want you to think about the conflicts you have with your parents. What words did you say that hurt your parents lately? (pause) Think about the hurt your words have caused in their hearts. Maybe your friend said something that hurt you.
(Transition) What can you do to win this spiritual warfare?
Solution: We need the wisdom from above to win this war (3:13-18) (7 mins)
Main point 2 is the solution. The solution is we need the wisdom from above to win this spiritual warfare.
(Subpoint 1) The tongues reflect our hearts: full of jealousy and selfishness (3:14). Look at verse 14 with me. “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.” Our words manifest the condition of our hearts.
(Subpoint 2) The reason you have jealousy and selfishness in your heart is that you have been influent by worldly wisdom. Let’s look at verses 15-16: “This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” Pay attention to the adjectives of worldly wisdom: earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. Worldly wisdom is demonic. It came from the Devil. Satan wants to influent your heart with the wisdom of the world. He uses materialistic social media influencers to ignite your heart with jealousy. He uses music videos that are filled with selfish ambition to fuel your lustful passion.
(Illustration) Recently I witnessed the power of worldly influent on a youth. I was at a thanksgiving dinner. A mom asked her son to come to eat dinner. The son, who was busy playing violent video games on his phone and, at the same time, watching a violent video on his iPad, replied, “get out of my face!”. This youth was being influent by worldly wisdom.
(Application) What area of your life is being influent by worldly wisdom? I want you to ask the Holy Spirit to examine your heart right now. Ask the Spirit to reveal to you what you have done that hurt people whom you love in your life. Or maybe you have been hurt by someone who is influent by worldly wisdom.
(Subpoint 3) Do we have hope for our problem? Yes. Our hope is the wisdom from above. Look at verses 17-18 with me, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” If you live by the wisdom from heaven, your life will fill with peace, shalom. Think about the feeling of lying on a beach listening to the wave of the ocean. Think about standing at the top of a secluded high mountain, looking out at the vast beautiful landscape in silence.
We need the wisdom from above to win this spiritual warfare.
(Transition) We talked about the problem is our tongues, which is a reflection of our hearts’ condition, and the solution is the wisdom from above. But what does living out the wisdom from above look like?
Application: Submit and humble yourselves before God, and He will exalt you (4:1-10)
This is our third and final main point. To live by the wisdom from above, you need to submit and humble yourselves before God, and He will exalt you.
You have two choices. Option 1, befriend the world, but enmity with God! Option 2, befriend God but enmity with the world. What would you choose?
(Subpoint 1) If you live by the wisdom of the world, you will be at war with ourselves and others, and be friends with the world and become enmity with God. Let’s look at 4:1-4, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 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. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 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.”
(Subpoint 2) If you live by the wisdom from above, you should submit and humble before the Lord, and He will exalt you, meaning God will give you the power to have victory over your sinful nature, the devil, and the world. Let’s look at 4:7-10, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”
(Summary) You are in conflict with people because of what you speak. What you speak reveals the condition of your heart. Satan is constantly influencing your heart with this fallen world. Therefore, you need the wisdom from above. To live by the wisdom from above, you need to submit yourself to God and humble yourself before the Lord.
Conclusion (5 mins)
(Christ) I know some of you have tried and failed. That is because you do not have the power to do it (pause)… unless you see that Jesus Christ is the only one who has fully submitted Himself to God and humbled Himself before God. Christ is the Son of God. He is equal in power and majestic with God the Father. But He willingly submitted Himself to the Father to come down on this earth as a human to live a completely devoted life to God. Jesus came to find you. He was in total submission to the Father, to the point that He was crucified on the cross for your sins.
Your words are destructive, but His words are truth and give life. The solution to resolving conflicts in life is to live by the wisdom from above. You know what? Jesus is the wisdom from heaven! Col 2:3 says all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ! 1 Cor 1:30 says, Jesus Christ became to us wisdom from God! You failed to fight with the world and the devil. But Christ has complete victory over the world and the devil. The tomb is empty. Christ has risen.
Not only that. If you believe in Him, He is going to come and live in you. Many of you grew up in the church, but you have not believed in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. You have been living under the kingdom of darkness. Today, Christ is taking to you. He wants to redeem you from the power of the world and the dominion of the devil. Will you put your trust in Jesus Christ now? (pause) Please come to talk to me after the service if you want to have a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Many of you are already Christians. But you are living under the influent of the devil instead of Christ. You are living by the wisdom of the world instead of wisdom from heaven. To submit to nobody instead of submitting to God, who saved you. You are living with pride in your heart instead of living in humbly before the Lord. Will you repent and renew your commitment to Christ today? When you submit to God, you will have the power to resist the devil, and the devil will flee from you. When you humble yourselves before the Lord, He will exalt you. That is the promise from God. No matter what conflict you are facing in life, you can have victory. That is God’s promise to you. He will exalt you.
How does submission to God looks like? First, if you hurt someone, apologize to him or her. Second, if you have been hurt by someone, forgive him or her, because Christ has forgiven you.