James set out a warning !!! My sermon for today.

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James 3.13-4.3,7-8a

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. 14But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. 15Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 16For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. 17But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. 18And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for* those who make peace.

4Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? 2You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet* something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.

7Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

I had an encounter with the devil this week, don’t be worried. He was crouched at the feet of a bishop in a stain glass window at St Andrews church in West Stafford, Dorset. I think it was the first time I’ve actually seen the devil depicted in a stained glass window.It was most opportune as the epistle this morning talks about the devil.

James warns us of the power of the devil this morning, how the devil sneaks in in a quiet way. James suggest in v 14-16

“But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth.

Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish.

For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind.

And in the gospel this morning we hear of to disciples arguing with one another as to who was the greatest. Not really an attribute that Jesus would expect to hear from one of his disciples. Would James consider they were thinking in earthly terms and not in heavenly terms, I think so So does the devil exist., is the devil trying to come between us and our faith.

C.S Lewis wrote about the Devil in his humorous fiction ‘The Screwtape Letters’.These letters consist of imaginary letters from a senior devil to a junior devil, instructing him how to tempt a young man away from Christianity. Eventually they fail, and are consumed with wrath as their intended victim passes triumphantly into heaven.

But in the course of the book we learn about what we’re up against if we wish to remain strong in our face and resist the call of atheism.

It is a hilariously funny book yet; like all best humour it makes a serious point. Many of its readers have laughed at the jokes but have they ever ask themselves whether they believe that the devil exists or not.

Some Christians will dismiss the question as decided already. Jesus believed in devils they answer, so we have no right to do disagree with him. They point to passages in Matthews Gospel, where Jesus meets to men that are possessed by demons and begins the task of casting them out. The Bible tells us that Jesus spoke to the Demons, even if it was only one word GO !!

This proves some say that devils are real.

But others will reply there is no scientific proof that Demons exist.

Whereas it has been shown over and over again and when identical symptoms to those of the so-called demoniacs are treated as a physical physiological illness they can be killed.

If Jesus had said, you are suffering from a psychosomatic illness nobody would have understood. Whereas if he used the language and terminology which the patient knew it will be effective in ridding him of his belief that he was incurable and allow the idea that God loved him to have its therapeutic effect.

In the forward of ‘The Screwtape letters’ Lewis said that if asked whether he believed in the devil, with a capital D, he would reply No if you meant a, power opposite and equal to God existing in its own right from eternity. ‘God has no opposites’ he wrote. But he did believe that some angels had rejected God, and become his enemies.

It is quite proper to call these fallen Angels Devils with a smaller D. But Satan their leader is the opposite of the Archangel Michael, not of God.This belief is not essential to his faith, wrote CS Lewis, but he will hold to it until someone can prove it to be untrue –  and it is much harder to prove that anything does not exist than to prove it does.

The 19th century French poet Charles Baudelaire was saying the same thing when he wrote

‘ My dear brothers,   never forget when you hear people praise the progress of the Enlightenment, that the devil’s best trick it Is to persuade you that he doesn’t exist’

James remind  us in v17-18 that the wisdom we need comes from above.

‘But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.’

And in v7 he tells how we should do it

‘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’.

We need to be on our guard for the devil slips in so quietly and we allow it by thinking of earthly matters and no heavenly matters.

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