Look To Your Heart - Um, No Thank You

Text: James 1:16-21

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

Reality television shows have done us a huge favor.  They have allowed us to see just how much we humans live in deception.  Just turn on any reality television show, and you will find almost immediately that everyone is foolishly denying their sin and blaming each other. In other words, a problem arises on a reality TV show, and everyone begins to deny their contribution to the problem and then start to blame everyone else. Hands go up, “Talk to the hand,” and the pointing-finger goes out, “You did wrong!”  Indeed, it is easy to clearly see how blind, foolish, and deceived we humans are when we use the tactics of denying sin and blaming others to get the heat off of us – to be in the clear.

And for those times where you and I cannot successfully deny our sin and blame others, well… we foolishly try to convince ourselves that the evil we have done is good.  That is right; we wrongly make evil seem good.  And those who dare say otherwise?  Well, they are most definitely evil because they disagree with us!

Dear friends, it is a silly game that we play every day. When we are confronted with sin, we deny it or change the subject. Or, if we can, we blame somebody else – making them the scapegoat.  And if we are backed into the corner with no escape? We try to convince ourselves and others that our evil is good, not evil. 

Now, I do not have to try and convince you that this whole way of thinking is not only unhealthy but extremely dangerous. The reason being, when we allow this way of thinking to be applied to the Lord, we have entered into a treacherous territory called, blasphemy. This is what James is addressing in our reading from the Epistle of James.  James is pointing out the fact that when we blame God for the evils that we have received and do that we are foolishly deceived.

But we don’t like to admit our errors!  We don’t like to think the way James does, do we? When good things happen, it is much easier to take credit for them,

“Look at what I did!  Look at what I accomplished!  Bow to me and my greatness, everyone!” 

And when bad things happen, it is much easier to deny our involvement, blame others, and then cry out to God, saying,

“Why did you let this happen, O God! You mustn’t love me, O God!  You must be evil.” 

So, what is going on here is that you and I do not always have a firm understanding of the nature of sin itself. Bluntly stated, we are quite naïve, gullible, and shortsighted when it comes to sin.

It works like this: humanity has this ‘desire’ to sin.  However, we need to keep in mind that this desire to sin is always spun in a way that we believe we are improving and benefiting ourselves.  And so, the majority of the time, we do not set out to sin to hurt our lives or to hurt others.  For example, the drunk driver does not enjoy several drinks with friends at the local bar to slam his car into oncoming traffic and kill a young girl.  The person at the small grocery store who buys $2,500 of beef out of fear of Corona, does not do this to make sure that his neighbor won’t have meat for two weeks. The person who skims money from the cash register to pay for personal bills does this not to be convicted of embezzlement and imprisoned for a year.  The point being, the desire to sin is always there for each and every one of us, tempting us to deny our neighbor; tempting us not trust the Lord, and to serve our passions.  Sin deceives us into thinking that what we are doing is good for us and o.k.  Sin deceives us to believe we are improving and benefiting ourselves, but in the end, we severely hurt ourselves and others.

And this is the reason why it is so easy for us to deny our sin and blame others.  Sin comes so naturally to us because it caves us in on ourselves while convincing us that what we are doing is good for us.  Sin puts blinders on us so that we do not see the needs of our neighbors.  Sin strangles the trust we have in the Lord – that He will provide for us.  And, as already stated, when we are called out for this incredible evil heart, we rush to convince others and God that we are not evil, but good!  We say,

“How can it be evil to look out for me?  If others do not care about me, they must be evil.  And God, if you don’t give me what I want right now, you must be unloving and perhaps evil too!”

Dear friends, James tells us this morning that this is a great error to attribute to God. To think that God can, in any way, be responsible for sin is blasphemy.  To believe that God is the author of sin is complete insanity.  God does not instigate evil – we do!  We instigate evil when we are deceived into believing that we are doing good when, in reality, we are foolishly entrapped and deceived by the temptation of sin – sin that gives birth to death. 

Hear this today, Baptized Saints!  Every good and perfect gift that you have is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change!  What this means is that you cannot say that God is the author of sin.  The Lord God tempts no one, for God is not able to be tempted.  Therefore, when you make excuses for your sin, when you blame others, when you deny your sin, or when you try to make your sin seem good, you are not only living in complete and total deception but mocking your Lord God. 

And so, when the enemies of the world, the devil, and your old Adam wreak havoc in your lives with sin, instead beat your chest with your fist saying,

“Lord, have mercy on me, the sinner!” 

And when you find yourself being a recipient of a good gift, raise your fist with glad joy saying,

“God be praised!” 

Dear Baptized Saints, learn to repent of sin daily, and to give God praise daily, for this is the reality of life. To repent of sin, receive God’s gifts, and rejoice is the exact opposite of living in deception. 

It is quite simple to understand how all of this works. When you live in the deception of sin, you blame everyone outside of you as the problem, and you see yourself - your heart - as the solution.  But the reality that James is setting forth in the Epistle reading is the exact opposite. James is showing that humanity is responsible for the evil found in the heart.  James is turning you away from yourself to the Lord as the source of all goodness.

Just think about it! 

The air you breathe – a pure gift.

The food you eat – a gift.

The absence of war – gift.

A beating heart - a gift of God.

A clean conscience, forgiven of the guilt of sin – God’s gracious gift.

Rain upon crops, your house, your spouse, your children, money, the shoes on your feet, and this church building - all good gifts coming down from the Father. 

God is the author of all that is excellent and perfect. And of all the gifts that He gives, the best gift is that He chose not to let you perish by the sin of your hearts. He chose not to allow you to cave inward on yourself into eternal death.  He chose not to leave you in the deception of death – going down a wrong path away from truth!  But it is the Lord’s gracious will that through the Word of truth – the Gospel – that you were rescued out of the darkness and placed into divine light.

Hear this Baptized Saints!  The gift of Baptism was not withheld from you. The gift of Holy Absolution is not muted to your ears but proclaimed as a gift for you to hear. And you do not need a reservation for the Lord’s Table, but the Lord has already invited you to His table to receive not condemnation but forgiveness, life, and salvation… all as a gift!

And so, this life as a Christian is not a life consumed with the persistent and ongoing need to deny and blame others for sin. This life as a Christian is not a fight to try and pretend that evil is good and good is evil.  But rather, this life as a Christian is a life where you despair of your ability, confess your sins boldly, and then cling joyfully to the gifts given to you by your gracious Lord.

And all of these gifts that you receive, you receive them without arrogance because you know that you do not deserve any of them.  Furthermore, you do not need to run around this life in a frantic tizzy, for you have this Word of the Gospel consistently given to you in the gifts of the Word and Sacraments.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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