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IS GOD FOR YOU OR AGAINST YOU?

by Dr. C. L. Cagan

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, May 5, 2019

“God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble”
(James 4:6).


Our text is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. It looks back to Proverbs 3:34, “Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly.” The Apostle Peter said the same thing, “God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble” (I Peter 5:5).

What does it mean to be proud? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “proud” as “having or displaying excessive [too much] self-esteem.” Pride and self-esteem means having a high opinion of yourself, thinking good about yourself, being confident about yourself. You put yourself up, not down.

What does it mean to be humble? The Cambridge Dictionary defines “humble” as “tending to consider yourself as having no special importance...low in rank or position.” Being humble means you have a low opinion of yourself. You don’t have confidence. You think badly of yourself. You put yourself down, not up.

This morning I’m going to talk about both kinds of people. I’ll show how they found salvation – or did not.

I. First, those who know much, and are satisfied with themselves, do not find salvation.

There were many such people in the time of Christ. They went to religious meetings. They knew the Bible. They knew about God. They didn’t need anything more. What they had was enough for them. They didn’t need to hear anything more. They were satisfied and proud.

Some of you aren’t very religious, but you are still like that. You come to church, but not all the way in. You don’t think you need anything more. After all, you have other things to do. What you have is enough for you. You do not listen to the sermons. They do not affect you. The sermons speak of trusting Jesus and being converted. You hear the words, but they do not affect you. You are still lost.

Some of you are religious. You are like that in a different way. You come to all the meetings. You know the Gospel in your mind. You may not call yourself “converted.” But what you do have is enough for you. So you don’t pay attention to the sermons. They do not affect you. You are satisfied and proud. Let me tell you about some people like you.

Caiaphas was the high priest of Israel at the time of Christ. He had an excellent religious background. He was a member of the tribe of Levi, and a descendant of Aaron the brother of Moses. Otherwise he couldn’t have been the high priest. He was the son-in-law of Annas, who had been high priest before him.

Caiaphas was an intelligent man. He did not keep his position by accident. He had a smart political brain. It was he who said that “one man [Jesus] should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not” (John 11:50). It was Caiaphas who put pressure on the Roman governor Pilate to crucify Jesus, saying, “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15).

Caiaphas had a strict religious training. He knew the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, very well – probably by heart. He knew every Jewish ritual. He was far better behaved than people today. He never committed adultery. He never got drunk. He never worshipped a false god. He followed the laws and customs of the Jews precisely. And he did something no one else could do. He went into the Holy of Holies in the Temple once every year to offer a blood sacrifice on the mercy seat, directly in the presence of God. No one could do that but Caiaphas the high priest!

Certainly he should have been close to God. But he was proud. He thought he was fine because he was religious. What he had was enough for him. In his heart he valued his high position more than the God who gave it to him. He had no time for Jesus the Messiah. Instead he wanted Jesus killed so his own position would be safe.

Humanly and religiously, Caiaphas should have been a great man. But he was proud. He did not think he was a sinner. After all, he was the high priest, not a thief or a murderer! He thought only of himself. And he called for the Saviour to be crucified. After the resurrection, when the Apostles preached he opposed them. His heart was hard. He died and went to Hell. He never found salvation. God was against Caiaphas. The Bible says,

“God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (James 4:6).

Jesus told of two men who went into the temple to pray. One was a publican, a tax collector. The other was a Pharisee. He was strictly religious. He was moral. He was proud and confident. He told God, “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess” (Luke 18:11, 12). He had excellent training. He kept up his religious life. What he had was enough for him. He expected to go to Heaven when he died. But Jesus said he prayed only “with himself” (Luke 18:11). That man did not go down to his house justified (see Luke 18:14). He never found salvation. God was against him.

“God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (James 4:6).

Another man came to see Jesus. We call him the Rich Young Ruler. He said to Jesus, “Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 18:18). But it was not a serious question. He spoke to Christ as one good man to another. When Jesus reminded him of the Ten Commandments, he answered, “All these have I kept from my youth up” (Luke 18:21). What he had was enough for him. But when Jesus confronted him about his love of money and asked him to be His disciple, “he was very sorrowful” (Luke 18:23). He went away and never found salvation.

Are you like Caiaphas, the Pharisee, and the Rich Young Ruler? You are if you are taught in religion and are confident. You come to church several times a week, as they did. You keep yourself morally clean, as they did. You hear sermons and have some knowledge of the Bible and doctrine, as they did. And what you have is enough for you. So the sermons do not affect you. Like Caiaphas, the Pharisee and the Rich Young Ruler, you will never find salvation. God will be against you.

“God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (James 4:6).

Oh, you don’t call yourself saved as they did. Your deception goes deeper than theirs. Though you admit you’re lost, you are just as proud as they were! You are as confident in yourself as they were! You say, “How can I say I’m lost and still be proud? How can I say I’m a sinner and still be proud?” I say, “Yes, you can, and you do. You admit you’re lost, but you have as much self-assurance as Caiaphas, the Pharisee and the Rich Young Ruler. You are as sure of yourself as they were.

How can that be? You think, “I’m not like other people. I go to church every week, and they don’t. I go to a good church. I hear the Gospel every week. I receive personal counseling. And I have many years to live. Surely I will be saved sooner or later. No need to worry about my soul now. I don’t have to do anything now.” That is your self-confidence. That is your pride! You’re as proud and confident as they were!

You don’t think you’re converted yet. But what you do have is enough for you. You’re satisfied with it. No, you’re not happy, but you’ll stick with what you’ve got, the way you are. You don’t need anything else. You’re satisfied and proud.

“God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (James 4:6).

As God resisted Caiaphas, the Pharisee and the Rich Young Ruler, so He resists you. God is against you. He will always be against you if you keep on the way you are! You will never find salvation. Why do you think you haven’t been converted yet? Our text tells you why, “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.”

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II. Second those who know little, but are unsatisfied with themselves, may find salvation.

There were some people like that in the time of Christ. They didn’t know much, but they were not satisfied with what they were. They knew they were sinners and did not have salvation. What they had was not enough for them.

Jesus spoke of two men in the Temple. The confident Pharisee did not get saved. The other man was a tax collector. He took money from the people to pay taxes to Rome and kept some for himself. He was a sinner. He knew he didn’t belong in the Temple. He didn’t know what to say. He didn’t even dare to lift up his eyes to God. All he said was, “God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13). Jesus said, “This man went down to his house justified” (Luke 18:14). God was for him, not against him. God gave him grace. He found salvation. This man illustrated our text,

“God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (James 4:6).

Now think about the thief on the cross – the one who got saved. He wasn’t just a petty thief, like a shoplifter who takes something from a store. He was a ruthless bandit. He was a major criminal. He didn’t go to the synagogue. He knew very little of the Bible. He wasn’t well trained like you are. When he was nailed to his cross he had no idea of trusting Jesus. But he knew he was a sinner. He said, “We receive the due reward of our deeds” (Luke 23:41). He had no idea of how to be saved. He just said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom” (Luke 23:42). And Christ said to him, “To day shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). God was for him. God gave him grace. Jesus forgave him then and there. He found salvation. Once again,

“God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (James 4:6).

Then there was the Philippian jailer. He guarded Paul and Silas when they were in prison. He wasn’t Jewish. He didn’t know the Bible. He had no idea of trusting Jesus. But there came an earthquake, by a miracle. The chains were broken. The doors were open. The jailer would be punished by death if the prisoners escaped. He was about to kill himself. But the prisoners did not leave! The man was shocked and afraid. He didn’t know what to think. But he knew that something had happened which was beyond him. These men – Paul and Silas – had something he didn’t have. The jailer wasn’t well taught like you are. He didn’t know what to say. He just said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). They said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31). Even then he still knew very little. They had to “speak unto him the word of the Lord” (Acts 16:32). But God was for him. God gave him grace. He found salvation. And that man is in Heaven now!

“God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (James 4:6).

Here is another man you may not know about. I speak of King Manasseh. He was the son of the righteous King Hezekiah. Today we would call him a “church kid.” He was raised in Jerusalem by a converted father who taught him about the true God. He had the best teachers in the land. When his father died Manasseh became king. And he “did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord” (II Chronicles 33:2). He committed horrible sin. He had the prophet Isaiah cut in half with a saw. He served false gods. As a judgment, he was defeated by a pagan king and carried away to Babylon. There

“he besought the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, And prayed unto him: and he was intreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord he was God” (II Chronicles 33:12, 13).

The wicked king Manasseh got saved! Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers, said,

Manasseh was blood-red with the murder of God’s prophets. It is said that he cut the prophet Isaiah in two with a saw; and yet, when out of the low dungeon he cried for mercy, he was not cast out. (C. H. Spurgeon, “The Certainty and Freeness of Divine Grace,” The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Pilgrim Publications, 1991 reprint, volume X, pp. 639-640).

God gave him grace! He found salvation! Manasseh illustrated our text,

“God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (James 4:6).

Soon I will tell you about one more person. But first I must warn you of the trickiness of your heart. The Bible says, “The heart is deceitful [tricky] above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). And you can trick yourself about being humble! You can study how humble you are! You can measure it in your mind. You can say, “I know about being humble.” “I am humble.” “I’d like to be more humble.” “I think I’m close to being humble enough.” But you are not humble at all! That is being proud of how humble you are! Humility – being humble – is not something you can study in yourself. The person who does that is not humble at all, for he studies himself and judges how good and humble he is. The humble person simply is humble. He feels his sin, not how good and humble he is!

Now I will tell you about a man. He grew up in a Christian home. He went to church regularly. When he got older he rejected the religion of his youth. He became the leader of a group of atheists. But one day he became very sick. He thought of Christ. He didn’t deserve to be saved. He had no “right” to claim salvation. He knew he was as dark as night, as hard as steel. He wrote,

My soul is night, my heart is steel,
I cannot see, I cannot feel;
For light, for life, I must appeal
In simple faith to Jesus.
   (“In Jesus” by James Procter, 1913).

Why did he write that? Because that’s the way he was! All he could say was that his soul was night, his heart was steel, he could not see, he could not feel. He was dead to God. All he could do was appeal to Jesus! He couldn’t have the right thoughts and feelings. His heart and mind were ruined. He was like you. All he could do was appeal to Jesus. And James Procter was saved! God gave him grace!

“God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (James 4:6).

These people didn’t deserve to be saved. They were disqualified! They were sinful. Their hearts were hard. Their minds weren’t right. Their feelings weren’t right. But “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (I Timothy 1:15), even the worst of them! Jesus saved them in their confused, doubtful and imperfect state. And He will do the same for you.

“God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (James 4:6).

If you would like to speak with us after this sermon, please come and sit in the first two rows. Amen.