James 4 digs down deep into the reasons for divisions and contentions in the church. He also explains how these heart issues affect our prayers and our relationship with God. This sermon brings light and life to one of the most difficult-to-understand and misunderstood passages in the New Testament.
Wars and Fighting James 4:1-6
One of the most challenging and misunderstood passages in the Bible.
“Where do wars and fights come from?” James is using strong language to talk about divisions among believers.
The reason: desire for pleasure. Wanting what we want, and insisting that our way is the only right way. That attitude was affecting their relationships with other believers, and with God.
There is a way that seems right to a man–Proverbs 14:12
Just because something makes sense to us really doesn’t mean very much.
Part of the context here is the end of James 3:13-17–wisdom from below, and wisdom from above.
Wisdom from below leads to squabbling, bickering, and envy.
Heavenly wisdom is marked by humility, a trust in God and a gentle attitude toward others. Wisdom from above doesn’t assume that our perspectives are correct, but always stays open to adjustment and correction.
Why doesn’t God answer our prayers? Or to rephrase, why doesn’t God answer our prayers the way we want Him to? We need to make a shift from “What do I want?” to “What does God want?” We want things because we want to enjoy them. We need a Kingdom vision, of wanting something because the Lord can use it. We need continual upgrades for our way of praying.
Not only will we find ourselves in contention with our Christian brothers and sisters, but we find ourselves in contention with God!
“Friendship with the world”– spiritual adultery.
If you are living a life of sin, then you are friend of the world. If you get drunk and don’t see a problem with it, you’re a friend of the world. If you sleep with your boyfriend/girlfriend outside of marriage, that’s being a friend of the world.
It’s easy to diagnosis a friendship with the world, if we’re honest with ourselves. We lose our tenderness to the Lord. We don’t lean into love. We move from wanting to edify others to finding it easy to tear them down. We forget the concept of denying ourselves or even just selflessness. We don’t want to glorify God anymore. We don’t live in the love of God for us. We usually can’t feel the contamination of friendship with the world–like carbon monoxide poisoning–we have to be aware of the symptoms.
There is another aspect to friendship with the world, and that’s the relationships we have with non-Christians. We have a precious deposit inside of us, which is the life of God in our soul. There is a tug of war going on between the devil and the HS with our relationships with non-Christians. God wants us to love, and serve, and show grace. Satan wants us to get too close so that we compromise our witness, and end up giving ourselves away. And probably the biggest mistake a Christian can make in this area is to marry someone who is not a believer.
The Spirit who dwells in [us] yearns jealously–a close, protective attachment to us. His attitude toward us is that He loves so closely, and knows what we can do to hurt ourselves, or what can come and draw us away, that He is against.
Happily, after all that strong language, James ends with a great promise. With all those words ringing in our ears, James pulls back a moment, and says,
But He gives more grace.
God may say strong things, and do things that seem difficult if not impossible. But He also supplies the wisdom and strength to do those things. And there is one way to get that grace.
God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.
Humble yourself–because that’s where you receive grace–in the low place.
When we realize how much we need the Lord–as all these words from James help us see–it’s easy to be humble. Once we say, “I can’t do it! But if this is your will, the grace is available” we’re where these words were trying to take us!