This last week, I listened to a great 25-minute message by Chip Ingram on why we fight with those we love. I thought I’d share it in case you wanted more depth on how to enjoy the people closest to you. Now, for our verse-by-verse study of James 4.
1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
- Think back to the last disagreement you had with someone. Maybe it was your spouse, a friend, or colleague. Before you replay the “word volleyball” exchange, consider what you told yourself. Maybe it was something like, “I’ve already given up ________. He should have to give something up, too.” Or, “They don’t deserve __________.” This is the attitude James is calling out so we understand that the only person who can change is you. Relationships are a dance, and oftentimes, we are the ones with two left feet.
- You may have read verse 2 about killing and immediately thought, “I’ve never killed anyone.” Maybe you’ve never murdered anyone physically, but we’ve each done plenty of killing with our words. Think about what it says in 1 John 3:15: “Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.” Those are stout words, and Jesus spoke similar ones in Matthew 5:21-22: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.’” The takeaway here isn’t to focus on “measuring the sin.” Sin is sin, friends. It’s all unholy and dirty in the sight of the Almighty God. Our focal point must be (1) the redeeming work of Christ, and (2) living a sanctified (AKA: set-apart, sacred) life. The focal point is not to categorize your sin or justify how you are holier than someone else; the focal point is Christ’s redeeming work in you.
- Verse 3 makes a great point, especially when you think about the prosperity gospel movement. The motive of asking God for something shouldn’t be to spend it on our own pleasures – it’s to further His kingdom. Here’s a news flash: you don’t need a Lamborghini to spread the gospel. Be faithful with what you have, sow generously, be grateful, then let God be God.
4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”
- Let’s make sure we understand why James is referring to us as adulterers (inclusive of men and women). Adultery means to be unfaithful, and James wasn’t speaking to physical, marital affairs. Instead, he was referring to friendship with the world. I’ve watched so many individuals try to live out church on Sunday, and be friends with the world Monday through Saturday. It just doesn’t work, folks. You must choose. Jesus says in Revelation 3:16, “So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” I really don’t want my “legacy” on this earth to be associated with saliva, do you?
- God longs for you. Did you catch that in verse 5? God placed His spirit in you to dwell, and God cries out to awaken your spirit. What an amazing Creator. Andrew Murray put it like this in his book Humility: “When God created the universe, it was with the one object of making the creature partaker of his perfection and blessedness, and so showing forth in it the glory of his love and wisdom and power. God wished to reveal himself in and through created beings by communicating to them as much of his own goodness and glory as they were capable of receiving. But this communication was not a giving to the creature something which it could possess in itself, a certain life or goodness, of which it had the charge and disposal. By no means. But as God is the ever-living, ever-present, ever-acting One, who upholdeth all things by the word of his power, and in whom all things exist, the relation of the creature to God could only be one of unceasing, absolute, universal dependence.” If this kind of relationship with God is foreign to you, choose today to follow Him – right where you are. He’s ready to show you.
7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
- The first few words of verse 7 often are truncated. People think, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” The bad news is, when you try to resist the devil in your flesh, he winds up winning. The power is in the first part of the verse: submit yourself to God. What does that mean, exactly? To submit means “to accept or yield to a superior force or to the authority or will of another person.” Submission is a choice, not a feeling. We talked about in the video from James 3 how God can change your heart, but He won’t change your mind. You can change your mind, but He is the only One who can change your heart. Once we decide in our minds that we will live a life of absolute surrender, resisting the devil becomes easier because God’s spirit is at work within us.
11 Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?
- I was listening to Jon Courson teach James 4 and there was one statement he made that stuck with me: don’t prey on people, pray for people. Sometimes we “prey” on them with our words versus praying for them on our knees. God, change our hearts. Give us compassion for the lost and the broken. When we see sin, let us not judge. Instead, help us to mourn for ourselves, for others, and for this world that is desperately in need of Jesus.
13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.
- I’m a dreamer. I think about tomorrow, next week, next year, five years from now. The possibility, the adventure, and the opportunities. Acts 2:17 says, “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” Dreams are a gift, but they are a gift given by God for the purpose of His kingdom – not our own. That is the differentiator between Acts 2:17 and what we learned in the first verses of James. These people weren’t dreaming about God’s kingdom and living each day in a faithful manner. They were thinking about the next big get-rich scheme and how they might “spend what they get on their own pleasures” (pop back up to verse 4 for that repeated message). As believers, God desires us to willingly say, “Here I am.” The Lord will equip the called – He’s simply looking for willing vessels. Amen.