J. Gordon Duncan

Culture, Business, Fitness, Etc.

Sermon Notes and Family Devotions for James 4:1-6

Big Picture Question:  Don’t You Want to Stop Fighting?

James 4: What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?

  • James assumes that we all fight to some degree.  Do you find this true?
  • In what areas do you most disagree with folks?
  • Why do you think we disagree so much?

Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?  2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

  • Why does James say that we fight so much?
  • What do we do when we don’t get what we want?
  • Why don’t we get what we ask for from God?

4  You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?  Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

  • How does friendship with God make a person adulterous?
  • What does it mean to be friends with God?
  • Why does friendship with the word cause enmity or strife with God?

5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?

  • What does it mean that God’s Spirit yearns jealously over you?
  • How is God’s jealous yearning not sin?
  • How is God’s jealous yearning an act of love to us?

6 But he gives more grace.

  • What does it mean that God gives us grace when we are friends with the world?

Please forgive the typos.

Fundamentally, there should be a host of changes when a person declares faith in Jesus.  The Bible describes what happens when a person has faith in Jesus becoming a new creation.  The old has passed away.  2 Corinthians 5:18 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come

That means, at the core of a Christian, at the core of who you are as a believer, you should be completely different than you were prior to knowing to Jesus and different from those who don’t know Jesus.  You should be more gentle.  You should be more merciful.  You should be less quarrelsome.

We saw that last week at the end of chapter 3.  James tells us that the wisdom that comes from having a relationship with God should be described in this way.  James 3: But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.  If you profess faith in Jesus, you should just be more peacable, gentle, and merciful than the rest of the world.

Looking around at the church, looking at how Christians live their lives, looking at how we agree or disagree with others, looking at whether we are merciful or not, sometimes I just have to wonder.  Many of the reasons why people leave the church is because we aren’t those things.  Heck, look beyond the church, is this how your house is described?  If people saw you and your spouse or you and your kids, would they describe you as peaceable, reasonable, and merciful?

Gang, the church fights a lot.  I’m not saying you have to be perfect.  Jesus’ perfection is yours before God.  But you and I should fundamentally be changed and different.  Pursuing Jesus and His wisdom means you should just fight less.  Much of my counseling is dealing with just that.  So much fighting so much quarrelling so much arguing.  So in light of that, let’s try to answer this Big Picture Question this week:

Big Picture Question:  Don’t You Want to Stop Fighting?

James 4: What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?  Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?  2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.  4  You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?  Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.  5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?  6 But he gives more grace.

Now when I read verse 1 that says “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? A host of answers might come to mind.  When I speak to folks who are arguing a lot, their answer to the question of what causes so many fights goes something like this.  I’ll tell you why we fight so much – she does this or my kid does that or my boss does that.  It’s their fault.  Think about your last fight whether it was with spouse or child or boss or sibling.  How much of that argument did you spend telling the other person what they did wrong?

Think about typical things you argue about.  Sex and money are popular topics.  Who is carrying the appropriate amount of weight around a house is another.  Spending money you have agreed not to spend.  What’s for dinner?

Have you ever had one of these fights?  It starts out with, “Hey, why didn’t you help me out with that?”  And then instead of the person answering the question, they deflect and say, “Well, you didn’t do this one thing, so why should I do that?”  And then you have two things to argue about with both people feeling superior and right in their anger.  When we have these fights, we feel incredible justified in our anger.  If we choose not to fight, we feel incredibly self-righteous because we know we are right.  But James is getting ready to flip the script here.  James answers what causes all of our fights and most of us are not going to like the answer.

Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?  2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

James says that what causes our fights is the war of passions within our hearts.  We don’t get to blame the other person.  We don’t get to remind them of all their mistakes.  We don’t get to get angry with them for the umpteenth time.  Our raging passions cause all of our fights.  Now James explains that in verse 2.  In fact, he gives us 3 examples of raging passions in our hearts though I’m sure he could get us a hundred.

For example, he says, you desire or want something that you don’t have and don’t get.  What’s the result?  You murder.  Now you might say, “Gordon, I’ve never murdered anyone in my life.”  But remember how Jesus speaks of murder.  Matthew 5: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.

Jesus is telling us that anger and murder are the same sin and bring about the same judgment just as lust and adultery are the same sin and bring about the same judgment.  So James’ point is when you have desire, any desire that goes unmet, we get angry with either the people who are keeping us from that desire or with God who we feel is keeping us from that desire.  He goes onto say that when we covet and want what other people have, and we don’t get it we fight.

Oh we want other people’s beauty and when we can’t get it we fight.  We want other people’s health and when we can’t get it we fight.  We want other people’s wealth and when we can’t get it we fight.  We want other people’s free time and when we can’t get it we fight.

When you are mad at your spouse because they did something fun and you had to work or take care of the kids or whatever, James says you are coveting what they have.  The argument you are having with them is not because they did something irresponsible.  The argument you are having is that you are coveting their freedom to make that choice.  Check yourself is James’ point.

He goes one further in verse 3.  He says you ask and you don’t receive because you ask wrongly so you fight.  You don’t get what you want because you ask with bad motives.  You ask for what you want just to feed your passions.

This is true both in our relationships and in our relationships with God.  Hey kids, you want free time or you want to buy a game or you want something specific for dinner.  You ask and are told no.  Your parents tell you no sometimes because they can see that they only reason you ask is to feed your passion.

You want a certain dinner because you are gracious enough to eat whatever mom makes.  You want a game so you can hide in your room.  You want money to go do what you want.  But you rarely if ever do what your parents ask and if you do, do it, it is so that you can ask for what you want.  Your parents right say no and you fight.  I wish was only a kid issue but husbands and wives have these conversations all the time as well.

But more importantly, our prayers to God are met with a resounding no because we are just asking God to feed our passions. Ask yourself, Gang.  How often do you pray?  How often are your prayers just asking God for stuff?  How often are you just asking God to make your life easier?

It is very easy to neglect all the other aspects of prayer.  How often are our prayers just words of praise to God?  How often are our prayer thanks to God?  How often are we praying for others?  How often are we seeking God’s wisdom?  How often are we asking God what certain passages of scripture mean?

I don’t mean to upset you, but all of those things I just mentioned are supposed to be part of the normal day to day life of a Christian.  In the past few weeks, I’ve noticed something about my prayers.  Let me give you an example.  When my dad died, I prayed that our hearts would be comforted.  I prayed some of my family wouldn’t get stupid.  Once again, as the church is not growing numerically or financially, I found myself praying for those things as well.

But this passage has caused me to stop and examine my motives.  There is nothing wrong with asking for comfort as we grieve my father’s passing.  There is nothing wrong with asking God to grow the church numerically and financially.

But this passage asks me to examine my heart.  What is my motive?  Do I just want to avoid pain?  Sometimes, God uses pain and heartache to draw His children closer and to severe their dependency on other things.  Do I just want the church to grow so numerically and financially so I don’t have to stress so much?  Maybe God wants us to stick closer to Him so we have to trust Him.

I don’t know, gang.  I’m not going to tell you the mind of God.  But this passage specifically says, If you ask for things from God with the wrong motive, asking for them just so you can keep feeding your passions, God is not inclined to give you anything.  In fact, a lot of times He just says now.  Think through what you ask God for, examine your heart, look for real to figure out your motive and the return to God either to ask for nothing, to confess your sin or ask God once again assured you know just why you are asking.  So, let’s make this a moment of action or mission

Mission 1:  Ask God to show you where you ask with poor motives.

Because you know what happens if we just keep feeding our passions?  You know what God calls people who are just slaves to what they want?  Look at verse 4.

4  You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?  Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

Adulterous people.  Friends with the world – enmity with God.  Okay, this is an incredibly quoted passage, so we are going to walk carefully here.  First of all, what does James use the description “adulterous people”

When your passions are not first and foremost glorifying God, any passion you have makes you adulterer.  Let me explain.  James is like a NT prophet here.  To call someone who has faith in God adulterous harkens back to language from Jeremiah, Hosea and others.  A Christian would described as adulterous when they have pledged their life to Jesus Christ, giving themselves completely over, describing yourself as dead but now alive in Christ.

That’s the description of a Christian now – not super Christians, but Christians.  Those folks, we would be described when there is anything in this world that we look to give us more pleasure than God.  More joy than God.  More hope than God.  More comfort than God.  And the list could go on and on.

James rightfully know that we look to everything in this world but God sometimes to make us joyful, hopeful, to give us comfort to give us pleasure.  It is not that God has said we cannot enjoy the things of this world – that was the incorrect approach of the monks – any thing that gives pleasure other than God is wrong.  No, we can enjoy this world – in fact, Christians should enjoy more than anyone else, why?  Because we have found everything we need in God, therefore any joy of this world, any hope of this world, any pleasure of this world is enjoyed in perspective  – recognizing that it is a wonderful gift but a lesser joy than what God gives.

You see, let me explain how we have got this wrong for a long time and then lets figure out what James is calling to.  Friendship with the world means enemy with God.  Many have read this language and thought that it has given the church the right to hate the world – meaning quite often hate the people of the world who are not Christians.  These verse have justified everything from hate speech, to mocking people, to telling folks they can’t drink alcohol and can’t go to the movies.

Could it be those things?  Well, anything in the world that is not declared sinful, is okay – as long as you don’t find your worth in it, as long you don’t find more joy in it than you do God, as long you don’t find more hope in it than God, and on and on.  So take any hobby – running, swimming, reading, golf.  If you take more joy in that than God, you are an adulterer.

Take things like eating, hanging out, and drinking alcohol.  Well, scripture is clear.  Food is gift from God.  Eating too much is a sin.  Hanging with friends is wonderful.  Talking too much is a sin.  Drinking alcohol is fine.  Drinking too much is a sin.

I like sitting on the back porch with friends and a glass of wine as much as the next guy.  That is not sin.  Talking too much, drinking too much is.  Our topics of conversation could sinful.  If we are trusting in those things to bring us down and relax us more than God, they are sin.  You see, if just tell you that this place is sin because its worldly, this food, this drink, this typo clothing – they are worldly and sinful. – I’m not asking you to use your brain or to exercise faith.  Use your brain, read the scriptures, exercise faith and ask yourself, better yet, ask God “Am I adulterous?  Am I turning to something other than you God more than you?   Help me walk in faith and repentance.

This takes a mature faith.  One that is not easily figured out and takes a bit more thinking than just listening to your pastor rail against everything in the world that he doesn’t like.  So let’s make this missionable.

So Mission #2 Ask God to make you love Him more and show you where you need to love the world less.

But more than anything else.  Understanding these things is found in the light of the Gospel, just like everything else.  Listen to the great hope of verse 5.

5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?

Okay, what in the world does this mean?  Does God yearn jealously for our spirits that He gave us or does God yearn jealously for the Holy Spirit which He gave us?  Well, James talks about the human spirit in 2:26, 4:1,3 and the Holy Spirit is not mentioned in the whole book.  Since the context of this section is speaking of our human passions, it would seem to make sense that the passage is saying that God yearns jealously for your spirit, the one that He gave you.

So the, why do the scriptures tell us that God yearns jealously over the spirit that He has made to dwell in us?  Well, the OT speaks of God being a jealous God at least 3-4 times and in each case, it describes God in that way surrounding human idolatry.  For example, when Israel renewed their covenant with God and were being warned about the dangers of the Promised Land, we read this:

Exodus 34:14  For you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

So it makes sense here that James would tell us that God is jealous in a completely righteous way for our souls because James is telling us that our passions cause us to run after everything else to satisfy us but God.  Our adulterous desires that are greater for things than they are for God are idolatrous.  But what James is telling us here should cause us to pause.

Think about what he is saying.  God is no doubt holy.  His righteous is above ours, and any goodness that we possess comes from Him.  God hates sin and punishes sin.

But James is encouraging us through the gospel hope that when His children sin, yes God hates that sin but he responds with a jealousy for us.  God is jealous for us when we sin.  God wants our heart back when we sin.  God yearns for you to love Him and not whatever passion it is you are feeding.

I so wish my heart, your heart, this church’s heart, and the heart of this city could get this.  Think about it.  When you sin, what happens?  If you have faith in Jesus, when you sin, the very Spirit of God that lives within you convicts you of that sin.  You realize that your harsh word, your lustful though, your drunkish behavior, whatever, the Spirit moves in your heart to say, “No, that is not what God has called you to or commanded you to do.”

And how do we respond?  Ultimately, the work of the Spirit in our hearts is intended to cause us to respond by confessing our sin, repenting and walking away, and enjoying the forgiveness of God.  But we often do it because we think God is mad at us now.  We either consciously or subconsciously think that God has raised His arm to give us a back hand and maybe we think Jesus is up there holding Him back until either we repent or God forgets.

This passage is saying, “Listen, when you sin, you know what God does?”  His heart yearns for you.  He loves you and wants your heart back.  You are pursuing everything in the world to satisfy you and nothing will be God.

So right now, as you struggle with sin, either confessed or hidden, God jealously yearns for you in righteous way.  He wants you back.  He wants you to find joy, hope, comfort, and identify in Him.

He wants you to find comfort in knowing that Jesus has secured all of your goodness for you and Jesus has secured all the payment of penalty for you.  So now, you can joyously walk before God.  You can admit how your passions have caused you to run after everything but God.  And you can thank God for Jesus who takes on God’s wrath and gifts us with God’s holy jealousy.

So Mission #3:  Be motivated to repent of sin because God yearns for you.

And you want what we need then?  You know what will meet our souls’ need more than anything else?  Listen to verse 6.

6 But he gives more grace.

Your sin has not taxed God’s grace.  It will never run out.  God’s grace is not dependent on your faithfulness or your obedience.  It is what your faithlessness and your disobedience need.  You and I need more of God’s love and grace.

We must recognize that our passions draw us into every fight in the world.  We fight our parents, our siblings, our spouses, our kids, and our God.  We run after everything else but God.  And for some reason, we neglect to depend on God’s grace for what we need and instead trust our hands, efforts, and the poor wisdom of our hearts.

I read one author this week who summed up our challenge here in this way.  He said,

I’m not surprised by bitter, socially uncomfortable Christians with messy or dysfunctional relationships at home, tense relationships with co-workers, awkwardness with folks in the church, and secret, unconfessed sin. We have become comfortable with defining ourselves in a less than biblical way.   We approach God as less than needy, so we’re less open to the ministry of others and to the conviction of the Spirit.  This sucks the life out of the devotional aspect of our walk with God.  Tender, heartfelt worship is hard for a person who thinks of himself as having arrived.  No one celebrates the presence and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ more than the person who has embraced his desperate and daily need of it. Paul Tripp

So gang, here is what we need to do.  If we want to stop fighting.  If we want to find peace in our hearts and our homes, we must recognize our desperate and daily need for God’s grace.  Memorize simple verse 6.  “But God gives more grace.”

So that when you find yourself in that fight that you always find yourself in, ask God, “What passion is it of mine that is going unmet?”  My passion for money or health?  My passion for children who looked good, Godly, and don’t cause me any problems?  My passion for someone other than my spouse?  My passion to be right or to be seen as Godly?

And as God shows you how your passions are driving you, pray that He would gift you with a passion for Him through Jesus empowered by the Spirit.  And then ask God to remind you of His yearning love for you.  And ask for more grace.  Before we close, let’s remind ourselves of our 3 Missions

·    Mission 1:  Ask God to show you where you ask with poor motives.
·    Mission #2:  Ask God to make you love Him more and show you where you need to love the world less.
·    Mission #3:  Be motivated to repent of sin because God yearns for you.

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June 3, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , ,

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