Gotta love those Rolling Stones. Can you believe they’ve been rolling for over 50 years now? Amazing! And if you’re wondering why I played that song in church, don’t worry you’ll find out in a minute.
Welcome to week 4 of How to Be the Church. If you are just joining us, we have been going through the book of James. It’s 5 chapters long and we are covering a chapter a week, so next week will be the final week.
As I’ve mentioned each week, this letter from the brother of Jesus spells out what we should expect to see in our lives if we are true Christ Followers. In chapter 1 and 2 we learned that true Christ Followers are DOERS of the Word. That faith without something to show for it in how we live is not faith at all. We also learned a bit about going through trials and about not showing favoritism.
Last week, in chapter 3, we learned about how dangerous and powerful our words can be and what godly wisdom looks like. If you missed any of them, you can always catch them online on our website or via our podcast.
Today, we are looking into chapter 4. And let me just say that if you thought the last three chapters were hard hitting, direct, or convicting, then you might want to buckle your seat belt because James hasn’t even gotten started yet. In chapter 4, he holds nothing back and basically gives us all a Come To Jesus speech!
All I can say is, if you decide to come back after today’s message then you MUST be a true believer, and likely a dedicated one at that! If you’re on the fence today, then perhaps this message will help tip you over the edge, because as you’re about to find out – James leaves no room to stay neutral in today’s Word.
So, ready or not, let’s get into it!
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.
Maybe now you get the song reference…
While James has mostly been talking to believers up to this point in the letter, he is going to spend a little time now talking to non-believers. And not just any non-believers, but people who claim to be believers but really are not. He’s laying out what you should expect to see if you have NOT truly been changed by the transforming, restoring power of Jesus Christ!
Verse 1 – What causes fights and quarrels among you? – Jesus called us to love each other, why are we fighting? James answers…
Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? A more accurate to the Greek translation is “Don’t they come from the pleasures that keep campaigning in your members?”
He’s saying that the reason we get so angry with each other and even with ourselves is because of all the competing selfish desires inside of us. We just can’t get no satisfaction, no matter how much we try! Inside of us are many voices screaming for attention. “I want!”, “I want!”, “I want!”.
I want to live in the city where everything I need is close, but I also want to live in the country where the air is clean and I can have a big yard.
I want to have a full time job, but I also want to be home with my kids.
I want to get paid more, but I want to work less.
I want to stay married to my wife and I want to sleep with my young secretary.
I want to be healthy but I also want to each lots of chocolate cake.
I want to be treated with respect, but I don’t want to have to earn it.
I want to have lots of kids, but I want to be able to be spontaneous.
I want to serve God, but I want to do it on my terms, really I just want to serve ME and look like I’m serving God.
Competing selfish desires. I want to go left. I want to go right. I want to go up. I want to go down. I want, I want, I want.
Remember what we read in chapter 3?
16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
Disorder, every evil practice, quarrels and fights because you are never satisfied when your god is yourself and your wanter.
2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.
The KILL here can mean murder, but it can also mean a strong hatred, like what Jesus talked about in the sermon on the mount. The mind that is totally a slave to self, to sin, will go this far! Don’t we see it in our world all around us? What happens when people get told NO? Riots break out! People are called haters and bigots. The world is obsessed with “I WANT” and when it can’t get it, anger and rage ensues!
You do not have because you do not ask God.
Remember chapter 1:17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.
If you want something good, then just ask God. Don’t get angry and fight.
The problem is that what we ask for is not good, and we know it….
3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
We ask God to fulfill all of our selfish desires! Please give me that car, that woman, that man, that lottery winning – why? So you can serve God with it? No, so you can use it to satisfy your wanter. In that case, don’t expect anything from God.
Remember he’s talking to the fake Christians. The ones that are hanging out with the Christians and playing the game on the outside, but are not the real deal on the inside. Because a true Christ Follower who has made Him Lord simply has a new Master, and it’s not self. And this new master actually offers satisfaction, rest for the soul, contentment.
The slave-driver master of SELF and SIN is never satisfied.
Even when you get what you want, it will only make you happy for a short while. It’s like the woman at the well. Jesus told her the truth when he said that this water will only quench your thirst for a little while before you need more.
Why do you think that every company in the world is constantly innovating and coming out with new and improved products, or at the very least new labeling? Because they know that you will become dissatisfied with the very thing that made you so happy just a few months before and give them more money!! It’s a predictable cycle!
It’s never enough. And it makes us angry. And there’s no way out of the cycle for the non-believer whose life is ruled by PLEASURE rather than Jesus.
But for those who follow Jesus as their God – your desires come from Him and they are fulfilled by Him. And it doesn’t matter what the marketers say because you learn to be content. That’s the only way to get satisfaction.
If you’re feeling uncomfortable right now, don’t worry it gets worse. And remember, this isn’t Pastor Daniel up here making stuff up. This stuff is straight out of God’s Word, we need to hear it!
Here in chapter 4, James came out of the gate hot and heavy, but he’s about to get heavier….
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.
He just drew a line in the sand and said “You can’t have it both ways.” You can’t be a friend of God and a friend of the world in the same heart. Hence why he’s calling them adulterous. They are supposed to be committed to Jesus as they claim to be, but they are trying to flirt with the world at the same time. God sees that as adultery in a spiritual sense.
Jesus made it clear several times, most notably….
24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
And if you remember from my preaching, it’s not money he’s talking about. It’s MAMMON. It’s My Thingdom. It’s my personal pleasure and satisfaction. You cannot serve both God and your desires. It is impossible.
If you want to follow your desires, that makes you a friend of the world and an enemy of God. There’s no way around it. You can’t have both.
Jesus also made it very clear that to follow Him is to completely break with your own desires:
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.
So, this notion that you can follow Jesus AND follow your deep dark desires that are contrary to God’s Word is completely false!
Jesus says DENY YOURSELF.
LOSE YOUR LIFE.
And follow HIM.
You simply cannot have it both ways. And if you think you can, then you are believing a LIE OF THE DEVIL. You are DECEIVED.
God does not accept half-devotion. Because it’s really no devotion at all.
Listen to what He tells one of the churches in Revelation:
14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
By default we are all born as enemies of God. You didn’t choose that side, you were born into it. And until you had the knowledge of God and His Son Jesus Christ, you really didn’t have an option. Now you have an option. Now you are responsible.
And when you say yes to Jesus, you are not only saying yes to his forgiveness, you are saying yes to His Lordship. You are making yourself His servant. You are giving up your empty life and letting Him fill it with His. It really and truly is all or nothing. God says that. Not me.
And the battle lines are clearly drawn. There is no halfway. There is no gray area. You can’t have one foot in each camp. God sees that as worse than choosing a side and He will spew you out of his mouth.
I’m not trying to scare you. I’m simply preaching the Word of God undiluted. I didn’t make this stuff up. But I care enough about each one of you that I will not shy from telling you the hard truth. Don’t let yourself be deceived. Serve God all the way! Surrender to Him totally or not at all. I hope you choose wisely.
5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us?
This is a strange statement. There is nowhere in scripture that this is quoted from, so most theologians believe he’s making a general statement. Kind of like when a preacher says “The Bible says that God loves you!” It’s true, but not a direct quote.
What this means is also a bit mysterious.
A better translation is: Or do you think the Scripture says without reason that the Spirit He caused to dwell in us yearns with envy?
Basically James is suggesting that the Spirit that God puts in us when we become followers is a jealous Spirit. Scripture tells us that God is a jealous God, not a bad kind of jealous, but he expects fidelity. He expects his bride to be faithful. A husband has every right to be jealous of a wife that is unfaithful. And vice versa.
He’s saying that when we chase after our own desires, that we are grieving His Spirit who wants us to follow Him.
Paul speaks of this in a few places, one being…
30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
And how do we do that?
31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
Same thing James is talking about. Those are the things that grieve the Holy Spirit and should not be a part of a true believer’s life. But it’s not just about the things we DON’T do. There are other things that we SHOULD do.
32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Again, the life of faith paints a drastically different picture than a life without it. There’s no way to be mistaken about what side you are on. The evidence is overwhelming and drastically different from each other. And there’s no way to fake it.
6 But God gives more grace. That is why Scripture says:
“God opposes the proud
but gives grace the humble.”
God gives more grace to the humble. And he opposes the proud. The proud are the ones James has been talking about. We all start out in this world as prideful. It doesn’t take long for a child to get to that point where they don’t want mommy and daddy’s help anymore – “I DO IT!”
We generally think pretty highly of ourselves, even if we pretend on the outside to think lowly. It’s the sin nature. The first and greatest sin was pride – the devil himself became prideful and ever since then he’s infected humanity with the same sin.
And God stands in battle array opposed to his created beings that think so highly of themselves. But when we are humble. When we empty ourselves of any sense of self-worth and recognize we are just animated dirt with a God who mysteriously loves us, that’s when we experience grace! Unearned and undeserved favor.
But until you humble yourself, don’t expect anything from God – your enemy!
So, what do you do if you find yourself in that position. What are you to do if all this time as James has been describing the UNSAVED person you recognize that he’s talking about YOU? Well, he’s about to give you your chance. He’s about to lay it down for you, what you must do to get in right standing with God.
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.
That is the recipe. It sounds like a lot, but it’s really not. I’m going to zoom in a bit and break it down, but hang in there and you will see the whole picture.
There are actually ten commands here. Imperatives in the Greek.
1. Submit to God. That is the opposite of pride. That is humility. Give in to Him. Surrender to Him.
2. Resist the devil. To submit to God as Lord is to stop submitting to the devil as Lord. And when you do that, the devil will flee. He’s a chicken. He doesn’t like confrontation. All this time you’ve just been giving in, but if you resist him by submitting to God instead, he will run with his tail between his legs.
3. Come near to God. Seek after him. Yearn for Him. And the promise is that He will come near to you.
13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
If you truly seek the Lord for HIS GLORY, not so he can be your genie, then he will come near to you. He will be found by you.
4. & 5. Wash your hands you sinners and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Give up your evil ways. Turn from them. Wash your hands of your past life. Confess all those sins to God and let Him take them away from you. He will separate them as far from you as the east is from the west. And He will remember them no more.
Now, don’t mistake that for suddenly living a perfect life. This is something you do in your heart. Because your actions will follow your heart. It’s not making a list of all the bad things you’re going to stop. It’s simply coming to a place in your heart that are are recognize how bad they are for you and you are ready to give them up, and you’re asking God to help you.
6, 7, & 8 – Grieve, Mourn, and Wail.
When you realize just how awful your sin is to God and the price that had to be paid for your forgiveness, it’s hard not to have this kind of emotional response. But James isn’t just saying you should be sad. He’s saying you should have a contrite heart. That to truly be humble before God is to also realize just how unworthy you are. And you should be devastated over your sin.
9. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Basically, he’s saying this is serious. He’s not saying never to be happy again, but now is not the time for little jokes and chuckles. This is dead serious. You are either a friend of God and an enemy of the world, or a friend of the world and an enemy of God. And you don’t want to be an enemy of God.
10. And finally, a repeat of the first step, Humble yourself before the Lord and He will lift you up.
What a promise! If you keep your pride and exalt yourself, then you are an enemy of God, but if you humble yourself – God himself lifts you up!
And while that may sound like a long list of things to do – it’s really all one state of mind. It all happens at the same time when your heart is broken and you realize the awful state you are in and you surrender to the God who loves you.
I’ll never forget the moment that I finally surrendered to God. It was in the engine room of the submarine I served on. I had reached the end of my rope trying to do things my way, and so I went to a semi-private area of the engine room and surrendered my life to Jesus! I went through all of those things James just mentioned in a moment, and I literally felt God lift me up. It was like all the weight of the world was lifted off of me and I was filled like an empty bucket with the living water Jesus promised. And my life has never been the same ever since.
You can have this too! He can change your life! He can remove that evil slave-driver that is your sinful will and give you a new reason to live other than following all your competing desires. He can give you satisfaction! But you have to humble yourself. You have to yield to Him. You have to surrender your life and make Jesus your Lord.
And the only reason you even SHOULD do that is if you believe he is the Son of God because He proved it by rising from the dead.
As Paul tells us in Romans 10:9 – If you confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, then you will be saved!
It’s not just saying something. It’s really believing and putting your trust in Jesus and making him your Lord, your King, your Master, your Leader.
And in case there are any here today that want to do that, let’s do it right now! Please pray with me!
It’s not a prayer that saves you. It’s the belief and commitment in your heart. So, I’m not going to ask you to repeat after me. You tell God whatever is on your heart. But one thing I will do is pray FOR you…
If you are just now coming to this belief FOR REAL, then welcome to the family!! Your life is about to change! I encourage you to turn in a response card letting us know about your decision so that we can follow up with you and help you on your new journey. You can also feel free to talk to me after service and let me know. I would be so happy to hear about it!
But for now, we still have some more of James 4 to cover, and it’s a whole new topic – surprise, surprise. Actually two of them.
Let’s take a look at the first one..
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?
Again James is hitting on how we talk about each other. Covered that in detail last week. But he also adds this bit about judging. And whenever we talk about judging in the bible I have to make sure you have a correct definition.
There is judging and there is condemning. They are not the same, despite what our modern culture says. It is true we are not to CONDEMN each other, but we are to JUDGE each other as believers. Judging is simply discerning between right and wrong, with no penalty attached.
So, what James is actually talking about is condemnation. He’s saying when you judge other people in a condemning way you are setting yourself up as Judge, Jury, and Executioner, but James makes it clear there is only ONE ultimate Judge, and this judge Is actually able to save and destroy. So, who do you think you are sitting in condemnation over your neighbor?
This is not the same thing as judging whether a fellow believer is doing something wrong and confronting them about it. Jesus specifically tells us TO DO that!
15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.
So, why would we want to confront a fellow believer about their sin? Because we like to play high and mighty? Because we are perfect? NO! That is what James is talking against. We are commanded to do it in love to win them over. We do it because we love each other!
If you saw someone eating poison would you just watch and be quiet so they didn’t get offended? Only if you hate them! When we love each other in the family of God we are supposed to love each other enough to help each other not destroy ourselves! Because that’s what sin does. It destroys you and it destroys the people you care about. Especially sexual sin.
So, James is not saying we shouldn’t judge each other’s actions, but we should not judge each other with the intent to condemn. To lord it over each other. Really when you do that, James points out, you are making yourself out to be higher than the Law – practically equal with God himself. And that is a big no no!
Know the difference! Don’t be sucked into the “don’t judge me and I won’t judge you so we can all just keep getting away with our secret sins” camp! Love each other enough to save your brother or sister from disaster! If you do it for the right reason, it will be right.
Now, James shifts gears again and closes out this chapter with another topic…don’t you love James? It’s like getting three sermons in one!
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.
This is similar to a parable Jesus told…
16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
This is a financial planner’s least favorite parable…
Both James and Jesus are talking about a person who lives solely for himself/herself. They make their own plans. They do what they want to do. They store up earthly treasures and don’t share with anyone. They ultimately place their trust and sense of security in their own power and wealth.
But the truth is that we are not promised tomorrow. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, my wife’s uncle died suddenly of a heart attack while he was out jogging. He had a lot of life left to live. He was in the middle of doing things. He no doubt had plans for the future, but that day his life was demanded of him. No one saw it coming. Fortunately, however, he did live a life of sharing and helping others, and so his life leaves a godly legacy.
A life that is all about self will likely only leave children and grandchildren fighting over an inheritance.
James is saying that we should not be so sure and determined in our own plans to do what we want to do. Instead, all that we do should be bathed in prayer. Instead of telling God what you’re going to do, ask Him what He wants you to do. And if you’re unsure, then at least do all things with an attitude that God could change your plans at any moment and that would be OK.
And don’t be like the rich fool who hoarded all that he had. Live a generous life. In fact, that can easily be applied to James 4 last verse:
17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.
It’s not enough to only avoid the things you know you are not supposed to do. There are plenty of things we are told in God’s word TO DO, and to ignore those is just as much a sin as stealing, lying, murder, adultery, and so on.
And with that I’m going to bring up the DOERS again. I know that was three chapters ago, but it’s actually in the background of every page.
We are called to be DOERS of the Word and not HEARERS only. If you are a believer. If you have your faith in Jesus Christ. If He is your Savior and LORD! Doesn’t matter if you’ve been a follower for a long time or for just a few minutes ago. We are called to SHOW our faith by what we DO. And specifically, we are supposed to DO WHAT GOD SAYS IN HIS WORD. ALL OF IT.
Yes, some of the OT Law has been superseded, but really there are only two rules: Love God, and Love Others. Everything else falls into that. Loving God means we obey Him, and loving others means we put others first. But since we’re not that smart, the New Testament also spells a lot of it out for us.
And one of the things we are supposed to do in obedience to God and for the benefit of others is perform a function in the body of Christ. In His church. We are all supposed to DO something in the church.
We are not suppose to just be sponges. That’s what I call the listeners only. Like a sponge you nod your head but that’s where it stops. You walk out the door as fast as you can and hope none of it sticks to you. If that offends you, I’m sorry I’m not sorry. It’s God’s word you have a problem with, not me.
And I said a few weeks ago that we no longer have volunteers here at Reality, but we have DOERS. Jesus isn’t asking us politely to lend a hand. He expects his servants to serve Him. If we don’t serve Him, we can’t exactly claim He is our Lord, can we?
DOERS are the people who take this stuff seriously. Who aren’t playing a game, but want to live their life fully for God. That’s what we are called to be, so that’s why we are pushing this. Because I don’t want any of you to be deceived into thinking you can have Jesus as your savior but not your king. It just doesn’t work that way.
So, today we have our potluck. And a few weeks ago I told everyone that during that potluck we are going to have a DOERS DIALOG. Many of you should have received an email about it this week also. I’m asking everyone who wants to be a DOER for God to be there. We will have lunch and we will be talking about the things we DO around here on Sundays. We need a lot of DOERS to make Sundays happen, and we want to talk with all the DOERS about how we can make it work better than it currently does. So whether you are currently an active DOER (formerly called a volunteer) or you WANT to be a DOER and obey your King, then come to this potluck right after service. Don’t be a sponge.
If you are a guest with us today, you should come too, so you can really see what kind of church this is.
I want to close this morning by telling you something that happened two weeks ago that pertains to a verse that we covered earlier today:
In verse 2 of chapter 4, James says, You do not have because you do not ask God.
This goes back to kind of the theme of this chapter: Be humble. The only way to ask God with right motives is if you are humble. If you humble yourself. And when you humble yourself, He will lift you up.
Two weeks ago, one of our members did just that. He found himself after a long string of setbacks at the end of his rope financially. He didn’t know how he was going to provide for his family, and so he asked me if the church could help. Which, we all know is not an easy thing to do. Traditionally that is called benevolence and requires a bunch of procedures and forms and such. But as I was talking with him it occurred to me that the way the early church did it was that the need was presented and the members of the church responded to help. Some would even sell property to help those in need.
So, that’s what we did at the members meeting. If you missed it, I wish you had been there. The member in need presented his case and I told our members that this is where the rubber meets the road. We talk of family here at Reality, and we talk of loving each other. But that’s easy to do when it consists of mostly having fun together. Now we had an opportunity to literally put our money were our mouth was, and I am proud to say that our members came through in flying colors! I was blown away at the response, and the member in need was more than taken care of…
Because he humbled himself and asked.
None of that would have happened if he just sulked around and waited for someone to notice. He asked. And it took great humility to get up in front of that room and ask for help, but he and his family have been blessed because of it, and really our whole church has been blessed because of it because we got to experience true family. True koinonia! And we are stronger now because of it.
Don’t be prideful. Be humble. God is waiting for you to ask the right way. And he’s waiting for you to get out of the pew and start DOING to show that your faith is genuine.
Don’t let Him down.