WAR AND PEACE ! [part 2].
James 4: 4 – 10. [part 1. v1-3]
In verses 1-3 James is writing about the cause of conflict between People – and he was writing to Christians within the church. He told them that the real problem was not their circumstances, nor their upbringing, nor their social enviroment, nor their father drinking problem [all these things do have an effect on us – I am not minimizing that] BUT in the final analysis the real problem is within us.
No matter how many psychological excuses we can dredge up – it is our desires and passions that ultimately determine how we think and act and speak – What is inside us determines what we are!
These desires and passions that war within us affect our relationships with other people – [how many husbands and wives have allowed their desires and passions to ruin their marriage because of adulterous affairs – adultery is not just a matter of sexual impropriety it is also a matter of broken vows and broken trust resulting in bruised and broken hearts] – before any of us become proud and judgemental about this matter remember what Jesus said about commiting adultery in our hearts. HOWEVER as we shall see in this passage there is a way to forgiveness and restoration
– these passions and desires also affect our relationship with God and James likens this to adultery.
4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred towards God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (NIV)
From the time God choose Abram and as a consequence the nation of Israel he likened his relationship with his people to that of a marriage. God was the ‘husband’ and his people the ‘wife’.
Whenever the nation of Israel drifted away from God and followed other gods God considered them to be unfaithful and adulterous. They had broken trust with God.
Listen to Jeremiah 3:14&20
14 “Return, faithless people,” declares the LORD, “for I am your husband. ….
20 But like a woman unfaithful to her husband,
so you have been unfaithful to me, O house of Israel,” declares the LORD. (NIV)
2 Corinthians 11:2 2 I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. (NIV)
ILLUS.: During part of the marriage service the bride is asked ‘… forsaking all others keep you only unto him as long as you both shall live.’ To which she replies ‘I will.’
This is the imagery that the Bible usage to describe the relationship between the believer and Jesus Christ. When we run after other gods – the most frequent being self – and put these before Christ we are guilty of committing spiritual adultery.
This was the essence of the problem with James’s readers – they were putting their own selfish desires and passions before anything or anyone else – thus he calls them an adulterous people.
We all know about and some have experienced the heart-break of a broken relationship – our society is full of people with broken hearts – even the politicians recognise the tragedy that broken marriages cause not only to those directly involved but also to society as a whole.
In a way that is true also of the spiritual relationship between the believer and God – when our relationship with God is damaged it is not only the individual who suffers but the whole family of God’s people –
If you have moved away from God and are in a backslidden state that affects all of us in some way –
Whenever we are unfaithful to God when we break our vows – remember that when we become Christians we are asking Jesus Christ to come into our lives as Lord and Saviour – if he is to be our Lord and Saviour then we must live according to His desires and not our own.
What are Christ’s desries? Many!! And we can say that we don’t ever keep to them fully and, of course, that is true. Nor do we keep then perfectly because we can’t as we are not perfect. The question I want to ask you is are you aiming to? Very often I think we use the fact that we are not perfect as an excuse for not even trying!!
For example, do you agree that the passion and concern of Christ’s heart is that ALL peoples and nations throughout the world should hear the gospel. Is that true – do you believe it? If that is his desire shouldn’t it be ours?? How much of a concern is missions and evangelism to you? Are you and I being unfaithful to Christ in this area? Are we guilty of being squeezed into the mould of a world that says we must accept as equally valid ALL belief and faith when Jesus clearly taught the exclusivity of his message?
This brings us to the point that James is making about friendliness with the world and enmity with God??
World – not ecological world. Not the people of the world as individuals but the world system and philosophy as it is set up against God.
James is using strong language of friendship and emnity – how can those who claim to be Christian, who have been been brought into a relationship of peace with God now flirt with the enemies of God. He is not saying that they are no longer Christian but is showing the utter inconsistency of claiming to be Christin and yet living as if they weren’t – by their friendship with the world [living by the world’s standards rather than Christ’s].
When we live our lives by the philosophies and principles of the world’s system then we are friends with them — HOW? What governs our lives? What is important to us? What are our hopes and dreams? What are our ambtions for our children? What occupies most of our time — esp. our spare time [non-working time]? The answers to these questions will give us an idea of where our loyalties lie!!
I am NOT saying that everything in the world is unnecessary and time wasting – your house and your car and your material possessions are important and God has given them to you BUT how are you using them — [What value do you place on them??] — for yourself or as tool in God service to minister to people. When all is said and done the only things in this world that are eternal – are people. The Bible teaches us that everything else will be destroyed.
Your cherished house, prize garden, your wonderful career, your bank balance will all come to naught –
A worldly system that excludes God must fill the void with something and it is usually with self and selfish ‘wants’ – and God looks at our hearts and asks ‘Where is your passions and desire? Is it for me? or for the world??’
He is a jealous God –James 4:5-6 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
“God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.” (NIV)
verse 5 is difficult for the simple reason that this exact wording is not found anywhere in the scriptures – however I think it is safe to assume – and most commentators seem to say – that this is easily seen in the intent of scripture in many places.
James seems to be saying ‘Listen, God has given you His Spirit as a gift, as a guarantee that you belong to him, as a consequence of already having given you his Son, Jesus – BY going your own way and following the world’s path you are slapping God in the face and he is a jealous God.”
‘envies’- or is jealous – We use the word jealousy to refer to an emotion that rises within us when someone else has what we would like for ourselves – we use it in a negative way.
It can be used positively – Used of God in the Bible it refers to God’s longing for the welfare of those he loves.
ILLUS.: We have said God like a Husband – we speak of ‘a jealous husband’ [negatively refers to a husband who restricts and smothers his wife] BUT positively all husbands should be jealous for their wives – to love unconditionally, to want the best for them, to give them the freedom to be everything they can be, –we are God’s jealous possession – he wants for us our highest good, he wants to protect and guard and provide for us.
God loves you – you matter to God – BUT so also do all his children so when there are wars and quarrels among believers God’s heart breaks.
James is saying ‘God has put his Spirit within you and the presence of His Spirit in you is incompatible with those desires and passions which pander to self-interest and which destroy fellowship and peace within the Church of God.”
What then is the remedy to these outward wars and quarrels and the inner selfish desires??
James 4:6-9 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
“God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.”
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. (NIV)
The first 4 verses are quite depressing in some ways – we see the selfishness of our hearts and we know our own weakness and inability to change ourselves.
What can I do? How do I overcome this?
But he gives us more grace. — where would we be if it were not for the ‘buts’ of scripture!!
Christian, you have already received grace – you can’t be a Christian without being the recipient of God’s grace [favour or goodwill] –
BUT you may think – ‘These demands that Jesus makes – these weaknesses in me – I can’t handle these demands …’ True! But he gives more grace!!
God’s grace is always sufficient for all that we need all of the time!! His grace never runs out.
Annie Johnson Flints words.
His love has no limits, his grace has no measure,
His power has no boundary known unto men;
For out of his infinite riches in Jesus,
He giveth, and giveth and giveth again!
While it is true that God’s grace is all sufficient it is also true that we have a responsibility.
James is not saying that God’s grace is an instant and effortless ticket to perfection — he is not saying that The Holy Spirit will come and dwell in us while we pursue our selfish pleasures!
As Motyer puts it “The benefits of grace and more grace are ours along the road of obedience and more obedience. The God who says ‘Here is my grace to receive’ says in the same breathe ‘ Here are my commands to obey.’”
OUR RESPONSIBILITY – James has said that God gives grace to the Humble and now he proceeds to explain what some of the qualities of humility are.
The first step along the road to humility is submission to God – this is not a very popular concept today – the slogan of today is ‘assert yourself’ – the idea of submitting to and obeying someone else is anathema to modern people. This strikes at the very heart of our natural inclination – naturally we are for self BUT God requires our obedience to himself – In some ways the word ‘submit’ is limited because it does not captire the full meaning of the orginal – it is not a passive word, which is what submission tends to emphasize – What James is calling for is ‘active allegience’ – that attitude of mind that leave you in no doubt as to whose side you are on.
Francis Schaeffer used the phrase ‘active passivity’ to capture this idea of submitting to God – I like that!! It is a willing desire to obey our Lord!!
Secondly, resisting the devil – if submitting is too passive a word then resisting Satan has often been interpreted too actively.
I have hear people say something like “Well, I just tell Satan to buzz off!!”
Never underestimate the power of Satan!!
This is not a word telling us to go chasing after Satan to frighten him off – this is a word to us to be aware that we are constantly under pressure from the devil – Remember we were all born into Satan’s kingdom – BUT God has rescued us from the Kingdom of Darkness and brought us into the kingdom of his Son – we were once enemies of God BUT now that we have come to Christ we have changed sides and are now enemies of Satan and he is not happy about us defecting to the other side and he will do all in his power to make life as difficult as possible. He is always looking for ways to bring us down.
1 Peter 5:8-9
8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith….. (NIV)
The devil will try every trick in the book to deflect us from following Christ – And don’t think it is only at the time of trouble and pain — NO! NO! one of the most effective of Satan’s weapons is to make us comfortable and life easy!!
Ease and comfort is not the mark of a godly life — 2 Timothy 3:12 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, (NIV)
How do we resist him? — BY actively submitting to Christ!!
Thirdly, submitting to God is not like submitting to an impersonal military commander, it is having a close personal relationship with him.
As we come to him, he comes to us. He longs for fellowship with us! He is not distant – if he feels distant it is probably because we have become cold towards Him.
We have already seen how God uses the marriage relationship to illustrate his realtionship with us – In our society marriages have been so damaged and people so hurt that the idea of a marriage being something pleasureable and desireable may not be very appealing to some people — BUT think of the ideal – of what marraige should and can be when both partners love each other and seek the highest for each other –THAT is the kind of relationship God want with each of us!!
This is possible – James is not talking about snatching romantic moments but a lifestyle of walking close to God! Good marriages have to be worked at. Our relationship with God takes work!
We do not simply drift into this kind closeness to God – it takes effort
ILLUS. I remember Gary Player that Great SA golfer in an interview – Interviewer, “That was a lucky putt!!” Gary , “The more I pratice the luckier I get!”
The more effort you put into your relationship with God the more blessed you will be!
Fourthly, clean up your act – Purification – remember what he said in 1:21 James 1:21 21 Therefore, get rid of all [weed out] moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. (NIV)
WEED OUT – get rid of – this take effort and energy on our part.
The imagery is of a gardener – there is the positive planting and nuturing of plants and the negative removing of weeds –
The Psalmist, King David says the same thing:
3 Who may ascend the hill of the LORD?
Who may stand in his holy place?
4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to an idol
or swear by what is false. (NIV)
we are talking about outer actions and inner attitudes!
It is not that we can clean up our lives and then draw near to God – rather it is when we draw near to God and come under the influence of his holy Spirit that we find ourselves motivated by the desire to be like Him.
Fifthly, Repent and lament, – ‘ grieve, mourn, wail…’ These are emotions that are not on the top of our agenda these days – we live in a society in which the pursuit of pleasure has become an obsession. We would be foolish to think that this attitude has not influenced the church – joy peace and happiness are the characteristics by which we now judge spirituality. BUT these can be very superficial..
I am NOT saying that Christian should always be miserable – and some are – corpses have more life – BUT there is a need to recognise the seriousness of sin and to come to God in repentence asking forgiveness.
What is the outcome of all that James has been talking about?
James 4:10 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (NIV)
Martin Luther – “It is God’s nature to make something out of nothing, that is why he cannot make anything out of [the one] who is not yet nothing”
Naturally we are proud and it is only the grace of God that can humble us! BUT it is only as we come near to God that we can being to see ourselves and we really are!
This is not just a pious platitude!! Someone has called it ‘practising the presence of God’.
What do we mean by ‘practising the presence of God’?
we need to bear in mind that Christ is with us always
As we are aware of Christ’s presence with us ALL the time we become aware of our shortcomings and sinfulness which should lead us to deep sorrow and repentence – at which point we cry out for more grace which he freely gives!!
Matthew Henry “The highest honour in heaven will be the reward of the greatest humility on earth!”
1 Peter 5:5-6
5….. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility towards one another[practical humility NOT pious navel gazing] , because,
“God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.”
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. (NIV)
James 4:10 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (NIV)
WAR AND PEACE!
submitting to God
resisting the devil