Sunday, December 11, 2011

James 4


Now that we see the destruction of bitter jealousy and selfish ambition, James continues to move toward the root cause of conflicts among us-even the cause of wars on the planet. In chapter 3 we saw the comparison between earthly wisdom and heavenly wisdom. Here in chapter 4 James compares the human ways (do it my way) with God's ways. Doing things according to your way or the way of the world will end in quarrels, fights, interpersonal conflicts, stepping on one another, cut-throating in the marketplace, etc. He simply lays out the primary cause and the cure in these matters.

THE CAUSE-(1-5)-selfish desires. 1 What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. [You lust after something and take on a murderous disposition of anger in order to get it.] You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. [You want something you can't have or don't have and become disagreeable and quarrelsome.]

You do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. [From God's perspective, you don't have for two reasons-(1) you do not ask and (2) you ask with the wrong motives-to satisfy your selfish desires. You are not seeking things from God, but are acting like people of the world system who live outside the kingdom of God.]

4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever, wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: ``He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us''? [Friendship with the world (even acting as they do) makes you an enemy of God. Don't you get it that God passionately desires His work within you-that He will do anything to hold on to you?]

NOTE your selfish desires are directly opposed to the desires of God. Your selfish desires want all kinds of things to be spent on your earthly, temporal satisfaction. His desires are to continue to dwell in and among you, so that He can work His work in and through you for earthly/eternal benefits in the kingdom.

NOTE that the word for pleasures or selfish desires is the word from which we get Hedonism. Hedonism has a built-in pride-the progression goes like this. 1. My way is the best way! 2. My way is the only way! 3. I want to do it my way! 4. I want you to do it my way!

"Do it my way" is a reminder of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness by the Devil himself (Luke 4)! NOTE his involvement here:

THE CURE-(6-17)-submission to God. 6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, ``GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.'' 7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.

God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble! If you are going to win in the struggle with your selfish desires, you must pay attention to the following: (1) Submit to God-all that you are/do and give it to Him! (2) Resist the devil-and he will flee from you-Devil=Pride! (3) Seek after God-a closer relationship with him in your soul

Seek after Him by drawing near to God, by cleansing your hands, you sinners, by purifying your hearts, you double-minded and by sobering up. Be miserable, mourn, weep, due to your pride. Humble yourself and He will exalt you. Humility is like underwear; you should have it, but shouldn't show it.

Humble yourself and soak up the grace of God. NOW, rather than humbling myself and soaking up the grace of God, I tend to end up struggling with His grace and doing it my way!

Your humility triggers God's grace that in turn gets you through the struggles you face with your own selfish desires. There are two enemies that will militate against your humility and God's grace-how you use your tongue and how you view your time!

Your tongue: 11 Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?

Your time: 13 Come now, you who say, ``Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.'' 14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 15 Instead, you ought to say, ``If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.'' 16 But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. 17 Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.

FAITH IN THE GRACE OF GOD IS A CRUTCH. YOU CAN USE IT, WHEN YOU ADMIT THAT YOU NEED IT! This is the struggle with the grace of God. You just don't want to see your faith as a crutch that you need. I have come to the conclusion that I don't just need a crutch to depend upon, but an IRON LUNG. That's the kind of dependence I need to struggle with my selfish desires (doing it my way).

God wants it done His way. Satan wants it done his way. YOU GET TO MAKE THE CHOICE!

"Alex Haley, the author of ROOTS, has a picture in his office, showing a turtle sitting atop a fence. The picture is there to remind him of a lesson he learned long ago: 'If you see a turtle on a fence post, you know he had some help.'" Says Alex, 'Any time I start thinking, WOW, ISN'T THIS MARVELOUS WHAT I'VE DONE! I look at that picture and remember how this turtle-me-got up on that post.'"


James 3


Today in James we are looking for a bigger and better mouth-trap.

1 Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. NOTE that when you are a teacher, people will hold you to a stricter judgment. It is so easy and inevitable that as you teach you will misspeak in some way. AND, your audience has difficulty remembering much of what you said, but they will not forget the mistakes you made in speaking. (I hate when that happens! This is why I continually say to myself, "Stick to your notes. Be careful of having a 'bright idea' in the middle of your teaching without thinking through the consequences!")

The tongue is so powerful-the power to bring on depression or to encourage contentment. FIRST-It's inconsequential yet most important of all. For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well. 3 Now if we put the bits into the horses' mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well. 4 Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires. 5 So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things.

SECOND-It's influential. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!

THIRD-It's inflammable. 6 And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by gehenna (the cursed garbage pit).

FOURTH-It's insubordinate. 7 For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. 8 But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.

FIFTH-It's inconsistent. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; 10 from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. 11 Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh.

If the tongue is good, there is nothing better. If it is bad, there is nothing worse. If the tongue is to be good, it must be tamed by loving heavenly wisdom and hating earthly wisdom. NOTE how James paints two pictures-earthly wisdom and heavenly wisdom. He defines each very specifically.

13 Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.

EARTHLY WISDOM-14 But if you have bitter jealousy [sharp & cutting words] and selfish ambition in your heart [divisive, factious, all about their own self-interest], do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.

NOTE that "bitter jealousy" and "selfish ambition in your heart" become an earthly, putrid fountain for earthly wisdom. Then, note the flow out of this dirty fountain-Earthly-limited to this planet, nothing from heaven. Natural-soulish-the best humanity can do. Demonic-from the pit of the most cursed garbage dump in all of Israel!

THEN NOTE that an additional flow from this sort of fountain is "disorder" (restless confusion) and "every evil thing" (worthlessness-good-for-nothingness). Keep in mind that the ultimate flow from this fountain of earthly wisdom is a tongue that is out of control and dangerous, therefore it can destroy people!

HEAVENLY WISDOM-17 But the wisdom from above is first pure [holy-single-minded-on a mission], then peaceable, gentle [equitable-fair and open], reasonable [able to be approached-to consider things without quick reaction], full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering [unprejudiced and consistent], without hypocrisy [as good as your word]. 18 And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace [Only in peace is the fruit of righteousness found-a tongue tied to heavenly wisdom is a seed sown in peace that will produce a Jesus-kind of lifestyle.]

So, a tongue-check is really a heart-check! To tame your tongue, you must learn to love heavenly wisdom and hate earthly wisdom in the same way a gardener loves plants and hates weeds! You must be tongue-tied-your tongue must be tied to heavenly wisdom; meekness is the knot that holds it together ("in the gentleness of wisdom"-verse 13).