I. THE SOURCE OF QUARRELS & CONFLICTS, 1.
II. THE MOTIVE BEHIND UNANSWERED PRAYER, 2-3.
III. AN ENEMY OR FRIEND OF GOD, 4-5.
Chapter 4 begins with two rhetorical questions to help us think about the source of struggles and conflicts among Christians. All wars and conflicts grow out of inter-turmoil and struggle. "What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?"
In James 4, we learn that conflicts can be traced back to selfishness in the human heart. The selfishness that caused the young soldier to "two-time" Sally and Helen had within it the seeds of war that made Private Lackey more than a participant in military conflict. It made him part of the cause.
When selfishness is expanded to national proportions, that conflict often results in the sacrifice of our sons and daughters on the battlefield.
And so it happens. Take a serous look around, you, the world is in turmoil. Terrorists hijack ships and airplanes. Gunmen take hostages. Internal strife plagues nations. Government officials are venomously criticized. What is the underlying cause of all this unrest?
The whole world is one big selfish mess!"
Isn’t this exactly what the Bible teaches? The reason for family quarrels, neighborhood feuds, strife between labor and management, and war among nations is the inherent greediness of human beings. Since everybody is seeking his own interests, sooner or later he comes into conflict with the selfish desires of others. Society will show little improvement until individuals experience a change of heart.
It is easy to hate war. But it is also easy to overlook the selfishness in our own hearts, which is the seed of all conflict. For at the heart of all conflict is a selfish heart.
The fights and quarrels mentioned here involved Christians. The plural form of both words indicates the conflicts were chronic rather than a one time incident.
James says outer conflicts come from inter conflicts. The second part of verse 1 says the source is your pleasures that wage war in you members. Every discerning Christian knows that most church conflicts are not about building, budgets or programs at all. Often church disagreements surface because of a whole spectrum of inter-personal and inter-family frustrations.
The word translated lusts, pleasures, passions or enjoyments translates the word (h don s )from which hedonism is derived. Hedonism is the philosophy that the chief purpose in living is to satisfy self. Jesus used the word to describe people that did not mature because they were "choked by life’s, worries, riches and pleasures" (Lk. 8:14). There pleasures describes any personal goal such as money, reputation, or success which seek personal attainment before God’s will.
These sinful desires lay within each Christian. Every believer finds within himself an alien army seeking self rather than God. These desires express our pre-Christian nature that is still seeking to control our lives (Rom 7:14-25). Christians will never be freed from the evil influence of these subtle selfish desires, but by God’s grace we can escape their dominion. Human nature is in the grip of self-gratification and only by walking daily in complete surrender to the Holy Spirit can we be freed.
Instead of aggressively grabbing what we want, we should submit ourselves to God, ask God to help us get rid of our selfish desires and trust Him to give us what we really need. Then we can become part of the solution instead of part of the problem. For there are really only two kinds of people. Those who are part of the problem and those who are part of the solution. As Jesus said, "He who is not for Me is against Me."
II. THE MOTIVE BEHIND UNANSWERED PRAYER, 2-3
The Bible continues analyzing the result of choosing self-gratification instead of God in verse two. You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask.
The word lust essentially means to desire strongly and maybe used of any intense longing. Such desire becomes lust when it is misdirected or excessive. Murder is thus the result of desiring something and not getting it.
What type of murder did James have in mind? He was probably not thinking of physical murder. The Roman Government executed murders. Jesus linked an attitude of hatred and contempt with murder (Mt. 5:21f). It describes what can happen when men choose pleasure rather than God as a way of life. When God’s law of love is disregarded, and the desire for self-gratification directs lives, men do things they never dreamed themselves capable of doing with word thought and deed. Their inner-attitude displayed in their fights and quarrels which are as offensive, to God as killing.
It indicates an extremely destructive behavior. When the lusting person cannot achieve his desired goals—whether for reputation, prestige, sexual gratification, money, power, escape through drugs or alcohol, success, possessions, the affections of another person, or whatever—the result is often catastrophic to others and always destructive of oneself.
At the conclusion of verse 2, James states the startling truth that the reason why men, after all their coveting, envying and struggling still do not possess what they desire is found in their failure to ask God. They desired satisfaction but they looked in the wrong places. They did not ask God as Jesus had taught (Mt. 7:7). They allowed their lives to be governed by self-gratifications, selfishness and greed. There is no prayer that we all need to pray so much as the prayer that we may love God’s Word and desire what He promises.
Verse 3 tells them why their prayers go unanswered. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.
The correct way for Christians to have their legitimate needs met is by asking God. A common problem is not asking. Another common problem is asking for the wrong things or for the right thing for the wrong reason.
God knows our heart as well as hearing our words. We may make a legitimate request but our motive may be wrong.
Self-centered believers pray but they pray just like they live. God does not answer if one’s intent is self gratification. If one’s objective is to squander or spend the answer on personal pleasure, selfish desires or the mere acquisition of material gain God says no. God listens to the prayers of the righteous (Ps. 34:15, 1 Jn. 3:21f) but He does not answer unless we ask with the right motives in accordance with God’s will.
If we want our prayers to be answered, we must be willing to let God have His way. The pattern for our prayers should be that of our precious Lord, who said, "Not My will, but Yours, be done" (Lk. 22:42).
Are you willing to pray like that?
[Some varieties of Christians reveal a shallow health, wealth philosophy. The purpose of prayer is not to get man’s will done in heaven but to get God’s will done on earth. Then our prayers can be the means for being God’s blessings to ourselves and others.]
III. AN ENEMY OR FRIEND OF GOD, 4-5.
Verse 4 uses strong language to open our eyes to how God views those who follow the world instead of Him. "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."
James called these believers adulteresses. Did James mean the church members regularly broke the 7th commandment? James was referring to sexual but spiritual infidelity.
To have relationship with someone other than your marriage partner is to commit the ultimate betrayal of loyalty, trust, and intimacy. The adulterer does not break the law as much as he or she breaks the heart. Faithless believers break God’s law. But more than that, they break God’s heart.
They are called adulterers because of friendship with the world. Friendship describes a deliberate choice to follow the way of the world. It is defiance and rebellion against God.
The goal of the world is self-glory, self-fulfillment, self-indulgence, self-satisfaction, and every other form of self-serving, all of which amounts to hostility toward God.
Today, one might call it "the spirit of the age." It represents the whole mixture of role models, heroes, slogans, obsessions, and ads that make up the contemporary scene minus God’s will.
Believers must love the world of people. They not should love the world’s belief system.
[CHRISTIANS MARCH TO A DIFFERENT DRUMMER] Therefore, we must of very necessity seem to the world to be out of step with all that goes on down here which is contrary to the Holy Spirit who dwells within us."
Sadly sometimes we can’t distinguish Christians from those Non-Christians. On the other hand, believers who are filled with the Spirit will not feel at home with the world’s philosophies and practices. They will resist conformity to its unholy standards, even though such a position is unpopular and may cause them to be ridiculed. They realize that as citizens of heaven, they are in the world but not of the world. They show by their conduct and attitudes the truth of that beloved old spiritual, "This world is not my home, I’m just a-passing’ through." They march to a different drummer. Christian , we are told to walk just as Christ walked
(1 John 2:6). If we are walking "in step" with the world, we’re "out of step" with heaven. He who walks with God will be out of step with the world.
Verse 5 indicates that God does not give up on those that possess His Spirit. "Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us"?
Jealousy is not always bad. Jealousy is protection for love, a reaction to a perceived threat to a valued relationship. Indeed, jealousy can be ugly when it is born of insecurity, possessiveness or the desire to control. On the other hand, jealousy can be a healthy response when a legitimate love relationship is threatened. Likewise, something would be wrong with God’s love if He watched the world seduce His people without divine jealousy.
James is asserting that God placed His Holy Spirit within believers. The Spirit is intensely concerned about any rival in the Christian heart. God refuses to share our commitment with any other rival. He wants our total loyalty and devotion. It is vitally important for us to remember that God makes great demands of His people.
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