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30. James 4: “A War Within”
Golden Nursing Center in Mannington, NJ –Evening Service on 5/16/2013
(edited February 2020)
Verse 1: “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?”
In addition to external conflict with the world system around us and the worldly lifestyle it promotes, and the Devil and all those darkest influences, a Christian must also face an internal struggle against selfishness. Without the mercy of God no one could fight on these three fronts simultaneously and win. And, James reminds us, we don’t always win:
Verse 2: “Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.”
Is this an overstatement? I wouldn’t say so. Aren’t hatred and envy steps on the road to murder, whether it ever goes that far or not? Raw selfishness kills happiness, friendships, family harmony, church unity, and on and on. And in the end, no matter how much we strive, we don’t find real satisfaction and security this way. For that we have to come to God, or back to God. And come humbly.
Verse 3: “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.”
More prayer won’t help, not unless there is a change of heart. God reads the heart first, we are told, before he considers what the lips have to say. Sure, prayer works, but not if we ourselves are broken and OUT OF ORDER with selfishness. Would you put money or your credit card in a machine that was marked “Out of Order?” Should God answer our prayers, squandering His resources on us, while we willfully harbor lust in our hearts?
Verse 4: “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.”
Walking in selfishness is the spiritual equivalent of sleeping with the enemy. And like marital adultery, it is not a victimless crime. It’s our choice, but it doesn’t affect just us.
Verse 5: “Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?”
This is a vicious and recurring cycle for all us. Me, too. I know I have to keep watch and fight it day in and day out! But the Lord gives us grace and hope, also.
James needed this grace in his life. Though he was the half-brother of Jesus, he refused to believe in Christ as the Messiah until after Jesus was killed. James had been spiritually blinded all that time, but he eventually found the ROAD to VICTORY over selfishness and he’s trying to share it with each of us:
Verse 6: “But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.”
Pride kills humility, but Praise God, the reverse is also very true!
Verse 7: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
Sincere trust in the Lord is a battle plan that Satan can’t overcome!
Verse 8: “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.”
Avoid those things that keep us separated from God, namely, dirty hands, a dirty heart, and a doubtful mind.
Verse 9: “Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.”
True humility, James says, has to be taken seriously. It’s a full-time job! Even as a believer, you have to repent of sleeping with the Enemies of God, of holding them and keeping them close to your heart.
Verse 10: “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.”
The way up, is DOWN. Putting all the consequences in His hands and leaving them there.
Verses 11-12: “Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?”
One way the Devil tries to defeat me is to get my attention off my own faults and on to those of my neighbor. It makes me feel good to play God and judge others, but I’ve learned (painfully) that it always results in me playing the fool in the end. It is just as foolish to play God in viewing your own life:
Verses 13-16: “Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil.”
James had some bitter experiences with his own selfishness. Have you? His conclusion, I think, is that judgement should be personal and internal. Each person should judge only what he or she knows that they need to do to serve the Lord, day by day. And let God worry about what your neighbor should do:
Verse 17: “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”