Faithlife
Faithlife

Have Nots - James 4 3 at Bristol Rd 11th July 2004 PM

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Have Not

4 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. 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.

                                                                                        JAMES 4 1-3

Here at Bristol Road we have become quite blasé about the speakers we hear.  I wonder what we would make of James?  I suspect we would find him rather blunt and direct – too uncompromising for our taste.   He uses language in what seems at times an extravagant way – talking of the church and “wars” and “battles” “killing and fighting” – surely he is exaggerating?

One of the things that has marked our life as a fellowship recently has been the way in which our hopes and expectations have not been realised.  Indeed I would go further – our prayers have not been answered.  The view has been expressed by some that we are not ready to call a minister – that some of the huirts and frictions of recent years have not been dealt with.   For that reason I felt myself drawn to this uncompromising passage in James 4 – verses 2 and 3.

Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss,      <NKJV>

 

Where James explains the failure of the Church to receive he uses the same Greek[1] phrase twice :

You don’t have   ….  You don’t have….

People often talk about the haves and the have-nots of our world – or our country.

Here we have an example of a church that is a have-not.  And, as James gives a reason why this is – he leads us on into some very blunt teaching about our relationship with each other and with our Lord.

In verses 1 to 10 James sets out the reasons for discord in the Church – and he gives a clear remedy for it.

Þ  What you really want             verses 1-3

Þ  A real choice                        verses 4-6

Þ  Real repentance                   verses 7-10

James is – as we have already observed – most forthright in his statements – but he is also positive in regard to God’s promises – and it is important to see the balance in the passage:

At the heart of his harsh words is a beautiful promise:

“He gives more grace.”   V6

This is linked appropriately with:

“Resist the devil and he will flee from you” and,

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”

But the thrust of his words is rebuke – rebuke mixed with promise:

What you Really want    verses 1-3

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. 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.

At the heart of James’ words is the thought of desire – a conflict of desires.  As he surveys the church he assesses their longings – both the desires of their hearts, and the longings expressed in their prayers.  

We might have expected to see a shared longing for the Gospel of Christ to be shared abroad – but that is not what we see.  In stead they are falling out with one another – because each one seems to have strongly held ideas about what is wanted.

Another central thought within these words is the idea of “pleasure” – hedonism. (v 1 “desires for pleasure” NKJV)  These church folk are driven by a quite unexpected desire for what pleases them – rather than what pleases God.

The result of this is division and conflict – and unanswered prayers.  This is a HAVE NOT CHURCH.

James isolates three causes:

1.     Conflicting desires

2.     Not having because not asking God

3.     Not having because you ask wrongly.

We should examine our hearts.

Do we share a common desire – a genuine common desire about which we are all agreed for God to work in our midst?   Or is there a whole range of different desires representing our own selfish view of what we want?

How much of the HAVE NOT problem is down to not asking? 

Yes – sometimes we know in our hearts, as the Christians James is writing about knew – that what we want is just that – what we want. And so we know that it is not a proper subject for prayer.   We finish up not asking for anything!

And thirdly – we don’t get because “we ask with the wrong motives” – we “ask amiss”.

Real prayer within the church must address the issue of what God wants for His people – not what I want.  It should be something we share constantly – and not something that separates and divides us.

It should arise from the best of motives – and be constantly being placed before God in humble faith.

A Real choice         verses 4 – 6

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. 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.”

I suspect that James’ audience cringed a little when he spoke?  He comes across like Amos and the other OT prophets.

He is concerned with another fundamental problem in the people of God – they are NOT FAITHFUL.

Now these verses – and verse 5 in particular – are notoriously difficult to translate – but the general drift is inescapable.

Like his Master before him – James reminds them that they cannot serve God and the world!

“Friendship with the world”  has crept into the Church and corrupted it.

There was a time when we understood this matter better – a time when the emphasis within the bible believing community was on purity and separation.  Anything that smacked of “worldliness” was off limits.   We had a better idea of where the boundaries were drawn.

Yes – we sometimes got hopelessly tied up in this and the whole balance of a joyful Christian life was shifted towards “don’t” and “mustn’t”.   Now the pendulum has swung the other way and the ideas and value systems of the world have too easily become the value systems of the Lord’s people.   We have become a people who find it hard to really agree about choices and values.

An example from outside our fellowship is to be seen in the arguments in the General Synod about disciplining those clergy who don’t preach the truth!  The synod has turned away from a rigid view.

But we too easily point the finger at other denominations.  We are busily doing the same thing in different ways – we have allowed the way the world thinks and values to seep into our bible believing atmosphere.

We have compromised.

The believing community should be distinctive – because it holds clearly and unambiguously to God’s ways.   In stead it has moved away from a clear understanding of what God wants to a MODERATED view – in which we are reluctant to offend – inside and out!

Yet within that framework of correction, James is emphasising a theme that some readers of his letter tend to neglect – GRACE.

What God requires of His people is not an impossible or impractical or impoverished legalism – but the way of  MORE GRACE!

He gives us more grace”  v6  - and that is guaranteed by Scripture.

James will bring out the significance of that shift in our third point:-

Real Repentance      verses 7-10

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.

Because he follows in the tradition of the Old Testament Prophets, James has a very clear view of what REPENTANCE means – and he sets it out in TEN WAYS!!

Submit…

Resist …

Come near…

Wash…

Purify…

Grieve      

mourn      

wail  

change laughter to mourning …

Humble yourselves

My goodness! That’s a bit of a list isn’t it?

Notice however that – as in our last point – there is a CENTRAL PROMISE in this list of commands:

Resist the devil and he will flee from you…

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you…

GRACE and GOD’S PROMISE IS ALWAYS AT WORK ALONGSIDE REBUKE.

Our problem today is that we do not recognise the demands of repentance.  Whilst the world outside is devaluing the currency of the word “sorry” to a trivial excuse word – we too have lost some of the seriousness and significance of what it means to repent.

And if we are to cease to be a HAVE NOT CHURCH – then we need to learn the steps of repentance.

At both ends of James’ list is the thought of SUBMISSION and HUMBLING

Between those words which state the essential component of repentance towards God are:

A distinct attitude to Sin and the devil :   RESIST….      <with promise>

A determined effort to CLEANSE hands and heart

And, what we probably find hard to relate to:

A changed tone of life – away from the superficial  evidences of enjoyment and cheer to a whole range of REGRETS :  Lament … mourn … weep …mourning … gloom!

Oh dear!

What can he mean?

That the Christian life is to be marked by that list?   No!   That the sin and apostasy of the Christian life is PUT RIGHT in a full and genuine program of repentance.

Come back to the “book-ends” of James’ list :

SUBMIT to God …. DRAW NEAR TO GOD     <with promise>

HUMBLE YOURSELVES

So that He may lift you up.

God is not pleased with His people.

BUT He gives more grace

He promises to put Satan to flight

He guarantees that as you come close to Him He will come close to you!

He wants to LIFT US UP.

In verses 1 to 10 James sets out the reasons for discord in the Church – and he gives a clear remedy for it.

Þ  What you really want             verses 1-3

Þ  A real choice                        verses 4-6

Þ  Real repentance                   verses 7-10


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[1] 2ἐπιθυμεῖτε καὶ οὐκ ἔχετε, φονεύετε καὶ ζηλοῦτε καὶ οὐ δύνασθε ἐπιτυχεῖν, μάχεσθε καὶ πολεμεῖτε, οὐκ ἔχετε διὰ τὸ μὴ αἰτεῖσθαι ὑμᾶς, 3αἰτεῖτε καὶ οὐ λαμβάνετε διότι κακῶς αἰτεῖσθε,

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