Worldliness / Godliness
Slide 1: Title
Welcome | Pray
When we began this study of James, I offered a challenge to all of you to read it in one sitting. It takes an average reader 15-20 minutes to do so. By doing that you engage with the message as it was originally meant to be heard.
If I sent you a Facebook message that was a long paragraph, when you find the time, you’d sit down and read the whole thing. You wouldn’t read the first sentence, then skip to the middle and pluck out another sentence, then close it and come back a couple weeks later to read the ending. No, you’d read the whole thing, start to finish, to understand what I’m saying.
When we read entire books of the Bible or long passages, we get to see how it all intertwines. James is like a master chef - pots and skillets and grills in action all over the kitchen, and he knows just when to pick each thing up.
His tray of timeless truth has been marinating in grace all night, he’s sizzling some faith on one grill, works on another, baking a little wisdom over here. Then when it’s finished he displays it beautifully on your plate, sprinkles it with joy, and hand it to the waitress to be delivered steaming hot to your table.
It rolls together seamlessly and we realize that as God inspired these words, he also inspired the flow in a way that best connects his truth with us.
That’s what happens here as we step from chapter 3 to chapter 4.
Last week, in chapter 3, we talked about False Wisdom vs True Wisdom. James encouraged us to live well and live wisely and he made sure we knew that all too often we live unspiritually, demonically, and earthly, or all too focused on this life instead of eternity.
And the result of living with yourself as your own god as the center of your universe is bitter jealousy, selfish ambition, and lying, which leads him to ask and answer a question that challenges us to consider even deeper if we are worldly or godly.
Let’s dive into the passage and see where James takes us.
Please pull out your Bibles and follow along:
Slides 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12: James 4:1-12
James 4:1–12 ESV
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?
Slide 13: Title
According to there is a problem in the camp, an issue in the church, a struggle in the body of believers, and it is fighting and quarreling.
Christian churches have been around for about two minutes and already the question is, “What causes all these fights among you?”
How odd, but yet in your face is it for James to call church people out for quarreling among each other?
Many of you can tell me heartbreaking stories of churches you’ve gone to filled with dissension. Stories of the same people you worship shoulder-to-shoulder with stabbing you in the back, or stories of a pastor, the same man who preached love and forgiveness to you week-after-week forfeiting your trust.
And we remember in those broken situations that saved people are still people and where people gather, especially in Jesus’ name, the devil will pop in to try and tear apart what God is doing.
Imagine with me what our church could look like if quarreling, fighting, conflict, gossiping never occurred.
What a blissful, loving, God-honoring, joyful kind of congregation we would be.
People coming to know God for the first time. People growing in their faith to new uncharted depths. You could invite friends without fearing that so-and-so would ruin it for them.
How awesome would it be to be part of that community?
Yet where people meet, conflict happens. It’s in our life. You can agree that we all get into conflict and fights in our lives. Am I right?
Can you think back over this past year and say…no conflict, no fights, no quarreling, no trouble…nothing but 365 days of peace?
Yep, every day of my life is like living in Celebration, Florida, you know, the town Disney built, and for the 14 years of celebrated peace before their first murder. Ain’t got no trouble.
The truth is most of us have conflict and quarrels from time to time. Sometimes they’re birthed out of legitimate wrongs or sins or harm coming your way.
Not all fights are evil. Sometimes it’s legitimate.
You better believe that if you try to hurt, break, or steal my wife or son I will pummel you to the ground before you have time to say, “What happened?”
You’re probably the same way with your family, because the 11th commandment isn’t, “Thou shall be a pushover.” Some fights are legitimate. Some fights motivate my training.
The type of fights and conflicts James is talking about here are largely unnecessary and are birthed out of a messed up heart. It’s not an external conflict. It’s internal battle that’s overflowing into the external.
It’s like thinking, man, when I look at my family life, my work life, my church life, my social life, my entire life, all of it is so full of drama, drama, drama. Why does my life look like this? What am I doing wrong?
We’re so often fighting and gossiping and bickering back and forth, where does all this come from? How come everywhere I go there’s drama?
Well, let’s look back at what James tells us immediately after asking the question:
Slide 14: James 4:1
James 4:1 ESV
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?
James comes at us almost in a sarcastic tone. “Where do you think it’s coming from?”
Now, I don’t believe it actually is sarcasm, because the Bible speaks against sarcasm due to its intent to insult people, but I see this as, “Hello! What did you think the problem was? The problem is inside of you! It’s your messed up passions.”
The word passions here also means pleasures. This problem of worldliness breeds selfishness and that comes from inside me.
Slide 15: Title
I was recently heartbroken to learn that I’m a millennial. I was born in 1985 and always thought I had come in just before the switch and squeezed into Generation X. Turns out, I’m a millennial. Early 80s to 2000.
In the media we get a lot of bad press. Apparently, I am a lazy, entitled, narcissistic, attention-seeking, and defensive person. It’s okay though, I am also confident and tolerant and good with computers.
The majority of us don’t like the label, millennial, so let’s go with the other common title: Generation Me. This is separate from the “Me” generation, which also makes the point anyway. It’s a mindset of ‘me, me, me,’ and if I don’t get what I, I, I want I will throw a tantrum until I do.
My entire generation is laying on the grocery store floor rolling in circles until Mommy gives in.
That’s what’s happening in this passage. We want what we want and we’re willing to kill for it. James is saying, “Rather than throw a tantrum that upsets everyone else in your community, why not just ask God for it? Oh, that’s because we have this bad habit of asking God for things we have no right to until God’s read for us to have it.”
Captain Crunch: Lots and lots of bowls. Stomach ache.
In our ‘me-focused’ prayers, we want more possessions, more money, higher status, more recognition. That’s called the prosperity gospel and it’s not a biblical gospel. When we don’t get what we want, we fight in order to have it.
James wants us to know, “These fights are because we want your own way, we want what we don’t have, and we’re willing to take it at any cost to other people.”
There’s nothing wrong with wanting a nice, pleasurable life. God gives us these things to enjoy. In fact, he gives them to nonbelievers as well to enjoy partly in order to show himself to them.
The mistake we make is hurting others in the process, and asking for our own passions and pleasures instead of God’s.
We want God’s stuff instead of God. My wife wants my money instead of me. Move to NYC and get that Wall Street job and just send me the checks and gifts.
We take this ‘me’ mentality, this entitlement mentality into our prayers as if God owes us the pleasure of his creation, the food, the sex, the health, the sunrise, all the fancy gadget, when the truth is all we really want is God’s stuff and he doesn’t owe it to us, he’s generous to allow us to enjoy it. And it’s all at its best when he is invited to be a part of it.
Instead of growing in gratitude for what God has already given us, we grow in our dishonor and disrespect because at some point God didn’t give us what we thought we deserved.
Look, the truth is so often we pray like spoiled children and when God doesn’t hook us up we throw a tantrum.
When God sees this happening in our lives he sees just that, a spoiled child who prefers friendship with the world over friendship with God and that makes that person an enemy of God. You can’t serve two masters.
Slide 16: James 4:4b
James 4:4b ESV
…whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
I love how he puts this back in our laps. James is like, “Hey, you’re cheating on God. You’re flirting with the world every chance you get. You like her don’t ya? I can tell . You can’t keep your eyes off her. Stop it.”
“This war is waging inside of you, my friend. You’re the one who wishes to be a friend of the world.”
We’ve got this problem mentality called, “Me, Me, Me,” and what it creates in us is a steady pull that causes conflict. Isn’t this the true struggle for the believer?
I want God so bad over here! I want the world so bad over here! Yet God is a fiercely jealous lover. And the love he gives is far better than anything else you’ll find.
To us who are living that struggle, he gives us one of the greatest lines in the entire Bible and then shows us the cure for our condition:
Slide 17: James 4:6
James 4:6 ESV
But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Our God yearns for us to return to him and he is ready to give more grace.
When we mess up and choose the world, he is ready, waiting for us to humble ourselves before him so he can give us more grace.
Our pride and our selfishness and our me-first attitude leads us to believe we deserve everything we can see and touch, but to be released from the struggle is to humble ourselves and receive grace.
If you’d like to avoid the conflicts and the fights and the quarreling and see your life and our church grow towards being a judgement free zone (church version of Planet Fitness), outside of constructive biblical encouragement, that is, the answer is to become the humble person yourself.
God gives grace to the humble. And that’s the cure for the quarreling. It’s the cure for the drama. It’s the cure for the fights.
Humbling ourselves and admitting that all we really need is God’s approval.
When the Holy Spirit fills us, we see that this world’s seductive attractions are only cheap substitutes for what God has to offer.
The final question is, “How do I become the humble person in this fight?”
I love the way he answers it in the message translation:
Slide 18, 19, 20, 21: James 4:7-10
James 4:7–10 The Message
So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet.
Slide 22: Title
I love how that’s all said. It’s straight forward.
We are pulled in two directions (world/God) and the problem is inside of us.
Our passions for Satan’s lies are clouding our real pleasures with God.
We’ve been lied to by the devil that God’s stuff is better than God’s presence.
I spent too many years of my adult life, even as a believer, dabbling in sin, and playing the field, and listening to lies. I’ve had it. I’m done. Are you done?
It’s time to tell the devil to leave, get on your knees, quit playing games and get serious about your faith.
How to do we prevent fighting and quarrelling in amongst ourselves? The answer is for each of us to humbling come before God ourselves. You can only do it for you, not the person you’re thinking about right now. They probably should too, but only you can humble you.
Humble YOURSELF. Submit YOURSELF to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from YOU. Draw near to God and he will draw near to YOU. Cleanse YOUR hands, YOU sinner, and purify YOUR heart. Hit YOUR knees and cry out to God.
Humble YOURSELF before God and he will exalt YOU. He will elevate YOU to a high value.
The more of us who do it the less strife we’ll have.
It’s time to bow humbly before the Lord and recognize that your worth comes from him alone. Lean on his power and his guidance.
Although we deserve none of his favor, he wants to lift us up and give us worth and dignity and say this one is mine and I love them so much I’d die for them again and again.
If you want to overcome the world, you’ve got to humble yourself before God.