Monday, 21 November 2016

James 4:1-10: The Test of Worldly Indulgence

Hi All


Last Wednesday night I had the privilege of teaching the flock.

The title was "The Test of Worldly Indulgence".

Audio here  -filter by my name, IE works best.

Sermon notes below.

Blessings.

James 4:1-10: The Test of Worldly Indulgence


James starts off by talking about wars and fights going on among the people. And I wanted to find out what was going on at the time, so I did a bit of research and dug a bit deeper.

In the days of writing this, the Jews were under pressure of defending their religion together. In fact in the scolar Josephus' and others account, state that this was a time of tribulation not only for the new Christian church, but for the traditional Jews themselves.

In order to defend their cause, they would often make these insurrections or uprisings against the Romans, mainly in Judea. And of course, with the might of the Roman army at the time, these would be quickly quashed, very violently, and examples would be made of the perpetrators. 

In other places like Egypt, Alexandria and Syria, there were uprisings against not the Romans, but the heathens, because the Jews believed it was their right to re-impose the spiritual rule over the people that they once had. And they also believed that under the Torah they also had a spiritual right to the possessions and plunder that these people had.

But then these Jews came face-to-face with Christians. And a lot of them became Christians themselves. But they brought along with them this mentality of lust, covetousness and desire for things they wanted but didn't need.
Christianity was so counter-culture and counter-Judaistic to them that it was extremely hard to leave their old way of thinking behind.

And that's a lot like us, isn't it? Before we were saved, we had our old life, which sole focus was to please ourselves. Everything we did revolved around the most important person in the world - ourselves. But as Christians, we are a new creation, and have literally left that person behind us.

And that's what James is addressing here. The people couldn't, or wouldn't, shake off their old habits of going to extreme efforts to please themselves.
And James offers them some reasons as to why this is the case. And he's offered up another test to make light of this. As we've noted along our little journey through James, each section is like a mini-test in which we can take to examine our hearts and our motives, to see if we are truly on the right path.

We've had the test of perseverance, the test of blame in temptation, how we respond to the Word. A few weeks ago I spoke on the test of impartial love. Then we had the test of faith and works, and just last week from Jarryd we had the test of the tongue and humble wisdom.

And although each one of us teaching might not have alluded to these in their lessons, you can easily see the theme running through the whole epistle. 

This section that we will be covering tonight is no different: The Test of Worldly Indulgence. Have we left our old lusts, indulgences, and covetousness at the cross, or are we still too busy satisfying our flesh? Have we really left the past, and our old nature, behind?

And this section is also a mini -Gospel presentation in and of itself. And I don't know about you, but I love it when that happens.
This book is amazing, because running through it is the scarlet thread of a sinful mankind coming face-to-face with an all-powerful, jealous God, but who is full of mercy and compassion. And He makes a way for us to be reconiled to Him again through the sacrifice of His Son.

And this book is made up of all these little stories, or vignettes that emphasise that big picture in so many different ways. And each way gives us another beautiful perspective of God's love that we may have never seen before.

So, before I get any furthrer carried away, let's read:

James 4:1-10 (NKJV)

Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?
You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.
You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.
Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, "The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously"? But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble." Therefore submit 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.
Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.
Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.


Pray...

So I've once again tried my hand at alliteration. So, we'll see how we go.

I've labelled

Verses 1-3 "The Cause of Conflict"

Verses 4-5 "The Consequence of Conflict"

Verses 6-10 "The Cure for Conflict"

The Cause of Conflict

v1 James asks the question 'Where do wars and fights come from? We think it's a silly question, because history tells us the answer. 
It's either one of two things: 

we want what someone else has, or
we want to keep hold of what someone else wants.

Last week Jarryd alluded to this whole epistle being a lesson to help us 'grow up'. And the picture you get with the section of scripture tonight, you can compare it to being like little children that may be fighting over a toy. Some of you are parents know exactly what I'm talking about. What happens? They both claim it is theirs, and sooner or later one of two things will happen:

one will lash out at the other, usually using the toy as the weapon, or
one will run away crying telling the other how much they hate them.

And it makes you want to scream at them 'for goodness sake, grow up!', and then you realise that they are only 3 years old.

But as adults, don't we do exactly the same thing? We want what someone has, and we want to keep what others want from us.

And wars and conflicts can grow out of these little altercations.
I'm sure that when Hitler first started implementing his Fascist reforms in Germany that going to war against half the world wasn't initially on his agenda. But as he realised that in order to obtain what he wanted, he was prepared to go to the utmost extreme to get it. So, he built up the German army, and eventually used that army to achieve his objections. And of course, his enemy, or the country he was invading, would go to the utmost extreme in order to protect and keep what he wanted. I'm sure there was a lot more to it than that. That's a crude way of describing events, but you get my point.

And so it happens. But back to James, he asks don't the desires come from your members?
But the word 'members' isn't the same word that today we would use to describe as members of a team, or a club. It's the same word that the Apostle Paul uses in

Romans 7:23 (NKJV)

But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.


This is that well-known section of scripture that Paul wrote when he said the good that he tries not to do he ends up not doing, and the evil I will not to do, I end up doing. So when he refers to 'members', he's actually talking about parts of his flesh., human nature, or his fleshly desires. And it says in verse 2 that you lust and don't have. Lusting doesn't obtain anything. All lusting does is increase your desire for the object. It doesn't actually help you obtain it.

See verse 5 where James says

James 4:5 (NKJV)

Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, "The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously"?
You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.

It yearns jealously. It comes naturally.

Then he says in verse 2

James 4:2 (NKJV)

So, the author uses the word 'murder' here. I don't believe he actually means they bumped each other off.
Remember a few weeks ago we were talking about the sixth commandment 'you shall not murder', but that Jesus said 'whoever is angry with his brother is a murderer' (Matt 5:22). And also in 1 John 3:15, John writes:

1 John 3:15 (NKJV)

Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.


And then James says "you cannot obtain". We can go to all sorts of extremes to get what we lust for, but it never satisfies us. And isn't it always the case with the things of this world? How much we can obtain through selfish wants and desires, the flesh is never satisfied. Its' appetite is insatiable.

I've been at home the last couple of days due to the earthquakes and the flooding, and I made the unfortunate mistake of turning on the TV during an episode of 'Ellen'. It was one of her giveaway shows. She was playing a game called "What's in the Box", where people get to choose a box and win prizes (I think this episode it was some communication gadget). When she was walking the aisles looking for participants, the audience were screaming their heads off, and almost falling over each other to be picked.
Did they need the gadget? No, probably not. Would their lives fall apart if they didn't have it? Definitely not. But their selfish desire to 'have to have it' (and probably also their desire to be seen on TV as well), took over.

And I see that, and I think about people in poor places where there isn't much of anything to go around. I think of  Maara, our missionary in Tanzania - how she has given up her comfortable lifestyle here in NZ to live with people who basically have nothing but clothes on their back, and a roof over their heads (sometimes, not even that).
And like most missionaries who go to places like this, when they come back either on furlough or for good, they find it difficult to re-adjust to life back here. They start to question their own morals and values.
I can remember my wife and I felt the same way after arriving back from a 3 week short term missionary trip to India and Bangladesh. We were thinking like "do I really need that flat screen TV?".

But at the end of the verse James states that

James 4:2 (NKJV)

You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.
"Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?"
Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'
This is the first and great commandment.
And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'
On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."


And in verse 4, he even calls us adulterers!

Instead of asking God for all our needs, we end up taking what we want. And what do we call people who take things without asking? Yes, we are like thieves. Thieves take without regard to the feelings of the person of who they take from.

So, coveting, murdering, thieves and adulterers - that's 4 of the 10 commandments right there. And we can also throw in the first as well - having no other Gods before Him, and

In fact Jesus said in 

Matthew 22:36-40 (NKJV)
"Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?"
Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."


So we are in fact breaking all the commandments - remember a few weeks ago I had the balloon with numbers 1-10 on it, and when I took a pin and broke one of the commandments, what happened? The whole balloon exploded...

So, exactly what and how much should we be asking? Well, we have the answer direct from Christ Himself in

Matthew 6:7-11 (NKJV)

And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.
In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.

Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.

So instead of asking for the things that will satisfy our covetous flesh -the flat screen TV, the latest gadget - we are to ask for our daily bread. Enough to sustain us for the rest of the day, both spiritually and physically. I think this passage was written to take our reliance off of ourselves, and onto God - the more we rely on God for everything we need, the less the time we will be consumed by our selfish fleshly desires that lead us to covet and steal what belongs to another.

But, if you think that it's OK, instead of taking something from others myself, I'll just ask God for it instead, James gives us a warning in Verse 3:

James 4:3 (NKJV)
You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. 

Think about it: you're asking the only person who knows exactly everything you need even before you ask Him. So why try to fool him into thinking you really need the latest 'thing'. Do you really think that's going to work?

If we leave our motives at the door, if we ask God for His will to be done instead of ours, He will fulfil it. I've said before that this is the prayer that God will always answer with "Yes!", because God will always do His will regardless of whether we ask Him to or not. God will have His way.

Matthew 7:7-8 (NKJV)

"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.
For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.
Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, "The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously"?


If we ask for enough to get through today, God will answer.

But taking without asking, or asking God selfishly leads to putting yourself at odds with God.

So that's the Cause of Conflict, the flesh desiring sin in all its' fullness. That's because we were born in sin. In a way we were born to sin. We can't help it, it comes naturally to us. You've all heard the phrase that we aren't sinners because we sin - we sin because we are sinners. It poisons us, and the poison reeks out of us in everything we do and say. It was passed down to us from Adam, when he chose to disobey God. And when God punished Adam for his disobedience, that punishment was also passed down to us.

And that moves us to

The Consequences of Conflict

See verse 4 & 5

James 4:4-5 (NKJV)
Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, "The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously"?


So what is an adulterer? Well in earthly terms, an adulterer, is someone who has turned their back on their spouse, and instead given their love and affection to someone else. Nobody likes an adulterer. We put ourselves in the shoes of the faithful person of the marriage, and how do we feel? We feel angry, don't we? We feel betrayed. We feel stabbed in the back.

And that's exactly how God feels towards us. He has given us everything we need - the air that we breathe, the food to eat, the ability to provide an income to support ourselves and our families. And all He desires in return is for us to love and worship Him, to give Him the glory for all He has done for us. Not because He's an egomaniac, but in a deserved way, as a way of thanks.

Instead we have turned our backs on Him. Instead of thanking Him, and asking Him for everything we need - rather we have fallen in love for those material things, and our lustful hearts have caused us to turn our backs on the Giver, and pursue the gifts, at any cost. And what is that cost? We have committed adultery against the person who created us. We would rather be friends with the world.

And that's why in verse 4 James says that

James 4:4 (NKJV)

Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.


That word enmity is the same word in

Genesis 3:15 (NKJV)

And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel."
Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, "The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously"?

Enmity means 'an active oppostion', which means that one is deliberately opposed to something.

So when you choose to be love the things of this world, you put yourself in a postion where God actively and deliberately opposes you.

Then James asks the question:

James 4:5 (NKJV)
Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, "The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously"? 


It's a sarcastic rhetorical question, used to wake people up. This is where the root of adultery stems from. It's like when we are married, our spouse dwells in us. And I can speak as a married person here, so I feel this.
My wife Jan demands a oneness intimacy with me. And when we I let other things take over that place of intimacy, then she has every right to be angry and jealous.

Remember, God is talking to His people here. These are people who have His spirit dwelling in them. So, he has every right to be jealous and angry when we try to substitute His love. We are the bride of Christ, and He will accept no other in His place in our hearts..

So, that's the Consequences of Conflict, where the sin we inherited from Adam causes us to act on it in adultery. We turn away from God, and instead give our love to another. It draws God's wrath and anger, and places distance, or a wall between us and Him.

So we've had the Cause of Conflict, the Consequences of Conflict, and lastly there's    

The Cure for Conflict


James 4:6 (NKJV)

But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble."
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Therefore submit 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.
Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.
Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

I love the word 'but' in this context. It's like in

John 3:16 (NKJV)
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

It's  a little word, but it goes a long way. And it has to be used here, because without it, there is no hope.

He says He gives more grace. When God gives grace, everything changes. Grace is like the opposite of enmity.

When we repent, Gods' grace is poured out through Christ.

James 4:7-10 (NKJV)
Therefore submit 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.
Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. 


And it's not talking about rebuking and binding the devil. It says resisting the devil. When we turn our backs on sin and turn to God (which is what repentance is), we are in essence resisting the devil. The more we look to God, the less we will be allured by our sin and tempted.

Gods' grace comes when we lay aside our pride. Pride is the original cause of sin, because it means that we have let our flesh rule us and overcome us.

It says to draw near to God. The closer we are to God, the more focused we are on Him, and the further we are from sin. When we are allured by sin, it usually means we are not spending enough time with God, soaking in His Word, or in fellowship with Him in prayer. 

"Cleanse your hands, you sinners and purify your hearts, you double-minded."

 Let the stain and filthiness of wanting to please our flesh with sin drive us to Christ, to be washed clean in His blood. Let the thought that we have angered and hurt our maker cause us to lament, mourn and weep for repentance.

Then comes the best part

James 4:10 (NKJV)

Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.


 As we all know. Humility is the opposite of pride - and when we are humble, when we are contrite, when we realise we are filthy sinners that deserve eternal anger from a Holy God - and repent at His feet, He will lift us up. He will restore us in a right relationship with Him again.

So,

The Cause of Conflict is our sinful hearts giving in to our flesh and becoming unfaithful adulterers to our maker.

The Consequences of Conflict is that we draw anger from a jealous God, who demands worship, but

The Cure for Conflict is that God is merciful, and will pour out His mercy and His grace through Christ, and restore us in right relationship with Him again.

And that's the beautiful Gospel right there!

And Paul sums it up beautifully in these words in Phillipians 1 & 2:

Phillipians 1:27-2:11 (NKJV)
Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy,
Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, 
and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. 
For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 
having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.
fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 
Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. 
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 
who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 
but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 
And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 
Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 
and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 


Christ, as always, is our example to follow, and hope when we fail to follow.

Pray...  


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