Brad Libolt speaking on James 4:1-6. He spoke about our unfaithful hearts and the passions that are at war within us. These passions cause us to turn from God and become enemies with him but God is merciful and even though we are adulterous, he grants us grace.
James 4:1-6 Intro
- I have one brother, Daniel, who is two years younger than me. We have a really good relationship now, but it wasn’t always like that. We used to fight a lot. We would always wrestle, hit each other, yell at each other, call each other names. We constantly fought. One year we got boxing gloves for Christmas, and we used those things all the time. Since I was older and bigger than Daniel I would always win our fights, so I had to try to convince him to box with me. He got bloody noses a lot, so any time I would hit him in the face, his nose would usually start bleeding. One time I wanted to box him but he said we could box if I didn’t hit him in the face. I agreed so we started boxing and I was winning. I hit him in the stomach, but never in the face. But, one time I hit him in the stomach, and he fell, but I already had another punch on its way, so as he fell I hit him square in the face. Sure enough he got a bloody nose and that was the last time I remember boxing with him.
- Now when my brother and I fight it’s more playful, but we still wrestle around and beat each other up. I don’t think my brother and I are unique, I think everyone likes to fight. Look at your own life, when was the last time you fought with a sibling, a parent, or a classmate? The last time you saw the news, how many fights or wars did they talk about? The last movie or show you watched probably had some kind of fighting in it as well. Fighting isn’t only physical, it can also be verbal. When we look around us we see fighting and quarreling everywhere. This hasn’t changed, and history proves that humans like to fight.
- This reality was true for the people James was writing to as well. Remember last week the last verse we talked about said that we can sow a harvest of righteousness in peace if we make peace. So James encouraged his readers, and us, to make peace not war. He said if we have godly wisdom then we will be peaceful people, and not cause problems with those around us. But James knows the human heart, and he knows how difficult it is to make peace when everything inside of us wants war. So, he addresses our desire to fight.
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?
- James asks what causes these quarrels and fights between people? Why do we always fight? Why are we always looking for conflict, something to disagree on or argue about, some way to hurt another person?
- James answers his own question, and says it is because our passions are at war within us. There are two passions, or another way of translating this word is pleasures, at war within us. There is the passion or desire to follow God, to obey his commandments and love him and walk in the spirit. If we are in Christ, we have this desire. We have the Holy Spirit who guides and directs our passions towards God. We find pleasure in him and him only. But then there is the passion of our flesh. We desire pleasure on our own terms, we want what we think is best for us, so we live selfishly with no regard for what God wants. We give in to temptation because we want something for ourselves, and we forget what God wants. These two passions are within us, and they are at war. We are constantly fighting to follow God and not pursue our own sinful desires. It is a tension that we live in, a tension that cannot be ignored.
2 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.3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
- When we lose the battle within us, and give in to the passions of our flesh, our sinful desires, we do terrible things. If we desire something that we don’t have, we murder. We want something someone else has and covet it and so we fight with people. We want something and try to just get it on our own under our own power instead of asking for it. Then when we do ask, we ask wrongly and so we don’t get it. We ask because we want something for our own passions and pleasures, we ask because we are selfish, and then we don’t get it. We’ve done all of these, right? We talked about bitter jealousy last week, how we want something so bad that we actually become bitter towards the person, and sometimes hate them. Look at the wars and murders we see in the world. Someone wants something someone else has, so they murder them. We fight with people because we are not content with what we have, and when we ask for the things we want we ask out of selfish desire, we ask for ourselves, for our own gain, rather than for the right reasons.
- Why do we do this? Why is the war between our passions and desires so difficult to win? Why are we so selfish, and only think about ourselves? It’s because, at the very core, we are adulterous people.
4 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. 5 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”?
- Adultery is when someone is unfaithful to their spouse. We see adultery everywhere. Marriages are broken because of unfaithfulness and infidelity. Adultery is glorified on television, movies, and books. We hear about adultery in music and see it in our schools. We see it so much on the surface because in our hearts we are adulterous people.
- This isn’t the first time God’s people have been called adulterous. A minor prophet in the Old Testament, Hosea, is told by God to to marry this woman named Gomer. Gomer is a prostitute, and Hosea knows that if he marries her she will be unfaithful to him, but he marries her anyway. They have children, but before long she becomes unfaithful, and goes back to being a prostitute. Hosea doesn’t leave her, but redeems her and takes her back, despite her infidelity. God uses the story of Hosea to describe the people of Israel. The people of Israel had been unfaithful to God. They were in a covenant relationship with God, they were married to God, but they were constantly being unfaithful to that relationship and worshipping false gods. It goes back even further, to Adam and Eve. In the garden they chose to be unfaithful and serve their own desires instead of obeying what God desired. They committed adultery against their creator. Ever since the fall in the Garden humans have had adulterous hearts, constantly being unfaithful and making selfish decisions that will give them pleasure or happiness.
- Just like the Israelites, we are adulterous people. Our sinful hearts are naturally unfaithful to God. He has created us and saved us and loves us and one moment we believe that and are thankful for it and the next moment we go worship other gods. We turn to sin because it will give us some kind of momentary pleasure or happiness instead of trusting in God to give us lasting pleasure and happiness.
- We have made ourselves enemies of God because we have chosen to be friends with the world. Our passions are at war within us, and far too often we choose the wrong side. We choose to pursue our sinful, worldly desires, so that we can become friends with the world, only to make us enemies of God.
- God wants to be our friend. Verse 5 says he yearns jealously over the spirit that controls us. It says that he put that spirit within us, and he wants so badly to have control over it. God created us, and he created us with a soul, a spirit. He loves us, and he wants to be in control of our lives, he wants to give us his Holy Spirit, so we can have a relationship with him. That is what God wants, but all we want is to do things on our own. We want to control our own life, find our own happiness and pleasure, be a friend to the world that is full of sin. We are adulterous, unfaithful to the God who created and saves us, the God who loves us and has incredible things planned for our life. We choose to follow other gods, to try to do things on our own, and instead of finding lasting pleasure and complete happiness, we find quarrels and fighting. We find war and destruction, sin and evil. And when we do this, when we commit adultery against God and follow our own passions, we make ourselves enemies of the one who created us. We make ourselves enemies of the one who has the power to create and destroy, the power to bring someone into heaven and send someone to hell. We make ourselves enemies of the God who so badly desires to be our friend.
- So what do we do? The answer isn’t to try harder, or pray more, or read our Bibles more. The answer isn’t to have more faith or raise our hands more during worship. We cannot fix our adulterous hearts on our own. There is nothing we can do to be friends with God after we have already become enemies. There is nothing we can do to stop our violent nature, the fighting and the quarreling. On our own, under our own power, by our own efforts, we are hopeless. We need a new heart, and that is not something we can create. It is, however, something God can create. And he has, in those who are in Christ.
6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
- The answer is grace. God is a merciful and loving God, and even though his people are adulterous, even though we fight among ourselves and follow our sinful desires, even though we have made ourselves enemies with the one who created us, he gives more grace. What a beautiful sentence, God gives more grace.
- It doesn’t matter how many times we sin, how many times we fight with our siblings or parents or friends, how many times we lose the battle within us between our sinful desires and the desires of God, it doesn’t matter how big of an enemy we think we are to God, he gives more grace. God’s grace is unending, and he is constantly pouring it out into our lives, forgiving us of our sins against him.
- God showed how much grace he has to give when he sent his only son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. Jesus’ death and resurrection is the ultimate display of God’s perfect grace and great love. Jesus died for our adulterous hearts, for our fighting and quarreling, for how many times we follow our sinful desires. He died and became an enemy of God so that we, enemies of God, could become friends of God.
- Now all we have to do, the only thing we have to do to experience this grace, is humble ourselves. Recognize we need it, recognize that we can’t get to God on our own, that we can’t fix our adulterous hearts, recognize that we need a miraculous heart change. When we are at this point, this point of humbleness and submission before God, then we can receive the gift of grace that God has given us through Jesus Christ.
- So if you are feeling the effects of fighting and quarreling, if you are seeing your adultery against God, if you think you are an enemy of God, then humble yourself before him and let his great grace pour out into your life. God’s grace will give you more pleasure and happiness than anything this world has to offer. We will talk more about what humbling yourself looks like next week, but for now we should meditate on the great and unending grace God gives his people. We should see our sinfulness, see our adulterous hearts, but then we should see more grace.