James: Spiritual Wholeness
9/4/2018 1:29:28 AM
August 12, 2018
Rev. David Williams
Scripture: James 4:1-12
What causes fights? What causes wars? Think about it. What causes fights in your family, or in your marriage? What causes wars between nations?
– desires; unmet desires for more: having your way more, being shown more respect, more control
Nationally: more power, more money, more resources, more access to trade, more prestige, more popularity,
From the playground to international relations, conflict comes when one person wants what another person has and is willing to take it at the expense of others. Maybe that something is tangible like oil or ice cream, maybe it’s intangible like respect or security
Sometimes the desires are motivated on a national scale, leading to war
Sometimes the desires are closer to home and lead to squabbles
Sometimes the desires are even for good things, like equal rights or an end to oppression, but still leads to conflict
At the heart of conflict is unmet desire.
-Let’s take a step further back- not just direct conflict, like squabbles or wars. Think about greed and materialism. We want more all the time- more stuff, newer stuff, cooler stuff, faster stuff
-That desire for more leads to “economic competition” – not all bad, but we are at the point now where we are driven by greed, drowning in debt and working all the time. Think of the conflict that comes from wanting more, at cheaper prices- child labour, environmental impact, trade wars, etc. Family impact, workaholics, never at home, kids always wanting more, etc.
This is something James talks about. Speaking to believers, James talks about our divided hearts. He talks about our unmet desires that fuel conflict. Desires are part of our heart: feelings but also thoughts, will, desires, preferences, imagination!
These fallen desires come between us and God, they divide our hearts, lead to conflict and lead us away from God to spiritual brokenness à God’s desire for us, however, is spiritual wholeness, not brokenness or a divided heart
Let’s see what he has to say
What It Says
Recall at the end of James 3 he speaks of humility that comes from wisdom- the knowledge of how to walk in a right relationship with God.
-humility and letting others have their way when we can is the opposite of envy and greed. The very last lines of Ch 3 are about how wisdom loves peace and that those who are peacemakers reap a harvest of a right relationship with God. On the heels of speaking of peace, James then confronts the issue of conflict and fighting.
The words James uses for fights and quarrels span the spectrum from internal struggles to international wars.
-The whole range of conflicts and struggles are rooted in desires that battle within us- often the conflict comes when they are unmet
-James says “You kill and covet…” Not likely this is literal about the Christians he is writing to, but remember in Matthew Jesus says that when we are angry with someone we commit murder in our hearts!
-the conflict and strife we all experience and participate in ultimately reaches its climax in killing and coveting- this is where it all ultimately leads if left unchecked
Some point to v 2b-3 and compare is to Jesus’ words “ask anything in my name and it will be given….” (Jn 14:14)
-Clarify “in my name” doesn’t mean putting “In Jesus’ name, Amen” at the end of every prayer- rather it means asking for things in keeping with Jesus’ character- remember, name = character
-Here same thing, we don’t ask God, often because we know it’s not something to ask God for! or if we do pray, it’s with wrong motives- selfish motives =/= Jesus’ character/name!
Next, James draws on a repeated OT metaphor for God’s people being unfaithful- the metaphor of adultery
-It’s not that the Christians James is writing to are sleeping around! Rather, they are being disloyal to God, unfaithful to God, breaking covenant with God
-Ancient Israel was accused of adultery for following foreign gods/idolsà note though, it was rarely choosing idols instead of God, rather it was adding worship of other things TO their worship of God- they wanted both the blessings of worshipping God and Baal, or Ashera, or whichever idol they were worshippingà not “divorce in order to remarry” but adultery- carrying on with other gods while at the same time trying to be in covenant with God
=a divided heart/spiritual brokenness – divided desires, divides the will, divides the thoughts and feelings, divide your actions
V 5 is tricky to translate because it’s not clear in the Gk if the envy in question is our sinful jealousy or God’s righteous jealousy for his people
= NIV says our envy for what others have is fierce and long for things other than God
-others NASB, NRSV, say its God’s fierce jealousy for his covenant people/bride + demands loyalty
“Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”?”
Either way, neither is a direct quotation of the OT, but both easily refer to themes throughout the OT
V9 picks up on this OT theme of God’s people being adulterous, God’s jealousy- metaphor used by Prophets- esp Isa, Jer, Hosea!
-Prophets also called on the people to grieve, mourn and wail, to turn their laughter into mourning
Finally, v 11-12 are kind of a link to the next passage. Do not slander one another à control your tongue! Do not speak against a brother because this breaks the law of love- James spoke before about breaking just 1 part of the law. Only God has the authority to judge= determine a person’s ultimate fate or destination (ie condemn to damnation) =/= as evaluate actions, or warn people of wrong doing, or exercise disciple, but rather judge as damned
What It Means
What does it all mean? On the one hand, pretty straight forward- are desires are sinful, God’s grace is greater than our sin
Let’s frame is a little more: think of a doctor’s report- go to visit the Dr, only this time for a spiritual sickness not a physical one
-symptoms, diagnosis, prescription
James- a spiritual physician! No nonsense, no sugar coating: spiritual sickness to spiritual wholeness; divided heart to whole hearted follower of Christ
-symptoms: you fight and quarrel, you do not have what you want, you kill and covet (think of Paul in Rom 7 I do not do what I want, I keep doing what I don’t want!)
-you are not praying to God for your desires a) because you know they’re not godly things to desire b) you do pray, but God doesn’t answer because he knows your motives are selfish!
Our deepest problem is a divided heart. – diagnosis
-Remember, heart is not just what you feel, but also your thoughts, will, desires, preferences and imagination
-divided heart= divided desires, fallen desires, we want things that are ungodly, or we want good things in an ungodly way! That 2nd is sometimes the hardest part!
Adulterous people- in new covenant with Jesus (communion!) still longing for other things – lusting after other things
-in covenant with Jesus, God’s glory, becoming like Christ, growing in grace, honouring God, sharing Jesus with others should consume us. “Seek first the kingdom/authority of God and all these things will be given to you”
We want to be friends with God and friends with the fallen world at the same time!
-”friends” is a strong word in Gk – not like today with 500 Facebook friends, “friends” today means acquaintance
-in Gk world, friend meant a strong relationship including shared interests, values and goals
To be “friends” with the world means to share the same interests, values and goals as the world rather than God!
= divided desires, divided heart! Divided will and divided actions. Divided goals and thoughts. God wants us to have a whole heart, a heart wholly committed to Him!
God fights for our hearts! He fights passionately, he fights with counter-intuitive weapons, like grace, self-sacrifice and resurrection
God opposes the proud, but those who humble themselves and submit themselves to God’s lordship (submit their thoughts, desires, wills, preferences, etc to God) and obey God as Lord, God lifts them up and gives them grace!
-God’s a gentleman- offers grace to all, but only applies it to those humble enough to admit they need it and accept the gift
The prescription for our divided heart is repentance! – turn our whole trajectory towards God
-Submit yourselves to God- obedience, surrender to a lord/master/commander
-resist the devil- actually put up a resistance to evil desires! Please just put up a fight! Struggle at least. Our culture compresses desire and action. Put some time between them and think before you act.
-draw near to God- through prayer, reading God’s word, WORSHIP! (big reason for weekly/regular gatherings with God’s people!) and fellowship or even accountability
Wash hands- Jewish symbolism for repentance, purify heart – work of Spirit, but work with which we must cooperate –using tools HS gives us
Remember, James is writing to believers! Not an evangelistic tract, but to Christians
-Christians are to live lives of repentance.
-Draw near to God after salvation, cannot draw near to God before salvation- God draws us to Himself, we cooperate
Once believers, we still have free will to obey God or not. Grieve your sin! Grieve that you have offended the free grace by which you have been saved
In humility, we return to God in repentance as part of our sanctification. This is learning how to submit to God, to repeatedly return to him, to alter course and turn back to him, so learn to actually be sorry for our sin, not just the consequences of our sin
-humble yourself before God, submit your willfulness to him, surrender to him again and he will lift you up with grace
What do we do with this? As always, James is convicting!
Let’s look at our own lives for symptoms we see in James
-Do you find that you fight or quarrel with anybody? Work, family, neighbour? – what are your desires here?
-Emotionally Healthy Relationships- climb the ladder of integrity skill- what is going on inside me?
-Do you find you are unsatisfied with what you have in life?
When dissatisfied in life or a relationship, ask yourself what you desire. What do you really want in this situation?
-is it a Godly desire? Or is it a desire more in line with the values of the fallen world?
Is it a good thing to desire? If so, do you want it in an ungodly way?
-Marriage is a good thing- but we can want it in an ungodly way. Children are a good thing, but we can want them in an ungodly way. A good job is a good thing, …
Evaluate your desires. Are they Godly things to desire? Do you desire them in a godly way?
-Are you able to pray about your desires? IF not, why?
-If God is not answering your prayers, examine your motives. Are they mixed motives?
Our motives are often mixed. Be careful when you examine your motives. Bring your heart to God and ask his evaluation of your motives. We can even fool ourselves sometimes, thinking or wanting our motives to be pure.
Do you desire the things the world values? John Bunyan, author of the Pilgrim’s Progress, talked about “when we become a Christian it is no longer a priority to listen to the world. It is no longer a priority to care what the world may think. Everything changes. The world looks completely different. All of the temporal pleasures of this world become less enjoyable because a greater joy has been found. Thus you place your fingers in your ears, for you no longer carea bout the world’s opinion, and you run like a lunatic crying, ‘Life! Life! Eternal life!’”
When you find your heart divided, repent! Realize that you are being unfaithful to the God who entered into a covenant with you to rescue you, to save your life!
-As a Christian, we must fix our minds on things above- things of God .The joys and pleasures of this world must fade in comparison to what we know Jesus has in store for us!
-submit yourself anew to God. Submit your recently re-examined desires to God. Acknowledge that your desires are fallen, that your heart is divided. Submit to God the fallen desires and ask him to change your desires or the way in which your desires are held. Submit to God’s lordship which includes obedience. Ask him for a glimpse of what he has in store for you in eternity
-Then resist the devil. That is, resist the desires you have that are fallen or mixed or worldly. This is very counter-cultural for us!
Actually put up a fight against evil desires. Don’t fold like Superman on laundry day.
One powerful tool for resisting evil is to draw near to God. Find what helps you draw near- worship, music, fellowship, reading your Bible, or all of the above
-make use of these tools to draw near to God when fighting evil and resisting the devil
-Also make use of these tools every day to improve your stamina, to thicken your skin vs devil, to draw near to God to have your heart made whole
Mourn the division in your heart.
-not just the consequences, but that you’ve offended God, insulted your covenant love, committed treason against your King who adopted you into his family
Humble yourself in God’s sight and he will raise you up.
-submit your desires, both what you desire and how you desire it, to God. This is humbling! And his grace will sustain you
-this is spiritual wholeness
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