Studying to teach James 4:7-10 on Sunday morning (10 am in the youth house – you’re invited) and I came across this:
“The devil, unlike the Christian, takes pride seriously, knowing that as long as he can control human pride he can frustrate God’s purposes, if but temporarily. There may be many kinds of pride but for the devil’s purpose a proud Christian is of much more use than an atheist or a pagan.”
James Adamson, The Epsitle of Jamesin the NICNT
What is the source of all the conflict and quarreling among you? That’s the question James asks as he begins chapter 4. At first glance this may seem to be a more complicated question than it really is. That we have conflict in our lives is beyond dispute. But is it possible that all of our conflicts come from the same source? Surely James is being overly simplistic here. How could he possibly understand the struggles of living in our post-modern age? There are just so many things to blame. Some blame their parents. Some blame their circumstances. Some blame their physique. And if all else fails one can always claim, “The Devil made me do it.”
James is on a roll here when it comes to making things simple. At the end of chapter 3 we learned that the wisdom from above leads to peace and the wisdom from below leads to disorder and every evil thing. So what is the source of the conflict and quarreling? “Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?” James is making the radical assertion that the reason we have conflict with other people (and with God) is because of our own tendency to lust after things we don’t have. In verses 1-4 of chapter 4 James slices to the heart of every conflict we have in this life. It turns out that in spite of all my elaborate efforts to the contrary the real problem is me.
When we give ourselves over to bitter jealousy and selfish ambition we have at that moment committed to following the wisdom of the world which says, “Do what you want, when you want and don’t put up with anyone (even God) who tries to stop you.” This, as we saw in chapter 3, leads to disorder and every evil thing. The only answer, according to James 4:4 is to stop loving the world and start loving God. To choose to be a friend of the world is to put oneself at enmity with God not because God hates us but because a friend of the world must hate God. Love for God and love for the world cannot coexist (see Matthew 6:24).
Is your life mired in all manner of quarrels and conflicts today? Playing the blame game can only lead you further into chaos and disorder. Recognize that your own sinful desires are the source of your struggles, repent of loving the world rather than God, and believe that Jesus Christ died and rose again, enduring the wrath you deserve so that you can be forgiven for having lived according to the wisdom that is earthly, natural and demonic.
“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.” – John 15:18
Randy Alcorn asks the question, Are you willing to be hated for speaking gospel truth? He makes it clear that being hated doesn’t mean that we act hatefully or seek to be hated. But the most loving and gentle man who ever lived, being utterly without sin, was so hated for the things He taught that He was put to death on a cross. And yet many today, in spite of His warnings, seem to believe that they can profess the same faith and be embraced by the world.
Among some believers the new definition of a good Christian is holding your beliefs privately, not challenging those who publicly share beliefs that dishonor Christ, and avoiding controversy at all costs lest we be perceived as “those kind of Christians” who hate gays, oppose abortion, favor inquisitions and live to burn witches. We so much want the world to like us that we end up distancing ourselves from the historic Christian faith, from biblical doctrine (including hell), and from churches (because they’re all hypocrites except us). We end up making ourselves indistinguishable from the world, and therefore have nothing to offer the world.
Alcorn goes on to say:
There is nothing new or postmodern about the gospel turning some people off. That’s always been true, just as it’s always been true that some people are longing to hear it and will deeply appreciate it that you had enough courage to tell them about Jesus.
This follows along with our study of James 1:2-4 and will be a constant theme all the way through the book. “Do you not know that whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God?”