James Chapter 4

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1 From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? 2 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. 3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. 4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. 5 Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?

Now James turns his attention to the root causes of strife and envy that he spoke about in the previous chapter. It is apparent from his opening statement that the Jewish believers had a problem with strife and contentions. We can see an example of this from disputes amongst the Apostles (Matthew 10:35-41).

Throughout the scriptures, and history, the Jews have been notorious for being a contentious and rebellious people often engaged in seditious behaviour and infighting.

Often they cloaked this behaviour under a guise of zeal for God and their religion. James declares that this was firmly rooted in their worldly and fleshly lusts. It is these worldly and fleshly lusts that inspired and managed their wars and fighting.

The internal war manifests itself in external conflict. Impetuous passions and desires war in their members, and then raise feuds in their nation. There is a war between the conscience and corruption, and from these contentions often arise their quarrels with each other.

In fact this conflict is the root cause of divisions and fighting (even wars) amongst people. All the conflict begins in some small, unresolved issue that is allowed to broil, stew and boil over into wars and fighting. Thus the cure for contention is to lay the axe to the root and mortify the lusts that war in our members.

One would think that people would be quick to kill these lusts because they do not satisfy. “Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not.” We desire to have and obtain things so we seek to remove those things that we perceive stand in our way; so we are willing to do anything, even fight and kill. Religion is often the most effective way of justifying fleshly ambitions and internal sins; it serves as a convenient mask to cover selfish pride and ambition.

 We covet great things for ourselves and think to obtain victories over others so we fight and we may obtain temporal success but it will ultimately guarantee our failure. This is because we do not include God in our undertakings. We must pray, make our request to Him and leave the undertaking in His hands. We should not, however, follow our natural inclinations.

Human logic will tell us that battles are won by strength of numbers and a show of force! That the Holy Spirit’s will is revealed by signs and wonders and by our activity, pomp and show!

 Our lusts spoil our prayers and make them abominable to God, because we ask amiss. We can pray for success against our enemies, but our aim is not to improve the advantages we gain; but to improve our personal advantages (pride, vanity, luxury and sensuality). Seeking to live in great power and plenty, in excess and sensual prosperity. Thus we disgrace our devotion and dishonour God!

How can we expect God to bless our lives if our goals are ungodly and we are being driven by fleshly lusts and carnal motives? Our goal should be simple, that Christ is glorified and the Gospel is spread.

James warns against friendship with the world, that to be a friend of the world is to be an adulterer because worldliness means that we give our devotion to the world. To desire the world is to commit idolatry because devotion to the world is the measure of covetousness, which is called idolatry (Colossians 3:5). The one who sets his heart upon the world, who places his happiness in it, and will conform himself to it, and do any thing rather than lose its friendship, he is an enemy to God.

The root of much evil is the desire for riches, so we are to keep ourselves free from the love of money!

 Higher principles and a nobler spirit should motivate our lives. The spirit of the world teaches us to lay up treasures for ourselves and to accumulate wealth. God teaches us to be willing to share and provide for the necessities and the comfort of others. The Grace of God is contrary to the spirit if the world, thus friendship with the world is to be avoided at all costs.

The spirit in man lusts to envy. When we envy others we can be sure that we shall be unforgiving, bear grudges, seek personal gain. The worldly Pastor will only produce a worldly church. Such is the way of the Word of Faith/Prosperity movement, dominionists etc. In recent years pastors have been trained to run their churches on what is known as “the business model”. Ministries are run like mini corporations or, in some cases, major corporations such as Hillsongs. Secular Marketing companies are employed to promote conferences and preachers; sponsorship is sought from companies and/or local and national government.

The notion being that Big is beautiful and the Kingdom of God can only grow through having great financial resources (such as in the Mega church model). Marketing principles replace the movement of God’s Spirit and human reasoning replaces the Holy Scriptures.

If we seek to be the friends of God, the Grace of God will correct and cure the spirit that naturally dwells in us; where He gives grace he gives us another spirit than that of the world.

6 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.  9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.

God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. The world exalts pride and disdains humility. Pride was the devil’s downfall and Pride is his greatest weapon. He tempted Eve through the pride of life that she could become as God! Pride is the height of rebellion to God. Each year the city of Manchester holds its Pride week! Gay pride is an affront to God. God created male and female as the means by which the world would become filled with living creatures. Gay Pride is nothing less than a rejection of marriage and nature as God intended.

 We are to be submitted to God. We are to forsake the friendship of the world and watch against the envy and pride that is so prevalent in the human heart! We must submit to Him and subjects to their prince, submit our understanding to the truths of His word and submit our wills to His will.

This is the one area that the devil attacks and strives to hinder us from doing, submitting to God! Thus we are to strive to resist the Devil. Submission to God will bring opposition and hostility from people and it is the fear of men that that will cripple any and all believers. Also pride will push us towards feeling more highly of ourselves than we ought to and take the credit for things that is only due to God!

If we resist the Devil then he will flee from us. We see this plainly in Christ’s own dealing with Satan (Matthew 4:10-11).

 We are to draw near to God. Moving towards God is to go in direct opposition to the devil.

We are to cleanse our hands. The one that comes to God must have clean hands. The hands are symbolic of one’s actions, if we do wrong our hands are seen as being unclean, if we do well they are seen as being clean. To approach God is often described as lifting up one’s hands (1 Timothy 2:8).

Our hearts must be purified. To be caught between God and the world in indecision is to be double minded! We are to be genuine and act upon one single aim and principle. Christ taught that we are either for Him or against Him, thus there is no middle ground. In Revelation Christ describes this as being either hot or cold. This can be seen as an extreme viewpoint, but a door only has two sides; the inside or the outside!

We are to be afflicted, mourn and weep. When God’s people are being afflicted we are to accept the afflictions and not flee. We are to mourn and weep for our own sins and the sins of others. The prophets mourned over the sins of Israel (Lamentations 5:16). Times of contention and division are times for mourning and the sins that cause wars and fightings should be mourned over. We are to sober up. Christ wept at the plight of the people, even though the people were rejoicing and feasting.. Thus, before the worst may come upon us, we are to lay aside vain mirth and sensuous pleasures that we may indulge godly sorrow and tears of contrition.

We must humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord. We ought to bewail and bemoan everything that is evil. If we humble ourselves in the sight of God He will lift us up. Our tears of repentance are to be kept from the eyes of others (that is not in the sight of the unbelievers). All that we do is to be done in a spirit of humility, for the humble knows that any good that may be found in them is down to God and not them. (Romans 7:18).

11 Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. 12 There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?  13 Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: 14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. 15 For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. 16 But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil. 17 Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.

James speaks against evil-speaking. The Greek is καταλαλεῖτε (katalaleite)which means to incriminate or to speak badly of others in order to damage their reputation. This equates to the 8th commandment; you shall not speak unjustly against our neighbour. This is a sin motivated by hatred, prejudice and unkindness.

Since we are believers we should not defile or defame one another. Were we cannot speak well we should keep silence rather than speak evil. We are not to take pleasure in making known the faults of others., divulging their secrets simply to expose them and exaggeration them, much less spreading false stories and spreading things against them of which they are absolutely innocent.

 This cannot but raise the hatred and encourage persecutions against them.

 To do this is to judge the Law. The Law of Christ is to Judge not, that you are not judged. Thus the sum of this is that we should love one another. A tongue that seeks to diminish the worth of another condemns the Law of God and the commandment of Christ.

 This is not suggesting that we are to overlook serious sins or false doctrine, this is aimed at speaking very hard things of each other because of differences about minor things such as the observance of meats and days.

 Censuring and condemning a brother for not agreeing with him in those things that the Law is indifferent about is to judge the Law. To quarrel and condemn over something that the Word of God is silent about, or is not clearly taught, is to prescribe something to the Law that is not there. We are to be doers of the Law and not set ourselves up as those that are judges of it.

It is God’s prerogative to make the final sentence on men. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save, and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?

 No one is excluded, Kings or Lawgivers, because even the principle of the rule of law in society is ordained of God and we are commanded to obey the Laws of Society. His right to enact laws cannot be contested, because He has the power to enforce them; He is able to save and to destroy as no other. He has power to reward the observance of them and punish the disobedience to them.. He can save the soul or he can destroy it and cast it into Hell.

We have been warned against being many masters and so we are cautioned about be many judges! We ought not to impose so many rules and regulations upon others so as to take the joy of serving the Lord away and make it burdensome (Matthew 23:1-4).

We are not to be presumptuous concerning our lives and successes. Our times are in God’s hands (Job 14:5).

James issues a severe warning against such presumptuousness: “Go to Now”! In other words, “See here you!”

The world always leaves God out of its schemes. It is man’s pride that tells him that he is able to accomplish anything that he sets his mind to. This is what false teacher, Norman Vincent Peale, called, “The Power of Positive Thinking.”

It is a vain thing to look for any good in the future without God’s involvement. This cock-sureness, that we will go here or there! Problem is, how could they be so sure that they will eventually arrive there. Something could occur, trains might be cancelled, an accident might occur. Even the great apostle fell foul of the unseen (1 Thessalonians 2:18).

None of us know how long our lives will be. Our life is but a vapour. We do not know when will be the moment of our death, we may make all sorts of plans, but let us not be so presumptuous as to think that we will have enough time to bring our plans to fruition (Luke 12:17-20).

 We must keep a constant sense of our dependence on the will of God. If God wills! We ought not to state this as a matter of custom, but this should be a guiding principle in our lives..

If the Lord will, we shall live, if the Lord will, we shall do this or that. All that we do for God is under His will (Philippians 2:12-13).

All that we do must be referred to God; all that we design and do should be in submissive dependence on God.

We are also to avoid all vain boasting, and look upon it not only as a weak thing, but also as an evil. We can promise life and prosperity, and great things in this world without any regard to God; and then boast about these things. This is the joy of worldly people to boast of their successes, their projects even before they have even completed them. Such rejoicing is evil; it is foolish and hurtful. It shows a complete lack of humility and is prideful, something that God hates (Proverbs 8:13).

We are to live within the bounds of God’s will, which we know via the scriptures. We derive our faith from the word and we are to live within the bound o our faith (Romans 14:23), also if we know what we should do and don’t do it, this is a sin, because it is disobedience..

There are two types of sins; sins of COmission and sins of Omission.. Sins of commission are the things that we commit, sins of omission are the things that we omit doing. We are to have a conscience about things and our conscience must be bound to the Word of God, as Martin Luther stated. Our conscience must be rightly informed so that it is faithfully and constantly obeyed. If our hearts do not condemn us, then we have confidence towards God, but if we say that we see and do not act suitably to our sight, then our sin remains.

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