Summary: This sermon deals with the source of conflict, the consequences of conflict and the cure for conflict.
Subject: “A Clear and Present Danger”
Text: James 4: 1-10*
What do you think of when you hear the words, “A Clear and Present Danger?” These words have been used to describe any condition that threatens the safety and security of society, from the drug cartels, terrorist regimes, some diseases and even global warming. They are the kind of words that demand attention. James opens Chapter 4 with those words, “From whence come wars and fightings among you?” What makes you get so upset? Why are you so angry? James confronts this despicable behavior within the church head-on. Some theologians say that James could possibly address conditions within the church, but was talking about society as a whole. Others believe that James was addressing the maligned state of the church among the dispersed believers. They state that these conditions were arising most likely from their unfavorable surroundings in various places because Christians met resistance in every place and because they could not, in their scattered condition, have the benefit of proper Christian training and church discipline.
If James Chapters 1-3 were written to the dispersed Jewish Christians, then Chapter 4 is also written to them. James addresses an area that many Christians refuse to admit or even talk about for that matter. For the Apostle, the “clear and present danger” was not an outside force. It was a resident evil. There is one thing that Christians could not leave behind, the flesh. James identifies the clear and present danger as the lust abiding in our flesh. He declares that all animosities and contentions, wars and fightings, proceed from our own lustful desires. War stirs first within, before it breaks forth without. If there were no fight within ourselves, there would be no fighting with others. Pride and covetousness, envy and ambition within cause men to injure one another. Worldly and sensual lusts first war in us disturbing our peace, before they disturb the common peace around us. The Apostle Paul agrees in the epistles to the Romans 7: 18, 21, and 23 and to the Galatians in 5:17.
“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not….
“I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me…
“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.”
“For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” (Galatians 5:17)
James does not share these things to depress us or to discourage us, but to alert us to the battle that we must constantly face. We can never give up or give in. We must fight and win the war that rages within us. Our flesh wars against the spirit. If the believer is to win this fight, he must turn from selfish pride to godly humility, from judgment to justice, and from boasting to belief. In other words, each of us wars within ourselves, we war with each other and we are at war with God. How does the warfare look? The principle at work in our flesh is lust, which is a desire to get what we want at the expense of others. The principle at work in our spirit is love, which is a desire to meet the needs of others at the expense of ourselves. If we are going to live victorious Christian lives, we must understand three things about conflict, the cause, the consequence, and the cure.
1. Examine the Cause of Conflict. James asks some rhetorical questions, and then quickly identifies the cause as our own selfish desires.
"From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?
“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.” (James 4:1-2)
He refers to this as more than simple desire. It is a lustful desire. Remember, lust desires to obtain at the expense of others. There is desire in us to have our own way. Whenever we feel that any one or any thing blocks our goal, conflict is created. War is the fruit of lust, or illicit wants. Lust brings about murder. Covetousness results in frustration when we cannot get what we are pursuing. James reveals that the clear source of conflict is rooted in the covetous human heart, the flesh! Conflict begins any place that we feel blocked from our goal. Conflict can happen in any human relationship from drivers on the road to standing in line in a department store; from puppy love to seasoned marriages; from two babies fighting over a rattle to nuclear war! No matter the parties involved, the cause of conflict is the same – lusts, those illicit desires, which war in our members! Do you struggle with trying to get your own way, as this writer must confess? Sometimes his struggle reveals itself places as diverse as in traffic, at Wal-Mart, or at meetings.