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Summary: A study of James 4 which addresses carnality vs. spirituality among believers.

Christian Carnality

(James 4)

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Jesus Himself tells us in John 8:31-32:

31 "... If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine;

32 and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. " NAS

In John 15:7, He also tells us:

7 "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you. NAS

Let’s take a moment to quietly confess our sins to God, so that we are in fellowship with Him and led by the Holy Spirit when we study God’s word. 1 John 1:9 promises us, that if we name our known sins to God, He always forgives us and cleanses us from all unrighteousness, even from the unknown sins we forgot or didn’t even realize we committed. Let’s pray.

Thank you, Father, for always restoring your children when we admit our sins to you. May your Holy Spirit teach us your word as we study it now. We ask these things in Jesus Name. Amen


I was once in a Sunday School class at a local church. The pastor was teaching the class, and the subject was evangelism. He told a story about an unmarried couple who were living together and came to one of his church services. The pastor shared the gospel during that service, and this couple came forward and said that they had believed in Jesus Christ and were saved. Then the pastor told us that about a year later, that same couple were still living together, were still unmarried, and were still doing things like drinking and smoking. The pastor doubted that the man and woman had ever really gotten saved, because he saw no change in their lives, “no fruit” as he put it.

Since this was a Sunday School class and we were all allowed to ask questions and share our viewpoints, I had to respond to what he said. I pointed out that when unsaved persons tell us they’ve believed in Jesus Christ, but then don’t give up certain overt sins that bother us, we question whether or not their salvation decision was genuine. If the persons keep drinking, or smoking, or living with a boyfriend or girlfriend, we think that they mustn’t have really been saved. However, I pointed out to the pastor that had that same unmarried couple stopped living together, gave up drinking and smoking, but then joined his church and become the biggest gossips, maligners, and troublemakers his church had ever known, no one would question that they were born-again Christians.

That last example is the kind of believers that James is dealing with throughout his epistle, and in the first few verses of James chapter 4 which I’m teaching today. James begins in this chapter by saying,

1 What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?

Remember that, not only in this chapter, but throughout his epistle, James is talking to born-again Christians, to believers who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ. James never questions the faith of these believers that has resulted in their salvation. However, throughout his letter to them, he demonstrates that their faith has not produced works, that is, has not resulted in divine good.

These believers are constantly fighting with one another, and James rhetorically asks them what the source of this fighting is. Then he answers his own question by telling them that the source is “your pleasures that wage war in your members.” What is James talking about when he mentions “pleasures that wage war in your members”? This is how James describes the Old Sin Nature that is part of the physical bodies of every person, whether saved or unsaved.

When we believe in Jesus Christ, we are given a new nature, that is, we become new creations. We are told this in 2 Cor. 5:17:

2 Cor 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation;… NIV

However, we still have our Old Sin Nature, the nature that exists in our flesh. Our old and new natures war against one another. This is the war that James refers to in his epistle. The apostle Paul, the most mature believer in Church Age doctrine, describes this same struggle in himself, a struggle we all have as Christians, in Romans 7:21-25:

Romans 7

21 So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.

22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law;

23 but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.

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