Summary: In our efforts to draw near to God, we have three things to overcome: myself with sinful nature; the world; the devil
“Draw Near to God” (James 4:1-10) 1/6/2019
1. What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”
7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
I spent a couple of days, last December 27th and 28th, looking back over the past year. What I did is I simply reviewed all my repentances, my thanksgivings, my petitions, and my decisions and the learnings as I recorded in my Prayer notebook. Why did I review the recordings of my prayer notes rather than doing any other things? It is because I believe the walk with the Lord is our foundational and primary blessing by which all other blessings flow. That is why, I cherish my prayer notes keeping all my conversation with the Lord whether confession, giving thanks, petition and decision or learning.
The Psalmist says. But as for me, it is good to be near God” (Psalm 73:28) The scriptural text today also commands us to "draw near to God." But, I wonder if any of you feel that God is miles and miles away though you regularly attend worship service and bible study, and even do ministry?
Prophet Isaiah said this: “your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.” (Isaiah 59: 2) Wouldn’t it be the case that
our iniquities or sins hinder us from being near to God? I hope and pray that as we study the text today we may identify some obstacles that prevent us from getting close to God and find a solution to draw near to God.
Let’s dive in verse 1. “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?”
There were quarrels and fights among the believers. Verse 11 also tells us that they criticized each other and spoke against each other. Verse 2 repeats that there were quarreling and fighting among them. So James even called them murderers not because they actually killed other brothers, but because as the Apostle John said, "Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer" (1 John 3:15) In fact, the Lord Himself said that anyone who is angry with a brother, anyone who calls his brother stupid or idiot is subject to trial and punishment for murder. (Mt 5:21-22)
Matthew 5:23 “Therefore, (Jesus says) if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” Jesus is saying, since anyone who is angry, who calls his brother stupid is like murder, murderer can’t worship God. If you are in quarrel and fight with other brothers and try to draw near to God, God would say, “No Thank you.” He would say “reconcile with them first then come back.”
Why did they fight? “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” (v.1) The cause for fight is the passions or lusts within us. The problem is not with others. No one can blame others for the fight he or she is involved in except himself or herself. I am the one responsible for quarrel and fight because my sinful nature want to exalt myself above others and often even above God. That’s why v6 ““God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” v. 7 Submit yourselves to God. v10 “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” Jesus said, if anyone wants to follow me, deny yourself. You and I are not called to deny others, but deny ourselves. And only those who deny themselves can have a right relationship with others and draw themselves near to God.