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Summary: This is the fourth message in the Extreme Makeover series. Jesus would give us hunched backs from BOWing in submission to God.


James 4:1-10

May 30, 2004


This morning we will be continuing our series titled Extreme Makeover. We have been going through the book of James to see what kind of a makeover Jesus would give us. We have already learned that Jesus would give us big ears so that we can hear His word. He would give us dirty hands as we live out what we have learned from His word. Last time we saw that Jesus would pierce our tongues to bring the power of the tongue under His control.

Today we are going to discover that Jesus would give us hunched backs. Once again you may be tempted to protest. Who wants to be a hunchback? Who wants to be deformed? Unfortunately in our society such people are usually laughed at and are made to feel like outcasts. We want to have good posture – to be able to stand up straight and tall and proud. But it is just that attitude of pride that Jesus wants to deal with this morning. He wants to give you a hunched back from bowing in submission to God.

We are Americans and we pride ourselves on our independence. We pride ourselves on not having to bow before any other country or people in the world. We are the wealthiest nation on earth – the most powerful nation on earth – the most progressive nation on earth. Unfortunately that has resulted in our having a bad reputation throughout much of the rest of the world. Why? Because we think that we are better than everyone else and it shows. I went to college in Canada and one of my professors said that any time he traveled overseas he made sure that he wore a lapel pin with the Canadian maple leaf on it so that everyone would know that he wasn’t an American. This wasn’t because he personally had a problem with Americans. It was because in his experience he was treated much better when people realized that he wasn’t an American because they had a bad opinion of Americans. Americans tend to think that they are the best and therefore expect to be treated accordingly. Many who travel overseas are therefore rude and over demanding. We need to be careful of letting our pride go to our heads.

A New England pastor and a rabbi were having a conversation one day over lunch. The N.E. pastor proudly proclaimed, “One of my ancestors signed the Declaration of Independence”. He thought that the rabbi would be very impressed by this. To his chagrin, the rabbi responded, “I understand your pride. One of my ancestors signed the Ten Commandments.”

One of the problems with pride is that there is always going to be someone who can top you. They will run faster, jump higher, win more, be more beautiful, tell a funnier story, receive more applause and go one step farther than you did. Even if no one beats your record in your lifetime, someone eventually will. (Chris Talton/Sermon Central)

The scriptures teach an amazing paradox about what it takes to come out on top. Jesus taught that, “many who are last will be first.” (Mt. 19:30) He also said, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.” (Mt. 20:26) And again He said, “Whoever wants to be first must be your slave.” (Mt. 20:27) These words seem shocking to our ears. We think of greatness as having servants not being a servant. We think we have arrived not when we are serving, but when we are being served. Jesus takes our common sense understanding and turns it on its head. Jesus is showing us that our worldview is upside down. He is teaching us that the true path to greatness lies in humility. The way to victory is through surrender.

Let’s turn to our scripture passage for today and let James address our issues of pride and selfishness as he teaches us to BOW before God in complete surrender.

Beware of the pursuit of pleasure.

1What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

What is the cause of much of our problems today? of our fights and quarrels? The Greek behind “fights and quarrels” was normally used of national warfare. James is not talking about mere petty squabbles here.

a) selfish passions

He identifies the source as being their “desires” that war within them. The word translated “desires” is hedonon from which we get our English word hedonism. The pursuit of pleasure is the overriding desire of their lives. They were hedonists. The problem with the pursuit of pleasure is that you don’t get what you want and if you do get it you find that it doesn’t last or it doesn’t bring the satisfaction that you thought it would. The result is that the pursuit of pleasure is a never ending pursuit that leads people to do all kinds of stupid things to get what they think they want. Listen to these true stories of people doing stupid things in the pursuit of pleasure.

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