Summary: The praying life overcomes the downward tug of a godless world.
Finding God in a Godless World
(Directions: Part 3) James 4:7-10
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
Review: In our previous study we explored the normal human tendency to be independent and self-reliant. Independence and self-reliance are good qualities until they come between us and our God. Our human nature tells us to believe that God helps those who help themselves. The Bible teaches us to believe that God helps those who ask for his help. The Bible teaches us that what God wants from us is humility, trust, and dependence. He wants us to come to him in prayer as a first impulse, not a last resort.
Look back at chapter 4 for a minute. James’ theme throughout is friendship with the world. The marks of such a lifestyle are: 1) a wrong understanding of ourselves, living as if our wants were the center of the universe; 2) the wrong attitude toward things, covetousness; 3) broken fellowship with other people whom we see as getting in the way of our wants; 4) and a broken relationship with God. He becomes a means to our ends, not the goal of our life and faith.
James literally calls his readers "adulteresses" (a fact obscured by the NIV translation). This does not mean that he is addressing only women, but that he wants us to see that he is borrowing language from the Old Testament. The Old Testament pictures Israel as God’s bride, who at the same time wanted to enjoy other "lovers," finding security in other gods and imperial powers (see Isa. 1:21; Jer 3; Hos 1-3). Given the New Testament bride-of-Christ language (2 Cor 11:2; Eph 5:22-24; Rev 19; 21), borrowing this language for the New Testament is quite appropriate. The "other lover" in this case is "the world"; that is, the values and goals of the non-Christian culture.
James 4 is about ridding our selves of the world’s pollution, from stinking thinking. The world thinks this way; we shouldn’t. The prevailing non-Christian culture acts this way; we must not. For example, most people think we should take care of ourselves and only ask for God’s help as a last resort. People who know the Living God think and act differently. And when we don’t, when we allow our lives to be polluted with the world’s way of thinking, is when we get into big trouble. Individually and as a church, we regularly face the struggle about whether we will be a worldly church or a praying church. Both styles pray; one prays as a last resort, the other as a first impulse.
I call this choice—living by Plan A or Plan B. Plan A is the normal human pattern of independence and self-reliance. It is the normal, natural way of thinking and living. Plan B is a personal walk with a God who is intimately involved with the affairs of our lives and wants to be in our decisions from the beginning. In our individual lives and as a church together, we either stop and ask for directions sooner or later. The difference is telling.
We ended the previous study with the marvelous note of hope in verse 6, “But he gives us more grace.” Who doesn’t need to hear that? Grace—the unmerited favor of God poured out for us in Christ. Grace is the distinguishing mark of the Christian experience. We know from beginning to end that we are not saved by our merit, our efforts, not even our good intentions, but by the grace of God. How easily we forget! Too quickly we begin to think we are children of God because of something we have done or something we have brought to the table of God. We conclude that our obedience, our knowledge, our service have made our eternal destiny possible. No, it is God’s grace!