Summary: One of the most difficult decisions we will make is proclaiming our allegiance. We either follow Christ or the world.
Submitting to God
Have you ever wondered how some wars began? Consider how some of the following wars got started — about 1,000 years ago, a war between two cities in France started as the result of a conflict over a water bucket. A Chinese emperor went to war because of a broken teapot. In 1654 a war broke out between Sweden and Poland because of a copyist’s error involving the number of times the words et cetera was listed following one of the king’s names. One of the many conflicts between England and France originated with the spilling of a single glass of water. (Andy Atkins -- sermoncentral.com)
One of the greatest areas of conflict in our lives occurs internally. It occurs because we are torn with some of the decisions we need to make. Do you remember the story about Jesus riding into Jerusalem on that magical Palm Sunday? The crowds were cheering and shouting "Hosanna! Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord!" The people had an opportunity to call upon Jesus as Lord or to reject Him. Before we knew it, those same people who were cheering would soon be crying out "Crucify Him!" They would acknowledge no authority over their lives other than their own. They remained firmly seated as ruler of their own lives.
This same scene is acted out in every life. Jesus comes humbly riding in our direction. We are all in favor of His favors. We want to be blessed with His blessings. We’re excited about how He might benefit us, how we might be able to use Jesus. But when we learn that He doesn’t come into our lives unless we surrender to His lordship, we think again about how much of Jesus we really want.
I believe this is the biggest obstacle for people who face the decision of becoming a Christian or who have been life long Christians. In many respects, it is a life long, every day decision process we must endure. We would like to have the benefits of Jesus Christ in our lives, but we want to maintain control. We want Him to come in, but only in a comfortable, quiet corner of our lives — not taking over everything. We want God in our lives, but we want Him in a very small private corner. We want Jesus to be our friend, a friend we can talk to, a friend who will listen, a friend who will give us whatever we need, but not a friend who will challenge us and call us to the highest form of commitment, surrendering our lives to Him. We want to maintain control of certain aspects of our lives. It has been said that the number of Christians is increasing, that is good news, but at the same time, there is a decline in the moral climate of the nation. People are becoming Christians without it making any real difference in the way they live.
When this happens, it begins to create a tremendous conflict in your life. In Galatians 5:17, Paul wrote, "For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want." You see, a war, literal war is raging in your soul. It is a battle to see who will control your life. When we are in the midst of this spiritual battle, there is conflict, and that conflict brings frustration and unhappiness. There is no peace in your heart.
In our scripture, James analyzes the problem and then offers a solution. James says there is a spiritual war going on inside of us, and the first thing he has to say about it is: The source of the conflict is selfishness. He writes:
"What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You 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. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures" (4:1-3).
The Greek word for "pleasures" is the source of the English word "hedonism." Hedonism is the philosophy that views pleasure as the chief goal of life. But hedonism is not just the desire to enjoy life, we all want that, but it is a self- indulgent lifestyle that we walk all over others in order to please themselves. Many people who indulge in only pleasing themselves find that when pleasure eludes them, conflict and war arises. Look at the list of words James uses in this section — fights, quarrels, battles and killing. In other words, a war is going on inside our heart and soul. God wants control and you want control. You’re at war with God, and whenever you fight God, you will always lose.