Summary: Surrendering our desire to be king to the true King of the universe and us. And in the act of surrender we find freedom and life.
When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on that small donkey, he was giving them an opportunity to acknowledge that he was indeed the King of Israel, and ultimately King of the Universe. He was giving them the opportunity to submit to him as Lord of their lives. But that was not going to happen. They would not submit to him as king, in fact, they would soon crucify him with the mocking words written above his head: “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” Some of those who hailed him as the Messiah today would tomorrow call for his crucifixion. They would acknowledge no authority over their lives other than their own. They remained firmly seated as ruler of their own lives.
The is the same scene which is acted out in every human life. Jesus comes humble riding in our direction. We are excited and all in favor of his favors. We want to be blessed with his blessings. We are excited about how he might benefit us. We see how we might be able to use him. But when we learn that he does not come into our lives unless we surrender to his lordship, we think again about whether we want him at all.
Here is the biggest obstacle for people who face the decision about whether or not to become a Christian. This is the hardest thing of all. They would like to have the benefits of Jesus Christ being in their lives, but they want to maintain control. They want him to come in, but they want him to come into a comfortable, quiet corner of their lives — not ruling their lives. This is the decision that some people here today are facing — even people who consider themselves Christians. They want God in their lives, but they want him to come in without taking control. They want him to be their friend so they can talk to him and ask for things they need, but they do not want to surrender their lives to him. They want to maintain control of at least some areas and have them off limits to God. This is exactly why we see a rise in the number of people calling themselves Christians, while there is at the same time a decline in the moral climate of the nation and a coarsening of our values. People are supposedly becoming Christians, but without it making any real difference in the way they live.
What this does is begin to create a tremendous conflict in your life. The Bible says, “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” (Galatians 5:17). A war is raging over who will be in control of your life. Some days it is God, but most days you struggle to be at the controls. A spiritual battle is going on for your soul. The conflict brings frustration and unhappiness. There is no peace in your heart. The apostle Peter wrote: “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Peter 2:11-12).
In the fourth chapter of James we find the problem analyzed, and then a solution presented. Let’s hear what he has to say. James says that 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” (James 4:1-3). The Greek word for “pleasures” in this verse is hedonon, and is the source of the English word “hedonism.” Hedonism is the philosophy that views pleasure as the chief goal of life. To indulge in pleasure is an attempt to self-medicate ourselves from the pain of life. But when this is the way we live, pleasure eludes us and conflict arises.
Listen to the words of conflict James uses: fights, quarrels, battles and killing. The word for battle literally means “war.” A war is going on inside. God is wanting control and you are wanting control. You are fighting God. The problem is selfishness. The problem is narcissism — loving ourselves and putting our needs and wants at the center of life. You want God, but you also want your way. You want to continue to do as you please. You are double-minded. You want God, but you want to indulge yourself as well. You want pleasure. You are afraid you will have to give up something, and if it means giving up something, you would rather keep what you want than have God. But you can’t have it both ways. James says that the people who live in this way do not pray, or if they do pray they pray only selfish prayers with improper motives. They pray for God to give them their way or the things they want. But as James says, “That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does” (James 1:7-8). We are double-minded like the people in Jerusalem — one moment we are praising God and the next moment we are calling for his death. And James says, “Purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:8).