Summary: James explores the symptoms of worldliness, the spiritual condition of worldliness and the escape route from worldliness. What a helpful word from God for us!
Three weeks ago Kendall preached on the end of James 3 about two kinds of wisdom. The wisdom of the world brings jealousy, selfish ambition, disorder and every vile practice. The wisdom from God brings purity, mercy, righteousness and peace. And James especially stresses peace and peace makers.
Today, after two weeks of looking at Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and His death, burial and resurrection, we return to our study of the book of James.
James chapter 4 explores carnal conflict and its causes and its cure. For our lesson this morning let’s just walk through the first ten verses of this chapter and explore with James. It’s pretty ugly territory. He reveals the terrible trap we so easily fall into and how devastating a condition it is to be in it. Finally, he unveils the way of escape and gives us a clear concise prescription for recovery and victory.
Look at the first three verses. Here we see the symptoms of our fallen feelings.
Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.
Now think about this picture James has painted for us. He asks two questions and then describes the frustrating path that comes out of his answers. What we see here is all too common, is it not? Humanity has a very hard time getting along with one another! Why? James gives us the answer.
I read this little excerpt from Vernan Palmer about human nature that you might find interesting:
The Minnesota Crime Commission reported on the growth of crime and reached a startling conclusion:
Every baby starts life as a little savage. He is completely selfish and self-centered. He wants what he wants when he wants it — his bottle, his mother’s attention, his playmate’s toy, his uncle’s watch. Deny him these once, and he seethes with rage and aggressiveness which would be murderous were he not so helpless. He is dirty, he has no morals, no knowledge, no skills. This means that all children — not just certain children — are born delinquent. If permitted to continue in the self-centered world of his infancy, given free reign to his impulsive actions to satisfy his wants, every child would grow up a criminal — a thief, a killer, or a rapist.
All human conflict is ultimately traced back to the frustrated desire of wanting more than we have, and being resentful of what others have, whether it is position or possessions.
Now that sounds a bit strong to our ears, but the Bible says several things that would back this up.
As Joe Beam put it, “A two year old may not be sinful, but it’s not from lack of trying.”
We are fallen creatures. Where does our fallenness show up first? In our desires for pleasure that war in our members. James is right! We all know that our wants motivate our actions and impact our relationships. But listen to how bad it can get! When we don’t get what we want what do we do? What does desire that is conceived give birth to? James has already covered this in chapter 1:15. What does sin grow up and produce? That’s right, death. Here James shows us that sometimes desire produces murder. Does that get you what you want? No.
The symptoms of worldly desires are not positive. Our desires take over our lives so that we love all the wrong things and begin fighting and quarreling with one another. Look around at our world today and notice all the conflicts and craziness all around us! We are swimming in worldly wisdom… no, we are drowning in worldly wisdom and it is destroying relationships all over the place!
Notice there are two groups in these first three verses. One group is having a terrible time and they are not praying, or asking God at all. They are either unwilling to pray or ignorant of their need to seek God. But the second group does pray. They have a sort of baptized desire list that they ask for, but their prayers go unanswered because their motivations are self-centered and not seeking God’s will.
Jesus told us to seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto us. Jesus also said, “Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you.” “What father having a son if he asked for bread would give him a stone or if he asks for a fish would give him a snake. If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father give good things to those who ask Him?”