Summary: God calls us to take sin seriously and choose to live for his plan rather than our own.
James: Religion That Works
April 2, 2006
Introduction: Did you ever wonder if the people who wrote the Bible actually expected the readers of the letters to do what they said? I mean, did they really think that what they said was so important? James calls us to seriously consider the things he has written and decide if we are going to put them into action.
James is addressing issues in the first century church. Last week we looked at the problem they were dealing with of bitter envy and selfish ambition. Today we are going to look at the solution James offers and the results that brings.
I. The Conflict
James is writing to Christians. He has been telling them how they are to live their lives to honor God and to get along with one another. Now, he begins to wrap up this concept and this idea with the over riding issue in the life of a follower of God. Today we want to look at some basic key issues to help us understand the heart of James.
1) Conflict with others comes from the basic desire to get our own way.
“Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves. You lust for what you don’t have and are willing to kill to get it. You want what isn’t yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it. You wouldn’t think of just asking God for it, would you? And why not? Because you know you’d be asking for what you have no right to. You’re spoiled children, each wanting your own way.” James 4:1-3 (The Message)
Everyone’s life has, at some level conflict. How we deal with conflict and how we approach those we are in conflict with is usually a reflection of the depth of our heart.
Scripture tells us over and over again that we are not to seek our own desires but to lay aside our desires for others.
“An unfriendly man pursues selfish ends; he defies all sound judgment.” Proverbs 18:1 (NIV)
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3 (NIV)
The emphasis James makes is that we ask others for things with wrong motives and wrong intentions, but we would never approach God in that manner. Why? Because we are asking for selfish desires.
The term “want your own way” is translated “desires.” The original term is hedone from which we get our word hedonism.
We must learn to seek after more than our selfish desires.
2) Conflict with God comes from our basic desire to have the best of both worlds.
“You’re cheating on God. If all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way. And do you suppose God doesn’t care? The proverb has it that "he’s a fiercely jealous lover." And what he gives in love is far better than anything else you’ll find. It’s common knowledge that "God goes against the willful proud; God gives grace to the willing humble.” James 4:4-6 (The Message)
As followers of God we often find our desires at conflict with God’s desires. We want what we want because we think that it is better than what God has for us.
Everyday we choose to cheat God or not. We either satisfy the desires of our flesh or of our soul.
We must decide that we are not going to straddle the fence any longer. Everyone is going to struggle with making the right choices. Everyday we face the decision about what and who we are going to follow. However, God has not called us to a life of waffling back and forth.
Purity of heart results in purity of action.
When we choose to follow the culture of the world instead of the culture of Christ, we are saying we believe that what the world has to offer is better than what Christ has to offer.
James is saying that we must begin to loudly object to the plans of the Devil and quietly move into submission to the plans of God.
"So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field.” James 4:7-8 (The Message)
Result of the Devil’s Plan: Result of God’s Plan:
Is there guilt or shame associated with the choices you are making in your life? Are you living in denial of the choices you are making and their consequences? You do not have to live that way.