Summary: Today, as we look at the third characteristic of conflict with God, we’re going to see if we can’t answer the question, “Are we too proud for grace?”
The Anatomy of Conflict (Part 3)
Preached by Pastor Tony Miano
Pico Canyon Community Church
June 17, 2001
Introduction: This is our third and final week in our study of the anatomy of conflict. We’ve looked at how conflict with others makes up part of that anatomy. We’ve looked at how conflict within ourselves. And last week we began to look at how conflict with God makes up the most significant part of that anatomy—the anatomy of conflict.
In looking at man’s conflict with God, we considered two of the three characteristics we find in James 4:4-6. In our study of verse four, we saw how friendliness with the world causes conflict with God. In verse five, we saw how man’s ignorance of the Scriptures contributes to this worst kind of conflict. Today, as we look at the third characteristic of conflict with God, we’re going to see if we can’t answer the question, “Are we too proud for grace?” Since it’s Father’s Day, a day in which we honor the fathers in our lives, those men that give so much of themselves to their families, it seems very appropriate to honor our heavenly Father, with a spirit of thankfulness as we look at what He gives to His children—grace.
Let’s begin by reading James 4:1-6 again.
As we look at man’s pride and the way it contributes to his conflict with God, we are going to also look at the antithesis of pride—grace. In verse six we are going to see that God’s grace is great, limited, and free. We will also see that man’s pride seeks to minimize the greatness of God’s grace, rationalize away the finiteness of God’s grace, and trivialize the pricelessness of God’s grace.
James begins verse six with “But He gives a greater grace.” I think I mentioned last week that there always seems to be a “but” attached to James’ teaching. James uses this word because he frequently makes contrasts between what his readers were doing and what they should or should not be doing. Here are some examples.
In chapter one, James tells us that we should ask for wisdom, but we should ask without doubting. He tells us that we should receive the Word of God implanted in our hearts, but we should be doers of what the Word says, not just hearers. When we look in the mirror, we shouldn’t walk away and forget what kind of person we are, but we should look intently at the law of liberty and effectually do what it teachers.
In chapter two, James teaches us that we should love our neighbor as ourselves, but instead we show partiality. James points out that there are many in the church that profess faith in Jesus Christ, but they fail to realize that a faith that does not produce fruit is worthless.
In chapter three, James teaches that we are able to bring into submission every other kind of created thing, but we can’t control our own tongues. He tells us that we should show ourselves wise through our good behavior, but our arrogance and bitter jealousy shows us to be living by earthly wisdom. He tells us that to live in such a way is to live a life of disorder and chaos, but we can be peacemakers in the church and bear the good fruit of righteousness if we submit to the wisdom from above, which is pure, peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits.
We find another one of James’ great contrasts in verse six, of chapter four. From what we’ve learned so far in chapter four, we can understand the contrast being presented here as this. Man’s sinful inclination is to please himself and focus on his own lusts and desires, but God’s grace is such that it is greater than the most grievous forms of man’s sinfulness.
Man’s Pride Minimizes the Greatness of God’s Grace
But how does this great truth wash in the light of man’s pride? What we see is that man’s pride, when left to its own devices will seek to minimize the greatness of God’s grace. What does that look like? How can man minimize the greatness of God’s grace? Well, first of all, he can’t. Man can in no way actually minimize the greatness of grace. He can only do so in his own sinful and limited mind. That he does well.
His pride convinces him that the desires he longs for is more important than grace, or he convinces himself that the hold that sin has on him is more powerful than God’s grace. Either way, because of his pride, man seeks to minimize the greatness of grace.
Pride has a way of disguising itself in other, more palatable forms. For instance, pride can appear as guilt. There are those, inside and outside of the Christian church that try to convince themselves, as well as others, that God could not possibly forgive the sins they either have committed or are committing. They say that they feel guilty for what they do; yet they turn to other sources, other than God, for emotional and spiritual healing. They turn to the latest self-help books for wisdom, or they turn to secular groups and counseling and form an unhealthy dependence. Is it any wonder why Dr. Laura, who from time to time has, on a human level, some very insightful things to say, finds her books as best-sellers in Christian book stores?