Summary: Satan’s aim is to destroy our faith and to destroy our church. If he can destroy our faith, then we’ll destroy our church for him. And if he destroys the church, our faith will follow.
The Devil goes to church … did you know that? He has his favorite pew. He has his favorite hymns. He loves to see a church stuck in a rut because that’s a dying church. He loves a divided church because constant conflict keeps the church distracted from what it’s supposed to be doing. He’s divided whole denominations and has ground ours almost to a halt over this gay marriage and gay ordination issue. This is nothing new. The Apostle Paul lamented to the church in Corinth: “But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thought will led you astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2nd Corinthians 11:3).
Satan knows the Bible as good as anybody here ... and he loves to use scripture to destroy a person’s faith. Remember how he tried to persuade Jesus to throw Himself down from the Temple roof? He argued from scripture, quoting Psalm 91:11-12: “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, ‘He will command His angels concerning You, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone’” (Matthew 4:5-6).
Take note! Satan does not always try to ruin our faith by saying “the Bible isn’t true.” He often tries to destroy our faith by affirming some passage and using it to led us into disobedience. His aim is to confuse us and, by confusing us, destroy our faith. The word of God alone keeps faith alive. If we cleave to it, Satan can not tear it away from us. So he studies it. He studies how to distort it and pervert it by “plausible misinterpretation” … not absurd misinterpretations because they are far too easily detected and corrected.
What makes Satan happy is when he can get Christians to believe that Proverbs 15:6, for example, justifies the accumulation of wealth in a world of hunger; that 2nd Thessalonians 3:10 abolishes charity; that Romans 9:16 makes evangelism superfluous; that 1st Timothy 2:4 means that God is not sovereign in conversion; that John 10:28 means a “Christian” can do whatever they and still be saved; that Hebrews 6:4-6 means there is no security and assurance for God’s elect.
Satan’s aim is to destroy our faith and to destroy our church. If he can destroy our faith, then we’ll destroy our church for him. And if he destroys the church, our faith will follow.
Besides distorting God’s word, some of Satan’s favorite tools are pride and arrogance. But his most subtle is the one that James is going to be talking about this morning. It’s the notion that Christians can have it both ways … that we can be in the world, of the world, and still be a part of the body of Christ at the same time … that you can, in fact, serve two masters. As James has been saying … and will say again in Chapter 4 … the answer is “Nay, nay!”
In 1st John 3:10, the Apostle writes: “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the Devil: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this,” says James, “to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27).
James says there are three things that can destroy the peace and harmony in a church: passion for the world’s pleasures, partnership with the world, and pride.
James starts out chapter 4 by asking a question: “What causes fights and quarrels among you?” Then he answers the question by asking a second question: “Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” What causes these fights, says James, is our passion for pleasure. “You want something but don’t get it,” James writes. “You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight” (v. 2).
This is not the first time that James mentions this in his letter. In James 3:14-16, he writes: “But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” In 5:1-6, James discusses the dangers of riches and he again mentions ‘murder’ … “you have murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.” It is clear to James that our passion for pleasure has a devastating effect on the life of Christ’s church.