Summary: God longs for the full devotion of his people.
We now return to our study of the book of James entitled: Living the Real Life: Cultivating a Faith that Works. Remember as we were working through the letter we were identifying the different ways James says that true, genuine, saving faith reveals itself. We have seen everything from how real faith responds to trials and temptations, to how real faith responds to God’s word, to how true believers treat other people, and how true believers talk. And of course, we saw the central statement in the book of James in chapter 2; namely that faith without works is dead – it is not real. We come today to the end of chapter 3 and the first part of chapter 4. We are going to take these passages together, even though our English Bibles divide them, because they are related and unified by a central thought. Follow along as I read, beginning in chapter 3, v. 13:
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
1 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
Contrasted here, are two types of wisdom and the corresponding lifestyles that are an outworking of each type. There is a contrast between worldly wisdom, with its accompanying worldly behavior; and godly wisdom, with its accompanying godly behavior. James, of course, encourages his readers, those Jewish Christians scattered abroad, to have a godly mindset and the appropriate godly behavior. What we are going to see, then, is the basis on which James makes his plea to these followers of Christ and what specifically these two opposing systems of thought entail. And we will notice that James calls for godly wisdom and godly living on the basis of God’s great longing for the devotion of his people. We can summarize this passage like this: God longs for the full devotion of his creatures; so we must avoid carnal wisdom, resist carnal passions, and submit to our jealous God.