Summary: This sermon cuts to the heart of why people act as they do (even in the church) and how to live as God truly wants us to.
James 4:1-12 "Whose Friend Are You Anyway?"
By Rev. Mark Hiehle
When my children were small, I loved sitting with them and teaching them the songs I learned as a child. It was wonderful to sing with them; "Jesus Loves Me, Deep and Wide, Only a Boy Named David, This Little Light of Mine and He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands." Those songs are simple songs, but they are filled with truth that we want our children to know and remember. Another song which comes to mind is "Jesus Loves the Little Children." Jesus does love all the children of the world, red and yellow, black and white, they are all precious in his sight. This morning can I ask the question, "Do we see others the same way Jesus does?" We are to be just like Jesus. So, do we sing that little song only or do we live it? As I became a teenager, I went to summer camp and we would sing songs around the camp fire. One of the songs we sang was, "They Will Know We are Christians By Our Love." Does the world really know you and I are Christians because of how they see us love each other? James looked at the church, and he did not see love and believers treating each other as being precious in their sight. The church that James wrote to was filled will fighting, quarreling, gossip and slander. The church had a problem that needed to be addressed and James did not sugar-coat his dealing with those in the church.
As Chapter 4 begins, James asks a question that is both direct and alarming. "What causes fights and quarrels among you?" The church is to be known by love. However, more often than not, the church is just like the world in the way people relate and deal with each other. In verse 11, James even calls the people on the carpet by saying, "Brothers, do not slander one another." The problem was real and it was infecting the church just as it still does today. But why? Again James does not pull his punches as he reveals the truth behind their behavior. James answers the question of why, with a question and then goes on to expound further. "Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God." The problem centers within. Outward behavior is always an indicator of the condition within. It is a heart problem. In other words, the fruit that is seen displayed on the outside, reveals what has been sown inside the heart. God is telling us through James that the problem of fighting, quarreling and slander in the church is due to self-centeredness. Paul set forth this problem very clearly in Galatians chapter 5. In Galatians 5:19-23, the fruit of two kinds of sowing are seen. When someone sows seeds of selfishness, they are sowing seeds of the sinful nature which produce fruit after its own kind. "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery: idolatry and witchcraft: hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy: drunkenness, orgies and the like." Whenever you witness a believer who exhibits these kinds of behaviors, God’s Word tells us that the reason is because they are following their sinful nature. Instead of keeping in step with the Spirit, they are gratifying the desires of the sinful nature. In fact, God says, that they are at that point, more in love with the world than they are with him. James says the same thing by stating that, you are more a friend of the world than a friend of God. And from God’s viewpoint, if you are a friend of the world and its ways, (which is self-centered and sinful) then you are literally an enemy of God. The cure to no longer being a friend of the world, and stopping those kinds of actions in a believer’s life, it is by repentance, renunciation and reliance upon God’s grace and power.
When a believer realizes that they are involved in gratifying the desires of the sinful nature, the correct response is not to ask God to help them do better, but to repent. Ask for forgiveness, because they have involved themselves in sin. As born again believers, we were called to die to the sinful nature and live after the Spirit. If not, there would be a continual battle within. (Gal 5:13-18) Repentance is defined as a turning. It is being sorry, not that you were caught, but sorry enough to quit what you were doing and do that which is right. Repentance is a complete 180 degree turn in your thinking and behavior.