As we begin these final two chapters of James, there is one commonality among every one of us. There is a war that rages inside each one of us. Good vs. Evil. Dependence on God vs. Dependence on Self. Spirit-living vs. Fleshly living. The words of Paul in Romans 7 accurately describe the war within each of us.
Romans 7:15-20 – For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
We live with these same words. We try to press forward, but we keep falling backward. It seems, in my own life, that I have the most difficulty overcoming the sin I hate the most. Those sins hang out in our lives. They may not set up camp, but they certainly come for a visit more frequently than we’d like. The war within each of us has three levels that I want to talk about this morning.
- The war with other Christians
- The war with ourselves
- The war with God
There are most definitely other wars that we could put on the list. The presidential race seems like a war. The attack on marriage in our country is a war. The battle of gender neutrality is a war. The terrorist groups who kill innocent people is certainly a war. We aren’t going to look at any of those war for two reasons. First, James is a pastor writing to the church in Jerusalem. Second, those wars are symptoms of a greater war taking place within individuals.
Let’s look at James 4 and learn together what these levels of war are.
James 4:1-6 – 1What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2You 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. 3You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4You 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. 5Or 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”? 6But he gives more grace. Therefore, it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
The war with other Christians.
Look at the first part of verse one, what causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Quarrel doesn’t are vocabularies used very often, but it means a serious dispute that leads to combat and stays active for an extended period of time. Again, this letter was written to Christians, which means we are guilty of wounding our own and holding on to it for long periods of time. Christians are capable of fighting over petty things wounding others in the process. The results can be anything from people leaving a church, future church distrust and disunity, a church split and even church death. You don’t need further explanation because you’re well aware of the ripple effect of this one. It’s also true that churches do this to other churches for whatever reason. With both cases, it doesn’t matter if there is surface cooperation. Disputes and disagreements that are not handled according to Matthew 18 often are the most destructive to the body of Christ. Fight refers to a specific fight or battle. Christians fight about theology. Christians fight over methods and practices. Christians fight over versions of the Bible. Churches fight over wall and carpet color. Churches fight over decorations. Churches fight over music. Churches fight over how to spend money. Churches that lose sight of their mission fight over things that have little to do with the reason God placed them in their location. I remind you of Romans 15:5-6, may the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This verse is the reason we have an alarm set to pray at 3:56.
The second level of war explains why the first level of war takes place.
The war with ourselves.
James 4:1b-3 – Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 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. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
Our passions are at war within us. We are selfish people. We want our own way. The words passion, desire, and covet result in fights, quarrels and murder. This passion points to search for the wrong kinds of pleasure, the wrong kinds of satisfaction and selfish fulfillment. 2 Timothy 3:2-5 gives a description of how this passion is displayed in our lives, “For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” All of these things come from selfishness and have no place in a person who is dependent on God. Yet, we find them inside each of us.
The war with God.
James 4:4-6 – 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. 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”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
James charges us with spiritual adultery because we violate our covenant relationship with Jesus Christ. Spiritual infidelity as such. This principle is the central theme of these verses; a friend of the world is the enemy of God. The opposite is also true; a friend of God will be an enemy of the world. Let’s talk about this word friend. This is the only time in scripture we find the word friendship. The original language, phileo, describes an intense and deep affection and is often written as love. It describes the love between members of the Trinity. It also describes the love the Trinity has for those who have surrendered their lives to Christ. James uses phileo to describe the affection one has for the world’s system. The passage gives us the conclusion that James is describing an affair that a “Christian” has with the world’s system of doing life. This system is alienated from God. It lives in rebellion against the voice of God. Its goal is self-glory, self-fulfillment, self-indulgence, self-satisfaction and has self-serving agendas. At some point in our lives in stumble into the world’s system. James declares the person who flirts with and dates with world’s system to be an enemy of God. One who has a deep affection for the goals of the world cannot have a deep affection for goals and mission of God.
The war within us rages. We are incapable of winning the war without the cross of Jesus Christ and the grace he pours into us daily. As we transition into communion, I invite you evaluate yourself. What are the current wars that are present in your life? Are they preventing you from being a friend of God? Are they leading you to become a friend of the world?