Scripture Reading: James 4:1-10
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.
Sermon: "Drawing Near to God"
What's wrong with you? It offends us to hear that. What is wrong with us? James addresses this fundamental question we'd rather not deal with: what's wrong with me?
We get signs that things are wrong: quarreling, fighting, murdering, not getting what we want.
One day, I was watching the news with a pastor friend. And there was a scene where people broke out into a fistfight. But they were not average gangsters. They were in suits. And it was a really nice building. They were legislators, elected officials! My friend explained to me that this was, sadly, a common occurrence in Korea (a prison record will not allow you to vote in the States but is a qualification for public office in Korea). Yet, sadly, fighting and quarreling is a reality in churches, schools, corporate life. And it is good indication that something is wrong and we are foolish.
Thus, James explains what is wrong. Two things are explicitly mentioned and one implicit.
First, our nature is messed up. We're selfish and greedy: passions are at war within us, you desire and do not have, you covet and cannot obtain, you do not ask, you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
This is what you can call the "flesh," which refers to the sin nature. We're not basically good.
James also explicitly mentioned that we make friendship with the world. We want to get along in the world. This comes in a couple of forms. It may come in an outright love for things in the world. It may be in a contentment or comfort with the status quo. It may also come in the form of resignation with things as they are. In each case, the world around you, not the God who created the world is in charge.
We are easily enticed by Satan. We don't resist. So he plays with us over and over, like a marionette.
These are things that are common enemies in the spiritual battle. We quarrel with others because we lack peace in our lives.
Now, can any of us really answer nothing's wrong with me? I think we'd rather ask, "What's the big deal?" What's the big deal? God cares too much.
Being a friend of the world is more than just sitting on the fences. James makes it clear that such a way of living is that of opposition to God. My father-in-law fought in Vietnam. One thing he cannot stand is anything that deals with communism. One day, I came wearing a red jacket and he told me to get rid of it (he even gave us money to get a new jacket). How much more so is friendship with the world offensive to God.
God is too good to be neglected. He hears our prayer. He hears even when we do not pray with the right motives. He is jealous. This is not petty jealousy. He has given all of himself to us. He's given us his spirit. To follow after the world is nothing short of betrayal. He is gracious. He humbled himself. Imagine that? God humbled himself. He was stripped of all dignity. To live for anyone other than God is an outright offense
So how do we get right? Not on our own. In Macbeth, Macbeth and his wife struggle with the guilt of committing murder. Macbeth says, "Will all great Neptune's oceans wash the blood from my hand?" Lady Macbeth later says: "A little water will clear us of this deed". But it doesn't. We're not good enough.
God speaking through James calls us to repentance, nothing short of a 180.
He gives us commands: submit yourselves...to God, resist the devil,draw near to God, cleanse your hands, purify your hearts, be wretched and mourn and weep, let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom, humble yourselves before the Lord.
These commands come with promise. There is a guarantee: resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
The late Bill Bright shared about an important moment in his and his wife's life: signing a contract with God in 1951 to be his slaves, giving up all right to their property and lives. Subsequently, he gained a vision to start what would become one of the largest evangelistic ministries. He said: “When I became a Christian, I knelt at a chair and wrote out a contract with God. I listed on a piece of paper what God had promised to do: provide for me, lead me, protect me, use me. Then I listed my responsibilities: trust and obey him. I signed the contract, Bill Bright, a slave of Jesus Christ. Every morning, I renew that contract with God and remind myself of his promises and my identity. I never feel spiritual pressure. I am simply responsible for following Jesus.” While God opposes the proud, God truly blesses one who humbly turns and surrenders to him.
Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. There is nothing better or more right than being in the presence of God.