“The Prognosis of Church Fights”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of James 4.4-6
James 4. Imagine getting bad medical news … You had been experiencing symptoms for months but never knew that that’s what it could have been. After going through the proper tests, you’re called in to see the doctor. You nervously wait in the waiting room and finally your name is called.
You take your seat in the doctor’s office and when the doctor comes in he sighs and lowers his head for a moment and then tells you “You have cancer.” “How bad is it?” you ask. “Well,” the doctor said, “you have 6 months to live.
What a life changing prognosis: 6 months to live! James in our passage this morning is dealing with an even more dangerous spiritual disease, fighting among God’s people. And his prognosis, shall we say for now, is different.
Let’s read James 4:1–10 1 What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious 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 with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. 4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”? 6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit 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 miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.
Last time we preached on the diagnosis of the spiritual disease of fighting. James gave us the source and the symptoms of such a disease.
And this morning, in verses 4-6, James deals with the prognosis of such a spiritual disease. ..what’s the likely outcome of the disease.
So I’d like to preach on the Prognosis of Church Fights.
TRANS: First in verse 4 is the diagnosis restated… what is the result when you want something and you can’t have it and so you fight and quarrel?
I. Diagnosis restated: Left untreated, vv.1-3 make you an enemy of God (v.4)
Answer: You are a spiritual adulteress, a friend of the world, and you are at war with God.
Look at it, verse 4…
James 4:4 4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
A Spiritual Adulteress
First here, if you fight and quarrel because you want something that you cannot have, James says you are a spiritual adulteress. Whether you want a toy or money, power or pleasure, and someone is standing in your way to getting what you want in the church or in the home or wherever, this is spiritual adultery.
From James 3 … James indicates they were fighting over who would be the teacher. Quarreling over who was the wisest of them all. Grappling for power and position, status, but really they only had the wisdom from below. And James says that this is spiritual adultery.
Oddly enough, the word adulteress indicates James is writing to believing people. James is clearly speaking to believers. An adulteress is a woman who cheats on her husband; she has broken her vows. She is married to another man!
For James to call them adulteresses requires that they too be married in a figurative sense; joined as it were to one husband, to Christ. These folks are at least claiming to be saved.
But now, like the woman who cheats on her husband … btw, how horrible, how wrong that is, how the husband is broken when he finds out…oh the tragedy, the injustice! How the husband would feel crushed angry…it’s unspeakable.
Btw, today is Valentines day. Be sure to show appreciation for each other, if you’re married!
But in the same way, when you fight and quarrel especially because you want something that you cannot have, you are committing spiritual adultery. You are being unfaithful to Christ.
ILL: God’s people’s relationship with God is pictured as a marriage throughout the Old Testament. And it’s in Hosea that this imagery is highlighted. The Lord commands Hosea to marry a prostitute. And her unfaithfulness to her husband pictures Israel’s unfaithfulness to God. Israel had gone after other lovers, her false gods. Spiritual adultery.
And of the Israelites who reject Jesus, Jesus calls them, “an evil and adulterous generation.” And God is jealous over them!
TRANS: When we fight and quarrel with one another, we are showing that we are no longer in love only with God, but with something else. You are spiritually united to another…to the world. Fighting like that is worldliness.
Second, fighting like this shows your friendship with the World
James 4:4 4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
Friendship with the world.
James’ first readers, many of them were friends of the world. They were discriminating against people in chapter 2, they were clamoring to be a teacher even though they had filthy mouths in chapter 3, at the end of chapter 3 they had bitter envy and selfish, and demonic wisdom … ambition through all of this, they pursuing their own pleasures wanting to have high position and were fighting and quarreling in order to get it.
ARG: Now, this does not mean that they had acquaintances who were lost people. No, that’s fine. That’s not the problem. The problem is being a friend of the world, the world system of this age.
And it’s not being a friend to the earth that’s the problem …; but the world James is speaking about here is the spiritual system of organized rebellion against God. That’s the world James has in mind here: the spiritual system of organized rebellion against God all headed up by Satan. You are a friend of that, you are spiritually united to that when you fight and quarrel because you can’t get your way.
And when you fight and quarrel as James has described, you are befriending … And that’s a strong term,.. The idea in its context is a mutual sharing of things. Friendship is a unity, and in this case, a spiritual unity with the world. A spiritual unity with organized rebellion against God. So when you fight and quarrel, you are unified spiritually with the organized rebellion against God, the world system.
This is friendship with the world. For those who are forever linked to the world, it’s not a pleasant picture… the prognosis is bleak!
1 Corinthians 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor verbally abusive [The NASB has revilers, verbally abusive], nor those who cheat people [swindlers], will inherit the kingdom of God.
Revelation 21:8 “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
Enemy of God
When you act this way and do these things, you are a friend of the world. And James says thirdly you are being hostile toward God, you are fighting God. You are at war with him. And you are making yourself to be an enemy of God. Why put yourself into that position?
When you are arguing with those whom you love, you’re really arguing with God. When you’re fighting your friends or your siblings or coworkers, you are fighting against God.
And if someone never has growth in this area … of fighting and quarrelling or he or she always lives this way, you may begin to wonder if this person has truly trusted Christ.
Has this person received eternal life? Receiving eternal life is simple: you must believe the facts Jesus is God and that he died for your sin and was raised from the dead … And then you simply respond to those facts. You turn from your sin and ask Jesus to save you. Tell him you don’t want your sin; but you want His life for you…And when God saves you, you are His.
But if someone claims to be a Christian and is known for fighting and quarreling and being verbally abusive, it calls into question whether he is saved. Even verbal abuse, Paul said. Are you a Christian? Have you been broken by God?
This is loving the world … but if you love the world like this, it’s doubtful you’re saved…1 John 2:15–17 15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” If you love the world, the love for the Father is not in you. Plain and simple.
Now, a Christian can resort back, at times, to following the mind of his sin nature. A truly saved person can, at times, live for his own desires apart from the desires of God, but God will teach him and he will eventually submit that to the Lordship of Christ.
TRANS: So in Christ, this spiritual disease is being treated. Left untreated, though, the prognosis is bleak. You say, “Pastor, you’re always so hard on us! Well,…you look at the text!” Adulteress, friend of the world, fighting against God. Paul says those who verbally abuse will not inherit God’s kingdom.
But God seeks now to heal the disease…verse 5…we have God’s response. It’s not over, praise the Lord! He jealously desires us.
II. God’s response: Doesn’t want to leave it untreated. God jealously desires us (v.5)
James 4:5 5 Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”?
EXP: Living like James described, provokes God to jealousy.
This is one of the most difficult verses in the New Testament. Why is it so difficult?
First, James says do you think the Scripture speaks to no purpose? And then he seems to quote something there. But if you try to find the source in the Old Testament, you don’t come up with anything. So the solution to that is James is probably referring generally to the Scriptures teaching in the Old Testament. There are many passages in the Old Testament describing God’s jealousy for his people.
And we often do this. We could say, “well, the Scripture says that …” And then we just generalize the teaching of the Bible on some matter.
And second, the issue of what the word “spirit” refers to in verse 5. The capitalization is an interpretation; there is no capitalizing in the original language of the New Testament. Does the word spirit in verse 5 … refer to the human spirit or to the Holy Spirit? The Greek doesn’t tell us. The King James, the ESV, and NIV all have that word spirit and they do not capitalize the first letter of that word, making it refer to the human spirit.
However, the New American Standard and the New King James capitalize the ‘s’ in spirit, making it refer to the Holy Spirit.
And third, there is the difficult issue of who jealously desires…is it that spirit meaning our spirit or is it God? If you ask the King James, it’s the human spirit that jealously desires. But if you ask the NASB, our version, then God jealously desires the Holy Spirit.
In my view, the New American Standard translates verse five correctly, except for capitalizing the S. I would take it as the human spirit. I would lowercase that ‘s’ and make it refer to the human spirit.
And that’s because if you say it’s the Holy Spirit, you have to explain this … what does it mean that God jealously desires His own Holy Spirit? God jealously desires His Holy Spirit? Jealously desires His Holy Spirit? What did the Holy Spirit do?
No…the people are the issue in the verse! The human spirit is the problem. We’re acting wrongly like the world does, and He jealously desires us, our spirits, like a husband his wife when we go astray. That’s the picture of Old Testament; God is the faithful husband and His people the adulteress wife. And He jealously desires his people like a husband jealously desires his wife. That’s why James uses the world adulteress in verse 4. That’s the context. Clearly, it refers to the human spirit.
He has made our human spirits to dwell in us, James says. When God created Adam and Eve, He breathed into them the breath of God and they became living beings. That’s the spirit we’re talking about; it’s you who are alive inside your body, your spirit.
And when you seek your own will and are unified with your own personal ambition and you haven’t forsook your rebellion and you want your own pleasure … but… you’ll be at church and the whole time you’re really using God to get what you want. Praying in church but praying that you may consume it upon your own lusts. This is friendship with the world.
When that happens you are provoking God to jealousy. He jealously desires you. What does that mean?
For God to be jealous and for you to be jealous more than likely are two different things. When we are jealous we are usually wanting something that we do not have; like we’re jealous of his skills or of his truck or her beauty.
But for God, he is jealous when people do not give him the glory that is rightly due him. The 10 commandments in ….
Exodus 20:4–5 “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 5 “You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me…
It’s the same with a husband and wife. If a wife is flirting with another man, her husband has the right to be jealous, because that kind of affection is only due to him. She should not be affectionate toward any other man; only to him.
And that is the same with God. He has the right, because he has made us and because in Christ he has redeemed us and washed us with the blood of his own son … He has the right to make sure that we only worship him.
That’s just like it says in 2 Corinthians 11:2 For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin.
APP: So are you in an affair with the world? Are you covetous of something, someone… are you in the grip of some passion or pleasure… some “I must have this” kind of thing… you are in some fire of a desire and when someone talks to about it, you just get all upset… Don’t you know? Don’t you think?
Your spirit is at war with God and God is at war with you! There is hostility between you and God…and He is acting compassionately by jealously desiring you like a faithful husband does for his wayward wife. Will you not let it go? Won’t you allow God to have His way in you? Don’t you want His good will for you? And then don’t you want to know the peace…the peace again to know …
Romans 5:10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
The peace of that! No more heartache; no more hostility or resistance. But peace in coming back to God.
That is the love of God!
TRANS: The diagnosis is spot on: there has been fighting because you have wanted something and you can’t get it. If left untreated, it’s bleak. However, God’s response is He jealously desires you like a faithful husband for his wife. But if church fighting or home or work fighting is properly treated by the grace of God, you and your family can be cured.
Good news! James now tells us the prognosis…With the infinitely merciful and compassionate Savior, it’s easily treatable. How? He gives a greater grace! Verse 6 …
III. God’s cure: Give grace to humble (v.6)
James 4:6 6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
God jealously desires us. And because of that, he wants a change. Like a faithful husband wants his wife to change and be faithful to him, so also God wants a faithful response. He wants us to change. He wants us to forsake our wicked ways our pleasure seeking the “my way or the highway” kind of attitude. The “give me that” kind of spirit.
But here’s the thing: He gives us the grace to do it.
“Oh, but it seems too bad; I’ve sinned, fought and quarrled; surely I’m beyond the help of God … ” Oh, dear saint, he gives a greater grace.
“But no! I’ve sinned against my Lord and again have sought my own pleasure, I get upset when someone address me about my idol….I see now, oh whatever is the fix, the cure?”
Dear child, He gives a greater grace!
“Oh…but there is so much to fix; I’ve been this way for years, it’s seems there is no hope…” But you child of God, you have the certainty of eternal life, …But He gives greater grace…He gives His empowering divine favor to help you. There is always enough grace!Always. He gives greater and greater grace.
But if you do not have that kind of a humble attitude, verse 6, God is opposed to you … the proud.
Those who are obstinate, who refuse to humble themselves and recognize that God is good and faithful, and those who refuse to live for their own pleasures, God is opposed to them; He resists them.
“Yeah, I know it’s sin, but she’s the problem” or “he’s the problem” not me. “Whatever, so what? … I mean, everyone fights with their brothers and sisters.” Ok … if that’s your attitude, get this now… God is fighting against you, you’ve put yourself into the line of fire of God, and if you are saved, He jealously desires you and He is verse 6 opposed to you.
That word opposed there means to set yourself against, to oppose, as in an army.
ILL: The Battle of Stalingrad was one of the largest battles in World War II.
The Germans lost to the Soviets. The battle began late 1942 and lasted until early 1943. It all started when the German Air Force began bombing the city of Stalingrad, reducing much of the city to rubble. The German army then moved in and taking a large portion of the city.
But the Soviet troops effectively resisted and opposed the German army. It was city warfare and the Soviets were hiding all over the city in buildings and even in sewers.
And the Soviets eventually trapped the German army inside of Stalingrad. The Germans began to run out of food and were freezing from the cold Russian winter. The majority of the German army surrendered.
There were some 800,000 Axis dead, wounded, missing or captured and 1.1 million Soviets, making it the bloodiest single battle in all of human history.
We have a battle like this in the text. God is opposed to the proud. He dresses up in battle array to actively oppose even Christian people who demand their own way. God is no respecter of persons. He will defend his eternal rights over you.
But for the humble, those who admit their need, who repent, who lay down their arms of rebellion…who wish no longer to demand their own way … for them, they get greater grace…. more and more grace! For them … “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” Oh the matchless grace of Christ…He gives and gives and gives yet again; in your trials you get grace untold; in your heartache, comfort.
And even when you rebel and repent, because of Christ’s death, He forgives and forgives and forgives and forgives and forgives and forgives and forgives and forgives ….He is long suffering and His mercy is everlasting and nothing can match how much He jealously desires you for His own pleasure and for your true joy in this life. Oh the infinite grace of God!
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of James 4.4-6
ILL: Namaan the leper in the Old Testament thought it was foolish when the man of God told him to go to the river and wash and he would be cleansed of his disease. But when he humbled himself and took the counsel of God, God restored him.
Namaan almost didn’t do it. “Sounds too easy,” he says. If he would’ve remained proud, he would’ve died of his disease. But since he humbled himself, God healed him. The humble submits and is cured.
If the doctor says to you, you have six months to live but then he gives you grace and says if you follow my prescribed plan you will live! But if you choose not to, you will die.
How foolish it would be for you to stiffen your neck and not take his counsel, and to do things your own way because it satisfies your own desires and pleasures. If you do that, the doctor will oppose you and insist you do things his way.
But if you humble yourself, you will live. Next week, James will give more of the details on how to receive the cure for church fighting or any kind of fighting for living for your own pleasures.
But the proud: says, “no doc I won’t do it.” and he dies. That’s pride; foolish pride.
Dear people, God longs for you. He is kind and loving and patient and gracious. If you are humble in heart and you know your need and you seek His face, those who seek him will never be disappointed.
The faithful Lord knows whether you are humbled over your sin. Humble hearts lie in the lush meadows next to ever flowing streams of the grace of God, where they drink abundantly and abundantly and where grace is overflowing.
So take the lowest status. Identify with the meek and humble and afflicted… Don’t think more highly of yourself than you ought to think that the Lord might exalt you.
There is so much to be humble about: we are weak, needy, unrighteous, and deserving of hell, but God in His great love for us stooped down to deliver us and give us eternal life for all who put a childlike faith in Him.
In the Christian life, the way up is down. So let us be humble that we might be exalted; let us be poor, that He might make us rich. God alone truly exalts and gives true pleasure; seek His face, for at His right hand there are pleasures ever more.
Let’s turn to number 510. A new song, only 2 stanzas.