“The Cure for Conflicts” How to Humble Yourself to Get Grace
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of James 4.7-10
James 4. Danny Stanley, husband and father, 44 years old, was active but began to be constantly fatigued. He finally went to see his family doctor, Dr. Russell Warden. He discovered many alarming problems, including a rapid heart rate, but through the electrocardiogram, an ultrasound of the heart, a tumor the size of a lemon was found in his left atrium. But the potential cancersous-ness of the tumor wasn’t the problem. Because it was in his heart, it could block the blood flow through his heart at any moment, killing him within minutes.
Dr. Warden contacted Dr. Reardon, a heart specialist. And so the Stanley’s went to Houston TX to have emergency surgery. Danny went through a radical surgery to remove, repair, and put back Danny’s heart. Dr. Reardon and his team put Danny under anaesthesia, opened his chest, severed the main arteries and veins leading to and from his heart. They put him on a heart/lung machine, which oxygenated and pumped Danny’s blood. However, the heart continued to pump, so Dr. Reardon injected it with a high potassium solution to keep it from beating. The heart stops, the EKG goes flat…
The surgeon’s then work to detach it from the surrounding tissue. They then take his heart completely out of his chest and put it in a bucket of ice! They remove the tumor very carefully, because it could be malignant. After it is removed, the hole in the heart is repaired and then stitched together with specially treated cow tissue. They then go about the most difficult part of inserting the heart back into the chest. Since the heart is considerably smaller, it’s quite difficult to put the heart back in and make it fit back in there correctly.
And then the surgeons seek to get Danny’s heart pumping again by letting his blood pass back through it. A success, and the tumor is benign. Danny would eventually make a full recovery and he would even mow the yard in a couple of months. And he says in his thick Texan accent “I’m thanking the good Lord! He’s not through with me yet!”
We’ve had a medical theme throughout this passage in James and I don’t know what you think, but James seems to be opening our chests and showing us our own hearts! Not only has he done that in this chapter, but in all of his letter… Using his surgical tools and his surgical expertise to show us our own hearts. And it hasn’t been pretty!
Thankfully, like a good surgeon, he doesn’t just take our heart out and leave it there! James also gives us the cure. Verses 1 to 3, James gives the diagnosis of church fighting and then in verses 4 to 6 the prognosis. The prognosis is good… Verse six, if you humble yourself you will get grace. And now in verses 7 to 10, he gives us the cure. Let’s read James 4:1-10
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.
From verse one: what is the source of your quarrels and fights?
Church fighting or family fighting or seeking what you want and not what God wants, this is the diagnosis…your lusts cause your conflicts…; that’s what’s been going on in James’ church, and perhaps your life. But to get things right, you must humble yourself, verse 6.
In order to make things right with God and others, I must humble myself before God. What is that going to look like?
Verses 7-10 contain 3 major things that we’re to do to humble ourselves in order to get God’s grace.
I’d like to preach then on the cure for conflicts and how to humble yourself to get grace.
Problem: But the problem is you’ve pursued your own pleasure. You’ve done what you wanted to do apart from God’s will. And now you are outside of God’s favor, His grace. Or you’ve been fighting either in the church or in the home and you been upset for some reason because you haven’t gotten your way. And you’re convicted and you need to do something about it. What do you do? Answer: humble yourself. But the problem is you are proud. Like all of humanity, you are proud.
Pride… It’s the person who has a knack for finding fault in others. It’s the person who personally opts out of spiritual heart surgery by the Holy Spirit during a sermon and instead prays for others that God would cure them!
Or it’s the person who harshly criticizes the sins of others, while relaxing on their own sins; pointing the finger at somebody else and not pointing the finger at yourself. Or when respectfully confronted about your sin or shortcomings, you fly off the handle or blow up or become defensive.
Pride…you want attention, status, respect and you could justify clamouring to get it. This is pride and it keeps you from getting grace…for God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
Pride results in conflicts and fighting.
EXP v.7a,10: And the cure for fighting and conflicts in the church and the home is to know how to humble yourself. Verse 7 says you must submit to God! Because God verse six gives grace to the humble, verse seven, “submit yourself therefore to God.” Someone who is humble will submit himself to God.
The humble person will stop trying to do things his own way. Humble people don’t demand their own way. The humble person will consider the good ideas of another and will work toward putting the kingdom of God and his righteousness first. And that’s because he knows that any position or status will be brought about by God in his timing, not mine.
James ends this passage in verse 10 with the exhortation to humble yourself in the presence of the Lord. That’s a similar idea to verse seven … to submit yourself to God. They are one and the same thing. Submitting yourself to God and humbling yourself in the presence of the Lord, it is the same idea.
And the explanation of what it means to humble yourself and to submit yourself to God is found in the verses in between.
First, from the end of verse seven and the beginning of verse eight: stand firm against Satan and turn to God.
To get grace, to be in a state of favor with God and again to be close to God to receive his enabling strength in your heart and to be right with God to get that kind of grace first stand firm against Satan and turn to God.
After you have been fighting and quarreling and seeking your own pleasure, to get right with God again and have His favor, first stand firm against Satan and turn to God.
1. Stand firm against Satan (he flees), turn to God (he draws near). (7b, 8a)
James 4:7–8 7 …Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.
Stand firm against Satan
EXP: To resist Satan or to stand firm against Satan means to refuse to bow to his authority. “Resist” is used in military passages. For example, turn over to Eph. 6 to see this…In Eph. 6:13, we have the same word translated resist in Eph. 6:13
Ephesians 6:13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
Resist in Eph. 6:13 is the same Greek word translated resist in James 4:7. It’s used here in a military context, so this is no puny word. It takes strength.
ARG: What does it look like to resist Satan? Well, Jesus did it in Matt 4. Let’s turn there, Matthew 4. Here we’ll see what it looks like to resist Satan and his temptations. The Holy Spirit lead Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Jesus had fasted for 40 days and 40 nights and became hungry.
We will pick up the story in Matthew 4:3 and let’s just read the first temptation in verses 3-4.
Matthew 4:3–4 And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” 4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.’ ”
And after Jesus successfully resisted Satan, it says in verse 11 …what happened? … the devil left him.
Jesus submitted himself to his heavenly father. We know that especially because of how Jesus responds into these temptations. What did He do to submit Himself to His Father? What did He do to resist Satan’s onslaughts? He is clinging to the word of God. And in is temptation he quotes Scripture. That is the natural overflow of his heart even when He’s not tempted. He was ready! He thinks Scripture. He quotes Scripture. Everything he does is centered on God’s word: and in temptation he uses Scripture, resisting Satan with the sword of the word of God.
But what was wrong with succumbing to that temptation? It didn’t seem like a big deal, right? I mean it was just turning some stones into some bread, right?
ILL: But somehow it was a temptation. Bible scholars debate … what is so wrong with this? And the reason it’s debated, I think, is because it is subtle. In other words, if you or I committed that sin, we’d think it wasn’t a big deal, you know, a little sin…
ILL: A little girl named Blessing who lives in Liberia had ingested just a little bit of lye, an extremely caustic and harsh substance used as a laundry detergent. It was just a little bit, a mouthful. However, the chemical had scarred her esophagus so badly her only form of nourishment was the trickling of formula that could get through a tiny opening in her throat. Years latter she recovered after several surgeries, but she still experiences pain when eating.
But it was just a little bit! And we think small sins are harmless? That we don’t need to worry over “insignificant” sins? It was only a mouthful of lye! It was only providing food for yourself through turning some stones into bread…what’s the big deal? But it was enough lye to endanger her life and bring years of misery to her and her family. Even the smallest sins can be destructive. If Jesus had sinned a small sin, it would have plunged the whole world into an eternal darkness.
Would you humble yourself, even over small sins? Look, it’s ongoing and it’s causing harm to you and to those you love and live with!
But hey … it’s just that… me or someone in my household has a problem with fighting, or with constant pleasure seeking, it’s ‘my way’ or else…or I just want this status or position and if I can’t get it, I might just get angry at someone … humble yourself! Little temptations left unresisted and little battles left unfought, can be the chink in your armor now or down the road. Begin tackling the problem today. Like Christ soak Scripture into the fabric of your being so that when tempted, you can use it to overcome.
Promise: And if you resist the devil in this way, he will flee from you. He will flee from you just like he fled from the Lord Jesus. “Greater is He that is in you, than he who is in the world.” “No temptation has taken you but that which is common to man and God is faithful who will, with the temptation, also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” Resist Satan and his temptations…
TRANS: But you can’t just resist Satan, you must also draw near to God. Back to James 4… You can’t just resist Satan, you must also draw near to God.
Turn to God
James 4:8 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.
EXP: Draw near to God in worship; if come near the heart of God; and seek His face evermore…if you search for Him with all your heart, you will find Him, if you search for Him with all your heart.
If you draw near to God, He’ll draw near to you!
ILL: The prodigal son drew near to his father. Though he had sinned and sought his own desires and pursued his own pleasure apart from the will of his father, he finally came to himself… His conscience … and “so he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”
He drew near to his father, and the father drew near to him. Come, then, friend and draw near to God! He waits for you!
Isaiah 58:9 “Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; You will cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’
Isaiah 65:24 “It will also come to pass that before they call,[the Lord says…] I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear.”
TRANS: So, let us seek Him in prayer. Praise Him for His amazing grace. First, resist Satan with God’s word and draw near to God in prayer.
But if you don’t repent, you can’t draw near! The prodigal son had to have a change of heart before he could go to his father. Psalm 66:18 18 If I regard wickedness in my heart, The Lord will not hear.” That’s why, to draw near to God requires that you secondly in James 4:8…Repent!
2. Repent (Cleanse; purify)! v.8b
James 4:8 8 …Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
Here we have the external and the internal. “Cleanse your external, your hands, and purify your internal, your hearts.” Your heart needs purified and your lifestyle needs cleansed.
These are believers, he’s calling “you sinners! You double-minded!” Wake up! You can’t serve two masters! Luke 16:13 13 “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other….”
This is the second time we’ve seen James call his people here: double-minded. The first time was in James 1, if you’d gland back there. James 1 verse 5 …
James 1:5–8 5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, 8 being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
The doubting believer in verse 6 is the double-minded man in verse 8.
This is the man who has 1 foot in the world and 1 foot in the Bible and church. This is the man who says he desires God but his life is known for seeking status, position, and is willing to do unethical things to get it.
James says, cleanse yourselves of this…
If you confess and hate your sin to Jesus, Jesus cleanses you. That simple.
Ezekiel 36:25 “…I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Cleansing from sin is possible because Jesus spilled his blood. The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin…as we confess our sin and walk in the light as He himself is in the light. When did you last confess your sin to God?
ILL: Alexandar MacLaren,…
… a contemporary of Spurgeon in London, who is called the prince of expositors said, “I cannot too strongly urge upon you my own conviction—it may be worth little, but I am bound to speak it—that there are few things which the so-called Christianity of this day needs more than a more intense realisation of the fact, and the gravity of the fact, of this: personal sinfulness.” We must recognize our own sinfulness!
Oswald Chambers said that we should measure our growth in grace by our sensitivity to sin. The more sensitive you are to sin, the more you are growing spiritually. That’s why James is always talking about our sin!
Get cleansed by repenting of and confessing your sin….Seek to forsake your sin… all of your clamoring for status and pleasure seeking apart from God’s will.
Proverbs 28:13 13 He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.
You can’t just confess your sin and desire to go back to your sin; you must confess and forsake.
TRANS: If you recognize your need for cleansing, it doesn’t leave room for merry making! So third, to get grace be broken over your sin. This is a part of humbling yourself. Stand firm against Satan and turn to God, repent of your sin, and now third be broken over your sin.
3. Be broken over your sin (v.9)
James 4:9 9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom.
It is true that, that life in Christ is a life of joy. The fruit of the Holy Spirit includes love, joy, peace…
And that should be the general characteristics of our life.
But there are times when we should be miserable, mourn and weep. Why? Because of the sin that comes in between us and God.
Should their be laughter when there has been deep sin? Have you ever in your life shed a single tear over your own sin?
To do so is a going down…this is becoming last…this is asserting yourself like Paul, not to be chief over all, but to be the chief of sinners. Those who exalt themselves will be humbled but it’s those who humble themselves who will be exalted….
TRANS: … and that’s the promise at the end of verse 10 … if you humble yourself by resisting Satan and turning to God … If you repent of your sin and receive cleansing from God … And if you mourn over your sin, James promises here that the Lord will exalt you. This is humility before God. These are the actions of humility that get grace. These are the actions that get exaltation!
4. Get exalted!
James 4:10 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord [like this], and He will exalt you.
Resist Satan with God’s word, draw near to God in prayer, and be broken over your sin…this is humbling yourself in the presence of God. And if you do that, you’ll be exalted.
That’s the issue: James’ readers were wanting exaltation … they were wanting first place, high position, authority, rights, leadership, being called wise and teacher … but they were going about it the wrong way… the way up is not striving for it … it is in the kingdom of men … but in the kingdom of God, the way up, is down! Because if you willingly go down, then God lifts you up!
ILL: Niagara Falls is made from two waterfalls…The American Falls and the Canadian Horseshoe Falls. The falls are 180 feet high and allow 6 million cubic feet of water over the crestline every minute during peak daytime tourist hours. That’s about a million bathtubs full of water every minute!
And that water always flows down; it’s constantly trying to flow down! Those rocky places that have lifted themselves up, get nothing of that water. And so it is with the grace of God… If you are like Nebuchadnezzar and you lift your heart up, God can humble you and make you eat grass like a cow because he does want you to receive God’s grace, but it takes getting low so the abundant overflow of the grace of God can impact your life!
Isaiah 57:15 For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit In order to revive the spirit of the lowly And to revive the heart of the contrite.
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of James 4.7-10
Some of you need to take this message and lead your family through some serious repentance. Husbands and wives, fathers and sons, moms and daughters, fathers to your daughters and mothers to your sons… Children to the children… let’s confess and forsake and work on being kind, being humble toward one another.
Repent and confess. Humble yourself. Don’t save face any longer. Confess it all … lay it all on the line unloading all of your burdens let it all go…. like the prodigal son, embrace and turn to God embrace those whom you have sinned against and let your laughter turn to mourning and your joy to gloom. Then you will be exalted. And God will turn your mourning into joy.
Hymn: nearer still nearer, 464.