(These notes are substantially based on teaching notes on the Book of James prepared by Rob Mahon and made available to Connection Class teachers at Hoffmantown Church).
Last week, we introduced the topic of the internal conflict that we face as James taught about it in Chapter 4. He asked the rhetorical question "Why do you suppose you have so much conflict?" He then answered his question with "Don't you suppose it is because of your focus on self gratification?"
We saw that he was talking about more than lack of cooperation, he is talking about real conflict between Christians, within the Church. We also saw that he was talking about our desire to please ourselves to the point that it came from the Greek root word which leads to the English word hedonism. This lets us see that James tells us that our life is so focused on pleasing ourselves, that it results in conflict within the body of Christians.
Remember that Jesus also told us that our external problems are a result of our inside condition, the condition of our heart.
We broke this discussion down into three topics:
1. Be Motivated By God - (4:1-3)
James told us that our desire for pleasure resulted in lust and envy which lead to action unbecoming of a Christian, like murder, fighting and quarreling.
James then told us that we are in this situation because we are depending on ourselves. He told us we don't have the answers or the power to avoid this because we don't ask God for it, or that we ask for the wrong things or for the wrong reasons.
Today: Let's go on. James says to:
2. Be Faithful To God - (4:4-5)
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. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: "He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us"? --James 4:4-5The motto of the U.S. Marine Corps is "Semper Fi". Who knows what these Latin words mean? "Semper Fi" is Latin for "Always Faithful". Their motto isn't "Sometimes Faithful" but "Always Faithful". And this is the theme of this passage - God expects us to be always faithful to Him. To drive home this truth, He gives us two illustrations:
You adulteresses...This is a statement, not a question. James says that is what we are. But James wants us to understand the depth, the seriousness of our commitment to Jesus. When we ask Jesus into our hearts, it's like being married to Him. In fact, Paul said that marriage is a picture of the relationship between a believer and Jesus:
For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the Church. --Ephesians 5:31-32When we disobey Jesus and "embrace" the things we love about the world, do we ever consider that as spiritual adultery? Pretty sobering thought, isn't it?
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. 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. --John 2:15-16Jesus used this same word ("adulterous") and word picture in describing the Jews of His day:
For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels. --Mark 8:38
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. --James 4:4The second analogy James uses is that of friends and enemies. Do you consider yourself a friend or enemy of God? James tells us that we can't be friends with both the world and with God. But that's exactly what we try to do, isn't it? We don't want to reject Jesus but we don't want to abandon the world either.
Friendship - is from the Greek word philia [fil·ee·ah], which is from the word philos meaning love. So friendship is an affectionate love for someone, brotherly love. Here James warns of our "friendship with the world". In James 2:23, we're told that Abraham was a friend of God. Here we're warned against being a friend of the world. We have to choose; we can be one or the other but we can't be both.
Enemy - is related to the word "hostility" in the previous question. Both come from a Greek word ecthos [ech·thos]. These words are a family of related meanings - hatred, hostile, enemy. Is there anyone in this room that considers him/herself an enemy of God? Probably not. But James tells us that being a friend of the world means that you are an enemy of God.
Whoever wishes - This word "wishes" may be the most important word in this passage. The Greek word is boulomai [boo·lom·ahee], which means to will deliberately, to decide to, to choose to. It's important for us to realize that friendship with God or friendship with the world is a choice that each of us makes. In fact, we continually make choices that move us in one way or the other.
What does the word "choose" imply to you?
In James 2:23, Abraham is called a Friend of God. His life story is told in Genesis 12-24. Can you think of choices Abraham made that showed he was committed to be a "Friend of God"?
What do you think the Scriptures mean when they say that the Holy Spirit, whom God has placed within us, jealously longs for us to be faithful?This verse reinforces the husband-wife analogy. Not only do we need to be faithful to God but we also need to understand that His Spirit, who lives in us, jealously desires our undivided devotion.
One mystery about this verse is that James indicates that he is quoting Scripture ("Scripture speaks"). However, there is no Old Testament verse that directly makes this statement.
Paul used a similar analogy in speaking to the Corinthian Christians:
Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you. But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ. --1 Corinthians 11:2-3It's important that we don't miss James' emphasis on the authority of the Scriptures in verses 5 and 6. James continually points us to the Bible rather than to himself as our authority. Verse 5 also warns us against ignoring what the Bible says.
...Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose...
What are some rationalizations we can use to ignore the Scriptures?
3. Be Humble Before God - (4:6-10)
But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, "God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble." Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. --James 4:6-10Verses 1 thru 5 focus on the shortcomings and failures of God's people. There are a lot of ungodly qualities listed - and they probably apply as much to us today as they did to the Christians to whom James wrote back then.
But He gives a greater grace.
And what is God's response? Verse 6 tells us: "He gives us more grace." His response to our sin is to give us even more grace! That's a valuable understanding!
The word "greater" here is megas [meg·as]. Megas can also be translated "abundant, greater, very much". Today, we might say, "God gives us 'mega-grace'!"
But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, "God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble." --James 4:6James offers proof of His statement that God's gives us "more grace" by quoting Scripture. He's quoting Proverbs 3:34 (as does Peter in 1 Peter 5:5).
Though He scoffs at the scoffers,You might not have perceived the humility that James is referencing here, but James and The Holy Spirit did.
Yet He gives grace to the afflicted. --Proverbs 3:34
It is God's nature, His basic inclination, to give grace to people. In fact, the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is a record of God pouring out His grace to people.
This passage boils down to one command - "Be humble".
What do you think are some wrong ideas people have about humility?
God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. --verse 6Opposed - from the Greek, antitassomai [an·tee·tas·som·ahee], meaning "to line up in battle against". It can also be translated "resist". So God actively opposes proud people and He resists them. Do any of us want God opposing us?
The proud - There's a right kind of pride and a wrong pride. When we talk about taking pride in your country or your job or your family, there's nothing wrong with that. But that's not what God is talking about here. The word here is huperephanos [hoop·er·ay·fan·os] and has the sense of considering yourself to be above others.
In contrast to pride, in the following verses, James gives us some practical ways we can humble ourselves before the Lord:
Submit therefore to God. --verse 7One practical way to humble ourselves is through submitting to God. The word for "submit" here is hupotasso [hoop·ot·as·so]. It's related to the word for "oppose" (antitasso) [an·tee·tas·so], in that it means literally to "line up under". It means to be under someone's authority.
What does the word "submit" mean to you?
What are some reasons why it's hard for us to submit to God?
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time. -- 1 Peter 5:6What are some specific ways that we can submit to God?
Resist the devil and he will flee from you. --verse 7Another practical way to humble ourselves is by resisting temptation. When we resist temptation, we resist the devil.
James says to:
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. --verse 8Another way to humble ourselves is by drawing near to God. We need to make this a priority. That means not just trying to fit God into our schedule somewhere. Instead, we need to put God first and fit our schedule around regular times to spend with Him.
This is a wonderful promise of intimacy with God, isn't it? God will never disappoint those who sincerely "draw near" to Him.
What are some things we can do to "draw near to God"?
One final way we humble ourselves is a very important one - that is by admitting and repenting of our sin. Do we really grieve about our sinful habits, about our sinful nature?
Here's how verse 9 reads in the New Living Translation:
Let there be tears for the wrong things you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. (NLT)Do those words reflect your attitude toward our own sinfulness?
Verse 10 says: Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.
Someone has calculated that this statement or close variations of it, have been made over 50 times in the Bible.
Here we have a command and promise:
Humble yourselves in the presence of the LordThe command is to humble ourselves. It's our responsibility. We need to understand humility, seek humility, desire humility, esteem humility.
Norman Vincent Peale observed, "Humble people don't think less of themselves . . . they just think about themselves less."
If we want to learn about true humility, all we have to do is consider the life of Jesus. There is no greater example of humility we can learn from:
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. --Matthew 11:29John Ortberg humorously observed,
"God's great, holy joke about the Messiah complex is this: Every human being who has ever lived has suffered from it - except one. And He was the Messiah."The Promise:
...and He will exalt you. --verse 10Some translations read, "and He will exalt you". The point is that if we will humble ourselves, God promises to honor us. So we don't have to focus on drawing attention to ourselves or trying to exalt ourselves. No, our responsibility is to humble ourselves and God will take care of the rest.
Someone has wisely observed that
"Unless there is within us the One who is above us,
We will soon yield to that which is around us."
I think that's what James wants us to realize from these verses.
...we will continue in James Chapter 4. James will talk about surrendering to God's sovereignty in verses 11 thru 17.