Jas 4:1-12 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. (11) Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. (12) There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?
When I entered church this morning, I was hurting. I was challenged by Pastor Robb to consider the impact of my decisions on others especially those I love. The weight of my sin and brokenness, my habitual disobedience and how it has impacted others was weighing heavily on me. I was close to the point of tears. My friend Robert prayed for me. He reminded me it can be the work of the enemy to be a part of arguments with couples and spouses right before church. He also coming from the first service, said that this weeks message, I will be able to resonate with.
Pastor Julie had a lot of good insight into this passage. James is a straight shooter and gets to the heart of the matter. He is writing to the church especially the believers in Jerusalem. From the opening verses, James asks his audience, “what is it that causes fights among you?” He then asks that the motive behind most conflict and arguments is because of the passions that are at war within us?” Those passions and desires are unmet needs that only God can meet. The need for belonging and acceptence, the need for significance and value, and finally the need for safety and security. Sometimes motives for arguments come from a deep need to be in control, to be right (usually in my case), or to have my way.
James goes on and says, that “we desire and do not have, so we murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You ask and not receive because you ask with wrong motives.
Julie then discussed some of the comparisons that James was making in this passage. That is friendship with the world and enmity towards God. The proud verses the humble, judging and being judged. All of this can seem overwhelming because the world says, “it’s my way of the highway, my will be done, not yours, and pull yourself up by your bootstraps, be all you can be, live in the moment.” All of these slogans point to the self, not to God. It reveals a proud heart that puts ourselves as enemies of God.
Yet James reminds his listeners, that there is grace. Grace is God’s empowerment for us to do something that we cannot do in our own strength. It is also a gift. James says he gives grace to the humble.
Julie then discussed the way to be free to be friends with God is through surrender. That is letting go, letting God be God, and coming under God’s reign and rule moment by moment. We do this every time when we pray within the Lord’s prayer “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”, and also within the serenity prayer (the long version) when we pray, “trusting you will make all things right, if I surrender to your will.”
Giving up control, and coming under God’s authority is really hard. Yet it is necessary for transformation. Brad Jesak writes in his new book, “A More Christlike Way: A More Beautiful Faith”:
Surrender is a kind of faith. Surrender entrusts God with our needs and loved one. We hand over, release, let go of our lives and our will to our loving Abba. In return, we can fully expect Abba to deliver mercy (every single time!) without dictating how must that look. I resigned as Abba’s dictator.” (Jersak, page 203). He goes on and says surrender falls into Abba’s love for us, and surrender is a work of grace. (Jersak page 195)
So, as I let go, release, and hand people and my needs over to God, I receive his peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:6-7), his freedom, and a supernatural joy raises up within me instead of sorrow. Part of the work of surrender is learning how to resist Satan as I surrender and let go, the Devil will flee. (James 4:9). Brad continues is chapter on surrender:
Even as we bottom out on Our ways (my need to be right, my desire for control, and having my needs met in illegitimate ways), Christ is at work, healing us of pride, defiance and rebellion (willfulness) and restoring us to the Christlike ways of humility, willingness, and surrender. (Jersak, page 200)
This is how we resist the enemy.
At the end of Julie’s message, she had us be still and silent before the Lord. She had a song being played in the background (Kyrie Eleison) which means “Lord have mercy”. Part of letting go is praying the “Jesus prayer”. The long version is Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. In this short prayer, it acknowledges who God is (Jesus, the Son of God), it confesses my need (mercy), and my struggle with sin. It also guards the heart and mind (Jersak, page 207).
After Julie gave the benediction, I went up to her, and thanked her for her message. I said that release and letting go has been a big theme in my life lately. She was glad that someone in the audience could relate to her message.
To conclude, on the surface this passage can be convicting and overwhelming. James can be blunt, brutal, and can wreck us (in a good way). Yet, he also gives us a way to overcome. That way is through submission, humility, and surrender. Surrender frees us from the weight of our sin (James 4:8-9), and also is a tool to resist the enemies lies.