It is Wednesday once again. I am excited to get ready to teach during our staff meeting. I love studying God’s Word, even though, many times, it is a time of discipline for me, feeling the loving hand of God touch the sore spots in my life. He does it because He loves me and wants to work in me before He uses me to teach His message. Sometimes, it is painful, yet it is always rejuvenating for me, especially for my relationship with God. I am excited to teach on James 4 today.
If you have been following along with us in this study of the book of James, then this next part will be a good review. If you are new to the study, these articles will help you “catch up” and see the context of what we are about to study.
- Living faith vs. Dead faith
- Living faith vs. Dead faith part II
- Trials and Temptations; what’s the difference?
- Genuine faith in action
- Two spiritual births; death and life
- Living faith in action
- Living faith revealed
- Living faith produces good works
- Living faith tames the tongue with wisdom from above
- Teach heavenly wisdom
- Living faith resolves conflict
In this lesson, we are going to learn how living faith helps us overcome worldliness, enmity, and judging.
I. Our problem
In order for the “Good News” of the Gospel to be “good”, we need to realize how bad we really are and how much we need the “Good News” of the Gospel. All of us have a sin nature and it gets us in trouble, constantly. Our sin nature wants us to be friends with the sins of the world and try to be friends with God at the same time. The problem is, if you align yourself with your sin nature and the sins of the world, you automatically make yourself an enemy with God. When you make yourself an enemy with God, you will also be an enemy with the people around you, leading to much conflict. This is what James teaches us in James 4. The Apostle Paul confirms this teaching in some of his epistles and I would like to examine them to see why we end up listening to our sin nature instead of listening to God. In II Corinthians 11:2-3, Paul teaches us that the reason we become friends with the sins of the world is because we are deceived by false teaching that leads us astray and we are no longer totally dedicated to obeying the Lord. In Ephesians 5:23-32, Paul teaches us that the reason that we do not want to be fully devoted and fully submissive is because we do not respect the leadership of Christ in our daily lives. Our sin nature allows us to be led astray and we no longer respect Christ as our leader. Something has come between us and our relationship with God. The Bible teaches us that this is an idol. The first two commandments of the 10 deal with God being number 1 and not allowing idols to enter your life. This is our problem. We have a sin nature that loves idolatry and we are surrounded by a world that entices us with idolatry. If we do not walk by living faith, we WILL fall into the trap of idolatry. How does this problem manifest itself in our daily lives?
II. The manifestation of that problem
James 4 teaches us that the manifestation of this idolatry is seen in conflicts with others. Since we are enemies with God when we align ourselves with the world, we also become enemies with God’s creation, the other people around us. We form groups and join hands against “those other people” and we fight to the death with our words. We are envious of what they have and try either, to destroy what they have or them, if we can get away with it. In the midst of this “war”, we gossip and slander each other, both feeling like we have the “right” to do so because of the “wickedness” of the other group. Next, we begin to “judge” one another. When it comes to judging, there is great controversy. Do we have the right to judge others or not? Jesus teaches, “do not judge” while Paul tells us, “I have already judged that person”. Who is right and who is wrong? Is one right and the other wrong? Does this reveal a contradiction in the Bible? The answer is NO. There are no contradictions in the Bible. We need to understand that there is a difference between discerning the actions of others and condemning them for those actions. God teaches us to judge, but, we must judge correctly. We are not allowed to judge others incorrectly. Jesus teaches us to judge correctly and tells us not to judge incorrectly, exactly like God teaches us. Paul also teaches us the same thing, to judge others correctly and that we are not allowed to judge others incorrectly. There are no contradictions in the Bible. What are some of the ways that we can judge others incorrectly?
- Leviticus 19:15-18 – with pretense, having hatred in your heart instead of love for that person, a hidden desire to take revenge on that person, or with a desire to show partiality.
- Romans 14:3-4, 10, 13 – Judging others based on traditions instead of what is written in the Word of God. The same is found in Colossians 2:16.
- I Corinthians 10:15, 29 – Judging another person’s motives when you do not actually know what they are.
- Matthew 7 – judging others with impure motives, judging others while I do the same thing that they do. Judging to destroy others instead of offering them hope.
What is the hope that we have? How can we overcome this problem? How can we deal with these conflicts in a godly way?
III. God’s solution
In James 4:5, James teaches us that we have been given the Holy Spirit and that Holy Spirit is jealous after our spirit, they we would be totally dedicated to the Lord. When we are not, the Holy Spirit bangs on the alarm gong to get our attention. Now that we realize that we are divided, because we are suffering through conflicts, we look to God for help. He has some advice for us.
- Submit to God – the way that you can do this is to resist your sin nature, draw near to God and cleanse yourself, purify yourself, and finally, humble yourself before God and before the people around you.
- Confront sin
- Mark 12:31 – It has to be done out of love for the people around you.
- Romans 13:8-10 – you are in debt to confront sin for the good of others, again, done out of love
- Galatians 5:13-16 – it is a service to the people around you
- I Peter 1:17 – confront sin according to the deeds, not assumptions
- I Corinthians 11:31-32 – we are to confront our own sins, not just the sins of others
- I Corinthians 5:3 – confronting sin is a duty that we all have, it is done based on deeds, for the good of the person confronted
- Offer hope to all – Since people who are under the wrath of God are already judged, we need to offer hope to the people around us. That hope is found in John 3:17-18. In Jesus Christ, through faith, we are changed from being judged to being saved. This is great news for all. We need to share this with everyone around us.
What about you, my dear friend, are you in the midst of conflict? Whose fault is the conflict? Are you seeking to blame others, or, are you examining yourself, to see your fault in the conflict? Are there any idols in your life? How are you drawing nearer to God? Are you a judgmental person? Do you judge motives and based on assumptions? Do you confront the conflicts in your life? How do you offer hope to the people around you, even in the midst of conflict? May the Lord help us examine ourselves to maintain our total devotion to the Lord.