How are you all? What month are we in? What season is it according to the Christian Calendar? In this Advent season there is a huge need for hope. What does Advent mean? Advent means coming. Yesterday as I was driving, I was trying to make a left turn and I forgot to put my turning signal on. There were only two lanes and I was blocking a whole lane and a very mad driver said some very descriptive words. I’m sure we’ve all experienced that. We’ve been there, either the one shouting or the one causing the other to shout. It’s so easy to pass on pain instead of peace.
For me it’s easy to cruise through life hurting others instead of building up others. But it’s especially at this time of the year that we need hope and light literally because the days are shorter with the sun setting earlier. How many of us leave to go to work while it’s dark and return back home when it’s dark? How many of you are thirsty for hope? This is what advent is about. Advent is the season where we courageously hope and wait for our King’s coming. In the winter everything seems dead, but we know that life is coming. And it’s not the kind of waiting where we tweedle our thumbs. It’s a participatory waiting. It’s creating a reality that has not fully appeared. It’s where we light a candle in the dark. In this world that we live in there is much crime and murder. We have to ask: Why do we kill and how do we make peace? Why do we commit crimes and how do we solve it?
Actually I wish this was a message about Advent, but I will be talking about James today. In the book of James we see a very young and dysfunctional church. Can anyone tell me what they remember the church in James was like? What type of problems did they have? As we read the book of James we see favoritism of the rich over the poor. We see people treating others worse because of their clothes. We see people not caring about their brother or sister who are hungry and naked. Every time I read James I’m always convicted because this book reminds me of what true religion is. But in the church of James we see slandering, and from the passage today there were quarrels and strife, even to the point of killing and coveting. The church was not perfect; it was a hot mess. It was a bunch of imperfect people trying to put to practice, trying to flesh out the words and teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ, but they were failing at it. So what did James have to say? If you have your Bibles, please open up to James 4:1-12
Let’s open up our Bibles to James 4:1-12
Let’s read verses 1-3: “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
1.) We hurt others because we do not have. We fight because we cannot get what we want. (4:1-3) From these three verses we see why we fight and quarrel. It is because we desire something and we cannot have it. There is a frustration in us. Have you heard the term “hangry”? This is if you are both hungry and angry and it’s the hunger that causes the anger. What causes this crime and murder? It’s emptiness, it’s trying to find fulfillment in something other than God. James is speaking about a desperation, maybe it’s a job, maybe it’s a spouse, maybe it’s a certain image and title that you are seeking. If you’re not at peace you kill. You’re not fulfilled. You do whatever you can because you don’t have satisfaction. And there are fights between husbands and wives because one may say to the other you’re not bringing me fulfillment or you’re not being the man I married. It’s easy to blame another person when the issue is actually much deeper. What is it that James’s readers want to have? He nowhere says in these verses, but the context suggests an answer: the kind of wisdom that will enable them to gain recognition as leaders in the community. James has rebuked his readers for wanting to become teachers (3:1) and for priding themselves on being “wise and understanding” (3:13). They apparently want to lead the church, but don’t have the right kind of wisdom to do so.
And James actually gives a simple solution. James says you do not have because you do not ask. James seems to simplify the message. The reason for all these arguments is You never asked God to fulfill you. And maybe you asked but don’t receive because you ask wrongly.
Did you know there’s a way to pray that is wrong.? If you pray for something to spend it on your passions, you’re not praying the right way. It’s not prayer; it’s a business transaction. The right way to pray is God, I know that you are enough for me. Lord, show me your beauty. Let’s get this relationship right again. Instead you’re asking for things of the world, saying God I want this and this to fill that emptiness and passion within me.
A friend of mine was a work calling a client confirming his appointment. When she called him, however, he blew up. He yelled, “You guys are telemarketers, stop contacting me, I’ve had enough!” And then he hung up. Later after she told her boss, her boss spoke to the client saying, “If you are rude to my administrative assistant like that, I don’t want you as a client.” When he met him with force the client opened up and said, “I’m afraid because I’ve made some wrong decisions in the past, and I don’t want to repeat them.”
Often when there are fights and quarrels, there is something deeper beneath. My encouragement or you this week is to dig deeper. When you have fights, what is beneath the surface? What is the real problem?
2.) Let’s read 4:4-6, “You adulterous people,[a] don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us[b]? 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
“God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”
We hurt others because we cheat on God. We harm others because we have a love affair. (4:4-6)
James uses very strong wording here. We often see rated R words in the Bible adulterous. You adulterous people. Why would He use that term “adulterous?” Do you think he’s going too far? He uses this particular word because you could have a relationship with God, that is so fulfilling but you’re thinking you need something else. You ask the one who loves you to give you something that would replace Him and actually give you pleasure. And do you not know that friendship with the world is being an enemy of God. God yearns for us. Look at verse 5, he yearns jealously for me and for you. The Creator of the whole universe yearns jealously. But instead of saying you’re the one I want. We’re actually saying, God you’re not enough. Can you give me this and this? I’d rather have that car or that house. He yearns jealously for you. But instead of us saying I want you back, we’re saying God you’re not enough can you give me this? Then God looks at you and says, “You’re my enemy.”
This is a strong strong phrase. This makes us evaluate our lives. This is a wake up call. Am I trying to find fulfillment in God or in this world because it cannot be both. This why Jesus says in John 17 of His disciples, the world hates them. The world hates them because they are not of the world. They love Jesus Christ. You cannot have both the world and God. You cannot say I want God, but I want all of this. No you must choose and God is yearning for you. While preparing this message my heart was broken because I know that there are so many things in the world that I love. I know the motivations of my choices and more often than not it is not God’s kingdom, but rather comfort. The hope of this passage is that God gives grace. Look at verse 6.
But God gives more grace. In other words, even if you’ve rejected Him your whole life. Even if you told Him He’s not enough. He’ll show you grace. He’ll allow you into a relationship with Him. He’ll still allow you into relationship with Him. Maybe you’ve got this all wrong. Maybe you’ve spent your life pursuing these other things and you missed out on the relationship. But at this point humble yourself. Right now, don’t be arrogant and defend yourself, why you were pursuing this and this. Humble yourself and God will give you grace. God’s gift of sustaining grace is enjoyed only by those willing to admit their need and accept the gift.
There’s a story of a man who wanted a divorce. This man told his wife of 10 years that he had found a new woman. But she had a very interesting reply. She said that before he divorced her he would have to carry her from the bedroom to the door every day for 30 days. In the beginning it was very awkward because he hadn’t been that close to her, but day after day it got easier and more natural. And their son would see the husband carrying his wife. Eventually, the man fell back in love with his wife because of the intimacy. He called off the divorce. But it turns out that she was sick and she passed away.
We can see here it’s possible to renew relationships. From here we see the important of remembering our vow to God. Let’s get up and let’s turn back. Let’s take Him at His word.
3.) Let’s read verses 7-10, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
It is time to submit. Now is the time to lament. (4:7-10).
Submit yourself to God. Resist the Devil. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. So it’s real simple. To submit to God means to place ourselves under his lordship, and therefore to commit ourselves to obey him in all things. The Greek verb means to “put in order under,” and suggests the existence of a hierarchy of authority—such as God institutes in human government and in marriage. Submit to Him, enough of this bossing God around. Why didn’t you do this? Why did you do this? It means to trust God. Resist the devil. He says right now you can draw near to God. He’ll give you more grace If you’ll stop and resist the temptations Satan is throwing. And draw near to God. Placing ourselves under God’s authority means, negatively, that we firmly refuse to bow to the devil’s authority.
The next couple words are really strong words. Cleanse your hands you sinners. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into morning. It’s an idea of brokenness. God what was I thinking? I was going after this and laughing. I wanted to do this on my own. I said, God has no right. James says be wretched now. Just break down and say God I messed up. Maybe you grew up in the church and never learned what prayer is. It’s not about praying for all the things you want. It’s you asking for God.
This means walking away from the junk and say I’m sorry for that adulterous life that I went after things that I thought it could fulfill. It never fulfilled me and it’s making me irritable. And now I’m at the end of my rope. I was parading in my pride. Now is the time to return. Break down and go, God I missed the whole purpose of life. Here we see the seriousness of sin. Even committed Christians can slip into a casual attitude toward sin, perhaps presuming too much on God’s forgiving and merciful nature. James’s words in this passage directly counter any such attitude. He wants us to see sin for what it is—a serious breach in our relationship with a loving heavenly father, a breach that, if not healed, can lead to both temporal and spiritual disaster. Prayer is not just a Wishlist, but saying God you are the one who can fulfill my desires.
In different religious practices believers must wash their hands, mouth, nostrils, arms, head and feet with water before they touch their holy book. There is a sense of reverence towards God and a holy fear.
Do we have this holy fear before God? Do we wear masks and hide a relationship with the world? What is out position towards God?
4.)Let’s read verse 11-12, “Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister[a] or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?”
We slander our brother so ENCOURAGE. We judge others so EDIFY (4:11-12)
And he closes saying. Quit the fighting and find your fulfillment in God. Do not speak against your brother. He says stop your judging, find your fulfillment in God. Stop thinking you’re better than someone else. Who do you think you are? There is one judge in the end and we’re all going to be judged by Him. it’s not about what we think. And right now we can say, God I’ve blown it. I’ve pursued so many things you’ve hated. and I’ve missed out on the point of life. God is saying that’s great. Now just draw near to me. This is great, this is all I’ve ever wanted. Walk away from all that other stuff. God says come to me and I will fulfill everything you’ve ever wanted.
This advent season is about Peace. It is about the prince of peace who reconciles us to God. Peace is not the absence of conflict. It takes a lot of time and a lot of work because it is taking what is broken and restoring it. I pray that God may bring peace to our relationships, to our families and friends, and in our church. May true shalom prosper. While reading the NT we see the importance for relational wholeness. May God bring first of all peace with Him, that will trickle down to all our other relationships.