These notes are from Pastor Tony Butler's Sunday night sermon on the book of James on October 14th.
(I'm finally 'caught up' on posting sermon notes. So you should soon just be seeing one of these a week!)
1What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? 2You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
We know that James was written to Jewish Christians. Part of the reason we can tell this is the introduction to James. Also we see that there is not a defense of the faith in James as there would be if it had been written primarily to unbelievers. When reading James 4, we have to wonder what was going on that these words had to be written to Christians? Wars, fights, murder.
It says they come from the desires (hedonism - living for pleasure) that war within your body. People were coveting, but not getting. Then they were murdering, but still not getting what they wanted. They didn't get it because they didn't ask God. When they asked, they didn't received because they asked with wrong motives (literally evil desires) so they could use it for their pleasures.
4You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.
It could be that within the believers James was written to there were many unsaved people in that church. Maybe some people in that church actually died due to covetousness? James is one of the earliest epistles. We can see from this that right from the beginning, there were problems in the church. People often say they want to get the church back to the way it was in the beginning. If this is typical of the early church, we really don't want our churches to be like this - with murder going on in the church! Based on James saying that some of the people were adulterous and a friend of the world, he could have suspected that many were not even saved.
In church history, there have been thousands killed in the name of Christianity. This occurred especially from about 1000 AD to the reformation because people believed the Church took the place of Israel completely. Therefore they thought it was a good thing and only right to kill heretics.
So maybe this statement about murdering is not that strange. It's happened in the past and must have been happening in some form in the early church.
5Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely?
Verse 5 is actually two statements: Do you think the scripture says without reason? and Do you think the spirit in us envies intensely? But grace overcomes all this and gets Christians beyond fights and jealousy.
For the most part, people in the church seem to be self-seeking and just not care about the truth. They gossip, stay baby Christians, and remain only convenient Christians. They may say they believe it's the last days, but it is not evidenced by their lives. Church and prayer meeting attendance is down and people's lives are not changed.
This helps us understand what James is writing. It's not just his day, but ours too. James is saying that horrible things happen due to self-seeking.
6But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." 7Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
But self-seeking is not from God. He gives grace to the humble. The answer is to submit ourselves to God and Satan will flee from us. Stay faithful in the race - don't give up. don't let what you see in others deter you from seeking God.