James: Pure & Practical Wisdom (Week 8)

 The wise submit their desires to God.

James 4:1-12
What causes fights and quarrels among you?  Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?

James highlights for us what is happening when we find ourselves fighting with others.  The problem has to do with what our hearts desire.  James uses the greek word hedenon in this passage for desire and it literally means pleasure.  He is highlighting that when we make it our primary goal in life to satisfy our desire for pleasure then it will wage war both within us and without us.  Because the truth is, that we don’t always get what we want.

But even more than that, when we make the pursuit of pleasure our chief aim then we are actually cheating on God.  We have substituted God with a false god.  The god of pleasure.  And James states that we cannot be friends with God and friends with the world (with its focus on pleasure) at the same time.  Because God will not let us live with divided loyalties.  He wants not just part of our heart but all of our heart.  God is jealous for us. If we have put our faith in Christ then we belong to Him and he does not want to share us with anything or anyone else. He wants us.  He longs for us.   He died for us.  He went to hell for us.  That is how much He wants us.   He has given us His heart and He asks for ours in return.   He wants us to want Him.  He wants us to surrender our whole hearts to Him.  And when we do we will not be left wanting.  Because our hearts were made for Him.  They find their rest in Him.

Listen to the full sermon and other sermons in this series here.

Questions to discuss in groups:

When are our desires “holy” and when are they “unholy”?

Take a moment as a group to read out loud James 4:1-12.

  • Why would it be that our battling desires within us cause hostility outside of us?
  • What are the connections that James is making between prayer and our desires in verse 2? 
  • Why do you think it is the case that James is saying we cannot be friends with the world and yet at the same time friends with God?  How then should we as Christians relate to the world around us? 
  • Verse 7-10 James gives a list of 9 commands to action, how do these commands relate to our discipleship and the state of our heart?  What might they look like in practise?
  • Is there anything else that stands out to you from this passage?

For Personal Reflection:

When you experience conflict/quarrels or fighting this week, stop and reflect upon the desire that drives it.  Is it a self-seeking desire or a God-seeking desire?

James 4:8 Come near to God and He will come near to you.

Wisdom for each day:

Monday:  We have as much of God as we want..

James writes a wonderful truth when he writes “Come near to God and He will come near to you.”  There is a wonderful mutuality to the level of intimacy that we experience with God.  Here James gives us a wonderful promise that if we come towards God, then God to will come towards God. In other words we can have as much of God as we want.  In what ways might you come near to God today?

Tuesday: Submit yourselves then to God. 

We can often think that the christian life is just about obedience and it is a part of it.  But in actual fact obedience springs from something more important, it flows from surrender.  The first step we take to living obediently is to surrender our wants, will, and desires to God’s wants, will and desires.  He really is after our whole heart.  He doesn’t want hollow obedience, he wants heart surrender.  Is there a part of your heart that you are withholding from God today?  What would it mean for you to surrender it to Him?

Wednesday: Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 

The devil is real and he will seek to lure us away from God.  Our enemy is seeking to devour us.  However the truth is that because of Christ, the devil has no power over us.  We are able to resist him and when we do James writes he will run away.  How do we resist the devil then? Firstly, it is by being aware of his activity in the world and what it looks like. Secondly, we do what Jesus did, and resist Him with the truth of God’s word.  Thirdly, we can tell him to go away from us and he will obey because in actual fact the devil is afraid of us for we carry within us the spirit of Christ.

Thursday: Wash your hands. 

James writes “wash you hands, Oh you sinners!”  and here he is referring to our conduct in the world. The idea is to attempt to keep our hands clean from anything that does not resemble God’s intentions for the way we ought to live in the world.  But when we do fail and the truth is we will fail, we can repent of it and God will wash our hands clean again. This is the wonder of His grace – that he is continually helping us, lifting us, and restoring us into a life of service for Him. Is there
anything that you need to wash your hands of today?

Friday: Purify your hearts.When James talks about purifying our hearts, he is referring to our hearts intentions and motivations.  We live our lives with intentions.  Even if those intentions are unintentional or not well thought out.  God would have us live intentionally for Him, and this intention should line up with the greatest commandment as Jesus gave us, “to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind….And love your neighbour as yourself.” Hence motivated by His incredible love for us we strive to love Him with our entire being and to the world His incredible love.  What are your intentions for you life today?

Saturday: Grieve, mourn and wail.  

When was the last time your wept over your sin?  James unpacks that true repentance involves true remorse which shows itself through grieving, mourning and wailing.  We weep because we understand that when we sin it breaks God’s heart, and it negatively affects our intimacy with Him.  Sin is not something to trifle with.  Unfortunately many people weep about their sin, not because they have offended God but rather because they have been caught in their sin and have to suffer the consequences. True repentance understands that when we sin we have offended God and that it is to HIm to we direct our request for forgiveness + restoration into His presence.  Is the Holy Spirit bringing conviction over a particular sin in your life?  What would it look like to repent and receive God’s grace + forgiveness?