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Weekly Word

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Peace Between Us

We have been looking at the topic of peace over the last two Sundays.  The first week we looked at the peace that Jesus gives to those who believe on him.  Last week we looked at the lack of peace that the world has.  Today we are going to deal with relationships between believers.  Why do believers sometimes not get along? 

This is the question that James dealt with in Chapter 4.  Although he is writing to Jewish believers who had been scattered abroad, it is a good word for all believers who find themselves in the midst of conflict or worse fights.  A conflict is not a fight necessarily, but it can become one quick if our hearts are not in the right place.  This seems to be the case in James 4.  These believers are not just having basic conflicts; they are having all out wars.  What that looked like is not spelled out.  But the words that are used to describe it imply it was pretty bad.  Let’s look at what James has to say.

The Source Of Strife Between Believers Is Within Me

James starts out by asking what the source of the quarrels is.  However, it is a rhetorical question.  James knows full well and expects that the believers should know as well.  Notice the words he uses to describe their conflicts: wars, fights, murder, and covet.  It seems hard to believe that they actually had wars and murders.  So I suspect that these are being used to describe the ugliness of what was going on and the spiritual damage it was doing.  The carnage of a war and murder in the natural was the best description that James could use to picture what was happening spiritually with them.

Surprise, surprise, surprise!  The source is conflicting desires in my heart.  The same is true for the other person, but you will notice in this passage that James focuses on the problem not “the other person.”  When there is fighting, I need to fix me not the other person.

So what are these conflicting desires or lusts that are at war inside of me?  These are the desires of your flesh.  Your mind wants to be noticed, right all the time, and preeminent.   Your mouth wants to talk, and eat good food.  We also have sexual desires, relational desires, etc…  All of these strong desires cannot be satisfied all the time and at once.  Thus they are continually at war to be on top.  That is, if we let it become like that.  We can bring those desires under control and have peace inside.  But when we fail to do so the inner war eventually erupts into war with others.

James points out that, instead of looking to God for their desires, they try to obtain them from others through force.  This spirit is not of Jesus.  He did not act this way.  He trusted God.  Yet, in verse 3 we see that even when one of them per chance prayed, their prayers were self-centered and pleasure focused.   In fact, literally James says that their prayers were sick, ill, and wrong.  The New King James Version translates it as “asking amiss.”  But the point is stronger than this.  Can I be honest with myself and recognize that my inner life can be a seething cauldron of conflicting lusts if I let it? 

This Strife Is Serious

Verses 4-6 lay out the seriousness of this situation.  It is not just a little problem.  James uses two word pictures to show this.  The first word picture is that of marriage.  Believers are wed to Christ and are called his bride.  However, when we fight with each other over the desires of our flesh then we are being unfaithful to Jesus.  James calls it adultery.  If you were guarding a faithful love towards Jesus then you wouldn’t be having such ugly conflicts.  Sure you will still have conflicts, but you would work them out without spiritually murdering each other.

The second picture is that of war.  In any war, you are on one side or the other.  Thus the unfaithfulness is demonstrated in a measure similar to Judas.  You may be with Jesus and be called one of his disciples.  But, have you become a betrayer and an enemy of God?  To be in love with the world more than in love with God puts us on the wrong side.  God is coming to judge the world that gives itself to self-pleasure and gives no thought for him.  No matter how religious our life looks like a love for the world will destroy us spiritually and make us enemies of God.

In verse 5, James reminds them that just as they have strong desires for fleshly things, God has strong desires too.  God strongly desires to have intimacy with both parties in the battle.  When we “shoot to kill” in conflict we step on God’s toes and put our finger in his eye.  Will he not deal with us?  Thus we need to drop pride and embrace humility.  If we don’t humble ourselves God will.  Isn’t it easier to humble yourself and receive God’s grace, rather than to persist in pride and get whacked?

The Submission Needed To End The Strife

In today’s world submission is worse than a 4-letter word.  James tells them they need to submit to God.  The word “submit” is the picture of a soldier who is not in formation or even AWOL.  Instead of doing what they are supposed to be doing, they are doing their own thing.  Submission is when we put our self back under the direction of another.  When we fight with each other we are rebelling against God and doing our own thing.  Instead of “resisting” (fighting) the devil, we fight against each other.  God has not called us to fight flesh and blood, but rather to take our stand against the devil and his schemes.

James gives several practical instructions.  First draw near to God.  Our unfaithfulness to God can only be fixed by turning back towards him.  Quit loving the world and start loving God again.  Don’t just say you love Jesus.  Jesus didn’t put himself first.  He submitted to his father in heaven.  Do you really love him?  Then draw near to him.

Next is Cleanse your hands.  It is parallel with the third phrase, “purify your hearts.”  However the hands are a picture of our outer life.  It represents what we do.  To cleanse our hands is to change what we are doing with them.  Quit the outer displays of fighting with your brothers and sisters.  Then start on those things in the heart that are leading to these outbursts of wars.

Next he tells them to quit laughing and start mourning and weeping.  Not laughing is evil.  But rather it has to do with the situation.  When a war is going on, you don’t sit around laughing it up.  God is weeping when we fight.  Am I weeping about that?  Or do I only weep because I didn’t get what I wanted?

The final thing is that we need to humble ourselves.  Leave your exaltation and the satisfaction of your desires to God.  Trust him and he will exalt you at the right time.  Perhaps I can’t handle exaltation in this life.  If so then God may wait till the life to come to give it to me.  Am I fine with that?  Jesus was.  It is time for us to surrender our hearts desires to the Lord and fall in love with the heart and mind of Jesus once again.

Peace Between audio