As we continue our sermon series through the book of James we have learned that the Christians that he wrote to were a very arrogant, disorganized, rebellious, partial, and conflicted bunch. It has been loudly declared that Godly people should be doers of the Word, they should respect all persons, tame their tongues, seek after Godly wisdom in meekness, and now we face the issue of peacemaking. James began this next section in the very last verse of chapter three when he said, “Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” Christians must seek for peace and unity in all aspects of life. James really wants it for whole churches.
The NT urges believers “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” And we are even told that we will be blessed if we are peacemakers and will be called sons and daughters of God. Why is that? Because God is a God who wants peace and makes peace at all costs. “For it pleased the Father that in Him (The Son) all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.” Let’s take a look at this lengthy section and hear what God has to say to His people by His inspired Word.
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
Point 1: Where do wars and fights come from among you? (vv1-2a)Wars and fights come from desires for pleasure that war our members. People lust and do not have. People murder and covet, yet they can not attain what they pleasure. And so people fight and war because of their unsatisfied desires for pleasure. What James is saying is simple: We destroy ourselves AND other people because we reject God as our highest satisfaction. We must treasure God for all that He truly is and love Him with everything that we are; “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind.” As someone else has so clearly said, “If we were not willfully blind and rebellious against God as our all-supplying portion in this life and the next, we would not be so violent against others. The root cause of abuse/violence is the failure to be satisfied in God.”
Point 2: You do not have because you do not ask (vv2b-3)People ask amiss. People pray for worldly, selfish pleasures. I think we may all be guilty of this at some time or another. The Scripture teaches us over and over again to ask and it will be given. Let me recall some Scriptures for you:
1. Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened.
2. If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.
3. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
4. If two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done.
5. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.
So you see, the Bible teaches that if what we ask for will be given to us. Yet, in each context of all of those verses the asker is to do so with a God-devoted mind. We can ask all day for our own self-indulgence, but God will not respond. We must ask in accordance with His Word, His name, and His purpose.
Point 3: Adulterers and Adulteresses (vv4-6)We are yoked to God and when we yield to our desires for pleasure we commit adultery. Do you see the picture that James is painting? People want something, or someone, that satisfies and so they go to God not to let Him satisfy them, but to ask Him for the means to get to something else. Then they leave God behind to go seek satisfaction from that other thing! That is why they are bluntly called adulterers and adulteresses. See Colossians 1:21. People make themselves enemies in their own minds. The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously (v5). God is a jealous God. See Exodus 34:14. Wrath falls down from heaven on all idol worship. God is a jealous God and cannot allow His people to use and abuse Him by running to another. He created us to love and admire Him alone. Psalm 16:11 says, “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” That is what God wants for us! What a blessing it is to belong to a God who gives grace. We are so sinful, rebellious, full of lust, greed, and selfishness, yet He continues to give us grace when we humbly return to Him.
Point 4: Therefore Submit to God (vv7-10)
Our first priority is not to resist the devil, but is to submit to God. This is what the younger generations of our society have the most problem with today. They don’t like to idea of submitting to anyone and that includes God Almighty. Secondly, we should resist the devil. For me, this is an active resistance. I have known a handful of people that tucked their tail every time Satan came up in a discussion. Satan is intelligent, cunning, crafty, and we should not overlook him, but we must understand “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1 Jn 4:4).” We need to draw near to God because on the outside we are sinners and it’s because on the inside we are double-minded. We say that we are yoked to God, yet we worship our own desires. Only when we draw near to God, will He draw near to us and because of ourselves and the devil we need God to draw near to give us more grace. V9 is all about repentance. Jesus said in Matthew 5:4, the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.” Does God want His people to be continually sad. Well, not in the sense that we would naturally think. God wills that we would realize how sinful we are and mourn over that fact. We should be people that mourn over sin and not turn a blind eye. This is my weakness. I turn a blind eye to easily to my own sin and the sins of others. Sin murders people! Sin destroys families! Sin destroys churches (which is one of James main points in this section). Sin separates us from God… LAMENT and MOURN and WEEP!!! V10 we are instructed to humble ourselves. What is the reason for humbling ourselves in the sight of the Lord? Because God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. (And, by the way, going back to last week we know that Godly wisdom causes meekness and humility).
Point 5: Do Not Speak Evil of One Another (vv11-12)In our sinful arrogance, we set ourselves up as the end all and be all. We spend so much time saying who is saved and who is not. We waste so much time deciding and then declaring who is more sinful than another. Who are we to judge? There is One Judge, He is the Lawgiver who is able to save and destroy. “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3-5). Speaking evil of others is exactly the type of proud arrogance that God resists. It is to slander someone else. The real problems arise and become most harmful when people question authority and when someone slanders another in secret. Quarrels on any issue usually end up in personal attacks which can destroy a church.
At the end of our main text James brings back into the picture the Law and our brothers (or neighbors). Remember what was said in 2:8 “If you really fulfill the Royal Law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well” which pointed us back to Leviticus 19:18 “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.” This tells me that James is focused on the unity of the church with the one preeminent component being love.
I think we can say that we must fully put away our own selfish desires for pleasure if we ever want to be what God wants us to be. What is the only way of doing that? We need to draw near to God and make Him our supreme treasure, love, joy, pleasure; our supreme satisfaction. Blessed, happy, and satisfied are God’s people for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, they shall be comforted, they shall inherit the earth, they shall be filled, they shall obtain mercy, they shall see God, they shall be called sons of God, theirs is the kingdom of heaven! Let us be people who mourn over sin (especially our own), people who submit to God, and people who draw near to God through the precious blood of Christ Jesus and He will give us grace upon grace. Then we can do mighty things with a united front, in this community, for His name!