Battle for the Throne
James 3:13–4:10 || 13 If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. 15 For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. 16 For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind. 17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. 18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness. 1 What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? 2 You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. 3 And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure. 4 You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. 5 Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him. 6 And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 7 So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. 9 Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor. [NLT]
If we are wise in GOD’S ways, it will be proven by the way we live our lives. Is the modern-day church wise in God’s ways? Are you and I truly wise in God’s ways? That is the question we will wrestle with this morning.
While it might seem as if James is flitting around from one topic to another, he is not. This passage echoes many other words he previously shared: needing wisdom, being double minded, showing favoritism, etc. In this section of verses the challenge continues: to live out the great commandments with a gospel perspective.
14 But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. 15 For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. 16 For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.
Bitter jealousy comes from insecurity. Selfish ambition comes from arrogance. One is an underestimating our value and the other is an overestimation of our value. In each case, we are drawing our value from our perspective, or a worldly perspective.
From God’s perspective, in Christ, we all have value. Each one of us was bought with the same price, no one of us is any less or more valuable than another. Therefore, I am not to think too lowly of myself.
In Christ I am reminded that it is because of my arrogance that Christ needed to suffer and be humiliated on a cross to take my punishment. I am just as much a sinner as everyone else and totally incapable on my own to accomplish any good that will meet with God’s standard of goodness. Therefore, I am not to think too highly of myself.
To have this perspective I must view life through the wisdom of God and not the wisdom of man.
If I believe that my value and my security come from myself, then I must do whatever I can to protect myself and advance my own agenda.
If I believe that my value and security come from Christ, then the need to protect and perform are erased. I need not strive to find my value, I am valuable in Christ. I need not protect myself for security, I am secure in Christ. Where do you find your value, security and identity? [possessions, jobs, titles, kids, education]
Understanding that my value and security come from the work of Christ and not my own, frees me up to live a life that does NOT need to demand its own way, seek its own agenda nor profit for itself. It frees me up to live the radical new life that I have after being buried to self and made alive in Christ. James describes this new life this way:
17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. 18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.
Living out the second greatest commandment
This is a partial fulfillment of the second greatest commandment – to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
1 Corinthians 13:4–7 || 4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. [NLT]
To live out the gospel in all of life, as we talked about previously in this book, means to understand our identity and security in Christ and then to live out the kind of life that displays our new life that we have because of the gospel – the law of liberty (James 2:12).
1 What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? 2 You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.
Let’s look at the symptoms again – we want what others have, so we do what we need to in order to get it. I see my value from what I own. I am jealous for what someone else has, so I take it from them.
When I must have what someone else has then I have failed to value them as made in the image of God. When I think that I have the right to take what they have I see them as having lesser value than me, which is a mockery of Jesus who gave his life for them and for me. They were bought with the same price that I was.
Additionally, in both cases, not only have I defined my value and my security from my own worldly perspective, I have also attempted to fill my needs by myself.
- I do not have so I take.
- I see something I want, so I kill and take.
Going back to the grand narrative – why did God create the Sabbath? So man would rest and understand that the world, and all that God plans, will happen even if we stop working. It does not depend on us. Who do you believe is responsible for providing for your needs? Do you need to be in control?
In the wilderness – why did God provide manna only one day at a time? So that the people would learn to trust God for their every need and provision.
Even as Jesus taught his disciples how to pray, his admonition ot us is this:
Matthew 6:9–13 || 9 Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. 10 May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today the food we need, 12 and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. 13 And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. [NLT]
God has always desired that we trust HIM for our provision. The reason we pause at meals to pray should be to thank God for His provision lest we forget and become arrogant and think that by our own cunning and craft we have managed to provide for ourselves.
Luke 12:31–34 || 31 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need. 32 “So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom. 33 “Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it. 34 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. [NLT]
God is delighted in giving us what we need – and even more. He proved this by giving up Jesus and by giving us the Holy Spirit. As we learn to trust him with the material, we will also learn to trust him with the spiritual. If we cannot trust God with the things we can see, how can we trust him with what we do not see?
3 And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure. 4 You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God.
This is the next battle that we face – what brings US pleasure vs what brings God pleasure. As God’s child, what will ultimately give me the greatest pleasure, both in this life and in the one to come, will be loving God and others. If I think that my greatest pleasure comes from what I conjure up on my own I am sure I will be disappointed.
ASK: Where, or in what, do you find your greatest pleasure?
To be called an adulterer is quite a charge to be leveled! God is saying to us, “I created you for a relationship with me, for you to find your greatest pleasure in me. And you run from me into the arms of another and satisfy yourself with cheap and hollow pleasures. You have left the lover of your soul to find pleasure in the world”
5 Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him.
Living out the greatest commandment
When we seek pleasure in ourselves, we have ceased to fulfill the greatest commandment which is to love the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind.
Exodus 20:1–6 || 1 Then God gave the people all these instructions: 2 “I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery. 3 “You must not have any other god but me. 4 “You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. 5 You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. 6 But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands. [NLT]
God has rescued us from the slavery of sin and requires that we remain faithful to him. The law of Moses pointed to the law of freedom. We must not make ourselves, our possessions or our pleasures – the things of this world, our gods. God is a jealous God.
When we are unfaithful (adulterous), we bring the righteous, jealous, anger of God upon us. When we are faithful, God lavishes his unfailing love on us. IF we love him and submit to him.
We must understand and align our lives with the truth that our greatest joy comes from obedience to and love for God. We will not find a greater joy or deeper peace than what we will find in the arms of our heavenly Father.
Living life with a gospel perspective
7 So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. 9 Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy.
So what is the cure or the antivenom of selfishness and self-rule? How do we gain certain victory in the war that is waged for the throne of our lives and the affections of our hearts?
Humbly come to God.
Acknowledge our place in the scheme of God’s justice. We are sinners like everyone else in need of redemption. Without his love, redemption, justification and adoption we are nothing.
Draw close to God.
When we are living for self we have walked away from God. When we sin and know we are disobeying God we hide, and Adam and Eve did in the garden. Sin is always a walk away from God.
Confession and repentance is the step back to the grace and presence of God.
- Wash your hands (confess the selfish deeds you have done)
- Purify your hearts (confess the wrong motives you have had)
We cannot have a divided loyalty. Living for ourselves is not what will bring us joy nor what will put God on display. When we live for self, we want people to be impressed by us. When we live for God we will hopefully help people be impressed by God.
10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.
Humble yourself so God can honor you.
Do not seek to make a name for yourself, to build a kingdom to yourself or to create a great impression of yourself. Surrender, instead, to the leadership of the God who made you, redeemed you and loves you and allow Him to exalt you.
Our passage this morning is a triple decker sandwich of humility. We started with it in 3:13, were reminded of it again in 4:7 and then we finish the sandwich with verse 10 – all reminding us of the importance of humility.
THOUGHT: perhaps this is a great recipe for us to follow each day, to at least start and finish each day with a prayer of humility.
As Jesus-followers, our lives should reflect the life of our Savior. If we are truly followers, or disciples, we must be so in both actions(deed) and words.
Philippians 2:5–11 || 5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. 6 Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. 9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. [NLT]
This is the example of Jesus: that he humbled himself in obedience and love for God, sacrificing his own needs and desires for you and for me.
As you and I live the same way – loving God and loving others – we display the glory of God and the grace of our Savior to each other and the world around us.
My brothers and sister, what good does it do to:
- Talk about new life in Jesus and then live like life depends on us?
- Declare that God satisfies our every need and then be jealous for what others have?
- Know the two great commandments and now allow them to change our whole world view?
Church, if you understand the wisdom of God, #proveit by loving God and loving others out of your identity in Christ, obedience to the Father and in the power of his Spirit that lives in you. It is only in living this kind of life of faith that you and I will find the joy, security, peace, satisfaction and purpose that you were created and re-created for.