Our Desires (James 4:1-6)

First Baptist Church https://fbcbartow.org

 

“Our Desires”

(James 4:1-6)

Series: Living the Faith [on screen]

Rev. Matthew C. McCraw, EdD

First Baptist Church, Bartow, Florida

March 11, 2018

Introductory Comments:

There’s one relationship in this world that really exposes problems in our hearts. There’s one situation that will peel back layers of selfishness, pride, and arrogance. That relationship is marriage.

In marriage, we have all sorts of disagreements, criticisms, and problems. Why?  Because you put two people in a relationship who have no experience bending to the wants and desires of another adult. They have been used to others looking after them and taking care of them and often meeting their needs and wants. Then, all of a sudden, that’s gone and you have to figure out how to get along with a person on equal footing. Someone who has their own wants and desires.  It can be chaos!

It can also be beautiful to see these people display the richness of the gospel by sacrificially loving each other and humbling themselves like Jesus.

Now, in today’s passage, James is not talking directly about marriage. However, he is talking about relationships. He’s talking about why we have disagreements.  He’s talking about what’s going on in our hearts.

Let’s see what he says. Let’s read at James 4:1-6.  I’ll read and you can follow along in your Bibles.

Read the Passage

Read James 4:1-6

1 What is the source of wars and fights among you? Don’t they come from your passions that wage war within you? 2 You desire and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and wage war. You do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. 4 You adulterous people! Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the friend of the world becomes the enemy of God. 5 Or do you think it’s without reason that the Scripture says: The spirit he made to dwell in us envies intensely? 6 But he gives greater grace. Therefore he says: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

Let’s pray together.

(Prayer)

We see here that James uses some intense language to describe the disagreements and problems that have arisen among the believers in the early church.

This was serious stuff!

We must consider these things carefully, lest we be as they were!

I’d like to say that this is not a problem for churches in today’s day and time, but if I said that, you all would know that I’m lying to you!

These issues are far too prevalent in churches today and have even been prevalent in our church.

So, let’s talk some about our desires.

I have five descriptors of our desires that I would like to share with you.

First, . . .

I. Our desires may be dangerous (1-2a) [on screen]

In verse 1 and the first part of verse 2, James describes how we ruthlessly fight to avenge our passions.

Notice, James did not start off this section as he often does by saying, “my brother and sisters.”  He comes out swinging!

He again asks this question and then provides his own answer (James is pretty good at doing that 😀).

James says the source of our fights is these passions that wage war within us.

We want things because of our passions and when we don’t get them we murder and covet, we fight and wage war!

1 What is the source of wars and fights among you? Don’t they come from your passions that wage war within you? 2 You desire and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and wage war.

(pause) 

If you think about this, it really makes sense.

(pause)

The reason any of us fight with someone else is that we want something and they want something else.  So, we duke it out. Perhaps verbally, perhaps physically, perhaps passively.

Even actual wars are started and furthered by selfish desires by one side or the other, or both.

The sinful passions that whirl within us stir up these hostile tendencies, which then come out of us.

Remember, in James 1:14 James said,

14 But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desire. [on screen]

We have these desires within us, which remain from our former sinful life (or at least it should be our former life), and we often return to them. When we do, they cause problems.

By the way, it also causes problems in the church when we have never really departed from our sinful life. That is, when we claim to be Christians but we are not truly changed. When we profess Christ in word only but not in deed.

James speaks again and again about this. This can cause a huge problem in our lives and in our churches.

(pause)

When you put humans in a room together, for a long enough time, just like in marriage, there will be problems.

James spoke in chapter 3, as we studied just last week, of this bitter envy that can be present in our lives. This is the same sort of thing.

We go through all kinds of craziness to get what we want, and then we don’t always get what we want. When we don’t we are sometimes perplexed as to why God won’t give us what we want.

James speaks to us as to why we may not get what we want.

He says, . . .

II. Our desires may be selfish (2b-3)  [on screen]

Look at the end of verse 2 and also verse 3.

You do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.

James says, “first of all you don’t ask.”

Well, how do we ask God for things?  Primarily through prayer, right?

Some may say, well of course I asked!  Of course, I asked God for something!

James then continues, “When you do ask you ask with the wrong motives.”

Well, that’s the kicker, right?

You have these selfish desires.

So, one of the potential problems with our desires, church, is that they may be selfish.

We want what will help me, me, me!

We want things that we can spend on our pleasures.

There is no end to our pleasures, and there is no end to how much stuff we need to fulfill our selfish desires.

(pause)

Listen, God doesn’t take pleasure in giving us things when we are selfish.

We’re the same way as people, aren’t we?

Sometimes we don’t want to give something to our children, grandchildren, or even another adult because we know that they have selfish desires.  Sometimes we even want to take something back if someone is being selfish as a result of receiving the gift.

God is not in the business of reinforcing our selfish desires!

Generally speaking, this is a reminder to us to examine ourselves when we pray that the focus is not on us.

It’s certainly not wrong to ask God for things, so long as it’s not all about our motives.

We need to ask ourselves right now church, “What motivates our asking of God for things?”

(pause)

Are we led by desires for the glory of God and the accomplishment of His will, or are we led by selfish desires?

God would not be a Good Father if He granted our selfish requests every time we came to Him, and make no mistake, He is a Good Father!

God wants to grant us good gifts that bless us and accomplish His will.

He gives many good gifts! More than anything else, He gives us the gift of Himself.

Let us ask God for blessing, and let us not be selfish as we do so.

(pause)

We learn first that our desires can be dangerous as we fight for what we want. Second, we learn that our desires may be selfish, which is why God doesn’t grant our requests. Third, we learn that . . .

III. Our desires may be worldly (4)  [on screen]

Look again at verse 4.

4 You adulterous people! Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the friend of the world becomes the enemy of God.

James is getting kind of rough with his readers because this is a big deal.

He calls them, “You adulterous people!”

Of course, adultery being a rejection of the one that you are supposed to love most for another lover.

Well, where’s the adultery?

James explains:

When we seek to be friends with the world, we are rejecting God.

James says it is “hostility toward God.”

He then says further, if you want to be a friend of the world, you become an enemy of God.

The ways of God and the ways of the world are in opposition to one another.

You cannot serve both. You cannot be friends with both.

James is not pulling any punches here. He’s trying to make it very clear for us.

The ways of God and the ways of the world are opposed to one another.

You can be faithful to one or the other, but not both.

(pause) 

God is jealous for our affection. He wants us to desire Him and focus on Him, both as individuals and as a church.

So, church, our desires may be worldly.

Also, . . .

IV. Our desires may be envious (5)  [on screen]

Let’s look at verse 5.

5 Or do you think it’s without reason that the Scripture says: The spirit he made to dwell in us envies intensely?

Now, just to let you all in a little secret. Most scholars agree that this is one of the most challenging verses to interpret in James.

There are several reasons, why, but I’d like to focus on the use of the word spirit.

What does James mean when he says, “spirit?”

I believe very simply that James is saying the spirit of life that God has put in us is prone to envy.

The Holy Spirit is within those of us who are followers of Jesus. However, the Holy Spirit certainly does not cause us to envy.

That which makes us human beings, as well as spiritual beings, is the spirit of life, which God put into us when He breathed life into us.

The spirit of life that is unique to human beings, causes us to envy.

We even speak this way at times, don’t we?  If someone asks, “Why do you envy so much?”  We may respond, “What can I say?  I’m only human?”

So, I think James is saying, as humans, we are prone to intense envy.

Our desires may be envious. Of course, this fits the rest of what James is saying. We envy intensely, which causes fighting among us and selfish desires.

Finally, . . .

V. Our desire must be humility (6)  [on screen]

Turn your attention to verse 6.

6 But he gives greater grace. Therefore he says: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

What James is saying here is a reference to Proverbs 3:34.

God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

Even though we may fight because of our desires, even though we may have selfish desires, even though our desires may be worldly, even though we have envy within our spirit; God gives us grace.

Grace that is greater than all our sin!

Well, how do we attain this grace?

We must humbly come before God!  We must humbly come before Jesus Christ!

That’s what it takes!  Seek God humbly!

(pause)

If you want to be sure to be on the opposing side of God, then be prideful. I’m telling you right now, you don’t want to be opposed by God.

And, if God would resist that part of us (the prideful part of us), shouldn’t we also resist that part of us?

We should oppose our own pride!  We should hate it!

We must turn from our selfish, sinful ways, and turn to Him!

God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble!

If you want to overcome these selfish, worldly desires then you must take a posture of humility and seek God’s grace.

God does not leave us alone to live our lives for Him. He gives us the grace to do so.

He will also give us the humility necessary to submit to Him.

Concluding Thoughts:

Humility is name of the game, folks.

We need humility.

Humility puts us on the right footing with God, humility leads to us having godly relationships, humility helps us have godly churches, and humility helps us specifically as First Baptist Church Bartow to develop disciples who love God, love the church, and love others.

Our desires must be led by humility.

We must fight for humility.

Bottom Line: Desire God and His ways more than anything else[on screen]

(repeat)

Seek Him, seek His ways, and seek humility.

Challenge yourself this week in these three ways:

Weekly Challenge: [on screen]

  1. Examine your motives as an individual[on screen]

Here’s a question to ask: “What am I trying to gain from this interaction?  What is my end goal?”

If you try to meet your own desires with the things of this world, you will not only make life harder for others, you will also make it harder for yourself.

Seeking worldly desires for your own pleasure will get you nothing worth true value in the end, and it will create a lot of chaos along the way.

Examine your motives. What are you trying to accomplish?

Next, . . .

  1. Examine our motives as a church[on screen]

What motivates us, church?

Satan would love for us to be focused on anything other than being the actual church that God is calling us to be.

He would love for us to be distracted by selfish motives, complaining spirits, and ungodly ideas.

Will we be guided by that?

Will we be motivated by that?

  1. Humbly seek the ways of God[on screen]

Fight for humility. Fight for God’s ways.

Do so through attitude.

Do so through prayer.

Ask God to change your desires.

Closing:

I think something that may be worse than the feeling we get when our needs aren’t met is to feel satisfied with something less than what we really need.

Our desires must be for Jesus!

God will change your desires to what they really should be, and He will meet them.

The greatest treasure we can receive is God Himself.

(Gospel Presentation)

(Closing Prayer)

Invitation Song – I Need Thee Every Hour

Benediction:

Right after the service there is a VBS luncheon just below us in the Old Youth Room.  Come get a quick lunch and learn a bit about VBS.

Tonight we will meet here at 5:30 PM for a new series called, “On Mission Every Day.”  You’ll want to be here as we learn more about living as Christians every day for the Lord.

Let’s dismiss by singing the Doxology. 

(Sing Doxology)

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