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From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?

At War with Each Other

What causes fights among Christians?

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” (Ps. 133:1).

We should live together in love and harmony. But, sometimes we don’t.

  • Lot caused a quarrel with Abraham (Gen. 13).
  • Absalom created a war for his father David (2 Sam. 13–18).
  • The disciples created problems for Jesus when they argued over who was the greatest in the kingdom (Luke 9).

The early churches had their share of disagreements.

  • The members of the Corinthian church were competing with each other in the public meetings, and even suing each other in court (1 Cor. 6:1–8; 14:23–40).
  • The Galatian believers were “biting and devouring” one another (Gal. 5:15).
  • Paul told the Ephesians to have unity (Eph. 4:1–16);
  • The church at Philippi had two women who couldn’t get along with each other (Phil. 4:1–3).

James gives different kinds of disagreements within the church.

  • Respect of persons (James 2)
  • Employment wars (James 5)
  • Church fights over leadership positions(Chap 1 & 3).
  • Personal wars (4:11–12).

The saints were speaking evil of one another and judging one another. Here, again, we see the wrong use of the tongue. Christians are to speak “the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15); We are not to speak evil in a spirit of criticism.

It is a sad thing when the saints are at war with each other. Leader against leader, church against church, fellowship against fellowship. The world watches these religious wars. They see the church fight and use this to withstand Christ. Jesus prayed, “That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us; that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me” (Jn 17:21).

But, why were they at war with one another? They belonged to the same family; They trust the same Savior; They were indwelt by the same Holy Spirit—and yet fought one another. Why? James answers this question by explaining the second war that is going on.

At War with Ourselves

What causes fights among Christians? Don’t they come from your lusts that war within you? The war in the heart causes the wars in the church!

One of the bases of sin is selfishness.

  • Eve disobeyed God because she wanted to eat of the tree and become wise like God.
  • Abraham lied about his wife because he selfishly wanted to save his own life (Gen. 12:10–20).
  • Achan caused defeat to Israel because he selfishly took some forbidden loot from the ruins of Jericho (Josh. 7).
  • “We have turned every one to his own way” (Isa. 53:6).

Religious quarrels are hidden with the disguise of “spirituality.”

  • Miriam and Aaron complained about Moses’ wife but really were envious of Moses’ authority (Num. 12).
  • James and John asked for special thrones in the kingdom, when really they wanted recognition then (Mark 10:35–45).

Selfish desires are dangerous things.

  • They lead to wrong actions (“ye kill, fight and war,”v.2)
  • They lead to wrong praying (“ask and receive not” v.3).

“When our praying is wrong, our whole life is wrong.” The purpose of prayer is not to get man’s will done in heaven, but to get God’s will done on earth. “Thou shalt not covet” is the last of the 10 Commandments. Its violation can make us break all of the other nine! Covetousness can make a person murder, tell lies, dishonor parents, commit adultery, and in one way or another violate all of God’s moral law.

Selfish living and selfish praying always lead to war. If there is a war on the inside, there will be a war on the outside. People who are at war with themselves because of selfish desires are always unhappy people. They never enjoy life. Instead of being thankful for the blessings they do have, they complain about the blessings they do not have. They cannot get along with other people because they are always envying others for what they have and do. They are always looking for that “magic something” that will change their lives when the real problem is within their own hearts. Many wars would be solved if we would only look into our own hearts and see the battles raging there.

At War with God

The root cause of every war, internal/external, is rebellion against God. At the beginning of Creation there is perfect harmony; but sin came into the world, which led to conflict. Sin is lawlessness and lawlessness is rebellion against God. A believer declares war against God by being friendly with God’s enemies. James names three enemies that we must not friend if we want to be at peace with God.

The world

Abraham was the friend of God (James 2:23); Lot was the friend of the world. Lot ended up in a war, Abraham had to rescue him. We get involved with the world gradually.

  • First, there is “the friendship of the world” (Js 4:4).
  • This leads to being “spotted” by the world (Js 1:27).

Now areas of our lives meet the approval of the world.

  • Friendship leads to loving the world (1 John 2:15–17).
  • This makes it easy to conform to the world (Rm 12:2).
  • The end is being condemned with the world (1 Cor. 11:32), our souls saved “yet as by fire”. The world is the enemy of God, and a friend of the world cannot be the friend of God. Neither can we befriend flesh, the next enemy in James.

The flesh 

The flesh refers to our old nature. When a sinner yields to Christ, he receives a new nature within, but the old nature is neither removed nor reformed. This leaves a battle within.

James says “your lusts that war in your members.” Living for the flesh means grieving the Holy Spirit of God who lives in us. Just as the world is the enemy of God the Father, so the flesh is the enemy of God the Holy Spirit. The Spirit within jealously guards our relationship to God, and the Spirit is grieved when we sin against God’s love.

Living to please the old nature is declaring war on God. To allow the flesh to control the mind is to lose the blessing of fellowship with God.

  • Abraham had a spiritual mind; he walked with God and enjoyed peace.
  • Lot had a carnal mind; he disobeyed God and experienced war.

The devil 

The world is in conflict with the Father; the flesh fights against the Holy Spirit; the devil opposes the Son of God. Pride is Satan’s great sin, and it is one of his chief weapons in his warfare. God wants us to be humble; Satan wants us to be proud. “Ye shall be as God,” Satan promised Eve, and she believed him. God wants us to depend on His grace (“But He giveth more grace”). The devil wants us to depend on ourselves.

Here, James gives three enemies that want to turn us away from God: the world, the flesh, and the devil. Christ has delivered us from them, but they still attack us. We can overcome them, James gives us instructions to follow if we would enjoy peace instead of war:

Submit to God

This is a military term for “get in your proper rank.” When a private acts like the general, there is trouble! Surrender is the only way to complete victory. If there is any area of life kept back from God, there will always be battles.

Resist the Devil

He flees like a bully.

Draw nigh to God

We do this by confessing our sins. “Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double-minded.” God draws near to us when we deal with the sin in our lives that keep Him at a distance. He will not share us with anyone else; Abraham “drew near” and talked to God about Sodom, Lot moved into Sodom and lost the blessing of God.

Humble yourselves before God

It is possible to submit outwardly and yet not be humbled inwardly. We have a tendency to treat sin too lightly, even to laugh about it. “Sin is serious, a one mark of humility is facing sin and dealing with our disobedience.”

Pastor Chance Strickland

Harpeth Baptist Church
Kingston Springs, TN