17 June 2017
Text: James 4:1-12
Theme: Hearts Divided
Scripture Reading (NIV Translation) – James 4:1-12
1What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. 4You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? 6But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” 7Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. 11Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?
Service of the Word:
What is it that we fill our hearts with every day? Do we fill our hearts with anger, fights quarrels, adultery, killing…? Or do we fill our hearts with that which God wants to fill it with? Because when we read James 4:1-12 we encounter our own battles, and our own desires. We are confronted with the fact that we are not one by heart, but rather have hearts that are divided.
We disagree with each other about decisions in the workplace, and we fight for what we believe is right. About topics that we discuss in our classes, we quarrel and say things without thinking about the results. We disagree with our family members – with our husbands and wives – and scream at each other when we don’t get our way, because we cannot bare the thought of not being correct. We allow our hearts to be inflected by the things that exposes our human nature and shortcomings and we forget about the Holy Spirit living in us making us able to be different than what the world expects from us.
We are so impatient with each other that we forget about the grace that the Lord has shown and still shows to us today. For dear friends we find it so much easier to try and do things our own way. We would rather fight, deceive, steal and even kill before we deal with the consequences of our own actions. And God is the one we blame when things don’t work out the way we planned it. When we ask for something and it does not happen immediately. We get frustrated and start doing things just so that we can get some sort of satisfaction from it ourselves. We pride ourselves through the things that we achieve here on earth, rather than looking to God and asking him to help us. We read at the end of verse 2 “You do not have because you do not ask God”
It is so easy for us to let our hearts be deceived, for we aren’t humble people. We are not people who show grace to one another. We choose to be friends of the world and undermine Scripture because it just doesn’t always “fit” into our daily lives. We choose the love of this world over the love that God has for us. And then, without us realizing it, we forget what the love of God looks like. We try to hold on to both the love that God has for us, and the love that the world has for us. And in the process, we find ourselves in a place where our hearts are divided. And we fool ourselves by thinking that we are okay That we can have “the best of both worlds” and in the end still be saved by God’s grace.
But it is when we find ourselves in the midst of a divided heart that James 4:1-12 comes and shows us just how far we have drifted away from God. Verse 6 tells us that God gives us more grace. “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble”. God does not give us more grace so that we can keep living lives of deceit, of fighting, of lying or of pleasing ourselves. No, He gives us more grace so that we do not have to live lives that are filled with deceit, fighting, lying, and pleasing ourselves. He gives us more grace so that we can resist these things and not have divided heart, but rather have hearts that are dedicated to serving the one who created us, and by it making us His children and giving us eternal life even though we don’t deserve it.
Verse 7 says “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will free from you.” We need to submit ourselves to God, so that we can resist the things that infect our lives. That causes our hearts to be filled with hatred and deceit. So that we can live out the life that God has already planned for us, a life where sin is washed away and we are able to come close to Him so that He may come close to us. Verse 8 says “Come near to God and he will come near to you.” And then it goes further it says “Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” For only when we take away or wash away that which is making our lives unclean, our hearts can be purified by God.
If it is an addiction that we need to get rid of in our lives. If it is a need to hurt others just so that we may be better off. If it is to be quick to anger when you do not get your way or when someone irritates you because you just don’t have the time to deal with them right now. Whatever it may be, God is telling you tonight that you must stop doing it. You must wash these things from your heart so that He may come and purify it. And we need this “more grace” that He gives to us to be able to do this. We need the Holy Spirit not just to live in us, but to lead us to not be tempted by the pleasures of this life. To lead us to the longing that Scripture talks about where the Spirit dwells in us.
A dwelling that enables us to submit ourselves to God so that we can resist the devil. That enables us to grieve, mourn and wail. That makes us humble people who do not slander one another. For verse 1-5 shows that when we follow the heart of this world we are doomed. Verse 4 even says that if we choose to be a friend of the world we become an enemy of God. And I don’t know about you, but I think you are pretty much up against it if you are an enemy of God. He has already won the battle against all that is evil in this world, and yet we think that we can choose that which is against His heart and still stand a chance of living.
How can that which makes everything inside of you dead ever be a choice for our lives. We have divided hearts when we choose to follow the ways of this world together with the ways of God. But do you know what? If you think that you can do this and still live a life worth living, you are, simply put, deceiving yourself. Verse 9 says “Change your laughter to mourning, and your joy to gloom.” It doesn’t say this to confuse or shock us. But it comes down to mourning the laughter that we find when we rather step on others to satisfy ourselves. And making gloom the joy that arises from the pain we cause others. From justifying our ways through Scripture even though we only choose to live by it on a Sunday.
We must mourn this laughter and we must turn this joy to gloom, because this is not real laughter or joy. But rather this is laughter and joy that leads to a life against God and a life of death… When we choose to live a life of divided hearts, we can never live a full life. We can only live half a life because the other half of our hearts is dead. Life is only present where God is present because He is the one who overcame death and brought life to each and every one of us. But God does not want just half of us. Verse 5 says that He longs for the Spirit to dwell in us. He gives us more grace so that we do not have to live a life divided, but a full live devoted only to Him.
A humble life in which we come face to face with who God is for us, where we are lifted up, not because we are so wonderful, but because He is the one who is lifted up as Psalm 47 tells us. The one who is the Most-High, the Great King. And He comes and makes us part of who He is through His grace and great love for us. Therefore, we are lifted up when we humble ourselves, for when we humble ourselves we acknowledge God as the One who we are dependent on. As the one who we cannot live without, because without Him living in and through our hearts, there is no live, no resistance and no grace. Verse 10 tells us “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
God wants us to have a heart devoted to Him. He wants us to love Him with all our heart, soul, and mind so that we can love each other the same way. James 4 teaches us that we must constantly search for God’s will in our lives, never thinking that we know best. We must always ask God to come into our hearts so that we can know how dependent we are on Him. We must not seek the approval of this world, but only seek God.
This life is only worth living for what God has come to do for us through his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. He came to wash us clean from sin so that our hearts may be pure and so that we can resist the devil. Most importantly, what God wants to tell each and every one of us here tonight through James 4 is what we find in verse 11 and 12. Verse 11 says “Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister, or judges them, speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.”
When we seek the approval of others, when we think we know what is best, and cause our own desires, anger and pleasures to rule our lives we are enemies of God. In James 4:11 we read that we are God’s enemies because we judge others. We judge those who are closest to us and we think that we are better than them. We forget that we are all sinners and we all need the grace of God to be freed from the evil of this world. God teaches us in his Word that his law requires us to love Him and love others as we love ourselves. And when we judge one another, we do not show love to each other, only hate.
John 12:47 says that Jesus did not come to judge us, but He came to free us. Jesus is the only One who may judge us, for He was and is without any sin. Yet He chose to come and free us from the grip of evil and enabled us to live as His children in both this world and the world here after. Verse 12 says “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?”
God has the power to destroy us. To leave us for eternal death, but by his great love and grace He chooses not to judge us on our actions, but rather free us from our sinful hearts so that we can have hearts filled with his love for us. We tend to judge others because we feel that the world is judging us. But the Lord tells us in James 4 that if we do this we think ourselves to be above his law. We choose our sinful hearts above God’s heart for us.
May we strive to live a life that is evident of a heart that is not divided. May we strive to be humble, resistant to that which is evil, to be pure of heart, and to be people who do not judge others, so that we may know what God’s love looks like. So that we may be able to live it and share it with those who are with us at work, at the University, at school, at home and everywhere we may find ourselves. It is only through the Holy Spirit that God has given to us that we are able to do this. And it is only through the Holy Spirit that we can be part of and submit to a life in which we are washed clean and pure of heart.
“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” and through it you will not have a divided heart that seeks the approval of this world and of God. But you will have a heart filled with the grace and love of God. A heart fully devoted to a life with God. A humble life in which God lifts us up with Him. Amen.