Read James 1:1
“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings.” (James 1:1, ESV)
James was the half-brother of Jesus. During Jesus’ ministry, he was a critic, thinking his brother was seeking the honor and applause of people. James sarcastically counseled Jesus to do his miracles in Jerusalem where more people were. He gave this advice, presumably, so that Jesus could really show his credentials and set up his own interest to be a man of secular influence. John 7
He couldn’t have got his brother Jesus more wrong.
Jesus rebuffed his brothers because of their unbelief. “For not even his brothers believed in him.” (John 7:5, ESV)
He declared that had more of a family connection with people who were not his flesh and blood, because they obeyed the word of God. James and his other brothers were offended by this. Mark 3:48-49
“And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”” (Mark 3:21, ESV)
James became a believer after the death of Jesus and His resurrection. He, his other brothers, and mother Mary were found among the believers in the Upper Room before the baptism of the Holy Spirit when the church was born. Acts 1:13
He became not only an ardent believer, but a leader in the first church. Acts 15
James would be killed for his faith. He was thrown from the pinnacle of the Temple after he was asked to make a public declaration by the Pharisees as to the identity of his brother Jesus. They expected him, because he was known to be very religious as Jew, to discredit Jesus.
Instead, the man known as “James the Just” said these words:
“Why do you ask me about Jesus, the Son of Man? He sits in heaven at the right hand of the great Power, and he will soon come on the clouds of heaven!”
They threw him down, but he lived! He stood up and prayed forgiveness for them, “Forgive them Father, they do not know what they are doing.” They began to stone him. A man with a large club struck him in the head and killed him with one blow.
James’ letter was written just a few years before his death. He wrote it to the many Jewish believing communities that had been scattered from Israel because of persecution. He didn’t address them as a brother to Jesus, but rather as a bondservant.
Read James 4:1-3
“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” (James 4:1–3, ESV)
It is a sad testimony to families that funerals and weddings are ruined by bad blood among its members. It is a worse testimony that people in the family of God should battle and quarrel.
James gives the origin of these wars. The sinful nature, warring within, and winning, always leads to a warring without.
One need only look to the nursery to see what that looks like.
A two-year old is playing with a toy. Another toddler sees that toy in hands of his playmate. Now, there are fifty other toys in the room. But little Adam sees that one toy being played with and thinks it must be the best one because Eve is playing with it.
His wicked little heart sees it. His wicked little heart craves it. He wicked little hands grab it!
Eve screams. Eve cries. Eve fights back but Adam is quicker, he scurries away with a greedy and smug little smile. Eve catches up to him and bites him. Now Adam is crying. So now “blood flows to the bridle of the rocking horse" in the nursery.
It is the same in bigger people world. The battle begins in the heart with wrong desires. The wars of kings, presidents and tyrants are rooted in the lusts of the human heart. Pride, malice, covetousness, ambition and revenge drive men to start wars. As it is in the nursery, so it is in the family, and in the streets, in the business world and in the league of nations.
It all starts with Adam and his cravings.
Read: James 4:1-3
“Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” (James 4:1–3, NKJV)
We often think of lust as a sexual sin, as David lusted for Bathsheba. We aren’t wrong to think this way because sexual lust is so common. But sexual lust is just one lust of many lusts. Lust defined is any carnal desire that comes out of the flesh and is at odds with the Lord.
These lusts war against the Spirit and the soul. That is the battle within.
“For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” (Galatians 5:17)
“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” (1 Peter 2:11, ESV)
To the degree that the battle is won within, the more peace there is without among everyone around you.
To the degree that you are losing that battle within, the more you will have battles without. People around you will be disrupted. There will be quarrels and fights. You will have strife and disharmony without because you have capitulated within.
There is a very simple and straightforward example we can give. How many of us were wrecked by a parent, or parents, who because they gave into their cravings within, were willing to wreck the whole family and other families too? Adultery is a marriage covenant that is privately broken, then publicly known. Sin cannot be kept a secret. Luke 12:3 A little craving, satisfied, leads to a lot of strife and disfunction for others: deep bitterness, hatefulness, betrayal, shame, unforgiveness issues in spouses and their dismantled children.
When Adam and Eve gave in to temptation in the Garden, it was not contained within a private sphere. Wars, disease, and death followed. One never sins privately. Sin always affects the whole, sooner than later.
“For as in Adam all die…”
We have all inherited the sinful nature, the cravings within, from Adam. Death is sure to follow Adam’s curse, unless there is a heavenly rescue.
We thank God for this truth within the Gospel, that one perfect man, acting righteously, can save the whole.
“For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:21–22, NKJV)
Read James 4:4-6
Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”? But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”” (James 4:4–6, NKJV)
Worldly Christians are called adulterers and adulteresses, because of they break faith with God by giving their best affections to the world. Spiritual adultery was the problem of the God’s people back in the day.
“Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also.” (Jeremiah 3:8)
The world fuels sinful cravings by making itself as attractive as possible for those who are bored and unstirred in their affections for God.
The word for world in the Bible is cosmos. It is where we get the word cosmetics which is the paint and powder that camouflages and skews reality.
The world, physically considered, is good and to be admired as His glory is all throughout it. But the spiritual nature of the world is corrupted. It presents itself in such a way as to play upon our corrupted state and our weaknesses. It pretends to satisfy and give happiness, when all it really does, is excite and tempt our worst desires.
At the end of the day, both the world and cosmetics are temporary.
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:15–17, NKJV)
This world system has a lot to attract, but in the end, it is fake and buying into it will leave you with buyer’s remorse. It is like the woman who marries the guy who had an affair her while he was married. She gets what she paid for, a fool’s companion who can never be trusted and will disappoint her in the end.
The Lord is jealous for his people.
“Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”? But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”” (James 4:5–6, NKJV)
Oprah Winfrey says she walked away from an orthodox view of Christianity when she heard a pastor preach about a jealous God. She was offended that God should be jealous. His jealousy isn’t, as she supposed, about God being a suffocating, clutching, and domineering God.
His jealousy is a matter of righteous indignation. His people have left him, a good and faithful husband, for a toxic boyfriend.
“…She decked herself with her earrings and jewelry, and went after her lovers; But Me she forgot,” says the Lord.” (Hosea 2:13)
But for grace, we would all go down the world’s rabbit hole of no return.
Read James 4:5-10
“Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”? But He gives more grace. Therefore, He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (James 4:5–10, NKJV)
“But He gives more grace.” This is the turn-around we all need.
When the prophet was dealing with a people who were playing the harlot, God said he would bring her into chastisement. Indeed, God resists the proud. Which means he sets himself up against the wayward. Yet, there is even grace in this!
““Therefore, behold, I will hedge up your way with thorns, And wall her in, So that she cannot find her paths. She will chase her lovers, But not overtake them; Yes, she will seek them, but not find them. Then she will say, ‘I will go and return to my first husband, For then it was better for me than now.’” (Hosea 2:6–7, NKJV)
Many of us have known what is like to have the Lord resist us in our pride. He stopped our celebrations and brought us to the end of our chasings.
But even his discipline is infused with grace! It is His hope and purpose to draw the wayward back to himself. He will break to heal.
This is an experience with heartbreak and tears.
The more tears you have at the beginning of your walk with the Lord, the less tears you will have later. “God gives grace to the humble.”
James calls for repentance. “Submit to God. Resist the Devil.” To do the first, is to perform the other. When a broken-hearted sinner yields to the Lord and repents. The devil takes flight.
“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” Your turning step in His direction is met by His leaping miles in your direction to help you. Again, “God gives grace to the humble.”
See how much the Holy Spirit emphasizes grief. It is time to stop laughing and partying. That is what got you into this mess. Everybody loves to laugh.
“Laugh and the world will laugh with you. Weep and you will weep alone.”
Mourn over your sin. Be cut within. Sit alone in silence. It will be good for your soul. No one was with the Prodigal when he wept in that pig pen. But it marked the end of his downward road.
“Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4, NKJV)
“Those who sow in tears Shall reap in joy.” (Psalm 126:5)
God troubling the soul for sin is like the angel’s troubling of the pool (John 5:4), which made the way for healing.
The sinful woman who silently shed tears at the Savior’s feet, couldn’t even put words to her tears. But the Lord healed her and restored her. It is certain that she left her previous life at the feet of the Savior.
“and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil.” (Luke 7:38, NKJV)
The woman was deaf to the judgment of people around her. But she keenly sensed the cloud of God’s judgment lift from her heart. Forgiveness seemed to release within her and flood her soul.
The Savior dismissed her in peace. She sensed wholeness within that she could never remember possessing.
If you would come up. You must like Zacchaeus, come down. Know that if you do, you shall be lifted.
“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (James 4:10, NKJV)