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Introduction:
Scattered Seed, a Catholic resource containing articles, published one called: She Did Not Try This article said:
It was in Chicago years ago. A terrible fire had raged. [A] theater burned. Many were trampled to death as a maddened crowd fought for the exit.
One of those who got out was a young lady. She was borne along in the stampede, passing over many who had fallen. When on her way home she was nervous and agitated. To such an extent was this evidenced that a fellow traveler at length spoke to her desiring to be of help if it were possible. The story of the disaster and of her escape from the terrible fire was told.
"Certainly you ought to feel thankful that you escaped such a frightful death."
"Yes! I know I ought to be thankful, but oh, I didn't save anyone!"
"Yes! dear, but you were perfectly excusable in acting for yourself under such intense excitement."
"Yes! but I didn't even try to help anyone."
A bitter lament. Probably the girl could not have aided any if she had tried, But she had not tried. This was her source of sorrow. She lived on, but with regret sourced in self-preservation.
Are we seeking to [aide] souls? The perishing are about us on every side. Shall we be satisfied with being saved ourselves and not care for those around us!—
James has something to say about those in the church who refuse to think of the welfare of others:
James 4:1–6 ESV
1 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 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. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Perhaps the most shocking thing about this verse is that he is talking to Believers in the early church. James is showing strong emotion here! The church seems hopelessly divided and certainly James could be feeling some of this discouragement!
What would be sadder—especially for a Pastor--than such a divided Church! The church is to be united in love for God and love for one another. The church is to be united around the truth of God. The church is to be united in worship and service. But instead of perfect harmony, James finds:
We are supposed to believe that we are absolutely incapable of doing anything to help ourselves, and that we are saved because God had mercy on us and sent his Son to die in our stead and his Holy Spirit to regenerate our dead hearts.
We are supposed to love the persons of the triune God above everything else. We are supposed to have a passion for the worship of God and the service of God.
We are supposed to believe that we are to do all we can to advance the cause of God. We are supposed to believe that we are to do all we can to influence our children to love and serve God. We are supposed to believe that we are to do all we can to influence our friends and neighbours for Christ.
But as we survey modern-day Christianity, we are compelled to admit that many of those who profess to be believers do not appear to be in agreement. We are supposed to believe these things, but many do not give any evidence of doing so. The sad fact is that many church members appear to be working against the very things they are supposed to value and prize.
Why is this the case? I suggest that much of the reason lies in ‘the “ness” mess’.
We can find this phenomenon in the verses of our text. As James looked at his readers, he could see three things that were holding them back. We see the same things in our churches.
Roger Ellsworth

I. Quintessential Quarrels (v.1-2)

James calls them out on their ‘quarrels’ (ongoing hostility) and ‘fights’ (brief outbursts of bitterness) among them.
James 4:1 LEB
From where are conflicts and from where are quarrels among you? Is it not from this, from your pleasures that wage war among your members?
james
Yes, even this too, as horrible as it may sound, is prevalent in many churches today, and even might be going on right now in a very small measure, here at Grace. If left unchecked this kind of behavior could define Grace Baptist Church rendering us useless for YHWH & to the community. This is very wrong and should not be!
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James calls them out on their ‘quarrels’ (ongoing hostility) and ‘fights’ among them. The former suggests ; the latter suggests brief outbursts of antagonism.
But here was a divided church! James could see ‘wars’ and ‘fights’ among them. The former suggests ongoing hostility; the latter suggests brief outbursts of antagonism.
Roger Ellsworth rightly points out:
We are supposed to believe that we are absolutely incapable of doing anything to help ourselves, and that we are saved because God had mercy on us and sent his Son to die in our stead and his Holy Spirit to regenerate our dead hearts.
We are supposed to love the persons of the triune God above everything else. We are supposed to have a passion for the worship of God and the service of God.
We are supposed to believe that we are to do all we can to advance the cause of God. We are supposed to believe that we are to do all we can to influence our children to love and serve God. We are supposed to believe that we are to do all we can to influence our friends and neighbours for Christ.
But as we survey modern-day Christianity, we are compelled to admit that many of those who profess to be believers do not appear to be in agreement. We are supposed to believe these things, but many do not give any evidence of doing so. The sad fact is that many church members appear to be working against the very things they are supposed to value and prize.
If Ellsworth is right, we have no reason to sabotage each other. What was the source of these quarrels that James saw? It was selfishness! I want things my way! The people were going to church for the wrong reason—not to help the church and advance the Gospel, but to help themselves. Each wanted to be known as somebody—even to be known as prestigious teachers. Each was seeking his or her own good instead of the good of their brothers and sisters in Christ. And what's really sad is it still goes on to today. People come to church in order to help themselves rather than to be a help.
What was the source of these quarrels that James saw? It was selfishness! The people were going to church for the wrong reason—not to help the church and advance the Gospel, but to help themselves. Each wanted to be known as somebody—even to be known as prestigious teachers. Each was seeking his or her own good instead of the good of their brothers and sisters in Christ. And what's really sad is it still goes on to today. People come to church in order to help themselves rather than to be a help.
The NIV Application Commentary: James Prayers Offered in Anger and Desire (4:1–3)

In the second part of verse 1, James wisely points to a two-layered interpretation, just like the one sustained throughout 3:1–12. Just as there are mixed within each of us as individuals motives and emotions wholesome and unwholesome, so within the Christian community there is a wide variety of impulses. James says their disputes come from the desires (hedone) within them. The rabbis believed that the impulses, the yeṣarim, had their seats in various organs or “members” of the human body; therefore, the members of the body were “at war” with one another—pulled one way by conscience, then another way by the evil desire.5

This image is not unknown elsewhere in the New Testament. First Peter 2:11 speaks of “sinful desires,” which “war against your soul.” In Romans 7:22–23 Paul speaks of the two “laws” within him: “For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war … and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members” (cf. also Gal. 5:17).

David P. Nystrom says here:
In the second part of verse 1, James wisely points to a two-layered interpretation, just like the one sustained throughout 3:1–12. […] James says their disputes come from the desires within them. The rabbis believed that the impulses had their seats in various organs or “members” of the human body; therefore, the members of the body were “at war” with one another—pulled one way by conscience, then another way by the evil desire.
This is familiar to us because Nystrom is confirmed in other passages in the New Testament. speaks of “sinful desires,” which “war against your soul.”
1 Peter 2:11 ESV
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.
Galatians 5:17 ESV
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.
In , Paul speaks of the two “laws” within him:
Romans 7:22–23 ESV
For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.
1 Peter 2:11 ESV
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.
, Paul again mentions these same desires
Galatians 5:17 ESV
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.
What are these desires? In one descriptive word: SELFISHNESS!
But back to our passage in verse 2, James intensifies his emotion by showing that unhindered desire is dangerous.
James 4:2 LEB
You desire and do not have; you murder and are filled with envy, and are not able to obtain; you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask.
It is, of course, highly unlikely that James is talking about literal murder here; however, it is not out of the realm of impossibility according to some commentators. James is likely just repeating his half-brother’s sentiment on anger using hyperbole.
Roger Ellsworth points out:
This lust for prominence led them to ‘murder’ one another. [...]
How can such a church advance the cause of Christ? It can’t. A church filled with anger and strife refutes its own message. It says to unbelievers, ‘Come to Christ, and he will change your life.’ And the unbelievers all around laugh and say, ‘Why is it that he has not changed you?’
How can such a church advance the cause of Christ? It can’t. A church filled with anger and strife refutes its own message. It says to unbelievers, ‘Come to Christ, and he will change your life.’ And the unbelievers all around laugh and say, ‘Why is it that he has not changed you?’
What piercing words would that be for our church to hear? What a price to pay for our selfishness! Let this not be true for Grace Baptist Church!
You could be thinking at this point, “Well, I will try better, but I can’t possibly control what so-and-so says” Albeit true, that does not negate the fact that a fight takes two to tango. if you always respond rightly despite a person’s harsh words to you, then at best, there is no quarrel and at worst, it just becomes one person’s rant rather than a fight.
A good example of this might be when you’re given unsolicited advice right outside your own home by a well-intended neighbor on how your kids are not as good as their kids and maybe they tell you how you should and shouldn’t punish your own kids, since, after all, they know your kids better anyway. However my flesh would crave a fight, if I were to respond rightly to a situation like this— perhaps it would be to lovingly take the time of showing what forms of discipline and principles are espoused in the Bible--there would be no fight, instead it would just be the neighbor blowing off “I’m better than you” pride steam.
On the night before our LORD was brutally crucified, the Christ spoke these words to his disciples: ().
On the night before he was crucified, the Lord Jesus spoke these words to his disciples: ‘A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another’ (). But what if the world does not see that love? There is only one conclusion left for the world to draw: these people are not disciples of Christ!
John 13:34–35 LEB
“A new commandment I give to you: that you love one another—just as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples—if you have love for one another.”
But what if the world, or even our neighbor does not see Christ-like love? There is only a couple conclusions for the world to draw: 1) straight out of Jesus’ mouth: these people are not disciples of Christ; or 2) worse yet, the Gospel is, at best ineffective, but, at worst, a lie. So really, your bickering can lead to the spread of the anti-gospel.
How very easy it is for us to fail here! How very easy it is to come to church to promote ourselves instead of Christ! How very difficult it is for us to see ourselves as we are!
To the evil of quarrelsomeness, James now adds …
So how do you suggest we go about this love? How do we conquer quarrels? First, drop ALL of your pride—yes all! And then tell yourself, “the person in front of me is better than me” and treat them that way. WHAT?!? better than me??where is that in scripture?
--Roger Ellsworth OUJ
Philippians 2:6–7 ESV
who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
Philippians 2:4 ESV
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Philippians 2:3–4 LEB
Do nothing according to selfish ambition or according to empty conceit, but in humility considering one another better than yourselves, each of you not looking out for your own interests, but also each of you for the interests of others.
WOW! What a radical passage! Imagine if every one of us here always treated each other as if the other person is genuinely better than ourselves! How many arguments would we see then? There would certainly not be any fights.
Phili 2
These quirky quintessential quarrels were not the only thing plaguing the church. They also had a problem in their prayer life.

II. Sloppy Supplications (v.3)

So James just said you do not have because you do not ask but now it looks like James is saying something contradictory.
James 4:3 LEB
You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, in order that you may spend it on your pleasures.
And while we know that all the words in scripture are inspired and inerrant, we also know that the verse separations are not inspired (at least not in the same way). This is one of the cases that maybe they could have done a better job at separating these verses. I would have put the end of verse 2 and verse 3 together, but here we are anyway.
To James, this asking thing is ‘Big Business’ with our Lord, you might recall in verse five of chapter one, he’s already said that we should ask for wisdom but he doesn’t just merely mention it, he tells us how we should ask (1:6) but here now he’s saying you are asking but you’re asking the wrong way.
Certainly, these people in the church wanted things similar to what we might ask for that only their (and our) Creator could provide; so I don't think the problem is what they were asking for it was how and why they were asking for it.
--Roger Ellsworth links the supposed contradictory asking and not asking:
James’s people needed their ‘wants’ fixed. They were wanting the wrong things as they came to church. They were wanting their own desires gratified.
There is nothing wrong with wanting things if the things we want are good and right. And if they are good and right, there is a way for us to get what we want—through prayer!
If we come to the church wanting prestige, we will pound on one another. If we come to the church wanting the Lord to be glorified and our fellow-Christians edified, we will pray for one another.
Because these people wanted the wrong things, they could not ask God for the right things. And because they were not asking God for the right things, they were not receiving anything from God; ‘… you do not have because you do not ask,’ James says[...]
This was not only a terrible indictment of them, it is also a terrible indictment of us. We do not have because we do not ask! [...]
[...]
Once again, we are supposed to be in agreement! We are supposed to believe that nothing is more important for the kingdom of God than prayer, but how many of us are truly giving it priority?
Opening Up James Worldliness (vv. 4–6)

Worldliness

Selfishness is abundant here also! It shows up even in our prayers! We come to God appearing to seek His glory, and we end up seeking our own, offering as our petitions those things that will make life more comfortable and convenient for us (hence v. 3). How many of us have ever prayed for YHWH to put us through worse trials, if so doing, he can gain greater glory for Himself? Instead, we tend to quickly rush our prayers through the adoration and glory of God part in order to fit in ample time for our selfish petitions. And YHWH will not listen!
; ; .
Psalm 66:18 ESV
If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.
Proverbs 28:9 ESV
If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.
Isaiah 59:1–3 ESV
Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies; your tongue mutters wickedness.
It would’ve been enough to chew on for awhile if James had stopped here with the rebuke and not gone any further. He has given us plenty to ponder and absorb. But this Apostle will not go easy out of fear of offending! He introduces yet another problem...

III. Whimsical Worldliness (v.4-5)

James 4:4–5 ESV
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?
James 4:4–6 ESV
4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
If there’s one thing we should know about James by now it is that he sure does not beat around the bush! But why the abrupt subject change again?
This actually makes sense that he would turn to the world because he concluded the previous chapter with the contrast of worldly wisdom to true, godly ‘hokma’ The unifying thing to these three subjects: quarrels, bad prayer, and now worldliness is that the church has succumbed to the wisdom from the world and why? because the church fell in love with the world—that is why James calls them adulterous!
Pastors today are terrified at the thought of offending their own congregation. James didn’t seem to care much about that. He calls them ‘adulterers and adulteresses’!
Ellsworth elaborates here:
[James] affirms that they were giving to someone else the love and devotion that belonged to God and God alone. Who was this rival lover? It was the world. These people were more in love with their world than they were with God!
The ‘world’ is James’s term for life that is lived as if this present world were all that there is. It is life that is lived without regard to God. It is life that is lived according to the values, desires and aspirations of this temporal realm. What is worldliness? It is thinking like the world, talking like the world, acting like the world, and dressing like the world.
This is the day of ‘worldly Christians’. But the problem is that true Christians cannot be continually worldly. Yes, Christians can and do slip into worldly behaviour from time to time. But that is a far cry from habitual worldliness. If the pattern of our lives is worldliness, we have plain evidence that we are deceived about our relationship with God.
The reason why the Christian cannot be habitually worldly is plain to see. James maintains that God has put in his people ‘the Spirit’ who ‘yearns jealously’. The Holy Spirit of God who earnestly desires that we give our devotion entirely to God will not let us go on in sin without running riot in our consciences!
And the same Lord who yearns for us gives us grace (v. 6). The world would prove to be too strong for us if the Lord of grace did not grant us grace for living in it. If we humbly seek his grace, he will not fail to give it. If we proudly reject it, God will set himself in battle array against us.
Many churches and individual Christians are in the clutches of these cut-throat ‘nesses’—quarrelsomeness, prayerlessness and worldliness. And the nastiest ‘ness’ of all—selfishness—is behind them. The way to defeat these villains is to cry out to God to help us.
The Holy Spirit will keep us from living worldly.
1 John 3:10–15 ESV
By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
As we get to the end of a sermon, we always ask the two word question: “So What?” well not today! Especially with the alliteration I’ve got going! Instead, we’ll end with:
Psalm 66:18 ESV
If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.
TO THINK ABOUT AND DISCUSS
Proverbs 28:9 ESV
If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.
1.2.
2. Take steps to get a small group of believers to pray with you for the thing that will break the ‘ness’ grip in our churches and individual lives: revival!
Isaiah 59:1–3 ESV
Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies; your tongue mutters wickedness.
-Roger OUJ
As we get to the end of a sermon, we always ask the two word question: “So What?” well not today! Especially with the alliteration I’ve got going! Instead, we’ll end with:

IV. Application Appeal (So What?)

James 4:6 ESV
But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Even with all that negative talk, James leaves us here today with hope found even in the OT! truly God’s grace is infinitely bigger than man’s sin!
don’t leave here this morning discouraged in sin thinking that you cannot change. Drop your pride that you’re too tough to change and humble yourself before our Lord to receive His grace.
The Apostle John summarizes well how we should continue today. What does John tell us about our fellow-Christians?
1 John 3:10–15 ESV
By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
So love one another! and if you cannot love someone, consider the emergent fact that you might not be in Christ.
Ask yourself today, “What kind of self-centered thing (or things) am I holding on to that wont allow me to consider others—even enemies—better than me?” then ask “What can I do to drop that selfish thing?” maybe for you it’s a wrong idea or maybe it’s Self Indulgence that holds you back in sin. whatever it is, you must die to it daily and live for Christ
Do an inventory Which ‘ness’ has the firmest grip on your life? What can you do to break that grip?
Also grab an accountability partner, someone you could pray with and share how you’re doing with your sin struggles.
Take steps to get a small group of believers to pray with you for the thing that will break you from the grasp of your sin struggle and get them to pray with you about their struggles, and then who knows? maybe something amazing will happen, like revival!
Conclusion:
nclusion:
What good could our church do if we can get free and stay free of the enemy of selfishness?
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