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Misplaced Passions-James 4_1-3

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Misplaced Passions

James 4:1-3


The Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov spent a summer in the 1940s in Alta, Utah. Nabokov collected butterflies. Other than writing, butterflies were his passion. He was absolutely driven in his quest to add to his collection of different species. Nabokov was passionate about assembling the finest collection of butterflies that the world had ever known. So great was his passion, he would be out in the fields at dawn and not return until evening.

One night at dinner, he commented that he had spent the day at Bear Gulch. He had made some tremendous finds. But throughout the day he kept hearing a horrible groaning coming out of the gulch.

His friend asked him, “Did you go and check out what it was?”

“No,” replied Nabokov, “I have never seen such butterflies. I couldn’t be distracted from my task.”

The next day, the body of an old prospector was found in the canyon, just yards from where Nabokov had been throughout the day.

·         We all have passions.  What are you passionate about?

·         If I were to think for a moment I would have to say that things that get me going are my family, flying my helicopter, camping, studying Scripture, cars and preaching.

·         Did you know that there is a motivation behind every passion?

·         My passion for my family is because I love them and have a desire to see them do well.

·         My passion for flying my helicopter comes from the exhilaration of seeing an object in flight and the desire to be good enough so I don’t embarrass myself.

·         My passion for camping comes from wanting to commune with God’s creation but also because it is a place where fulfill a need to relax.

·         My passion for studying Scripture comes from wanting to understand God better so I can honor him more but also because I like to know that I know a lot of theology.

·         My passion for cars comes from finding them exciting works of art but also because I like the feeling of prestige that comes with keeping a nice car.

·         My passion for preaching comes from the desire God has placed in me to do so, but there is also the desire at times to seek authority and power through speaking.

·         Every passion you and I have has a reason behind it.  Sometimes they are good and sometimes they are not.

·         Many or our passions can lead us to have the wrong priorities and cause us to over look what should be our true passion.

·         James 4:1-3 talks about passions that are not so good that diminish the Christian faith and hurt the church.  These destructive passions have a motivator behind them that causes conflict and quarrels.

·         What he wants to teach us today is that we need to be aware of our illegitimate passions and replace them with the heart of God so that the church can function as Christ intended.

The Source of Problems (4:1)

4:1 Where do the conflicts and where do the quarrels among you come from? Is it not from this, from your passions that battle inside you?

·         There is one thing that can be counted on when two or more people get together and that is there is the potential for disagreement.

·         If you want to avoid conflict I suggest that you find a secluded part of the world and never have contact with another person.

·         In this life conflict is going to happen.  It is going to happen in your job, it will happen in your marriage or family, it will happen between friends and it will happen in the church.

·         James has concluded his previous passage by stating that wisdom from God will provide peace between God and his people and between those who follow Christ.

·         So then he comes with another question based on what he has observed and seen coming from the church.

·         Why do we as people claiming a common faith in Christ fight?

·         What is it that is so important to us that we are willing to hurt another person?

·         Why are you willing to embrace wisdom from below?

·         Why are you acting out of jealousy and selfishness?

·         Why is there damaging speech, slanderous accusations, unrestrained anger, backbiting, and hate among you?

·         James was addressing what was going in the church and we need to ask ourselves if we see things as being altogether better than back then?  Have we matured over times so that these things are not happening or will potentially happen at any time?

·         The people in James’ day were deeply passionate people who had undergone persecution, had fled for their lives and endured unspeakable hardships because of Christ.

·         They had every reason to be strong willed and tenacious about what was important to them.

·         And so it is with us, we often have invested much in our church and we have much at stake.  We have given our time, gifts, heart and money to something that is deep within us and we will fight for what is ours.

·         The problem is not with passion, the error is when we allow sinful passions to disguise themselves as things that are good for the church.

·         There is a battle going on, a war between people.  This war has one or more people with distinct agenda’s and desires from those who have another set of passions and desires.  Each person or group thinks they know what is best but as James points out they come from sinful passions.

·         James is emphasizing that these passions are in direct opposition to what God would have, they come from a lust for power, popularity, pride, and authority.

·         For believers to operate without humility, seeking personal agenda’s, hoping for authority and power, desiring popularity and public acclaim and embracing pride we will have a church that has no end of problems.

·         Do you have a particular dream or wish for our church?  Do you desire for certain things to happen?  Do you make it a point in private conversation or in public forums to declare your agenda?  If it is not based on the Word of God but on your personal past pain or ambitions you need to stop.

·         Would you like to have authority and power?  Do you privately hope that you can have a place of leadership and control within the church?  Do you wonder how you can come into such positions?  Do you question the leadership because you believe you could get it right?  If you are not called to humble service then you need to stop.

·         Are you in a place of leadership and find your self addressing differing opinions?  Have you trouble trying to meet everyone’s needs, moving from one position to another?  To seek popularity with people causes fights and neglects to seek popularity with Christ first and foremost.

·         Have you invested your time in this church?  Have you given up opportunities and programs for this church?  Have you invested your abilities and gifts to serve this church?  Have you taken your hard earned money and placed it in the offering?

·         Then this is your place, you have an investment in it, you should have ownership and pride in the place you attend, right?

·         Wrong…this is not your church and it is not my church….this church belongs to Christ and as such we need to set aside our passions for the passions of Christ.

·         As we will learn in the following message, God desires our submission.  When our passion is to submit to Christ it changes our quarrelling and conflict into unity.

·         We will be unified in the use our gifts,  we will be unified in our giving, we will be in agreement on programs, the leadership structure on the church, we will desire to serve one another, reach out with the Gospel and serve the community.

·         When we seek God’s passion we will never fight over beliefs (we may not all agree but we will not fight), we will not allow sin to persist and infect us, we will always love, always seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit, always hope to do what is best in the eyes of God for his glory and our sanctification.

·         The church with misplaced passions cannot please God.

The heart must have something to cling to—and never, by its voluntary consent, will the heart so detach itself from all its attachments that there shall not be one remaining object that can draw its attention or solicit its affections. The love of the world cannot be removed by a mere demonstration of the world’s worthlessness. The only way to dispossess the heart of an old affection is by the expulsive power of a new affection. We know of no other way by which to keep the love of the world out of our hearts than to keep in our hearts the love of God.
- Thomas Chalmers

·         What is it that you cling to?  Is your affection for that which brings you earthy satisfaction or are you clinging with affection to the heart of God?

·         The church and Christian life that is pleasing to God can only set its passion upon Christ.

The Outcome of Passions (4:2a)

4:2 You desire and you do not have; you murder and envy and you cannot obtain; you quarrel and fight.

·         So we all desire at one time or another, or consistently to have things go our way.  If we allow our natural inclination to take over this will be the result.

·         Quarrels and fights are avoided by three ways. First if we live secluded without contact with others we avoid the fight.  If we always have the ability to have our way or every one agrees willingly or unwillingly there is no fight.  The third way to avoid quarrelling is to submit to Christ.

·         James places a focus on the second concept by stating that all of the troubles between people that occur in the church are because you have an agenda and you cannot have it fulfilled.

·         There will always be another person, or group or concept that will block you from what you want when your passions are focusing on what you want.

·         It is debated whether James is referring to actual murder or it symbolically.

·         Scripturally we find in Matt. 5:21-22 that Jesus refers to hatred in your heart as the equivalent to the actual act of murder.

·         Some scholars would argue that in a time when killing was one way to solve a dispute, James may very well be indicating that people in the church were being murdered by those who were pursuing their passions.

·         Regardless, James makes the point that people were hating each other in order to get what they wanted.

·         Will we become a church that allows its people to “kill’ one another in order to see an agenda accomplished?

·         Will we ostracize, humiliate, and ignore others because they question us?

·         So why would a person be blocked from getting what they want and be envious?

·         If your agenda is to have power and authority, if it is to be popular, if it to have your programs in place, your style of building or music or preaching or dress become normal in the church you have in part taken this because you see it from others.

·         You may see what you want from other church members but more times than not, you seek and envy the things and advantages that are presented in this world.

·         So you fight and quarrel and kill to have what pleases you but in the end you either cannot have it, you are blocked by God or other people or it does not produce the results you desired.

·         But we do not give up, we continue to claw and scratch our way hoping, and striving to get what we want and in the midst of this all, people leave the church, people forsake Christ, people are not saved, people are not encouraged, people are used as pawns and people are diminished as precious creations of God.

·         To truly get what you want, you need to change the focus from what pleases you in your own estimation to seeking what God would want.

·         I can get everything my heart desires as long it is in keeping with the holy Word and the mind of Christ.

·         A church leader’s inner desire is to maintain control.  When another person proposes a ministry that would be in keeping with the will of God and help to further the kingdom of God he or she may listen to the proposal and even seem to give assent.

·         In other meetings this church leader may explain how this would jeopardize some other avenue when in reality this other avenue has little validity.  Instead of sharing the concern with the person who proposed the ministry, the leader discredits the person and makes it seem like the person who made the proposal was trying to bypass the proper channels of the church.

·         The ministry opportunity is lost and the leader appears to have maintained his control that came from wanting to have the credit for the success of the church.

·         Over time this pattern continues and the leader’s intention and heart begin to be revealed, people start leaving the church and eventually the leader can no longer stay because of lost integrity.

·         Sound far fetched…in fact something similar happened to me.  It happens and can happen here if we place our own desires before God’s desires.

Man finds it hard to get what he wants, because he does not want the best; God finds it hard to give, because He would give the best, and man will not take it.

—George MacDonald

The Solution for Problems (4:2b-3)

You do not have because you do not ask; 4:3 you ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly, so you can spend it on your passions.

·         Let’s face the facts…we all desire things.  We all would have things go a certain way in our families, jobs and church.

·         We can even catch ourselves stating that if I was in charge I wouldn’t have these kind of troubles.

·         No, you may not but you would have your own set of issues.

·         The problem and the reason that things do not go as we would want is because often what we want is not what God would want.

·         James say that we do not have the desires of our heart because we do not ask…but what about James 1:5-6 where it says that we will get what we ask for?

·         The key to getting want you want is to always want what God wants to give.

·         The answer to your prayers can always be yes or possibly wait.  They do not have to be no.

·         The key to getting an affirming answer from God is to always desire that which God desires.

·         God knows that often what we want for ourselves is nothing more than to gratify our own passions.

·         Verse 3 gives us a hint especially if we remember what James talked about at the end of chapter three.

·         As believers it should be our aim to seek the wisdom that comes from God.

·         The only way that we will even want this wisdom is if we recognize our need for God and are willing to submit to his authority in our life.

·         Then and only then will we seek his wisdom.

·         When we seek his wisdom he will give it and in turn we will understand what our true passions should be.

·         When we understand what our true passions should be then we can pray for the power from the Holy Spirit to keep our attention squarely on God.

·         When we take action in keeping with Godly desires through prayer he will accomplish that which was asked because it is what he wanted to do in the first place.

·         We do not have to be disappointed, we just need to change our priorities.

·         Did you ever think that you do not get what you want because either it is not what God wants, or he wants you to wait or possibly because he needs you to learn something before you get it?

·         In our church we can ask for growth, members, more programs, more money, we can ask for a building and fancy equipment but we should not get any of those things if we ask for them because deep down inside I want to fulfill my own passions.

·         James says you do not receive because you ask wrongly.  This could mean two things; you ask for the wrong things entirely or you ask for the right things but with the wrong motives.

·         Asking with the wrong desires is one of our biggest problems.  We can look holy and righteous because what we want is people to come to Christ, we want a building to worship in, we want ministries that attract people, we want Bible Studies because we want to grow in our faith.

·         But if we ask for any of these things without a pure heart that desires only what God wants then we ask for things that God should not give us.

·         So how do we know what a proper desire is?  A proper desire seeks to see others elevated, does not envy or boast, does not want prestige or power.  It does not want authority for authority’s sake but to serve for the sake of others.

·         Above all else it wants all praise of people and success to be directed to God.

·         But the human inclination is to push ahead anyway because our desires lead us along and we end up tearing the church apart causing damage that will have a ripple effect for the next hundred years.

When Norman was a boy, he found a big, black cigar, slipped into an alley, and lit up. It didn’t taste good, but it made him feel very grown up…until he saw his father coming. Quickly he put the cigar behind his back and tried to be casual. Desperate to divert his father’s attention, Norman pointed to a billboard advertising the circus.  “Can I go, Dad? Please, let’s go when it comes to town.”  His father’s reply taught Norman a lesson he never forgot.  “Son, he answered quietly but firmly, “never make a petition while at the same time trying to hide a smoldering disobedience.”

·         When we desire things against God’s will even if they appear holy, God cannot grant us our request.

·         The results…an inclination to move ahead without God that rips the Christian family apart.


·         We have a golden opportunity as believers, as Christian families and as a church that want to follow Christ.

·         We can see great things happen.

·         But then we can also spend the rest our lives seeking what we want.

·         I think it is the best interest of our church and our personal faith that we examine our passions.

·         What consumes us…and I am not even talking about things.

·         What is at the root of it all, what really gratifies us?

·         Do we think that it would be fame, prestige, power, authority, to be needed, praise of people, and so on?

·         James is clear that anything outside of God’s will only leads to murderous fighting and in the end when the smoke clears and the dust settles and air is quiet we realize that we still do not have what we want.

·         What we really want is God…but we can be unwilling to submit our wills in order to get him.

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