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"When Worship Turns to War!"

James: Faith that Works  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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James 4:1–3 CSB
What is the source of wars and fights among you? Don’t they come from your passions that wage war within you? You desire and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and wage war. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.
Someone once said the greatest testimony of Christianity is Christians. He went on to say that the worst testimony of Christianity is Christians.
A Florida State Policeman in Florida once remarked to me that the worst brawl they ever had to break up was at a Church-league softball game!
Thanks to YouTube, you can spend too much time watching stories of, “Church Fights!”
OUR NEW awareness of the many contemporary church fights should not lead us to conclude that this is something UNIQUE to our generation!
2 Corinthians 12:20 CSB
For I fear that perhaps when I come I will not find you to be what I want, and you may not find me to be what you want. Perhaps there will be quarreling, jealousy, angry outbursts, selfish ambitions, slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorder.
Yes, there have always been conflicts among God’s people!
Apparently, James had first-hand knowledge of conflicts among the churches to which he writes.
It’s important to make the connection between (James 3:13-18)and (James 4:1-10)
BOTH begin with a rhetorical question: (3:13; 4:1) and BOTH provide the answer to the question.
The RESULTS of God’s wisdom in our lives is peace and fruits of righteousness!
BUT, the wisdom of the world also has a by-product!
When the world’s wisdom is practiced in the church, it will bring about the results we are about to see.

I. The SOURCE of CONFLICT in the CHURCH – (4:1)

James uses TWO questions to challenge his readers.
· He first asks his readers to IDENTIFY the SOURCE of their quarrels and fights – (v.1a)
· He then gives them the ANSWER – (v.1b)
Some scholars have translated the phrase, “among you” as “in you!”
They insist that this is not a struggle BETWEEN people, but rather is a struggle WITHIN people!
Practically speaking, the two ideas cannot be completely separated!
External struggles are symptoms of internal struggles.
A person who is not at peace with himself or herself find it difficult to be at peace with others!
Whether BETWEEN or WITHIN us, the CAUSE is the same!
“…your passions” “…desires for pleasure” – from the Greek, “hedone” from which we get the English, “hedonism!”
It denotes the enjoyment derived from the fulfillment of one’s desires…the craving for the pleasures itself!
The Bible has much to say about seeking pleasure as the ultimate good:
2 Peter 2:12–14 CSB
But these people, like irrational animals—creatures of instinct born to be caught and destroyed—slander what they do not understand, and in their destruction they too will be destroyed. They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. They consider it a pleasure to carouse in broad daylight. They are spots and blemishes, delighting in their deceptions while they feast with you. They have eyes full of adultery that never stop looking for sin. They seduce unstable people and have hearts trained in greed. Children under a curse!
Hebrews 11:24–25 CSB
By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter and chose to suffer with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasure of sin.
Titus 3:3 CSB
For we too were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved by various passions and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, detesting one another.
Luke 8:14 CSB
As for the seed that fell among thorns, these are the ones who, when they have heard, go on their way and are choked with worries, riches, and pleasures of life, and produce no mature fruit.


There are THREE characteristics of conflict among God’s people:

A. Unsatisfied Pleasure – (v.2a) – “You desire and do not have…”

Pleasure NEVER gives full satisfaction because no matter how much you have, you will always want more!
The end result is dramatic and shocking – (v.2b)“You murder...”

B. Uncontrolled Passion – (v.2c) – “You […] covet and cannot obtain…”

No matter how badly you want something, it remains out of your reach! The resulting miserable condition also has dramatic results: “…so you fight and wage war.”
IN SPITE of the slug-fest in Newton, MA, it is still hard to comprehend a fist-fight, or worse, murder actually taking place in a church fellowship!
HOWEVER, history has proven that in insatiable desire for more can often lead to murder!
· David murdered Uriah because of his lust for Bathsheba – (2 Sam 11:2-17)
· Ahab murdered Naboth because of his desire for a vineyard – (1 Kings 21:1-13)
Murder is the EXTREME to which frustrated desire may lead!
David Jeremiah writes in his commentary:
The steps of the process are simple and terrible. A man allows himself to desire something. That thing begins to dominate his thoughts; he finds himself involuntarily thinking about it in his waking hours and dreaming of it when he sleeps. It begins to be what is aptly called a ruling passion. He begins to form imaginary schemes to obtain it; and these schemes may well involve ways of eliminating those who stand in his way. For long enough all this may go on in his mind. Then one day the imagining may blaze into action; and he may find himself taking the terrible steps necessary to obtain his desire. Every crime in this world has come from desire which was first only a feeling in the heart, but which being nourished long enough, came in the end to action.

C. Unanswered Prayer – (v.3)

1. The PRACTICE of Prayer is FUTILE(v.3a) - “You ask and don’t receive…”

Instead of turning to God who is the giver of every perfect gift, they try to get what they want through their own efforts!
In the process of self-effort, the practice of prayer is further eroded. God doesn’t seem to answer, so you stop praying!

2. The MOTIVE for Prayer is SELFISH DESIRES – (v.3b)“…you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.”

Deep down a person knows God is not pleased with his or her desire for pleasure and because of guilt, prayer is further diminished!
In the FIRST CASE, there is no receiving because there has been no asking.
In this instance, there is no receiving because the asking is done with wrong motives!
The late Dr. Criswell wrote,
God refuses to listen to men who eagerly pursue selfish pleasures. Greed is idolatry and that is an abomination in the sight of God. God does not listen to prayer that comes from a heart filled with selfish motives. Covetousness and selfishness are insults to God.


Since I endeavor to follow the principle of “no rebuke without a remedy,” I’d like to provide at least FIVE guidelines for answered prayer from the NT:

1. We are to ASK IN FAITH – (James 1:6)

2. We are to PRAY IN JESUS’ NAME – (John 16:24)

3. We are to PRAY ACCORDING TO GOD’S WILL – (1 John 5:14)

4. We are to BE IN RIGHT RELATIONSHIPS with others – (1 Peter 3:7)

5. We must have NO UNCONFESSED SIN in our lives – (Psalm 66:18)

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