Three Enemies of My Rebuild
Passages: James 4:1-10
Calvary Baptist Church of Holland
The Church @ Hamilton
Sunday, March 5, 2017
Key Goals: (Know) Understand that there are enemies to our rebuild. (Feel) Feel compelled to fight for our relationship with God. (Do) Obey the commands of James 4.
Introduction: Antisthenes, (Greek: Ἀντισθένης; c. 445 – c. 365 BCE), a Greek philosopher and a pupil of Socrates, said this about enemies: “Pay attention to your enemies, for they are the first to discover your mistakes.” The book of James has been helping us rebuild our lives. James has taught us to be doers of the word and not just hearers, to put our faith into action with works, and to control our tongue. This morning, though, James is going to warn us of some enemies—three enemies in a death match against you rebuilding your life.
Have you ever found out the hard way that you have an enemy? This happened to the U.S. on Dec. 7th 1941 when Japan sneak-attacked Pearl Harbor. We were not at war with Japan; we were fighting the Nazis until 7:48 a.m. Hawaiian Time. The base was attacked by 353 Imperial Japanese fighter planes, bombers, and torpedo planes launched from six aircraft carriers. By the end of the battle, all eight U.S. Navy battleships were damaged and four were sunk. The Japanese also sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship, and one minelayer. 188 U.S. aircraft were destroyed, 2,403 Americans were killed and 1,178 others were wounded. “Pay attention to your enemies, for they are the first to discover your mistakes.” Let’s focus in on the three enemies lurking to sabotage your rebuild.
1. The Enemy Called Hedonism (verses 1-3)
James 4:1–10 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.
One Greek word appears twice in this passage, in verses 1 and 3, and it is the word “hedone.” It can be translated as passions or pleasures. Hedone describes that internal part of us that covets and craves feeling good. Our word hedonism comes from this Greek word. Hedonism is the uncontrolled personal desire to fulfill every passion, craving, or lust one experiences regardless of the cost or consequences. Pure hedonists are completely self-centered. Paul described them best in 2 Timothy 3:2–4 as lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful…heartless, unappeasable…without self-control…reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. That is pure hedonism, but most of us are not pure hedonists, right? That would be socially unacceptable. I worry instead about the hedonism that lurks in our hearts, well hidden from public view. Look at the question James asks, What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not your passions? The word is hedone—isn’t it your hedonism? Isn’t it because you want more, to be right, to feel good, to be first, what someone else has?
Hedonism destroys personal relationships (v1-2) Fighting, quarreling, even murder: these are the words that James uses to describe the interpersonal relationships of those who pursue hedone—their own lusts or passions. Students, if you constantly fight or quarrel with your parents, look hard at this passage; James is telling you it is because of your pleasure-loving heart. You would rather have your way than your parents’ wisdom. A godly monogamous marriage is a prison cell to a person pursuing hidden lusts. They are not content to have their own spouse; they want someone else’s too. So they flirt, scheme, and secretly text or Snapchat to feed their lust for more. Then they wonder why they fight with their spouse. Forget giving, serving, or caring for family or those in need. The hedonist doesn’t have nearly enough money to cover even half of what they covet. The selfish pleasure-seeker slowly demolishes every relationship in their lives, one selfish fight at a time.
Hedonism also destroys our prayer life (v2-3) Look where James goes next. 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. A person who is bent on feeding their lusts doesn’t pray because they know what they want is either sinful or in excess. If they do pray, their prayers are not heard because they are asking God to feed their insatiable lust for more. The psalmist had the answer for what will truly satisfy our hearts. Psalm 37:4 says Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Delight here has the idea of deep satisfaction mixed with a happy contentment. Be satisfied in the Lord and all your other desires will fall into their proper place, and you will have all that you could ever desire. Here is a nugget to chew on: rebuilding the relationships in our lives may be as simple as replacing our lust for created things with a deep satisfaction in the one who created them.
2. The Enemy Called Spiritual Adultery (verses 4-6)
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.”
I am not a scholar, but I need to tell you that I deeply struggle with how these three verses are translated in the ESV. Verse 4 begins with a reference to adultery. James turns on his audience. He is no longer just warning about the destructiveness of our lusts, he calls his readers adulterers—spiritual adulterers—being in a covenant relationship with one person and loving someone else. My struggle is with the word “friend.” Friends don’t commit adultery against one another. The word is love, philo as in Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. James, in a very strong tone, is telling us that being in love with an adulteress (in this case the world) places us in a hostile state with God.
The question James would want us to ask ourselves is this, “Am I married to God or the world?” Imagine a couple that gets married, and a week later the husband says, “I’m going out tonight with my old girlfriend. I love you, but I want to keep in touch with her, too!” Would that work? No! When we get married, we vow to “forsake all others” and be exclusively devoted to our spouse. In the same way, when we put our faith in Jesus Christ, it is an exclusive relationship. Old love relationships need to be put off. We are either in a love relationship with the world and an enemy of God, or in a love relationship with God and an enemy of the world. Jesus said the same thing when he was talking about money. Luke 16:13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. When Jesus was talking with the rich young ruler (Matt 19:16-22) and the young man asked Jesus what he needed to do to be saved, Jesus shocked everyone when he told him to sell all that he had. Because everyone knows that selling stuff doesn’t get you into heaven. His issue was not stuff, it was spiritual adultery—he loved his stuff more than God.
If we are going to rebuild, we will have to address the adulteresses in our lives. Do you have a lover—a mistress to your relationship with God? Is it your job? Sports? Your children? A habit? A drug or substance? All of these things can become loves that get in the way of our relationship with Jesus. Rebuilding our lives will take making Jesus the lover of our soul. Jesus does not want to be one of the “great loves of your life.” He was pretty pointed about this. Matthew 10:37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Deuteronomy 6:5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. James says your love of the world is making you an enemy of God.
3. The Enemy Called the Devil (verses 7-10)
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
The universe God has created has both a physical and a spiritual realm. We often assume that what we see of this world is all there is, but the Bible clearly communicates that there is much more going on than meets the eye. In 2 Kings 6 there is an interesting moment in Elisha’s life. Syria had been trying to attack Israel and Elisha had been warning Israel before every attack, thwarting the king of Syria’s plans. So the king decided to send his army to kill Elisha. Elisha’s servant opened the door one morning to find the entire Syrian army surrounding the house. In terror he called to Elisha, “What will we do?” Calmly Elisha said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 2 Kings 6:17 There is an entire spiritual realm that we rarely think about, and in that realm are rulers and powers that are dark and evil who seek to destroy our relationship with God. Satan’s singular mission is to prevent or disrupt your bond with God. We know three specific ways he tries to do this: by tempting us to sin, by accusing us before God, and by trying to thwart the divine plan of salvation. He is a real enemy and we are in a real battle, so like a good commander, James gives us a series of commands.
a. Submit yourself/humble yourself before God. (v6-7) God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. The word “submit” was a military term which meant “to arrange oneself under command.” The idea is for us to arrange ourselves under God’s direction rather than live according to our own desires or direction. You want to rebuild? Humble yourself and begin arranging your life according to God’s direction, not your own.
b. Resist the devil (v7) Resist the devil and he will flee from you. The idea of “resist” is to refuse to bow. Refuse to give an inch. If you give the devil an inch, he will take a mile. Refuse to bow.
c. Draw near to God (v8) Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. This verse is at the heart of the idea of “rebuilding” and is James’ call for us to come back to God. It summarized the “prodigal son” story—God the Father is always waiting with open arms for us to return to him. Rebuild by drawing near.
d. Cleanse and purify yourself (v8) Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. These two commands are directly related to the spiritual adultery James referenced earlier. We can’t rebuild if we are double minded or have two lovers. Rebuilding will take repentance and purifying ourselves from the sin that splits our heart from God.
e. Be wretched (v9) Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. One of the dangers of American Christianity is that we always want to feel good. Most Americans think that the measure of a “good day” at church is to walk out feeling good about ourselves. That is fine some days, but not if we just realized we have an adulterous love relationship with something that is not God. Then we have to do something about it. Feeling guilty, grieving, and morning over our sin is not a bad thing; it is a good thing. It is actually one of the ministries of the Holy Spirit. 2 Corinthians 7:10 tells us that there is a godly grief that produces repentance that leads to salvation without regret. In other words, there are times when we need to just sit for a moment and grieve and let that grief lead us to repentance. I think this is why David wrote Psalm 51. David wrote it just after he committed adultery with Bathsheba. He was not feeling good about his relationship with God. Listen to Psalm 51:1–10 (NIV84).
1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.
5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.
7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Calvary, if we are going to rebuild our lives, we need to realize that it will be a war against our internal passions, our external spiritual adulteresses, and a supernatural devil. So draw near to God, purify yourself, and even allow yourself to grieve; let that sorrow bring you to repentance.
© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland
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Community Group Questions
1. Read James 4:1-10 and discuss the parts of this passage that speak to your soul.
2. Discuss hedonism. Is this a word you are familiar with? Has hedone caused you to be in a quarrel or fight?
3. How does a person know if they are a “spiritual adulterer?”
4. Discuss the devil. Do you think about the spiritual realm? Why/Why not?
5. Discuss the command to “be wretched.” How do we balance sorrow for our sin with the need to rejoice in the Lord always?
 All Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.