The Book of James Message Ten

V. Instructions on Humility. James 4:1-5:6

A. Covetousness. James 4:1-10

James addresses the recipients as “my brethren” fifteen times throughout this letter. The Holy Spirit kept them before him, making this intensely personal for James.

You might ask “why is it so important to determine that this letter was written to believers”? It is important because it seems that the exhortation in Chapter Four should be written to the unsaved, not the saved! But is is written to Christians and we need to read it carefully and prayerfully! Do we see ourselves condemned by these words?

1. Revealed the problem. James 4:1a
“Whence come wars and whence come fightings among you”?
We should review these questions as we begin –

Are there times that there is –
Dissension in the church?
Division in the church?
Disturbance in the church?

The answer is certain – yes to each.

Does God condemn this activity in His church? The answer is again – yes!

Romans 16:17 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them that are causing the divisions and occasions of stumbling, contrary to the doctrine which ye learned: and turn away from them.

2 Thessalonians 3:6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which they received of us.

2 Thessalonians 3:14 And if any man obeyeth not our word by this epistle, note that man, that ye have no company with him, to the end that he may be ashamed.

What do we do if we are that person? or to put it more personally – “What do I do if I am that person”?
We need to identify the cause and then provide the solution. This is what James has done –

2. Recognized the cause. James 4:1-5
James uses two words that are translated ‘lust’ in these five verses. We need to understand that these words can be used in a good as well as bad way depending on the context. ‘Lust’ is also translated ‘desire’ and we see the good use of the word in James 4:5 and in the following verses –

Matthew 13:17 For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.

1 Timothy 3:1 This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
The word used in its evil context is ‘lust’ translated from the word ‘hedone’ (hay doe nay) which means pleasure or pleasures. Men seeking to please the flesh. The word is used in this connection in James 4:1 and 4:3.

James deals with the cause of the sinful actions of men by revealing –

a. Their Covetousness. 4:1b

1 Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

2 Timothy 4:10 “…For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica…”

b. Their Conflict. 4:1c,2
James rebukes this rebellion against the will of God. Note the contrast between the perfect will of God and the perverted will of man –

1). The perfect will of God.

Ephesians 4:1-3 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

2). The perverted will of man. 4:1c,2

a). They fight among themselves –
“…war in your members…”, “…ye kill and desire to have…”, “…ye fight and war…”
b). They forget the Lord who has purchased them with His own blood.
“…yet ye have not, because ye ask not.”
At times they will remember God’s promise of provision and blessing and their actions in the flesh will simply increase –

c. Their Confusion. 4:3

James charges them that in their frustration and desire to have, they even call upon the Lord in prayer to get what they want! The seek God’s assistance to gain power and prosperity to enhance their own standing, seeking to glorify self.

1). In the name of Jesus according to the will of God –

1 John 5:14-15 And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.

Or –

2). In the name of Jabez?

1 Chronicles 4:10 And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested.
About fifteen years ago a man wrote a book instructing people in how to control God. He promised that if one read his book once each week and prayed this prayer each day, God would give the desires of the person.

This prayer was a spontaneous prayer from Jabez to God, not a model prayer for all. Jesus taught the disciples and us how to pray and He did not refer us to Jabez!

People became excited and took up this prayer to enable them to get what they wanted from God, not thinking about what God wanted for them. James is speaking of this kind of prayer – “… Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.”

d. Their Condemnation. 4:4 “Ye adulterers and adulteresses…” Unfaithful to God!
e. Their Conviction. 4:5

The struggle in the believer between the flesh and the Spirit.

1). The believer should be convinced that he is a child of God.

Romans 8:16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

2). The believer should be convicted that God’s will is right for his life.

Galatians 5:17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

3). The believer should be consistent in his submission to the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 5:18-21 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

Are you saved? Are you sure?

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About sjbjburke

I am an evangelist that enjoys Bible study and I look forward to posting outlines and receiving helpful comments. My wife and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary in 2010 and we enjoy serving the Lord together.
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