James 4:1-10

“A new movie, “Fight Church,” raises the unusual question: “Can you love your neighbor while kneeing him in the face?” (Source: ABC news, abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/church-fight-club-pits-pastor-pastor-23188184
The documentary, by directors Daniel Junge and Bryan Storkel, is about pastors who practice mixed martial arts with their parishioners. These pastors claim that Jesus was a tough guy and that mixed martial arts helps bring in people who connect with the toughness of boxing.

The news media picked up on this story because it seems quite inconsistent to place church and fighting in the same context. At least in this situation, ABC news is right. Fighting doesn’t belong in the church, either in the “Octagon Arena” of mixed martial arts, or among those of us who call ourselves Christian.

James addresses the issues of FIGHTING in the CHURCH in JAMES 4.

“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 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. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 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”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” (James 4:1–10, ESV)

Really, James 4:1-10 extends the thought from James 3:13-18 concerning EARTHLY WISDOM and HEAVENLY WISDOM. When we follow worldly wisdom, the evidence will be demonstrate in the quarrels and fights that occur in our churches and in our other relationships. Fights among Christians come from the selfishness that is within our hearts.

We will examine the problem that James addresses by using medical terminology. First, we see the SYMPTOMS that were present in the Churches to whom James was written. Second, we will see the SOURCE of these symptoms – our fleshly nature. Third, we will discover the SOLUTION to our fighting and discontent lives. This solution is found in God’s grace and is activated in our lives through humility.

So first, let’s examine the SYMPTIOMS.
There is a very strong “WE” factor in this passage. While it is difficult to recognize from the English translation, it should be noted that all of the pronouns in this passage are plural. That means that James is writing about the fighting and quarrels that exist in the church. These fights and quarrels (4:1) ultimately stem from our inner passions – a reference to our sinful nature that rests within us (Romans 8:4; Galatians 5:13-16).

The words “fights and quarrels (4:1) refer to
“fights” =”state of war,” polemoi)
“quarrels” = individual disputes or “battles,” J. Ronald Blue, “James,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 829.

But external fighting is not the only demonstration that we are following worldly wisdom. Another symptom is unfulfilled desires. This is found in the phrase “you desire and do not have.” “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.” (James 4:2, ESV). Many Christians are dissatisfied with life and pursue one ambition after another in search of contentment. If we are not seeking heavenly wisdom, we will continually seek satisfaction from the things of the world – possessions, affirmation, relationships, pleasure or success.

The result of a life of unfulfilled desires is that we end up so frustrated that we are driven to murder. James was implying that all of these Christians had killed a human being. Rather, he is indicating that our frustrations lead us to destructive actions, the most horrible of all being physical murder.

Next, let’s use our medical analogy to examine The SOURCE of these actions. Pure and simple, it is Selfishness!
“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 4:4–5, ESV)

“You adulterous people….” James is speaking about spiritual adultery. Like the Christians in Ephesus, we have left our first love and gone after another (Revelation 2″1-7). Simply put, we forget about God while we pursue another’s love. In his book, “Disciplines of a Godly Man,” Kent Hughes provides the following quotation: “Dietrich Bonhoeffer made the observation that when lust takes control, “At this moment God . . . loses all reality. . . . Satan does not fill us with hatred of God, but with forgetfulness of God.” Hughes, R. Kent (2007-05-01). Disciplines of a Godly Man (Kindle Locations 333-334). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

God does not accept our adulterous behavior. If he is truly God, then exclusive worship to him is required. James writes, “Friendship with the world is enmity with God.” Are you God’s Enemy? If you are following worldly wisdom, you are God’s enemy. If God is God, then he has the right to demand complete devotion.

Finally, The SOLUTION to this malady that demonstrates itself in fights and quarrels. The solution is God’s Grace.
“But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”” (James 4:6, ESV)

The Cure is not from ourselves or from others. God must provide it.

The Cure is only provided when we FILL the PRESCRIPTION, and the prescription is Humility toward God and toward others.

James points this out in a series of imperatives that begin and end with humility.
God gives grace to the humble
Submit yourselves to God
Draw near to God
Cleanse hands
Purify heart
Mounr and weep over sin
Humble. (Mentioned first and last)

How do we humble ourselves? I would like to illustrate the personal significance of humility to God and to others by use of this self-diagnostic Tool developed in 1955 by Joseph Luft, Harrington Ingham

The tool utilizes two factors to determine your degree of openness or transparency. On the top axis are two boxes related to how well you know yourself. The right column is for areas that are unknown to yourself. The left column is for areas that you know about yourself.

On the left axis are two more categories. These relate to how well people know you. The first is areas where people know the real you. Below that are areas of your life that others do not know about.

By complete these boxes and filling in the areas of your life, you come up with four different categories. There are things that you know about yourself and that others know about you. This quadrant of your life is known as transparency. This is the visible you.

Next to that quadrant are the areas of your life that others know about, but to which you are blind. This is blindness and it is terribly dangerous for our lives. These are things that others seem to identify but we have not been honest or open enough to see. Spiritual confrontation and loving friendships can help reveal these areas to us, but we must be willing.

Below the Blindness quadrant is a category called Hidden. These are things in your life that are not known to yourself and also not known to others. They are the areas to which you are blind and that others cannot see because of the walls and limits that you have placed in your life. This category is potentially the most damaging because you are helpless to uncover these things yourself and no one else knows about them.

Left of the Blindness quadrant is the category of Secret things. These are the things in your life that you know about but that you keep hidden from others. Let me say that in a marriage there ought to be nothing in this box. Your spouse should know everything about you. Someone said that marriage is having someone who knows everything about you but loves you anyway!

Unlike every other relationships, husbands and wives stand naked before each other. This not only refers to the nakedness of a couple’s physical relationship, but also to the emotional nakedness that comes when secrets are born and revealed. This is why marital betrayal is so devastating. The person whom you trusted with your deepest feelings and most personal secrets has betrayed you to another, leaving you vulnerable, exposed and in pain. Don’t allow this to happen in your relationship!

So what then is the secret to practicing humility before God and before others?
Confession TO OTHERS is necessary to reduce the secrets that we keep from others.
Submission and feedback FROM OTHERS is necessary to reduce the blind spots in our lives.

To avoid fights and quarrels in our relationships, and to prevent the dissatisfaction that comes from pursuing worldly wisdom, we need to experience God’s grace. The path to receiving his grace comes from humility before God and before others. Practice this humility by confessing your weakness to the right person and in the right context. There is no need to tell everyone all of our personal struggles. Most people are not prepared to know these things. Such knowledge would hinder their relationship with the Lord. But those who are closest to you should see you for who you really are, not someone who is hiding a life of secrecy.

Next, we should all seek to eliminate the blind spots in our lives by inviting the admonition and correction that others can provide. Many of us do not receive such input because we resist correction. Our friends and family have learned not to confront or challenge us. We must learn not to bristle under such correction so that others are not afraid to reveal our weaknesses.