CHEATING ON A JEALOUS GOD (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. [4] 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.” [7] 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.

I walked in to the waiting room at a hospital one day, and out of about 50 chairs there were two free. Everyone else was smarter than I was because the two seats were placed right under the TV. I don’t know if it was The Young and the Restless, Days of Our Lives, General Hospital. In about 1 minute I saw three couples fighting with each other about their unhappiness in their partner, spouse, whatever. I didn’t get this, I want that, you lied; you cheated on me, you…

Then I thought who watches this trash? It looked like a war zone, a zone of misery and suffering simply because someone wasn’t getting what they wanted.

James warns his people and us as well to the danger of misplaced affection. The objects of our misplaced affections come in all shapes and sizes. These objects that we so many times find ourselves attracted to are really idols. When our affections are fixed on anything over and above God we are idol worshippers. Not only are we guilty of idolatry but in God’s mind, as believers, we are also guilty of adultery. As believers we have pledged our self to God through Christ. We are the bride of Christ not the bride of anyone or anything else.

We are taught from the catechism: the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

1- Adulterous Passions (vss. 1-3)

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.

What makes Christians fight among themselves? Why is it that churches would split over the color of the carpet, what type of music to play, or which side the piano is to sit on? James tells us; your passions are at war within you. It’s not wrong to have passions and desires. We are passionate about wrong things. We want what we are not intended to have. We are usurping God’s authority and trying to provide for ourselves things that we believe will make us happy.

Idol worship is the worst of all evils in the sight of God. What is evil in God’s sight?

Jeremiah 2:13 (ESV)

for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

Here is the picture of evil in the sight of God. You’re out in the desert. It’s dry it’s hot and water is very scarce. You are dying of thirst. You walk up on a fountain of water coming up out of the ground, pure, clear, cool, sparkling water. But instead of drinking from that free fountain you get it in your head that you can provide your own water. You begin dig a cistern. So you start digging and digging. You take the water from the fountain and pour it in your cistern and it leeks through. So you go and pour more in and because your cistern is cracked all the water leeks out and you’re left with some muddy water at the bottom and you drink it rather than drinking from the free fountain. Because you dug the hole and worked to get a drink you would rather have that than the pure water which is God Himself. That is ultimate evil.

James goes on to say that rather than trying in your own power, which leads to fighting and broken relationships, ask God. He says, You do not have, because you do not ask. Rather than attempting it alone ask God.

Then James tells us that there is one problem with this solution. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

We ask God for things we want more than we want Him. Why would God answer a prayer like that? Why would a husband give his wife money to take her boyfriend out on a date? According to James that is exactly what’s going on.

2- Adulterous Affairs (vss. 4-6)

[4] 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 had a professor in seminary that made the statement regarding Adam and Eve and the fall. He said there was no good reason for them to sin. They had everything. They talked with God personally; they lived in a perfect environment. Then we have to say there is no good reason for us to sin. Look at what we have. As believers we have Christ. We are adopted by the God of the universe. We are looking to the day when we will see Christ face to face. Why do we sin?

Why would we ever love other things more than we love God? It makes no sense.

We are disobedient to God and we sin against God because of our worldly passions and relationships.

Paul shows us the same thing.

2 Tim. 3:1-2 (ESV)

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. [2] For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money.

2 Tim. 4:10 (ESV)

For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.

Why is it such a big deal? Why is it wrong to be friends with the world?

To be friendly toward the world is to cherish a relationship with those who exclude God and God’s will from their lives, to value their approval, and to be ready to disguise our loyalty to God.

Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

Matthew 10:22 (ESV)

and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

Romans 8:7-8 (ESV)

For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. [8] Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Matthew 6:24 (ESV)

“No one 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.

What does James mean when he uses the words, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?

God jealously yearns for the full devotion of His children. He is truly a jealous God when it comes to the love of His children.

3- God’s Remedy (vss. 7-10)

[7] 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.

God wants things to be different and is working in the lives of believers to reconcile us back to Himself. Even though we are sinners and have committed adultery against our holy and perfect God, He still seeks to restore. He isn’t going away from us but is pursuing us.

James gives us some practical instruction. It requires action.

  1. [7] Submit yourselves therefore to God.

Formerly we were seeking our will and trying to gratify our passions on our own. We were working to find happiness and significance. Instead, God tells us to submit. As the bride of Christ, voluntarily place ourselves under God’s authority yielding our will to be obedient to God’s will.

  1. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Take an active stance against the god of this world. It’s not by accident that James first calls us to submit to God. It’s only in the power that God supplies can a successful resistance against evil be accomplished. We must be working in the power God supplies or we will fall.

Ephes. 6:13 (ESV)

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

Father, help me resist. I don’t want to sin and fail and commit adultery against you.

What is it that you struggle with? What have you set up as an idol? Are the idols, Health, children, material possessions, your job, or even this church?

What is it that you could say, If I only had __________, then I would be happy.

That may in fact be your God.

So, we are told to resist firmly.

C- [8] Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.

We are beginning to operate in the realm of the spiritual. Our affections are beginning to change. When we submit to God and resist the devil that chain of a sinful love affair is beginning to break. Now we must draw near to God. The closer we live to God the stronger we become at resisting evil. Our passions will begin to leave our idols and be drawn to the true and living God. As a closer relationship develops between us and God we will be less likely to sin. At the first sign of sin we will be immediately awakened to the danger, where before that was the very thing we were attracted to.

True repentance is beginning to take place when our affections are changing. What we used to love, we now detest. It shows up in statements like, I can’t believe I ever did that.

  1. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

James isn’t through with us yet.

Remove the moral defilement that attracts our affection. Take the pictures down of our adulterous lovers and throw them in the trash. Remove all temptations.

If you struggle with drinking, don’t drive by your favorite bar, don’t walk down the isle in the super market where beer and wine are kept. As much as we can remove all temptations that would lure our hearts away from God.

Become more and more single-minded. Stop in you tracks. Always remember where your true affections must stay. Remind yourself over and over of the love of Christ and that this temptation will never deliver what you think it will.

  1. [9] Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.

Here James is showing us that we must face the facts. Our adulterous relationship with our idols is cause for repentance. We must mourn over our twisted misdirected affections. We must be sober in our dealing with the reality of sin. True repentance is deep and thorough. It’s evident in the behavior of the person. It’s not being sorry because we got caught. It’s being broken hearted because we offended a holy God and unless God does something we are doomed. It also has with it proper fear of the Lord as well.

  1. [10] Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

What a great conclusion to the story. Looking at how terrible we have messed things up and then just what God does to fix it.

James tells us, Humble yourselves.

As we deal honestly and completely with sin God exalts us. This verse is much like verse 6

[6] But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

To humble yourself before God is to be very aware of God’s supreme majesty, and our complete unworthiness, even when we are at our best God still receives us through Christ.

Our Lord also promises,

Matthew 23:12 (ESV)

Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

James promises with the authority of Christ that he will exalt you.

We will be exalted by Christ here in this world but ultimately in the world to come. In the kingdom of God His children will have all the joy and peace we could ever hope for not because we acquired it ourselves through our own efforts but because we drank freely from the fountain of living water and recognized the supremacy of that water and turned away from our hand dug cisterns.

God is a jealous God but also a God of forgiveness.

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