The Danger of Living Without God…
“First and foremost, I give all the glory to God. He is the rock on which I stand, and I would publicly like to ask Him to forgive me for my sins, of which there are many.”
— Danny Wuerffel (upon accepting the 1996 Heisman Trophy)
People who live without God face five dangers:
1. It stifles the prayer life.
2. It makes them a friend of the world and an enemy of God.
3. They neglect God’s will in their lives.
4. It produces insult and slander of fellow believers.
5. It produces people who plan their lives without seeking God.
Read James 4
God wants His people to live with a conscious commitment to follow His divine will.
People who make their own desires the chief goal of their lives need not expect answers to prayer.
4:1. Two rhetorical questions try to locate the source of struggles and fights among Christians.
Such fights and quarrels come from desires that battle within you.
The fights and quarrels involved conflicts among Christians.
The plural form of both words indicates the conflicts were chronic rather than a one time incident.
The disputes could have taken the form of arguments and controversies between teachers and factions in the churches.
It could also have involved struggles about worldly affairs such as personal influence and financial gain.
The Greek word translated “desires” is related etymologically to the English word, hedonism, the philosophy that the chief purpose of living is to satisfy self.
Jesus used the same word to describe people “choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and… do not mature” (Luke 8:14).
Their “pleasures” described any personal goal such as money, reputation, or success, which contributes to personal accomplishment rather than God’s will.
These sinful desires lay within each Christian.
Even believers find in themselves an alien army which seeks self rather than God.
These desires express our pre-Christian nature still seeking to control our lives (see Rom. 7:14-25).
Christians will never be freed from the evil influence of these subtle desires, but by God’s grace we can escape their domination.
4:2. Verse 2 is difficult to interpret because punctuation was not an original part of Scripture.
“You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.”
We must use our best interpretive skills to decide how to punctuate this verse.
Compare the punctuation in NIV and NASB.
The NIV lists three sentences before it concludes that You do not have, because you do not ask God.
“You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.”
Like the NKJV, the NASB uses two sentences before it makes the same conclusion.
“You lust and do not have, so you commit murder. And you are envious and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask.”
The NASB suggests that murder is the result of desiring something and not getting it.
It points out that fighting and quarreling are the results of having envy and being unable to obtain what you want.
“Lust” is frequently used in the New Testament in a bad sense to describe the act of coveting something belonging to someone else (see Matt. 5:28).
“Envious” in this context refers to a quest for position, rank, or fame—an evil expression of personal ambition.
What type of “killing” did James have in mind?
James was probably not thinking of physical murder.
The Roman government would have executed murderers as criminals.
Jesus linked an attitude of hatred and contempt with murder (Matt. 5:21-22).
Hatred and jealousy produced by greed and worldliness are potential acts of murder because they can lead to actual murder.
The inner attitude is wrong just as is the outward act of murder.
Thus, James was not likely accusing his Christian readers of actual murder, but was showing them that their fights and disagreements were as offensive to God as killing.
At the conclusion of verse 2 James outlined the startling truth that his readers lacked what they sought because they failed to ask God.
They hankered after satisfaction, but they looked in the wrong places.
They did not ask God as Jesus had taught (Matt. 7:7).
They allowed their lives to be governed by pleasure, selfishness, and greed.
“There is, to be sure, no prayer that we all need to pray so much as the prayer that we may love what God commands and desire what He promises” (R. V G. Tasker).
James mentions the most common problems in prayer: not asking, asking for the wrong things, and asking for the wrong reasons.
Do you talk to God at all?
When you do, what do you talk about?
Do you ask only to satisfy your desires?
Do you seek God’s approval for what you already plan to do?
Your prayers will become powerful when you allow God to change your desires so that they perfectly correspond to His will for you (1 John 3:21-22).
4:3-4 There is nothing wrong with wanting a pleasurable life. God gives us good gifts that He wants us to enjoy (1:17; also see Ephesians 4:7; 1 Timothy 4:4-5).
But having friendship with the world often involves seeking pleasure at others’ expense or at the expense of obeying God.
Pleasure that keeps us from pleasing God is sinful; pleasure from God’s rich bounty is good.
4:3-4 Why does James say that it is impossible to be a friend of the world and a friend of God at the same time?
These two paths lead in opposite directions and to very different destinations.
Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
[NOTE: Mammon (Greek: mammōnasis –
mammon, treasure, riches, where it is personified and opposed to God); it is the things of this world that can divert our attention and love from God to the pleasures and comforts of earthly desires.
Although mammon can provide fleeting happiness, ultimately it is a deadly distraction from the salvation of our souls.]
God, the one who was the both Author and Creator of our life, gives us Free Will in how we spend our life – either on Him or on self.
The Bible teaches that friendship with the world leads to quarrels and fights (4:1-3), materialism (1 John 2:15-17), self-centered living (James 4:3), and death (Proverbs 14:12), all of which centers around are personal choice to live our life in order to satisfy our own greed, avarice and appetites.
Whereas the God chosen path leads to faith, hope, and love (1 Corinthians 13:13), the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), and eternal life (John 3:16).
4:5 This verse may mean that because of our fallen nature we have a tendency toward envy and must keep it in check, or it may mean that God, who puts His Spirit in believers, wants intimate friendship with us.
James is not quoting a specific verse or passage—he is summing up a general teaching of Scripture.
4:6-7, 10 What can help us combat our selfish tendencies?
Learning humility (also see Proverbs 16:18-19; 1 Peter 5:5-6).
Pride makes us self-centered and leads us to conclude that we deserve all we can see, touch, or imagine.
It creates greedy appetites for far more than we need.
We can be released from our self-centered desires by humbling ourselves before God, realizing that all we really need is His approval.
God not only gives us good gifts but also gives us good desires (see Philippians 2:13).
When the Holy Spirit fills us, we see this world’s seductive attractions for what they are—only cheap substitutes for what God has to offer.
4:7-10 How can you come close to God?
James gives five ways:
(1) “Humble yourselves before God” (4:7). Yield to His authority and will, commit your life to Him and His control, and be willing to follow Him.
(2) “Resist the devil” (4:7). Don’t allow Satan to entice and tempt you.
(3) “Wash your hands [and] purify your hearts” (that is, lead a pure life) (4:8). Be cleansed from sin, replacing the desire to sin with the desire to experience God’s purity.
(4) “Let there be tears for what you have done” (4:9). Don’t be afraid to express deep, heartfelt sorrow for what you have done.
(5) “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up in honor” (4:10; also see 1 Peter 5:6). Recognize that your worth comes from God alone.
To be humble involves leaning on His power and guidance and not going your own independent way.
Although we do not deserve God’s favor, He wants to lift us up and give us worth and dignity, despite our human shortcomings.
4:7 Although God and the devil are at war, we don’t have to wait until the end to see who will win.
God has already defeated Satan (Revelation 12:10-12), and when Christ returns, the devil and all he stands for will be eliminated forever (Revelation 20:10-15).
Satan freely influences our wills now, however, and he strives to win us over to his evil cause or, when he can’t, destroy us.
But he cannot defeat the Holy Spirit. We have a choice to either follow our natural tendencies or ask the Holy Spirit to fill us.
With the Holy Spirit’s power, we can resist the devil, and he will flee from us.
4:11-12 Jesus summarized the law as loving God and neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40), and Paul said that love demonstrated toward a neighbor would fully satisfy God’s law (Romans 13:6-10).
When we fail to love others and instead constantly judge them, we are actually breaking God’s law.
Examine your attitudes and actions toward others.
Do you build people up or tear them down?
When you’re ready to criticize someone, remember God’s law of love and say something positive or encouraging instead; even if you have to speak a difficult truth, you can do so in a constructive, respectful manner.
Saying something beneficial to others will cure you of finding fault and increase your ability to obey God’s law of love.
4:13-16 It is good to have goals, but goals can disappoint us if we leave God out of them.
Why make plans as though God does not exist when He holds the future in His hands?
Seizing opportunities or being assertive without considering what God wants will lead to frustration.
Good planning starts by asking these questions:
What would I like to be doing ten years from now? One year from now? Tomorrow?
How will I react if God steps in and rearranges my plans? We should plan ahead, but we must hold on to our plans loosely.
Proverbs 16:9 says, “We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.”
If we put God’s desires at the center of our planning, he will not disappoint us.
4:14 Life is short no matter how long we live, and no one knows the length of his or her life.
So don’t be deceived into thinking that you have lots of remaining time to live for Christ, to enjoy your loved ones, or to do what you know you should.
Live for God today! Then, no matter when your life ends, you will have fulfilled God’s plan for you.
4:17 We tend to think of sin as doing what is wrong.
But James tells us that sin is also failing to do what is right.
(These two kinds of sin are sometimes called sins of commission and sins of omission.)
It is a sin to lie; it can also be a sin to know the truth and not tell it.
It is a sin to speak evil of someone; it is also a sin to avoid that person when you know he or she needs your friendship.
You should be willing to help as the Holy Spirit guides you.
If God has prompted you to do a kind act, to render a service, or to restore a relationship, do it.
You will experience a renewed and refreshed vitality in your Christian faith.
Max Lucado’s Life Lessons…
God planned for His people to be distinct by their peaceful and humble attitudes.
Both words and actions mark these qualities.
People who are self-sufficient must recognize that their plans and their lives are not their own but could change in a moment.
There are certain mountains only God can climb.
The names of these mountains?
You’ll see them as you look from the window of the chapel in the Great House of God.
“Thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever.”
A trio of peaks mantled by the clouds.
Admire them, applaud them, but don’t climb them.
It’s not that you aren’t welcome to try, it’s just that you aren’t able.
The pronoun is “thine,” not “mine”; “thine” is the kingdom, not “mine” is the kingdom.
If the word “Savior” is in your job description, it’s because you put it there.
Your role is to help the world, not save it.
Mount Messiah is one mountain you weren’t made to climb.
Nor is Mount Self-Sufficient.
You aren’t able to run the world, nor are you able to sustain it.
Some of you think you can.
You are self-made.
You don’t bow your knees, you just roll up your sleeves and put in another twelve-hour day . . . which may be enough when it comes to making a living or building a business.
But when you face your own grave or your own guilt, your power will not do the trick.
You were not made to run a kingdom, nor are you expected to be all-powerful.
And you certainly can’t handle all the glory.
Mount Applause is the most seductive of the three peaks.
The higher you climb the more people applaud, but the thinner the air becomes.
More than one person has stood at the top and shouted, “Mine is the glory!” only to lose their balance and fall.
“Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.”
What protection this final phrase affords.
As you confess that God is in charge, you admit that you aren’t.
As you proclaim that God has power, you admit that you don’t.
And as you give God all the applause, there is none left to dizzy your brain.
(From The Great House of God by Max Lucado)
List five experiences that make you proud.
Pray that real service would begin as God humbles you.
Ask God to help you realize that you can’t make life work on your own.
Selah (let us pause and calmly think about these things)
Wednesday, July 27
Daily Verse and Comment
“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow.
For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.
Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.”
But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.”
Is God leading things, or are we?
Perhaps better put, do we recognize—and desire and seek—God’s leadership, or do we prefer to take matters into our own hands, make our own plans, and look to God for a blessing only after we have decided what needs to be done?
If we actively seek God’s leadership, and submit to it as He provides it, our belief will be evident in the fruits produced and the faithful witness made.
If, on the other hand, we—individually or corporately—are self-directed, the results will be confusion, division, contention, and all the other fruits of following the wrong sovereign.
James rebukes those who make too much of their own plans and leave God out of the picture.
He calls such self-directed plans “boasting” and its source “arrogance,” reinforcing the fact that in his natural state, man is in continual contention with God.
In this case, carnality’s symptom is confidence in one’s own ability to bring something to pass without taking God into account.
Psalm 10:4 (KJV) describes a wicked man as one who “will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.”
The same man may inquire of God—He could be in some of his thoughts—but he will not wholeheartedly seek Him.
The man is self-directed, purpose-driven, and intent on bringing his own plans—”strategic visions,” we call them today—to pass.
By inference, the righteous man does seek after God, rather than merely inquiring occasionally, and God is in all his thoughts.
God will look on such a man: one of a poor and contrite spirit, and who trembles at His word (Isaiah 66:2).
At various times the leaders of ancient Israel, good and bad, inquired of God.
Sometimes, because of idolatry—including setting up idols in their hearts—Sabbath-breaking, rebellion, and general disobedience, Israel was so far from God that He would not even allow them to inquire of Him (Ezekiel 14:1-11; 20:1-4)!
Of those who inquired of God, not very many are shown actually seeking Him.
The Bible records bad rulers inquiring of God like an adolescent might play with a Magic 8-Ball: desiring an answer, but not truly recognizing God’s sovereignty.
King Saul, for example, inquired of God at one point, but God did not answer him.
It seems that he never bothered to consider why God would not answer him.
Rather than trying to restore the breach with God by repenting, he just decided to try a different way to make his decision: by consulting a spiritist.
He was determined to have his own way.
Even when he sought guidance, he demanded it on his own terms—even if it meant seeking “wisdom” from an unclean source.
The Bible does not say of many men that God specifically killed them, but Saul made it onto this list for his unfaithfulness (I Chronicles 10:13-14).
In contrast, King David frequently inquired of the Lord, but he is also known for being a man after God’s heart—he had a tremendous track record of seeking God.
Those who truly seek God will be answered—positively—when they inquire of Him, for they will be a breathing incarnation of the phrase “if the Lord wills.”
This is a major part of the witness that God desires us to make of Him: that He is God, and there is no other sovereign—least of all a puny man.
Come join the Adventure!