Why we argue and fight. James 4:1

James 4:1 (NLT) “What is causing the quarrels and fights among you?  Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you?”

Quarrels and fights – other translations say wars, conflict, fightings, discord, feuds – from where do they originate?  According to James they come from our own evil desires within us.  These evil desires are at war within us.

What are they at war with?

The phrase “at war” is interesting in the original language.  It means “1. to make a military expedition, to lead soldiers to war or to battle (spoken of a commander).”  That is an interesting implication of the evil desires within us (lust, murder, covet – see James 4:2) are on a military expedition – actively leading the charge within us.

The phrase “at war” also means “2. to do military duty, be on active service, be a soldier.  3. to fight” Again, I find this every interesting and eye opening.  I didn’t think much of the evil desires within me as alive and active.  I never considered them “on active service”

My daughter has a friend who just got out of boot camp with the United States Marine Corp.  He is a Marine.  He is receiving training to be ready to do his military duty and his selected occupational, vocational, job in the Marine Corp.

Our evil desires are at war with everything God desires for us.  Our evil desires are at war with our status quo.  It is at war with our position, place, prominence, self perception, our possessions, etc.

  • I want more _________ (stuff) – so I plan and connive how get more of it 
  • I want his car! (or boat, or house, or job, or _______) – the seed of jealousy is planted and watered
  • I want peace and rest – so I clamor and rant about what I fear
  • I want fellowship – so I do whatever I must to get others to like me
  • I want to be respected –  so I give unsolicited advice
  • I want to be built up – so I tear others down
  • I want someone else’s position – so I sabotage their character
Everything is rooted in jealousy, comparison, lust and covetousness (James 4:2).  Every thing is rooted in pride. It all starts with the thought, the seed, that gets planted.  If we continue to dwell on those envious thoughts, those jealous thoughts, they get watered.  Remember James 1:15 – “…when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”
Paul wrote about this very conundrum in Romans.
Romans 7:21-25 (NKJV) 21 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. 22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.

But you can’t stop reading there.  That’s the end of  Romans 7.  The good news is in Romans 8.  Here is the good news.  Here is what the “evil soldiers” warring in my body don’t know.  They war in vein.

Romans 8:1-2 (NKJV) There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.

Jesus already won the war.
Check back in a few days – there will be more on James 4 – specifically how to deal with this.  What winning these skirmishes looks like…
Running After Papa…

Glad Tidings

Gal 1:11-12 (NKJV) 11 But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.

The Greek for “gospel” is defined as:

The glad tidings of the kingdom of God soon to be set up, and subsequently also of Jesus the Messiah, the founder of this kingdom. After the death of Christ, the term comprises also the preaching of (concerning) Jesus Christ as having suffered death on the cross to procure eternal salvation for the men in the kingdom of God, but as restored to life and exalted to the right hand of God in heaven, thence to return in majesty to consummate the kingdom of God.

Webster defines “glad” as:

1 : having a cheerful or happy disposition by nature
2 a : experiencing pleasure, joy, or delight : made happy b : made pleased, satisfied, or grateful — often used with of c : very willing
3 a : marked by, expressive of, or caused by happiness and joy b : causing happiness and joy : pleasant
4 : full of brightness and cheerfulness

Webster defines “tidings” as a piece of news.

So the question this morning for me is this: Is the Gospel message a piece of news that makes me cheerful or of a happy disposition by nature?

If I look like a I was “weaned on a pickle” and constantly seeing the worst in everything and everyone, has the bit of news about Jesus made me full of brightness and cheerfulness?

Am I experiencing pleasure, joy, or delight in the understanding of what Christ has done? Have I been made happy, pleased, satisfied or grateful by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for my sins?

Am I marked by or expressive of joy and happiness because of the message of Galatians 2:20 and John 3:16?

Am I causing happiness and joy in the lives of others?

If I cannot answer those questions in the affirmative, then I have a disconnect between what I have received and what I deserve.

Luke 7:36-50 tells the story of the woman described as “a sinner” breaks the alabaster jar of oil over Jesus’ feet and washes his feet with her tears and hair. The self-righteous Pharisees were judging both Christ and the woman in that moment. In a parable Jesus draws the picture one who is forgiven much, loves much.

How much has God forgiven me of?

I need to remember that more often. I need to occasionally catch a whiff of the cesspool of my humanity and sinfulness and what an offensive and repulsive stench it must be in Father God’s nostrils.

When I come into the understanding of how offensive my sin is – any sin – as God has no grading scale for sin; it is either sin or it isn’t – I gain an appreciation of just how undeserving I am of the grace and mercy He has shown and given to me.

THIS is the “glad tidings” of Christ! That I am able to come into the presence of the one and only Creator God for all of eternity, is more than enough to make me glad.

But God gives us more than that. He has provided that one-on-one relationship with Him while we are still here on this earth. We don’t have to wait to die to be with Him, He desires to be in personal relationship with Him NOW. God has promised his Spirit to live in, dwell in, and guide us through this life. This should put “glad” in overdrive!

He has forgiven me much more than I even realize.

He has saved me from eternity without Him.

He has made a way for a daily, personal relationship with him that is not based on my performance or actions.

He loves me unconditionally – forever.

He has provided peace in the midst of trouble and strength in exhaustion.

He never changes!

Now THAT is glad tidings!

Running After Papa…

A broken spirit

Psalm 51:17

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

I’ve been meditating on this verse for the last few days and Papa has begun to show me that this verse depicts humility, total humility.  This is the antithesis verse (at least to me) for James 4:6 which says “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

What God has shown me is that if I am not broken over my sin (whatever that sin might be – because God has no grading scale for sin, it’s either sin or it isn’t) then I am walking in pride.  If I am not broken over my sin, then my heart is calloused.

Daddy, I pray I am always broken over my sin and continually aware of just how offensive it is to you.  Help me to “sin no more” as Jesus commanded, but when I do, help me to always recognize the repulsiveness of my sin to You.

What choose you?

Romans 6:15-19 (NLT) 16 Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. 17 Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you. 18 Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living. 19 Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this. Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy.

The predominant word that stands out to me in this passage is the word “slave.”  So often that word has such a negative connotation in our Western – particularly U.S. – culture.  I’m not sure I fully grasp the cultural significance of the word slave used in the times and culture of Christ.

Regardless, I looked up the word in its Greek origin.  The word is doulon means this: 1) a slave, bondman, man of servile condition. 1a) a slave. 1b) metaph., one who gives himself up to another’s will those whose service is used by Christ in extending and advancing His cause among men. 1c) devoted to another to the disregard of one’s own interests.

What is particularly interesting is the root of this word. The word originates from the word deo which means to “bind” as in: 1) to bind tie, fasten. 1a) to bind, fasten with chains, to throw into chains. … 1b2) to bind, put under obligation, of the law, duty etc. 1b2a) to be bound to one, a wife, a husband.

So, choosing to participate in sin is choosing to become bound to sin, like a husband and wife are bound to each other.

That’s why there is no grey area of sin with God.  It is either sin or it is not, because I am either bound to sin (which verse 19 says leads to deeper and deeper sin – deeper and deeper bondage) or I am bound to righteous living by  (verse 17) “… wholeheartedly obey[ing] this teaching we have given you…” and (verse 19) “… you must give yourselves to be slaves of righteous living…“.

Our culture is saturated in moral relativism… “if it feels good, do it”… “I’m not bothering anyone else”… yada, yada, yada (to quote the great Jerry Seinfeld).  Our society is so jacked up because of it, that we – as a nation – pass laws limiting the rights of the many in order to “protect” the few from being offended or isolated.  Our courts let the wrong go free and legislate from the bench because their own moral compass doesn’t jive with the moral compass of those who passed whatever law is on the books.

How did I get down this train of thought?  I don’t know.  The question becomes then, how do I give myself to be a slave of righteous living?  It’s fairly easy sitting here in the midst of the Bible Belt in the land of Freedom (although our freedoms are diminishing with every year).  What does it look like when the Christian becomes the target?  What was it like when the Roman’s were feeding Christians to the lions?

If this is the easiest place in the world at the easiest time to be a radical Christian, why are there really so few?  That’s a convicting question.  What aren’t I more radical than I am?

I had a girlfriend in college that called me a “Bible thumper” when we broke up.  In response to that, a friend told me, “Hey, we all thump something.”  He was right.  So is God.  According to this passage, we are all slaves of something.  It’s our choice.  It’s my choice.  Sin or Righteousness.

I choose righeousness.

Sin Unaware…


Psalm 19:12-14 (NLT)12 How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults. 13 Keep your servant from deliberate sins! Don’t let them control me. Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin.14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

There was a time in my life when I was completely blind to my own sin. Scary? Not then. But looking back on it, I’m thankful God didn’t strike me dead. I am grateful for the work he has done so far in exposing my sinful nature, my “deceitful heart” as Jeremiah 17:9 (Click to see) puts it.

God has faithfully exposed and removed the planks from my eye, so to speak; those giant pink elephants in the room; the blatant sins and attitudes that were easy for everyone else to see but me.

Now the work continues… to be diligent about finding the hidden stuff, the stuff I’m still blind to. The “hidden faults” that David references in this passage. This is where the real work begins and it only comes by daily being in His presence and in His word to let it wash over me.

I need a Savior. I need a heart gardener. I need my Father in heaven to continually mold this heart into the vessel He needs it to be. That process includes His Word, His revelation and faithful men who will daily sharpen me.

Papa, keep digging. Cleanse me from these hidden faults. Keep your servant from deliberate sins! Don’t let them control me. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer! Amen.