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                  By Lewis C. Lampley      

SUBJECT:    “Worldly Desires, the Source of Our Strife”


READING:     James 4:1-12




James, with its devotion to direct, pungent statements on wise living, is reminiscent of the book of Proverbs. It has a practical emphasis, stressing not theoretical knowledge, but godly behavior. James wrote with a passionate desire for his readers and hearers to be uncompromisingly obedient to the Word of God. He used at least 30 references to nature. He complements Paul’s emphasis on justification by faith with his own emphasis on spiritual fruitfulness demonstrating true faith.


          One of the many ways to understand the practicality of James’ approach to Christian living is to see the series of tests in the entire book. The test of trials and perseverance (1:2-12), the test of temptation and blame (1:13-18), the test of obedience to the Word (1:19-27), the test of genuine love and impartiality (2:1-13), the test of genuine faith and works (2:14-26), the test of the tongue and boasting (3:1-12), the test of humility and godly wisdom, and the test of friendship with the world (4:1-12). There are four more tests, but for this message, the above eight is sufficient for the context surrounding our focal passage.


          Here in James 4:1-12, we can deduce a threefold process to assist us in the understanding and handling conflict in the church. The process includes assessing the source of conflict, authenticating the seriousness of conflict, and advocating the solution for conflict.

 I. The Art of Assessing the Source of Conflict (James 4:1-3)

            A. Two provocative questions (v.1)

          B. Five precise answers (v.2-3)

1.     A definition of wars. “Wars” speaks of the conflict in general (v.1a)

2.     A definition of fights. “Fights” speaks of specific manifestation of wars (v.1a)

a)     The fighters defined – illustrated in the parable of the Wheat and Tares (13:24-30)

b)     The fighters diagnosed – clearly in James 4:2-3

                         c)   The fighters’ desires – illustrated in (James 1:14; Eph.2:3; 2 Tim.3:4; Jude 18)


II. The Act of Authenticating the Seriousness of Conflict (James 4:4-6)

A.    The problem of being a friend of the world (v.4a,b)

1.     Spiritual unfaithfulness illustrated Israel (2 Chron.21:11,13; Jer.2:20; Ezek.16:26-29)

2.     Spiritual unfruitfulness because of being outwardly associated with the church (Matt.7:15-20)

B.    The price of being a foe of God (v.4c-5)

1.     God’s attitude toward His enemies in the O.T. (Deut.32:41-43; Pss.21:8; 68:21; 110:1,2)

2.     God’s attitude toward His enemies in the N.T. (Luke 19:27; Rom.5:10; 8:5-7; 1 Cor.15:25).

C.    The predicament of the proud (v.6)

1.     Sovereign grace is the only ray of hope for man’s spiritual darkness (v.6a)

2.     Sinfulness and pride are preludes for God’s judgment on false believers (v.6b)

3.     Salvation is the product of sovereign grace for the humble (v.6c)


III. The Appropriateness of Advocating the Solution for Conflict (James 4:7-12)

A.    Ten imperative commands on how to receive saving grace (vv.7-10)

B.    The importance of refraining from defaming and disregarding God’s Law (vv.11-12)

To understand and deal effectively with conflict in the church, one must be convinced that discord in the church is not by God’s design (John 13:34,35; 17:21; 2 Cor.12:20; Phil.1:27), but results from the mix of tares (false believers) and wheat (truly redeemed people) that make up the local congregation. As James concluded, so must we, “God, who gave the Law. He alone has the authority to save those who repent from its penalty, and destroy those who refuse to repent.


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Pastoral Practicums