This session we will be looking at the end of James 3 and James 4. The topics we will discuss will sit mainly on prideful hearts and clean lives. We will remember some of the key points of other sessions and apply them to what James means in these couple chapters.
First off we need to remember what we had discussed in the first session:
“You can never be proud and wise at the same time. The two don’t go hand-in-hand.”
Chapter 3 Verses 13-16
“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” - James 3:13-16
We find here that the wisdom from above is not found in a heart that has bitter jealousy or selfish ambition. A heart which is unsatisfied in this way is also a heart that is full of pride. Pride is at the root of these two motives: Jealousy and selfish ambition. These two things are the things that lead to being earthly unspiritual and demonic. James describes it as a slippery slope; one that every Christian has the opportunity of slipping down.
So how do we know if we have a prideful heart?
Chapter 4 Verses 1-2
“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…”
Again let’s take a look on what was said in an earlier session.
“The demonstration of your faith is based on the concentration of your faith.”
This works for us on the negative side as well. Those who have pride in their hearts instead of the proper concentrated faith will demonstrate it in their actions. One of the most obvious ways that we know a body of believers is struggling with having pride in their hearts is when there is fighting and quarrelling amongst themselves. James intentionally tells us exactly what peace and wisdom looks like in James 3:17-18 and then gives us a shock when he drastically presents an opposing situation.
James first tells us what a prideful heart looks like. Then he tells us what our faith ought to look like in wisdom. Then he gives us examples of how a prideful heart can manifest in our lives.
So what James is doing is helping to identify. He already diagnosed the source of the problem in chapter three and now he is backing up what he says by identifying the symptoms.
The source of our quarrels, our fighting, dissatisfaction in our hearts and disunity among one another is from the present pride in our hearts. Once we recognize that, we can understand why we are not receiving the things we desire.
Chapter 4 Verses 2-6
If a Christian has a prideful heart they will live in a worldly way.
“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”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.””
The way of the world fails to ask God and when they do ask they ask wrongly. We need to look back again at what Chapter three has to say about it. James says that those who have a heart of pride will lead out unspiritual, earthly, and demonic lives.
So we have this issue of why we don’t get the things we desire…
It is because of these things:
- You have not asked: in which case you have not asked the Lord because you think you can get whatever it is on your terms, your way. You fail to recognize God in the midst of your problems. In which your heart is prideful.
- You ask wrongly: when we ask wrongly it is that we ask with the wrong motives. If our hearts are prideful then we will have worldly motives. Some examples of worldly motives would be:
- “Lord, I have been a good person…so will you give me this”
- “God, if you do this for me I will do anything you ask me to do…”
- “Dear Jesus, my life would be so much easier if you…”
When we come to the Lord in prayer sometimes we have motives that are centered on “self” and guess what? That is pride as well! When we have prideful hearts we have selfish motives and that is association with the world. When you pray to God wrongly, you are showing your worldliness.
In the Old Testament especially in Leviticus 11, it talks about “clean” and “unclean” foods. God had put a restriction on their diet in that time. If an Israelite were to eat the unclean foods they would become unclean before God and would restrict their fellowship with God.
See the people of James’ day would have been very familiar with this concept. He is reminding believers that just like there is clean wisdom from above there is also unclean that is not from above. If we choose to take in the unclean we become unclean and earthly. If we associate ourselves with the world and the unclean, we restrict the fellowship between us and God.
A humble heart may always approach the throne but the dirty heart of pride is rejected at the throne.
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Chapter 4 Verses 7-10
“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.”
So what then must the prideful heart do?
- Submit yourself to God. You need to be ready to lay the whole truth and honest truth before God. Put yourself at His mercy.
- Wash your hands. If you have identified the worldliness in yourself then turn from it and move on.
- Flee from the devil. You must resist the temptation of association with the uncleanliness of the world.
- Draw near to God. If you follow all the above steps you won’t have the restriction of fellowship anymore.
Chapter 4 Verses 11-17
In verses 7-10 James gives us the steps of what we have to do in order to draw near to God again. In 11-17 he offers us examples of areas we need to apply this wisdom to.
“Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?””
He reminds us that one of the ways that we can steer clear of a prideful heart is by not speaking negatively against a brother when it benefits your pride. You are to confess your sin to one another. You are to keep one another in line with the Word in love. However, you are not to speak evil or slander your brothers and sisters. That doesn’t exhibit mercy; it exhibits judgment.
“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”
Another thing that we absolutely need to avoid is boasting about tomorrow. James wants to make sure that we put pride in its place. We are not law givers and judges, we are not the makers of tomorrow, and we are under the submission and will of God. That is the place we ought to be.
Just so we can store it in our minds for safe keeping, here is a simple outline of James 3:13-4:17:
- James 3:13-16.What a prideful heart is
- James 3:17-18. What wisdom and faith should be
- James 4:1-6. What a prideful heart does
- James 4:7-10. What a prideful heart needs to do
- James 4:11-17. Putting a Prideful heart in its place
I have a friend who is building a house with her husband. In this house building project they needed something to be delivered for the house in order to keep working on it. However, she received a phone call and the item that was needed wouldn’t be there for another whole month. This was so discouraging and frustrating because now that was going to stall the project! So she prayed to God. “Lord, I need this to be delivered. I am just so discouraged because I thought this was your will for us God! I thought we were supposed to be a light to this community… Please show me that this is still in your will…” so after lunch her and her husband came back to the house. Get this y’all… The item was sitting there in their front yard. Praise God; He is good!
See her prayers were answered not because she asked for the Lord to relieve her burden. It was because she humbly came before the throne asking ultimately for his will.
So one of the things I want us to be able to walk away with is to be able to go before the throne with a humble heart and pray.
Look at your prayer life and examine your motives. What do you find? If you find that your prayer life is lacking in any way ask God to give you genuine motives for your prayers.
Focus your prayers on the glory of God rather than the getting from God.
Lord, I pray I am not unspiritual, earthly, or demonic. I pray you deal with my prideful heart. I pray that I can resist associating with the world and making it my friend. Only you can give me what I need. Only you can judge and only you know what tomorrow brings. I pray that pride does not restrict our fellowship. You and only you can satisfy! Lord I am at your mercy do what you will!