Focal Passage: James 4:1-10
In our modern consumer culture people often search for churches based on a predetermined shopping list that doesn’t necessarily prioritize the characteristics of a true New Testament church. If they don’t get what they want at one location, they shop for another. If the new destination disappoints, the search will resume. The hidden deception in this approach lies in the assumption that church is about what people want, not what God demands.
James noted that quarrels and conflicts among God’s people come from pleasures that wage war against them. These illicit pleasures hijack the believer’s prayer life, turning it from sweet fellowship with God to a recitation of self-love. When love for God is no longer our supreme motivation, the church becomes an outpost of worldliness covered in religious veneer. Desire and envy (James 4:2) don’t always come in a seedy package. The grace of God provides our only escape from carnality’s trap. The same God who saved us by grace continually leads us by grace.
As the hymn states, His graces is greater than all our sin. Consequently, we are able to fulfill scriptures commands – submit to God, resist the devil, draw near to God (James 4:7-8) – where we couldn’t when we were lost. Before the new birth we were children of wrath who served the devil (Ephesians 2:1-3) and were unable to come to Jesus (John 6:44). As new creations we are called to demonstrate the heart of repentance that goes with salvation. James called his readers to reestablish clean hands and a pure heart (Psalm 24:3-4) and to be broken over their sin.
Speaking on ministerial integrity, the evangelist Bailey Smith once said, “I’ve never seen a humble man fall.” While we are tempted to bow to the demands of the world and seeks its praises, God promised to exalt people who humble themselves before Him. Though some conflict in life is unavoidable, let us pray that God will deliver us from conflicts of our own making.