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James 4:1-3 by Robert Dean
Series:James (1998)
Duration:1 hr 6 mins 45 secs

Fragmented Souls, Fragmented Churches; James 4:1-3


As our study of James chapter three has come to a conclusion we saw that in the last paragraph, verses 13-18, that James juxtaposed two ways of thinking. One was wisdom, the other is call in the Bible foolishness. Wisdom is what we have called divine viewpoint thinking, also spiritual thinking, truth or Bible doctrine. On the other hand, foolishness is often akin to legalism, we call it human viewpoint thinking. It is called the thinking of the natural man, earthly and demonic because it is false doctrine. In one sense all human viewpoint thinking s demonic. Why would we say that? Not necessarily because it has its source in demonic thinking.


In eternity past God created the angels in one instant of time. When they were created they were all created absolutely perfect with perfect righteousness. There was no sin found in any of the angels. God is perfect, He can create nothing less than perfection, so all of the angels came forth perfect; but they all had volition. The could choose for or against God. The highest of all the angels is called Lucifer, and Lucifer decided that he wanted to be like God. He wanted to have all the worship that God received and so he uttered five statements which all begin with the verb "I will," listed in Isaiah chapter fourteen and culminating in the statement "I will be like the most high." This is nothing less than arrogance, and arrogance is the root of all sin. It is the creature thinking that he can define reality apart from the creator. And so all human viewpoint wisdom—ideas, thoughts, values that are contrary, and even though at points may be parallel to divine viewpoint thinking—is completely opposed to divine viewpoint. The ideological base for spiritual freedom, freedom as expressed in the Bible in the Mosaic law, is radically opposed to the kind of freedom that has developed from human viewpoint systems of thought. So even though there may appear to be at a certain level a certain symmetry and a certain similarity because they fit within a complete mosaic of thought that is opposed one to another they are different. Human viewpoint thinking is demonic because it is parallel to the kind of reasoning and thinking which characterized Lucifer's initial sin, the fall of Lucifer, and the thinking that envelops all of his reasoning. That is why there is complete antagonism between human viewpoint thinking and divine viewpoint thinking and the wisdom of Scripture.


So a parent's job is to teach and instruct his children how to think about life biblically. Now here is the challenge to parents. You can't teach your kids how to think biblically unless you learn how to think biblically. And you are not going to learn how to think biblically unless that is a priority in your life—how to look at life from a biblical perspective. The Bible addresses everything; it says something about everything and we must learn how to utilize what the Scripture teaches.


We began last time in the introduction with then fact that we are involved in warfare. Parents are involved in warfare, and the warfare is for the thinking of each one of us and what is going to control that. What we have to do as a parent—and really, any believer has to think this way—is to develop a military frame of reference to our life. We are constantly being propagandised by the enemy to think a certain way. The issue is: What are we letting into the minds of our kids? We are teaching them to erect a biblical viewpoint, a biblical frame of reference, a grid to analyse and think about everything. So we need to think of everything that comes into the house as part of this propaganda that Satan is putting out into the world.

2 Corinthians 10:3 NASB "For though we walk in the flesh [physical body], we do not war according to the flesh [sin nature]," Our warfare is not according to the natural principles that man develops from human viewpoint thinking. How we do what we do is often as important as what we do. That means that when we are developing methodologies based on rationalism or empiricism they are eventually going to develop problems. [4] "for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. [5] {We are} destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and {we are} taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." What are we talking about in verse 5? Paul's view of the spiritual life is that we have to deal with thinking. If we don't revolutionize what is going on in the thinking of our soul and all we do is change what is going on on the outside, then we are no different from the Pharisees, and Jesus said that the Pharisees were white washed sepulchres—grave stones that look nice on the outside but underneath are just dead men's bones, nothing but deterioration and decay and nothing living inside. That is the picture of many types of Christianity today because they are focusing on overt, outside superficial things and not what is going on in thinking. We have to learn how to think biblically. The heart is where our core beliefs reside, and when the Scriptures talk about repentance the word "repentance" is from the Greek word METANOEO [metanoew] which means to change your thinking. It is talking about going down into the deep, very core of your soul and taking your foundational beliefs about life and changing them so that they are in alignment with the Word of God. That is scary to a lot of people. They don't want that kind of change because most people's opinions about life and how life works and why things are the way they are by the time they are in their twenties or thirties have achieved a level of comfort, and to talk about going in and doing this kind of radical surgery on the thinking in the deepest parts of the soul that is going to revolutionise how you think about marriage, responsibilities as a parent, responsibilities at a job. All of this is going to flow from it, but it starts with understanding a lot of things about who God is and the nature of ultimate reality. As we think about them the Holy Spirit will use that doctrine to revolutionise the thinking in our soul. 

What is the source of power in the spiritual life? It is twofold: the filling of God the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. These are the power sources of the spiritual life, along with the ten stress-busters. The Word of God is absolute truth in every area that it touches. It is designed to revolutionise out thinking according to reality. Truth is just another way of talking about reality; reality, though, as God created it and God defined it, not as we think it is on the basis of our experience. So that means that we have to understand what God says about the nature of everything in life.

When David came out against Goliath he didn't look at the situation militarily, he looked at it theologically. How do we know that? Because of David's response. "For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?" Why emphasize "uncircumcised"? The reason Goliath is uncircumcised is because the Jews are circumcised. What did circumcision mean? It means that they had a promise from God in the Abrahamic covenant to this piece of real estate. So David was saying that Goliath had no legitimate basis in the plan of God to be out there challenging Israel and for Israel to be afraid. Then His conclusion: "The battle is the Lord's." So he trots on down there to Saul and says he is going to battle the Philistine. So Saul gives David his armour to put on. You know, you need some psychology, so take your psychology courses; you need some self-esteem, so let's boost your self-esteem—all these human viewpoint techniques. That is what the armour really represents, i.e. that the world is constantly trying to tell us that if we are going to do battle with the giants we need all these things. We can handle any problem in life from the Bible, the Word of God, no matter how devastating it might be. If we believe the Bible we are going to be like David and we are going to look at the ten-foot giant and face him with a sling-shot, because the weapons we use are not going to be the weapons that common sense, experience, rationalism tell us are the ones that work. Those thing ultimately will be destructive and they won't work. So we have a unique set of weapons and it is our job and responsibility as parents to instil these things in our children.

Paul says when we get involved in battles as believers, what are we tearing down?  We are tearing down speculations, lofty ideas, and we are taking captive every thought to the obedience of Christ. So the spiritual life is thinking. Romans 12:2 NASB "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind [renovate our thinking], so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect."

James 4:1 NASB "What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?" This begins in the Greek with the interrogative adverb POTHEN [poqen] which asks the question: What is the source? This is going to focus their attention on why is there so many personal problems in the congregation? This isn't just dealing with then fact that there are power plays going on in the congregation, people siding with one pastor or another pastor or one Sunday school teacher against another; this involves even marriages, conflicts in marriages.

These are two very colourful words that James uses here—quarrels and conflicts. The first is POLEMOS [polemoj], the primary Greek word for warfare. He is using this word in a figurative sense because what happens when people get crossways and argumentative is that it erupts into full-blown warfare between two people, and it happens in congregations. The word relates to being argumentative, contentious, doing battle with one another. The second word is MACHE [maxh] and it refers to battles and by extension to arguments, strife and disputes. These are very strong words because this is exactly what happens. If you let problems between two people escalate before long they are in court with their lawyers screaming at each other. This is what happens in local congregations and it is just a tragedy to see how this happens.

Sometimes it is important for people to divide over certain things, especially doctrine. Jesus was constantly throwing the hot potato of Bible doctrine at the Pharisees and He caused a lot of antagonism and reaction, but it was truth that divides and truth always will divide. This is different from what Paul is talking about in Galatians 5:19ff where he gives the list of the deeds of the flesh: "Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions…" That describes what is happening in the congregation that James is addressing. They are choosing sides and going to battle with one another. But there are other words that are used in the Scriptures, e.g. 1 Corinthians 11:18 NASB "For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it. There he uses it in a negative way. He is talking to the Corinthians and this is the passage dealing with the Lord's table, "that there are divisions among you." One person wants this, another person wants that, and it is dealing with the extremely perverse and carnal congregation. Then in 11:19 Paul makes a very interesting statement: "For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you." In other words, he says there is a time and a place for divisions. The Greek word for approved DOKIMION [dokimion]. The verb form DOKIMAZO [dokimazw] is used to talk about the approval of the believer at the judgment seat of Christ; the noun is used in James 1:3 to talk about when you go through testing and you have endurance that you may be tested, to show approval in your testing for evaluation. So here Paul recognizes that there are going to be times in the local church when somebody will come along and say something that is false, that is legalistic, that is in error, and it is going to cause honest disruption in order to reveal what the truth is. If you go through the history of Christianity you will realize that most theology came to be understood because a heretic taught something that was false.

The sin nature is motivated by a core of lust patterns that James is going to talk about in verse 2. The lust patterns are going to trend in one of two directions. One direction is toward asceticism and legalism. These are the people who define Christianity in terms of dos and don'ts, you can't do this, you can't do that, you can't dress like this, you can't go to that movie, if you do you are not really a Christian. They confuse morality with spirituality. This is asceticism. I'm going to give up certain things and that is going to impress God with how holy I am. The other extreme which is just as bad is antinomianism. The word is taken from two Greek words: ANTI=against; NOMOS=law. This is the idea that Christ has already paid for all my sins and I have grace, they are already taken care of, so I can just do whatever I want to. All the imperatives of Scripture don't really mean that because if God meant it that would be legalism.

In the late 19th century there was a reaction to liberalism and there was the rise of what was called prophecy conferences. Some of the major speakers were men such as Dwight Moody, R.A. Torrey, Louis Sperry Chafer, C.I. Scofield, people like that. What happened was the people who believed the Bible separated from the mainline denominations and started what became known as independent Bible churches. They started Bible institutes like Moody Bible Institute and Biola and any number of others, and seminaries like Dallas Theological Seminary. Then one of Chafer's students, a man by the name of R.B. Thieme, Jr. came out of Dallas Seminary and went down to pastor a church in Houston called Berachah church. He began to really emphasize the importance of teaching which impacted hundreds of thousands of people. They started having pastors' conferences there and it was the teaching of Pastor Thieme. This began to have an impact on a number of pastors and churches. So they became known as doctrinal churches.

In a missionary letter to this church an "antinomian" question was raised about some churches which says that there are no commands for the Christian life: all is grace and all is by faith, you don't even have to confess your sins! The premise is that if the Christian way of life is a grace way of life there can be no commands, otherwise it isn't grace. If the Christian attempts to keep any commands in the New Testament he is no different from the Jews who tried to keep the law. This teaching extends to every command, including those related to the filling of the Holy Spirit and sanctification. In other words, there is no command to keep with regard to adultery. Of course, if you are walking by faith God won't lead you into adultery but there is no prohibition against it for the Christian living under grace. Furthermore, then there is the turn to mysticism and the old analogical and allegorical approach to hermeneutics. For example, Samson consorting with Delilah is a type of Christ bearing our sins on the cross. The honey in the carcass of the lion killed by Samson represents the church. Another: While all Scripture is inspired, not all Scripture is the Word of God. Only the gospel is the Word of God, plus anything else that he (a certain pastor) wants to lump into that category. He said that all of Proverbs is human viewpoint and cannot be trusted to be true. It cannot be used for any spiritual application, except for the last two chapters. He said that anything that came before is the word of Solomon. He then proceeds to show how other wisdom literature sounds so much like Proverbs that it must also be human viewpoint. (The fact that Jesus quoted from Proverbs apparently doesn't prove anything) He also had some weird stuff about illumination from the Spirit. He said there is no learning process, quote: "There is not a learning in the same way as you learn anything else, it is a knowing brought about by God in our souls. So when we got the gospel it was not something we figured out and then said, 'God, I'm going to hold you to it, you have to save me now because I believe in Christ,' no, He imparted the gospel to each and every one of us. You didn't learn the gospel through the Scriptures to be saved, it was imparted by revelation." This is pure mysticism.

We need to be aware of this, not because it might touch some of us at one point or another but because there are a number of people across the country now who are getting tapes from that ministry and some of them have been more directly impacted by this, and they need to hear and be warned of what is going on. Because of the fact that a number of these congregations have been working together, having people in their congregations going out on the mission field to Russia and Africa and South East Asia people from these different congregations are trading tapes. So these tapes are slowly moving their way through some of the doctrinal churches and this is nothing but heresy.

So when you think about the quarrels and conflicts that erupt in churches, some come from right reasons. Doctrine divides; truth divides. Sometimes you have to take a stand. But more often than not it comes from wrong reasons because it is motivated by the lust pattern of the flesh.