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James 4:1-3 by Robert Dean
Series:James (1998)
Duration:56 mins 59 secs

Lust Patterns and Conflict; James 4:1-3

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?" The purpose for asking these questions is to get his readers to think, to look at their own lives and in their own thinking and to examine themselves. What we see in this verse is some hints that there are some major problems at this congregation. They are divided.

"Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?" In the phrase that James uses here there is the negative plus the adverb ENTEUTHEN [e)nteuqen] which is used to indicate the reason for something or the source for something. So once again he is asking: Is this not the source? "Namely your pleasures," and the word for "pleasures' HEDONOM [h(donwm] the basic word for pleasure from which we get out English word hedonism. A hedonist is somebody who lives for his own personal physical pleasure. Nothing is too good for a hedonist. What does he mean at that time by HEDONOM? Does he mean that pleasure is inherently sinful? Of course not. In Greek thought the pleasures, HEDONON, is a reference to either one of the emotions or the seat of the emotions. So this has a very strong emotional connotation. In the New Testament it is HEDONON that marks a non-Christian orientation to life. Remember the context. It was talking about the contrast between human viewpoint and divine viewpoint in 3:13-18, the wisdom that is from heaven versus the wisdom that is earthly, natural and demonic. Here we are going to see that part of human viewpoint wisdom is this emphasis on emotions and emotional pleasure. This is marked in the Scripture as a contrast to divine viewpoint. It is when this becomes the criterion for life. Emotions are responders. There are good emotions and sinful emotions, but when emotion is placed in the driver's seat where it becomes the initiator, that is when you have emotional revolt of the soul and that is indicative of reversionism. Reversionism is when the believer reverses course and instead of advancing spiritually he is declining spiritually. He is operating in reverse and the emotions become the initiator and the criterion rather than the responder to the doctrine that is in the heart, the innermost thinking lobe of the soul. In 2 Timothy 3:4 NASB "treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God," is one of the signs of the declining generations and one of the trends. It is when a civilization is in moral revolt and spiritual revolt against God, and they will be dominated by people who are lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God." There we have the same word, HEDONOM. It is also related to the reversionist believer who lives according to his own will rather than God's will, 1 Peter 4:2. So the word came to mean those who had a desire for pleasure, and it is that desire for pleasure that became the ultimate criterion in life. Personal pleasure dominates everything: "I'm in this for how good it is going to make me feel."

When you make emotion the ultimate criterion what you have is fragmentation of relationships. It starts with fragmentation of the soul because the sin nature is in control, and when you have a fragmented soul because the sin nature is in control under adversity, then it moves to fragmentation of the relationship—of marriage, of families, of churches, of country. That is what James is pointing out here. "In your members" is talking about the members of the congregation. This is the problem. They are emphasizing personal pleasure over and above everything else.

James 4:2 NASB "You lust and do not have; {so} you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; {so} you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask." He builds here. He is going to show this progression that takes place in the sin nature. First, he says "You lust." The word here is the present active indicative of the verb EPITHUMEO [e)piqumew], which means to lust, to hunger for, to desire strongly; "and do not have," you want to control your life, you have decided exactly what it is that has value in life. From the source of pleasure as the criterion you have developed a scale of values. This scale of values determines your priorities in life—how you invest your time, your money, your thinking. As a result of that you have fragmented all your relationships and you have frustration. When you want something bad enough and you don't get it, you start off feeling a level of frustration. You keep trying and keep trying and you don't get your way so you are frustrated. After you have gone through a period of frustration for a while that develops into anger. Now you have full-blown mental attitude sin dominating the soul. The result of that, then, is going to be its manifestation in some area of overt sin, and here it is exemplified as murder. This is talking about the extreme. The word for murder here is PHONEUO [foneuw], a precise word for taking life in an illegitimate manner.

Matthew 5:20 NASB "For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses {that} of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." That means that no single human being can ever do that. What kind of righteousness did the Pharisees have? They were exceptionally moral people. So how do we do it? We do it because when Jesus Christ died for our sins He paid the penalty for our sins. He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. The imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ is that which surpasses the scribes and the Pharisees. [21] "You have heard that the ancients were told, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.' [22] But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, 'You good-for-nothing,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty {enough to go} into the fiery hell." The sin mentioned deals with the overt sin of murder, but Jesus says that what underlies that overt sin is what is really destructive. It is anger. He is simply pointing out that sin is not restricted to the overt sin of murder but also has to do with the entire complex of mental attitude sins of arrogance, envy, hatred, anger, vindictiveness, all of the various mental attitude sins that under gird and motivate that overt action of murder.

James is echoing that concept and that doctrine. It is the internal problem that is the core problem, not just the overt act. Then he says, "You are envious [mental attitude sin of motivation] and cannot obtain." The result is frustration; "so you fight and quarrel." The words he uses for fighting and quarrelling takes us right back to the initial words, MACHE and POLEMOS. So they are having these major battles between them because of these mental attitude sins that are unrestrained. Then he goes on to apply this to prayer.

James 4:3 NASB "You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend {it} on your pleasures." When they are operating on mental attitude sins all come from the root of arrogance, self-absorption. When you are self-absorbed that is just the opposite of faith-dependence upon God. So the last thing that is going to occur to them is that they ought to turn to the Lord in prayer and depend upon Him for their needs and to solve the problem and the adversity that they are facing. There are two things here that are affecting their prayer life. The first is that they just don't pray. They are too arrogant, too self-absorbed, too busy to pray individually or to pray in corporate prayer. The second problem is that they ask, when they finally do get around to praying, they are so motivated by self –absorption and arrogance, dependent on their pleasures, that their prayer doesn't get any higher than the ceiling. Sin destroys your prayer life. Psalm 66:18 NASB "If I regard wickedness in my heart, The Lord will not hear."





James 4:3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend {it} on your pleasures.

James 4:4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.