James 4:1 From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?
2 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.
3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
We have noted before that God’s Word is a very practical Word. It is relevant for every generation. It addresses the need of every hour and every person. James was directed to remind the brethren of his calling. He addressed the testings that true brethren will face. True saints do not grumble and complain about their testings. They draw closer to God and grow in Him through it all. He then addressed the very present need for wisdom and how we can have access to God’s wisdom. God also addressed the importance of genuine love and care for all the brethren. Brethren are those who know the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour and are walking with God with Jesus Christ as Lord of their lives. True saints are under God’s direction because they have been bought with a price. They do not belong to themselves and they learn to think in a Christ-like manner the more they grow in Him.
In chapter 2 we are challenged with the evidence that must be there if a person is truly saved. We know that boasting of being saved is easy and popular at certain times. However, those who are truly saved have a testimony of God’s salvation. They produce fruit that identifies them as God’s children. That fruit is defined according to God’s Word, not according to man’s whims and wishes.
In chapter 3 the caution is put out there regarding masters. We need masters to guide and teach us as Christians. We cannot be independent thinkers if God calls us to be masters. We need to be directed by Him. We need to teach His Word faithfully and truthfully. People need to know the truth.
Now in chapter 4 we are taught further of the importance of walking by faith. We know that if we walk by faith according to God’s Word, we will fulfil the perfect law of liberty. If those who are saved, do not walk by faith, there will be trouble.
We do not need degrees to figure this out. We need to believe in the God Who created man and Who knows the effects of the fall far better than we ever will. He tells us here that wars and fightings come from the lusts that war in our members. God is very clear here. If a person is not saved first of all and then submissive to God’s Word, there will be struggles within the person’s own life. That warring within the person will also spill over into others people’s lives.
God tells us here that we need to check our own hearts and indeed, have Him check our hearts to make sure we are walking in obedience to His will. The peace of God that passeth all understanding is needed in my heart as an individual before I can be at peace with others. There are lost people who know they need to speak and behave in a kinder manner. You can catch them in their responses. You do not need to say anything to them. They know when they have not responded properly. They try to correct their wrong responses, but the next time, they do the same thing again. They are not at peace with God and thus they become frustrated with others for no good reason.
James is directed to describe this conflict as a war.
We see the war taking place in Ukraine right now. We see how the Russians are trying to make their point and trying to get Nato to back off and to get Ukraine to respect their territory. Much of the world has joined the Ukrainian side of this conflict. The question people often ask is: will this lead to World War III. In reality we are already in World War Three. The west is heavily invested in Ukraine. They promise to continue to send supplies even though we know that less than half of what is sent there is actually being used by the Ukrainians at home. The Ukrainian government is selling some of the resources to other rogue groups. The west should never be there in the first place, but we think we are being such big helpers. We cannot govern our own country properly and yet we think we are going to be the police over there. We can see the pictures of the devastation that the bombing is causing. It is a mess. War is messy. War is deadly.
James tells us that when brethren war, the root cause is found inside the brethren first of all.
In verse 2 we read that we lust and have not. We want things that we do not need and cannot rightfully have, but we want them. So we waste time and energy and we do not accomplish what we hope to gain. He further states that we desire to have but cannot get what we desire. We fight and war, but do not get what we desire because we do not ask in the right manner.
This is so obvious to observe. Marriages that fail create such a mess. Couples enlist the help of lawyers. They spend thousands of dollars to try to resolve the matter, but the only winner in that is the lawyers. The couple does not get what they desire. Even if they win some of the battles, they are not satisfied in their spirit, because they do not want to submit to God’s law. If they would do that, they would never end up in court. So they fight and struggle and bring stress upon themselves and others for no good reason. It does not need to be that way.
If people would ask God for the right thing, it would all be different. If a person would be saved and then ask God for a humble heart to hear Him, it would make such a difference. If we would ask Him to forgive us and cleanse our heart so that we can hear Him, things would never get out of hand as they so often do. It requires humility to submit to God’s will. We can assume we know what to do. We can assume we have the right answer, if only we could get the other person to listen to us and follow our wishes. What is required is that we listen to God and follow His way.
In verse 3 James tells us that even when we pray, if we are in that war zone, we are not getting a resolution because we ask amiss. We ask according to our will, not according to God’s will. We want our lusts satisfied. We are not willing to follow God’s will and way.
In verse 4 God is very pointed and direct about the problem. He uses strong language here, but it is needed language. We know what physical adultery is. We know that it is unfaithfulness in a marriage relationship. God condemns that. In the Old Testament, the adulterer was to be stoned.
In our text, God is talking about spiritual adultery. The true child of God is married to God. John the Baptist stated that Jesus Christ is the bridegroom, and those who are saved need to step aside and submit to the authority of the bridegroom. Paul wrote that Jesus Christ is the bridegroom, and New Testament saints are the bride. In a Biblical marriage, the bridegroom is the important person in the marriage. The bridegroom establishes the household and he brings the bride into his house and he establishes the course of their marriage.
Jesus Christ is the bridegroom. He has established the course of the marriage. He must be the head of the man and the woman and the man needs to submit to the Lord first of all. In the Christian life, the saved person must submit to the Lord Jesus Christ as the Lord of their life. When a saved person thinks that he can take over some of the authority that belongs to the Lord, then there will be trouble. A person that thinks that way is thinking in the way of the world. James tells us that friendship with the world is enmity with God. That is where the war is. It is a losing battle to fight against the Lord yet Christians can be guilty of just that.
James tells us that the person who chooses to be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. A true Christian cannot keep the sinful thinking and ideas of the world. The saved person must submit to God’s will for his life. When he does that, things will begin to be made right. If the person insists on pursuing his own agenda, he proves he is not a child of God. You cannot be a child of God and be an enemy of God. The fighting has to stop.
Jonah was a prophet of God. He fought against God. He put in place a plan to follow the philosophy of the world. He hated the Ninevites and was not going to reach out to them with the Word of God. He put into action a plan to get away from God’s will. He was at war with God. God stopped him cold in his tracks. He gave him 3 days and 3 nights in the belly of the fish to rethink his plan. Jonah realized he was no match for the LORD. He verbalized his submission to God’s plan. God caused him to be vomited out on the dry ground and repeated His command to Jonah. Jonah went this time and he preached the message God gave him. However, Jonah’s heart was still not right with God. God continued to work with Jonah to help him to see that his friendship with the world was wicked. Jonah cared more about a gourd and about his own comforts than he did for the souls of the people of Nineveh. It took Jonah some time to see how foolish he was. He did not win against God. As a prophet of God he could not persist in his fight against God. He needed to submit to God.
The same is true for any true child of God. Those who persist in fighting and going their own way are the enemies of God. They are not the ones to follow. They are going the wrong way. If they refuse to repent and do the right thing by God, they prove what is really going on in their heart.
James wrote this to help his generation of brethren to understand the facts. Since God’s Word is inspired of God, this book is also for all Christians. It is also there to show lost people what is really going on. Christianity needs to be pure and right. Don’t follow the frauds. Don’t be a fraud. Submit to God’s will and word and know His blessing and then help others to know His blessing as well.