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Sunday School Lesson - October 2, 2022
"Faith on Display in Facing the Enemy"
James 4:1-10
The Point:
"You can sent triumphantly in Christ over sin, the world, and Satan."
In today's lesson, James will show us that fights ad quarrels are deeply rooted in our sinful human nature.  
 
James 4:1-3
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. 
 
Conflict is everywhere. It happens on a global, national, and local scale. We experience conflict at work, in our communities, in our homes, and in our churches. Sadly, conflict can happen even when the church is thriving. 
 
Conflict in church seems out of place. We expect believers to act in a Christlike manner, but even those who read the Bible and sing worshipful songs can succumb to self-centered motives. The reason is because everyone - even every believer - has a sinful nature that he or she must battle every day. Our sinful nature desires something someone else has that we do not have, and it becomes covetousness. This powerful desire to obtain what others have increases frustration, dissatisfaction, and disappointment, becoming a deep-seated inner conflict. We long for more, and when we do not get it, the inner turmoil increases. With time, our inner conflict erupts and escalates so that others are affected. 
James paired two words with similar meanings - "wars and fightings" - to describe this eruption. This combination captures the full range of conflict intensities from bitter disagreements to a fully armed battle. 
Whether the conflict is subtle or extreme, it has the same source: our self-centered passions and desires. Our self-centered, sinful nature keeps us in a state of perpetual conflict. We take matters into our own hands instead of turning to God for what we need. 
The ultimate source of the problem is neither our inner turmoil nor our visible conflict with others; rather, it is the conflict we are having with God. If we trusted God, we would ask Him for what we really need, and we would contentedly trust Him for what He provides. But we don't come to God, and because we do not ask, we have inner conflict that becomes conflict with others. To break this endless cycle, we must learn to trust God enough to ask Him for what we need. 
God does not give us things simply because we want and covet them. If our requests flow out of our self-centered sinful nature, He says no. God will only answer in a way that honors Him. "Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son". (John 14:13, emphasis added). 
James 4:4-5
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. 
5  Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?
A materialistic and self-centered mindset is something we expect to see in the world, but not among those who follow Christ. Covetousness - the powerful driving force to have what belongs to others - pulls us away from enjoying the sufficiency of Christ.  When we refuse to rely on God, we are expressing hostility toward Him. 
James used strong language to underscore the seriousness of the silent, incessant, destruction spirit of covetousness and the worldly mindset. Instead of calling his readers brothers and sisters, as had been his pattern in this letter, he now called them "adulterers and adulteresses." With this change in how he addressed his readers, James was shifting from a pastoral to a prophetic tone. When James called his readers, "adulterers," he was using the same type of language the Jewis prophets used to confront the people about their spiritual unfaithfulness. Isaiah (Isa. 1;21), Jeremiah referred to the unfaithful nations of Israel and Judah as adulterers. Like the prophets before him, James spoke directly and candidly to the people. 
By using that phrase, James not only signaled how serious the issue is, but he also summarized the essence of covetousness - a desire that is not contained by godly boundaries. Like adultery, covetousness breaks trust. It breaks our trust with God as well as with His people. Covetousness and adultery share something else in common: they both impact the lives of innocent people. The conflicts caused by covetousness destroy others just as adulterous affairs hurt innocent people. 
Sin converts healthy drives into destructive passions. These covetous passions are unregulated and never bring satisfaction. The insatiable desire for more never ends. Like cancer, covetousness destroys what is good and healthy around it and does not stop until everything is gone. 
Aligned with Jesus's teaching that "no man can serve two masters" (Matt 6:24), James taught that covetous believers are not being faithful to God; their pursuit of worldly things "is enmity with God". Instead of depending on Him and trusting Him for what they need, they've sold out to materialism.  Their inner struggle and dissatisfaction will only lead to further struggles: battles with others and with God. While some might think they can flirt with the world and still be faithful to God, James dispelled that notion. There can be no harmless flirtation with the world. It is impossible to say to the world, "we're just friends". Such an attitude puts believers in the category of spiritual adulterers.  Thinking like the world and pursing the things of the world will always pull us away from Christ. 
James 4:6-10
6  But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. 
7  Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will fleet from you. 
8  Draw night to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. 
9  Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep; let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. 
10  Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. 
We have hope. The hostility with God does not have to continue. James provided guidance on how to end the war and be a friend of God. The friendship restoration begins when God's people stop acting like He is their enemy and submit to His care and authority. God is never the problem; our sinful nature is. The solution is to stop submitting to the insatiable appetites of our sin nature and begin submitting to God by depending on Him for our needs. 
 
Of course, that does not mean that temptation or difficulty ceases. Satan will not be happy when we stop submitting to our sinful nature. So, when we experience temptation and feel the onslaught of Satan, we are to resist him. We don't argue or debate; we "resist the devil." We don't even run from him. We draw near to God and He will draw near to us. 
There is an interesting relationship between prayer and humility. The very act of praying requires humility. Prayer is an admission that we can not provide for ourselves; we require God's intervention. 
 
In humility we pray, and we report of our sins. A heart of repentance and humility is needed when we pray. See Psalm 51. 
With clean hands and a pure heart, we see our sinfulness with new clarity. In God's presence, His holiness contrasts with our sinfulness, and we experience the darkness of our hearts. We begin to weep. But thankfully, when we mourn over our sinfulness, we experience God's comfort (Matt 5:4) as He draws near to us. He responds with His infinite grace. "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up."
For more information on this lesson attend Sunday School at our church on October 2, 2022. We will be glad to have you.