Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
Let me start by asking you a hard question:
Are you the same person here…that you are on Sunday nights at home?
Or Mondays at work?
Or Friday nights with your friends?
Do you talk the same?
Do you act the same?
For most of us in this room, the honest answer is…no.
We’re not the same…not exactly anyway.
I see it in my own life sometimes, and it’s sad.
As humans, we have an incredibly difficult time with being consistent across the board.
It doesn’t mean we’re schizophrenic, but it does mean, that we let different people, different situations, different desires drive our lives, in different areas.
Which, as you might surmise…is kind of messy.
But what if there was a different way to do it?
This morning, as we continue in our “More Than Words” series on the Letter of James in the Bible, I want to show you…a different way.
AN UNRAVELING OF DESIRES
We’re going to start chapter 4 this morning…
If you weren’t here last week, or weren’t able to listen online (or through the app)…or maybe you’re visiting for the first time today…let me catch you up.
As James was wrapping up chapter 3, he was encouraging his readers to have some healthy “stage fright” about being the star of your life.
He warned us that when we live with selfish ambition…life gets messy.
He’s going to begin on that same sort of vein this morning…by talking about the messiness of our desires…and then, he’s going to take it even a step further
(James 4:1-12) – NIV
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”
7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
11 Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them, speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?
We’re going to walk through verses 1-10 in a second here, but let me just mention that we’re actually going to cover verses 11-12 in House Groups this week
If you’re not in one of our groups yet, 230 adults have already signed up!
You can sign-up right now…on the app…or in the hallway on the way out.
Don’t miss this incredible opportunity to meet new people and grow in your faith!
All right, so here’s the gist of what James is getting at:
When we live out our own desires, it’s messy.
But even worse than that, he says it’s adulterous towards God (that’s intense…we’ll get to that)
But, when we submit, surrender, come near to God…we actually live.
James starts by asking a good question:
“What causes fights and quarrels among you?”
This encompasses everything from “the little spat you had with your co-worker on Thursday to international warfare”
The answer, he says, is the desires with us.
Our human desires (for control, for security, for pleasure, for money, for you name it)…when those desires run free…they create a mess.
Similar to what James described last week.
James then says, we have all of these desires for things, and yet, unfortunately there are other people we have to share this planet with…and they get in the way of what we want (the nerve!)…and that creates conflict!
And even when we’re really frustrated about it all not working out, then we try and bring God in as a tool to…selfishly answer our desires.
Our desires are basically ruling and ruining our lives at the same time.
AN ADULTEROUS COMPARTMENTALIZATION
And then James takes it one step further.
In verse 4, he says:
(James 4:4) – NIV
You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God
He calls us adulterers.
And he IS talking to us (believers) by the way.
If he was talking to unbelievers, he might have said, idolaters…people who worshipped something else.
He’s talking about people He’s already in a relationship with, but their hearts are not completely faithful to Him.
The “adultery” language is actually quite common in the Old Testament.
Much of the entire book of Hosea is based on this metaphor…the idea that God’s people are His bride…and unfortunately, they’ve committed adultery with the world.
Paul says in 2 Timothy 3 that we are “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God”
And James is saying, to be in love with God AND to be in love with the desires of the world…is spiritual adultery.
Let me explain it a different way.
Most of us have many different compartments to our lives
(Show compartmentalization grid) – LEAVE UP UNTIL NEXT VERSE!
You have your work life, social life, marriage, Christian life (church, house groups), maybe even a secret part of your life.
And what’s happened, for most of us, like I said at the beginning, we are not the same person in each of those boxes.
And God, all too often gets left in the “Christian Life” box, while it’s our own desires that truly rule the other boxes.
Let me just ask you: How satisfied are you with your efforts to bring God into ALL of the compartments of your life?
Rhetorical question: But how many of you have room to grow here?
Maybe you’ve started to let God seep in to some of these boxes, but in all honesty, you’re still TRULY the one that’s in charge in that box.
But then, we read James 4…and James boldly calls this type of thinking: spiritual adultery
Because…when Jesus came down to earth, to die on the cross for all of your sins, in return, he wants all of your life, not 1 of 9 boxes.
He wants an undivided heart.
Just like, if you’re married, your spouse wants your undivided heart.
Your spouse is not going to say, “Yeah, I think it’s fine if you have a work-spouse”…someone else you give your heart to at work.
They want your heart…no matter where you are.
Same with God.
He wants an undivided heart… a heart where no compartment of your life is sealed off from the Lordship of Christ…from letting Him be IN it…and in charge of it.
Psychologists call this whole effect: Compartmentalization.
And see, the only way to get rid of the “compartments” is to be consistent across the board.
To let God rule the same in every box.
So let me ask you, which compartments are you still letting your own desires rule your life?
Which compartments…are you not trusting God to lead in?
HIS JEALOUSY & GRACE
Not that we want him to, but James actually takes the adultery metaphor a step further.
In verse 5, James says that God “jealously longs” for our faithfulness.
See, if you haven’t spent much time in a good Bible-believing church, you might be inclined to think, “Well, my own desires are running about 5 out of 9 of my boxes…and I bet God is pretty mad about that”
James tells us that “Mad”…isn’t really the right adjective.
James says he’s jealous.
Jealous of us??
Um, not quite.
He’s jealous FOR you.
His jealousy is like that of a husband who feels his wife is about to have a careless affair.
This is actually good news. Stay with me.
Many Americans think God is just sort of ambivalent about their life and actions.
I hear people say all the time: “God has too many other big problems to care about my little life.
But the Bible tells us…that He treats each and every one of us…like His spouse.
And when we go off to flirt with the empty void of the world’s pleasures…He’s so in love with you…so committed to you…that He’s jealous.
Like a spouse that’s been betrayed…it breaks his heart that we can’t see that He’s offering us real life.
But He’s enraged and unforgiving.
Why is He jealous?
Because He wants you back.
Yeah, there’s some “fire” in this passage, but God’s love & mercy are so alive in it as well.
James tells us in verse 6, that even if we are believers, and we continue to run away into the arms of worldly desires…falsely hoping they could fill us up …that God…“gives us more grace” he says.
Do you see this?
Do you see this rightly?
He gave EVERYTHING to us. His own SON.
And so for many of us, we gave Him our lives.
But over time, we start taking compartments of our lives back…and in our unfaithfulness…we start trying to find life in other places
And yet…He gives us MORE GRACE.
That’s the love of our God.
We take back part of lives from Him…but He NEVER takes anything back from us
Not his Son. Not his love.
Not even his grace.
We keep sinning, and he keeps forgiving.
It’s like God’s “spouse” keeps perpetuating a life of habitual adultery, and He, the faithful spouse, keeps letting us come back
And the Bible says that we SHOULD NEVER take that grace in vain.
Instead, His unparalleled, unequaled grace should WAKE US UP to realize that the hollow, unfulfilled promises of the world have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING on our God.
HE’s real love.
HE’s real life.
SUBMIT & COME NEAR
So what do we do?
James says we submit to God…we come near to Him.
In other words, we take those boxes where we are currently not really letting God into, and we open them up to the “wisdom of His rule”
But let’s simplify it…and narrow it down.
What are the most pressing 1 or 2 boxes you need to hand over right now? Where can you grow in this?
We all have compartments that we’re not fully handing over to God and trusting His way.
What can you start with?
Picture it this way, maybe this will help:
Let’s slightly adapt the metaphor and make it a bit more 3D.
What if we take all of those boxes or compartments, and instead, we were to line them up (one-by-one) on a road as if each box was a section of your life that you drove through each week.
You drive through the church box on Sunday mornings, the marriage box on an off, the entertainment box in the evenings, the work box during the week, and on and on.
And every time you drive…through every box…you have a choice: Who has the keys?
Who’s driving you through that box?
Who’s going to determine where you go and how you do it?
Who’s in control?
And by the way, for a lot of us, some of the boxes where we’re holding on to the keys…are in the form of subtle rebellion…not emotional rebellion.
Maybe God’s not in charge of your finances…not because you said, “I’ll do what I want, GOD!”
But because you’ve said, “I’m doing pretty good at this, things are just fine, and you haven’t thought much about bringing Him in”
It’s a different way of getting there, but it’s the same problem
We’re in control, not Him.
I think there are a lot of boxes where we haven’t turned over the keys yet simply because we haven’t failed enough yet to ask Him for His help.
But give it time J
Now you could, just say to God, and many do, “Get out of my car. This is my life. I’m driving.”
Most of us however, settle for some sort of in-between lifestyle.
In a few of our boxes, we actually do grab the keys and toss them to Jesus let him drive
We let Him lead us.
We trust him.
We go where he wants to lead us.
But then we get to a new block…a different section of our lives…and we say, “Give me those keys back! I better handle this one myself…my way! I’m not ready to give up that pleasure…that secret…that grudge…my way of doing things!”
Because we KNOW, that if Jesus was driving, he wouldn’t steer us to those things.
So we grab the keys back.
That is…until it doesn’t work anymore.
Or until you get to a new box where you trust him, and you hand them over…only later that night to grab they keys back for another box.
And honestly, it’s a rather miserable way to live.
It’s loaded with remorse
And James tells us why.
It’s adultery...but worse.
It’s like driving away to have an affair, but forgetting your spouse is still in the car with you.
We may FEEL like we’ve “escaped” to our own box…but trust me, God hasn’t gone anywhere.
This is WHY we compartmentalize…by the way.
This is why we try and create these boxes with walls in our brains and our souls.
Because we don’t want to feel the weight of our mistakes.
We think, If we just grab the keys, drive away, and become someone else in that other box, then maybe our “true person” doesn’t have to feel the pain and insanity of our choices.
But you’ll never find life in splitting yourself apart
But let James speak some truth and reality into your life.
Life works…when there aren’t boxes. Or at least when every box is governed by the same principle…better yet, the same God.
See, you and I are too blind and too drunk w/ desire to be driving behind the wheel of our own lives…in ANY box.
We need to acknowledge…today…that there is a God that we need to hand the keys over to.
He’s our sober cab.
We have no business driving through these boxes of our lives thinking our desires will get us where they want.
Where do you need to hand over your keys?
Because you oughta to start digging for those keys today…because tomorrow you might think it’s a dumb idea.
It’s because of both the strength of our desires and the strength of our self-deception that James speaks then rather strongly about HOW to then turn these boxes over.
In verses 7-10, he tells us how
And to our American minds, the process doesn’t sound all that pleasant…or easy.
Most of us don’t even like these verses…or the 11 or so commands James gives us on how to do this. He says:
Submit (we love that world) to God
Resist the devil
Come near to God
Wash your hands
Purify your hearts
Grieve (wail if you have to) about your sin
And humble yourself before God
Sounds exciting, right?
It’s not a half-hearted process because a half-hearted process won’t work.
It’s an all-in process.
For example: Maybe your struggle is an over-emphasis on work…or your paycheck…and let’s say your work is constantly getting in the way of you being with your family (of your faith), and your family is really feeling the effects of it, get a different job.
See, immediately, we go, “Well…you see…I don’t want to do anything drastic…because it’s a good paying job…and…but..yet…and…
What we’re saying is, “That box is mine! And…I want my DESIRES to rule…not God’s wisdom”
And as Christians, what we typically do is…we settle for…“Meh, I’ll pray about it”
Half-hearted actions are usually just disguises that allow you to keep your own desires in charge.
This is why James speaks so strongly:
It’s because there are ZERO half-hearted methods to stop living a compartmentalized, double-minded lifestyle
There’s an old African proverb on double-mindedness that says: "The man who tries to walk two roads will split his pants."
God’s calling you to walk ONE road right now.
The narrow road.
The road that He wants to drive on.
Will you trust Him?
Can you hand him the keys?
And we’re better off for it! That’s the beauty of this!
This is a LOVING God that is saying:
“If you give me the keys and let me drive through those areas of your life…
I promise…you won’t have to be driving all over the road anymore…and up on the curb and through Mrs. Johnson’s lawn.
This is one of the central and paradoxical messages of Christianity.
To die is to live.
To surrender is to be victorious
To submit is to be free.
Look at what James says will happen when you surrender your boxes to him. He says:
Then, God can come near…because we let him in!
Then, the devil’s influence begins to flee our lives
Then, we can begin to live peacefully and single-mindedly, not in the shameful chaos of compartmentalization
And then, James says, if we do that, “He’ll lift us up!”
John Ortberg, who is one of my all-time favorite writers, says it this way:
I cannot surrender to God unless I trust he has my best interest at his heart. I can't do it otherwise. Jesus has a lot to say about death to self, but it is always the death of a lesser self, of a false self, so that a better and nobler self can come to life. It's always death to desires and behaviors that would’ve ended up killing me anyhow, so that I can come alive and thrive as the person God wants me to be. – John Ortberg
That’s how you can let him in!
Christians, God doesn’t want to make your life boring, but to make you come alive.
When we let our own desires drive us, we drive impaired…we drive drunk.
Hand over your keys…and live.
You won’t just stay alive…you’ll come alive!
The best thing you can do today is start surrendering boxes to Him.
In fact, I want to give you an opportunity to as we take communion together this morning.
The Gospel of Matthew tells us this happened at Jesus’ last supper:
(Matthew 26:26-29) - NIV
26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”
27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
And so, for the last 2,000 years Christians have been taking communion as a way for us to remember what Jesus did on the cross for us.
And we’re told elsewhere in Scripture that whenever we do take communion, we ought to examine ourselves
To 1) not do it in vain. To only do it if we truly believe it. And if you’re still just seeking, that’s ok. You’re on a journey. 2) Communion is an opportunity for believers to examine themselves (ask yourself some tough questions)
Like, for instance: If Jesus really gave his ALL for me on the cross…what parts of me haven’t I give back?
And so here’s what I want you to do today:
Before you go back to take communion…surrender a box.
Hand over the keys, do what you need to do to let Jesus rule that part of your life.
But know, like James says CONSTANTLY, this will take more than words.
You start by saying it today by submitting your heart…you finish by taking action …this afternoon…tomorrow…whatever it takes.
But trust God…he has something better for you.
In the back, there are 2 tables….with pieces of bread and a bowl of juice. When you’re ready, you can get up take an individual piece of bread and dip it in the juice.
And whenever you’re ready, at any time during this last song, you can go back and take communion.
If you would like to pray while you’re back there, we encourage you to do so. With each other, by yourself, or our prayer team will be in the back to pray for you as well (POINT THEM OUT)
We really just want you to encounter God during our service.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.