Monday, October 16, 2006

Controlling Your Desires

In James 4:1-6, James deals with 2 problems that Christians face. One is the problem of fighting (v1-3). According to James, this fighting is what happens between believers (“among you”). It involves “quarrels,” which speaks of a prolonged and serious dispute and is sometimes translated “war.” These internal fighting’s also include more specific battles that James calls “conflicts.”

The source of these disputes is our own pleasures. This is the Greek word where we get our English word “hedonism.” This is the uncontrolled passion to satisfy every sensual desire. It is the gratification of our flesh. The root of hedonism is selfishness and these pleasures cause conflicts among believers and conflict between our soul and our body.

The result of such fighting’s involves two main areas (v2). One is lust, which is a strong desire (contextually a desire for that which is sinful). When our lust is not satisfied, the result is murder (hatred; extremely destructive behavior). Another result is that of being envious. This is a synonym for lust but with a more intense feeling. It is from this English word that we get our word “zealous.” The noun form is translated “jealousy” in James 3:14, 16. When we strongly and selfishly desire something but can not have it, the result is fighting and quarreling.

This type of activity is also a result of our own attitude of independence (v3). James says that these believers do not have because they have not asked. The immense attitude of selfishness is seen by the many usages of the words “you” and “your” in verses 2-3. They did not ask God for help because they were self-sufficient, feeling that they could meet their needs through human means. Some did ask God for help but they did not have because they asked with wrong motives. Many who do ask do not receive help because they ask with wrong the motive of satisfying their fleshly pleasure. The word “spend” described the Prodigal’s squandering of his inheritance on riotous living (Luke 15:13).

A second problem in the church was believers who were choosing friendship with the world over friendship with God (v4-6). James calls these believers “adulteresses” which is a metaphor speaking of their spiritual infidelity. Friendship with the world is equal to hostility toward God. The word “friendship” is the noun form of phileo and is used only here in the New Testament. It is an emotional love or a tender affection. The word “world” does not refer to the physical world but to the evil man-centered system of the world directed by Satan.

James shows the danger of such activity when he states that whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. The word “wishes” speaks of more than a desire or wish to be fulfilled. It is the idea of choosing one over another. The Spirit of God is jealous for our total allegiance to God (v5). When we choose friendship with the world over God, He must oppose us, a military term depicting an army ready for battle (v6). To avoid these two problems in the church we must control our desires.

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