Monthly Archives: May 2013

James – Why Do We Fight and Argue?

Peninsula Community Church
May 26, 2013
James – How to Fight Well

James 4:1-3 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

James asks his readers a rhetorical question. While he is the one asking the question he is already prepared to answer his own question. The question here is “what is the cause of quarrels and fights among you?” As he answers the question he raises, he does so by showing us the symptoms of the heart as well as the solution for the issue at hand which is why are their quarrels and fights in our lives?

Conflict is an issue of the heart. Another way to look at this is to ask the question “why is it so easy for us to take the gloves off?” Why is it that we have so many fights and quarrels in life? His answer is in essence his way of making application of the fundamental principle Jesus taught in Matthew 15:19. This teaching of Jesus is at the crux of conflict both personally and corporate. Jesus taught his disciples and us that, “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony and slander. In Luke 12:13-15 we are reminded that our hearts are the wellspring of all our thoughts, desires, words and actions. Therefore the heart is the source of conflict, fights and arguments.

Before we look at the heart more closely, let us look at the symptoms of a heart that is divided and in need of help. In this passage, James deals with the symptoms, cause and cure for fighting and arguing. So what are the symptoms that point to the issues in our lives?

James states that the first symptom is that we have a misdirected focus as a result of our passions which are at war within us. We can define passions as desire. The word here for passion literally means pleasure which prompts you to desire. The Greek word is the same word were we get our modern word hedonism. The word means to seek pleasure.

Once again I am reminded that we have been fearfully and wonderfully made. As a creation of God we have been created with passion and a desire to seek pleasure. It is for that reason that we love to laugh. We all have passion. It may be manifested in different ways and for different reasons, but we all have passion. One person may have passion for golf while another has a passion for fishing. One person may have a passion to cook and prepare great meals while another one may have a passion to eat what has been cooked. One may have a passion for evangelism exclusively while another may have a passion for discipleship exclusively. Still another may have a passion to seek after the things of God while another may have a passion to seek the ways of the world. The bottom line is that we all have passion.

The problem is when our passion drives us to sinful pleasure and to disobedience and things contrary to God’s commands and his ways. The problem exists when are passions collide with another reality. Paul knew about this issue when he penned the words of Romans 7:8 “But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire.”

While passion is a part of our lives so is conflict and problems. The story is told of a man who was stranded on a dessert island. When his recusers came to save him they noticed that there were three structures on the property. The rescuers asked him what the structures were. He said that the first structure was his home and the second was his church. When pressed about the third structure he said that was his previous church. You see even on a deserted island one can argue and fight with themselves because of the war within them.

James states that the second symptom is unmet expectations as we desire and do not have. Because we cannot have the things we desire we end up committing murder. Although unmet expectations may lead to actual murder this is not to be construed as murder but as the potential to destroy by one’s words and one’s actions. When our passions are not controlled we can begin to literally conceive how we will destroy and injure others. So often this action is a result of fear and doubt about one’s self. Sometimes this is self evident and sometimes it is a subtle ploy of the heart. The problem with unmet expectations is that they begin to wear on us and we begin to believe that we must put another down in order to elevate ourselves. We see this in America today where people are more concerned with blaming others and putting others down rather than dealing with real issues and problems.

James states that the third symptom is misplaced affections which causes us to covet but cannot obtain. When we cannot get the results we want we fight and quarrel. Here James suggests that we covet and want what others have to the point that when we cannot obtain those things we resort to fighting and arguing. When we covet something that much we are raising that item to the place of an idol in our life.

James states that the fourth symptom was a lack of trust because we do not have because we do not ask. We do not have because we do not ask. A lack of asking is symbolic of a not trusting the one that can give all we need.

James states that the fifth symptom is a wrong motivation. We ask and do not receive because we ask for the wrong things. He says that you ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly so that you can spend it on your passions. Sometimes God withholds from us because the motivation of our heart is wrong and inappropriate.

These symptoms point to a divided and uncommitted heart. Fights and arguments are therefore symptoms of the condition of one’s heart. These symptoms point to the unmet desires of our hearts. It is much like a the symptoms of a disease. Symptoms are not the disease but they point to a problem or concern. In our physical bodies we may experience aches, chills and a fever. These items in themselves are not the disease but they point to the fact that we might have the flue. So it is here in this text, the fighting and arguments that occur point to a deeper issue of spiritual maturity and inward strive.

In the body of Christ, the church, we can have arguments and fights over things when our passions are left uncontrolled. As the body of Christ, we are made up of different people from different backgrounds with different ideas and different goals, gift sets and vision for the future.
The problem that exists is that we have passion for a particular area of ministry while someone else may not have the same passion. We can believe that our particular way of doing ministry is the only way to accomplish the work of God. When we meet someone who has an opposing view or ideology about ministry it can result in fights and arguments.

We would be amazed at the cause of some church splits in churches. Splits and division has been caused by arguments and fights over carpet color, type of music, the pastor’s hair and so on. Too often we debate and argue over preferences rather than over doctrine. What I mean by this is that sometimes we desire a certain style of presentation but that is a preference rather than an issue of doctrine.

Why do our passions wage war within us? Our passions will either help us to grow and they will cause our growth to stagnate or it will throw us off course all together. Romans 7:25, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” Its our choice. Which choice will you make?

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James – Spiritual Wisdom Part 2

Peninsula Community Church
May 12, 2013
Spiritual Wisdom Part 2

James 3:13-18 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

As I was planning for Mother’s Day, I considered several possibilities and several different directions that could be taken this morning. As I did so, I realized that the message was already in front of me. The fact is the list available to us through this passage gives us the tools to examine who we are and what we are to be not only as mothers but as passionate followers of Christ.

Today, we will continue to look at the book of James and we will continue our study today, on spiritual wisdom. Last week we looked at earthly, natural, and demonic wisdom. Today, we will look at the attributes of spiritual wisdom. As we noted last week, James lists several attributes and characteristics of spiritual wisdom.

While James defined earthly wisdom this week will look at the definition of Spiritual wisdom. Last week we saw that James qualified earthly wisdom as being rooted in selfish ambition and bitter jealousy. James not only qualified what earthly wisdom might look like but he also qualified what spiritual wisdom should be. Below, we will Look at this list of qualifiers for spiritual wisdom. What we understand is that true wisdom is not selfish or boastful.

The first qualifier of spiritual wisdom is that it is pure. The Greek word here is agnos. The original usage of the word signified “that which awakens awe.” Later it began to be used for the ritual of ceremonial cleaning which related back to the temple in the Old Testament. One who is pure has been purified and they are unstained by the world. Clayton a few weeks ago noted that we must remain unstained by the world and the world’s ways. True spiritual wisdom is pure and undefiled by the world’s ways and the world’s motivation and mindsets. The idea of pure here is the idea of a garment that is not soiled by the dirt of the world. This does not mean that one lives a perfectly sinless life, but it does mean that they strive to live sinless to the degree that they are able to and that they take care of any stains before they have time to set in and damage the soul. It means also that they keep a clean slate of wrongs and issues of sin. This particular quality speaks to the condition of the heart. It is for this reason that David in his Psalm of forgiveness (Psalm 51:10) cries out to God to “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Jesus, himself, spoke to his disciples and said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Purity of heart is one of the qualities on living in spiritual wisdom. James understood here the necessity of walking with a pure heart.

The second qualifier of spiritual wisdom is that it is peaceable. The usage of this word in the languages of James day is enlightening. In the original writings, the word denotes a friendly word of a man as opposed to a divisive rather warlike word. The words one speaks should be distinguished between hard and harsh and the words one speaks softly. God’s wisdom brings peace. In the church when God’s wisdom is evident there is peace. Have you known anyone that enjoyed stirring up trouble and strife. Some they couch this in desire for truth or desire to bring healing when in reality they are only stirring up strife and division. They seem to get a thrill at doing this. They attempt to manufacture or take statements out of context in order to prove their point but in essence they stir up strife and disunity in the body of Christ. James here says that God’s wisdom seeks to bring peace and not strife. It seeks to bring healing and not destruction. Remember that peace is not the absence of strife but it is the evidence of peace in the midst of strife and evil. Listen here to what Paul says. Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. (2 Corinthians 13:11). If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all (Romans 12:18).

The third qualifier of spiritual wisdom is that it is gentle. The word used here is one that denotes rulership and how one must rule. They must do so with all gentleness. God’s wisdom is not harsh. Truth can be painful but the one speaking the truth does not have be harsh. Instead it is gentle and it is life giving. Have you ever been confronted by someone who is harsh and bitter. They are like a bull in a china shop. They leave a wake of injury and they wound whoever is in their way. The is that too often the one guilty of such action is not aware of what they are doing. They are everything but gentle. The quality of gentleness is a fruit of the spirit. The problem we have with gentleness is that we often confuse directness with a lack gentleness (Galatians 5:23). Paul also speaks to this issue of being gentle when he communicates they we must serve the Lord with all humility and gentleness (Ephesians 4:2).

The fourth qualifier of spiritual wisdom is that it is open to reason. This exhibits an approachable spirit. This speaks to one who is open to discussion and to new ways of thinking. Spiritual wisdom means that one is teachable. It means that they have not arrived at some level of intellect that they do not need instruction from others. This also means that the one who exhibits spiritual wisdom is not defiant and stubborn. They are open to reason. Another way to look at this is that he or she is not set their ways. They are open to learn new things and new ways of doing things. When error has been pointed out they are open to the reasoning of others.

The fifth qualifier of spiritual wisdom is that it is full of mercy. Spiritual wisdom is gracious and merciful to others. Remember earlier that James says that mercy should triumph over judgement. James returns to this thought by reminding us that spiritual wisdom exhibits a life of mercy and forgiveness. One who lacks mercy does not know how to show another grace. Once again we must not confuse mercy with speaking the truth in love. Spiritual wisdom is merciful, as it recognizes that except by the grace of God we might be in the same place and might be struggling with same sin we see in others.

The sixth qualifier of spiritual wisdom is that it is full of good fruits. A person’s source of wisdom is defined by the kind of fruit they exhibit in their life. When you look at a person’s life what do you see? Are they manifesting fruit that shows Christ in a good a light? We must remember that fruit and not one’s gifts are the measure of a man’s life. Now this does not mean that one’s gifts and talents are not important; it does mean that the exhibition of character is manifested through the fruit of one’s life. A few weeks ago a couple of us went to the FCA dinner. The speaker of the evening shared a message where he compared talent with character. Character always trumps talent. So it is spiritually, our fruit always trumps our gifts.

The seventh qualifier of spiritual wisdom is that it is impartial. James returns to this idea of showing impartiality. True spiritual wisdom is found in the capacity to show impartiality. I am reminded of what a friend of Michelle said about her. She stated, “Whoever Michelle is with, she makes them feel like they are her best friend.” That is the wisdom that is spiritual.

The eighth qualifier of spiritual wisdom is that it is sincere – True spiritual wisdom is sincere. It is not fake. It does presume on others. It doesn’t not say one thing and then do something else.

There is one thing that could be said about spiritual wisdom. True spiritual wisdom does not have to be forced. Spiritual wisdom is displayed the best when we think about it the least. It is a supernatural natural outcome of a life committed to follow Christ.

First, we must make a real evaluation of our lives. We must take inventory of where we are and the areas of change needed. So what if we find that we are falling short in any of these? James has the answer. He states in James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

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James – What is Spiritual Wisdom?

Peninsula Community Church
James – What is Spiritual Wisdom
May 5, 2013

James 3:13-18 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

James in this passage continues to define what a passionate follower of Christ will look like. Here he qualifies the difference between wisdom that is earthly or demonic and that wisdom which is spiritual. James notes that false wisdom is earthly, natural, and demonic. You will notice that wisdom here is not defined by one’s education or by one’s intellectual prowess. As James has done through this text he uses a comparative analysis to establish his point. In this case he uses a comparison between spiritual wisdom and earthly wisdom. This is not the first time a comparison of spiritual wisdom and man’s wisdom or earthly wisdom has occurred in Scripture. We have seen this in Paul’s writings of 1 Corinthians chapter one and two. We also see this comparison throughout the Book of Proverbs and for that matter throughout the Biblical story as related in the stories of the biblical characters of both the Old and New Testament.

Wisdom is revealed through one’s actions and lifestyle. James begins this passage by stating that the level of one’s wisdom is witnessed by way of one’s conduct. This is not a new idea as James has highlighted this idea of conduct being a mirror to one’s soul and heart in earlier verses. Wisdom as defined by James is characterized by how one lives their life and what one does in that life. Wisdom is in essence a lifestyle as much as it is something that is accomplished or done in one’s life.

In this passage, James notes two defining characteristics of earthly, unspiritual, and demonic wisdom is defined as bitter jealousy and selfish ambition. He suggests that the one who is walking in earthly wisdom will be defined by a lifestyle of bitter jealousy and selfish ambition. Jealousy is defined as an inordinate longing for, being envious of others and being careful to guard or protect something or someone. The problem defined by James is not just having jealously but having a jealousy rooted in bitterness. Bitterness binds us and preempts God’s work in our heart. Jealously is in reality a lack of trust in the person to which we are extending love. It is for that reason spiritual jealously is rooted in a lack of trust in God. It is also motivated by a lack of contentment in God’s ways and his ability to work out the various situations we experience in our lives. The writer of Hebrews has this to say about having a root of bitterness. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled … (Hebrews 12:15).

The second qualifier of earthly wisdom is that it is defined by selfish ambition. Selfish ambition is an act of wanting to put ourselves above everyone one else and to obtain praise and adulation from others. In the Greek, the word used here for selfish ambition is the word eritheia which means to “work for hire.” It is to do things for one’s own gain regardless of the discord it causes. It places self-interest ahead of what the Lord declares right or what is good for others. Some commentators suggest the term represents that person who is politically oriented. They will say and do anything to get votes. They do things to gain recognition rather than to glorify God. They commit to serve Him so that they will be patted on the back and not to honor God. Jesus dealt with this phenomenon on the Sermon on the Mount. With selfish ambition comes a false understanding of who we are and what we are designed to do. The writer of Proverbs noted, Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips (Proverbs 27:2).

Paul also reminds us in Philippians 2:4-5 that we are not to do anything “from selfish or empty conceit but with humility of mind; let each of you regard one another as more important than himself and do not merely look out for euro personal interest but also for the interest of others.”

How do we know we are selfish and jealous? One way to know is to answer a few questions. Do we get angry when we are confronted? Do we reject counsel? Do we feel that no one else is capable of teaching or sharing a particular truth? Do we try to force others to accept our viewpoint or our way of thinking? Do we become angry when someone else gets credit for something we achieved? Are we able to rejoice when others are rewarded? Your answers to these questions will let you know if you are dealing with selfish ambition.

Now before we move on let me say that ambition is a good thing. It is a God given trait. But as in every God given gift, the enemy of our souls and our carnal nature can drive us to unhealthy expressions in life.

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