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Asking Amiss (James 4:1-17)

James: Put Your Faith to Work, Pastor Brian, Sermons

Asking Amiss (James 4:1-17)



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Asking Amiss

James 4:1-17 (Pastor Brian)

Submit Yourselves to God

1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battlewithin you? 2 You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. 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 is hatred toward God? 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 the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? 6But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8Come 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, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him 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?

Boasting About Tomorrow

13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. 17 Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.


Different forms of wisdom:

  1. Consider “Worldly Wisdom” – like the character in John Bunyan’s book “The Pilgrim’s Progress”
  2. Also there is the “fleshly wisdom” from our flesh.
  3. And there is “demonic wisdom” – tarot cards, horoscope – just as often fake as real.

Remember in Acts, the slave girl who followed Paul and talked against them. Eventually, Paul was jailed and beaten, but the power of God was shown as he was freed.

We should not be looking into things that are contrary to God’s will – nothing “occult.”

Derick Prince “If you sup with the devil, use a very long spoon. But the best thing to do is to NOT sup with the devil at all.”

Anything dealing with the occult ought to be repented of and given to God.

Peace is sown in peace by those who want a righteous result.

Want wisdom? Pray to God – that’s the best way, the safest way to gain wisdom – “for God gives freely to all who ask without finding fault” (earlier in James).

We must not be partial, not hypocritical to our brothers and sisters in Christ (or potential bros and sis’ in Christ).

We must not blame God for our own faults – saying, “I was just born this way…” No, when we sin, we must not blame God – he’s provided the means of grace and must humble ourselves, repent, say, “I really can’t do this alone – I need you to help me break this thing in my life.”

After all this kind of exhortation, in chapter 4, James really hones in on the Christians in their scattered homes throughout the world.

He wants them to be “lights” though he knows they often aren’t due to pressures and forces internal and external.

In v.1 “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?”

That was the root cause of all the conflicts. Every source of conflict has the same cause – Pleasures waging war against their Members (members of the body of Christ) – i.e. someone is putting their own “headoney” (pleasures/lusts – headiness) before others.

This is COMMON among the human population – pleasure is … pleasurable. “If it feels good, do it.” – You know… Hitler might have “felt good” but it wasn’t RIGHT. Just because it “feels good” or “everybody is doing it” doesn’t make it RIGHT or something that YOU need to partake of.

Galatians “The flesh sets its desire against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh – for these are in opposition to each other.”

For the Christian, there is a battle – we must acknowledge it, confess it, admit to God that we need his help.

v. 2 “You do not have because you don’t ask.”

Sometimes we don’t ask because we don’t expect. Sometimes we don’t ask because they are sinful motives – we ask for the wrong thing.

The answer? Wait on the Lord, pray, he will give guidance. Many Scriptures say the Lord will guide us if we actively seek him. But we must also walk in ways that are pleasing to him (Proverbs 3:5-6)

The price for our lives has been paid by the blood of Christ. We are not our own, we belong to Christ therefore.

  • 1 Cor 15:32 “If the dead are not raised, then let us eat, and drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we will die.” But as Christians – we KNOW there is a resurrection and life everlasting. We’ve received the gift of eternal life and that gift is pure and clean and wholesome having received new life.
  • James 4:4-6 “Friendship with the world is enmity (hostility) with God.”

The lust of the flesh, the pride of life lies in the lap of Satan – but as Christians, we’ve been redeemed from that system. We are now walking in the Spirit and being led by him. GOD is jealous of the Spirit he’s put in us – he “jealously desires the Spirit” – in the OT, God is a “jealous God.” Why? He wants to bless us, keep us, and he doesn’t want us to be controlled by the world. He wants us to walk in the Spirit and overcome the temptations from without and within.

If we are patient, we will overcome.

  • Psalm 32 “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart… trust in him and he will do it.”

These “desires” are given to you by God – no longer worldly pleasures, these are the “rivers of his desires”.

God will give a greater grace to us as well, when we HUMBLE ourselves before the Lord.

Let us humble ourselves and acknowledge his “greater grace”. James says, “grieve, be sorrowful over your sin, but also trust God to cleanse and heal” – there is a worldly sorrow that leads to death (Judas’ sorrow), but there is also a godly sorrow (Peter’s sorrow) that allows for full restoration of our relationship with God.

So the secret = be willing to bring your desires to the Lord “If this is YOUR will, DO it – if not, no matter how much I want it, don’t do it.”

Submit to God, resist the devil, and the devil will flee. BUT… “Too many Christians are submitting to the devil and resisting God…” (Derick Prince)

  • “Cleanse your hands” – repent of outward actions.
  • “Cleanse your hearts you double-minded” – repent of inward sins. Have you ever decided on something and then flip-flopped within 5 minutes? Yup, we all have. ALL.

The solution? Confess your faults one to another that you might be healed. Are you struggling with a secret sin? Find someone you can trust – bring it into the LIGHT, repent. Satan works in the dark, and wants to keep you in the dark. The longer you remain in the dark, the longer you remain in Satan’s domain and bondage. Come out in the LIGHT! Bring it to a brother or sister in Christ and this multiplies the effectiveness of your repentance.

God may want for you what you want as well – but as we submit to him and allow him to direct our decisions, we are doing well.

Even Jesus prayed “Lord, TAKE this cup from me! Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.” Remember that Jesus is our BEST example – follow his example.

James speaks of seeking wisdom and finding it through prayer.

v. 11-12 – “Do not slander one another.”

(Don’t let your tongue run away with your words – judging, condemning, gossiping – that’s SIN – it’s harmful, it’s prideful. Don’t you want to point out someone else’s sins? That’s pride.)

Be careful of judging and slandering others – this is breaking the Commandments.

Is this to say that we are never to mention the bad things that people do? How can we teach others about sin? Warn our children away from the wrong behaviors.

Greek scholar: Spearos Zoheitte?

“The love for one another refers to the PERSON and not to the ACTIONS of the person.” It’s not wrong to say, “He did this and it was a lie.” But it IS wrong to say, “He IS a liar!!”

If you point a finger, how many are pointing back at you?

Pointing fingers = judging, condemning, judging the PERSON.

Rather, do it in a loving way and judge the ACTION.

Remember, you “catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”

“Here is Love, vast as the ocean” – are we bathing in the ocean of his love? Not only beautiful and wonderful, but also salty. If you get in salt water with open wounds… OUCH!

The Dead Sea = the saltiest place on earth. TONS of salt. The guide warned us – “if you want to go in, make sure you don’t have ANY cuts or scratches” but WOW – you could FEEL that salt where you’d shaved.

Not only does it hurt, but it also purifies.

Are we bathing in the ocean of God’s love? There may be some salt that would cause pain and irritation in our spirits, but it’s also cleansing.

Paul also says, “Let your speech be salty.” Cleansing, purifying, even though it may sting.

Don’t judge the Law BY not judging other PEOPLE (actions are on limits though).

God’s Law is holy, righteous, perfect, YET, we cannot keep it. Our flesh rebels against the Law of God.

Corinthians “The Law is perfect, written on stone, but those under it couldn’t keep it because their hearts were also stone. Therefore, let your hearts be changed to flesh (by God.”


In prison, a man had found the Lord, had been saved, got out of prison and went to church, and saw the commandments on the wall and thought “Wow, I’ve really broken a bunch of those.” But the Holy Spirit told him, “No, those aren’t commands any more, those are PROMISES.”

  • “Don’t steal” becomes “You WON’T steal because my Spirit is in you.”
  • “Don’t lie” becomes “You WON’T lie because my Spirit is in you.”

Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light…. if you abide in me and my Words abide in you, ask, and it will be given you.”

James also speaks against presumption:

“I’m totally going to … 5 years later… 10 years later… 20 years later.”

Actually, you don’t KNOW what will happen tomorrow. – Say rather, “If the Lord wills, we will…”

Presumption in another sense:

“Eh, I can sin in this or that way BECAUSE God has to forgive me.” Sin of presumption.

In the same way:

“We will blah, blah, blah, and hope that God blesses is.”


Sin of presumption:

A preacher had a fine dog, but there was a problem. Sometimes, things would go missing in his house – and he’d find the dog later chewing it up. Then, out in the garden under a bush, he found all manner of things.

It was like the Lord was saying to him, “Many Christians are like that. They do things that they think others won’t notice or bother.” But how many things have YOU hidden out there under the bush? That’s presumption.

We need to ask the Lord to help us NOT to do those things. Sometimes we allow things in our lives – grudges, a look on the Internet – and we need to repent of those things.

Remember the song “It’s your beauty, Lord, that makes us stand in silence.” And we also need silence in our lives to hear from him.

If we have things in our lives that are contrary to God’s nature, hidden sins, unrepentant sins, let’s confess those now before God and go from this place rejoicing in his greater grace and mercy for us.

“It’s your beauty Lord, that leads us to repentance.”

Let’s pray.

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