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Dec 04, 2016

A War Worth Fighting, Pt 2

A War Worth Fighting, Pt 2

Passage: James 4:7-12

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: James

Keywords: conflict, devil, double-minded, humility, relationships, repentance, submission


This passage looks at the relationship between true submission to and passion for God and conflict with or judgment of others. What are the actions and attitudes we must embrace if we are to experience Christ-


A War Worth Fighting, Pt. 2

James 4:7-12

December 4, 2016


Everyone have a great Thanksgiving? 

NO, of course not! 

Hopefully most of us did, but it wouldn’t be a holiday if everything was perfect, would it…especially when holidays involve family!  Family isn’t perfect. They come too early…or too late.  They stay too long…or not long enough.  They don’t help enough…or they try to control everything.  They talk too much…or not enough.  The list is endless.

Our college son, Mikias, commented this Thanksgiving how some of his college friends didn’t really want to go home for the holidays.  They would hang out at the dorm as long as possible rather than leave at the earliest opportunity to drive home like he did. 

What made the difference?  Probably lots of different factors, some related to the students and some to their families.  But if you’re part of a family you genuinely LIKE to spend time with, a family that loves each other and enjoys living together, breaks and holidays are something you can hardly wait to see arrive.  And when they come, the prospect of hurrying home to hang out with people you love fills you with joy and excitement. 

That’s how God’s family is meant to operate.  When we love each other genuinely and enjoy hanging out with each other, reunions will be something we anticipate rather than dread.  BUT, when there is open conflict…or pervasive apathy…or no real heart-connection, who looks forward to those kind of family gatherings?  Nobody.

This morning will be our last Sunday in James for the remainder of 2016.  Next Sunday we’ll begin our 3-week Advent series, Expectant with Hope. But as we’ve all just finished one holiday and are heading into the next, it’s appropriate that we spend some time listening to God about how to create and foster peace and harmony with those closest to us…and, yes, our spiritual family here as well. 

To do that today, I’ve asked one of our Moody students, Alfred, to give me a hand.  That means that you only have to listen to me for half the time today and get to listen to Alfred and his wonderful Swedish accent the other half of the teaching time!

Last week we looked at some of the issues of unmet desires and personal pride that bring conflicts with others.  James is continuing that theme in these verses and showing us further what WE need to do/not do in order to develop the kind of spiritual family relationships that we can look forward to every day…not just once a year or month or week. Remember, nobody can control other people and make them do what we think will make us happy.  But each of us can do the things that God says will make us joyful and put us in satisfying relationship with Him…and better relationship with others.

James gives us 10 active commands in machine-gun fashion in these four verses from 4:7-10.  (Verses 11-12 have an additional one that I’ll leave to Alfred.)  It’s not a “TO DO” list to check off; it’s a spiritual and relational energy-drink to devour and draw strength from as we live in family, both spiritual, natural and adopted.  

So count them in vss. 7-10 as we read them.   

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 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.

            As you can see, some of them are stand-alone actions while others are repetitions of the same central idea.  I think we can boil them down to that perfect number, 7.  So if you want a truly “Merry Christmas” and a genuinely “Happy New Year” take note…and take these actions to heart.

  1. Healthy relationships come from God-submitted people.  “Submit yourselves, then, to God.”

The word “submit” means “to put yourself in rank under” someone, implying a hierarchy of authority. It is used in the Bible of the obligation we all have to submit to government authorities (Rom. 13:1, 5; 1 Pet. 2:13); to elders in the church (1 Pet. 5:5); of mutual submission of husbands and wives to one another, and of wives to husbands, in marriage (Eph. 5:21, 22; 1 Pet. 3:1, 5); and of slaves to masters (1 Pet. 2:18), or more applicably in today’s world of employers to employees.

            As Christians, we talk a lot about being submitted to God.  But what does that really mean?  I’d like to suggest a handful of ways every person needs to continually learn to “submit ourselves to God.”

  1. Submit unconditionally to God’s will for SALVATION/ RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM by trusting in Jesus Christ.

If you ask the average person on the street what they are doing that would qualify them to spend eternity with God in heaven rather than separated from God in hell, what is the answer you will get 9 times out of 10?  “I think I’m basically a good person and I hope that my good outweighs my bad.”  If we believe that, we’re depending on our own judgment of what is “good enough” and rejecting what God has said about our sin and need for a Savior.  

In Romans 10:3, Paul asserts, “Since they (unbelievers) did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.” And what does “submitting to God’s righteousness” look like?  Paul answers that in the next verse: “Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.”

God’s way of salvation is totally opposed to man’s way. God’s way allows no one to boast before Him. He declares that we all have sinned and deserve His judgment. Further, because of our sin and pride, we aren’t willing to come to Him for salvation. All of our good works would never qualify us for heaven, because they cannot pay the debt of sin that we owe.

But what we could never do, God in His mercy did. He sent His own Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He satisfied God’s justice by dying in the place of sinners. God offers His salvation as a free gift, received by faith alone, apart from any human works or goodness (see Eph. 2:1-9). To be saved, we must submit unconditionally to God’s way of salvation.

APP:  Have you taken this 1st and most important step of submitting to God?

  1. Submit unconditionally to GOD’S PERSON—who He really

We all tend to submit to the part of God’s person that we naturally like, but we either ignore or deliberately dodge the part of His person that we don’t care for.

  • God’s mercy but not His justice.
  • God’s love but not his hatred of sin.
  • God’s patience but not his wrath.
  • God’s kindness but not his holiness.

APP:  What part of God’s nature are we still rebelling against by either ignoring it or outright rejecting it…and thus not submitting to Him?

  1. Submit unconditionally to GOD’S WORD.

Let’s be honest: There are some difficult things in the Bible that, if we had the choice, we would cut out of it.

ILLThomas Jefferson, who was not a believer as far as we can tell, did just that.  He literally took scissors and cut out the parts of the Bible that he did not like!

We don’t literally cut out the difficult parts, but we just ignore them or don’t work at understanding and submitting to those parts! 

“Like what?” you might be asking. 

  • How about Romans 9 and the sovereignty of God in election and predestination? Anyone have difficulty submitting to that?  (ILL: my wrestling in college with this doctrine.)
  • Or how about the Trinity—one God in three persons, tri-unity? Everyone completely comfortable with that one?
  • How about the holiness of God as displayed by his striking Ananias or Sapphira dead or decreeing the total destruction of pagan nations in the Promised Land?
  • Or the truth of hell—eternal separation from God because of our human rebellion against Him.

APP:  What biblical truth, doctrine or passage are you having a hard time putting yourself under, submitting to?

  1. Submit unconditionally to GOD’S PROVIDENTIAL DEALINGS WITH YOU…and others.

God does many things in our lives that are not especially pleasant or to our liking. There are many such trials that we will never in this life fully understand God’s reason for them. It may be the untimely death of a loved one. It could be unfair treatment at work or at school. Perhaps you had abusive parents or were the object of racial discrimination. You may suffer from some terrible disease or deformity. Life is terribly unfair from the human point of view.

But the Bible is clear that nothing happens to us apart from God’s providential permission or care. We can fight against God for the difficult things that happen, or we can humble ourselves under His mighty hand, casting all our anxiety upon Him (1 Pet. 5:6-7).

APP:  Has something happened to you (or someone else) that you are allowing to hold you back from 100% trust and faith in the Father who providentially allows and turns unfair and even evil things that work for our good?  Time to put that in submission to God?

  1. Healthy relationships come from Satan-resisting saints.

Vs. 7--“Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. “

Q:  How do you build muscle?  (Whatever creates resistance over time along with exertion.)  Our “spiritual muscles” are the same.  We don’t get strong without resistance.  This is one reason God allows evil to continue to exist in our world.  Good, righteous, God-loving people need to learn how to fight against it, how to put up godly resistance. 

Whole books have been written by men and women who have devoted their entire lives to helping people resist and overcome the darkness of evil and Satan.  I would recommend a couple by Neil T. Anderson:

  • Bondage Breaker: Overcoming Negative Thoughts, Irrational Feelings, Habitual Sins
  • Victory Over the Darkness: Realizing the Power of your Identity in Christ

Resisting means to “stand against,” “oppose” or “withstand.”  All those are actions.  All mean active resistance.  We’re talking a fight, a personal exertion of energy in opposition to the Opponent of God. 

            I don’t like to be “against” things just for the sake of being contrary.  But in a world that is under the dominion of the Evil One, it is impossible to resist him without being against his evil

If you’re not pushing back on the evil in our culture, I’m guessing you’ve chosen not to submit to God in some critical ways too.  Satan will keep pushing us back on our heals as long as we’re willing to keep giving ground. 

APP:  Think of 3 ways in which you are regularly resisting the devil.  If you can’t think of at least three, you probably need to give a bit more attention to this command. 

APP:  Looking honestly at your daily routines, where would you like to learn to resist the devil?

This command, like many of the others, comes with a promise.  “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”  That’s a pretty amazing promise.  The devil will flee.  Not stop.  Not stand by.  FLEE!  The forces of darkness fear righteous people.  They fear a man, woman or child who draws near to God. 

Just what does “resisting the devil” look like?

  • It may require verbal statements rebuking the lies or attacks of the Enemy.
  • It may demand more personal discipline of our thoughts by countering the lies we believe with the truth of God’s word.
  • It will definitely involve learning to live in love with our brothers and sisters in the Lord and people in need around us.
  • It may just be pursuing God passionately.

APP:   Where is God asking you to push back against sin?  Against evil in this world or in your heart? Against the devil’s lies?  Anything keeping you from doing that?  Recommit to resist evil!

  1. Healthy relationships come from HEARTFELT PURSUIT OF GOD through PURIFICATION FROM SIN, vs, 8. 

8 “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

            As much as this is three distinct commands, I think they all focus on the same reality of relationship.  Coming near to someone means you must, by definition, separate from others

ILL:  When I decided to pursue Sandy as my life partner, it meant I had made a decision to stop “playing the field” or “looking around the room.”  You can’t pursue someone or something while looking at someone/something else.  That may be a great way to sideswipe other cars or people, but not to pursue someone you love.  When we “come near” to God, it will automatically move us farther away from some things and some people who are distracting us from that pursuit of Him.  That’s why we’re here today, isn’t it?  That’s why we pray and serve and love and confront evil.  It all helps us “come near” to God and his heart.

Washing our hands” has to do with shedding certain actions, words or activities…things we DO that hinder or interfere with pursuing God. 

Purifying our hearts” has to do with shedding desires, thoughts and attitudes that compete for our affections and the love of our souls.  That’s not a one-time act or decision; it’s something we choose to do daily, weekly, monthly and for the rest of our lives.

The order here might even be significantactions first… attitudes next? 

ILL:  There is a marriage book that grew out of the movie Fireproof called The Love Dare.  It’s designed to be 40 days of activities/actions that help couples hear what God says love is and then refocus their hearts and actions on loving their spouse afresh.  It’s effectively learning to “come near” spiritually, emotionally, relationally and physically to your spouse.  It takes regular time, concerted effort and personal growth of character and love. It works off the premise that if we DO loving things consistently for someone, over time that doing will actually change the way we feel too.  It will change our heart.   

            Not dealing with purity of heart and actions will lead to something James calls being “double-minded.” Frankly, it’s something Christ-followers have to struggle with far more than people without Jesus.  It’s a lousy state to be in because it means confusion, indecision, doubt, guilt and a host of other troubling feelings.  Double-minded people are constantly bouncing back and forth between what the Spirit is whispering for them to do and what the flesh is craving…and they are never satisfied as God would have them be.

ILL:  One of the areas where I see this happen all too frequently is in the area of marriage or people choosing to “live together” and sharing sexual intimacy. 

God’s plan for sex is pretty straightforward:  keep it inside the life-long marriage commitment of a man and a woman who are “equally-yoked” or matched.  So what do we do?  Too often God’s kids shack up outside marriage, they treat sex as casual as a date, or they get into serious relationships with people who don’t have the pursuit of God at the core of their life…or any place in their life. 

            What happens?  They end up very confused, “double-minded.”  They vacillate back and forth.  They feel guilty at times… and exhilarated at other times.  They wonder why they don’t fell the fire they once had for God.  They wonder why they aren’t fully happy with their partner. They flounder around and wonder why it seems so hard.  It’s because they are neither submissive to God’s truth about sex nor pursuing God by doing what draws them near to Him. 

APP:  How has God been inviting you to get closer to Him?  What would “drawing near to God” look like this month if you set your heart on it?  More prayer?  More service?  More worship?  What?

APP:  What do you need to let go of or stop in order to do some heart and hand cleansing? 

Vs. 9 says, “Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.”

These 4 commands are referring to the same thing: repentance at the heart level.  These emotions of grief, mourning and wailing are precisely what many of the O.T. prophets called God’s people to do about their national sins of idolatry and disobedience (Isa. 15:2; Jer 4:13; Hos. 10:5; Joel 1:9-10; Mic. 2:4).

ILL:  There was a cartoon several years ago in the Saturday Review of Literature in which little George Washington is standing with an axe in his hand. Before him lying on the ground is the famous cherry tree. He has already made his smug admission that he did it -- after all, he "cannot tell a lie." But his father is standing there exasperated saying, "All right, so you admit it! You always admit it! The question is, when are you going to stop doing it?" J

            Repentance doesn’t necessarily have to be an emotional thing.  But what James is addressing here are people who fail to grasp the gravity of walking in disobedience while knowing the truth.  It’s not allowing ourselves to feel the pain of broken fellowship with the Father.  Instead we stuff our lives with more activities and deaden the spiritual boredom with empty entertainments. 

APP:  So what’s the solution?

Asking the Holy Spirit to use the Holy Word to speak to us and change our very feelings about sin and about God’s impending judgment on us.  I say “us” because I Peter 4:17 tells us that God’s judgment begins at God’s house, not the pagan culture.  So if you think God is judging the world and our godless culture at all, then we must let God speak to us about how he is and has first judged the church.  

James summarizes all these commands in vs. 10 with what is now a repeated call to humilityHumble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

4.) Healthy relationships come from HUMILITY BEFORE GOD.

ILL:  Having little children around again (i.e. Joanna’s 2 little girls, 1 & 3 years old) has been a reminder of how obedience brings the blessings of bonding while disobedience brings the pain of discipline.  Just last night, the 3 year old decided to enter into a battle of the wills over a wonderful steak dinner.  The food was wonderful.  But she just decided she didn’t want to do what her Mom and Dad were asking her to do…which was in HER best interest!  So she ended up with a “time out”…away from the table and the fun we were all having…away from the food that tasted great and was going to strengthen her…weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth…all because she wouldn’t simply “humble herself” before her parents and do what was best. 

            But when she was ready to do that, she was lovingly lifted from that place of isolation and discipline, hugged and brought back to the dinner table. 

            This is what our Father does with us, lovingly yet firmly.  Submission to the Lord brings a peace and joy of relationship found nowhere else.  And humbling ourselves is an action God leaves to us to initiate. 

APP:  So where do you need to take a further step of self-humbling through chosen submission?  What in life are you chaffing against that God might be asking you to just be still and humbly put in His hands?  Who in this life might God be asking you to humble yourself before so that He can lift you up in ways no person in life can ever do?


[The following section was delivered by Alfred Ottosson, Moody Aviation student.]

Story:  I grew up playing soccer. I played in a pretty average team with most of the kids I went to school with. I quickly saw that I caught on to be a pretty skilled defender. As a defender, my job was to make sure to stop whatever the opposing team was trying to do. This was very exhausting at times. Towards the end of the game my I often found myself having to choose to keep defending or just hoping the other team wouldn’t score. Sometimes it was difficult to keep running to prevent us from letting more goals in, but I started to understand that my course of action was determined by what I valued. Did I keep running because I wanted me and my teammates to succeed, or would I rather stop running because I valued my own comfort more than my teammates?

WE: When you drive around in your car in traffic, do you obey the signs and rules that are set out for safety on the streets? How does you choices of not obeying reflect how you value other people in traffic? If you live with other people, maybe it is with your parents, housemates, or your spouse, and you know that you have certain obligations you are supposed to do but you refuse to do them, what does that tell you about how you value those you live with? Let’s consider how we treat other people. Even there, how I value them is reflected by how I treat them. Even the way you speak about other people says something about how you value them.

Transition: Here is the deal though, it doesn’t only say how you value people, but also how you value God. Lets Turn to James 4:11-12 to see what he has to say about this issue.


  1. If you speak evil against someone else, you are not doing the law but a judge over it.
  2. Speaking evil or judging a brother is against the law. By still doing so, one is in effect saying that the law does not apply to him. By doing so he is judging the law, saying that in this case it doesn’t apply. 1. Leviticus 19:16… do not spread slander… John 7:1 … do not judge, for so also you will be judged…
  3. Once one is speaking evil and judging his brother, he is then a judge of the law. He is then not a doer, but a judge. 1. In essence, by saying that the law that God has put into place all of a sudden does not apply in a specific situation, is putting oneself over the law itself. One is saying what the law can and cannot do.
    (Transition: Now let’s look at what this means to our relationship with God) [“Is it true? Prove
  4. Big Idea: The way we treat others shows us how we value God.
  5. Only God is the lawgiver and judge. We are not.
    B. We as people are in no position to take the role that is set aside for God. We are called to do the law, not to judge it.
  6. Judging and speaking evil is contrary to what we are called to do: Love your neighbor as yourself. [Developmental question, “What difference does it

a.) Evil is damaging. Speaking evil is therefore also damaging. Even if the person you are talking about never would hear what you say about them, you are still building a relationship with the person you are talking to with hateful language.

  1. We indirectly equate ourselves with God as judges of the law.
  2. Becoming judges of the law we equate ourselves with God as judges.
  3. We then do not value God as the one He is.
  4. Therefore: How we treat others in out speech reflects how we value God.

(Transition: So, now when we know what not to do, what should we do?)
YOU: Search yourself and evaluate how you talk about other people. Is the purpose of your talk for your self-serving gratification, or is the purpose to love them better? Take this as your motto: If you cannot say what you want to say to the person in question yourself, then maybe it is not worth saying at all. It may be worth saying if the intent is to change and to learn how to love that person instead. If you then are on the other side of the spectrum, if your friend is speaking evil against another person, ask him or her what she will do about it. [“Now what? Do it!”]

WE: Think of what it would be like if every gossip, slander, complaint or detrimental speech about another person would result in if it was turned into conversations about how we better can love that person. If you are used to gossip or slander with your friends, you inherently have dysfunctional friendship because your relationship is built on an evil deed. Not only would you slowly learn how to love those you first slandered, but you will also have healthier friendships and most importantly a rightful value God. Back to my soccer team. We were well known by other teams. Not that we played really well, not because we had achieved great victories, but rather that we were the only team to my knowledge that played in green and orange shirts. Every time I pulled that shirt over my head to play a game, with the team emblem on my chest, I knew that I was a part of my team with orange shirts. My actions as a team mate reflected how I valued my keeper, my team mates and the club. When people saw our shirts they saw what we valued by how we played. A follower of Jesus Christ will likewise in a very unique way show what he or she values by how she acts and treat others. People will know that we are Christians. It is time for us as Christians to act like we are, because our actions will reflect how we value God.


Questions for further study, discussion or consideration:

  1. Agree/disagree: Almost all relational conflicts are rooted in one or both parties not being fully in submission to God.
  2. Of the 4 areas mentioned in the message of submission to God needed in our lives, which ones are most challenging for you and why?
  3. Why is an angry or bitter person necessarily distant from God? Consider 5:19-21; Eph. 4:31; 1 John 4:20.
  4. What have you found most helpful in resisting the devil? What practical advice about doing that would you have for someone struggling in their faith walk?
  5. How can we know if the devil is actively involved in a relational conflict that we are experiencing? Are there signs?
  6. When it comes to personally cleansing your actions as well as heart from sin (especially relationally oriented sin), what steps or stages do you think we should seek to walk? Which end of the equation (actions vs. thoughts/attitudes) do you find you start with first?  Why? 
  7. What does it mean to be “double-minded”? How does this passage relate to James 1:5-8?  How have you experienced being “double-minded” in the past?  Currently?
  8. This passage talks about some rather emotional and outward signs of repentance. How do we know if our repentance is sincere enough or deep enough? What if we do not have these feelings of grief or mourning?
  9. Where is the line between being biblically discerning versus being overly critical? What principles could you suggest that will help us avoid being overly critical?
  10. If you confront someone in sin or error and he says, “You’re being judgmental,” how might you respond in a way that will be biblical and helpful?
  11. How can you know when God wants you to talk to someone about sin or error, or when you should wait and pray?
  12. How can someone who is overly critical battle this sin? What steps would help?