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Focal Passage- James 4:1-12

James 4:5 “Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, ‘He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us’?”

There is some discussion on the use of “spirit” in this verse amongst biblical scholars.  Some believe that James is referring to the Holy Spirit who was given to dwell in all of us.  In this case, James is reminding us that God means for us to listen only to Him, for He is indeed a jealous God.  However, some scholars believe that the original language uses the lower case “s” to indicate our human spirits, those natures that are sinful and fallen.  Here James would be reminding us that our human natures have a propensity for envy, sin, and jealousy and that God’s will for us is to give Him control over that nature.  In any sense or usage of the word “spirit,” however, one thing is certain:  our Father demands all of us.  We simply cannot love Him some of the time and follow the world in others.  To follow Him is to love Him and to love Him is to serve Him.

Study/Meditation:  We often have a negative connotation for the word “jealousy.”  How is “jealousy” an appropriate emotion from God concerning our devotion?

*Father, thank You for desiring my fellowship and for choosing me to be Yours.  Forgive me for when I look away from You, and help me to gain the wisdom I need to recognize those times.  Amen.

Focal Passage- James 4:1-12

James 4:4 “You adulterous people!  Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?  Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

Jesus had already taught in Luke 16:13, “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and money.”  James is simply reiterating this point for us.  Any time we put the world (things of this world system that point anywhere but to God and His glory) first and God behind it, we have chosen the world over God.  When we look to anything besides God, we have chosen that over God; we simply cannot have it both ways.  James is saying the same thing John says in 1 John 2:15-17, that doing so demonstrates where our love and allegiances lie.  If we truly love God with all our hearts, minds, and souls, then He is our default in all times.  When He’s not, He’s not, and the world is.  Let us train ourselves through study and prayer and meditation on Him to be about Him in all things.

Study/Meditation:  Why do you think James uses such a strong term in calling his readers “adulterous people”?  What part does infidelity play in the point James, Jesus, and John make in the Bible about love for the world versus love for God?

*Father, forgive me for looking to the world instead of to You.  I recognize that You are my strength and my shield and my ever-present portion.  In You do I trust.  Thank You for loving me.  Amen.

Focal Passage- James 4:1-12

James 4:2b-3 “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.”

Our desires are a heart issue, and James addresses how we seek the desires of our hearts in these two verses; he does so by addressing our prayer lives.  First, he addresses those times when we simply do not pray.  We fret and worry and talk to our friends or pastors or teachers, but we don’t talk to our Father.  James is reminding us that God should be the first One we ask.  But then we must be sure that we are asking with the correct motives.  Are we beseeching God to give us the things that we have decided will make us happy or get us out of the mess we’re in, or are we asking Him to show us what will bring Him and His glory into sharper focus in our lives?  Are we seeing God as a means to an end or as the end itself?  Do we want Him to fulfill our desires or is He our desire?  Prayer is our communication with the Lover of our Souls, and it must also be the avenue by which we seek Him.

Study/Meditation:  Look at Jesus’ prayer in Matthew 6:5-15.  How did our Savior emulate for us the correct way to pray?

*Father, You are holy and righteous and I love You.  Forgive me for the times I put anything or anyone above my desire for You.  Give me the wisdom to see all of my life in terms of Your glory.  Amen.

Focal Passage- James 4:1-12

James 4:2a “You desire and do not have, so you murder.  You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.”

What stands in the way of true, godly wisdom that is from above?  What inhibits unity in the fellowship of believers?  What destroys relationships?  Selfishness.  Self-Centeredness.   James contends that the number one reason that we do not attain peace and joy in this life is that we are too preoccupied with satisfying self.  We’re looking to the world to satisfy us, and that includes the people in this world, and where we are looking shows the inner issue—a heart that is focused on self rather than on God.  The Oprahs and Dr. Phils of this world will tell you to find yourself and be true to you and then you will find happiness.  James is reminding us that this is the direct path to unhappiness.  Instead, children of God should know that finding Him and being true to Him are the only ways to happiness and joy and contentment, not a world that is lost to itself.

Study/Meditation:  What relationships do you have today that are suffering because of your selfish behavior?  What might you do to restore these?

*Father, please forgive me for being, at my core, a selfish person.  Help me to see past myself and to gaze only on Your glory and mercy and grace.  Amen.

Focal Passage- James 4:1-12

James 4:1 “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?  Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?”

James continues in the fourth chapter in his theme of unity, and he does so by asking two very pointed questions.  He asks us what causes disharmony between brothers and sisters—in the church, in our homes, in our marriages, in the workplace.  Then he suggests something astounding, especially considering what the average person might consider the reason for arguments.  James asks if the disharmony isn’t caused by us.  In other words, he wants you and me to consider that an argument or quarrel between us and anyone else is caused by selfish desires within each of us individually.  Disagreements are going to happen; arguments happen because we want to be right or because we want our needs met.  Once again, the root of disunity between brethren is a self-centered nature, a nature that sees self as most important.  James’ argument is going to be that we must seek to instead put God as center, consequently putting self aside.

Study/Meditation:  Why do you think James uses the analogy of war when describing the conflict of our passions inside of us?  What passions might he be writing of?

*Father, help me to see when I am engaging in a argument that I am putting my desires before Your love and mercy.  Give me discernment in this area.  Amen.

Focal Passage- James 3:13-18

James 3:18 “And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

There was dissension in many of the churches James was addressing in his letter, and in that dissension James knew that righteousness was lacking.  Backbiting, jealousy, gossip, envy, and bitterness are all, unfortunately, fairly common human characteristics when dealing with one another, but the child of God must seek to relate outside of those characteristics.  In other words, in our quest for righteousness in sanctification, we must realize that behaving in a peaceful manner toward one another will bring about the peace that ends in that righteousness.  We often use “righteous indignation” as an excuse for behavior that is not peaceable.  However, being righteously indignant should be an avenue toward peace, not away from it.  Let us sow peace toward a harvest of righteousness.

Study/Meditation:  What is “righteous indignation”?  How can you be righteously indignant and still peaceable at the same time?

*Father, give me the mercy and grace that is Yours as I deal with my fellow brothers and sisters.  Help me to demonstrate my sanctification toward righteousness in the wisdom of my actions toward others.  Amen.