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When Sin and Pride Divide (James 4:1-10)

James 4:1–10 - 1 What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. 4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”? 6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. What does today’s passage say? In today's passage, James outlines the root causes of fights and quarrels among believers, namely the sinful desires that battle within us (vv. 1-3). Rather than loving God, we end up loving pleasures of this world, which breeds envy and selfish ambition causing division. James rebukes friendship with the world as spiritual adultery and pride that is opposed to God but says that God gives grace to the humble who submit themselves fully to Him (vv. 4-6). We are exhorted to resist the devil, draw near to God in repentance and He will draw near to us (vv. 7-10). Surrendering to God requires humility, purity, lamenting over sin and mourning over evil rather than laughter. How can I apply James 4:1-10 to my life? James contrasts the sinful passions warring within us against the sanctifying grace God bestows on the humble. Left unrestrained, our fleshly selfish desires only yield conflict, discord and fractured relationships. Yet submitting ourselves to Lord Jesus, we can walk in spiritual power that cultivates renewal, reconciliation and righteous interactions. The crux is acknowledging every quarrel, disagreement and interpersonal problem stems from an absence of Christlike humility. Pride, self-service and the belief our way is best drive division among believers at its core. James’ solution is simple yet profoundly challenging – fully surrender to God, resist the devil, draw near the Lord and He will come near you. This requires us to renounce spiritual pride and self-sufficiency while embracing a spirit of repentance. But the reward is heavenly grace, eventual exaltation and reconciling what sinful desires damaged. As Jesus’ followers, we must daily choose walking by the Spirit over the flesh, submitting to His will instead of worldly ways if we desire unity and true fellowship with one another. Here are some basic principles from this passage that we should apply to our lives:

  1. Our Sinful Lusts, Desires, and Motives Cause Division Among Us (vv. 1-3): Our sinful passions and selfish ambitions frequently spawn conflicts, arguments, and division among believers. James makes clear these clashing desires within cause us to quarrel to fulfill fleshly cravings. When we fixate on chasing worldly pleasures or status, we view others as barriers to self-gratification. This self-centered perspective breeds jealousy, resentment, backbiting, slander, and interpersonal turmoil that shatters unity and harmony in the church. The sole solution is repenting and yielding our desires to God rather than demanding our way. As Christians, we must identify and crucify sinful fleshly cravings that stir up strife with fellow believers. By ceding control to the Holy Spirit instead of our selfish nature, Christlike humility and unity can be restored in the body of Christ. As we walk in the Spirit, manifesting His fruit, we will cease from inflaming conflict and know the true fellowship Christ intends for His church (1 Peter 2:11, Galatians 5:24, Romans 13:13-14, Galatians 5:22-23).

Food for Thought: What fleshly cravings or selfish ambitions frequently cause conflict or division in your relationships? How can you proactively yield control of those desires to God on a daily basis?

  1. Come Near to God in Humility and Repentance to Receive His Grace (vv. 4-6): James traces relationship conflicts among Christians back to a lack of humility before God, prescribing drawing near the Lord with repentant vulnerability as the solution. Rather than stubborn self-justification, Scripture summons us to come before God acknowledging our need for His grace and pardon. As we humble ourselves under God's mighty hand, He promises eventual exaltation (1 Peter 5:6). Turning from sin and finding cleansing in Christ's blood, we experience the Father's unmerited compassion and favor poured out to overflow into our human relationships. Confession tears down walls erected by pride and selfishness, restoring fellowship with God and opening the door to reconcile with those we have wronged. While the world touts self-promotion, Jesus declares the humble blessed to inherit the kingdom. As we renounce spiritual pride and self-reliance to wholly surrender to Christ, He lifts and revives our connections to Him and others with new life (2 Chronicles 7:14, 1 John 1:9, James 4:10).

Food for Thought: What sins might the Holy Spirit be prompting you to repent and confess? How can reminding yourself of God's grace empower reconciliation with others?

  1. Submit Yourselves to God's Will Rather Than the World's Ways (vv. 7-10): James connects the internal war of sinful desires to external conflicts, calling us to decisively submit every area of life to God rather than conforming to the world’s ways. Only through surrendering our will and aligning our hearts with the Lord will we experience stability and peace in relationships. As we yield to the Spirit’s leading and see life from His perspective, we can then walk in wisdom toward those who have offended us, enabling us to replace resentment with Christlike love and bitterness with blessing. Scripture invites us to cast all our cares upon the Lord rather than holding onto them with clenched fists. As we entrust difficult relationships to God in prayer instead of taking matters into our own hands, He works reconciliation and renewal impossible through human effort alone. The key is humility and trust as we fix our eyes on the Almighty rather than demanding our rights or pursuing retribution. By submitting fully to our faithful Creator, we trade anxiety and anger for His incomprehensible peace and joy, which then overflows into our relationships with others (1 Peter 5:7, Romans 12:1-2, Philippians 4:6-7).

Food for Thought: Are there any relationships you have tried to change in your own strength rather than fully submitting them to the Lord? What specific actions show you are trusting God to redeem difficult relationships rather than trusting yourself? The sinful desires that wage war within us lead to relational turmoil and division when unrestrained. We have all experienced interpersonal turmoil that results when we set our hearts on selfish, worldly ambitions rather than on knowing and obeying Christ. Progressively sinful cravings give birth to conflicts and strained relationships over time if we continue coddling our flesh. Therefore, James makes an powerful plea for repentance, humility, and wholehearted surrender to God as the necessary first steps for unity with fellow believers. As we submit fully to the Lord and trust that His grace is greater than all our struggles with sin, then we can walk in newness of life and relate to each other in love. But this requires intentionally yielding our minds, plans, rights, and relationships completely over to Christ's care daily. It requires us to admit that we desperately need the Spirit’s help to put sin to death and operate in wisdom beyond our own. This victory over warring desires is available through fixing our eyes on Jesus and obeying His Word by the Spirit’s power. Prayer Dear Heavenly Father, I pray that You would search my heart and reveal any selfish desires or sinful passions that lead to conflicts and broken relationships. I ask that You would give me the humility to admit my struggles with pride and surrender wholly to You each day. I pray for the grace to turn from worldly ambitions that fuel strife, jealousy, and quarrels. Empower me by Your Spirit to yield control of my thoughts, plans, rights, and relationships over to You. I pray that You would make me quick to confess my sins, repent, and draw near to You in order to receive Your unlimited grace and forgiveness. Teach me what it means to truly submit myself to Your will instead of conforming to the patterns of this world. Enable me to crucify daily the lusts and desires that battle in my flesh. I pray You would use me as an instrument of reconciliation, healing, love, and unity by the power of Christ in me. I ask all these things so that You may be glorified in my life. I pray these things in the most precious name of Jesus, Amen.

James 4:7 – “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” With His Blessings, Pastor Corby

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