October 30, 2011

Pleasures That Produce Pain - Part Two

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: James Scripture: James 4:1–3


Pleasures That Produce Pain-Part Two

James 4:1-3
Sunday, October 30, 2011
Pastor Randy Smith

The story was told to me several years ago by a good friend. One day a friend of hers walked onto an elevator. Immediately she found herself alone with two very large and mean-looking gentlemen and a tall fellow in the middle sporting a big Afro. She instantly sensed she was in a dangerous situation. She was gripped with fear as the doors closed. As she stood by the door she dared not to make eye contact hoping that this ride would soon be over. Immediately one of the men looked her in the eye and said, "Hit the floor." Without hesitation she dropped to the ground. The men chuckled and a correction was spoken. "I meant, hit the floor where you want the elevator to take you!"

The next day as she was preparing to leave the hotel a large bouquet of flowers was delivered to her room. The card inside read, "Thanks for the best laugh of my life!" signed, "Lionel Ritchie."

Although this story ended well, very few positive results come from a situation when people are confused. I suppose there are many events in our lives when confusion is unavoidable, but the missions and goals of the church should not be one of them. Many churches struggle not because they lack devoted and energetic people. They fail because all that they are doing is not in line with the clear expectations of Jesus Christ. So let's not be confused, what does Jesus Christ want for His church?

I find it interesting that when Jesus offered His final prayer to the Father just before going to the cross in John 17, He focused primarily on the church's unity. He didn't ask that we would be healthy or rich or popular. He simply asked that we would be one, just as He is one with the Father (Jn. 17:20-21). Why is church unity so important? He tells us, "I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me" (Jn. 17:23). When we are one, God is glorified because we are displaying to a disunified world the unity of the glorious Trinity.

Now if God desires us to be unified, you can well imagine that Satan wants us to be disunified. His goal is to destroy the church, and He specializes in using people to accomplish his purposes. They become instruments of division. Sometimes it is people from without. Oftentimes it is well-intended church people that have no clue as to the destruction they are causing. The result is a weakened Christian testimony and heartbroken lives - disorder, confusion!

You say, "Pastor, what is the origin of all this? How do people get to this point where they become tools in the devil's hands?" Last week we looked at "The Sources of Disorder." Let's look at this a little further as I present four points. Please follow along with the sermon outline that I presented in your bulletin.

Number one:

The words in the Bible are inspired, but the chapter breaks are not. And some time ago I believe someone chose a poor location to put the chapter 4 break in James' epistle. The thoughts at the end of chapter 3 continue in chapter 4. The beginning of chapter 4 identifies the problem. There were divisions in the church, but the end of chapter 3 helps explain why these divisions were occurring, the source. Let's review that for a moment.

In chapter 3, verses 13-18, James explains that there are two types of wisdom. There is the wisdom from above, God's wisdom, and the wisdom from below, the world's wisdom. Which wisdom we possess will ultimately be seen in how we act. If we possess God's wisdom, we will be, verse 17, pure, peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering and without hypocrisy. Obviously these people will contribute, verse 18, to an environment of "peace."

On the other hand if we seek the wisdom from below (3:15-"earthly, natural, demonic), it too will be seen in the way we act, our behavior (3:13). We will have, verse 16 (verse 14 too) "jealously" and "selfish ambition." Obviously these people will contribute, verse 16, to an environment of "disorder and every evil thing" (cf. Jude 19).

So we look at our lives. Do I contribute to an environment of peace? Then I am wise. I am getting my wisdom from God and bringing Him glory. Or do I contribute to an environment of disorder? Then I am a fool. I am getting my wisdom from below and doing the work of the devil. Let's review this with the chart I have provided.

Going to God (knowing Christ, reading the Bible, being led by the Spirit, church. fellowship)    >

Growth in Wisdom    >

Fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23; i.e. love, gentleness, kindness, patience)    >

Result:  Environment of Peace

Based on this teaching, it should be rather obvious why there is so little peace in the world. The world is not starting off by first going to God!

Going to God (knowing Christ, reading the Bible, being led by the Spirit, church. fellowship)    >

Growth in Foolishness    >

Deeds of the Flesh (Gal. 5:19-21; i.e. jealousy, impurity, anger, strife)    >

Result:  Environment of Disorder

Number two:

Last week we learned another perspective on the source of conflict. After asking the rhetorical question in 4:1, "What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you?" James answers (still in 4:1), "Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? It is spelled out very clearly. Conflicts come from the "pleasures that wage war in our members." Now what does that mean? Let me explain it and then I will support it from our passage in chapter 4.

Thoughts originate in our minds. They are forever producing what they feel our body needs. Some thoughts we dismiss immediately ("I want to sail a boat around the world"). Some we fulfill immediately ("I am going to help myself to an apple"). And some begin to settle in our hearts which triggers our affections, our desires. This is a natural process, but this process can be either good or bad. There are certain noble pursuits that our hearts should passionately pursue ("I want my family to walk with the Lord"). Yet oftentimes, even for the believer, our heart latches on to something that is improper ("I want to be the most popular person in the church"). Now we experience an inner conflict. This is what James referred to in 4:1 as a "wag[ing] war in [our] members."

You see, before Christ we simply would have given in, but now as Christians we are able to discern right from wrong. In our minds we know what is right, but our hearts desperately want something that is wrong. The battle can be fierce and if we lose this spiritual battle we will pursue sinful means to obtain our desires. The desire is of the flesh and the flesh kicks into overdrive to get what it wants. Staying within our context, the result is the loss of peace in our hearts and the loss of peace in the home or church wherever we find ourselves.

Let me support this theory with Scripture. Look at the chart below and follow along as I read from James 4:1-2, keeping in mind (top of chart) that sinful desires lead to sinful traits that result in conflict.

"What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel" (Jas. 4:1-2)


1. Sinful desire  >

2. Sinful Traits  >

3. Conflict (internal and external)




Quarrels and conflicts


Pleasures (desires)


War in your members (battle…within)


Lust (want)

Murder (kill)



Cannot obtain

Envious (covet)

Fight and quarrel

So how do I know if my heart's passions are sinful? It is very simple based on what we just learned. Are sinful traits being produced like jealously, anger, impatience, sexual immorality, coveting, greed, etc.? And do you find yourself contributing to an environment of disorder and strife? If so, you are losing a battle you need to win.

I think too often we solve our problems like the world. We see the conflict and then try to remedy the situation with a Band-Aid. We attack the conflict which is only a symptom and not the illness itself. Oftentimes these means only make the matters worse. For example, my heart is not at peace so I want more stuff to find satisfaction. Or our family has strife so we'll just complain and argue about the arguing. It becomes a vicious cycle.

I am not saying there isn't a place for biblical conflict resolution (that's another sermon for another day), but what I am saying is that we must go deeper. Yes, when we notice sinful traits, we must battle them in the Spirit, but we must go even deeper than that. We must attack the root source of this ugly chain of sin. It is deeper than the conflict we experience. It is deeper than the sins that become manifested. It is going to the source of where all of this originates. And all of this originates in our minds! All the pleasures and lust and desires spoken of in James 4 start in the mind! We must win the battle there before the battle is taken to our hearts and then taken to our homes!

Haven't you been learning from Philippians 4:8 in my absence? "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things." 1 Thessalonians 5:21, "Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good." Romans 12:2, "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." Colossians 3:2, "Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth."

We must guard our minds from locking on to improper thoughts. Put off the bad, but on the good.

Number three:

A test case…

You are watching TV and view a commercial for custom decks. Instantly your mind locks in and you punch up the website and do some further investigation. Immediately the heart's affections kick in and you begin convincing yourself how great a new deck would be.

So you move forward in a godly way. You pray about it. You discern if this would be a good use of God's money. You discern if you can afford it within your budget. You discern the best options regarding size and price. You discuss it with your spouse. You examine your motives. Everything checks out and you move forward with a clear conscience. No sin and your heart is at peace. Enjoy your deck!

But let's go another route. Let's pretend the Spirit of God shows you that this is a poor purchase for whatever reason. Yet instead of walking away from it and replacing those thoughts, you begin to desire it even more. Now the war begins in your heart (Gal. 5:17). The Holy Spirit is convicting you of sin. You sense the greed, no longer content with what you have. You sense the jealousy because the Jones family next door has a new deck. You sense the grumbling because your lusts are unfulfilled. You sense the worldliness because you have been led to believe that you will lose popularity in the neighborhood if you do not get the deck.

Unfortunately you fail to repent. You fail to deal with the sin in your heart. Satan gains a foothold. The desires for the deck grow whereby it has become a full-fledged idol in your heart. God has been placed on the shelf so contemplating sinful ways to obtain your treasure are only natural. First comes the rationalizing, "The Lee family is godlier than we are and they have a deck twice as large." "This is a better use of my money than paying taxes because the government is run by crooks." And my favorite, "My main reason for wanting this deck is really to have our neighbors over so we can share Jesus with them." Then from the attitude sins come the action sins. "I noticed they never lock the back gate at Home Depot." "I'll cut 3% off my weekly giving to the church. I'm giving more than most people anyway." "I'll make plans to work overtime even though that cuts away my time with the family and the church."

Maybe then you'll get your deck. But my question to you is, "Was it worth it?" Look what you did to your conscience, your testimony, your church, your family and your God! Was the deck worth all the conflict within and the conflict without? Would it not have been better to win the initial war within? Would it not have been better to have a better set of desires to start with in your mind?

Number four:

Choose better desires. Christianity is not the removal of our desires; it is developing a better set of desires. Christianity is not the removal of pursuing joy. It is pursuing a deeper level of joy.

God has given us the minds and hearts that desire. Many of the things we desire are good such as acceptance and peace and joy and confidence and satisfaction. The problem comes when we seek to fulfill these needs like the world does. On the contrary God wants us to go to Him. Why else would He say that when we go elsewhere, 4:5, that He is jealous and, 4:4, that we are committing spiritual adultery? He wants us to have our deepest needs met in Christ. And when we do this we enjoy the "abundant life" that He promised (Jn. 10:10), and God receives the greatest glory because He is shown to be the all-sufficient Provider. Look at the final chart below.

Mind/Heart Desires    >

Sinful Actions    >

Disorder    >

Dissatisfaction    >

Result:  You: Fool  >  Satan: Glorified

Mind/Heart Desires    >

Righteous Actions    >

Peace    >

Satisfaction    >

Result:  You: Wise  >  God: Glorified

No confusion! God wants unity in His church. It starts with each of us individually pursuing Christ as our first love, setting our minds on and finding joy in that which is pleasing in His sight.

other sermons in this series

Feb 5


Sheep Shepherding Sheep

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: James 5:19 Series: James

Jan 29


Let's Close With Prayer

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: James 5:13–18 Series: James

Jan 15


To Tell You The Truth

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: James 5:12 Series: James