Faith Tested True

A Study of the Epistle of James

 

Trustworthy Faith Understands it is in a Spiritual War - James 4

 

In chapter one of the epistle of James we saw that you can't trust an untested faith. For faith to be trustworthy it must be tested (1:1-8). Then from James 1:9 onward we have been considering the examples of a trustworthy given by James such as:

·       Trustworthy faith has a proper perspective on worldly wealth - 1:9-11

·       Trustworthy faith endures temptation successfully - 1:12-15

·       Trustworthy faith knows every good and perfect thing in life is from God - 1:16-18

·       Trustworthy faith is self-controlled - 1:19-20

·       Trustworthy faith applies the word of God to life - 1:21-25

·       Trustworthy faith has pure and undefiled religion - 1:26-27

·       Trustworthy faith is fair to all and unprejudiced - 2:1-13

·       Trustworthy faith is evidenced in tangible works - 2:14-26

·       Trustworthy faith controls it's words - 3:1-12

·       Trustworthy faith relies on heavenly wisdom - 3:13-18

In chapter 4 of James we will consider more examples of trustworthy faith. In chapter five we will see the triumphant nature of trustworthy faith.

James begins chapter 4 by asking a question, "Where do wars and fights come from among you?" By asking this question James will pinpoint the causes of conflict. He will introduce his readers to the reality of an enemy working behind the scenes. James will introduce us to the reality that a spiritual war is behind the outward wars we experience individually and corporately in the church. This unseen war even manifests itself in civil wars within nations and as well as international wars pitting nations against nations. All conflicts and wars are the product of an underlying spiritual war.

The leading antagonist in this underlying spiritual conflict is referred to as "Satan" (1 Chronicles 2:11; Job 1:6-12; Matthew 12:26; Mark 1:13; Acts 5:3;26:18; Romans 16:20), the "devil" (Matthew 4:1, 5, 8, 11; Ephesians 4:32; 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:26). These are the primary names used to refer to this greatest of rebels. He is an angelic being created by God Almighty. From the scriptural description of him it appears he may have been God's beautiful worship leader, a magnificent creature - "You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering: the sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold. The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes was prepared for you on the day you were created. You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; you were on the holy mountain of God; you walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones. You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you" (Ezekiel 28:12-15). But though God has created Satan with such magnificent beauty and had given him such a privileged position, Satan was not thankful but instead chose to be proud and unthankful. And so God cast him out of heaven. Scripture states, ". . . And you sinned; therefore I cast you as a profane thing out of the mountain of God; and I destroyed you, O covering cherub, from the midst of the fiery stones. Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor; I cast you to the ground, . . . ." (Ezekiel 28:16b-17).

Another name for Satan is "Lucifer" (Hebrew helel) which means light bearer, shining one, morning star, or day star (Isaiah 14:12). He is a created angelic being who took his eyes off of God and put them on himself in pride. Satan is a created being not equal with God in any way. When Jesus responding to His accusers He mentioned Satan stating "You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it" (John 8:44). Part of Satan's deception is to present himself as an "angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:14). Satan presents himself as light; as something good and valuable; as something or someone that is attractive; someone equal to and a viable alternative to God. But Satan is no equal to God. He is created and as one of God Almighty's creatures he must submit to God's authority (e.g. Job 1 and 2).  

Pride was the downfall of Satan. Because of his pride God's word states of him, "How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations!" (Isaiah 14:12). He refused to be thankful to God for the beauty with which God made him and rebelled against God Most High his Creator. God reveals in His word of Lucifer's self-centered pride, "For you have said in your heart: "I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High" (Isaiah 14:13-14).

God's revelation of Lucifer through the prophet Isaiah states that he "weakened to the nations!" (Isaiah 14:12), "made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, who made the world as a wilderness and destroyed cities, . . . ." (Isaiah 14:16-17).  If he can move nations to conflict, he can surely do the same amongst individual people.

In the New Testament the apostle Paul exhorts believers to "be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil"(Ephesians 6:10-11). He substantiates this exhortation by speaking of a network hierarchy of Satan and his demons saying, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood [i.e. we do not struggle merely against people], but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12). It is believed that when God cast Satan out of heaven He did so along with a third of the angelic beings that chose to follow him (Revelation 12:4, 7-9).

With that in mind Paul then goes on to mention the weapons God has provided to fight in this unseen spiritual war: "Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand, Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints" (Ephesians 6:13-18; cf. also 2 Corinthians 10:3-4).

Lucifer and his minions do have power, but as we will see in the inspired words of James, their power is limited and God has provided a strategy to defeat them. Trustworthy faith realizes the reality of this spiritual war and fights against the enemies of God.

To persecuted Christians Peter was inspired to write, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world" (1 Peter 5:8-9). James is also speaking to a physically persecuted church  and his words speak to us of God's tactics for spiritual warfare. It is to these insights we turn to now.

 

James 4:1–17 (NKJV)

4 Where do wars and fights come from among you?

Trustworthy faith realizes we are in a war. "Wars" (Greek polemos) are a fight, battle, war, dispute, strife, quarrel. "Fights" (Greek mache) refers to fighting, striving, controversy, combat, disputes. James is writing to believers and he acknowledges that there are at times wars and fights that take place among them. Wars and fights among the brethren of the church, based on context, are the product of spiritual warfare. This is a sad reality. It is a problem that needs to be solved. Jesus said a house divided cannot stand (Matthew 12:22-30). One of the most basic military strategies is to divide and conquer. So knows he is no match for the Spirit empowered Christ-centered church. So he uses the divide to conquer tactic. Too often the church falls for his schemes. James is inspired to show us why this happens and how to avoid succumbing to this tactic.

The phrase "come from among you?" tells us that James focus is primarily on wars and conflicts that take place among Christians. There is no doubt that wars and conflicts outside the church involve the carnality and sin alluded to here by James. But in an unsaved world wracked by sin wars and conflicts are not out of the ordinary; we can expect them. James is speaking of wars and conflicts that take place inside the church or between Christians. Wars and conflicts should not occur among Christians. We have the Holy Spirit within and one of the aspects of the love-fruit of the Spirit is peace (Galatians 5:22-24). Christians should be different; above wars and conflicts; more humble and spiritual in their relations with one another. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Sometimes those in the church are undistinguishable from those outside the church. Sometimes Christians lower themselves to conflicts that make them look little different than unsaved people. This, my brothers and sisters, should not be.

Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?

Trustworthy faith understands that outward conflict comes from inward conflict. James identifies the first cause of conflict among us. He does so with a rhetorical question. The problem is "desires for pleasure" which is a translation of the single Greek term hedone which refers to sensual delight. We get the English word hedonism from this term. It is a lust to fulfill anything that feels good. God has created pleasure as a feeling for us to enjoy life. The problem of pleasure occurs when a person becomes obsessed with pleasure and/or seeks to fulfill his pleasures outside the parameters of God's word.

The phrase "That war in your members" speaks to us about the "flesh" or our sinful nature. This is the heart of the problem. Even though we are saved from our sin through faith in Christ we still have a sinful nature. In this life we exist with a fallen sinful nature. It is that part of us that is inclined to be selfishly sinful. It is that part of us that relies on our own understanding and own perceived strength. There is nothing good in this nature (Romans 7:18). When we accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord and the Holy Spirit indwells us it creates a situation where there are two natures (one prone toward sin and one prone toward the holiness promoted by the Holy Spirit) that are at odds with one another. It is possible to suffer great inward conflict because of these two natures within (e.g. Romans 7). But through faith in Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit we can live victoriously over this pleasure seeking unwanted tenant within (e.g. Romans 7:25; 8:1-39; Galatians 5).

Satan tries to inflame our sinful nature. He seeks to get the Christian to focus on pleasure as opposed to purity in the Spirit. This is battle ground of the spiritual conflict; our heart. We are constantly posed with the need to decide to either follow the pleasure-centric self-centered sinful nature or follow the holy ways of the Holy Spirit. God's promise is to provide a way to deny the flesh (i.e. sinful nature) and move forward toward being conformed to the likeness of Jesus (Romans 8:29; 2 Peter 1:3-4).

You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war.

Trustworthy faith realizes the ways of the sinful nature are a dead end. To follow the pleasure seeking sinful ways of the flesh is a dead end. James says, "You lust and do not have." That is the definition of addiction. If you choose to follow the lusts of your sinful nature just understand you will never have enough. Like an addict hooked on drugs you will never attain a high satisfying enough. You will always crave more. You will be driven to use any means to satisfy your pleasure seeking lusts - "You murder and covet and cannot obtain." You will go so far as to assassinate the character of others or even actually murder them. But you will never find what you are looking for. "You fight and war."You are at odds with one another because of you pay more attention to your sinful nature lusts than you do to the Holy Spirit within. This is the dead end of the sinful nature.

An insightful comment on the problem here is:

            The reason we put down other people, gossip about other people, fight with other people             is because we want something from other people. It can be as stupid as thinking, Talking        about that guy will make me look better to this guy. Yet the only way to get what our            heart really craves is not to prey on others, but to pray to the Father.[1]

"The only way to get what our heart really craves is not to prey on others, but to pray to the Father." And therefore it shouldn't surprise us to see James through process now continues with an allusion to prayer.

Yet you do not have because you do not ask.

Trustworthy faith prays. In chapter three we said that the words we use are a good indicator of our spiritual condition. Jesus said, "For out of the abundance the mouth speaks" (Matthew 12:34). But another indicator of our spiritual condition is prayer.

 

James indicts these divided brethren for their prayerlessness. Those who fight and war with each other expose their state of spiritual weakness and distance from God. It is certain that those who choose to fight against brethren are lacking in their prayer life. That is James indictment against these infighters.

Prayer is important. Prayer is our lifeline to God. Prayer is like an oxygen hose for our spiritual lungs. If we fail to pray we will suffocate spiritually. Adam Clark, the great Methodist minister of the 18th century stated:

            “Apostasy begins in the closet. No man ever backslid from the life and power of             Christianity who continued constant and fervent in private prayer. He who prays without            ceasing is likely to rejoice forevermore.”  [2]

Prayer brings God's peace into our lives (e.g. Philippians 4:6-7). When all hell is breaking loose around us and we are getting caught up in it, that is especially the time when we should pray.

E.M. Bounds, a pastor and great man of prayer in the 19th century, said this about the importance and purpose of prayer:

            “Prayer affects men by affecting God. Prayer moves men because it moves God to move   men. Prayer influences men by influencing God to influence them. Prayer moves the             hand that moves the world” [3]

            “Prayer takes hold of God, and induces Him to do large things for us, whether personal or      relative, temporal or spiritual, earthly or heavenly. . . . The great gap between Bible             promises to prayer and the income from praying is almost unspeakably great, so much so          that it is a prolific source of infidelity. It breeds unbelief in prayer as a great moral force,      and begets doubt really as to the efficacy of prayer. Christianity needs to day, above all things else, men and women who can in prayer put God to the test and who can prove His    promises. When this happy day for the world begins, it will be earth’s brightest day, and   will be heaven’s dawning day on earth. These are the sort of men and women needed in     this modern day in the Church. It is not educated men who are needed for the times. It is     not more money that is required. It is not more machinery, more organization, more         ecclesiastical laws, but it is men and women who know how to pray, who can in prayer   lay hold upon God and bring Him down to earth, and move Him to take hold of earth’s         affairs mightily and put life and power into the Church and into all of its machinery.” [4]

            “The men who have done mighty things for God have always been mighty in prayer,             have well understood the possibilities of prayer, and made most of these possibilities . . . .        It is the effectual, fervent prayer that influences God. . . . When prayer fails, the world            prevails. When prayer fails the Church loses its Divine characteristics, its Divine power;      the Church is swallowed up by a proud ecclesiasticism, and the world scoffs at its   obvious impotence.”  [5]

John Chrysostom (349-407), archbishop of Constantinople, prominent early church father and known as a "golden tongued orator," said this about prayer:

“The potency of prayer hath subdued the strength of fire; it had bridled the rage of lions, hushed anarchy to rest, extinguished wars, appeased the elements, expelled demons, burst the chains of death, expanded the gates of heaven, assuaged diseases, repelled frauds, rescued cities from destruction, stayed the sun in its course, and arrested the progress of the thunderbolt. Prayer is an  all-efficient panoply, a treasure undiminished, a mine which is never exhausted, a sky unobscured by clouds, a heaven unruffled by the storm. It is the root, the fountain, the mother of a thousand blessings.” [6]

We miss out on God's blessings when we don't pray. And when we prayerlessly miss God's blessings our flesh incited by the devil seeks more divisive means to prosper. When there are problems in the church or between believers you can be sure a lack of prayer is part of the problem.

You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.

If a warring believer is praying, they are praying out of focus with the Lord. They pray with an eye toward using God to fulfill their sinful lusts or, "that you may spend it on your pleasures. Prayers should focus on God and His will not our desires and our will.

James speaks of those who do pray ("You ask") but who "do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures." There is right and wrong praying. Jon Courson gives us clarity about this when he explains:

      “I do pray,” you may say. “But I don’t get what I ask for.”

      That’s because you’re asking amiss. Prayer is not giving orders. It’s reporting for duty.    And once a person finally understands that prayer is not man saying, “Bless the business;         bring in the money; solve the problem,” and God saying, “Aye, aye, Captain,” his prayer   life will be revolutionized.

 

      Prayer is saying, “Father what do You want to do in my life? I want You to do what You     see is best for me because I get mixed up so easily.”

      I walked into his room during his nap to find one-year-old Peter-John lying on his             back, eagerly reaching for an object dangling just inches above his head. Living in a            rustic cabin in the woods at that time, we were sometimes surprised by the visitors we         would have. And this particular afternoon was no exception, for I was surprised      indeed to see the object for which Peter was so intently reaching was a black widow       spider.

      We’re just like Peter-John. We lie on our beds or kneel beside them and, through prayer,             grab for things we think would be so wonderful, failing to realize they are nothing but     black widows. Therefore, every bit as exciting to me as prayers God does answer are       those He doesn’t answer because I know I’ll see that what I thought was so intriguing and             tantalizing will prove to be poisonous and deadly. Oh, may we learn not to give orders or   grab spiders, but to do what Jesus did in the Garden: to submit to whatever the Father has         for us.[7]

 

Prayer is not giving God orders, it's reporting to Him for duty. Remember that.

Martin Luther expressed the value of prayer in spiritual battle when he coined the lyric, "Satan trembles when he sees, the weakest saint upon their knees." Because of that Satan will do everything he can to keep people from praying and to instead keep them preying.

E.M. Bounds affirms the importance of prayer in spiritual warfare when he says:

            “One of Satan’s wiliest tricks is to destroy the best by the good. Business and other duties are good, but we are so filled with these that they crowd out and destroy the best. Prayer holds the citadel for God, and if Satan can by any means weaken prayer he is a gainer so         far, and when prayer is dead the citadel is taken. We must keep prayer as the faithful            sentinel keeps guard, with sleepless vigilance.”  [8]

Don't let the enemy divert your attention from prayer time with the Lord. Without prayer we don't receive our marching orders. Without prayer we don't receive inspiration and courage from God. Without prayer we go into battle blind and weaponless and that is a guarantee of defeat.

Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

Trustworthy faith is not spiritually adulterous. Trustworthy faith is not a friend of the world but a friend of God. When we choose to fulfill the lusts of our sinful nature by going after the alluring temptations of Satan which he provides from the world, we are committing spiritual adultery. When we put the things of this world before our relationship with Jesus we are being unfaithful to Him. Such temptations may indeed include actual acts of adultery and betrayal to our wives, but on a deeper spiritual dimension we are committing spiritual adultery against Jesus. Trustworthy faith realizes friendship with the world is diametrically opposed to friendship with God.

Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”?

But He gives more grace. Therefore He says:

“God resists the proud,

But gives grace to the humble.”

 

Trustworthy faith is not proud or self-centered but depends on the Holy Spirit and God's grace.

"The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously." "Yearns" (Greek epipotheo) means to yearn, to dote upon, intensely craves possession of, desires, longs for, earnestly desires. "Jealously" (Greek phthonos) means envy, jealousy. With these words James is inspired to tell us that the Holy Spirit has a passion for us. It is as though He envies the passion we too often have for the pleasures of the flesh. He desires we desire Him and His holy ways like we sinfully go after the things of this world. This is not a "vain" (Greek kenos) or purposeless, empty statement of God's word. The Holy Spirit wooed us to Christ and has a persistent desire for us to live in a deep abiding relationship with Jesus. We are part of the bride of Christ. The Holy Spirit serves as our matchmaker and once we are wed to Jesus the Spirit wants us to be faithful to Jesus.

 

      If you’re a dad, you can understand this.…

      Your sixteen-year-old daughter can’t stop talking about him. So finally a week or two        later, he shows up on his Harley in black leathers, a marijuana joint hanging out of      his mouth, a swastika tattooed on his arm, a patch over his eye, a flask of whiskey in            his pocket, a Playboy bunny on his shirt, saying, “I like your daughter.”

 

Although your daughter says, “Isn’t he dreamy?” you know he’s nothing but a       nightmare—and that she’ll be hurt badly if she gets on his Harley and goes down the   road of life with him.

      That’s how the Holy Spirit feels when He sees us getting on the back of some Harley we       think is dreamy. He’s not mad at us, not disappointed in us, not hurt by us, but jealous for            us as a dad is for his daughter.[9]

 

 

If Satan proudly rebelled against God Almighty it is not difficult to see how he would use pride as one of his major strategies to move others to rebel against God too. To be "proud" (Greek hyperephanos) means to see oneself or make oneself seem to be above others, haughty, make oneself conspicuous above others, put oneself at the center of attention as preeminent. God "resists" (Greek antitassomai) or opposes, resists, put oneself against those who are proud.

 

Then it states, "But gives grace to the humble." This is taken from Proverbs 3:34. We need God's grace. The Apostle Paul wrote to the carnal Corinthian Christians:

 

·       1 Corinthians 15:10 (NKJV) - 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

We can only survive in this spiritual war by God's grace. What we need for victory in the battles of this spiritual war is God's grace. And God gives grace to those who humbly ask Him for it. He does not give grace to those who proudly demand it. God keeps the proud at arm's length until they exhaust their personal resources. God will wait until we are humbled to take us to Himself and give us the grace we need.

 

God gives grace "to the humble." The answer to pride is to have a healthy "humble" view of yourself as a sinner who needs to depend on God's grace. We all for fall short of God's glorious standard of righteous holiness (Romans 3:9-21, 23) and can only be forgiven of our sins and be justified before God as a gift of His grace through faith in Jesus (Romans 3:21-26; 5:1-21).

 

            Barometers predict storms by measuring air pressure. Prayer-ometers indicate pride by        measuring prayer pressure. .If I don’t pray in a given day, it is the ultimate indication of   pride because it is the proud person who says, “I don’t need to pray about it. I can    handle it.”[10]

 

So what are we to do? What are God's instructions, His boot camp lessons, His marching orders in this spiritual war?

Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

Trustworthy faith understands God's strategy for victory in this spiritual war. The "Therefore" links what precedes with what will now follow and based on the following mention of the devil we see that conflicts in the body of believers are due to the working of the devil and his schemes. We are in a spiritual war. It may be unseen to the naked eye but it is more fierce than any seeable war. God has given us weapons for this spiritual war (e.g. Ephesians 6:10-18). But just as important as the weapons given to us by God are the tactical training instructions for the battles of this war. What are God's tactical training strategies?

 

First, submit to God. "Therefore submit to God." "Submit" (Greek hypotasso) means to subordinate yourself to, be under obedience to, to obey, be subject to, submit yourself to. The first thing we need to do in spiritual warfare is to put ourselves under God's command. We should simply live by the motto God said it, that settles it for me. Really, that God said it settles it regardless if it settles it for me. But we need to bring ourselves under God's command and obey His every order. If He says it or writes it out for us, we need to obey what He has written.

 

Second, resist the devil and he will flee from you. "Resist the devil and he will flee from you." "Devil" (Greek diabolos) means literally false accuser, slanderer, devil. We need to be aware we are in a spiritual war. And part of this awareness is to actively "resist" (Greek anthistemi) or stand against, oppose, to set one's self against, to withstand, take a stand against the devil. We do this in the name of Jesus not in our own strength.

 

We shouldn't resist the devil in pride. To do so is to play into his hands. Instead we remember God's word that states, "Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, 'The Lord rebuke you!'" (Jude 9). We rely on the strength and power of the Lord and the authority of the name of Jesus!

 

But we need to take an active position against the devil. Jesus said the gates of hell would not be able to withstand the charge of His church (Matthew 16:18). That speaks of going on the offensive. Get up off the couch, get out of bed, get up from wherever you are and begin to war on the floor in prayer. Then, once you have His marching orders, march, to the glory of God!

 

Third, draw near to God. "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." The most important position to be in when in the spiritual war is to be close to God. That James advises us to draw near to God implies we don't always do that. We need to consciously stay close to the Lord. Apart from God we can do nothing (e.g. John 15:5). We need to stay close to Jesus. When Satan comes knocking on our door, we had better ask Jesus to answer for us. Like a child being threatened by a bully we need to hide behind Jesus.

 

Seeking Thee

 

Lord, I seek Thee for renewing

Of my faith and of my love.

Rush and care are my undoing –

Touch me, Savior, from above.

 

Pass me not, O holy Savior.

Leave me not to grope and fail.

Through Thy blood I seek Thy favor.

With Thy grace I can prevail.

 

Faith moves in to claim the promise.

Peace revives and floods my soul.

Make me now Thy chosen chalice,

Giving drink that makes men whole.

 

Seeking Thee, seeking Thee,

Touch and give me liberty.

 

-        Leonard Ravenhill (From Revival God’s Way, p. 27)

 

God's promise is that if we sincerely come close to Him, He will draw close to us. It doesn't say God might or maybe God will draw near to us, it says God WILL draw close to the one who draws close to Him.

 

            Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you. That’s a promise! Don’t let anyone cast      aspersions on God’s goodness or nature by saying, “I tried to get close to the Lord, but       He is just so far from me.” The Bible says He will draw nigh—always.

 

      People say to me, “I’ve tried, but I can’t seem to connect with God.”

 

      “I don’t believe you,” I lovingly answer, “because God’s Word says He will always draw    near to us if we draw near to Him. And I have found this promise to be true, for, without            fail, every time I have been serious about seeking God, He has made Himself known to         me through a Scripture, in my heart, or through the body of Christ.”

 

      Sometimes, gang, we need to lovingly say to those who whine about feeling far from    God, even though they claim they have tried to draw near to Him, “You’re deceiving             yourself, or you’re trying to deceive me because God’s Word says that if you take the       time and expend the energy to draw near to Him, He will draw near to you.”[11]

 

 

Fourth, focus on God; be cleansed outwardly and pure inwardly. "Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded." We need to be serious about coming to the Lord. We need to turn off the TV, take off the ear phones, put the paper down, and set aside any other distraction and focus on God. We need to seriously and sincerely tune in to Him. You can't have a meaningful time with the Lord if you are multitasking with a hundred other activities. God wants our undivided attention and He deserves that.

 

Sometimes having a quiet place helps us to remove distractions so that we can give God our undivided attention. Maybe it's a special quiet spot at a park or beach. Maybe it's a special place in a meadow or mountain. Maybe you take a ride in your car, ride on your bike or walk or run. Whatever you need to do to get away and get close to God, do it! Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

 

And if there are things that we have allowed into our lives that are contrary to God and offensive to Him (i.e. sin) we need to deal with that and remove them. If there is anything that is challenging or competing with our wholehearted holy devotion to God in our heart and life, we need to remove that. We need to "lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, . . . looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith" (Hebrews 12:1-2).

 

We need to confess our sins and receive the forgiveness of God and be washed clean by the blood of Jesus (e.g. 1 John 1:7 and 9). We need to "purify" (Greek hagnidzo) or make clean, sanctify, purify our heart from being "double-minded" (Greek dipsychos) or vacillating, two-spirited, wavering, uncertain, doubting, double-mindedness. We need to be totally committed to the Lord. We need to be entirely devoted to Him outwardly and inwardly. We need to seek the holy life promoted and provided by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. This will remove any basis of accusation the devil and his demons might bring against us. When we live a holy life we knock out the teeth of the prowling lion's accusations.

 

Fifth, be broken before the Lord. James writes, "Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom." This doesn't sound like the feel good seeker friendly message of the contemporary church! "Lament" (Greek talaiporeo) means to be wretched, to realize one's own misery, be afflicted, to toil heavily, to endure, to labor. "Mourn" (Greek pentheo) means to grieve, to mourn. "Weep" (Greek klaio) means to sob, to wail aloud, weep as a sign of pain. "Gloom" (Greek katepheia) refers to be downcast in look, heaviness, sorrowfully expression, shame, dejection, gloom. These are all words that express brokenness.

 

This brokenness is contrasted with "laughter" (Greek gelos) which is lighthearted superficial feeling that comes from the immediate gratification found in the world. "Joy" (Greek chara) here refers to cheerfulness, calm delight, gladness, all based on the temporary things of this world.

 

What should we be broken about? Leonard Ravenhill wrote of brokenness saying:

            The true man of God is heartsick,

            Grieved at the worldliness of the Church,

            Grieved at the blindness of the Church,

            Grieved at the corruption in the Church,

            Grieved at the toleration of sin in the Church,

            Grieved at the prayerlessness in the Church.

            He is disturbed that the corporate prayer of the Church no

                        Longer pulls down the strongholds of the devil.

            He is embarrassed that the Church folks no longer cry in

                        Their despair before a devil-ridden, sin-mad society,

                        “Why could we not cast him out?” (Matt. 17:19).[12]

 

 

What should we be grieved about? For what should our heart break? How about the lost souls of the world? How about the countless people headed toward a and eternal destiny in hell? How about a world headed toward and perilously close to an eternal cliff that will plunge them into eternal disaster? How about the ravages of sin all around us? Yes, when we begin to look around us through the eyes of Jesus we will have a broken heart for the world like Jesus (cf. Jesus' parables of Matthew 25).

 

          This Is Brokenness by John Collinson

 

            Sometimes it is asked what we mean by brokenness. Brokenness is not easy to define but        can be clearly seen in the reactions of Jesus, especially as He approached the cross and in     His crucifixion. I think it can be applied personally in this way:

 

            WHEN to do the will of God means that even my Christian brethren will not understand,     and I remember that “Neither did His brethren believe in Him” [John 7:5], and I bow my head to obey and accept the misunderstanding, THIS IS BROKENNESS.

 

            WHEN I am misrepresented or deliberately misinterpreted, and I remember that Jesus   was falsely accused but He “held His peace,” and I bow my head to accept the accusation       without trying to justify myself, THIS IS BROKENNESS.

 

            WHEN another is preferred before me and I am deliberately passed over, and I remember       that they cried, “Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas” [Luke 23:18], and I

            bow my head and accept rejection, THIS IS BROKENNESS.

 

            WHEN my plans are brushed aside and I see the work of years brought to ruins by             ambitions of others and I remember that Jesus allowed them to lead Him away to crucify            Him [Matthew 27:31] and He accepted that place of failure, and I bow my head and          accept the injustice without bitterness, THIS IS BROKENNESS.

 

            WHEN in order to be right with my God it is necessary to take the humbling path of             confession and restitution, and I remember that Jesus “made Himself of no reputation”      and “humbled Himself unto death, even the death of the cross” [Philippians 2:8], and I       bow my head and am ready to accept the shame of exposure, THIS IS BROKENNESS.

 

            WHEN others take unfair advantage of my being a Christian and, treat my belongings as public property, and I remember “they stripped Him... and parted His garments, casting       lots” [Matthew 27:28,35], and I bow my head and accept “joyfully the spoiling of my      goods” for His sake, THIS IS BROKENNESS.

 

            WHEN one acts towards me in an unforgivable way, and I remember that when He was      crucified Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” [Luke 23:34], and I bow my head and accept any behavior towards me as permitted by my             loving Father, THIS IS BROKENNESS.

 

            WHEN people expect the impossible of me and more than time or human strength can      give, and I remember that Jesus said, “This is My body which is given for you...” [Luke 22:19], and I repent of my self-indulgence and lack of self-giving for others, THIS IS         BROKENNESS.[13]

 

Are you willing to be broken for the things that Jesus was broken for? Are you willing to experience brokenness if that is what it will take to help you understand Jesus better and go deeper with Him?

 

Sixth, humble yourself before God. "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up." "Humble yourselves" (Greek tapeinoo) means to depress, to humiliate in heart, to abase, to bring low, to make low, to reduce, to being into a humble position. While the world and much of the church is obsessed with not being depressed or low, the Christian is to purposefully put themselves under and adopt the lowest position before their Lord. The closer we come to God the more clearly we see our sin. The closer we come to God the more unworthy we will realize we are (e.g. Isaiah 6). It is only when we have purposefully and genuinely presented ourselves as humble living sacrifices that we are positioned to see and live our His holy will for us and defeat our enemy the devil (e.g. Romans 12). Satan rebelled in pride. He sought to lift himself up in the sight of God. The child of God must humble themselves in the sight of the Lord and trust Him to lift them up.

 

In these six heart attitudes and tactics for the spiritual war we see James inspired to instruct the soldiers in God's army to be just the opposite of the devil and his demons. Satan rebelled but we must submit. Satan gave in to sin and selfishness but we must resist it with every fiber of our being. Satan forsook God and walked away from Him, we must draw near to God and get as close to Him as we can. Satan filthied and defiled himself with lusts and sin, but we must seek holiness inside and out of us. Satan rejoiced in sin but we must lament and mourn it. Satan rose up in pride but we must humble ourselves before the Lord. Can you see the difference my precious brothers and sisters in Christ? Can you see the ways of the world that have infiltrated your life and heart? Confess your sins to God. Repent. Seek the Lord! Be revived!

 

            Fire begets Fire

            “Satan would have us increase even in Bible knowledge, I believe, as long as we keep    from prayer, which is the exercise of the instruction we have received through the Word. What use is deeper knowledge if we have shallower hearts? What use is greater standing          with men if we have less standing with God? What use is personal physical hygiene if we have filthiness of the mind and of the spirit? What use is religious piety if we have soul   carnality? Why strut with physical strength if we have spiritual weakness? Of what use is             worldly wealth if we have spiritual poverty? Who can take comfort in social popularity if     he is unknown in hell? Prayer takes care of all these spiritual maladjustments.” [14]

            The Filth of the World

            “Ány man who has so assessed himself ‘filth of the earth’ has no ambitions – and so has       nothing to be jealous about. He has no reputation – and so has nothing to fight about. He        has no possessions – and therefore nothing to worry about. He has no ‘rights’ – so     therefore he cannot suffer any wrongs. Blessed state! He is already dead – so no one can      kill him. In such a state of mind and spirit, can we wonder that the apostles ‘turned the       world upside down’?” [15]

11 Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?

Trustworthy faith doesn't usurp God's position by speaking evil of others but instead lives by the law of love. "Speak evil" (Greek katalaleo) means to speak against, slander. It means to speak to oppose instead of speaking to unite. This breaks the supreme law of God, the law of love.

 

James says, " He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge." What "law" or principle is James alluding to here? Jesus said: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40).

In Galatians is states, "For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Galatians 5:14). When we speak evilly and against our brothers or sisters in Christ, we break this law of love.

 

The point James is inspired to make here is that "There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?" In other words don't usurp God's position in dealing with others. God alone is in a position to judge, not us. There are times where we use God's truth to correct and reprove (2 Timothy 3:16-17) but we aren't to act like God to others. James in reality is saying don't follow the ways of Satan who sought to usurp God's authority and steal it for himself.

 

The only authority we have is authority delegated to us by God. And God's authority is mediated and delegated to us through His word. Whatever we speak therefore needs to be spoken as the Holy Spirit moves us and is to be firmly based on the truth of God's word (in context). It is our responsibility to love people. It is Gods' responsibility to judge people. We dare not cross that line.

 

We aren't qualified to judge others for a number of reasons.  

 

First, we don't have all the evidence. We may have outward (fruit) evidence but that is only half the evidence. Earlier in James in explaining the difference between James's and Paul's view of saving faith we said James was focusing on how humans living on the horizontal plane can assess faith while Paul is focused on faith from God's perspective. (James 2). But in judging accurately there is heart-motive evidence that needs consideration. Beyond physical heart surgery human's can't examine true heart motivation for the things we do. Only God knows the heart (1 Samuel 16:7; Jer. 17:8-9). Therefore in our limited position and capability to gather and assess all the evidence we are not in a position to truly judge anyone.

Second, eternal Judgment can only be done by Holy God. We are sinful like those we judge and therefore warped in our assessment and weighing of evidence. We don't have the necessary just and righteous, objective and true perspective to judge. We have a sinful nature which taints our view. This makes us prone to hypocrisy when we judge (cf. Matthew 7). God alone is Holy and without sin. Only God is without sin and therefore is alone qualified to judge. 

Third, it isn't our place to judge. People belong to God their Creator and answer to Him (Romans 14:4, 7-8). We have no right to judge God's creation. Governments are delegated positions to judge secularly by God (Romans 13). Church government is delegated authority to judge in the church (e.g. 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus). But God alone is Judge. He says, "There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?"

Fourth, it is satanic to judge. Satan sought to take God's place on the throne and was cast from heaven because of it. We act like him when we seek to do something only God can rightfully do (Ezekiel. 28; Isaiah 14). When we go around with a judgmental spirit know that you are putting yourself under the influence of the first self-imposed judger Satan himself.

We are called to love people . This includes speaking a truthful (corrective, reproving) word in love at times. But judgment belongs to God. Some may look at this as "judging" but in truth it isn't. There is a line in the sand between judging others and spiritual fruit inspection. Jesus spoke of this in HIs Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7.

Jesus said "Judge not, that you be not judged" ( Mat. 7:1.). The reason for this prohibition of Jesus is that we are prone to judge hypocritically (Mat.7:2-6). Our sinful nature makes us so inclined. The guidance of the Holy Spirit in the born again Spirit filled Christian can help us subdue this sin nature, but totally pure objectivity and honesty is hard to come by amongst humans; even Christian ones. We have to rely on the Spirit. This is why the context of Jesus' words next speak of prayer. Through prayer we rely on and receive guidance from the Spirit. It is only through much prayer that we should enter into this assessment process (Mat. 7:7-12). 

Because we must enter heaven by the "narrow gate" (Mat. 7:13-14) we should know ourselves and others to assure we are in the narrow way. We can be self-deluded and there are disingenuous followers of Christ (Mat. 7:21-23). Satan is a deceiver who along with his hoards are always seeking to divert us off God's path. God has given healthy ways and serious warnings to keep us going in the right direction. More on that in a moment.

Jesus said we should "know them" (of specifically "false prophets" but this can be applied to all people in general too - Mat. 7:15-20). There is such a thing as spiritual fruit inspection. The enemy seeks to deceive and keep people in a fog of darkness. In such fog it's easy to get off course. We need to know where we are going and who we actually are. God has not left us in the dark. There is a certain way laid out by Jesus for knowing who we in truth are and where in truth we are walking. It is by God's word . 

We must apply God's word to all; ourselves and others. This is the only way to be on solid ground spiritually (Mat. 7:24-27). This is the astonishingly self-revealing authoritative word of Jesus (Matthew 7:28-29). His word is the only reliable means to truthfully tell us if we are on the straight and narrow or expose us if we are in the broad way. 

But be aware, this assessment often leads to conflict. When we lovingly share from God's word truth-parameters with people living outside those parameters it is their own guilt and fear and God-given/Spirit-conviction for sin that often brings a reaction to the one bringing that information or message. That reaction is often like that of a wounded animal. They might strike out physically or with words such as, "Hater!" Or "You're not the judge of me!" Or "Bigot!" Or "Who are you to judge me?" These are all misguided responses. They are still under the enemies' deception. Such responses are people reacting against God by striking out at His messenger.

The messenger shouldn't be surprised at this. We should expect it. The sinful nature doesn't react well to being exposed and losing its comfortable sinful rule. The Spirit shakes up the person to see their sin so as to show them the way of salvation. This is a necessary part of the gracious salvation process. Without it people would perish eternally. With it they may find repentance and faith in Christ. God is good enough to reach out to the lost (e.g. Romans 2:4). God desires none to perish (2 Peter 3:9). So it is worth the risk of riling up people to see the reward of their salvation.

It's as though God tells us, "You love em, I'll judge em." We aren't to pass a final eternal damning sentence on people. But we are to speak His truth-parameters in love. As the Spirit guides us we can become an instrument in HIs saving work. And remember, the Spirit's work includes others as well as ourselves. That's why Jesus said, "For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck fro your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! first remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye"  (Matthew 7:2-5). Pray until you see clearly in God's word. Then share in love.

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; 14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” 16 But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.

Trustworthy faith doesn't godlessly and proudly live with no concern for the will of God but relies on God's will for each day. Satan rebelled against and forsook God's will for his existence. Satan rebelled against the position God created him to fulfill. Satan presumed he knew better than God. Similarly, when we presume to plan for the future we act foolishly. Our lives are a vapor in light of His eternality. When we plan for our future to make our profits we act like the devil.

 

Instead we need to be governed by "If the Lord wills we shall live and do this or that." We need to first seek the Lord in all things. To run our lives separate from a consideration for God's will and ways is to "boast in arrogance" and "All such boasting is evil" or degenerate, hurtful, evil, under evil influence, diseased, morally culpable, derelict, wicked (from "evil" - Greek poneros). When we live our lives without seeking God's will we are living like the devil wants us to live; we are becoming devilish.

 

17 Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.

 

Trustworthy faith acts on opportunities to do good. This speaks to us of our perspective in life. We shouldn't live in a way that seeks to fulfill the lusts of our flesh. Instead we should live with an eye to be used by God and do the good that God sets before us to do. There is such a thing as a sin of omission. When God presents us with opportunities to do good, we should see such opportunities as orders from the Lord. Scripture states, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21). We storm the gates of hell and fight the enemies of God with good works. We overcome evil by doing good. Every time we do the good God gives us opportunity to do, we strike a blow for God and blacken the eye of our enemy Satan. Remember that.

We are in a spiritual war filled with many daily spiritual battles. God used Paul to speak to us about the weapons God's provides for this war. God used James to relay His strategies and tactics to live triumphantly in victory. A trustworthy faith is victorious when it obeys God's marching orders.

Leonard Ravenhill, a fiery revivalist and man of burning hot prayers wrote:

 

I’m of the opinion that the devil has a list of the “The Ten Most Wanted Men.” These are men he fears. Would you like to be one of them?

 

Oh, to pray so as to be known in hell!

Oh, to pray so that demons have to quit their prey!

Oh, to cause pandemonium in perdition when we intercede!

Oh, to liberate the captives when we make intercession with tears!

Oh, to push the devil around instead of him pushing the Church around!

Oh, to know the groanings that cannot be uttered!

 

Some say that this is praying in tongues – not so in my reckoning. If the groanings        cannot be uttered audibly by the Spirit, I am sure they cannot be uttered by me!            Hannah prayed, “but her voice was not heard” (1 Sam. 1:13). . . .

 

As God is my witness, I want to pray with groanings “that cannot be uttered.” I        want to be taught what cannot be taught – only caught as the Spirit anoints.

 

Lord, I tearfully ask:

Teach me to pray with groanings so that there are earthquakes in hell.

Teach me the groanings of the Spirit until angels stand in awe.

Teach me Spirit-born intercession that changes history.

Teach me the birth pangs of the Holy Ghost until hell-shaking revival is born.

 

Lead me into travail that will hold back divine judgment from the nations for a little season.

 

Let me be a living sacrifice on the altar of prayer, “bleeding to bless,” until flood tides of mercy sweep the nations.

 

Lord, break my heart in intercession until my eyes, like those of Jeremiah, are a fountain of tears weeping for the slain of an educated, but spiritually dead, people. [16]

 

Trustworthy faith knows there is a spiritual war going on and seeks to be used of God to fight in it. Victory is ours in Christ. We need to get into the fray. The battle for us begins as we war on the floor in prayer. Let us pray and then let us prey and take back what the devil has stolen.

 

 

 



[1] Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 1527). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

[2] E. M. Bounds, The Possibilities of Prayer (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House) 1979 edition of 1923 issue of book. Page 45

[3] E. M. Bounds, The Possibilities of Prayer (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House) 1979 edition of 1923 issue of book. Page 41

[4] E. M. Bounds, The Possibilities of Prayer (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House) 1979 edition of 1923 issue of book. Page 107-108

[5] E.M. Bounds, Purpose in Prayer (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House) 1978 edition of book originally published in 1920, Pages 102-103

[6] E.M. Bounds, Purpose in Prayer (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House) 1978 edition of book originally published in 1920, Page 32

[7] Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 1527). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

[8] E.M. Bounds, Purpose in Prayer (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House) 1978 edition of book originally published in 1920, Page 107

[9] Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (pp. 1527–1528). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

[10] Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 1528). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

[11] Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (pp. 1528–1529). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

[12] Leonard Ravenhill, Revival God’s Way (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Pub. 1983) p. 69

[13] Canadian Revival Fellowship PO Box 584 Regina, SK S4P 3A - http://resources.grantedministries.org/article/this_is_brokenness_j_c.pdf

[14] Leonard Ravenhill, Why Revival Tarries, (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 1959, 1987) pgs. 89-90

[15] Leonard Ravenhill, Why Revival Tarries, (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 1959, 1987) pgs. 141-142

[16] Leonard Ravenhill, Revival God’s Way (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Pub. 1983)  p.98, 99