I’m not sure there is anything in the world that can bring as great a joy or bring as great a pain as the height and depth of relationships.  It doesn’t matter how much money you have.  It doesn’t matter how many homes you have or where you live.  I don’t care where you’ve been or what you’ve accomplished.  If there’s not great people to share it with – if relationships aren’t deep and positive then life doesn’t make much sense. When relationships are broken we feel lost, hopeless and very much alone. 

What we’re going to find in the next five sermons is that there are some myths that we often buy into that are destructive to our relationships.  For the next five weeks we are going to be preaching from James 4 and 5. Before I go on you need to know that these messages our directed at people professing to be followers of Christ. I believe all of you will benefit from listening in but sometimes there needs to be correction given within the body. Sometimes those that profess to be followers need to examine where they really are in relationship to Christ and the manual that tells us how to live each day of our lives. 

I want you to imagine that you are shooting some basketball on the school playground and you notice a little girl with a man that is obviously her father. He is talking to her and you can’t help but notice that he seems agitated and trying to work up his nerve to tell her something. 

He prepares the speech that he’s rehearsed in his mind over and over. He picked her up from their home that’s about a mile away.  He thought the playground would be the best place to break the news.  And as he fidgets and tries to figure out as a grown man how to break the news to this little eight or nine year old who is Daddy’s girl, the silence is broken by this little innocent comment.

 “Are you going to come home soon?  Are you going to come back to live with me and Mommy?  I really miss you.”  And he realizes that all the rehearsing of the speech in his mind didn’t prepare him for this.  And everything in him wants to start crying.  But he holds back the tears.  

He says, “Well, honey, that’s why we came to the playground today.  I need to tell you something.  See, Daddy’s not going to be coming home.  And what I want you to know, sweetheart, it’s not you.  I love you.  I want to be with you.  I wish so much that I could be with you but it’s me and your mommy.  We just can’t get along.  

We’ve tried.  We’ve really tried, sweetheart.  And you’ve heard us late at night.  And we yell at each other and we scream at each other.  And we’ve tried everything but we fight over and over.  And so we’re going to get what big people call a divorce.  And I’ll still see you, honey.  I’m going to make sure that I get to come by and be here on birthdays.  And we even have it worked out where you get to spend a couple months with me in the summer time.  But no, honey.  I can’t come home.”

And she gives him that look that only an eight year old can give that says, “I don’t understand this.  You love Mommy, and you love me.  And I love you, and I love Mommy.  How could two people that love each other this much not be able to work out whatever you need to work out?”  

And he says to her, “I know you can’t understand.  Maybe someday you will.  And now those little pigtails are down on her shoulder.  And now the tears – she’s not even crying, they’re just flowing and streaming down her face.  And until she is 80 years old, that picture in that playground will be etched in her memory forever and ever and ever.  

And it will impact, regardless of what Mommy or Dad says, how she views herself.  And it will impact how she relates to the opposite sex.  And it will impact how she views God.  And it will change everything about her life to some degree.  And she didn’t understand it when she was eight.  She won’t fully understand it when she’s eighteen.  And she may never fully understand it ‘til she’s 80.

Why do we fight with those that we love?  

Why is it that two people that honestly, sincerely, deeply love one another can get at levels of conflict that they have to give up or choose to give up?  

And maybe it happened in the bedroom, or maybe it happened in the mall, or maybe it happened on as playground.  But it’s etched in your mind.  And it shaped a lot of you.  And for others, – you weren’t the little boy or little girl.  You remember when you were the mom or you were the dad giving this speech to one of your kids.  And it seems like a long time ago.  And because your mind is made by God and you have an amazing, amazing ability to repress, sometimes you can push it way down deep and maybe that was then and you’re in a second marriage now and things are better.

But as I told that story, some things got really deeply uncomfortable inside of you that you haven’t thought about in awhile.  

Why do we fight with those that we love?  Spouses fight against spouses.  Why is it in some of our homes, our children fight against each other?  Why is it that when kids get to be teenagers that they tend to fight against their parents?  Why is it that when you get to be an adult and you have grown parents that sometimes you fight with your grown parents?  

Why is it that people can seem to get along and then someone dies and families that look in tact when they start talking about where the money is going to go and who gets the estate, some of the most ugly things can ever come out of believers’ mouths?  Why is it that people in the same churches that love the same God that have paid by the blood of Christ can just rip churches apart when someone thinks someone said something about them or someone’s doing something with the building or changing how the ministry of a church is carried out. 

Why is it that there are families – maybe some in this room – who live within three to five miles of one another and you don’t even speak?  You don’t even speak to one another.  Why do we fight with those that we love?  Because the fact is that we do.  

The writer of the book of James is going to tell us that there are consequences when you fight with one another. He’s going to give us the cure.  He’s going to give us very direct, clear instruction about how we can stop the conflict.  About how we can stop it and those things don’t have to go on.  And restoration can occur.  

The root cause of interpersonal conflicts is our consuming passion for self-gratification. 

What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? 2 You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. 3 And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure. James 4:1-3 NLT

To be hedonistic is to live for pleasure, the passion for lust to fulfill one’s desires, the cravings of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.  It’s addictive self love.  He says the source of your quarrels is your own selfish gratification.  It’s the “me first” mindset.

It’s the idea of not the wholesome kind of God given pleasure, but the sinful, self indulgent pleasure, the hot desire to possess something for your own ego and self gratification.  And you can’t obtain it.  In other words, you get blocked.

And so you wage war.  And then you don’t have things.  And he says, “You know why?  Because you’re trying to get it from other places instead of from God.”  And some of you, you try to get it from God but you do it with the wrong motives.  And so he says, “The source of interpersonal conflict is self gratification.”  

To summarize this look at your notes: 

• Our Problem = selfishness/selfish pride

Just write two words – selfishness – selfish pride.  That’s our problem.

So the inner passion within each of us that craves our own way.  And behind that craving is the belief that pleasure and fun and sensual fulfillment must be achieved at all cost.  The symptoms are conflict.  

• The Symptoms = conflict

And the conflict is evidenced in broken relationships.  We want something, our goals are blocked, our desires are frustrated and so it leads to violence.  Competing desires – it’s the classic picture of one cookie and two two year olds.  

 It might be a position in the church, it might be about money, it might be about intimacy, it might be about a number of different things.  But that same passionate desire to possess and get your way and me wanting to get my way is at the core of interpersonal conflict.  

• Our Strategy = We try to fix it without God/ We try to use God to fulfill our selfish desires

Our strategies are twofold.  First, we attempt to fulfill our desires apart from God.  We want something badly.  Maybe we want something in our marriage.  Maybe we want it from our boss.  Maybe we want it in the church.  Maybe we want it from one of our kids.  Maybe we want something badly as a single person.  

And he says the wrong strategy is you try and get it apart from God.  Notice the line that he said.  He said, “You don’t have because you don’t ask.”  There’s some ways through either manipulation or intimidation or image management that we try and get what we want instead of going to God and saying, “God, this is my heart’s desire.”  

The second way in terms of strategy is not just attempts to fulfill desires apart from God.  But we try to use God to fulfill our selfish desires.  We try to make God our self help genie.  “God, I’m praying that you will give this to me.”  And the goal isn’t the glory of God.  The goal isn’t the agenda of God.  And by the way, I’ve never seen this more popular than it is in our day.  And I mean, I’ll tell you what – it sells.

Jesus can make you happy.  Jesus can help you lose weight.  Jesus can make you rich.  Jesus can make you healthy, wealthy and wise.  Jesus can eliminate all your problems.  You know what?  God is not the center or the core or the infinite one who’s Holy in the universe.  You are the center of the universe and he’s your errand boy.  And we’ll give you a little formula and tell you what you do.

Jesus is my ticket to self fulfillment.  And it’s a perversion of the Gospel.  And it’s a perversion of the truth.  And it’s not new.  I mean, this is the first book written in the New Testament.  And what he’s saying here is your wrong strategies are one, you try and get your stuff apart from God, or you try and actually use God.  You’re asking God to do things but it’s not for him.  It’s for perverted, wrong motives.

• The Results = Frustration within and without

He’s saying to this local church , “You have fights without and you have frustration within because the root cause of interpersonal conflict in marriage, with children, in the church, at work,” is self gratification or literally hedonism.  I have to have my way. 

God’s Diagnosis: Our constant quarrels reveal . . . 

• We’ve believed a lie. 

• We’ve betrayed a trust. 

• We’ve become an enemy. 

James is going to say there are some consequences.  He’s going to say that you have a belief system and when you have frustration within and conflict without, you have a belief system that is based on a lie. It is the lie of hedonism.  

Once you believe a lie you move further and further away from God and closer and closer to this world.  

The world system is primetime TV; It is People, Cosmo, Forbes and Sport’s Illustrated.  There’s a world system that says, “The way to significance, fulfillment and satisfaction is how you look, what you make, who you know, how many people report to you, and what you own.”  And it’s when you can have the pleasures of the world, that you’re a somebody.  

You come to believe that you are  just a house remodel away from being happy.  You’re just a better sex life away from being happy.  You’re just that first child away from being happy.  You’re just a wedding away from being happy. 

And the world paints it every evening on primetime, and now on 150 cable channels and magazines and romance novels and billboards and songs.  And they’re all telling you, “This is what we’ll deliver – real happiness and fulfillment.”  And God says, “When we buy into that, we become spiritual adulterers.”  We leave our first love and we embrace and fall in love with the world and we lose our relationship and our heart for God.  

Some of you are thinking right now, “Where did you ever get all of that?” 

 4 You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. 5 What do you think the Scriptures mean when they say that the spirit God has placed within us is filled with envy? 6 But he gives us even more grace to stand against such evil desires. As the Scriptures say,

“God opposes the proud but favors the humble.” James 4:4-6 NLT

We willfully, intentionally out of our own choices make our self an enemy with God. When you and I get infatuated and start flirting with this world and the world’s system we start to buy the lie. After you begin believing the lie you start betraying the trust and before you know it you are an enemy or you’re in hostility with God.  

Let’s go back and play out what the lie is then. The lie, basically is hedonism.  And hedonism is a world view that promises you will be fulfilled by pleasure.  How I feel is the value of what’s right and what’s wrong.  I know I’m married.  I know I’m not supposed to do this.  But I don’t feel loved anymore, therefore – even though I know it’s wrong and I know God says only to put pure things in my mind but. . . when I log onto the internet and I see all those naked pictures, it makes me feel alive.  

I know we don’t have the money, I know I shouldn’t spend it, but when and I buy a bunch of things/clothes I don’t even need I get a little rush and I feel alive and good again until the MasterCard bill comes and we have yet another fight in our home with my spouse.

There are three prominent passions in hedonism:  1. the desire to have possessions, 2. the desire to feel pleasure, 3. the desire to be powerful.  We buy the lie that sensual pleasure will meet my inner longing for fulfillment.  And that lie leads us to betray trust.  And we become spiritual adulterers.  

When we sin, we break God’s heart.  And as the heart of one partner in marriage may be broken by the desertion of another, so when we sin we become spiritual adulterers and break our vow with God.”  And that’s what James is saying.  I don’t know anything that is happening in our day that breaks God’s heart more than a church that has fallen in love with the world.  And we are living in this day.

I don’t cry over a lot of stuff, but I cry over this.  I am so, so deeply disturbed.  This is the reason why the divorce rate among Christians is the same or worse than the divorce rate among non-believers.  You see, we bought the same line.  We watch the same shows.  We put the same garbage into our mind and we’re expecting different results.  

And then we refashion the Jesus message to make him our cosmic vending machine.  Where what we want him to do is deliver the great marriage and the wonderful families and the gated community and the upward mobility, and our kids that turn out right that marry people even smarter than them, that have more letters behind their name than we had, that make more money than we do.  

At the heart and the center, we have bought a lie that says, “You know what?  I have to have personal power.  And I have to have money.  And I have to have pleasure.  And if you look at the broad scope of Evangelical born again believers in the United States, 2.5 percent of all the believers in America even tithe.

You walk into the living rooms of most Christians in America put on a little recorder and you recorded everything they watch from 6:00 p.m. until 12:00 p.m. at night, and then you played it back and you did that with every unbelieving household, you wouldn’t see a nickel’s worth of difference.  We have a generation of believers that have become hooked on sensual pornography, soaps, romance novels.  

I watch dads in unbelief who let their daughters dress like prostitutes and send them off to high school, and can’t figure out why they get pregnant or why they get promiscuous.  Because they don’t have the courage to say, “Honey, you can’t wear something that comes up this high and down this low and this tight.  Because I am your dad, and guess what?  You’re made in the image of God.  And I love you.  And I don’t care what all the other kids think.”  

We have a church in America that has embraced the world.  We are not in the salt and light business anymore where we’re impacting the world culture.  I think it appears that we’re in the “sort of”  trying to hold off a little bit of the darkness and it’s transforming the church.  

This problem isn’t new, remember James wrote this in the first century.  The first century church was struggling with falling in love with the world.  But when they fell in love with the world, they didn’t blink and say, “Well every other Christian is doing it.  It must not be that bad.”  You know how we develop our convictions?  We develop our convictions by finding someone who’s doing a little worse than us and say, “Well they’re doing this.  At least I’m doing this.”  

And so pretty soon you find someone you admire and say, “Well, they do that.  I always thought that was wrong, but if they do it I guess it’s okay.”  And pretty soon, we have sheep following sheep.  

The life of a Christfollower will be tested by the fruit of that life and the Bible says that fruit includes:  love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, self control.  It’s being like Christ.  

That’s the agenda.  The agenda is not, “How can I be happy?  How can I be fulfilled?”  I don’t care what Maslow says – it’s not about self actualization.  It’s about Christ actualization.  It’s about abiding in Christ.  

Go to the grocery store or Barnes and Noble and start at the magazine racks.  Just look through the magazine racks – sports, entertainment over here, over here, over here, over here.  Here, okay, here’s all the faces, all the people, all the names who have zillions of dollars, play on these teams, have had multiple surgeries, they are pretty, pretty, pretty.  And they are married, divorced, married, divorced, married, divorced, living with but not happy.  

The people that have the greatest looks, the greatest money, fulfill the world’s system – help me.  Are they not the most miserable of all people on the earth?  And so what do we do?  We have the Lord, so we try and be like them.  

I don’t think the average Christfollower in America wakes up every one day saying, “I know I really love God, but I think I’m going to embrace the world.  I think I’m going to try and live just like they are because I want all the negative consequences.  I only want my marriage to last a few years or conflict and alimony is going to be fun. I just love my addictions and it helps the counselors that need money as well. . .

No one does that.  But that’s where we’re landing, people.  So what’s the solution?  He gives us the solution and we’re going to get the prescription in verses seven through ten.  

God’s Prescription: He will heal your relationships. 

You can go ahead and circle the first three words. . .

 7 So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. 9 Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor. James 4: 7-10 NLT

So what do we do to get out of the mess that some of us are in? 

Steps to Diffuse Conflict 

1.  “So humble yourselves before God . . .” (v. 7a) 

The word humble here is in the tense of the verb that has a sense of urgency.  It’s a compound word – hupo – to be under and tasso to be under the rank.  It’s like falling into line or rank in the military. Another translation would render the word to be submit. 

It’s to take God as your commander, as your captain.  It’s a picture of a group of military people all walking like this and you are out of step.  Remember old Gomer Pyle?  Does anybody remember Gomer Pyle?  Some people do.  And do you remember how he was always trying to get in step?  What he’s saying is you’re out of step with the Spirit.  

Well, how do you get in step with the spirit?  Very, very clearly it is obey the known will of God revealed in Scripture.  Give in to God.  Voluntarily, from the heart – that’s the idea.  You might write just one word after that – give in to God.  Put an arrow and write the word “surrender” and put a box around it.  It’s really what it is.

Surrender.  Submit your will.  Submit your future.  Submit your relationships.  Submit your agenda.  Submit your desires.  

That’s the first step in humbling yourself.  It’s obeying what you know.  The second step is get tough with Satan.  

2. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (v. 7b) 

Resist means to be against him and to take a stand.  It is to take a stand against the enemy.  There is no middle ground.  You can’t play with him. And the word devil – I mean, who is this?  He’s the slanderer, the liar, the deceiver.  He’s the seducer. 

Think about this for a moment, has anyone ever seen one single Cosmo magazine that isn’t cut like from here to here?  What’s the message?  Has anyone seen a Forbes where you can go through a Forbes magazine and not somehow feel like, “Man, if I was really, really rich I’d be really, really powerful.  Then I’d be really, really important.”  

It’s a lust of the flesh for some.  For others, it’s that magazine you look at and you see all those beautiful houses and all that beautiful furniture and all this.  Or that dream vacation – you can go to some exotic place and do this.  You can go to this or go to that but is always about the next new thing.  

Where are you weak?  In the area of media, I would dare you to do something.  You probably won’t do this.  But I’ll dare you anyway – double double dare.  I dare you to go on a media fast for ten days.  No TV and no  DVDs.  Not even the news.  Ten days.  First two days, you’ll want to kill each other or people at work because you’ll be so irritable.  

And then you’ll recognize, “We actually spend hours that we didn’t know in front of this thing.”  Then, pretty soon you’ll start getting creative and you’ll have all kind of time and start doing some things you always wanted to do.  Day number six through eight, you’ll start actually having some fun.  Day number nine, you won’t miss it very much.  Day number ten or eleven you’ll realize, “Oh, hey,” and you’ll start watching something and you’ll watch a commercial and you’ll think, “Oh, man.  That is gross.”  

Most of us have been dumbed down.  Your spiritual sensitivities will come back alive.  Resist the devil and he’ll flee from you.  Get tough with Satan – put an arrow and write the word “fight” and put a box around it.  Ephesians 6 tells us how to put on the full armor of God. This is a promise.  “If you resist, he’ll flee.” 

3. “Come close to God and He will come close to you.” (v. 8) 

Write in there, “get close to God”  and then draw an arrow and in the box write “return.”  Return to God.  God loves you.  He’s for you.  He cares about you.  Anything you think the world in power or sex or pleasure or a boat or a better golf score or what plastic surgery could ever provide, Jesus says it’s all a lie.  It’s all temporary.  “I love you just for you.  I have joy that circumstances can’t change.  I want to give you something in your heart that’s called peace and  not pseudo-peace.

It’s as though God is saying, “I want you to be able to sit in a room where you don’t have to turn on the TV or the stereo or run over to the refrigerator every time you have a little bit of unrest in your soul.  I want to give you joy that even when bad news happens, it wells up in you.  I want to love you.  I want to care for you.  I want to tie you into me and let you understand where real life comes – abundant life to the full.”  Isn’t that what He promised?  “I came to you, you might have life and you can have it to the max.” 

How do you draw near to God?  It’s not just an emotional experience.  How do you draw near to God?  Well since many of you are on that media fast because I double double dared you and some of you can’t resist that, with all this time do you know what you’ll find?  Just start reading through the New Testament.  Just start talking walks instead of watching TV and talk to God.  And when you’re hurt, tell him you’re hurt.  When you’re angry, just express it and tell him you’re angry.

4. “Cleanse your hands . . . purify your hearts . . .” (v. 8b) “Let there be tears for what you have done. . Let there be deep sorrow and grief.”  (v. 9) 

The final thing he says is, “Get right with others.”  Notice the phrase here, “cleanse your hands.  Purify your hearts.”  That’s the outward.  What are you doing with your hands that is wrong?  Cleanse them.  Then not just externally but internally.  Purify your hearts.  Where are your motives?  Let there be tears for the wrongs you have done.  

And do you know what it is?  You don’t hear this much anymore.  Are you ready for this?  Some of you, a number of things have come up in your mind.  I’ve just sort of thrown a few little bombs out, have you noticed?  The soaps over here, romance novels over here, pornography over here, materialism – just in case you missed the bombs, this is a review.  

A little bitterness in your heart, unforgiveness toward an ex, toward a mom, a dad, one of your kids, right?  You know what cleanse your hands, purify your hearts is?  Stop sinning.  Stop it.  Okay, you ready?  I’m going to do this again.  It’s very complicated.  Stop sinning.  I mean we get this like, “Yeah, I will.  I’m going to have to process this, maybe see my counselor.”  Is it wrong?  Stop it.  Repent.  

That’s the word.  Write “get right with others,” arrow in a box, then write, “Repent.”  If you have wronged someone, make it right.  Cleanse your hands.  If you have bitterness in your heart – if you have resentment, if you have anger fantasies, purify your heart.  Purge it.  Tell God you’re sorry.  If you need to apologize to someone, go apologize to them.  But just say, “I’m going to get right with God.  I’m going to get right with others.”  

 7 So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. 9 Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor. James 4: 7-10 NLT

Then notice the final thing he says in verse ten.  He says, “Humble yourself therefore under the mighty hand of God.”  Why?  “That he may lift you up in honor.”  He’s told us that the problem is interpersonal relationships and that it’s really selfishness.  He said the lie that we believed is hedonism – the whole pleasure mentality of our day.

But he says, “Submit to God.  Resist the devil.  Draw near to God and then get right with others.”  And then he says, “That is the actions of humbling yourself before God.”  And here’s what God wants to do; He wants to honor you.  He wants to restore you.  

It takes a whole lot more energy to live a lie then it does to just be an authentic follower of Jesus Christ. 

I don’t know when I have felt a message more than this one. There are a bunch of us in this room living out what I have talked about today. Your experience and relationship with Christ is stale and stagnant. You have inadvertently at first started believing the lies of this world and now you’ve grown really comfortable with letting stuff into your life that is destroying you from the inside out. 

Some of you maybe didn’t even realize it till right now but for others you have noticed a stirring in your souls recently and you are hungry to be in a right relationship with God. Today you’ve heard the first of five messages that deal with lies and myths that we have come to believe that are destroying our spiritual lives and relationships. 

What are you going to do with it? What will you do to move toward God today?