Deep Creek Baptist Church
Sunday June 12
- Higher Ground
- Psalm 1
- The Song of Obadiah
- Breathe On Me Breath Of God (Trentham)
1 Peter 2:11–12ESV
- INTRODUCTION:Why do believers and churches often struggle with conflict?A lot of church members and leaders were eager to share about fights, schisms, and conflicts in their congregations. They were likewise eager to point out the absurdity of these issues. There were the ones we’ve heard often: temperature in the worship center, color of carpet, order of worship, and color of walls.The fights shown below, however, are a bit unusual. Indeed, most of them are downright absurd. I picked 25 of my “favorites.” They are listed in no particular order. The parenthetical commentary is my own.Fight over whether or not to build a children’s playground or to use the land for a cemeteryA church dispute of whether or not to install restroom stall dividers in the women’s restroomA 45-minute heated argument over the type of filing cabinet to purchase: black or brown; 2, 3, or 4 drawersA big church argument over the discovery that the church budget was off $0.10. Someone finally gave a dime to settle the issueBusiness meeting arguments about whether the church should purchase a weed eater or not. It took two business meetings to resolveAn argument over who has the authority to buy postage stamps for the churchSome church members left the church because one church member hid the vacuum cleaner from them. It resulted in a major fight and split.Yes. These issues are silly; many are absurd.But they are all distractions from what we should be doing in our churches. In that sense, they are really great distractions from the Great Commission.Big Question: What can we learn about resolving conflict in James 4:1-3?Main IdeaTo resolve conflict with others, we must judge ourselves.James 4:1–3 (ESV)1 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.To Resolve Conflict with others...We Must Be Careful of Our Habit to Blame OthersJames begins with the rhetorical question,What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? (v. 1).The word “fights” refers to prolonged disputing or combat and is often translated “war”,which shows how bad things had gotten in those churches.The word “quarrels” refers to a specific fight or battle.Obviously, there were prolonged, violent relationships happening amongst these believers.Sometimes we idealize the early church.We think, “It must have been great to be a part of the first century church!It was so dynamic and powerful.They had such sweet fellowship!”But the reality is, the early church was made up of people, and people haven’t changed over the centuries!Many (if not all!) first century churches wrestled with conflicts between the members.The Corinthian church had divided into factions.The Philippian church had two women who couldn’t get along, and the conflict was severe enough that Paul singled them out by name in his letter.The Galatian believers were biting and devouring one another (Gal. 5:15).Paul began the practical section of Ephesians with an appeal to unity, tolerance, and love between the members (Eph. 4:1–16).On a personal level, even Paul and Barnabas had a serious disagreement that led to a parting of ways (Acts 15:36–40).Even amongst the scattered Jewish Christians that James wrote to, it is clear that all types of conflict was happening among them.There were class conflicts as the rich were being honored and the poor dishonored in the church (Jam 2:1-6).There were work conflicts as the rich were withholding wages from the poor (Jam 5:1-6).There were leadership conflicts, as people were selfishly striving for teaching positions and authority in the church (Jam 3:1).And, obviously, there were personal conflicts as people were slandering and speaking evil of each other (Jam 4:11).As James asked the rhetorical question of where their conflicts began,we can imagine the initial heart responses of those involved.They probably would reply, “It’s his fault!” or“They started it!”In fact, that’s how most of us would answer a question about how a specific conflict began—we would point to someone else’s wrongdoing.However, James doesn’t even allow them to answer the question.He simply points them to the mirror—to look at themselves.This is where we get our first principle about resolving conflicts.When James performed conflict resolution amongst these churches,he didn’t allow them to blame others and +therefore minimize their personal responsibility.We must do the same when seeking to resolve our conflicts and when helping others resolve them.Many never-ending wars are happening amongst friends, family members, churches, and even nations because people simply blame the other party.The Origin of Our Tendency to BlameIt’s no surprise that blaming is a natural, sinful tendency amongst humans,as it began with our parents in the Garden of Eden.When God asked Adam if he ate from the forbidden tree, the correct answer was simply,“Yes,” with an added, “I’m sorry.” But Adam responded, “The woman You gave me, gave me the food, and I did eat.” Adam blamed the woman and indirectly, God.It is clear that this was happening amongst these persecuted Jewish Christians.In James 4:12, they were slandering one another—probably blaming each other for certain failures.In James 1:13, James had to tell them that God would never tempt them to do evil and that God cannot be tempted. God was not to blame; he only gives good and perfect gifts (Jam 1:17).Like Adam and Eve, people have a natural tendency to blame God and others for problems and to minimize personal responsibility.People commonly blame their parents, pastors, teachers, bosses, co-workers, friends, government officials, political parties, and everyone else.And since blaming others is our default setting, many conflicts never get resolved.Many marriage counselors can never even begin to move a struggling couple towards reconciliation because both keep focusing on the other’s fault.In this text, James implements basic conflict resolution by not allowing them to only focus on the others’ failures but, instead, helping them to see their contribution to the conflict.Certainly, there is a place for pointing out the failures of others,but we must recognize that because of our sinful nature,we tend to exaggerate the faults of othersand be blind to our own.When we blame others and many times unintentionally exaggerate their faults, we often instigate conflict or stoke the fires of existing conflict.Our blindness will even at times lead us to blame others when they haven’t committed any wrongs at all.That’s how sin works.Because of this reality, Christ said before we help somebody else with their sin, we need to take the plank out of our eye, so we can see clearly to help remove the speck in another’s eye (Matt 7:3-5Matthew 7:3–5 (ESV)3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.Therefore, to resolve conflicts,we must be careful of blaming others.We tend to exaggerate the blame and minimize our personal responsibility.This leads to the second point.2nd - To Resolve Conflict with others...We Must Battle Our Inner Sinful DesiresAfter asking the rhetorical question of where conflicts begin,Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you (1b)Notice what James doesn’t say.He doesn’t say that you fight because the other person is just a pain.He doesn’t say that you fight because your hormones are raging.He doesn’t say that you fight because your father was the same way, or “You’re just like your mother.”He doesn’t say that you fight because you just had a bad day at work and you’re tired.He doesn’t say that you fight because your felt needs aren’t being met.He doesn’t say that you fight because others are stepping on your rights.Look at what he does say.He says we fight because our passions are at war within us.Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you (1b)One word here bares the heart of this verse—the word “Passions.”In the Greek this is hedone,from which we derive the English word hedonism,In the New Testament the word is always used in a negative, ungodly sense.Hedonism is the uncontrolled personal desire to fulfill every passion and whim that promises sensual satisfaction and enjoyment.The desire to fulfill these pleasures comes, of course, from selfishness, which is opposed to God and the Word of God.The root of our conflict problems:we fight because we don’t get what we want.Our desire for something so rules us that we sin in order to have it—we will step on people to have it,we get angry if they get in the way of it.The essence of conflict and sin is selfishness.Eve disobeyed God because she wanted to eat of the tree and become wise like God.Abraham lied about his wife because he selfishly wanted to save his own life (Gen. 12:10–20).Achan caused defeat to Israel because he selfishly took some forbidden loot from the ruins of Jericho (Josh. 7).“We have turned every one to his own way” (Isa. 53:6).Often we veil our religious quarrels under the disguise of “spirituality.”We are like Miriam and Aaron who complained about Moses’ wife, but who really were envious of Moses’ authority (Num. 12).Or we imitate James and John who asked for special thrones in the kingdom, when what we really want is recognition today (Mark 10:35–45).In both of these instances, the result of selfish desire was chastening and division among God’s people.Miriam’s sin halted the progress of Israel for a whole week!How much more is our conflict one another hindering our personal growth and corporate Growth.Selfish desires are dangerous things.They lead to wrong actionsJames 4:2 (ESV)2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask.do not covent is the last of God’s Ten Commandments,but its violation can make us break all of the other nine!Covetousness can make a personmurder, tell lies, dishonor his parents, commit adultery,and in one way or another violate all of God’s moral law.Selfish living always lead to war. If there is war on the inside, there will ultimately be war on the outside.Is James talking about literal Murder.James 4:2 (ESV)2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask.Scholars differ over what James means when he accuses his readers of committing murder.Did he mean this literally?Probably not.It is more likely that James has in mind what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:21–22),that if you are angry with your brother, you have murdered him in God’s sight.But we should not miss the implication that murder usually begins with unchecked anger.When uncheck sinful anger leads to conflict it may not leads to literal murder but is we still allow our anger to hurt others.Many times in conflict wed tend to murder with our tongue and our words.We murder a persons spirit with harsh words because we do not get what we want.We murder a persons reputation with others as we talk about them, and slander them. All because of our selfish desires.And, you cannot grow in your Christian life and you will not bear fruit for God if you engage in unchecked anger and conflict.“The anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God” (James 1:20).So James says that self versus self is at the heart of all relational conflicts.Also, there is an enemy within each of us, engaged in mortal combat.He poses as a friend promising pleasure, but his end is death.3rd - To Resolve Conflict with others...We Must Develop a God-Centered Prayer LifeJames 4:2–3 (ESV)2 You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.James says one of the remedies to the civil war happening inside of us and therefore war with others is having a God-centered prayer life—a prayer life rooted in God’s glory instead of self-glory.He says, “You do not have because you do not ask” (v. 2b).The word “ask” is in the present tense and has a sense of pleading, begging, imploring.James was not talking about offering one quick prayer request—though that may have been all that was needed.He was talking about them lacking a focused and continual pleading with God over their desires,which led to them selfishly taking things into their own hands—leading to conflict.It’s hard to not picture the story of Jacob when considering James’ focus on prayer in the context of conflict. In Genesis 32,He got alone—no doubt to petition God—and the Angel of the Lord appeared.In response, Jacob grabbed God and wrestled with him,continually asking for a blessing,which in the context, at the minimum, referred to protection and reconciliation with his murderous brother.Prayerlessness shows that our focus is not properly toward God.The focus of the person who does not pray is toward self, not toward God.So often when we’re in a relational conflict,we scheme,we tell our friends our side of the story, we go for counseling, we read self-help books on how to deal with difficult people—but we don’t make the problem a matter of faithful prayer.Maybe one reason that we fail to prayis that it’s hard to pray for someone and be angry at them at the same time.Since we justify our anger (“I have a right to be angry”)and we want to use our anger to make the other person pay,we don’t want to let it go.So we don’t pray for him (or her).We tend to want to pray imprecatory prayers against those we are in conflict with.Instead of their wellbeing“But I do pray for him. I pray that he will deal with his wrong attitude or just get out of my life so that I don’t have these constant hassles!”James continues,B.Selfish prayer shows that we are trying to use God for our purposes, rather than seeking His purposes.James 4:3 (ESV)3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.That’s trying to use God as Aladdin’s Genie,to pull Him off the shelf when you need Him,rub Him the right way,and then put Him back until the next time.But Jesus clearly taught that prayer is not to get our will done on earth, but to get God’s will done:“Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10).Prayer is not so that we can use God; it is so that God can use us.Most of you have seen the Four Spiritual Laws booklet,with the diagram of the thronewith either Christ or self on the throne.The point of the diagram, of course,is that you are not to be the lord of your life.Jesus alone deserves that place.And yet I find so many who profess to be Christians,but they are trying to use God to make self happy.That is to be firmly on the throne of your life!So James is saying that if you do not pray, it shows that your focus is not properly God-ward. If you pray selfishly, it shows that you are trying to use God for your purposes, rather than seeking to fulfill His purposes. There’s a third implication:C.To receive from God, ask with the right motives.James 4:3 (ESV)3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.But our responsibility is to ask, but to ask with the right motives.Your main reason for asking God to bring peace into your home or into some difficult relationshipshould not be so that you are free from the hassle.I know, you’re weary of the hassle. Peace would feel so good!But, if you pray for peace so that you can be relieved of the stress, you’re missing the big picture.The main reason you should pray for peace is so that God might be glorified.He is not glorified by strife and quarreling.Christ is not magnified by constant conflict.He is glorified in His people when they crucify self and allow His love to flow through them, even toward those who treat them wrongly.Ask God to be glorified in your relationships, and He will answer! So,Conclusion:James (Lesson 14: The Source of Conflicts (James 4:1–3))A boy once asked, “Dad, how do wars begin?”“Well, take the First World War,” said his father. “That got started when Germany invaded Belgium.”Immediately his wife interrupted,“Tell the boy the truth. It began because somebody was murdered.”The husband drew himself up in an air of superiority and snapped back,“Are you answering the question, or am I?”Turning her back on him in a huff, the wife walked out of the room and slammed the door as hard as she could.When the dishes stopped rattling in the cupboard, an uneasy silence followed, broken at length by the son.“Daddy, you don’t have to tell me any more; I know now!”“The way to resolve conflict with others is not to win the war with others.Rather, it is to wage war against those powerful forces that are waging war in your soul!Judge your selfish motives,daily put self on the cross,and you will move in the direction of peace in your relationships.PRAYER PROMPTSPray that God would forgive us for our evil motives, which have led and contributed to personal and corporate conflict.Pray that God would also forgive our churches, communities, and nations for the divisions amongst them.Pray for unity in our families, friendships, workplaces, and nations.Pray that God would bring glory to himself through our lives and the communities we are members of.TIME OF RESPONSELets us stand and sing
- Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing
- Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing
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