Western Trail Cowboy Church
The Danger of Fence Straddling
  • Introduction

    If we keep one foot on one side of a fence and the other on another side, we will never go anywhere or do anything. We will be hung up and of no use to anything.
    We must make a decision and move forward. If we stay hung up and do not move, that bull may very well put on one side or another. He will hook you one way or another but you will be moved from the fence.
    Or you may be like the person trying to get out of a boat trying and failing miserably. We have all seen the videos of a person stepping from the boat to a dock and what happens when someone attempts to keep one foot on the dock and one foot on the boat, which is drifting. Eventually, the splits just don’t cover the distance. And splat, they go into the water. So too, there is peril with trying to find sure footing both in the Lord and in the world, for there is no common ground between the two. (Samra, Jim. James, 1 & 2 Peter, and Jude p. 55).
    If we straddle the fence, we will flop and splat. Maybe it will be soft like water, or it will be hard like a bull hooking, but sure as the world we will flop and splat.
    We what James has to say about trying to straddle the fence in James 4:1-5
    James 4:1–5 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. 4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?
    Straddling the fence leads to us trying to appease our personal passions rather than please the Lord. When we do this our Personal Passions will ignite hatred, misdirect us, and cause us to scorn God’s desire.
    We wonder why there is so much fighting and bitterness in the world, well James tells us exactly why that is in these five short verses. There is so much because we have not been slow to anger. We desire and we want so we become violent and brutal. We see right here that our...

    Personal Passions Ignite Hatred (1-3)

    Oh to understand why we fight and struggle would be wonderful. This is a common sentiment that may be worded differently, but still is common. Many people want to know why there is so much fighting and quarreling amongst people.
    Why do we fight and quarrel? This is the question James begins with. He leaves it out there for a second because people will respond with many comments like:
    So and so took this.
    So and so hit me.
    So and so said bad things.
    So and so disrespected me.
    These and many other things are what people will say. Basically, it boils down to, “Someone did something to me that I did not like and now I am fighting against them.”
    That is why he answers like he does, “Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?”
    It is us, my evil sinful heart, that causes fights and quarrels. It is not the other person but my inner desires.
    Paul Tripp makes a great point when writing about children, “We all, including our children, want our own way. We all, including our children, set our minds on what we think will make us happy and get angry at anyone who stands in our way” (Paul David Tripp, Parenting: The 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016), 107.)
    It is our passions and nothing more. It is what we want that causes us to fight and quarrel.
    Our passions when ignited cause us to do four different things.
    The first is,
    We Fight Among Selves: We take up war against another over something trivial and then get mad when someone does this to us. We need to see things like this little girl of professional hockey star Stan Mikita, who used to get into a lot of fights during games. She asked a very grown-up question when she was eight: "How can you score goals when you're always in the penalty box, Daddy?” (Bits & Pieces, July, 1990, p. 19.) Are we being any good when we fight over our passions? Are we honoring God and serving others? Are we scoring any goals?
    the next thing we do is,
    We Hate Others: Here James says when we desire and do not get we murder. We do whatever it takes to get what we want. We do not let anyone stand in our way. We slay anything and everything that is in front of us. This is not loving or caring for our neighbor but makes everyone an enemy. Like this quote, “If a man is forever concerned first and foremost with his own interests then he is bound to collide with others. If for any man life is a competition…then he will always think of other human beings as enemies, or at least as opponents who must be pushed out of the way…and the object of life becomes not to help others but to push them down.” (William Barclay). We hat others and attack them rather than help them because of our passions.
    This leads to the third point,
    We Pray Wrongly and do not receive: We tend to pray like the young boy who took a cigar from his father and was in an alley smoking it. Then his father came along so the boy tried to hide it behind his back and divert attention by pointing to a sign advertising the circus. "Can I go, Dad? Please, let's go when it comes to town."
    His father's reply was quiet but firm, "Son, never make a petition while at the same time trying to hide a smoldering disobedience."
    We not only pray this way but we are also like the man who had slipped while hiking and was hanging on to a small ledge. He was yelling out loud to the Lord to help him. He said, “is there not anyone up there who can help me?” He hears a voice from above, “Let go and I will catch you.” He then hollers out, “Is there anyone else up there who can help me?”
    Or we pray like the one who asks and hear wait. They then say no I want another to help because I want it now. Or we do the name it and claim it prayer seeking worldly desires. We do not want to let it go and allow God to be in control. We do not want to wait we want it now so we pray the name it and claim it prayer and become bitter towards God and others when it does not happen.
    That is how it is when we pray for our passions. When we pray for what we desire while doing what we desire, we receive nothing but maybe a stern rebuke.
    We then become angry because God has not answered us. We are straddling the fence doing what we want while asking for God to give. We hang out waiting to see which side wins so we are on the right one. But what we do not realize is we miss much because we are not genuinely seeking God and asking for what we need but only for what we want.
    This may be hard to hear but when we pray for healing of a loved one, especially if they are a believer, we need to be ready for the ultimate healing when they are called up to God. We become upset when prayers are not answered how we want them to be because they sometimes go against what we want. We pray for what we want and not so much what God desires.
    This again points back to Jas. 1:5 and asking God for wisdom. Paul said that when we pray that the Spirit helps us and intercedes for us when we do not know how to pray as we ought. But this is giving ourselves fully over to God and seeking Him completely. It is not straddling the fence and seeking what we want only and making it sound like it is pious and holy.
    When we do this we demonstrate that we are not faithful to God but adulterous people. We are this because we desire the things of the world because our…

    Personal Passions Will Misdirect Us (4)

    You adulterous people! Such a forceful statement. It hits with a punch that makes Rocky Balboa look like a sissy.
    It takes the wind right out of our sails. It knocks us flat because no one wants to be called an adulterer. We all know what that means. It means one who has not been faithful to the one they are committed to. It means we have adulterated the bond between us and that other person by introducing something of a poorer quality.
    Think of it like this. God has called us to be holy and live set apart. Yet, when this gets difficult we decide to compromise a little with the world. Just a little fling here and no one will know. We then begin to settle into a full on compromise and settle into a long term acceptance of the world and living like it. We have embraced that like a man or woman who has fully embraced a forbidden lover over their spouse. This is the poorer quality of acceptance we have taken on.
    Here that poorer quality is the world. When we try and stand on the fence and have a little of the world and a little of God, or our little sprinkle of Jesus, we ave become an adulterer. We have committed spiritual fornication against God. That makes us an enemy against God,
    We Become Hostile To God: This is what it means to be at enmity with God because we have become friends with the world. We place the world over God. We love it more than him. Like I have heard Tony Evans say before, you can have a marriage and never be home but to have a relationship with your spouse you better be at home. It is the same with this. We may be saved but at odds with God because we have gone to the world for our desires. I have yet to meet the man who always is out partying and drinking that is not hostile to his wife.
    He will make excuses and defend himself against her when he is completely wrong. We do the same thing when we are with the world and trying to do things our way when we belong to God. It is miserable because we have become an enemy to God. This then leads to,
    We Turn Our Backs on God: After a while in our affair with the world, we turn our backs on God and just like those in affairs say, “He never loved me anyway. I was never allowed to do what I wanted always what he wanted. I was held down and suppressed. I was never allowed to be me. Now, the world allows me to be me and do what I want.”
    Yes, the world allows this but it leads to despair and devastation. It leads to falling and failing. It does not lead to life and joy. Only God can lead us to that.
    The beauty of the Lord is, He is full of grace. You may be in the world and living for it, but He offers you His hand now. If you take it He will draw you back to Him like you never left.
    But if you do not take His hand and you stay in the ways of the world,
    We Become Enemies to God: The final step in this progression of flirting and adultery is enemies. We become haters of God and become so in love with ourselves because we finally freed ourselves. We reject Him because He is to authoritarian.
    The world may look promising whiling straddling the fence, but that green grass over there is not good. It is nothing more than loco weed and it will cause you to lose your mind. You will become entangled in wickedness and become bitter and out of your mind.
    God does not want this. God does not want us to leave Him. James is telling us that the wicked and earthly and unspiritual and demonic wisdom of the world will leave you high and dry. But we can last in our relationship with the Lord when we seek His wisdom and do not scorn Him. We look to Him for love and truth and not the world. We can make it and last with the Lord forever if we seek Him regularly and listen carefully to Him.
    He does what He does because He loves us and cares for us. He has a plan and a desire for us that is far better than anything our passions say. If we still seek our passions we will see that…

    Personal Passions Scorn God’s Desire (5)

    Scripture tells us throughout that God desires us completely. That He is jealous over those that are his.
    Too many think jealousy is bad, and in many instances it is, but it can be good too.
    In the instance of God being jealous for us, it is a good way.
    Like a loving husband who is jealous for his wife and does not allow anyone to disrespect her and will lay down his life for her, this is the jealousy God has for us.
    What we see in this last verse is that…
    God Wants All of Us: He does not want to share us with the world.
    God has saved us and He has given us His Spirit. He has placed His Spirit in us and this means that…
    He Owns Us: Since He loves us and wants us completely, and since He has place His Spirit in us which makes us His, he yearns jealousy for us. Yearns means strong desire. He has a strong desire for us. He wants us to be His and His alone.
    What all this means is that we will not fight and bicker and hate and long for things of the world and become enemies with the Lord when we look to Him as a faithful and compassionate and committed and loving savior. He is our all-in-all.
    What James is driving at with this first aspect of slow to anger is that when we look to Christ over all other wisdom's we can stay faithful. We can stay loving and compassionate to others. We can remain a friend and companion of the Lord’s when we go to Him rather than away from Him.
    We can receive answers to prayers and live a life of faith when we lay our passions down at His feet and pick up what He desires. As the Psalmist said “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Ps. 37:4).
    When we are delighting ourselves in the Lord, finding our full joy and fulfillment in Him, then our desires will be His desires. And when we pray and seek Him we will seek His desires only. And when we seek His desires only we will receive the answer to our prayers. Then we will not fight and quarrel because we all find our fulfillment in the Lord alone.
    We will all then have the right heart attitude towards others and we will not hate and covet and ask for things contrary to God.


    I read this story this week and I felt it fit this portion well.
    1001 Illustrations that Connect (Illustration 226: Just the Way It Is)
    I was sitting at my desk in my study after having scolded my daughter, four, for misbehaving. I heard a gentle knock on the door. “Come in,” I said.Bethany matter-of-factly said, “Daddy, sometimes I am good, and sometimes I am bad. And that is just the way it is.” Then she left the room, acting as though she had completely explained her misbehavior for all time.I later commented to her that she had described the problem we all face. We all do bad things, and the Bible says even the good things we do are not good enough to meet God’s standard of holiness. That is why we need a Savior.
    This is what James has been driving at in this whole book. We cannot do all these things alone. If we try all we will become are legalists who push and do but are miserable. Or we will give up and give in.
    James says this all can be done through the power of the Lord by our being quick to hear, and put to practice in our lives, the Word of God.
    Slow to speak, do not just react and say things that are coming up in the heat of the moment but wait and think and go to God with what has happened. Ask for wisdom and then respond.
    Slow to anger, do not insult and attack and fight amongst each other because we have conflicting passions.
    When we are straddling the fence our passions will ignite, misdirect us, and scorn God’s Desire. We will become our own autonomous self-governing gods and will leave God behind. We all need that direction and compassion He gives as well as the direction He gives.
    Won’t you today take His offer and receive His guidance for your lives? When you do you can live a life full of joy and peace regardless what is happening in the world.
      • James 4:1–5ESV

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