In your preparation for this lesson there is an excellent article by Ken Sande entitled “The Heart of Conflict” that walks through this passage. It is an excellent, insightful, and practical article on conflict resolution.
You might also want to read my blog “Why Humility is Doubly Important in Marriage” for application of James 4:6.
Chapter 4 Verse 4:
Why does James change his focus so quickly from conflict in the church to spiritual adultery? Sorry, that is a trick question. When we understand James correctly we see that he is not changing subjects at all. James, like his big brother Jesus, understood that it was impossible for us to break the Second Great Commandment without breaking the First Great Commandment. When we fail to love our neighbor as ourselves it is because we have loved something (i.e., the driving desire from verse 2) more than God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Often we overlook this. Then we not only fail to see our sin against God, but we leave the root of our sin in place. This is one explanation of why we commit the same sin over and over again even when we sincerely regret having done it the first time.
Chapter 4 Verses 6-10
“God Gives Grace to the Humble”
James quotes Proverbs 3:34 to distinguish how God relates to the humble verses the proud. After James lays out this principle, he provides six methods for maintaining a humble disposition that will keep his readers in the flow of God’s grace.
Submit to God: We call Christ “Lord” because we surrender control of our life to Him. When we expect to have the final say in our lives, over God’s Word, we are proud and step outside God’s grace.
Resist the Devil: We are not called to fight Satan, but to resist, stand firm (Eph 6:14), and take every thought captive (II Cor 10:5). Assaulting Satan is not our job (Jude 9). In the chase, Satan would lure us into a trap. Resisting Satan is the place of humility and God’s grace.
Draw Near to God: God does not just want to be our Lord, but also our Father. God’s grace is found in the personal-ness of our relationship with Him. Conversational prayer and study of God’s character are key to finding rest in God’s grace.
Cleanse Your Hands: We must repent of and take steps to remove all known sin from our lives. The fact that everyone sins is no excuse for harboring known sin. God’s grace does not enable a hardened heart.
Purify Your Hearts: Motives are as important as actions before God. It is often easier to cleanse behavior than it is to purify motive. But it is our goal to draw a connection between each of our daily activities, no matter how mundane, and our service/worship of God.
Change Laughter to Mourning: Crude entertainment or humor is a sign of a corrupt heart. Laughter is a form of delight. Once we accept Satan’s definition of fun and funny, then we increase of susceptibility to pride and decrease our reliance on God’s grace.
Chapter 4 Verse 17:
Which have a bigger impact on our daily life sins of commission or sins of omission? The purpose of this question is not to force us to get out the scales of relative impact, but to challenge our thinking. We often think that sins of omission are less important. Consider the following examples of sins of omission and the impact they have on your life.
- Daily time of Bible study and prayer
- Pursuing a deeper understanding of your spouse
- Romancing your spouse
- Talking with your children
- Disciplining your children
- Taking time to regularly rest and exercise
- Eating a healthy diet
- Having an accountability partner
- Examining your life priorities and time management
- Keeping track of your budget monthly
- Living within your income