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A Carrot on a Stick, Part 1

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
June 5, 2023 12:00 am

A Carrot on a Stick, Part 1

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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June 5, 2023 12:00 am

(James 4:1-3) Are you satisfied today? In your marriage? In your job? In your church? If not, the Apostle James offers the only remedy.

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The Apostle Peter used the same word James uses here when he warned the believers in 1 Peter 2. Beloved, I urge you as aliens, that is as strangers in the world, to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against your soul. One of the worst things you could ever tell someone is that when they come to Christ, everything will settle down.

No, everything will get stirred up. Up until that point, it didn't matter. The real battle begins. When God saved you, He gave you new life. Along with that came the ability to walk in His ways.

How's that going for you? Like all of your fellow believers, you still struggle with your sin nature. Our sinful desires sometimes result in conflict, even in the church. Today on Wisdom for the Heart, Stephen Davey takes you to James chapter 4. In this passage, James uncovers the source of the conflict we experience.

Here's Stephen Davey with today's lesson. I have read one historical account of a skirmish between the French and English in the early 1700s. An English admiral whose ship lay off the coast of France was waiting his orders. While anchored, he didn't want his men to grow restless with inactivity. So he ordered his men to practice firing their cannon at a nearby French castle.

In typical French architecture and fashion, the castle was adorned around the top with statues of patron saints. And so for several hours, these men spent time in the harbor, firing one cannonball after another at those ornate statues of these patron saints on top of that castle. Suddenly they were called to war and the orders came so suddenly they were unable to refurbish the ship. In fact, they had to set out immediately.

The ship ended up being defeated and captured, not because they were outmanned or outmaneuvered, but because they had run out of ammunition. They had spent so much of it shooting at the saints, which sets up our theme for the day. One of the greatest problems the church faces is not the world out there, but the world in here. I had a lady come up to me after the first hour this morning and she handed me a poem. She said, here's one I remember a pastor using, to live above with saints we love, oh, that will be glory, but to live below with saints we know, well, that's another story.

I'm sure that won't relate to any of us in here. The truth is, believer against believer, brother against brother, firing away at the saints continues. Paul would ask the Corinthian church, for since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly and are you not walking like mere men?

In other words, aren't you walking like unbelieving pagans? 1 Corinthians 3. The Galatian church was likewise allowing bitter wrangling among them and Paul said they were in danger of consuming one another, literally devouring each other. Galatians 5.15. Paul would challenge the church in Ephesus to work hard at developing spiritual unity. And then in his letter to the Philippians, he actually named two women who were at each other's throats, Euodia and Syntyche. He said, get along, as he wrote to the church at Philippi. Can you imagine the embarrassment of having your name mentioned in the assembly from a letter by the apostle?

Euodia and Syntyche, get along, J. Vernon McGee, who's funny, renamed Euodia and Syntyche, Odious and Syntyche. The problems of strife and jealousy go all the way back to the first family, don't they? They've been exiled, they're living outside the Garden of Eden and those two boys grow. The animosity of Cain grows with them. He becomes so jealous of Abel until his jealousy and bitter rivalry cannot stand it any longer and he acts out in murder.

You would imagine that Cain would never come to church if there was one, much less join it. Yet some of the most shocking statements delivered to the assembly will be delivered by James in this text before us. And I can tell you, this is one of those heavy passages. It's difficult to hear but it is important and necessary for us all as we reflect on our own walk with Christ because in the end it isn't so much about the assembly as it is about each of us individually.

So with that warning, turn to James chapter 4 as he opens with the rather shocking disclosure. He writes, what is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members, that is your physical body, you lust and do not have so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask and then you ask and do not receive because you ask with wrong motives so that you may spend it on your pleasures, you adulterous says, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Wow. After reading that your first thought might be surely James isn't talking about Christians.

There's no way. Quarreling? Conflicts?

Murder? The word quarrel by the way refers to a long standing feud. The word for conflicts refers to specific outbursts of hostility. There in the church you have this long standing feud and these outbursts. Surely you can't be writing to the church. This is not being written to a body of believers. Well if you go back to chapter 3 and verse 13 he says, who among you is wise and understanding? He now uses that same phrase in verse 1 of chapter 4. What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? In fact if you go down to verse 11 in chapter 4, do not speak against one another brethren.

That designation is always reserved for the believer. So James is writing the church at large and it's almost too hard to process. Like Paul's words to the church at Corinth in his second letter when he wrote, I am afraid, now listen to the apostle Paul this fearless leader saying, I am afraid that when I come to you, what are you afraid of Paul? Well there's going to be strife and jealousy and angry tempers and disputes and disturbances. What is he writing about a church service or a hockey game? All of this is going to take place? He's afraid?

Yes he is. I watched a hockey game a couple of weeks ago. What a rivalry. I won't name the teams but I couldn't believe it. The game just wouldn't end. In fact the score was already settled the distance between the two teams.

It was already over but there was such rivalry that they were fighting every 15 seconds a new one would start. In fact I'd never seen this before but the goalies actually met at mid in the middle there. I want to say midfield. Somebody told me first hour what it was? Center ice.

Thank you very much. A lot of hockey fans in here. Okay careful what I say. All right they met there in center ice, dropped their gloves and went at it. The crowd was going berserk. You expect that on the ice.

You don't expect that in the church. Could there be such bitter rivalries? Could there be such jealousy and selfishness and envy and hostility?

People as it were verbally if not physically dropped their gloves and go at it? The answer according to James is absolutely. But James wants to go behind the answer of absolutely and show us what started it all.

He wants to find out how it all got started and that's critical to know isn't it? Like my fifth grade teacher. He didn't see that kid as we were standing in line waiting to go in after break. Throw that football at my face when I wasn't looking and hit me square in the nose. He didn't see that. But he did turn around to see us rolling around in the dirt as we were just going at it like two goalies. He grabbed us by the nap of the neck and he said okay who started it? Well he threw the football at me.

You didn't see him. Well Davey threw the first punch. So we went into the principal's office and spent some time negotiating the terms of surrender. And who started it was important because you know the one who started it was guiltier because the other one could have been acting in self-defense.

Didn't work then either. James wants he comes along if you notice the first four words he says this. What is the source of quarrels and conflicts?

In other words who started it? I want to get to the bottom of it. So what do you say? What James will do in these next few verses he's going to show us three internal sources of external conflict and it won't be pretty.

It's bad news. You got trouble in the church. The trouble begins with us. Now the first source of conflict can simply be called shameful desires.

I want you to notice the middle part of verse 1 again. Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your own physical body? Is not the source the internal pleasure which results in outward conflict? Isn't the problem our own pleasures? The word for pleasures hedoni gives us our word hedonism. Hedonism was a moral perspective or a philosophy crafted officially 400 years before the time of Jesus Christ by a philosopher named Aristippus the Cyrene. He taught that whatever pleasure seems natural to a person constitutes good.

He'd be a best seller today. Happens to be frankly he didn't really create that he just formalized it. This is the most popular philosophy on the planet.

Always has been. Whatever feels good is then because it feels good, good. That constitutes to you what is good. Whatever seems right then to you is that which constitutes right. Hedonism is the belief that pleasure is the chief good in life. How can it be wrong when it feels so what. Right. Somebody ought to write a song about that.

Might go. The interesting thing is that this word for pleasure that which is exciting or fun or pleasurable or pleasing. Whenever that word appears in the New Testament it always appears in a sinful context.

A shameful context. In Luke chapter 8 verse 14 Jesus Christ described people who walked away from the demands of discipleship as those being choked by pleasure. To Titus Paul would refer to people enslaved by various pleasures. Same word.

Titus 3 3. In second Peter 3 13 the Apostle Peter refers to false teachers who count it a pleasure to revel in the daylight. In other words they really don't care if anybody sees.

Or knows. The Apostle Paul describes with his expanded definition hedonism to a T to Timothy in his second letter chapter 3 verses 2 to 4. He says they are these hedonists they are lovers of self lovers of money boastful arrogant revilers treacherous reckless conceited lovers of pleasure. Same word there rather than lovers of God. Now don't misunderstand the concept entirely.

James is not suggesting with the use of this word here that in another context it would always be wrong. There are good pleasures in life. You might find pleasure in playing with your children or your grandchildren taking a walk in the evening watching a sunrise or sunset enjoying the pleasure of your spouse sitting on the porch while it softly rains reading a book by the hearth maybe fishing in the early morning. Those are good pleasures. I was sent a link a couple of weeks ago by one of the secretaries in my department to a live camera located high up in a pine tree in the Norfolk botanical Norfolk botanical gardens and it's about eight feet away from a nest where there in the wild you can link in and watch this female bald eagle sitting on her three eggs. What a pleasure it is to watch.

In fact I log in just about every day just to see what's going on. I can't wait to have the pleasure of watching those eaglets as they hatch and then as their mouths are open and then as they'll be fed some unfortunate mouse which I would love to have the pleasure of donating to that mother. She'll fly my way. So all pleasures and desires are not evil. In fact the word appears the concept appears with different synonymous terminology to let us know that Paul writes to the Corinthians. He says desire earnestly spiritual gifts.

Have a longing for that. Paul wrote to the Philippians I desire to depart and to be with Christ. He even said this of someone who longed for the office of an elder. He said if any man aspires to the office of elder it is a fine work he desires.

David would say whom have I in heaven but thee and there is nothing or no one on earth beside thee that I so desire Psalm 73 25. But the word chosen by James and in this context is the dark side of desire. It's the evil shameful desire of forbidden pleasure. And isn't it great to know at the outset of our study that we can blame all of that on the devil.

Oh let's look again just to make sure. Verse one what is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you is not the devil. Oh wait is not the source your what your pleasures that wage war in your own body.

See we give the devil way too much credit for our sin. James informs us here that we actually have a war going on internally. Pleasure is waging war immoral pleasures evil desires self-centered plans wicked thoughts are at war with our spirit to see who gains control in fact the words translated wage war comes from one original word in the Greek language that can literally be translated an armed camp.

So get this picture in your mind. You happen to have camping within your fallen flesh an army. It's an army of desires and they are constantly plotting constantly maneuvering and strategizing and then emerging to attack so they can gain control over your life. Imagine you have within you an army right now camped out and they've got plans. You know I've been told we purchased this land that we're on now from a family goes all the way back to the eighteen hundreds. And I've been told that Sherman camped out on this property on his way back from burning Atlanta my wife from Atlanta has trouble worshipping here has all the time we've been here.

You just see that the tents as they're all set up in rows. One Greek scholar explained this word as referring to a military expedition where the passions of the flesh are described as constantly fighting to have their way to be victorious over the spirit over that new nature which Jesus Christ has given us. James would agree. He says there is a war going on. The Apostle Peter used the same word. James uses here when he warned the believers in first Peter two eleven beloved I urge you as aliens that is as strangers in the world to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against your soul.

One of the worst things you could ever tell someone is that when they come to Christ everything will settle down know everything will get stirred up. The real battle begins. Up until that point it didn't matter. Take over.

Now it does. And the shocking truth that James begins in this paragraph by telling us that you are at war and get this you are at war with yourself. Shameful desires are constantly trying to win the day. That's not all James goes on to give us the second source of conflict sinful attitudes. He writes in verse 2 you lust and do not have so you commit murder.

And that sounds like more than a bad attitude a really bad attitude could be James could be referring to actual murder to fulfill some lust happens every day. Christians are not immune to that depth of sin. I know one believer who had an affair with a woman while her husband was stationed in the Middle East. Contrary to their secret plans the fair she became pregnant. He knew that neighbors had seen them together and the truth would probably come out. This man had a had a friend in the military. In fact he was serving in this woman's husband's same platoon. He contacted him they worked out the plan and the next firefight he made sure he didn't back him up and he died all came out later. They confessed to it all. The man actually ended up marrying his neighbor that widow and her name was Beth Sheba.

And his was David. It's possible for believers to lust and plot and kill to get their way. The Greek word for kill could also have a wider meaning simply to destroy to destroy shameful desires sinful attitudes are going to destroy something or someone.

But but note this it will destroy you and it will destroy me along the way. One author wrote that the word James uses here within this biblical context of lusting for this and this attitude in which rises up to kill refers to passionate longing for something misdirected or sinful. And whenever any strong sinful lust is not gratified when that lusting person cannot achieve his desired goal whether for reputation prestige money power sexual gratification escape through drugs or alcohol success possessions whatever the affections of another person the result is catastrophic often to others and always to oneself.

And that's the warning. Maybe you're old enough to discover that maybe you belong to Christ long enough to where you can say Stephen you and I contract together with James because we know we are our worst enemy. The person I have the biggest problem with is in my seat. James goes on to say in verse 2 you are envious and cannot obtain. So you fight and quarrel. Notice the external fighting and quarreling is again the result of internal envy and frustration. You are envious and cannot obtain. So you I think it's a great translation so you fight and quarrel. But notice here you are envious and you can't quite reach the objective. Sin is like that. It's like a mule chasing a carrot on a stick that's attached to his bridle.

Can't quite achieve it. So I think I'll kick the farmer or run away. The truth is our desires and our attitudes that serve as the source of everything he's describing here are like an armed camp within us and they're ready at a moment's notice to declare war against anybody anything that stands in the way of some form of personal gratification on which we've set our hearts. And James is saying watch out. Watch out. Watch out.

There is a battle going on. So if you ever get up in the morning and you think you know I'm tired of the battle maybe it is because I'm not mature or maybe I'm not following Christ. No it is because you want to mature.

It is because you desire to follow Christ and the more you desire to follow him the hotter the engagement becomes the more problems you have because it isn't just you or me. It is our world which is contrary to that process of maturing which inflames those desires within us. And so we live in a world and we are confronted by one commercial one billboard one announcement one story at the job or in the neighborhood after another that says hedonism is the way to live. And you got all these people around you chasing the carrot.

And you think maybe I ought to chase one too. It is a life of battle and potential frustration as we give in to wrong desires shameful desires and sinful attitudes. And I want you to notice James is being very very realistic when he tells us look at verse 2 again you lust and do not have and you ought to underline just those words do not have your envious and here it is cannot obtain.

You do not have because you do not ask. In other words these people desiring here are desiring and never satisfied they're longing for something they cannot have their lusting for something they should not have. And it only leads to more craving and more coveting in fact James uses the present tense for covet this inward sinful desire. This is ongoing this is unrelenting that you give in and it grows worse plans feelings desires thoughts that only lead to more desiring and more planning and more feeling without ever finding satisfaction. Satisfaction one author said through self gratification is an ever alluding goal. It's a carrot on a stick. That's a good reminder for all of us isn't it. It's only when we yield to God that we find the satisfaction our hearts truly crave. I'm glad you joined us today here on Wisdom for the Heart.

Steven Davey is calling this lesson a carrot on a stick. We're going to interrupt Steven's message right here and we'll bring you the conclusion to it next time. In the meantime we'd love to connect with you and be able to communicate with you. One of the ways that Steven communicates is by text message. He has a list of people that he sends occasional text messages to and we'd like to add you. Actually you can add yourself. Just text the keyword wisdom to 833-676-4051. That's all you have to do. Do that today then join us next time on Wisdom for the Heart.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-05 00:24:13 / 2023-06-05 00:32:58 / 9

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