Lesson Eleven – What is Your Life

What is Your Life

Lesson Text:  James 4:7-12.

A.  Introduction: 

This block of scripture could be applied to a large number of topics in the Bible.  James could have had all the topics he introduced in this letter in mind.  How “God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble” is God’s story about His relationship with mankind in the Old Testament (Jas. 4:6; I Cor. 10:11).  God is Almighty; therefore, we must humble ourselves to Him.  Most people, even those who have not accepted Christ as Lord and Savior, would say, “Amen.”  The atheists who have been able to convince themselves they are “non-god people” would not; however, they do humble themselves to God’s creation of the material world.  They humble themselves to learning how to attain satisfaction for the needs with which they were born, just as Christians must do.  Of course, atheists and non-believers do reject the theology of “grace for the humble.”  Sometimes, Christians also have trouble with the ethics of humbleness; however, we may still claim God’s grace of fellowship with His Holy Spirit.  This may have been the situation James described in the text of our previous lesson – a case of double mindedness (Jas. 1:8; 4:8; 17).

The context in which we will study the text of this lesson is this:  James is offering the answer of “first importance” for the members of the church who were quarreling and fighting among themselves (Jas. 4:1).  His short list answer is “submit to God.”  It was suggested in the previous lessons these members may not have pursued the laws of life that would have given them satisfaction for their innate needs.  They were suffering from anxiety attacks because they had not accepted God’s plan that would have integrated all of their quests to attain satisfaction for their God-given needs (Matt. 6:34).

The title of this lesson is one of James’ own rhetorical question; “What is your life?”  Jas. 4:14.  We need to understand the previous lesson in order to answer this question.  The inherent needs of mankind are of such a demanding nature from within us, they must be considered under the heading of “good news.”  When Paul and Barnabas encountered an all Gentile audience, their gospel message was about how God had been providing for pagans innate needs for food even though they did not know Him (Acts 14:17).

Human beings have faith in what we think will offer us satisfaction for the physical security of our bodies.  Christians have faith God Almighty created the seeds that produce grain, fruits and vegetables for our meals.  Others may have faith in the money required to buy the food.  James identified one category of these “as you rich people.”  Jas 5:1.  Jesus assured us God was equally aware and concerned about our quest for food, clothing and shelter (Matt. 6:25).  However, the Father of Christians is more concerned about our higher needs.

Our higher needs are honor, glory and the security of our souls.  We speak of our spirits that have come into our physical bodies from God.  These spirits have presently developed as our “selves.”  In the end they will return to God as our “selves.”  We can easily understand our higher needs of glory and honor because our spirits have been designed in God’s likeness (Jas. 3:9).  Since God created us to be sons in His kingdom, He created within us a strong need for social acceptance.  Being socially accepted in whatever gives us honor is the definition of glory.  We cannot attain the proper satisfaction for one of these needs unless all of them have some satisfaction – or hope of satisfaction.  Since we live in a body equipped with certain needs, these also must be included in our total learning strategies for the satisfaction of our total humanity (Heb. 4:12, 13).  Jesus taught and showed us the answer to “What is life?”  The answer to what is your and my life.  Satisfaction of inherent needs, consciously or subconsciously, is the unlearned driving force of all people in Adam.  God, our living Creator, has always been dedicated to offering what will give us satisfaction for these needs.  This was Paul’s message to people who are depending on man’s wisdom and “gods of stone” for a strategy to satisfy their innate needs (Acts 17:24-28).

B.  Lesson:

Let us review how James described the spiritual condition of some Christians who were the recipients of this letter from the text of our previous lesson – Jas. 4:1-6.  This is necessary because we need to understand the text for this lesson is an answer for their problem.  The rule is we cannot understand divine answers in God’s word until we first understand the problem.

Jas. 4:1.  They were quarreling and fighting.  Their tongues had been set on fire from hell (Jas. 3:2-6).  This was not caused by an external force.  It was not caused by another member of the church.  It was a condition that had developed within the mind, heart and conscience of each individual who had joined in the fight.  This individual’s conscience was not agreeing with his or her own behavior produced from the condition of their own heart and mind.  This is the turmoil inside the worldly man.  When Christians know God’s will is “good, pleasing and perfect” for satisfying why and how He created us but then violate His will in our behavior, our consciences will convict us of evil based on our knowledge of what is good and evil (Rom. 12:2, 9, 21).  When two or more of these Christians engage one another they will argue and fight.  They may not want to and they probably don’t know why they do it – but they will do it.  When Christians are trying to pursue life with a guilty conscience they are not in charge of their “selves.”  The sin they feel guilty about has taken charge (Jas. 1:13-15; John 8:34; II Pet. 2:19).

James declared; “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”  Jas. 4:17.  This will happen even if what he or she believes is evil is actually good (I Cor. 8:4-13; Rom. 14:23).  Christians must boast of a clean conscience but God’s word is our standard of measurement for what is good and what is evil (II Cor. 1:12; Gen 3:22).

Eve did not resist the devil’s offer to acquire the endowment of being conscious of what is good and what is evil.  He told her she would be wise like Deity.  Mankind has an innate need to achieve.  Eve did not submit to God’s will.  She sought to achieve something God knew mankind was incapable of properly using.  She was deceived (II Cor. 11:3).  Adam listened to his wife; therefore, their children had the knowledge of good and evil.  We all came from Adam and bear his image, so we have the endowment of awareness (Gen. 3:17; I Cor. 15:48, 49).  Since we cannot get back to the “tree of life” we must become more and more aware of what is good and what is evil as long as we live (Gen. 3:14).  Christians’ hope, which is the long range focal point of our faith, is to get back to the “tree of life.”  Rev. 22:2.  The tree of life is the answer to “what is life?”

 Please note, the devil is as active today as he was in the Garden of Eden (I Pet. 5:8).  His methods are the same.  He was and still is a talented salesperson; however, by nature he is a liar (John 8:44).  When he offered Jesus a source to satisfy His need for food, Jesus did what we must do, He resisted his offer.    “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”  Jas. 4:7.

Eve did not realize how Satan deceives people in the area of the needs God created in us.  Jesus told us to seek our heavenly Father’s kingdom and His righteousness and we will attain satisfaction for our God-given needs (Matt. 6:28-34).  We may not always understand how what God offers will satisfy our needs, but we must put our faith in His way.  He created us.  We are the pot and He is the potter (Rom. 9:20, 21).  James said, “Humble yourself before the Lord, and He will lift you up.”  Jas. 4:10.  He will mold us into the image of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29).

Jas. 4:2, 3.  Their inner battle developed anger.  An angry person is a potential killer of people.  An angry person’s tongue destroys the fellowship of the church, home and community.  Angry people destroy the very thing they want – fellowship.  We have a very strong innate need for fellowship.  By the time babies are able to open their eyes enough to focus they look for someone with which to socialize.  Their mother and father must also provide a peaceful environment for their baby’s safety needs; otherwise, their offspring will not love them as a friend.   These needs do not ever leave people.

People who are continually rejected by those with which they seek to be friends often become angry.  Their anger can drive them to commit mass murder.  Leaders of nations depend on the pride and anger in the citizens to gather an army to fight a war (Matt. 5:21-26).  If anger emotions have developed in us because of being rejected, we need to ask ourselves: “Am I seeking friendship with the wrong people or do I have a socially unacceptable trait?”  “Do I need to change the way I try to attain satisfaction for my need for friends?”  Christians need “wisdom from above” to answer these questions for ourselves.  God’s wisdom will tell us to study peoples’ behavior.  Seek out people for our friends who are at peace with themselves (Jas. 3:13, 18).  These people have made use of the wisdom of God for learning how to find satisfaction for their needs; otherwise, they will not be at peace with themselves.  God will provide His wisdom when we ask with the right motive (Jas. 1:5-8; 4:3).  James has only one word for Christians who have turned to the wisdom of the world for the satisfaction of our needs.  We need to repent from the heart with Godly sorrow (II Cor. 7:10).

Come near to God and He will come near to you.  Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify yours hearts, you double-minded.  Grieve, mourn and wail.  Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.  Jas. 4:8, 9

Jas. 4:4.  Some members of the churches James addressed had become adulterous people.  He is not speaking about an adulterous sexual relationship.  When Christians are seeking to satisfy our need for social acceptance, we will want to seek friendship with people who are friends of God.  Our social circle of friends is greatly enhanced by our friendship with God who created us.  James is obviously speaking of a primary relationship.  In primary relationships we share.  Primary relationships are what make families what they are supposed to be.  It is what God’s family is now in time and will be eternally (Heb. 2:9-15; I Pet. 1:22, 23).  It is an interdependent relationship where transparency is the order of the day.  Yes, we even confess our sins to each other and God (Jas. 4:4; 5:16).

Of course, we are friendly with people in the world because we know their spirits also came from God and were initially in His likeness.  We want to help them.  Little children show us “what is life” in the kingdom of God (Matt. 18:1-4).  However, our relationship with outsiders is friendly on a secondary level.  We are not intimate with them because we don’t have the same views on how to satisfy our inherent needs.  We don’t have the same definition of what is good and evil.  We don’t share the goal of being eternal friends with each other and God.  When a church does not enjoy primary relationships with one another throughout the whole body of Christ, they quarrel; fight; slander one another.  They set as the judges over one another.  See the text for this lesson, 4:11, 12.

Jas. 4:5.  James’ use of the word “spirit” in this verse has caused some people to offer one of two thoughts:  Some have the idea he meant the spirit of mankind; others say the Holy Spirit.  Of course, James had only one use in mind.  The first idea would be a general observation or a fact about some of the recipients of this letter.  People in general do have a spirit in them that “envies intensely.”  It appears some members had this problem.  On the other hand, if James spoke of God’s Holy Spirit who dwells in fellowship with faithful Christians, we can add His presence with us.  This would certainly help us understand how fellowship with the world realm people is completely out of step with being a friend of God.  If indeed, “Bad company corrupts good morals,” then good company will help us to keep a tight rein on our tongues and keep ourselves from being corrupted by the world (I Cor. 15:33; Jas. 1:26, 27).  The Holy Spirit does fellowship faithful Christians and we love to have Him in our circle of friends (Acts 5:32; II Cor. 13:14).  This is how we also enjoy the friendship of God, our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ (I John 3:21-24).

Jas. 4:11, 12.  The thought in this paragraph may have been intended to serve for a close of the scene James presented in 4:1-10.  It may have also served as a transitional introduction to his thought in 4:13-17.  While reading letters we move from thought to thought.  We ask; “How does this thought or block of scripture function in this letter?”  This is how we follow the “train of thought” of the writer.

Another principle of biblical interpretation for reading a letter is this:  “We must know what the recipients knew.”  Consequently, before we can clearly read and understand 4:11, 12, we will want to know what the members of the church had been taught about the law of the new covenant.  We need to understand how the Law God gave to Moses in the form of the Ten Commandment is being fulfilled by Christians who are letting God write His laws of life on our hearts and minds.  James assumed the recipients of his letter had an understanding of what Jesus declared in Matt. 5:17-20.  If we do not understand, we need to do some “catching up.”  This was briefly touched in our study of Jas. 2:8-13.  We will need to clearly state the two laws James spoke of in this text.  It may help for us to study Matt. 22:34-40 and Rom. 8:1-4; 13:8-10.

From a study of the scriptures listed along with Jesus’ teaching in Matt. 5:21-48 about how some of the Ten Commandment are fulfilled, we will know what the churches were all taught in the first century.  James is speaking of the law of the Spirit of life in Jas. 4:11, 12.  This law was taught and revealed by Jesus Christ.  See I John 1:1-4; Heb. 10:16, 17.  This law gives the basic answer for the question: “What is your life?”

Therefore, we can paraphrase Jas. 4:11, 12 in this way:

“Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against a person whose spirit came from God and has been designed in His likeness.  We are making judgment about the law of life that defines the very life of this person’s spirit.  We are not the one who created this person; therefore, our judgment of his or her “self” and the law that defines “what is the life” of his or her “self” is based on the wisdom of man.  There is only one “Lawgiver.”  He is the only One qualified to judge.  We are not.”              

C.  Thoughts for a discussion of James 4:7-12.

1.  God and the devil were part of the cast in this text.  How do you see their roles in relation to the innate needs of Christians?

2.    Assuming verses 7-10 is referring to the members of the church James described in verses 4:1-4:  List some possible ways they might have “wandered from the truth.”  James 5:19.

3.    Assuming James’ pronouncement, “you adulterous people,” was not referring to sexual immorality:  Describe how this charge would be valid in relation to the total scene presented in Jas. 4:1-10.

        a.  If the word “spirit” in verse five refers to the fact that the Holy Spirit indwells Christians:  How would this become a factor in your description?

        b.  If the word “spirit” refers to the spirit of mankind:  How would this become a factor in your description?

4.   Why would it be difficult for God to give grace to a person who refuses to humble himself or herself?

5.    Explain how a double-minded person might pray an “asking type prayer.”

6.    Why is it a terrible heinous sin to slander another person?

7.    Why might anger become a serious problem for a person who is continuously slandered?

8.    How does a Christian go about resisting the devil when we cannot see him?

9.    Explain the law of which James spoke of in the text for this lesson.

10.   Why is it ridiculous to judge a person unless it is based on their deeds? 


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