Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: James 1:19

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Drawing Near to God

James 4:1-12

1 Quarrels ("wars and fightings") among believers are always harmful.  James tells us that these quarrels result fro evil desires within us.  We want more possessions, more money, higher status, more recognition.  When we want badly enough to fulfill these desires, we fight in order to do so.
2  We should ask God to help us get rid of our selfish desires and trust him to give us what we really need.
3. The most common problems in prayer; not asking, asking fro the wrong things, asking for the wrong reasons.  Do you ask God to only satisfy your desires?  Do you seek God's approval for what you already plan to do?  Your  prayers will become powerful when you allow God to change your desires so that they perfectly correspond to his will for you (1 John 3: 21-22)
4 There is nothing wrong with wanting a pleasurable life.  God gives us good gifts that he wants us to enjoy (1:17, Ephesians 4:7, 1 Timothy 4; 4,5).  However, friendship with the world is seeking pleasure at others' expense or at the expense of obeying God.  Pleasure that keeps us from pleasing god is sinful, pleasure in God's rich bounty is good. 
5-6 the cure for evil desires is humility.  Pride makes us self-centered and leads us to conclude we deserve what we see, touch, or imagine.  It creates greedy appetites for far more than we need.  We can be released from our self-centered desires by humbling ourselves before God, realize we need nothing except his approval.  When his Holy Spirit fills us, we realize that this world's seductive attractions are only cheap substitutes for what God has to offer.
7 Although God and Satan are at war, we don't need to wait until the end to see who will win.  God has already defeated Satan.  When Christ returns, Satan and all he stands for will be eliminated forever! (Colossians 2:13-15, Revelations 12: 10-12)  However, Satan is here now and trying to win us over to his evil cause.  With the Holy Spirit's power we can resist Satan and he will flee from us.
8 How can I draw close to God?  James gives us 5 suggestions
     1. Submit to God - realize you need his forgiveness and be willing to follow him.
     2. Resist the devil - don't allow him to entice and tempt you.
     3. Cleanse your hands and purify your hearts
     4. Let there be tears, sorrow and sincere grief for your sins
     5. Humble yourself before God and he will lift you up.
10 Humbling ourselves means recognizing that our worth comes from God alone.  It is working with his power according to his guidance, not without own independent effort.  Although we do not deserve his favor, he reaches out to us in love and gives us worth and dignity, despite our human shortcomings. 
11-12 Jesus summarized the Law as love to God and neighbor (Matthew 22: 37-40) and Paul said love demonstrated toward a neighbor fully satisfies the Law (Romans 13:6-10). When we fail to love, we are actually breaking God's Law.  Examine your attitude and actions toward others.  Do you build people up or tear them down?  When you're ready to criticize someone, remember God's law of love and say something good about him or her instead.  Saying something beneficial to others will cure you of finding fault and increase your ability to obey God's Law of Love. 

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