Formations lesson for Nov. 25: Living Faithfully
November 9 2001 by Tom Greene , James 4:1-10

Formations lesson for Nov. 25: Living Faithfully | Friday, Nov 9, 2001

Friday, Nov 9, 2001

Formations lesson for Nov. 25: Living Faithfully

By Tom Greene James 4:1-10 James calls Christians to repent of their pursuit of worldly pleasures and urges them to live in submission to God. Submission to God involves authentic faith and reflects two assumptions: God is sovereign over the world and persons are free to choose the quality of their own existence.

As sovereign, God is the One who answers prayer (4:3) and who demands exclusive devotion from His people (4:4-5). The sovereign God also has merciful concern for persons: He yearns for persons (4:5), desires to be "near" His people (4:8a) and gives grace liberally to the humble (4:6a).

For James, human beings are not helpless victims of circumstances or pawns of evil forces. They shape circumstances by their choices and behavior. They contribute to dissension and violence when they pursue worldly passions (4:1-2). Each positions himself or herself either as a friend of God or the world (4:4) by resisting the devil and drawing near to God (4:7) or changing one's behavior whenever one chooses to do so (4:8-10).

Friendship with the World (James 4:1-4) James evaluates two mutually exclusive life-styles. One centers in the surrender to the world (4:1-4). The other focuses upon submission to God (4:5-10). Both life-styles are options yet only one is consistent with authentic faith. James calls upon his readers to renounce the first in order to embrace the second.

The first life-style is described briefly from the perspective of human passions. Originally it referred to that which was pleasant to the senses and denoted sensual pleasure or enjoyment of any kind.

Although pleasure can be a legitimate experience, its darker side can obscure the true meaning and purpose of life. Each time James uses "pleasure" it represents an obstacle to faith and a threat to human life. It characterizes the way people live apart from Christ and contributes to human violence. Pleasure involves a self-destructive life-style for unbelievers.

James emphasizes the danger of pursuing human passions by focusing upon the results of sin. Living for pleasure produces internal conflict - a warfare (4:1) that results in human strife (4:2). In order to satisfy sinful desires, people "lust" and "murder," are filled with "envy," "fight" and "quarrel" (4:2b). Following one's passions sometimes causes a person to forego prayer and create greed (4:3). It prompts individuals to pray "evilly," to use prayer with a selfish interest. That interest is to satisfy their desires.

James equates the pursuit of pleasure with spiritual infidelity (4:4). The use of "adulteresses" reflects the Old Testament concept of the sacred marriage between Yahweh and Israel (Deuteronomy 31:16). According to this marriage metaphor, any disloyalty to God is understood as adultery (Hosea 1-3). Jesus, in this sense, described his peers as adulterous because they disobeyed God's will (Matthew 12:39). James makes the same point (4:4). Indulgence in pleasure is friendship with the world.

Friendship with God (James 4:7-10) The term "world" refers to human life that is hostile to God (John 15:19) and is something Christians should avoid. It includes a life-style that positions one as God's enemy (4:4b). The stress here is on behavior rather than belief. Being God's friend or enemy depends upon how one behaves. Those who surrender to the world and make pleasure the primary goal of life are unfaithful enemies of God.

Those who pursue human passions are guilty of spiritual infidelity. Yet God passionately yearns for the wayward partner and graciously intends to mend the broken relationship (4:6a). He is not inclined to respond with anger or resentment. God's response is to use our unfaithfulness as an opportunity for grace and forgiveness rather than as a cause for divorce.

How does one terminate an affair with the world and renew a close relationship with God? James answers this question with 10 imperatives that provide an expanded definition of repentance. Individuals must submit themselves in obedience to God (4:7a); begin resisting the devil (4:7b); move closer to God in their devotion as well as behavior (4:8a); improve their behavior (4:8b); purify their motives and desires (4:8c); and restructure their orientation to life. Instead of grasping for the laughter and joy of worldly pleasures, they should "be miserable," "mourn," and "weep" (4:9). These three behaviors focus upon the seriousness of their renunciation of the world, and repentant individuals must subordinate themselves to God (4:10). Those who humble themselves receive God's grace (4:6) thus enabling one to live faithfully.

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11/9/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tom Greene , James 4:1-10 | with 0 comments
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