James 4 on Conflict

Since conflict has been the subject of several blog entries, all in anticipation of our sermon on James 4, I thought I would post the outline for Sunday’s sermon.

The Nature of the Conflict in James was verbal assault and condemnation.
vv. 11-12, “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?”

James addresses church conflict by first asking,
What is the ultimate cause of conflict?
and explaining,
How Christians should respond to it and handle it.

Or, to put it another way,
James will diagnose the cause of church conflict in verses 1-3 and in vv. 4-10 prescribe the treatment.

Question 1
“What is the ultimate cause of church conflict?”

Answer: Our [sinful] passions are at war within us.

4:1 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

In other words, we fight because:
1. We want something
2. We want it for the wrong reason
3. We can’t get it
4. So we fight and quarrel

Question 2
“How should we respond to and handle conflict?”

Answer: Submit to God

4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God.

The first and foundational response to conflict is:
Submission to God

Question 3
“What does submission to God in conflict look like, i.e., how do I submit?”

3 Aspects of Submission to God

1. Resist the Devil and Draw Near to God
7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands you sinners and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
This involves repenting of outward behavior (cleanse your hands) and inward thoughts and attitudes (purify your hearts) that are sinful.

2. Grieve
9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.”
We grieve because church conflict should be taken seriously. We cannot be pridefully casual about factions, hurt, and quarreling in the church. Some godly grief, leading to repentance is appropriate (2 Corinthians 7:10).

3. Humble yourself before the Lord
10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

We humble ourselves by remembering what it cost God to forgive our sins. When we consider that forgiving our brothers and sisters that offend us in conflict will never cost us as much as it cost God, we should be provoked to humility.

Resolving conflict is not about winning an argument or proving that someone else is in the wrong. First and foremost, church conflict is about submitting yourself to God, resisting the schemes of the devil by drawing near to God in repentance, grieving over conflict, and humbling ourselves at the foot of the cross.


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