Passions at War

Fleshly Desires
James 4:1-3 ESV

“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 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. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”

The Bible says that the flesh is at war with (against) the Spirit and the Spirit is at war with (against) the flesh, for the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh.

And, the acts of the flesh are obvious, for they are sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, selfish ambition, and the like. And, so we are warned that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But, if we walk (in practice) by the Spirit, we will not gratify the desires of the flesh (See Gal. 5:16-21; cf. Rom. 8:1-17; 1 Jn. 1:5-9; Tit. 2:11-14).

What Happens?

So, what happens when we decide to go against the Spirit of God and we decide to do what our flesh desires, instead? We hurt other people, for one. We hurt others physically, emotionally, mentally and/or spiritually when we decide to do what our flesh craves rather than to submit ourselves to God to do what he requires of us. And, we hurt ourselves, too.

Even if we think this is just our choice, and that we can sin in secret, and that no one is really getting hurt by it, we are fooling ourselves. For, our lives impact other people’s lives every day. The choices we make do impact other people, for good or for bad, either directly or indirectly. For, we don’t live in isolation. And, what we practice is revealed in our attitudes, in our words, and in our behaviors towards others.

One compromise often leads to another to another. What begins in the mind and heart then moves to acting out what was already being entertained in the mind. And, oftentimes, because sin never satisfies, the one craving the sin won’t be content with just one level of sin, but he or she will have to keep going deeper and deeper into sin in order to keep feeding that flesh.

And, this happens because the flesh is very deceptive, and it is very powerful, and because people minimize the power of sin over their lives and so they get stupid, because they get prideful and they think they can handle it. And so they let their flesh rule their judgments, and that is when they fall.

They “overplay their hand,” i.e. they get overconfident because they think they are in a stronger position than they are. And, this happens a lot with people living in addiction, for they refuse to see themselves as addicts, and if they have a few good days, they are convinced they have licked their addiction, and then it comes back to bite them when their guard is down.

And, they may even call on God to help them, and they may even pray for guidance and direction, but then when God does give them the counsel they ask for, they ignore it, for they think they know better. And, they don’t end up doing what he counsels them to do, and then they act surprised when they fall, and that is because they continued to play with fire thinking they won’t get burned.

So, if your problem is lust, for example, if you pray for God to help you not to lust, but then you keep going places where you know you have fallen before, and where you have gotten trapped before, you are just asking to fail. Or, if you say you want victory over lust, but then you feed your mind with TV shows or movies that sell sensuality, you are already self-defeated.

You Adulterous People
James 4:4-5 ESV

“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. 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’?”

Honestly, with the cheap grace gospel permeating the church and spreading like gangrene, as it is, I believe the answer to this first question is probably “No.” Many people who profess faith in Jesus Christ are blinded to the fact that their friendship with the world – with the lusts of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is enmity with God.

And, that is because they have bought into the lies, and they have been convinced that faith in Jesus Christ is their “get-out-of-jail-free-card,” and that nothing is required of them – no repentance, no obedience to Christ’s commandments, and no submission to Christ and to his death to sin and living to righteousness.

They feel that their “faith” means they are now forgiven their sins, that God can’t even see when they sin, and that heaven is now guaranteed them no matter how much or how often they sin.

So, they don’t see themselves as enemies of God, because they have been pumped full with all these messages that God loves them just the way they are, that he doesn’t judge them, that nothing bad is going to happen to them, that heaven is secured them, that God smiles on them, and that he delights in them even when they are living in rebellion against him and they are engaging themselves in sinful practices in direct defiance to God.

And, then, if they begin to get a twinge of guilt about their sinful practices, many are telling them to just claim who they are in Christ, as though that is supposed to appease the guilt of their consciences regarding their sinful practices, and as though it is to make them feel better about themselves and to not feel bad about their sins.

And, so we need to face the reality here that God is not pleased with us no matter what we do, that he can see when we sin against him, and that if we make sin our practice, in direct defiance to God’s commands, that not only won’t we inherit eternal life with God, but we will live self-defeated lives on this earth. And, our sins, which we believe are private, are not as private as we may think they are, for they do impact other people in our lives one way or another, and they may overtake us, and we may fall big time.

Submit Yourselves to God
James 4:6-10 ESV

“But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ 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. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”

So many people have this false impression of what God’s grace is all about. It isn’t just forgiveness of sins, an escape from hell, and the hope of heaven. For, God’s grace, which brings us salvation from sin, instructs us to say “NO!” to ungodliness and fleshly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (Titus 2:11-14).

God’s grace doesn’t just forgive us our sins and then let us keep on in living to sin unhindered without guilt. His grace delivers us out of our slavery to sin and it frees us to now walk in Christ’s holiness and purity.

For, Jesus died that we might die with him to sin and live with him to his righteousness. He died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us. He gave his blood on that cross to buy us back for God so we would now be God’s possession, and so we would honor God with our lives (Rom. 6:1-23; 1 Pet. 2:24; 1 Co. 6:20; 2 Co. 5:15; Eph. 4:17-24).

So, we are to submit ourselves to God, and we are to resist the devil, and we are to flee temptation and draw near to God. We aren’t to tempt fate, so to speak. God is not ok with us making sin our practice. He says we must die with him to sin and that we must put on Christ and his righteousness. And, he says we must walk (in lifestyle) according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh if we want to have eternal life with God (Rom. 8:1-17).

And, he says we are to repent of our sins, turn away from them, and turn to him to follow him and his commands. And, this involves humbling ourselves before God, acknowledging our sin, weeping over our sin, and truly having heart changes which do a 180, i.e. which turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God.

This is like you were going one direction, and now you turn, and you go the opposite direction of what you were going. You once lived to gratify the sinful cravings of your flesh, but now you live to please God and to live to him and to his righteousness, all for his praise, glory and honor.

Our God, He is Alive

Music and Lyrics by A.W. Dicus

Our God, whose Son upon a tree,
A life was willing there to give,
That He from sin might set man free,
And evermore with Him could live.

There is a God, He is alive,
In Him we live and we survive;
From dust our God created man,
He is our God, the great I Am.

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3 thoughts on “Passions at War

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