Your Passions at War Within

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.”

Fleshly and sinful passions and desires are going to lead us on the wrong path every time. If we are following after the flesh, it will not go well for us. Our minds will be set on the flesh and not on the Spirit. We will clamor for what is of this world and not of God. And we will end up sinning against the Lord and against others instead of loving God and our fellow humans.

When we give way to our flesh we cease to love God and others as we ought. We become self-focused instead of God-focused. We easily get irritated with others who don’t do things the way we think they ought (speaking here of our fleshly thinking) because we are thinking about self and not about them and not about what is best for them.

As followers of Jesus Christ we are to no longer live according to our flesh but we are to walk (in conduct, in practice) according to (in agreement with) the Spirit of God. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God (Rom 8:1-8).

So, we can’t walk according to the Spirit if we are lusting after the desires of the flesh. The two are opposed to each other. We can’t hunger and thirst for righteousness if we are hungering and thirsting after the world and after our fleshly appetites. We can’t pray and expect God to answer our prayers, too, if we aren’t listening to him and if we aren’t doing what he says to do.

James 4:4-6 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’? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’”

It is possible for those who are genuine followers of Jesus to revert to following after the flesh if they are not guarded against that. And this is because we still live in flesh bodies, and we still have a propensity to sin, and we are still tempted to sin. And this is why Jesus said that we must take up our cross daily (daily die to sin and to self) and follow (obey) him.

But it is not possible to be a genuine follower of Jesus Christ and to never have changed, to never have died with Christ to sin, to never have walked according to the Spirit and no longer according to the flesh. If all we did was just confess faith in Jesus but we remained the same, because someone told us that we don’t have to change, then that is not a genuine conversion.

Yet, there is a fine line between those who have made a false profession of faith with no fruit and those who did bear fruit for a while but then reverted to following the flesh when certain temptations arose. This is because they are both living to please the flesh and not God. And the Scriptures teach that those who live to please the flesh will not inherit eternal life with God.

And so this is why we have these warnings in Scripture to let us know that if we forsake our Lord and we revert to following after the flesh, and if we continue on that course, and if we do not repent of our sins, that it will not end well for us. For the mind set on the flesh is death. And if we sow to please the flesh, from the flesh we will reap destruction, not eternal life.

And please understand that this word “repent” is not a mere change of mind. It is a change of heart, attitude, mindset, and behaviors (what we practice). To repent of our sins is to make a spiritual U-turn in the path that we are on. We were going one direction, now we have turned, and now we are going the opposite direction by God’s grace and in his power and strength.

So, “sin, confess, sin confess” as a normal pattern of behavior along with deliberately and habitually and premeditatedly sinning against God is not considered true repentance, for nothing changes. For repentance is more than just owning up to sin, but it involves turning away from that sin and replacing that sin with godly and holy living (see Ephesians 4-5).

So, if we want the grace of God in our lives we must humble ourselves before God, repent of our sins, turn away from them, and then go the opposite direction. For God gives grace to the humble but he opposes the proud who are holding on to their secret sins while they put on a show of righteousness for everyone else to see who does not know them.

So, we can’t serve two masters, for we are slaves of the one whom we obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness and sanctification, and its end is eternal life. So, don’t buy into the lie which tells you that you can be saved from your sins and that you can have heaven secured you for when you die, but that your sins don’t matter to God anymore, for the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God, which is deliverance from bondage to sin, is eternal life in Christ.

James 4:7-10 ESV

“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.”

This here is a true picture of what our salvation from sin should result in. We should be people whose lives are surrendered to Jesus Christ and who are daily submitting to his Lordship over our lives. We should be in the practice of daily (and moment by moment) resisting the devil and drawing near to God in full assurance of faith.

We are to daily be being cleansed from all unrighteousness as daily we walk (in conduct, in practice) in the light (in Christ, in truth, in righteousness). Daily we come to the cross and we die with Christ to sin and we deny self and we follow our Lord in obedience to his commands (New Covenant). Daily we say “No!” to ungodliness and fleshly lusts and we live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the power of God while we wait for Jesus’ return.

But if we do not, and instead we continue in deliberate and habitual sin, and sin is what we practice, and righteousness is not what we practice, then we will not inherit eternal life with God. And many are going to hear our Lord one day say to them, “Depart from me you workers of iniquity. I never knew you.” Don’t be one of them. Repent of your sins and walk in obedience to the Lord and choose to do his will for the rest of your days. Peace!

[Lu 9:23-26; Jn 6:35-58; Jn 15:1-11; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Eph 4:17-24; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Co 6:9-10, 19-20; 2 Co 5:10, 15; Tit 2:11-14; Jas 1:22-25; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-6; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; Matt 7:21-23; Heb 10:26-27; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Rom 12:1-2; Eph 2:8-10]

Praise the Lord

Lyrics by John Kempthorne (1775-1838),
Music by Lowell Mason (1841)

Based on Psalm 148:1-2

Praise the Lord! ye heav’ns adore him;
Praise him angels, in the height;
Sun and moon, rejoice before him;
Praise him, all ye stars of light.

Praise the Lord! for he has spoken;
Worlds his mighty voice obeyed;
Laws which never shall be broken
For their guidance he has made.

Praise the Lord! for he is glorious;
Never shall his promise fail;
God has made his saints victorious;
Sin and death shall not prevail.

Praise the God of our salvation!
Hosts on high his pow’r proclaim;
Heav’n, and earth, and all creation,
Laud and magnify his name.

Worship, honor, glory, blessing,
Lord, we offer unto thee;
Young and old, thy praise expressing,
In glad homage bend the knee.

All the saints in heav’n adore thee,
We would bow before thy throne;
As thine angels serve before thee,
So on earth thy will be done.

Hallelujah! Amen. Hallelujah!
Amen, Amen, Amen.

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