Welcome to what I like to call Faith Friday! Every Friday I'll be uploading a YouTube video and the occasional corresponding blog on either a topic of faith or Bible study. Right now on my YouTube channel we are in the middle of a Bible Study With Me series on the book of James. I'd like to serve both my audible learners and my visual learners by accompanying my videos with the notes that I take to prepare for them, so here we go!
I encourage you to read through James 4 before reading through the following. You can read the same version I did here: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=James+4&version=NKJV
I split up this study into 4 sections following the 4 sections that the NKJ version breaks up the chapter into.
James 4: 1-6 | Pride Promotes Strife.
These verses show how our pride, selfishness and worldly desires lead to strife, war and fights. Upon initially reading these verses they may feel out of touch or irrelevant to you. James mentions the sins of lust, murder, covet and adultery, big words that disguise the ease at which we can fall into their traps. With impure, unloving, jealous thoughts and actions we can quickly find ourselves committing the sins that once appeared to be too big for us to do. James 4: 1-6 illustrates the dangers of a prideful heart and the sin that we can find ourselves falling into if we don't actively humble ourselves before the Lord. James uses these sins to show how the proud try to take things into their own hands to get what they want.
James 4:3 says,
"You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures."
God knows a prideful, selfish heart and knows the destruction that comes when we are allowed those desires. Our prideful hearts and the sins we commit in our attempts to fulfill our selfish desires on our own accord lead to strife, war and fights. This strife can show itself internally in our thoughts, self image and self worth, externally in our relationships with others, and spiritually in ways we can't begin to see or understand.
James 4:1-6 is a warning of the pride promoted strife the we will encounter if we don't actively work towards the humility described as the chapter continues.
James 4: 7-10 | Humility Cures Worldliness
These verses speak of the humbling process that occurs as we humble ourselves before the Lord. Humbling our hearts is a continuous process of dying to self and surrendering to Jesus, but when you first recognize the weight your sin had in the death and resurrection you'll likely find yourself in a place like the one described in this section.
Humbling yourself happens when you draw near to the Lord, read the word and truly understand the weight of your sin and how big the price was that Jesus paid. When you realize: MY sin did that to Jesus. MY sin nailed Jesus to the cross. Not my neighbor, not my parents, not my ex boyfriend or ex best friend. Mine. Then do you realize the weight of your sin that made his sacrifice so necessary. This is when you begin to experience the mourn and gloom mentioned in James 4:9.
What I love about this section is how it shows how good the heart of our God is! He tells us to humble ourselves so we may know the weight of our sin and how much we need Jesus, but not without immediately saying that when we humble ourselves and are low HE will be the one to lift us up. What Jesus did wasn't in vain. Our sin nailed him there but did not have the power to keep him there. Jesus defeated sin and death and gives grace to the humble who recognize how badly we need him as our savior and replaces our mourn and gloom with incomparable hope and joy. He loves us too much to let us live blindly in our sin, under the delusion that we can navigate this life on our own, but he also loves us too much to allow us to live in guilt, shame and condemnation.
This changes your heart as Jesus becomes the measuring stick in which you measure your life, and the lens at which you live in and see the world.
James 4: 11-12 | Do Not Judge A Brother
When we humble ourselves through the process described in verses 7-10 we begin to see just how unqualified we are to judge another.
Interpretations of what being judgmental really means can vary from person to person but James 4:11 puts that debate to rest.
Bottom line is: Don't speak evil of one another.
James 4:12 literally says, "...Who are you to judge another?"
My college pastor once did a sermon that makes putting to rest our judgmental ways a quick process. When you humble yourself before the Lord and know that it was your sin that nailed Jesus to the cross, there is no room to talk evil of anyone else. Consider yourself to be the King of Sinners. Yup, you heard me. The King of Sinners. That's you. That's me. Knowing that it was MY sin that nailed Jesus to the cross, I can consider myself the lowest of low and the worst among the worst. Now this is not for us to feel condemned or shamed. Jesus already paid it all and will lift up the humble, we covered that part already. This is just a way to re-posture our hearts and know that our sin is no better than anyone else's. When I know that I am the King of Sinners I have already placed everyone above myself and can not think or speak low or evil of anyone.
You might be reading this and thinking, "Uhh, yeah. I don't know about that one, pal. Me? The King of Sinners? Don't think so."
I present you with good news. Humility doesn't bind you. Humility before the Lord sets you free and blesses you. When you die to self and turn away from your selfish tendencies and desires, realize that Jesus paid it all for YOU, space in your heart has just been freed up for the Lord to move. When you can come to another person with no agenda, no judgement, and humbly share with them the love of Christ, you have just created an opportunity for the Lord to move in might ways in your life and others.
Here's a link to the sermon if you're interested!
*actively trying to find which day this was so I can link it!*
James 4: 13-17 | Do Not Boast About Tomorrow
I want to start off this section by saying that there is a distinction between celebrating what the Lord has/is doing in your life and boasting.
This passage is saying not to boast about your plans and to surrender them and your desires to the one who can do far more with you than you could ever imagine.
I like to consider this section as the last round of the humility check.
Step 1: Do I recognize the danger of pride? (v1-6)
Step 2: Do I see that MY sin put Jesus on the cross? (v7-10)
Step 3: Do I love others despite the ways they fall short? Do I see myself as the King of Sinners before others? (v11-12)
Step 4: Do I love God enough to surrender my plans and desires to the one who surrendered it all for me? (v13-17)
My friends, if James 4 tells me anything it's that the dangers of a prideful heart are real and we are missing out on enormous blessing when we resist humbling ourselves before him. Get low and let him lift you up. Draw near to him and he will draw near to you. Let go of the prideful space in your heart and surrender it to him. He can do so much when we give him the space to do so. He never fails and he's always worth it.