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About this series
Relationships Under Pressure
Keeping it Together When the World's Falling Apart
In this series, Chip takes a biblical look at some of the many reasons why even our best and closest relationships suffer hard times. He addresses topics like why we fight with those we love, why we all struggle with anger, how to resolve inevitable conflict, that the only person I can genuinely control is me, and finally, that the art of speaking the truth in love is a gift - and goes a long way toward building great relationships that last. This series will help you understand the beauty of grace in the context of a world full of selfish, broken, petty people - including you! So, join Chip and get on the solution side of keeping it together when the world is falling apart.More from this series
I want you to allow your mind to go to a park. It’s a beautiful, sunny day, in your mind’s eye – big, fluffy, white clouds, the sky is very blue. It’s a beautiful park, with a lot of greenery.
And as the camera of your mind’s eye zooms in, there’s a bench. And in the background, there are children running and playing, and doing what children do, but it’s white noise.
And as you zoom in, you see that there is a little girl who’s about, maybe, eight or nine years old. She has little pigtails; she’s really cute. She’s got a few freckles across her nose.
And you see a man, sitting on the bench, who is obviously her father, and he looks very uncomfortable. As you watch from a distance, he moves here, moves there, and you can tell, even from a distance, it’s just chitchat. And he has his keys, and he keeps flipping his keys from one direction to the other, because that’s what dads do when they have to say something very hard to a very young child, and they don’t know exactly how to say it, or exactly what to say.
As he prepares this speech that he’s rehearsed in his mind, over and over and over, and this is the moment of truth. He picked her up from their home that’s about a mile away. He thought the park would be the best place to break the news.
And as he fidgets and tries to figure out, as a grown man, how to break the news to this little eight- or nine-year-old, who is daddy’s girl, the silence is broken by this little, innocent comment.
And she looks up at him and she says, “Daddy?” He goes, “Yeah, hon?” She says, “Are you going to come home soon? Are you going to come back to live with me and Mommy? I really miss you.” And he realizes that all the rehearsing of his speech in his mind didn’t prepare him for this. And everything in him wants to start crying, but he holds back the tears.
He says, “Well, honey, that’s why we came to the park today. I need to tell you something. See, Daddy’s not going to be coming home. And what I want you to know, sweetheart, it’s not you. I love you. I want to be with you. I wish so much that I could be with you. But it’s me and your mommy; we just can’t get along. We’ve tried. We’ve really tried, sweetheart. And you’ve heard us, late at night, and we yell at each other, and we scream at each other. And we’ve tried everything. But we fight, fight, fight. And so, we’re going to get what big people call ‘a divorce.’ And I’ll still see you, honey. I’m going to make sure that I get to come by, and I’ll be here on birthdays, and we even have it worked out where you get to spend a couple of months with me in the summertime. But, no, honey, I can’t come home.”
And she gives him that look, that only an eight-year-old can give, that says, “I don’t understand this. You love Mommy, and you love me, and I love you, and I love Mommy. How could two people that love each other this much not be able to work out whatever you need to work out?”
And he says to her, “I know you can’t understand, but maybe, someday, you will. And I just want you to know…”
And now, those little pigtails are down on her shoulder, and now the tears – she’s not even crying, they’re just flowing, and streaming down her face. And until she is eighty years old, that picture in that park will be etched in her memory, forever and ever and ever.
And it will impact, regardless of what Mommy or Dad says, how she views herself. And it will impact how she relates to the opposite sex. And it will impact how she views God. And it will change everything about her life, to some degree. And she didn’t understand it when she was eight, she won’t fully understand it when she is eighteen, and she may never fully understand it, until she’s eighty.
Why do we fight with those that we love? Why is it that two people who honestly, sincerely, deeply love one another can get at levels of conflict that they have to give up, or choose to give up?
And as I tell that story, for some of you – we have all kinds of different ages – you were that little boy, or you were that little girl. And for you, maybe it wasn’t that you were eight – you could have been five, or maybe you were twelve, or thirteen. And you remember being on the receiving end of one of your parents – your mom or your dad – telling you that it’s just not going to work.
And maybe it happened in the bedroom, or maybe it happened in the mall, or maybe it happened in a park, but it’s etched in your mind. And it has shaped a lot of you.
And for others, it’s, you weren’t the little boy or little girl. You remember when you were the mom, or you were the dad, giving this speech to one of your kids. And it seems like a long time ago, and because your mind is made by God, and you have an amazing, amazing ability to repress, sometimes you can push it way down deep. And maybe that was then, and you’re in a second marriage now, and things are better, but, as I told that story, some things got really, deeply uncomfortable inside of you that you haven’t thought about in a while.
And it keeps bringing back the question – and I’m talking about Christians – why do we fight with those that we love? Spouses fight against spouses. Why is it, in some of our homes, our children fight against each other? Why is it, when kids get to be teenagers, that they tend to fight against their parents? Why is it, when you get to be an adult, and you have grown parents, that sometimes you fight with your grown parents?
Why is it that people in the same churches, that love the same God, that were paid for by the blood of Christ, can just rip churches apart when someone thinks someone said something about them, or someone is doing something with the building, or one of the buses, or we disagree about what should happen to a staff member?
Why is it that there are families, who live within three to five miles of one another, and you don’t even speak? You don’t even speak to one another. Why do we fight with those that we love? Because the fact is that we do.
And what the Holy Spirit is going to say, through Jesus’ brother, who wrote the very first book of the New Testament, James – he’s going to explain to us not only the cause of fighting among us, as God’s children, he’s going to talk about the consequences of what happens when we fight with one another. And then, here is the good news: he’s going to give us the cure. He’s going to give us very direct, clear instructions about how we can stop the conflict, about how we can stop it, and those things don’t have to go on, and restoration can occur.
So, with that, open your Bibles, if you’re not already there, to James chapter 4, and let’s dig in together. And you’ll notice how James begins. He raises the very issue. He says, “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you?” Rhetorical question.
And, by the way, it’s in the tense of the verb that says these things are presently occurring in this church. This is written to a church. And he says, “Well, what is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you?” In other words, it’s happening right now.
And then, he’s going to answer the question: “Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?” Will you circle the word pleasures, and then circle the word war?
Literally, he says, “Isn’t it your passions that wage war in your members,” or, literally, “among you? You lust and you do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask.”
And then someone’s thinking to themselves, Now, wait a second, James. I pray. And he says, “Yeah, you’re right, there is a second category. There are some of you that ask, but you do it with the wrong motives.” “And you do not receive because you ask with the wrong motives” – why? – “so that you can spend it on yourselves.”
The summary of that is: the root cause of interpersonal conflicts, according to James, is our consuming passion for self-gratification. Jot those two words in, will you? Self-gratification.
He says – this word – what is the cause of wars? It means “a protracted” – the word for wars, here, is “a protracted state of hostility.” Why is it, in the Church, there are literal wars going on among the members? What causes the fighting? These are pictures of little outbursts of anger that break out. And it’s in the plural, here. It is happening within and among them.
He says, “Is it not your pleasure or your passions?” And I had you circle that, because we get our word hedonism from it. The Greek word is hēdonē. Hedonism is one who lives for pleasure, the passion for lust, to fulfill one’s desires, the cravings of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. It’s an addictive self-love.
He says, “The source of your quarrels is your own selfish gratification. It’s the ‘me first’ mindset. You fight because you want this and someone else wants this. It’s your lust; it’s your passions.” He says, “You envy” – or, literally, “you covet, you want what someone else has” – “and then you don’t get it, so you commit murder.” Isn’t that strong? Those are strong words for a church, isn’t it?
And whether that literally was happening in this context, or whether he’s speaking of murdering people – as Jesus said, “If you say, ‘Raca,’ to your brother, if you have hatred in your heart toward him, you’re committing murder.” But whether it’s a metaphorical murdering with your tongue that is slander, or murder in your heart out of hatred, or whether it got to be literal – I’ve seen it become literal.
How many of us heard of a story, in a local church, where someone gets bent out of shape in a church conflict – right? And they come in on a Sunday morning. I’ve heard of this at least four or five times in the last ten years. They come in on a Sunday morning with a gun, and either shoot the preacher, or shoot one of the elders, or leaders, or deacons, or whatever they call them in the special churches. And this is a church, and I bet, if you do the research, everybody in the room is born again.
That’s hard to imagine, isn’t it? But we don’t have to imagine it. This is reality. And he says the cause is that you want. You’ve got this pulsating desire, I have this pulsating desire, even as a believer, to satisfy, or gratify, my own way. We covet.
And this is a strong word. It’s the idea of not the wholesome kind of God-given pleasure, but the sinful, self-indulgent pleasure, the hot desire to possess something for your own ego and self-gratification.
And you can’t obtain it – in other words, you get blocked – and so you wage war. And then, you don’t have things, and he says, “You know why? Because you’re trying to get it from other places, instead of from God. And some of you, you try to get it from God, but you do it with the wrong motives.”
And so, he says the source of interpersonal conflict is self-gratification. And if you wanted to summarize it – I’ve put some notes down. Our problem – just write two words: selfishness, selfish pride. That’s our problem. It’s the inner passion within each of us that craves our own way. And behind that craving is the belief that pleasure, and fun, and sensual fulfillment must be achieved at all cost.
The symptoms are conflict. Conflict. And the conflict is evidenced in broken relationships. We want something, our goals are blocked, our desires are frustrated, and so it leads to violence. Competing desires. It’s the classic picture of one cookie and two, two-year-olds.
And what James says is, that one cookie and two, two-year-olds mentality – and it might be a position in the church, it might be about money, it might be about sex, it might be about a number of different things – but that same passionate desire to possess and get your way, and me wanting to get my way, is at the core of interpersonal conflict.
Third, he says, what’s the strategy? Our strategies are two-fold. First, we attempt to fulfill our desires, apart from God. We want something badly. Maybe we want something in our marriage. Maybe we want it from our boss. Maybe we want it in the church. Maybe we want it from one of our kids. Maybe we want something badly, as a single person. And he says, “The wrong strategy is, you try and get it, apart from God.”
Notice the line that he said? He said, “You don’t have because you don’t ask.” There are some ways, through either manipulation, or intimidation, or image management, that we try and get what we want, instead of going to God and saying, “God, this is my heart’s desire.”
The second way, in terms of strategy, is not just attempts to fulfill desires, apart from God, but we try to use God to fulfill our selfish desires. We try to make God our self-help genie. God, I’m praying that You will give this to me. And the goal isn’t the glory of God. The goal isn’t the agenda of God.
And, by the way, I have never seen this more popular than it is in our day. And I’ll tell you what, it sells. “Jesus can make you happy. Jesus can help you lose weight. Jesus can make you rich. Jesus can make you healthy, wealthy, and wise. Jesus can eliminate all your problems. You know what? God is not the center, or the core, or the Infinite One who is holy in the universe. You are the center of the universe, and He is your errand boy. And we will give you a little formula, and tell you what you do: You get Him to run your errands for you.”
And it is being preached, and it is being taught, and it is being gobbled up, because I’ll tell you what, there is something in all of us, right? And maybe Jesus is that ticket. I’ll be happy – Jesus is the ticket to – if I love Him, and follow this formula, I’ll have this big house on the hill, and I’ll have another house over here, and I’ll drive this kind of car, and I’ll have this kind of watch, and these kinds of clothes, and then a beautiful woman is going to jump in my car, or, handsome hunks are going to serve me butter that we can’t believe it’s butter. And Jesus is my ticket to self-fulfillment.
And it’s a perversion of the gospel. And it’s a perversion of the truth. And it’s not new. This is the first book written in the New Testament. And what he is saying here is: your wrong strategies are, one, you try and get your stuff, apart from God, or you try and actually use God. You’re asking God to do things, but it’s not for Him. It’s with perverted, wrong motives.
And then, finally, the results are, our passions, and our drives, and the blocks of people’s goals result in frustration within, and fights without. He’s saying to this local church – let’s remember, this is a local church – “You have fights without, and you have frustration within, because the root cause of interpersonal conflict, in marriage, with children, in the Church, at work…” He says, “At the core is self-gratification,” or, literally, “hedonism,” this commitment that, I’ve got to have my way. I need to fulfill my sensual lusts.
And in our honest moments, we all have to admit, this is true of all of us. We can make it very sophisticated, and we can put some verses around it, and we can act a little more pious, but you have conflict in your home; I have conflict in my home. If you’re married, you have some conflict in your marriage; I have some conflict in my marriage.
And for years and years – not really years and years, but as I tell the story, making it bigger and bigger to make it better and better – for years and years, I said the whole key to our marriage was if Theresa just wasn’t so selfish. She’s just so lovely, and pretty, and nice, and kind, and sweet – and that’s what everyone thinks. But down behind that beautiful, blonde hair, and sweet countenance, and wonderful mother, and, now, grandmother, there is a very strong woman who wants her way!
And in private moments, with probably a few ladies, of trusted confidants that she really prays with, there has probably been at least a moment or two that, despite her husband’s role, and his job of teaching God’s Word, and working hard at being a good dad, some of the conflict – I think she would say, You know, the problem is, [18:03] Chip is, down behind all that, is this really selfish guy that wants his way.
And when I want my way, and she wants her way, guess what that is called. Conflict. Now, as you mature in Christ, you handle it in a lot better ways, right? But, hey, people, let’s not act like this passage is for someone else. All right? And a lot of times, what happens is, we hit those conflicts, and the reason you don’t argue about them is, they produce such conflict, you don’t even talk about them anymore.
And I watch marriages that are on parallel tracks, with very little intimacy, or I watch families on parallel tracks, where, “Oh, yeah, we don’t argue with our kids. That’s because we’ve decided, anything that causes conflict we’re not going to talk about.”
So, the kids are gradually going off their way, and you’re going off your way. And then, when they land over here in the ditch because you didn’t want the conflict, you pull out your Bible, and Proverbs 22: “Train a child up in the way he should go, and he won’t depart.” God, I don’t get this. He departed! Oh, really? Because at the heart of every little boy – “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child,” right?
And so, you have to confront issues. You have to realize, I have to realize, I’ve got to confront issues in me, and you in you, and then all of our relationships, that we are people of the flesh, despite this wonderful thing that God has given us, this new birth, where the Spirit of God lives in us, and the Spirit has sealed us, and He’s given us gifts, and we have power.
But we live in a fallen world, and there is a tempter out there, and we will do things, and we will struggle in areas that will cause interpersonal conflict. And at the heart of it is not, The devil made me do it. What does James 1 say? “You sin when you’re carried away by your own lusts.”
Well, let’s get on the diagnostic side, and then we will quickly move to the solution side. James is going to say, “Okay, that’s the cause of quarrels.” Now he’s going to give us God’s diagnosis. Our constant quarrels reveal three different things. He’s going to say there are some consequences, but these quarrels are going to reveal something, and they are going to reveal something all the way over here. He’s going to say that you have a belief system, and in your belief system, because when you have this frustration within, conflict without, you have a belief system that you have believed a lie.
And he’s going to tell us what that lie is, in just a minute. And at the core of that lie is that we have believed the lie of hedonism, and I’ll address it in a second.
Once you believe a lie, there’s a series of behaviors that have you beginning to move farther and farther and farther away from God, and closer to the world, and the world system. He’ll call it the kosmos. It’s this world system.
The world system is Primetime TV, walking out of the grocery stand, People, Cosmo, Forbes. There is a world system that says the way to significance, fulfillment, and satisfaction is how you look, what you make, who you know, how many people report to you, what you own, and it’s, “When you can have the pleasures of the world, then you’re a somebody. You’re just a house remodel away from being happy. You’re just a better sex life away from being happy. You’re just that first child away from being happy. You’re just getting married – you’re single now, but, man, if you were married, then you would be happy.”
You’re just something out there. And the world paints, every evening in Primetime, and now on a hundred and fifty cable channels, and magazines, and romance novels, and billboards, and songs. And they’re all telling you a web that the world is saying: “This is what will deliver real happiness and fulfillment.”
And God says when we buy into that, we become spiritual adulteresses. We leave our first love, and we embrace and fall in love with the world, and we lose our relationship, and our heart for God.
He says, “We believe a lie, we betray a trust,” and then it gets, actually, scary. He says we actually can come to the point where, even though we are God’s people, we become enemies. God will literally, in this passage, you’ll see in the next few verses – God will literally put on battle array when His children are being wooed away from Him, and beginning to live like the world. He will put on battle array, and go to war against us.
It will be out of a heart of love, and He will do what I call “the velvet vise.” It’ll be a vise, and it’ll have velvet on the outside of it. And He will bring about a velvet vise of pressure in your life to get you to change your mind about what really satisfies, and to return to Him. It’s called the “Hebrews 12 experience”: “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”
Now, you say to yourself, Where did he get that? That all flows out of the passage, here, in James 4:4 through 6. Follow along, as I read. Notice, he’s just told us, the quarrels, the cause, the pride: “You ask with the wrong motives.”
Listen to this judgment – verse 4: “You adulteresses” – it’s what he is calling the church, the people in this church. This is strong. “Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world” – notice this – “makes himself an enemy of God.”
It’s in what is called “the middle voice,” and it’s something that we do on our own. We willfully, intentionally, out of our own choices, we make ourselves an enemy with God, even though we’re believers.
“Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: ‘He jealously desires the Spirit, which He made to dwell in us’?” See, you are a child of God. His Spirit dwells in you.
And when you, or when I, when we get infatuated, when we start to flirt with the world, and the world system, and we start to buy the lie, and after we buy the lie, we begin to betray the trust; and after we betray the trust, we begin to live the antithetical kind of life, as a Christian; and then God loves me, and loves you, so much, He will bring the velvet vise of discipline, because He’s jealous over the Spirit that’s in you.
When you prayed to receive Christ – remember? “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone will open the door” – right? – “I will come into him and sup with him, and he with Me. Unless a man is born again a second time, he ought to be born of the water” – physical birth – you have to be born of the Spirit. The Spirit of God comes in. You’re sealed with the Spirit. You’re marked off as God’s possession. You’re sealed as a part of His – His Spirit dwells in you. He jealously guards that; you are His.
And it’s just like a husband, when he begins to watch his wife flirt, or begins to watch his wife go on a date with another man. A good husband goes after that wife and says, “Hey, you know something? This is totally unacceptable.” But, notice, His response is, He gives more grace. He gives more grace. Well, how does He give the grace? “Therefore it says” – and he quotes the Old Testament here – “God is opposed” – literally, He is anti – “He is against the proud, but He gives grace to the humble.”
Literally, he goes, “Adulteresses are unfaithful creatures, don’t you know…” Circle the word friendship, will you? That’s our word phileo. It’s the affection with the world system and its sensual pleasures. It means you are in hostility. You’ve become an enemy of, or you’re in hostility with, God. You make yourself an enemy. Then, he goes on to say, “He yearns jealously for the Spirit that He puts within us.” And this word, if you want to circle it, “God opposes the proud,” it’s a picture, as you study this phrase, of, literally, God going into battle, and putting on holy array in battle, to come against that which is opposed to what is good. And there are times in your life, and there are times in my life, when we do that.
Let’s go back and play out what the lie is, then. He says, “We believed a lie.” The lie, basically, is hedonism. And hedonism is a worldview that promises that I will be fulfilled by pleasure. How I feel is the value of what’s right, and what’s wrong. I know I’m married, I know I’m supposed to do this, but I don’t feel loved anymore, therefore…I know it’s wrong, and I know God says only to put pure things in my mind, but when I log on to the Internet, and I see all those naked pictures, it makes me feel alive. I know we don’t have the money, I know I shouldn’t spend it, but when I go through, and I buy one, two, three, four more pairs of shoes, and two more dresses, and I come home, I get a little rush, and I feel alive and good again, until the MasterCard bill comes, and I have yet another fight in our home with my husband.
See, the lie is, fulfilling your sensual pleasure will deliver significance, security, joy, and fulfillment. That’s hedonism. And we have three prominent passions in hedonism. Number one is the desire to have - possessions. Number two is the desire to feel - pleasure. And number three is the desire to be - power.
Possessions, pleasure, and power. And that is why all the marriage experts say: what do couples argue about? Money, sex, kids, and in-laws. Did I miss anybody, here? And if you think through those four things, what you find is, in your heart, you have selfish gratification about how we should spend our money. And she thinks you need to remodel the kitchen, and those new Ping golf clubs are not that much. Or you could join the country club, or get a new motor for the boat. She thinks, he thinks, she thinks, he thinks, kids think – and it plays out.
We buy the lie that, “Sensual pleasure will meet my inner-longings for fulfillment.” And that lie leads us to betray a trust. And we become spiritual adulteresses.
I came across an interesting article by a scholar who does most of his research in the backgrounds of books of the New Testament. I’m in Jeremiah, and just finished Isaiah. And God, over and over and over, as His people go and worship idols, He calls them – what? “Adulterers.”
He says He is to be their true love, and they’re going out under trees and worshipping Baal, or, in some instances, there was a big fire, and a god, with his arms out, and they would build a huge fire, and they would literally take their children and toss them up into the fire to appease the god of Baal. And He talks about, “Under every tree, My people are worshipping idols that they have made with their own hands.”
And this scholar writes this. He goes on to say, “This form of expression may offend the modern ears, but the picture of Israel as the bride of God, and God as the husband of Israel, has something very precious in it. It means that to disobey God is like breaking a marriage vow. It means that all sin is a sin against love. It means that our relationship to God is not like the distant relationship of a king and subject, or master and a slave, but like the intimate relationship between a husband and a wife. It means that when we sin, we break God’s heart. And as the heart of one partner in marriage may be broken by the desertion of another, so when we sin, we become spiritual adulterers, and break our vow with God.” And that’s what James is saying.
I don’t know anything that is happening in our day that breaks God’s heart more than a church that has fallen in love with the world. And we are living in this day. I don’t cry over a whole lot of stuff, but I cry over this. I am so, so deeply disturbed. And this is the reason why the divorce rate among Christians is the same, or worse, than the divorce rate among unbelievers.
And, see, we’ve bought the same line. We watch the same shows. We put the same garbage into our mind. And we’re expecting different results.
And then, we refashion the Jesus message to make Him our cosmic vending machine, where what we want Him to do is deliver the great marriage, and the wonderful families, and the gated community, and the upward mobility, and make our kids turn out right and marry people even smarter than them, and have more letters behind their names than we had, and make more money than we do, and we all come together in thanksgiving, and sing “Kumbaya,” and love Jesus.
And at the heart and the center, we have bought a lie that says, “You know what? I have to have personal power. And I have to have money, and I have to have pleasure.” And if you look at the broad scope of evangelical, born-again believers in the United States, about two point five percent of all the believers in America even tithe ten percent. Two point five percent. Not even proportional giving.
If you walk into the living rooms of most Christians in America, if you put on a little recorder, and you recorded everything they watch from six o’clock until twelve o’clock at night, and then you played it back, and then you did that with every unbelieving household, you wouldn’t see a nickel’s worth of difference.
We have a generation of believers that have become hooked on sensual pornography, soaps, romance novels. I watch dads, in unbelief, who let their daughters dress like prostitutes, and send them off to high school, and can’t figure out why they get pregnant, or why they become promiscuous.
It’s because they don’t have the courage to say, “Honey, you can’t wear something that comes up this high, and down this low, and is this tight, because I’m your dad, and, guess what, you are made in the image of God, and I love you, and I don’t care what all the other kids think.”
We have a Church that has embraced the world to such a degree, I don’t think we’re in the salt-and-light business anymore, where we’re impacting the world culture. I think it appears that we’re trying to hold off a bit of the darkness, and it is transforming the Church.
But this problem isn’t new. This was in the first century. The first century Church was struggling with falling in love with the world.
But when they fell in love with the world, they didn’t blink and say, “Well, every other Christian is doing, and it must not be that bad.” You know how we develop our convictions? We develop our convictions by finding someone who’s doing a little worse than us and saying, “Well, they’re doing this. At least I’m doing this.”
And then, we find someone that – down deep in our heart, it doesn’t feel quite right – and since we have a generation of people that don’t know the Bible anymore, don’t read it very often, and don’t study it hardly at all, you don’t have a standard. And so, pretty soon, you find someone you admire and say, “Well, they do that. I always thought that was wrong, but if they do it, I guess it’s okay.” And pretty soon, we have sheep following sheep.
And, see, I didn’t grow up as a Christian, so you need to hear what those unbelievers out there think. I didn’t grow up as a Christian. You know what guys like me grew up thinking? What are you telling me this Jesus stuff for? It’s not working for you.
I’m sorry, that’s just what I thought. What are you telling me about this love stuff? Your marriage doesn’t hold together. You guys scream at each other. Your daughter is sleeping around like everybody else. Man, you’re headlong into materialism. So, what are you talking to me about this difference Jesus makes in your life?
And it’s not doom and gloom, but I would suggest that maybe some of our most difficult problems that we’re facing, individually, and in the Church today, is that we have believed a lie, we’ve betrayed a trust, and that we are like a wayward wife to our husband, who is the Bridegroom, Jesus. And so, we have become an enemy when we buy that lie.
And notice what it says: “He yearns jealously for the Spirit He made, but He gives more grace.” Well, how does He give more grace? It says here we make ourselves an enemy, so He gives more grace. How does He give more grace? He’s opposed to the proud. What did He say in the beginning was the core of interpersonal problems? Pride; selfishness. What is God opposed to? It means He is against. It doesn’t mean He tolerates it, it doesn’t mean that He winks at it, it doesn’t mean that, Well, you know, I’m not really happy with this, and I wish you could clean it up.
It means He’s against it. When He’s against it, that means He brings consequences, not because He’s down on you, but because He loves you.
When you mismanage your money, you mismanage your time, you mismanage your priorities, when you put stuff in your mind that will pollute your mind, when you think that vicarious gratification, by reading romance novels, or checking out pornography, is going to meet the deepest needs, God, out of His great love, is going to go, Okay, let’s see, let’s see, we’ll work on their health. See if – no, that didn’t – okay, we can shut down that business. We’ll have one of their kids go through a difficult…cancer? Maybe…”
He will do whatever it takes, people, because He loves you. And we’re going to be a pure bride. We’re going to be a pure bride, one way or another, because His reputation is at stake, His reputation. This is not about you, and your life, and what people think. It is about His reputation.
Jesus said, “They will know that the Father sent Me because” – what? – “how you love one another. This is how My Father is exclaimed” – or “exalted” – the word is glorified, when His reputation is made great – “when you bear much fruit.” What’s fruit? What’s fruit? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control. It’s being like Christ. Bear much fruit.
It’s not only exhibiting from the inside out the very character and the nature of Christ, but it’s also bearing much fruit in terms of fulfilling God’s agenda, reaching out to others: Lost people come to Christ through your life, found people growing to maturity through your life, mature people reproducing their lives, developing leaders through your life. That’s the agenda.
The agenda is not, How can I be happy? How can I be fulfilled? I don’t care what Maslow says. It’s not about self-actualization. It’s about Christ-actualization. It’s about abiding in Christ. And you know what? We’re all smart enough.
Here’s the thing about us believers. On the one hand, we’re really smart, and on the other, it’s like, I look at us, and I think, Are we dumb?
Who is the group of people that has most successfully fulfilled the world’s agenda? Right? All you have to do – it’s easy; this is not a trick question. Go to the grocery store, or, like I did, go to Barnes & Noble, and start at the magazine racks. Just look through the magazine racks – sports, entertainment, over here, over here, over here, over here.
Okay, here are all the faces, all the people, all the names who have zillions of dollars, play on these teams, have had multiple surgeries, are pretty, pretty, pretty, and are married, divorced, married, divorced, married, divorced, living with, not happy.
The people that have the greatest looks, the greatest money, fulfill the world system – help me – are they not the most miserable of all people on the earth? And so, what do we do? We have the Lord, so we try and be like them.
So, what do we do? See, this isn’t theoretical, and the seduction of the world is not something that you get hit in the face and go, Wow, I’m a worldly friend of the world Christian, and I may be – maybe some of these difficult areas in my life really have to do with, you know, I’m God’s enemy, and I never thought about that!
No. It’s so seductive. It’s like when you go out to the beach, and you’re playing, and you know when you were a kid, and you looked back on the beach, and your parents were right there? And you’re playing in the water, and having a ball. And, pretty soon, you look up, and you go, Man, my parents are gone! Where did they go?
They didn’t go anywhere! You were here, and as the currents went, you can be a mile away, and you never know it.
I don’t think the average, born-again, genuine believer in Jesus Christ, in America, is waking up one day and saying, “I know I really love God, but I think I’m going to embrace the world. I think I’m going to try and live just like they are, because I want all the negative consequences, and I want to be a terrible witness. And my marriage – who wants it to last more than eight or ten years, anyway? And the conflict with kids and alimony, it’s really kind of fun. And all these sexual addictions, and food addictions, bulimia. These counselors need money so if I…” No one does that. But that’s where we’re landing, people.
So, what is the solution? He gives us the solution where He gives us a prescription. And we’re going to get the prescription in verses 7 through 10. It is very direct.
God’s prescription is: humble yourself, and God will heal your relationships. Humble yourself, and God will heal your relationships. Write those two words: humble yourself, and God will. He’ll restore.
I’m going to read this passage and there are seven – actually, ten staccato verbs that are commands. And by staccato, I mean it’s, Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! He’s going to give us seven to ten specific things that we need to do, that will be a picture of how to humble yourself.
You can circle the words, but, number one, “Submit” – circle – “yourselves therefore to God.” Two: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Three: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” Four: “Cleanse your hands, you sinners.” And five: “Purify your hearts, you men of double mind.” Six: “Be wretched and mourn.” Seven: “Weep.” Eight: “Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to dejection.” Circle laughter. Ten: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.”
“Submit,” “resist,” “draw near,” “cleanse,” “purify,” “be miserable,” “mourn,” “weep,” “let your laughter be turned” – or, literally, “have your laughter turned around.” This isn’t just, “Don’t laugh.” This is the haughty kind of laughter where people are rejoicing and reveling in sin. That’s the picture of this word. And as you study those things, what you see is it is developed in four clear steps toward humility, or to diffuse conflict.
Number one: Give in to God. Write that in the line above there. “Submit yourselves therefore to God.” The word submit, here, is in a tense of the verb that has a sense of urgency.
It’s a compound word: hupo – “to be under” – and tasso – “to be under the rank.” It’s like falling into line, or rank, in the military. It’s to take God as your Commander, as your Captain. It’s a picture of a group of military people all walking like this,
What he is saying is, “You’re out of step with the Spirit.”
Well, how do you get in step with the Spirit? Very, very clearly, it is: obey the known will of God revealed in Scripture. Give in to God. Voluntarily, from the heart – that’s the idea. You might write one word after that. Give in to God – put an arrow, and write the word surrender, and put a box around it. That’s really what it is: surrender. Submit your will. Submit your future. Submit your relationships. Submit your agenda. Submit your desires.
And you say, God, here is what I’m going to do. I have unconsciously – I didn’t mean to; I didn’t realize it. You’ve brought me to this place, at this time, to help reveal it. The light bulbs are going off in my mind. My spirit is so convicted. I want You to know, right now, I surrender. I submit to You. I want You to know that as I begin to think about Your Word – and I know it’s going to be a journey – but I’m going to submit my finances to You. I’m going to submit my schedule to You. I’m going to submit my relationships, my job, my ministry – I submit to You. You are the General; You’re the Commanding Officer. You’re the King. You’re the CEO, and I’m coming for orders. You tell me what to do. That’s what I want to do. That’s the first step in humbling yourself. It’s obeying what you know.
The second step is: Get tough with Satan. Notice the words, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Resist has the prefix anti-. It means to be against him, and to take a stand. It’s to take a stand against the enemy.
There is no middle ground. You can’t play with him. And the word devil – who is this? He’s the slanderer, the liar, the deceiver. He’s the seducer.
It’s different strokes for different folks. It’s the lust of the flesh, for some. For others, it’s that magazine you look at, and you see all those beautiful houses, and all that beautiful furniture, and all this – or that dream vacation. You could go to Scotland, do this, and you go to this, go to this, go to this. And it always goes from one thing to another.
Who is behind that? Who’s selling you the bill of goods? If you had, if you could, if you possessed, if you looked like that, if you just had enough money to have some of those surgeries like they have on TV, then you could walk down the staircase, and all your friends would go, “Ahhhh! Who is that!?”
That’s a woman, or a man, who they’ve shaved off thirty-five pounds with surgery, another twenty pounds with exercise, and they have poked, jabbed, pushed. I won’t go any further than that. Made-up, dyed, broken jaws, put in new teeth, rearranged noses. And under special lighting, for one moment, “Ooooh!” And here’s my theory: Visit that woman, or that man, in three years, and they’ll look exactly like they did three years before.
“Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Get tough with Satan – put an arrow – and write the word fight, and put a box around it. You have to fight. You have to fight. Ephesians 6 tells us how to put on the full armor of God. This is a promise. If you resist, he will flee! But you have to get angry with it!
You have to say, “I don’t want to be that. I don’t want to think of that.” You have to say, “No more Internet for me. I’m not going to watch that stuff.” You have to cut off the supply lines. You have to fight. You have to say, “There’s a world system – it is purposefully seeking to seduce me.” And you have to put up the guard, and the armor. And you have to say to yourself, You know what? I can’t let that in our home.
I have a good friend that had a pornography problem. He just doesn’t have the Internet. He just doesn’t have it. You say, “Well, that’s drastic.” Yeah, that’s drastic. He’s just saving his marriage, saving his life, walking with God, changing his life. He just happens to know he’s weak. Where are you weak? Where are you weak? In the area of media – I would dare you to do something. You probably won’t do this, but I’ll dare you anyway – double, double dare. I dare you to go on a media fast for ten days – no TV, and no videos, no DVDs. Not even the news. Ten days.
The first two days you’ll want to kill each other, because you will be so irritable. And then, you’ll recognize, We actually spend hours that we didn’t know in front of this thing. Then, pretty soon, you’ll start getting creative, and you’ll have all kinds of time to start doing some things you always wanted to do. About days number six through eight, you’ll start actually having some fun. Day number nine, you won’t miss it very much. Day number ten or eleven, you’ll realize, Oh, hey! And you’ll start watching something, and you’ll watch a commercial, and you’ll go, Oh, man, that is gross.
Because what will happen is, you won’t be dumbed down. Your spiritual sensitivities will come back alive. And you’ll realize, Man, there is a hook in that commercial. And did you notice how the camera panned and went to that guy’s body part, or that woman’s body part? Did you see? And all of a sudden, all of those subliminal messages, your spirit will pick them up, and you’ll fight, and you’ll say, “Man, I’m not buying that stuff.” But I’ll tell you what, the passive, I want to try harder, be a better person someday, someway, will not make it.
Third, he says, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” Write in there, “Get close to God.” “Get close to God” – and then draw an arrow, and in the box, write return. Return to God. What He wants you to know: He loves you. He’s for you. He cares about you.
Anything you think the world, and power, or sex, or pleasure, or a boat, or a better golf score, or what plastic surgery could ever provide, Jesus says, “It’s all a lie! It’s all temporary. I love you just for you. I have joy that circumstances can’t change. I want to give you something in your heart that’s called “peace,” not pseudo-peace. I want you to be able to sit in a room where you don’t have to turn on the TV, or the stereo, or run over to the refrigerator every time you have a little bit of unrest in your soul. I want to give you joy that even when bad news happens, it wells up in you. I want to love you. I want to care for you. I want to tie you in to Me, and let you understand where real life comes, abundant life, to the full.
Isn’t that what He promised? “I came that you might have life, and you could have it to the max!”
This isn’t like getting second-rate stuff. This is like seeing the junk for what it is, and then, negatively, you have to fight, but then you draw near to God. You return. And what does the promise say? He will draw near to you. Isn’t that awesome?
This is the picture of the prodigal and the father. He didn’t run after the prodigal, did he? He allowed the consequences to get in the prodigal’s life. By the time the kid is eating the pig slop, he finally has an “ah-ha” moment. This ain’t good! The slaves have it better.
But the moment he returned, the word – right? – and began to come back to the father, what did the father do? Study that passage carefully. He does a number of things that break culture. He runs to meet – that means he had to pick up his robe. That means he embarrassed himself in the city. He ran to meet his son.
God wants to run to meet some of you. And some of you are so overwhelmed with guilt, and have so much baggage, and so much junk, and feel like you’re so unworthy, and you’ve been through so much. He is a God of grace.
If you’ve fallen into a fifteen-foot hole, He will lower a sixteen-foot rope. And if you’ve fallen into a three hundred-foot hole, and you can say, “I had two abortions. I’ve had four marriages. I’m a perpetual liar. I’m stealing from the company right now.
My whole life is a mess. I am in three hundred feet of just dirt, and I feel like a terrible person.” God said, I brought you here because I have a three hundred and one-foot rope. Just grab it, babe. I love you. I love you. I died for you. I have a plan for you. I want to restore you.
Well, how do you draw near to God? It’s not just an emotional experience. How do you draw near to God? Well, since many of you are on that media fast because I double, double dared you, and some of you can’t resist that, with all this time you know what you will find? Just start reading through the New Testament. Just start taking walks, instead of watching TV, and talk to God.
And when you’re hurt, tell Him you’re hurt. When you’re angry, just express it, and tell Him you’re angry. And the things and the needs that you don’t have, ask Him for, Lord, and say whatever you want!
Get in the Scriptures, begin to pray, and then, you know what? Every New Testament command I can find is in the second person plural. There might be an exception or two. That means I am never expected to live this radical, New Testament, revolutionary life alone. I have to do it with people.
And you get in the Scriptures, and you begin to pray, and you get with some people who are making progress with the Lord, and you find some music, and a Bible-teaching church that teaches the Word, and lives authentic lives. And you know what? You’re drawing near to God. He’s going to draw near to you.
And all the things you thought that were going to be delivered through your hedonism, that you’re being brainwashed, like I’m being brainwashed, day after day after day, God says, I’m going to give you better, and lasting, both now and forever.
The final thing he says is: Get right with others. Notice the phrase here: “Cleanse your hands; purify your hearts.” You know what? That’s the outward. What are you doing with your hands that is wrong? Cleanse them. Then, not just externally, but internally: “Purify your hearts.” Where are your motives? Let there be tears for the wrong that you’ve done.
And so, there’s a private purification where you cleanse your hands. And you know what it is? You don’t hear this much anymore. Are you ready for this? Some of you, a number of things have come up in your mind. I’ve thrown a few little bombs out, have you noticed? The soaps over here, romance novels over here, pornography over here, materialism…
Just in case you missed the bombs, this is a review, all right? A little bitterness in your heart; unforgiveness toward an ex, toward a mom, a dad, one of your kids, right?
You know what “cleanse your hands; purify your hearts” is? Stop sinning. Stop it. Okay, are you ready? I’m going to do this again. It’s very complicated. Stop sinning. We get this, Yeah, I will. I’m going to have to process this, maybe see my counselor. You know what? Is it wrong? Stop it. Repent! That’s the word: right. “Get right with others.” Arrow, in a box, then write repent.
Now, do you need help? Yeah. Do you need to see a pastor or a friend? But if you have wronged someone, make it right. Cleanse your hands. If you have bitterness in your heart, if you have resentment, if you have anger fantasies, purify your heart. Purge it. Tell God you’re sorry. If you need to apologize to someone, go apologize to them! But just say, “I’m going to get right with God. I’m going to get right with others.”
Then, notice the final thing he says, in verse 10. He says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, unto the mighty hand of God” – why? – “that He may exalt you.”