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About this series
Five Lies that Ruin Relationships
Wrong Beliefs Produce Wrong Behavior
Have you ever looked back over a situation or relationship in your life and wondered how it became so messy or difficult? In the series from the book of James, Five Lies that Ruin Relationships, we'll define five of the most common lies that have the potential to ruin relationships with those we love. We'll also uncover the source of quarreling, how our words wound, and how not to make decisions. And together, we'll ask and answer the question: do wrong beliefs produce wrong behavior? We will discover that when we confront the lies we believe, there is power in knowing and applying God's truth to our relationships.More from this series
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 can seem to get along, and then someone dies, and families that look intact, when they start talking about where the money is going to go, and who gets the estate, some of the most ugly things that can ever come out of believer’s mouths…?
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, maybe some in this room, 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 instruction 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?
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 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, 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, down behind all that, Chip 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.
Then, he’ll say that after believing the lie – 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 I was 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 I 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, you’ve got to be born of the water” – physical birth – you’ve got 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.