YouTube enables us to promote ourselves to the world. We can share intimate details about our lives, and promote our views. It is a very powerful, and widely-used platform that is reaching the whole world. The problem with YouTube is that it is filled with very inappropriate content. Maybe you have heard of GodTube. I guess we could consider it as the Christian’s answer to YouTube. The passage today reminded me of the contrast between the two internet platforms.
James 4:1-5 ESV
4 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 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. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4 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. 5 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”?
Scholars tell us the original writings of Scripture were not divided into chapters and verses, as we see in our modern Bibles. Obviously, this makes sense. The book of James, for instance, is a letter he wrote to Jewish Christians living in the first century. Specifically, Jewish Christians, who were dispersed due to persecution and other reasons.
Typically, one wouldn’t subdivide their personal letters in the way the Bible has been divided. These chapter and verse assignments simply make it easier to reference a particular passage. They sure do help remembering where you left off, as you go through your daily Bible readings.
The division assignments of the Bible have become common knowledge, but certainly relevant, as we enter chapter four in the book of James. You see, James is really just continuing his thoughts from chapter three. He is expounding on the topic of the guidance of godly wisdom, in contrast, to the worldly wisdom found everywhere else on this earth.
James asked these Christians a rhetorical question that might sound a bit like this for us today: “What is the cause of all these conflicts in the church? Wouldn’t you agree that it has to do with people following their own desires, at all costs, rather than the desires of God?”
I don’t know if these conflicts actually led to murder, as he mentions in verse two, but it seems as though James may be making a reference to a point Jesus made in Matthew 5:21. We also see this reiterated in 1 John 3:15. The point is, hatred in God’s eyes is the same as murder. God is Holy and perfect. God looks upon the heart, and our intent, not just our outward deeds.
This is certainly an important point, however, this passage spoke to me during Coffee with God in a little different way. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the idea of root causes, particularly as they pertain to our world’s current situation.
I’ll try to get right to the point here, after all, the purpose of this blog is not to rewrite the many commentaries on this passage. This is my own personal devotional time with God, and His Word. I will just simply share how His Word spoke to me this morning.
I feel like James is addressing some root causes in his letter. The ultimate root cause of all our problems in this world is sin. We live in a fallen state. Every single person born on this planet is born with a sinful nature. This is usually referred to as the sin doctrine.
The root cause of our problems could be defined as sin, or a refusal to submit ourselves to Christ. We are all automatically born in sin, and with a sinful nature. We don’t have a say in the matter. We all start out on level ground, and this is where we will stay if we do not choose Jesus.
I’m just saying that we could say the root cause of our problem is sin, or we could say the root cause of our problem is that we refuse to accept Christ, submit ourselves fully to Him, and follow Him completely. With this in mind, I noticed James used two phrases in chapter four. First, he used the phrase, “adulterous people,” and then later, in verse 8, he used the word, “double-minded.”
A question arose from the reading: “Who is your God?” I believe this question stands out as one reads through the passage. James says, “If you claim to be a Christ follower, yet are continuing to live by the worldly system that opposes God, it is like you are cheating on Him. You are double-minded.” The word, “hypocrite” also comes to mind. Well, obviously, I paraphrased.
There is a teaching that is laced throughout Scripture, which tells us we cannot be following God and the world at the same time. Remember chapter three? Heavenly wisdom, as opposed to worldly wisdom.
Jesus said something very powerful to his disciples in Matthew chapter 16 verse 24: “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
Deny himself? Take up his cross and follow? This is down near the root cause, isn’t it? Let me pose the question in this way, “Is ‘God’ truly your God, or is ‘yourself’ actually your god?” This is not an accusatory question to anyone who might be reading. This question is aimed directly at me. Remember this is my own appointment with God this morning.
So, what is my point? There is a huge, hot topic in our current world that has to do with a person’s identity. We’re not going to attempt to ease into this any further. The “world” says we must be true to ourselves. The “world” says we must follow our desires. The “world” says our very identity is determined by those desires. This could be applied in many areas, but I am going to be bold and specific. The “world” says we should define who we are by our deepest sexual desires. This idea is unbiblical. Jesus said we must deny ourselves. We must kill off the old self. Jesus also said we must be reborn. That rebirth can be confusing to some, but doesn’t it become more clear in this context?
The world, and even the church, is getting caught up in quarrelsome debates over symptoms of a deeper root cause — idolatry. When our own selfish desires and ambitions come before Christ, then we make ourselves God, instead of the One who created us, breathed life into us, and brought us salvation by performing the greatest act of love this world has ever known.
The fact is it doesn’t matter what our sinful desires are, if we follow those desires, we are not following Christ. In a very real sense, we are making our sinful, selfish desires the god we serve. The Bible calls it idolatry.
Maybe we should all take a step back, and ask, “Who is my god?” The way to God’s Kingdom is found in Jesus Christ alone. Jesus himself makes it clear. We must deny ourselves and follow Him. Are you subscribing to “you” tube or “God” tube?