Glorifying God and fulfilling your passions do not need to be mutually exclusive concepts.
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James 4 (ESV)
1 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.
and cannot obtain,
so you fight and quarrel.
You do not have,
because you do not ask.
3 You ask
and do not receive,
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?
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”?
6 But he gives more grace.
Therefore it says, “God
opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.”
7 Submit yourselves therefore to God.
Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
near to God,
and he will draw near to you.
your hands, you sinners,
and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
your laughter be turned to mourning
and your joy to gloom.
10 Humble yourselves
before the Lord,
and he will exalt you.
11 Do not speak evil against one another, brothers.
speaks against a brother
or judges his brother,
evil against the law
and judges the law.
But if you judge the law,
you are not a doer of the law but a judge.
12 There is only one lawgiver and judge,
he who is able to save and to destroy.
But who are you to judge your neighbor?
13 Come now, you who say,
“Today or tomorrow
we will go into such and such a town
spend a year there
and trade and make a profit”—
14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.
What is your life?
For you are a mist
that appears for a little time
and then vanishes.
15 Instead you ought to say,
“If the Lord wills,
we will live and do this or that.”
16 As it is,
you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.
17 So whoever
knows the right thing to do
and fails to do it,
for him it is sin.
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James 4 Summary
James 4 is comprised of up to five different passages. I say up to because it can be it's hard to know where James actually meant the transitions to be.
v1-7a - Going after what our sinful selves want leads to friction and fighting. Instead of trying to grab all this world offers, humble and submit yourself to God.
v7b-10 - These verses show what it means to be humble and submit: draw near to God, cleanse yourself, and be willing to not be entertained every moment.
v11-12 - Don't talk bad of others, especially other believers.
v13-16 - Realize that each day is a gift and your future is completely in God's hands.
v17 - God's law is written on your heart, so for you to go against your conscience, is sinful.
We talk often about the importance of being aligned with God's will, especially when it comes to asking God for things in prayer.
It's easy to become skeptical about prayer, because we read promises like the one Jesus gave in John 14:14, "If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it," and yet all of us can name lots of things we've asked for and have not received.
James gives us a hint as to why that is:
You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions (v3).
Essentially, you don't receive because your passions are out of alignment with God's will. Literally translated, you're asking for things to use for hedonism.
Theologians like CS Lewis and John Piper promote a term that can be jolting: we must espouse Christian hedonism. This simply means that God's glory and our pleasure are not mutually exclusive concepts. True fulfillment is found when your life is centered on glorifying God.
In other words, the best way to experience true pleasure and passion in this world is to prayerfully ask for things aligned with God's will, that glorify Him.
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our loving Father who will come near to you as you come near to Him (v8)
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that your passion and pleasure will be glorifying God in every aspect of life.
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: