Online Worship for Trinity Eighteen, Sunday October 3, 2021
Sermon for Trinity 18 – Sunday, October 3, 2021
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria
Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus, the Christ. Amen.
James 4:1-10 (NKJV)
1 Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. 4 Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”? 6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” 7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.
In the Name of Jesus Christ,
Who knows about conflict resolution,
Who can help us resolve our conflicts,
Dear Fellow Redeemed by His Blood –
It’s bound to happen. There is bound to be conflict, argument and hard feelings.
It happens in marriage.
I’m sure they count me as a jaded married man, but sometimes in pre-marital classes young couples look at me with horror and disbelief when I suggest that there will be conflict with that perfect being they are about to marry. Yes, I tell them, believe it or not at some point the love of your life will say something purposefully hurtful and you in the heat of the emotionally charged moment will respond in kind. No, Really. Honestly. It’s bound to happen, because we don’t live in a perfect world, but a corrupt one.
We aren’t perfect beings, but sinful ones. Conflict happens…and that’s not an excuse.
It happens in the workplace. It happens on the softball field. It happens wherever human beings gather or communicate.
Oh and there’s one more place that it happens: in the Christian Congregation. If we imagine that as individual Christians or a Christian Congregation, we are somehow magically immune to conflict, argument and hard feelings…then we aren’t living in a real world (and by real, I mean this sinful world).
It’s not just a problem among relatives in Marquette or just in conservative church bodies like the CLC.
It was also a problem in first century Christian churches, as is revealed in the New Testament for our learning.
St. Paul’s letters to the Corinthians reveal that there was a real problem with division and conflict in Corinth.
The Epistle of James reveals that those to whom the Spirit of God directed James to write were also fighting and arguing.
This morning the Holy Spirit reveals where conflict in the congregation come from – out of selfish desires driven by worldly attitudes and ideals.
The Spirit of God doesn’t only bid us look in the mirror to see the problem, but also reveals how conflict is resolved through God’s Grace.
May God the Holy Spirit then help us both to recognize the source of conflict and strive with His help to resolve it through repentance and Christian humility. Amen.
When something stops working, when there is a breakdown (whether mechanical or human), it’s important to trace the problem to its source.
When the mower won’t start, we check the fuel level, filters and spark plug in an effort to find out what’s causing the problem.
When the computer won’t work, we find out what does work and go from there and attempt to trace the problem to its source.
When there is a breakdown in congregational relationships, we would do well to remember that the Holy Spirit has sniffed out the source of the problem already for us.
It was the case then, and still is today:
Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?
Now it may seem that James is speaking here of a particular kind of sinful desire, but in fact he’s talking about the same kind of selfish desires he was in the previous chapter. Conflict in a Christian congregation is most often driven by individual pride and self-interest. We see it when someone insists that ‘their way is the only way.’ We see it when someone refuses to back the will of the whole unless they submit to their individual demands.
There will be personal animosity between Christians when factions or individual members seek their own desires rather than the good of all.
We need to remember that we are all IN THIS TOGETHER.
We are all IN THIS, which means we should all be involved and have a vested interest, and not be content simply to sit on the sidelines and let someone else do it. If you don’t speak up, you can’t be heard. If you don’t step up, you can’t serve. We are in this TOGETHER. Together!
It’s no different here than it is in other Christian Congregations! We may think we are unique here in Marquette, but we really have the same problems that other congregations do!
Most often conflict arises when we forget the TOGETHER part, and certain individuals think, “I’m here to make decisions.” “My way is the right way.” WE are here to make the decisions. It’s not about what I want or YOU want, but about what WE want.
Conflict comes out of individual selfish desire and is also characterized by either a lack of prayer or misplaced prayers:
You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.
We find here very strong statements meant to penetrate our hearts. In the midst of conflict individual desire runs strongest. We want, but don’t have. We go so far as to hate (and whoever hates his brother is a murderer) and sinfully desire, but still cannot obtain what we want.
We can become like soldiers at war, constantly in a skirmish of one kind or another over one issue or another. We stop looking at each other like brothers and sisters and begin looking at each other like enemies! We refuse to talk with each other and harbor ill will in our hearts!
Yet, we do not have the resolution we need…because we seek our own will and way and do not seek direction of the LORD!
Christian Prayer seeks that the Lord’s will be done. Prayer is a request, not a list of individual demands!
What is the first thing to go when individual desire as taken the spotlight on center stage? Prayer. Often times when we do pray in the midst of conflict, we ask amiss, to satisfy our own desires.
Have you ever prayed like this: “Lord, help him to see that He is wrong, because I’m not.” “Lord help this plan to fall through so that I can say I told you so later.”
It’s not prayer if it doesn’t leave the resolution of the problem up to the Lord! It’s a demand, not a request. If our purpose in asking is not God-pleasing, how can we image that God should answer with a yes?
Moreover, conflict is often driven by worldly attitudes and ideals. This is the church. We have been gathered by the Holy Spirit around the Word of God. Christ is our head and master and so His Word is the last word.
Why then would we look at ourselves or govern ourselves like any worldly business?
Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”?
We have been joined to Jesus by faith. The Bible describes our relationship with Him as intimate as the relationship between a husband and a wife. So even as a husband and wife grow together, and at times even begin to look alike, so we are to be like Jesus in our dealings both with the world and each other.
Jesus said (John 13:34-35):
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
We are to be first faithful to God and to the bridegroom, Jesus. If we take our love and give it to someone or something else, then we will be called unfaithful, Adulterers and Adulteresses in a spiritual way.
For this reason, we are severely warned that friendship with the world will lead to conflict with God. If we follow the world’s ideals and attitudes then:
We will probably give money and wealth a higher place than it deserves, even higher than God and His Word.
We will likely be led to dismiss God’s will as simply stated in His Word. We might deny the creation account in favor of evolution. We will accept same sex marriage as equal to God’s established definition of one man and one woman for life. We will accept female pastors as the church changing with the times rather than an outright rejection of God’s stated will.
If we love evil or even good things more than God, the result will be hostility, enmity with God.
The Spirit we have been given, who dwells in us by faith – yearns to be first, to be given first billing in our lives.
What is the answer then? How can conflict be resolved when it arises in the Christian Congregation?
It is resolved by God’s grace through faith when the Spirit of God helps us to put away selfish desire, misplaced prayer and this world’s attitudes and ideals and repent and trust in Jesus Christ for forgiveness.
Humble yourselves and confess your sins, as it is written:
But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” 7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.
God help us to be humble when conflict comes and instead of simply blaming the other, remember ‘it takes two to tango.’ God opposes those who are proud, but comes to the aid of those who humble themselves with abundant grace.
Instead of seeking our own, we submit to God who offered up His Son for us. Instead of letting mouth and heart be used to further the plans of the enemy, we will oppose the devil and he will run from us because Christ stands with us.
Rather than draw near to combat one another, we draw near to God through His Word. He will never turn away from those who diligently seek Him and His will. We will then also see the need to:
Cleanse our hands…to repent of what our hands have done and look to what Christ has done to free us from the consequences of our sin and guilt. We are set free from hell and eternal death (which we have earned) through faith in Christ. Since we have been forgiven, there is cleanup that needs to be done, so:
Purify your hearts you double minded…let there be one room in your heart, let the throne of your heart be dedicated to Christ alone. Clean out all those other things that fight for the highest place in heart and life. The highest place of honor belongs to Christ!
Then remember what happens when selfish desire is given that throne and lament, and mourn and weep. It is appropriate for those who have sinned to sorrow over what they have done, and also humble yourselves before the Lord. He will lift us up, both to new lives here in time and eternal life after the sleep of death.
It’s inevitable! Conflict is bound to happen! When it does, we will remember the source of conflict, and repenting of our sins and evaluating our hearts we will humble ourselves before LORD.
He will resolve the conflict, according to His Grace, through repentance and forgiveness.