Fight the Good Fight in Community

Fighting Men

Sin is something we don’t like to talk about. Something we would rather keep hidden. It is certainly not something we want to tell others about. James, however, tells us we should tell others about our sin. He writes,

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working (James 5:16).

James exhorts us to confess our sins to one another, so that others might pray for us. Do you confess your sins to others? Do you ask others to pray God would remove sin in your life? If you don’t, I would encourage you to find someone you can trust, confess your sins, and ask them to pray for you. Don’t try to fight temptation and sin by yourself. Don’t be a Lone Ranger Christian. Fight the good fight in community!

Why Can We Confess Sin to Others?

Often confessing sin to others is hindered by what we believe others will think about us. We don’t want to appear like we don’t have it all together. We are afraid others will look down on us, if we confess our sin.

Christians shouldn’t think that way. The gospel should encourage us to confess our sins to others because it tells us we are not accepted based on our works, or what others think about us. We are accepted based on Jesus’ work for us. Concern for what others think shouldn’t dissuade us then from confessing sin. What others think doesn’t matter because our acceptance is not based on what others think.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you confess your sins to others so they can pray for you?
  2. Are you worried about what others might think of you?

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How To Avoid Conflict In The Church | Part 4

How To Avoid Conflict Part 4

How Do We Avoid Conflict?

(4) Don’t speak evil against one another.

James says,

“Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks 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. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?” (Jas 4:11–12)

Speaking evil against another is harmful speech. Harmful speech could be anything from: Questioning legitimate authority, to slandering someone in secret, to bringing false accusations against them.

Conflict arises when we want recognition from others but someone else stands in our way. Our flesh tells us to remove the obstacle by criticizing and judging others.

Politicians are a great example. Debates, TV ads, and bill boards are all designed to defame their opponents and gain an advantage. From a worldly perspective it seems to work, but the result is conflict, which is what we want to avoid.

To keep conflict out of a community, we have to watch what we say. Harmful speech doesn’t build others up, it only tears them down, creating tension between you and them.

How do we keep ourselves from speaking evil against another?

James’ tactic is to expose what evil speech and judging another actually does. He tells us speaking evil against, or judging another, means we speak evil against and judge the Law of God.

As if that is not bad enough, he takes it a step further, telling us we also take God’s right to judge away from Him. As our Creator, He has the right to judge us. We don’t have the right to judge another. When we act as judge, we infringe on God’s right.

What does James mean by judging another and the Law? 

For James, judging others holds the idea of criticizing another with slanderous remarks, or pronouncing their damnation when we have no basis to do so.

We speak evil against or judge the Law when we slander or judge others because the Law demands we love our neighbors.

In other words, we observe what the Law says, – love your brother – think through it, and decide it is not worth following. When we do that, we are essentially saying the Law’s command is wrong, and is not worth anything.

Conclusion

Conflict occurs in a sinful world. It doesn’t have to occur in our churches though. James provides the necessary tools to keep conflict at bay. He tells us:

If you want to avoid conflict, take James’ ideas and apply them to your life.

Question for Reflection

  1. How is your speech?

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How To Avoid Conflict In The Church | Part 3

How To Avoid Conflict Part 3

How Do We Avoid Conflict?

(3) Be a peacemaker by striving to be pure.

Those who are pure live opposite worldly wisdom. They live according to God’s Word: Peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.

James says, 

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (Jas 3:17–18)

The peaceable person avoids arguments or violent conflict. While those who are gentle are not harsh, but careful with others feelings. 

Those open to reason don’t live by the motto “My way or the highway.” Instead they are willing to sit down and discuss with others, even yielding their will at times when a moral or unalterable theological principle is not involved.

While those full of mercy and good fruits don’t hold sins against another. They are forgiving. They have love for their neighbor and are generous in giving to others in need. 

The impartial do not show partiality to one group over the other. While the sincere are not double-minded, but free from hypocrisy or playing a part, as well as they don’t hold to a double standard.

Summary

The pure are peacemakers, sowing peace in a community instead of conflict. So if you want peace, be a peacemaker instead of a peace breaker.

Looking Forward

The next post in this series suggests we can avoid conflict by not speaking evil against one another.

Question for Reflection

  1. Are you a peacemaker?

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How To Avoid Conflict In The Church | Part 2

How To Avoid Conflict Part 2

How Do We Avoid Conflict?

(2) Kill the passions at war within.

James lists several passions waging war inside us. Jealousy, covetousness, selfish ambition, and a desire to fulfill our pleasures. James says,

“But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” (Jas 3:14–16)

“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 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. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 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.” (Jas 4:1–4)

Jealousy and covetousness desires what someone else possesses. Selfish ambition doesn’t consider others. Conflict is sure to follow, if we allow jealousy and selfish ambition to take root in our hearts.

Jealousy and selfish ambition corrupt our thought life. Instead of celebrating another’s victories and success, we say things like, “Why are they getting all the recognition? I deserve recognition for my work, intellect, ideas more than they do. Who do they think they are stealing my glory? Taking the spotlight from me? Don’t they know who I am?”

When these sins take root in our heart, we will do whatever it takes to get what we want. Degrade others. Point our their failures instead of their successes. Turn a cold shoulder. Gossip or slander our opponent. Verbally or physically attack another, or even worse.

God doesn’t call us to strive for our desires, but His. He doesn’t call us to jealousy, but to turn from jealousy. He doesn’t call us to fulfill our sinful passions, but to do all we can to fulfill His will. It’s not easy. Our passions are at war in us desiring to please our sinful flesh.

How do we kill the passions at war within?

  • (1) Pray for the Lord to strengthen and purify us.
    • “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (Jas 4:8)
  • (2) Repent, turn from sin, and resist Satan’s temptations.
    • “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (Jas 4:7)
    • “Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” (Jas 4:8–10)
  • (3) Recognize our worldly desires put us at enmity with God.
    • “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. 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”?” (Jas 4:4–5)
  • (4) Realize the root of jealousy and selfish ambition is pride and a desire to be accepted.
    • “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God.” (Jas 4:6–7)
  • (5) Turn to the gospel in humility recognizing our acceptance from God is greater.
    • “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”” (Jas 4:6)
    • “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” (Jas 4:10)

The gospel reminds us Christ is supreme. He reigns as King. Christ is the greatest, not us. We are sinners who need a Savior, leaving us nothing to boast in but Christ. He is the all righteous, all powerful, almighty King, who went to the cross to die in our place in order to restore our relationship with the Father. When we believe in Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are accepted by the Father, and our relationship is made right.

Meditating on the gospel should kill our pride, as well as it should teach and remind us their is no greater acceptance than what we gain in Christ. Man’s acceptance is not necessary, its irrelevant, especially, when we realize we have the greatest acceptance of all – God’s.

Looking Forward

The next post in this series suggests we can avoid conflict by being a peacemaker.

Question for Reflection

  1. Are you Jealous of another’s position?

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How To Avoid Conflict In The Church | Part 1

How To Avoid Conflict Part 1

At home, work, or church conflict happens. It is not pretty. It is not desired. It causes riffs in our community, but it happens. With all the negative consequences, we wonder how can we keep conflict out? James offers the answer in his epistle. For the next four posts, I hope to provide some of James’ wisdom.

How Do We Avoid Conflict?

(1) Don’t promote yourself as wise.

Wise men don’t promote themselves as wise. They are given the title. James 3:13 says,

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.”

Apparently, some in James’ church claimed the status of wise man. They did so because they desired to lead the community. Knowing the leaders and teacher are wise men, they heralded themselves as wise in order to obtain the position.

James, however, tells us wise men are discovered through observation. Their good conduct and humility attest to their wisdom. As they follow the Lord, living according to His word in humility, serving others instead of themselves, they are recognized as wise.

Wise men recognize promoting themselves leads to conflict. Especially, if all or part of the community doesn’t agree, or if there is someone else promoting themselves. Those two are sure to butt heads causing unwanted conflict.

So then, the answer to avoiding conflict is to not promote ourselves, but let others recognize our wisdom through our actions.

Looking Forward

The next post in this series suggests we can avoid conflict by killing the passions within.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you do say things in order to promote yourself as wise?

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How To Know If You Are Wise

Wisdom

Are you wise? In other words, are you someone who has wisdom? How do you know? James helps us out in the third chapter of his letter. He says,

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.

The Wise Possess Two Things

James tells us a wise person possesses two things.

(1) Good Conduct – The wise are consistently obedient to God’s Word.

Consistent obedience to God’s Word results from an understanding of who God is and who man is.

God – He is our Creator, Judge, Savior. He is the all-knowing, ruler of the universe.

When we understand who God is, we should fear Him. We should stand in awe and reverence of Him, knowing He has the ability to punish.

Man – We are sinners who have been saved by an all-powerful God. 

When we understand who we are, we should want to know God’s Word and obey it. This is why wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord.

(2) Humility – The wise are not overly impressed by a sense of self-importance.

This again results from an understanding of who God is and who man is. When we view ourselves in the grand scheme of things, we realize we are not all that important.

Summary

Essentially James is saying those who are wise act in accordance with God’s Word and are humble in their actions. They serve God and others instead of serving themselves. They do not boast about their actions in a way that promotes themselves. Those who act in this way show they are wise.

So we see that James doesn’t assess someone’s wisdom by how much they know, but by how they act.

You can know everything there is to know about the Bible. You can read Greek and Hebrew. Recite all the stories and parables found in the Bible. Know the main themes and major shifts in every book of the Bible. You can have your doctrinal I’s dotted and theological T’s crossed. You can do all these things, and still not be wise.

It doesn’t matter how much you know, you are not considered wise unless you have good conduct and humility in your actions.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you meet James’ standard for wisdom?

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