James 4:1, 4-6, 11
1 Where do the conflicts and where do the quarrels among you come from? Is it not from this, from your passions that battle inside you? 4 Adulterers, do you not know that friendship with the world means hostility toward God? So whoever decides to be the world’s friend makes himself God’s enemy. 5 Or do you think the scripture means nothing when it says, “The spirit that God caused to live within us has an envious yearning“? 6 But he gives greater grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but he gives grace to the humble. 11 Do not speak against one another, brothers and sisters. He who speaks against a fellow believer or judges a fellow believer speaks against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but its judge.
“You also be patient and strengthen your hearts, for the Lord’s return is near.”
Ugh. Monday again. Before my feet hit the floor my mind is flooded with all that must be accomplished today. Pulling the blanket over my head only prolongs the agony and finally I relent and rise.
Aware of my Monday morning “blahs”, God’s grace intervenes and I become aware that my thoughts are not God-honoring. He will grant the grace to accomplish what needs to be done each day. A miracle happens – a changed disposition to one of gratitude. Another day to live and serve God!
If there were to be a magic bullet to the Christian life, it would be contained in the passage above. Recognizing the thoughts and deeds of the flesh and its inward driving passion and crucifying the misleading motivations frees us to live for Jesus and impact the world around us.
Like Paul, we often can find ourselves doing or thinking things that we are not even aware of. We strive toward vain pursuits or form opinions about our brothers and sisters without pausing to consider what we are doing.
What is the driving force behind our actions? What causes us to behave one way or another toward an event, an organization or an individual? The flesh. The flesh wants the things of the world, yet this friendship with the world puts us at enmity with God. Friendship connotates a deeper level of commitment than Scripture’s counsel of being in the world and not of it. It is a fascination and a desire for temporal things that distract us from what really matters.
There is so much energy invested in what the flesh wants, chasing after what we are convinced we need, yet perhaps we don’t really want to be a slave to the demands of our flesh, after all.
Everything done in the flesh counts for nothing. We are wise to pause to contemplate what is of the flesh and what is of the spirit. Why do we like some people and others we avoid? Could it be someone tried to form an opinion for us? Our flesh recoils at work we do not want to do or activities we do not want to participate in, yet maybe deep down we want to.
Again, like Paul, we do not really fully know what it is we want to do and the things we want to do we can hardly carry out. But there is hope. We are all flesh, but we have an inner spirit longing for the things of God, urging us on. What a gift. In the face of the battle of the flesh, grace wins. His grace, His Holy Spirit is greater.
Being acquainted with the world on an ever-increasing level leaves us empty. But knowing and hungering after God’s word fills us with an inner joy this world could never give and enables us to see the counterfeit the flesh wants us to chase after.
If we ask God to show us our shortcomings, He is faithful. The moment of revelation is humbling but also encouraging. For it is in the seeing of our sins that we can truly begin to be set free. As we nurture our spirit in the word of God, He enables us to really see the spiritual battle all around us – and defeat it.
Lord, You are faithful. Thank You for revealing the deeds of the flesh so we no longer have to be enslaved to its demands. Help us to seek after Your and Your righteousness above all else so we can recognize the emptiness of the flesh.