Friday, March 4, 2011

James 4 - The Idol of Self

C. S. Lewis said “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.” Although that is overly simplistic in many ways, it is essentially the message of the beginning James 4. When passion for personal fulfillment and pleasure becomes the goal of life rather than the glory of God, we have created an idol and true meaning and purpose in life dissipate. We were created for God’s glory, not our own pleasure, and although God provided us a world with many pleasures to enjoy, and those pleasures are good, when they become our focus point we end up in idolatry.

Although this passage is aimed primarily at believers, it can be used to speak to those outside of Christ as well. The idolatry that the believers James was talking to were sliding into is the same idolatry the average non-believer lives in every day. We all have our god, our object of worship, and for most people it is themselves. A person may claim the name of some other deity or religious affiliation, but if they have chosen that belief system purely because it allows them to pursue their own pleasure with a minimum of interference, in reality they are their own god.

One challenge I frequently use when preaching is asking people to examine their world view. What do they believe, and how do they know it to be true? Since living purely for self has become such a part of our society that it is assumed to be true by most of the population, we need to challenge it directly. I would encourage you to challenge people in this area, whether in open-air preaching or one-to-one witnessing. A few well placed questions are usually enough to show a person they have no basis for what they believe. They may not be willing to admit it, but you can generally tell.

The end of the chapter also reminds us that life is uncertain, and we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. This is something we should always remind non-believers of. Many want to get right with God after they have had their fun, but none of us can be sure we will have that option. Sharing that fact, and showing genuine concern about their souls and their eternal condition, is a great punctuation mark on the end of your message. But make sure it is sincere. If you only share out of duty, and don’t feel a real, heart-felt compassion for the lost, it’s time to spent some time on your knees before God. I know I have had to do so many times.


If you are a believer in Christ, this passage warns you, as it warns me, not to get caught up in the things of this world

Pleasure and enjoyment are fine, and are gifts from God. But when they become the end, rather than the glory of God being the end, they have become an idol.

James says those he addressed were at war with their passions, and were led into serious sin. James referred to them as adulterous.

They substituted love of God for love of self.

They substituted worship for self indulgence.

They focused on personal pleasure rather than on the things of God.

We need to be at war with our passions, remembering that we exist to glorify God, not to please ourselves.

Friendship with the world is enmity with God

Come before God in humility and beg for His forgiveness, asking for the strength to obey Him

Believers, God will give you the strength you need

For those outside of Christ, does this sound silly?

You may think I’m a fool, and that the idea of a God is foolish.

You may believe that the only think that makes sense is living for self, following your heart

But the Bible says that the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. You can’t always trust your heart, and if you think carefully, you will find that to be true.

Who knows what you need better than He who created you?

Who is your god? If you reject the God of the Bible, who do you follow?

Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Follow the money. What do you spend your time and money on?

Everyone worships, or devotes themselves, to something, and everyone has an underlying world view to back that up. You may not call that thing or person god,
but they are the equivalent, none the less

Your god is about more than your religious affiliation. It’s about what has ultimate value to you. And you chose your values based on what you believe and acknowledge to be true.

What do you believe to be true? How do you know that to be true?

My opinion doesn’t matter, and your opinion doesn’t matter. Only what is actually true matters.

To clarify, pleasure is not, in itself, evil. But pleasure sought outside of the parameters of God’s law, is.

The Bible says the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. The truth is, there is a God, and you’re not Him.

The Bible says friendship with the world is enmity with God. He who becomes a friend with the world becomes an enemy of God. Are you living as an enemy of God?

You may say you love God, and maybe you do. But He says if you love Me, you will keep My commandments, and those who claim to love Him while ignoring His commandments are liars. How have you done?


We are guilty before God, and deserving of judgment. All of us deserve death and hell.

But God is not only a just judge but a loving Father. And He demonstrated that love in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.


God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble. Submit yourself to God. Turn to Him in repentance, with clean hands and a pure heart.

There is only one lawgiver and judge, one able to save and destroy, the Lord Jesus Christ. Be He tells us He didn’t come into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. Trust in Him alone for your salvation.

Don’t wait. Repent and trust in Christ alone, while God continues to be patient with you.

We will all die once, and then be judged, and none of us is promised even one more day of life

We are a mist that appears for a little while and vanishes. You do not know what tomorrow will bring.

God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that they turn and live. Turn to Christ today, and live.

I pray that this outline will be a blessing and encouragement, and that souls will be saved.

For the praise of His glory,



  1. Hi Dan, thanks so much for this post as it is very timely. We are preaching and witnessing tomorrow at the CIAA tourney in Charlotte, NC, and I am hoping to open-air for the first time, Lord willing. This outline you presented (as with others from Project Ezra), is the idea to read the outline out loud? Or is it just a general guideline from which to preach?

    I've printed it out and will be going over it. There's lots of parties and hoopla scheduled for downtown Charlotte tomorrow, so this outline and passage from James 4 is perfect.

    Thank ya'll for the work you are doing here on this blog.

    By His Grace,


  2. Great post, Dan. Good timing for me as well. I plan to use some of these truths in my lesson at Kids Club next week when we will be going over Commandment #2.

  3. Justin and Nancy,
    Thanks for the encouragement. Justin, the outline is meant to be a framework for your preaching. Although you would want to expand on the Law and Grace sections, I try to make each outline more or less a complete message, so it's up to you. I usually try to find a couple of key points at the least to focus on, and just see what the Lord does with the rest. I'll be praying for your presentation.



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