What is the source of conflict among you? What is the source of your disputes? Don’t they come from your cravings that are at war in your own lives? You long for something you don’t have, so you commit murder. You are jealous for something you can’t get, so you struggle and fight. You don’t have because you don’t ask. You ask and don’t have because you ask with evil intentions, to waste it on your own cravings.
You unfaithful people! Don’t you know that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? Or do you suppose that scripture is meaningless? God jealously longs for our faithfulness in the life he has given to us? But he gives us more grace. This is why it says, God stands against the proud, but favors the humble. Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will run away from you. Come near to God, and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners. Purify your hearts, you double-minded. Cry out in sorrow, mourn, and weep! Let your laughter become mourning and your joy become sadness. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. -James 4:1-10
James writes that we have, "cravings that are at war in our own lives". These cravings cause conflicts, disputes, and even murder. These cravings result in jealousy, struggles, and fights. James writes that these things are the result of unfaithfulness and friendship with the world. God loves the world and wants the world saved (John 3:16) and so should we, with God's love. The friendship with the world that makes you an enemy of God is something different. God loves the world, but is not the world's friend.
Friendship is when you have things in common and fellowship around those things. The world is moving against and away from God. The Christian is moving with and toward God. So, the Christian cannot align with or friend the world and if he or she does, they have ceased to move toward and be a friend with God. James says you can not be on both teams.
God jealously longs for our faithfulness in the life he has given to us. The Bible tells us that God is a jealous God. His jealousy is not like human jealousy, that often is a wanting of something someone else has. God is jealous for us to be wholly His. The more we are in God, the better life we will have and God knows this. God wants to and deserves to be number one in our lives. The human illustration is that the married person wants to be the number one person in their spouse's life. If they are looking at others or sharing intimacy with others, the spouse is jealous, and rightly so; because they made vows to each other at their wedding to be faithful and we long for them to stay faithful and are jealous if they are not.
Our flesh craves the worldly things, but God jealously longs for our faithfulness, writes James. How do we get from unfaithful craving for the world to faithfulness to God? Grace. We need more grace. Got grace? Get more grace.
Grace is God's unmerited favor or his empowering presence. God has already made provision for our faithfulness. We don't earn the ability or work our way to it, but we must procure it. He activates you to act. You act in faith, by his faithfulness, through his grace.
James gives inspired instruction on how to extricate yourself from the world. How to stop the friendship with the world by cutting off those cravings, through fasting from the world.
This is what James says to do:
Humble yourself: Humble those cravings by starving them.
Submit to God: Re-set your self under God.
Resist the devil. Hold your ground and stand against the devil. The word devil is from diabolos witch means "the Slanderer (par excellence)": the quintessential, the best at it, slanderer. Slander is, "oral defamation, in which someone tells one or more persons an untruth about another which will harm the reputation of the person defamed". Character assassination and smear are words for slander. This is the devil's stock & trade. You can expect slander from mouths that the devil has commandeered and you can stand against it. James says that the devil will run away from you if you stand against him, while humbling yourself and submitting to God; seeking grace (God's unmerited favor & empowering presence).
What does the devil have to do with fasting from the world to find the kingdom? Why does James insert this counsel about deliverance into a section in his letter about out of control desires, repentance, and humility? Being in the world, but not of the world has it's pitfalls. James may have in mind, that when you are unfaithful to God, moving toward idolatry, you open a door for the dark side (the demonic) to get a foothold in your life.
The devil is only one person, but I assume that James means the devil's forces who carry out his attack on the church. Lies are the calling card of the devil's forces. They will lie about you, God, and others. If they get into your thoughts at all, they will be whispering lies. If the dark forces gain enough ground in a person's life, they fill there mind so much, that the person begins to (irrationally) speak out the lies of the enemy.
James reminds Christians that they are to simply resist the knock on the door and not answer.
The world is enemy territory, because of the fall of man. God's kingdom is taking it back, but the job is not done. The Christian who feeds from the unsanctified world will get sick and that is what James is addressing. Park of the sickness is "devil trouble". This trouble is not like getting severely attacked, but is like you opening a place where the attack can get in and start nesting.
James has instructions on how to unfriend the world:
Come near to God and wash your hands you sinners and purify your hearts you double-minded (repent), humbling yourselves before the Lord. James writes that the sin filled Christian can become a "spiritual schizophrenic" (double minded), which is when your soul or mind is split in two. Living a double life is not a good condition, but it is mentioned in this letter to Christians, because it is a common condition, in my opinion. If that is you, James has some instructions: we need to repent deeply.
Cry out in sorrow, mourn, and weep! We need to mourn and grieve. There are some of us who have issues of life, pain and sorrow that we have not released, and anger that is a volcano beneath our lovely spiritual, false-self masks.
Let your laughter become mourning and your joy become sadness. We have laughed and joked when we really need to cry. We need to cry tears and cry out to God for grace and mercy and repent.
Some of us joke about our sins and have rationales for each one. We have become cynical and are sarcastic, even about spirituality. This is all pride, that God can not bless: God stands against the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. That is the antidote, the path to God. Fasting from the world.