The Desires That Battle Within

Sunday, December 01, 2013, 6:45 a.m. – the Lord Jesus woke me with the song “Fairest Lord Jesus” playing in my mind. Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read James 4:1-10 (NIV).

Hedonistic Desires

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

The word here for “desires” is literally “hedonism” - “devotion, especially a self-indulgent one, to pleasure and happiness as a way of life” (Encarta). This has to do with warring against our fellow humans’ best interests in order to fulfill our own fleshly lusts. This is the ultimate in selfishness, i.e. a person who seeks self at the cost of another. It is a philosophy which views pleasure as an idol which must be satisfied. This devotion to or desire for self-pleasure can be so strong and so powerful that some people may lose all sense of reason and personal responsibility and may throw themselves into all sorts of dissipation, and will fight vehemently against any and all which stand in their way to fulfillment of their desires. In fact, some people will go so far as to kill, or at least to hate passionately, their fellow humans in order to gratify this desire for self-pleasure. These are people who desire pleasure rather than God. In today’s culture, which is extremely pleasure-driven, this is a serious problem. It is one which ruins entire households, breaks up marriages, and destroys our relationships with our Savior and God, Jesus Christ. And, it is epidemic in today’s world.

Adulterous People

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”
The Greek word for friendship is “philia,” which means “friendship, affection, fondness, and love.” “Friendship” can be defined as a relationship, alliance (cooperation; agreement), attachment, familiarity, and/or partnership, as well as involved in friendship can be a fondness for another, mutual trust, and support. “Affection” can be defined as a “fond or tender feeling toward someone or something,” and “fondness” can be defined as an attachment (add-on; supplement) or as a preference for someone; experiencing pleasure and enjoyment, etc. (Encarta). So, how is friendship with this sinful world adultery?

For one, God views this type of internal drive for overindulgence in the pursuit of pleasure, which seeks self at the cost of another, as adultery. Between two married humans, adultery can often be defined as “voluntary sexual relations between a married person and somebody other than his or her spouse” (Encarta). Yet, I believe the Bible gives a much broader meaning to the word. Jesus said that if we lust after another we have committed adultery in our hearts. Physical intercourse between or among people does not have to be present for adultery to exist in a relationship between two people. Viewing pornography, for instance, is one form of adultery, as well as can be an obsession with romance novels.

Christ Jesus is the husband of the church, his bride. And, there is a reason God’s relationship with his people is often described in terms of a marriage. There are many parallels between our relationship with God and that of a bride and her husband. I believe the way in which God defines adultery in our relationship with him is also how he defines adultery in a marriage relationship. When we choose to please (gratify) ourselves and to do what we want to do regardless of the feelings of our spouse, that is a type of adultery, for we have chosen self and self pleasure over and above pleasing our mate.

And, the same applies to our relationship with God. When we choose to go our own way and to do what we want to do regardless of what God’s word teaches us that we are to do or not do, and when we give our hearts, passion, and affection to the people or things of this sinful world, and we partner with the world and join in with them in the things that they do, and we adopt their attitudes, values, and philosophies, this is adultery against God. The same applies in marriage. When a husband or wife ventures outside the marriage relationship to find the type of fulfillment (emotional or physical) that is to only be found in his or her spouse alone, to the detriment of the marriage, that is adultery. Many “affairs” begin in seemingly innocent relationships, which unguarded often lead to much more. We must guard our hearts from wandering away from our spouses to “other lovers” (human or not), and we must guard our hearts from straying from our pure devotion to Jesus Christ. The Bible says that where our treasure (passion; desire; love) is, there are hearts will be also. Watch what you desire. Choose God over devotion to pleasure and self-gratification.

Our God is a jealous God. When we “fall in love” with the pleasures of this world and they become what is upmost on our minds, and what drive us, and what we feel we must have to be happy and fulfilled; and when they become what fills up most of our free time, and what we talk about the most, and what gets most of our heart and passion and enthusiasm, and especially when, in going after them, we hate, kill, and mistreat others to reach our goal, then we need to step back and evaluate where we are, and we need to prayerfully look at what God’s word teaches concerning our relationship with God/Jesus Christ. We must turn from our idols and turn back to our “first love.” God does not want to share us with “other lovers,” much like most married couples I know do not want to share their spouses with other loves, either, whether they be physical people or other objects of affection that get more of our time, affection, honor and heart than that of our spouse. God jealousy desires our wholehearted faithfulness, devotion, love, commitment, honor, and affection. And, we should desire him above all else, and make it our goal to please him in every way.


Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

This word “submission” is key to all of this. To submit means to surrender; yield. To surrender means to “relinquish possession or control of something” (Encarta); to give up what we feel are our rights; or to lay down our arms (no fighting). To “yield” is defined as “to stop opposing or resisting each other, and to agree with someone’s demands or requests” (Encarta).

Wives are to submit to their husbands as they do to the Lord Jesus, yet scripture teaches that we are to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (See Eph. 5:21-22). Yet, we should never make compromises with sin or with the fleshly world, and we should never bow to false gods of men, and we should never agree to deny Jesus Christ or to stop speaking or praying in his name. And we should also not turn a blind eye to sin in our brothers and sisters in Christ, either, but we should speak the truth in love to them, spur them on to good works, and help them to be restored in their fellowship with God and with any whom they have sinned against.

In other words, submission does not involve compliance with what we know is wrong and is sinful or potentially hurtful to others. Even Paul said he was jealous for his people with a godly jealousy. So, submission to another should never overrule compassion, love, kindness, mercy and speaking the truth in love to our Christian family. In other words, a true understanding of Biblical submission takes into account that it is to be in like manner as we submit to our Lord, and it should involve reverence for Christ, so it should never involve anything that would be contrary to the gospel, to Christ’s teachings or to the divine character of God. Yet, where we can make compromise in order to bring peace, we should do that. We should be willing to give up our “wants” to please another.

As well, the remedy for selfishness and demanding what we want without regard to how we hurt others, and without regard to how we hurt our relationship with God, is we must submit to God and his will and purposes for our lives, and rather than resisting God we should resist the devil’s convincing voice which tells us we should demand what we want and not yield. Then we should draw near to God through time spent in prayer and in his word and in doing what his word teaches. As well, we must humble ourselves before God, weep over our sins of rebellion and spiritual adultery, turn from these sins and allow the Spirit of God to purify our hearts so that we are no longer double-minded, trying to love God and the pleasures of this world at the same time. And, we should return to our “first love,” and allow the “Living Water” to be what satisfies the longings of our hearts.

Fairest Lord Jesus / Schonster Herr Jesu
/ Joseph Seiss / Schlesische Volkslieder

Fairest Lord Jesus, Ruler of all nature,
O Thou of God and man the Son,
Thee will I cherish, Thee will I honor,
Thou, my soul’s glory, joy and crown.

Fair are the meadows, fairer still the woodlands,
Robed in the blooming garb of spring;
Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer,
Who makes the woeful heart to sing.

All fairest beauty, heavenly and earthly,
Wondrously, Jesus, is found in Thee;
None can be nearer, fairer or dearer,
Than Thou, my Savior, art to me.

Beautiful Savior! Lord of all the nations!
Son of God and Son of Man!
Glory and honor, praise, adoration,
Now and forever more be Thine.