Selfish Ambition: The Enemy of God’s Will
Robert Wurtz II
In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in Heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in Heaven. (Matthew 6:9–10 NKJV)
From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. (James 4:1–4 KJV)
Nothing is more fundamental to a Christian than to know and do God’s will. We’re instructed by Jesus to pray that the Father’s will is done “on earth as it is in Heaven.” (Matthew 6:10, 12:50, 26:42, Luke 12:47, Romans 12:2) Suffice it to say there are no disputes over who gets to be on the right hand or the left in Heaven. The ambitious one (Satan) has been thrown down. There is only one will in Heaven, and it’s God’s. Likewise, as Christians, we should endeavor to know and do God’s will on the earth as it is done in Heaven. Sadly, this is impossible in an environment where men seek to exalt themselves on earth as Lucifer did in Heaven (Isaiah 14:13).
There are two types of people in churches; those who promote peace (James 3:18) and others that he identifies as “friends of the world” and “enemies of God” (James 4:4) who cause “wars and fightings” among God’s people (James 4:1). Acrimonious speech, slanderous accusation, unrestrained anger—all depict a jealous and divided community; it speaks of a church governed by wisdom from “below.” (WBC James 4:12, 5:9) It reveals a church of confusion and every evil work. Conflicts arise when people, motivated by jealousy and selfish ambition (James 3:16), expose the church to “wisdom” that is earthly, sensual, and demonic (James 3:15).
In the book of Acts, the saints gathered together to hear from God through the Holy Spirit. For example, in Acts 15:28, we have this phrase, “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us…” (Acts 15:28 NKJV) Notice the order. First, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit,” and then the Apostles added their “amen.” In Acts 13, we have another example, As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (Acts 13:2 NKJV) Notice who is in charge here. It’s not man; it’s the Holy Spirit. How do these examples compare with today’s methods of finding and implementing God’s will in the churches?
Pentecost or Parliamentary Strategy?
It is hard to find unity when worldly aspirations and men’s ambitions invade the churches. Jesus warned the Disciples in all three of the synoptic Gospels regarding secular power structures and the carnal desire to control people (“Lord it over”). In Matthew 20:26, Mark 10:43, and Luke 22:26, Jesus commanded the disciples, saying, “It shall not be so among you.” Greatness, according to Jesus, is measured not by our ability to control others but by our willingness to serve others. Jesus emphasized this because He knew that once the lust for power manifested, the enemy would divide the saints into factions and parties within the churches, just like in the secular world.
The wisdom that is “earthly, sensual, and demonic” manifests in unsuspecting ways. In modern times, most churches and denominations have chosen a different means of decision-making than we find in the book of Acts. Long ago church leaders opened the door for parliamentary strategies to supplant praying and fasting to ascertain and implement “God’s will.” Decisions about the direction of churches and denominations are determined by a secular construct. Let that sink in as we all march swiftly and surely towards the Judgment Seat of Christ.
Today, to “get ahead” in a church or denomination, the parliamentary strategist is most effective among people they believe are uneducated or unfamiliar with parliamentary procedure. The idea is that naïveté and nescience make people easy to manipulate. The internet is loaded with articles, books, and youtube videos on political and parliamentary strategies and examples of how to “wage war” or “get your way” in a business meeting. Can you imagine the Apostles resorting to these tactics in the book of Acts? Can you imagine Matthew or Barnabas kissing babies and shaking hands with the ladies to get their vote? The gates of hell would have already prevailed against the Church had such measures been in play.
Unlike the process in the book of Acts where the Holy Spirit separated ministers to the works He called them to do, people plot, scheme, obstruct and campaign for positions within the churches (usually secretly) and hope democracy goes their way. Can God’s will be achieved this way? In Pentecostal circles, the method of choosing leaders via “casting lots” in Acts 1:28 is believed to be “casting votes.” It is not. Others assert that the Old Testament methods using Urim and Thummim (1 Samuel 14:41) were only used before the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost. The NIBC comments, “We should be clear that they did not conduct an election.” We don’t know what method they used, but it was similar to Leviticus 16:8 when the priests “cast lots” to see which goat became the scapegoat. It should be sobering and alarming to realize that Acts 1:28 was not a democratic election.
Wars in the churches?
James asks, “From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?”
Can war happen in a church? Yes! It has before and it can happen again. Why? Because there is no limit to how far a person with aspirations and ambitions will go to gain a coveted position or have their way. We see it in secular politics all the time, but again, Jesus condemned this type of behavior in all three synoptic Gospels (Matthew 20:26, Mark 10:43, and Luke 22:26).
While many preach against “worldly” living, they ignore the fact that politics in ministry is as “worldly” of practice as the most liberal church on earth. James calls the promoters of this type of church politics, not prophets and priests, but adulterers and adulteresses (friends of the world). When men set a Christian organization up like God’s enemy would, is there any wonder He would call their actions adultery and the parties involved adulterers? Heaven doesn’t operate like a Gentile power structure — nor should the churches of God. Heaven is the example to earth on how God’s will ought to be done.
Wars and fightings are inevitable once people replace Pentecost with politics. Politicians typically employ strategies to “win” and get their way at any cost. The old movie classic Mr. Smith Goes to Washington comes to mind. For those who understand parliamentary procedures (RONR), you recognize tactics such as dilatory motions designed to stall business. Why? So that either “votes they need” will have time to arrive (to the business meeting) or votes that oppose their goals will get worn out, frustrated, or forced to leave the meeting. It’s all part of a “win at all cost” political strategy and has no relationship to the Book of Acts. Moreover, this behavior defies the explicit instructions of Jesus.
The only possible way we will ever find God’s will is to get in unity with the Holy Spirit. When people decide who they want to be in certain “offices” in ministry — they stop praying altogether. Why pray? They already know God’s will. Yet if ministers wanted God’s will done, they would end the democratic/political games and pray until the body heard from God and acted on it. Why do people say they want God’s will and refuse to come together biblically and try to ascertain it? How can we claim to be God-fearing, spiritual, and Bible-believing (much less Pentecostal) when we operate like the Republicans and Democrats? “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46 KJV.)
Are you concerned about who is going to “take the position” when it’s vacated? Have you lost sleep looking over your shoulder? Do you feel threatened that someone is “gunning for your position” in the church? If you can say yes to one or more of those questions it is almost a guarantee that what is being built is man’s kingdom and not God’s. Think about it. If it were truly God’s kingdom people wouldn’t be doing their own will. We would commend ourselves to God and the word of His grace and not be looking to “men” in this way. God wants to be king. This is as plain as it gets. Paul wept for three years while at Ephesus because he knew there were politicians wanting to take over that church (Acts 20). He seemed to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown worrying. That’s how serious this is! If we could feel the grieving of the Holy Spirit for all the politics going on in churches we couldn’t stop crying.
A Culture of Obstruction (You fight, war, and kill)
A good politician can wage war so that it leaves the opponent looking bad, not the politician. How will we ever move forward in God’s will if we operate like politicians? A politician never helps their opponent in any meaningful way. They covet the highest offices and will do what is necessary to get it. Politicians work for decades setting up policies that promote their political objectives. Again, Paul wept as he warned the Ephesians about this type of behavior. (Acts 20:30-33) Paul’s tears were reflective of the Holy Spirit’s view if it. The solution? Repent or perish.
One of the most disillusioning things for me was to realize that under the old Windows 95 operating system was the same old MS-DOS. Why? Because what you see is not what you get. For example, it was possible to prevent the loading of the graphical user interface and boot the system into a real-mode MS-DOS environment. The same is true when you realize that under all the preaching, praying, laying hands, tongues, tears, and the rest is this vicious political construct at the base of everything. Show me the boardroom and business meeting and let’s see if it’s Windows or MS-DOS. If we see something different, we should smell a rat (Matthew 7:15-23).
What happens in these environments? The kingdom of God suffers; the sheep get wounded and scattered; and the politicians continue with their glib — “adulterous” behavior. “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4). Adulteresses is a feminine term and is the general designation of all whom James here rebukes. The apostate members of the church are regarded as unfaithful spouses; according to the common Old Testament figure, God is the bridegroom or husband to whom his people are wedded. See Jeremiah 3; Hosea 2, 3, 4; Isaiah 54:5; 62:4, 5. Also, Matthew 12:39; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 19:7; 21:9.” (Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament)