Mar 9

Session 3 Recap: Lane, “Godly and Ungodly Conflict”

2013 | by John Hunt | Category: Clarus 13

Editor’s Note: John Hunt is the Senior Pastor at Covenant of Grace Church in Albuquerque, NM. He is a member of the Albuquerque Chapter of The Gospel Coalition. This post is a summary of Timothy Lane’s message from Saturday morning at Clarus, March 9, “Godly and Ungodly Conflict,” from Jeremiah 17:5-10 and James 4:1-12.


Our relationships are in conflict all of the time. We know the biblical steps to reconciliation, but we seldom address conflict relative to the deeper issues of the heart. Dr. Lane showed us that the gospel of grace is the only godly response to conflict.

He first unpacked this by showing the spectrum that Christians tend to fall on in going about change. Moralists focus on behavior; Quietists focus on right thinking; but Covenantalists go beyond both behavior and right thinking. Christians are in covenant with God and can rely upon his promise of grace to help in all times.

Turning to James 4:1-12, Dr. Lane explained that you will encounter conflict. You can either respond in a godly or ungodly manner. James identifies the root of conflict to be internal desires rather than external circumstances (James 4:1-3). These desires (which may not be evil, in and of themselves) then increasingly progress into demands, needs, expectations, and disappointments. When we don’t get our desires met, we then punish others for not meeting our desires. Our unmet desires are the root of all conflict!

Do you then pray? Yes? No? Maybe? James points out that even when you pray, your prayers are too often rooted in selfishness. So we often wrongly pray for God to change the other person, while entirely ignoring ourselves.

Dr. Lane showed that this selfish and ungodly response must be deconstructed and then reconstructed. James directs our attention to the gospel of grace (James 4:4-10). By addressing his church negatively, James implies what they are and should be. In using the word “adulterous”, James is reminding them of their fundamental identity as the covenant bride of Christ. Even in the moment of sin, James reminds them that the Holy Spirit is jealously and zealously pursuing them. This is GRACE! And, incredibly, when we humble ourselves before him, he then pours out MORE grace.

The result of God’s grace is deep repentance. Now genuine change can begin to take place. Conflict is resolved, not by external behavior, but by internal transformation.

When I am confronted in conflict, the godly response then is to understand myself (James 1-3); understand the gospel with the accompanying intellectual faith and repentance (James 4-6); understand the other person (1 Peter 3:7-8); and then to seek to serve (1 Thessalonians 5:14). In all of this I must remember that Christ has justified me; therefore I have been received. Christ has sanctified me; therefore I need not sin. And because I belong to Christ’s kingdom, I don’t need to build my own kingdom (1 Corinthians 1:30).

In order for our horizontal relationships with others to be transformed and reoriented, our vertical relationship with God must first be transformed and reoriented — but only in that order.