James 020 – Avoid WorldlinessJames 4:1-4 • Dr. Andy Woods • March 24, 2021 • James
In the book of James 4:1 and we are continuing this evening with our verse-by-verse study through the book of James. James, as you know, is a book about how to live as a Christian. Francis Schaefer said, ‘How then shall we live?’ That is what the book of James is about. It isn’t a book about positional righteousness, the way much of both Romans and Ephesians are, it is a book about practical righteousness. As we have talked about, the first part of the book is about how a Christian continues to live by faith (James 1:1-3:12).
So, how do we continue to trust God as believers? We adopt God’s vantage point on trials that come into our lives (1:2-18); we obey God’s Word (1:19-27); we don’t show favoritism in the assembly (James 2:1-13); we allow the faith that is in us to manifest itself in good works so that our faith becomes useful (2:14-26), and then we learn to control our speech (James 3:1-12).
By the time we get to the end of James 3, he is no longer dealing specifically with trusting God in the midst of life’s difficulties, but he has moved into wisdom. Wisdom is knowledge applied so that we learn to take God’s truth and apply it to daily life. It is hard to do that unless we understand what wisdom is, so James defines it in 3:13-18. He says that wisdom is identified by her actions (3:13); he draws a contrast between wisdom from below (3:14-16) and wisdom from above (3:17-18). He gives us a wonderful definition of what wisdom is and isn’t.
Then he says for us to take it out for a test drive and learn to apply it to every area of life. He is going to deal with wisdom related to spirituality, to commerce, to use of wealth, to waiting for the Lord’s return; to prayer and to restoring the erring brother, but the first topic that he applies wisdom to is spirituality. And that is the paragraph that we began last time, and now we will try to work our way into that this evening.
How do we apply wisdom to spiritual life? We avoid wrangling (James 4:1-3) and worldliness (4:1-6). One of the nice things about the Bible is that it isn’t merely a book of ‘don’ts’ — as in don’t wrangle, don’t be worldly, etc., but it is also a book of betters. Rather than wrangling and worldliness, we learn to embrace the essence of spiritual wisdom which will be described in 4:7-12.
The first thing he talked about is to avoid wrangling. He addressed a problem that was occurring in this particular assembly, and he says in 4:1, “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you?” He is dealing with Christians who can’t get along with each other, ie, brothers and sisters in Christ who can’t get along with each other; he is also dealing with people within the same church who can’t get along with each other; within the same denomination, etc. He is dealing with something that happens in many places: conflict in the Body of Christ. That is the issue that he is bringing up, so it is amazing how practical the Bible is, amen?
Then he moves from the problem to the source, ie, what causes these issues, and last time, we saw the source. He says into James 4:1 and into 4:2, “Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?” ‘You lust,’ now lust is something that comes out of the heart; it is desiring what God has forbidden. ‘You lust and do not have, so you commit murder. You are envious,’ which is a heart issue, and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. So, he is talking about the fact that a lot of these conflicts that occur between believers, not necessarily every conflict, but a lot of them, are related to this problem of the sin nature.
When Jesus was talking about the sin nature, mentioned relational sins coming out of the sin nature. In Mark 7:20-23, He talks about “…out of the man…from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality…” Here come the relational sins: “…envy, slander, pride and foolishness…” So, when James is talking about quarrels from within, Jesus is dealing with the same subject here in Mark 7 where He talks about envy and slander. In other words, you lust for something that God has given to somebody else — whether it is a career, a financial status, a reputation, academic pedigree, etc. Whatever it is, they play the piano, sing better than you or I do, maybe they preach or teach better than you; have a bigger following, better liked, etc, and you see that kind of situation, and it stirs up the sin nature into envy. Instead of going to God with that heart issue, then the temptation becomes to start to tear down someone behind their back, because they’re prettier, or more handsome, more talented than you are, etc. As that happens, you begin to commit murder in your heart and to destroy —out of envy.
Jesus says that all these evils come from within and defile the man. James is saying that this is actually the source of so much tension within Christianity and within the church. It doesn’t have anything to do with the church needing a personality profile examination to get people of similar temperaments to work together. You might have seen these temperament tests where they take personality types and divide them into different categories and promise that if you complete the survey and inventory and follow their advice, then church conflicts will cease because you will get people with the right temperaments and leadership styles working together.
That is what you would call a superficial humanistic psychological analysis. James is not dealing with it from a psychological perspective; he is dealing with it from an issue of depravity. Just because you got saved, doesn’t mean that you’re sin nature just disappeared. Can I get an Amen on that? The fact of the matter is that although the sin nature has been disabled in the sense that you don’t have to go back to it, is always there to entice you to return to it. These different sins here are the works of the flesh that emanate from the sin nature that Jesus is describing in Mark 7. So, when the Christian returns back to the sin nature, which is something they do, not because they have to, but because they want to do it, what happens often, is that these relational sins come to the forefront. James says that is the source of conflict, I wouldn’t say every conflict, but of many conflicts within the Church.
James has identified a problem, and one of the things I love about the Bible, and this convinces me more than anything that the Bible has to be from God, is that it is so honest about us. Look at it and you will have to say, ‘Oh my goodness, that is true; that’s me right there in that verse.’
That is the source of the problem often, so it is an internal source. Another reason for the problem relates to prayerlessness, and that is where we left off last time. He says here in the second part of James 4:2 that ‘you do not have because you do not ask.’ What happens is that someone has something that we don’t have, and instead of going to the Lord to ask Him for that particular thing, that we think we are lacking, we don’t do that, — we don’t go to God with this envy issue, rather we basically move into slander.
It is akin to the old proverbial crab climbing out of the bucket. As the crab is climbing out of the bucket, what do the rest of the crabs do? They pull the ascending crab back down because his or her attempt to climb out makes the playing field unlevel. Once the playing field is unlevel, that exposes an inadequacy in us, and that is akin to what we are like in our sinfulness. We really don’t like it when other people are blessed more than we are. Let’s be honest. ‘It is okay if they are blessed, but not more than I am, please.’ So rather than going to the Lord, saying that ‘I want to be blessed, too,’ we move into slander.
James says the root of the problem is the sin nature and prayerlessness. The fact of the matter is that prayer seems like a pointless activity to many people, but it has tremendous power. We completely underestimate the power of prayer. In fact, in this same book, one chapter later will say, ‘A prayer of a righteous person when it is brought about can availeth or accomplish much.’ In other words, the prayer of a righteous man or woman is powerful and effective. Elijah, as we will learn in James 5, was able to alter the weather for 3 ½ years simply through prayer. To pray requires faith, and often, we aren’t operating on the basis of faith, but on the basis of our sin nature, so rather than move into prayer, we move into murder in our hearts and to slander.
If someone is being blessed, and I think there is an inadequacy in me because they’re being blessed, then if I go to the Lord asking Him for something, will the Lord hear and answer me? I think you would be surprised at how frequently God will answer. Jesus said, in Matthew 7:7-11, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” These are all verbs that are present tense verbs: ask, seek, and knock. ‘I have asked the Lord and He hasn’t opened anything up to me.’ Well, have you kept asking is what it is saying here. Ask and keep asking. Then it says to seek and keep seeking, to knock and keep knocking. Then Jesus says in Matthew 7:8, “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” We all know how to bless our children. Your daughter or son asks for something, and we know to give, as parents, to provide, to be a blessing to them; we even know how to spoil them a little bit, don’t we? Particularly if grandparents are involved, then you get a lot more spoiling. He doesn’t mention grandparents here, but they would be included, I guess.
So, if we as human beings who are corrupted by a sin nature, know how to bless our children when they ask, then why would we think that God in heaven would be any different? God wants to bless us just as we want to bless our children, yet He, unlike us, doesn’t even have a sin nature. So, the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. You go to the Lord because you want something, you see someone else who has something, and instead of moving into anger you just ask the Lord to be blessed in the way that He has for you. I don’t think that there is anything wrong in asking for that because the Bible tells us to ask, and it will be given. In fact, James says that is the root of the problem: people spend so much time worrying about what someone else has that they don’t spend any time in prayer petitioning God. Because they don’t go to the Lord first, they move into envy, then envy into slander. James says that this is what is causing conflict within the assembly — it is coming from the sin nature and from prayerlessness.
Jesus, in Luke 18, told this very interesting parable about the unrighteous judge. It says, “Now He was telling them a parable to show them that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, saying, “In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man.” There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’ Looks like she had a legitimate request for legal protection. “For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, [it is kind of interest that the judge is now saying that about himself, not only does God say that he doesn’t fear God or respect man, but he is saying of himself that he doesn’t fear God or respect man. Not really a great guy] …yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge said; now will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, [so there is the continual petitioning and prayer—day and night]… and will He delay long over them? “I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”
The point of this whole thing is that Jesus says people ought to pray and ought not to faint, and He tells the story of the judge who was moved to action even though he couldn’t have cared less about this lady, he was moved to action simply because she kept petitioning him. If God is the judge, and He is not, because He has a perfect character, that is, He isn’t like this judge at all because He isn’t like one who has no fear of God or respect for man. This judge is limited by a sin nature that God is not limited by. So, it is sort of an argument from the lesser to the greater. If this callous judge heard this widow just because of her continual petitions, how much more will God in heaven move His hand for His children, His elect, His chosen? Because they also continually petition Him.
However, when the Son of Man comes will He find faith on the earth? In Greek, that verse requires a negative answer meaning that when the Son of Man comes, He won’t find faith on the earth. Why not? Because men and women will have fainted away rather than prayed. That is why Jesus told this whole parable — to encourage people to pray. James, I think, is surfacing the same point because we don’t pray and go to God with things as we should, and we try to resolve situations in our sin nature. So, what is the source of conflicts and quarrels among you? It materializes through relational sins that emanate from the sin nature, and it also materializes because we give way to those things rather than go to the Lord with repetitious, consistent prayer because we really don’t have the faith to believe that God will answer us when the Bible is telling us that God wants to hear, to answer, because just as we know how to bless our children, God knows how to ask us. So, whatever it is you think you need or want, rather than moving into envy and slander, James is saying to take it to the Lord. Because we aren’t taking these things to the Lord, we are trying to resolve them in our sin nature, and conflict is resulting in the Church.
What is the problem? Relational conflict among Christians. What is the source of it? Sin nature and prayerlessness. In James 4:3, he talks about how often our prayers are misdirected. “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.” Often, we will go to the Lord in prayer and God doesn’t answer us because we are asking for selfish reasons. We aren’t saying, ‘Lord, make me wealthy so I can help the poor.’ It is more like, ‘Lord make me wealthy so I can go on more cruises on the Riviera.’ ‘Lord, make me talented so that I can be a blessing to as many people as possible.’ That isn’t really our heart, our heart is ‘Lord, give me a talent to do something so that I can attract attention to myself and become popular.’
The moment that we move out in prayer in that way, God has no obligation to answer us because 1 John 5:14 says that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. This is why, so often, our prayers don’t get much higher than the ceiling — because they’re self-serving, narcissistic; prayers that are really more about us than God and how He does things. Of course, this is the error of the prosperity gospel which is the idea that you are the ‘kid of a King,’ and because of that, you are entitled to certain things, such as a life of health, wealth and prosperity. If you aren’t experiencing those things, then it relates to your lack of faith. So what the whole doctrine does, and they teach this around the clock, sadly on so-called Christian television, not all Christian television, but an awful lot of it — the ‘Word of Faith Movement,’ I call it the ‘Blab It and Grab It Movement,’ where you speak something, and God is obligated to answer because you are the ‘kid of a King’, making you entitled to a life of health, wealth and prosperity. The problem is that you go into the third world, and you see Christians suffering who are very spiritual, and they don’t have an awful lot by American standards. It is interesting that this health and wealth gospel has the tendency to run out of steam once you get beyond the borders of the US. The US has an economy that can support this type of doctrine; other nations do not.
But the error of the prosperity gospel is that it turns God into your servant. What did Jesus say repeatedly in His relationship to the Father? ‘Not My will be done, but Thy will’…. Prosperity gospel is the exact opposite; it is all about me and my will, and it turns God into a cosmic bellhop, so to speak. By the way, if God answered every narcissistic prayer, ‘Lord, make me rich and famous for my own power or glory,’ that would be the equivalent of a parent who gives their child everything they ever wanted. We know how that ends; the child will be very spoiled in life, and we would be, too, if God gave us everything that our narcissistic desires want. In fact, the worst thing that God could ever do to you would be to give you everything you want.
Isaiah 55:8-9, God says, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So, are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.” If you are going to the Lord to petition Him for something, and He doesn’t give it to You, take the ‘No’ as a good thing rather than as a bad thing — because God has something better for you that will not destroy you.
So, it is a different way of looking at conflict within the assembly; where does the conflict come from? It comes from the sin nature moving into the relational sin; from prayerlessness, because we don’t go to God with the issue, or when we do go to God with the issue, it relates to misdirected prayer because we are asking with the wrong motive.
James says that rather than being envious, go to the Lord in prayer, and before you approach the Lord in prayer, make sure that your heart is right and that you are petitioning Him for something that will advance His purposes, not merely something narcissistic or self-serving. If we did that, James says that a lot of conflict within Christianity would cease — just those three verses in James 4:1-3. That is what he is getting at when he says to avoid wrangling.
As you go down to 4:4-6, he says to avoid worldliness. “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us?” But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.”
How do we take divine wisdom and apply it to spiritual daily life? Number 1, we avoid wrangling? The second thing we do is to avoid worldliness. The word, “world” is ‘cosmos’ which is where we get the word, ‘cosmopolitan’ which was also a magazine at one time, but it is appropriately named for the attitude of the world towards fashion, etc. The world here is not talking about the globe or the sphere, but about the philosophy of the age; the world. The Bible is very clear that ever since the fall of man in Eden, that satan has been the rule of this world, and it will remain under his authority until the return of Christ. That is why satan, ‘(see the Scripture verses) is described as:
- The Prince of this world —John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11
- The god of this age — 2 Cor 4:4
- The Prince and power of the air — Eph 2:2
- The one who the believer wrestles with; thus, our need to put on the whole armor of God since we are living on enemy territory — Eph 6:12
- The one who roams about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour — 1 Peter 5:8
- Using that same Greek word, ‘cosmos’ that the whole world lies in the lap of the wicked one— 1 John 5:19
In fact, in the very earliest book of the Bible, the book of Job, God asked satan where he came from, and in Job 1:7 and Job 2:2, satan said ‘from going over the earth to and fro over the earth.’ Why would satan say that? Because he has the authority over the earth. He is the one who energizes the zeitgeist, I think, ie, the spirit of the age, the philosophy of the age; he is the source of energy behind it.
Jesus was tested by satan in the Judean wilderness for 40 days and one of the things satan offered Jesus in Luke 4:5-8, was all the kingdoms of the world. ‘For they have been given to me,’ satan says, presumably by Adam, ‘and I can give them to whomever I want.’ It isn’t that God is not sovereign and doesn’t intervene; He obviously does, but all things considered, without the intervention of God, it is satan who runs the course of the present world.
So, these insurance companies call certain events ‘acts of God.’ That has never sat right with me. Why don’t we just blame the guy who is in charge? Why don’t we call these acts of satan? That is why our world, Romans 8:19-22, is personified as being in a state of groaning — it is yearning for its liberation from satanic bondage when Jesus returns with His angels who are called, ‘the sons of God.’ So, when James 4: 4 says, “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? [He uses the Greek word, ‘cosmos,’ that is what he is speaking of: the zeitgeist, the energy or philosophy of the age, masterminded ultimately by satan himself.
You have a wonderful, maybe wonderful isn’t the best chance of words, but it is an accurate description of how the world system operates in 1 John 2:15-17. John, speaking to the believers says, “Do not love the world [that is ‘cosmos’] nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh [the enticement of the world to use one’s body against God. You can put any number of sins in that category: sexual immorality, drug abuse, those all go under the category of the lust of the flesh] … the lust of the eyes [covetousness] and the boastful pride of life, [living by your own way of thinking as if God doesn’t exist at all] is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; [the world system looks so permanent, but the Bible tells us that it is passing away, in other words, its days are numbered] … but the one who does the will of God lives forever.”
Those are the three ways that the world system operates: lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life. That is the source of energy or philosophy in the fallen world in which we now live. The world seeks to alienate our affections from God to itself. That is how the world system operates in the mind of every single child of God; there is a perpetual tendency to want to be like the world and its value system rather than the things of God. So, the world system, whether it is through television, newspaper, keeping up with the Jones;’ it is the whole system, and it wants to alienate our God away from God and to its own value system. And that is foolish, John says, because the world is passing away. You fall in love with the world is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The fact of the matter is that until the world system is destroyed by the Lord, and He will destroy it one day, it is a very real enemy in the life of the Christian.
In fact, the moment that you trusted Christ as your Savior, you inherited three enemies that you didn’t have before. So, your life was going along just fine, then you got saved, and now the Lord says that you have three new enemies you didn’t have previously. You say, ‘Lord, I don’t want any enemies,’ and the Lord said, ‘I never asked your opinion; this is just how it is for now.’ So, your enemies are: the world, which is what we are describing here; the flesh, didn’t we describe that earlier in the paragraph? The world, the flesh and the devil. You will be in conflict with those until your dying day or until the rapture, and fortunately, the Lord has given us resources to overcome each enemy.
You have to know what your resources are, and you need to appropriate them by faith moment-by-moment. If you aren’t doing those two things, ie, you don’t know what your resources are as a Christian, and if you aren’t appropriating them by faith, then you are simply a defeated Christian. You are going to heaven, your fire insurance is paid up, but you are perpetually tyrannized by these three enemies.
So, the name that I give this concept is three-dimensional warfare. This is something that we need a lot more teaching on; otherwise, we will be victims for our entire Christian life, and we will never bear the fruit that God would have us to do. James is talking here about the first of the three: the world system. Romans 12:2 says, “And do not be conformed to this world [‘cosmos’], but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, [the Phillips translation says, ‘Do not let the world squeeze you into its mold’ — that is what the world system is doing in our lives now as our enemy — it is pressing us away from God’s value system into the way it thinks on countless issues and lifestyle choices.
The world system is extraordinarily powerful. Paul said this of one of his ministry companions at the very end of his life regarding Demas. There is no doubt in my mind that Demas was a Christian and that we will see Demas in heaven one day. To me, it is unthinkable that Paul would put someone whose salvation is in doubt onto his own ministry team; this would make no sense. A lot of theological systems say, ‘Well, Demas either lost his salvation or wasn’t saved at all.’ I don’t accept that; I think that he was very much a blood bought saint, but Paul says of Demas, “…for Demas, having loved this present world, [you mean the world that John says is passing away? Yes, that world system. You mean, it is the same Greek word, ‘cosmos?’ Yes it is]… “has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica;…”.
In other words, this is a guy who was basically with Paul at the beginning, and he bailed out on Paul. Why? Because something happened in his mind where the world system got the upper hand, and he became intoxicated with the zeitgeist, the energy of the philosophy of the time, whatever the issue was, that his affections became alienated from God. He is one, who I think will be in heaven, but will not be fully rewarded at the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ.
I bring this passage up because that is the power of the world system. Don’t underestimate your enemies. As your coaches used to tell you in athletics, ‘Respect but don’t fear your opponent. But you must have respect for them. And you have three enemies, but you needn’t be afraid of them because God has given you resources in every area, but you must respect them. Respect them on the grounds that they must be pretty powerful, or God wouldn’t have warned you about them, while equipping you to spiritually overcome each of them.
The book of James, if you have been a careful student with us, has already warned us about the world system. In James 1:27, James says, “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” There is our Greek word, ‘cosmos.’ James is saying that if you really want to practice true piety, then be a person of blessing to the needy, and also keep yourself unstained from the world. You read that and say, ‘Well, James, I’d like some more information on the world system.’ James responds, ‘I am glad you asked. I will pick up that subject, thank you very much, in James 4:4.’
So, what are the consequences of becoming worldly; of becoming like Demas? Number one, you become an enemy of God, or you come into enmity against God. It is right there in 4:4 where he says, “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” You will notice the expression here, ‘adulteresses.’ Who is James’ audience? Christians; believers, but they are also Hebrews. These are Hebrew Christians. They knew Hebrew Bible, I would assume. In fact, James tells us in James 1:1 that they are from among the twelve tribes that have been dispersed. When James says, “You adulteresses,” they knew exactly what he was talking about because that is what God called Israel, did He not? Over and over again when they became like the surrounding nations and stopped being a distinct people. Read the whole book of Hosea; that is the point of the book — how the northern kingdom had become a prostitute, a harlot. Read Ezekiel 16 and 23 — the whole chapters, and you will see God calling Jerusalem and the southern kingdom a prostitute and harlot. He does it with some of the most graphic sexual imagery I know of in the Bible. In fact, I call those chapters Christian pornography. If you want to read some pornography in the Bible, read Ezekiel 16 and 23. I am trying to make a point that it is very graphic.
As a betrayed spouse would feel upon learning that the husband or wife of their youth is carrying on with someone else, that is what happens to the heart of God when God’s people become worldly. They become at enmity with God, and of course, they would, because who is engineering the world system? God’s enemy, satan. It is a totally different value system. In fact, Revelation 17, the one world religious system of the last days that we talk a lot about, what is it called? The Great Harlot; the mother of harlots. A Jewish audience, when they see the word, ‘harlot,’ they understand the analogy well to physical harlotry, adultery.
So when we fall in love with the world system becoming like Demas where our affections are alienated from God, He looks at it as an adulteress. Now the opposite is true. In the upper room, Jesus, John 15:18-19, said ,“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.” In other words, ‘Don’t feel bad if the world hates you, it hates Me as well, and it hated Me long before you became My disciples.’ “If you were of the world [our word, ‘cosmos’], the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.”
So, when you decide to walk out the life of discipleship with the Lord Jesus Christ, don’t expect the world system, with its hostile values, to stand up and applaud. Don’t expect your colleagues to stand up and applaud, nor should you expect your family members to stand up and applaud, and God forbid, in some cases, don’t expect your fellow church members to stand up and applaud. Don’t expect the world to embrace you; don’t expect to be the next speaker at the Grammy Awards, or whichever awards it is where they all give awards to each other, some of the most depraved people on planet earth. You probably won’t be invited to speak at an event like that. That is just how it is. If I could, I would probably try to get along with everyone. That is how my personality is, but Jesus is saying that it is impossible because the moment you embrace Christ’s value system is the moment the world will start to despise you, particularly the more serious you become about Jesus Christ. When we were ‘in the world,’ Romans 5:10 tells us that we were enemies of God. Now that we are in Christ, we are the enemies of the world.
See how James is giving one side of the equation: if a Christian falls in love with the world, they become an enemy of God, and Jesus, in the upper room, is giving the other side of the equation: if we fall in love with Jesus and walk with Him, then the world will hate us. So, we will be hated by someone. We will be judged by someone. The question is Who do you want to be judged by? The world or by God? When you put it that way, I think I would rather be judged by the world, because being judged by God is much more severe. The world’s judgment can be very severe, but temporary; God’s judgment seems to last a lot longer as far as I can tell.
If you want to know how this plays out, at least in my life, it relates to the area of evangelical scholarship. We are studying, at this church on Sunday mornings, the book of Genesis, and as I am studying it, I see multiple points where everything in Genesis contradicts everything the world system is teaching. There is no evolution in Genesis; there is an ex nihilo creation, and a lot of evangelicals are playing games with the book of Genesis. Why? Because they don’t want to stand out like a sore thumb, ‘so let’s just take the Book of Genesis, and massage it a little, then we can come up with an interpretation that the world may like us more. So, let’s stretch out the creation days even though the Bible does not permit us to do that, hermeneutically. Let’s shrink the flood to a local event, that way, we can hold on to the interpretation of the fossil record over billions of years rather than through a catastrophe,’ etc. And as you continue to go through Genesis, there is temptation after temptation to alter the book of Genesis in a public ministry with the hopes that the world system will like you better. The problem with doing that is that you have to answer to the Lord. So, you must decide who it is that you will be despised by. As for me and my house, I would prefer to be judged by the world than by God, as a teacher of God’s Word who has stood before people but didn’t represent His Word correctly. Being called out by God for that is to me, a more fearful thing than people thinking that I am some unscientific, unsophisticated buffoon.
The great secret of the whole thing is that even if you take the book of Genesis, and turned it into a pretzel, the world system still wouldn’t like you. We do all this compromising, hoping they will like us more, but at the end of the day, they don’t want anything to do with us. So, why in the world would I spend all my time trying to impress a lot of people who hate my guts anyway? It is much wiser use of your life and your time to be pleasing to the Lord. Yet we play this kind of game where we try to have our feet in both worlds.
As I am speaking, the Holy Spirit is probably convicting you of different things. I bring up things related to teaching in the book of Genesis because my temptations may not the same as yours, but I have them as much as you do. You may be facing an entirely different set of issues that I am not facing, but the fact of the matter is that we are all living in the same zeitgeist, or world, and we are all tempted to become worldly. James is saying that when we become worldly, there is a consequence of developing enmity with God. Satan doesn’t want me to give this message today, because he keeps causing horns to honk.
What did Jesus say in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” In fact, it is very interesting that the name ‘wealth’ here is mammon, and when you track down mammon, that is actually a Canaanite deity related to security through money. So, what He is saying is that we cannot serve two gods: we can’t serve God and god. At some point, we must make a choice. I am not saying that if you are making the wrong choice that you are unsaved. An Arminian would say that as would a strong Calvinist. They would say that Demas was not saved because he did not persevere until the end. I do not come from the Arminian nor the Calvinistic perspectives. I believe in eternal security by grace, ‘once saved, always saved,’ and I am saying that a Christian can become worldly. If a Christian was unable to become worldly, if it was an impossibility, then James would have omitted this chapter. Why the warning if it isn’t a possibility?
I am also saying that when we do become worldly, there is a consequence, and the first consequence is that we become at war with God Himself. You won’t lose your salvation, but you are living in such a way it is as though you are unsaved in the sense that you are now at enmity with God where you are being moved into His divine discipline, and this can be very severe.
Don’t become worldly or you become at enmity with God is James’ point in James 4:4. You will be judged by somebody; you cannot please both because satan is engineering the zeitgeist of the time, so if you will be judged by the world, it is much better to be judged by man than by God. That is James’ warning.
In James 4:5, he says that a second consequence is that you alienate the Holy Spirit inside of you, and we are out of time, but we will get into this next week. In 4:6, we will see the ultimate cause of worldliness, and in 4:7-12, we will get into what we should substitute into our lives in lieu of wrangling and worldliness, which is true spirituality.