What Sort of Friendship Can We Have that is Hostile To the Lord? #331
Happy Lord’s Day to you, friends. I’d like to shout out a few new listeners that have joined us in the last few days – new listeners in Sierra Leone (Africa), French Guiana, Istanbul, Turkey, New York, New York (over 100 downloads in a day!) Albany/Schenectady, NY, Twin Falls, Idaho, Sioux Falls, South Dakota and other new listeners that I don’t know about. (I can only tell when somebody new subscribes and downloads a bunch of episodes)
I’d like to invite all of you to join us on Facebook Live this Sunday at VBC Salinas For a time of live outdoor worship and to join us as I teach on the parables of Jesus. This week our focus is on one of the most famous parables – the Good Samaritan. What can we learn from Jesus about loving our neighbor from this wonderful teaching? Join us today at 11am Pacific as we deep dive into the parable of the sower.
Our Bible readings for this wonderful Lord’s Day include 1st Chronicles 17, Jonah 1, Luke 6 and James 4. Our focus is on James 4, and it is challenging. I’d love to know James in real life – I feel like he would be as authentic as they come, because he doesn’t pull punches or hold back in his writing. He is very plainspoken, passionate and absolutely gets to the point in a sharp way. You probably knew where you stood with James, and I value that. In today’s focus passage, the Holy Spirit is going to challenge us greatly through the pen of James, calling us away from friendship with the world in the strongest possible terms. Let’s read this passage with fresh ears and discern what the Word of God is saying to us.
4 You adulterous people! Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the friend of the world becomes the enemy of God. 5 Or do you think it’s without reason that the Scripture says: The spirit he made to dwell in us envies intensely?6 But he gives greater grace. Therefore he says:God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.7 Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be miserable and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
Before we dive into our main point, allow me to quote vs. 11, because I think most Christians are unaware this verse, “11 Don’t criticize one another, brothers and sisters” That’s pretty stark and simple – we aren’t allowed to criticize.
I believe James 4 is one of the single most challenging passages in the entire Bible to modern humans. It seems that so many churches have made a strong pivot towards embracing the ways of the world and the things of the world, and many Christians have followed suit. I need to tell you that I am not one of those Christians that hates modernity, hates modern music, finds modern television and video games empty, vapid and distasteful. Rather, those things allure me, and pull on my soul. In the same way that I am quite tempted by Krispy Kreme doughnuts, Mike and Ike’s candy, and pints of Haagen Dazs ice cream, I am also quite tempted by the things of the world. Don’t get me wrong – we are supposed to love the people of the world, and we are called to be in the world…but here the Word of God draws a line for us. Friendship with the world and the things of the world is not allowed. What does this mean for our lives? Here is Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the physician and English pastor who is much like James in that he doesn’t mince his words. I’m not going to lie – this will be challenging to us, but I am quoting it because I need to be challenged, and also because Lloyd-Jones brings so much challenging Scripture to bear on this topic that you and I both need to hear:
Scripture is full of this doctrine. We have seen Paul’s appeal to the Romans: ‘Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind’ (Rom 12:2). James says the same thing: ‘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’ (Jas 4:4). Could anything be plainer or clearer than that? Then let me remind you of those forcible words in 1 John 2:15–17: ‘Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.’ This is a momentous statement. And we find John saying exactly the same thing in chapter 5 of that same epistle: ‘We know we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness’, or ‘in the evil one’ (v. 19).
Obviously, therefore, the practical question for us is to know for certain that we are ‘not of the world’, and there are many ways in which that question may be answered. Certain specific distinctions are given, and I want just to call your attention to these basic points. Take, for instance, how Paul puts it in Ephesians 2:1–3, ‘You hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience. Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.’ That is a most comprehensive definition of what it means to belong to the world, and so, too, is the statement quoted above from 1 John 2.
So let us face the question in the light of these definitions. To be of the world can be summed up like this—it is life, thought of and lived, apart from God. In other words, what decides definitely and specifically whether you and I are of the world or not is not so much what we may do in particular as our fundamental attitude. It is an attitude towards everything, towards God, towards ourselves, and towards life in this world; in the last analysis, to be of the world is to view all these things apart from God. So let us get rid of the idea that worldliness just means going to the theatre or the cinema; do not think that if you do this or that you are therefore a worldly person. It is not that, for there are many people who never do any of these things but who, according to the Scriptures, are thoroughly worldly minded. Indeed—and this is a terrible thing—as I understand this definition, you can even subscribe to the Christian faith in an orthodox manner and still be of the world. If anybody disputes this, let me give you my authority at once. The word uttered by our Lord to those people who at the last day shall say, Lord, Lord, haven’t we done this, that and the other in your name? is, Depart from me, I never knew you—you do not belong, you never have belonged to me (Mt 25:31–46). To belong to the world is a fundamental attitude, and, as I am going to show you, we betray ourselves and our attitude by what we are in general, and by the way in which that is manifested in various respects.
To be of the world—and this is repeated by the apostles—means that we are governed by the mind and the outlook and the way of this world in which we live. Paul says in Ephesians 2:2 that we are governed by ‘the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience’. In 2 Corinthians 4:4 he talks about the ‘god of this world’ and it is the essence of biblical teaching that this world and its ways are under the dominion of Satan. According to this teaching, everybody who is of the world is governed and guided and dominated and controlled by that outlook which is opposed to God.
David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Assurance of Our Salvation: Exploring the Depth of Jesus’ Prayer for His Own: Studies in John 17 (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2000), 211–213.
So, dear friends – let us remember and walk in this exhortation, remembering James’ charge from the first chapter, “27 Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”