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"Friendship with the World"
James 4:4-5

Wednesday AM Bible Study
September 3, 2003

What Pastor James says in this morning's passage has "shock value". It startles us. He began this section by describing the immediate cause of fighting and quarrels among believers (vv. 1-3). And he will conclude it by describing the sort of fervent repentance such sin requires (vv. 6-10). But between those two points, James describes the true character of this problem - a kind of spiritual 'adultery' that he calls "friendship with the world."

When the Bible uses the word "world", we need to be sure we understand the context so we interpret that word correctly. The Bible sometimes speaks of "world" in the sense of the created planet and all that inhabits it (Heb. 1:2). At other times, it refers to the whole of humanity (John 3:16; 1 Cor. 5:10). But there are times that it uses the word to refer to a system of values and priorities that are hostile to God (1 John 2:15-17). In such cases, the "world" is a system (1) that is based on the gratification of lustful desires, (2) that stands in opposition to God and His will, (3) that is destined for destruction, and (4) that the believer is to have no part of.

Apparently, the believers to whom James wrote were not keeping distinct from this system. In fact, they had become so taken up by lusting after its values and priorities that they were even fighting and quarreling with each other. The mad rush to accrue more and more earthly possessions, the continual seeking and perusing the gratification of sensual desires, the drive to be bigger, better and more respected than others - this is what it means to "love the world" or to become a "friend of the world". Here, James teaches us that ...

"Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?"*
A. This is shown by James' use of the shocking word "adulteresses". (Some ancient manuscripts do not contain the word "adulterers".) James was not being sexist in his use of the feminine word "adulteresses." He is simply seeking to reflect our relationship with Christ as His "bride" (2 Cor. 11:2). When we give ourselves over to worldliness, we are giving ourselves over to someone other than the One to whom we have been promised.

B. Marriage experts tell us that there are certain stages someone goes through in having a marital affair. There are parallels in spiritual "adultery".

1. Distance (a sense of a loss of intimacy or emotional connectedness with one's spouse). In this stage, we become "distant" from God (4:8), shown in the fact that we have desires (4:1) and we don't submit our desires to Him (4:3). And when we know that the gratification of those desires is outside of His will (4:3), we become tempted to look outside God's will to gratify them (see James 1:13-15).

2. Gratification (a temporary sense of relief in a "sharing of the heart" with someone outside the marriage). Here, we choose to turn away from God, and to turn to the world and it's promise to gratify our sinful desires (see 1 John 2:15).

3. Connection (the development of an emotional attachment to this "outsider"). In this stage, we actively become "friends" with the world (v. 4:4; see also Psalm 1:1).

4. Prioritization (giving preference to and deliberately pursuing time and activities with this "outsider"). Here, we become "conformed" to the world and its values (see Romans 12:2).

5. Culmination (the growing attachment culminating in physical intimacy). In this final stage, we become "stained" by this world (see James 1:27; 1 Cor. 11:32).

"Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God."

A. There is a spiritual principle involved in these words of James that no one can serve two masters. Jesus Himself taught this principle to us (Matthew 6:19-24; see also Col. 3:1-4; 1 Peter 2:9-11; 1 John 15-17).

B. God's word makes it an "either/or" matter - a matter in which we must choose who we will serve. Yet, in spite of this principle, many people seek to serve 'two masters', and hope that this will somehow be acceptable to God - like an adulterer who seeks to maintain an illicit relationship and their relationship with their spouse at the same time. God is holy; and He will not accept such spiritual adultery and a relationship with Himself at the same time.

1. James uses a verb which means "whoever ... wants" or "whoever chooses" (NIV) - clearly implying that a deliberate choice had been made.

2. He also uses a verb which grammatically means that such a person "is made" or "is constituted" or "is rendered" or "becomes an enemy of God" (NIV). This clearly implies a state of enmity toward God that is brought about as a consequence of the choice to be a friend of the world (See 2 Cor. 6:14-18).

"Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, 'The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously?'"

A. Many scholars point to this as one of the most perplexing verses in all of James letter. For one thing, it's difficult to translate. The NIV, for example, translates it, "the spirit he caused to live in us tends toward envy"; but also gives two alternative translation in the margin: "God jealously longs for the spirit that he made to live in us"; and, "the Spirit he caused to live in us longs jealously." That last translation is the one that has the most support from other passages of scripture. It interprets this to mean that the indwelling Holy Spirit of God in the believer yearns for the pure love and devotion of that believer with an intense jealousy; and will not accept that love and devotion being divided with another.

B. And second, this passage appears to quote a passage from the Old Testament; but there doesn't appear to be a verse in the Old Testament to serve as the source of that quote. It seems best to see this as James summarizing the general teaching in the Old Testament - that God is a jealous God who acts in righteous jealousy to protect what is His. (Deuteronomy 32:16; Exodus 20:4-5; Zechariah 8:2; 1 Cor. 10:22).

* * * * * * * * * *

Are you seeking to satisfy a desire in your life right now through something apart from God? Do you find yourself increasingly turning to the things of the world for relief from the concerns of God, rather than turning to God for relief from the temptations of the world? Do you find that you are becoming defensive about certain pleasures you are enjoying, certain activities you are engaging in, or certain plans you are making? Do you find that you accept the fact of a growing distance between yourself and God because of some of the things you are allowing into your life that make you "happier"?

If your answer to any of these questions is yes, you have already crossed the line, and have begun to fall into a state of spiritual adultery. Can you now see what a serious matter worldliness in a believer is? Do you see that it is a spiritual 'adultery' - an unfaithfulness to the One who bought us for Himself? Do you see that it places us in a state of enmity toward God? Do you see that it provokes our mighty God to act in jealousy to protect what belongs to Him? What a dreadful thing worldliness in the believer is!

As the next few verses show us, such a sin warrants the strongest repentance. May God search our hearts this morning and show us any trace of "friendship with the world" that is in us; and may he empower us to repent of it with all our hearts.

*New King James Version, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.

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