Friendship With The World
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.
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We are living in an age of moral decay! There's no doubt about that.
Everywhere we look we are confronted with the signs of a perverted, bankrupted society. Pornographic literature, once kept under the drugstore counter, is now brazenly sold on most newsstands. Films depicting every immoral perversion imaginable are shown in thousands of theaters around the world. Even network television programs have been bombarded by corruption and filth. Recently, one of America's leading psychologists stated that "by making violence appear glamorous and exciting, and illicit sex normal . . . [we] are setting the stage for a society based on aggression and irresponsibility."
Yes, we are living in an amoral age!
As awful as this condition is, the evilness of our age should really come as no shock to the student of the Bible. For in God's Word we read, "In the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God" (2 Ti 3:1-4). The Bible predicts that immorality
will continue to increase! In fact, as the final day of God's judgment approaches, mankind will sink deeper and deeper into sin.
But for the child of God it is not enough simply to be aware of this condition. In James 4:4 the writer warns of the dangers of a complacent spirit and an easy attitude toward sin. "Ye adulterers and adulteresses," declares James, "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."
Psychologists tell us that the average individual rarely develops more than two or three close friends throughout his entire life. Generally it is true that a man is known by the friends that he keeps. Who we are, what we do, how we actall are determined, in part, by those with whom we associate.
James declares that it is impossible to be a friend of the world and of God at the same time. We have a choice to make.
Our Lord, in His parable of the unwise steward, told His disciples that, "No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon" (Lk 16:13).
In his book, A Faith That Works, B. J. Chitwood suggests that,
When we become a friend of the world, we take our stand in defiance of God. And, God views it as an act of an enemy, an act of espionage against him. It is as if we were conducting guerrilla warfare against the Lord. We are aiding and abetting the enemythe same sin committed by Judas. We ask, "How could a man be so black-hearted as to betray Jesus with a kiss of brotherhood?" We are aghast at this most infamous deed in human history. But is that deed
any more treacherous than for us to name the name of Jesus Christ but to serve the camp of the enemy?
At the beginning of chapter 4 James has already stated that all of this world's conflict is the result of lust and fleshly desire. Strife in our homes, conflicts in our business, schools, and churches, even world war finds root in the sinful lusts of men. Here in verse 4 James uses a startling salutation! "Ye adulterers and adulteresses." The allusion James was making was actually quite familiar to his audience. The prophecies of Hosea, Ezekiel, and Isaiah had often pictured the children of Israel as the unfaithful, impure wife of Jehovah. When God's chosen people turned from Jehovah and began to follow after false gods they were, in God's eyes, guilty of spiritual adultery.
Then, too, throughout the Bible Jesus Christ is pictured as the Bridegroom who will one day claim the true church to be His chosen bride. As the bride of Christ, true believers are to keep themselves pure from the "evil and adulterous generation" which Jesus spoke of in Matthew 12:39.
Just as a good husband will not tolerate a rival, neither will Jesus Christ tolerate a division in our affections. You are either for Christ or against Him. James says that friendship with the world means enmity with God.
The first big question we need to ask ourselves is:
WHAT IS THE WORLD?
Surely, in this portion of Scripture, James is not referring to the creative world or the act of God's own hand. Jesus often spoke of the fish of the sea, of birds and flowers, and of all creation. These were things which were made for man. Nor was James speaking of the world of needy people. This is the world that God "so loved," for whom He gave "his only begotten son" to diethat sinful man might be redeemed (Jn 3:16).
No, that is not the world that James was referring to. We must love the people of this confused and calloused world. We are to love a lost world, but we are to be free from the philosophy and practices of this world system.
The apostle John told believers, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. [For] If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 Jn 2:15). Those are strong words!
What kind of world is it that these verses speak of? James speaks of the "system" man has created for himself in which he attempts to live without God. A "man of the world" is a man who is thoroughly caught up and devoted to this kind of living. Worldliness also includes our desire of honor, our struggle for position and recognition. It includes our refusal to be prophetic and our willingness to be used wrongly by this world.
The child of God cannot avoid the fact that he is a citizen of this planet. We are in the worldbut we are not to be of the world. Jesus prayed, "I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil [one]. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world" (Jn 17:15-16). In other words, the believer in Jesus Christ is different! We are a heavenly people born from above. We are pictured in God's Word as pilgrims, as sojourners just passing through this world.
Paul wrote to the church of Galatia: "Who [Jesus Christ] gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God our Father" (Gal 1:4). The reason James came to earth to die, the only purpose of redemption, is that we might be delivered from the bonds of sin, that we might be delivered from this evil world. This is the will of God for every believer.
The second question we should consider is:
WHAT IS GOD'S ATTITUDE TOWARD THE WORLD?
James continues on in chapter 4, verse 4 by declaring "Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." A believer who is a friend of the world, one who is motivated by the world's desires and characterized by worldly wisdom, is an enemy of God! Did you know that, my friend? Those are not my words. That is not a pronouncement of some church or religious organization. That is a declaration from God's Word.
Now, I realize there are many things in this world that are not deliberately anti-Godthings that are not openly defiant of God's laws. But in a very real way many of these seemingly innocent desires and activities are ungodly. Why? Because they retard our spiritual appetite, and they weaken our influence and testimony for Jesus Christ. They compromise our witness. We may cultivate friendships with worldly people who are wonderful, gifted, and charming folks, but who are entirely Godless. In our effort to feel comfortable and accepted by them we may automatically lower our standards to their level of conduct. What is the result? Enmity with God!
James is not saying, don't be friendly toward unbelievers. He is simply saying, even as the apostle Paul said in Romans 12:2, "Don't let the world squeeze you into its own mould" (Phillips). "Be not conformed to this world." James is saying, Be careful in your friendships.
A third question we should consider is:
DOES GOD'S WORD GIVE US ANY GUIDELINES CONCERNING WORLDLINESS?
As we study the Bible, we find many definite commands concerning the believer's standards of behavior. Certain things are always right, and certain things are always wrong.
They are unchangeable even as God's laws are unchangeable. For instance, it is always right to show love and concern for those around you. At the same time it is always wrong to lie or to steal. Certain areas of conduct are predetermined by God's Word.
But between the definite commands concerning good and evil there is an area that presents problems. There is a kind of "no-man's-land" where the absolutes are not so clear. The Bible does not provide a "thou shalt" and a "thou shalt not" for every situation we face day by day.
But in 1 Corinthians 10:23 Paul indicates that even without a yes or no for each situation of life we can know what is right and wrong. Paul says, "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not."
What is Paul saying? He is saying that there are things which are legitimatethings which are not sinful in and of themselvesbut I will avoid them. Why? Because they are out of place in the Christian life. They are unwise. They are unprofitable, and they neither build us up nor edify the Lord Jesus Christ.
Here are four principles which I have found to be of help in determining my activity and actions:
1. The principle of influence. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, "If meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth lest I make my brother to offend" (1 Co 8:13). No man is an island. No one lives to himself. Each one of us, every day of our selves, is influencing those around us either for God or Satan. Paul is saying that if what I eat is distasteful to my brother, then I will not eat it. I can eat it, there is nothing seemingly wrong or evil with it, but I will not do anything that would offend those who evaluate the Christian life by what they see in me.
My friend, how about you? Are you a stepping-stone or a
stumbling block to your neighbor? You are an open book, known and read by all who see you. Are you living by the principle of influence?
2. The principle of ownership. Again in 1 Corinthians Paul writes, "Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's" (1 Co 6:19-20).
Anything that we do, any activity that we engage in, must be in keeping with God's claim upon our lives. We are His creation. He made us, and He has redeemed us. We are twice His.
Oftentimes we hear of the accomplishments of so-called "self-made men." But in reality there is no such thing as a self-made man. The Word of God tells us that "we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus" (Eph 2:10). He made us, He owns us, and our every action must be in conformity to His will.
3. The principle of self. Again to the church at Corinth, Paul declares, "I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway" (1 Co 9:27).
This principle applies to my effectiveness for Jesus Christ. Paul kept his body under subjection. He wanted to excel. The athlete who wants to be number one must sacrifice at all costs. He must give up everything, good or bad, that would keep him from reaching his goal. What does the Bible say concerning our worldly interests and entanglements? We are told to "lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and . . . run with patience the race that is set before us" (Heb 12:1).
I find that there are many Christians today who want to hang onto the world and run the race at the same time. They
want to hang onto their favorite sins instead of stripping them away. Before we enter any questionable activity, we should ask ourselves, "What effect will this have on me? Can I honestly ask God's blessing on what I am doing?" Paul said, "I keep my body under subjection at all costs lest that I, having preached to others should myself become a castaway." The word castaway that Paul uses here literally means a "disapproved or unfaithful steward," one who fails to meet God's standards.
It is said that, upon coming to the end of his life, the Russian czar, Peter the Great, lamented, "I have conquered an empire but I have not been able to conquer myself." Like so many others, he failed in the greatest test of alltotal subjection of oneself to Jesus Christ.
4. The principle of God's glory. The most important question we can ask ourselves is, "Will my actions be pleasing to Jesus Christ? If Christ should return right now, would I feel at ease in what I am doing? In other words, would I bring honor to God?" Dr. Robert Cook has said, "The question is not How much may I indulge in and still be saved? God forbid! I must rather ask What about Christ's will and the example I set for my fellow Christians?"
These four principles have no particular magic. They will not provide you with pat answers. But they will give guidance as you honestly seek the Lord's will in your life.
Time after time the Bible reveals God's will concerning this evil world. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:22, "Abstain from all appearance of evil." Keep away from anything that even appears to be bad. "Love not the world," said John, "neither the things that are in the world" (1 Jn 2:15). First and foremost the Christian life is a positive allegiance to Jesus Christ. We should become so occupied with Jesus Christ that the things of this world become stale and tasteless.
There is little danger of conforming to the world without, if you have enough of Christ within.
James puts it very simplyfriendship with the world equals enmity with God. It is impossible to share allegiance with two masters. The Christian life is not an easy life. Jesus never gained His disciples under false pretenses. At no time did our Lord promise a bed of roses or a flower-strewn pathway. Nor would we be guilty of that kind of deception today. We want people who love Christ and who are willing to present their bodies as "a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God" (Ro 12:1). C. T. Studd's motto was, "If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him."
My friend, won't you make this the day you yield your life totally and unreservedly to Jesus Christ?
* "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" (Ja 4:4).
* "The question is not How much may I indulge in and still be saved? God forbid! I must rather ask What about Christ's will and the example I set for my fellow Christians?" ROBERT COOK
* We should become so occupied with Jesus Christ that the things of this world become stale and tasteless.
* C. T. Studd's motto was, "If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him."
Chapter Eleven || Table of Contents