James 4.4-10: Friends and Enemies

November 29, 2009 Speaker: Christopher Rich Series: James | Retro-Faith

Topic: New Testament Passage: James 4:4–4:10

Retro Faith - Friends and Enemies (James 4:4-10)

Introduction

Good morning! Today we’re continuing our series Retro Faith going though the book of James, look closely at chapter 4:4-10. Sam felt I was uniquely qualified to preach these verses because I had spent most of my life as a friend of the world.  I grew up in church, knowing many truths about God as it related to “don’t do this or that”. I understood the importance of believe in Jesus so you could go to heaven when you die. I knew that ‘church folk’ were good, and ‘sinners’ were bad. I went to UW, joined a frat because I was a band geek in HS and I wanted to be cool. I had the foolish notion that even though I didn’t read my Bible and had no spiritual depth, I would start a Bible study in my room, and by the end of fall quarter the whole house would be saved. Instead I met all these “sinners” that were really nice, cool, fun, and successful and very quickly, like a matter of days, instead of evangelizing to the frat, the frat evangelized me. I spent the next 5+ years diving into the frat lifestyle with the excitement of kid that found themselves alone in the middle of Disneyland. They made me rush chairman because of my passion for pointing other young guys down this path. After college I was the guy that made the plans on where we would go out on Friday/ Saturday night. I was a “Christian” because of a prayer at youth camp when I was seven. It didn’t matter what I did because “I was forgiven”. At times had a sense that my life was not right, or was intended for something different. I would resist those thoughts/feelings with vigor, because with my deepest desires, I found a relationship with the world more attractive than one with God. 

James 4:4-10                                                                                                This section outlines the very essence of the Gospel. We are created by God for loving relationship with Him, we live in an active state of conflict as an enemy of God. He reinitiates a relationship, showing unmerited grace, sending Jesus to live/die on our behalf.  That grace humbles/transforms our hearts leading to submission, repentance, sanctification, and eventually exaltation/restoration.

V 4 Adultery/Rebellion 

When we hear You adulterous people!” we either respond “Yeah, those adulterous, worldly people!” or “Not me, how dare you question my faith!” or “who cares if some book calls me an enemy of God”. All responses are wrong because they are either rooted in religious/sectarian self-righteousness, anger over our imperfection being exposed, or just plain worldly god-denying pride. We very seldom respond with grief over sin/rebellion, or humility before God. In part, this is because we don’t have a good understanding of “the world” from a biblical standpoint, a clear concept of God as creator of the universe, and why James would use words like adultery, enmity, enemy, or jealousy.

If you grew up in church you knew “the world” as “evil” cultural things/people, cable television, R-Rated movies, dancing, having non-Christian friend, and music that wasn’t played on Christian radio. You likely went to a youth retreat, heard about the “evils” of the world and came home and burned up your CD’s. Luckily for me the only time I did, I had, MC Hammer, Janet Jackson, Bobby Brown, and Roxette, in my collection that should have been burned anyway. The “world” or “culture” was something to be feared and retreated from. Sinners were those people “in the world” to be avoided rebuked, not engaged, loved, and redeemed. It’s just “us” and “them”, “friends” and “enemies.” 

If you didn’t grow up as a Christian in the church, you likely approached culture and world very differently, with little regard for seeing things as right or wrong, but more likely from a place of self-fulfillment and self-preferences so “does it work for me, do I like it, does it feel right, what’s in my best interests” becomes the frame work for engaging with others and the world. Christians were probably those socially and culturally ignorant and intolerant  people, that did silly thing like throw away their CD’s and called people sinners while claiming that they were saved by a God you’re not even sure exists. Being ignorant of what their faith truly believes you decided you tolerate the rest of the world but not them. So again it’s “us” and “them”, “friends” and “enemies”.

Regardless of the team we’ve claimed, we typically think in terms of “us” in opposition to “them”, while the theme of scripture is really “us” in opposition to “Him”. Since our first parents, Adam and Eve, willingly rebelled against God, the world has as consistently rejected the relationship with her creator. James calls us all adulteresses because throughout scripture God compares His relationship with Israel, the Church, and humanity, both collectively and individually, to the relationship between a faithful husband and an unfaithful bride.

Isaiah 54:5 For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of Host is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called.

This imagery of husband and bride is important to grasp because in it we see that humanity’s relationship with God is to be as central and devoted as a marriage should be. Nothing else is to supplant our desire and loyalty to God. “What does that have to do with being friends of “the world,” even if I am married I still have friends.” In the NT, “the world” often referrers to that which is in opposition to God and his authority. Jesus says, if we recognize God as first in our lives we will be hated by the world because the world hates God

John 15:18-19 If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, therefore the world hates you. That’s encouraging!

If you’re married and you’re friends with some one that hates your spouse and hates you for loving your spouse there’s going to be conflict one way or another. At a certain point you will choose which relationship is more important and either remain faithful or reject your spouse and commit adultery. You have to make a choice because the relationships are mutual exclusive.

1 John 2:15 Do not love the world or 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 desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions-is not from the Father but is from the world. 

In calling us an adulterous people, James is making in clear that we have made our choice. Collectively and individually we have all traded in our relationship with God for the false promise of something we think is better. Even our desire to pursue the world creates enmity with God, not word that’s used often.

Enmity: Feeling or condition of hostility; hatred; ill will; animosity; antagonism

In aligning ourselves with that which is opposed to God, James says we MAKE ourselves an enemy of god. This enmity with God changes the nature/condition of our relationship. We have chosen the world, an idol, over the one true God.

 V5

God’s jealousy is not something that gets talked about much because we don’t understand it well. We typically think of it as an unhealthy emotion like a 13 year old girl enraged because another girls is talking to her “boyfriend”, or your neighbor get a new car, not something that a rational/loving God would feel. The great theologian of our day, Oprah, when asked how she reconciles “Christianity” with her new age spiritually, which is not really new, said;

I was in my Baptist church at 27 hearing “how great god is, god is everything, then I heard “the lord thy god is a jealous god” Wait!! Something struck me, God is all, God is also jealous? God is jealous of me? It didn’t Feel right in my spirit, I believe god is love and god is in all things.” She goes on to quote Eckert Tolie, “man made god in his own image as he’s reduced to a mental idol that you had to believe in to worship as my god or our god.”

Who is really making God in their own image when something doesn’t “Feel” right you get to change God. Where we are fickle, God is faithful, he does not change!! God is not jealous of us because he wants to be like us or wants what we have, or because he’s insecure. He is jealous of us like a faithful husband with a wayward bride.  Would a husband that didn’t care if his chosen cherished bride had be come a prostitute be considered loving? Of course not!

God’s jealousy rooted in his deep, abiding, faithful love for us. Spiritually adultery/idolatry is such a big deal to God because He created the spirit/soul that dwells in us. As created beings we are not our own, we are not “single”, we are HIS. When we chase after “the world” we are saying “He is not enough.”

1 Cor:19-20 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

I love God’s jealousy, I praise God’s jealousy, I take comfort it God jealousy, I NEED God’s jealousy because I am constantly turning away from Him chasing after the world. Rather than meeting my infidelity with weak indifference or righteous wrath (let there be no doubt that our sin justly angers God) He responses with an intensely powerful and beautiful jealousy that leads him to pursue me to the ends of the earth!

V6 Grace/Humility

In the depths of our sin, in the height of our rebellion and idolatry, literally caught in the act of spiritual adultery, it is God that reinitiates relationship. Though there is still the condition of hostility, animosity, enmity between us and God, though we MADE ourselves his enemies deserving his rejection and wrath, He is the agent of reconciliation for no other reason that his good, faithful, and loving grace that he shows us through Jesus Christ.

Rom 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners (adulterers, idolaters, enemies) Christ died for us”

God’s grace through Jesus and the Cross is at the heart of the Gospel. While we proudly give God the spiritual middle finger and run off with our new lover, He humbly pursues us with Jesus, sending him as God in the flesh. He initiates with Jesus as he calls out our sin and calls us back to Him. He reconciles us with Jesus willingly taking the punishment for our rebellion on the Cross, his shed blood washing us clean of our sin. He restores with Jesus, by His resurrection providing newness of life with Him, no longer slaves to this world.

God gives the grace, it is unquestionably undeserved. James reminds us that God opposes (sets himself against) the proud. The truth is in our spiritually adultery we are all proud, thinking we are justified in our actions.

Proverbs 30:20 This is the way of an adultress: she eats and wipes her mouth and says, “I have done no wrong.”

Spiritual adultery has become as natural as eating and we indulge in it proudly. It has to be God that humbles us, because we won’t do it on our own. By the power of the Holy Spirit, he melts away the unbelieving pride in our hearts to see the power of the Grace he has shown us in Christ. God’s grace, His Gospel, will lead us away from pride to a place of humility as he uses His Spirit to convict of us of our sin and see the beauty of his grace. When we see the Cross, Jesus suffering and dying, we are shown the consequence of our sin and our response is a joyful humble gratitude. Seeing the length that God goes to pursue, initiate, reconcile, and restore us to Him, transforms us so that we are literally not the same person. We are redeemed, renewed, and born again so that we are no longer pursuing or serving “the world” but that we desire, purse and serve God. The saving/transforming grace of Christ leads us to a response. James tells us what the response looks like as our lives are turned upside down.

V7

James blows up this idea that I, and many, bought into that God’s grace meant you could continue to live a life of open sin and rebellion content that all was forgiven so you could go to heaven when you died. Don’t hear me wrong, the Cross of Christ is absolutely big enough to cover all our sins, but it doesn’t just save us from the wrath of sin, it also saves us to a life of freedom from sin. While we were actively resisting God, by his grace, we now willingly submit to His absolute authority in our lives and actively renounce and resist the world.

Titus 2:11-14 (p1771) 

So salvation, leads here and now to renounce ungodliness, and because we are redeemed we zealously obey God. As new creations we joyfully submit ourselves to God and actively resist the devil. The devil/satan in the NT is often referred to as “the god of this world”. He seduced Adam and Eve, and he seduced us away from God to the world. We didn’t resist him because in our spiritual adultery we were sleeping with him. As we repent and turn to God, renouncing our friendship with the world, satan, like a jilted lover jealous not out of love but out of pride/anger, is now an enemy we resist by God’s power.

1 Pet 5:8 Be sober-mined; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith.

It doesn’t say satan will no longer engage us or attack us, but we have assurance that we will be delivered from him by God’s power. It’s still a battle, day by day, we resist his temptation and seduction knowing in the end we will be victorious, not by our power, but because our allegiance is to the Creator.

It’s important to understand that life in Christ, living in a world opposed to him, is still going to be a struggle. We are given challenging instructions to partner with God in our sanctification where we are shaped in the image of Christ.

V8

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Through His grace, He breaths life into relationship that for all purposes was dead his grace is not the end, but rather a new beginning for life with Him. We haven’t just traded in one Master for another. We submit to Him yes, but it’s more that reluctant obedience, it s restoration of a full, deep, affectionate relationship with God through Jesus. He doesn’t pursue us, save us, and then leave the rest up to us. When challenges and temptations come, and they will come, He tells us to run to him as our help, our strength, and our confidence.

Hebrews 4:15-16 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Lets us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

This is beautiful! In our struggles, our pain, our temptations, our failures, he still longs for us and calls us back him. With Christ we are never alone! He says “Come! Come to the throne, there’s mercy here, there’s grace here, I AM here!”  When I as a good church boy I proudly came before God in my own self righteousness. When I was in rebellion I resisted and ran from him. When approached by Him in my sin I hid in shame unworthy to be in his presence. But by the Cross, no longer God’s enemy, I will stand with him face to face at His throne with confidence, not pride, because of Jesus blood shed on my behalf. He instructs us to constantly seek and desire him with a promise that when we do He will be there! So over the days, the weeks, the years we are granted on earth, we move towards Him in every aspect of our lives. The alternative is standing still, remaining paralyzed when He’s told us to rise and walk, or worse deceiving ourselves that we can receive his grace, turn, and walk away again.

Cleanse your hands, you sinners Justified before God, by the cross, our relationship is restored. He found us in the filth and mire of sin, dove in to a world set up as His enemy, saves us by his grace and calls us friend.  As our relationship grows in depth and intensity, we begin to work with the Holy Spirit through process of sanctification, which means cleansing and purifying. We are accepted by Him in our mess that He loves us enough to not let us stay there.  Hands symbolize actions, deeds, behaviors. We are being cleaned by the Holy Spirit so we stop playing in the mud. Our lives look different, we are not just hearers of the word but doers. But what does that look like?

Isaiah 1:16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.

We actually have to stop doing evil!! This doesn’t mean throw away your CD’s, or erase you iPod, but it might mean you’ll have to chuck out the porn or even your computer, it might mean some relationship you have change or even end. It might mean there are places you can’t go to anymore, activities that you don’t engage in, and behaviors that change.

Learn to do good! We can’t just rid ourselves of evil, leaving an empty void for evil to return to. We have a lifetime of sin and man-centered worldliness that needs to be deprogrammed and a new Christ-centered worldview that needs to be installed. Ask God for wisdom in prayer and to seek it in his Word. You might need to humble yourself and sit under some teachers. You might surround yourself with Godly people that can speak truth in to your life and walk alongside you. Christianity is never intended to be lived alone, we need to be surrounded by mirrors shining light into our lives, without them we can’t see where we need to be cleaned. Self reliance is NOT a virtue!

Proverbs 30:12 There are those who are clean in there own eyes but are not washed of there filth. 18:1 Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.

As much as we need the mirror of Gospel Truth though his Word, we need mirror Gospel Community though his Church, to equip us to shine light into the world through a lives lived on Gospel Mission. As restored and renewed brides, that are ceasing evil, learning good, we don’t hide or retreat from the world. We reengage the world to proclaim and live out the Gospel by seeking justice, correcting the oppression of sin that binds our world individually and corporately, and act as agents of grace and mercy to the marginalized. Jesus didn’t tell us to hide or withdraw from the world in fear or disgust, but re-enter it on a rescue mission to seek and save the lost with the power of His gospel.

Jn 17:15-18 I do not ask that you take then out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one…As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them…

Purify your hearts, you double-mined. Cease evil, learn good, do good, engage the world, not to fulfill lists, but out of an overflow of a heart that is singularly devoted to Christ. Our actions have to come from a new heart that is not divided in allegiance. James echoes the words found through out scripture:

  • Joshua - we must choose this day who we will serve. Josh 24:16
  • Elijah – we will continually limp and stumble if we are vacillating between God and the world. 1 Kings 18:21
  • Jesus- We can’t serve 2 masters, we will hate one/love the other Matt 6

Our sanctification has to come from a heart that at it’s deepest desires no longer yearns for the world, but has joyfully given it’s allegiance to Jesus. A new heart that by cleansing is humbled and contrite and is described in verse 9

V9

This is a humble heart that is broken by the conviction of sin. It doesn’t see sin and rebellion the way the world does happily laughing it off. It does not take sin lightly, but sees it as God does with a weightiness that sees the affliction of our hearts and the condition of the world and is moved to tears. It’s a heart that praises God for his grace and mercy, but looks at the world and our hearts through news eyes that cry out for the restoration that only He can give.

I have experienced this in my own life very recently. As I said my life in the Greek System at UW was best defined by spiritual adultery and rebellion.  Last month, before work, I was running from Greenlake to UW and back. I was listening to sermon that just cut to the core of the sin I was mired in during that time of my life. As I ran by my old fraternity the very words of the sermon defined and encapsulated the pain of the darkest period of my life. I fell to the ground, not because I tripped, but because I felt the weight of sin and His saving Grace. I lay on the side walk, arms and legs spread, sobbing as tears fell on the old cracked sidewalk. I was there for minutes, unable to rise, mourning my sin and rebellion, brokenness before a perfect, loving, powerful, Creator in a way that I had felt before despite God working on my heart for years.

 I am not known for my humility, most of you know me as prideful and arrogant, but God humbled me this morning as my face was pressed into the concrete.

I was only able to get back up and stand as I mediated on the Cross, that Jesus paid the penalty for my sin with his shed blood, and that I could sand before God, even as a selfish, rebellious, murderer, because of what Jesus did. The because he rose again, I can rise as well and am no longer defined by who I am and what I've done, but by faith in Him I am defined by who Jesus is and what he's done.

V10

I pray that our lives are defined humility. That we are humbled by our sin, that we are humbled by a God that loves us enough to pursue us, that we are humbled by his grace shown on the Cross. Humbly submitting and drawing near to god. Humble in pursing sanctification by Gospel Truth, Gospel Community that leads us to humbly engage the world by Gospel Mission as we humbly wait for to be reunited to Christ in exaltation.

More in James | Retro-Faith

January 17, 2010

James 5.19-20: Wandering and Finding

January 10, 2010

James 5.13-18 Praying and Healing

January 3, 2010

James 5.12 Oaths and Vows