Sermon – Don’t be a Friend of the World (James 4:1 – 4:5) – Cornerstone Church Kingston
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Don't be a Friend of the World

Philip Cooper, James 4:1 - 4:5, 29 December 2019

Phil takes preaches on James 4:1-5 looking at the consequences of conflict with God.

James 4:1 - 4:5

4:1 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?


Transcript (Auto-generated)

This transcript has been automatically generated, and therefore may not be 100% accurate.

Okay. James chapter 4. Versus 1 to 5. What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you?

You desire, but do not have so you kill. You cover it, but you cannot get what you want so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask god. When you ask, You do not receive because you ask with wrong motives that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people Don't you know that friendship with the world means enmity with god?

Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of god? Or do you think scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us. We're going to stay in this little passage in James 4. So let's pray and then we'll turn and look at it in some detail. Father god, we thank you for each other for this church.

We thank you for your word. As, you speak to us now through it, we pray lord that, you will take it and put it in our hearts and our minds give us, an openness to it, not a resistance, not a hard heart that you might speak to us this morning through your word and change us. In Jesus' name, amen. Okay. Well, it's it's that time of year, isn't it?

With Sarah has mentioned it in the prayers, Dean mentioned at the beginning, it's that time of year when we get to the end of a year, and we we stop. And perhaps we look back when we review 20 19 and what sort of year it was before looking forward to 20 20, which starts in just a couple of days' time. Now I guess some of us will be hoping for something better, than last year. We'll we'll make new year resolutions perhaps determined to do things differently. On the other hand, for some of us, 20 19, was a good year.

And we don't really want it to end. Every TV, a news channel, every radio station, in fact, the newspaper, when I picked it up the doorstep this morning, they're all looking back at this year's highlights, good and bad, funniest moments, the saddest moments remembering famous people who we lost in 2019, and so on. Of course, they can really go to town this year because it's the end of a decade. So they can spend 10 years as they look back. Now, for some of you, 2019 might have been a fantastic it, yeah, you got married, or engaged, or you had a baby, or you moved house, or you bought your first flats, or you got a new job, or perhaps you just had a fantastic holiday.

You made some new friends during the year. Perhaps you even became a follower of Jesus Christ. But for some people, it may be that 20 19 was not a great year. You lost someone dear to you, as I did with my mom in the spring. Or you lost your job, or you had a difficult time with illness, or were lonely perhaps friends moved on and left the church and the area, and you missed them.

Well, as this is the last Sunday of the year, I think it would be good to us, good for us, rather, to review where we are spiritually, to look back at the last year, to look forward to the new year, and our walk with God. Perhaps in 2019, you felt that you grew spiritually. You know, that god spoke to you often, perhaps from his word, and you took big steps forward in your faith, or perhaps the opposite is true for you. And you feel like another year has passed, and you're in the same place as you were before, you're sort of treading water in your faith. That would be the best description of where you are spiritually.

While we'll all have different experiences, different issues in our lives, and whether you look back on the year with joy or regret, we're now at a stage where it's time to take stock of life. And move forward into a new year. And this passage that I want us to look at this morning, very short, as Dean said, is from James chapter 4, and it's just the first 5 verses, and it focuses on 1 aspect really of our life. It challenges us to make sure as we head into 20 20, and even as we look back at 20 19, whether or not we are too much a friend of the world. Look at verse 4.

You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world means enmity against god. Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of god. I guess most people, if you talk to your neighbors, if you talk to your friends, they're not perhaps Christians that don't come to church, but I I guess most of them would say they feel friendly towards god or or at worse neutral, really, They're not openly hostile. They're not an enemy of god. But you see, the biblical diagnosis of man is that while he might feel, I don't know, her sentimental or have some sort of positive thoughts toward towards a supreme being.

Particularly, I think when life's going well for us, in reality, the Bible says he hates the true god. We recently looked at chapter 3 of James a few weeks ago. It was under the subject, if you remember pathways to wisdom. And I mentioned in that talk that James in his letter shows us a whole series of tests of genuine faith. You see, it's 1 thing to say we believe, to say we're a and it's another thing to show it by your life.

That's what James focuses on, so chapter 1, He deals with how we respond to trials in our life, then how we respond to temptations and and those that bring them on us. Then how we respond to the word of god? Do we obey it, or do we just listen to it without applying it? Chapter 2, he covers whether we look after people in need, or are we operating in our life on the basis of favouritism? Only looking after those we naturally get on with.

Never going beyond that. Then he looks at the subject of good works. Do you actually put into action what you believe? Then in chapter 3, he looks at the subject of our tongues. And what we say and how out of the heart the mouth speaks.

And then, as I said, as we saw last time, he looks at what kind of wisdom we exhibit. Is it wisdom from above, or is it earthly, sensual, demonic wisdom. And then finally at the beginning of chapter 4, he wants us or he wants to deal with another indicator if you like of saving faith. And that is our attitude to the world. And the scary thing about this whole topic in verse 4, particularly is which way round it is.

So let's just read it again. You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world means enmity against god? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of god. So you see that last bit. It's not so much that you oppose god if you love the world.

It's that god becomes your enemy And that is a much more frightening prospect, isn't it? See, with James, you'll find he jumps around, he bounces occasionally on sub It's not a straight line in some ways, like Paul is. So he actually introduces this whole thing in chapter 1. Just turn with me to chapter 1 verse 27. Religion that god our father accepts as pure and faultless, is this to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

God wants us unpoluted, untainted, unstained, unspoiled by the world. And James says here in chapter 4, don't be a friend of the world. And what that means is crucial for us to understand this passage. You see, it could be translated love. In other words, don't be in love with this world.

So it's love in the sense of emotional attachment or affection. It's not casual. It implies a deep intimate longing to be involved in the world, with all the drive and the impulses that go with that whole idea. So you see James is not referring here to some accidental or incidental occasion, whereas Christians, we might do something we know is wrong. You know, a time when we fall into some sin or some error, those must takes happen really at any time, probably all the time.

But Christ has died for those sins. He's taken the punishment for those sins. So when that happens to us, as long as we repent, As long as we trust that Jesus has dealt with them, then we dust ourselves off and we carry on. The occasions we fall like that are not what James is talking about. That's not what he means by friendship with the world.

So when you review last year, when you look back at 20 19, don't obsess about the times you fell the mistakes you made the times you got it wrong. They've been dealt with, and you need to trust that Christ has dealt with them. Because otherwise, if we don't, we actually end up questioning the whole gospel. Was his death not sufficient? For what you got wrong in 20 19?

Of course, it was. James is not talking about that. James is talking about a settled affection for the world, an intimate relationship with the world, a desire to embrace the world. And, biblically, when when we talk about the world, the Bible talking about the sort of man centered Satan directed systems of this world, and they're hostile to god. So he's saying here, look, don't be friends with the values of this world.

That's what he's really saying. Don't be friends with the lifestyle of this world. Don't be friends with the ethics and the morals of this world. 1 commentator writes this it's 1 thing to do worldly things and hate them, which I hope is where we are. It's 1 thing to behave in a worldly way while loving god.

It is quite another to love the world. To love the things of the world and to hate God. So don't fall in love with a world that is antagonistic and against god and understand that if you do, you are an enemy of god. Now, the word enemy is very personal, personal hostility from god, personal hatred, it's very strong, If you're in love with the world, then you then you are an enemy of god. And if you're an enemy of god, then you can't be a Christian.

Has to be right, doesn't it? See, if we're if if as Christians, we're washed by the blood of Jesus, dying for us on a cross, we heirs to a future in heaven with Jesus where we'll be welcomed to to live in an eternity with god forever We can't simultaneously be as enemies. They're mutually exclusive. Some of you, if you're regulars here, you know Pete's been preaching through 1 John, 1 John 2 verse 15. It's 1 of the early sermons.

But the verse says this, do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the father is not in them. James is saying the same thing. That's why the context of James is so important. He's giving us another test of genuine faith.

So we have to ask ourselves this morning, are we in love with the world? Do you have an intimate relationship with it? Are you obsessed by you love its values, then if so understand you don't love god. You are an enemy of god. And so as we go into a new year, as we go into 20 20, let's think about that question.

Because particularly in the West, the wider church in basically every generation When it has not been marginalized by society, when it is not under persecution, but instead, as we are, frankly, finds itself in a relatively prosperous and peaceful society. Every time that's happened, the church struggles with the sin of worldliness. So this morning, analyze your life against the Bible. Because that's our plumb line. Review the last 12 months.

And if you've drifted, if you've become a little bit more enamored with the world, if you've become a little bit more cool towards God, if you're a little bit more captured by the world's values, then repent and come back to Jesus now, because love for the world is very, very dangerous. And it's dangerous because not only will it escalate and ultimately lead us into being an enemy of god, but it will produce a series of conflicts in our lives, which are highly destructive. And that's what we're going to spend the rest of our time this morning looking at now. We're gonna look at the conflicts that love for the world produces. And the first 1 is this, loving the world means conflict with the church.

Look at verse 1. What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from our desires, from your desires, rather, that battle within you, you desire, but do not have, so you kill You cover it, but you cannot get what you want. So you quarrel and fight. Now look, we must all have noticed the conflict in the world.

It's everywhere. It's all around us. Even the general election, full of conflict, the trade war if you're following that, the impeachment of, Donald Trump all conflicts. But there's conflict. And our marriages, isn't there?

There's conflict in our families. There's conflict in employment. There's conflict on a national, international scale, because we've still got civil wars and wars going on in this world. Before Christmas, we were embroiled in a in a story in the office, really. 1 of the guys that I worked with a Christian, and he was telling us that Christmas was essentially off because his wife had had a massive fallout with her sister.

4 or 5 days before Christmas was supposed to start. And in the end, as we followed this, drama along, he'd spent 2 evenings of the week just leading up to Christmas Eve in various pubs talking to other members of the family trying to put it all back together again. Now there may have been underlying issues, which we don't know about, but the presenting issue was that his wife had apologized to her sister for some thing, and not got much back. That that seemed to be the entire basis of the fallout. Now, he pointed out to his wife quite rightly that you don't apologize in order to get an apology back because that isn't how it works.

So he had to deal with his wife first on that basis. Then in the pub, he meets the sister-in-law and brother-in-law to tell them that when you get an apology, be a little bit more gracious about how you accept this apology. And I I don't know who he met on the second of Pub night. But all of this went on for a few days, and in the end it was sorted, the 2 sisters were reconciled and Christmas went ahead. But it was amazing, wasn't it?

How that little thing caused several days of is Christmas on or off? But James is showing us that those areas of conflicts are what happens. It's it's relatively normal. What causes fights and quarrels among you, he says? Now the words among you are the key to what we're talking about here, because James is actually addressing, and this is the finding thing.

By the way, the the reason I told you that story was that people in the office are Christians. He was a Christian. His wife was a Christian. His sister-in-law was a Christian. So it was all Christians falling out here.

The words among you, you see means that James is actually addressing what causes quarrels among you in the church. He's talking about rows and quabbles and cold shouldering that happen amongst the church family. And the reason you get conflict in the church According to this passage is because you have some people in love with god and others who are in love with the world. And that makes them enemies of god and enemies of god's family. See, that's what this letter is all about.

The church is a mixture, isn't it? Of genuine Christians and false Christians and people who are seeking God and people who think that just by hanging out, with us, they sort of get god by osmosis. And how can you tell which 1 you are? How can you tell who is who? How can you tell which group you're in?

Well, according to this letter, you apply the tests of genuine faith. And the 1 we're looking at this morning is, are you in love with the world? Or are you in love with god because it can't be both? You see, you're bound to get trouble in a church. If you have 1 group of people whose priority is to glorify god, another group of people whose priority is to glorify itself.

And notice how James sort of explodes into this subject. Go back to the end of chapter 3 verse 17. He's been talking about wisdom we looked at this last time. Verse 17, but the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure, then peace loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reaper harvest of righteousness What causes fights and quolls among you?

See, there's the the chapter breaks and the headings are have been put in later. It's 1 train of thought for James. So what he's basically saying is what causes fights and quarrels among you? Well, it isn't worldly. Sorry.

It isn't heavenly wisdom. The very quarrels he talks about here are evidence of worldly wisdom in conflict with divine wisdom. So I've asked myself, and in fact, if you were newcomers, we actually discussed this a little bit, it cropped up somehow in 1 of the sessions before Christmas. I've asked myself on a number of occasions, why do I get more annoyed, more irritated, with some of you sitting there than I do with my non Christian friends. Shouldn't I be more loving, more forgiving of the church family?

See, I think the answer is I have higher expectations of all of us. I expect to see divine wisdom, not worldly wisdom on display. Now in a sense, I guess that's fair enough, but James is reminding us that in a church, just like in a church like Cornerstone, you're constantly have both. Firstly, because we have non Christians here, Secondly, because we're all imperfect. We all fail.

We all fall. We all let people down. We slip into worldly wisdom at the same time as battling to grow spiritually, to develop godly wisdom. Now in a sense, perhaps the times we display worldly wisdom to each other are more stark in the church family. In fact, you know, let's pray they are, that they stand out.

The point is I do need to reduce my expectations of each other, don't I? I do need to forgive more. I do need to be forgiven. Because we're just a a bunch of imperfect sinners trying to do church, which is relationship, and therefore messy. Secondly, second conflict we're going to look at.

Loving, the world means conflict within. First 1, again, please the second bit. Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire, but you do not have, so you kill. You cover it, but you cannot get what you want so you quarrel and fight.

See, there are 2 elements in this little internal conflict here. And in the end, they cause external conflict. The first is the word desires, don't they come from your desires? Now that could be translate, and it is in some of the older versions, could be translated lusts, which is in a sense that I think is a bit stronger. He's saying we're constantly battling to fulfill our lust and yet within us, they're often frustrated, they're thwarted, and that leads us into conflict with other people, particularly if they get in the way those people of what we want.

Now notice he's he's not saying because this is something we talk about a lot as Christians, he's not saying we're internally battling against lust You know, we talk, don't we? About the fact that as you become a Christian, you become more aware of your sin So you try and battle it, you try and deal with it. That's not what he's saying. What he's saying is we're battling 2 fulfill these lusts. See, the root of the word lust the original language is where we get the word hedonism from.

It means to live for pleasure. So conflict comes out of people's basically uncontrolled lusts as they live for pleasure. So ask yourself, do you have that problem? Are uncontrolled lasts the reason you're a friend of the world and an enemy of god. But just because we're using the word lust here, doesn't mean we're talking about some sort of base sexual desires.

We are But it's the desire for personal fulfillment in all of its forms that lusts is referring to here. James is talking about the way we devote our time, our energy, our money, interests, our enthusiasm, anything that we look to to find self satisfying not what he's talking about. And we have to be aware when we think about this, that the world is preaching exactly the opposite of what that says. The world is preaching to us and saying the root of happiness is in seeking the inner self. It's in understanding yourself.

It's in affirming yourself. It's even in pampering yourself. And it's dressed up to sound quite spiritual often often. Now, this is an old example, but you see, I've talked about Joel osteen before. That's why books, why people like Joel osteen, are so dangerous.

Because it's portrayed as Christian literature. It sounds quite spiritual, but just listen to the titles. Your best life now. Next level thinking. Become a better you.

You can, you will. That is worldly thinking spiritualized. So the first internal conflict we have comes from uncontrollable lust The second internal conflict comes in verse 2. You desire, but do not have, so you kill. You kill That is what we do when gratification is thwarted.

It may not be physical murder, as much as destructive behaviour, but it's all about the lusts that control us. The first problem you see is uncontrolled desires, uncontrolled lust. The second problem inside of you, is unfulfilled desires. 1 Peter 2 verse 11 says this, dear friends, I urge you as foreigners and exiles to abstain from sinful desires which wage war against your soul. Simpleful desires wage war against your soul.

So there's an internal inside of us hostility bubbling up that's highly destructive and it's driven by a passion for self satisfaction, and that's driven by uncontrolled lust and unfulfilled lust. And if people get in the way of that, we can get quite hostile, and that brings us into conflict. So the third aspect this morning, the third aspect of loving the world is this, loving the world the world prevents us seeking god verse 2 again. You have not because you ask not. I think this has been misquoted often.

See, what what are people searching for? Well, the verse says it's not god. That's what it's saying. Might be that you want the things god provides, joy, peace, happiness, meaning, fulfillment, you know, whatever it is you can think of. You might want those things we're all looking for them to some extent, aren't we?

But we don't want god with them. And so we don't ask that what what this verse is saying. In our hearts, we believe that the good things that we want that we've just listed, are actually available through our worldly desires. If we can only get them, then we'd be happy. And so James says, you have not because you ask not.

In other words, all these things are available from god, but you won't ask because you don't want him. Now that made sense to me, and then you get verse 3. When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. He's just said we don't ask. Now he's saying when you ask, is there not some sort of conflict there?

Well, not really, he's simply saying, look, on the occasion that you do ask, when you finally get round to asking God, you're not going to get what you've asked for because you've asked for the wrong reasons. You haven't asked to glorify god. You haven't asked for the glory of god. But instead you've asked so that you can consume whatever it is you've asked for on your own lusts. So you never end up asking on god's terms.

And James says that's how it is for people who love the world. They exist for pleasure, and when they do turn to god, they look to him for the wrong satisfaction. So the 3 characteristics of someone who loves the world are firstly you are odds with everyone else, because you're fighting to get what you want. Secondly, you have tremendous anxiety in yourself. Because your desires are out of control and unfulfilled.

And thirdly, you only really have 1 selfish desire, and it's your own pleasure rather than loving god for who he is. So you never go to him. But it gets worse, and that's our final point. Fourthly, loving the world means being in conflict with god, that's where we started this morning. You adulterous people don't you know that friendship with the world means enmity against god?

Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of god. This is by far the most frightening bit of the passage. To be an enemy of god is a terrifying thing. And there's just 3 very brief things I want to highlight from this verse. Firstly, notice it's a personal hostility.

You see, he starts by writing you adulterous people. Now James is writing to Jews here, and they'd have been very familiar, therefore, with this terminology. They would know he's reminding them that Israel was an adulterous wife. And by the way, this this term you adulterous people, you adulterous wife is never used of gentiles because only Israel could commit adultery because they were the only people who had a covenant relationship with god at that time. James is saying, in a sense, it's the same as apostasy.

It means to be near god and then turn against him. So again, James has in mind here professing Christians. He has in mind people in the church who attach themselves to it, perhaps they make some sort of verbal commitment to the church. They make some sort of verbal commitment to god. They they look to love his people.

And yet really underneath it all, they hold a deep affection for the world and all its evil. And James is saying, you are Daltra, you hang out with the church and profess a union with Christ, while cultivating a love with the world. The second thing it says in this verse is that it's a definitive choice to be a friend of the world and an enemy of god. Look at the second bit of verse 4. Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of god.

And the meaning of the word choose here is very deliberate. It means choosing 1 thing over another So it reinforces the whole idea in this passage that we're not talking about, which some some of us worry about too much, as I said earlier, we're not talking about a drift into an occasional sin. He's talking about a deep love of the world. A choice to pursue it and ignore everything else including god. It's a definitive choice.

Are you going to choose the world? Are you going to choose god? Thirdly finally in this little verse, James shows us that in loving the world, we actually disregard the word of god we sit under week by week. When we're here, when we read the Bible for ourselves, when we're in our small groups and we have it taught to us in any form. See verse 5 is this.

And it's not a straightforward verse, or do you think scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us. Now there's a lot of confusion in this first in in a long time ago because the original translations put a capital s on spirit. So everyone went to the Holy Spirit. You'll see it's corrected here, and I think it is talking about spirit with a small s. What he's basically saying is that if you love the world, you're confirming the spiritual diagnosis of yourself that the Bible gives you.

Because the Bible says that the state of natural man is to love the world. And the point it's making in verse 5 is it doesn't say it for nothing. God is jealous for you to love him. God longs your love. And the Bible warns us that if we continue on our path of lusting after the world, it will lead to destruction and disaster.

Verse 5 is saying the Bible doesn't say all that for no reason. It says it so that you'll come back. It says it so that your spirit will love god. So as we go into the new year, this week, don't be someone who disregards the word of god that you hear. Someone perhaps who avoids putting themselves under the word of god, don't fail to concentrate when you're here.

Put the phone away if that's the problem. If you're out serving, catch up with the series that's being preached on in the next week. If you're away for the weekend, do the same. But actually, why not get back in time for the evening service? Don't let love for the world or a world in us mean we disregard the Bible.

So that's the passage. It's asking us to look back. It's asking us to look forward. It's asking us to think about are we really in love regard or are we really in love with the world? We need to ask ourselves that question.

Perhaps you need sort out some external conflicts with people in god's family. Perhaps we need to stop lusting after the world and getting for straighted when we don't get what we want. Do you need to seek god more, not for what he can give you, but just for him? Do you need to choose him a definitive choice and stop choosing the world? And let's listen to the Bible more.

Let's repent and turn back to a loving father who longs to see us grow in relationship with him. And perhaps we need to trust again or for the first time in Jesus Christ as our lord and Savior. Start trusting in the things of the world, whatever they are for you. If we gaze at Jesus more, if we see that through his pain and his brokenness on the cross, he saves us, and he displays to us in that act god's love. Then how can we choose anything else or anyone else to live for?

As we look forward to a new year, let's determine to love god more. Let's pray. Father, we thank you for this word. We thank you that it is a warning to us, not to love the world. It is a warning to us that we can't be double minded.

We can't have what we want in the world, and then just on perhaps on a Sunday, keep god ticking along. That we have to make a definitive choice. Lord help us not to, stress about the occasions we fall help us to repent, but trust that you've dealt with them. Trust that your death was enough to cover our sin. But lord help us too not to continue down a pathway that will lead us to love the world in an intimate relationship.

And therefore, become an enemy of yours. Help us to be people who love you more who don't disregard what the word says about our natural state and about how we need to move forward, help us look to a new year to grow spiritually that we might have a closer walk with you. Lord, help us to put ourselves in the way of blessing that we might grow both in our understanding but also in our emotional attachment in our love for Jesus. And we thank you for what we've heard this morning, help us to, let it sink in over the next few days and may we step forward into 20 20 determined choosing to love you more.

Preached by Philip Cooper
Philip Cooper photo

Phil is an Elder at Cornerstone and oversees our Finances. Cathryn is on the staff team as our Women’s Ministry Coordinator.

Contact us if you have any questions.

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