There is true story told about a wife/mother of two girls, who had a husband who didn’t make right decisions at times, he wasn’t perfect by any means, but he was known to be a righteous man nonetheless by others. His wife on the other hand wasn’t very righteous at all, she loved this world and all it had to offer. Pretty much she bought into the lie that this is your best life now! But despite her unrighteousness and love for this world, she and her family were given an unbelievable, a once in a lifetime offer or opportunity, to flee destruction because of the perverse world system of their time. But tragically as they left something overcame her and what was rooted already in her heart won the battle of the will. The sad tragic ending of this woman is recorded for you and me many years later. It goes like this! “Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the LORD out of heaven. And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But Lot's wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” Gen 19:24-26 Why did she die? “As morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, "Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city." But he lingered. So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the LORD being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. And as they brought them out, one said, "Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away.” Gen 19:15-17. Why did she die? For the exact same reason James is warning us about this morning!The bible is abundantly clear about who and what we are to stay away from. Especially this world’s philosophy and fallen ideologies.
The word of God says “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.” 1 John 2:15
Paul wrote in Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed [adapt, fashioned, resemble] to this world”
John wrote why we are not to love this world. In 1 John 3:13 he said “Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.”
This present age will drag you down! Paul said “For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted [forsaken, left] me and gone to Thessalonica.” 2 Tim 4:10
A friendship with the world only brings death. Paul wrote “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Rom 8:13
James says in this passage this morning “Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” James 4:4
Let me ask you! What direction do you steer your Christian life towards? Are you more inclined to be swayed by the world system with all it has to offer? This by the way is temporary and destructive in the end. Are you more inclined to be swayed by things in Heaven? This has eternal implications where Jesus is. This is a major problem, if you are more concerned and swayed by this present evil system, especially as it pertains to your moral compass and walk with Christ.
What do I mean?
James talks about our desires that battle within each of us, in his opening remarks. Naturally we want selfish gain, pleasure in this world and what’s best for me. And when you put a bunch of people who are sinful, who have selfish desires at times, usually creates fights and quarrels. We can faithfully say that is true in our marriages, homes, and workplace and even in the church, as James addresses here. James uses the word “Quarrels” This word means “serious disputing or combat” this word often renders “war” as you would see in the KJV. James uses serious language like “murder” now this doesn’t mean they were physically killing each other, but sure were thinking it. But this goes with exactly what Jesus said "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will be liable to the hell of fire.” Matt 5:21-22
This idea of murder first begins within the heart and we are all guilt of this. What’s interesting is this is not a universal battle of the church! James says “fights among you” this was a specific issue, or discord among the church. Obviously there were some unwelcomed guests who were trying to disrupt the fellowship of these people!
John talks about this in his letters.
Peter warned the church about this in his letters.
Jude said they are here among us in his letter.
The reason for these fights is the battle of our selfish desires and wants. We want people to conform to us instead of Christ. And when people don’t follow in line to my ideas, methods and my plans for your life. We tend to shut our ears to reason and most of all the wisdom that flows down form Heaven. And we see the clearest example given by the Apostle Paul in his last letter. “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” 2 Tim 4:3-4. John said “Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” 1 John2:18-19. No church is perfect and never will be, this side of glory……but the more we allow the world into our homes, families, marriages and the church the more wars we’re going to see go on. When these things are happening it brings conflict to the individual and have devastating results or outcomes you or me!
And we see 2 internal conflicts in this portion of James letter.
UNCONTROLLED and UNFULFILLED DESIRES.
“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.” (v1b-2a). We don’t know what the specific desire is, but whatever it is makes a person aggressive and in the end the only thing it brings is sin.” And when we don’t get what we want it could lead to this! (v2)
“Murder” this again is a strong word. It characterizes something violent and destructive behaviour that could lead to death.
John MacArthur said these in his commentary “When the lusting person cannot achieve his desired goals …whether for reputation, prestige, sexual gratification, money, power, escape through drugs or alcohol, success, possessions, the affections of another person, or whatever….the result is often catastrophic to others and always destructive of oneself.”
Where have we seen that in the scriptures?
Abal the first homicide over worship and jealousy by his brother Cain. (Gen 4)
Absalom was willing to kill his own father David to rule Israel. (2 Sam 15-18)
David having Uriah killed after his adulterous encounter with Bathsheba. (2 Sam 11)
Seeking this world is like saying “God you don’t and can’t satisfy my wants and needs, so I’m going to do it myself” So the wisdom we seek is earthly, unspiritual and demonic at times. Why? We only care about the kingdom of one mentality….but this is destructive and never ends well as we see in Lots wife. Which this leads me to the second thing!
“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.” (v2b-v3). Seeking this world and having uncontrolled and unfilled desires is also selfish…..I’m self-sufficient, I don’t need God and I’m fully capable of taking care of myself thank you! So they seek the world to meet their needs instead of going to the one that James described earlier as pure and good. (1:v17), or the passage we looked at last week (3:v17). James says when they do ask…. they ask with wrong motives! “you ask wrongly” has the basic meaning of bad, evil or wicked. You could compare this portion of James letter with the prodigal son who wanted his best life now!
“And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.” Luke 15:13. Everything seems great for a season but when the fun and self-gratification ends you are left empty and lacking. Your pursuit of happiness only caters for a time and it soon vanishes away. It’s the God of one mentality and it’s very similar to when people use certain passages to justify their self-seeking heart desires.
“Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4. But this passage isn’t talking about what you desire, because our desires are not God’s. What this passage is tell us is that He will plant His desire into our hearts and they will become our own. God knows what’s best for you and me! Why? When we listen to our hearts we need to understand that only leading us astray and away from God. This is exactly what the world wants you to do! This is exactly what happened to Lot’s wife. She loved this world and all the pleasures it brings …..And for many it brings eternal separation away from God. A God who has extended His mercy and grace to selfish woman like Lot’s wife and He extends that same grace to everyone today. But tragically, many listen to their own hearts. And this doesn’t end well because it results in a personal conflict with God (v4-v6)
“You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?” (v4) “Adulterous” this word is used metaphorically [figurative, symbolically] in a way the people would understand how they were treating their relationship with the God. We need to understand that James isn’t talking about their sexuality but there spiritual infidelity. I think one of the greatest examples of that is found in the Prophet Hosea…..powerful book about God’s never ending mercy as He seeks out His people even when they are ugly and filthy because of their spiritual idolatry. That’s the gospel! God found you and me hiding underneath a rock because of our shame and adulterous behaviour. What James was saying and still is today “You unfaithful people do you not realize that to be a friend with the world makes you an enemy of God.” “Enemy” gives the idea that it’s fleshly, unregenerate and by definition devoid of the Holy Spirit. You can do a study on the word enemy in how it relates to God and every one of them comes back to the simple truth. God will and always will prevail over His enemies.
1 Cor 15:25-26 says “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”
I guess it boils down to this one question! Who are you going to depend on in order to get to Heaven? This world that is still under judgement and wrath? Or the selfless and unconditional love found in the finishing work of Christ for your life as He bore your sin? As the hymn song “turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face…..and the things on earth will go [WHAT?] Strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”
Why turn our eyes upon Jesus? The answer is found in (v5) “He yearns jealously over the spirit that He gave you and me.” We are living examples to the faithfulness of the scriptures and the gospel that saves. We serve a Jealous God who takes great pride and care for His bride….and He doesn’t like His bride falling for another man [meaning: the things of this world]. This word jealousy takes us back to passages like…..
“And God spoke all these words, saying, "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” You shall have no other gods before me. "You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God.” Exo 20:1-5
Exo 34:14 says “for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God,”
What does this jealousy of God look like!
As a husband, I’m jealous for the affections of my wife, and anyone or anything that threatens to steal her love from me is met with the strongest of opposition. By the way this is good thing men and you ladies, because it applies to all of us. The same rule applies in our relationship with God, that He is jealous for our affections. God is infinitely jealous for His people and He will oppose with divine force anything or anyone who gets between us.
God is also jealous for our affections of the heart as a follower of Christ. This is not an insecure jealousy that is afraid you’re to find someone or something better. This is a secure jealousy that seeks what is best for you by guarding your heart from adulterous pursuits. He tells us to run from the things of this world and cling to Him in order to find all that we need. Again husbands, wives, we wouldn’t expect it our relationships/marriages, so what makes you think He would?
“Our worship and praise to Him belong to the Jealous One” As one song writer said!
For many and even us at times have sought out the pleasures of this world. For many and even us at times have satisfied our flesh with the things of this world with more possessions, nicer cars, and bigger houses, and better luxuries. We have pursued positions, approvals and popularity. We have lived for what is best for us in this world and by doing this we have run around on our God. And if this is so in your life! I’m here to tell you to repent and come back to Him.
Who are you going to depend on in order to get to Heaven? A world that wants you to commit spiritual adultery, murder and possibly suicide. Or a God who wants to present you blameless at His coming? As Jude said in his letter “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy (v24). It’s His joy to give you joy......not what this world offers but the joy that flows through the gospel of eternity in His Son…..Jesus Christ.