We are looking at various excuses we Jesus-followers use for not following Jesus in this crucial area of being a friend of sinners. In our last post we began to think a bit about THE FORGOTTEN ART OF FRIENDSHIP. Jesus was a friend of sinners. But what do we do with James 4 which says, “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.”
It is absolutely critical that we recognize several possible meanings with the word “world.” In John 3:16 (“For God so loved the world . . .”), it must mean the people of the planet. In John 17:5 Jesus prays, “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” Here “the world” appears to mean the planet itself. But we then read in I John 2:15- “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.” The God who loves the world (John 3:16) tells us not to love the world (I John 2:15). Here “the world” must mean the pagan system opposing God and the things of God. Obviously, the expression “the world” can have three different meanings, depending on context.
So what does “the world” mean in James 4:4 (“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.”). Looking at the context of James 4 we learn —
1. that fights and quarrels among believers often come from our ungodly desires (vv. 1-3).
2. that following Jesus means resisting the devil (v. 7), drawing near to God (v. 8), seeking holiness (v. 8), grieving about sin (v. 9), and humbling ourselves before the Lord (v. 10).
3. that slandering and judging each other is really judging God’s law (vv. 11-12).
4. that boasting about tomorrow can cause us to forget about God’s will over our lives (vv. 13-16).
5. that not doing the good we should do is sin (v. 17).
These are the injunctions James gives for living life for God. His admonition to not be a friend of the world occurs in verse 4. So, we could say that being a friend of the world means —
(1) living for our own desires which includes needless quarreling with fellow-believers;
(2) not resisting the devil, not drawing near to God, not seeking holiness, not grieving about sin, not humbling ourselves before the Lord;
(3) slandering and judging one another;
(4) not pursing God’s will above our own future plans;
(5) not doing the good that we should do.
Man, that puts some meat on the challenge NOT to be a “friend of the world,” doesn’t it? (to be continued)