Standing Strong Against Worldliness | James 4:1-6

///Standing Strong Against Worldliness | James 4:1-6

Standing Strong Against Worldliness | James 4:1-6

“Whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”  This verse is a warning that demands our most urgent attention because you and I are in danger of being lured in by the false promises of pleasure from a God-ignoring, fallen world.

It is a warning that is given to every believer.  There is no one who is totally immune to the pull of this world.  MAKE CHART Now when this passage talks about the world, it is not referring to the parts of creation that God calls good, but it is referring to is the behavior of the secular, human society apart from God. 

“Worldliness” encompasses all that is anti-God and anti-Christ in our society – James 4:4, 2 Timothy 4

The secular world promises that satisfaction and great pleasure can be found by ignoring God, by questioning His wisdom or by out-right rebelling against His commands.  The world is very convincing!  Even pastors and elders and faithful ministry workers can become susceptible to the pull of worldliness.

Don’t believe me?  Then let me introduce you to a man in the Bible named Demas.  Turn in your Bible to 2 Timothy 4.

DEMAS

Demas was a companion of Paul when Paul was planting churches.   The Lord was working powerfully through Paul during this time. .

  • Miracles were being performed
  • People were getting saved.
  • Lives were being transformed.
  • Hard ground was being taken back from the enemy.

Demas was first mentioned in Colossians.  Colossians was written during Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome.  At that time, Demas was one of Paul’s closest companions.  The Book of Philemon indicates that Demas was not only close companions with Paul, but also with Luke and Mark as well.  Demas was hanging out with three men who were personally responsible for writing most of the New Testament.

The Bible does not mention many details about Paul’s relationship with Demas, but it would be safe to assume that Paul had invested some time and effort discipling him.  Any man included in this inner-circle would have been exposed to intense training in order to be well-equipped to carry on the ministry.

This close association with Paul during his first imprisonment would have put Demas at risk of facing persecution and even prison.  It seems, though, as the risk continued to increase, Demas’ resolve to be faithful began to decrease.  It became apparent that Demas was not ‘all in.’  He still loved the world a little bit.  He began to drift.  It may not have been an obvious drifting at first.

People don’t go from disciple to deserter in the span of a moment – 2 Timothy 4:9-10, James 4:4

It is usually a gradual weakening brought on by subtle compromises.  The group Casting Crowns says in one of their popular songs, “People never crumble in a day. It’s a slow fade.”  James 4:4b offers this warning, “…whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”  As Demas drifted further and further away from the things of the Lord, he became a closer friend with the world.

In 2 Timothy 4:9-10, Paul says to Timothy, “Do your best to come to me soon. 10 For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.”

The text said he “deserted” Paul.  The Greek word is a strong one.  It means to leave somebody helpless in a dire situation.  In our modern vernacular, we might say that Paul was “left in the lurch.”  I wonder what was so appealing in Thessalonica?  What was so attractive to Demas, that it drove him to abandon his post and turn his back on Paul?  We don’t know for sure, but I could make a couple of guesses:

  • Maybe there was a women there.
  • Maybe it was home and he was homesick.
  • Maybe he was given a business opportunity and he thought, “instead of going to prison with Paul, I’m going to make money and buy some stuff.”
  • Maybe Paul was just too intense and Thessalonica seemed like a safe, comfortable distance away from the overly-passionate Apostle.

One thing is for sure: Demas did not go to Thessalonica in order to follow Jesus.  He deserted Paul and he deserted Jesus in order to embrace the things of the world.

We probably all know a Demas – someone who burned brightly for the Lord for a while and then began to fade away from the fellowship of believers.  As they sought out the pleasures of God less and less, and instead they filled up their life with the pleasures of sin more and more.  Before long…

  • The presence of sin begins to no longer bother them as much.
  • Zeal for Christ begins to cool off and affections for the Lord grow dim.
  • They are no longer excited about the local church.
  • Eagerness to tell others about the Lord goes away
  • Spiritual growth toward Christ-like-ness goes into decline.

Like Demas, the person who once burned brightly for the Lord, is taken captive by sin one piece at a time and one compromise at a time.

Mini Application

At this point I have to ask you and me to examine our own lives: “Are we drifting?”

  • Are we making little compromises and allowing the enemy to gain little footholds in our lives?
  • Are we allowing anything to come between us and God so that our walk with God is hindered or slowed down?

The pull of the world is constant – 1 John 2:15-16

1 John 2:15-16 says, “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. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.”  The world is pulling on you and me every moment of the day.  Show Slope The slippery slope leading to worldliness has never been slicker than it is right now in America.

Many of our brothers in the persecuted church live in countries with oppressive regimes BUT the truth is that the church in these persecuted countries is flourishing.  It’s even exploding.  Revival is happening in many places right now where proclaiming Jesus as Lord and Savior could land you in jail or worse.

In America, we don’t face any real physical danger for proclaiming the gospel.  The danger we face is much more obscure and far more dangerous spiritually.  SHOW QUOTE: CJ Mahaney wrote, “Today, the greatest challenge facing American evangelicals is not persecution from the world, but seduction by the world.”[1]

Many people in the Christian community have let down their guard against the pull of worldliness so that a desire for sinful pleasure begins to trump the desire for the pleasures of God.  As the hearts of professing believers become entangled in secular pleasures, it begins to dull their witness for Christ and it softens the testimony of the church.

Charles Spurgeon wrote about the issue of wordiness his church was facing over 150 years ago.  His words seem strangely modern.  SHOW QUOTE: He said, “I believe that one reason why the church of God at the present moment has so little influence over the world is because the world has so much influence over the church.”

To back up his claim, Spurgeon calls upon the history of the church as a witness.  He made the following statement in the year 1860 (in a message he gave called “Separating the Precious from the Vile.”)  SHOW QUOTE: He said,

“Put your finger on any prosperous page in the Church’s history, and I will find a little marginal note reading thus: ‘In this age men could readily see where the Church began and where the world ended.’ Never were there good times when the Church and the world were joined in marriage with one another. The more the Church is distinct from the world in her acts and in her maxims, the more true is her testimony for Christ, and the more potent is her witness against sin.”[2]

God intended the church to look like the church and not to look like the world – James 1:27b

I am convinced that the church should look like a gathering of Christians and not like a gathering at the bar or at a wine-tasting room or at a secular concert venue.  The greater the differences between the gathering of the church and gatherings of the world, the greater our testimony for the life-transforming power of the cross.

James 1:27 calls us to take care of the needs of those who can’t help themselves. Even this week our church provided for some of the needs of a 2 ½ year old homeless girl who was just placed in a local foster home.  SHOW 1:27 SLIDE As I read the verse, you’ll notice the part about taking care of widows and orphans, but also notice what it says at the end, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

When you and I and visitors come into the church, it should be clear that this is a place that is “unstained” and distinctly different from every other meeting we might find ourselves at during the week.  The church is called to be a place that is “unstained by the world.”  This is a place where people are seeking the things of God and pushing away all that is against God.  The gathered church is a meeting of those who are in the all-out, passionate pursuit of Jesus!

Before I continue, I want to make it clear that the Bible is NOT calling us to be monks or nuns and to literally (physically) separate ourselves from the secular society.

The church is positioned in the world in order to reach the world for Christ – John 17:14-16, Psalms 24:1-2

Consider Jesus’ words as He prays to His Father for His disciples in John 17:14-15,

14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.”

Jesus is saying that those who have received Him as Savior are not part of the world.  He means they are not part of the secular system that is anti-God.  (Remember that worldliness encompasses all that is anti-God and anti-Christ) Far from it…  These new converts are the ones who He is sending back into society to advance the gospel through evangelism and disciple-making.  In that process, Jesus is praying for God to protect them from worldliness.

Turn back in your Bible to James 4.  “The World” in James 4 does NOT refer to God’s creation.  Nor does it call us to reject modern society, advances in medicine or new technology.  We don’t have to be Amish to be godly!  I can be a godly man and use a smart phone and drive a truck! Remember in Genesis, God called His creation good.  David puts it this way in Psalms 24:1-2, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,     the world and those who dwell therein for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.”

So you may wonder what James means when he says, “friendship with the world is enmity with God.” What are we forbidden to be friends with?

  • James is telling us not to be friends with the fallen parts of our culture that are hostile towards God.
  • He is telling us not to cozy up with a philosophy that embraces the very things that God condemns.
  • He’s telling us not to be buddies with secular movements that are actively opposing the gospel.

Here’s why:  God is jealous for hearts of his people.  God’s jealousy is not the sinful type that wants something that someone else has.  God’s jealousy is a protective type that wants to keep a loved one away from danger.  Because He loves His people, God does not look kindly upon any influence that might harm their eternal, spiritual lives.  (I’m going to use a bad word in our culture right now…”intolerant.”)

God is intolerant of sin robbing our affections for Him – James 4:5

Look at James 4:5.  James asks, “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”?”

There is some confusion about the meaning of “jealousy” in this verse, so let me make it clear for you with this illustration:

Imagine a billionaire comes across a woman on the street who is addicted to meth.  She is homeless, covered in sores, reduced to skin and bones and hopelessly hooked on the drug.  He sees her and has compassion for her.

He arranges to get her the best help money can buy.  She is admitted to rehab.  No expense is spared.  Over months, she begins to make a full recovery.

  • Her skin clears up.
  • She begins to gain weight back.
  • She is eventually not only fully restored to health, but thriving.

In the process, the billionaire falls in love with the woman.  She agrees to marry him.  He moves her into his mansion.  He buys for her thousand dollar outfits.  He arranges for her meals to be prepared by a personal chef.  He treats her with compassion and love.  She has free access to limousines and private jets.  She is treated better than most queens!

Then imagine if the billionaire walks into the bathroom one day and finds his bride with a meth needle sticking out of her arm again.  He would be jealous.  His jealousy would not be because she has something that he wants.  He owns everything money could buy!  He would be jealous because the meth is destroying her life and robbing her of affections for him.  She loves meth more than she loves her husband and he wants her affections back.

In the same way, God is jealous when sin robs our affections for Him.  God yearns for our affections to return when we willingly choose love for sin over love for Jesus.  Here is the challenge we face every day:  while remaining in the world, both James and Jesus are telling us not to be like the world.  They tell us not to let the world rob our affections for Jesus.  He’s paid too great of a price for our rescue for a fleeting sinful pleasure to trap us again.

To make that challenge even more difficult, all the modern advances in technology put the things of the world right in our face.  Access to the internet, social media, music, movies, and secular commentary are readily available at our fingertips.

PULL OUT PHONE:  The internet and communication devices are not fundamentally evil.  On my phone, I have access to the best biblical teaching in the country and all kinds of useful information.  However, we have to be careful with our easy access to technology.

I came across a study that said 90 percent of all internet searches are now done on mobile devises.  20 percent of those searches are looking for “adult” content.[3]  Modern technology is often used as a vehicle to drive us into the trap of worldliness.  Americans are given endless opportunities to pursue sinful pleasure and to disregard God and His Word.

Every day, you and I are making choices.  We are deciding to find pleasure in the things that oppose God or to find pleasure in the things that glorify God.  Are we friends of the world or Disciples of Christ?  In practice, we are often making those choices based on what we think will bring us the most pleasure.

We are created to be pleasure seekers but we get in trouble when we try to find pleasure in the wrong things – James 4:1-2

Backing up to James 4:1-2, the section oozes with the frustration and disappointment of an unsatisfied pleasure-seeker.  Listen to the angst in the language James uses, “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.”

These are the words of a person who thought that sin would satisfy, but found that the promises of the world left him empty and longing for more.  Show Cardboard Butterfly  There was an interesting experiment done with male butterflies.  A male butterfly will ignore a living female butterfly of its own species in favor of a cardboard butterfly if the cardboard butterfly is larger than the real female butterfly.  As the male pursues the painted up imitation, the real, living female opens and closes her wings in vain.

When I first heard about that experiment, I thought “what a stupid bug.  People would never do anything like that.  What a silly illustration!”  Then as I thought more about it, I considered all the advertising gimmicks, airbrushed models and marketing promises that we are exposed to every day.  I realized that our passions are stirred up by painted up imitations all the time!  We are prone to chase after the counterfeits of the world and to ignore the lasting satisfaction we can find in the pursuit of Christ.

When a pleasure seeker looks for pleasure in the wrong places, they always come up empty.  SHOW QUOTE Dr Samuel Johnson said it this way,

“Of all that have tried the selfish experiment, let one come forth and say he has succeeded.
He that has made gold his idol, has it satisfied him?
He that has toiled in the field of ambition, has he been repaid?
He that has ransacked every theater of sensual enjoyment, is he content?
Can any answer in the affirmative?
Not one!”

When James is referring to “desires” and “passions,” he is targeting cravings we have that are competing for the supremacy of God in our hearts.  The evil in our desires is often not in what we want, but in our attempt to obtain those things in ways that ignores or that disregards God’s commands.

Application: God made us to delight ourselves in Him.

God made a creation for us that He called good.  God created pleasures for us to enjoy but He wants us to enjoy them in a way that honors Him and that values the giver of the gifts over the gifts themselves.

  • It is good to enjoy the wildflowers springing up on a warm sunny day up on Mingus Mountain. Enjoy that pleasure and use it to worship God
  • It is a gift to go for a jog in the countryside and to breathe deeply of the fresh, pine scented air. Enjoy what God has created and give him the glory for what He’s given to you
  • He wants you to know the pleasures of a good meal at your favorite restaurant, or an afternoon playing your favorite sport, or a good book or concert as long as it does not turn into an idol or an obsession that snuffs out your love for Him.
  • He created the joy of marital intimacy and He has clearly defined how to honor him with our marriage relationships

Christians are not commanded to deny themselves of pleasure.  God wants us to enjoy Him and his creations without succumbing to worldliness:

#1 God is the author of all pleasure – Psalms 37:4, 34:8, 16:11

The Christian author and theologian, CS Lewis, wrote a book called Screwtape letters.  It is a book written to portray a typical human life, with all its temptation and failings, from the perspective of the demons.  In one section of the book, the Senior Devil says these words about pleasure to his understudy named Wormwood,

“Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s ground.”

So he’s saying that when Satan deals with pleasure, he in trafficking in God’s territory

“I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His [God’s] invention, not ours. He made the pleasures: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy [God] has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden. Hence we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure to that in which it is least natural, least redolent of its Maker, and least pleasurable. An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula.

In this fictional book, Lewis effectively illustrates the theological reality that all true pleasures are authored by God.  Satan does not create pleasure, but instead he only ruins and distorts what God had created for our good and his glory.

The scriptures are filled with the language of enjoyment.  Here are 3 examples from the Psalms:

  • Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
  • Psalm 34:8, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!”
  • Psalm 16:11, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy;     at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

 

#2 God wants to help us find our pleasure in Him – Romans 8:1-2

You may have heard this morning’s message and discovered that you’ve begun to drift.  One little baby step at a time, you’ve been tip-toeing away from the pursuit of Christ and exchanged those eternal, lasting pleasures for the instant gratification of a fallen world.

Maybe you feel trapped in that pursuit.  Maybe you think that you can never quit and that you’re beyond hope.  It’s true that resisting the world takes considerable effort and it’s a life-long battle.  However, it is also a battle that we don’t have to fight alone.  In fact, we can’t fight it alone.

The pull of this world is too strong for us to resist it by ourselves.  We need a greater strength than what we can muster on our own.  The good news today is that all that we need to overcome worldliness has been provided for us.  The antidote to worldliness is Christ

Only through the power of “Christ in Me” can I fully resist the enticement of a fallen world!  The Savior’s sacrifice on the cross gave me the power to receive forgiveness for sin and the power to overcome sin.  Romans 8:1-2 says, “…There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”

  • How do we make worldliness lose its appeal? By crowding it out with our affections for Jesus.  When we pursue and receive the blessings of God, then the counterfeit benefits of the world aren’t so satisfying anymore.
  • How do we fill up our minds with the things of Christ? It all begins with a regular time spent alone with Christ and his Word.  Do you have a plan for how you are going to get into the word this week?

Jesus is what’s most important.  We resist the world because ultimately it dulls our affections for Christ and draws us away from pursuing Him.  Worldliness is so serious because Christ is so glorious.  His desire to be glorified and your desire to be satisfied are both found in the pursuit of our Savior.

 

 

Standing Strong Against Worldliness | James 4:1-6

“Worldliness” encompasses all that is anti-God and anti-Christ in our society – James 4:4, 2 Timothy 4

People don’t go from disciple to deserter in the span of a moment – 2 Timothy 4:9-10, James 4:4

The pull of the world is constant – 1 John 2:15-16

God intended the church to look like the church and not to look like the world – James 1:27b

The church is positioned in the world in order to reach the world for Christ – John 17:14-16, Psalms 24:1-2

God is intolerant of sin robbing our affections for Him – James 4:5

We are created to be pleasure seekers but we get in trouble when we try to find pleasure in the wrong things – James 4:1-2

Application: God made us to delight ourselves in Him.

#1 God is the author of all pleasure – Psalms 37:4, 34:8, 16:11

#2 God wants to help us find our pleasure in Him – Romans 8:1-2

Worldliness is so serious because Christ is so glorious.

[1] CJ Mahaney “Worldliness” page 22

[2] Separating the Precious from the Vile (preached March 25, 1860)

[3] https://arstechnica.com/uncategorized/2006/04/6610-2/

By |2017-07-01T17:27:27+00:00April 2nd, 2017|James Growing Strong, Sermons|0 Comments

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