4 “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.” (James 4:4)
One of the many evidences the Bible is the Word of God is that it tells its readers what they need to hear and not necessarily what they want to hear. You see, people want to be told that they are alright, no matter what they do. In other words, that they’re okay. The Bible, on the other hand, doesn’t tell us what we want to hear, but rather what we need to hear. Especially when the subject happens to be salvation.
The Scriptures reveal to sinners, there’s an inflammatory word, that they are bound for hell if they do not receive God’s righteousness by grace alone, through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone. The Bible says that sinners need to be delivered from the penalty of their sin. The Bible holds forth that this salvation is available only by a trust in, commitment to, dependence upon and worship of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord (Romans 3:21-26; Ephesians 2:1-10).
The Bible also promises that there will be a deliverance for every believer in Christ from the very presence of sin. The Bible calls this glorification (Romans 8:28-30; I Corinthians 15:35-49; I John 3:1-3).
The Bible also sets forth that there is a deliverance for every believer in Christ from the power of sin. This is called the process of sanctification (I Thessalonians 4:1-12). This is living a life of obedience before God which is pleasing to God.
In all three areas of salvation, the believers faces enemies or opposition. Those enemies include our sinful nature or flesh. While its power is eliminated at salvation, its residual influence remains with each believer in Christ. In effect, the believer encounters a war within their soul (Galatians 5:16-26).
A second enemy of the believer’s sanctification and life or holiness is the fallen, world system. This is the worldview that God does not exist, that there is no absolute right or wrong, there is no ultimate purpose to life resulting in people having to figure out their own reason for living and being.
Today’s text, from James 4:4, indicates that friendship with the fallen world by the believer in Christ is to become an enemy of God. The word friendship (φιλία; philia) means to have an affection for and to have an association with the world’s view of life and living. The word enmity (ἔχθρα; echthra) means to be an enemy or to be in opposition to God. That is James’ conclusion. There is no middle ground.
This is what Jesus said about the world system, and what followers of Jesus could expect from the world, in John 15:18-21. 18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.”
The answer to the world’s hatred of our faith in Christ is not to make our walk with Christ so like the fallen world’s rebellious system of thought and behavior against God that there is little, to no, distinction between the two. This becomes the epitome of worldliness.
I John 2:15-7 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. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”
J.C. Ryle writes, “He (the Christian) must fight the world. The subtle influence of that mighty enemy must be daily resisted, and without a daily battle can never be overcome. The love of the world’s good things, the fear of the world’s laughter or blame, the secret desire to keep in with the world, the secret wish to do as others in the world do, and not to run into extremes–all these are spiritual foes which beset the Christian continually on his way to heaven and must be conquered.” See Galatians 6:14; I John 5:4; Romans 12:2.
Our goal to be holy must include a consistent pattern of behavior which is obedient to the Lord and His Word, and consequently in contrast and opposition to the world.
As one pastor observed, “We are not supposed to go looking for persecution or hostility, but if we never experience it, that should be a wake-up call to tell us we may not be as committed to Christ as we say we are. Every believer will at some point face hatred from the world to some degree. If we are never hated for the gospel’s sake, we are likely not being true to the gospel.”
Soli deo Gloria!