Flee the Lusts of the Flesh-Don't Befriend the World
Our God is jealous this morning. He loved us, bought us, found us, drew us, cleaned us and now lives within us by His Holy Spirit. Have you thought deeply about what it means to have a Jealous God living in you? Have you thought about what would offend someone who loved us so much that He wants us to be utterly loyal to Him?
So what could be the worst place we could find ourselves as believers this morning?
The answer comes in James, the very first New Testament letter written to Christ's Church—it is getting drawn away from our loyalty to our God, acting like the world by cultivating its desires, and becoming God's enemy.
How can a believer do such a thing? We become an enemy of God when we become friendly with the world.
Listen as James, our Lord’s earthly brother, writes to believers and warns them of this dreadful condition he calls 'friendship with the world’. Open there with me to James 4.
- James 4:1-8 Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. 4 Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, "The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”? 6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” 7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. NKJV
Look closely at verse 4. The word friendship only appears here in the New Testament. It is a Greek word that describes love in the sense of a strong emotional attachment.
So think about the implications of this verse with me. God says beware of ‘friendship’ with the world. What is that?
The word friend is a word that means in our English language--1: one attached to another by affection or esteem 2: one that is not hostile toward us, nor us toward them 3: a favored companion 4: one to whom we are showing kindly interest and goodwill.
So God says beware of friendship with the world. Using this definition of friendship examine what James has warned us about.
Are you attached to anything that God hates? Do you have affection for something that is utterly opposed to Him? Is the world of the Devil and all of its rebellion and lusts that is hostile towards God—looked upon affectionately by us?
Are God’s enemies our favored companions? Do we show interest and good will towards what God hates?
We become friendly with the world gradually.
Look at this progression that James points out—believers who are not careful: 1. allow themselves to be drawn into “the friendship of the world” (James 4:4), 2. which leads to getting “spotted” by the world (James 1:27) as they allow areas of their lives to pattern the current desires of the world. 3. This friendship leads to loving the world (1 John 2:15-17), and this 4. leads to increased conformity to the world (
And what is friendship with the world again? Remember last week we saw that the Apostle John in I John 2.15-17 explains the world we are not to befriend or love is all the lusts and evil desires packaged in varied shapes, sizes, and colors that always fall into one of three categories:
- “Lust of flesh” We are tempted by our flesh to chase pleasures, this equals the cravings of the body. These are all of the sensual temptations. This is lust for another person. The desire to have and enjoy the body of an individual, either mentally or physically, even though such pleasure is illegal and/or immoral. We can feed these lusts by going to places where we see uncovered bodies, or watching TV and movies that have various states of immodesty, or by seeking out images in magazines and online that feed these evil desires.
- “Lust of the eyes” We are tempted by our eyes to chase stuff, this equals the lusting of the eyes. These are all of the material temptations. This is lust for things. The things may be as large as a house or as small as a ring, as bright and dazzling as a new sports car or as dull and dusty as a two-hundred-year-old antique dresser. Lest we think that this is not as bad as the lusts of the flesh, remember that covetousness (insatiable longing for more things) is as damnable as idol worship. That means that the lust for possessions is as wicked as the lust for immorality. Beware of both, they are deadly!
- “Pride of life” We are tempted by pride to chase status, this equals the boasting of the mouth. These are all of the personal temptation. This is selfishness because I’m most important. This is irritableness because life revolves around me. This is untruthfulness because I need to protect myself. This is laziness because I want to rest and comfort myself. All of these are pride as well as obvious lust for status and special recognition. Pride also shows up as lust for the status of fame, fortune, power, or authority. Pride may also be wanting a title that makes heads turn, like “top executive” or “president” or “executive director” or even “doctor”. In the Scriptures this was Satan’s sin. Pride in all its forms is heinous to God.
Any form of lust God hates. And so any form of lust we must flee and also hate. But look again at James 4.4. What happens when we are friendly to the world? God regards these pleasure-dominated believers adversarily, as verse 4 makes so clear with the reference to unfaithfulness, calling it spiritual adultery:
“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”
In the Old Testament,
This is the most sobering thought of this entire passage. James has stated that a believer--one who has trusted in Christ alone for salvation, can become “an enemy of God”—God’s adversary. “This is horrifying! This requires some reverent and careful thought.
James is not saying friendship with people in the world is hatred toward God or makes anyone his adversary. Rather, friendship with the world—the kosmos, the evil world system which lies under the power of Satan—this friendship makes one God’s enemy (cf. John 14:30; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Galatians 1:4; 1 John 5:19).
Believers who choose to pursue the pleasures of the world are ineluctably drawn to friendship with the forces of the world-system, which are at the very least indifferent to God and at the worst openly hostile to him.
These friendships will ultimately spawn in the believer’s heart the same indifferences and hostilities, thereby turning a true Christian into a practical enemy of the God he claims and desires to love.
These are painful thoughts—that a Christian for whom Christ died when he was still an enemy (Romans 5:10) should in effect lower himself to live as a redeemed enemy of God! Yet this is the very focus of our text because James is writing to Christians. And it rings true to our Christian experience.
Many Christians, believers who have not disclaimed God or announced their allegiance to the world, derive their pleasures and entertainments in things which are patently hostile to God.
Their “friends” are the degraded videos and movies and CDs which demean the God they profess to love. There are also many who participate in evanescent pleasures God specifically forbids. Such become practical enemies by choice. “Anyone,” says James, “who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (v. 4b).
It must be said that those who persist in living as friends of the world are very likely without grace, not Christians, despite their claims to faith.
Paul says of such, “For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things” (Philippians 3:18, 19). They are friends of the world!
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