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Do You Know How God Feels about Worldliness?
“Do You Not Know?” Series
Do You Know How God Feels about Worldliness?
James 4:4
 
So far in our study of the “Do you not know” statements of the New Testament, we’ve only heard from Paul.  But one other writer uses that term as well, and it is James.  Now James was the half brother of Jesus and a brother of Jude.  He was also a very influential leader in the church in Jerusalem. 
 
And in the fourth chapter of the book that bears his name, in verse 4, we find his use of this question.
 
James 4:4
 
I want us to consider his question today as a follow-up to what we learned last week.  In last week’s study, we heard Paul use an analogy of running in a race.  And in that picture, we are on display in the stadium of life before an audience called the world.
Now there is marked out in Scripture a very clear differentiation between the conduct of a Christian and the conduct of the world.  It is the emptiness and purposelessness of the world that often times will cause them to see the difference in a Christian’s life. 
 
Therefore, Paul’s instruction was to run the race in a temperate, self-controlled manner so that the world will observe you, and you can obtain the prize of a life well-lived.
 
Now it’s important to note that the Bible references the world in three different ways. 
 
First there is the world as the planet on which we live. The Psalmist spoke of "the foundations of the world" (Psa. 18:15). It is a world created by God (Gen. 1:1) and a world controlled by God (Heb. 1:2-3).
 
It also speaks of the world not only as a planet but also as a people. In the beloved John 3:16 which tells us that "God so loved the world," it is speaking of the people of the world. The object of God's love is the people who live on the planet He has created. He demonstrated His power in the creation of the world as a planet, but demonstrated His love in the redemption He provided for those who occupy the world.
 
The Bible also speaks of the world as a program.
 
It’s kind of interesting that all three are involved in Paul’s analogy.  We are citizens of heaven, spending time of the planet Earth.  We are living our lives before an audience of people whom God loves and Christ died for. 
 
And there is to be a difference in the behavior and conduct of our lives when compared to the world. 
 
Now that third aspect is what James speaks of here in verse 4 when he talks about "friendship with the world".
 
He’s talking about a system of life that is man-centered and Satan-directed. It is a system that runs in contradiction to God's plan and purposes for His people. It is a system that is hostile to God's plan and God's people.
And what we discover in these verses is what God thinks about a worldly lifestyle. 
 
Now next week we’re going to return to the writing of Paul and see why we can’t tolerate sin in our lives.  But today, we get God’s perspective on it. 
 
There was a time when we spoke of any relationship with the world by someone who is saved as worldliness. We don't hear that word much in our churches in our day and time. I think it is largely because both the Christian and the church have become so much like the world.
 
In our day and time you can't tell the difference between many congregations and the crowd at the ballgame by the way we dress.  The great hymns of the faith have been largely abandoned and replaced with music that caters more to the flesh than to the soul.
 
Many of the time tested traditions of the Church have been sacrificed on the altar of acceptability by the world. I know, I am old fashioned, but it concerns me that the Church is being so influenced by the world rather than having an influence on the world.
 
So James tells us how God feels about worldliness. Many may think that worldliness is an outdated subject for the modern church, but when we understand how God feels about it we see that worldliness is not something to classify as an antiquated subject of preaching.
 
How does God feel about worldliness? First, in James' words we see:
 
1. An Affection for the World
 
The word "friendship" literally means "fondness" and as used by James describes a love for the world. The verb form of the word is often translated "love" in the New Testament. When James speaks of "the friendship of the world" he is describing a believer who has a deep affection for the world.
 
In other words, a believer is to have deep affections for the eternal things above us, not the earthly things around us.
 
There is a vivid illustration of that found in the life of a man named Demas.  He is mentioned only three times in Scripture in three very brief references by Paul.
 
In Philemon 1:24 he mentions, “Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow laborers.”
 
Then in Colossians 4:14, Paul talks about, “Luke the beloved physician, and Demas.”
 
And finally in 2 Timothy 4:10 we find, "For Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world."
 
See the digression?  Here was one who was working alongside some of the greatest men in the history of the church and co-identified with them as a fellow laborer of Paul.  But something happened along the way, and eventually his love for the world was greater than his love for God. He left the work of God because the world had greater appeal to him.
 
When a believer has a friendship with the world there is a love for this present world, and unfortunately, many never get over it.  They possess a greater love for the things of the world than they do the things of God. They can’t wait to get the newest gadgets and the best of clothes and the flashiest car and it consumes their life. 
 
There was an old Nazarene preacher of year gone by who was taken by some friends to New York City.  There they saw all the sights and thrills.  That night when those friends gathered for a time of prayer, he said, "Lord, I thank You for letting me see all the sights of New York. And I thank You most of all that I didn't see a thing that I wanted!"
 
First John 2:15 says, "Love not the world, neither the thing that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him."
 
How does God feel about worldliness? The Bible cannot be plainer. A believer may live in the world, but they are not to love the world.
 
The kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world are diametrically opposed to one another. You cannot love both. If you love God, you will not love the world. If you are in love with the world, you are not in love with God. Like Uncle Buddy, there should be nothing about this world that is attractive or appealing to us.
 
And yet, look at how James begins his sentence in verse 4:  “Adulterers and adulteresses”.  You want ot know how God feels about worldliness?  He describes it as
 
2. AN AFFAIR WITH THE WORLD
 
Every marriage began with the vow to be faithful to the one whom they were marrying. According to an AP survey, 90% of Americans feel that adultery is wrong, however, 22% of men and 14% of woman have had affairs at least once in their life. The numbers are even higher in other studies.
 
Adultery is being unfaithful to a spouse. When James referred to "adulterers and adulteresses" he was speaking of those who were unfaithful to Christ. The idea of marriage in our relationship to Christ calls for faithfulness. When a believer loves the world, they are committing spiritual adultery.
 
I think of the numbers on physical adultery and they are astounding, but I wonder if they would not be far greater when it comes to spiritually adultery. The believer is to be completely separated and devoted to the Lord Jesus.
 
We are to "love the LORD thy God with all our heart, soul, and might" (Deut. 6:5). Would you say that describes your relationship with the Lord?  Obviously, the love the believer is to have for the Lord is exclusive and higher than any other love. To love the world is to misdirect and misapply our love. It is nothing short of being unfaithful to Christ.
 
For those of you who went to the Passages display in OKC recently, you may recall seeing a Bible that was published in 1623 in England that has become known as "The Wicked Bible."
 
The title was given to the edition because the little word "not" was omitted in the seventh commandment: "Thou shalt not commit adultery" (Exodus 20:14) and actually read, "Thou shalt commit adultery."
 
Adultery any way you slice is wicked. Under the law, adultery was considered a capital offense. Instructions were given in Deuteronomy 22:24 on how to deal with those had committed and were caught in adultery: "Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; so thou shalt put away evil from among you."
 
If God felt that way about physical adultery, I am sure He feels no less about spiritual adultery. As physical adultery was considered "evil" in the eyes of God, spiritual adultery is hated by God.
 
If you are an ice hockey fan, you may remember a goalie named Mike Torchia from years gone by.  In an article he wrote for Newsweek, he stated that he had affairs with around 40 married women. He said, "I don't feel bad about having had affairs with married women, because they were feeling neglected and they just wanted to be loved."
 
Sadly, many believers feel the same way about spiritual adultery. They are having an affair with the world and feel no guilt about their spiritual adultery. How thankful we ought to be that God no longer demands the death penalty on such evil.
 
Lastly, we see how God feels about worldliness by seeing in the words of James:
 
3. An Attachment to the World
 
Notice how James concludes his statement:
 
"whosoever therefore that wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God."
 
For the second time in this verse James speaks of being "a friend of the world." In the first he spoke of "the friendship of the world" the idea is that of a fondness or affection for the world. In the second that love has led to an attachment to the world. The words "wants to be" indicate that there is more than an interest, but an involvement motivated by a conscious choice.  This one has intentionally chosen he world over God.
 
Where once there was love and affection with God, there is now animosity and hostility.  The relationship is now that of an enemy. Understand what he’s saying?  To love the world and live as the world is in opposition to God's plan for the believer. It is living in hostility to God plans.
 
Proverbs 13:15 reminds us “The way of transgressors is hard.”  Think about the life of the Apostle Paul.  Before his conversion, he is leading the assault on Christianity.  He is a terrorist by any standard. 
 
And one day, God slapped him off his horse, blinded his eyes, and said, Saul, it’s hard to to kick against the goads.”  As Eugene Peterson paraphrases that line, “Why do you insist on going against the grain? 
 
That’s is one of the amazements of the ministry to me.  I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve counseled and visited with who live for the world, and raise their kids to love the world and fill their lives with useless toys and activities, then wonder why life is so hard; why nothing ever goes right for them; why the kids are in trouble.
 
I’ll tell you why:  You’re living life as the enemy of God!  You’ve decided you want to be friends with the world, and therefore you’ve put yourself at odds with God. 
 
There is no neutrality in this matter. And every one of us, every moment of our life must decide if we’re going to live the world’s way or God’s way. 
 
Dr. Philip Blaiberg, a dentist from Cape Town, South Africa, was the second man to successfully receive a heart from another person. He told his story in the book, Looking at My Heart.
 
His heart was donated by the wife of a black man who had sustained a brain injury while playing on the beach. The long, tedious operation, performed by a team of fifty-one men and women on January 2, 1968, was successful.
 
After living for weeks in a sterile room where every conceivable precaution was followed to safeguard the patient's health, at the time of his discharge March 16, 1968, doctors and nurses discarded their gowns and masks as Dr. Christiaan Barnard said: "Dr. Blaiberg is passing into a bacteria-filled world"
 
Every believer lives in world that operates in opposition to God and all His plans and purposes. The spiritual health of the believer demands an isolation and separation from the world. The way God feels about worldliness is enough to make every believer "keep himself unspotted from the world" (James 1:27).
 
Next week we’re going to look at the significance of that in our personal lives, but before we go, let me tell you about Eric Liddell.
 
Many of you have been around long enough to remember the movie, “Chariots of Fire”.  Its primary focus is on Eric Liddell.  He was the favored to win the gold medal for the 100 meters in the Paris Olympics in 1924.
 
However one of the heat races for the 100 meters was scheduled to be run on a Sunday, and Liddell made it a principle never to run on Sunday, the Lord’s day.
 
So he pulled out. His coach, and some other including the Prince of Wales, tried to convince him to change his mind. But he would not participate in the semifinals, because they were being held on Sunday.
 
The schedule had been published several months earlier, and his decision was made well before the Games.
 
Liddell spent the intervening months training for the 400 meters, though his best time of 49.6 seconds, set in winning the 1924 AAA championship 440 yards[1], was modest by international standards.
 
When the day of the Olympic 400 meters race came, Liddell went to the starting blocks, where an American Olympic Team masseur slipped a piece of paper into his hand with a quotation from 1 Samuel 2:30: "Those who honor me I will honor."
 
The pipe band of the 51st Highland Brigade played outside the stadium for the hour before he ran. The 400 meters had been considered a middle-distance event in which runners raced round the first bend and coasted through the back leg.
 
Inspired by the biblical message and the pipe music, Liddell raced the whole of the first 200 meters and was well in front of the favorite.  With little option but to then treat the race as a complete sprint, he continued to race round the final bend. He was challenged all the way down the home straight but held on to take the win.
 
He broke the existing Olympic and world records with a time of 47.6 seconds. Many race commentators said he ran like a man inspired. His sister Florence later commented:
 
Eric always said that the great thing for him was when he stood by his principles and refused to run in the 100 meter, he found that the 400 meter was really his race.
 
But that’s not all there is to the life of Eric Liddell.
 
His parents were missionaries to China.  And after completing college, he went to China to serve as a missionary also from 1925 to 1943.
 
By 1941 life in China had become so dangerous because of Japanese aggressiveness that the British government advised British nationals to leave.
 
Eric’s wife and children left for Canada to stay with her family, but he accepted a position at a rural mission station which served the poor. He joined his brother, Rob, who was a doctor there.
 
The Japanese eventually took over the mission station, and Liddell became a prisoner of war interned at a Japanese camp.
 
In his last letter to his wife, written on the day he died, Liddell wrote of suffering a nervous breakdown due to overwork, but in actuality he was suffering from an inoperable brain tumor; overwork and malnourishment may have hastened his death.
 
In 2008 Chinese authorities revealed that Liddell had refused an opportunity to leave the camp and instead gave his place to a pregnant woman. Apparently, the Japanese made a deal with the British, with Churchill's approval, for prisoner exchange. 
 
He died on 21 February 1945, five months before liberation. Liddell's last words were, "It's complete surrender", in reference to how he had given his life to his God.
 
Eric Liddell ran the way he served God.  He gave it all.  Nothing the world had to offer was more important than pleasing the Lord. 
 
God hates worldliness. Why?  Because he wants the best for you!  Did you know that?     
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