These are my notes from a sermon series. It has not been proofed for spelling or grammatical errors. I present it to you as-is.
If you have a Bible, turn to James 1. We are in a series of lessons that is helping us to understand what genuine faith in God looks like. Here is what we have learned so far…
- In James 1:19-21 we learned that genuine faith feels the pain and suffering that life can cause while trusting God’s Word and letting God’s truth guide our emotions and actions.
- In James 1:22-25 we learned that genuine faith does what God’s Word says and experiences the blessings from it.
- In James 1:26 we learned that genuine faith speaks in such a way that it demonstrates a trust in God, a love for God, and a respect for people.
- In James 1:27 we learned that genuine faith cares by demonstrating compassion for others experiencing hardships.
Today we are going to examine the truth that genuine faith produces a resistance and defense in your life that protects you from becoming more and more corrupted by the world’s values, philosophies, beliefs, and behaviors. What we are going to see is genuine faith resists the departure from God’s truth for our life. That is a broad statement, but let’s look a little deeper into this.
Through James, God tells us in James 1:19, “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. 20 Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. 21 So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls. 22 But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 23 For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. 24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. 25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it. 26 If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. 27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you” (James 1:19-27, NLT). Today, we are going to unpack that short little phrase, “refusing to let the world corrupt you.”
“refusing to let”
Let’s talk about this word “refusing.” Two things you need to know about this word.
- First, to “refuse” (tereo) something means to guard yourself against something. The word “refuse” means to deny in order to protect, shield, or guard yourself against something. To “refuse” is to protect yourself. To “refuse” something is to shield something that is in one’s possession. In this case you will guard your speech, so you don’t sound like the world. You will guard your mind, so you don’t think like the world. You will guard your emotions, so you don’t react like the world.
Refusing to give up, keeps you from quitting. Refusing to lower your standard, keeps you from average. Refusing to lie, keeps you focused on the truth. Refusing to hate, helps you become more loving. Refusing to discourage, helps you become an encourager. The ability to refuse is a key weapon in your personal spiritual war against the kingdom of darkness. Your faith in God produces a mindset that will choose to refuse.
- I said there are two things you need to know about this word “refuse.” The second thing is to “refuse” (tereo) something is ongoing. The word does not mean refuse it once and the temptation will go away. It means to keep on refusing. This is refusing and resisting on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. This is refusing and resisting next week, next month, next year, five years from now and for the rest of your life. This is a battle. This is a continuous war that you are in against the world’s beliefs and behaviors. Until you get to heaven, you will need to do a lot of “refusing.” Throughout your life, your faith in God will generate an attitude that will choose to refuse.
Now let’s take this a step further. James says that we should be “refusing to let the world corrupt” us. The word “world” (kosmos) has the basic meaning of order, arrangement, or a system. Normally the word “world” – in the New Testament – is used to describe the ungodly systems of philosophy, the arrangement of values that leave God out, and the life that is ordered without considering God’s wisdom. The word “world” refers to a mindset that approaches life with little to no thought about what God says about it.
- A worldly mindset doesn’t consider what God’s word says about finances.
- A worldly mindset doesn’t take into account forgiveness when one has been offended.
- A worldly mindset doesn’t care about what God says about relationships, purity, eternal things, honesty, lifestyles, sex, speech, generosity, heaven, hell, spiritual things, values and a host of other things.
A worldly person will develop their beliefs, convictions, values, and philosophy of life with very little to no input from God’s Word. A worldly person will order their life, values, and relationships based on what the world expects of them, not what God expects of them. This is what we are to be refusing and protecting ourselves against, is a worldly mindset. Let’s take a look at some other Biblical statements in regards to our relationship with the world’s values and principles.
- Colossians 2:8 says, “Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ” (NLT). There are “spiritual powers” that are trying to influence you in how you think about God, how you think about your spouse, how you think about your body, how you think about this world, how you think about your present life and your future. God is telling us that one of the ways we fight these “spiritual powers” is by refusing to let them capture our minds and hearts with “empty philosophies” and “high-sounding nonsense” that removes God and His truth from the equation. Your faith in God and His Word will generate an attitude that will choose to refuse.
- James 4:4 says, “You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God” (NLT). Remember, worldliness is approaching life without God or very little input from God. When you become a “friend of the world” you are saying I don’t need God and I don’t need God to tell me what is right or wrong. When you embrace that mindset you begin to oppose God in what you say, what you believe, and how you treat yourself and others. You may not be a rebel, but you have politely become an enemy of God. Your faith and trust in God will help deepen your friendship with God and as you choose to refuse you will discover choosing to embrace God at deeper levels.
- 1 John 5:19 says, “We know that we are children of God and that the world around us is under the control of the evil one” (NLT). The “evil one” refers to the devil and his kingdom of influence. The world’s philosophy, values, and the religions are under the control and influence of the evil one. The evil one is doing everything he can to cause people to have a philosophy of life that is absent of God, values that are devoid of God’s influence, and religions that ignore God, create gods, or distorts God. James is telling us we are to resist this influence upon our lives.
Let’s go back to James 1:27 and pick up where we left off. James says you are to be “refusing to let the world corrupt you.” To be “corrupt” refers to a departure from what is right or what is true. It always starts with little things. Let me give you some examples.
- When the world is corrupting your, your thinking about GOD departs from the truth. You begin to believe things about God that is not true. If you don’t resist this, the world will corrupt your thinking about God. Your thinking about others departs from the truth.
- When the world is corrupting you, your thinking about OTHERS departs from the truth. You will start treating people like things, rather than people. You will start using people for your own gain. You will start thinking the worse of people, not trusting them, not loving them, and not caring for them. You will start lying to them or for them, deceiving them, or cheating them. Your thinking about others has become corrupted and has departed from the truth.
- When the world is corrupting you, your thinking about YOURSELF departs from the truth. The world wants you to think about yourself in one of three ways…
- The world wants you to reject yourself. This is where you condemn yourself, hate yourself and think God can’t love someone like you. Rejecting yourself is thinking you are no good, you can’t make a difference, no one likes you, and you will never amount to anything. Your faith in God will combat that.
- The world wants you to accept yourself. This is where you give up on God transforming you. This is where you accept your addictions, your doubts, your weaknesses, and your sins without any hope of change so you quit trying to grow spiritually. You may go to church and you may read the Bible, but you are not thinking about changing, repenting, or becoming more mature in Christ. You have quit by accepting yourself. You have stopped maturing. Your faith in God will protect you from that.
- The world wants you to exalt yourself. This is where you think you are better than you really are. You don’t need God. You don’t need people. You are better than most people. You don’t need other Christians and you don’t need the church. You look down on others because they are not like you. Your faith in God will shield you from that mindset.
There is something important you shouldn’t miss here. James says you are to be “refusing to let the world corrupt you.” That “you” (heautou) is a reflexive pronoun indicating the action is on you, not others. The emphasis here is for you to focus on you resisting the influence of the world rather than what others are doing or not doing. You are going to have your hands full with your own battle against your own corruption.
How to refuse to be corrupted
We are told to not let ourselves become corrupted by the world. So how can we resist and shield ourselves from this onslaught of corruption throughout our lives? How do we guard and defend ourselves?
- James has already told us one. We are to receive from His Word. Back in verses 22-25 we are told to listen and do God’s Word. God’s Word has the power to help you escape a lot of the corruption the world is laying on you. Listen carefully to 2 Peter 1:4 which says, “He [God] has given us great and precious promises [talking about His Word]. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires” (NLT). God’s Word becomes a light and lamp to your feet, it becomes a healing ointment to your wounds the world has caused throughout your life.
- A second defense that God provides in our battle to resist being corrupted, are godly friends. We are to choose friends wisely. We are told in 1 Corinthians 15:33 that “bad company corrupts good character” (NLT). The people closest to you and have the most influence on your heart and mind need to be people who love God and are growing.
- Third, we are to worship God sacrificially. That means we are all in when it comes to serving and living for God. Listen carefully to Romans 12:1-2, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God [your body refers to all you are: your physical body, but also your mind, will, and emotions] because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. [As a result of that, then verse 2 will begin to happen] 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world [don’t be corrupted by this world], but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (NLT). Worship God sacrificially.
- Fourth, we are to be in the world, but not of it. Look closely at John 17:14-18 where Jesus is praying and Jesus say, “I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.15 I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one.16 They do not belong to this world any more than I do. 17 Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. 18 Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world” (NLT). We are to be in the world, but not of it. Throughout your life you are going to be surrounded by all kinds of influences from the evil one. You will see the world’s influences in your family, at work, at school, at church, and in your private life. You are going to see it in politics, on TV, on your computer, and you will hear it in the music. Jesus made it clear that He does not want us to be taken “out of the world” but to be safely in it. Listen carefully, that means you will need to learn what it means to be a follower of Jesus in world that uses God’s name in vein, sees sex outside of marriage as recreation and entertainment, where there is lying, dishonesty, selfishness and host of other issues that you and I could list. We are to be in that world as influencers of light and God’s truth, but not of it.
Years ago I use to do some scuba diving and when I first started scuba diving in lakes and rivers I quickly realized that I had entered another world where there were all kinds of under water critters and plants. While I was scuba diving in the lake I also realized that even though I was in the lake, I was not really of the lake.
Your faith in God, your trust in Him and what He says will build up your spiritual strength to refuse the world more and more. This is about growth. This is about protecting your mind and heart. This is about becoming like Jesus. This is about experiencing the abundant life Jesus purchased for you on the cross. This is about being the salt of the earth and a light to the world. This is about letting God transform you from the inside out.
Your faith in God will produce an attitude that will resist and refuse the ways of the world. You can do this. You have the Holy Spirit working on the inside of you. You have God’s Word to guide you. You have a church to encourage you. God has given you everything you need to experience He has for you.