These are my notes from a sermon series I did through the book of James. It has not been proofed for spelling or grammatical errors. I present it to you as-is.
We are in a series of lessons called Satisfied. We have been going through the book of James and we are in chapter 4. In verse 1, James asked the question, “What is causing the quarrels and fights among you?” Then he answers the question by telling us it is our “evil desires” that cause these fights and arguments. These “evil desires” are those selfish desires that make us want we don’t have or cannot have, and we will do anything in order to get it. We will lie, berate, ridicule, shame, use the silent treatment, yell, manipulate and even abuse others verbally, emotionally, and physically to get what we want. All that’s in verses 1-3.
Beginning in verse 4, James tells us how he really feels about all this. He tells us that those fights and arguments that are a result of our selfish desires are an indication of something much worse. James is about to bring the hammer down.
With that said let’s look at James 4:4 which 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. 5 Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him. 6 And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (NLT)
Today, I’m going to give you two things: bad news and good news. The bad news is bad really bad. This bad news is so bad that some of you will not believe it’s true. You may believe it’s true about someone else, but not you. The bad news is going to be really bad. After the bad news, I’m going to give you some really good news. What makes the good news so good is that the bad news is so bad. The good news is so good that some of you will have a hard time believing its true.
Let’s start with the bad news. You need to know that I love you and I’m going to tell you the truth. I’m not going to hold back, but I’m going to tell it like it is. This is going to sting and make you a little uncomfortable. You and me are told three things about ourselves. These three things are a result of those “evil desires” that James just talked about.
You are an adulterer
First, you have committed adultery against God. This means you desire something else, rather than desiring God. James point blank says, “You adulterers!” Our selfish desires lead to conflict with one another, they also lead to a more serious conflict – one with God. The conflict between you and me shows we have selfish hearts is also a sign that we have adulterous hearts. Spiritually, we are unfaithful to God.
The imagery here is powerful. We are to think of the horror of a husband or wife discovering their spouse in the midst of an affair. James says that such horrendous behavior accurately describes what Christians do when they turn their back on God.
In Jeremiah 3:20 we get a glimpse of this when God said to His people, “But you have been unfaithful to me, you people of Israel! You have been like a faithless wife who leaves her husband” (NLT). Think about this. A loving, caring, compassionate spouse discovers the one they love has been unfaithful to them. This is what happens when we choose ourselves over God. This is what happens when we value the values of the world rather than the values of God. We become spiritual adulterers.
The Amplified Version tries to catch this idea in more detail when it says in James 4:4, “You [are like] unfaithful wives [having illicit love affairs with the world and breaking your marriage vow to God]!” (AMPC). When we choose to be selfish and do our own thing apart from God we are two-timing God. When we apply the values of the world and pursue the things of this world we are spiritually sleeping around on God.
So, our evil and selfish desires cause us to become spiritual adulterers.
You are an antagonist
Second, you have treated God like an enemy. This means you do what you want, rather than what God wants. James says, 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. Before we go any further, let me be clear about something.
- There is a difference between being friends with worldly people and being friends with the world. When you are friends with worldly people you are being like Jesus who was a friend of sinners. The phrase “friendship with the world” refers to adopting and embracing the values of the world. Embracing the values and beliefs and practices that leave God out of your life.
- “Friendship with the world” means you manage your money regardless of what God says about your finances.
- “Friendship with the world” means you approach your sexuality without considering what God has to say about it.
- “Friendship with the world” means your belief about spiritual things, heaven, hell, and salvation are based on your emotions or science without considering what God has to say about the matter.
- So, when you are a friend of the world you are basically living your life as though God does not exist. You are giving God the silent treatment. You know He is in the room, but you never acknowledge Him, talk to Him, and you simply ignore Him by the way you live. You are beginning to treat God as though He has done something wrong and He is now your enemy.
That’s why James says, 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 (see also Col. 1:21, Rom. 5:10).
You are audacious
Third, you have disregarded what God says. This means you ignore God’s Word, rather than obey it. This is why James asked the rhetorical question in verse 5, Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? You have read the Bible and you have heard the sermons and maybe even gone to Life Group and talked about God’s Word. You know what it says about managing the money God has given to you, but you ignore it. You know what it says about sexuality, but you deliberately do what you want. You know what it says about loving others, but you still gossip and slander and hate others. There are consequences with being a friend to the world’s values. Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? No values? No impact?
SUMMARY: James has just brought down the hammer on us and called us spiritual adulterers who are two timing God and loving someone or something else more than Him. He has called us spiritual antagonist who treats God like an enemy or like He doesn’t exist. He has called us spiritually audacious by ignoring what God’s Word has to say as if it has no meaning or impact on our lives. That’s the bad news.
Now Let me tell you the good news.
God is a jealous God
First, the good news is God is a jealous God. This means God loves you and wants you. Look carefully at verse 5, They [the Scriptures] say that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him. That’s a weird sounding verse. Take a look at this translation, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? (ESV). This passion that God has for us is a jealous passion, but that’s a good thing.
Think about a young couple getting married. They love each other, but somewhere down the road the wife is drawn away by another man who doesn’t really love her and only wants to us her. The husband loves his wife and is jealous over his wife’s affection toward another man. She is his wife. He loves her and wants her back even after the affair, even after she has committed adultery.
James is telling you that even though you have committed adultery with the world, even though you have given him the silent treatment and treated him coldly, even though you have ignore your vows to God… He still wants you to back. He is jealous for you. He loves you. He yearns jealously over you. God wants you, even though you have done some horrible things to Him. That’s good news. When God says something like, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” He meant it, even if you didn’t.
God is a gracious God
Secondly, the good news is God is also a gracious God. This means God forgives you and accepts you. Look carefully at verse 6, And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Now, why would James need to remind you and me about God’s grace at this point? Have you ever done anything where you need to ask for forgiveness from someone and you hope that they will be gracious and forgiving toward you when you talk to them? James knows that when we sin and blow it against God we think God doesn’t like us anymore or love us anymore or want us anymore and He is reminding you that He is gracious and forgiving and loving and accepting and a good God. Even though you have been cheating on God, two-timing Him, and shacking up with the world’s values and living like God doesn’t exist and doing things you know would break the heart of God… God still loves you, still forgives you, still wants you, and still accepts you. God’s grace is greater than your sin. His mercies are new every morning.
Let’s wrap it up with this. One of my favorite paraphrases of the Bible is the Message and I think it really captures the heart of what James is saying. Take a look at this, “You’re cheating on God. If all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way. And do you suppose God doesn’t care? The proverb has it that ‘he’s a fiercely jealous lover.’ And what he gives in love is far better than anything else you’ll find. It’s common knowledge that ‘God goes against the willful proud; God gives grace to the willing humble’” (vs. 4-6, MSG).
- It’s time to come back to God. Make things right.
- Give your life to Jesus. Acknowledge Him as the Lord of your life.