Scripture: James 4:1-17
Observation: James addresses the conflicts of the people and the evil desires that motivate them to scheme (and even kill) against each other. He warns them about the dangers of being a “friend” of the world and urges them to humble themselves and resist the devil. He finishes by speaking about the importance of unity and remembering that God is ultimately in control of our future.
Application: Think of a place that simply mesmerizes you. For me, it’s always Times Square in New York City. Maybe it’s because I grew up in south central PA, surrounded by cornfields and cows, but there’s something so alluring about Times Square. It doesn’t matter what time of day I’m standing there in the middle of it, I’m immediately overcome by the vastness and intensity of that small space. It’s packed with bright lights, giant advertisements vying for our attention, a milieu of smells (some heavenly, many sewer-like), and a cacophony of sounds. It’s almost downright intoxicating.
Just like Times Square, the world attempts to allure us everyday. It offers us wealth, prestige, social acceptance, and pleasure of every kind. It makes us believe that busy is always better, productivity is everything, and rest is only for the lazy. It rationalizes our selfish drive as successful achievement, it gives us a free pass for our bitterness, and it convinces us that we have to look out for ourselves in every situation. It accepts our sins and explains away our shortcomings.
It also corrupts us to our core.
James puts it this way in verse 4:
“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.”
And just in case you skipped over it the first two times, here’s that truth again: If you’re friends with the world, you’re an enemy of God.
The world around us seems to offer us comfort, pleasure, and contentment. It lures us into thinking that all the freedom we ever need is found inside of it. It entices us with the security of trusting in ourselves. It makes us believe that we’re in control.
And, it’s all a lie.
Truthfully, this world can only offer us emptiness, brokenness, and shame. It can never fulfill us, and it can certainly never sustain us. It can never fill us with the grace, love, and hope we find in Christ Jesus.
We must be willing to trade in temporary comfort for permanent hope. And the first step is humbly admitting that we need something the world can’t offer us.
“So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.” (verses 7-10)
Let’s do that together today. Let’s come close to God, inviting him to search our hearts and our evil desires, asking him to strip away anything that keeps us from him. Let’s come to him humbly, begging for his glorious grace to cover all of our sin and shortcomings. Let’s plead with God to give us true wisdom, strength, and discernment. Let’s rest in his grace and his love. Let’s pray to be friends of the living God.
Prayer: God, the world around me is so alluring, trying to offer me all of these things that it ultimately can’t produce. I pray you’ll help me take my eyes off of the things of this world and place them in the hope that comes only from you. I ask for your forgiveness today and pray for your grace. Amen.
- Which areas of your life are most affected by worldly thoughts and desires?
- What do you believe it means to live in the world, but not of the world?
- How do you balance being radical in your faith and relevant to those around you?
- How do you remain humble?
- In verse 17, he reminds us it’s a sin to know what we ought to do and then not do it. What sinful desires have you allowed yourself to rationalize that God is calling you to deal with?