In today’s passage, James rebukes believers who are not faithful to their Heavenly Husband.
Jam. 4:4-5 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. (5) Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?
The Bible often uses marriage to illustrate the relationship between God and His people. Here are a couple of Old Testament examples:
Isa. 54:5 For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.
Jer. 3:14 Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion:
Paul expanded on this idea when he wrote to the Ephesians:
Eph. 5:31-32 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. (32) This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
Believers are married to the Lord. When we seek the world’s approval and pursue its lusts, we are guilty of spiritual adultery against God.
The Friendship of the World
Since God takes this matter so seriously, it would be good for us to understand just what it means seek the world’s friendship. First, let’s define what the world is, and what it isn’t. The Bible makes it clear that God doesn’t hate the people who populate the world.
Joh. 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
But the world’s population, as a group, has ways of thinking about life and God that are hostile toward Him. That’s why John also wrote this passage:
1Jo. 2:15-17 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (16) For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. (17) And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
So the world system is anti-god in several ways.
- Its priority is the satisfaction of fleshly desires instead of God’s desires. (Lust of the flesh)
- Its standard of measure is the visible world, not the unseen, spiritual world. (Lust of the eyes)
- It’s rooted in pride about who we are and what we can do, not in the person and power of God. (Pride of life)
- It’s near-sighted, focusing on the passing pleasures of this life, not on enduring, eternal values.
If we live by this philosophy, we’re embracing a lifestyle that’s just the opposite of what God wants for us and from us. Spiritual adultery is courting the world’s favor and pursuing its goals. We have to settle it in our hearts that God and the world are polar opposites. We can’t please them both.
Rom. 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (2) And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
Let’s be clear, though, that jealousy runs in both directions. If you love the world, you make yourself God’s enemy. If you love God, you make yourself the world’s enemy. There is no way around it – you have to choose.
Joh. 15:18-19 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. (19) If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
Joh. 17:14-16 I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. (15) I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. (16) They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
Even if you decide not to choose, you’ve still chosen. You can’t straddle the fence because the world and God both demand a decision.
The Spirit Lusteth
The Holy Spirit is God and God is jealous.
Exo. 34:14 For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:
God’s Spirit in us is jealous of anything that would seduce us away from our Heavenly Husband. He envies anything else that we look to for comfort, meaning, and security in life. It’s fine if we understand that God directs his love to us through others, but wrong if we let others take His place. My wife, for example, is a tremendous source of comfort – a gift from God. But when I start looking to her has my comforter, my purpose for living, she becomes an idol.
How Are You Doing?
- Are you guilty of spiritual adultery?
- Are you trying to embrace the opposing philosophies of this world and the Lord?
Read James 4:6-7. Examine yourself prayerfully to see if you’re seeking the world’s friendship, or God’s?