Please begin with prayer for an open heart, before you read the passage below. James 4:4-10 - 4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely?[a] 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”[b]
7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
James is very straightforward with his readers---Adulterous!! He is writing to Christians that have been sent all across the known world and is encouraging them in their faith in Jesus Christ. He is calling them out for ‘friendship with the world’ and into singular commitment and action. Now, that sounds harmless, but it’s yoking yourself with things that are not of God. (Matthew 11:25-30 from Sunday) It’s basically forsaking the true God for things that are not God.
We don’t use the word ‘adulterous’ in our culture very often. We typically say that he/she started to see someone else or maybe had an affair, but adultery is strong language and we rarely use it! God is chasing His people throughout Scripture to follow Him and not chase other gods that were around. He is described as a ‘jealous’ God at multiple places in Scripture.
I heard about an interview with Oprah Winfrey who has walked away from Biblical Christianity into Oprahism or whatever her religion is now. She apparently was in church and heard a Pastor say that God is a Jealous God---she thought that was petty and so small of God and that she didn’t want to follow a God who was like that. My sense was that Oprah, if the story is correct, misunderstood jealousy. Jealousy can be a really bad thing, if it’s selfish, or a really good thing if it’s selfless. Is it wrong for my wife to not want me to date or be with other women? No! I committed to her and she knows it will destroy our relationship, harm her, harm our kids, harm me, and harm the other women too. The True God doesn’t want us to find other gods, because He knows they are fake, empty and will lead us astray! That’s good jealousy, because it’s centered on our best interests.
James calls us to throw off the other gods that claim our attention and to surrender and follow the true God. This fits so well with the Matthew 11 text from Sunday. We are so often burdened and worn out because we chase other gods and they will never satisfy or love us in return. The things of the world will never satisfy our soul and the gracious God we serve knows that. He wants us to come to Him, rest in His love and promises, and allow Him to guide our life. This passage also shows me His grace when I do seek other gods. We come to Him humbly, surrendered and with singular focus on Him.
Have you followed other ‘gods’ and what were the consequences? How did you realize the emptiness of them? How else did this text strike you? I would love to hear your thoughts…