I always considered being against God to be a huge, grievous, outward act. It had to be something like blaspheme, sexual immorality, murder, hate, so on so forth. I believed this until last year when God convicted me of my friendship with the world.
I, like everyone else, was outraged when I saw the video of the death of George Floyd. I followed certain accounts and read “biblical” social justice books. I didn’t have the words I do now to articulate my ideology, but I embrace a “Christian” form of critical race theory. The problem with that is critical theory is not a biblical ideology but a worldly, Marxist view on humanity.
God, in His love and mercy, brought me to repentance of my worldly ideology. He showed me I can believe racism is wrong and still exists without embracing critical race theory. Through the Holy Spirit’s guiding and the Bible as well as truly biblical thinkers and authors, I realize that pinning people against each other by their melanin count or social status or any other arbitrary standard has never been a biblical worldview. God hates partiality. There is one people who are made in the image of the almighty God, and each and every one of us are fallen sinners in need of God’s grace. I was given the opportunity to apologize and repent to those I spoke closely with about this, and I use this opportunity to repent to my readers for a blogpost I wrote last year that I have since deleted. I am deeply sorry and grieved if I led anyone astray. I hope you and God show me grace and mercy.
I say all this to share that friendship with the world isn’t always fleshed out in drugs, money, murder, sex, so forth. But it starts in our minds. It starts with thinking the Gosple isn’t sufficient. It starts with worldly thoughts that manifest into outward sins.
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly to spend it on your passions.
Once again, the Holy Spirit doesn’t hold back conviction of sin in the book of James. James points out that among fellow Christians who should have wisdom there is still fighting and quarreling. Why is this? It’s because of our passions. We are still in the flesh and the flesh wars against our salvation and scantification. Our sin nature has ravenous appetites. We lust after pleasure and enjoyment. We might go to church and look the Christian part and even be saved, buy if we are not continually dying to self and allowing God to scantify us, our deep, fleshly desires will begin to manifest in outward ways.
While I don’t personally know any Christian who has physically murdered anyone, I know I have personally murdered others in my heart by hating them. Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount that simply being angry with someone requires the same judgment as murder (Matthew 5:21-26). Jesus knows that our sins start in our hearts. While the physical act of murder may not and should not manifest in the Christian’s life, the heart act of it may still be there and is equally a sin that needs to be eradicated. The same goes for our covetousness. While we may not steal, we create war among fellow believers. Just because we may not be sinning outwardly like the world doesn’t me we don’t have the world in us. That is the issue.
We need to ask God to receive. Of course God knows our every need, but we still need to ask Him. Sometimes we need to ask persistently for some time. Yet, even if we ask, we don’t always receive. Is this a contradiction to what God says He will do? No. The state if our hearts matter even in our asking! If we pray for selfish gain, why would God give to us? God isn’t our personal vending machine where we type in a prayer and He pops out exactly what we want. If we aren’t praying with the motivation for God alone to have glory from the result, we shouldn’t expect our prayers to be answered.
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he made to dwell in us.”
We dare not read this passage casually. The jarring speech used is meant to grasp our attention and bring us to repentance.
Often in the Old Testament God called the Israelites adulterous people when they worshiped other gods. Here in the New Testament, Christians are also deserving of such a title. While we may not be sacrificing our children to moloch or bowing down to golden calves, our loyalties, trust, and ideologies are in things of this world and that is equally as adulterous. We claim we worship God, yet we are more loyal to our friends than He. We mark ourselves as Christians, but our trust is more in governmental leadership and policies than the sovereignty of God. We say we believe in God and the Bible, yet our ideologies are shaped by whatever secular movement is prevalent at the moment instead of unchanging, biblical ethics. We as Christians are the bride of Christ but we are whoring ourselves out to the world.
In biblical days, friendship wasn’t as casual as we make it out to be today. It meant an intense loyalty. We can’t be loyal to God and the world at the same time. As Joshua proclaimed to the people of Israel, “…choose this day whom you will serve…” (Joshua 24:15). Even if we go to church every Sunday and claim ourselves as Christians, we are still enemies of God if we are loyal to things of this world. God will not be content with a divided loyalty and a half-hearted commitment to Him.
Before we think God is a mean dictator to insist that we cannot be friends with both He and the world, we ought to remember that we are not fully autonomous. Yes, God blessed us with free will and a mind to think for itself, but we cannot be so prideful to forget that God gave those things to us. He is our creator. He made the very spirits within us. And He is jealous over them. He desires us and our worship of Him. He will not make us be loyal only to Him as He has given us the freedom to choose, but He made us and desires all of us, not just a small part reserved for an hour on Sunday.
But he gives us more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grave to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
God will lavish his grace upon the humble. There is grace to cover our spiritual adultery, but we must realize how wrong we’ve been and how desperately we need God. If we think we need to adopt worldly ideologies in order to fix problems or rely on things and people to sustain us, we are proud and believe we know better than God does how this world should work. Humility is key for God to pour out grace.
Our submission to God proves our humility is genuine. If we submit to God, we necessarily must resist the devil. We cannot have both God and the devil just as we cannot have God and the world. We must both flee temptation and wickedness and live righteously in a fallen world. This, and simple obedience to God, is how we resist the devil. While the devil will flee from us as we submit and resist, we can’t expect an easy life. Jesus does not promise us that when he says the world will hate us (John 15:18-25). Nor can we expect the devil will leave us alone because he didn’t leave Jesus alone (Matthew 4:1-11). But we can know that he has no power over us if we submit to God and resist evil. God will draw us near to Him as we live out obedience and submission to His ways.
When was the last time you were truly broken over your sin? When did you last mourn and weep that you willingly separated yourself from God? When we realize our loyalties have been divided, it calls for outward displays of repentance. God wants us to be holy and pure. Our division from our Lord and Savior should make us weep. How often does the body of Christ today laugh and rejoice when we should be grieving? We do not take seriously our sins. We must repent and allow God to cleanse us of our unrighteousness. True repentance can lead us to the humility that we need for God to pour out grace on us. May we all mourn over our sin as we all are adulterous at one time or another.
Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?
James makes a slight jump to address verbal sins. Speaking evil and judging against each other refers to slander and condemnation. We are never to gossip or falsely accuse a fellow human, nor is it our job to pronounce condemnation upon them. If we treat our brothers and sisters in Christ this way, we cannot say that we are humble before God. We are actually usurping God throne and believing we are better fit to execute judgment. We are in direct opposition to the obedience we are called to live out! God alone who determines morality and punishes those who stray from it is the lawgiver and judge. We must not believe that we know better than He does how to do His job.
I do want to clarify that James (nor Jesus) does not forbid all judgment. Discernment between what is holy and what is evil in ourselves and our fellow believers is good and necessary. We need to lovingly help each other towards repentance when it is called for in ours and other’s lives. Craig Blomberg and Mariam Kamell put it best in Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament James when they make this quote: “However, James is not prohibiting the proper, and necessary, discrimination that every Christian should exercise. Nor is he forbidding the right of the community to exclude from its fellowship those it deems to be in flagrant disobedience to the standards of faith….James (here) rebukes jealous, censorious speech by which we condem others as being wrong in the sight of God (an assessment that only God can make).”
We should love our brothers and sisters enough to call out sin so that they are not separated from God. But if we love them we cannot slander them. Nor can we condem them when they do something that is just against our preference, not against God Himself. There should be no place for backbiting, false accusations, or gossip in the believer’s life. We cannot usurp God’s throne and condem people. We also need to mourn and repent of this sin in our lives.
I praise God for hard passages like this that continually bring me to repentance. When I turned from believing in ideologies like critical theory, I didn’t automatically become perfect. I still struggle with heart and thought issues that align more with the world the the Word. I’m in continual need of scantification. I’m grateful for opportunities to mour over my sins and humble myself before the Lord. I don’t want to be divided in my heart. I don’t want to say I’m with God on Sundays then go out with the world on weekdays. I don’t want to think I’m smarter than God and know better than He how to talk about and judge His people. I want biblical passages such as this to continually scrape against the flesh in me. I need God to repeatedly call out my wayward heart so that I might turn back to Him. If this was a hard passage for you, you are not alone. But I hope you join me in praising God for the hard He lets us endure so that we may become holy just as He is holy.