Going through school there was a group of guys who I hung out with all the time. We grew up in church together, we went to school together, we played ball together, we hung out together all the time. One of the guys in our group was Charles Warren. We all called him “Charlie Ray”! Charlie Ray was a unique kind of guy. He was very slow academically and was not real popular. But he was our friend and we looked out for him. Many things happened over the years that are comic relief for us even today.
One day Charlie went fishing with some of our buddies over at Huffman Bridge. Both of them were in the boat waiting on him to get in. Charlie didn’t have a lot of experience stepping from the dock into a boat. When he went to get into the boat, he put one foot on the boat and kept one foot on the dock. The dock was solid and secure and the boat was not. So when he went to step over into the boat he found himself straddling the two. Not really able to commit to either one you know what happened next . . . Charlie Ray fell into the water with a splash!
Picture in this story that the dock is God and the boat is the world. God is solid and secure but the world is not. You can choose to be on the dock or in the boat. You can choose to be with God or the world, but you can’t choose both. If you try to keep one foot in the world and one foot with God, the truth is you will fall and you will fall hard. The theme of James 4 is you have a choice to make. You can choose sin and worldliness or you can choose holiness and Christlikeness! You can choose to be worldly or Christlike. Too many times people are trying to keep a foot in both and it simply will not work. The title and question for today is, “Whose Side Are You On?”
The theme of the entire book of James is . . . Take the faith on the inside and display it on the outside! In other words, “Does my faith impact the way I live?” He is all about putting feet to our faith! Everything in the book of James ultimately deals with that issue. James gives us three diagnostic tests in James 1:26-27 that are answered throughout the book to see if our faith is genuine. One is “How do I treat others?” Another one is, “How do I use my tongue?” The third one which we are talking about today is, “Am I pursuing a Godly life?” In other words, “Am I closer to Christ today than I was yesterday?”
Before we get into James 4, we need to define what worldliness is. Worldliness is a world system that encourages you to want more stuff, to pursue your comforts over everything else and to focus on yourselves over everybody else. It is a way of thinking that deceives us into believing that the way to satisfaction is selfishness and the world is all about us. It convinces you to pursue your temporary happiness rather than eternal holiness. If you fall for this worldliness you miss the point that by pursuing holiness it becomes your happiness.
James then begins to debunk this worldly philosophy. He reveals the problems that arise from pursuing this kind of thinking and spells out for us the symptoms of worldliness. The first problem of worldliness is Tension With Others. “1 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” (James 4:1). The word “quarrels” (James 4:1) is a word that literally means “to declare a state of war.” The word “fights” (James 4:1) is just like a typical fight or conflict.
When you put sinful and selfish people together there will be problems. He is telling us whether it is a war between countries or a simple disagreement between you and somebody else, the real source of the conflict is you. It is those worldly pursuits you have allowed to take hold of you that are causing wars and fights. How and why does this play out this way? The hardest thing to do in any conflict is to say these three words . . . “I was wrong!” Repeat those words with me, “I was wrong!” In our relationships rather than focusing on what we are doing wrong, we justify our actions and focus on what the other one is doing wrong. Before we know it, we have become polarized defending the fact that we think we are right and righteous.
The next problem is Tension Within Yourself. “2 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. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” (James 4:2-3). Do you see the frustration here? There is dissatisfaction and constant turmoil within you stemming from unmet desires and wants. James makes it clear that all of this ends in a bad way.
When he says “murder” (James 4:2), it is probably not literally taking somebody’s life. Probably more like in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus equated murder to when you have anger between you and someone else. James even shows us that the person caught up in worldliness will have spiritual frustration. The prayer life of this type of person is frustrating because all of their prayers are self-centered prayers and God will not answer those kind of prayers.
Worldliness will also cause Tension Between You And God. This is the key verse in this whole passage. “4 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.” (James 4:4). James hits us with some pretty strong language because this is a serious topic. When he says, “You adulterous people” (James 4:4), he is basically saying, “You promise breakers!”
The term “friendship” (James 4:4) as it is used here can be a little confusing to us today. Friendship for us can be more like casual acquaintance. Social media has caused many of us to feel connected to people but we are really not connected to those people at all. You might have hundreds of “Facebook friends” and you might read what they ate for dinner, where they have been, what they are doing, etc. but you are not really friends with those people. Friendship in the first century was something that was much deeper and serious. This word for “friend” is a word more like “lover” than “acquaintance” or even “close friend.”
When you look at it this way it changes how you view sin. Sin is not just breaking the rules. Sin is not just missing the mark. Sin isn’t just disobedience. Sin is breaking your lover’s heart and like being unfaithful to your spouse. That is not how we typically think about sin. Usually we will think, “Well, I just blew it” Or, “Man, I should have known better than that.” But really our response should be, “God, I have been so unfaithful. I am so sorry for cheating on you.”
Back to our question . . . Whose Side Are You On? The great thing is if you find yourself being unfaithful and on the side of worldliness, you don’t have to stay there. God gives you a way to get back on His side and stay there. “5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, ‘He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us’?” (James 4:5). The word for “jealously” (James 4:5) is the word for “burning passion.” This idea of God’s jealousy can be a little confusing because we think of it in terms of things birthed out of fear or insecurity. That’s definitely not like God’s jealousy!
Think about the kind of burning, passionate love husbands and wives are to have for each other. That is the kind of passion God has for us spiritually. As a matter of fact, God’s very name is jealous. “14 for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” (Exodus 34:14). God never created you to have only part of you. God created you because He wants all of you. Remember when Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37).
God is not jealous about you. He is jealous for you and for His own glory! His jealousy is like, “I put that spirit in there. My glory and their joy is at stake.” God’s jealousy stems from the love of His own name and the hope that your joy in that name might reflect more perfectly His goodness and grace. This takes you giving all of you to God all the time which will take more than you can give.
To move from a life consumed with worldliness to a life consumed with God takes what you don’t have. God knows that and is prepared to give you what you need to make that possible. “6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’” (James 4:6). The word “oppose” (James 4:6) literally means to “set up a military front.” Pride says, “I’ve got this thing called life all figured out God. I’m going to leave You over here. Stay here because I might need You for some forgiveness some stuff or comfort once in a while. So just be a good God and stay right here where I can find You. I’ll come back but I’m going to live my life.” That is pride and James says that God opposes it.
Humility is the opposite of pride. Humility says, “God, I don’t have all this figured out. I need you to stay right with me every moment and help me with every decision. I can’t make it without you.” That is what Paul meant in Romans 5:20. It says, “20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more . . .” (Romans 5:20). God honors that and it says, “God gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6). Matt Chandler says, “There is no sin with more power than the cross of Christ.” All of that means grace will always trump any and every sin you have committed or might commit. There is no equal to God’s grace and His grace is superior to everything that happens in life.
So if you find yourself consumed with worldliness and the tension that it causes, how do you move away from worldliness to a life consumed with godliness? James lays out a strategy to make this happen. “7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7). The first step is Submit To God. The reality is we are in a battle with our spiritual enemies. In that battle how you posture yourself will determine whether the battle is won or lost. If you don’t position yourself right and understand who you are and how you relate to God, you will lose the battle before it starts.
When James says “Submit” (James 4:7), he uses a Greek word that means, “to put yourself in the proper place.” Once again he is really talking about humility. Pride is the thing that empowers and emboldens our enemies. Pride makes our enemies strong. Pride puts you in the place of God. Pride is all about several things. Pride is self-sufficiency which says, “I can strengthen myself and I don’t need God’s strength.” Pride is self-righteousness which says, “I can save myself and don’t need God’s salvation.” Pride is self-protection which says, “I can only trust myself and I don’t need others around me.”
The reason why we don’t overcome sin and we have struggled with the same sins for years is because we are the ones trying to change it. We are trying to be in control. We are trying to fix it. The degree that you submit and surrender to God will determine whether or not you win in your battle with sin. Humility puts you under God. Humility is realizing and admitting you are really “not all that.” It’s saying what Jesus said in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Not my will, but God’s will be done.” Forget pride and totally submit yourself to God, realizing at the very beginning you are not going to defeat your enemies on your own.
Once you are living in total submission to God then you have the strength to Resist The Devil. God makes a promise, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7). In the original Greek language the word “resist” (James 4:7) is wartime language and implies aggression. Resist . . . Stand firm . . . Fight . . . etc. You don’t run. You turn and fight! You pull your sword and engage the enemy! Once you do that the promise is the devil will run. The reason we find ourselves having so much trouble with the devil is because we entertain him and we don’t make a quick enough decision to fight. We don’t rely on God’s strength and we give up. Resist and fight! Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 10:13, there is always an escape, a backup and more powerful help coming!
To successfully escape worldliness we submit to God, resist the devil and we Pursue God. “8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:8). There are several ways we pursue God. We pursue Him by reading and studying the Bible. We need to read and study God’s Word not just to know the Bible, but to know the God of the Bible. We don’t read the Bible merely for facts and figures. We read and study the Bible so we can see the beauty of God and His character.
We pursue God by connecting with other believers. We offer Connect Groups to give you opportunities to connect on a more intimate level with other believers. God did not create you to live an isolated life; He created you to be in community with others! If you are not close to God, guess who hasn’t moved? God is constant and fixed; He doesn’t move! The promise is if you draw near to God, He will draw near to you.
Escaping worldliness means submitting to God, resisting the devil, pursuing God and Be Serious About Sin. “8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8). Seriousness about sin is not just about our actions but also about our desires. Sin involves our hands, our minds, and our hearts. We have to be as much aware of the wickedness in our minds and hearts as we are of the actual sins we commit. Fighting sin is an internal battle. Dig deep inside and take ownership of your sin by confessing your very thoughts to God.
James says to be broken over your sin. “9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” (James 4:9-10). Not a happy thought, but very necessary! We are all about entertainment, feeling good and laughing. God is about something much deeper than just entertainment, feeling good, and laughing. God is about joy! But we will never find the joy of God until we are broken over our sin. The Puritans wrote some profound things and were deep thinkers. One of the things they would pray for was tears. They would pray to be grieved by their sins.
My friend, Charlie Ray had one foot on the dock and one foot on the boat. By trying to stand between both, he fell hard! Where are you today? Are you with God? Are you away from God with the world? Or, Are you attempting to be in both? We have a statement around here. Repeat after me . . . No . . . Perfect . . . People . . . Allowed! It is true that God loves you just the way you are and we love you just the way you are. But God loves you too much for you to stay the way you are. And we love you too much for you to stay the way you are.
Again I ask, “Whose side are you on?” If you are on the wrong side today, I beg you make the choice to make it right today. Make the choice today to . . . Submit yourself to God . . . Resist the devil . . . Pursue God . . . Be serious about your sin. Being serious about your sin means you . . . Confront your sin . . . Confess your sin to God . . . Repent of your sin. Repentance is simply when you agree with God about your sin, you grieve over it, you decide to leave your sin and turn to Christ for Him to forgive your sin and take your sin away from you!