************ Sermon on James 4:4-6 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on February 18, 2007
"The Jealous Bridegroom"
I Abraham - Friend of God
A In James 2:23 we are told that Abraham "was called God's friend." Today, James says you are either a friend of the world or you are a friend of God:
(James 4:4) 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.
What does it look like to be an enemy of God? Or, to put it positively, what does it look like to be a friend of God? By looking at Abraham we can start to answer these questions.
B Abraham was called God's friend. Why? The Lord said to Abraham, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you" (Gen 12:1). Together with this command, God gave Abraham a series of wonderful promises:
(Gen 12:2-3) "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. (3) I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."Most of us are not willing to undertake a move like Abraham's unless every detail has been worked out ahead of time. We want to know where we will be going, how long the journey will take, what we will be doing when we get there, what the living arrangements will be, and so on. Abraham had answers for none of these questions. Yet Abraham left, as the Lord had told him (Gen 12:4) even though he did not know where he was going (Heb 11:8). Abraham was God's friend because he believed God and obeyed God.
God promised Abraham the land of Canaan (Gen 12:7). Even though he was a stranger in a foreign country, Abraham made his home in the promised land (Heb 11:9). Again, Abraham believed God.
God promised Abraham the land of Canaan (Gen 12:7). That is why Abraham allowed Lot first choice when they were forced to divide the land between them (Gen 13:8-9). He was a stranger in a foreign land, yet he acted like the land was his to give away. Again, Abraham believed God.
God promised Abraham descendants through Isaac as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore (Gen 22:17; cf Gen 15:5). Yet, Abraham took his son, his only son, the son he loved, and offered him as a sacrifice to God when God asked him to do this. Again, Abraham believed God.
God promised Abraham the land of Canaan (Gen 12:7). That is why Abraham buried his beloved wife Sarah in the promised land (Gen 23). Under normal circumstances loved ones are buried in the place they call home. In the case of Abraham and Sarah the place called home was Haran. After all, that's where their family was living. That's where Abraham's father, Terah, was buried. That's where Abraham's servant went to find a wife for Isaac (Gen 24). That's where Jacob went when he fled from his brother Esau; that's where he found the woman he loved and married (Gen 29). So you would expect Abraham to have Sarah buried in Haran. But he didn't. Instead, he made arrangements for Sarah to be buried in Canaan. In burying Sarah in the Promised Land, Abraham took a down payment, a deposit, on the blessing God had promised him. Again, Abraham believed God.
Time and again, Abraham believed God and Abraham obeyed God and he was called God's friend (James 2:23). Are you God's friend? You can be, but only if you – like Abraham – believe God and obey God. Are you God's friend? That's the question I want to put before you tonight.
C Unfortunately, when we look at Scripture we see that Abraham did not always act as God's friend. Abraham did not always show faith and obedience. There are times when Abraham showed himself to be weak and feeble.
In Genesis 12 we see that Abraham resorted to lies and half-truths instead of having faith and trust in God. He claimed Sarah to be his sister rather than his wife. How disappointing. It is even more disappointing when you consider that Genesis 20 records a similar incident in Abraham's life. And another similar event – in the life of Isaac – is found in Genesis 26.
Over and over again, God promised Abraham many heirs through his wife Sarah. But as year after year passed without any children, Abraham decided to take matters into his own hands. He first tried to claim his servant Eliezer of Damascus as his heir (Gen 15:2). Then, he took his wife's maidservant, Hagar, and had a child by her (Gen 16).
We see that Abraham did not always show faith and obedience. Abraham did not always act as God's friend. We see that God uses men who are weak and feeble and makes them learn to lean on Him.
Abraham gives me hope because I am exactly like him. Yes, there are times when I have Abraham's faith and obedience. Yes, there are times when I act like I am God's friend. But there are also times when I – like Abraham – do not act like God's friend. At such times, God is just as disappointed in me as He was disappointed in Abraham.
II Friend of the World
A James puts an either/or proposition before us this evening. Either we are friends of God or we are friends of the world. Either we are an enemy of the world or we are an enemy of God.
(James 4:4) 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.We have a choice – the same choice Abraham had – to be a friend of God or to be an enemy of God.
There are a number of words that James uses that we need to clearly define and understand. James talks about the "world". James is not talking about the planet, the round globe hanging in space. James is not talking about the dirt and rock upon which we live. James is not talking about people in general. James is talking about those who hate and oppose God and Christ. James is talking about the ungodly multitude; the whole mass of men alienated from God, and therefore hostile to the cause of Christ.
James also uses the word "friend". A friend is someone you share with. You talk to your friend. You look to your friend for help and advice. You share a common outlook on life. You enjoy the company of your friend.
James also uses the word "enemy". An enemy is someone you are in conflict with. An enemy is someone who hates you and despises you. An enemy is someone who wants to destroy you. An enemy is someone who wishes only evil upon you.
Finally, James also uses the word "choose". You choose to be a friend of the world. You choose to be an enemy of God. It is your choice. Don't forget, James is talking to born-again Christians. James is talking to people who, by grace, have decided to follow Jesus. When these Christians follow the ways of the world, it is their choice. When these Christians turn their backs on God, it is their choice. And, it our choice as well!
Do you see why it is so dreadful to be friends with the world? That means you have chosen to compromise basic values. That means you have decided to be like those who hate God and Christ. That means you have decided to climb into bed with Satan (cf 2 Cor 6:14-18).
Do you see why it is so dreadful to be an enemy of God. That means you have decided to trample the Son of God under foot. That means you have treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant. That means you have insulted the Spirit of grace (Heb 10:29). That means you have decided to sin after you have received the knowledge of the truth (Heb 10:26).
B You might wonder in what ways we are friends of the world? After all, none of us would ever claim our spouse to be our sister or our brother. None of us would ever try to have a child through a servant or a maid. So, in what ways do we become or act like friends of the world?
We become friends of the world when we accept sin. We become friends of the world when we accept adultery, and theft, and lies, and dishonesty, and greed, and taking God's name in vain. We become friends of the world when we accept unbiblical divorce and remarriage, homosexual practice, and abortion. We become friends of the world when we don't guard our heart against impurity.
We become friends of the world when we act like the world. In the first three chapters James condemns all sorts of worldly acts and passions: pride (1:9-11); being quick to speak, slow to listen, and quick to become angry (1:19); not having control of the tongue or the pen or the keyboard (1:26); not looking after widows and orphans (1:27); showing favoritism to those with money and position or expecting favoritism because you have money and position (2:1-7); having faith without works (2:14-26); being full of envy and selfish ambition (3:16); having a heart full of hate and anger (4:1-3). When we are guilty of any of these we are acting like friends of the world rather than friends of God. And, when we choose to be a friend of the world we become an enemy of God.
We become friends of the world and enemies of God when we chase after the things of this world and the pleasures of this world and the wisdom of this world rather than the Kingdom and its righteousness (Mt 6:33).
C James uses the word "adultery." "You adulterous people ..." James certainly changes his approach in our Bible reading. Up to this point he has stood with his audience as a "brother in the Lord" (1:2,19; 2:1,14; 3:1; and more). But now he sounds more like a fiery Old Testament prophet than a brother.
When we, as Christians, are friends with the world we are committing adultery, spiritual adultery, with those who hate us.
In Beirut, one night, some Moslem terrorists put on a banquet for their hostages in a luxury hotel on the Mediterranean. These were the same terrorists threatening to kill them if the United States didn't do certain things. And so a number of the hostages began to express sympathy for their kidnappers and their viewpoints ... We know this as the Stockholm Syndrome.Too many times Christians act the same way towards the world. The world and those in the world are capable of incredible acts of kindness and beauty. They are capable of discovering and utilizing amazing things about God's world. So we sometimes forget how much they hate God and Christ and those who are in Christ. We choose to see only the good and forget that they are still the enemy. James says this is adultery.
Our culture snickers and smiles and laughs about adultery. Adultery is considered normal and expected and accepted. But in James' world people were stoned to death for adultery. So, adultery was no laughing matter. Likewise, spiritual adultery is no laughing matter either.
What is spiritual adultery? In the Old Testament, when the people of God worshiped the false gods of their heathen neighbors, the Lord and His prophets often described their sin in terms of adultery and prostitution (cf Lev 20:5; Judges 2:17; Jer 3:6-10; Ezek 16:32-35; Hosea 1:2). The New Testament carries on the same theme. The relationship between Christ and His church is described as a marriage, with the church being the bride and Christ being the bridegroom (cf Mk 2:19-20; Jn 3:29; Eph 5:22-24; Rev 21:2,9-10). What Christ wants more than anything else is for His bride, His people, to be pure and faithful to Him, as a bride should be to her husband (2 Cor 11:2).
God wants us to be faithful to Him. Faithfulness is expected in a marriage relationship, and it is expected in our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. When we become friends of the world we are being unfaithful to God. When we become friends of the world we are committing spiritual adultery.
Jesus, my brothers and sisters, is a jealous bridegroom. He tolerates no competition. He tolerates no one and no thing trying to take His bride's attention away from Himself. The Spirit of Christ that lives within us "envies intensely", says James (4:5). He envies intensely because Jesus cares for us so much and loves us so much. Jesus cares for His bride so much, He loves her so much, that He died for her on the cross. He is a jealous bridegroom.
I loved teasing our dog while she was still alive. A friend would bring his dog over and I would pet the other dog, praise it, and give it treats. That drove our dog crazy with jealousy. She would whine. She would run up to me and nudge me. She wanted the same treatment.If my dog didn't care for me, she would not have minded. Likewise, a husband who doesn't love his wife doesn't much care if another seeks her attention. But Jesus loves us and is intensely jealous of us. No wonder He doesn't want us to be friends of the world. John Calvin says, "So great is the disagreement between the world and God, that as much as any one inclines to the world, so much he alienates himself from God." We must renounce the world, if we wish to serve God.
If someone were to look at your life and values would he say you are a friend of God or an enemy of God? Would he say you are a friend of the world or an enemy of the world?
Consider your life, my brothers and sisters. Have you compromised God's principles as laid down by James as a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ? Does the bridegroom of the church have a reason to be jealous of you?
Just as with Abraham, there is hope for those of us who have sinned and have provoked the Lord's jealousy. James reminds us of this in the last verse of our Bible reading:
(James 4:6) But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."God gives us His grace. God gives us His Spirit. All we need to do is humble our self before the Lord. All we need to learn to do, like Abraham, is lean totally upon the Lord and stop depending upon ourselves.
Humble yourself before the Lord and ask Him for His grace and the jealous bridegroom will give you what you need. Humble yourself before the Lord, surrender all your life to Him, and you will live as a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. Humble yourself before the Lord, surrender all your life to Him, and you will live as a friend of God!
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
Back to Index of Sermons Page