When we abandon friendship with God to become a friend of the world, sin looks normal and righteousness seems strange (James 4:4).
David Wells defines worldliness like this: “that system of values, in any given age, which has at its center our fallen human perspective, which displaces God and his truth from the world, and which makes sin look normal and righteousness seem strange. It thus gives great plausibility to what is morally wrong and, for that reason, makes what is wrong seem normal” (Losing our Virtue, 4).
It is normal today to value tolerance. It seems strange to say that there is one path to God… that Jesus is the ONLY way to the Father (John 14:6).
It appears tragically normal today for married folk to break their sacred vows. Having a different sexual orientation seems like finding your true self. But, one man, one women, together in a lifelong union of marriage seems strange and entirely old-fashioned!
To desire to grow rich and lay up treasures upon the earth is valued and affirmed. But Psalm 52:7 reminds us of a man who “made not God his strength, but trusted in the abundance of his riches!” It seems strange and pushy to tell those who have wealth to be generous and ready to share so that they might store up treasure in heaven.
It is normal to fawn over the rich and court their friendship while being callously indifferent to the plight of the poor (James 2:1-4). Critical, slanderous and filthy talk is normal (3:1-12; 4:11-12; 5:9). Cursing people made in the image of God seems like sticking up for your rights. Returning a blessing seems like losing your mind and something a wimp would do. Dissensions and quarreling is normal. Seeking the heavenly wisdom that promotes peace seems strange and unattractive. (3:13-4:3).
Who’s friend are you becoming? The world or God’s?
I am preaching through a series entitled: 2:42 – Routine Investments in Redemptive Friendships. This coming Sunday we will address “The Great Hindrance to Friendship with God.” Below are some gleanings and insights put together by our pastoral intern from Covenant Seminary, Nathan Lucy. They were very helpful to me personally and I commend them to you.
Gleanings from and paraphrases of
The Epistle of James
Joseph B. Mayor
Commentary on 4:1-10
Pages 225 – 227
The same surroundings may be to one [person] a channel of divine influence, to another the very embodiment of the worldly spirit…. Fashion, politics, religion; the criminal, the [student], the working-man; all have their separate worlds…. Incalculable mischief has been caused by the imagination that the worldly spirit could be avoided by keeping out of some particular society which [people] chose to identify with the world. The world is in the heart of man. (225)
My paraphrase: [Because sinful desires come from within our hearts, we would be mistaken to blame our circumstances (family life, friend group, pressure to climb the corporate ladder, school, university Greek culture, the hospital work atmosphere) for our worldliness.]
St. James in the text tells us that the cause of quarreling is our eagerness to get the world’s good things, which are palpably limited in quantity, and often derive their chief value in our eyes from their difficulty of attainment. The fact of this limitation inevitably leaves many disappointed of their desire. But even the successful are not satisfied. No sooner is the coveted object attained, that the procession of disillusion commences. There is a moment’s delight at the victory over our rivals, and again the cloud of disappointment settles over us. We feel that, once more, happiness has eluded our grasp, and we are filled with envy and jealousy of those whom we fancy to be in any respect more fortunate than ourselves, till in the end we find our nearest approach to happiness in striving to prevent or destroy the happiness of others. How is this to be remedied? The Stoics answered: “by ceasing to desire.” The Christian answer is: “By desiring to be, and to do, what God wills, and by desiring others’ good along with and as a part of our own.” (226)
My paraphrase: [The good things of this world, although genuinely good, are not good enough to fulfill our deepest longings. Whenever we try to get good things to fulfill those longings, we will be disappointed. Whether we fail or succeed, we will be disappointed. So should we numb ourselves to desire (like the Stoics)? No! We should desire the Lord, the Lord’s will—our glorifying and enjoying him, and becoming the others-loving people he made us to be.]
We think jealousy a defect in human love; how much more in Divine!… [James’ phrase] is really a parable in which the soul is represented as standing between two rival wooers, God and the world. The strongest human passion is boldly taken to represent the Divine longing for the entire possession of the human heart… for the expulsion of every thought and feeling which interferes with the recovery of the Divine image in man and the attainment of the perfect ideal of humanity…. The Divine jealousy… desires nothing but the best good of the beloved object, and hates nothing but that which would injure and degrade it. (226-227)
My paraphrase: [God’s jealousy is not the wicked kind of jealousy that distorts love. Rather, his longing for us to love him in return is so passionate that only the passionate word “jealousy” can describe his longing. He passionately longs for us to be restored in his image, to become as fully, perfectly human as Christ himself. He is jealous for our sake, and hates only what threatens harm to us.]
The Divine jealousy having ordained that the world shall never give satisfaction, he who seeks his happiness there cannot but feel himself continually thwarted in his ambitions, until at last he conceives himself to be the victim of some jealous and hostile power seated upon the throne of the universe. Yet “He giveth more grace.” Underneath the dark suspicion which blots out heaven from our eyes we are dimly conscious of an appeal to feelings long lost sight of and all but extinct within us. In the Prodigal’s heart there begins to arise a loathing, not only for the husks with which he has striven to satisfy the cravings of the immortal soul, but also a loathing for his own folly and sin, and a longing for the home which he has forsaken, joined with the sense of his own unworthiness, which makes him fear least he should have lost it for ever. To one thus humbled grace is given in full measure: the soul, which could never satisfy its thirst from earthly cisterns, finds never-failing supplies of happiness in that inner union with God which is typified by the well of water springing up unto everlasting life. (227)
My paraphrase: [God sovereignly prohibits people from finding satisfaction apart from him. When our selfish ambitions are thwarted again and again, we can become bitter and suspicious of him. Yet the ‘prodigal’ learns to loathe his foolishness, and at the same time awakens to his longing for the home he rejected, and also recognizes his unworthiness to return. This is the humility of the one to whom God gives grace. The prodigal leaves selfish ambition and comes home to fulfilling friendship with the Father.]
For much of my childhood, I thought there was one missionary…Charlotte (Lottie) Diggs Moon (1840-1912). Much later in my life I learned of her incredible impact in the country of China. Her words that follow highlight her love for the Chinese people: “If I had a thousand lives, I would give them all for the women of China.”
She used her knitting and sewing skills to interest Chinese women in the gospel. She worked tirelessly during her forty years in China and took only three furloughs. She actually died of starvation because she would not eat because the people that she was attempting to reach with the gospel did not have any food to eat.
In 1895, this Irish lassie was commissioned by the Church of England Zenana Missionary Society to go to Dohnavur, India, where she served fifty-six years as God’s devoted servant without a furlough.
A major part of her work there was devoted to rescuing children who had been dedicated by their families to be temple prostitutes. More than a thousand children were rescued from neglect and abuse during Amy’s lifetime. To them she was known as “Amma,” which means mother in the Tamil language. The work often was dangerous and stressful. Yet she never forgot Jesus’ promise to “keep them in all things.”
Sherwood Eddy declares that “her life was the most fragrant, the most joyfully sacrificial that I have ever known.”
Here’s one of her most inspiring and challenging poems:
From prayer that asks that I may be;
Sheltered from winds that beat on Thee,
From fearing when I should aspire,
From faltering when I should climb higher,
From silken self, O Captain free
Thy soldier who would follow Thee.
From subtle love of softening things,
From easy choices, weakenings,
Not thus are spirits fortified,
Not this way went the Crucified,
From all that dims Thy Calvary,
O Lamb of God, deliver me.
Give me the love that leads the way,
The faith that nothing can dismay,
The hope no disappointments tire,
The passion that will burn like fire,
Let me not sink to be a clod,
Make me Thy fuel, O Flame of God.
Mary Ann Faulkner Thomson wrote the hymn, “O Zion Haste Thy Mission High Fulfilling” in 1871. One of her stanzas goes like this:
“Give of thy sons to bear the message glorious, Give of thy wealth to speed them on their way, Pour out thy soul for them in prayer victorious, And all thou spendest Jesus will repay.”
Clara Elliot trained and gave her son to bear the message of the gospel to the Auca Indians in Ecuador. As a young man at Wheaton College, Jim prayed:
“God, I pray thee, light these idle sticks of my life and may I burn for Thee. Consume my life, my God, for it is Thine. I seek not a long life, but a full one, like you, Lord Jesus.”
Jim Elliot was born in Portland, Oregon on October 8 1927. He was the third child of four. He had two older brothers, Herbert and Robert, and he had a younger sister named Jane. His father, Fred, was an evangelist. His father couldn’t finish school because he had to work. His mother, Clara, finished her studies and opened a chiropractic practice in their home to support the family. She devoted herself to the task of preparing her children for a lifetime of walking with God and ministering to others.
The fruit of her labors is seen in Jim Elliot’s note he wrote to his mother upon his departure to serve as a missionary in Ecuador:
“Remember how the Psalmist described children? He said that they were as a heritage from the Lord, and that every man should be happy who had his quiver full of them. And what is a quiver full of but arrows? And what are arrows for but to shoot? So, with the strong arm of prayer, draw the bowstring back and let the arrows fly– all of them, straight at the Enemy’s hosts.” — Jim Elliot, age 22, Shadow of the Almighty, p.132.
Here are a few things we believe about missions at Trinity.
- We want “to so present Christ Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit, that men, women, boys and girls shall come to put their trust in God through Him, to accept Him as their Savior, and serve Him as their King in the fellowship of His church.” (Anglican Archbishops’ Committee of Inquiry into the Evangelistic Work of the Church, 1918).
- We believe that every believer must be a global Christian with a global vision because our God is a global God.
- We believe that Jesus’ authority on earth allows us to dare to go to all the nations. His authority in heaven gives us our only hope of success.
- We believe that His presence with us compels us with delight to go and make disciples of all nations.
- Thus, “evangelism means exhorting sinners to accept Christ Jesus as their Savior, recognizing that in the most final and far-reaching sense they are lost without Him. Nor is this all. Evangelism also means summoning men to receive Christ Jesus as all that He is—Lord, as well as Savior—and therefore to serve Him as their King in the fellowship of His church, the company of those who worship Him, witness to Him, and work for Him here on earth.” – J.I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1991), 39)