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 the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? — James 4:4-5
Friendship with the world means forfeiture of fellowship with God. You can have it one way or the other, but you can’t have it both. God will brook no rival in our hearts. In James 4:4, James says that worldliness is really spiritual adultery if you try to be married to Christ and then be joined to another at the same time. Worldliness is spiritual adultery, and the good life and true wisdom cannot be experienced by those who are worldly and selfish.
James 4:5 gives us a summation of the teaching of Scripture, from the beginning to the end. God’s Spirit indwells us and wants total occupation. He doesn’t want some of you; He wants all of you. I don’t mean that collectively; I mean that individually. He doesn’t want some of you individually; He wants all of you individually. His Spirit will brook no rival. This is seen from the very beginning of God’s salvation, back in Genesis 3:15 when God pronounces His curse against Satan and then brings His judgment to Eve. He blesses her in the midst of the warning judgments by saying, “I will put enmity between you and the serpent, between your seed and his seed.” In other words, I will put enmity between you and the enemy of your soul.
And so God has established an enmity against the world and against worldliness in His peoples’ hearts. And He will brook no rival because He wants all of you, individually. He wants the totality of your love and loyalty and service. And James simply states categorically that friendship with the world is hostility to God, and that if we want to make ourselves to be friends of the world, then we will be enemies of God. It’s one way or the other. And my friends, living in a culture which is prosperous, in which we play a significant role, can work on our hearts over time to make us desire the wrong source of satisfaction. It’s the great, great challenge that we face here. Who do you love? What do you love? Where is your satisfaction? What’s the chief purpose of your life? The honest answers, the quiet answers in your own home and in your own heart to those questions will tell you much about what you need.
If the answer is not God through Jesus Christ, to the question of, “Whom do you love? What do you want? What’s your great satisfaction?” then the only hope is not to look within, because the answers are not found within; they’re found without, they’re found with God in Christ. May God grant us all to look to Him and to walk with Him.
— Excerpt from “Worldliness in the Church” sermon by J. Ligon Duncan