My life looked totally different before I married my wife. I was single and living the life of a bachelor. In college, I stayed out as late as I wanted, I dated around without getting into a serious committed relationship with anyone, and I spent all my money on myself. I was living life for the unholy trinity of me, myself, and I.
Then I met Lacy, and I was immediately captivated by her. Eventually we ended up going on our first date. I was young, selfish, and extremely immature. I remember inviting her to a party I had planned on attending, and she knew that some of the people that I was associating with who would be there were just as self-absorbed as I was.
I remember her answer to my invitation shocked me. She said, “That is not the kind of lifestyle I want for myself.” And then came the punch in the gut as she went on to say, “And I certainly would not want that kind of lifestyle for my future spouse, whoever that may be.”
I immediately felt ashamed. I wanted to be better. I wanted to be that “whoever” that she spoke of in terms of being her future spouse. And I was willing to give up being foot loose and fancy free in order to have her. Whatever it took, I was willing to change, because I wanted a life with Lacy more than my former life.
And I gladly wanted to change my life. Because she brought me greater joy than this bachelor lifestyle I’d been living. In the course of the next year, we began to plan our marriage. And I gave up my former way of life in exchange for a better life with Lacy. And I have never regretted it. Outside of Christ, I have found no greater joy than life with my beautiful wife and our five children.
Now imagine for a moment that I made the decision that I wanted to marry Lacy. We got married, and yet nothing in my life changed. I still went out to the parties. I still wanted to hang out with all the girls Id previously dated. And I still spent my money on only myself. What if as a married man, I still coddled my old bachelor lifestyle and just expected my wife to deal with it? Odds are I wouldn’t be married for long.
Lacy would not have seen me as her husband, but rather as an enemy and a liar. If I were to live an adulterous life, then it would prove that my profession of love for Lacy was never real to begin with. I would have not changed my life or sacrificed anything. I would have just added Lacy to my universe that revolved around me.
In the same way, many Christians have a misunderstanding of what it means to enter into a covenant relationship with the Lord. For some, if you were to examine their lives before Christ, and then after their profession of faith, you would see very little difference. They want to still be friends with world whom was once their mistress, while professing to be in a covenant relationship with God.
Currently we are walking through the book of James verse by verse at Christ City Church. And James addresses this issue in-depth.
“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.
Earlier in his epistle, James addresses issues in the church such as being a hearer of the word of God and not being a doer as well as mere cognitive belief in God with no active wisdom to follow. James is addressing people who would say they were Christians, but were living their lives as if they were not. And in the verse above, James uses harsh words to call them out. ‘YOU ADULTEROUS PEOPLE!’
Within the spiritual union between God and His church, this doesn’t sound like a happy marriage. In verse 4 of chapter 4, James goes on to say that one that is friends with the world is an enemy of God. This is not talking about being friends with non Christians. This friendship James speaks of is a friendliness with the evil world system. James is addressing the person who would still hold close their sins, with no turning…no repentance, and yet they still confess friendship with God.
However, James states that God does not consider them to be friends, but rather enemies. A person who is labeled an enemy of God does not sound like a person who is saved. This does not sound like a person whom God would consider one of His children.
I once knew a man who lived like this. He was a church goer on Sunday mornings, but during the week he would curse like a sailor, get drunk most days of the week, and live for the sins of his flesh. Yet when the next Sunday rolled around, he was right back in church professing his love for Christ.
This man wasnt trusting in a relationship with Jesus to save him, he was trusting in religion. He was behaving no differently than a married man who would run around on his wife. And according to James, God would look down on this type of person and label him an enemy.
“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.” James 4:8-9.
James calls this wayward church to repent of their sins and to draw near to God. Claiming to be friends with the world and with God at the same time is called ‘double-minded.’ James commands the church to lay aside their adulterous, sinful ways. And then he presses even further. James says don’t merely lay aside your sins, but also how you feel about them needs to change.
There is a growing trend in our world today for some professing Christians to make extremely light of sin. I saw a t-shirt from an online Christian store that had written across the front, “I’m a Christian….I just cuss a little.” This is making light of sin. More than that, this is borderline boasting in it! This is laughing at sin. This is spiritual adultery.
But James says that is not the appropriate reaction to our sins. At least not for the true believer. He says when we sin, and we surely will, our hearts should be broken. James says our sins should not be something we joke about, but rather we should mourn over.
A friend of mine called me a months ago broken-hearted. He went on to tell me that he had been unfaithful to his wife. He was not bragging to me that he had been with another woman. He was devastated at his betrayal. He didn’t call me to make light of it. He was in a state or mourning. Because he truly loved his wife, and he had messed up badly. The next day, he immediately confessed his transgression to his wife, and through tears vowed to do anything it took to mend the relationship.
This is the picture James paints of our own transgressions against God. When we sin against the God that we proclaim to love, James says that it should break us because the true Christians love for Him is so strong that the reaction to their sins is extreme shame and repentance. To not be broken over our sins is to prove that we never truly love Him to begin with. It is to be seen as enemies of God.
The apostle Paul calls for us to examine ourselves to see if we are truly in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). One of these self examinations is to consider how we treat sin in our lives. Is sin something that we make light of? Do we laugh at it as if it is some trendy badge of honor all the while professing to have committed our lives to Christ? Or when we fall into sin, does it cause us to mourn and weep because we know that we have transgressed against the God whom we love?
“No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God,” 1 John 3:9-10.
John says it very plainly. No one who has truly been born again makes a practice of sinning. That is to say, no one born of God can willingly continue to coddle a sinful life void of repentance because God’s Spirit now abides in them. The people who fall and are broken over their sins make it evident that they are born of God. And those that laugh at sin and continue to intentionally walk in them prove that they are not. We are all sinners, but it is only the broken-hearted that prove their election as being sure and are pleasing to the Lord.
If our hearts have truly been captivated by the love of God, then we will see that the joy He brings is far greater than the fleeting happiness that was gained from a life of sin. When we truly see God in all of His splendor, it is no longer a task to put to death sins in our lives (Colossians 3). Because pursuing this greater love in Christ has now become our passion.
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Psalm 51:17.