…A friend of the world is the enemy of God.
— James 4:4
When a Christian who has walked with God and knows the things of the Spirit decides to step back into the world — intentionally or unintentionally — this is a very serious matter to God. When I say serious, I’m talking about a situation so grave that it eventually causes God to take an aggressive and antagonistic stance toward that believer! This is why James 4:4 says, “…A friend of the world is the enemy of God.”
Notice that James refers to believers who have become a “friend” of the world. The word “friend” is from the Greek word phileo, a word that has many different facets, including the ideas of fondness, friendship, or love. This is the Greek word someone would use if he wanted to express affection or even romance. And when used to depict friends, this word is the picture of very close friends who are fond of and familiar with each other.
From the word phileo we get the word philema, which means to kiss. In the ancient world, a kiss was a form of greeting that was reserved for family members, friends, fellow church members, or any other esteemed and cherished people in one’s life. A kiss like this would never be given to a stranger, but to someone for whom a person felt deep affection or with whom he had some kind of relationship.
This leads us to the next usage of the word phileo. In some places, it portrayed a person who was under some type of commitment or obligation due to a relationship. This relationship could be family-related, business-related, socially-related, or friendship-related. Regardless of the basis for the relationship, it is one that includes obligations, such as the obligations that exist in a marriage, between business partners, or even between friends. These relationships carry responsibilities. The word phileo could be used to describe these types of relationships and the obligations that result from entering into them.
So when James talks about believers who have become “a friend of the world” (the Greek word phileo), he is talking about Christians who have drifted so far back into the world that they now feel close to the world; they have affection and fondness for it. The connection and sense of familiarity they have with the world is so intense that they feel an obligation to the world or to their worldly friends.
These believers have exchanged their once-deep affection for the Lord for a renewed allegiance to the world from which they were rescued. Because they now have a strong affection for the world, it lets us know that these believers have been drifting for a long time. Backsliding like this doesn’t happen overnight. It is clear that a slow, methodical, seducing process has lured them away from Christ and back into a relationship with the world. Now their sense of obligation to the world is greater than their sense of obligation to the Lord.
James solemnly declares that any believer who has slipped back into this type of serious relationship with the world becomes the “enemy” of God. The word “enemy” is from the Greek word echthros, a word that appears more than 450 times in the Old Testament Septuagint to describe hate, hatred, hostility, an enemy, or an opponent. One example of its usage in the New Testament is Luke 23:12, where it portrays the animosity, antagonism, enmity, rivalry, and competition that existed between Herod Antipas and Pilate. These two men were definitely not on the same side!
What does this mean to you and me? It tells us that God is jealous when a believer transfers his devotion back to the world. In fact, this creates strong jealousy in the heart of God for that believer. God sees that believer’s relationship with the world as a violation of His own relationship with him. Just as a spouse would feel violated if he discovered that his mate had secretly carried on an intimate relationship with someone else, God feels betrayed when a believer transfers his affection away from Him and back to the world. In these cases, God takes an antagonistic view toward the improper relationship and begins to set things in motion to see that relationship end!
Because God wants that believer to refocus his affection where it ought to be, His grace moves in to intervene. It may not feel like help at the time, but God, who is intensely jealous for His people, sees Himself as a Contender for that believer’s affection and devotion! He will therefore do what He must to get the attention of His wayward child so He can turn him around and bring him back to where he ought to be!
Backsliding is serious business! When you try to split your heart between the Lord and the world, it simply won’t work! There’s too much animosity between a holy God and the world from which you were rescued. So don’t let yourself head back in the direction of the world, because God won’t just sit back and watch it happen. He will come after you like the most serious Competitor in the whole universe!
My Prayer for Today
Lord, I pray that my passion for You will grow stronger and stronger and that I will remain untainted from the world. Please show me if there are any places in me that are drawn to things that displease You. It may be hard for me to hear, but if there is anything in me that seeks to slip back into the life from which You delivered me, please reveal it to me. If my affection for anything else in this world is greater than my affection for You, please show me!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I declare by faith that I am more deeply in love with Jesus Christ today than at any previous moment in my life. My affection for Him is so deep that I will never turn back to the life from which I’ve been delivered. I have no relational obligations greater than the sense of obligation that I feel for Jesus Christ. He saved me, redeemed me, delivered me, and changed me — and I vow to serve Him for the rest of my life!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
- Can you think of any areas in your life where your devotion to the world is greater than your devotion to the Lord?
- Have there been times recently when you have felt the “pull” of the world trying to seduce you back into the life from which you were delivered?
- What do you need to do to reject that “pull” and stay free?