In my last post, I took a look at Isaiah 58, concluding that it’s possible to seek God and even attempt to draw close to Him, when in reality we’re missing Him altogether.
I’ve been thinking about this matter of authentic worship…
Worship that is as pleasurable for God to receive as it is for me to offer.
Worship that is not just a feeling in my heart, but is also a way of living that is God-honoring.
Worship that is accepted by God, rather than ignored (Isaiah 58:3) or even despised (Amos 5:21-23; Isaiah 1) by Him.
I believe I’ve stumbled upon one of the obstacles hindering us from authentic worship:
Friendship with the world.
James tells us that friendship with the world positions me as God’s enemy.
You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (4:4)
Even in my furthest wanderings from my God, I’ve never, ever wanted to be counted His enemy. And yet, that’s exactly what He says about those who make friends with the world.
Did you notice the phrasing?
“Don’t you know…?”
James is implying that this truth is obvious. It’s a no-brainer! Or it should be…
I’ve been considering some ways Christians today seem to be building a friendship with the world…
One way is by feeding worldly affections.
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. (Col. 3:1-2)
Rather than indulging our souls on the Bread of Life and Living Water, we feast on mindless entertainment.
Instead of accepting the divine invitation to spend time in the presence of the Creator of the universe and Lover of our souls, we fritter away hours each week on social media.
When we could be investing our resources in spreading the precious Word of the Gospel to people who have never, ever heard the sweet name of Jesus even one time, we prefer to plan ahead for the next Disney trip or beach vacation — if we plan ahead financially at all.
Rather than investing our energy in what matters to our God, acting as “a defense for the helpless” and a “defense for the needy in his distress” (Isaiah 25:4), we choose instead to focus on what’s fun…comfortable…relaxing for us.
Friends, please make no mistake about my intention. There’s nothing inherently wrong with these activities.
Unless we get them out of balance. And I think we do.
At least I do.
And when I’m so comfortable in my little slice of the American Dream that I spend way more time thinking about and doing what matters to me than I do on what matters to Him…
when I’m so enraptured with “all the vain things that charm me most”…
how can that be anything other than a variety of friendship with the world?
Another aspect in which we can make friends with the world is by trying to please worldly people.
Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people. (Prov. 14:34)
I fear many believers are trying to please worldly people by attempting to remain neutral in some of the divisive political and spiritual issues of our day. Or by becoming more liberal on “social” issues.
It’s often done in the name of love…
and yet the very most loving thing we can do is speak the truth about sin.
It should be done gently.
And with no ulterior motives. No judgmental attitude. No selfish desire to prove my point.
But if I don’t love someone enough to tell them the truth, I’m not loving them enough.
And not taking a stance about matters that are important to God, because I don’t want to offend man…
well, I don’t see how we can call that anything other than friendship with the world.
Finally, I believe many Christians are allying with the world by prioritizing “Christian liberty” over godliness.
Before I explain, let’s remind ourselves of our key verse again:
You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (James 4:4)
Can you see how this verse can be applied to so many of Christianity’s so-called “gray areas”?
You know the ones…
those modern issues that God doesn’t address by name in the Bible.
The ones that cause heated debates in Christian circles. With a lot of judgment and legalism on extreme. And a lot of self-centered indulgence on the other.
What if we stopped debating whether our activities are sinful…
and started asking whether they’re among the best ways to spend our time?
What if we started asking ourselves, “Does this activity more closely resemble friendship with the world, or friendship with God?”
And what if I actually posed these questions to God Himself, spending time in His Word and in prayer over the matter…instead of defending my point of view and berating others for theirs?
So there you have some of my thoughts on this matter of friendship with the world. Perhaps you would add to my list. Perhaps you disagree with a point I’ve included. I welcome your comments, if you’d like to leave one below.
But my most important point is this: Dear believer, will you join me in committing to spend some serious time before the Lord, asking Him to reveal to you any areas in which you’re engaging in friendship with the world? The more I contemplate this matter, the more strongly I believe it’s a significant obstacle for many of us in our pursuit of authentic worship.