The book of James. James chapter 4.
And we're going to talk this evening about intimacy. About being intimate with God, or not being intimate with God as the case may be. Again, as I've said to you so many times, James has no pretensions, he has no fronts, he doesn't try to make it extremely complicated or profound, he just says spiritual truth. And his teaching for us this evening is not profound or intellectual or philosophically deep, just helpful.
And that's what we need, isn't it? Not profound thoughts, just helpful, practical information about how to live in communion with our Lord. And he will talk about intimacy and tell us two very simple facts. Number one, that a person cannot be intimate with God and intimate with this world system at the same time.
That a person cannot be intimate with God and intimate with this world system at the same time. And then once he has that established, James will go on to tell us how, practically, we as believers can achieve intimacy with our Lord. You know, the Bible says that Abraham was the friend of God.
Isn't that something? I mean, how many people could you ever call the friend of God? And the Scripture tells us that David was a man after God's very own heart.
I mean, how many men or women could you say that about? And yet, my friends, it's possible. If it were impossible, David never would have gotten here. Neither would have Abraham. But it's possible to be so close and so intimate with our Lord that He can call you friend.
Let's find out how to do it, shall we? James says, number four, verse four, you adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility towards God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose when it says he jealously desires the Spirit which he has made to dwell in us? But he gives greater grace.
Therefore, it says, God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep.
Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord and he will exalt you. James begins by telling us that a person cannot be intimate with God and intimate with this world system at the same time. The two types of intimacy are mutually exclusive. Now, when James refers to these people in verse four as adulteresses, I don't really think he means in the actual physical sense of immorality. I think he's referring to the fact that these people, being wed to our Lord in a spiritual marriage by faith, then commit spiritual adultery when they go out and share their affection with someone other than their husband. And since we're all part of the bride, that's why he only used the feminine.
Whether you're a male or a female, when you commit spiritual adultery as part of the bride, you are an adulteress. Adultery with relationship to our Lord. That's what he calls them because he says to them, don't you know that friendship, literally intimacy with this world, a love for its way of thinking and its way of doing things, is by definition, God says, enmity, hostility to Him. That's what the word means. Hostility to Him.
Now, there's many ways to practically apply this. We could say this, if you want to be buddy-buddy with the world, you had better forget being intimate with God. Or we could put it on the negative and say, you want to know a good way to make God hostile to you?
Then go out and pursue a course of intimacy with this world system. And God will become hostile to you. Now, none of this refers to salvation.
We're talking about his personal relationship with his children. Why is this the case? Because the Scripture goes on to tell us verse 5. Because the Scripture says that God is jealous about the Spirit that He has made to dwell in us. Now, whether or not this is the Holy Spirit or our own individual spirit is a matter of dispute. I tend to think it's our own individual spirit. That the Spirit God has made to dwell in us, He's jealous. He wants its full devotion. But even if you take it as the Holy Spirit, it doesn't make that much difference. The point is still the same. God is a jealous God and God wants 100% of our affection. Nothing less will do. That's why the Ten Commandments begin by Moses saying that God said, I am a jealous God.
Therefore, you will have no other gods but me. Most of us either are dating or I think can remember the old days when we used to date. And when we were courting that one that we really, really wanted to marry. And I don't just mean men courting women because more of the opposite goes on than we men ever realize. As one man said, a woman lets you chase her until she catches you.
And I don't know if I'll ever figure out what that means, but I think it's true. Remember those old days, some of us? Remember what's going on? You remember how, I can still remember when my wife and I were dating, where in trying, I wanted all her attention. At that time, she hadn't really committed herself to giving it yet. But that's what I wanted. And when we'd be out and I'd be trying to communicate or do something and something else, or worse, someone else would distract her attention. Oh, that used to get to me.
I couldn't stand it. Remember those old days, fellas? Way, way back when. Remember that?
I hope it still exists. It should in your marriage. You see, when you come into a marriage relationship, that's when you, in essence, say, you have all my affection. Not that the Lord loses it.
We're talking about people. As a person, as a man, or as a woman, you and you alone have all my affection. And in any sense, to take that affection and give it to another is a breaking of the spirit of those marriage vows. And when we receive Jesus Christ, we are married to Him. We become His bride, or at least a part of it. And in the same way, God says, when you're my wife, I want every last ounce of your affection.
And I'm jealous of it. And you show your affection to someone else and I will react jealously. And so therefore, when we allow anything to become intimate with us more than God Himself, we are breaking that marriage vow and have become adulteresses. And God will become hostile in His personal relationship with us because He cannot tolerate that kind of an existence. Now, this leads us to, for just a moment, to talk about the whole concept of separation because this touches on that. People would say, ah yes, what this means is we need to be separated. That's one of those lovely church words that everybody has their own definition of what that means. And I suppose there is a sense in which it's a legitimate term, as long as we understand what it means to be separated from this world. To be separated obviously means not to be intimate.
But what does that mean? Allow me to tell you some thoughts, biblically, about what it means to be non-intimate, to be separated from our world. First of all, it's always helpful to decide what something doesn't mean before we decide what it does.
Let me tell you what separation does not mean. It does not mean that we become monks and nuns. It does not mean that we walk around and every time we see someone who does not know Christ, we throw ourselves back against a wall and yell, unclean!
Unclean! That is not what it means. It does not mean that we cut ourselves off from people who do not know Christ. Remember our Lord was accused of being too friendly with sinners, and He certainly was separated.
I hope we'd agree. No, my friends, we are in the world, and there's no way to get away from that fact. When I first became a Christian, I decided I was going to be separated. That's because the God who led me to Lord kept telling me to be separated. Well, I wasn't sure what that meant, but figuring I wasn't going to take any chances, I decided I was going to separate from everybody and everything.
I had the real potential to be one of these great aesthetics, you know, go live on the mountaintop and have somebody send food up to you once a month. That was the epitome of spirituality in my mind. And I really became an unbalanced individual, totally unbalanced. I'll never forget, I guess I'd been a believer for a matter of a year or so, totally unbalanced as I've said, and I had an old friend from college come visit me. He came up, stayed with me for a couple of days. He didn't know the Lord. He was a good friend, one of my closest friends, and he knew I had become religious.
And after staying with me a couple of days and watching how I reacted and how I responded to things, one day we were talking and he said to me one of the most life-changing things from an unbeliever anyone ever said to me. He said, Lon, I'll tell you something. He said, if what you have is the answer to life, then I don't want it.
I'd rather have no answers than have what you have. Well, I didn't know quite how to take that, so I just missed it in my mind. Oh yeah, boy, when he understands spiritual truth, that's the problem.
He's unsafe. He doesn't understand any spiritual truth. Ah, but the Spirit of God, I'm afraid, wouldn't let me off the hook quite that easily. Because he was trying to say to me, Lon, you have imbalance in your life. If the kind of way you relate to people is the answer to life, then forget it. That's no answer to life. To shut yourself up in a corner and be afraid to even interact with someone because they may soil your white clothing?
What kind of love is that? I'll tell you, that was one of the most revolutionary things anyone ever said to me. Because it made me realize that separation that really speaks to our world is not coming out of the world.
Furthermore, separation does not mean that we stop smiling and enjoying life. Why have you got such an unhappy face? Because I'm living for the Lord.
You know, you'd be surprised how many people think believers walk around frowning and unhappy all day long. I used to work at Giant Food. I think everyone in the world knows that now. We were there one night. We didn't have much to do.
Giant at that time was open until midnight, and it was around 11.30, and there was no one in the store, and so we were just clowning around a little bit. And I don't know what possessed me. I mean, I was in my right mind, but there were a couple of bananas sitting up in the front.
So I was kidding around, and I took these two bananas like guns, and I'm walking around like I have two guns in my holster. And we were all having a ball. We were laughing at it, but I thought, that's really funny. And I had this one fellow who was working there come up to me.
Now, listen to this, just to show you what people think. He said to me, you know what? He said, are you telling me the truth? Are you really training to be a minister?
And I said, yeah. He said, I don't understand how you could ever be a minister. Now listen, he said, I thought ministers never smiled. Can you imagine that?
You'd be surprised at the conceptions that people have of us out there. Because someone has begun the idea that if you smile and you're happy and there's joy in your life, something must be wrong. You can't be living for the Lord like that.
Ah, but you can. Separation does not mean that we stop smiling and enjoying life. Last of all, it also does not mean that we must become square, out of touch, unstylish, unaware of what's happening around us. In fact, one of the worst things a believer can do is become out of touch. Now, to be in touch doesn't mean that you have to condone or participate with what's going on. Just be aware of what's happening. I had a Christian friend, a lady, she's single.
Older lady. And we were sitting down at a lunch table one day and we're talking about the events of the day. This is when the hostages had been taken. Seems to me that was the incident.
Whatever, that's not really germane but it seems to me that's what it was. So we were sitting there at the table, there were six or eight or ten of us, we're talking about the hostages. And this lady said, what are you talking about? So we said, well, we're talking about the hostages. You know, Iran?
What hostages? So we said, wait a minute, don't you ever watch the news? She said, I don't have a television set. Don't you ever listen to the radio? Nope, I don't have radio. Don't you ever read the newspaper?
Nope. Got more important things to do than read the newspaper. You know, I sat there and I thought to myself, dear Lord, what chance does this lady have to go out and talk to a neighbor or a friend or somebody on the bus about the Lord? They're going to dismiss her as soon as they see that she doesn't even understand or have any conception of what's going on in the world. True, she may know Christ, but she's never going to get to the point of letting anyone know that because as soon as they think that she's an ostrich with her head in the sand, they're going to dismiss her. We as believers have an obligation to know what's going on.
Paul knew what was going on. He communicated to philosophers with philosophy, to politicians with politics, to tent makers with tents, being all things to all men. So to be separated doesn't mean being a monk, it doesn't mean we stop smiling, it doesn't mean we get out of touch.
What does it mean? It means that we always put our responsibility to obey God before any other desire. Whether it's a desire to conform to this world standard or a desire to do what we want to do, it doesn't make any difference. That obedience to God is the paramount thing in our life. That's being separated unto our Lord. Or to put it another way, to be separated means that we are willing to lose friends and have people think that we're weird rather than disobey God.
Is that a practical enough definition? That's what Romans 12 says, that we're not to be conformed to this world but be transformed by the working of God in our life. So you want to know how to be separated unto God? Don't go try to live off like a monk somewhere.
Don't give up smiling, please. Even if you don't enjoy it, we do. Don't think you have to place yourself out of touch with what's happening in the world. Just realize that obedience to God is the paramount issue in your life and you'll be separated. Intimacy with this world is hostile to God.
And all this boils down not to being aware of what's going on, but how much we allow it to influence what we do and the way we think. Now second, being intimate with this world is hostility with God. And we say, all right, Lord, we don't want to be intimate with this world. How do we be intimate with you instead? James has some suggestions.
As always, very practical. Verse 6, Therefore, it says, God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Submit, therefore, to God. Step one, submit to God. Put yourself under His command.
Obey Him, because He resists those who don't. When Butch Hardman led Dr. Howard Hendrick's dad to Christ a few years ago here in Arlington, I'll never forget what he said to that man. This man was a military man. Never forget in the hospital bed, the man had terminal cancer, what he said to them right after he led him to Christ. He said, Major Hendrick's, you have just received a new commanding officer. That's something that man understood. He understood a commanding officer. This is what James is talking about.
Submitting to God means recognizing that He is our commanding officer and that we take orders from Him. And you know, unless this understanding is clear, intimacy is impossible. When my little boy disobeys me and challenges my authority, we cannot have intimacy at that point. We cannot. We cannot develop in an intimate relationship unless the authority structure is straight. My spirit can't allow it. And neither can his. You know, my friends, when you as God's child resist His authority, intimacy is impossible.
But isn't it a joy those of us who have been parents and those of us who have been children can identify? Isn't it a joy when the authority is put right back in place just to watch the spontaneous intimacy that seems to develop? That is what will happen with us and our Lord.
You submit to Him and intimacy can develop. A second thing, James says, resist the devil and he will flee from you. And I believe what James is saying in broad terms here is to resist doing sin, resist doing wrong. And that enables God to develop intimacy in our lives with Him. A third thing, verse eight, draw near to God and He will draw near to you. I don't know if you ever noticed it, but that's a promise. Not just a fact, it's a promise. I like how Malachi said it. He said, Thus saith the Lord, return to me and I will return to you. You see, my friends, you can be as close to God as you want to be.
Isn't that neat? I mean, just think about that. The creator of the universe says, how close do you want to be? As close as you want, you can be. I'm not threatened and I'm not uncomfortable.
Here I am. Get as close as you like. And the more you draw near to me, you have my word. The more I'll draw near to you. That neat promise.
I like that promise. God invites your invitation. You can be as close as you want.
We have to take those steps, though. Notice God didn't say, I will draw near to you and then you draw near to me. God said, no, you take the initiative. How close do you want to be? You draw near to me and you have my promise.
I'll draw as near to you. Initiative. Number four. James tells us to clean up our lives. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep and let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.
I say, well, this just violates everything you told me. You told us to be happy. And James is telling us to be sad. He's only telling them to be sad because of their sin.
That verse is not unrelated to verse eight. Cleanse your hands. Purify your heart. Let your sin, verse nine, break your heart and take that arrogant laughter. And because of your spiritual condition, let it turn to mourning as you approach me and ask me to forgive you and cleanse you. If you want intimacy with our Lord, there will have to be cleansing from sin. Isaiah 59 has some interesting information.
I want you to listen very carefully. Behold, Isaiah says the Lord's hand is not short, that He can't save. These people are saying, why hasn't God saved us? Isaiah says it's not because His hand's too short to reach you, fellas. Nor Isaiah says is His ear so dull that He cannot hear. Why hasn't God answered our prayers? Isaiah says it's not because God can't hear.
Listen to the reason. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face so that He doesn't hear. If sin brings separation in our relationship, it is obvious there cannot be intimacy with unconfessed sin in our lives. How to get intimate with our Lord? Submit to His control. Resist doing wrong. Draw near to Him in prayer, in other ways, and clean up your life.
All of this, I think, comes under the general heading of verse 10. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. See yourself for what you really are.
That's what being humble is all about. See your need to submit to Him. See your need to resist evil. See your need to draw close to Him. See your need to clean up your lives.
See yourself for what you really are. And God will exalt you. In Matthew 6, verse 24, Jesus said, No man can serve two masters.
That seems obvious, doesn't it? Sooner or later, the one of the two has got to become the boss. And so, too, in this matter of intimacy, we can't ride the fence, my friends. We can't have one hand in heaven and one hand in this world and expect both this world and heaven to be satisfied. The truth of the matter is, neither will be satisfied. The world wants both your hands, and so does God.
If you want a frustrating experience, try riding the fence with a hand in each. God says, I want both your hands. I want every part of you. I'm not doing this. I want every single ounce of your affection.
Anything less, I won't be satisfied with. So humble yourselves, would you? God says to us. See yourself for what you really are and your need for me. Don't you realize God says, I'm not doing this just because I love you and because I want to be close to you, but I'm trying to teach you that you need me. And you need to be intimate with me if this thing called the Christian life is going to work. We're not advocating militant asceticism, going off on a hill somewhere and living like a monk. God wants us to be real, balanced, genuine people. He wants us to be people who are concerned about lost people and who aren't afraid to shake their hand and make an acquaintance with them. But God wants our motives and our actions centered in this book, even if it means losing a friend. Even if it means people think you're strange.
Even if people look at you like you've lost your mind. Praise God, as Paul says, we have. And we've got in His mind. Intimacy with God. God would like to call each one of you His friend. God would like to call each one of you a man or a woman after His very own heart. You don't have to convince God to do that. He wants to.
But He can only do it if we meet the requirements. Intimacy with this world is hostility with God. To become intimate with God, we need to submit to Him.
To resist wrong. To draw near to Him and clean up our lives. May God help us to do these things.
Let's have prayer. Lord, I confess to you that I realize how much intimacy there is available with you that I as an individual miss. And I sense, Lord, that many of us as believers every once in a while catch the glimpse of how close we could really be to you, but somehow it's tough to sustain it. Lord I pray for people that I as the pastor and these as the people, your people, would catch a vision for being intimate with you. Lord, that the Spirit of God would help us to overcome the flesh that fights so hard, that resists this so totally, that we might really develop into your friends and people after your very own heart. We ask this Lord not just so that we can be close to you and pride ourselves on some spiritual relationship with you, but we ask it so that we might be more usable, more malleable, more available for your service. That you might be able to squeeze more honor out of our lives for yourself. So Lord, we ask you to do this in our lives for your own glory. In Christ's name. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-18 08:23:41 / 2022-12-18 08:34:35 / 11