September 9, 2021

Flirting with the World - The Book of James Bible Series


Welcome back, Sweet Readers!  It's time again for another installment in our James Series! I'm so glad to have you here in my little corner of the interwebs! Grab something yummy to drink, and your Bible, and let's dig in!


As has become our habit, we will start by reading it together in The Passion Translation Bible:

"What is the cause of your conflicts and quarrels with each other? Doesn’t the battle begin inside of you as you fight to have your own way and fulfill your own desires? You jealously want what others have so you begin to see yourself as better than others. You scheme with envy and harm others to selfishly obtain what you crave—that’s why you quarrel and fight. And all the time you don’t obtain what you want because you won’t ask God for it! And if you ask, you won’t receive it for you’re asking with corrupt motives, seeking only to fulfill your own selfish desires. You have become spiritual adulterers who are having an affair, an unholy relationship with the world. Don’t you know that flirting with the world’s values places you at odds with God? Whoever chooses to be the world’s friend makes himself God’s enemy!

Does the Scripture mean nothing to you that says, “The Spirit that God breathed into our hearts is a jealous Lover who intensely desires to have more and more of us”?" (The Passion Translation)

We just may need to put this one up on a mirror or something! I can't say for you --but for me? Well, having the answer to what is causing all the conflicts and quarrels in our world would be super helpful. The only problem is the problem, it seems, is us.  We are the reason... we are the problem! It's our flesh and our wanting what other people have, or our seeing ourselves (or a group/race/religion/political stance/etc.) as better than others.  We, to put it simply, want our own way. If we are honest, it won't matter what 'side' we fall on any issue, we think we are right --or we want to be right... and it's because we want what we want. And listen --we're not fans of having people tell us what we can and can't have. No one is the boss of us. But herein lies the problem! Someone (read: some One!) needs to be! We don't do a very great job at bossing ourselves around. James clearly points this out here!

In the footnotes for Chapter 4, verse 3, it says the Greek word for 'corrupt motives' is kakos and can be translated “sick,” or “sickly.” James is exhorting us not to pray “sickly prayers.” I mean - of course... of course, we don't want to pray 'sickly prayers' --but I think this points out that we may be doing just that, unaware!

Here we have James - being all James-like, pulling no punches. 

He compares his audience (which, we know includes us now, yes?) as adulterers!  Yipes? This is one of the hard portions in the Book of James because we like to think of Jesus as all grace and love. (And He is!) But we tend to muddy the waters a bit in reducing Him to our cool older brother who looks the other way when we sin.  He's not.  He's not that way. James --his actual brother, says that when we flirt with the world's values we put ourselves at odds with God! He says if we choose to be the world's friend, that makes us God's enemy.  

Now - of course, we know this doesn't mean we separate from the world and wall ourselves off... it doesn't mean we harshly judge the world by God's standards --(they are sinners, sinning... so... they are doing what they know to do.) It doesn't mean that we are not friendLY--- but to be friends with the worldly values is to be cozying up to things that God laid His Life down to free us from! They lead nowhere near the Kingdom of God and actually lure us farther away from Him.  We don't want that!  We are called to love the world --but not the world's values.  We are called to be IN the world, but not OF it... (I used to say that we are OF it but not IN it... but even that is not true anymore. It seems the pendulum swung and we are now both... which I suspect just may be what causes us to be lukewarm in His mouth. I know...? Harsh. I don't love it either.) We are not the thought police or the ones who blindly offer to remove specks while ignoring the planks in our own eyes. We are not the boss of the world... but we know the One who is and He is the best boss. He is kind and loving and gracious... patient and wise and pure.  He makes us want to be better... and the good news is when we spend time with Him, we are! We are better... He rubs off on us and when we let him be the boss, we learn how to live more like Him! He gave us the Holy Spirit who reveals all things and He desires for us to desire Him --more than any other!

The footnotes also tell us that in verse 5, James isn't quoting a specific verse from the Old Testament, but it's possible that it became more of a general statement of what the Bible teaches, or even a quotation from an older translation not available today. It goes on to say, "We must always realize that the Holy Spirit pursues us relentlessly and takes it very personally when we turn from him to pursue friendship with the world." 

Ouch... and true, right? We never want to or intend to offend the Holy Spirit. We never want to grieve him... but we do. Lord - help us notice when we do!


Let's read it in The Voice:

"Where do you think your fighting and endless conflict come from? Don’t you think that they originate in the constant pursuit of gratification that rages inside each of you like an uncontrolled militia? You crave something that you do not possess, so you murder to get it. You desire the things you cannot earn, so you sue others and fight for what you want. You do not have because you have chosen not to ask. And when you do ask, you still do not get what you want because your motives are all wrong—because you continually focus on self-indulgence. You are adulterers. Don’t you know that making friends with this corrupt world order is open aggression toward God? So anyone who aligns with this bogus world system is declaring war against the one true God. Do you think it is empty rhetoric when the Scriptures say, “The spirit that lives in us is addicted to envy and jealousy”?" (The Voice)

The subtitle proceeding these verses in The Voice is: "Worldly wisdom may promise the good life, but it leads to chaos and destruction every time. Ultimately true wisdom comes from God." Remember, James is all about the power of our words and so while you may not actually murder anyone, let's not assume he is talking about someone else here! Let's take a pause and take a real honest look at our motives and ask the Lord if they are all wrong in any area! If they are, well-- let's tackle that head-on with the help and hope of the Holy Spirit! Let's not pretend they are pure and honorable. Sometimes, they are. Sometimes they are even holy and righteous. But in the times when they are wrong --let's invite the Lord to rush in and redeem us... to set us right, yet again! For what we are after... what we simply must have at this time and in this season is true wisdom that comes from God!


Let's read it in The Amplified Bible:

"What leads to [the unending] quarrels and conflicts among you? Do they not come from your [hedonistic] desires that wage war in your [bodily] members [fighting for control over you]? You are jealous and covet [what others have] and your lust goes unfulfilled; so you murder. You are envious and cannot obtain [the object of your envy]; so you fight and battle. You do not have because you do not ask [it of God]. You ask [God for something] and do not receive it, because you ask with wrong motives [out of selfishness or with an unrighteous agenda], so that [when you get what you want] you may spend it on your [hedonistic] desires. You adulteresses [disloyal sinners—flirting with the world and breaking your vow to God]! Do you not know that being the world’s friend [that is, loving the things of the world] is being God’s enemy? So whoever chooses to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says to no purpose that the [human] spirit which He has made to dwell in us lusts with envy?" (The Amplified)

The world has been offering up 'unending quarrels' for quite a while now! I won't speak for you - but I know it can leave me feeling weary and wrung dry. We cry out for vengeance or justice or even a bit of a reprieve, but do we ask amiss? I don't know.  Man, friends... if I had a corner on this - all my prayers would be answered! I assure you they are not.  Well - at least not the way or within the timeframe I prefer, right? What stands out to me most in reading this portion of Scripture in these different translations is this: I do not want to be an enemy of God. I want to love people and be a light --we are called to do this, absolutely! However, I really do think that many of us (and I do include myself here) have lost sight of the fact that maybe in trying to love the world and make them feel loved... just maybe we have blurred some lines and have been friends with the world or culture rather than just being friends with actual people in the world or culture.  We have accidentally become friends with the world's values, rather than with God's.  

We don't like what He says... or it goes against our culture now, so we pick and choose and decide His word must have been misinterpreted or misguided.  I get it. I do. But as much as I wish there were things in the Word that aren't there... they aren't there. The Word is unchanging and it may seem old-fashioned or out of date --but it is the one thing that will remain after the whole dumpster fire we've created burns out! The Word is eternal... it is forever... and it is Jesus!  Jesus, whom James grew up with... he knew Him... didn't actually believe all the hype about Him until much later... James knows what it is like to be around Jesus and not quite know if you buy the whole story! He gets it... he lived it.  But there comes a time when we see more clearly --when the Holy Spirit reveals all truth and we see.  (Still in part, sure.) But we see the truth for what/Who it is... and we realize we must choose to be friends with the world's system, or be friends with God! We can't be both.

I want to draw closer to God in these days --not further away.  I want to be loving --while not grieving the Holy Spirit or making myself an enemy of God. When I value what God values --that IS people! It is. He is loving and kind and gracious... but He is also righteous and pure and holy.  Let's no longer blur the lines! (Let's not take it up as our job to legislate righteousness, either... we tried that. Turns out it too lends to unending quarrels and conflicts.) Rather, let's purpose to live a life modeled after Jesus. Let's purpose to be friends with God... to love what He loves, yes --but to also be willing to hate what he hates. (Hint... he hates the enemy and He never, ever, ever loses sight that we - humans! - are not the enemy. He hates all the slippery slopes the enemy puts in front of us, beckoning us to go for a ride!) 


Lastly, my favorite translation: The Message Bible:

"Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves. You lust for what you don’t have and are willing to kill to get it. You want what isn’t yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it.

You wouldn’t think of just asking God for it, would you? And why not? Because you know you’d be asking for what you have no right to. You’re spoiled children, each wanting your own way.

You’re cheating on God. If all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way. And do you suppose God doesn’t care? The proverb has it that “he’s a fiercely jealous lover.”" (The Message Bible)

Our God is a 'fiercely jealous lover.'  He's not cool, man... He's not 'all good' with whatever you want to do.  

He grieves... He longs for all of your affection, all of your devotion... He is after our hearts, friends! He looks beyond all the arguing and unrest, all the fighting and feuding... He looks beyond our excuses or explanations --and He sees our heart. He knows our hearts and our true motivations, even if/when we do not. 

Even still --even after seeing all of that, He loves us! 

He runs toward us with a robe and a ring! 

He is after redemption... restoration... revival!


Let's pray: 

Father God,
We want to be friends with You! We want to be after what you are after! We, too, long for Redemption, Restoration, and Revival! (Even if we aren't really sure what that looks like or what it will require! If You want it, we want it, Lord!) We are weary of all the wars and conflict... we're tired of only wanting our way! Father God, give us a hunger and thirst for the things YOU hunger and thirst for! Help us to ask for Your opinion... Your Wisdom... Your insight... Help us to seek council from YOU - and not from the world around us! Help us to stand with You... to love others as You love others --and yet, somehow, to not also love the world's values!

Jesus, we don't want to be like spoiled children, always asking for what we want and only wanting our own way! Help us to no longer ask amiss! Show us, Lord, when we are flirting with the world! That is never our intention! We want You and what You want - even above what we think is best --so remind us that You are good and You are trustworthy and true! Remind us that we can count on you --not to just answer yes to every request - but to cover us and call us back to You whenever we lose our way! To passionately pursue us... to win our hearts, over and over again!

Renew a right spirit within us, Lord! Help us to burn for You...
to love and live and when necessary, to lay down our lives, for You!
We love You, God!
Fill us up to overflowing so we can pour out Your Love
to a world that is wounded and wild... 
and not necessarily living for You!

For the King and His Kingdom, 

In Jesus' Name!

I know, you guys!  James is tough... but I hope you are seeing, like me, how much we need the wisdom laid out in this book!

Until next time, Sweet Readers, let's purpose to:

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