2007-08-25 - The Company We Keep
James 4:4, "You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God."
The above verse will strike a cord with many Christians. In fact, many might be prone to consider the above verse unworthy of consideration, because they are not guilty of adultery. We might lay it aside and look for something that does apply to us. May I suggest that this verse has a direct application, and is a central consideration to everyone who claims to be a Christian? Let us consider this verse, and the arrow it shoots, which is aimed at our conduct and practice.
What has the believer to do with those who hate God? One might think this is rather harsh. If you are reading this and you do not trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, you might actually be offended. I hope you will stick with me. Both Christians and unbelievers have to understand that Christians are called upon to be separate. 2 Corinthians 6:17 says, "Come out from their midst and be separate, says the Lord." It is a passage that calls Christians to separate from unbelievers. Verse 14 of the same chapter says, "What partnership has righteousness and lawlessness?" To the unbeliever, I say, please understand when a Christian can't join you in some things. We are bound to a lifestyle that is different, that is separate from that which is tied to the world. We cannot join you in some things that might even seem innocent to you. We ask your understanding, but we also beg that you take a moment and consider why it has to be this way.
To those who follow Christ, I would suggest that of all the things that most hinder and subvert your progress in grace: your ties to the world are chief. To stay on topic, I would suggest that for many, the primary thing that keeps them from joy, victory, advancement and stability in their faith stems more from the company they keep than from any other factor. The company you keep may not even be bad in itself, but it might be bad to you.
Being separate unto the Lord does not come without sacrifice. Jesus does not call His followers to cut off their warts or hair if they are a hindrance to following Him, but rather He tells us to cut off our arms, or pluck out our eyes, if we find them to be stumbling blocks to following Jesus (Matthew 18:7-10). We don't really pluck out our eyes, but we take it as a metaphor that some sacrifices, often-difficult sacrifices, are part of following Jesus Christ. Things that might cause no harm to others in their faith, may be perilous to us. We must keep clear of everything that keeps us from Jesus Christ.
When our friends are those who do us no good we ourselves are no longer our own masters. When we keep friendship with those we know do not have our advancement and best eternal interests at heart, they themselves become our masters. We then become their servants because we allow them into our lives to our own harm. We are told to be separate. We are told that friendship with the world is to be an enemy of God. It is, in fact, hostility toward God, as the above verse says. Friendship with the world gives us the tag, in God's Word: Adulteress. Nobody wants to put on this marker. The Lords commands are not burdensome, 1 John 5:3. He has told us to be separate unto Him. Let us seek to make this true in the company we keep.
I anticipate the response that we are to be in the world (1 John 4:17), and how can we be in the world if we are to be separate? I would reply that our problem is not one of being in the world. We are in the world, and no one reading this is cloistered somewhere, having forsaken every Earthly convenience. We are all in the World, but for many of us, this concept of being in the world, but not of it, is a crutch to our righteousness - because the world has swallowed us up, and we fail to even realize it. We must look honestly at this common excuse for worldliness. We are to be ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). We are to represent Him in the world. But all too often, we use this as our excuse for compromising and sinful tendencies. If your "in the worldness" does not advance your ambassador status as a representative of Christ, you are not in the world, but rather, the world is in you.
Soli Deo Gloria,