What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, "He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us"? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." Submit yourselves 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 wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?James 4:1-12
When was the last time you heard a sermon warning against worldliness? I suspect for most believers it would have been a very long time indeed. There are several reasons for this. Likely it is because we are in fact very worldly, and we don't like to speak to our particular sins, so we just drift along. Also, you are particularly unlikely to hear a sermon, or in this case read a Bible study, about worldliness and gay Christians. First of all, most of us would start squirming in our chairs. My first thought would be, "This can't be good." The reason for this is that as gay Christians most of our naysayers consider homosexuality to be a sin of worldliness. That as gay Christians, we want to sin, be a part of this hedonistic culture, and call ourselves Christians. But I hope that if you are one of those who regularly follow my Sunday posts, then you will know that is not the message I will deliver here. I write these posts as both Bible studies and as a way to deliver the truth. Therefore, I want to study this passage in a way that brings to light the kind of worldliness that applies to LGBT Christians.
There is also another reason Christians don't tend to dwell on worldliness. We have tended to misunderstand what the warnings against worldliness actually mean, and/or have quite distorted the actual biblical teaching on this. That is, we have often thought that worldliness means having nothing to do with this material world altogether. Or, as LGBT Christians we have been branded as worldly people because too many people believe that homosexuality is a choice. The truth is, as I believe it (and I do believe that God helped me understand this after much prayer and meditation), God created us to be gay. He had a purpose for us. Whatever, that purpose is, we cannot deny God for creating us or leading us down this path. We are all God's children and have his undying and eternal love.
James is not the only one to warn about worldliness.
John: 1 John 2:15-17 - Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.Paul: Ephesians 2:1-3 - And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
In the text from James above, these verses make me think of the person who tries to live in both the world and in the kingdom. It can't be done. Living in the kingdom means the Spirit dwells within us, and God reigns over us. It must be all or nothing. In Matthew 6:24, Jesus says, "No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other." Therefor, ask yourself to describe you in one word. What would you say? If you are worldly, then your answer might be your profession or an adjective describing how you feel or act, but truthfully, the answer should be very simple: Christian. Whatever else you are, however else you might describe yourself, it is being a Christian that should come first.
James finishes this section of scripture we are examining with a warning about verbally attacking or slandering our brother. When we do this, we are not only attacking, but judging his character. In doing so, we are speaking out against and judging the law. Think about it. We are to love our Lord God with all of our heart, soul, strength and might; and to love our neighbor as ourselves. When we speak against our brother, we are not loving our neighbor as ourselves, and might as well throw the whole commandment out the window.
"...do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.... Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good." Romans 12:2, 9
As believers, we are not of the world. Worldliness is not a kingdom attribute.
If you're wondering if a behavior or activity is worldly, ask yourself these questions:
- Does this activity, thing, pursuit take my heart away from God?
- Does it sabotage my communion with God and my walk in the Spirit?
- Does it undermine or seek to displace my relationship to Christ as the power of my life?
- Does it attempt (is it designed) to do so?
- Does it feed the self-centered, appetite-driven, God-hating part of me called the flesh?
- Does it inflame my desire to disobey God's commands?
- Does it produce pride, contention, immorality, or any other behavior contrary to the love of God and the love of others?
- Does it lure me into obsession with what is earthbound and temporal versus what is heavenly and eternal?
In John 18, Jesus answers Pilate by repeating this phrase twice: My kingdom is not of this world.
If you follow Jesus, then your kingdom is the Kingdom of Heaven, and it is not of this world.