The Book of James

Mar 22, 2020 | Dr. Bo Rice

The Marks of True Friendship with God

The Marks of Friendship 

James 4:1-12


The fights and quarrels James refers to in chapter 4 come from the worldly wisdom that was influencing God’s people in chapter 3. 

In fact, the word "covet" in 4:2 comes from the same word James uses in 3:14, 16 that is translated "jealousy/envy."

  • When God’s people rely upon worldly (false) wisdom, trouble is sure to follow.

Thinking about fights and quarrels in the church, the devil is pleased when he gets God’s people to fight with one another to the extent that they lose sight of the true battle. 

As we focus on battling with the world—a system based on us wanting more stuff and prioritizing our comforts—the devil would like nothing more than to divide us so that we have little energy for the real battle that is going on. 

  • And it’s friendship with the world that leads to our problems.


Friendship with the world comes from sinful desires of the flesh.


The church in James’s day had a lot of problems.

James identified the source of conflicts: their personal cravings (passions). 

The church is never edified when its members come to the table with selfish/sinful desires.

These sinful desires typically come from 2 sources:

First, people want what they do not have. 

Second, people covet what they cannot obtain.

These sinful desires can be avoided if we will take a simple approach: prayer. (2b)

Faithful prayer does not make selfish requests. 

Often though, instead of asking God in prayer, sinful and selfish desire leads to envy and strife in the body.


Friendship with the world is motivated by a desire for earthly pleasure.


We see another reason why believers may not gain their desires. 

When these believers asked, they asked with wrong motives. They may have made legitimate requests, but they prayed for the wrong purpose. They only wanted to pursue their personal pleasures. This leads to a bigger problem...


Friendship with the world results in spiritual adultery against God.


Instead of being a faithful bride to Christ, James’s hearers turned their backs on God and committed “adultery” with the world. 

  • This dangerous condition caused them to be opposed to God and his purposes for the church.

In verse 5, James asks a rhetorical question…

“The spirit he made to dwell in us envies intensely?”

What is going on? Context is key!!

We are reminded of James 3:15-17—Instead of pursuing the wisdom from above that brings humility and peace, they allowed the “wisdom” of the world to dominate their hopes and ambitions.

This leads to God’s jealousy!      What??!!

God jealously longs for the spirit he made to live in us—a spirit that longs to know Him and walk with Him.

  • Exodus 20:5 — “Do not bow in worship to them (speaking of false gods and idols), and do not serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the fathers’ iniquity, to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me, but showing faithful love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commands.”

God’s jealousy is wrapped in His righteousness. He can be jealous because He knows that our pursuits of worldly lusts and pleasures will always separate us from Him.


Friendship with the world is marked with dishonorable/judgmental speech towards others.



Friendship with God comes with His offering of more grace


It’s incredible to think of God’s amazing grace! His grace is endless. He gives more and more grace to those who seek Him.


Friendship with God results in our submission to Him.


"Submit to God" — “to be subject to/ to be obedient to”

James uses several imperative verbs—commands—that tell us what submission looks like. 

If we want to grow in our relationship with God, these are the things we must do: 

Resist the Devil.

1 Peter 5:8-9 -- “Be sober-minded, be alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. Resist him, firm in the faith, knowing that the same kind of sufferings are being experienced by your fellow believers throughout the world.”

Draw near to God. (Our nature is to turn from God)

2 Chronicles 15:2 -- “The LORD is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you abandon him, he will abandon you.”

Cleanse your hands.

Sin causes spiritual uncleanness. We must repent of sin and return to His grace. How?

God has already planted his Word in us. He’s already chosen us for the new birth.

Cleansing ourselves is simply allowing God to cleanse us.

Purify your hearts.

Jeremiah 4:14 -- “Wash the evil from your heart, Jerusalem, so that you will be delivered.”

Be miserable, mourn, weep (over sin).

When’s the last time you wept over your sin?

Matthew 5:4 -- “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Humble yourselves before the Lord.

Matthew 23:12 -- “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”


So, what have we seen?

Friendship with the world...

  • comes from sinful desires of the flesh
  • is motivated by a desire for earthly pleasure
  • results in spiritual adultery against God
  • is marked with dishonorable/judgmental speech towards others

Friendship with God…

  • comes with His offering of more grace
  • results in our submission to Him
    • Resisting the Devil 
    • Drawing near to God
    • Cleansing our hands
    • Purifying our hearts
    • Being miserable, mourning, weeping (over sin)
    • Humbling ourselves before the Lord


Are you a friend of God? The world needs to see it now!!

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