Don’t be Guided by the World (James 4:1-12)

James 4:1-12

Christians, Don’t Be Guided by the World

Sunday, May 31, 2020

I hate snakes! This is something that I have in common with Indiana Jones.

A newspaper reports of a taxidermist who was bitten by a frozen 10-pound rattlesnake as he cuts into it. Robert Herndon buys poisonous rattles, freezes them to death, and markets the preserved remains. And he usually tapes their mouths when cutting. But he missed the tape this time.[1]

You see, sometimes we don’t realize how bad something is. We think we are safe.

There was a woman who had a pet snake. This snake was a Boa Constrictor. The snake grew and got too big for its’ cage. So, she just started allowing it free roam in the house. Then for a while she noticed that it was not eating. She thought she should call the vet but didn’t call. One day she was taking a nap and woke up to find the snake lying next to her, stretched out as she was. So, she thought, “I better call the vet about his lack of appetite.” She calls the vet and the vet says, “You need to get rid of the snake. It is not eating because it is preparing itself for a big meal. It is lying next to you to size you up to see if it can eat you.”

We have the same problem with the world. We are around it all the time. We live in the world, we think it is not harming us, but in reality, we are being polluted.

We are going to look at James 4:1-12 and I intend to show you that James’ main point is that we must submit to God and not the world.

My theme is:

Christians, Don’t Be Guided by the World.

Let’s read James 4:1-12:

What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious 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 with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. 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. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”? But He gives a 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 into mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.

11 Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?

  • Allow me to start by connecting this passage to last week’s passage.
    • Last week we talked about two types of wisdom (3:13-18).
    • I believe that James is still talking about two types of wisdom. The wisdom of the world produces disorder and every evil practice.
    • The wisdom of God produces purity, peace-loving, considerateness, submissiveness, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and sincere.
    • Now James is going to show them that their problems are because they are using the wisdom of the world and they need cleaned up.
  • Now, let’s move to James 4:4
    • James says that friendship with the world is hatred or hostility toward God.
    • Remember when the Bible writes of the world it usually is talking about the world’s systems, the world’s cultures. Culture: cult of the populace, religion of the populace.
    • The noun for friendship with the world can also mean “love” of the world. This is the same word by which we get Philadelphia, brotherly love.
    • Look at the rest of verse 4: anyone who is a friend of the world is an enemy of God.
      • That is a really strong statement, isn’t it?
      • Well think of it this way: the world’s systems are sinful. Sin is against God. So, what is it like if we are befriending sin?
  • 2 Cor 4:4 says that the devil is the god of this age, meaning the god of this world. The devil is and has been trying to take what is God’s.
  • We must realize that whether or not something is wrong is not relative to opinion but to Scripture and the Spirit’s conviction.
  • The world is an offense to God because of sin. Psalm 66:18: If I had cherished sin in my heart the Lord wouldn’t listen. Sin is against God. He is too pure to look upon sin.
  • Now because of our friendship with the world we have disorder and evil. Look at verses 1-3
    • James uses a literature structure called diatribe. This is a bitter, sharply abusive denunciation.
    • Notice the repeated questions. What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?
    • Now notice the repeated sentences that start with the second person pronoun “you.”
    • You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
      • What a picturesque passage. You really want something and you are willing to go to extremes for it.
      • The term used for pleasures is the same word we get hedonism from. The doctrine of pleasure and happiness.
  • lust, fight, murder, have, ask, battle are all verbs
  • Look the way of the world is about sin and self. The way of God is about His way.
    • How are you doing?
    • Are you befriending the world?
    • Or, are you submitting to God?
    • Do you look at sin and think, “oh well?”
    • Do you condone sin?
    • Do you try to excuse it?
    • When you are watching a movie or television show and there is outright sexual sin, such as sex outside of the bonds of marriage, how do you feel?
    • When you are watching television and you see disrespect for parents, how do you feel? Are you offended? God is.
      • Pray to God that you can see sin the way He does.
      • I read something the other day:

Evangelism, fine as it is, is not revival. After a successful meeting, Billy Graham was asked, “Is this revival?” Graham replied, “No. When revival comes, I expect to see two things which we have not seen yet. First, a new sense of the holiness of God on the part of Christians; and second, a new sense of the sinfulness of sin on the part of Christians.”

  • Now let’s look at the antidote to the pollution from the world found in verses 7-10
    • Submit yourselves to God. Submit to God rather than the world. You are all, we are all, submitting to something in the spiritual.
    • The key idea is to “be subject.” The verb translated “submit” literally means to “be subject.” Are you subject to God?
    • àYou see many times we want God to be sovereign but not in control
    • àWe cannot be in the driver’s seat at the same time as God. We must let God be in the driver’s seat, we must be in the passenger seat. But wait, if you are in the passenger seat you can still control the driving, so you must be in the back seat. But wait, back seat drivers, have you ever heard of them? We must let God be the driver so we should be in the trunk. Submit to God. Be subject to God.
    • Now James references the devil. Resist the devil.
      • Eph 4:27: don’t give the devil a foothold; 1 Pet 5:8f: the devil goes around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.
      • àIs James saying that the devil has something to do with the problems?
    • I wonder; do you try to resist the devil? Do you recognize that the devil is trying to tempt you and be the source of your problems? James says to “resist the devil.” And what? The devil will flee. We must recognize that this is Scripture. This means you must believe it. You may have to resist the devil for a while, you may have to be persistent, but God’s Word says that the devil will flee.
    • Look at verse 8: draw near to God and what He will draw near to you. Or, the NIV says come near to God and He will come near to you.
      • You may wonder, “Why am I not that close to God?” I have heard people tell me, “I don’t feel close to God.” I will ask, “Are you involved in a church? Are you reading the Scriptures and taking time for prayer? “They might say, “No.” Look if you are not working on your relationship with God you will not feel His leading. Draw near to God.
    • Now look at the next phrase. This is very direct, wash your hands you sinners, and purify your hearts you double minded.
      • This phrase is reminiscent of the Old Testament prophetic books. This is about ceremonial cleansing. We need cleansed from our sins. We must get rid of the sin.
      • And how are they double minded? They are trying to have both the world’s wisdom and God’s wisdom. We cannot have both. They are contrasting. We must get rid of the world. We must cleanse the world off of us and then go to God.
    • Now verse 9 is about mourning, why? This is because they are taking sin too lightly, they should be resisting sin. They should be mourning over sin.
    • Now, humble yourselves to God. This kind of goes with verse 7, submit, be subject to God. And the Lord will lift you up. This is the antidote for being polluted by the world.
  • Now before James moves on he talks about the tongue once again in verses 11-12.
    • Again, this goes back to our words. James is saying that we must not gossip and talk bad about each other. We must submit to God and that means submitting to God’s law.
    • It appears that their gossip and slander was unbiblical judgment and God is the only judge. We are told to confront sin (See James 5:19-20). However, we must always confront sin using the Scriptures. When we use the Scriptures we are quoting God and His Word.
      • The wisdom of God is and must be evidenced by our works, our words and our life.
      • We must submit to God and not to the world. We must recognize the sinfulness of sin and the holiness of God. We must have the wisdom of God.


Do you like snakes? The snake is there just trying to wrap its’ way around you. It is coming up your legs, but it is going up slowly, not fast. It will eventually try to kill you, not your physical body, but your spiritual. The snake is the world. The world is trying to gradually and slowly take you from God. Don’t let it! Stick close to God.

Look again at verses 7-10:

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 into mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.

That is how you keep from being polluted by the world. You submit to God.


[1]Tan, Paul Lee: Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations : A Treasury of Illustrations, Anecdotes, Facts and Quotations for Pastors, Teachers and Christian Workers. Garland TX : Bible Communications, 1996, c1979

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