Published March 11, 2014

Paul's Epistle...
"Who's Your Friend?"

Do you consider yourself a "friendly" person? Do you have many "friends?" I hope you are and I hope you do. If anyone should be friendly to others, it's a Christian!

But the Apostle James, in his epistle, uses an interesting expression: "friendship with the world." (4:4) Obviously, James is talking about something more than simple friendship with individuals. He's talking about "friendship" with the prevailing secular worldview.

What does it mean to be a "friend of the world?" It means going along with whatever the secular world wants. It means going along with whatever society's current (but ever-declining) moral standards are. It means that one will not criticize the world's choices, no matter how errant and immoral.

Unfortunately, being a "friend of the world" implies an endorsement of anything and everything the world chooses to say and do. Being a "friend of the world" means, at its most fundamental level, endorsing sin. Being a "friend of the world" means tolerating (uncritically) actions and choices God has clearly called "sin." Frankly, it means loving the ways of the world more than loving God.

Sad to say, far too many Christians – and even entire church denominations – are getting caught up in this whole matter. They choose to go along with the ongoing degeneration of society's moral standards, possibly because they fear the societal consequences if they don't, or possibly because they are just too timid to take a stand for Biblical morality and values. Or possibly it's a result of not understanding what God's Word clearly says because they haven't taken the time to find out — or have been misled by false teachers who have themselves been misled and face an unenviable future (see 2 Peter 2) .

What does James say about those who prefer a "friendship with the world" and merely accept the world's standards? He says, "Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4).

"An enemy of God!" Ouch. I don't know about you, but I think that's a truly fearful thing. Who would want to be an enemy of God?

John said it a different way: "Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in Him" (1 John 2:15).

Paul writes, "many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction ... and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things." (Philippians 3:18-19.) It bears noting that so many people, whose actions traditionally would have caused them great shame, now "glory" in those very same sinful actions — in a very public and "in your face" way.

Let me give a specific example. A recent Public Religion Research Institute poll found that approval of same-sex marriage is now supported by 62 percent of white mainline Protestants. That's an even higher level than the overall population, which supports it at 53 percent. So 62 percent of self-identified "mainline Protestants" choose to endorse something that's clearly opposed to God's plan for marriage, which is (need it be said?) between one man and one woman. This has to be an example of "going along to get along."  Folks are being persuaded by the constant drumbeat in the media, from Hollywood and from certain politicians to accept — even to celebrate — what has been condemned for millenia. 

Satan loves this. And that's his scheme. If, slowly but ever so surely, he can get even so-called Christians to ignore what God has called "an abomination" (Lev. 20:13), then he has won. Or so he thinks.

Remember what the Lord said to Peter when Peter failed to understand God's will and His plan: "...Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men" (Matt. 16:23). Peter was obviously a follower of Christ, but had allowed himself to be influenced by a prevailing worldview that was entirely contrary to God's view and will. That's certainly happening in our society today. And the originator of that worldview is the same now as Christ said it was then.

The faulty religion of humanism has been allowed to infest today's schools, liberal colleges and even seminaries to an unimaginable degree. Students are taught that Holy Scripture is irrelevant – and "quite obviously" wrong about, well, almost everything. (It's done very subtly, seldom, if ever, mentioning the Bible – which has been banned from most schools anyway.) Science, they say, clearly has the right answers – about creation, about human evolution, about society. Speculation is disguised and presented as fact. And, increasingly, this humanistic worldview is infecting churches, too, where leading clerics and clergymen are saying, in effect, "the Bible is terribly outdated and not relevant to today's postmodern society – so do whatever feels good, and just love one another."

The only thing right about that is that we are, indeed, to love one another. Even non-Christians. Or, perhaps in context, especially non-Christians — because they're the ones who most need our friendship and our love. Look, there is no better friend than one who warns another of the peril of their present faulty course. A true friend is someone who will tell you the truth. A true friend will show you where you are going wrong. A true friend will help you correct your error. It was in this sense that Christ Himself was often accused by his enemies of being "a friend of sinners." His whole ministry was geared to "seeking and saving the lost" (Luke 19:10). He had to have a relationship with them.  In the ultimate sense, because of the salvation He affords, sinners (all of us) have no better friend than Christ.

But, although Christ was, in this sense, a "friend of sinners," this friendship never, ever, brought with it an explicit or even implied endorsement of sinful lifestyles and choices. And that should be our approach as well as followers of Christ. We should never risk hearing Jesus say, "And why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?" (Luke 6:46).

To endorse sin — actively, or even passively — explicitly or implicitly — would make us, in James' terminology, a "friend of the world." Clearly, based on Scripture, that would make us an "enemy of God." And that is something I would never, ever, want to risk being. How about you?

- Paul

Romans 12:2 – "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."

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