James tells us not to be on friendly terms with the world: “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?” (4:4). It is as though he is saying, “Don’t you get this? Don’t you know this yet?” He goes on to finish the verse: “Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
He is not being very diplomatic here. He is not trying to strike a bargain between God and the world so that we can be chummy with the world and still be on good terms with God. It’s all or nothing. We have to think of this as a war. The world is the enemy. If we are consorting with the enemy and wearing its uniform, then God is against us. If we are friends with God and wearing His uniform, the world is against us. Which way do we want it?
The Apostle John tells us the same thing: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).
So here we are living in the world, which is just where God wants us, and the world’s apostles and evangelists are forever preaching and pushing their agenda on us. Are we listening to them? Are we a captive audience? Are we being “conformed to this world” or are we being “transformed by the renewing” of our mind (Rom. 12.2)?
I must have learned the little song about “The wise man built his house upon the rock…” (complete with hand motions) way back in my Sunday school days. It’s so familiar that we can (at least I can) miss some very important details. It comes at the end of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Let me repeat the text here for reference:
“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”
The first thing to notice is that Jesus is using this metaphor of the two houses to describe two kinds of people: those who hear Him and do what He says, and those who hear Him and and do not do what He says. Our first question ought to be, “Hear Him say what?” Since this passage comes at the end of His Sermon on the Mount, it is safe to say it applies to the whole thing. If we hear the words of His sermon and do them, we are building a rock-solid house. If we hear the words and brush them off, we are putting ourselves in a mighty dangerous position. Continue reading ‘Two Houses’
I often speak with women who want to be involved in “service” of some kind, and they wonder what they should do and how to find it. This is a good and godly impulse; in fact, it is a God-given impulse that identifies us as His very own. Paul tells us in Titus that we were made for good works for God “…gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from every lawless deed, and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works” (2:14).
We are God’s own special people. This is a tremendous fact. He has redeemed us from sin, He has cleansed us from sin, and He has made us His very own. He redeemed us from all the bad works we were doing (lawless deeds) and now as “His own special people” we are eager and hungry for good ones.
Later in Titus 3:8, Paul says “This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works.” And in 3:14 we have it repeated: “And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful.”
“A man’s contentment is in his mind, not in the extent of his possessions. Alexander the Great, with all the world at his feet, cries for another world to conquer.”
“You say, ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’ You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.”
“I have heard of some good old woman in a cottage, who had nothing but a piece of bread and a little water. Lifting up her hands, she said as a blessing, ‘What! All this, and Christ too?’”
“No heart of a child of God will ever be satisfied with an object or person short of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is room for wife and children, there is room for friend and acquaintance, and all the more room in one’s heart because Christ is there. But neither wife nor children, nor friends nor kinsfolk can ever fill the believer’s heart. He must have Christ Jesus. There is no rest for him elsewhere.”
Sometimes when you have the best of intentions and begin to confess old sins, you bump into resistance and stall out. It’s like cleaning the garage that I mentioned in the last post. You may spend a couple of hours in there and start to make headway, but then you give up and tell yourself you’ll get to it later.
When it comes to putting things right with other people, we can find many reasons to put it off for another day. What is it that stalls us out?
1. Pride stalls us out. If we confess our sin to our friend, we tell ourselves, then they will look down on us. It will blow their image of us. What will they think of us?
2. Fear stalls us out. We might lose our job or our standing or our position. The consequences are just too great.
3. Laziness keeps us from confessing. It’s just too much trouble, and it will take too much time.