When You Want to Have It Both Ways

“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.”

James 4:4

The Christians James wrote to remind me another church who received a strongly-worded letter from an inspired writer.  The Laodicean church, one of the seven congregations to whom the book of Revelation was addressed, was strongly rebuked by Jesus.

He said to them, “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot.  Would that you were either cold or not! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.  For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.  I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.  Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent” (Revelation 3:15-19).

The problem held by the Christians originally addressed by the books of James and Revelation was this:  They wanted to have it both ways.  They wanted to be recognized as followers of Christ while still embracing the sin of the world.  That’s why Jesus called them “lukewarm” and wanted to spit (literally, vomit) them out of His mouth.

What was a problem two thousand years ago is still a problem today.  Christians are commanded in the Bible to not conform to the world (Romans 12:2a), but the temptation to do just that is very strong.  The power of influence is something which cannot be overlooked.  We are influenced by those around us every day in numerous ways.  The clothes we wear, the way we comb our hair, the cars we drive, the food we eat…these choices and more are made by us as a result of the influence of the society around us.  Yet God calls Christians to be different from the world, so different that the world will notice, wonder why, and persecute us.

That’s what the Holy Spirit inspired the apostle Peter to promise Christians:  “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.  For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.  With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you” (1 Peter 4:1-4).

No one likes to be mocked, which is why Satan tempts today’s Christians very subtly to conform to the rest of the world, just as he did with the Christians during biblical times.  Today’s Christians need to remember what was told to the Christians of the New Testament, that they became a part of the bride of Christ when they obey the gospel and are added by Him to His church.  The apostle Paul wrote to the church, “For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage…Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law (of Moses) through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead…” (Romans 7:2, 4).  When Christians unrepentantly embrace the sin of the world rather than strive to live as God would have them to live, they basically commit spiritual adultery and thus become God’s enemies as James said.  Is that really worth “the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25)?

Read Revelation 21:8 and decide for yourself.  “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

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