We often sing a song entitled “Just as I am”. The song conveys the idea that Jesus accepts us in any condition that we find ourselves. This is a true statement and yet we need to look a little deeper.
Probably one of the best examples of accepting a person “just as I am” would be the apostle Paul. A devout Jewish believer and a diligent persecutor of the Church, Paul was given an up close and encounter with the Risen Lord. Ananias was sent to Paul (then known by the name Saul) to heal the blindness and share with Paul what it was that the Lord had in mind for his life. (Read Acts 9, 16, 22)
The thing worth noting, of course, is that Paul did not continue to live his life persecuting the Church. Quite the opposite, he began to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah and completely changed his actions. As he puts in in Galatians 2:20:
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.English Standard Version
Today, it is not uncommon to see those who say that they are Christians but whose lives have not changed. They say that they are saved and are glad that God saved them but they don’t attend services, they don’t read their Bibles, they don’t help promote the cause of Christ. Their dress, language, and entertainment are aligned not with modesty, edification, and purity but rather aligned with the ego, pride, and sensuality of the world. If you were to ask them what is different about their life now as compared to before, they wouldn’t be able to answer you.
A few years ago, I ran into an acquaintance of mine who claimed to be a Christian. He appeared to be bothered, so I asked him how he was doing. He said that his family was upset with him because he was living with his girlfriend. He seemed upset at such judgement. Then he said “But they don’t know how the Spirit is leading me!” Obviously, he was under the impression that God would make an exception for his admitted and unrepentant immorality.
It is the greatest news the the world has every heard. God will save sinners. He will save murderers, thieves, greedy, drunkards, revilers, swindlers, the envious, gossips, foolish, faithless, ruthless, prideful, rapists, molesters, and in other sinner whether he engages in small sins or big sinners (I speak in human terms) HOWEVER, even though God will save such a person, he does not and will not continue to extend His glorious grace to the one who will not change his life.
We preach the Gospel to all. We are not to judge who will and who will not respond to the call of obedience. Those that respond and obey the Gospel message are baptized into Christ, they put on Christ. They submit to the waters of baptism a repentant sinner who believes the message and come up out of the waters a Saint, granted mercy from God “by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5; Acts 22:16)
As Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 6:11 “and such were some of you…”. Notice the past tense. “WERE” not “ARE” or “continue to be.” We are now to be friends of God not friends of the world. Because as James says:
James 4:4 ESV 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.
The life of a Christian needs to move away from what the life of the sinner was in the world and towards what the life of a saint is in Christ. God will save any and every sinner just as he is so that we can truly sing the song:
“Just as I am, Thou wilt receive, wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse relieve; because thy promise I believe, O Lamb of God, I come! I come!”
But then we want to start living and singing: “Just as I was, you received, welcomed, pardoned, cleansed, relieved….” Let us not continue to be of the world, rather let us live as lights among the world in which we shine as an example of God fulfilling His promise in us and the hope that He can do the same for them.
You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet 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 wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 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. (Jas 4:2-4)
These Christians are incorrigible. (I know. How many of us use that word? But it fits.) The last group of people in the Bible that I had this angst about was the Corinthians in the First letter Paul wrote. James is bringing it all out in full view. He is not holding anything back.
Normally these items that he mentions would be hidden. Lust, murder and coveting are things that remain hidden until disclosed by action. (It is my thought that “murder” here is not an actual taking of another’s life. Rather, it would be the hatred that leads to murder. Jesus traces murder back to hatred without a cause and to despising your brother (Mt 5:21-22)) Rather than staying hidden, these heart attitudes are being displayed, “you fight and war” he says. Verse 1, as we saw, already puts the source of these fightings within the person themselves. James says they are out for everyone to see.
James says that the reason that they do not “have” is because they are not asking. Further he says that when they do ask (can we insert the phrase “bother to ask God”?), they don’t receive it because their motives are impure, not sincere. They ask for things that they will spend on their own pleasures. What might they be asking for? To be a teacher? To be more wealthy? To have wisdom? (So that they might have prestige?) All that would be in line with the hints the book as given us.
When Simon the sorcerer saw that Peter and John could give the Holy Spirit (Acts 8), he asked for that ability also and he offered them money. Peter rebuked him. Simon might have had kin here because here are these Christians asking God for the object of their desires and not receiving what they ask for. Because they also ask amiss! They were asking so that you can spend it on their own pleasures!
(Sidenote: God is not a cosmic vending machine so that by saying the right words in a certain order, that the desired gift pops out. Asking for wisdom is one thing, asking for the things you that you ask for, with selfish reasons, for your own indulgences, are not in line with the types of gifts God gives.)
These Christians are worldly minded and he now seems to explode at them. How would you feel if someone called you an adulterous person? In this context adultery is clearly a spiritual ailment rather than the typical sexual sin. (Either way is still bad) Israel was guilty of playing the harlot with other nations and God condemned them for it. Here also these Christians are doing the same thing. Even today we see this same characteristic.
You have a choice. How long will you go limping between two sides? Choose this day whom you will serve. If you wish to be a friend of the world, you will be an enemy of God. Notice: the person who wants to be friends with the world MAKES himself an enemy of God. After all God did to make peace with you, you now wish to make him your enemy?
Now I don’t want you to think that James is telling them that they are lost here. Not yet. He has, after all called them beloved brethren in this letter. However, he is warning them in no uncertain terms that the path they are on is not a good one. If you continue to become friends with the world, an enemy of God you will also be. Enemies are destroyed. This might be an uncomfortable thing for them to hear, it certainly is for us today.
The sad truth is for those that leave God’s grace, that they were not snatched, they were not forced, and they were not overwhelmed by Satan’s might. No, they were enticed and drawn away; they saw the attractions of the world and like a child wander toward the pretty balloons and entertainment. They gave into their own desires and made friends with the world. They themselves make themselves to be God’s enemy.