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God’s Word for You

James 4:4-6 Live as a beloved bride

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, August 13, 2020

4 You adulteresses! Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

Who does James mean when he booms out this “Adulteresses!” He doesn’t mean the women of the dispersed Christians. He means that the Church itself, each congregation, is behaving like an adulteress. God is fond of calling his Church his Bride. “The wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready” (Revelation 19:7). “Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever… at your right hand is the royal bride” (Psalm 45:6,9). And of course: “Come with me from Lebanon, my bride” and dozens of other such passages in the Song of Solomon (Song 4:8). But when the people turn from God, he makes his position clear: “I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries” (Jeremiah 3:8). What does this kind of spiritual lust have to do with the human lust James has been warning against? Both involve the impulses of the human heart. “Friendship with the world is hatred toward God.” Idolatry is no different to God than adultery. When someone loves the world over God, he has turned on the Creator in favor of the creation.

Ever the coach, James lets out a frustrated, “Don’t you know?!” Of course his people should know this. We all should know it. But we fall flat on our faces into the pigsty of sin. Once there, only a fool will pretend he smells like roses and wildflowers. The wise Christian will stand up, hose off with repentance, and let the grace of the gospel of forgiveness restore his or her sweet scent to the delight of the Bridegroom.

5 Or do you think that it for nothing that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?

If this is a quote and not a summary, we don’t know where it comes from. It isn’t a direct quote from the Old Testament and certainly doesn’t occur in any apocryphal or Talmudic volume. It seems rather to be a summary of God’s meaning when he says, “I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sins of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me” (Exodus 20:5). There are similar sayings in Ezekiel 39 and Zechariah 8. Another question is whether the “spirit” here should be taken as the New Man, the reborn spirit of each Christian (John 3:3; 1 Peter 1:23), or the Holy Spirit who dwells in us and enters our hearts at baptism (1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:19; 2 Timothy 1:14).

The Holy Spirit does yearn and the renewed human spirit should yearn jealously over everyone who has their heads turned by sin. Each of us should especially grieve and agonize when we ourselves have foolishly looked away from Christ to any other source (always false or imaginary) of goodness, blessing and joy. No false god can give what the true God gives so freely, so lovingly, and so thoroughly. This is the constant warning of the Holy Scriptures: You shall have no other gods.

6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Quoting Proverbs 3:34, James coaches us back toward living our faith in a way that will please God. The key phrase is, “God gives grace.” James even augments this by saying “He gives (even) more grace.” This is the very same gospel message John delivers: “From the fullness of his grace we have all received, even grace upon grace” (John 1:16, NIV “one blessing after another”).

The world gives nothing but ruin, dust, and ashes. In God alone there is life (John 1:4), and through God alone come blessings: “The man is blessed who fears the Lord” (Psalm 128:2). When we place ourselves under God’s perfect rule, make ourselves conform to the perfect freedom of his will (James 1:25), and look to him alone for guidance, he will bless us and make us flourish. “The Lord will guide you always. He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail” (Isaiah 58:11). Turn to the Lord for forgiveness and keep turning to him for every need. Give him your love and your worship, and give him glory in everything you do. Live as the Bride of Christ.

  Drawn to the cross, which your have blessed
  With healing gifts for souls distressed
  To find in you my life, my rest,
  Christ, crucified, I come.

  Wash me and take away each stain;
  Let nothing of my sin remain.
  For cleansing through your cross and pain,
  Christ crucified, I come.

  To pledge my labor willingly,
  Which shall so sweet a service be,
  That angels well might envy me,
  Christ crucified, I come. (Christian Worship 387:1,3,4)

And please permit:

  I turn away from foolish pride
  All my vain hopes I set aside
  Living as a beloved Bride
  Christ crucified, I come.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

 

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