Adulterers and adulteresses! 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, NKJV)
Whose friend are you – God’s, or the world’s? The world is the system of evil that opposes God and His will (1 John 2:15-17). A Christian cannot join hands with the world, doing and endorsing what the world does, without becoming God’s enemy. Simple as that. James uses adultery to make the point. The world celebrates adultery. When husbands and wives commit adultery, the world calls it a “love affair,” but there is nothing loving about it. The entertainment industry (movies, television, the internet, etc.) celebrates adultery. The porn industry persuades it. But, God is very clear: The sin of adultery is not a love affair, it is a lust affair (James 4:1-3; Hebrews 13:4). Jesus said, “You are My friends, if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:14). The worldly-minded do not love Jesus, because they do not obey Jesus. They are driven by selfish desires. They are God’s enemies. Do not be counted among them. “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them” (Ephesians 5:6-7).
20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also. (1 John 4:20–21)
There is an inseparable link between loving God and loving fellow Christians. (The “brother” in this passage is one’s fellow Christian, a fellow child of God.) We cannot love God while hating a brother. Hatred is a dark, sinister, and deceptive sin. It can masquerade as self-vindication when we have been slighted (or, think we have been slighted) by another. Left uncorrected, hated festers, convincing us we are truth-tellers when we say we love God. But, in fact, we are liars. As you concentrate on loving God “with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind,” be careful not to sabotage your effort by holding animosity in your heart against your brother. Remembering the Golden Rule helps: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).
15 Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: 16 The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; 17 but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice. (Philippians 1:15–18, NKJV)
Some people preach the gospel from evil motives. Others preach the gospel from godly motives. Paul made this observation while imprisoned in Rome for Christ’s sake (Phil. 1:13). Some were preaching Christ out of envy for the apostle, attempting to foment strife against him. Driven by selfish ambition, they pretended affection for the cause of Christ. But, they only loved themselves. Their insincerity became obvious, as they aimed to harm the apostle, not help him in his bonds. Others were preaching Christ out of goodwill and love, knowing the apostle was determined to defend the gospel. Amazingly, Paul rejoiced that the gospel was being preached, even though some preachers’ motives were evil. He did not seek personal vindication, he sought the progress of the gospel and the salvation of souls. Even if a gospel teacher’s motives are shown to be evil, rejoice in the truth he has taught. And, do not blame the truth when men, including preachers, sin against it. One man’s sin against the truth is not your license to reject the truth.
He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates friends. (Proverbs 17:9, NKJV)
The tongue is powerful. It can comfort the grieving with kindness and concern, and it can destroy a person’s credibility and good reputation through malicious gossip. It can build up brethren and it can destroy churches. “Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell” (James 3:5). Let us learn to restrain the tongue by controlling the heart. Jesus said what comes out of the mouth defiles the person, because it comes from the heart (Matthew 15:11, 18). Gossip is one such defilement. It tears down others to justify self. It is ugly and void of kindness. Gossip is prevented by keeping the meditations and issues of the heart pure (Philippians 4:8). Today’s proverb reminds us that love promotes forgiveness, not the separation caused by talebearing and gossip.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her (Ephesians 5:25, NKJV)
How incredible would your marriage be if you loved you wife as Christ loved the church? Wonderful, you say? Hopefully so. Yet, what if your wife becomes “lukewarm” toward your love, just as the church of the Laodiceans became lukewarm toward Jesus Christ (Rev. 3:14-16)? Even that must not deter and diminish your love for your wife. You see, husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Christ continued to love the Laodicean church when it was less than loving, using words of rebuke and chastening to urge her repentance (Rev. 3:19). Christ’s utter and complete sacrifice of himself for His church is the model for every husband’s treatment of his wife. Loving your wife is not about getting something from her in return. It is not about always doing everything she wants. It is about always looking out for what is in her best interest, especially when that means making a sacrifice on your part. Hopefully, she will see your love and honor you for it. But, if she fails to see and value this sort of love, do not stop sacrificially loving her. You must remain true to the Lord, and that includes being a righteous, loving husband at all times.
32 So the scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. 33 And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” But after that no one dared question Him. (Mark 12:32–34, NKJV)
Notice the traits of this scribe whom Jesus said was “not far from the kingdom of God.” First, he accepted what Jesus said as the truth (v. 32). Secondly, he believed in the one, true God (v. 32). And thirdly, he acknowledged the primacy of loving God and one’s neighbor over giving God offerings without the presence of such love (v. 33). Yet, the man was not in the kingdom, he was near it. Even so, you may believe that Jesus spoke the truth, and that God is real. You may even profess love for God and show kindness to your neighbor. Yet, to actually enter the kingdom of God you must be born again (from above, Jno. 3:3-5). The new birth consists of water and the Spirit, being directed by the Spirit to be baptized into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 5:26; 1 Pet. 1:22-23). Until you believe the Spirit’s word and are baptized, you may not be far from the kingdom – but you are not yet in the kingdom of God’s dear Son (Rom. 6:3-4; Col. 1:13-14).
11 My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor detest His correction; 12 For whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights. (Proverbs 3:11–12, NKJV)
The parent who loves his or her child will discipline the misbehaving child. Instruction, along with punishment, consistently applied to correct disobedient behavior, works. The Lord God, who made us, knows it does, and He applies His “chastening” (instructive and corrective training) to produce respectful, obedient children. The child-rearing experts who refuse punitive correction do a great disservice to this generation – and the next. It is precisely because the father “delights” in (loves) his child that he corrects his child. “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly” (Prov. 13:24). True, correction is not pleasant when applied, but “afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:11). Parents, teach and correct your children, using consist love, as the Lord does His children. Let us all heed the wise counsel of Solomon not to reject the Lord’s correction of our sins. It is intended for our benefit now, and our eternal salvation by and by.