James, the half-brother of Jesus, makes no apologies in condemning those who love the world and prefer living here rather than in the presence of God. In James 4:4 he says:
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.
In light of what James declares, who is a friend of the world? It’s clear: he’s an enemy of God.
Why is this so? The apostle tells us in 1 John 2:15:
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.
What is the love of the Father? John continues to inform us 1 John 2:16-17:
For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
The love of the Father is the will of God working in a person. This is in contrast to someone who has the world working in him and lives according to the desires of the flesh, exhibiting lust and pride.
An enemy of God, then, is one who rejects the promise of God’s Kingdom and instead prefers living in this world. In fact, by choosing to embrace the world as it is today, such a person according to John will not enjoy God’s presence in the world to come.
The obvious person who fits this description is one who is not a believer. He has chosen to live apart from God as a pagan. This means that he does not fear or revere the Lord. Neither does he have any qualms about worshiping any other deity of his choosing instead of God. Moreover, such a person over time will dismiss the voice of the Holy Spirit acting through his conscience – it will literally be seared so that he cannot hear what the Lord may be speaking to him. Living like this causes his morality to plummet because he has no standard of righteousness other than his own flawed, sinful thinking. The heart of this person becomes hardened and eventually transforms into unfeeling, unyielding stone.
Here’s the problem. James in his epistle is writing to Jewish brothers in Christ (“to the twelve tribes in the Dispersion” – James 1:1) – not to unbelievers. If James, John, or Paul in one of their letters warns the church, i.e. believers in Jesus Christ, about an issue, it usually means that someone is engaging in a practice that needs warning about. Their intent is to arouse them to the danger in their midst and to correct their walk with God.
Look at James. By calling people in the church adulterous, that was for a reason. There were those to whom he wrote who were making a practice of worldly living. John builds on this for us with the bad news that those who live for the world are no friends of God – indeed, they probably aren’t even saved. Yet, if any who are saved are engaged in loving the world rather than God, what are the consequences of that?
This is absolute speculation on my part, but might it generally be that those who love God more than the world have a pre-Tribulation Rapture perspective? Theoretically, shouldn’t we who are eagerly anticipating Christ’s soon return in the clouds for us have a greater desire to please God because of our not wishing to be found wanting when He returns? I like to ask the question when speaking to a group about this: “Would you want to be doing THIS (whatever THIS is that may not be honoring of God) when the Rapture happens? How would you like to face Him immediately after engaging in such a sinful act?”
Conversely, wouldn’t you think that someone who is not pre-Trib wouldn’t be quite as concerned about living every day for the Lord because he doesn’t anticipate Jesus coming quickly, thus reasoning that there’s plenty of time to get right? I think this may be a fallout of human nature. Many of us like to procrastinate. With this mindset. there’s plenty of time if I’m saved until I stand before God for judgment of my works, or to make a salvation decision if not a believer.
Translate this then to how we operate in the world in these last days. I personally know of several folks like myself: I’m so tired of the world with its abominations that I’m just plain ready for God to take me out of here. I do all that I can in trying to live for God and keep Him in mind throughout the day, meditating on His goodness and on occupying myself with the work of the Kingdom. Yet, this world has grown increasingly alien to me. I want nothing to do with it. I’m ready to go home. Again, I’m aware of others who think like this – yet there appear to be distressingly few of us.
On the other hand, particularly among those who have other than pre-Tribulation Rapture beliefs, they’re either trying to fix the world or simply buckling down to weather the storm to come. If you hear many such folks talk about the future, they speak about generations to come, about how their work will impact their children and society going forward. If they indicate that there might be a soon culmination of the ever-present evil in the world, they always hedge their words.
Folks like me will say something like: “The Rapture is imminent. All the signs of the times declare that Jesus will soon snatch us from this hostile, alien world. The Tribulation is almost upon us and every mechanism for implementing Satan’s designs are already at hand.”
Those who waffle might say: “The Lord is coming back but we just don’t know when. It could be a hundred years from now, so we need to keep working toward improving the world with fair elections and local community cooperatives as we try to make it through the worst of what’s to come.”
Which perspective approximates those who are friends of the world? I’m not saying many of these aren’t saved. I think many true believers simply don’t adhere to the pre-Trib doctrine for a variety of reasons; bad teaching; poor hermeneutics; lack of daily, deep Bible reading; whatever.
That being the case, which is the more dangerous approach to a life in Christ?
If Jesus commanded us to be aware and to watch diligently for His return, what should be our response? How then should we live?
Shouldn’t it be as though we’re on the edge of eternity?