Faithlife Sermons

I Am an Adulterer

James  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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School is starting up again. And all the kids said “groan”… School brings a lot of challenges: learning new things, figuring teachers’ grading styles, battling through homework. If you are a teen, there is hormonal drama. If you are a homeschooler, how you do on homework could ruin your life. There are a lot of challenges in school.
One of the big challenges that students face, whether it is in public, private, or homeschool, is the same challenge that we as adults face: how will we as Christians act in a non-Christian society? There should be a difference.
Unfortunately, more often than not, there is no difference between the Christian and the non-Christian here in Antelope County, or the surrounding counties, whether it is in the school setting or the work setting, or the ranch setting. I should say, more often than not, there is no difference between the way I act and the way non-Christians act.
We all could say “but, I am not doing anything majorly bad! I mean, I am not committing adultery, or any such major sin.” Oh, really? James is writing this letter to a group of Christians who began to start slipping in “minor” ways, according to our sin scale. But, throughout this letter, he insists that if we are a follower of Christ, we are to live differently than if we weren’t a follower of Christ. Our faith should produce a change in our lives that is blatantly noticeable.
The passage we are looking at today is the heart of James’ letter. He gets in his readers face throws up a contrast between the natural man and the humble man.

1A. The natural man pursues the world

God has always metaphorically referred the relationship between himself and his people as a marriage relationship. This doesn’t mean that we are literally married to God, like some weird eastern cult. It means that there is a covenant between himself and his people; there is an exclusiveness. He referred to Israel as his wife and He refers to the church as his bride. However, neither Israel nor the church have been faithful to the Lord, though He has been the perfection of faithfulness to us.
James, as a rule, refers to fellow Christians as brothers and sinners. However, in this passage, he calls his readers out for what they have been doing. All his emotion has been building up in this letter, and the emotion overflows. Mt. St. Helens in Palestine. He calls his readers adulterers.
This is a term with a bunch of Old Testament background. Whenever Israel turned away from God, He would call them adulterers. Hosea is famous for presenting this theme. God told Hosea to marry a loose woman, someone he knew would cheat. And guess what? She did. She left Hosea in the dust, chasing other men. God relates this woman to Israel.
Hosea 3:1 NIV
The Lord said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.”
Adulterers: Those who are in a covenant with God, but don’t live like it. They are in an exclusive relationship with their Creator, but you couldn’t tell. They follow all the influences of this world instead of their God.
We are adulterers. We are these people that James points his finger at.
James 4:4 NIV
You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.
And, truthfully, we do our adulterous acts against God so easily. Most of the time, we don’t realize that we are acting against our Savior. We are just mindlessly acting. The natural man, or woman, pursues the world, not God. Why?

1B. The Reason: the spirit within us

We all have a little wimp inside of us that says “no, me!” We all have desires inside us that rage within us. James just finished talking about those desires at the beginning of the chapter:
James 4:1–3 NIV
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
We want things. We want to satisfy our own pleasures. We want to control things ourselves. We want to handle our own problems. We want! We want!
This is the same wording and description that James uses in chapter 1:14-15
James 1:14–15 NIV
but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
We have desires that pull us away from God and toward death. The wimp in us says: “I don’t care about anyone else. I only care about satisfying me.” Adulterer!
Paul calls this little wimp the flesh. All throughout his writings, he tells us to not live by the flesh, but by the change that the Holy Spirit brings.
Galatians 5:17–18 NIV
For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
There is a conflict within us, between the wimp and the Spirit. Unfortunately, most of the time, we all go the way of the wimp. We go the way of the adulterer.
In the beginning of this letter, James told us about the double-minded man. This person is someone who is trying to serve two masters, trying to follow two opposing ways. Even though we are supposed to love God with an undivided heart, this person isn’t. They are following God one moment, but then the world the next moment. Their double-mindedness leads to thinking, speaking, and acting that contradict their claim of belonging to God. They are unwilling to commit to following the way of Christ alone. They are adulterers.
We are the double-minded man. We are the adulterer. We choose to follow the wimp inside of us instead of God.
You might say, “Oh, not me!” Really? Let’s see some evidence.

2B. The Evidence: Our tongue, our actions, our attitude

2B. The Reason: the spirit within us

During the previous 3 chapters, James has been detailing the ways that his readers have chosen the world over God. Each of these categories can be summarized with the statement friendship with the world. We all have a choice, as we are debating whether to follow the wimp or not, what we are going to do. Will we follow the wimp, linking arms with the rest of the world, or will we follow God. The choice is ours.
Now, this term “friendship” is a powerful term. This term isn’t acquaintance. This term isn’t casual friendship. This term isn’t even best friends forever. This term speaks of an emotional and spiritual union. When we choose to follow the wimp, we are creating an emotional and spiritual union with the world.
Just in case you didn’t know this, this is bad. The world, in James’ vocabulary, is that which is hostile to God. It is at odds with God’s character. It is depraved. Remember James’ warning at the end of chapter 1: “Religion that God our Father accepts is to keep oneself from being polluted by the world”? When we even wish to be friends with the world, we are diving into the pollution. We are adulterers.
So, in what ways does this friendship with the world manifest itself?
So far in this letter, James gives us 3 criteria to look at. Our tongue, our actions, and our attitude. We have already visited each of these points in the past, but a review would be beneficial.
When we have placed our faith in Christ, we are made into a new creation. We are given the Holy Spirit, which produces fruit in us. Every part of our lives should change, with the character of God as our benchmark, not our past or those around us.
That being said, what we do with our tongue should change.
Ephesians 4:29–5:2 NIV
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Eph 4:29-
James says:
James 3:9–10 NIV
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.
If we let anything that is unwholesome, degrading, bitter, rageful, slanderous, malicious out of our mouths, anything that is not loving, kind, compassionate, and forgiving, we are being a friend of the world, and adulterer to our God.
If we let anything that is unwholesome, degrading, bitter, rageful, slanderous, malicious out of our mouths, anything that is not loving, kind, compassionate, and forgiving, we are being a friend of the world, and adulterer to our God.
The standard that God sets for our mouth is completely against the way of the world. The world says “Jonesy deserves a malicious response.” “Go and rip Ethan a new one.” “Hey, he didn’t treat me right, so I won’t treat him right.” “But, my family always jokes this way.” “This is how our culture shows love.”
The standard that God has set for our mouth, if we call ourselves a follower of Him, redeemed by the blood of Christ, is the character of God: not the viewpoint of the world. James calls us adulterers!
Not only should our tongue change, but our actions should change.
James calls to everyone who reads Scripture: do what Scripture says! If we read something, but don’t allow our lives to change, we are a friend of the world, an adulterer. James believes that a Christian has a distinctive way of life because of their faith. We are slaves of God and the Lord Jesus Christ. So, we don’t play favorites. We help the poor in our midst. We seek unity with our brothers and sisters, treating each other with love. When hard times hit, we turn to God for help and guidance. Our actions are defined by God, not by the culture around us.
As Paul says:
Ephesians 4:17–24 NIV
So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed. That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Unfortunately, most of us walk the way of the adulterer. Though we say that we are God’s, bought with a price, we allow our actions to be dictated by the culture around. We live to the world’s standards, instead of God, in the futility of their thinking. Adulterers.
Not only should our tongue and actions change, but our attitude should change.
Though we are made into new creations, we have an attitude that is still in line with the world. Our unsaved friends and family tell us what we should feel. They tell us how we should react. They tell us how we should view others. Why do we listen? Not only do we have input from the unsaved world, but our desires within us are battling within us, telling us what we deserve, how we should be treated, pushing our pride up, and our Christlikeness down.
Paul tells us a different way:
Philippians 2:1–5 NIV
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Are our a
When our attitude is in line with the culture and the world around, when our priorities are in line with the culture and the world around, when we are taking the advice of the culture and the world around, but are acting, speaking, and attituding in a way that is opposed to the way of God, when we are not seeking God’s wisdom first, we are adulterers.

The result is enmity

3B. The Result: enmity with God

James says:
James 4:4 NIV
You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.
James 4:4
Those of you who are married, how would you feel if your spouse who vowed to be exclusively faithful to you, spent all their lives seeking intimacy from everyone else. They sought spiritual, emotional, and physical union with others. I would be mad, to say the least, and I would expect the same reaction from Maggie if I was cheating on her.
We are the bride of Christ. We have vowed exclusivity to God. So, when we seek from the world what God has promised to give us, when we follow the advice of the world over the wisdom of God, when we act like we are a friend of the world and not the bride of Christ, we are adulterers: we are seeking spiritual, emotional, and physical intimacy with the world.
What makes this worse is that the world is the sworn enemy of God. So, we are being intimate friends with God’s enemy. Who are we to act this way against the savior of our souls, against our true lover? Why? What makes us do this? But, we all do.
When we seek to be friends with the world, we set ourselves up as God’s enemy. We have cheated on Him. Remember: James is writing to Christians, those who are saved. He is calling these saved individuals: God’s enemies. Notice that he does not say that God makes these Christians his enemies. No, James says that we who wish to be a friend of the world make ourselves God’s enemies. It is our choice. It is our action.
This is a sobering title. It refers in the New Testament solely to those who are not saved. These are people who live their lives completely against God, opposed to his way. When we are a friend of the world, we are acting like a non-believer in the sight of God, and truthfully in the sight of everyone who sees us.
We are adulterers and adulteresses. We set ourselves as the enemy of God. We can’t blame anyone but ourselves. So, what are we going to do about it.
The Natural Man pursues the world.

2A. The humble man submits to God

When we see ourselves for who we are, we have two choices: 1) We can be proud and pretend that this passage is not applying to ourselves, or 2) we can humble ourselves, admitting that this is me.
James tells us that God jealously longs for us. This is not the sinful jealousy that we normally think of. This is the perfect jealousy of a God who has covenanted with us and desires our unequivocal devotion in return. He “desires that his people be wholly and unreservedly his!” Because of this jealousy, he provides a way for us to turn to him.
James quotes
James 4:6 NIV
But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”
If we choose path one, the proud path, God will battle against us, until we finally turn around and admit our state as adulterers.
If we choose path two, the humble path, God will give us the grace we need to follow Him and be devoted to Him. As Augustine says “God gives what he demands.” He demands undivided devotion, and he gives the ability to accomplish this.
James 4:10 NIV
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
Now, humility is, as Doug Moo states,
James Explanation of Text

“Humility is not passivity, but receptivity. It is certainly not groveling before God or others; it is simply accepting truth, learning from every situation, growing in simplicity and in wisdom.”

As Doug Moo states,
The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Letter of James V. A Summons to Spiritual Wholeness (4:4–10)

To “humble ourselves before the Lord” means to recognize our own spiritual poverty, to acknowledge consequently our desperate need of God’s help, and to submit to his commanding will for our lives.

McDonnell points out:
James Explanation of Text

“Humility is not passivity, but receptivity. It is certainly not groveling before God or others; it is simply accepting truth, learning from every situation, growing in simplicity and in wisdom.”

How do we do this? How do we take that humble path, admitting our adultery and turning our hearts back to a sole devotion towards God?
James lists 3 steps:

1B. The Focus: Draw near to God

James 4:7–8 NIV
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
When James says “come near to God” or as some translations say: “Draw near to God”, he is not speaking of a worship service. We might feel near to God during a worship service, but our hearts are still far from him: we are still being a friend of the world.
James is setting up a contrast here. Everyday, we have a choice: will we be a friend of the world? Will we draw near to the world? Or, will we be a friend of God, drawing near to God? Who are we going to follow?
James says “Come near to God!”
Remember the prophet Hosea, the one who married the adulterer? He gave the following message to the people of Israel:
Hosea 12:6 NIV
But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always.
The call of coming near to God is a call to return to him. It is a call of complete devotion. It is a call of submission to him and not to the world. It is call of following his advice, and not the advice of our friend, family, or culture. It is a call to know God: to spend more time with Him, in prayer, Bible study, and fellowship with believers, than we spend with the world.
When our focus is on following God and his ways, two things happen:
First, the devil will flee from us. The devil is the prince of the world. Whenever we choose to follow God rather than the world, we are automatically resisting the devil. The closer we follow God, the faster the devil will flee from us.
1 Peter 5:6–9 NIV
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
Second, God will draw near to us. When we are a friend of the world, we make God our enemy. When we turn back to God, God won’t be an enemy anymore. Our fellowship will be restored. We will have close intimacy once again.
The choice is ours: will we draw near to God or the world?
The focus: Draw near to God!

2B. The Action: Purify yourself

James 4:8 NIV
Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
In this verse, James picks up strong Old Testament imagery. In so doing, he calls these Christians, not just adulterers, but also sinners and double-minded.
Sinners are those who commit sins. The title is focused on action. If one is a sinner, one has committed sin. James tells these sinners to cleanse their hands. They have done evil, so cleanse that which has done the evil.
The double-minded are those whom James has referred to the most in his letter. This person is not following God in his heart, but is vacillating between God and the world. Since the issue is in the heart, James tells these Christians to purify their hearts.
What does it mean to cleanse and to purify? How do we do it?
The Old Testament Law was focused on purification. That which was sinful was unclean. That which was holy was clean: it was unmixed, untainted, and single in its devotions and actions. The Levites who were priests of God were called to be unmixed, untainted, and single in their devotion and actions to God. When they were not, when they sinned or acted like a double-minded man, there were specific steps of purification: the sacrificial system, calling them back to singleness of devotion and actions.
We don’t have the sacrificial system anymore. So, how do we purify ourselves from our double-mindedness? How do we cleanse ourselves from our sin?
When we first turned to Christ, we were purified by His sacrifice: there was nothing we had to do. He is our purification. He cleansed us and set us apart for his work, in singleness of devotion and actions.
1 John 1:7 NIV
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
He is still
This speaks of our salvation.
Christ is still our purification. He calls us back to singleness of devotion and action when we start walking with the world. When we draw near to God, we are stepping back into Christ’s purification.
However, James is always focusing on action. It isn’t enough to say that we are drawing near to God. There is evidence tied to Christ’s purification, being set apart for singleness of devotion and actions.
John writes:
1 John 1:9 NIV
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Part of the purification process is confession: in this verse, public confession is emphasized. When we confess to our brothers and sisters how we are adulterers with the world, we are purified in Christ.
Once we confess, we are called to obey: live in singleness of devotion and action.
1 Peter 1:22 NIV
Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.
Obeying the truth of God, reflection a closeness with Him, brings purification.
Confession and obedience does not save us. Confession and obedience does not change the way God views us. However, they set us apart for God’s service: reminding us that we are his alone: giving us singleness of devotion and action.
The focus: Drawing near to God.
The action: Purifying ourselves for God.

3B. The Emotion: Repentance

When we see how far we have drifted from God, when we see how much we need purification, we should have an emotional response. God designed our whole body, our whole self to turn back to him.
James 4:9 NIV
Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.
We should be grieving when we see ourselves for who we are. We should grieving when we confess our adultery to God and to our brothers and sisters in Christ. The man who merely says, “I have sinned” and then goes about his day has not fully understood his double-mindedness. He has not fully decided to draw near to God.
Throughout the Bible, God has called for not just an intellectual response to his call, but an emotional one.
Joel 2:12 NIV
“Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.”
A true understanding of the weight of our sin will bring grief. As Paul writes:
2 Corinthians 7:10 NIV
Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.
Where is our grief as a church? Where is our repentance? We like to live in joy. We like to be happy. However:
The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Letter of James V. A Summons to Spiritual Wholeness (4:4–10)

True Christian joy can never be ours if we ignore or tolerate sin; it comes only when we have squarely faced the reality of our sin, brought it before the Lord in repentance and humility, and experienced the cleansing work of the Spirit.

This truth became very apparent to me as I was preparing this message. I struggled with my own sins and temptations. I realized how much I wanted to follow the world, to fulfill my sinful desires. Addictions from the past came back to haunt, and boy did I want to jump back into them. If you want to know more about this, talk to me.
Douglas J. Moo, The Letter of James, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos, 2000), 195–196.
It wasn’t enough for me to mentally say “my focus is on God”, I needed to mourn over my sin and my desires. I needed to mourn now, rather than to mourn before the judgment seat of God.
When we mourn in humility, God will raise us up into true Christian joy! Oh, the shouting ground when we realize that our sins are forgiven, that we are purified and accepted. That we don’t have to go back to the ways of this world, but we can live in a better way!
How do we live in the way of a humble man? Draw near to God, purify ourselves, and repent.
Calvary Bible Church, we are adulterers. We individually and as a church are seeking to follow the world rather than Christ. We make decisions based upon friends, family members, and the culture around, rather than seeking Christ and his kingdom. We want to do want is safe and comfortable rather than what God is calling us to do.
We have a choice: will we proudly stay in our own way, or will we humbly turn back to God. I invite you to join me for a time of prayer, that God would reveal to us areas in our lives and in our church that need to come back to Him.
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