Who are the friends we listen to?
Read James 4:1-10, Prov. 12:26 Prov 27:5-6
“Whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
Throughout scripture, we continually discover the importance of relationships and community. As a follower of Christ, we are called to be in fellowship with his people, for the purpose of mutual encouragement and growth. Isolating ourselves only leads to psychological and spiritual depression. However, just as important as having relationships with people is building the right relationships. In Proverbs 12:26 the sage warns, “The righteous is a guide to his neighbor but the way of the wicked leads them astray.”. Thus, Paul warns us of the dangers of deception when he states, “bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33).
In James 4, James warns of activities and attitudes we are to avoid because they lead to conflicts and self-centered living. The reason we see conflicts in relationships, even within the church, is because we are driven by our own desires and wants which lead to envy and conflicts. Throughout the Bible we see the continual conflict of the morality and viewpoints of the world in which we live and the instructions of Christ. In scripture we are challenged to take up our cross and follow Christ, to die to self and our natural desires (Luke 9:23). We are commanded to put to death the flesh with its passions and desires (Gal. 5:24). This stands in stark contrast to the world in which we live which is driven by the pursuit of pleasure. In the quest for personal satisfaction, personal indulgence becomes king. Morality is redefined as personal identity in order to justify the pursuit of our own gratification.
While Christ places us within the world we are not to embrace the world and its morality. Instead of following the culture in which we live, we are to live for Christ. The two are mutually exclusive. This is the point that James is making. One cannot become a friend and companion to our world and secular culture and remains friends with Christ. Consequently, James warns against developing the wrong friends. Not that we do not have contact or relationship with people, for Christ has left us here for a purpose. Rather what he is speaking about is not have fellowship with them. The people we fellowship with are the people that we follow and are influenced by. They are the people we turn to for advice, counsel, and perspective. To turn to those who reject Christ and promote the pursuit of personal pleasure is to become double-minded (vs 8). Instead, we are to build our community and relationships around those who follow Christ. Peter likewise warns, “For the time already past. Is sufficient for you to have carried out the desires of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you.” The world wants conformity to their sin and verbally assault any who refuse. This is why we must develop the right type of friends. We must surround ourselves and listen to those who “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15), who loves us enough to challenge our sin and promote righteousness. Who are your counselors and influences in your life? To whom do you turn for your moral compass? We become the people we listen to; therefore, we must choose wisely who our friends really are.