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Wed, Oct 27, 1999

67 - Reversionism

James 4:4 by Robert Dean
Series:James (1998)
Duration:1 hr 2 mins 8 secs

Reversionism; James 4:4


James 4:4 NASB "You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God."


We ought to know right from the start that James is getting very harsh with his readers. Up to this point he has been very smooth in the way he has addressed them. Over and again he has addressed them "My brothers, My beloved brothers." He is very calm throughout most of this epistle and then all of a sudden when we get to this verse he is very harsh, he takes the gloves off, and he finally gets to the underlying problem in this congregation. Everything he has said before is wrapped around the idea of testing. They are going through various testings and he has been encouraging them on the doctrine they need to apply and how they need to go forward in order to grow and to handle adversity and have some spiritual growth. But when he gets to this point he has to address some basic problems that are causing divisions, conflicts and quarrels almost to the point of warfare in the congregation that he is addressing.


The verse starts off with the vocative feminine plural of the noun MOICHALIS [moixalij]. It is from the root noun MOCHEIA [moixeia] which means adultery. It is interesting to note that he is using the word "adultery" and not the word that is often used in passages like this, PORNEIA [porneia], which means immorality. First of all, in its essence adultery is sexual relations between two people, at least one of whom is married, but they are not married to each other. So there is a contract that exists between a man and a woman and one of them is having an adulterous relationship with another person. So he is breaking the contract. This is important for understanding the background for this passage because in PORNEIA—immorality, fornication—the two parties do not have to be married, there is no contract in the background. That is important because it tells us that James is addressing believers, not unbelievers. The believer is in a contractual relationship with God based upon the new covenant established by Jesus Christ at the cross. The covenant is a contract. In Christianity and in Judaism it is only the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (that title distinguishes Him from all the other gods; it specifically defines Him) who puts Himself in a contractual relationship with man. Man's relationship with God always has a legal basis, a contract that God has established. He is not in a contractual relationship with an unbeliever. So the fact that James is using MOICHALIS in stead of PORNEIA tells us that he recognizes that he is talking to believers. They are being unfaithful to God. They are not applying the Word, they are turning their backs on Him and they are operating by putting their affections on human viewpoint thinking, worldly thinking.


"…friendship with the world is hostility toward God." The word translated "friendship" is PHILOS [filoj] which has to do with attraction, attention, and affinity. It is different from AGAPE [a)gaph] which has to do with unconditional love. So what James is saying is: Don't you realize that if you are still attracted to the world…? The word "world" is from the Greek word KOSMOS [kosmoj] and it refers to an orderly system and it refers in the Scriptures primarily, although it has some other meanings, to an orderly system of thinking. It is not talking about specific overt kinds of action. All of this flows out of the fact that they are letting their thought, the way they think, and what they think about, be dominated by the world system. What energizes human viewpoint thinking is the flesh, the sin nature. Divine viewpoint thinking comes only as a result of God who has revealed Himself propositionally in Scripture through the Holy Spirit, and in is the Holy Spirit, then, who illuminates our thinking to understand the Word of God. If we are operating on the sin nature the fundamental characteristic is arrogance, human autonomy, man wants to redefine everything in terms of his own thinking. He doesn't want to take God's Word for anything, he rejects God's Word. God asserts that he is the creator of everything, so by virtue of the fact that he is the creator-God and the sovereign God of the universe he has the right to define what everything is. That is why there is complete antagonism between these two systems.


The kind of thinking that the world has is hostility to God. If your kind of thinking is oriented to the world and you are not willing to renovate your thinking then you as a believer has made yourself an enemy to God. There is no way to sugar-coat that, that is exactly the way it is. If you are not operating on God's principles, God's plan, operating on the sufficiency of God's promises and God's truth, then you are an enemy toward God. "Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God."  "Wishes" is from the Greek word BOULOMAI [boulomai] which emphasises to will, to choose, and it brings to bear the volitional responsibility of the act, whether you are aware of it or not. As we grow up we are continually propagandised and bombarded by human viewpoint thinking. That structures our entire frame of reference and thinking up until the time we become a believer. From that point on we are to renew our thinking, according to Romans 12:2, because our thinking from the foundation up has been based on human viewpoint thought systems. It is not only what we think, it is how we think. It is thinking in terms of human autonomy in rationalism, empiricism and mysticism.


The doctrine of reversionism

1)  Every human being is born with a sin nature and all of our deeds thoughts and words proceed from that sin nature. After salvation the believer is free from that dominion. Up until you are saved you only have one choice, and that is to follow the dictates of your sin nature. It is not until salvation where at that point the baptism by means of God the Holy Spirit identifies us with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (the doctrine known as positional truth) that that power is broken, but the presence is still there. Now you have true free choice because now for the first time you can actually make choices under the filling of the Holy Spirit that produce not human good but divine good.

2)  All sins can either be classified as either pre-salvation sins or post-salvation sins. At the point of salvation those sins are all forgiven. There are three phases of salvation. Phase one is justification: we get everything at this point. Everything is delivered in one package deal at the instant of faith alone in Christ alone. We are justified, we are positionally sanctified, and it guarantees our eventual glorification. At the cross Jesus Christ died for every single sin, so the penalty is paid for. The point of phase one salvation is that we get forgiveness, and this takes care of all pre-salvation sins. But what happens x-minutes after salvation when you sin again? You are out of fellowship. That sin has been paid for at the cross but now it interrupts your fellowship with God, your rapport with God. It is called grieving the Spirit or quenching the Spirit. The basis of forgiveness, post-salvation, is still the cross where they were paid for. All that happens when we confess our sins (1 John 1:9) is that God the Father then applies in terms of our temporal relationship the cross so that we are restored to fellowship. Then at glorification, phase three salvation when we are absent from the body and face to face with the Lord, there we experience eternal forgiveness. And even if you die out of fellowship, because you lose the sin nature and are glorified, you will experience eternal forgiveness and sin will no longer be an issue. The solution for all sins is at the cross but we must have forgiveness in phase two if we are going to advance in the spiritual life when we sin.

3)  When the believer is growing and advancing in the spiritual life he is still going to commit sins. He still has the sin nature and the sin nature is just as powerful and just as wicked, just as evil as it was. It is the principle of evil. Our human sin nature is no less evil than Lucifer's sin nature. By its very nature it is wicked and evil. The only thing that keeps it from being wicked and evil is the overall restraining common grace of the Holy Spirit and perhaps the discipline of establishment principles that you were taught as a child. The only thing that happens at salvation is that the power of the sin nature is broken, it is not reduced, diminished or removed, or even partially eradicated. It is just that now you have the option of not following its dictates. When the believer is growing and advancing in the spiritual life he still commits sins. When he confesses those sins he is restored to fellowship but he needs to keep moving, it is not just a matter of getting back into right relationship with the Holy Spirit. Movement is the result of volitional decisions to apply doctrine. That means you have to make decisions to learn the Word, to apply the Word, and to move forward in that step-by-step, moment-by-moment walk as you advance spiritually.

4)  Failure to rebound leaves you under sin nature control. If you sin you are out of fellowship and in the realm of carnality, under the control of the sin nature, walking in darkness (1 John1:6). The longer you stay in carnality the more you lose momentum. If you go down and stay in that position you are going to stop all forward progression and you are going to start losing momentum. You will start going backwards, reversing your direction. Instead of advancing, spiritual retreat sets in. The longer you stay out of fellowship the more that retreat takes place. You are living according to the world and you have made yourself an enemy to God. What we mean by reversionism is that you are reversing course in the spiritual life. Instead of advancing you are now retreating, reversing and going backwards.

5)  Reversionism often begins in the context of a test. Almost every situation in life is a test. That test means that we have the option to respond positively by applying doctrine, or negatively. That test can come in the form of prosperity, or it can come in the form of adversity. But when we hit that test we have a situation that comes up and we decide that instead of applying doctrine we are going to respond negatively and handle it on the basis of our own limited human resources. When that outside pressure of either prosperity or adversity hits the soul and the soul has moved out of the soul fortress and is no longer applying the ten stress-busters to handle the test, then what happens is fragmentation sets in to the soul.  Fissures and cracks begin to appear and you begin to back up.  It is characterized by a failure to confess sins, a failure to use the stress-busters, a failure to understand and apply the unique assets that God has given us in the church age, a failure to rely upon the inerrancy and infallibility of God's revelation to us in the Bible, and a failure to believe and accept the sufficiency of the cross and the sufficiency of grace to solve our problems. As a result the soul begins to fragment. This may not become apparent fro some time, depending on how long you go before you utilize God's grace recovery procedure, but reversionism often begins in the form of this test and this leads us to the first stage of reversionism which is reaction to the test in some way and we become distracted from doctrine—we are too busy making money, too busy having a good time, to busy enjoying our success and happiness in life and we begin to fall away.

6)  Reversionism is defined as the believer's love affair with the cosmic system and the rejection of God's grace system. When any of us sin at any time we are out of fellowship and in darkness. If we stay there for very long it is because we want to. We have exercised our volition negatively towards 1 John 1:9 and we have chosen to stay out of fellowship. If that goes on it is because we are having a lot more fun and enjoying ourselves a lot more in carnality. When we get distracted from doctrine the longer we stay out there what we are basically developing is a love affair with carnality and the cosmic system, and we are rejecting God and His grace recovery procedure and His grace solution for life. In reversionism we reverse the intended direction of God's plan and go off course. In reversionism we go into either moral or immoral degeneracy.

7)  In reversionism the believer evacuates the soul fortress provided by the ten stress-busters and seeks solace and comfort from the adversities of life, in the doctrines, values and lifestyle of the cosmic system. Even though it might make life work, it is false.

8)  In carnality the believer is simply living under the dictates of the sin nature. In reversionism the believer reaches a point where he will no longer care to recover from carnality. It becomes too difficult, too hard, there is too much antagonism, you have gone so far down that road that it seems overwhelming to back up.

9)  The eight stages of reversionism:

Stage one: reaction and distraction. This is the stage where you are presented with some situation, some circumstance, and you react to that in some way and become distracted from doctrine which is the only source of stability, comfort and happiness. In the long run the only thing that is going to give your life stability and past all of your bad habits is going to be doctrine. In this stage if you stay there for very long then you develop a vacuum in your soul because there is an absence of doctrine and you are going to start sucking in all kinds of false doctrine, which is called the doctrines of demons, human viewpoint thinking, cosmic thinking—it is all the same thing.

Stage two: the frantic search for happiness. Now that you have divorced yourself from the Scriptures, which is the sole source of stability and happiness, you start looking for happiness somewhere else. With the introduction of cosmic thinking you start adopting false value systems. You get a false set of values and false priorities and you start looking everywhere in the created order for your happiness. Remember that the Bible says that the creation is absolutely distinct from the creator, so what happens at this stage is that instead of looking to the infinite, immutable (the never changing, always stable) God for your source of happiness and stability you look horizontally at the creation in order to find something there that is going to give you happiness and meaning and value in life. This is what Paul was referring to in Romans chapter one where he says: "Professing to be wise, they became fools … worshipping the creature, rather than the creator." Human viewpoint is also called in the Scripture, foolishness. So you start looking for value and happiness in life from some other aspect of the creation. You look for it in pleasure, in making money, in success, in sex, drugs, approbation, recognition, fame, power. All of these things become a source of happiness and as soon as one doesn't work, or you get tired of it or bored with it, you shift to something else. The principle for the believer is, if you are not content with what you have, whether you have or have not, because your contentment is based on something inside of the created order, you will never be happy. As long as you are looking for something inside the creation to provide you with happiness you will guarantee a life of misery. 1 Timothy 6:6, 7 NASB "But godliness [the spiritual life] {actually} is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either." The bottom line is all we have is our relationship with God, and that is what gives meaning and purpose and definition to everything else. Philippians 4:11 NASB "Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. [12] I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need." [13] I can do all things [live in any circumstances] through Him who strengthens me." His stability is not based on some circumstance, some emotion, some feeling, some approbation, some aspect of the created order. If we go through the frantic search for happiness then what happens eventually is going to be a boomerang effect.

Stage three: operation boomerang. The boomerang is a weapon designed by the aborigines of Australia so that when they throw it and it misses its target it is designed to keep spinning and then return back to the hunter. That is essentially what happens here. As soon as you shoot at your target to find pleasure and happiness you miss. Then you shoot at another target and you miss. So operation boomerang is an intensified stage of the frantic search for happiness. What happens that you move from self-absorption in stage one to self-indulgence in the frantic search for happiness, and now as that intensifies in operation boomerang you become an expert at self-justification. If self-justification at that stage you are teetering on the absolute loss of objectivity in your life. What is meant by that is that now at this stage, when you start getting into crises and problems and difficulties in life your judgment is impaired. You can't objectively analyse the situation anymore because you have divorced yourself from the objective values and absolutes necessary in order to properly evaluate a scenario and reach correct conclusions so that you can apply the correct problem-solving devices. Now that you have got into self-justification you are on the verge of being completely divorced from reality and you can't see things as they truly are. The Bible becomes less and less relevant to you.

Stage four: emotional revolt of the soul. In emotional revolt we have to understand the basic make-up of the soul. The soul is comprised of self-consciousness, mentality, emotion, volition. Mentality is the cognitive function. This is where thinking takes place. Emotion is designed by God as a responder, not to outside life's circumstances but a responder to what is going on in the thinking of the soul. When you have external events that take place in your life, whether they are adversity or prosperity, they have to be interpreted and analysed, and this takes place in the mentality of your soul. Your emotion responds and you feel good. If you interpret this as a bad thing, then your emotions respond and you are sad or depressed or disturbed. So your emotions always respond to what is going on in the mentality of your soul. What happens, and this happens a lot in churches, when people will get into a situation and will go through life and make a lot of bad decisions and get overloaded with guilt, they can't make any good decisions, they are just a loser and they know it; and all of a sudden they get to church and find out about grace, this burden is lifted and they feel wonderful. All of a sudden they take this feeling and identify that as the criterion for their relationship with God. So now, because they are in emotional revolt and their emotions are driving them instead of their thinking, they are trying reduplicate that feeling. So they are going to walk that aisle a thousand times, they are going to keep going from church to church trying to find something to generate that emotion again. In emotional revolt, instead of the thinking dictating what we think and how we interact with reality, emotions set the criteria and they determine everything. So emotions start running the show and we end up getting into a terrible situation of irrationality where emotion becomes a dictator to the soul. Emotion in itself then becomes very addictive and it distracts and blinds us even further to reality, because now reality has been totally interpreted in terms of emotion and how it makes you feel. It is pure subjectivity. It is from this stage that we move from self-justification to pure self-deception, and this is why the next stage, number five, is called hardened negative volition. You have put yourself so far behind the eight ball at this point by years and years and years of bad thought habits, reactions and problem-solving that you have to overcome all of these bad decisions. You have put yourself in such a position of weakness that it is almost impossible. But it is not impossible because there is always the grace of God and God's grace recovery procedure. The issue now depends on your volition.