In the bible, the term “ the world ” is used in multiple ways. Three uses, however, appear to be the most significant. First, it is used to refer to the physical planet earth, and sometimes to the planet and the physical heavens that surround it. Secondly, it is used in a generally neutral sense to refer to humanity (John 3:16). Thirdly, and perhaps most significantly, it refers to a global system made up of fallen people that exists in total hostility toward the one true God (James 4:4).
The word for “ world ” in James 4:4 is the Greek word “kosmos.” Rooted in that word is the concept of order, or a harmonious arrangement. The concept of government is even found in it’s base. So James is telling us that there is an ordered, systematic opposition to God that exists among humanity. Ironically, kosmos is also the word used to describe humanity in John 3:16. In that verse, God is expressing his commitment to the redemption of his fallen creation.
Interestingly, It’s John who tells us very clearly not to love that system of men in its opposition to God (1 John 2:15-18). In fact, he is so strong with his statement that he argues those who love that world system do not have the love of God! There’s an important portion of his statement that is sometimes overlooked. He refers to the desires of that world system and how they are opposed to God. These desires arise from fallen flesh, and such desires always lead to sin. Consider how James contends that our sins arise from our desires (James 1:12-15). That world system is always trying to stoke those fleshly desires. It does it through hollywood, through music, through advertisements, through the materialistic culture in which we live, and it can sometimes do it through our faith communities when they have lost sight of what our desires as children of God should be. These desires create a value system that is the polar opposite of God’s value system. Fulfilling these desires in the absence of God only leads to strife and difficulty, and for some, it will lead to eternal separation from God.
How do we escape that world? First, put God at the top of your values hierarchy. This will remove you from that spot. Once you are free from the natural consequences of occupying that spot with your self, you will slowly become free from sin as God changes the desires of your heart from selfish ones to Godly ones. As you become free from those fleshly desires, and the sins that accompany them, the world will not have a hold on you. Then you can fully love the people in it as you help them escape it as well.