James 4: 7-10
Do you struggle with which direction in life to go? It is James' intent in this passage to show us the direction by imperatively grabbing us with ten commands that are essential to honoring God and relating to people. These commands call us to direct, hands-on action without delay. We are to humble ourselves before God and, at the same time, resist the devil, as we cannot serve both. When we draw near to God, the devil is pushed further away. If we draw near to the devil, then God is pushed further away. The signpost is clear where we are to go; the direction we choose is up to us.
This passage asks us the crucial question: are we resisting God or resisting the devil? How we respond to life and other people will be rooted in how we respond to God. Do we fight Him or do we glorify Him? How do we know? The answer is in how we are with our attitudes and mindsets; are we humble or proud? If we are proud, we are serving the devil, even though we may think we are serving ourselves. If we are humble, then we are serving our Lord. This strikes at the root of our mindset and motivation in life.
- Submit means to obey! It is our surrender to God in His will. We are urgently called to accept the absolute authority of God. We are under His authority whether or not we acknowledge Him, so we might as well acquiesce. It does no good to fight God, as Jacob discovered (Gen. 32:22-32). In this context, it also refers to fights and quarrels so they do not build and take us over (James 4:1-6). Jacob's dispute with his brother had to be resolved (Gen 33).
- Resist the devil. This means to flee the devil's kingdom, his values, and his wisdom and embrace God's kingdom, values and wisdom. This has more to do with moral values than spiritual warfare. The devil does not have equal authority or power as the popular "Ying/Yang" philosophy states; rather, he only has the power we give to Him, while God has absolute power. The devil is not invincible; he is easily thwarted when we don God's armor so we can disregard his temptations and flee from him. We evade the lusts of our heart and world by running from it, not toward it (Eph. 6:11-18; James. 3:15, 17; 4:4; 1 Pet. 5:8-9)!
- The knowledge of who we are in Christ will be the driving force of how we are with others (Galatians 2:20-21; 6: 3-5; Philippians 3:10)!
- We are best able to function in ministry by concentrating our efforts of growing in our relationship with Christ into a daily love endeavor (Hebrews 10:19-25; 11:1-3).
- Draw near to God means purification, developing your personal relationship with God through the disciplines of the faith (Ex. 30:19; Matt. 7:7; Rev. 3:20). We are responsible for our spiritual growth. God provides the plan, Christ is the way, and the Spirit is the guidance; however, we provide the will of our hearts from our humbleness, and further exhibit it with our hands and feet. The focus is on trust and obedience.
- Cleanse your hands refers to Psalm 24:4, "clean hands and a pure heart." Our inner purity guards us against moral defilement. This is an illustration of how a priest cleaned his hands and feet at the bronze basin before he approached God at the Tabernacle/Temple. They had an elaborate ritual that cleansed them from the dirt of the land and the dirt of the heart (Ex. 20:16; 30:17-21; Lev 19:12; Deut. 21:6; Psalm 24:4; Jer. 5:2; 7:9; Zach. 5:4; Mal 3:5; Matt. 5:8; Eph. 6:11-18; James 4:2, 14; 1 Pet. 5:8-9).
- Purify your heart. This means that submission to God produces humbleness which then produces right attitudes and motives.
- Double minded. This is a harsh diatribe that describes a hypocrite. James is directly calling his people, "you sinners!" Greek philosophers, as well as many Jewish teachers, detested hypocrisy and considered it the most heinous sin. James, as with his brother, Jesus, in Matthew 23, is making the point that the people are being "two faced," insincere, and treacherous. Our behaviors must show our beliefs!
How do I maintain my direction in life, so I am pleasing Him and seeking His purpose? The answer lies in the direction in which we are heading. When we draw to God, we undertake His precepts and apply them to life. God is consistent; when we seek Him, we find that He has already sought us and will continue to reveal Himself and the depths of His love and will all our days on earth as well as throughout eternity. The key to this is our willingness to confess our sin and move toward Him and away from false and deceitful ways.
James is also plainly telling us that God hates pride! God hates worldliness! God loves humility. What did our Lord exercise while He walked this earth? Humility! He is God incarnate, Lord of the universe. Born as a baby, he lived in the lower social order of human life in devotion and meekness, serving as our ultimate example. He did not have to live that way. He could easily have lived as the greatest king in the most lavish lifestyle imaginable, yet He chose humility because it was the best way; it was His way (John 3:16; 17:24; 1 John 2:15-17).
- If God asked you if you are resisting Him or resisting the devil, what would you say?
- Why do you suppose James gives this diatribe of ten imperative commands?
- How would your church respond if your pastor preached on this so passionately that he would "get in their face" by pointing a finger at people's compliancy?
- What does it mean to you to, Draw near to God?
- How does being humble before God help us resist the devil at the same time?
- When we draw near to God, the devil is pushed further away; if we draw near to the devil, then God is pushed further away. How has this been so in your life?
- Compare your life to this passage, what has been the pattern in your life and your closeness with God?
- What do you need to do to allow Christ to be your only Lord and direction?
- How can the fact that He will lift us up beyond our desires and plans to a much greater plan and purpose in life give you the confidence and passion to do it?
- How does humbleness produce our right attitudes and motives? What can you do to be more humble at the same time mot be self defacing?
Remember, we are to flee the world's influence while being the influencers of it!
For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. Matt. 23:12.
© 2004, Rev. Richard J. Krejcir, Discipleship Tools www.discipleshiptools.org