Text: James 4:7–8
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”
Date: January 4th & 11th, 2015
Whenever God makes a promise, we can be confident that God will keep His promise. But just because God makes a promise that doesn’t relieve us of our part, our responsibility – of our actions – that are necessary in order for God to keep his promise to us.
Once we meet the condition we can be confident that God will fulfill his promise. Once we obey we enjoy the blessings of obedience.
Let’s apply this to the promise that God makes through James to us.
“Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.”
Twice James makes the promise personal. This means that if you are a disciple of Jesus, if you have been born again, you have the right to lay claim to this promise. God says, “If you will resist the devil (that’s the condition that has to be met) then you have my word on it that he will flee from you!” Resist the devil and God will make sure that the devil will leave you alone!
There are far too many Christians who give the devil too much credit. Too many Christians like to blame their sin and their failures on the devil. They try and avoid personal responsibility by saying that it was an outside source that made them sin.
The reality is the Bible clearly teaches that each one of us is responsible for our own actions. We are to flee temptation because it is the temptation that has the possibility of leading us to sin, and we are to resist the devil. And God has promised that when we resist the devil he will flee from you!
What does it mean to resist?
To resist literally means, “to take your stand against”. The implication is that each one of us should prepare ourselves to resist the devil. We should never be unprepared to take our stand against the devil and his lies. You are responsible to take a stand. Resist is a verb, resist is a command, and resistance is your responsibility!
What are we resisting?
What is it about the devil that we are to resist? One of the themes of the book of James is worldliness. What is the source of worldliness? Worldliness is the outcome of denying and disregarding God’s truth.
What did Jesus teach us about the devil? Jesus taught us that he is a liar! What is a lie? It is the opposite of truth.
Therefore when James instructs us resist the devil he wants us to remember that we are in a battle for the truth, we are to resist the lies and the distortions and the half-truths of the devil.
How can we prepare ourselves to actually resist the devil?
First understand that your ability to resist the devil is rooted in the grace of God.
Earlier in this same passage James says that God gives grace to the humble.
Paul writing to the church at Corinth said; “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, ESV)
The power to resist IS the grace of God, the power to resist is not our own it is the power of Christ! Grace is the power of do for the Christian!
Second understand that Jesus has already won the victory and if you are in Christ you are already a winner! Therefore adopt the mindset of a winner! Jesus said in John 16 “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”” (John 16:33, ESV) Your victory is not simply assured it’s accomplished!
Third – and this is key – understand your need for self-control and discipline. Paul said “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:27, ESV) Who was it that was disciplining his body and keeping it under control? Paul was responsible for that. He said “I discipline my body, I keep it under control”. Paul didn’t say “well I’ll just let go and let God take care of it all”. No Paul said, “I’m responsible for my actions. This is my responsibility!”f
Fourth understand the weapons that you have at your disposal.
- Weapon #1 You have the power of God in you through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.
- Weapon #2 You have the armor of God to wage war with.
- Weapon #3 The body of Christ.
But what is the right way to use those weapons? Wouldn’t it be great if we had an example of how to properly use these weapons? The good news is we have such an example. We have the perfect example Jesus Christ. Jesus used the very same resource that is available to each and every one of us. He used the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Do you have the Word of God? Yes, you do! Therefore you’ve got the weapon of victory in your possession.
How then do we resist the devil? Through the active, skillful, continual use of the weapons that God has made available to us! And it all starts with you having a working knowledge of the Scriptures.
One of the unique characteristics of the Christian faith is its emphasis on our ability to share a very personal and very intimate relationship with the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. Another unique characteristic of the Christian faith is that the offended One initiates the process whereby those who have offended Him can be reconciled to Him.
The way to be pleasing to God is to be honest with Him and to admit that in our fallen state we have nothing of value to offer him and to cast ourselves on his mercy and grace. To repent of our repeated offenses towards him, to confess our need for forgiveness and, by faith, embrace the salvation that Jesus Christ freely offers to all who will admit their need.
Advancing age has given me a greater appreciation for the value of relationships. I’m finding great enjoyment my relationships. My relationship with my wife, my children, my sons-in-laws, my daughter-in-law and of course with my first grandchild. I find great enjoyment in my relationship with my friends and my church family. I would encourage all of you who are younger than myself to learn now what took me far too long to learn. Learn to enjoy the people that God has placed in your life now. Learn to value the relationships that God is allowing you to develop. There is much joy to be found in your relationship with your church family and friends.
And of course learn to enjoy the relationship that you have with God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit – it is the most important and the most soul – satisfying relationship you will ever have.
The Bible is clear that all true believers will have the desire to fellowship, to be in the presence of God. There are many verses I could share with you but let me give you just a few.
“Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me! You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, Lord, do I seek.””
(Psalm 27:7–8, ESV)
“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.”
(Psalm 63:1–2, ESV)
“How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise! Selah” (Psalm 84:1–4, ESV)
The redeemed heart has a desire to commune with its Redeemer.
But if we are honest we have to admit that relationships if not carefully appreciated and attended too will begin to suffer. It happens in human relationships all the time. And sadly it happens with our relationship with God.
When your relationship with God begins to suffer you are in danger of becoming friends with the world and thereby making yourself the enemy of God.
Remember when James originally wrote his letter, he wrote to Christians who were being persecuted for their faith. James was afraid that in light of the persecution they were undergoing they would be tempted to make friends with the world. James understood that they couldn’t be friends with the world without doing serious damage to their relationship with God. So he writes to them to both warn and encourage them.
What does it mean to draw near?
As we saw in Part 1, when James instructed us to “resist the devil” he was under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit issuing a command. God commands us corporately and individually to take an active stand against the lies and the distortions of truth that are the stock and trade of Satan. Resisting the devil is not an option. It is a command.
Likewise when James tells us to “Draw near to God” that, too, is a command. That too is a verb. We are to actively pursue our relationship with God the Father.
Remember that God’s commands are for our good.
We see this repeatedly in God’s dealings with his people. God told them if they would obey him, if they would obey his law, if they would obey his commands their obedience would allow them to experience His blessings.
“Therefore you shall keep his statutes and his commandments, which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for all time.”” (Deuteronomy 4:40, ESV)
“ ‘Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” (Deuteronomy 5:16, ESV)
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” (Psalm 1:1–3, ESV)
God issues these commands and many others for our own good.
Therefore he is commanding us to seek our own welfare. Did you catch that? God is commanding us to seek our own welfare, to seek the highest levels of contentment, joy and satisfaction possible on this earth.
You need to ask yourself if you really truly believe this. Do you believe that indescribable levels of joy are available, are only available to you in and through your relationship with God?
If you say you believe it are you pursuing it?
How do we experience this level of joy? By drawing near to God. By actively pursuing an intimate relationship with God.
When James tells us to draw near to God he is using the language of God’s covenant dealings with his people.
There is a very similar verse in Malachi 3:7
“From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’” (Malachi 3:7, ESV)
Drawing near has nothing to do with physical space. Neither James nor Malachi is speaking of physical movement. We don’t have to go to a particular place to enter into God’s presence. We don’t have to make long journey to another land to enter into God’s presence. We don’t have to wait for a church service to enter into God’s presence.
James is speaking in a spiritual sense. And because God is everywhere you and I can draw near to God at any time and at any place.
The words of James are not simply for you as an individual, remember when James wrote these words he was writing to a whole group of people, not a specific congregation per say but to a group of persecuted believers. But they do have application for the church. I believe these words are just as applicable to the church corporately as they are to individual believers. Therefore we as a church when we gather together should obey this command to draw near to God, to pursue our corporate relationship with God.
The ability to draw near is rooted in the finished work of Jesus Christ.
Your Creator, your Redeemer, the Sovereign of the universe desired to have a relationship with you and he has made that not just a possibility but also a reality through His Son Jesus Christ.
How can we draw near?
In order to draw near to God you must deal decisively with sin! Sin separates us from God. God makes this very clear through the Old Testament prophet Isaiah.
“but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.” (Isaiah 59:2, ESV)
We must understand the seriousness of sin. If you want to know how serious sin is look to the cross and see the Father putting to death his own Son! Why? Because sin is serious, and the wages of sin is death!
James gives us some insight into how we can deal decisively with sin.
- Repent – Biblical repentance is more than simply being sorry for your sin. Biblical repentance is a sorrow for sin that results in a change of direction in your life.
- Cleanse your hands – This refers to our deeds. With clean hands, we will have a heart for good works
- Purify your heart. – This has to do with our dispositions.
- Hate one’s sin and sinful desires.
Drawing near means that we will deal decisively with sin. But it also means that we continue to cultivate our relationship with the Father.
- Through Preaching
- Through Prayer and the Scriptures
- Through corporate and private worship
- Through fellowship with other believers
Remember we have a promise here. The promise is that if we will draw near to God, He will in turn draw near to us.
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you!