Summary: If we yield to temptations, the devil will continually follow us; but if we put on the whole armor of God, and stand out against him, he will leave us. Let sinners then submit to God, and seek his grace and favor; resisting the devil. Our nearness to God
Opening illustration: In the annals of US advertising history, one of the most efficient slogans ever is the California milk producers’ two-word question, “Got milk?” With that phrase, the group captured almost everyone’s attention. In surveys, the slogan was recognized by more than 90 percent of the people polled.
If “Got milk?” is so good at reminding people to drink “cow juice,” perhaps we can create some two-word slogans to remind ourselves to live more godly lives. Let’s turn to James 4 and try it. This passage gives five specific guidelines. (Illustration from Dave Branon, Our Daily Bread)
Introduction: Can you name five people with whom you genuinely get along? Perhaps you have a great deal in common with them, or you’ve shared many wonderful experiences together. Your friendship runs deep below the surface in these trusted relationships. Now think of five people with whom you do not get along (for many, this list is much easier to construct!). Perhaps you’ve had conflict in the past or personality clashes. For one reason or another you find it very hard to get along and life is better when you just don’t associate.
James was writing to believers who did not always find it easy to get along. There were pockets of disunity, arguments, disagreements, criticisms, and personal attacks taking place among these believers. Isn’t it refreshing to realize that the early church did not have it all together? Furthermore, because they didn’t have it all together, you and I are privileged to have James’ words of admonishment to a group of believers who struggled with getting along much like we sometimes do today. His words go to the heart of the problem and address what is probably the most basic human sin: Pride. How do we grapple with this when it has become an accepted worldly behavior in our society? Worldly and fleshly lusts are the distemper which will not allow contentment or satisfaction in the mind, and rise up to the exclusion of prayer and the working of our affections toward God. Let the Christian be free from the friendship of the world, and be submitted to God, thus shutting and bolting the door against the devil.
How can we be FREE from OPPRESSION?
1. Give in! (v. 7)
Tells us to submit to God. Our sovereign God loves us, so why not let Him run the show? Submission helps us resist the devil (the father of pride and envy). He cannot conquer you if you continue to resist. Strong as he is, God never permits him to conquer the man who continues to resist him; he cannot force the human will. He who, in the terrible name of Jesus, opposes even the devil himself, is sure to have a speedy and glorious conquest. He flees from that name, and from his conquering blood. Submit to God. Submit your understanding to the truth of God; submit your wills to the will of his precept, the will of his providence. Submit yourselves to God, for he is ready to do you good. If we yield to temptations, the devil will continually follow us; but if we put on the whole armor of God, and stand out against him, he will leave us. Let sinners then submit to God, and seek his grace and favor; resisting the devil.
Illustration: Submitted just as a captain of a ship even in authority will stand by his vessel even if she goes down ~ in complete sincerity and faithfulness.
2. Get close! (v. 8)
Reminds us of the value of drawing near to God. It’s up to us to close the gap between us and God. If we wish the favor of God, we must come to him; nor can we hope for his mercy, unless we approach him and ask him for it. We cannot come literally any nearer to God than we always are, for he is always round about us; but we may come nearer in a spiritual sense. We may address him directly in prayer; we may approach him by meditation on his character; we may draw near to him in the ordinances of our faith in Christ. We can never hope for his favor while we prefer to remain at a distance from him; none who in fact draw near to him will find him unwilling to bestow on them the blessings which they need. Our nearness to God is manifested in the faith that we exhibit in Him. Can we really trust God by placing our entire lives in His hands?
3. Clean up! (v. 8)
Also reminds us to make sure our hearts are clean. That happens through confessing our sins to God. That is, do not rest satisfied with a mere external reformation; with putting away your outward transgressions. There must be a deeper work than that; a work which shall reach to the heart, and which shall purify the affections. This agrees with all the requisitions of God’s Word, and is in accordance with what must be the nature of our faith in Christ. If the heart is wrong, nothing can be right. If, while we seek an external reformation, we still give indulgence to the secret corruptions of the heart, it is clear that we can have no true faith. Let your whole conduct be changed; cease to do evil learn to do well. Washing or cleansing the hands was a token of innocence and purity. Separate yourselves from the world, and consecrate yourselves to God: this is the true notion of sanctification. We have often seen that to sanctify signifies to separate a thing or person from profane or common use, and consecrate it or him to God.