"But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Therefore submit 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. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up"(James 4:6-10).
During the building of the Golden Gate Bridge over San Francisco Bay, construction fell badly behind schedule because several workers had accidentally fallen from the scaffolding to their deaths. Engineers and administrators could find no solution to the costly delays. Finally, someone suggested a gigantic net be hung under the bridge to catch any who fell. Finally in spite of the enormous cost, the engineers opted for the net. After it was installed, progress was hardly interrupted. A worker or two fell into the net but all were saved. Ultimately, the time lost to fear was regained by replacing fear with faith in the net. God has given us a safety net to work over as we cross the bridge of life. He knows that we face some great trials as we labor in His kingdom – most of all we face the ultimate enemy Satan and self. I’ll tell you at the end what that safety net is. For now we must:
I. Resist (v.7)
A. Resist Satan’s Pride
Verse seven tells us that we must first resist Satan’s pride. Satan’s chief sin is pride! He has fooled the whole world system with the very same “believe in yourself” philosophy that caused him to be expelled from heaven. It is that spirit of self-assertion that causes all the conflicts in which man finds himself (James 4:1-4).
Because pride is our chief problem we must learn to humble ourselves before God in order to resist Satan. That is why 1 Peter 5:6-9 says to “… humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.”
At the First Battle of Bull Run (Manassas) the people of Washington DC went out to picnic and watch their troops make a quick end to the rebel Confederates. Their pride nearly cost them their city that day and the War Between the States along with it. Spiritual conflicts are no game! This is serious business and we are facing a serious enemy. We are in warfare with Satan and his spirit of pride and we must never forget it. If we do, we lose the war!
B. Resist Satan’s Program
We must also resist Satan’s program. Satan has distinct strategies to attack believers. First: He pretends to be your friend .The small compromises of your life are Satan’s Trojan horses to infiltrate your life. This is why Proverbs says to "beware of the little foxes which sneak in to rob the grapes. Secondly: He measures his attack carefully. He only seeks as much as he can get from us without us recognizing who he is. Finally: He uses tactical retreat. He will make you think he has left you alone for a time to lull you into complacency (see Matthew 12:43-45).
It makes sense that we should also have a strategy of resistance to Satan just as he has a strategy of attack against us. Everything that follows in this passage is how we can resist Satan.
Draw near to God – Satan will not.
Purify yourself – Satan cannot stand purity
Repent of your sin of pride – Satan cannot stand humility
II. Remember (vv.8-10)
A. Remember Our Predicament
James reminds us to remember our predicament. That predicament begins with the fact that we are called to draw near to God (v.8). We are encouraged in Scripture to develop this close relationship with God. David said, “it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God, That I may declare all Your works” (Psalm 73:28). We are called in Hebrews 10:19-22 to draw near to God in full assurance of faith.
So what is the predicament? The problem is this: We often have things that stand between us and drawing near to God. Therefore James calls on the examine our spirits. He says, cleanse your hands you sinners … purify your hearts (v.8). The priests of the Old Testament were required to cleans their hands every time they ministered before the Lord (see Exodus 30:19-21). 2 Corinthians 7:1 says, “having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” Is there anything in your life that you don’t want to bring into the presence of God? You must cleanse yourself of those things or you cannot resist Satan!
To draw near to God we must examine our minds. Purify your hearts, you double-minded (v.8). James is saying, “Make up your mind.” You say you want God’s grace and power in your life but are you are doing what it takes to receive that grace? A terrible scene played out on the news a few years ago. A building was on fire and a firemen was trying to get a woman to let go of the window she was clinging to so he could save her. The woman clung to the window unwilling to trust the man trying to save her. In the end she burned to death clinging to that window. She was double-minded. She wanted to be saved but she didn’t want to let go. When it comes to the warfare with sin and Satan we are in we have to decide if we will cling to our ways or trust God and follow Him.
To draw near to God we must also respond appropriately to what God shows us in our own lives. Much of what we see should cause us to lament. (v.9). That word derives from a Greek word meaning to undergo hard times. There is nothing harder than being humbled by God but there is also nothing better!
In short, we need to get a sober perspective on life. We need to mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom (v.9). We need to learn the balance Paul had between joy and sorrow. He could rejoice and sing hymns while in a Philippian jail or cry out “What a wretched man I am,” when he saw his sin.
B. Remember God’s Promise
Finally, we are reminded to remember God’s promise. If we come to God as described in the preceding verses, He will lift you up. This is the opposite of pride. In pride we try to lift ourselves up; in humility it is God who lifts us up. “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12).
When Billy Graham was driving through a small southern town, he was stopped by a policeman and charged with speeding. Graham admitted his quilt, but was told by the officer that he would have to appear in court. The judge asked, ‘Guilty, or not guilty?’ When Graham pleaded guilty, the judge replied, ‘That’ll be ten dollars—a dollar for every mile you went over the limit.’” “Suddenly the judge recognized the famous minister. ‘You have violated the law,’ he said. ‘The fine must be paid—but I am going to pay it for you.’ He took a ten-dollar bill from his own wallet, attached it to the ticket, and then took Graham out and bought him a steak dinner! ‘That,’ said Billy Graham, ‘is how God treats repentant sinners’.
You started your journey of faith by God’s grace and you will finish it that way. Throw yourself on God and He will left you up. That is our safety net.