Summary: As we submit to God and come near to him through his Word and Sacraments, he lifts us up in victory over the devil and washes us clean. Parts: A. The devil will flee. B. Your heart will be clean.
Text: James 4:7-10
Theme: Submit to God, For He Lifts Up the Lowly
A. The devil will flee
B. Your hearts will be clean
Season: Lent 4c
Date: March 14, 2010
Web page: http://hancocklutheran.org/sermons/Submit-to-God,-For-He-Lifts-Up-the-Lowly-James4_7-10.html
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit lifts us up is James 4.
"Therefore, be subordinate to God. Stand against the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Clean your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Suffer misery. Grieve. Weep. Let your laughter turn into grief and your joy into gloom. Be humbled before the Lord, and he will lift you up." (James 4:7-10)
Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:
Submission. That's a dirty word today. Talking about submission makes you sound like a throwback to the days of slavery. Only an evil, egotistical monster would force others to submit to him, right? And certainly there have been and still are such monsters that give submission a bad name, coercing, terrifying, and abusing those under them for their own selfish gain.
But without submission properly practiced, our society would disintegrate. For example, if no one submitted to police officers or to the rule of law in the courts, how soon before chaos reigns? We wouldn't even be safe barricaded in our own house. And how many current societal problems find their roots in homes where the order God has arranged is not practiced because no one wants to submit. So the husband does not act as the loving head and the children run the show. Yes, God knew what he was doing when he arranged the family as he did. What blessings flow when we follow the order he's arranged, submitting to those he has placed over us!
Now the submission our old Adam kicks against the hardest is submitting to God. And this is where the stakes are highest. For far worse than a period of earthly chaos is an endless eternity of pandemonium in hell. Yet how tempting for you and me to put on the outward trappings of Christianity and appear good in the eyes of others, but still keep myself enthroned in my heart, refusing to truly submit to God! How easily we deceive even ourselves!
So James writes to his Christian readers, including you and me, "Submit yourselves . . . to God" (James 4:7 NIV). Simple and to the point. But don't imagine that God is a tyrannical monster or even just a little bit unfair in telling us to submit. For you see, James makes clear that God has great blessings planned for you, blessings that he can only give as we submit to him. For you see, he lifts up the lowly. So our theme today is: Submit to God, for he lifts up the lowly. And what are the blessings he gives as he lifts you? We want to consider two of them: The devil will flee. You will be clean.
A. The devil will flee
1. How do we stand alongside God in our battle against the devil?
The military depends on the chain of command. Each rank knows its place. Each submits to the officers above it. The private submits to the sergeant who submits to the lieutenant who submits to the captain who submits to the major who submits to the colonel who submits to the general. And that's only a simplified version. If the chain of command breaks, the enemy doesn't flee, but the unordered soldiers do. The enemy picks them off one by one. Blood runs deep as casualties mount. Battles and wars are lost.
We, dear Christians, are engaged in the fiercest battle of all. "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 6:12 NIV). So James urges us: "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7 NIV).
But how can we do that? The devil deceived and defeated our perfect ancestors, Adam and Eve. How can we sinners resist him? The devil is a roaring lion, a flaming spirit, how can we mere mortals stand against him?
Notice how James continues: "Come near to God and he will come near to you" (James 4:8 NIV). We have God on our side right next to us, as we submit to him. But how do we come near to him? Where do we encounter and meet with God?
Think about what Jesus said on that last night before his death. He told his disciples, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6 NIV). Only through Jesus do we come near to God. For Jesus is our God in the flesh. A little later that same night Jesus said, "If you remain in me and my words remain in you . . ." (John 15:7 NIV). So we meet Jesus in his word.