Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded… Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. (James 4:7,8,10)
As we have noted in previous articles, the epistle of James is one of the most practical letters on Christian living found in scripture. As usual, James has answers to common problems that plague Christians. He addresses issues such as persecution, poverty, sorrows, and pain by saying in the first chapter, “Count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” He speaks of the equality of the saints in chapter two by telling us we should not unduly favor the rich over the poor which is part of the poor judgment we are prone to exercise. Chapter three is about a foul mouth, and in this culture it hardly goes without saying that evil speech is pervasive.
Chapter four is no different as James addresses the most fundamental of all Christian problems; that is we are in a constant battle with Satan as he tempts us to deny our faith by living in the sins of our old nature. All sin is the result of temptation, and the yielding to temptation is the forgetfulness that Christ has saved us for a life of holiness and righteousness which results in unceasing dedication to His will for our lives. Living in the will of God is to live by His commandments which enable us to reach ultimate fulfillment of our purpose. We are saved to glorify God. Paul says, “Therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
Since temptation is a daily ongoing problem, we must learn what to do when we are tempted. James provides a practical outline that if followed brings guaranteed success. The Bible does not tell us to try things to see if they work; it commands us to do them because they will work. The first step in overcoming temptation is to submit to God. Put yourself in God’s hands and be pliable enough to listen and act according to His words. Sin is the transgression of God’s law (1 John 3:4), so it stands to reason that if you obey God’s commandments you will not enter into sin. When James says to submit to God and to resist the devil, he is speaking in military terms, but he is not talking about hand to hand combat. He means to focus your attention on what God as commander has commanded, and then being energized by God’s Word your mind is able to combat temptation. The Word is called the sword of the Spirit and if you want to defeat Satan you must wield the sword.
The example for this kind of combat is the Lord’s own temptation in the wilderness. In each temptation, Jesus recalled words of scripture and replied to Satan “it is written.” The scriptures were His source of strength. The Psalmist said, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psa. 119:11).
Secondly, James says “draw nigh to God.” Isaiah says that sin separates us from God. The way to get close to God is to repent of our sins. We do this by going to God in prayer and asking for His forgiveness. He is always faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from unrighteousness. This is expressed by “Cleanse your hands, ye sinners, and purify your hearts…” How do we do this? None of us is able to cleanse our own hearts; only God can. However, we can take the action which will lead to its accomplishment. You must “humble yourself in the sight of the Lord,” and then the promise follows: “and he shall lift you up.”
Sometimes we refer to these activities as “the secret to Christian living.” There is nothing secret about it. God’s word is very plain and very practical. Nothing is purposely hidden to those that know Christ. Read it and apply it. “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). Satan flees at God’s word. These are not God’s covert ops; they are as well known to the devil as they are to you!
Pastor V. Mark Smith