Thursday, February 01, 2024

2024.02.01 Hopewell @Home ▫ James 4:6–10

Read James 4:6–10

Questions from the Scripture text: What does the Spirit give (James 4:6a)? How much of it? What does He say (verse 6b–c, cf. Proverbs 3:34)? What does God do to the proud? What does God do to the humble? What does James 4:7 command us to do to God? What does it command us to do to the devil? And what will the devil then do? What does submitting to God mean doing (James 4:8)? And what will God then do? In what two areas does this submitting especially take place? What, about us, makes us need to cleanse our hands? What, about us, makes us need to purify our hearts? What does this mean doing with respect to our prior joys (James 4:9)? How does James 4:10 summarize this section?

What is at stake in refusing to indulge ourselves? James 4:6–10 prepares us for the second serial reading in public worship on the Lord’s Day. In these five verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that refusing to indulge ourselves is really to take our place before God and near to Him.

How believers can humble themselves, James 4:6. We just heard in James 4:5 that the Spirit yearns jealously that we would reciprocate God’s love. It is the Spirit Who pours out God’s love in our hearts to begin with (cf. Romans 5:5). But when we live to indulge ourselves, as if we are our own chief end, we do the exact opposite of loving God (cf. James 4:3-4). 

So now the Spirit gives even more grace (James 4:6a), which He does especially by the Scripture. He has given us Proverbs 3:34, and He blesses to us that Scripture, to show us our smallness so that we will humble ourselves before God. Indulging ourselves is actually a form of arrogance—placing what we desire over what the Lord directs. So, we need grace to be humble—to take our place as creatures who find our purpose and pleasure in our Creator! It is the grace of the Holy Spirit that enables humility.

How believers can resist the devil, James 4:7-8. Just as in the garden, submitting to God (James 4:7a) means resisting the devil (verse 7b). The first Adam failed to do this. He entertained the devil; and in his fall, all man fell. But the last Adam actively resisted the devil, and after three tries the devil fled (cf. Luke 4:13). Now, those who are in Jesus commit, like their Savior, to resisting temptation. Like their Savior, believers commit to submitting to God (cf. Luke 22:42) and finding Him and His will to be their pleasure (cf. Hebrews 12:2). As believers resist Satan to humble themselves to God, this Scripture assures them of a reprieve. It assures them that the devil will flee.

But why will the devil flee? Because submitting to God is drawing near to God. The devil cannot endure the presence of God! If we draw near to God by submission, and He draws near to us, the devil cannot abide with us. We do not resist the devil by stirring up some inner strength from ourselves. We resist him by submitting to God, drawing near to God, Whose strength sends the devil flying from us. And what a sweet way of warfare this is! Many believers desire to draw near to God, but they think it is merely some kindling of affection. Truly there must be affection for Him, but here, drawing near to Him is described in terms of submission and cleansing.

Just as the devil cannot abide in the presence of God, neither can our sin or any competing desire. These, too, cannot be tolerated if we are to enjoy the Lord and His presence. Our hands must be clean from sin. Our hearts and minds must be single-mindedly, purely, set upon the Lord Himself. Drawing near to God is not a pile of emotional mush; it is love for Him that is strong and diligent and courageous and resolved to cleanse our hands from every sin. It is love for Him that refuses any competing desire and brings all right desires into their proper place as an expression of our love, first, for Him.

How believers purse clean hands and pure hearts, James 4:9-10. Drawing near to God is difficult because, in our remaining fleshliness, we enjoy sin or worldliness too much. So, James 4:9 teaches us to declare war on that “joy” (verse 9). What we were apart from Him must be brought low, so that we might be brought before Him (James 4:10a). And it is there that we will find ourselves raised up to inexpressible joy (verse 10b, cf. 1 Peter 1:8). But as long as we are thinking that sin or worldliness are actually pleasure, we will be unable to come before the Lord and have a right view of the joy set before us. So, we need grace to lament and mourn over what had made us laugh and be merry. Can we be merry over that which distanced us from the Lord. No, rather, let us turn that laughter to mourning and that joy to gloom. Then, we will be able to have the true laughter and joy of being lifted up in the presence of God!

What earthly pleasures are you in danger of enjoying for their own sake, rather than as a part of your enjoying the Lord? What sins are you most tempted to hold onto? From Whom can you get the grace to lament and mourn over these things in their resistance to God? How can you draw near to God, instead, and transfer that resistance to the devil? What awaits you, when you do this?

Sample prayer:  Lord, give us grace to humble ourselves before You. We confess that we have made ourselves Your enemies in our pride. We have left ourselves open to the devil by being ok with sin and thinking that we can live for ourselves, alongside living for You. Forgive us, and help us! Make us to count sinful and worldly “pleasure” as actually a great grief! Bring us low in submission, whereby we may draw near to You. And lift us up to that joy that we may have in You, through Christ, in Whose Name we ask it, AMEN!

 Suggested songs: ARP73C “Yet Constantly, I Am with You” or TPH73C “In Sweet Communion, LORD, with Thee”

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