Delivered By
C.C. Risenhoover
Delivered On
February 7, 2016
Central Passage
James 4:7-12
Subject
Promises of God
Description

February 7, 2016

CLEAN UP

James 4:7-12

 

A beautiful truth runs like a vein of blood throughout the entire Bible…both the Old and New Testaments.  That truth is that God is passionately seeking those who are passionately seeking Him.

In Jeremiah 29:13-14, God promises thatIf anyone seeks me with all his heart, I will be found by him.”  In other words, God is not playing hide-and-seek with you, me or anyone else.  He’s not MIA (missing in action).  Through the Holy Spirit…He is an ever-present God.

What we learn from Scripture is that God is omnipresent…meaning that He can be everywhere at the same time…whereas Satan can be only in one place at a time.  So if Satan happens to be at the White House today…he can’t be in this house.  He has to depend on his minions to spread his evil…and he has lots of them.  Some are here, of course, but he, personally, doesn’t have the ability to be everywhere at the same time like God does.

James 4:8 tells us, “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.”  For those who question how one grows close to God…first, it’s a matter of cleaning up your act.  Verse 7 of our text says, “Submit yourselves, then, to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you…”

There it is…as plain as the nose on your face.  Before we draw near to God…we must do more than submit to Him.  We must also resist the devil and all the junk he has his folks out selling.  That means not accepting the evil one’s teaching…and not listening to the sinful trash that one of his minions is whispering in your ear and encouraging you to do.

If you’re a Christian…God is not only with you…He has also assigned one of His angels to protect you.  And, of course, Satan has assigned one of his demons to tempt you to deny and disobey God.  But, that can only happen if you allow it.  If you have the Holy Spirit…you’re a lot stronger than the devil…and certainly a lot stronger than one of his demons ever thought about being.

So we have twin principles with twin promises: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.”

How we should interact with Satan or one of his minions is spelled out with one simple word: RESIST.  Don’t hang out with him…or them.  Don’t converse with him…or them.  Don’t try to outsmart him…or them.  Just RESIST.  If we resist the devil or any of his helpers…we’re promised that he…or they…will leave us alone.

It’s a temporary respite, of course.  Neither Satan nor any of his helpers will leave you alone permanently.  So you’re going to have to be in the RESIST mode for the rest of your life.

Today psychiatrists diagnose bad and sinful behavior with terms like “poor impulse control” or “oppositional defiant disorder.”  And, there’s a pill for everything.  People today assume that they have no responsibility to control their sinful actions.  They don’t know how to say no…even though the courage to say no to sin is part of drawing near to God.

Again, James 4:8 (ESV) says, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”  But, that verse continues with “Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

We’re not only to RESIST Satan’s influence…we’re to also wash our hands and purify our hearts.  We’re going to sin…that’s a given…but when we do we have to repent and agree with God that our sin is ugly.  And, cleaning our filthy hands and purifying our tainted hearts shows that we’re serious about drawing close to God.

As to why scripture mentions “double-minded”…it’s because being double-minded is a sin.  It’s an indication that a person hasn’t really made the clear choice between Satan’s world and God’s world.  James makes that clear in verse 4 when he writes: “You adulterous people!  Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?  Therefore whoever chooses to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (ESV).

There is no middle ground…no room for a person who wants to play both sides.  You can’t draw near to God and sin at the same time.  Turning to God means turning your back on Satan and sin.  In Romans 8, Paul wrote that a mind that is on the flesh means certain death…but that a mind on the Spirit means life and peace.  You can’t have your mind on both.  You can’t be double-minded.

James 4:5 tells us that God “…yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us” (ESV).  God wants you to choose Him…to have fellowship with Him…but that fellowship will be on His terms…not ours.  Again, you can’t be double-minded in this matter.

So the first step to drawing near to God is to clean up…and the second is to humble down.  Verses 9 and 10 tells us “Be wretched and mourn and weep.  Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you” (ESV).

For each and every one of us…pride is a subtle and dangerous sin trap.  That’s why James 4:5-6 tells us that God will give us more grace if we ask…and that He “…opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

We tend to give much thought to sin traps such as lust of the flesh…or lust of the eyes.  But, we can become so impressed with our ability to avoid these sins that we fall prey to a boastful pride of life.  Pride is actually the most subtle and dangerous sin trap of all.  A proud person is in no shape to draw near to God because they are too occupied with self-aggrandizement to bow to God.

James 4:9 tells us to grieve, mourn and wail…to change our laughter to mourning and our joy to gloom.  When you seek to draw closer to God…you might have a greater propensity to shed tears when reading the scriptures…when praying…or when listening to Christian music.  Your emotions might become very raw when you’re seeking to draw closer to God.

James 4:9 is not so much a command as it is an explanation of what happens to us emotionally when we have a yearning to draw near to God.  A flippant attitude won’t help you connect with the Almighty…but a heartfelt yearning to do so will most likely loosen up your tears.  And, sorrow can definitely be part of the humbling process.

James 4:10 tells us toHumble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”  Humility is important because a root of all sin is lack of fear of the Lord.  And, lack of fear of the Lord comes from pride.  God will never manifest His presence in an atmosphere where there is no awe of Him…a place where He is not revered, obeyed and respected.

And, humility is a vital element to fearing the Lord.  You must humble yourself in order to fear the Lord.  But, before you get the wrong idea…there’s a big difference between being so scared of God that you want to avoid Him…and the kind of fear of God that causes you to want to be near Him.  Fear of the Lord means loving what God loves and hating what God hates.  It means agreeing with God about right and wrong.  And, it requires that we be honest about our own sins and weaknesses.

If we don’t have a proper fear of God, we tend to excuse ourselves for our sinning and think we’re not so bad.  But, if we understand that God is all-powerful and perfectly just…we’re deeply sorry for our sins and failings.  In other words, we live in a state of repentance.

It is the fear of the Lord that keeps us from sin…and it is sin that keeps us from intimacy with God.  A primary manifestation of fear of the Lord is an unwavering obedience to the desires and will of God.

So, can you be saved and lack intimacy with God…live in the “outer court” so to speak?  Can you be saved, yet be restricted from intimacy with God by the veil of your own flesh?

I don’t think so…but you’re welcome to try to prove me wrong.  And, please answer this question: If a Christian isn’t trying to draw close to God…what is he or she doing in their spiritual life?

The first thing we have to do when attempting to draw close to God is to clean up…the second is to humble down with proper fear and respect for God…and the third is to behave ourselves.

James 4:11-12 tells us, “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers.  The one who speaks against a brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law.  But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.  There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and destroy you.  But who are you to judge your neighbor?”

It seems that James suddenly jumps from talking about our relationship with God to talking about our relationship with each other.  But, I think he’s on the same subject…it being the question of how can a Christian draw near to God until he or she draws closer to other believers?  How can we buddy up to God while holding our brothers and sisters in Christ in contempt or disdain?

We can’t.  That’s why 1 John 4:20-21 states: “If anyone says ‘I love God.’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar.  For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.  And he has given us this command: whoever loves God must also love his brother."

John isn’t talking about a biological relationship here.  He’s talking about a church family.  But, if you grew up in a family where you had brothers or sisters (or both)…it would be normal for your parents to not like it if you were fighting with your siblings.  It would be difficult to draw close to them when you were in the middle of a big fight with a brother or sister.

God is like a good parent.  He doesn’t want you beating up on any of your brothers or sisters in Christ…physically or mentally.  Unfortunately, on a regular basis most churches have members assaulting other members either verbally or in some other way…and you can’t draw close to God when your high-octane emotions are accelerating with fuel enhancing backbiting, hate, envy or malice for one of your Father’s other children.  Bickering with…and hurtful talk about other church members will keep you from drawing close to God.

One translation of the Bible has James saying “…do not slander one another” and a different translation has him saying, “Do not speak evil against one another…”  Either admonition fits with a truism spoken by many parents…it being “If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all.”

But, we need to watch how we think about each other, too…because thoughts have a way of sneaking out of us and becoming words and actions.  A lot of the problems between Christians would never happen if we simply gave each other the benefit of the doubt.  We certainly don’t have any business judging the underlying motives of other Christians.

That doesn’t mean that we overlook actual sin.  But, it does mean that we should be careful about judging the hearts and motives of other Christians.  The last time I checked…only God could see what’s in a person’s heart and mind.

If you want to draw near to God…draw near to His people.  That’s where He is…and that’s where He wants you to be.  You’re not going to draw close to God by hugging a tree or communing with nature.  God’s presence isn’t just doctrine. His presence is something to be enjoyed every second of every day.

So if you truly want His presence in your life…clean up, humble down and behave yourself.

In 1 Peter 5: 8, we’re told thatYour adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”  Well, God’s on the prowl, too…seeking people who want to draw near to Him and make a difference in this sinful world.

Are you one of those people?  Are you ready to take the battle to the devil…not just sit on your comfort like the devil wants you to do?  If you are…this is your church and your opportunity.  Don’t be a bench warmer.  It’s time to take the battle to the enemy.

Paul stated it well in Romans 8:31.  “If God is far us, who can be against us?”  Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.

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