Safe with God: Devotional Commentary for July 26-August 1
This is the Word of God. May the Spirit of Truth give us Wisdom and Insight to receive what has been conveyed through His Word by His Inspiration.
7Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
8Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
9Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.
the opening words of the passage before us are heavy and convicting. But they reflect God's serious call upon His children to reject the world and renounce the sin-nature. Friendship with the world is enmity with God.
James had already helped us identify the source of conflicts and discord within the Christian community. He challenged us to look inward into our own unruly and restless hearts. He exhorted us to honestly deal with the turbulence raging within our troubled souls. Here in this passage however, he acquaints us with the chief and only perpetrator of evil who takes advantage of our natural inclinations, and tells us how we can effectively ward off his schemes.
He urges us to resist the devil by drawing nearer to God. That is, when we submit ourselves to God, the devil will flee from us. When we place ourselves under the Authority of God, our natural inclinations will be less accessible to the devil. That is the only way to effectively resist the formidable union of the ungodly world, the sin nature, and the devil.
James identifies three lines of responsive actions which would effectively lead us to submission to God. First, we must be steadfastly resolute deep within our soul to draw nearer to God. Second, our hearts must be cleansed. Third, our minds must be clear.
James' focus is on the struggling Christian as well as the complacent believer whose casual commitment encourages the desire to synchronize the sin-nature with the New Man, subjecting the child of God to the influences of the old nature. We must consciously reject such influences purposely and deliberately choosing to side with God. We must seek forgiveness, cleansing, and restoration from God through a genuine and heartfelt repentance. Drawing nearer to God or submitting to Him comprises commitment, repentance, forgiveness, cleansing, and restoration.
James knows all-too-well that by God's Grace and Power, we can separate ourselves from the evil influences of the old nature through meditation upon God's Word, repentance, and by heeding the instructive voice of the Holy Spirit from within. So he calls upon all believers to come to our merciful and gracious Father with earnest supplication and tearful penitence. He urges us to lament and mourn over our indifference to sin and casual reflections toward God. He admonishes us to reject the fleeting laughter and temporal joy of this passing world.
10Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. Do Not Judge a Brother.
11Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.
12There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?
Such serious lamentations and mournings over sin require a drastic change of the mind and of the heart. That is what we call repentance—a drastic change of the mind and the heart. A renewed mind, a cleansed heart, a humbled soul. James says to humble ourselves before the Lord. Humility is the fruit of the Spirit's work in a heart redeemed by God's Grace. Here, we are counseled to humble ourselves before God. When we humble ourselves before God in repentance, the Lord Himself will forgive us and upholds us in the joy of His Mercy. He will lift us up and exalt us in Jesus Christ.
Humbling oneself before God is a spiritual response. It is done through the Holy Spirit's intervention. It cannot be accomplished through the actions of the human will apart from the Power and Inspiration of the Holy Spirit. A truly penitent believer must first obey the Lord by rejecting the natural human desire for self-promotion and by coming to the Lord with a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
The penitent lamentations and the mournings of a repenting believer dismantle the strongholds of the old nature and enable the New Man's spirit to be genuinely humble before the Lord. Such a humble Christian would certainly experience the sufficiency of God's Grace. The forgiven spirit of such a believer would no longer be under the defiant and contemptuous spell of the old nature. Such a liberated believer would build godly relationships with fellow believers and would not judge or condemn a brother or a sister in Christ. A believer so humbled would not set off conflicts or disharmony within the Body of Christ.
Contention among Christians manifests itself through slander and unwholesome communications. James emphatically speaks against evil communications among Christians not only because of what it does but also on the account of what it is. Slanderous remarks or conversations not only cast aspersions on others, but also pollute the mind, defile the spirit, and disturb the soul.
Slander is a manner of defiance toward God and His Word. It is disobedience to His Law. When we practice slander, we are actually assuming the authority to judge others. When we are involved in a slanderous conversation, we are promoting falsehood, hurting fellow believers, judging others, insinuating malicious gossip, and displeasing God. When we slander, we are venturing into God's Authority, taking His Law into our hands and passing judgment upon others. When we slander, we are disregarding God's prerogatives as the only Lawgiver. He is the only Lawgiver with the exclusive Authority to judge, to save, to destroy.
When we make others victims of our evil communications, we are slipping into a Pharisaic presumption. When we spitefully badmouth others, we become an offense to God and an affront to fellow believers. James reminds us who we are by asking us "who are we to judge?" Slander, gossip, and evil communications of any kind should remain dead with the old nature so that the child of God continues to commune with the Father with a cleansed heart, clear mind, and humble spirit.
Our life and future are in the hands of God. Hence, we should not excuse our depraved past. Nor should we be condescending and arrogant about today or boastful about tomorrow. We should stand humble before the Lord. He resists the proud but gives His Grace to the humble.
What is the cure for a double-minded, wavering, and a wobbly faith? What is the cure for condescension and Pharisaic presumption? Humility in Christ. submission to God. Surrender to the Spirit.
True humility is the antidote to selfishness. It is the antidote to the old nature. It is the antidote to pride, greed, and contempt. Humility is what draws us closer to God. It helps us deny ourselves and look to God.
Repentance takes place only in a heart that is humble before God. Such humility moves us to mourn our depravity. It exposes our quarrelsome attitude and contentious belligerence. Himility empties us of ourselves and prepares us for the work of the Holy Spirit and God's living Word.
True humility recognizes the Lordship of God and brings the heart to confession and genuine contrition. When we are cloaked in a Spirit-induced humility, we come to our gracious God not only for forgiveness but also for restoration and preservation. We confess our sins not only because they are evil, but also because we submit ourselves to God, to a Holy God in a responsive obedience, loving service, and inspired worship.
Pride, selfishness, and greed promote strife but humility cures ungodliness. With repentance we surrender to God and place ourselves under His Authority, prayerfully pleading: Let Your Word abide in us so that we may draw closer to You by Your Grace and by Your Power. "Oh Helper of the helpless", "Oh Thou Who changest not"! Abide in us, indeed, abide with us.