Submission and Resisting the Devil

James 4:6b-10
6bTherefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

Because we are so easily distracted by the evil ways of the world, James rightly calls us “adulterous.” That’s a harsh word, isn’t it? If you are familiar with the book of Hosea, you will recognize the image. Hosea is an Old Testament prophet who was commanded by God to live out the reality of God’s relationship with His people. Hosea was commanded by God to marry Gomer – a prostitute. While he took her into his home and treated her with the love and dignity of a wife, she continued to live the life of a prostitute, regularly running away from her husband to have sex with other men for money and gifts. Those things that Hosea lavished upon her as his wife were credited to her other lovers. Hosea and Gomer served as a living, breathing example of the relationship that God has with His people. Just as the Children of Israel ran after other Gods in the Old Testament, so we too run after the ways of the world, leaving our loving and generous God behind. This activity on our part makes God jealous. He wants to be the only recipient of our love and devotion. And finally, there is the ultimate truth – God still gives us grace. He embraces our humility (our recognition of our need for Him) and pours Himself out upon us.

There are so many times per day that I find myself pursuing worldly things rather than God and that can be frightening. But He is always the faithful Husband, awaiting my recognition of my need for the Savior. He is ever there offering grace and acceptance. James lays out the path of submission with clarity. While these ten points seems to be a little overwhelming, they all boil down to point #1 – Submit to God.

  1. Submit – to God
  2. Resist – the devil
  3. Draw near – to God
  4. Cleanse – hands (actions)
  5. Purify – your hearts (thoughts and emotions)
  6. Be wretched – grieve over your sin
  7. Mourn – grieve over your sin
  8. Weep – grieve over your sin
  9. Let your laughter be turned – change your ways
  10. Humble yourself – recognize the truth about yourself

In these four verses we find ten COMMANDS. They are written in the Greek in such a way as to call for immediate action on the part of the reader. Also, to be noted, ten is the number for completeness in the Greek. These words from James lie at the heart of his letter. They are worth our time and attention for in them he gives us some hope and some marching orders. The first command is to submit to God then follows nine ways to do just that.

Back in 1970 (and I confess, I probably saw this when it was actually on for the first time!) Flip Wilson did a comedy routine on the Ed Sullivan Show about the temptations that the devil throws into our paths.

(Here’s a link to the video if you’d like a laugh today.) 

The thrust of the routine is “the devil made me do it! If you believe Flip, the devil is not resistible. But Flip was wrong, which I guess is where the comedy lies. We can resist the devil, for we are told to do just that by James. How do we resist the devil? We run in the opposite direction. For an excellent example of that choice, read the story of Joseph running from Potiphar’s wife in Genesis 39. In the opposite direction of evil we find God, waiting to receive us. Drawing near to God is the exact opposite of allowing the devil to “make us do it.”

The next eight commands in the passage for today all deal with the fact that we are sinners in need of a Savior. Our only job is to recognize that truth and be honest about it before the throne of God. In that honesty lies freedom, for Christ forgives all of our sin. When we are drawing near to God, submitting to Him alone, we are the owners of that freedom and it colors every aspect of our lives. Wouldn’t it be cool to see Satan actually run away from you?!? That is possible when you are seated in God’s lap and that is the clearest path of submission.