The Submissive Life! — James 4:6-10
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 27, 2014
But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (James 4:6-10 NIV)
In God’s mercy, he extends to us more grace. Sometimes I wonder if we do not take advantage of the love of God in our lives. What I mean is that we can forget what the grace of God is all about. It is his unmerited love for us. We did not earn it, we could not buy it, nor could we be good enough for it. God freely gave it through the sacrifice of his Son Jesus. We still have the desires and lusts of our natural lives and our prayers are often the result of these desires that battle with in us. And, often they are not what God desires for our lives; however in his rich wonderful mercy he extends to us “more grace.” God sets himself against us when we lust after those ungodly worldly things that do us no good or that which is counterproductive to the kingdom purposes of God. He opposes it with every part of his being because he is holy and righteous. Herein is the wonderful beautiful truth of the gospel, he gives more grace not because we deserve it, demand it, but simply because we require it. God gives us more grace because of what Jesus has done for us! Paul taught that, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV)” We are taught that the gospel message is the message of God’s grace, “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:16-17 NIV)”
However, we learn that “God opposes the proud,” those caught up in their own desires, “but gives grace to the humble;” those who have submitted themselves to the Lord Jesus Christ. Humility is a lost characteristic in our day and age. We misunderstand its biblical definition and consider it a weakness to be avoided at all cost. Humility is not weakness nor is it meekness. It is the character quality that the Apostle Peter had to learn over and over again. In arrogance he jumps out of the boat, yet in his fearful pride he begins to sink beneath the waves. He took his eyes off the Lord. He proclaimed for all to hear that he would never deny Jesus, but he did three times and suffered the humiliation of his betrayal! Yet, in his magnificent grace Jesus extends his love and forgiveness to Peter the same amount of times he denied his Master and friend. Paul did the same thing in much of his life. Arrogantly he was educated in the Scriptures, was well-read, and even given a trust to persecute those he thought who were opposing God. The problem was, he never asked God what he thought about Paul’s prideful way of life. God in his grace took a spiritually blind man and blinded him physically in order to help him see clearly his sinful pride. We can get so caught up in our own lives that we think we only need God when we need him. We forget that at just the right time he pulled us to himself, extended his mercy to us, bought us with a horrendous price, and gave us eternity. He does not give us more grace so that we will squander it, misuse it, or ignore it. God does not give us more grace so we will have a great day. He gives us more grace when we humble ourselves, confess our sinful condition, and return to him. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2 NIV)” God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.
And herein is a wonderful spiritual truth, while he opposes the proud, he gives grace to the humble. However humility is a hard choice to those who are used to getting their own way. We are reminded by James to “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.” We do not like that word submit. But it is as necessary in the life of a believer as water is to the survival of a fish. Christians cannot exist in a sin driven world without it. “Why?” you might ask and the answer is simply because we so easily fall prey to the wicked condition; the “natural order” of the world around us. We forget our true nature as we swim in our fish bowl of life. We get used to the filth we have to survive in day after day and without the constant reminder of God’s presence in our lives, we begin to enjoy our surroundings. In fact, James reminds us that when we do we secretly invite Satan into our lives. Not for our eternal destruction but rather for our momentary gratification. He becomes our partner in pleasure, our cohort in crime, and the embarrassment of our existence. We get embarrassed because we know whose company we should be keeping instead. We get angered if our dirty little secret sinful condition is pointed out. We get prideful of the perversions we now enjoy and justify our actions and behaviors. “I need this!” I deserve this!” “This makes me happy!” and we cling to the filth we dig up as if it were the most precious treasure we have found. Yet here in our most pathetic condition there is hope, a lifeline thrown from the shore, a lanyard we can cling to. If we submit ourselves to God, resist the Devil, he will flee from us! He cannot stay where the presence of the Lord is. He cannot stand in the presence of a holy one of God bought with the precious price of God’s only Son’s blood! When the fellowship of the cross is tenaciously clung to, his usefulness in our lives is exposed for its worthless nature that it truly is. But old friendships die hard. They are not easily given up and forsaken. But they must be if we are to resist those who would drag us back into the depravity of the world. If we come near to God, he will come near to us, but we must resist the one who roars like a lion, is as sly as a snake, who seeks to devour our lives.
Again, Paul reminds us that “where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:20-21 NIV)” There it is again, the wonderful grace of God. In his mercy he reminds us through James, “Come near to God and he will come near to you.” It is the whisper of our heavenly father asking us to leave the muck of the pigpen, to put down the slop we are eating and are sustaining ourselves on, and come home to his warm abundant table. Come home to the warmth and friendship of the one who truly loves us and never seeks to destroy our lives. “Come home,” he calls. Yet, how do we do that when we know we are stained by the ungodliness we were once part of? How can we enter into the dining hall with its richness, the white table clothes, the abundant food, and the warmth of family and friends who are waiting for us? How can we enter in when we are so filthy with the world? We can because of God’s grace, his mercy, when we cry out to him from the depths of our condition. We are to admit and see our lives for what they truly have become. James writes, “Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” Those who came to dinner in a Jewish household always prepared themselves first before enjoying the meal or good company. Like my Mama who always asked before we dared eat, “Did you wash your hands?” we are reminded to do the very same preparation. As sinners we cannot enter into the good company of the Lord without doing so. It is a reminder of our need to confess our sins, to “purify” our “hearts.” Our entire lives are to be given over to the Lord, our Master, anew. We were once bought by his blood but we allowed ourselves the false company of strangers, the dirt of the road, and soiled our souls. We who once said we loved the Lord ran into the arms of another lover. We lied. And when we do not readily confess our adultery we cannot restore our relationship. We have to confess our sins and purify our hearts, all that we are, and no longer be doubled-minded. In fact, James says we should “Grieve” mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.” He is saying we should be totally devastated by our sinful condition, not making excuses for our ungodliness. Like those who would hire professional mourners to cry and wail over the dead, we are to “grieve, mourn, and wail” over our death to sin. After all “the wages of sin is death”, we are told by Paul. We should be distraught over our death to the Lord after he sacrificed so much to give us his grace.
James leaves us with the promise, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (James 4:10 NIV)” His teaching is what the Psalmist tells us about the Lord God, “The LORD sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground. (Psalms 147:6 NIV)” Those who are willing to leave their sinful pride behind, God will lift up and restore! The key is humility. If we debase ourselves before the Lord, he will indeed lift us up. Our way to soar is first of all found in falling down. Those who willingly give up their ungodliness, our God will dust them off and lift them up. There is a marked advantage to our humility — eventually it brings us honor! Jesus taught, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. (Luke 14:11 NIV)” Our problem is we do not like to give up our control. We think by humbling ourselves we lose part of ourselves, but nothing is further from the truth! This is why many young brides do not like the word “obey” in their marriage vows. They do not want to submit to anyone, thinking if they do they are less of a person. God, however, never asks us to be less than we are. In fact, he desires the very best there is for our lives! He desires us to be what he created us for, his kingdom purposes! This is why the Scriptures relate, “Before his downfall a man’s heart is proud, but humility comes before honor. (Proverbs 18:12 NIV)” Paul boldly wrote, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. (Romans 8:18-19 NIV)” And that, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (Galatians 3:26-27 NIV)” When we place our faith and trust in Jesus as our Savior and Lord we are no longer our own, we are bought with a huge price. When we arrogantly sin and pridefully continue in that sin rather than coming back to the one who saved us, we place ourselves above God himself and his purpose for our lives. We never have to sacrifice that which God desires for our lives. We are his alone and when we come back to him and humble ourselves before the Lord, he will lift us up!
Now, let me ask you, are you willing to live the submissive life and enjoy all that God has to offer you or will you take advantage of God’s grace and return to the pride of your sin?
This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.