Posted November 07, 2014
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.
In these two verses, James calls the Christian to live a life submitted to God, resistant to the devil, and that ever draws near to the One who draws near to us. Let’s look at these three verbs:
We are to submit ourselves to God, much like a soldier would submit to their General, putting ourselves in subjection to Christ’s authority in our lives. We do this with the knowledge that our lives are no longer our own, but have been bought with the high price of the blood of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). The truth is we often prefer to submit to our own will, our own kingdom, and our selfish desires, but this submission is a reminder of the true reality that God is the supreme King and Ruler, not ourselves. The irony of this struggle is that submission to anything else other than God leads to death and oppression, but submission to God actually leads us back to true & flourishing living as God intended in the Garden of Eden. This submission should be a joyful one because it re-humanizes us.
James introduces us to spiritual warfare with his second verb. This verb is the precise opposite of the last one. Instead of submitting to the devil, we are to resist him. To give in to temptation is to submit to the devil. There is an enemy, and he is to be fought and resisted. In Luke 4:13, Jesus showed us a clear example of submission as He drew near to God in the wilderness, resisting the devil’s temptations and ultimately the devil fled. Here James calls us to do the same, and the promised result is that “he will flee from you” as he did for Jesus. This is a revealing passage about the nature of our enemy and our susceptibility to temptation. We need not give in to temptation; resistance is possible. It is interesting to note that our enemy needs our participation in order to be effective. Our participation creates the cracks by which he will infiltrate our hearts and minds with his poison and lies. At the end of the day, who will we submit to and who will we resist?
Verse 8 is one of the most comforting passages in all of scripture, as it should be. We are not meant to simply resist the devil, but instead run to and find refuge in God. Sam Storms says that, “Drawing near is an invisible act of the soul. It is that spiritual movement of the heart of a man or woman by which we cry out to God for help, by which we express our trust in his goodness, by which we lay hold of his promises, by which we believe him to be all that Scripture says that he is, by which we proclaim that he is great and beautiful and praise him for all he is and has done, by which say, ‘You alone are my hope and my joy and my salvation and I refuse to trust in another.’”
May we heed the exhortation of James and resist the devil. The way we resist him is precisely by submitting to and drawing near to our glorious and powerful God. May we be comforted by the promise that he will indeed draw near to us.
Song by Aaron Strumpel.
Artwork by Jacob Cowdin.