Jennifer Speer Notes: Week five

Real Surrender/ James 4

James is a straight shooter. He is direct. To some, he may seem unmerciful in his approach yet the heart of the message is love. Not a permissive, soft love that requires nothing from the receiver. It is a love that lifts us to a better place in our walk with the Lord: a love that urges us to freedom from sin and victorious Christian living.

I. The Problem

James has addressed multiple problems within the church. Chapter 4 is a continuation of his “calling us out” on sinful behavior.

A.   Conflict (James 4:1-4)

In these four verses, James identifies three battles on three different fronts.

1.    The conflict within ourselves, waging war within the members of our own body. Our heart and mind desiring things other people have, causing us to have an inward struggle

2.    The conflict with others. Our own selfish desires spill over into conflict with other people. We want what they have. He even says we murder to get it! Wishing someone would die or murdering their character and reputation may have different consequences than actual physical murder, but Jesus said we still have murder in our hearts and stand guilty. The selfish desiring erupts in quarrels and conflicts –remember James is writing to Christians and speaking about problems in the church! Whew!

3.     The conflict with God.  Selfish living always leads to selfish praying. Verse 2b-3 states we pray but we don’t receive anything from God because our asking is motivated by selfishness. How many times are we guilty of praying selfishly and then getting mad at God because He does not come through on our terms? James uses strong language in verse 4 when he calls Christians adulteresses. A person who is unfaithful in the marriage relationship. The noun is in the feminine form referring to Christians as the bride of Christ and Christ as the groom.  When we live in conflict with ourselves, others, and God, we have become friends with the world system-that which is opposed to God. Friendship with the word rarely comes all in one gigantic swoop. It is a gradually adjusting to the environment around us. (Psalm 1) We begin by walking by and observing. We eventually stand to listen. Finally we sit and soak it in.

Verse 4 says we “make ourselves” an enemy of God. It is a willful choice-made one decision at a time-until we are in the enemy’s camp and far from God.

B.   Criticism ( James 4:11-12)

James addresses a problem he states earlier in Chapter 2. Evidently it was grave enough to mention twice in the same letter. It is the problem of judging other believers. The word “judge” has many shades of meaning in the original language. It means to discriminate, to critique, to show partiality. WE cannot be guilty of doing this within the church—or anywhere. Judging people based on the externals. Be careful. James is NOT SAYING throw out discernment and wisdom. He is saying do not set ourselves up as critics. In judging others we are disregarding the Royal Law of “love thy neighbor as thy self”. There is only one Judge. This word in Verse 12 is used in the judicial sense and it speaks of Jesus Christ. Only Christ can see the heart. Only Christ has the authority to Judge and condemn. There is only one God—and we are not Him!

C.    Control (James 4:13-15)

These verses speak to a naïve, unrealistic idea that somehow we have control of our own lives. Scripture denounces this throughout because mankind has been guilty of it from it the beginning.

Certainly we are to make good plans and use our time and resources wisely. But James is addresses an attitude of the heart that disregards God and puts man in the center of plans, thinking man has some kind of control over the events of the future. We only have to live a few years to know this kind of think is false.

Willian Ernest Henley wrote a poem entitled INVICTUS, meaning unconquered. It is a poem about fortitude in difficult times, a still upper lip mentality. It is a famous poem. Unfortunately, the humanistic strength of the will and fortitude of the individual is the centerpiece. It ends with “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.” These are rather arrogant words in light of Scripture. The Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 4:13, “I CAN do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” The believer in Christ has great fortitude in difficult times, but the acknowledgment of strength in Christ in me.

II.             The Root

So what is the source of all these problems James is addressing? The problem is woven throughout Chapter 4 (Verses 1, 6, 16). It is the problem of pride.

Verse six is clear. God is opposed to the proud. The word opposed means in an aggressive position to come against. (Picture offensive lineman on a pro football team, waiting for the ball to snap.)Proverbs 6:16-17 list seven things God hates. The first on the list is haughty eyes-which is a poetic term for pride.

Pride is defined as to shine with arrogance, to oppose God, to wrongfully and willfully assume the place of God. And God hates it! Why?

Every sin has its roots in pride.

Isaiah 14:12-14 is sometimes called “the ‘I wills’ of Satan. These are the words and actions of Satan that got him cast out of Heaven. The last statement Satan makes in verse 14 is “I will be like the Most High.” Satan wrongfully and willfully, in arrogance, wanted to take the place of God. And God cast him out(Revelation 12:7-9). So where did he go? Earth. Look at Genesis 3.

God commands Adam in Genesis 2:16 to eat from any tree in the garden but do not eat from the tree in the middle of the garden. If he eats from it, Adam will SURELY die. When Eve is created, Adam informs her of the boundaries. But Genesis 3 introduces the serpent, the crafty, cast out Satan who engages Eve in a conversation.  Genesis 3:1 is a ploy Satan uses still today. He casts doubt on God’s Word. He enticed Eve think about what God had said-and doubt the truth of it. Eve responds and twists what God has says. She adds to it and she softens it. Be careful ladies!! God’s Word stands. We cannot add our opinion to it or change the meaning of it to suit our circumstances or our own desires.

Finally, the true nature of Satan erupts. Verse 4-5. Satan calls God a liar. He convinces Eve that God is holding out on her. That God does not want the best for her. That God is not good, or wise, or loving. There is a better plan and a better way than God’s way. Do it YOUR OWN WAY, Satan prompts. Take matters into your hands. Step into the role of God. Disobey Him.

Eve listened to Satan. She disobeyed God out of foolish pride. Sin entered the world and with it came death, fear, and shame.

God hates pride because it is the root for every sin, every sorrow, every bitter spirit, every addiction, every ruined family, every prodigal child, and every conflict in the world and in the church. God hates sin because it ruins and harms us—His beloved creation and His precious people. Certainly the crucifixion is a great demonstration of the love of God for us. But it is also a demonstration of His hatred of sin and the means He was willing to use to free us from sin.

God is not rigid and narrow. He is not harsh and cruel. He is not looking to spoil our fun or make us weird. God’s greatest desire is for His people to live in freedom from sin. The way we live in freedom is simple obedience.

So what is the solution? James 4:6 lets us know, God has a better plan than Satan’s willful prideful way. Grace gives a better way to live.

III.           The Solution (James 4:7-10)

These verses are packed with imperative commands. These verses are the pinnacle of the entire book. Every problem James has addressed can be resolved in the commands of verses 7-10. These commands are not up for discussion—we must do them. BUT we also get to choose to obey. These commands lead to freedom and we get to choose if we want to live in the blessing of freedom from sin.

A.   Submit

Oh how we hate this word! We hate it because we have substituted the world’s definition for God’s plan and purpose. We have assigned value to the word, imagining the person who submits is less valuable than the one to whom they submit. That is not God’s plan.

Submit is a military term. It means “get yourself in the proper rank”. The military cannot function without the chain of command. The private cannot usurp the authority of the general or the commanding officer. Of course the private is important! The private has a different duty than the commanding officer. The private has different responsibilities. The commanding officer would give his life for the private. The private is indeed important BUT the private cannot assume the role of the commanding officer. It creates havoc, and chaos, and rebellion.

We are to submit to God. He is not a despot or dictator. He is our loving Heavenly Father who knows what is best for us. We submit—we put ourselves under Him. It is an act of the will to submit. There may not be goosebumps and high fives when we submit; we may not get all the answers to all of questions. Life’s puzzle may not miraculously come together. But in submitting, we are surrendering our own plans, our own agenda, and our own way. We are abandoning our selfish desires. Surrender must be a complete surrender or conflict will remain. We must allow Christ to be in charge of every thought, action, word, or deed. He must be allowed into every nook and cranny of our lives. He must be given access to everything we have sealed off from public viewing; every secret sin, every desire, hidden ambition. We surrender everything to Christ. Complete and total surrender is the first step to living in freedom. 

B.   Resist  the devil

I am convinced we have dramatized and glamorized so much of the Christian life, we are either afraid of it or view it as unattainable. Resisting the devil is one of those things.

James in not referring to casting out demons, or seeing demons behind every bush. He is saying; if we want to win the battle over sin, simply resist the enemy-stand against-by simply obedience. That means day by day, choice by choice, obey God. Good grief! That sounds so simple. No drama. No flare. Just day by day obedience. If it is so simple, why do we not do it? It is the key to winning spiritual battles. It is the heart of Ephesians 6:10ff that we often study in the context of spiritual warfare. Yes, we have an enemy. Yes, he is formidable. Yes, he has a scheme specifically designed for your life. BUT he will not hang around if you and I are simply obedient to God and follow the instruction of God’s Word, and the leading of His Holy Spirit.

Any foothold Satan has in our lives—we have given it to him. Stand firm. Do not give the enemy an opportunity to mess with your life!

C.    Draw Near

The phrase, draw near, means to approach in worship. When we draw near in worship, the barrier of sin is removed and we understand that GOD is near to us.

Worship is where we get a correct estimation of who God is. Worship cannot be confined to the music part of a church service! Worship is a daily encounter with God facilitated by His Word and His Spirit. When we have a correct estimation-a clear view of who God is- we also get a clear estimation of sin. Worship does not give us goosebumps and happy dances. Worship brings us low in reverence. Anytime in Scripture a person has a worshipful encounter with Holy God, they fall to their face on the ground. Isaiah 6 is a great example. Read the first few verses of Isaiah vision of God. His response to seeing God is not jumping up and down and praising. Isaiah falls to his face and say he is undone-a man of unclean lips who lives among a people pf unclean lips. Isaiah gets a clear view of sin in light of his clear view of God.

This clear view of sin is why James immediately says, “Cleanse your hands (actions) and purify your hearts (thought, motives, attitudes).”True worship leads us to sorrow for sin. Sorrow for sin leads us to confession and them repentance which is turning away and forsaking sin.  Every great revival in the history of the church is not when lost people get saved. Instead it is when Christians get right with God in confessing ad forsaking sin. THEN the lost are saved because they see true faith in believers.

2 Chronicles 7:14 is a familiar verse. The writer is addressing God’s people. (MY people called my MY name). He is urging God’s people humble themselves, pray, seek the things that God desires, and turn away from sin. The response from God is to hear, forgive and heal their land. As believers in the New Covenant, we did not inherit an actual physical land. We inherited a life in Christ when we came into the family of God. To “heal the land” for  New Testament Christians means to heal our lives of the ravages of sin.

The state of sorrow and repentance that James calls for is a temporary state. We are not to walk around as mournful sad people. We confess and forsake our sin. God forgives and cleanses us. We then get up and live like the forgiven people we are. Filled with joy and thanksgiving for all Christ has done in us and for us. 

D.   Humble Yourselves

Humility for the Christian means declaring our total dependency on Christ. It is a dial practice of understand that we are dependent on Christ for everything. James says “humble yourselves.” Remember, God is in an aggressive position to come against pride. Pride is the opposite of humility. God wants us to live in complete dependence on Him. If we refuse and continue to walk in pride, God can and will humble us. He humbles us, not because He is mean or angry but because he knows what pride and sin does to His children. He, in His wisdom and mercy, is protecting us.

Daniel 4 is an amazing account of God humbling the proud. Daniel is a young Jewish man captured by the Babylonians during the siege of Jerusalem. The Jews remained captives for 70 years. Daniel lives in Babylon for the rest of life but God is with him, elevating Daniel to a place of importance in the kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon.

History bears out that Nebuchadnezzar was a great king, accomplishing more in his reign than any other ancient king. He had great power and intellect, creating not only triumphant armies but majestic art and architecture. But Nebuchadnezzar was proud—and God would humble him until Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged that God Almighty was the source of power and blessing that Nebuchadnezzar displays. Daniel 4 is riveting reading!

Humility can be a fleeting thing in our lives. As soon as we know we are humble, we have lost it. We continue in humility as we lean into the Lord, as we daily acknowledge our need for Him, as we trust Him in all things. As we humbly walk with Christ, He exults us-He lifts us up out of the sorrow of repentance.

Psalm 40:2-3 says, “He puts a new song in our mouth, a song of praise to our God.”

IV The Warning (James 4:17)

Verse 17 is a warning to all those have heard the truth and refuse to live it. God says it is sin. Jesus told his disciples they would know the truth and the truth would set them free. Truth sets us free. The goal of the James is for believers to live every day in freedom. Knowing truth guides us into freedom.

God wants us to live in freedom from sin. The way we do this is to live in obedience. The wonderful truth is Philippians 2:13. Paraphrasing the verse, it is God at work in you, stirring up the desire to obey Him. As we respond to that stirring, God then gives us the strength and ability to live in the way in He has commanded us to live. Ladies! He gives us the desire to obey and then he gives us the will to obey. We are not on our own, trying to live a perfectly obedient life in our own power. We simply surrender to the work He is doing and ask for His strength and power to live it out.

It seems so simple, so direct and yet we struggle. Our struggle is with pride and the desire to live life on our own. I implore you-submit, resist, draw near, and humble yourselves. Life will be sweeter than you ever imagined! I'm in all things, Him in Him in all things……Him