James 4:5 represents one of the most difficult verses in this book.
Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously?
I’m certainly not going to solve it in a few short paragraphs. Some scholars even question whether the question relates to what comes afterward and suggest that it refers to the previous verse talking about making an enemy of God.
The ASV seems to wink at that possibility, and I think they translated it well, from my limited experience.
Or think ye that the scripture speaketh in vain? Doth the spirit which he made to dwell in us long unto envying?
This translation also relates the idea that though the Christians were pursuing the worldly lusts, they did not learn such things from the Holy Spirit. “Does the spirit long unto envying?” He did not teach us this way of life!
I’m going to say that as long as you do not interpret that passage in a way that violates others, it really does not matter how you view it. The passage simply reinforces that those who follow God must not also try to maintain friendship with the world.
But for those of us who have found ourselves standing in opposition to God, He extends grace if we will respond to Him. Therefore, James encourages us to submit to God and resist the devil. The root of this submission lies in the decisions we make regarding our actions. How we choose to behave demonstrates our choice of submission. Entertain no doubt about this: We will submit either to God or (ultimately) Satan. Even submitting to our own desires, wisdom, and plans means that we fall into the trap of Satan.
Didn’t Satan tempt Eve in the Garden of Eden by appealing to something that she thought would help her? He told her that she would be more like God. And she wanted to be like God. Who wouldn’t?
Even when the choice seems to be beneficial to us, we must be sure that it is God’s will before acting.
God Opposes The Proud
God resists the proud person. If we refuse to choose the pathway of righteousness, we are making ourselves an enemy of God. Yesterday, I mentioned the fact that we often do not see the horridness of our sins, and because we are usually not immediately punished, we might be tempted to think that God does not think our decisions are so bad either.
Try telling that to Jesus, but be sure to look at the nail holes first. It’s a big deal when we sin.
ACTing Is The Point
So we are admonished to “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8). Let’s not miss the context of this sentence. We are talking about deciding to ACT the way He prescribed.
Sometimes we tend to think that “drawing near to God” relates to an emotional connection we have in worship. Undoubtedly, worship is important for us. It helps us to make those connections that help keep us faithful. But the context here is about resisting Satan by looking at the possible paths we face and choosing to act upon God’s word.
The second half of verse eight brings this to light. “Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”
The hands represent the actions of life. We must live in purity.
We’ve seen the “double-minded” heart in a previous chapter. This is the “double-souled” person of James 1:7. This is the person who cannot make up his mind about which path to pursue. He is trying to focus on two different paths at the same time. It cannot work. We must DECIDE to follow the pathway of righteousness.
Notice in James 4:8 that James speaks of ridding ourselves of sin (cleanse your hands) and choosing the pathway of life. To “purify your hearts” means to bring your heart into focus and stop vacillating. When we choose the pathway of God, Satan will back away, waiting for the opportunity to try again at a more convenient time.
We must be choice-conscious. When we do not remind ourselves of the choices we face, we will live life on “auto-pilot”, which means it will not be long until we fall. God is not going to make the decisions for you, but Satan will do everything he can to make the wrong decision look like it is the correct one.
We must remember that our choices always include spiritually positive solutions. Ridding ourselves of sinful pursuits is not enough. Pursue godliness, not spiritually neutral diversions. You will find much more satisfaction and joy in life as a result.
Paul spoke of being choice-conscious in Ephesians 5:15-16.
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best of the time, because the days are evil.
It’s rather simple. In any given situation, we either choose to submit our decisions and actions to God’s word in faith, or we choose to follow the self-ambitions that are earthly, sensual, and demonic.
How are you going to choose to live today?
See you tomorrow!