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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
June 14, 2009
Resisting the Devil
This morning we conclude our series on spiritual warfare. Including the introductory messages from 1 Corinthians 12-14 on what it means to be spiritual, this is the 25th sermon on the topic. We have examined the ministry of the Holy Spirit (See: The Ministry of the Holy Spirit), the general nature of spiritual warfare (See: The Nature of Spiritual Warfare) and of our adversary, the devil (See: Our Adversary), along with his subtle devices to deceive (See: Satan’s Subtle Devices). Then there were 16 sermons on the armor of God discussed in Ephesians 6:10-20 (See: The Priority of Prayer).
I want to conclude this series with a message that will summarize what is necessary to be without fear and have victory in spiritual battle. James 4:7 states, “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” If you understand what it means to submit to God and to resist the devil, then you will be without fear and able to stand firm against Satan and be victorious in spiritual warfare. The “therefore” in the verse connects the reason for the command to all that James has already discussed, so turn to James 4:1-10 so we understand both his reasoning and what it means to submit to God and resist the devil.
“What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have; [so] you commit murder. And you are envious and cannot obtain; [so] you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend [it] on your pleasures. 4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”? 6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore [it] says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.”
The main theme of this passage as well as this chapter is the contrast between a selfish person that seeks to have their own desires fulfilled and the person who is truly seeking after God.
Selfishness, which is a root of all sin and a major avenue used by the devil to entice us with his lies and slander, results in the following:
*Quarrels and conflicts (vs. 1),
*Wrong prayer which is therefore not heeded (vs.3)
*Enmity with God (vs. 4)
*Opposition from God (vs. 6)
*The judgment of God (vs. 11,12)
*Foolish boasting about the future which is evil (vs. 13-17)
In contrast to selfishness is submission to God which results in the following:
*God’s grace (vs. 6)
*Victory over the devil (vs. 7)
*Closeness to God (vs. 8)
*God exalting you (vs. 10)
*Confidence in the future (vs. 15)
In short, we can say that becoming less selfish and more submissive to God is the key to godliness and spiritual victory. That is easy to say but hard to do unless you are fully committed to walking with Christ in holiness in the power of His Spirit. Remember that we are to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might (Ephesians 6:10). You cannot accomplish this through will power or determined effort alone, for at best that only results in self righteous legalism. It is only by the working of the Holy Spirit in your life convicting you of sin, bringing you to genuine repentance, changing your heart and empowering you to live in holiness that you can actually be selfless and submissive to God as described here. Why? Because it requires humility, and humility is contrary to the natural nature of man.
Let us examine the contrast between selfishness and submission to God in this passage to gain a greater understanding of what it means to submit to God and resist the devil
Quarrels & Conflicts (1-2)
4:1 “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have; [so] you commit murder. And you are envious and cannot obtain; [so] you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask.
Quarrels (polemoi / polemoi) is a more general term referring to war while conflicts (macai / maxai) is a more specific term referring to a battle. There are many specific battles that make up a war. Quarrels and the conflicts within them have been part of human life since Adam’s fall, but they should not be part of the church. The body of Christ is to be unified and practicing all the one another commands including love, patience, forbearance and forgiveness. Whenever strife and fighting do occur among those who profess faith in Jesus Christ they demonstrate something inconsistent with their new nature. It could be a demonstration of continued immaturity or a believer succumbing to the schemes of our adversary.
James specifically states that the source of these quarrels and conflicts are the pleasures that wage war in your members. Pleasures (hdonh / adona ) refers to that which satisfies you, or at least you think will satisfy you. This is not so much the idea of “pleasures” in terms of hedonism, but rather that which is not centered on God’s pleasure, for even good things that are not centered on God’s will are still sin.
The word for “wage war” here, (strateuw / strateuo ), refers to a “soldiers serving” and hence the battle of war. The war spoken of here is that which is occurring between different people. This is not the internal strife against sin that occurs within the individual believer such as Paul described in Romans 7. James is speaking with direct reference to things he has already mentioned and what he will mention in the rest of the book. The desires of one person are at war with the desires of another. James has already mentioned quite a few of these conflicts in the book.
There were class wars. James 2:1-9 corrects the preferential treatment given to the rich over the poor. There were employment wars. James 5:1-6 corrects the conflicts between employers and employees. There were church wars. In James 1:19-20 & 3:13-18 we find they were fighting over who would be in the prestigious positions of leadership and who would be teaching. There were also personal wars. James 4:11-12 addresses their evil practice of speaking against and judging one another.
All of this is in direct contrast to the Lord’s commands, but it should not surprise us that there were conflicts between these Christians for the same occurred throughout the New Testament and continues to this day. It will continue until we are perfected in glory in Heaven. Until then we will struggle against sin arising from our own desires and exploited by our adversary.
James specifically says here “You lust and do not have, so you commit murder.” “Lust” is not an evil word by itself for it only means “strong desire.” The context here is what tells us that this lust is bad, not because the object of desire was necessarily bad, but because the motive behind it is evil and so there is an evil result.
It is easy to understand how strong desires for evil things can lead to murder. Read or listen to the news any day of the week and you will hear of someone that was murdered because someone else had strong desires for evil things. People murder one another for all sorts of reasons including money, jealousy, the quest for power or fame, possessiveness, fear, and even just plain cruelty.
It is harder to explain how a strong desire for what is supposed to be good can result in murder. How do you explain Christians murdering one another when they are supposedly working together for the cause of Christ? I still remember the news reports I heard many years ago when driving through Dallas that the police were searching for a Deacon of a church who had shot and killed another deacon at a church business meeting. I still wonder what church issue they could possibly have been arguing about. The leaders of the Swiss Reformation in the 1500’s had such a strong desire for doctrinal conformity that they executed many anabaptists because they rejected infant baptism and were re-baptizing people as adults after they had made personal confessions of faith in Christ. They were blinded by their lust for control over Christian practice resulting in it becoming a capital offense to obey Christ’s command to personally identify with Him through baptism.
While physical murder within the church is still rare, 1 John 3:15, warns, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer . . .” We are all subject to hatred and hatred has the strong desire within in it for the person hated to go away, and the ultimate in getting someone to go away is to kill them.
Hatred arises when two people have opposing plans to reach their desires. Those desires may be different or they could even be the same with just different plans in how to achieve them.
For example, usually both people in a marriage want a good relationship, but hatred can arise because both may have different definitions of a good marriage or may have a similar definition but differ in how to achieve it. In a church, all should want God to be glorified and for the church to grow and mature. However, the differences in what that means and how to achieve it can lead to hatred.
Envy has been called the “green eyed monster” with good reason. The word James uses here ( zhlow / zaloo) as the root meaning of “hot emotion” and can convey the idea of either “to possess” as in covet, or “to surpass” as in jealousy. Covetousness and jealousy are the desires to have what others have and even more, and that leads to strife. Envy will destroy the person possessed by it, for there will always be something else to gain and someone else who has more or just something you want.
King Ahab had plenty of land, but murder resulted when he also wanted Naboth’s vineyard. King David had plenty of wives, but murder resulted when he also wanted Uriah’s wife. Envy is common in business and politics as people back stab and crush one another on the way up the ladder of power. Tragically, this also happens in churches. People can act very un-Christian in their effort to achieve leadership positions in a church. They foolishly think that is the way to have power and prestige, but church leadership positions are properly increasing positions of service, not power. That is why the qualifications are all about having a great and godly character, not great ability.
I have also found envy to be common among pastors. Too many set up their own kingdoms which they jealously guard against any outside influence. Churches that should cooperate with each other end up in rivalry because of jealous people who cannot stand God blessing someone else. I have seen those in small churches become jealous of those in larger churches, and those in large churches become jealous of those in giant churches. For all the claim to be Biblical, pastors can too quickly forget that God not only gave us our particular gifts, but also our particular ministries and its effectiveness and all of it for the common good of the whole body (1 Corinthians 12:4-7).
Though these things ought not to be, but they will be until we are perfected in the glory of heaven and no longer enticed by our selfish desires and prey to the schemes of our adversary. Selfishness also affects our prayer life and its motivations.
Prayer & Motivations (James 4:2-3)
James states “You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend [it] on your pleasures.”
The first reason prayer is not answered is that people do not even bother to pray for various reasons. For some it is because they lack a personal relationship with God. Others have perverted ideas about God and do not think Him to be good resulting in some being scared of God and afraid to ask and others who just think it will not do any good. Then there are those that understand neither the purpose or priority of prayer so they just labor thinking it all depends on them. Finally, there are those that pervert the sovereignty of God saying that since He will do whatever He wants anyway there is no reason to pray. Ultimately, all of these reasons have at their root a selfishness that demands that the world and God work according to their understanding. That selfishness is easily exploited by the devil’s lies and slander to produce beliefs that are contrary to God’s revelation of Himself and how He has designed the world to work.
The second reason prayer is not answered is because the requests that are made have the wrong motives. Primarily this is due to forgetting the purpose for prayer and asking for what will satisfy self will and desire. It is not “Thy will be done” (Matthew 6:10), but “give me what I want.” The term spend here (dapanavw / dapana ) is from a root word meaning “devour” as in consume. What is desired is whatever will bring pleasure and a few moments of being glad. The state of your heart is seen in what is requested and the wretchedness of it is revealed in what things make you happy.
This selfishness is the basis of the “health, wealth, prosperity” and the “name it and claim it” teachings that has entrapped so many into a false spirituality that gives approval to selfish lust for it make prayer the means to get what you want. This is then exploited by the “seed faith” teachers who in their own greed exploit their followers with false words (2 Peter 2:3). They the scam their followers promising that God will bless them with health, wealth and prosperity if they send money to them first.
A third reason prayer is not answered is that people forget who they are talking to and speak improperly to God. They do not hallow His name and instead treat Him as if He were a good buddy or a doting grandpa. They lack both reverence and confession of sin. Psalm 66:18 states that “If I regard wickedness in my heart, The Lord will not hear.” Don’t expect answers to your prayer requests if your heart is not clean, and that usually requires confession first.
Again we find that selfishness is at the root of this and it is easily exploited by the lies and slander of the devil to produce beliefs that stop or hinder prayer. At issue is the desire of the heart of the individual. Do they love God or the world? James addresses that next.
Worldliness & Consequences (James 4:4-5)
You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”?
That is strong, but fitting language. Adultery transgresses the proper relationship with the spouse for a false substitute. The very action of seeking friendship with a false substitute is hostility toward the true spouse. So it is for those who profess faith in Christ but abandon Him to seek out what the world offers. To love the world is to make yourself an enemy of God. The apostle John said that if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him (1 John 2:15). Those who love even family members more than Christ are not worthy of Him (Matthew 10:37-39). But the paradox here is that putting the priority on loving Christ increases your love for your family members and for those in the world.
It is proper for God to be jealous for us. That is not a jealousy born out of envy, selfishness or pride, but rather for what is good and right. This is the same kind of proper jealously that a husband or wife should have for their spouse. Each belongs to each other and they are not free to pursue substitute relationships. Christians belong to God and are not free to pursue worldliness as a substitute.
Their friendship with the world was demonstrated by what they were praying. What do you ask for? What are the priorities in your prayer? Is it marked by selfishness or to consume it upon your own desires and reflect friendship with the world, or are you seeking the glory and will of God? If you have been pursuing worldliness instead of God there is always hope for change because of God’s character. His jealousy is a cause of protection, not fear, for those that want to love God even if they are not doing well at it in the present.
Pride or Humility (James 4:6)
“But He gives a greater grace. Therefore [it] says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
Grace is a blessing upon the undeserving. It is to receive good that you have not earned. God’s desire is that you have the blessing of walking with Him and avoid the multiple tragedies of a life lived in worldliness. Satan can entice us with the pleasures the world has to offer, but the pleasures of sin are only passing and usually there are very unpleasant consequences to them in this life. Even if you manage to avoid the temporal consequences of your sin and do well by the world’s standards, you will still face God’s condemnation on judgment day (Psalm 73).
God gives greater grace to those that desire to turn away from sin and follow Him, but He will not yield to anything or anyone else the allegiance that belongs to Him. Where God makes demands He gives grace so that those demands can be met, but He will oppose those that are proud and reject that common grace. 1 Peter 5:5 also tells us that God will resist the proud and haughty. Pride was the cause of Satan’s fall (Ezekiel 28:11f) and is the greatest sin mankind bears. Jesus listed pride as one of the evil things in the heart of a man that defile him (Mark 7:21). Pride is not from God and it will pass away (1 John 2:15,16) for everyone will be humbled and bow the knee to Christ in the end (Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10). Pride results in selfishness and God’s punishment. Proverbs 16:5 states, “Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; Assuredly, he will not be unpunished.” God dethroned and demeaned Nebuchadnezzar when his heart became proud (Daniel 5:20). Proverbs 16:18 states that “Pride [goes] before destruction, And a haughty spirit before stumbling.” The proud will be judged by the full weight of all their evil deeds (Revelation 20:12-13). But it is a different story for the humble.
Humility is the key to our relationship with God (and it is also very helpful in dealing with other people). It is the poor in spirit that enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:4). Wisdom is given to the humble (Proverbs 11:2), and God will honor them (1 Peter 5:6). Proverbs 22:4 states, “The reward of humility [and] the fear of the Lord Are riches, honor and life.” Jesus came in humility and demonstrated it throughout His life even to His death (Philippians 2:5-8), and we are to be like Jesus (Romans 8:29). Humility is also an absolute requirement to be victorious in spiritual warfare.
Submission & Resistance (James 4:7)
“Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Submission is very different from obedience because its motivation is different. Both will follow the commands given, but obedience is forced while submission is willing. Obedience is done because you have to do it. Submission is done because you want to do it usually out of the desire to please the one in authority. Submission requires humility for it means you must yield your will to His and agree that His way is better even when you do not fully understand it or it is difficult.
Notice the “therefore” in the verse. The submission to God in this command is based on all that James has already talked about throughout this letter. God uses trials in your life to bring you to maturity, therefore joyously submit to Him and mature (1:2-4). God grants wisdom to those who ask, therefore submit to Him and seek His wisdom (1:5). Your life on this earth is brief like a flower, therefore submit to God and glory in what He is doing in your life (1:9-11). God gives a crown of life to those who love Him, therefore submit to Him earn your crown (1:12). God does not tempt you, but every good and perfect gift is from Him, therefore submit to Him and do not fall for the temptations (1:13-18). The anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God, therefore submit to Him and be a doer of the word (1:19-27). Man shows favoritism to the rich, but God is impartial, therefore submit to Him and fulfill the royal law (2:1-8). To stumble on even one point of the law makes you guilty, therefore submit to Him and receive His mercy (2:9-13). Genuine faith reveals itself in what it does, therefore submit to God and prove your faith by doing what God asks (2:14-26). The tongue is dangerous and hard to control, therefore submit to God and let it give blessings instead of curses (3:1-12). Earthy wisdom is natural, demonic and leads to every evil thing, therefore submit to God and follow the wisdom from above which produces the fruit of righteousness (3:13-18). Selfishness and pride result in quarrels, conflicts and friendship with the world, therefore submit to God and receive His grace (4:1-6).
Submission to God boils down to being humble and seeking His glory and will instead of your own, and since He is God and you are not, that is really the only reasonable choice.
Resisting the devil is really just the flip side of submission to God. Submission to God automatically results in resisting the devil because you cannot serve two masters. You cannot serve both God and mammon (Matthew 6:24). You cannot serve both sin and righteousness (Romans 6:16). You cannot serve both the Spirit and the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:16-17). If you submit to God you will be resisting the devil, and if you submit to the devil, you will be resisting God. At every point in life you get the choice of either submitting to God and doing it His way or not. The devil and his followers will do all they can to get you to do things any way possible except God’s. The devil loses and will flee every time you refuse his lies, slander and enticements and submit to God.
Drawing Near to God (James 4:8-10)
This passage closes with James’ call for them to abandon their selfishness and pride and humbly submit to God. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.”
These are the marks of true repentance. It involves outward conduct (cleanse your hands) as well as inward attitude (purify your heart). It is taking a hard look at the serious side of life resulting in mourning over sin and its consequences. This is not popular with modern evangelists who seem to want to avoid mentioning sin at all costs, but repentance is the Biblical requirement. It is turning from sin, selfishness, the world and the devil to seek God and His will above all else. To turn Maslow’s hierarchy of needs on its head, it is to long for godliness more than self-fulfillment; crave holiness more than self-esteem; strive to love God and others more than being loved; serve God above seeking safety and value God’s word and promises more than food and shelter. It is seeing life from God’s eternal perspective instead of just your personal temporal one. Please note God’s promises here to draw near to those that seek to draw near to Him and to exalt those who humble themselves before Him.
1 Peter 5:8 describes the devil as a roaring lion who is seeking someone to devour, but Satan’s power is very limited. While he and his demonic horde are smarter and stronger than any of us, 1 John 4:4 makes it clear that the Holy Spirit dwelling in us greater than he who is in the world. That does not mean I can command, judge or even revile the devil or demons (Jude 8-9), but it does mean that I can trust God and do not need to fear though there are some scary things that can happen that I will not understand and that will be far beyond my ability to control. All I need to do to be victorious in any spiritual battle is to submit to God and resist the devil and he will flee. The lion becomes a chicken.
However, spiritual war is not a one time event and the devil will be back to try again. Spiritual war is a constant series of battles in which you must be in constant submission to God. The decision will constantly be put before you whether you will be humble enough to submit to God even when the devil’s lies, slanders and enticements make it seem like doing so would be stupid and contrary to your interests. In order to submit to God, you must know Him and what He wants, which means you must be a true Christian and know the Scriptures. Without that, you will not be able to discern truth from error nor have the faith to follow the truth even when it is known. That is why God has given you armor for spiritual war which we have talked about for so many weeks. Do you have your armor on? If not, then you are neither prepared nor in submission to God and you will not be able to resist the devil. If you want to be in submission to God, then you will put on your armor so that you are well prepared for anything that our adversary brings against you. Is your armor on?
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – 1) Count how many times God and the devil are mentioned. 2) Talk with your parents about what it means to submit to God and resist the devil.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. What is the main theme of James 4:1-10? How does that theme fit with the rest of the book of James? What are some of the things that will result from selfishness? What are some of the blessings that result from submission to God? What is the key to spiritual victory? What is the role of the Holy Spirit in a person’s submission to God? What are quarrels and conflicts and what is the relationship between them? What causes them? What conflicts does the book of James correct? How does lust lead to murder? Why would one Christian murder another Christian? What is the relationship between hatred and murder? What causes hatred? What is envy and why is it dangerous? Why do some professing Christians not pray? What are some of the reasons prayers are not answered? What are proper motivations for prayer? What are the major errors of the health, wealth and prosperity preachers? Why does James equate those who seek worldliness to adulteresses? What is the danger of worldliness and why does it make a person an enemy of God? Why is it proper for God to be jealous? Why does God oppose the proud? How does God extend His grace to those who get caught up on worldliness? What is the relationship between humility, godliness and victory in spiritual warfare? What are some of the reasons given throughout the book of James for submission to God? How do you resist the devil? How do you draw near to God? Are you drawing near to God? Do you have your spiritual armor on?
James 4:1-10 A contrast between a ___________ person and one that seeks after God
Selfishness results in: *Quarrels and ___________(vs. 1); *Wrong prayer (vs.3)
*Enmity with God (vs. 4); *Opposition from God (vs. 6); *The judgment of God (vs. 11,12)
*Foolish boasting about the future (vs. 13-17)
Submission to God results in: *God’s __________ (vs. 6); *Victory over the devil (vs. 7);
*Closeness to God (vs. 8); *God exalting you (vs. 10); *Confidence in the future (vs. 15)
Becoming less selfish and more submissive to God is the _________ to godliness and spiritual victory
Quarrels & Conflicts (James 4:1-2)
Quarrel is a general term for _______ Conflict is a more specific term referring to a ____________
Pleasures refer to what you think will __________ you. The quest for them causes war between people
_____wars ( 2:1-9) Employment wars (5:1-6) Church wars (1:19-20; 3:13-18) ________wars (4:11-12)
Lust only means “strong ____________.” It is the ____________ which determines if it is good or evil
People murder in response to all sort of _________ desires
1 John 3:15 equates _______with murder, and hatred can arise from nearly any difference of goal or plan
Envy is a “_____ emotion” of coveting and jealousy that destroys.
Prayer & Motivations (James 4:2-3)
The first reason for lack from God is __________ of prayer.
The second reason for unanswered prayer is ___________ requests
The third reason prayer is not answered is irreverence and lack of ____________ (Psalm 66:18)
Worldliness & Consequences (James 4:4-5)
Adultery transgresses the proper relationship with the spouse for a false _______________.
Loving the world transgresses the proper relationship with __________ for a false substitute.
It is proper for God to be _____________for we belong to God and are not free to pursue worldliness
Pride or Humility (James 4:6)
Grace is a blessing given to the _____________
Where God makes demands He gives ___________to meet those demands, but He opposes the proud
Pride results in ________________ and God’s punishment (Proverbs 16:5)
______________ is the key to our relationship with God
Jesus came and lived in _____________ and we are to be like Jesus (Phil. 2:5-8 & Rom. 8:29)
Submission & Resistance (James 4:7)
Obedience follows the commands because it ______to while submission does so because it ________ to
Submission requires humility for it means you must __________ your will to His
Submission to God boils down to being __________ and seeking His glory and will instead of your own
Submission to God automatically results in ____________the devil because you cannot serve two masters
At every point in life you can ____________ to either do things God’s way or not.
The devil ___________ when you refuse his lies, slander and enticements and instead submit to God
Drawing Near to God (James 4:8-10)
True repentance involves both outward and inward cleansing as well as _______________ over sin
Repentance longs for ____________more than self-fulfillment and God’s word more than food or shelter
I need not _________ the devil since the Holy Spirit in me is greater and because he flees when resisted
Spiritual war is not a one time event, but a ____________ series of battles.
In order to submit to God, you must _______Him and what He desires – be a Christian & know the Bible
Wearing the ______of God is part of submitting to God in preparation for the devil’s schemes against you
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