“You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?” James 4:4
Are you friend or foe? With me or against me? Part of the solution or part of the problem? These questions come up all to commonly in real life and in fiction, often with hilarious or disastrous consequences. (depending on the genre)
This same question is asked of us by James as we wrestle with trying to have it all in the world in which we live. Our christian life is all to often plagued with us as followers of Christ trying to decide how close to the line we can get without ending up in sin. We ask can we live a “normal” life and still be a good Christian?
The answer is given to us by James here in chapter 4 when he says this:
“Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
James makes it clear that we have it backwards. We all as christians are constantly asking, “How close to the world can we get and still be a part of God?”, but we should be asking, “How close to God can we be and still effect the world ?” We as christians are called to give up our desire to be like the world and instead desire and grow to be more like our God.
In trying to describe a life that God will exalt James uses three positions as examples.
I. The Position of God (Yearning)
“He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us” James 4:5b
So where is the position of God? Where does he stand as our minds continue to questions and probe at ways to argue ourselves into worldliness? James makes it clear that God stands at the very line in the sand between the worlds wickedness and His righteousness, and he “yearns jealously.”
Yearn is an odd term that we very rarely use now days. At its most basic meaning it simply means to want, but yearn is so much deeper than want, deeper than desire, and deeper than need.
Yearn evokes the image of a person on his knees, crying out, struggling toward, and stretching out in anguish towards a outcome that he desperately desires. Yearn is all the emotions you can think of coming together in a tidal wave of desire.
That image is Gods position, reaching out to us jealously. Drawing us closer to Him and away from the world in which we seek shelter. He is there ready to take us in and welcome us with open arms.
However, this position of yearning is tempered with the reality of his righteousness. God is not only at the the edge yearning but also guarding, “standing opposed to the proud but offering grace to the humble.”
“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6b
II. The Position of the Humble (Submitted)
Humility is one of those mis-understood terms in our culture today. Often and increasingly it is confused with self-degradation. We are told that to be humble we must never claim success or accept praise. However, the truth is that if you have trained and are the best at something saying that you are not is not humility it is lying!
Humility is instead putting our ambition and skill as second to that of others, and in the case of the christian God. When we as christians humble ourselves we are not saying that we play no role, but that any role we play pales in comparison to the role of God. We place our own exalting in a distant second to the exalting of Christ and His purposes.
The humble man is one who seeks not his own glory but the glory of God.
III. The Position of the Proud (Opposed)
The position of the proud is the position of one opposed to the God of Creation. It is one who takes glory away from the creator and instead puts it on the created. The proud man stands toe to toe with the almighty and believes he can win!
No bigger fool exists than a person filled with pride.
James gives now a call to those wrapped up in the sin and foolishness that is pride. A call to humble themselves and escape the inevitable fall. In this call he gives the tools which can bring a proud man back into a position of humility.
“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. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.” James 4:7-9
1. Resist the Devil. (Cleans your Hands)
First step to any good redemption is to resist the one who can lead us astray. We need look no further than the example of Jesus who after being tempted by the Devil himself combated him with scripture. And when the Devil saw that he could not sway Jesus he left Him to do what God had for Him. (Matt 4:1-11)
2. Draw near to God (Purify your Heart)
If you want to be able to resist the devil, and temptation when it comes you need to have a strong relationship with God. Here James says that if we begin to draw close to God he will draw close to us in return. How do we draw close to God? We do it through bible study, prayer, and fasting.
3. Gain a right Perspective (Be wretched and Mourn)
Finally, to come to a place of humility we need to see our actions in the proper perspective. The perspective that shows us that our sin is responsible of Jesus death and suffering. That its not just some story, but an unfolding drama that is continuing with us. Once we have that perspective we will weep and mourn those times when we heaped suffering on our Lord, but we will rejoice in His grace and mercy toward us.