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In chapter 4 we find a much shorter passage but two very important topics: submitting to God and not boasting about the future. Let’s see what he has to say.
Submit Yourselves to God Verses 1-12
Right off in verse 1 he says, “You know all of this bickering and brawling comes from the fact that you wage war inside yourself – battling those desires that want to control you.” If you look back to Romans 7:23, you’ll see Paul basically saying the same thing.
Romans 7:23 (NIV) – but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.
Verses 2- 6 further explain what happens when we give in to those selfish desires. But you probably already know what happens, don’t you? Yeah. Not. Good. Stuff. That’s for sure.
When we give in to those fleshly desires and override the Spirit of God working in us, we will go to any extreme to fulfill those desires. Then, when we do ask God for something, we are usually coming to Him with wrong motives. And James is pretty clear here:
You can’t be a friend of God and a friend of the world.
You have to choose. He wants to lavish grace and love and forgiveness and peace – all those great things. But if you are going after the things of the world, you will not experience the fullness of Christ and the intimate relationship He longs to have with you.
Verses 7-8 always makes me pause. We often misquote it in Christian circles. He says, “Submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you…”
What part do we misquote? Well, we often leave out the most important part – the first part of that verse: “Submit to God.” Usually we rush right into the resisting the devil part. But here’s the kicker: We can’t resist the enemy if we aren’t fully submitted to God.
That. Will. Preach.
So I’ll repeat it here for more effect. You’re welcome.
We can’t resist the enemy if we aren’t fully submitted to God.
I know! Good stuff, right?! God is looking for people who are willing to lay down their own agendas, motives, thoughts, desires and pick up His. He gives grace to the humble. And when we are humbled before Him, He will lift us up.
Verses 11-12 are really interesting as well. James reminds us that when we slander one another, we are actually judging someone and it will come back to us as well. But when we love one another (see Romans 13:6-10) we fully satisfy the law, according to Paul.
It sounds corny, I know. But love really is the answer. When we love as He loves, everything else falls into place. Why? Because we are coming from a place that says, “Hey! But for grace, that would be me!
Boasting About Tomorrow Verses 13-17
We never want to leave God out of our plans – our future plans. Life is short. And we are here for a little while. Only God really knows what tomorrow brings. So it would serve us well to make sure that God is totally in charge of our plans – and can change them however He wants. He never, ever disappoints us! So trust Him!
Verse 17 really is powerful. James says that if we know to do good and don’t do it, we sin. More often than not we think of sinning as doing something wrong. But here he makes sure to let us know that if we know to tell the truth and don’t (even though we don’t lie), we sin. If we speak evil of someone, that is sin. But if we avoid them so we don’t have to speak, that could be sin too. (Life Application Bible Notes).
What do you think about that? Omitting to do the right thing can be just as bad as doing the wrong thing. Make sense?
Well, that wraps up Chapter 4 for today. What do you think? Is James making valid points about our submission to God? Does he hit the nail on the head about sinning by omission? Have you ever thought about that before? Let me know your thoughts!