Step Towards Transformation
James 4:7-10 (NKJV)
7 Therefore submit 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 Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.
10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.
So far, we have examined
We observed in the last 2 lessons, the problem of worldly wisdom affecting our prayers and our relationship with God. This week we will examine How To Follow A Battle Plan For Victory.
Illustration: In 331 B.C. Alexander the Great was marching to take over the world. He had one more enemy to conquer in order to vanquish the mightiest kingdom of the day Persia. The Persian army was led by king Darius. Darius was a ruthless leader, just like Alexander. The two men and their armies met at the battle of Gaugamela. Alexander the Greats army consisted of 7,000 cavalry and 40,000 infantry. Darius and the Persian army numbered 35,000-50,000 cavalry and anywhere from 100,000 to 800,000 infantry. Alexander was greatly outnumbered.
But Alexander came up with a Battle Plan that would prove to be fatal for king Darius. Alexander allowed his right flank to peel off and pull the left flank of Darius’ army away from their main force. When that happened a small gap opened up in the Persian battle lines. This allowed Alexander and his crack cavalry to gallop through the opening and attack and crush king Darius himself. Even though Alexander was greatly outnumbered his battle plan gave him victory over his enemy.
Ladies and gentlemen if you and I are going to win this battle against Satan and his forces here on earth then we must follow God’s Battle Plan for Victory. If we are to win over temptation and find victory here on earth then we must realize that we are in a war. The forces of evil have lined up against us and they don’t care what temptation it takes to get us or what sin ensnares us. And if the Christian doesn’t figure out their in warfare then they are more trapped then they really know. The problem with most Christians is they feel to see that failing to follow God’s Battle Plan actually leads to following Satan’s plan for their life.
We are in a war a struggle within and that struggle leads to seeking worldly pleasures and when a believer does that they are quenching the power of the Holy Spirit working in their lives. Now James blows the trumpet call to all believers, he says, “If we are to have real victory over our enemy then follow the Battle Plan.”
SUBMIT TO GOD (4:7a)
We need to stop thinking that we can live our lives our way. We must do all the things that God says. We cannot reject his words. We cannot oppose God or resist him. We must arrange our lives to be under God’s direction. Our first step is a decision to follow God.
Illustration: If you want to get on an airplane, you will be practicing an aspect of submission. After all, there are many rules and regulations on what you can bring aboard. You have to go through a metal detector, put your bags through a scan, and you might even be lucky enough to be put through a random check where they dump everything out of your bag to go through it. And, if you are suspicious, they even have the right to search you personally. If, at any point you refuse to do any of this, you will not be getting on the plane. You are required to submit fully to their every request.
Now, if we are willing to submit ourselves to complete strangers to get on an airplane, why are we afraid to fully submit our lives to God?
All right, so we know we need to submit to God, and we know that we can’t resist the devil in our own strength.
Million dollar question– how are we to submit to God? Submit- Greek word hypotasso- hypo- under, tasso- to arrange. It is also where we get subject and subjection. The word was used as a military term meaning to arrange the troop division in a military fashion.
Definition of submitting to God– it means to arrange oneself under the command of divine viewpoint rather than live according to ones old way of life based on a human viewpoint. It is a process to surrender our will to God.
Why should we submit?
Illustration: A person had a dream in which Christ wanted the keys of his life. He Gave Him most of the keys willingly, but wanted to keep three or four keys for himself. Immediately Jesus began to fade away, saying, “if I am not Lord of all, I am not Lord at all.” The person Woke up and got on his knees, “Jesus, please take all the keys, and be Lord of all in my life!”
What are those keys that you want to keep for yourself? Is it your money? Is it your career? Is it your family life? You cannot experience supernatural things until you place all the keys in the hand of Jesus!
Illustration: A fencing contractor was talking with a rich property owner about his chances of going to heaven. The rich man believed that God would be pleased with his efforts. He said, “I’ve lived a good life and been hardworking and giving to worthy causes. Sure, I hide some of my income so it doesn’t get taxed as highly … but so does everyone else. And in my business you have to do just a little bit of lying and cheating … but how else will I get ahead. I’m probably honest 98% of the time. All in all I’m OK, I’m a nice person”.
The conversation ended and it was time to build the fence. Two weeks later the fence was ready and the property owner came and had a look. He was shocked by what he saw … because there were a number of gaps in the fence. Angrily he asked, “What have you done”. The fencing contractor replied. “Well as I was building I left a few gaps along the way. But don’t worry, there are is a lot of fence still left and in some places I even made it double thick. The gaps only represent about 2% of the fence, that means 98% of the fence is just fine”.
The rich property owner replied, “98% is not good enough. You can be sure that my livestock will find the holes in the fence and get out. Near enough is just not good enough and I will have nothing.” At that point the fencing contractor said. “You can see that truth when it comes to your fence … how come you can’t apply the same thing when it comes to your relationship with God? God wants us to listen to Him and obey Him 100% – 98% is good – but not good enough.
You and I may not be able to obey Him 100% but I am sure going to try. I’m going to give it all I got. And where I fall short I’m going to depend on God’s grace and mercy. How about you?
Submission with love: A cruel husband demanded that his wife conform to rigid standards of his choosing. She was to do certain things for him as a wife, mother, and homemaker. In time she came to hate him and his list of rules and regulations. Then, one day her husband died. Later, she fell in love with another man and married him. She and her new husband lived on a unending honeymoon. Joyfully, she devoted herself to his happiness and welfare. One day she ran across one of the sheets of dos and don’ts of her first husband. To her amazement she found that she was doing for her second husband all the things her first husband had demanded of her, even though her new husband had never once suggested them. She did them as an expression of love for him and a desire to please him.”
RESIST THE DEVIL (4:7b)
Stop opposing God and start opposing the devil. Submitting to God is to resist the devil. To submit to the devil is to resist God. Fight the devil. Withstand him. Oppose him. We are to put up active resistance to the devil and his influence.
Illustration: As I was walking up the road, a dog suddenly came running toward me from a neighbor’s house, growling and barking. It seemed as if it was a wolf ready to pounce on its prey. Someone had told me that one of the worst things you can do when an animal attacks is run. So somehow, I mustered up some courage, and instead of running from the dog, I stood my ground, raise my fist, and faced down the attacking dog. Sure enough, it came right up to me, then turned around and left me. Friend, the devil will be like that dog if you will resist him. James gives us his second promise- You can resist the devil.
Stop giving into the devil. Stop letting him drag you into sin by enticing you with the desires within you.
Illustration: An eagle in early spring was soaring high above a river valley when he spotted a small rodent trapped in a piece of ice, floating down the stream. Sensing an easy fix, he swooped down on the mouse and began to eat it. While he was feasting on the mouse, the block of ice began to approach a waterfall. The eagle saw the danger, but believed he had plenty of time. It wouldn’t hurt to indulge himself, just this once. But as he finished the meal and prepared to take flight, what he didn’t notice was that the warmth of his paw had caused his foot to get stuck in the block of ice. He tried to dislodge it, but the weight was too great and he crashed over the waterfall to his death.
Satan will entice you with things of this world that look good. They are things you think you should have. Everyone else around you seems to be enjoying them. Why not you? And he will get you to nibble a little, and then bite, and then you are hooked. He will get you to doubt that God will provide what you need. He will get you to believe that you should take matters into your own hands.
Are we prepared like Jesus to resist the devil with the truth of the Word of God? Don’t doubt God’s provision. Don’t satisfy the lusts of the flesh. Seek Him first. Trust in God to provide what you need and when you need it.
James gives us his second promise which is just as valuable and encouraging. You can resist the devil and when you do, he will run from you. Resist the devil and he will leave you alone for a time. We see the example of this truth in the life of Jesus. Jesus resisted repeated temptations until finally the devil left him until a more opportune time. James says that this is true for us. It is not that we will experience one temptation and if we fight it we will not have any more temptations that day. The point is that we can win the fight. We can fight and we can win. We do not have to give in and we can overcome these temptations. Not only can you fight against drunkenness, sexual immorality, pride, anger, the tongue, selfishness, and the like, but you can win the battle. You can become strong in the areas where you are currently weak. Your weaknesses do not have to be a lifelong battle. You can resist and win so that the devil will flee from you.
DRAW NEAR TO GOD (4:8a)
Illustration: The wolf never attacks the sheep if it is with the rest of the sheep and the shepherd. The closer it is to the shepherd, the safer that sheep is.
The problem is that we get too far from God. When we go wandering in the wilderness, we get too far from God. The problem isn’t that we don’t have the power to defeat Satan in our lives — the problem is we don’t actually resist him.
I ran across a parable — it’s a little fairy tale actually — but it graphically illustrates why some of us spend our lives in bondage instead of enjoying the freedom God wants to bring into our lives.
Illustration of “The Prince and the Dragon”: There was once a great and noble King whose land was terrorized by a crafty dragon. Like a massive bird of prey, the scaly beast delighted in ravaging villages with his fiery breath. Hapless victims ran from their burning homes, only to be snatched into the dragon’s jaws or talons. Those devoured instantly were deemed more fortunate than those carried back to the dragon’s lair to be devoured at his leisure.
The King led his sons and knights in many valiant battles against the dragon. Riding alone in the forest, one of the King’s sons heard his name purred low and soft. In the shadows of the ferns and trees, curled among the boulders, lay the dragon. The creature’s heavy-lidded eyes fastened on the prince, and the reptilian mouth stretched into a friendly smile. “Don’t be alarmed,” said the dragon, as gray wisps of smoke rose lazily from his nostrils. “I am not what your father thinks.”
“What are you, then?” asked the prince, warily drawing his sword as he pulled in the reins to keep his fearful horse from bolting. “I am pleasure,” said the dragon. “Ride on my back and you will experience more than you ever imagined. Come now. I have no harmful intentions. I seek a friend, someone to share flights with me. Have you never dreamed of flying? Never longed to soar in the clouds?”
Visions of soaring high above the forested hills drew the prince hesitantly from his horse. The dragon unfurled one great webbed wing to serve as a ramp to his ridged back. Between the spiny projections, the prince found a secure seat. Then the creature snapped his powerful wings twice and launched them into the sky. The prince’s apprehension melted into awe and exhilaration.
From then on, he met the dragon often, but secretly, for how could he tell his father, brothers or the knights that he had befriended the enemy? The prince felt separate from them all. Their concerns were no longer his concerns. Even when he wasn’t with the dragon, he spent less time with those he loved and more time alone.
The skin on the prince’s legs became calloused from gripping the ridged back of the dragon, and his hands grew rough and hardened. He began wearing gloves to hide the malady. After many nights of riding, he discovered scales growing on the backs of his hands as well. With dread he realized his fate were he to continue, and so he resolved to return no more to the dragon. But, after a fortnight, he again sought out the dragon, having been tormented with desire. And so it transpired many times over. No matter what his determination, the prince eventually found himself pulled back, as if by the cords of an invisible web. Silently, patiently, the dragon always waited.
One cold, moonless night their excursion became an attack against a sleeping village. Torching the thatched roofs with fiery blasts from his nostrils, the dragon roared with delight when the terrified victims fled from their burning homes. Swooping in, the serpent belched again and flames engulfed a cluster of screaming villagers. The prince closed his eyes tightly in an attempt to shut out the carnage. In the pre dawn hours, when the prince crept back from his dragon trysts, the road outside his father’s castle usually remained empty. But not tonight. Terrified refugees streamed into the protective walls of the castle. The prince attempted to slip through the crowd to close himself in his chambers, but some of the survivors stared and pointed toward him.
“He was there,” one woman cried out, “I saw him on the back of the dragon.” Others nodded their heads in angry agreement. Horrified, the prince saw that his father, the King, was in the courtyard holding a bleeding child in his arms. The King’s face mirrored the agony of his people as his eyes found the prince’s. The son fled, hoping to escape into the night, but the guards apprehended him as if he were a common thief. They brought him to the great hall where his father sat solemnly on the throne. The people on every side railed against the prince. “Banish him!” he heard one of his own brothers angrily cry out. “Burn him alive!” other voices shouted.
As the King rose from his throne, bloodstains from the wounded shone darkly on his royal robes. The crowd fell silent in expectation of his decree. The prince, who could not bear to look into his father’s face, stared at the flagstones of the floor.
“Take off your gloves and your tunic,” the King commanded. The prince obeyed slowly, dreading to have his metamorphosis uncovered before the kingdom. Was his shame not already enough? He had hoped for a quick death without further humiliation. Sounds of revulsion rippled through the crowd at the sight of the prince’s thick, scaled skin and the ridge growing along his spine.
The King strode toward his son, and the prince steeled himself, fully expecting a back handed blow even though he had never been struck so by his father. Instead, his father embraced him and wept as he held him tightly. In shocked disbelief, the prince buried his face against his father’s shoulder. “Do you wish to be freed from the dragon, my son?” The prince answered in despair, “I wished it many times, but there is no hope for me.” “Not alone,” said the King. “You cannot win against the dragon alone.” “Father, I am no longer your son. I am half beast,” sobbed the prince.
But his father replied, “My blood runs in your veins. My nobility has always been stamped deep within your soul.” With his face still hidden tearfully in his father’s embrace, the prince heard the King instruct the crowd, “The dragon is crafty. Some fall victim to his wiles and some to his violence. There will be mercy for all who wish to be freed. Who else among you has ridden the dragon?”
The prince lifted his head to see someone emerge from the crowd. To his amazement, he recognized an older brother, one who had been lauded throughout the kingdom for his onslaughts against the dragon in battle and for his many good deeds. Others came, some weeping, others hanging their heads in shame.
The King embraced them all. “This is our most powerful weapon against the dragon,” he announced. “Truth. No more hidden flights. Alone we cannot resist him.”
ANIMATED VIDEO OF THE ABOVE STORY: CILCK HERE
Peter wrote this in our battle against the enemy. “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world” (I Peter 5:8-9).
God will give you a shield against every steely barb the enemy throws at you. But your power to resist will not be found in yourself. It has to be in someone who is greater than the enemy who seeks to deceive and destroy you. Your only hope for resisting the temptations and roadblocks Satan will inevitably throw at you is if the object of your faith, all of your faith, is Jesus Christ.
If you place any of your faith in yourself, in your friends, in your family, or even in this church, if there is anything that takes your eyes off of Christ in those times when resistance is required, then you will find yourself climbing back onto his back one more time.
So James gives us his third promise — “Come near to God and He will come near to you.”
CLEANSE YOUR HANDS AND PURIFY YOUR HEARTS (4:8b)
You can’t have fellowship with God if you are filthy. James tells us in verse 4 that if we are a “friend of the world” we are an enemy of God!
Illustration: Someone may say, ‘Mr. Melwyn, how can a man cleanse his own heart? How can a man purge his own soul?’ I might ask you how can a man wash his own hands? He cannot; he can only subject his hands to water and detergents and they do the washing. If he does not subject himself to water and detergent, he will not be cleansed.
Just as a man is clean by washing his hands and yet he cannot wash his hands, so a man’s heart is cleansed when he cleanses himself, and yet he cannot cleanse himself. No contradiction here, simply a question of understanding.
When you say to your son, ‘Johnny, wash your hands before you sit down to the dinner table,’ Johnny disappears, and soon he is back holding up white hands. Shortly before, they had not been so white. Now, did Johnny wash his hands? No, and yes. He washed them by bringing them into contact with water and detergent, which did the washing.
God says to a sinner, ‘Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double-minded” (James 4:8). What does He mean? Before you sit down at the Father’s table, go wash your hands, and yet that sinner cannot wash his hands. Not all the water in the world can wash him clean, only the blood of Christ can do it. Why then is he told to do it? For the same reason the boy is told to go wash. There is water that will cleanse him, but if he does not use water and soap, his hands will still be dirty, and when he rubs them, he only rubs in the dirt.
So when we who are religious hear the voice of God telling us to lay aside all impurities, we rush to lay them aside and do not go where the blood is or the cleansing. Only the blood of Jesus Christ can cleanse us, yet if we hold ourselves from that blood, we will be unclean forever.”
Note: You can’t go into the bathroom and wash your hands just once and be done, “I don’t need to wash them again, I washed them two years ago.”
LAMENT, MOURN, AND WEEP (4:9)
When Jesus began his public ministry preaching the coming of the kingdom of God he told the people to grieve, mourn and wail. Mark’s gospel, chapter one, says, “After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news’” (Mark 1:15). What was Jesus first message? “Repent” he said. That is, “Lament. Mourn. Weep.”
This is your emotional reaction to repentance. This demonstrates the rejection of the flesh, if we can say it that way. The old timers used to call it a “spirit of repentance.” The misery that you feel over sin.
Illustration: Imagine going on a trip and as you are traveling you look at a map and there are three towns named Lamenting, mourning and Weeping are all small neighboring towns. If you were driving down the road and were low on gas, and you came across towns with names such as these, you would probably take your chances and just keep driving. You wouldn’t even consider towns with names like this as nice places to visit. Well, the same can be true when we read verses like verse nine. We tend to read these verses and just keep on going. We don’t stop to understand what it means. We don’t understand what it means and we just pass right on through because we don’t see the love. We don’t see the grace. All we see is doom and gloom.
James is not calling his readers to a life of doom and gloom. James is calling his readers to intentionally lament over their sin.
James does not want them to live miserable, joyless lives. He wants them to be miserable about the sin in their lives. He doesn’t want them to be comfortable. He doesn’t want them to be so hooked on the idea that God loves them just the way they are that they convince themselves that there is no reason to change the things in their lives that are contrary to God’s Word and repent. Yes, it is true that God can and will work things out in the end. But if you refuse to repent of your sin, if you insist on focusing solely on the love of God and refuse to consider the truth that God is holy, righteous, and just, the end result will not be in your favor. If you are thinking this way, stop fooling yourself. Be distressed over the sin that separates you from God and repent.
He says, “mourn” Again, James is not saying that one of the attractions of the Christian life is the fact that Christians live a life of sorrow. The command is not to mourn over being a believer. The command is to mourn over the interruption of fellowship with God because of the sin that separates us from Him. This doesn’t mean that if we run around beating our chests, dumping ashes on our heads, and tearing our clothes that our mourning automatically translates to genuine repentance. It doesn’t mean that every time we repent of our sin that it has to be a public proclamation and a theatrical production so everyone will believe we are sincere.
We have a choice: we can laugh at our sins now and mourn later when we stand before God in judgment or we can mourn at our sins now and rejoice in God’s grace on the day of judgment.
HUMBLE YOURSELVES (4:10)
“The way up is down. The lowly one becomes the lifted one. There is a marked advantage to humility, eventually it brings honor.”
Illustration: Perhaps you have heard the story of the man who received recognition for being the humblest man in the church? They gave him a pin to wear. The following Sunday he wore it and they took it away from him for being proud. Humility is a lot like this. As soon as we think we are humble, we are not.
James gives us his fourth promise. “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”
Brothers and sisters God will reward our faithfulness.
Illustration : In Joshua chapter ten the children of Israel were fighting against the last major battle in taking of The Promised Land. They were fighting against five kingdoms. God’s people were out numbered, but God had a Battle Plan for Victory—Him.
As the children of Israel were attacking their enemy the Bible says, “the Lord hurled large hailstones down on the enemy from the sky.” (Joshua 10:11NIV) Not only that more died from the hailstones than from the swords of the Israelites. God’s people are engaged in battle, and the fighting is fierce so Joshua prays for the Sun to stand still. God slows or stops the Earth’s rotation to give His people ultimate victory. It gets better, God’s people had made a treaty to their enemy. They had given them ground and yet God still allowed them to have total victory.
Maybe you today have given the enemy ground. Listen God can still give you victory. Listen Christian if you’ll submit to His plan, stand against the enemy, resist sin, commit your life and develop a real relationship with Jesus. If we repent when we need to He will bring victory. If He has to stop the earth, hang the moon or shoot a star to give us that victory He will.
Are you following His Battle Plan for Victory in your life?
Four great promises: