Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. James 4:7
We like to have our way, not give in to others. Jesus showed us we should submit to authorities. But we think we have the right to ridicule our authorities. Jesus’ brother James warns that our selfish desires cause fights and quarrels, envy, and aggression. We think it’s the other person’s fault. We seek pleasure over God’s will and enjoy friendship with the world, instead of friendship with Him. (James 4:1-6) These evil ways have become part of who we are. So what are we to do with these temptations? James answers:
“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (James 4:7-10)
Submit, resist, draw near, purify yourself, grieve over your rebellious heart, humble yourself before God. Change! This isn’t a multiple choice option. It’s the path to drawing closer to God. He knows we will never be perfect at this. But there is danger in compromising on God’s instructions. What if instead of first submitting to God we just try to resist temptation in our own power? When I try this I get beat up over and over. We live a lifetime of frustration, guilt, and defeat with just such an approach.
Worse yet is befriending and justifying that which tempts us. If we insist on this pseudo relationship with God He will give us over to our own way of thinking as He did with King Saul, with the Israelites, and with those in Jesus’ time. “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts…” (Romans 1:24). He will do the same with us if we insist.
When we acknowledge that God is God and we are not, it makes sense to first submit to God’s authority over our thoughts, motives, and actions. Just as Moses removed his soiled sandals before stepping on holy ground, so we too serve our best interest when we ‘wash our hands’ of wrong ways of thinking and behaving. By purifying our hearts of wrong desires, and ungodly ambitions we humble ourselves before God. We can’t be humble while laughing at things that disgust Him, remaining apathetic to those things that make Him sad, or believing lies about who we are.
Humbling ourselves before God draws us close to Him, where He restores and renews us. Ask God today, what areas of your life have not been humbly submitted to Him and find the satisfaction of being lifted up by His righteous right hand.