Last week we began a mini-series on our enemy the devil.
In 1 Peter 5 we saw that 1) you are being watched 2) you must be ready and 3) you can resist. Our enemy the devil is stalking you. You have to be ready because you never know when he might strike. When he does, remember that you can resist.
You can resist because he is a defeated enemy. You can resist because you know that you aren’t alone – you belong to a mighty army. You can resist because God himself is ready to strengthen you and establish your faith.
The word for resist in 1 Peter 5 is used in one other place – in James chapter 4. That’s our text for this morning. Let’s read James 4:7-8.
The word for resist means “to take a complete stand against. It is a 180 degree, contrary position; to establish one’s position publicly by conspicuously holding one’s ground, refusing to be moved.
The Christian life is a life of active resistance.
Today I want you to see the connection between resistance and submission in James 4.
1. To resist the devil, submit to God
There’s a simple structure in verses 7-8. The call to resist the devil is placed within the context of that structure, which is more about God than the devil.
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.
Resisting the devil is a secondary activity. The primary activity is submission to God. That submission involves two activities – resisting the devil and drawing near to God. Each of those activities comes with a promise.
Notice the simplicity James gives for that resistance – resist him and he will flee from you. He is already defeated. When we resist he has no choice but to flee. Next week we will look into the practical application of resistance in Ephesians 6.
And see the wonderfully simple promise of God – draw near to him and he will draw near to you.
In the spiritual realm, to submit is to resist. And to resist is to submit.
There is something very important for us in this principle.
We can say it like this: to resist God is to submit to the devil.
At any given moment a Christian may love God and seek to follow Christ. They may be a devoted follower and yet resist God in one area of their life. They may hold tightly to their finances, saying “God, you can have my whole life. Except money. I need to make sure I have security.”
That person is resisting God in the area of their finances. That resistance is at the same time a submission to the devil. They are yielding to the devil in their finances in the act of resisting God.
This creates what the Bible calls a foothold. It is an opportunity, an opening for our stalking enemy to exploit.
Submission to God is a total commitment.
That Christian who is yielding to God and resisting God at the same time is in a state of internal conflict. In 4:1 James says this person’s passions are at war within them.
You will never have peace when you are yielding to both God and the devil. You will live in a state of internal conflict.
In James 4:8, James calls this being double-minded. The word means literally “two-souled.” A heart that is not completely yielded to God is a divided heart. It is a weakened heart. It is a heart vulnerable to the schemes of the devil.
That state is not God’s design for the human heart. God’s design is for a life of integrity – a life of wholeness. When our hearts are whole, we have peace, power and internal prosperity.
You see this concept of God’s design for a unified heart in the great command of Deuteronomy 6:5. We are to love God with every part of our selves – with heart, soul, mind and strength.
You see that concept in David’s prayer in Psalm 86:11. “Give me an undivided heart!”
You see it in the promise of the Messiah in Jeremiah 32:39. “I will give you one heart.”
God desires to have every aspect of your life. He is calling you to submit every part of your life to Him. To open every door to him.
This includes your past, present and future.
It includes money, success, love, sex, work, entertainment, friendship
It involves your actions, thoughts, words and emotions
Paul puts a particular emphasis on thoughts in his teaching on spiritual battle. In 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 he shows us that the field of our battle with the evil one is not physical, but spiritual. It takes place in the field of our minds.
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
Why are so many Christians no different from the world around them? Why are they anxious and burdened and inhibited? Because they have learned to take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.
Many of us need to learn how to fight this battle.
Some of us do not resist the devil in our minds. We entertain him. Sometimes we don’t even recognize him.
Resistance to the devil requires an active and vigilant watch of our thoughts and our emotions. We need to learn what it is to recognize a thought for what it is – a foreign intrusion, a fiery attack. And we need to learn to resist – “I resist you, you spirit of shame and accusation. Be silent. I am God’s chosen and dearly loved child.”
To resist God in any area of life is to yield to the devil. A spirit of peace, power and prosperity requires total surrender to God.
It’s right to submit to God.
He’s the creator.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.
Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.
God has the right of ownership over us. And he has the right of superiority.
He’s the judge.
There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy
But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.
He’s the savior.
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God,
God has a right to our submission. It’s right to submit to Him. But it’s not just right.
It’s good to submit to God.
The word for submit means to ‘place under’. To place yourself under God, is to be close to God.
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
Isn’t that good? It’s good to be under God. The Bible is filled with promises for those who submit or place themselves under God.
We saw it in verse 8 – draw near to God and he will draw near to you.
Here’s a few more:
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.
To submit your future to God is to come under God’s wisdom. To submit your finances to God is to come under God’s generosity. To submit your dreams to God is to come under God’s goodness. To submit your wounds to God is to come under God’s healing compassion. To submit your fears to God is to come under God’s power.
Is there any area in your life that is not yielded to God? Will you surrender to Him now?
If you can’t find it in your heart to let go, then begin with this prayer:
“Make me willing to be made willing.”
Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown