James 4:7 says, “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.”
James, Brother Of Jesus
First, it is important to recognize that there is almost universal agreement that this epistle was written by James who was the brother of Jesus.
Hegesippus, commonly known as the father of church history; a Jewish Christian of 2nd century C.E.(110?-180?), left a historical account of James’ life in Jerusalem.
He said, James was holy from his mother’s womb, that he drank neither wine nor strong drink; he would go into the temple alone, and would be found there on his knees and asking for forgiveness for the people, so that his knees became hard and dry as a camel’s.
On account of his exceeding justness, he was called ‘Just’ and ‘bulwark of the People’.
Hegesippus, and the historian Josephus both attest that James’ life came to an end in Jerusalem, where he was stoned to death.
Josephus recorded that, “Ananus, who took the high priesthood, was a bold man in his temper, and very insolent; he was also of the sect of the Sadducees, who are very rigid in judging offenders, above all the rest of the Jews, as we have already observed; when, therefore, Ananus was of this disposition, he thought he had now a proper opportunity.
Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the Sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned: but as for those who seemed the most equitable of the citizens, and such as were the most uneasy at the breach of the laws, they disliked what was done; they also sent to the king, desiring him to send to Ananus that he should act so no more, for that what he had already done was not to be justified; nay, some of them went also to meet Albinus, as he was upon his journey from Alexandria, and informed him that it was not lawful for Ananus to assemble a Sanhedrim without his consent.
Whereupon Albinus complied with what they said, and wrote in anger to Ananus, and threatened that he would bring him to punishment for what he had done; on which king Agrippa took the high priesthood from him, when he had ruled but three months.
James was a pillar of Christianity who remained in Jerusalem, while the apostles engaged in caring the message of Christianity to other parts of the earth.
On one occasion the Apostle Peter was in Jerusalem telling people about Jesus, and he was arrested and taken before King Herod. Herod had Peter thrown in prison.
Acts 12:7 says, “Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up! And the chains fell off Peters wrist.”
Prison bars opened and Peter was set free. The first place he went was to the home of Mary, the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered. (Acts12:12)
Acts 12:17 says, “Peter motioned with his hand and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. “Tell James and the brothers about this,” he said, and then he left for another place.”
Herod Agrippa I, died in A.D. 44, so that, these events probably occurred in A.D. 43.
And so, the epistle that bares James name was probably written A.D. 40-50, making it the earliest of New Testament writings.
God In Control
And so, while James was alive, he practiced what he preached. In doing so, he was condemned and put to death, as was his older brother, Jesus Christ.
He says, “Submit yourselves, then, to God.”
One might ask, why should I submit myself to God? James answers this question in the preceding verse. James 4:6 says, “But he gives us more grace. That is why Scriptures says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
The lifestyle of the rich and famous; images of luxury, pleasure, lust, liquor, drugs, and material possessions create pressure, envy, and want.
Once possessed by the riches of this world; greed, corruption and sin become the new normal. And because we live in the age of technology, information and media; the new normal, i.e., temptation bombards our eyes, ears; thoughts, feelings and emotions.
James wants us to know that sin is unavoidable; it touches everyone. But he also wants us to know that God’s grace towers above the evil and sins of this world.
Grace is God’s favor extended to the sinner, the underserved, to the lost, downtrodden, hopeless and the faithless. Grace is redemption and salvation alive in the world saving human souls from the consequences of sin, i.e., hell and damnation.
When we humble ourselves and submit to God, we can drink from the cup of grace, being assured that the cup will never run dry. Grace looks temptation in the face and says, I rebuke you, get behind me, leave me alone in the name of Jesus.
Galatians 5:16 says, “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”
God has made us Kings and Queens; we carve out a way of life for ourselves, families and communities. And there is great satisfaction in this, for in this way, we set aside an inheritance for future generations.
However, the best inheritance we can leave for our families, is a life lived for God, and his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Because, what we inherit in Christ is eternal, glorious, and replete with riches beyond human comprehension.
Addiction and desire, striving and struggling, lust and pleasure, disease and wars; none of it can add one day to our lives.
When we submit to God, we aline our lives with his providence; we accept that God has a plan for our lives, which includes all of humanity.
So that, when we internalize that God is in control of our lives and our destiny; surrender is not an option. We battle with thoughts, trails, temptations assured that in Christ, we are victorious.
Reflection: Many of us were born poor, and some not so poor. In our families, communities and countries racial exploitation, economic discrimination and social degradation are the causes of much of the poverty, violence, and illegal activity. These things have divided us.
The hurt and pain is so deep that we live in cocoons; mentally isolated from everything happening in the world.
In Galatians 3:28, Jesus opens a window and allows us to see into providence: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
The dictionary definition of submit is: “to surrender to the authority of another.” So when we submit to God, we submit to his plan for creation. Therefore, are only option is to work God’s plan. God needs each one of us working to make life better for others; i.e., people who are crying out for help. When we submit to God, there is no quitting; so that, like Jesus, we live to serve others.
God’s Power Over Satan
And so, James says, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
Satan is our worst enemy; we must be vigilant and guard against his schemes to ensnare us. He is arrogant and takes pride in the conquest of human beings.
Satan uses material possessions to subdue human beings; and when possessed by material possessions human beings begin to mirror Satan’s arrogance, and pride.
Satan has one goal and that is to replace God in our lives. Satan will take us on a ride, and as the ride comes to an end, Satan is in control doing with us as he pleases.
Ephesians 5:10-12 says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For your struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in heavenly realms.
To put on the armor of God, is too enlist in God’s Kingdom where we are received into the body of Christ. Once in the body of Christ, God’s love, mercy, and grace form a clock of protection around us.
When Jesus rose from the grave, he rose having conquered sin and death. As a result, Satan’s power over human beings suffered a severe blow.
To walk in God’s armor is to be led by a life of prayer, the scriptures, and faith; these things serve to protect us from demonic attacks. Satan has to retreat when we live in harmony with the indwelling Spirit of Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 5:8-9 says, “Be self controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of suffering.”
Satan will promise the world, he will flatter, and he creates temptation and makes threats. In all that he does, we have the power to resist. We can resist because we surrendered to God; God who is our protector.
And so, “Come near to God and he will come near to you.”
As human beings we must discipline ourselves. The very tools we use to facilitate our stand against Satan, are the tools that draw us closer to God.
Repentance, prayer, fasting, study, obedience and devotion are tools we can use in our relationship with God. He is the Shepard and we are his sheep, and we do what He says, and go where He leads.
Likewise, just being in God’s presence, and spending time with him teaches us about holiness. God is holy, and to commune with Him, is to learn holiness.
As we speak to God, prayer is the language that we use. In prayer we commune with God asking Him to allow us participate in His will and plan for our lives and the world we live in.
Lord, your home is in heaven; yet, you never leave us alone. With all our hearts and minds, we thank you and praise your Holy name. Lord, you have protected us from pain, suffering, hurt and danger that we are unaware of. You are always present guarding our lives from the danger and troubles of this world. Thank you Father, in the name of Jesus; Thank you.
Lord, you are the head of our lives and we are your followers. Anoint our hearts and minds with love and compassion. Lord direct our love and compassion towards obedience to your will and plan for our lives and the world. Anoint us with humility, and your spirit of serving others.
Give us eyes to see the blessedness in helping others. Bless us to understand that what we do in serving others we do for you. Bless our work of helping others that it’s fruit would multiply and fill the earth. Thank you for the opportunity to participate in helping to make this world better for everyone. In Jesus name. Amen