Jas 4:5-8 “Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.”
James poses an important question here. While he has a specific instance before him, we should examine our attitude toward all scripture. Do we think that the instruction of the scripture serves no purpose? Our actions would indicate that many of us do not regard the word of God as having a great deal of relevance to our lives. Instructions to pray without ceasing and to love each other as Jesus loves us have become nice catchphrases for Sunday morning, but how much effort do we give to actually heeding the scriptures?
We are told in no uncertain terms that the carnal spirit that lives in us intensely craves (lusteth – see Strong’s) ill will (envy). This attitude is a permanent resident of the natural man. Selfishness is part of our human nature and is a driving force of ungodliness. The scripture tells us the truth about who we are in the flesh. It also tells us the truth about who we ought to be by the grace of God.
It is our nature to be selfish, but God gives more grace. God’s grace outweighs our carnality. As He told Paul, His grace is sufficient (abundant and appropriate) for us (2Co 12:9). Even though it is in our nature to be selfish, God gives us grace to be giving (Act 20:35). It is according to our nature to sin, but He gives us grace to be holy (Lev 11:45). It is in our nature to be arrogant (proud), but God gives us grace to be humble. It is this “more grace,” this daily grace for living, that we can receive in vain (2Co 6:1).
God gives us grace to put down our arrogance. He resists (sets Himself against) us if we fail to overcome our pride. In submitting ourselves to Him, we receive the grace of humility. Pride is a tool of the devil. When we resist our nature to be arrogant and self-willed, we are resisting the devil. If we resist the devil, he will run away from us. This does not happen because we are so strong it frightens him.
The only way we can resist our carnal nature is to rely on the nature of God that He has placed in us by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Resisting the devil and drawing nigh unto God are not separate actions. Being able to resist the devil is a sure indication that we are drawing nigh (obeying) unto God. As we draw nigh to God, He has assured us that He is drawing nigh to us. As the God of all grace draws nigh unto us the devil runs away; not from us, but from the holy presence of Almighty God!
We know according to scripture that we were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4). We also know that we did not choose Him, but rather that He chose us (Joh 15:16). The admonition to cleanse our hands is not about us making ourselves fit to live in eternity. It is rather about our obedience to God here in this gospel kingdom we have today.
Purifying our hearts is not about us making ourselves worthy to live in eternity with God. It is about being steadfast in our service to Him while we live here. We are to set our hearts on Him and not waver (be double minded) in our commitment to serve Him and His people. As we use the grace we are given to subdue our carnal nature, He giveth more grace: there is an inexhaustible supply.
May we recognize that we have God’s word for a reason, and by His grace apply that word to our actions that we may be the children of our Father (Mat 5:45)!