Text: James 4:7-10
Introduction: One of my favorite movie genres is with ancient or medieval kingdom narratives. Kingdom symbolism in historical period drama, fiction, and some mystical movie series and narrative permeates the portrayal of an omnipotent King, a prince or princess, to receive royal status and the subject, his people, to follow his royal command. Likewise, how to read the Bible is through this kingdom lens, from Adam in the Garden of Eden to Abraham’s call to have a nation, mosaic commandments like a king giving his covenant and benefits of those who will be in covenant with him to the promise of eternal King in the lineage of David and fulfilled in the incarnation of the second person of the Trinity, Christ.
A primary virtue that is very important to be a faithful follower of the King is SUBMISSION.
Background: Warning against worldliness and reminding Christians to submit to God fully. The author of this book is James. He was the half-brother of Jesus. Still, he did not use his bloodline to overpower or demand authority from others. In chapter 1, verse 1, he introduced himself as a “servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
- Submission as Surrender – What is submission? It is a surrender (e.g., war, wrestling match, or UFC MMA fight). Surrender is to yield your power to the most powerful. Sun Tzu said in his iconic war strategy, “Only enter battles you know you can win. Avoid battles you cannot win.” To surrender is to recognize that God is powerful and you are not.
- Those who yielded ought to pledge their allegiance to their new ruler, the new King. The former ruler in our lives was the devil; the present king sitting on the throne of our hearts is King Jesus. My question is, “Who rules over you?” Is it Jesus, yourself or the devil?
- Saying No to the Devil – Submission to God begins with resisting the devil, its temptations, and all the impurities of our hearts. Romans 8:13, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”
- John Owen’s famous words, “Be killing sin or [sin] will be killing you.” How do we kill sin? (Eph. 6:17, “…Sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”)
- Satan will flee just as he had fled from Christ before when he was rejected three times during the temptation in the desert in Matthew 4 (Luke 4:13).
- Seeking God’s Proximity – God draws us near to him. It is a mutual proximity. God is near us, but we need to respond to his invitation to be near him. He does not force anyone to draw closer to him or to love him. God in Christ expects each of us to be closer to him.
- I find it interesting how James urges us to draw ourselves after resisting the devil. It only implies that when we are far away from God’s presence, the next thing we realize is that the devil is now our best friend. How is your time with God? Or did you just enjoy your bonding with the devil last Friday?
- Shaping and Sifting – Cleansing is a purification ritual in Ancient Jewish times. Romans 9:20-21 supports the thought that God shapes our lives. However, Christians have calloused hearts that they do not care about their sins, pride, lies, and other subtle sins. They just laugh about it. That’s why James is telling us that the proper reaction in the impending judgment of God in Christ is to mourn, weep, and be broken—this is a sign of repentance. More than shaping, God is sifting us. He strains our impurities until we are filtered to our most righteous hearts. To be a Christian is to be tested, sifted, and sanctified.
- Soaring High through Submission – there are more things to reach when you are bowing down and kneeling to pray than raising your forehead with pride and self-reliance. Humility is the Way to Success. We are more Christlike when we are humble.
Conclusion: Give Up and Let Go! The world tells us not to give up on ourselves. That is indeed true, but if it is just about yourself, then you are living in a self-reliant, delusional, and self-made reality. We need to give up everything to God, and let go of pride, unforgiveness, anger, envy, fleshly desires, smoking, drinking, and unholiness.
Illustration: The only person who can go to the room of the president at 3 am is his child. Likewise, the persons who can approach the king are his children.
Pastor John Paul Arceno
UCBC New Jersey
November 19, 2023