Spiritual Warfare: Resist the Devil

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In our first two posts on spiritual warfare, we looked at Satan – his nature (as a powerful, created angelic being, once good now evil); his opposition to God and his people; and his us – accusing us, deceiving us, tempting us to sin.  And we said that though Satan is someone to be feared as the enemy of our souls, he is ultimately a defeated enemy (Col 2:15; 1 Pet 3:22; Eph 1:19-21).  We said that Christ won the decisive battle on the cross.  So we should not give him undo fear, but keep in mind his subjection to the risen Christ.

So what do we do?  How do we fight the devil?  Well, again some will say that we are to claim a binding against him.  But we saw last week that it was Jesus who already bound him.  Others say that we must be delivered from him. But again, we saw that Jesus has already delivered from us the domain of darkness to God’s glorious light (Col 1:13).   God says that we face the devil by resisting him and standing against him.  James and Peter tell us how we are to resist him.  Paul tells us how to stand.

This post we will look at  what James says about resisting Satan.

James’ Instructions

James 4:4-10 –You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.  [5] Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?  [6] But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  [7] Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  [8] Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  [9] Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.  [10] Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

According to James, we resist the attacks of the devil and his temptations to sin by doing three things:

1. Embrace the power of God

In resisting the devil James teaches classic-mode spiritual warfare. He appeals first to God the giver, who freely bestows grace and wisdom to those who ask. God’s gift produces wise people who are obedient, gentle, reasonable, merciful, unwavering, and able to make peace in a world of war (3:17-18).

James 3:17-18 says, [The wisdom God gives,] the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.  [18] And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

And so now as he begins, James says, in light of the sin we face and rears its ugly head in our lives, [God] gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

James shows the generous power of God: “He gives more grace.” The NASB even says, ‘He gives greater grace.’  In the midst of all the sordid, demonic, and degraded folly in this world, this short sentence is one of the sweetest in Scrip­ture. God gives grace to his people.  And that grace is than this present darkness.

This is where spiritual warfare begins and ends – with the grace of God.  We either embrace his grace in our lives, and succeed in our fight.  Or we reject his grace and fail over and over again.

2. Submit to the authority of God

[7] Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you ….  [10] Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

Two key commands are given in verse seven; submit to God, resist the devil. That language is military language.; don’t misunderstand it.  Submission sounds like you are sort of relinquishing, you’re giving up, you’re saying ‘uncle,. But the fact of the matter is, submit here means active allegiance; active allegiance to God. It doesn’t mean passivity; it’s enlistment language. It means being ready to do the Lord’s bidding. To submit to God means:  to place oneself under His lordship and carry out all His commands. If God gives grace to the humble and resists those who are proud, then by all means should we seek to be humble!

We humble ourselves by recognizing our own spiritual poverty, acknowledging our need of God’s help, submitting to His commanding will for our lives.  The perfect picture comes in Luke 18:9-14 – He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt:  [10] “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  [11] The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  [12] I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’  [13] But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’  [14] I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

God exalts the humble. We gain spiritual vitality and strength by relying God, not ourselves.

Then James says resist the devil.  Resistance is the other side of that resistance means to man the defenses to be prepared for conflict with Satan.  James is simply reminding you that when grace invades your life the battle is only just beginning, and for some reasons Christians forget that.

They think that when grace invades your life that the battle is over, and James is simply saying to you here, you need to be in the mindset that grace is there for the fight.  Grace doesn’t end it, it begins it, and Christians need to remember that.

3. Repent of sins against God

[8] Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  [9] Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.

James says, if we draw near to God, he will draw near to us.  What a promise!  But how are we to go draw near to God? One of the new worship songs that I object to on the basis of its lyrics is the song, ‘Come, Now is the Time to Worship.’  The song urges us to come ‘just as we are.’  If that means going to God for salvation, then yes we do come as we are.  But if, as the song seems clearly to say, we are coming to God in worship, then the Scriptures teach otherwise.

Psalm 24 says, “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?  And who shall stand in his holy place?    [4] He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.

Likewise, James says we are to draw near to God with repentant hearts.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  [9] Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.

James is not saying the Christian life is a life of doom and gloom.  No, he is simply picking up the language of the Old Testament to emphasize the mindset of real repentance.  It doesn’t take sin lightly.  A sign of true repentance: when God’s people express heart-felt sorrow over their sin.

Biblically, laughter is the mark of the fool who spurns right living (cf. Prov 10:23; Luke 6:25b).  We as believers can easily slip into a casual attitude towards sin.  We must not presume on God’s character.  Sometime we say things like, “it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.”  But that is a deadly mentality for the Christian.  James, along with the rest of Scripture, says that even as saved believers we should weep over out sins (cf. 2 Cor 7:10; 1 Cor 5:2; Luke 22:62).

Likewise, Paul exhorts us to be joyful (Phil 4:4), and we should be.  But we should rejoice over the right things – forgiveness of sin.  James warns that we should not take joy because of our indulgence in sin.

Summary

In James, the book of Proverbs stands out. The way of victory in war is the way of wisdom in life. The worldview and practices of Proverbs 2, 3, and 4 breathe throughout James. Spiritual war­fare is the blood, sweat, and tears of dying to one’s self and lis­tening to God. When Satan holds out the carrot of lies, resist. When Satan hammers us with the stick of suffering, resist. When our own hearts would act like the devil, resist. Those who draw near to God in repentant faith encounter the power who enables them to live in obedient faith.

James promises that if we resist Satan, “he will flee from you.” The promise of vic­tory could not be stronger.  This kind of biblical spiritual warfare is the power encounter that shatters the devil’s kingdom of lies and death. Victory in war comes when repentant and believing refugees from the dominion of darkness embrace the power of God. This is the way the prayerful have always fought their enemies and triumphed: Job, David, Jeremiah, Habakkuk, Daniel, Jesus, Paul, Peter, James. And it is the way that we today must fight to win.

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