James 4:5-17 — Near to The Lord

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Last time we spoke about the conflict between our lusts and between the wisdom from Above. The wisdom of the world is foolishness to God, and His wisdom is foolishness to the world. In high schools and colleges/universities, we learn about the Greek wisdom of Aristotle, of Socrates, of Plato; the Chinese wisdom of Confucius, and of Buddha.  Did any of us learn about the wisdom of Moses, or of Solomon, or of Paul, or of the Messiah Jesus in the educational systems of the world? Remember, too, that Israel asked for a king like the Gentiles have. They rejected YHVH from being their King.  They wanted a king that allow them to indulge in the lusts of the flesh, and of their eyes, and of the pride of life. They did not want a – or the – King who is holy and pure, and who requires those of His kingdom to also become holy and pure.

James 4:5-17

v 5-6  The Holy Spirit through James has told us that friendship with “the world” – the world system presently under the power of Satan that is against the Kingdom of God, whose kingdom is not of  this world – makes us an enemy of God!  Our lusts, our own strong desires of the flesh, are in conflict with the wisdom of God from Above.  There is conflict within us between our own carnal – even demonic! – desires, and between the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Messiah, who dwells within the born-again believer.

The Spirit of God in us is jealous for our faithful love when we become friends with the world.  The Holy Spirit in us does not lead us to be envious (negative nuance of keen’ah which can also mean “jealous”, which can be either positive or negative), and to be unfaithful to our God and our Bridegroom.  We are in a spiritual war, and God resists the proud, but gives more grace to the humble. (Ex 20:534:14)

v 7  Therefore, submit to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  In the presence of God, God must reign – both in our own lives, and over the devil.  Do not resist the devil without first submitting yourself to God.  The devil is stronger than we are, but God is stronger than all of the evil spirits together, and will give more grace to resist the devil! The wisdom from above comes from the fear of YHVH, and by our sacrificing our whole life and thoughts as a living sacrifice to God, we will better discern between what is good and what is evil in the eyes of God. (Rom 12:1-2Heb 5:12-14)

Remember how last time I said that some of you think that I am too much exhorting and admonishing in my teachings, and not just speaking nice words to encourage everyone that all is okay:  God loves you; don’t worry about anything; we’re all good.  Well, there is more coming now again, as we read what the Holy Spirit has given James to speak to us.  I am just trying to be a faithful teacher of His Word.  James speaks directly to Jewish believers (and through them to all believers) living among the Gentiles in the same way that God gave the Prophet Hosea to speak to Israel (and to Judah) soon before He was going to exile Israel among the Gentiles.  They both speak regarding the unfaithfulness of the people-at-large, and of God’s heart and intention to call us back to Himself in whole-hearted love.  There has always been a faithful remnant within and among God’s people – both within Israel and within the Church.  But we do not want  – if we think that we are among the faithful – to think too highly of ourselves, and say to James (to God through James):  “Why are you talking so harshly to me?!”

This is how the Pharisees and the Sadducees reacted to John the Baptizer when he called all of Israel to a baptism of repentance.  God knows the heart of every person:  King Saul sinned against the word of the Prophet Samuel, and God took away His Spirit and the Kingdom from Saul; King David sinned against God in his adultery and murder regarding Uriah and Bathsheba:  he felt miserable for a year until the Prophet Nathan came to him with a parable, and David condemned himself.  God forgave David, because David had a heart for YHVH; yet he and his family suffered consequences from then till today.  Judas Iscariot betrayed the Messiah, even after Yeshua had said at the final Passover meal that it would have been better if His betrayer had never been born.  Peter denied the Lord three times, yet Jesus had prayed for him that his faith would not fail.  Jesus knew that Peter loved Him.

The Day of Atonements (Yom Kippur) was for each and every Israeli and Jew, not only for the unfaithful.  Everyone sins and is in need of God’s atonement in the Savior.

v 8  Draw near to God (our initiative), and He will draw near to you.  The more that we see God in His glory, the more we will become like Him, and separate ourselves from those things not suitable to the Kingdom of God.  (1Jn 3:1-32Cor 3:17-18)  If we are away from God, the devil is nearer to us!  How do we draw near to God?  We must come on His terms, respecting His holiness, and His honor among men. (Lev 10:3)  Read the Bible as His word.  If we need to forgive anyone, we must do that.  The LORD says through the Prophet Isaiah:  “For thus says the High and Lofty One, who inhabits eternity, whose Name is holy:  ‘I dwell in the high and holy, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, and to revive the heart of the contrite one.”’ (Is 57:1566:1-2)  James writes, “cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”  If we love the world, and we say that we love Jesus, then we are double-minded.  Yeshua/Jesus tells us to love Him with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. (Mt 22:37-4010:34-39)  If we say that we are believers, but fight against His thoughts and ways, then we are double-minded. (Is 55:7-9)  We cannot serve two masters faithfully; we cannot love the world [system] and be faithful to our Lord and Savior, who was crucified by those who loved the world and themselves and their culture more than they loved God.

v 9  Be aware of your condition – if this characterizes you – and lament and mourn and weep.  Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.  This affliction of soul – this broken spirit and a broken and contrite heart of the Day of Atonements – is what King David understood as the sacrifice acceptable to God.  Not just some substitute offering, but ourselves a living sacrifice.  Great tribulation is coming and we must be prepared for the time when the world will hate us, and for when God will destroy all who oppose Him and His Son.

v 10  Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift us up.  This cannot be artificially manufactured, but must be a heart-felt confession of our sin against our God and Savior, with repentance not to be regretted.  This is the condition that the Lord is bringing His people to. (Zech 12:10-14)  When Jesus returns to establish God’s Kingdom in Israel and over the nations, He will lift up the saints to rule and reign with Him.  Let us wait with hope until that time, and continue to do what He has given us to do until that great day.

If we are lukewarm, Jesus will not accept us. (Rev 3:14-22)  If we give Him our whole heart – if we draw near to Him – He will lift us up.  He will raise our heads.  God is just and quick to forgive us.  He will heal us of our back-sliding, of our love for the things of ‘the world’ when we know how great and wonderful is His love, and the things promised to those who love Him.  There is a difference between resisting and fighting temptations, and being freed from the temptation; where it is no longer tempting.

v 11  Brethren, do not speak evil of a brother.  If we judge a brother [before the time] – meaning, if we condemn a brother as not a real brother or sister in the faith – we judge the Law that gives YHVH God that final judgment.  If we judge a brother in a manner not in accord with the Law, then we make ourselves a judge of the Law, rather than a doer of the Law, which sets terms and conditions for righteous judgment.  The Torah commands us to love our brothers as ourselves, not to desire their punishment, but to want to help them see the error of their ways, that they might repent and be forgiven.  We are our brother’s keeper.

v 12  There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy.  He is the Judge of His own law, and the Savior from it. (Is 33:22)  Who are we to judge/condemn another?  I know of some believers who have already condemned other believers to Hell because they do not agree now with their interpretations of some of the Scriptures, including regarding God’s promises to Israel.  The Holy Spirit is still leading us into all truth, and to be in agreement with the Word of God.

We are to judge sinful behavior, and false teachers, but it is Jesus who will judge the living and the dead regarding each one’s eternal destiny.  Each of needs to examine and judge ourselves to be certain if we are right with God in our lives. (2Cor 13:51Cor 11:31-322Pt 1:10)

v 13-16  There are those who make plans without considering God’s will, or the uncertainties of what can happen during the time of our plans.  We could plan today, and die tonight.  The planning that James is especially referring to here is how we plan to prosper materially in this world.  This is arrogance and presumption.  Jesus tells us to have our treasure in Heaven, not to have our hearts on worldly wealth.  It does not mean that we do not make any plans, but our plans must be consciously subject to the will of God:  if God wills, we shall do this or that.  We trust in the living God, not in uncertain riches. (1Tim 6:17)  To exclude God and reality from our thinking and planning and “dreaming” is to boast in our arrogance.  It is challenging and testing God, thinking that we can determine and control our own destiny. To God, all such boasting is evil!

v 17  Therefore…given all that James has written to us till now about the right and wrong manner of life….therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it – but persists in his own way and desires — to him it is sin.  It is pretty obvious from this that no believer will attain perfection in this life!  As James writes, we all stumble in many things.  How true!

We see how being near to the Lord, being in His presence, greatly affects the course of our lives.  And, with this, I have a confession to make:  we have been learning how our tongues – our speech – can either bless or curse.  I sinned last week by gossiping to someone about someone (without mentioning a name), and the person that I told had no reason to know anything about it, for now, at least.  He is not part of the problem nor part of the solution, and by saying what I did, it could cause him to wonder who I am talking about, and what exactly I was referring to.  Later, I wrote and asked him to forgive me for doing that.  As James writes, and especially to teachers, we all fail in many things, but if we can control our tongues, then we would be perfect!  So, as I always say, when I do teach, I am also speaking to myself, not just to you.

Many say that they are believers; many say, “Lord, Lord, didn’t we do many things in your name?”; but they are living a life that speaks otherwise.  Are we living by the Spirit, or by the flesh?  Are we lovers of the Lord Jesus Christ, obeying Him, or am I committed to my own dreams, plans, ambitions?  Are we walking in the light, or in darkness?  Is the word of the LORD a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path; or am I straying from the narrow road that leads to life?

We are not to become legalistic in our lives, but be drawn and empowered by the Holy Spirit to love and to good works, and to works of faith.  This is all the more reason to be humble, and very thankful for the Savior of our souls, the Lord Jesus Christ/Yeshua the Messiah, who came down from Heaven to Earth to sacrifice His entire life and soul, even unto death on the cross, so that we might live for ever near to the Lord, in His presence.  The Creator and Redeemer has created us in His image and likeness.  In His everlasting love for us, He is jealous for our whole-hearted love and faithfulness, just like a husband for His wife, or a wife for her husband.  Is He not worth that from each of us?!

This article originally appeared on Streams in the Negev, September 18, 2022, and reposted with permission.