- Asking Wrongly and The Repentant Heart
James continues to focus on envy and its consequences in chapter 4. They are some of the harshest words he has for his audience. His admonishments in this chapter are grounded in the distinction between earthly and heavenly wisdom.
Many then and today ask for wisdom but do so wrongly to fulfill our sinful desires as James refers in V.3 rather than from a sincere desire that this wisdom will equip us to serve Him better. When we see envy for what it is, we are driven to horror to abase ourselves before God and beg for cleansing. It’s not a bad thing to look at ourselves in the mirror occasionally and assess our envy and depravity and repent and work on the purity in our hearts.
Psalm 32, Psalm 51, Nu 20:2-13, 1 Sam 13:13-14, Matt 17:20, Acts 8:9-25
- Friends of the World
In verse 4, he condemns them and us as an adulterous people. The Old Covenant prophets likened the relationship between God and His people as a marriage (Is 54:5) which means that Israel’s dalliances with idolatry amounted to infidelity (Ez 16:30-34). Same for us. The unity of the people of God under both covenants means that we too, on this side of the cross, commit adultery. James tells us that this happens when we become “friends” of the world. This is not a casual use of the word “friend”. James is referring to a fundamental compromise with the values and methods of fallen humanity. God is jealous of His Spirit that He has given us, as he states in verse 5. When we make friends with the world, we turn away from God.
As John Calvin says, “so great is the disagreement between the world and God, that as much as any inclines to the world, so much he alienates himself from God”. He further says, “we must renounce the world if we wish to serve God”.
Zech 7:10, Is 39, Hos 3, John 15:14, 2 Cor 6:16-18, 1 John 2:15-17
- He Gives Grace to the Humble
Verse 6 encourages me in that if we humble ourselves before Him and repent of our trust in the wisdom of man, God will forgive us. His example shows us that we must not live according to the world’s wisdom and James addresses this strongly in verses 4-5. If we do this consistently, then we deceive ourselves as to our true status in the Kingdom of Heaven, points that are already made earlier in James 1:23-24, 2: 14-26, 3: 13-18. Back to humbling ourselves and repenting.
Prov 3:34, Is 66:2, John 1:16, Heb 13:9
- Resist the Devil
But they, and we are not without hope. True “brothers” as described in Ch 1:19, 2:1, & 3:1 could once again receive the wisdom and grace that ensures perseverance (Ch1:2-4, 3:13-18, 4:6). In verses 7 and 8, he tells us how it is done. Verse 7; submit to God and resist the devil. Until Christ returns to consummate the kingdom, the devil has the power to lure us away from submission to Jesus’ rule. Therefore, we must stand daily against the enemy and eagerly embrace God’s rule over our lives.
Lev 26:40-41, Hos 12:6, John 6:37, Eph 4:27
- The Path of Exaltation
In the face of trial, the early church and we as well, were exalting itself and treating others based on the wisdom of the world which, of course, is at odds with the wisdom of God. The Lord, alone, exalts us, but only after we humble ourselves in true repentance and submission to His will, as clearly stated in verse 10.
If we don’t take the path of humble repentance, we display a lack of God’s salvific grace in our lives. Again, to quote Calvin: “everyone who has not his soul fixed deep in humility, exalts himself to his own ruin.”
2 Kings 22:8-20, Ezra 9:1-10:12, 2 Cor 7:10, 1 Peter 5:6-7
- Go deep inside ourselves from time to time in our prayer time and when fasting. Cry out to Him to prevent our hearts from becoming hard. Target areas of our lives, like envy, where we know God desires change.
- There’s nothing wrong with asking God to meet our needs, but do so with the proper motives. It’s not about me and my agenda. Ask God to purify our motives so that we might pray in a manner that pleases Him.
- Examine our lives and values. Consider our relationships and ask ourselves if the problems might stem from ungodly jealousy and selfish ambition that characterizes the world. The solution? Repentance and trust in God’s sanctifying power.
- Find one place where we have compromised and seek God’s wisdom and repent. Humble ourselves before God and ask for grace.
- We’ve all compromised but God promises to forgive if we draw near to Him. Go before the Lord in confidence, asking for His forgiveness. Find a friend who can keep you accountable.
- God promises to exalt us one day and make us reign with Christ (2Tim 2:12, Rev 20:4) but this doesn’t result from our own power but, rather, from humility. Submit humbly to God, admitting that He alone has authority over us and we will enjoy this exaltation. We submit to His authority by repenting of our sins, all of which seek to usurp God’s rightful rule over us. Therefore, humble ourselves in repentance today.