James 4:7

Sermon preached on October 24, 2010 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

When I was young I used to play a lot of hockey. My brother was a year and a half older than I was. He was in a different age group—so I didn't get to play against him at first. But when he went to college in a neighboring town, he played hockey for them and we found ourselves playing against each other. He as a defenseman and I was a forward, so our paths often crossed. At that time he was bigger, heavier, and stronger than I was. I would often try to get in front of the opposing team's net and he viewed his job as clearing out the front of the net. I remember the first few times I found myself in front of the net with him. He nailed me and knocked me flat. I can still remember how hard he hit me. The rules of hockey didn't matter much to him except when the referee was looking. One of the rules is that you're not allowed to body check an opponent unless he has the puck. So if the puck wasn't near me I would think I was safe, that he couldn't hit me without getting a penalty. But do you know what he would do? He would stand beside me and actually look at the referee to see where he was looking. As soon as the referee looked away from us—he would nail me and send me sprawling on the ice. It wasn't fair—but that's what he did. It's pretty hard for someone to score when they're flat on the ice—especially when they're mad and really hurting. That's why he did it. He'd get away with it too. He had other tricks that he would use when the referee was watching. He'd stand close to you and very slyly put his stick between my legs. He'd just stand there with you. Then if my feet were close together, he'd make a sudden movement, to skate past me, and at the same time just give me a little shove. I'd try to remain standing but with his stick between my legs I would get my legs caught up in it and I'd fall down. To the referee it looked very innocent, that we had just gotten tangled up with each other and that I had lost my balance and fallen down. But that's not what happened at all. He tripped me. And besides those two illegal types of hits, he would also hit you when he was allowed to. I also learned that if I was near the front of the net with him and one of my teammates passed me the puck, that my brother would hardly ever go for the puck—that he would forget about the puck and nail me, and perhaps just before the puck got there, so once again I'd find myself sprawled out on the ice.

So I soon learned that whenever I was on the ice at the same time as my brother to always be ready for a hit. I always had to be set, with my feet well apart, head up, prepared for the blow that was coming. That was the only way to play against him. If I was going to stay on my feet, I had to resist him, otherwise he'd knock me flat.

In our text James tells you that

you need to resist the devil.

He said, (James 4:7)

"Submit yourselves, then, to God.
Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."

The Greek word he used is a compound word, the two parts meaning, 'stand' and 'against'. The word means to, (BDAG, 80)

"be in opposition to, set oneself against, oppose".

The idea here is that when the devil pushes, seeking to make you fall, you are to resist. You are to set your feet and stand and not let him overcome you. Listen to how Paul put it in Ephesians 6:10–11, 13. He wrote,

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
Put on the full armor of God
so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes…
Therefore put on the full armor of God,
so that when the day of evil comes,
you may be able to stand your ground,
and after you have done everything, to stand."

You Christians are to stand against the devil. He comes to you to try to get you to yield to temptation and sin. Like my brother he doesn't play fair. He tries to make you stumble, to knock you over so that you stop walking with God, and instead, lie in the muddy filth of sin. The same word is used in 1 Peter 5:8–9 where Peter wrote,

"Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil
prowls around like a roaring lion
looking for someone to devour.
Resist him, standing firm in the faith…"

It is very important that you resist him. This is no mere hockey game. Do not be in doubt about it. Satan is trying to destroy you, to cast you into hell. This means that you need to walk with Jesus, hold His hand tightly, and relying on His grace, resist the devil.

The first preliminary point that needs to be impressed upon us is that

you can resist the devil.

Our enemy is resourceful and powerful. He is intelligent and cunning. He is deceitful and full of tricks. (2 Corinthians 2:11) Yet, because of Jesus, you Christians can stand against him. In 1 John 3:8 the apostle John wrote,

"The reason the Son of God appeared
was to destroy the devil's work."

Jesus came to save us, to give us grace and power so that we can live for him and say 'no' to temptation and walk in Christ's love. As the apostle Paul put it in Titus 2:11–14

"For the grace of God that brings salvation
has appeared to all men.
It teaches us to say No
to ungodliness and worldly passions,
and to live self-controlled,
upright and godly lives in this present age,
while we wait for the blessed hope—
the glorious appearing of
our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,
who gave himself for us to redeem us
from all wickedness and to purify for himself
a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good."

Through God's power we can resist the devil. As John wrote in 1 John 4:4–5.

"You, dear children,
are from God and have overcome them,
because the one who is in you
is greater than the one who is in the world."

In the context there John was telling us that they have overcome the spirit of antichrist and those that are led by that spirit. The One that is in you is greater than the one in the world.

We can have confidence that we can overcome Satan. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:13,

"No temptation has seized you
except what is common to man.
And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted
beyond what you can bear.
But when you are tempted,
he will also provide a way out
so that you can stand up under it."

Jesus gives us the power to resist Satan. Paul also told us in 2 Corinthians 12:9 that God said to him,

"My grace is sufficient for you,
for my power is made perfect in weakness."

Douglas J. Moo writes, (The Letter of James (PNTC; Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 193)

"Whatever power Satan may have, the Christian can be absolutely certain that he has been given the ability to overcome that power."

Through God's grace we can stand.

But the great question is:

How does one resist the devil?

How do we put this into practice?

One of the most basic things we should note about our text is that it is basically the flip side of what James said in the first part of this verse. He wrote,

"Submit yourselves, then, to God."

These two things are complementary of each other. So in general terms you resist the devil when you submit to God, when you are obedient to God, when you listen to Him, when you love and delight in His word, when you bow your will to God's and cheerfully follow Him. That's what it means in general terms.

But in order to be more specific,

we need to look at how the devil operates.

In order to know how to resist the devil, we need to know how the devil operates, what strategies he uses, the means he uses to attack us—if we know those things, such knowledge will help us to resist him.

In looking at the biblical passages that deal with the devil, we see three principle ways in which he operates. Of course his activity is much more comprehensive than these three things, but these are the most obvious relevant to our cause in resisting him.

The one we are going to look at today that can help you can resist the devil is knowing that

he is a liar and a deceiver.

If you know this—than you will know that whatever he promises you is an illusion, that it will never be. If you're absolutely assured of that, that will go a long way in helping you to resist him.

We see this in the very first pages of the Bible. The devil came to Eve pretending to be her friend. He pretended to have her best interests in mind. He said to her, (Genesis 3:1)

"Did God really say,
'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"

He approached her as a concerned friend, someone who was concerned about her welfare. But nothing could have been further from the truth. He was seeking to destroy her. He wanted to put her in hell forever. He was not who he pretended to be. He was not her friend. When Eve replied, he said,

"You will not surely die.
For God knows that when you eat of it
your eyes will be opened,
and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

He lied to her. He told he that she wouldn't die. He told her that God didn't have her best interests in mind. It was all a lie. The devil is a liar. If you are assured of that his temptation will be a lot less effective.

We see this as well when the devil tempted Jesus. In Matthew 4:8-9 we read that the devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. He then said to Jesus,

"All this I will give you,
if you will bow down and worship me."

It was a lie. Jesus knew it. As Jesus was later to say about the devil, (John 8:44)

"He was a murderer from the beginning,
not holding to the truth,
for there is no truth in him.
When he lies, he speaks his native language,
for he is a liar and the father of lies."

What this means for us is that we must not believe the devil's lies.

One of the great lies that he tells the world today is that God's commandments are not good, that they'll be much better off ignoring many of the 10 Commandments. For example, Dr. Lucielle Ostertag from the Italian Institute of Social Sciences conducted did a study of married couples and said at the end of her research.

"I started the analysis project to discover how damaging infidelity was to marriages. I was as surprised as everyone when the numbers proved that cheating on your spouse is actually good for your marriage."

Spectacular headlines followed: One said,

"Thou shalt not commit adultery . . . unless you want a stronger marriage! According to a new study, husbands and wives who cheat on each other are more likely to stay together."

That is such an insidious lie. I'm sure that many marriages have been destroyed by people following that advice. How many children have been hurt because one of their parents was foolish enough to follow that advice.

How different is the advice of the Bible. It says, (Proverbs 6:32–35)

"a man who commits adultery lacks judgment;
whoever does so destroys himself.
Blows and disgrace are his lot,
and his shame will never be wiped away;
for jealousy arouses a husband's fury,
and he will show no mercy when he takes revenge.
He will not accept any compensation;
he will refuse the bribe, however great it is."

If you commit adultery you not only sin against your spouse and your children, but you sin against yourself, in the sense that you're seeking to destroy yourself. We see this teaching as well in Ephesians 5:28–30. It says,

"In this same way,
husbands ought to love their wives
as their own bodies.
He who loves his wife loves himself.
After all, no one ever hated his own body,
but he feeds and cares for it,
just as Christ does the church."

Christians, whenever you are tempted to sin, stop and think about it. Why are you tempted to sin? It's because Satan has told you that you'll be better off if you sin. At that point you need to remember that it's a lie. You are never better off by sinning. Don't believe Satan's lies.

Our society today doesn't understand that God gave us the 10 Commandments are given to us for our good. God knows what is best for us, for the best ordering of society and in His great love and wisdom has given us the 10 Commandments.

(Of course, the 10 Commandments have other purposes. They show us our sin. They are like a schoolmaster to lead us to Christ. Galatians 3:24-25) But that doesn't change that the law reflects God's character and shows us the proper way to live.

But people don't look on them that way today. They want to remove them from government buildings. They don't want to obey them. They think that the 10 commandments infringe on their freedoms and that if they live by the 10 Commandments their lives will be a lot less fulfilling.

But its' interesting that if you watch a crime show based on real life, it will inevitably prove that disobeying the 10 Commandments leads to all kinds of horrors, to death, suffering, broken families, and untold heartaches. A wife is murdered. The police investigate and what do they find? The husband was having an affair. He had found someone else. He goes to jail. The kids are damaged. They've lost both parents. It's all because the father committed adultery. The cases are all different but the storyline is the same—people break God's law and murder, suffering and misery follow. Don't believe the lies of Satan. He is a deceiver. In Revelation 20:10 we read,

"And the devil, who deceived them…"

He is leading the whole world astray. (Revelation 12:9) Don't let him lead you astray.

Another aspect of resisting the devil that relates to his lying has to do with

not buying into his euphuisms.

Rather than tell the truth about sin Satan uses deception. He gets people to use innocent sounding words to mask the horrible reality.

The Nazis were experts at this. Hitler and his cronies wanted the German race to be pure. They called mentally and physically handicapped people as ' life unworthy of life' and near the end of 1936 they set up what they called the, "Reich Committee for Hereditary Health Matters". (Richard Evans, The Third Reich at War, p. 78) It's purpose was to enable the mass murder of such people. It called any such killing, 'a merciful death'. They even used economic arguments to justify the killing of handicapped people. Here's how historian Richard Evans described the rational of the system of killing those who were incurable. (p. 82)

"Without the killing of the incurable, the healing of the majority of the sick and the improvement of the nation's health would be impossible. Many of those doctors involved spoke with pride of their work even after the war, maintaining that they had been contributing to human progress."

Murdering terminally sick people, mentally ill people, and other people that you could not cure—was called 'contributing to human progress'.

Hitler also wanted to kill all the Jews. How did they go about it. They started with propaganda. They started referring to Jewish people as, 'rats'. (Evans, p. 572) The Nazis also produced a film against the Jews. Richard Evans writes,

"The Eternal Jew, directed by Fritz Hippler under Goebbel's personal supervision, was a feature–length documentary that also purported to show how Jews really were. Pictures of Jews in the streets of Polish towns were intercut with film sequences of 'rats, which,' the synopsis said, 'are the parasites and bacillus–carriers among animals, just as the Jews occupy the same position among mankind'."

Han Felber, Chief of Staff of the Eight Army, described Jews as, (Evans, p. 50)

"a dreadful rabble, filthy, and sly."

They weren't people, they were rats. The mass movement of the Jews to the death camps was not called what it was, rather it was referred to as 'resettlement'. Over the gate at main camp of Auschwitz (Auschwitz I) was a big sign that said,

"Arbeit Macht Frei" (Work makes one free)."

When some people were marked out to be murdered, the Nazis used the phrase 'special treatment'.

Christians, beware when the world uses euphemisms to hide the evil of what they are doing. Don't you fall into the great error of letting them get away with it. Don't use their euphemisms.

"Death with dignity", is not what it is. If a non-Christian commits suicide, that's not a dignified death. That death is one of the utmost ignominy. They have made the greatest mistake ever and ushered themselves into the presence of the Great Judge in a state of totally un-readiness. They find themselves standing before Him in a state of great shame and embarrassment with their sins clinging to them. It is not death with dignity.

Politicians and others refer to themselves as, "Pro-choice". They don't like to be called, "Pro-Abortion". They will say, "But I'm not pro-abortion. I'm pro-choice". That's just an evasion, a weak attempt to avoid responsibility for the murder of unborn babies. If someone is pro-choice, in effect it's saying to those who commit abortions, "I support you in this. I will not call it wrong." No politician would want to have a campaign banner that read,

"I support the murder of unborn babies."

Even though they wouldn't want such a banner, such a banner would be entirely accurate.

Joseph Sobran wrote,

"We are proving once again that people can get used to anything, including practices that would have sickened their ancestors, as long as those practices are introduced gradually and under suitable euphemisms."

(The Reactionary Utopian (classic) September 24, 2010, Advancing toward Savagery, A classic by, fitzgerald griffin foundation)

This past week I heard a new phrase. Shane W., founder of Campus Pride, an online network for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender student leaders. Mr. W. said,

"The reason why people who are gay commit suicide is because of the bullying that happens from the pulpit, the bullying that happens from our Legislature."

I've heard a lot of sermons but I've never heard bullying from the pulpit. It may happen sometimes. But what's really in view when they refer to bullying from the pulpit is when preachers have the nerve to call sin, 'sin'. In their view biblical preaching, preaching from God's Word—is bullying. I suspect that you're going to hear a lot of that in the future. Don't buy into it.

But that article misses the real reason for some of the suicides among gay people. Sin brings guilt and shame. When some people sin they know that they're doing what is wrong. They feel bad and their self-esteem is shattered. They seek an out in the wrong way.

But the good news is that there is a message of hope for them. The gospel of Jesus Christ offers them relief from guilt and shame. It offers them forgiveness of sins and joy and peace. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the only thing that offers that.

Don't buy into their use of words. Believing what the Bible says about homosexuality being a sin means you are 'homophobic'. That's not what it is.

Today that have Gay Pride Parades. On college campuses they have, Campus Pride. More appropriate terms are "Gay Shame Parades", "Campus Shame".

Christians, don't let them get away with such euphuisms. You'll remember what Elijah did when King Ahab met him after 3 and a half years of famine and said to Elijah, (1 Kings 18:17)

"Is that you, you troubler of Israel?"

Elijah replied,

"I have not made trouble for Israel.
But you and your father's family have.
You have abandoned the LORD'S commands
and have followed the Baals."

People today try to excuse their infidelity, their abandoning their children by saying, "I need to find myself." Pornography is called, "Adult Entertainment". Living in sin is now called, "Living Together". Sexual promiscuity is called, "Experimenting".

We need to call sin exactly what it is. If we are going to resist the devil, we dare not use euphuisms to describe sin. They make it too easy to give in to temptation.

If you resist the devil he will flee from you.

We see this in the temptation of Jesus. (Matthew 4:10–11) When Satan tempted Him the third time, Jesus said to him,

"Away from me, Satan!
For it is written:
'Worship the Lord your God,
and serve him only.'"

Then the devil left Him, and angels came and attended Him. D. Edmond Hiebert writes, (James, p. 2620

"When confronted with the whole armor of God and the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:12-17), the devil acknowledges his defeat in abrupt flight. He cannot lead a man into sin without the consent of man's will. As long as a man's will is submissive to the control and guidance of the Holy Spirit, he can stand victorious against all the seductive arts of the devil."

Lastly, for those of you that are not Christians,

what you should understand from this is that

you can't stand against the devil. Unless you go to Jesus you'll be destroyed.

As I said at the beginning of the service, the command to resist the devil is the flip side of submitting yourself to God. The only way you can prevent the devil from getting you is to go to Jesus. Ask Him to save you. Ask Him for mercy. Ask Him to cleanse you from your sins and save you from them—and He will. Do it today.