Today’s Reading: James 4:7-12; Psalm 2
So the opposites continue. It’s either our way or God’s way; pride or humility. We are either God’s friend or God’s enemy – that is what we are when we choose to be a friend of _______. Yesterday we ended this sentence with “the world” – we are either God’s friend or a friend of the world. Let’s be honest with ourselves today and state what it usually comes down to for us – we are either God’s friend or our own friend. It’s either God’s way or our way. We either let God be our source of joy or look for ways to provide joy for ourselves, right?
James has already challenged us in this chapter by pointing out that we struggle with not getting what we want, praying with wrong motives because we want it our way. This is an issue of pride – thinking we know what is best. Today James gives us the solution to this inner struggle – submission to God.
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will lift you up. – James 4:7-10 (NIV)
The biggest thing that stands between you and submission is YOU. So what area of your life is God calling you to submit to Him today? Is it your health, your job, your marriage, a struggle, a temptation, a friendship, anger, a grudge?
Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters. If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God’s law. But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you. God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor? – James 4:11-12
When I go back and read the first 12 verses of chapter 4, I hear this strong message: Perhaps submission to God is about our FOCUS and ATTENTION.
Take your eyes off other people. Don’t quarrel with each other. Don’t covet what others have, wanting it for yourself. Don’t be a friend of the world around you. Don’t look at other people and sit in judgment of their actions, slandering and speaking against each other. That means no more criticism and gossip.
Take your eyes off yourself. Don’t pray with wrong motives, seeking your own pleasure. When you focus on yourself, pride becomes an issue. Whether you are dealing with self-righteousness or low self-esteem, both are caused by thinking too much of yourself instead of focusing on God. God wants us to take our attention off ourselves, letting go of our pride and self-righteousness and trading it in for humility.
Take your eyes off the rules, coming up with an organized list of things to do in order to earn your way to Heaven. Don’t study the Scripture in order to argue with it or prove it wrong or make it fit what you want it to say. Don’t use the Bible as a weapon against fellow believers. Use God’s word as a way to better know Him, understand Him and draw near to Him. Then any conversations you have with other believers will echo the heart of God, not human judgment.
In one of the first sermons I ever heard him preach, Scott said that we tend to move in the direction of our attention. Think about it. If we are driving but focus our attention on something off to the side of the road, our car will begin to drift in that direction. If we are running on a treadmill but looking behind us at someone on the elliptical machine, we will most likely misstep and find ourselves flat on the floor.
God says – Submit to me, come near to me, wash your hands, purify your hearts, be single-minded and focused on me. The farther we are from God, the easier it is to see everything that is going on around us. If we step as close to God as we possibly can, so close that He is dwelling inside of us and He has our full attention, we will free ourselves from the distractions of the world and the opinions of what our brothers and sisters in Christ are doing around us. We will lose ourselves in service to something bigger – God.
I like how The Message rephrases James 4:11-12:
Don’t bad mouth each other, friends. It’s God’s Word, his Message, his Royal Rule, that takes a beating in that kind of talk. You’re supposed to be honoring the Message, not writing graffiti all over it. God is in charge of deciding human destiny. Who do you think you are to meddle in the destiny of others?
God is in charge. I am not. So I fall to my knees in sweet submission to the God who is calling me to draw near to Him. He has my full attention. I am ready to get lost in something bigger than me. I am ready to get lost in Him.
One of my new favorite songs is King of the World sung by Natalie Grant. This morning’s scripture brings me back to this song today.
“I tried to fit you in the walls inside my mind
I try to keep you safely in between the lines
I try to put you in the box that I’ve designed
I try to pull you down so we are eye to eye
When did I forget that you’ve always been the King of the world?
I try to take life back right out of the hands of the King of the world
How could I make you so small
When you’re the One who holds it all
When did i forget that you’ve always been the King of the world?…”