Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.
The book of James was written by James, the brother of Jesus. James did not know that Jesus was the Messiah until after his brother's death. It was then that James realized that his biological brother was also his Lord and Savior.
James is a book of practical instructions for everyone to follow in order to be close to God through His Son Jesus Christ.
James writes in a simplified way in order to encourage his readers to live consistently with what they have learned in Christ. First, he tells them not to engage in worldly sins, such as lust, pride, hypocrisy, favoritism, gossip, and slander. Then he gives his readers instructions to live righteous lives.
In James 4:7-8, the writer gives a list of five things that will help us to live the way God wants us to live.
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double-minded. (James 4:7-8)
Before James gives the ways to live righteously, he reminds readers in the previous verses, how they had been living according to the world's standards instead of according to God's words and His instructions.
They believed God, but they refused to trust Him as they should have done. Therefore, James outlines what they should do to please God and to walk in His ways.
- Submit yourselves therefore to God.
- Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
- Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.
- Cleanse your hands.
- Purify your hearts.
1. Submit Yourself to God
The first thing James tells his readers to do is to submit to God. He advises them to give up getting what they want, and willingly accept all the good things God gives them. In order to submit to God, we must give up our own worldly desires and rely totally on God.
Submitting to God means giving up things we want and doing what God wants. It simply means being under God's authority.
2. Resist the Devil
While you should submit to God in all things, you should yield to the devil in none. In order to submit ourselves totally to God, we must resist the devil and the evil things he attempts us to do. The devil is God's enemy. Therefore, we cannot submit ourselves to God and do the devil's work at the same time. We should pull away from the devil and stop cooperating with him.
James makes it clear that if we submit ourselves to God and resist the devil, then he will flee from us. The devil will not hang around those who resist him. When we pull away from the devil, he will pull away from us.
3. Draw Nigh to God
After we have submitted ourselves to God and resisted the devil, according to James 4:7, James continues his instructions in James 4:8.
The brother of Jesus admonishes us to draw near to God. That means for us to move closer to Him. James gives an additional promise when we draw nigh to God. He tells us that when we draw nigh to God, God will respond by moving closer to us.
God doesn't have to, but our response to Him activates His response to us. Therefore, when we move closer to God, God draws closer to us.
We draw nigh to God in three ways:
- We can draw nigh to God by faith, which is a coming to God (Hebrews 7:25).
- We can draw nigh to God by true repentance, which is returning to God (Hosea 14:1 Malachi 3:7).
- We can draw nigh to God by fervent prayer (Psalm 25:1).
4. Cleanse Your Hands
James tells us to cleanse our hands because those who do evil are sinners with unclean hands. Our hands represent what we do. Our hands are the principal instruments of all our actions. Clean hands indicate we are doing what God wants us to do when He wants us to do those things.
When you cleanse your hands, you change your actions and begin to live differently.
5. Purify Your Heart
After James tells us to cleanse our hands as sinners, he finally tells us to purify our hearts. The heart is the seat of our motives and intentions. We are double-minded people when we try to serve God and the devil at the same time.
James pleads with us to purify our hearts by serving God only. When we purify our hearts, we become careful of what we think and feel. Our thoughts and inward affections are free from things that are evil.