September 23, 2021

Surrender, Stand, Resist, (Repeat) - The Book of James Bible Series


Hello again, Sweet Readers!  It's so great to meet you here as we dive into more of James!  Grab something Fall-like and festive to sip on along with your Bible, and let's get started!


We begin by reading our verses together here from The Passion Translation Bible:

"But he continues to pour out more and more grace upon us. For it says, “God resists you when you are proud but continually pours out grace when you are humble.”

So then, surrender to God. Stand up to the devil and resist him and he will flee in agony. Move your heart closer and closer to God, and he will come even closer to you. But make sure you cleanse your life, you sinners, and keep your heart pure and stop doubting. Feel the pain of your sin, be sorrowful and weep! Let your joking around be turned into mourning and your joy into deep humiliation. Be willing to be made low before the Lord and he will exalt you!" (The Passion Translation)

I'm going to just say it upfront... this is another hard part of James --but only because he speaks the truth so bluntly and he makes it hard to ignore! 

Let's start with the not-so-hard part first... 'he continues to pour out more and more grace..."  That phrase there can also be translated, "he gives us a greater gift" or "the grace or favor he gives us is stronger."  Remember in when a verse starts with 'But', or 'And', or 'Therefore', (etc.) it's always a good idea to back up a verse or two...  

We covered this last time, but the overall picture of what James is talking about here is how we have become friends with the world and we forgot that our God is a jealous lover... "But - he continues to pour out more and more grace for us..." (See? Good News!)

If we want that grace -- James tells us how to get it. It's not that we earn it or buy it... we can not!  But there are steps we can take that will eventually pull us back to the heart of God.  Surrender, Stand, Resist, (Repeat!)  

First, (and this is important... this is FIRST...) -- we must surrender to God. 
What does that mean? What does that actually look like - in practical terms, in our modern times? Well, it's not hard. I mean - it is. It IS hard... but it's pretty clear.  We must surrender... something about Your will, not my own... something like relinquishing control... something about to make Him Lord  -as in, for real! He gets to be the Boss of you. So while that is clear --it is most certainly not easy. We surrender to God every day... sometimes hour by hour or minute by minute, right? Because we have this annoying fleshly tendency to keep taking back the job of being the boss of us... even when we know we actually aren't very good at it! So - first... surrender to God.

Next, stand up to the devil. Listen... we are really quick to forget that the battle we are in is not --NOT!-- against flesh and blood. We must remember that this is a spiritual war and we will have to stand up to the enemy.  Faith comes from God and fear from the devil... at least the ungodly kind of fear --they work against each other and cannot reside in the same space. We must rise up and stand up and tell the devil who and Whose we are. We cannot afford to be silent any longer and we cannot afford to shrink back or give up ground. We cannot fall for his lies anymore! Too much is at stake. Something about having done all, stand! Stand therefore with the full armor of God, right? We are well-equipt to stand up to the enemy. God has given us everything we need for life and godliness! Stand!

After we Stand up to the devil, we RESIST him! Now, this is such an important step because you can have all the faith in the world to Stand, but if you think for a minute the devil will just give in... pack up and go home without a fight --well,  you must be new here. Seriously - the devil is the father of lies. He lies as if it is his job and he is really good at it. It's not enough to stand against him - we must also resist him!  He so often comes in as an angel of light... he speaks a little truth and then twists it just so, so that it sounds kind of right... he is crafty, but not creative.  He can be convincing because so often he whispers lies in your ear instead of shouting accusations. He can twist things just enough to sound like wisdom. This is why we must resist. I love this translation because -I'm not gonna lie...- I like the part where it says when we resist him, the accuser will flee in agony. Yeah! Take that, enemy! (He flees in agony because of the One who stands with us!).  So the best way to resist the enemy is to move closer to God... to get to know His voice best - so any other voice will register as counterfeit! 


Before we tackle the next (hard clear) part, let's read our verses in The Voice:

"You may think that the situation is hopeless, but God gives us more grace when we turn away from our own interests. That’s why Scripture says, God opposes the proud, but He pours out grace on the humble.

So submit yourselves to the one true God and fight against the devil and his schemes. If you do, he will run away in failure. Come close to the one true God, and He will draw close to you. Wash your hands; you have dirtied them in sin. Cleanse your heart, because your mind is split down the middle, your love for God on one side and selfish pursuits on the other.

Now is the time to lament, to grieve, and to cry. Dissolve your laughter into sobbing, and exchange your joy for depression. Lay yourself bare, facedown to the ground, in humility before the Lord; and He will lift your head so you can stand tall." (The Voice)

I know! I know, you guys? James is so good and so needed, but man  - he just gets right up in our business, right? But this is how we press in and press on and rise up and live the life Christ paved the way for... the life Jesus longs for us to live. I love in this translation, in the middle of these verses, the footnote says, "Since the beginning, our loving Creator has been pursuing us, drawing us closer to Him. He invites us to move closer to Him so we can be fully His."  

Let's not lose sight of this. This is the reason we must wake up and get back to the basics in calling sin sin and in being willing to wash our hands and purify our hearts. We can't just count on grace and shrug off the consequences of sin, thinking grace will cover us and we can do whatever we want.  I mean - we can. He gives us the freedom to choose. But don't think for a minute that choosing to sin and pretend it's not sin is going to lead anywhere good... anywhere free. It's not. It won't. Sin takes root and gives birth to death. But He came to give us life and Life Abundantly! We were made for Light... not Darkness.  We were made for Life... not Death. 

"Now is the time..."  It is.  You can feel it -yes? I know I can. 

I can feel a pull to wake up and to count the cost and to make sure that I am following Him - and no one else.  Make sure that I keep an account of my actions and thoughts and move closer and closer to God SO THAT He can help to cleanse and purify and make me right.  And yes - this is not just a One and Done kind of deal!  We live in a fallen world where sin abounds... we must draw closer and repent and make better choices intentionally every day.  I'm not talking in a Rules and Religion heavy-handed way.  I am not talking about legislating what is Right and Wrong for everyone.  (I walked that road... it's not fun for anyone except the devil!)  

I'm talking about just you and God sitting down and being brave enough to ask Him where you are falling short of His plan for you.  And then, letting the Holy Spirit be the Holy Spirit and reveal all truth to you... --to lovingly, gently help you to course-correct your life and get back on track so you can follow hard after Him and live the overcoming life He has planned for you! Which always includes Surrender, Stand, Resist, [Repeat], and Move Closer! Always Closer!

This is what James longed for --for himself and his people... and for us. 


Lastly, my favorite translation: The Message Bible:

"You’re cheating on God. If all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way. And do you suppose God doesn’t care? The proverb has it that “he’s a fiercely jealous lover.” And what he gives in love is far better than anything else you’ll find. It’s common knowledge that “God goes against the willful proud; God gives grace to the willing humble.”

So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him make himself scarce. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet." (The Message Bible)

What God gives in love is far better --FAR BETTER!-- than anything else you'll find. Hands down. Full Stop. End of Story. 

Friends... let's not focus out there on 'them' and what 'they' are doing. Let's be honest with God and with ourselves. Let's focus on our own heart... on our own dirty hands... let's open up and invite God into every area and ask Him to help us overcome the temptation to be the boss of us... the temptation to slack off or give in or shrug it off... instead let's ask the Holy Spirit to once again lead and guide us as we go!


Let's pray: 

Father God,

We come to You right now and before we ask for anything - we want to thank You! 

Thank You, Lord, for Your great love. Thank You for the grace you pour out over us again and again and again. Thank You for working Your will in us!  Stir us up --no, WAKE us up!-- and give us boldness and courage to yell a loud NO to the devil! Pull back the veil and the blindness and the justification or excuses we have given for the choices we have made. --Choices we know full well that are less than what You have for us! Help us to SHOUT at the enemy and Whisper our crying out to You.  Not that we want to be quiet or hidden in our faith --but that we know we need correction and we know, Father, that You are a kind of loving Father... and You correct us with grace and mercy. You take our weakness or broken pieces and You put us back together... (and You prefer to do it one on one and not for show!)

Holy Spirit, convict us of sin... remind us the difference between conviction (which is loving and gentle and comes from you!) and condemnation (which is not any of those things and comes from the enemy!) and help us to purify our lives. Enable, equip, and empower us to quit playing the field... to quit flirting with the world and being enamored with paths that lead us nowhere good! Soften us, Lord - so our hearts are not hardened or closed off to your drawing and correcting! Help us to bow down before you, Father --knowing that You alone lift us up!

For the King and His Kingdom,
In Jesus' Name!

I know James is challenging... and I know life - you know - is challenging right now! But I honestly believe digging into James and following the Word will help us! I  hope you are enjoying this series as much as I am. And I hope you, along with me, are becoming more and more like Jesus as we rise to the challenge and overcome!

Until next time,

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