James 4:6 – 12
Looking back at the beginning of this chapter or more so towards the end of chapter three, we were able to garner that there are two natures in the life of every believer – one is called the life in the flesh and the other is called the life in the Spirit. James was able to help us understand that the life in the flesh would always gravitate towards envy, jealousy, lust and the many more fruits of the flesh but refuses to talk about the life in the Spirit, probably because the New Testament doctrine was not available and he was restricted to the doctrines of the Old Testament.
We wrote sometime ago that it is somewhat unsustainable to try to live in the Spirit as though one was still in the flesh. In other words, Apostle Paul using the story of a woman who had two husbands described to us that, a woman continues to remain under the laws of her husband as long as she is married to him. When her husband dies and she chooses to marry another man, she is not allowed to live with the new husband as though she were living with the old. She is loosed from the law of her dead husband and should renew her mind with the new husband to avoid chaos.
Translated back in today’s language, it is not possible for the Christian (New Testament) to live or worship God or get their lives transformed by observing the Laws of the Old Testament or circumcision. This was the problem with the Galatian Church; they began in the Spirit and were expecting to be perfected by the flesh (the Law). Paul was not pleased with them and he had to make them understand that the flesh and the Spirit would always be at loggerhead, they would always be in opposition with one another and more so, one had to suppress the other.
James, because of the restriction to the Old Testament way of worshipping God, would not have said it better by telling them to continue to stay within the confines of the Law. He told his audience that they should resist the devil, knowing he had also told them that the problems they had against each other was the resultant effect of the Old Sin Nature (OSN), James 4:1. How would it then be possible to submit and become humble before God without the mention of the work of the Holy Spirit?
He also expects them to draw nigh to God, resist the devil, cleanse their hands, and purify their hearts not through the New and living way but through the same way they observed in the Old Testament. He said, “Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy.”
TRANSFORMATION is another word for change, renovation, or makeover. It is the same word used for TRANSFIGURE in the New Testament. It is the Greek word, METAMORPHOO. It was the same word used by the Apostle Paul when he introduced the New Testament doctrines to his audiences. From METAMORPHOO, the English word METAMORPHOSIS was coined. It describes a CHANGE: this is the obligation to undergo a complete change which, under the power of God, will find expression in character and conduct as it lays emphasis on the inward change.
We have no choice but to agree with James that we are to submit to God, resist the devil and the many things he said, not in accordance to the Old way but the New and living way, that is, the New Testament prescription for change. To change in character and conduct, the primary thing we ought to do is to renew our minds and then our members can follow suit on the new understanding that we have.
Trying to control the flesh by the “do’s and don’ts” would only increase and lead to frustration but it is very possible to control the flesh through the Spirit. Paul advised the Galatian Church when he said, “My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at other times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don’t you choose to be led by the Spirit and escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?”
Again after he (Paul) described his struggles to his audience at the Roman Church, he came to the conclusion that living according to [the dictates of] the flesh brings death, but that through the power of the [Holy] Spirit we are [habitually] putting to death (making extinct, deadening) the [evil] deeds prompted by the body, then we shall [really and genuinely] live forever.
James was always about the Law of Moses – He said, “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 neighbour?”
Paul puts it concisely when he said, “If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”
I will conclude with a quote from C.H Spurgeon when he said, “Wait upon God for guidance as to any change in life you may determine, and if the two things be equal—to remain where you are, or to remove elsewhere—choose to abide still, for the chances are, speaking according to man’s judgment, in its favour.
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