Resisting the Enemy
RESIST … COME NEAR (James 4:7b, 8a)
“Resist” is a military metaphor which means to stand against, as in combat. This martial language suggests the parallel language of Ephesians 6 where we are told how to prepare to resist the Devil. The primary element is an understanding of the enemy, which Paul memorably gives us in verse 12: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” From this we learn that the struggle is supernatural, supra-flesh and blood. We also learn that it is personal, for the word for “struggle” suggests hand to hand combat—swaying back and forth in sweaty battle. Finally, it is futile if fought with conventional weapons because we are fighting against serried ranks of evil angels led by fallen angelic princes. Once we understand the nature of the enemy, we must put on the proper armament. For this let us picture the old warrior Paul in his own spiritual armor.
1. He has worn his war belt so long that it is sweat through and salt-stained and comfortable like an old horse’s bridle, and it holds everything perfectly in place. The “belt of truth,” God’s truth, has girt him tight for years, so that it permeates his life and truth reigns within. He is armed with the clear eyes of a clear conscience. He can face anything.
2. His torso is sheathed with a battle-tarnished breastplate. It is crisscrossed with great lateral grooves from slicing sword blows and dented from enemy artillery. The “breastplate of righteousness” has preserved his vitals intact. His holy life has rendered his heart impervious to the spiritual assaults of Satan.
3. His gnarled legs are comfortable in his ancient war boots. He has stood his ground on several continents. The boots are the “gospel of peace,” the peace with God that comes through faith in him, and the resultant peace of God—the sense of well-being in wholeness—shalom. He stands in peace, and being rooted in peace he cannot be moved.
4. Paul’s great shield terrifies the eyes, for the broken shafts and the many charred holes reveal him to be the victor of many fierce battles. He has held the “shield of faith” as he repeatedly believed God’s Word and so extinguished every fiery dart of doubt and sensuality and materialism. None have touched him.
5. On his old gray head he wears a helmet which has seen better days. Great dents mar its symmetry, reminders of furtive blows dealt him by the enemy. The “helmet of salvation,” the confidence of knowing that he is saved and will be saved, has allowed him to stand tall against the most vicious assaults. His imperial confidence gives him a regal bearing.
6. Then there is his sword. He was equal to a hundred when his sword flashed. The “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” the ultimate offensive weapon, cut through everything—armor, flesh, glistening bone, and running marrow—even the soul (cf. Hebrews 4:12).
These are the weapons: truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, the Word of God—and any believer who resists with these will put the Devil and his armies to flight! This is not arrogance. This is the truth! You and I can withstand the Devil if we wear the armor God provides. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (v. 7).
Such resources are available to us! But there is another half to this: “Come near to God and he will come near to you” (v. 8a). There are two views which the Christian ought to cultivate with all that he has: the Devil’s back and the face of God.
The soul-tingling truth here is, if you go after God, he will go after you! This was the prodigal son’s experience when he neared his home: “‘But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him’” (Luke 15:20). The father smothered him with kisses. Inch toward God, and he will step toward you. Step toward God, and he will sprint toward you. Sprint toward God, and he will fly to you!
What is James’ overall point here in this positive call to draw near? In a word, prayer. The essence of prayer is the heart drawing near to God. Prayer is the soul’s desire to come to him, to receive his love, to feel his power as we conform to his will. This is exactly what Paul’s soldier in spiritual armor does. Every piece is in place. The spiritual forces of wickedness approach, and there will be lethal battle. But first the soldier falls to his knees and prays in the Spirit with all kinds of prayers (cf. Ephesians 6:18).
There is only one view more welcome than the backside of the Devil—and that is the face of God. Paul tells us, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13). As his children and in his Son, we are near. But there is a nearer nearness available to all: “Come near to God and he will come near to you.” If you will take that step, a new nearness to God will be yours, and with it buoying tides of his grace.
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