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Discover the Book - Aug. 31, 2008

  • 2008 Aug 31

How To Be the Friend of God


Friends of God and Enemies of the World—Three Instructions to Follow (James 4:7-10)

How can we be the friends of God and the enemies of the world, the flesh, and the devil? James gives us three instructions to follow if we would enjoy peace instead of war.

1.    Submit to God (v. 7). This word is a military term that means “get into your proper rank.” Unconditional surrender is the only way to complete victory. If there is any area of the life kept back from God, there will always be battles. This explains why uncommitted Christians cannot live with themselves or with other people. “Neither give place to the devil,” cautions Paul in Ephesians 4:27. Satan needs a foothold in our lives if he is going to fight against God; and we give him that foothold. The way to resist the devil is to submit to God.

2.    Draw near to God (v. 8). How do we do this? By confessing our sins and asking for His cleansing. “Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double-minded.” The Greek word translated purify means “make chaste.” This parallels the idea of “spiritual adultery” in James 4:4. Dr. A.W. Tozer has a profound essay in one of his books, entitled, “Nearness Is Likeness.” The more we are like God, the nearer we are to God. I may be sitting in my living room with my Siamese cat on my lap, and my wife may be twenty feet away in the kitchen; yet I am nearer to my wife than to the cat because the cat is unlike me. We have very little in common. God graciously draws near to us when we deal with the sin in our lives that keeps Him at a distance. He will not share us with anyone else; He must have complete control. The double-minded Christian can never be close to God. Again, Abraham and Lot come to mind. Abraham “drew near” and talked to God about Sodom (Gen. 18:23ff), while Lot moved into Sodom and lost the blessing of God.

3.    Humble yourselves before God (vv. 9–10). It is possible to submit outwardly and yet not be humbled inwardly. God hates the sin of pride (Prov. 6:16–17), and He will chasten the proud believer until he is humbled. We have a tendency to treat sin too lightly, even to laugh about it (“let your laughter be turned into mourning”). But sin is serious, and one mark of true humility is facing the seriousness of sin and dealing with our disobedience. “A broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise” (Ps. 51:17).  

If we obey these three instructions, then God will draw near, cleanse us, and forgive us; and the wars will cease! We will not be at war with God, so we will not be at war with ourselves. This means we will not be at war with others. “And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance forever” (Isa. 32:17). [6] 


The answer is to remove the question mark from the middle of verse 6 and put it at the end of verse 5 where it belongs, and then read the opening words of verse 6 not as a question, but as a declaration: “But he gives more grace.” That is the answer—more grace! This is not saving grace, for every believer has that. Rather, it is literally “greater grace”—God’s gracious supply to live as we ought in a fallen world. As Augustine put it, “God gives what he demands.” There is always, for the believer, greater grace. This is without doubt one of the most comforting texts in all of Scripture.

This verse means there will always be enough grace regardless of our situation or need—always. The writer of Hebrews confidently tells us, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). We have no need which outstrips his grace, and we never will! Even if we fall into abject sin there is a stream of grace, as Paul said: “But where sin increased, grace increased all the more” (Romans 5:20b). “For daily need there is daily grace; for sudden need, sudden grace; for overwhelming need, overwhelming grace,” says John Blanchard. John Newton, author of “Amazing Grace,” knew this well:

Through many dangers, toils and snares,

I have already come:

Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,

And grace will lead me home.

There is always more grace. An artist once submitted a painting of Niagara Falls for an exhibition, but neglected to give it a title. The gallery, faced with the need to supply one, came up with these words: “more to follow.” Old Niagara Falls, spilling over billions of gallons per year for thousands of years, has more than met the needs of those below and is a fit emblem of the flood of God’s grace. There is always more to follow! The Apostle John referred to this reality, saying, “For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace” (John 1:16, NASB). This is literally “grace instead of grace” or, as others have rendered it, “grace following grace” or “grace heaped upon grace.”

He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater;

He sendeth more grace when the labours increase;

To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,

To multiplied trials His multiplied peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,

When our strength has failed ere the day is half done:

When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,

Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,

His power has no boundary known unto men;

For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,

He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

(Annie Johnson Flint)

Whatever our condition or situation, he always “gives us more grace.” He gives grace to overcome personal weaknesses. If to your alarm you find that you are repeatedly succumbing to a burning pursuit of hedonism, God will give you more grace if you ask. If you are a victim of an imploding self-centeredness which repeatedly sucks you into its nothingness, and you want deliverance, there is grace for the asking. Perhaps you are so stubborn that you have never lost an argument. Perhaps you are such a knot-head that you never listen to anyone. Now you find that your most intimate relationships are impaired, so that your spouse and friends find your presence a burden, but you want to change. God will give you more grace. If you have fed on cherished hatreds, but now see that the feast has really been the Devil’s feast and the main course your soul, and you want deliverance, he will give you more grace. 

Perhaps your life has insurmountable obstacles. Perhaps a terminal disease. There is more grace. Or a loved one’s death. There is more grace. Or a shattering divorce. There is more grace. Or the bitter ashes of failure. There is more grace.

There is also grace to do the impossible. If God is calling you to sell all and go to the ends of the earth to share the gospel or to take up a social crusade—whatever he asks—there will always be more grace.

For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,

He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

Is there any condition to receiving this river of grace? Yes—a very slight one for some people, a Donner Pass for others. James quotes Proverbs 3:34—“That is why Scripture says: 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’” (v. 6b). A proud life is hard to grace. That is why Jesus said, “But woe to you who are rich. Woe to you who are well fed now. Woe to you who laugh now. Woe to you when all men speak well of you” (Luke 6:24–26). He knew that the rich, well-fed, laughing, those who are spoken well of, are naturally weighted with the relentless gravity of pride and thus find it difficult to open up to God’s love and mercy. It is true that “he gives us more grace,” that there is always greater grace, grace upon grace, grace heaped on grace. But it is also true that “‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’” (v. 6). Have we provoked our Maker’s jealousy? If so, he will give us more grace. Lord, we come humbly to you asking for more grace!



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