One mistake or unintentional omission that those of us who have an active burden for sharing the gospel of Christ with others sometimes commit is that we often don’t tell the whole truth. Not that the message of the free gift of grace is untrue, because it is true indeed, but we often neglect the follow-up, either for fear of having the message rejected or we simply direct those who have made a new profession of faith, to the nearest church to hear the rest of the story. Granted, we don’t want to come off as judgmental or even worse risk confusing them by leading them to believe that somehow, by what you do, you can earn a place in heaven. Nothing could be further from the truth. That being said, James was quite specific on the subject when he wrote, “What good is it, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can his faith save him? Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:14, 17). Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says (1:22).” James, chapter four, can be a good follow-up to the gospel of Christ and give the new believer something to think about and to act upon.
Two things are essential in living the Christian life and enjoying it fully. First is that we must “stand in awe of God” and next to “submit yourselves to God.” These two things are inextricably linked and are mutually dependent. The command to submit is a military concept and just as the soldier stands in awe when the general addresses him, there is a clear understanding by the soldier that submitting to the general’s authority is not optional and if he doesn’t, the outcome will surely be awful. Although imperfect, this is an image or likeness of our relationship with God. The biggest difference being that unlike the general, God loves us so much that there isn’t anything that He wouldn’t do for us if we obey His commands, including the sacrifice of His only Son, Jesus. Not only was the Father willing to make this greatest of all sacrifices, but was willing to do so while we were yet disobedient and unwilling to submit to His authority (Romans 5:8).
So what are we to do? How should we respond? The answer is covered in chapter four of James’ letter and his words are plain and simple, but allow me to summarize. James points out that the reason for conflict in our life as well as our marriages; it comes from the inner conflict that is taking place within our hearts and minds. It is a battle between our sin nature and the Spirit of God who lives within us. It is caused by our desire for what we don’t have and in most cases, it is something we either shouldn’t desire or that we desire for the wrong reasons. Sometimes we completely ignore God, either knowing full well that what we want is wrong or it is that we really don’t take God seriously in the first place. We neither stand in awe of him, nor do we intend to submit to His authority. As for our motives, they are for our own pleasure and gain so when we are unsatisfied with our life and even our spouse, it should not come as a surprise. James calls this spiritual “adultery” in that what we want is to have a relationship with a sinful world and God, at the same time. This can never be.
The answer is simple and straight forward, as presented by James. “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you (vs.7, 8). If you want a kind of mental trigger to help you as you try to obey the teachings of God and have your life be a testimony to your relationship with Christ, memorize these two verses, or simply remember to submit, resist and come near.
Tool #261 Do you take God seriously or do you take Him for granted?