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Focal Passage- James 4:1-12

James 4:11a-11b “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law.”

What does James mean not to “speak evil” against our brothers? Here he is specifically talking about slander, or saying things that are meant to tear someone else down. In truth, the Greek word for “devil” actually means “slanderer.” Why is this so serious? James reminds us that when we speak evil against each other, we are setting ourselves up against God’s Law. Jesus said that the two most important commandments are to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, minds, and souls and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Slander is not love, so when we engage in it, we are, by our actions, standing against God’s Law, thus judging it. This is very serious business. “Love one another” is at the core of God’s ordinances. Often our tongues are the one thing that keeps us from fulfilling this command. That’s why James has said we must tame this “restless evil” which can be “full of deadly poison.”

Study/Meditation: In what ways today can you tame your tongue, using it for righteousness’ sake as opposed to judging God’s Law by tearing others down?

*Father, help me control my words and use them only to build up Your Kingdom rather than to stand against it. Please forgive me in my weakness for the times I have said things that hurt others. Amen.

Focal Passage- James 4:1-12

James 4:10 “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”

At the end of the day, everything James is directing us to in our behavior comes down to taking self out of center and placing God there—where He rightfully should be.  If we would but see and accept that all that we are all that we do and all that happens is about Him and is for His glory, then we wouldn’t have to be reminded to kind and patient and loving towards one another.  We wouldn’t have to be reminded not to be jealous or self-seeking or angry.  Our gaze would be ever steady on our Savior instead of on ourselves.  As James said a few verses back, God opposes the proud, and He does so because the proud demand attention for themselves.  God gives grace, that is, He exalts or esteems the humble because they recognize that He is God and only He deserves and should have our focus.  Let us take our eyes off of this world and ourselves and place it on the one true Living God

Study/Meditation:  How does focusing on ourselves result very often in anger, jealousy, or bitterness toward others?  How can focusing only on God result in peace, harmony, and forgiveness toward others?

*Father,  to You be all the glory and praise!   You are God and You are Lord!  Let the whole universe magnify Your Name!  Amen.

Focal Passage- James 4:1-12

James 4:9 “Be wretched and mourn and weep.  Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.”

Is James telling his readers that believers are to be sad and miserable instead of happy and joyful?  Of course not!  As a matter of fact, he is directing us to the means for joy and contentment, and part of that is dealing with our sin.  His command to grieve, mourn, and weep is a simple reiteration of Jesus’ command in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)  Jesus promises comfort to those who feel this kind of sorrow over their sin because this kind of sorrow is indicative of true repentance, and repentance must precede joy in salvation.  Charles Spurgeon wrote, “There is a vital connection between soul-distress and sound doctrine.  Sovereign grace is dear to those who have groaned deeply because they see what grievous sinners they are.” (Cited by John MacArthur, “The MacArthur New Testament Commentary:  James,” Moody Press, 1998, p. 211)  We have to first know who we are to humbly see who He is and what He has done for us.

Study/Meditation:  What does mourning and weeping over your sin look like in your life?  What ramifications does it have in your spiritual walk?

*Father, I do mourn the way I fail You every day.  Please forgive me and renew a clean spirit within me.  Amen.

Focal Passage- James 4:1-12

James 4:8 “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

The next directives that James gives us correctly follow what has to be our first step—looking to God.  Notice that he doesn’t tell us to clean ourselves up and then go to God; he tells us to go to God so that we can clean ourselves up.  Once again, our Father is the source of our strength and salvation, not anything from or in this world.  James’ call, then, after putting God at center is to take care of the sins that exist both inside our hearts and the sins we commit within our lives.  The phrase, “cleanse your hands,” was a common one used by those in James’ day as a prerequisite to entering the temple area.  It symbolized washing yourself of the uncleanness of the outside world.  We must repent and confess the sins of our lives before God, and then we must also confess those that exist within our hearts.  Only He can wash those away; therefore, to Him we go, confessing and repenting so that His mercy and grace will sanctify us to His glory.

Study/Meditation:  Why do you think it is important to confess before God those sins that we haven’t actually committed but that exist only in our hearts?

*Father, I lay myself before You today in humble submission and obedience to Your greatness and to Your mercy.  Please forgive me of the uncleanness in my heart and of the sins that I have committed.  Thank You for washing the stain of those sins from me through Your Son’s precious blood.  Amen.

Focal Passage- James 4:1-12

James 4:7b-8a “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”

In writing of God’s grace and our submission to it, James is certainly not advocating “let go and let God.”  Receiving God’s grace does not require passivity from His children.  On the contrary, it is a call to action, a call to obedience.  In the next few verses James is going to give us a list of directives that describe how a person who has been given the gift of God’s grace must respond.  He has just written that we are to submit to God.  This submission is not “inactive waiting” but “active allegiance.”  We actively look only to God and we actively make Him our sole source of strength.  We draw near to Him in this submission.  However, when we do that, there will be a fight.  The devil is in the business of trying to thwart our efforts at this active allegiance.  As Peter wrote in his first letter, we shouldn’t be surprised when this fight comes. (1 Peter 4:12)  We should rejoice that it comes because that’s when we know we have been displaying active allegiance to God.  Let us put on our armor and actively submit to our Lord, thereby resisting the enemy.

Study/Meditation:  In what ways do you resist the devil in your everyday life?  How does resisting him bring nearness to God?

*Father, help me recognize the schemes of the enemy and in wisdom draw my strength from You.  Thank You for never leaving nor forsaking me in these battles.  Amen.

Focal Passage- James 4:1-12

James 4:6-7a “But he gives more grace.  Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’  Submit yourselves therefore to God.”

The world, and oftentimes even some men and women of God, will tell us that the answer to our problems is simply to look within ourselves for the truth.  Look inside and you will find true happiness and contentment or self-confidence and success.  James is reminding us that the answer is certainly not within us.  The problem is within us.  The answer is looking to God, and we must humbly submit ourselves to that truth first and foremost.  The beautiful thing about this is that when we do, God gives us what we need and more.  In James’ words, “He gives more grace.”  No matter our circumstances or problems or sicknesses or plights, God gives more and more and more grace to His children who humble themselves before His power and majesty and greatness.  He is the answer, not us and not the world.  Only Him.

Study/Meditation:  What are some popular teachings today that tell you to look within yourself for the answers?  Why is denying self and looking only to God so contrary to the world?

*Father, I submit myself to You and Your grace and mercy.  I need You and only You.  Thank You for Your unwavering devotion to us, Your children.  Amen.