Sunday, April 24, 2005

Resist the Devil, Draw Near to God

I wanted to write about resisting the Devil, and lo and behold, the scripture directly followed the one I just posted about! The passage intrigues me, not only because it's a command to believers (we have a responsibility to DO something here), but because we're told what will happen:

James 4:4-10
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, "He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us"? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

Notice that we're not just told to resist the Devil, but to DRAW NEAR to God. These commands go hand in hand. As C.S. Lewis wrote (and I'm paraphrasing from memory), we are always either moving toward or away from God. There is no true stagnation; even if we feel we are standing still, we aren't. That's why we must run the race to win and not fight as though beating the air.

How do I resist the Devil?

I think half the battle in resisting the Devil--certainly the necessary first step--is recognizing him and the work of his minions. So many people who love Jesus and want to follow Him are distracted by the enemy, giving into the enticements he presents or the carrots he dangles ("the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life," 1 John 2:16). He is the father of lies, so all of his promises are empty and his enticements phantasms.

How can you resist him if you have no idea what he looks like or what he does? My heart sinks when I see Christians streaming into movie theatres to sit at his feet for a few hours (yes, there are exceptions, but they're just that. Most of what Hollywood puts out is dung: feminist, licentious, pornographic propaganda. People who partake often of it are desenstitized and defensive, but the Hollywood's putrid fruit speaks for itself). Why are actors and actresses called "idols"? It's not without reason.

But lust for entertainment is only one avenue Satan strolls down in our lives. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit if we are in Christ, and when we fail to discern the enemy's tactics and ploys, we unlock the door and open the windows of that temple, making ourselves easy targets.

I truly think that the more we spend time with the Lord in prayer and read the Bible, hiding the Word in our heart--drawing near to God--we will recognize the deceptions of the enemy and know exactly what to resist. And the more we resist, the more awareness we have when we are again confronted by his attempts to deceive us. Pummkin made a great point about this on Alvin's blog, Invisible Footprints, in the comments for this post:

"How does a bank cashier tell a counterfeit note from a genuine note??? Do you think they'd scrutinise every single method of counterfeit or examine every kind of counterfeit notes??? Not at all. They just count real cash, hourly, daily, yearly. And because they are so accustomed to the feel of real notes, the moment they come across a counterfeit, they will know straight away. This is not to say, ignore Satan's schemes. While keeping our eyes focused on God, we have to know our enemy's movement too."

I am not trying to make it sound like resisting is all "our effort." It is not God's will for us to be deceived, and that's why He's given us so many warnings in the Scripture, and why His Holy Spirit is commissioned to lead us into all truth:

John 16:13-14
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

The Spirit leads us into all truth, but we are not compelled to automatically do whatever is right. We must resist the devil (and our flesh!)--but God will help us. We do not fight alone, and in fact, it is God who goes before us in any battle.

Drawing Near to God

I always think of relationship with God in terms of my relationships with others, in this respect: if they are really bosom friends, we talk often. We look forward to communicating. We don't go long periods without speaking (okay, sometimes this happens with friends, but go with the analogy). I think about ways I could delight them. If someone speaks ill of them, I don't give credence to it--I'd never believe lies about them. I'd unearth the truth no matter what. My relationship with them isn't dependent on my moods and vicissitudes. We've been through so much together: I know them, and they know me. Nothing changes our love.

In the same way, drawing near to God has much to do with communication with him; fear, reverence, and warm love for Him; and desiring to do His will ("find out what pleases the Lord," Eph 5:10).

Someone was recently complaining that she doesn't feel close to the Lord anymore and can't hear Him like she used to, but her life is seemingly so filled with engagements, media, tasks, and...just...static that it's no wonder to me that she can't hear His voice in all that racket. (NO, it wasn't me. But now that you bring it up, I do resemble that remark!)

I am sure we could all identify with having too much "static" to some extent. But when you feel distant from the Lord, could there be a reason? He is not far from each one of us (Acts 17:27), but sometimes it seems He is. While every day isn't going to be a "mountaintop" experience, if we feel distant and can't hear the Lord, isn't it time to evaluate if we are seeking to draw near to Him?

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