The “stupendous double promise” of James 4

April 3, 2014

deviled_ham

I’m preaching James 4:1-12 this Sunday. The passage includes a remarkable “double promise” in vv. 7-8, upon which N.T. Wright ruminates in his For Everyone commentary: “Resist the devil and he will run away from you. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.”

At the heart of this challenge there lies a double promise so stupendous that I suspect most of us never really take it seriously. To begin with, ‘resist the devil and he will run away from you’. The devil is a coward; when he is resisted, with the prayer that claims the victory of Jesus on the cross, he knows he is beaten. His trick is to whisper that we know we can’t resist; he’s got us before and he’ll get us again, so why not just give in straight away and save all that bother? It’s a lie. Resist him and he will run.

Second, though, ‘draw near to God and he will draw near to you’. That is astonishing! God is ready and waiting. He longs to establish a friendship with you, a friendship deeper, stronger and more satisfying than you can ever imagine. This, too, will take time, as any friendship worthy of the name will do. But what could be more worthwhile? If even a few more people were prepared to take these promises seriously, think what a difference it would make to the world, never mind the church.[†]

What is a prayer that “claims the victory of Jesus on the cross”? Here’s a brief but helpful devotional to point you in the right direction.

If sin is a problem for us—in our relationship both with God and one another—then, why would God forgive us of our sin without also giving us power to overcome it in our lives? The answer, of course, is that he wouldn’t and hasn’t.

But in order to claim this victory over sin, we can’t remain passive. We must “resist” and “draw near.” I’ll say more about how we do that this Sunday.

N.T. Wright, The Early Christian Letters for Everyone (Louisville, KY: WJK, 2011), 28-9.

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