Anybody else been resisting the devil?

“Get out of here devil, I ain’t got no time for you today.”

When I was a kid, sometimes I would feel scared as I lay in my bed at night trying to fall asleep.  If I saw a shadow or something, I thought it might be a demon. So I’d whisper under my breath, so no one else but me and that demon would hear, “Get outta here, demon!”

He has to leave, because we’ve resisted him, right? That’s what the Bible says, right? I make a declaration of resistance, and that yucky old devil has to go.

“Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” James 4:7. That’s the Bible.

But wait, it’s not even half of the verse.

The full verse says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Submit yourselves to God seems like it’s important.

The passage continues, “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.” (James 4:7-10)

How do you resist the devil?

With a big huff and puff and bravado?

By saying the magic words “I resist you!”?

Submit yourself to God. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.

In what manner do we draw near to God?

With a heart of humility.

Because God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

That’s part of who He is.

Why should we be wretched and gloomy, and mourn and weep? That part’s kind of weird.

Because then the Lord will exalt you.

After we’ve stopped magnifying ourselves, God can step in. His exalting is better than our own psyching-up any day of the week. To exalt literally means to lift up, to elevate.

Spiritual warfare is real. Demonic deliverance is real. There is a time to stand in courage and kick the enemy out. Certainly, more of our “first-world problems” than we care to admit are a result of demonic influence, and demons submit to the authority of a Spirit-filled Christian.

2 Corinthians 10 is a great place to start for those truths—our spiritual weapons have the power to demolish strongholds. I don’t in any way mean to discourage you from using your voice to exercise the authority Jesus has entrusted you with to kick demon butt. If you see a demon, you tell it to get out, and in faith you expect it to submit to your commands.

But that’s not really what this passage is about. This resist the devil business in James is about something different. And we actually lose a lot of value when we draw it off by itself and just adopt the easiest meaning.

May I suggest that a great deal of what we label “warfare” is actually just a reasonable symptom of the ground we allow the enemy to hold in our lives? So many of our struggles and anxieties have space to wreak havoc because we give the world a place in our hearts.

Let’s go back to the beginning of the chapter (James 4):

“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

“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’?” 

Friendship with the world is enmity (hatred) with God. And isn’t that the enemy’s bread and butter? Hatred towards God is his whole business model.

If you don’t want to be around the devil, then stop working part-time in his industry.

Well, then who has hope? We all do. Because there’s one more verse:

“But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’”

There’s a secret here. Well, it’s not really a secret, it’s right there. We just gloss over it because that part about “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” is so glamorous.

This verse isn’t giving us magic words. This particular passage isn’t really about the power of our words to demolish strongholds.

We resist the devil by drawing near to God. We resist the devil by displacing our worldly passions with the things of God.

We throw down all of the things that are important to us and give us value, so that God can exalt us in His way. Our passions and desires are placed under his feet.

Sinful behaviors give the enemy that ground in our lives. But may I further suggest you’ll find a lot more success in leaving those behaviors behind by pursuing God with your whole heart than you ever will by bolstering up and trying to power through temptation?

You can make declarations of resistance to the enemy all day, but if you haven’t heeded the rest of the passage, I don’t know how much good it’s going to do you.

Resist the devil and he will flee from you is a simple cause and effect. When we displace the things of the world with the things of God in our life, satan doesn’t get a vote anymore. It’s a foregone conclusion—if you draw near to God in humility, the devil will flee—no rebuttal. There’s no other way for this to work—no back doors, no loopholes.

As James explained, God is jealous for you. He wants all of you. Draw near to Him, and He WILL draw near to you. Then WATCH that warfare change.

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