16. Experiencing Spiritual Revival (James 3:13-18)Related Media
So submit to God. But 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 make your hearts pure, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn, and weep. Turn your laughter into mourning and your joy into despair. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you.
James 4:7-10 (NET)
How can we experience a spiritual awakening both individually and corporately?
In James 4:1-6, James confronts the Jewish Christians about their worldliness. He called them spiritual adulterers and said their friendship with the world was enmity against God (4:4). Instead of living by scriptural wisdom, these believers were living by worldly wisdom (3:15). James 3:16 says this in describing their worldly attitudes and the fruit abounding from it: “For where there is jealousy and selfishness, there is disorder and every evil practice.” It is clear from James 3:1 that members of these Jewish Christian congregations were pursuing positions of leadership to rule in the church instead of to serve the church. Their selfishness led them to ongoing conflicts and wars—some had even been murdered because of it (4:1-2).
After rebuking them in James 4:1-5, James said, “But he gives greater grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but he gives grace to the humble’” (4:6). It may have felt difficult or even impossible for these believers to restore the vibrancy of their relationship with God and their effectiveness in being lights to their surrounding community; however, James said it was possible because God would give them greater grace. God would exalt them if they humbled themselves before him.
James 4:6-10 is written in a literary device called an inclusion. James 4:6 describes how God gives grace to the humble, and James 4:10 says as they humbled themselves, God would exalt them, essentially saying the same thing. Everything in-between verses 6-10 describes how they were to humble themselves to receive God’s greater grace—being exalted by God. In fact, in verses 7-10, he uses ten commands1, demonstrating the urgency that we must have in turning from the world and making things right with God.
How can we overcome worldliness, in the forms of materialism, sexual lust, pride, racism, and discord, and experience revival in our relationship with God and others? In this study, we’ll consider five principles about overcoming worldliness and experiencing revival—both individually and corporately.
Big Question: According to James 4:7-10, what principles can be discerned about experiencing God’s grace in revival?
To Experience Revival, We Must Submit to God’s Authority
So submit to God…
Submit is a military term, which means “to get in rank.” In the military, a sergeant submits to a general. If not, there is chaos, and the army will lose the battle to the enemy. Likewise, we are in a spiritual war. Satan works through the flesh, the world, and demons to separate believers from God and his call over their lives and to keep unbelievers from coming to God. One of the primary ways believers win this spiritual war is by faithfully submitting to their Commander—God. This means we must accept that God is in control and submit to his guidance to have victory. If we don’t do this, we will fall to the temptations of the world and Satan, find ourselves slaves to sin, and be ineffective at reaching others.
Application Question: How can we submit to God?
1. We submit to God by knowing and obeying his Word.
At salvation, we committed to following Christ as Lord of our lives. However, if we don’t constantly read, memorize, and listen to his Word, we won’t know how to follow God and walk in obedience to him. Therefore, when Christians are not faithfully studying God’s Word, it’s impossible for them to submit to God. They will eventually go AWOL (Absent Without Leave) or become captives to the enemy (2 Tim 2:26). But knowing his Word is only part of it, we must obey God’s Word. To be hearers of God’s Word and not doers of it means we are self-deceived about our faith and already captives of the enemy (Jam 1:22, 3:15).
2. We submit to God by trusting his will for our lives, especially when things don’t make sense or are difficult.
When something bad happens in our lives, we are tempted to doubt God’s goodness and wisdom and stray from him. However, Scripture teaches that God is both sovereign—in control of all events—and good—working all things out for the good of his children (Eph 1:11, Rom 8:28). We must believe these truths in times that are difficult and confusing. Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding.” Isaiah 55:8-9 says,
Indeed, my plans are not like your plans, and my deeds are not like your deeds, for just as the sky is higher than the earth, so my deeds are superior to your deeds and my plans superior to your plans.
Are we willing to trust God, especially in difficult and confusing times? For many of us, we need to pray like Christ, “Lord, not my will but your will be done.” As Paul said in Philippians 4:6-7, we need to choose to be anxious for nothing, but in everything through prayer, petition, and thanksgiving, to make our requests known unto God, so his peace can guard our hearts and minds.
3. We submit to God by recognizing that not submitting to him means that we are already submitting to the devil.
That is the implication of James’ words, “So submit to God. But resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Though we may be angry at God for something he allowed or didn’t allow in our lives, the reality is that when we are not submitting to him, we are submitting to the devil. Ephesians 2:2 says that Satan is “the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the ruler of the spirit that is now energizing the sons of disobedience.” He works through those who are disobedient. When we are living like the world and in disobedience to God, we are following the devil, even if only in a specific area. Satan was a rebel from the beginning, and when we do the same, we open the door for him in our lives, which is dangerous. Satan only comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10); he always leads us in destructive pathways.
Are we submitting to God? Worldliness is essentially going our own way instead of God’s. To experience revival, we must choose to get in rank and submit to God.
Application Question: When are the times that you most struggle with submitting to God and why? How is God calling you to submit to him and therefore begin to experience revival in this season of your life?
To Experience Revival, We Must Resist the Devil
But resist the devil and he will flee from you.
The devil is the ruler of this world (2 Cor 4:4, 1 John 5:19), and he uses it to distract, tempt, and destroy believers. Therefore, to overcome the world and experience revival, we must resist the power behind the world—the devil. The word “resist” means to “stand against” or “to oppose.”2 In Ephesians 6:13, Paul used this word in the context of standing in spiritual warfare. He said, “For this reason, take up the full armor of God so that you may be able to ‘stand your ground’ on the evil day...” God wants us to “stand our ground” in our spiritual battles, but the devil wants us to quit, give in, or run away. Consequently, to overcome the world and its demonic temptations, we must resist the devil and he will flee. It’s a promise. This promise is important to remember because oftentimes temptation is so heavy, the depression and the discouragement so pervasive, that we just want to give up and throw in the towel; however, if we faithfully resist, the enemy will run.
We get a good picture of this in the story of Christ being tempted by the devil in the wilderness (Matt 4). Satan brought three different temptations to Christ—the lust of the flesh through encouraging Christ to turn a rock into bread, the lust of the eyes through showing Christ the kingdoms of this world, and the pride of life by encouraging Christ to prove he was the Son of God by throwing himself off the temple. Each time Christ resisted the temptation, and eventually, the devil went away and waited for a more opportune time to attack (Lk 4:13). It is noteworthy that after Christ had resisted the devil, Scripture says he left Galilee empowered by the Holy Spirit (Lk 4:14). Then, as we know, his ministry began, which was marked by the Spirit’s power. By his example, we learn how to resist the devil in our own lives and experience revival, marked by God’s power.
Application Question: How can we resist the devil?
1. We resist the devil by knowing and faithfully applying Scripture.
When Christ was tempted in the wilderness, he quoted Scripture to conquer the devil’s temptations, and not just Scripture but specific verses dealing with those temptations. Likewise, if we are commonly tempted by lust, materialism, depression, anxiety, discord, or anything else, we must memorize and apply the specific verses when confronted with the temptation. The more we know and apply God’s Word, the more we will defeat the devil and set him to flight.
This is probably, in part, what Paul referred to when calling believers to put on the “shield of faith” to extinguish the fiery darts of the devil in Ephesians 6:16. When tempted to worry and complain, we remember that God calls us to do all things without complaining and arguing in Philippians 2:14 and that he calls us to give thanks in all situations for it is God’s will for our lives in 1 Thessalonians 5:18. When tempted to hold onto grudges, we remember that if we don’t forgive others, God won’t forgive us (Matt 6:15, 18:21-35) and that we are called to forgive as Christ forgives us (Col 3:13). We extinguish Satan’s fiery darts as we believe and apply Scripture.
2. We resist the devil through a righteous life.
Paul referred to a righteous life as protection against the evil one when he called for believers to put on the breastplate of righteousness (Eph 6:14). This means that whenever we walk in unrepentant sin, it gives the devil a door to tempt and torment us. For example, Ephesians 4:26-27 says, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on the cause of your anger. Do not give the devil an opportunity.” Sin gives Satan a door to draw us into more sin and bondage, including emotional baggage like anger, anxiety, and depression. We resist the devil by choosing to live a righteous life instead of a compromised life.
3. We resist the devil through faithful fellowship.
Since we are in a spiritual war with demonic forces who rule the world (Eph 6:12), it makes sense that we need other soldiers—the body of Christ—for spiritual protection and victory. It is the soldier that is all alone—apart from godly fellowship and accountability—that the enemy attacks. He is the soldier that will be easiest to overcome. In Ecclesiastes 4:12, Solomon said: “Although an assailant may overpower one person, two can withstand him. Moreover, a three-stranded cord is not quickly broken.” In order to avail ourselves of the spiritual protection and power which comes from the body: (1) We must faithfully gather with the body to worship and submit to biblical teaching. (2) We must have transparent relationships with other brothers and sisters, where we are confessing sin, receiving prayer, and being held accountable (Jam 5:16). (3) We must serve the body of Christ and the world together. A Christian who isn’t serving isn’t growing as he should and is spiritually vulnerable. I believe this is part of what Paul is referring to when he calls for believers to put on the footwear of the gospel of peace to stand in spiritual warfare (Eph 6:15). We can’t win a war by defense only; we must advance the kingdom by spreading the gospel and taking ground. Kingdom relationships are a great protection and empowerment in this war.
4. We resist the devil through prayer.
After Christ cast a demon out of a little boy, the disciples asked why they were unable to cast him out. In Mark 9:29, Christ simply responded, “This kind can come out only by prayer.” There are different kinds of demons and demonic attacks. Some can be defeated by simply quoting Scripture, as demonstrated by Christ (Matt 4), or putting on worship music, as demonstrated by King Saul (1 Sam 16:23), but with others, there is only victory by persistent and faithful prayer. Certainly, this is true with systemic strongholds in a culture or government like taking advantage of the poor, murdering innocent babies, trafficking, or persecuting Christians. In certain situations, individual Christians and the corporate body of believers must gather together to fast and persistently pray for breakthrough. Certain types of demonic strongholds are only broken through persistent prayer. No doubt, for this reason, persistent, corporate prayer has marked every major revival historically.
In fact, again in the context of teaching about standing against spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6:18, Paul said: “With every prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit, and to this end be alert, with all perseverance and requests for all the saints.” Prayer is the atmosphere in which we stand and have victory in spiritual warfare. We must be alert, praying in the Spirit at all times with all types of prayers to resist the devil. As we do so, the devil will flee and there will be spiritual breakthrough.
Are we resisting the devil and his temptations through the world system? The devil is the ruler of this world, and he uses it to distract, tempt, and destroy believers. Therefore, to overcome the world and its temptations, we must resist the power behind the world—the devil. Only then can we experience revival both individually and corporately as demonic strongholds are broken and people are freed to walk in Christ.
Application Question: What are some extreme views about the devil that we must avoid? What would be a balanced understanding of Satan and his temptations? How is God calling you to resist the devil in your life or community?
To Experience Revival, We Must Pursue Intimacy with God
Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.
It has often been said that the Christian life is like walking upstream. If we are not moving forward, then the streams of this world will push us backwards. Therefore, we cannot be stagnant in our Christian life. If we are going to overcome worldly temptations and experience revival, we must always be moving forward—pursuing intimacy with God. In Philippians 3:10-12, Paul shared his passionate pursuit of knowing and being like Christ. He said,
My aim is to know him, to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings, and to be like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained this—that is, I have not already been perfected—but I strive to lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus also laid hold of me.
Likewise, as believers, we must do the same. If we are not pursuing God, we will pursue something else and slowly (or quickly) decline in our spiritual health.
In James 4:8, James encourages the pursuit of God with the promise that God will draw near us. A great example of this is in the story of the prodigal son. While the son was on his way home after an extended period of enjoying the world and experiencing the consequences of that, his father saw him and ran to the son. Luke 15:20 says, “So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way from home his father saw him, and his heart went out to him; he ran and hugged his son and kissed him.” Later, the narrative says the father put his robe on the son and welcomed him home with a party. While the son simply walked in the direction of the father’s house, it incited the father to run towards him. God does the same with us. Kent Hughes said it this way,
The soul-tingling truth here is, if you go after God, he will go after you! ... Inch toward God, and he will step toward you. Step toward God, and he will sprint toward you. Sprint toward God, and he will fly to you!3
How should we apply this promise? Certainly, we must consider it in the context of overcoming worldliness and spiritual adultery. In order to be set free from our habitual sins and love for the world, we must pursue God with at least the same fervor that we pursued the world or a specific sin. To walk in victory, James calls us to a greater devotion in seeking the Lord.
Jeremiah said something similar to the Jews who had been exiled in Babylon because of their spiritual adultery—worshiping other gods and practicing sin. In Jeremiah 29:13-14, he said this to them,
When you seek me in prayer and worship, you will find me available to you. If you seek me with all your heart and soul, I will make myself available to you,’ says the Lord. ‘Then I will reverse your plight and will regather you from all the nations and all the places where I have exiled you,’ says the Lord. ‘I will bring you back to the place from which I exiled you.’
For them to experience intimacy with God while in exile, their spiritual devotion could not simply be lifeless rituals and routines. They needed to pursue God with all their heart, and if they did, they would experience him in a special way. But not only that, God would deliver them from exile—he would set them free. Likewise, in our struggle with trials and temptations, we must pursue God with increasing intensity, to experience victory and freedom in Christ.
A great example of a deeper pursuit of God, specifically when in trials, temptations, or strategic times, is Christ. When Christ was about to start his ministry, he fasted for forty days while being tempted by the devil (Matt 4). When selecting his twelve disciples who would turn the world upside down, he prayed all night (Lk 6). Right before going to the cross and dealing with deep depression (“deeply grieved, even to the point of death,” Matt 26:38), he prayed with his disciples for three hours (Matt 26). He pursued God in even greater ways at difficult and strategic times. Certainly, he never had to break habitual sins or an adulterous relationship with the world; but no doubt, this is how God kept him from such endeavors. Christ was the perfect man, and he demonstrated how to live perfectly, even amongst temptations from Satan and the world.
To conquer sin and worldly temptations and experience revival, we must pursue God with an even greater intensity. Unfortunately, with many Christians’ their pursuit of God does not match their temptation or trial, and therefore, they are toppled by the weight of it. They can’t break free from some sin, depression, obsession, or relationship that holds them back. Right before going to the cross, Christ told the disciples to pray lest they enter temptation, as they were about to be tempted to deny him (Mk 14:38). Their discipline didn’t increase, and they all denied Christ—falling to the pressures of the world. Many Christians are the same.
How is God calling us to pursue him in a deeper way to deliver us from worldliness and to experience revival? Should we fast like Christ—giving ourselves to prayer and Scripture study—for a prolonged period? Should we increase our daily time with God and give up time on TV, YouTube, or social media? Should we commit to a time of deeper spiritual training with a mentor, our church, a mission school, or seminary? Many times, these types of endeavors, where we seek God in a greater manner, lead to deliverance from worldliness and spiritual revival. When we take steps towards God, he runs towards us. When we seek him with our whole heart, we will find him.
Application Question: How have you in the past increased your pursuit of God, especially in times of trial, spiritual apathy, or seeking direction? How was it helpful? Why are disciplines like prolonged fasting, discipleship training, or serving in missions often beneficial for our spiritual health? How is God calling you to pursue deeper intimacy with him in this season?
To Experience Revival, We Must Genuinely Repent of Sin
Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and make your hearts pure, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn, and weep. Turn your laughter into mourning and your joy into despair.
In every great revival, there have been prolonged periods of deep mourning over sin, as people were convicted by God and repented. Similarly, in James 4:8-9, James called the Jewish Christians to mourn and turn away from their sin, so they could experience revival. Calls like this were common in the Old Testament and at times in the New when people were in rebellion. Isaiah 22:12 says, “At that time the sovereign master, the Lord who commands armies, called for weeping and mourning, for shaved heads and sackcloth.” Also, Christ rebuked Jews for not weeping over sin. In Luke 6:25, he said, “Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.” Unfortunately, many believers laugh at sin when they should be weeping, and many are indifferent to it, when they should be broken. Therefore, revival both individually and corporately tarry.
Certainly, these wrong attitudes were amongst the Jewish Christians James wrote to. In verse 9b, James said, “Turn your laughter into mourning and your joy into despair.” They were laughing and rejoicing at sin instead of mourning over it. Likewise, many Christians are that way today when considering their worldly conversations with friends, which lead to laughing and joking, or the ungodly TV shows they watch or music they listen to which promote sin and its enjoyment.
Not only was this cavalier attitude over sin a problem for the Christians James wrote to, it was also a problem for the Corinthians, to whom Paul wrote. In 1 Corinthians 5, a man was having sex with his father’s wife, and Paul said this about their reaction to the sin in verse 2: “And you are proud! Shouldn’t you have been deeply sorrowful instead and removed the one who did this from among you?” No doubt, they were boasting in how loving and inclusive their church was, when they should have been deeply sorrowful.
Clearly, the same ungodly response to sin was happening amongst these Jewish Christian churches. In James 1:22, they were hearing the Word but not obeying it. In James 2:1-6, they were honoring the rich and dishonoring the poor. In James 3:1-12, they had duplicitous tongues which blessed God and cursed one another. In James 3:13-18, they were living by worldly wisdom which was both selfish and jealous—leading to all types of evil among them. In James 4:1-2, they had violent disputes in the church, and some had even been murdered. However, even with all this worldliness and evil happening among them, these Christians were not bothered or embarrassed. Their hearts were hardened, and apparently, they were even laughing and rejoicing—showing they had become just like the world.
In order for them to conquer worldly temptations and experience revival, they needed to genuinely repent, which included hating their sin and being sorrowful over them. Likewise, we must have a change of heart over sin—our own, that of our community, and the world. In verses 8-9, James used various words to describe their need for repentance. He says, “Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and make your hearts pure, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn, and weep.” Cleansing their “hands” referred to getting rid of outward sins like slandering one another, disrespecting the poor, and fighting. Making their hearts “pure” referred to getting rid of heart sins like pride, selfishness, jealously, and lust. James calls them “double-minded, which meant they were trying to live for the world and live for God as well. To truly repent meant they needed to be single-minded. Matthew 5:8 says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” As we purify both our hearts and actions, we experience more of God’s grace in our lives, while unrepentant sin hinders our ability to know and experience God.
But again, it must be noted that turning from outward and inward sin was not enough; they needed an overall change in attitude about sin. They were called to “grieve, mourn, and weep” (v. 9). “Grieve” can also be translated “be miserable” (NASB). “Mourn” was a word used of people mourning at funerals over somebody’s death. Weeping is an outward expression of one’s inner turmoil over sin. They were called to complete brokenness over their individual and corporate sins.
Condemnation vs. Conviction
It is important for us to recognize that there are two types of sorrow—one from God and the other from Satan, one beneficial and the other harmful. In 2 Corinthians 7:10 (ESV), Paul said, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.”
A great example of godly sorrow is seen in the life of Peter. When Peter denied Christ three times and remembered how Christ foretold that he would do so, he “wept bitterly” (Matt 26:75). This led Peter to repent; eventually, he became the leader of the early church and one of Christ’s most bold witnesses. Godly sorrow led him to true repentance. However, in contrast, Judas, who denied Christ, also “regretted” what he did (Matt 27:3). But, Judas’ regret led him to commit suicide instead of genuinely repenting and returning to Christ. Worldly sorrow produced negative fruits in him, including death.
This is a critical distinction to understand. The Holy Spirit convicts us so that we repent—turning back to God, his Word, and his church—but the devil condemns us in order to lead us away from God, his Word, and his church. We must be able to distinguish between the two because the difference is often subtle. Unfortunately, there are many Christians holding onto worldly sorrow for their failures which only harms them by pushing them away from God and others. Conviction is from God, but condemnation never is, as Christ was condemned for us (Rom 8:10).
As we discern the Spirit’s conviction through God’s Word, we must turn from sin and begin to despise it. We should hate sin enough that we don’t want to hear it promoted in our music, our TV watching, or our discussions. As Christ taught, we should be willing to pluck out our eye, cut off our arm and foot (referring to what we see, what we do, and where we go) to be holy both in action and heart (Matt 18:8-9). When we hate sin, we’ll run away from it and run to God instead.
In Psalm 66:18 (ESV), David said: “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” Harboring sinful actions and attitudes hinder our experience of individual and corporate revival. If we recognize this as true of our lives in various areas, we must hear James’ words again: “Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and make your hearts pure, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn, and weep. Turn your laughter into mourning and your joy into despair” (4:8-9).
Are there any ways that we are cherishing sin or being apathetic to it? If so, we must grieve and repent in order to experience revival.
Application Question: What is the difference between conviction and condemnation, godly sorrow and worldly sorrow? Why is there so little grieving over sin (individual and corporate) in the church, and how has that hurt the church’s mission? In what ways is God calling you to repent either for individual or corporate sin (cf. Matt 6:12)?
To Experience Revival, We Must Approach God Expectantly, in Faith
Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you.
When James says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you,” this appears to be a summary statement of verses 7-9.4 Again, verses 6 through 10 form an inclusion, where verses 7-9 tell us how to humble ourselves and experience God’s greater grace (v. 6), his exalting us (v. 10). Therefore, we must pursue these steps with faith so that God will indeed exalt us and give us a greater grace.
In Scripture, faith is the door to many of God’s promises. We are saved by faith (Eph 2:8-9). If we have faith, we can move mountains (Matt 21:21)—referring to great problems in our lives. By faith, we can persevere through trials (Heb 11:35-40). All conditional promises in Scripture require faith, including the ones in James 4:7-10—resisting the devil and he will flee from us, drawing near God and he will draw near us, and also humbling ourselves to experience God exalting us. Therefore, to experience revival, we must approach God expectantly, in faith. Without faith, there will be no revival in our lives or our community.
Interpretation Question: What does God exalting us or giving us more grace mean in context?
1. For some, being exalted means that God will deliver them from God’s discipline or the consequences of their sin.
James had warned them about how being worldly led to enmity with God (4:4) and how being prideful led to God opposing believers (4:6). Some in the congregation were already receiving the consequences of their rebellion. Maybe, it was conflict, depression, financial struggles, or sickness. For the prodigal son, his pride led him to leave his father and spend all his money on gambling and prostitutes. At the end, he was poor and eating pig’s food. But, when he humbled himself and went home, the father delivered him from the consequences of his sin and restored him to a favored position. The father gave him his robe, welcomed him into the house, and threw a party for him. It was the same with Jonah. While Jonah was in rebellion, the storm threatened his life, and after his fellow sailors threw him off the boat, his sinking to the bottom of the ocean did. But when he prayed while sinking, God saved him through a big fish (Jonah 1-2). To be exalted means that often God will deliver us from the consequences of our sin and his discipline.
2. For some, being exalted means a restoration of intimacy with God.
When in spiritual adultery—living for the world—we lack the intimacy and blessing of God. We struggle to enjoy time in God’s Word or prayer. But when we humble ourselves and return, God runs to us, like the father of the prodigal son. Likewise, for the Corinthians, after Paul told them to not be unequally yoked with the world, God said this through Paul:
Therefore “come out from their midst, and be separate,” says the Lord, “and touch no unclean thing, and I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,” says the All-Powerful Lord.
2 Corinthians 6:17-18
How would God be a father to them since they were already believers? This referred to the intimacy and blessings they forfeited while enjoying the world. When they repented, God would hear their prayers, bless them, and they would enjoy the Father’s intimacy. Many Christians lack this because they are double-minded—trying to live for the world and God.
3. For others, being exalted means that God will restore their calling.
While living for the world, believers forfeit kingdom usefulness. However, when they repent and humble themselves before God, he restores their usefulness. He, even at times, restores the years stolen by locust (Joel 2:25)—the disciplines God allowed to help turn us back to him. This was God’s promise to the Israelites, who were exiled to Babylon because of their spiritual adultery and sin. In Jeremiah 29:11-14, God said this to them:
For I know what I have planned for you,’ says the Lord. ‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope. When you call out to me and come to me in prayer, I will hear your prayers. When you seek me in prayer and worship, you will find me available to you. If you seek me with all your heart and soul, I will make myself available to you,’ says the Lord. ‘Then I will reverse your plight and will regather you from all the nations and all the places where I have exiled you,’ says the Lord. ‘I will bring you back to the place from which I exiled you.’
As they faithfully sought the Lord with all their heart in exile, he would reverse their judgment, regather them to the land and fulfill his good plans for them. Israel was called to be a light to the nations and a blessing to the world. When they returned to him, God would begin to use them in a mighty way again. This is true for believers as well.
When believers are compromising with the lusts of the world—sexual lust, the lust of materialism, the lust of power and popularity—they forfeit much of God’s grace (4:6). But when they return, humbling themselves before the Lord and seeking him with their whole heart, God begins to fulfill his great plans for their lives. No doubt, that was true for these worldly Jewish Christians, and it is true for us today.
If we are going to overcome worldliness and experience revival, we must approach God expectantly, in faith. As we turn from sin and seek him, he will exalt us, give us greater grace, restore and expand the calling on our lives—all for his glory and the benefit of others.
4. For some, being exalted referred to experiencing true salvation.
It is clear that within the church there were some who were not truly saved, as they were deceived about their faith (1:22, 26). They had a proclamation of faith but no works to prove that their faith was genuine (2:14-26). James called it a dead, demonic faith (2:17, 19). Some amongst these Jewish Christians needed to be truly born again, and no doubt, James was calling them to true salvation. In fact, when James said to those in the church to cleanse their hands “you sinners” (4:8), many believe he was speaking directly to those with false faith. The word “sinner” is typically used of nonbelievers, not believers.5 Therefore, for some, God exalting them referred to them experiencing true salvation, as they turned from living for themselves and the world to truly living for God.
Application Question: In what ways have you experienced God exalting you or giving you greater grace after a time of genuine repentance and seeking the Lord? Share your experience of this. How is God calling you to pursue his promises with faith in this season?
The Jewish Christians that James wrote to were practicing spiritual adultery by compromising with the world. They were listening to God’s Word but not obeying it (1:22). They were praising God but cursing others at the same time (3:9). They were living selfishly, which was causing great conflicts among them (4:1-3). James called them double-minded and commanded them to turn back to God, so he could bless them and give them more grace (4:6-10). They needed to experience revival—a restoration of their calling and relationship with God. Many of us need to do the same.
- To Experience Revival, We Must Submit to God’s Authority
- To Experience Revival, We Must Resist the Devil
- To Experience Revival, We Must Pursue Intimacy with God
- To Experience Revival, We Must Genuinely Repent of Sin
- To Experience Revival, We Must Approach God Expectantly, in Faith
- Pray for protection from the evil one and deliverance from various temptations—lust, anger, discord, depression, anxiety, addictions, etc.
- Pray for deeper intimacy with God—that we would draw near him and that he would draw near us.
- Pray for genuine repentance—that our individual believers, churches, and societies would repent for offending a righteous God.
- Pray for revival—that God would heal us, deliver us, and stir us to righteousness for his Name’s sake and the benefit of others.
Copyright © 2021 Gregory Brown
Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the NET Bible ® copyright © 1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.
Holy Bible, New International Version ®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NASB) are taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, and 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
Scripture quotations marked (KJV) are from the King James Version of the Bible.
All emphases in Scripture quotations have been added.
BTG Publishing all rights reserved.
1 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1998). James (p. 201). Chicago: Moody Press.
2 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1998). James (p. 204). Chicago: Moody Press.
3 Hughes, R. K. (1991). James: faith that works (pp. 186–187). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
Related Topics: Christian Life