My BFF and I often talk about what we see or hear on social media and the TV nightly news. The days are pretty much past now where we'd be shocked by some of the stuff we see posted and hear talked about in these newscasts - even by those whose positions should dictate they have a little more decorum and tact in what they say. It is this lack of tact and constant pushing back that can actually incite arguments and disagreements of all sorts - even to the point of war. James 4:1 reminds us that wars and quarrels don't "just happen" - they are not forces of nature. They exist because WE exist - humans bring about quarrels and start wars. Humans contend to overcome some 'foe' - whether it is another human being we are contending to overcome, or some habit or interest. We often stand in opposition to that which we don't understand. So it is with our spiritual walk, as well. When we don't understand a commandment, it is easy to dismiss it as too hard to grasp, or too difficult to meet - we contend with it and in the end, we often set ourselves at odds with it.
I can anticipate the response that is coming: "I know that all God's commands are spiritual, but I'm not. Isn't this also your experience?" Yes. I'm full of myself—after all, I've spent a long time in sin's prison. What I don't understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can't be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God's command is necessary. (Romans 7:14-16)
A man's desires are considered the things that he craves, longs for - they are defined as those things that we have an impulse toward because they promise some type of satisfaction or enjoyment - even if what we find enjoyment in is inciting those around us so we get into a good fight at times. Man chooses to respond to that which his mind and emotions craves the most. Choice is mostly made after careful consideration - because there is a preference for some outcome over another. We are likened to individuals who have spent a long time in "sin's prison". We are "friends" with sin - we tend toward / are inclined to respond to sin's goading and demands. Since this is such a struggle for us, how do we break free of this hold that sin has on us?
We cannot be trusted to figure out what is best for ourselves - so we need God's commands to assist us in knowing how to respond. That is the purpose of the Word of God - to give us guidance in how to live, respond, and grow. John has a reminder for us about the placement of our affections - those things that we embrace as our frequent choices in life. Don't love the world's ways. Don't love the world's goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity. (I John 2:15-17) Don't love the world's ways - all secular affairs, the systems of all created things. The world's systems (ways) find God's systems (ways) distasteful, criticizing them as 'archaic', and 'too prescriptive'. That is one test of whether a pursuit is godly - is it in alignment with the love of God (the Creator)? We struggle so much with the matter of choosing the things of the created instead of the Creator because we perceive that those in pursuit of the world's ways have some advantage over us. We see them enjoying themselves and we want to possess that same advantage.
So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he'll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it's the only way you'll get on your feet. (James 4:7-10) To resist means that we withstand the force or effect of the one in this world - the devil himself. We counteract and defeat him - in total opposition to his force - by fleeing from him. To flee means that we run from the danger or force that is opposing us - we vanish (get off the scene) from the very thing that has a pull on us. In other words - we don't entertain it - we don't stand around and let it goad us; and we don't goad it! The wrong response to sin's pull is usually initiated in the very entertainment of the thought of that sin. We recall the part of this commandment to "flee from the devil", but we often ignore the rest of the passage. It reminds us that we need to come near God - approaching him with intimacy. There we find washing (cleansing and separation) of all that passes through our minds. We are purified in his presence - made clear from defilement or imperfection. Our entire being - every part of us - needs this cleansing. We obtain it in the presence of God.
So, how do we move from sin into holiness - how do we stop letting sin goad us and get us all worked up? It is in the keeping of the very commands we often resist so boldly. Keep his commands - even when you don't fully understand or appreciate the value of those commands. In the keeping of them, he brings us closer to himself than we were before. In this place of closeness, we will come to understanding - we will also come to into rest and peace - something most of us lack because we are so focused on how much this thing we have been contending with actually annoys the heck out of us! Just sayin!