By Andy Callis
Just this week in our student ministry Zoom meeting, we were talking about the universe. Did you know that for nearly 1500 years it was commonly believed that the sun, moon, and stars all revolved around the earth? This is called the geocentric view. It was popularized by Plato and Aristotle before Jesus was ever born. It remained the common view until medieval times. The church wholeheartedly accepted this view. It made sense scientifically at the time as well as theologically. In fact, those who challenged this view had better be ready to face some persecution!
This is when a man named Nicolas Copernicus did some research and developed a theory we now call the heliocentric model. It was the idea that the sun, not the earth, was at the center of our solar system. It was, in fact, the earth and other celestial bodies that revolved around the sun. Copernicus didn’t release his ideas until near his death for fear of the accusation of heresy. Some had been burned at the stake for such claims! Nonetheless, his theory was further backed by science and as it developed the ability to see and understand our universe. He was right. The earth did, in fact, revolve around the sun- not the other way around.
Now, just because it was the common and accepted view that the earth was the center that all else orbited around did not make it any more true. That idea was wrong. It still is. I think we can make a great spiritual analogy from this.
Our sinful tendency as humans is to place ourselves in the center of the universe. It’s like this geocentric model. Everything revolves around me: my wants, my desires, my schedule, etc. If anyone suggests that I’m not in the center, it’d rather not hear it. I may get angry with them. I may dismiss them. I may slander them. Even as believers, we have this tendency. We’d like for everyone to plan their lives in such a way to meet our desires. Truth be told, we’d really like God to do the same. James 4:1-10 talks about this tendency we all have and the solution for it.
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 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. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4 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. 5 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”? 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
James teaches us what happens when we place ourselves in the center of the universe. We argue. We fight. We don’t get what we desire so we kill (don’t forget that hatred in your heart is like murder to God- 1 John 3:15). We don’t get what we want, so we complain and bicker. Placing our desires in the center of our lives and demanding others to abide by them destroys our relationships with others. What else happens?
Our relationship to God is hindered. In our pride, we can let our own desires control us and we don’t even ask God to provide a way to meet our desires. Desires, biblically speaking, are quite neutral. We can desire good things or bad things. One thing that God doesn’t expect for us to do is to not desire! We made us a desirous people. But here we see James pointing out that this person is so bent on getting what they desire that it’s become idolatrous. They haven’t even considered asking God to meet that desire. So what happens? They try to get it their way and don’t get it. In the process they become more and more self-absorbed aligning themselves with the world and its desires which are in direct opposition to God.
James tells us in verse five that God will have none of that. He is a jealous God who yearns to have all of us. He won’t accept any rival to Him in your life. The idol must be smashed and the world and its ways must be renounced. So what’s the solution that James offers? We see his solution in the rest of the passage. We could summarize it like this:
- Submit yourselves to God (v.7)
- Resist the devil (v. 7)
- Draw near to God (v. 8)
- Cleanse your hands and heart (v. 8)
- Weep over your sin (v. 9)
- Humble yourself (v. 10)
It’s all a reversal of the idolatrous, worldly pattern we established in putting ourselves in the center of the universe. Trust God and submit yourself to His plan. Let Him meet your desires and even give you new ones (Psa. 37:4). Fight back against Satan by the power of the Spirit and His Word. Come near to God once again and abandon this self-centered view. Repent over your sin in a heartfelt way.
Someone who has went through this process has realized something that they were so blinded to before. They’ve had a Copernicus-type moment. They think, “Maybe everyone isn’t supposed to revolve around me after all! My life and all others actually revolve around the Son! He is and deserves to be in the center of the universe, not me. He’s the King, not me. He calls the shots, not me. All of life, including my own, is under His authority.”
What’s the end result for those who come to this new conclusion of the truth? Verse ten tells us- God will exalt this person. They no longer have to try and exalt themselves and strive to meet their own desires. They can trust God to take care of it.
How about you? Are their some desires your life that you are striving way too hard to meet? What might they be (ex. ease, comfort, pleasure, peace, success, admiration, etc.)? Have they blinded you to the point of possibly becoming idols? Will you sin to try and get it or will you sin if you lose it?
If you start to see this in your life, follow the advice James offers. Submit yourself to God. Humble yourself. Repent of your sin. He’ll give grace to a person like that and just may give you the desires that you’re looking for but in a new way and with a whole new perspective.