These verses are popular, "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you."
Most people like the second part of verse 7, but the first part is the first of his instructions. We must first submit to God, then we can resist the devil. Be obedient to God. Under God's authority there is both law and gospel, obedience, failure, and forgiveness. We like to do what we want to do and hope God will bless it. It does not work that way. The power to resist the devil is in submitting to God. In what ways am I disobeying God? However, we should not obey God to get more things, but should obey God because of how much we love Jesus. I want to be someone that God can be proud of, just like I want my own parents to be proud of me.
Resisting the devil sounds like something so tangible that I can do (saying "no"). Fleeing is such a visible word that makes our hearts leap with joy to imagine the devil running away. That is why people like this verse. However, I am reminded that any contact with the devil is scary, even resisting. I do not like to think of having anything to do with this bad guy. I certainly do not ever want to give a hint of talking to this bad one because then he will have my attention. Nope. To resist the devil means to turn my back by turning to God. I focus on God. I stand against the devil by standing for God. Keeping my focus and my thoughts and prayers on God is resistance against the devil. He is not getting any of my attention! God has already won the battle and I shall just turn to Him. Holy Spirit, help me turn. Amen. Let go and let God! My adversary is not so much the devil but the sin within me.
This leads into verse 8 which reminds me of how to resist, "draw near to God." God is always present waiting on me. When God seems far away, guess who moved! I want to get out my hymnal and sing: "Nearer, My God, to Thee, nearer, My God, to Thee, nearer to Thee." "Nearer Oh Comforter." "Nearer Oh Guide." "Draw nigh and take the body of the Lord." Yep, my mind goes to those peaceful moments wallowing in a shallow river or sitting before a scenic view or relaxing on my patio with my flower garden before me. All these places are a sanctuary where I can feel God's presence, just like when I come before Him in the church sanctuary for communion. Oh, but I can feel his presence anywhere! Drawing near is not so much a feeling, but an action of heart and hands.
Everyone loves the first part of verse 8 that they never realize there is a second part! How do we draw near? Clean up! It is not so much a peaceful, quiet place as our minds tend to long for and visualize. We draw near to God and ask for forgiveness and God purifies us (our heart). We draw near to God in good works (our hands) and he cleanses our hands. We mourn our sins, repent, and humble ourselves and let the Lord exalt us in His forgiveness. This also is what we do to resist the devil. The Message version, "Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet."
4:11-12 Do not bad mouth, criticize, slander or speak evil of another Christian neighbor because this is judging and in doing so judges the law. Only the lawgiver, God, can judge. In Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus shares the two greatest commandments (law) to love God and love thy neighbor. Romans 13:8 indicates that the law is satisfied by love demonstrated to a neighbor, "Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.'