READ: Proverbs 3, Mark 7, James 4

A JEALOUS SPIRIT

In ministry and mission, most of the wounds and most of the sins come from within. Jesus reminds us that we can’t blame devils and circumstances for what comes out of our heart. We are soiled from the inside out and foolishness is deep within all of us (Mark 7:15). James concurs and bluntly states that wars and fights come from within, from the desires for pleasure that war in our members (James 4:1). We war and fight to snatch from one another what God would gladly give us if we only approached Him humbly. James 4:6 is a paraphrase of Proverbs 3:34, stating that there is more God-given grace for the humble than there is for the proud. The proud get God as an enemy; the humble get God as a friend.

James explains that friendship with the world is enmity with God (4:4). We cannot be friends with both, hard as we try. We have to choose between the two. It is simplistic to claim the world is not our friend. We make friends fairly easily with materialism, prestige, acclaim, sensuality, and pride. We welcome them into our homes and our lives, learn their jokes, know their nicknames, feed off their energy. Anyone who claims not to have the world as a friend is self-deluded. Into this soiled peer group walks the incarnate Savior, bestowing unexpected friendship on us. Startled and awed, we accept His acceptance and enter into a covenant with Him, thinking we can still hang out with our former buddies once and a while. The Scripture comments  on our vacillation: “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously” (v. 5). God gets jealous when we spend time with our old friends.

It seems strange to speak of the Spirit of God as jealous, for jealousy to us is often thought to be petty and controlling. The person of the Spirit is unconditionally committed to us and expects that same unreserved giving of ourselves to Him. Anything less is betrayal, for there is no room for third parties in the salvation covenant. God within us is neither petty nor controlling. Rather we see His incredible humility in that He yearns for us to be devoted exclusively to Him. The Spirit of God longs for our friendship and our fidelity. This is not the pathetic longing of the lesser for time with the greater. This is the unfathomable longing of the Great God of all creation yearning for reciprocal friendship with lowly, filthy man. It is a double wonder: first, that God would love and save us, and second, that His Spirit within us jealously yearns for our exclusive friendship. Let us not be the fools who choose the friends who would destroy us over the God who alone can complete us.

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