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James 4:5 Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”? (NKJV)

A yearning, jealous Holy Spirit. Bet you haven’t thought about that concept in a while. What is James talking about? Why is the Holy Spirit jealous? What is He jealous about? And what does it mean “yearn jealously”? Let’s look at the two words first:

  • Yearn: (Greek: epipotheo) – to long for, to intensely desire, to pursue, to great desire
  • Jealously (Greek: phthonos) – envious, zealous; fearful or wary of being supplanted; apprehensive of losing affection or position; resentful or bitter in rivalry; inclined to suspect rivalry; vigilant in guarding something; intolerant of disloyalty or infidelity.

Here’s the “what”: a Holy Spirit who is intensely longing for our loyalty, wary and alert of being supplanted by some other loyalty, wholly against any rivalries and not willing to lose His position or our affection. Kind of changes the way you think about Holy Spirit, doesn’t it? Sounds like He means business, and is not very hot on the idea of being second place in our life.

That’s the “what”. Let’s look at “why” James is informing us of this fact.

James is a practical book on how to live the Christian life. From the first chapter, James just pours over step after step, fact after fact on how to live right. In chapter four, he begins (actually he “continues”‘; this was originally one long letter; the chapters were determined later) by categorically and unapologetically declaring the source of conflict between men:

James 4:1-2 Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war…

Human conflict comes from selfishness and pride. He goes on to say that we don’t have what we want because we don’t ask, but even when we do ask, we ask selfishly expecting God to bless us so that we can use His blessings for our own selfish pursuit of pleasure.

In case the point is missed, James then calls Christians who act that way “adulterers and adultresses!” Why? Because pursuing the world as a Christian is like a spouse cheating on their marriage. He tells us that wanting “the world” puts us in direct conflict with God. We are cheating on Him. Spiritual adultery.

If you can understand a jealous betrayed spouse,
then you can understand a jealous, betrayed Holy Spirit.

Okay, now that you get the picture about adultery, knowing how “jealous” the betrayed spouse can be… do you understand the description of the Holy Spirit as jealous? We belong to God. Our body is now the domain of the Holy Spirit. He owns us. He will never betray us and to betray Him is the same as committing adultery. We “break the covenant” in many senses. j

Why is the Holy Spirit earnestly jealous? He’s not just jealous after the fact… He’s jealous from the start because 1) He knows our tendency to be disloyal, and 2) He is so dedicated to our becoming like Christ, that any thought of that process being hindered, interrupted or falling short causes Him to react. Much like we carefully guard against anything that would keep our kids from becoming all they can be. We are “jealous” of our kids love and loyalty (except while they are teenagers when we are pre-occupied with keeping ourselves from strangling them).

The Holy Spirit indwells us. He loves us. He is jealous of any desire or choice that will supplant His supremacy and efforts on our behalf. James teaches us that it is our lustful desires for pleasure that take us down this path of disloyalty to God and Holy Spirit. So how do we stay loyal?

James 4: 6-9 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “ God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” Therefore submit to God. 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 purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.

Like I said, James is a PRACTICAL book above all. He doesn’t just leave us with principles or concepts, James lays it on the line and tells us specifically what we can do, informing us that God resists the proud (those who don’t need God) but gives grace to the humble (the “poor in spirit” who recognize their helplessness without God). Like a Powerpoint presentation he lays out what we can do:

  • Submit to God (choose to obey Him no matter what you feel)
  • Resist the Devil (Satan is specifically referred to as “Devil” in Scripture, not the demons; resist Satan, and he’ll move on and find more willing choices)
  • Draw near to God (how? communication with Him [prayer], and knowledge of Him [Bible study])
  • Cleanse your hands (quit committing sinful acts)
  • Purify your hearts (replace sinful thoughts with Godly thinking)
  • Lament and weep (repentance, sorrow over sin)

If you’ve ever wanted a bang-bang-bang list of how to live a Christian life… there it is. Easy-breezy-Japaneezee. (my older readers will get that one!)

Okay, it’s not easy. But it is beautiful in its simplicity. Remember, your lust for worldly pleasure causes the problems in your life. The Holy Spirit lives in you and is jealous about any “world chasing” you may engage in. So to avoid being worldly, submit to God, resist Satan, draw near to the Lord, quit sinning, fill your heart with Godliness, and weep over sin.

That will keep a jealous Holy Spirit very happy.

Lord God, Help us to understand what it means for Holy Spirit to be jealous and intensely desire our loyalty. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Contemplation: Have you ever thought about how God is jealous? Did you realize that the Holy Spirit who indwells you is always on alert and jealous of anyone or anything that would seek to make Him second in your life?

Application: The Holy Spirit lives in you and is jealous about any “world chasing” you may engage in. So to avoid being worldly, submit to God, resist Satan, draw near to the Lord, quit sinning, fill your heart with Godliness, and weep over sin.

James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)

  1. What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
  2. What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
  3. What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?