Thursday, July 10, 2008

James 4

"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. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up." James 4:7-10

I love this entire chapter in the book of fact, the entire book of James is absolutely amazing. James has just finished giving the church a rather harsh rebuke. He had just told them that they were an adulterous people and their actions were essentially those of unbelievers. Like most of us at one time or another, they'd really blown it. But like any good teacher would do, he gives them (and us) practical ways for ending this spiritual affair.

1 Draw near to God - This simple act of returning to Him is the first and action we must take. Spending time with Him in His word and prayer. It's not as hard as it may seem because there is promise attached to that command - "and He will draw near to you.". Like the father of the prodigal son, He runs to meet us with open arms.

2 Wash your hands - Now that the turning point has been made, it's time to remove the things that have defiled our lives. This isn't just the ceremonial, skin deep washing that makes us feel better (or at least not as bad). This is repentance. The physical act of turning from an action or the thing that is putting up an barrier between us and God. The thing that is making us impure. "Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully." Psalm 24:3-4

3 Purify you hearts - This is sort of like the washing your hands part...but more along the lines of the spiritual life. Having the behavior under control for the moment is all fine and good, but if the heart isn't right with God, it doesn't matter. "Blessed [are] the pure in heart, For they shall see God. " Matt 5:8

4 Grieve, mourn and wail - I heard someone say the other day that, regardless of the natural amount of emotion you are naturally prone to exhibit, if the sight of your sin before God hasn't broken you to tears and sorrow, you probably haven't actually repented. Now, I don't want to pass judgement on anyone, but I agree with this person. I've seen it in my own life. When the point finally came when I realized my sin and received just a small taste of what our sin does to our Lord, I was so filled with sorrow. It was beyond just being sorry. It was a repentant brokenness.

5 Change - turn your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Repentance requires a change in both thought and action. By the grace of God, by the time we get to this point, we are not only willing, but are eager to change. We realize that nothing good dwells in us apart from Christ. If our desire is to glorify Him, then we must change.

6 Humble yourselves - Not a personal favorite of mine. It's so hard to get there, much less stay there, but when we do (even for a little while), it's the most amazing place in the world to be. To take our proper place before God. To bow before Him in total submission to His good and perfect will. There is only peace and rest in that place.

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