In yesterday’s passage, James called readers to submit to God and resist the devil. Today we’ll take a closer look at what that process involves.
Jam. 4:8-10 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. (9) Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. (10) Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
One important step in the process of submitting to God is to move in His direction. “What does that mean,” you ask. Other Bible passages command us to seek the Lord:
Deu. 4:29 But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.
Psa. 27:8 When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek.
Psa. 105:3-4 Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the LORD. (4) Seek the LORD, and his strength: seek his face evermore.
The idea is the same in all these passages – we are to move toward God. We must be in the places, doing the things, with the people that God associates Himself with. Here’s another passage that I think get close to what James was talking about:
Psa. 1:1-3 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. (2) But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. (3) And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
God promises to respond to our movements in His direction by moving toward us.
Heb. 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
So, in a sense, you’re as close to God as you have decided to be, as close as you really want to be. That may be depressing, but it’s actually great news because it means you can be closer, too, if you’ll meet God’s requirements.
Cleanse … Purify
Humbling yourself also involves dealing with sins of action and attitude. We’ll never get close to God until we deal with our sins as God has commanded us to. Thank God that He has made a way for our sins to be cleansed:
1Jo. 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
But I don’t think meant that we should keep on sinning as long as we say sorry afterwards. He is talking about cleansing and purifying ourselves practically – about acting differently. You’re not going to maintain a close friendship with God if you keep doing wrong and saying sorry.
Notice, too, that God isn’t just interested in what we do, but about what we are in our thoughts. Jesus made this point abundantly clear in the Sermon on the Mount:
Mat. 5:27-28 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: (28) But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
When the horror of sin grips your heart, repentance will have an emotional component to it. You’ll see how terrible sin is, and how terrible you are for sinning. As Job said:
Job. 42:5-6 I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. (6) Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.
You’ll find throughout the Bible that when people who realized the depth of their sins against God, it broke their hearts:
Ezr. 9:4-6 Then were assembled unto me every one that trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the transgression of those that had been carried away; and I sat astonied until the evening sacrifice. (5) And at the evening sacrifice I arose up from my heaviness; and having rent my garment and my mantle, I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the LORD my God, (6) And said, O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens.
God responds to this brokenness with compassion:
Psa. 34:18 The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.
Mat. 5:4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
When you humble yourself before God, He lifts you up.
How Are You Doing?
- Can you honestly say that you are drawing near to God, truly seeking Him?
- Have you sincerely repented of your sinful actions and attitudes?
- Has you’re repentance changed how you actually live?
- Has you repentance had an emotional impact on you?
Read James 4:11-12. Are you guilty of judging your brother?