7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. ~ James 4:7-10
In today's passage, James calls us to repent of deliberate sin. Many struggle trying to interpret this passage because they have lost sight of the fact that James wrote this book to struggling believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, they interpret this passage believing these to whom James wrote were not "born again" or had somehow lost their salvation. This is not the case. James wrote this epistle to those who had come to faith in the Lord Jesus, but were struggling seeing God in the context of their trials. Today's text is a call for the believer in Christ to feed the Spirit not the flesh, resulting in the believer being able to recognize the goodness of God despite his circumstances.
In v.7 of today's passage we read, "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."
In today's passage, James gives a description of what it means to be humble. The first step toward humility is that we submit ourselves to God, which is the bi-product of a willing heart that has discovered that the ways of this world only lead to destruction. The submissive to God heart understands the words of the Apostle Paul in Galatians 6:8 which reads, "Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction."
The second step toward humility comes when we resist the devil's appeal to our flesh. Repentance is a word that we naturally do not like, yet, it is required to know the life the Lord Jesus died to give us. Repentance is absolutely necessary for transformation in the heart of the believer, but few want to hear about their sin. And, sin is that which opposes God and His nature. Once we submit ourselves to the Lord and we resist the devil, he will flee from us. And, with his departure will go the intensity of the allurement to oppose God.
In v.8 of today's text we read, "Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded."
The phrase "come near" was originally used of the Old Testament priests who "came near" to God when they entered the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle and the Temple. They only had access to God's presence after they had offered an atoning sacrifice on their own behalf. Since the Lord Jesus has died on the behalf of each believer, He has made each of us a priest, and, we now have access to God, at any time.
Now, if the believer in Christ is living in sin or walking in the flesh, he is deceived to do so. And, when this happens, the deceived believer is also deceived to believe that God has turned His back on him, since he is living in sin. This is not the case at all. Would God turn His back on the Lord Jesus? We know He wouldn't. In fact, this is why He will never turn His back on us, even though we may be living in sin.
Once we have the DNA of God in us through the abiding Holy Spirit, we go in and out of "fellowship" with God which is different from our relationship with God. Our relationship with God was earned by the Lord Jesus when He hung on the cross. When we first believed in the Lord Jesus as our Savior and we received Him into our lives, He came in via the indwelling Holy Spirit. As a result, we can never lose our relationship with God because it was earned on our behalf by the Lord Jesus.
But, there is a difference between our relationship with God and our fellowship with God. The believer in Christ can experience different levels in of his "fellowship" with God. It is not that we lose our right to access God's presence, but sin numbs us to the presence of God. And, when we live in willful sin, we run from God. But, when we forsake our willful sin, we are made more and more sensitive to God. It is at this point that our fellowship with God increases. Relationship is a justification word and fellowship is a sanctification word.
In v.9-10 of today's passage we read, "9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up."
Grieving and mourning over sin is the response of the broken heart, and it is sometimes necessary for us to be broken in order to learn to turn our backs on sin. After Peter fed his flesh, he denied being in relationship with the Lord Jesus. After he understood what he did and his eyes connected with the eyes of the Lord Jesus, he went out and wept bitterly. Tears are one of the outward evidences of our brokenness over our sin. Tears are a gift from God to release the pain in our hearts.
In Lamentations 5:15 we read, "Our dancing ought to be turned into mourning." Becoming disconnected from the world is sometimes a very arduous process, but the believer in Christ will be guilt-ridden until he does so. In fact, in 1 John 2:15-17 we read, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world, for if any man loves the world the love of the Father is not in him." If we are not being defined by God who loves us immeasurably, we will be defined by the world which is bent on destroying us.
To humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord means to willfully bow our wills to God. We are only humbled when we see our sin in light of Him. But, when we are being defined by sin, we can not see Him. When we are being defined by sin, we find it most difficult to see the goodness of God. In fact, when we are being defined by sin, we wrongfully think God has forsaken us. But, in that moment, we are the ones who are guilty of forsaking God. This is the mindset of the worldly Christian that we see in 1 Corinthians 3.
The perfect illustration of all of this is the prodigal son. The prodigal repented by turning his back on the pig slop and his wild living. He came home and drew near to his father. As a result, the father drew near to the prodigal. In the end, "When he came to his senses, the prodigal said, "'How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.' So he got up and went to his father."'
And, when the prodigal arrived home, the father celebrated the repentance that flowed out of the prodigal's broken life and heart. The response of his father demonstrated his grace which is what lifted the prodigal to an all new level. It is the grace of God that ravishes our once hardened hearts the most. It was the grace of God that tipped the scale in the favor of the broken, because the Lord Jesus went to the cross to purchase forgiveness and salvation for anyone who believes.