“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?”
(James 4:7-12 NIV)
James continues his teaching on earthly wisdom vs. heavenly wisdom. In verses 1 – 6, James reviews the results of following earthly wisdom. In verses 7 – 12, James provides the antidote, the solution for strife: turning our hearts back to God.
We left off yesterday with James quoting Proverbs 3:34: “God opposes the proud, but shows favor to the humble.” So how do we humble ourselves before God? James tells us to submit ourselves to God.
When we submit ourselves to God, we say “no” to our selfish pride. When we say “no” to our pride, we resist the devil’s primary influence in our lives, and he will leave us alone. As we seek God with our whole heart, we will sense His presence in our lives.
So how do we seek God with our whole heart? James tells us to look at our lives via two commands:
- wash your hands, you sinners
- purify your hearts, you double-minded
James uses the symbolic washing of hands to tell us to quit doing wrong (Isaiah 1:16). This command is all about changing our actions – what we do.
James uses the symbolic purification of our hearts to tell us to change our thinking – abandoning the idea that we can be friends with God and still live as we please, like the rest of the world. James had addressed this double-minded thinking in chapter 1 verse 8.
David combined both of these thoughts in one of his worship songs:
“Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not trust in an idol
or swear by a false god.”
(Psalm 24:3-4 NIV)
James goes on to show us that this humbling of ourselves is not a trivial matter – that we must be truly broken over our sin:
- Grieve, mourn and wail over our sin
- Change our laughter to mourning
- Change our joy to gloom
This leads us to the question: have we ever really been broken over our sin, to the point of tears? Or do we just feel bad for a bit, confess our sin, and move on? What does being broken about our sin even look like?
Two passages from Scripture paint a vivid picture of this brokenness:
- When King David confesses his sin with Bathsheba before God (Psalm 51)
- When Peter denies knowing Christ, then realizes what he has done (Matthew 26:69-75)
When we come with brokenness about our sin before God, James tells us, God will lift us up. What does this look like? James is saying that when we come with tears and a heavy heart, with our head bowed low, that God will come alongside us, comfort us, hold our face in His hands, wipe away our tears, look us in the eye, and show us that He loves us.
In verses 7 through 10, James has been focusing on our relationship with God as the antidote to strife. James’ point is that we need to look at our own lives and motives and heart before we can judge or blame anyone else.
In verses 11 and 12, James goes back to addressing our relationships with each other. James reminds us that we are all equal before God, and as such, must be careful to not put ourselves in the place of God and judge others.
James has handed out a really heavy assignment today – to examine our hearts and humble ourselves before almighty God and confess our sins and be broken over them.
I pray you will take some time to follow the links above to Psalm 51 and Matthew 26, and realize all God has done for us on the cross through His son Jesus. Let your heart be broken over sin, and in turn, receive the comfort of our Savior.