Hello Summit Family Member,
I hope you had a safe and joyful Memorial Day. It is good to take the time to stop and remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in service for our country and freedom. On Friday, we were reminded of God’s unending grace in our lives as His children. Because of His grace and love, He freely offered Jesus Christ as the truly ultimate sacrifice. His death and resurrection guaranteed our freedom, not only in the present, but for all eternity.
As James continues his letter to his brothers and sisters scattered throughout the world, he encourages us to consider how we should respond to God’s grace.
“But He gives more grace. That is why Scriptures says, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’ 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.” (6-10)
In verse seven, James states those who have received God’s grace should submit themselves to God. This should not be interpreted as a passive cowering before God as in the case where we submit to someone who has overpowered us. It should be interpreted as an active allegiance of service to God BECAUSE of the grace we have received. In this case “submit” should be considered equivalent to “following the commands of a leader.”
There are two forces at work in this world. We will be submissive to one or the other. (This is not a reference to the Star Wars movies where the “dark forces” are fighting the Federation! However, it is the struggle between the forces of good and evil.) There are heavenly forces and there are demonic forces at work in this world. While we may convince ourselves we are in control of our lives, we are not. We will either follow the leadership of the One who leads the heavenly forces or we will follow the leadership of the one who leads the demonic forces!
James is challenging his readers to realize that because of the grace they have received from God AND THE GRACE THEY WILL CONTINUE TO RECEIVE, they should submit to God and resist the devil. Peter had this to say about standing firm (submitting to God): “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” (1 Peter 5:8-10) He wrote this passage to encourage Christians who had been driven out of Jerusalem and scattered throughout Asia Minor because of persecution to put their faith and allegiance to God.
What should be empowering to Christians is knowing that if we chose to resist the devil, he will flee from us. Satan KNOWS he has been defeated and knows what the future holds for him. He cannot stand against Christ. As children of God, we have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit. We have the very presence of God’s Spirit dwelling within us. Yes, we can have victory over Satan!
James then shares a great word of encouragement: “Come near to God and He will come near to you.” This is a passage that demands attention. All too often, we depend upon God’s presence in our lives as motivation to “draw close to Him.” While God’s presence is always an encourage because it reminds us of His faithfulness and love, James is suggesting that it is our responsibility to draw unto Him. God has already made the first move when He sent Jesus to become the sacrifice for our sins. The words of Christ confirm that God Himself initially draws us unto Him: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’” (John 6:44-45) However, as children of God, it is our responsibility to draw unto Him. He has already done His part in demonstrating His grace and love toward us. As recipients of His grace, it is our responsibility now to do our part in responding to His grace and love.
James then shares two commands: “Wash your hands you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” Notice to whom these instructions are given. James does not say “God will cleanse your hands or the Holy Spirit will do the work” although we know that God purifies our hearts and the Holy Spirit provides guidance to us as God’s children. He is reminding his reader that it is THEIR responsibility to cleanse their hands.
Notice the two parts of our bodies we are to purify, the hands and our hearts. Our “hands” correlates to what we do, our actions. The second, our “hearts” corresponds to what we feel, our attitudes. Interestingly, James says: “….your hearts, you double-minded.” He has already drawn our attention to being double-minded in chapter 1:8: “Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” That drew attention to our lack of faithful in believing that God will give us wisdom if we ask for it. If we are unstable in our relationship with God, we are going to be unstable in every aspect of our lives. We must be consistent in cleansing our hands and our hearts as recipients of God’s grace.
If we are going to submit to God, it cannot be sporadic or intermittent submission. Constant submission to God will result in the strength to flee from the devil. Consistency will also give us the strength to “wash our hands and purify our hearts.”
James finishes this section of his letter by directly his readers’ attention to the awareness of our sin. We should mourn over our sin. It is not something we should celebrate. A genuine follower of Christ will lament over their weaknesses and their failures because they are (or should be) aware that God’s grace is unearned and continues in spite of their continued failures!
Paul shared the heart of those who are genuinely grateful for God’s grace and their imperfect condition: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Romans 7:15
Our position should be one of perpetual supplication for grace so that we can obey God and experience even more of His grace. As we pursue obedience, we will also experience greater sorrow for our sinfulness.
We have to evaluate just how grateful we are for God’s grace. We should also allow God’s unending grace to motive us to strive for clean hands, a pure heart and a submissive obedience.