Saturday, January 12, 2019

The Letter Of James, Brother Of Jesus. Day 17, Come Near To God

James reminds us again to humble ourselves before God and explains how we can be close to God and experience God being close to us. We can all experience God being close to us if we have an attitude of humility in His presence rather than an attitude of pride.

"Come near to God and He will come near to you." (James 4:8a) Earlier in the week James quoted Proverbs 3:34 which says that God "opposes the proud". We are not living close to the Lord if we are maintaining a prideful attitude that says, "I'm going to go my own way and do my own thing." We aren't living close to the Lord when we feel like we are better than those around us. So what does it mean to come near to God and have Him come near to us? I think David hit the nail on the head when he said this, "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." (Psalm 34:18) We draw close to the Lord when we humble ourselves before Him and confess our faults and admit our need for Him. David's words could apply to a variety of situations that might break our hearts, but in the context of what James is saying today I think one of the ways we can take David's words is to apply them to the broken hearts we have when we are sorry for our sins. James is going to tell us to grieve and wail for our sins, and this matches up well with a verse we borrowed from David earlier in the week from the psalm he wrote after he repented of adultery and murder: "A broken and contrite heart You, God, will not despise." (Psam 51:17b)

We are not close to God when we pridefully refuse to admit we've messed up. God is turned off by an attitude like that and, in a manner of speaking, is standing at a distance from us because our pride offends and repels Him. In this letter James isn't particularly talking about the repentance that takes place when we first come to Christ. He's writing his letter to people who are already believers, so he's saying something like, "Be sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit. When He reveals to you that something is wrong in your life, be quick to repent of it. Go to God immediately and tell Him about it. You aren't doing yourself any favors by ignoring it or trying to cover it up. The instant your heart goes out toward Him, He's already there waiting for you and ready to help you. He honors the repentant prayer of the one who is sorry for his mistakes."

James goes on, "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." (James 4:8b-10) We can be lifted up by our own pride, but this will bring us little gain. Some people might admire us, but a lot of people are going to be turned off by us. It's not attractive when we behave like we're a big deal. God is turned off by this too, so if we want to be blessed and favored by Him, we have to humble ourselves before Him. We have to sincerely be sorry for disobeying Him. Sin ought to break our hearts, and if we are maintaining a close relationship with the Lord it will break our hearts. But if we keep sweeping our sins under the rug and not dealing with them, we are going to become hard-hearted about them. We're going to become insensitive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We're going to gradually drift farther and farther from God until we are scarcely aware of His presence and---even worse!---we don't miss the closeness we once had with Him.

Is James telling us we should keep beating ourselves up over our sins for the rest of our lives? No, he's telling us to get them out in the open before God so they can be dealt with. After we've handled the situation properly the Lord is going to lift us up. That's what David asked the Lord to do for him when he confessed his sins, saying, "Restore to me the joy of Your salvation." (Psalm 51:12a) God restores our joy. He doesn't intend for us to keep beating ourselves up; He intends for us to get together with Him and deal with things so we can move forward. The grieving and mourning takes place while acknowledging and confessing our sins. The lifting up takes place when everything has been made right with God. That is when we will say, "You turned my wailing into dancing; You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing Your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise You forever." (Psalm 30:11-12)

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