The Letter of James is all about living for Jesus.
James speaks on behalf of the Lord who loves us, yet whose love we can scorn.
Speaking for God last week (James 4:4) James uses a heartbreaking word for believers who scorn God's love:
He reminds us of the relationship we have with God through Jesus Christ.
When we shrug Him off, when we act without concern for Him and do our thing, we don’t sin against a distant Stranger but against the loving Creator who made us, the loving Husband who gave everything to redeem us, and the faithful Giver of Life who has pledged Himself to us forever; our Lord who passionately and jealously loves us. Yes, passionately and jealously.
Tragically, sometimes we think how we live makes no difference to God.
James says otherwise,
James 4:5 Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the spirit which He has made to dwell in us!”?
If you think our God doesn’t care when you live as if He’s not there, or when you’re heart strays from Him—think again.
The Lord our God jealously desires you! You—the deepest part of you, your born again spirit from which you trust Him, inside where you’re linked to Christ.
The Lord jealously longs for your love and devotion.
He says this to us at our worst, when we are caught up in sin, caught up in the world. Not loving God or others well.
We hardly catch it, and we tend to normalize it when we do this. We look to things and people and jobs and politics and grandchildren and sports and sex and shopping and videogames to fulfill us, entertain us, and give us worth. Yet we still thirst…
James 4:6 But He [The Lord our God who loves us] gives a greater grace.
God gives a greater love, a greater freedom, a greater peace than whatever you can squeeze out of your job or drugs or an affair or a financial windfall.
In the midst of sinning against God, acting as adulteresses, God’s answer is not judgment or rejection. His response is a greater grace. A grace greater than our sin.
God’s answer to our sin and adultery is Christ the babe born in the manger. His provision is Jesus Christ, who said, "This is my body given for you."
God's answer to our rebellion is Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Or do you think God doesn’t mean it when He says, “He jealously desires the spirit which He has made to dwell in us!”?
While nobody can ever earn God’s grace, the reality is that we can actually spurn God’s grace.
James 4:6… Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
God’s grace is a free gift, unmerited, and undeserved—but it is given only to the humble. Or perhaps it is only received by the humble.
The challenge for each of us is to humble ourselves and receive God's grace in time of need.
But why is God opposed to the proud? He's not opposed to anyone is He?
God is opposed to the proud because pride is the one thing that keeps us from receiving His grace.
The proud are arrogant, self-righteous—self inflated (puffed up). Pride won’t listen to anyone, won’t receive from anyone.
Pride refuses to submit.
When James says God gives a greater grace, pride brushes it off, doesn’t care. “I’ve got this.” “I’m not doing anything wrong.”
Pride does not let God love us! And pride does not love others well.
Jesus Christ opposed the proud, the self-righteous. Really, He sought the humble.
When the humble hear of God’s grace—words of forgiveness, acceptance, help for today and eternal life—their ears perk up.
Who are the humble? The humble are those who trust God and allow Him to lead and influence their lives.
Humility is super relational. Jesus was humble. The humble welcome God to lead and to love and to influence us. The humble allow God’s grace to operate in our lives.
So, our first step to Christlike intimacy with God is humility.
If you’ve drifted from God, if you’re living in sin, ashamed of your actions, and you know this is not God’s best. Hear today of God’s passionate love for you.
He’s betrothed His heart to you. He’s jealous to have you back. He’s full of mercy and forgiveness to receive and restore you. He gives you grace that’s far greater than your sin.
For instance, if one spouse is betrayed by an unfaithful spouse yet forgives them, this is the first step toward relational reconciliation. Yet the guilty one needs to act on this grace; they need to do some things before trust and intimacy are restored.
In James 4:7-10, James lays out a path to restoration and intimacy to the unfaithful Christian. True to James, he shows how our faith needs to act on His grace.
In light of God’s jealous love. In light of God’s grace that is greater than our sin. In light of Christ’s sacrificial death that guarantees us God’s favor,
James 4:7 Submit therefore to God. [hupotasso; place yourself under God.]
This is not as much a command as an invitation to the humble. To those who trust God. We say it a lot, submission is a trust word. A love word.
When James tells us to submit to God, what do we submit to? His lordship, authority?
To be sure, we are to place ourselves under God’s authority.
But in context, James has been speaking of the passionate, jealous love that God has, and His greater grace. This is what we are called to set ourselves under.
If you want a more intimate relationship with your wife you don’t make her submit to your authority, you invite submission to your love. You love her and act for her good.
If WE want to deepen our love for God, you must submit to His love for you.
Look at the cross. Memorize Galatians 2:20. 1 John 4:9-10. Let God’s love be real, personal. And submit to His love. In other words—Let Him love you.
And He’ll use His authority and His power and His wisdom to bless you.
Submit to His love. Do what He says out of trust in His love. With Him. Let Him love you His way.
Submit to His love; don’t reason it away: I don’t deserve His love. I don’t feel His love.
Submit to His love; don’t blame it away: If He really loved me, He wouldn’t have allowed this to happen.
Submit to His love; don’t minimize it away either. Well I don’t really care about God’s love, it’s not really a big deal…
No that’s all pride again. Humble yourself. Trust His love. Let Him love you.
James 4:7 Submit therefore to God [So take your place under God]. Resist the devil [and take your stand against the devil,] and he will flee from you.
When you submit yourself to God, you can stand against Satan, and he flees.
If you stand up against Satan or any temptation abiding in the love of God in Christ or under the authority of Christ—he flees; he has easier prey than you.
James 4:7 Submit therefore to God. [From there] Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.
That’s a command—and a promise. Part of God’s greater grace.
Have you ever ticked off a close friend or your spouse, and you apologize and try to get close with your friend. Or try to snuggle up to your spouse but they’re not ready, they pull away. That hurts! You feel your shame all over.
When we draw near to God, He draws near to us. He hugs us back with love and affirmation. He who did not spare His own Son gives a greater grace.
God invites us to trust Him in our sin, and take action. He promises it’ll be blessed. Submit to my love, so I can love you. From there, resist the devil and he’ll flee. Draw near to Me, and I’ll draw near to you.
He invites our faith to act on His grace. He gives us hope, yet He puts the act of repentance on us.
When the prodigal son left his father’s house, the Father was always willing but the son had choose to come home. Once he did, he saw his father run to him. When you draw near to God, He will draw near to you. Every time.
James 4:8… Cleanse your hands, you sinners
Sinners? I thought we were saints in Christ. We are. But in our behavior we sin. Acknowledge this, and submit to God’s love. When you cleanse your hands, He gives a greater grace.
James 4:8… Cleanse your hands, you sinners and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
Rather than deny your wrongdoing, or insist it’s no big deal, “God doesn’t care,” or “How I choose to live is my choice”—see your arrogance, weigh your light attitude toward sin. Measure your distance from God, and repent.
James 4:9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom.
This is not language we use as a church. But this is God’s Word. God’s heart. And it is applicable, and powerful for us. In light of Christ’s sacrificial death...
Our sin is nothing to be flippant about. It’s spiritual adultery against God. Plus your life is a mess. Your relationships are suffering. You’re beat up by Satan, and you battle with shame. So, be miserable and mourn and weep.
Yet Psalm 30 says, Weeping over your sins may last a short time, but the joy of God’s fellowship comes as we do and as we receive His greater grace.
Again there’s something about recognizing our sin and brokenness and seeing it from God’s perspective. That’s like half of the Christian walk. But the other half is trusting God’s grace and being cleansed and forgiven and loved and celebrated and affirmed and walking closely with our God.
He doesn’t want us to be miserable and mourn and weep for long, but to see the truth and turn to Him. Submit to Him. Resist the devil. Draw near to God. And have a different attitude toward the sin that we think isn’t all that bad.
This is the wisdom of God for living well and abundantly today. It fits James challenge throughout this letter to act on our faith. To take serious God’s love for us. To be the church together, to live as Christ’s bride.
It starts with God, His love, His grace. And if you hear God speaking to you today, the first step is humility. An attitude of yielding to God and His Word.
James 4:10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. [Humility allows God to love you today, and reward you in the future. Each brings Him and us, great glory and joy as a result of His grace.
A few quick things to help…
Commune with God. The process of humility starts with God’s love and leads to love. His greater grace leads to communion with the One who loves us and gave Himself for us. The goal is love and relate to God as His beloved.
So it is essential that we expose ourselves to the heart and mind and values of affections of God. Read His Word to know His thoughts. Pray and share your thoughts & yourself with Him.
Then submit, let His Word be true. Let it teach you about Him.
This is a heart issue.
In humility, submit to His love.
Be in community with Christians. Let them know your heart. Your struggle.
Don’t battle the devil or your flesh in secret. Don’t do battle alone.
This too takes humility. If you think you’re humble but you won’t listen to other Christians, your spouse, or teammates, you’re not humble.
Humility is tested and rewarded in community.
Rely on God’s Spirit. Every day brings a new temptation so every day we need new strength. When I start my day with the Lord, trusting His love, starting from a position of humility, placing myself under His love, I want to honor Him and be led by Him. Knowing my weakness. Knowing my day. My personality. I can bring that up to Him directly. Lord, I want to be close with you, so particularly when I’m tempted, when I may otherwise act in the flesh, alert me to your love, be aware of your presence and your preference for me.
All of this is wisdom that allows our Lord access to our hearts and lives. It brings Him glory. It brings us incredible blessing. Even in the pain. For we are yet in a broken and unredeemed world; we yet await the advent of Christ's return.