See part 1 for the introduction to this series.
Remedy 4: Humble Confession and Repentance
This self-examination – seeing God for who he is, seeing myself as I really am -should naturally lead to humble confession and repentance
Remember James’ diagnosis:
You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us. But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble.’ (James 4:4-10 )
James calls us ADULTEROUS when our lives are driven by envy for what we want and ambition to get it at any cost. The attitude which excuses fighting, quarreling, and conflict with other Christians. He condemns it as cheating on God just as much as an unfaithful wife is cheating on her husband. And it makes us God’s enemy.
So if we continue to live according to the world’s wisdom, God takes that choice not to trust Him very personally. He is jealous for us. He won’t easily allow us to continue to lead lives of self-service and self-reliance when He has placed His Spirit in us.. This is a very serious matter.
So then James then writes out his prescription for us. If we remember nothing else today, write out these words and stick them somewhere. on your fridge He says again:
Submit yourselves, then, to God. (v7)
And as we humble ourselves before God, there are specific instructions and a promise each time:
v 7 Instruction: Resist the devil.
Once we are clear about who God is, we will refuse to live under the devil’s authority and stop treating him as a friend – how adulterous is that! Stop listening to his lies about God’s character.
And because of what Jesus has achieved on the cross we can stand firm against the devil. And look at God’s Promise: we will have success in this – Satan will flee – he has no lasting power over us.
v8 Instruction: Come near to God.
Like the returning prodigal, we should run into the Father’s open arms.
God’s Promise: He will come near to us – He is always there for us, he is always ready and waiting for his people to turn back.
Wash your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts.
For James’s Jewish readers who had grown up under the law, these commands would have called to mind ceremonial washings. The idea here is to completely turn from our sin, to wash it away. to resolve that we will serve God, and to begin again. That is what true repentance is.
This will mean sitting down and doing business with the Lord – confessing areas of past double-mindedness and resolving to live under his Lordship.
v9 Instruction: Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.
James says: feel wretched – be real about your sin – see it for what it is and be full of grief. James is saying: Stop messing about – take this seriously.
Have you ever had the experience of being in a nightclub with all the glitz, glamour, noise etc? Have you seen it in the morning with the lights up? It’s a horrible mess. The logical sequence is this: as we draw near to God, as we come into his presence, the lights go on and we become very aware of our own sin. It should horrify us – we shouldn’t glory in it.
v10 Instruction: HUMBLE yourselves.
Admit before God what you are really like.
And look at that wonderful promise.
God’s promise: The Lord will lift you up.
The Lord doesn’t rub our noses in it, if we truly repent he will restore us, that’s what he loves to do.
So we’ve seen most of the remedy,
but there is one more instruction for the truly humble Christian – obvious really. James writes in chapter 5: 13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.
More on that next week.
Ann Marie Thomas is the author of four medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Find out more at www.annmariethomas.me.uk and follow her at http://eepurl.com/bbOsyz for monthly newsletters.