The Epistle of James - Godly Values
Part 30 - God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble
7th December 2018
James wrote his letter to urge us to choose godly living and godly thinking, instead of worldly living and worldly thinking. In the words of his letter we find our own reflection and, if we've read it with open hearts, we've been convicted as sinners. We all know that our thinking and our living is still more worldly than it should be. But James assures us:
No matter how spiritually adulterous you've been with other idols: the idol of family, the idol of career, the idol of position in the church, the idol of financial well-being, whatever it may be. No matter how much you've got it wrong, no matter how much envy or other sin is in your heart, God gives us more grace. God is always ready to forgive confessed sin. No matter how much you've messed up - and haven't we all? - He's always ready to forgive. He's always ready to bring you back to Himself. No matter how badly you've behaved or thought about behaving, He's always ready. There's always as much grace as you need.
Paul wrote in Romans 5v20 "where sin increased, grace increased all the more". No matter where you are in God right now, no matter where you are away from God right now, there is enough grace for you. Whatever has happened to you, God has enough grace for you. And I hope the church has enough grace to be at peace with you, to accept you, love you, care for you and value you. God loves you and the church should love you, too, no matter what you've done, because grace comes from the Lord to us all.
That's why Scripture says "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble". May I remind you of a very well-known parable?
If you think you're better than another Christian, if you think you have the right to judge another Christian, if you've ever made the mistake of thanking God that you're not like another Christian, then Jesus's parable says you are not justified before God. I know that will sound wrong to most evangelical Christians, but that is what it says.
To be justified before God requires us to get on our knees, and beat our breast and say, "I know I'm a sinner. I need grace and mercy. Forgive me, Lord, for my wrongdoing and my wrong thinking. Forgive me, Lord, for embracing worldly attitudes and ignoring godly principles."
The kingdom of God is... a matter of.. righteousness, peace and joy (Romans 14v17). And it with righteousness, and righteousness starts with repentance. And repentance starts on our knees before God, confessing our sin. There is no shortcut to being a happy Christian; you have to confess that you're a sinner to God. You have to understand that you stand before God on exactly the same basis as every other Christian: the blood of Christ and nothing else.
God opposes the proud. God opposes those who think they're better Christians than the other person, but He gives grace to the humble.
Accept godly teaching, accept godly wisdom, live according to godly precepts. Forgive those who've sinned against you. Pray for your daily bread. Pray not to be led into temptation. Pray to be delivered from whatever evil you find yourself in. Get on your knees. In the Kingdom of God, the way up is down. Submit to God. Resist the devil, and the devil will flee from you.
Are you holding God at arm’s length? Have you got some resentment against God, or his people, or something He's done or something He hasn't done, or something they've done or something they haven't done? Let it go! Draw near to God. Know his righteousness and his peace.
James, who is not known for mincing his words says, "wash your hands, you sinners." He's addressing proud Christians. He's not addressing people outside the church; he's addressing us. He says wash your hands, you sinners. He says purify your hearts, you double-minded. You with one foot in the Kingdom of God and one foot in the world, purify your hearts. Be single-minded. Devote yourself to God. Trust God. Don't trust your own strength or your own wisdom. Trust God.
Do you want to be happy in Jesus? Then grieve over your own sin. Mourn. Wail. That's not very English, is it? Grieve, mourn, wail for your sin. Not for anybody else's sin, but for your sin. Change your laughter to mourning, and your joy to gloom.
If you want to be doing better in God than you are, don't try harder, don't think worldly solutions will help. Confess your sins to God. Emotionally, seriously, whole-heartedly, humble yourself. Take the form of a servant as Christ did, and God will resurrect your life, make you glorious, give you peace, and fill you will joy.