by, Oct 22nd 2011 at 12:37 AM (420 Views)
Doing What It Takes
8-10 Come close to God and he will come close to you. Realise that you have sinned and get your hands clean again. Realise that you have been disloyal and get your hearts made true once more. As you come close to God you should be deeply sorry, you should be grieved, you should even be in tears. Your laughter will have to become mourning, your high spirits will have to become heartfelt dejection. You will have to feel very small in the sight of God before he will set you on your feet once more. [James 4:8-10 Phillips]
James describes a side of repentance you rarely hear about in modern preaching, true heart felt longing to be made right with God, that deep need to return to Him who is our God and Savior. It is wise to remember that James is talking to some who have become seriously adrift, degraded in heart, shameful in speech and action. James is describing a true change of heart and life that reachs right down to the very core of a heart and mind that has divided itself from God.
There is a phrase in the original that says to 'purify your hearts you double-minded'. The word for 'double minded' is the same from verse eight of chapter one. the problem has inflicted their hearts, leading them astray. The phrase is part of a poetic line 'cleanse your hands, you sinners; purify you hearts, you double minded'. The two parts are parallel and mean the same thing, with the second part ususally amplifying the first. Here, the sin was amplified by a heart divided in it's loyalty to God. The 'double mindedness' had not only affected their prayer life, but had eaten away at their whole life with God. Now, they needed a serious soul searching and repentance to return to God.
What should be evident by now, if I have hammered it home enough, is that there is a straight line from chapter one through to chapter four and into chapter five. James is looking at a united view of what we would call 'Christian Psychology'. He diagnoses the condition, describes it plainly, and gives the 'cure' for it. In chapter one he stresses maturity through trials, and overcoming doubts and a sinful nature. He describes the condition of a 'two faced' Christianity in chapter two; one that allows us to talk of love but give it no real life in our lives. In chapter three, he talks about the dangers of having a 'forked tongue'; one that espouses one things once and another thing another time, usually with poisonious results.
At the beginning of chapter four, he shows plainly what is happening in many fellowships (not so different from today either) and stresses a deep, heart felt, aching repentance before God. He assures them that if they humble themselves befor God, He will lift them up. A close reading in several popular translations brings out the heart felt cry to his readers:
7-10So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he'll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it's the only way you'll get on your feet. 'The Message'
7So place yourselves under Godís authority. Resist the devil, and he will run away from you. 8Come close to God, and he will come close to you. Clean up your lives, you sinners, and clear your minds, you doubters. 9Be miserable, mourn, and cry. Turn your laughter into mourning and your joy into gloom. 10Humble yourselves in the Lordís presence. Then he will give you a high position. 'Gods Word'
7 So give yourselves completely to God. Stand against the devil, and the devil will run from you.8 Come near to God, and God will come near to you. You sinners, clean sin out of your lives. You who are trying to follow God and the world at the same time, make your thinking pure.9 Be sad, cry, and weep! Change your laughter into crying and your joy into sadness. 10 Humble yourself in the Lord's presence, and he will honor you. 'NCV'
I particularly like how the NCV translates verse eight, translating the 'double minded' as those who are trying to please God and the world at the same time. It can't be done. God wants our full hearted devotion to him; friendliness with the 'World' is being an enemy with God. I think the phrase 'frienliness with the world' is well defined in the body of James letter. He is writing about what he feels is the major problem that is tearing the fellowships apart, and he see's clearly how to remedy that split.
James again issues a command with forceful language, '11Brothers and sisters, stop slandering each other. Those who slander and judge other believers slander and judge Godís teachings. If you judge Godís teachings, you are no longer following them. Instead, you are judging them.' The verb is in the imperative mood, and is a command form James that follows with it's own logic. In chapter two he points out that we are all judged by the Royal law of love, and it is that Law that we are commanded to follow. Jesus parable on the Good Samaritan is His strongest teaching on the point. We must do good, and not speak or do evil. Chapter three outlines the backbiting, slander and gossip that was rampant in the fellowship.
Here 'to judge' is taken in the sense of 'harsh speech' against others. This fully outlined in chapter three. Here, it is in the context of seeking to fulfill the royal Law of Love that James expresses this. If we judge harshly a brother, we judge the law and the one who framed the Law, God Himself. We are to be doers of the Law, as he argues in chapter two, and reiterates here, not judges of that law. The difference is framed in the Parable of the Good Samaritan. We do good wherever we find it, and that is the Royal Law of Love. James argues that we are stepping on God's Sovereignty when we judge harshly, or speak ill of our companions in Christ. The Law of Love as James describes is an absolute from God; Paul said in his way when he said what counts is 'faith working in love'. If we were to sum up Hebrews 11 and 1 Corinthians 13, without faith and love we cannot hope to please God.