Lesson 16

The Epistle of James

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 4:5 Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, "The Spirit who lives in us yearns jealously"? 4:6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." 4:7 Be subject therefore to God. But resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 4:8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 4:9 Lament, mourn, and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to gloom. 4:10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he will exalt you.

Today's Lesson 

The divisions and arguments that arise between Christians are the result of sin that expresses itself in their lives. They war and fight among themselves because they desire that which God has not given them. Sin is a cycle that leads in a spiral downward. The desires of our heart can never find their fill in sin: sin leads to more sin. When we rely on our own efforts to fulfill our desires, the result is sin in our lives. If we attempt to live with sin in our lives, we place ourselves in opposition to God. Whoever is a friend to the world is at enmity with God.


But God does not leave the final word to sin. Left to the desires of our own hearts, we are helpless. But God reaches out to us when we are helpless to help ourselves. "The Spirit who lives in us yearns jealously." God is jealous to redeem his fallen creation. He seeks to redeem us for His own purpose and for His own pleasure. In redeeming those who were His enemies, God reveals a part of His own nature. He reveals His grace and His mercy.


If we submit ourselves to God, He will save us from the spiral of sin. In fact, God forgives all sin through the death of His Son, our Lord. By His death and resurrection, Christ lifts us out of sin and death, raising us above that spiral of destruction. If we draw near to God, God will draw near to us and that will be our salvation.


So James calls on us to cleanse our hands and purify our hearts. God gives grace to the humble; therefore, we should humble ourselves in His sight. By putting away the impurities of our lives and turning toward God, we demonstrate our faith that He will fulfill the desires of our heart in righteous ways. We allow God to rule over our lives and demonstrate our belief that He alone can lead us to fulfillment.


But humbling ourselves and cleansing our own hands does not exalt us. There is no merit in our contrition before God. He is not obligated to save the sinner, even the repentant sinner. Rather, we are saved because of God's mercy. God saves because he chooses to save, not because He is obliged to save. The gift of salvation is a free gift that can never be merited, even by our own humility.


But by humbling ourselves we demonstrate to the world the source of our salvation. Our salvation is a sign to the world of the mercy and the grace of God. Through our humility, we demonstrate that God redeems sinners. We demonstrate our reliance on His mercy. We glorify His grace.


How do we "draw near to God?" How do we "purify" our hearts? We do this through the guidance of the Spirit that yearns jealously for us. When we turn our hearts toward God and allow Him to fulfill our desires, we allow God to guide us toward humility. On our own, we cannot purify ourselves. The Spirit leads us to purification. On our own, we cannot turn toward God. We are at enmity with Him. But through the work of the Spirit, we can turn toward the only source of mercy and grace that exists for us.


God will grant mercy. Are you willing to ask for His mercy? God will give grace. Do you stand in need of it?


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