Commentary by Walter Albritton

                                   August 17, 2008


God’s People Must Turn to Him in Repentance and Humility


James 4:1-12


Key Verse: Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. – James 4:8


          James realized that internal conflict and strife were destroying the churches for which Christ had died. He knew the situation was desperate so he upbraids these Jewish Christians for their sinful attitudes. He insists that they repent and humble themselves before the Lord. Harmony within their fellowship could only be restored by such a change of heart.

          What was their problem? James names two major problems: greed and pride. Notice the words James uses: “cravings,” “covet,” and “your pleasures.” Like many of us today these early Christians wanted what they wanted and they wanted it “now.” That is what happens, James says, when people chase after the world’s values instead of staying focused on God. We cannot be friends of the world and friends of God at the same time.

          Some of us want it both ways. We want God but on our own terms. We want the world and its pleasures and we want to be spiritual enough to have God at our beck and call. James says that will not work because God is a jealous God. He will not tolerate our worship of other gods. We must worship God and Him alone. No other plan of our own making is acceptable to God. While God loves us, He opposes us when we are proud but he gives us grace when we are humble.

          By “the world” James means those values and attitudes that are despicable to God. The world’s values are different from those of the kingdom of God. The world influences us to oppose God, to lust for power and pleasure, and to live as we please rather than obey the commandments of God. The world encourages greed and selfishness, causing us to think only of our own desires and to ignore the needs of others.

          James points out that when we become friends of the world, and thus enemies of God, our prayer life is shattered. When we are not right with God, we simply don’t know how to pray. We ask but do not receive because we “ask wrongly.” We ask for things with the wrong motive. We want to use God rather than let God use us. When we are in synch with the world, we are out of synch with God. We cannot have it both ways. We cannot serve both God and the world. When we choose the world we drop God whether we are willing to admit it or not.

          Christians do not lose fellowship with God intentionally. Satan lures us off the path of righteousness. When we are tempted, we let our guard down and give the devil a foothold. One thing leads to another on a downward spiritual spiral until one day we find ourselves at odds with God. James knows this has happened to his readers so he offers them sound advice.

          His advice is to get back to God in the sure and certain hope that if you will draw near to God, He will draw near to you. How do we get back to God? First, admit that God has not moved! You have moved – away from God. So don’t blame God. Just do what James advises: Submit to God and resist the devil. We cannot surrender to God without at the same time resisting the influence of the world’s evil forces.  

          This may sound simple but it is not. All of us want to be in control; we do not want to submit to God or anybody. In some ways every one of us is a “control freak.” The last thing we want to do is give up our self-will. But do it we must, in repentance and humility, if our heart’s desire is to get right with God. Until that becomes our singular passion, other passions of the flesh and the world will control us.

          Celebrate Recovery is a ministry in our church that offers help for people struggling with hurts, habits, and hang-ups. The program teaches that the road to recovery is grounded in eight principles based on the Beatitudes. The third step in the program asks each person to “consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ’s care and control.” Recovery results from turning the control of one’s life over to Christ!

          James is right. We must humbly repent and surrender the control of our lives to God before we can become friends of God again. When we begin to mourn over our sins, God begins to restore our joy. Humility and repentance alone can restore our fellowship with God.

          Once our relationship with God has been restored we must remain on guard. We are so easily tempted to become proud. When we are tempted, the Holy Spirit warns us. His warning is a signal to get off our high horse and draw near to God again, in humility and repentance.

          Is this a once in a lifetime deal? Absolutely not! Actually it needs to become our lifestyle – to live in constant awareness of our need to humbly submit ourselves DAILY to the living Christ! Repentance, as John Wesley taught, is a continuing necessity for believers.

As Christ followers most of us tend to drift away from God. This means there is never a morning when I do not need to pray, “Lord Jesus, please nudge me whenever I start drifting away from you and give me the grace to draw near to you this very moment for nothing matters more to me than being your friend forever!”

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