James 4:8-10 KJV
8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.
9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.
10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
This is a simple statement at the beginning of verse 8. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you! Easy, right? Sure it is, if you have followed instructions to this pint, and if you do what James says in the rest of our scripture selection today. We have become a church that just thinks e can take scripture and make it ours without really doing what the word says. In this case, many people probably do draw nearer to God and sense His presence closer to them without a lot of devotion, but the joy and peace found in drawing near to Him when we have done what He asks of us is unfathomable. I know the difference because I have been on both ends of the spectrum.
Having God draw close to us, real close, is a result of the previous verses, not something we can just conjure up and think it will work. I can try drawing close to God when I’m full of pride and unsubmissive and still walking in the devil’s ways and it will be unlikely that he will draw very close to me with all of that going on in my life. I will sense ore of His presence because of His mercy, but He has so much more for us. It’s not that God doesn’t want to be close to us. It’s just that He can’t be in the presence of sin. So if I want God to be close to me I need to rid myself of those things that are repulsive to him. Remember when He was looking for Adam in the garden (Gen 3)? He comes looking for us as well!
We have spent time on the previous verses, so now let’s look at what follows in the rest of verses 8-10. They really give us a picture of what God desires before we should expect Him to draw near to us.
First we need to cleanse our hands. What this means to me is that we need to put away deeds and acts that are contrary to God’s word. There was a certain ceremonial cleansing that the priest had to go through in order to offer the sacrifices upon the altar (Lev 21). There was also a bronze laver of water near the altar that they had to use in between each sacrifice. It was a constant cleansing of the hands to make sure their hands were pure when offering the sacrifices. God still wants us to have clean hands just as He wanted the priest to have clean hands in the Old Testament. This was not a one time thing – it went on continually.
Next we need to purify our hearts. We have talked about the double-minded man before. This is one that goes in between purity and sin on a regular basis. When we talked about the double-minded man before it was one that wavered in his faith – one minute he believed and the next minute didn’t. God desires that our hearts are pure meaning they are free from the defilements of world and the desire of the world. He does not need lukewarm Christians – in fact He will spew them out of His mouth (Rev 3:16).
Then James says we need to be afflicted, mourning and weeping. He is talking about being broken over our sin. How often do I come to the point that I am really broken before Him and truly repent. I have been through that process only a few times in my life. There are countless times that I have prayed God will forgive my sins and there are many times that I have repented, or at least I thought I repented. Then I find myself dong the same things again, and realize I have not turned my back on that sin. But they’re only a few times that I was broken before God and laid myself on the altar as a sacrifice for Him to do anything He pleased. When I come to that point I will know it. It’s a much deeper sense of remorse then I really want to feel. At that time it seems Joy is gone and is replaced with a heaviness and I question whether God can love me at all. We see this brokenness often in the Psalms. And when we sin this should be our state.
And then James brings up once more something we have brought up over and over again. We must humble ourselves in God’s sight. That means to me that He can see an outpouring of humility on our part. Pride has gone away and we are now submissive to whatever He asks and will not try to follow our own will into sin again. This is when God will lift us up. This is when God will remove the heaviness and bring the joy back in. This is when God will remove the mourning and bring our laughter back.
Let’s go back to verse 8 – Draw near to God and He will draw near to us. I know that I want to be closer to God all the time. There’s an old saying that says if I don’t feel close to God I need to look at myself because He didn’t move. He is always been right there waiting to hold me and lift me up. But perhaps I have wondered. In the Old Testament the Israelites are told not to turn to the left hand or to the right (Joshua 1:, 23:6). I always picture a ridge that I once climbed years ago. It’s in Franconia Notch, New Hampshire between Mount Lafayette and Mount Lincoln. I remember it as being about 20 feet wide and then a steep incline going down on both sides. I think of that place when I think of turning to the left of the right. It is a dangerous place to get off the path towards God. But if we go straight ahead we can reach the peak and draw near to him. When we wander off it can be a tough climb to get back on the path.
Are you on the path this morning? Are you drawing closer to God, or have you stepped off to the left or right? My prayer for you is that you find your way back onto the path and are drawing closer each day. The blessing that comes from God truly drawing near to you is incredible. Don’t miss out by being satisfied with just a sense of His presence. Keep drawing closer!