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Bible Search
James #15, chapter 4, verses 7-10
Authentic Faith
The Test of Worldliness
(the invitation)
James 4:7-10
 
Tonight we come to James 4:7-10 and what we have in this text, I believe, is really the focal point of the entire epistle.  It is the very heart of his teaching.  IN fact, I would go a step further and say it is the very heart of Christianity. 
 
In this text, he offers a series of ten commands. There may very well be a connection between the number of commands listed here and the ten commandments of the Old Testament, but I didn’t take the time to develop that thought.
 
I want to read to you verses 7 through 10 and then we'll look together at what the Spirit of God intends for us to understand from this text.
 
James 4:7-10
 
I’m afraid there is a tendency to read this passage with something less than the intensity that is intended.  As I said, this is a series of commands.  They are not suggestions or ideals.  They are ten straight-up commands that provide one of the most clear and precise invitations to salvation in all of Scripture.
 
And I’m afraid that we’ve made the same mistake with this text that we’ve made with the verses immediately preceding it in that we’ve assumed they are addressed to Christians.
 
 If you see this as a call to Christians to get their act together, and approach the text that way, then you will miss the greatness of the invitation to salvation that is found there. 
 
We need to keep in mind James is addressing the same kind of congregation that I face on any given Sunday.  In the crowd, there are those who are possessors of salvation and those who are merely professors of salvation.  Some really are saved; others may think they are, but there is no proof showing in their lives. 
 
And James is writing to those who are deceived, and the heart of this epistle is to say, “Be sure your faith is real.  Test it so you can determine its authenticity.”  And we have to wait till we get to the end of the book, but there we find the real objective of what he writes. 
 
James 5:19-20
 
The whole idea is to see those who are lost be converted.  The church has always had those whose faith is not real. And it behooves the rest of us to be about the business of bringing the lost to salvation.  God doesn’t want anyone to be deceived. He wants no tares among the wheat. He wants no soil where the plant seems to spring up but no fruit is ever born. He wants, not hearers but doers, not professors but possessors.
 
So what we have in this book is really the heart of Christ being shared through his brother, James as he encourages his hearers to test their faith and see if it is, in fact, real.    
 
Now up to theis point, he’s talked about trials and temptations and the response to the Word of God and whether or not we have compassion toward those in need or cater to those who are rich and famous.  He’s talked about the dangers of misusing the tongue and operating under the world’s wisdom rather than God’s and being a friend of the world and becoming the enemy of God. 
 
Now if you’ve been paying attention, particularly from chapter 3, verse 13 forward, you’ve probably noticed that he has primarily been speaking about unbelievers.  They operate using the wrong wisdom and have bitter envying and strife that comes from the devil himself.  He then immediately moves into what it means to be the enemy of God. 
 
So logically, when we get to our text tonight, he offers these same people an opportunity to be saved. 
If you didn't pass the test of trials and you didn't pass the test of temptation and you don’t give the right response to the Word by being a doer and not a hearer and the right attitude toward purity of life and people in need and respect of persons and good works and use of the tongue and wisdom and the matter of relationship to the world, then here is an invitation to you because the evidence tells us you are lost and the most desperate need of your life, as we saw in verse 6, is God’s grace. 
 
And there is only one group that qualifies to receive God’s grace and that is the humble.  As we see in verse 6, God resists the proud.  The word means to place oneself in battle against an enemy. God places Himself in battle array against the proud.
 
But on the other hand, He gives grace to the humble.  That thought is stated in verse 6 and then repeated in verse 10.  So who are the humble?  Well a good way to answer that is to identify the proud.  And this text, and several others, would lead us to the conclusion that the proud are unbelievers. 
 
God resists the proud. He is saying I stand against those who are unbelievers. They are identified as proud because they will not submit to God.
 
On the other hand, He gives grace to the humble and they are those who have submitted to God.  And remember, this is the heart of the passage and here we have, in a very simple, easy to understand, logical presentation the difference between the lost and the saved.  God resists the proud and He gives grace to the humble. 
 
The question then comes, if grace is only for the humble, how do you get to be humble or who are the humble? How can I receive saving grace? How can I take the gift of salvation? And at its core, that’s what this text is about.  The focus is on how to receive saving grace.  And the answer is “be humble”.  And to underline the significance of that, it’s repeated in verse 10: "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up."
 
So the most important question we could ever consider is, “How do you humble yourself?”  Let's follow the commands. Time will not allow us to develop these very deeply, but fortunately, theya re very straightforward.
 
 
 
#1 - Submit yourselves therefore to God
 
Verse 7
To put it in simple terms, it means to come under God's authority.. It's used of troops under the general who fall into rank under the authority of God. It is used in Luke 2:51 to describe Jesus being under the authority of His parents. In Romans 13, we are told to "Be subject to the powers that be, governmentally they are ordained of God."   In Ephesians 5, it addresses the matter of the wife's submissiveness to her husband.
 
And those aren’t the only references, but they provide enough of a window for us to see what the word means. 
 
Humbling oneself then begins with a willing conscious submission to sovereign authority. So in salvation terms, when we go out to talk to someone about faith in Jesus Christ, a good place ot begin is right here.  If you want to be saved, you must first of all, submit yourself to God.
 
Come under His authority. If He speaks, you are to be willing to obey?  You must be willing to submit to His design for your life.  It's like enlisting in military service.
 
It’s what we see from the Saul of Tarsus when Jesus Christ slammed him into the dirt of the road and he looked up and said, "Lord, what will you have me to do?" He immediately understood that submitting to God was putting himself under His command. It means to do the will of God from the heart no matter what the cost.
 
It's the same thing Jesus said when He said if you're not willing to lay down your life you're not worthy to be My disciple.
 
If you're not willing to take up your cross, if you're not willing to do My will, if you have to go do your own thing, you're not worthy to be My disciple. The word indicates an act of taking one's proper place under God as sovereign lord and ruler.
 
So here is where all salvation begins.  If you want to be a follower of Christ, then humble yourself and demonstrate that attitude by submitting yourself to God.
 
#2 - Resist the devil
 
Literally, take your stand against the devil.  Again, that is a command.  There's no middle ground. You are either under the lordship of Satan or under the lordship of God.  You don't take Jesus as Savior and later on hope that He gets around to being lord if you let Him.
 
Becoming the friend of God means immediately becoming the enemy of Satan. You used to be the child of the devil, you used to be submissive to his mastery, and now you are taking your stand against the devil and that means you take your stand against everything that he stands for, everything that he perpetrates, everything that he propagates, everything that he instigates. You take your position against Satan, against his system.
 
 
 
 
And notice, when you do that, Satan flees. He's defeated.  Satan departs when we come under a new lord. No doubt, he pokes around to see what te can get into, but if we keep the armor on we can handle him. If we understand the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly but mighty to the pulling down of strongholds through the power of God we can handle him.
 
He is a defeated enemy.  Satan can't control me. Do you know that? Satan can't make me do anything. Before I was a believer, before you were a believer we were totally under his control. Now he cannot cause us to do anything against our will.
 
And James is telling us salvation begins when we understand that we are submitting ourselves to a new lord and master. 
 
#3 - "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you."
 
It's the pursuit of an intimate love relationship with God. It's the desire to come into fellowship as a true worshiper. It's a beautiful thought. As the priest of old drew near to God, so the one who comes with saving faith, the one who comes with humility is literally in awe of the majesty of an infinitely holy loving gracious merciful God and the cry of the heart of that sinner is that he may know that God in a personal intimate way.
 
Listen:  salvation isn't something you get.  It’s a communion that you begin. It’s a relationship with God Himself.  And only the humble can understand and enjoy that. 
His heart cries out for a new lord and then it cries out to know that lord in intimacy. We could say the first element of the humility of saving faith is submission to the sovereign Lord, and the second one is commitment to love and adore Him.
 
Should it not be true of a believer that he loves the Lord his God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength? What was Paul's great cry? "O that I may know Him." He said, “It’s wonderful to be here, but it would be far better to depart and be with Christ.” 
 
Why? It is because the longing of the heart of a true believer is for communion with the living God. And when he was still a long way away, the father saw him and had compassion on him and ran to him and they embraced in the beauty of that moment. 
 
Did you ever think about how that pictures what we read here in James?  The boy returned home and the father ran to him.  Or we could say it like this:  He drew near to his father and the father drew near to him.  I promise you if you’ll just start moving toward God, you will discover God is nearer than you realized.  God moves toward you.
 
#4 – Cleanse your hands
 
The origin of this thought is in the Jewish ceremonial cleansing of the hands that was done by the priest before he ever went before God.  And what James is saying is, “Now that you're drawing nigh to God, you need to know a cleansing of the hands is required. 
 
 
 
Why hands?  The thought is very much like the emphasis placed on the tongue in the earlier verses.  James is dealing with the very practical expressions of sin.  We are to love the Lord with all our heart, but very often, our sin is hands-on.  They are the symbols of behavior. 
 
And in approaching God, we realize our need for cleansing.  The next command is
 
#5 – Purify Your Hearts
 
But there's more. It's not just the hands which symbolize the outside, but our hearts require purification that deals with the inside.
 
He says, "I'm not asking only that you turn from the sin that you do but that you turn from the sin that is really you on the inside." The inner person includes thoughts, motives, desires, the heart. It's the heart, Jeremiah said, that is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, desperately wicked.
 
And the sinner comes not just longing to be delivered from the things he did that are wrong, but from the wrongness that's deep within him. The psalmist said it is the one with cleans hands and a pure heart that can draw near to God. 
 
And remember, this is an invitation to salvation.  I’m afraid we forget this part of the requirements in our evangelism training. 
 
 
 
 
 
But when we present the gospel, we are telling people of God’s command to submit themselves to God as Lord and master and to  turn their back and take their stand against Satan and then spend their life loving and serving the living God with a heart than longs to know Him personally and intimately and the result will be a turning from their sins inwardly and outwardly. 
 
Next, James says
 
#6 – Lament
 
verse 9
 
The word means to feel wretched, to feel absolutely totally miserable. Again, we don’t often say that to people, but that's the gospel. We always say, “Don’t you want to feel good?”  But we never mention that you’ve got to fell worse before you can feel better. 
You have to feel bad before you can feel good. T
 
But hardly ever do we confront people with their sin.  But here is the response of someone who understand they are a sinner before a holy and righteous God.  It refers to the inner feelings of shame over sin.
 
James is not denying the joy of the Christian life.  He is just saying it doesn't start that way. All the joy rises out of God's grace given to us in our misery. This statement, "Lament," means to feel worse before you can ever feel better. It means to have a deep penitential sorrow over sin.
 
 
 
 
Some people will never come to true salvation because they're not miserable enough in their sin.  This is a call for the enemies of God to grieve over their sin.  And notice it leads to
 
#7 – Mourn
 
This is the inward response to the misery of sin. He’s talking about a heart broken over sin. It makes the heart ache and hurt.  This is the inner response that follows lamenting. A person who comes to Christ understanding their sin is a person who is overwhelmed with the sense of misery due to sinfulness and the inner spirit of that person is in deep lament and grief over that which eventually comes out in the eighth command in verse 9, which is to  
 
#8 - "weep."
 
Lamenting is a recognition of the state. Mourning is how the spirit responds. And weeping is how the body responds by crying and shedding tears. Inner sorrow works its way to the outside.
 
What did Peter do when he had just betrayed Christ? He went out and wept bitterly.  Tears are the outward evidence of brokenness over sin. Tears are the way penitence is very often released. They are a gift from God to release the aching heart.
 
Tears of shame that point to a genuine sorrow over sin lead to godly repentance.
 
The ninth command comes at the end of verse 9,
 
#9 - "Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to heaviness."
 
That statement is directly aimed at those who are identified as the “enemies of God”.  To all of those who are living it up and operating ion the world’s system through things that are earthly, sensual and demonic, James says, “I’ve got a message for you”.
 
“Let you laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to heaviness” 
 
By the way, the word "laughter" is used only here in the New Testament and it indicates the leisurely laughter of men indulging in their desires and pleasures. It is the laughter of fools who reject God. It is the laughter of a pleasure-loving people who up to their ears in the things of the world.  It pictures people who give no thought to God, no thought to life, death, sin, judgment, holiness.
 
They need to come to the sobering realization that they are sinners before a holy God.  This is the attitude of the tax collector in Luke 18 who wouldn't so much as lift his face toward heaven but having his head bowed looking down beat upon his breast and cried out, "God be merciful to me a sinner."
 
And Jesus said that man went home justified. Why? Because he had turned his laughter into mourning and his joy had become heaviness.  He was overwhelmed with his own sin. 
 
And I’m afraid we spend way too much time in church trying to cheer people up rather than leading them to be broken over sin.  We’ve got games and gaity and parties, but no tears.
And to those who are being consumed by the world, James says, “You need to become seriously aware of where you stand before God.”
 
And then James wraps it all up in the tenth of his commandments in verse 10. It’s really a summation of everything as he pulls it all in to one statement.
 
#10 - "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up."
 
We now come full circle back to verse 6.  He'll save you with His grace. Lifting you up is equal to verse 6, He gives grace.  Lifting you up and giving you grace is the same thing. When you humble yourself He does that. So humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord.  Make yourself low and He will lift you high.  Voluntarily put yourself down in the sight of the Lord and He will elevate you before men. 
 
Again, the perfect illustration is the prodigal. He came home, he drew near, the father drew near to him. He had cleansed his life, he had left the pig slop, he had left the wild living, he had left the drunken orgies, he had come back, he had put that all behind him, he had done all the things that James says to do.
 
He was now submitting to his father, he says, "Make me a servant, I turn my back on my former manner of life, I draw near to you, you draw near to me, I've cleansed the outside, I want to cleanse the inside, I'm sad, I'm broken, I'm afflicted, I'm mourning, I'm weeping, I'm humbled before you."
 
 
And what did the father do? Say, "Boy, it's about time you came to your senses!  Now get out to the shed because you're going to get it!"
 
Is that what he said? He said, "Kill the fatted calf, put a ring on his finger, get the best robe, we're having a party." And he lifted him up. That's grace!
 
Now, as I said, I don't know how so many people have missed the intent of this marvelous passage. It may well be the clearest most comprehensive concise invitation to salvation on the pages of Holy Scripture. 
 
It teaches us that the sinner must submit himself to a new Lord and master and turn and take his stand against the old one; that the sinner have a heart longing to know and love and worship the true God; that the sinner have a hunger for holiness and a genuine brokenness and repentance over sin; and that he come with a spirit that separates him from the past and from all that the world was. The sum of it, he humbles himself.
 
George Whitfield, a great evangelist of past centuries, wrote, "Every man by his own natural will hates God, but when he is turned to the Lord by repentance, then his will is changed, then his conscience now hardened and be numbed shall be quickened and weakened, then his hard heart shall be melted and his unruly affections shall be crucified, thus by that repentance the whole soul will be changed, he will have new inclinations, new desires and new habits."
 
 
Charles Hadden Spurgeon wrote, "There is a vital connection between soul distress and sound doctrine. Sovereign grace is very dear to those who have grown deeply because they see what grievous sinners they are."
 
Let’s pray
 
While your heads are bowed in just the quietness of this closing moment, if the Spirit of God has directed the message in some specific way to your heart, the call of God's Spirit is clear, you're the one who must respond. If it's in your heart to do that, if you sense the prompting of God's Spirit, you say I want to commit myself to the Lord Jesus Christ, just say that silently in your heart...I submit, turning from my sin I seek to know You, to love You, to serve You, to have a pure life, to turn from the world and all its folly to that which is so surpassing. Pray that prayer.
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