Cleansed From the Lusts of the Flesh
WASH, PURIFY (James 4: 8b)
The external is, “Wash your hands, you sinners,” and the internal is, “purify your hearts, you double-minded” (v. 8b). This is a call to clean up one’s acts and inner life. James is bitingly aggressive, because up to now he has been courteously referring to his correspondents as “brethren,” but now insultingly calls them “sinners” and “double-minded.” The latter literally means two-souled and describes them as having a double allegiance to God and the world. This is a spiritual impossibility. Ridiculous! we think. But it is just as much (or even more) absurd for a true child of God to serve two masters. The Lord calls us to a single-minded allegiance to himself. He wants us to have eyes only for him! Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart (the single-minded), for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8). Jesus meant they would see him in this life, because this purity of focus invites deeper spiritual understanding. Seeing God in life is the highest good—the summum bonum—because all those who see him become like him. “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Are we two-souled Christians—having wandering eyes, one raised to Heaven, one focused on earth—absurd Mickey Cohens? If so, there is only one thing to do: repent! “Wash your hands” and “purify your hearts”—and get ready for more grace!
GRIEVE, CHANGE (v. 9)
Nevertheless, while gloom is not a Christian characteristic, mourning over our sin is. “Grieve” describes the wretchedness one ought to experience when he falls to sin. “Be devastated” is the perfect expression of what “grieve” means. “Mourn” expresses inner grief, and “wail” refers to a funeral lament. “Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom” is a scathing denunciation of Christians who are so insensitive and superficial that they are laughing when they ought to be weeping! Some laughter indicates a sickness of soul which only tears can cure. Have we wept over our sins? Years ago, at a great convention, Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse stood before a vast throng and began his address dramatically by saying: “Up is down!” and then after a lengthy pause, “Down is up!” In doing so, he was intoning an unbreakable spiritual law: God exalts the humble and debases the proud. During his time on earth Jesus repeated this on three separate occasions: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:14; cf. Matthew 23:12; Luke 14:11). The gravity of grace will always channel the rivers of divine favor to the lowly—to those 1) who submit to God, 2) whose soul’s momentum is away from the Devil and toward God, 3) who purify their inner and outer lives, 4) who mourn over their sins, and 5) who obey the final summary command, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (v. 10). We are not to wait passively for this to somehow happen. We are not to wait for someone else to humble us, nor should we wait for the vicissitudes of life to do it. Rather, self-humbling is our Christian duty. We must take inventory of our sinfulness and weakness, then bow in total submission to God, yielding our total being, our dreams, our future, our everything to him. It is then that he will pour on the grace—grace upon grace—grace heaped upon grace—“and he will lift you up.”
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