We tend to cherry-pick verses from the Bible, selecting those we like and ignoring those that make us uncomfortable.
Take a few selections from James 4. You are likely familiar with the following verses and may even have memorized them:
“Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”
“Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord and He will exalt you.”
These are verses 7, 8 (the first half of the verse), and 10. But what about the second half of verse 8 and verse 9? Those are rarely on the “Bible memorization list.” They are WAY more uncomfortable … like, REALLY uncomfortable. Ready? Here they are:
“Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom.”
When was the last time you seriously reflected on those verses or heard a sermon on them? Bear in mind that these verses are written to Christians: believers like you and me. We all struggle with sin and sometimes we give in to temptation and choose sin over holiness. The apostle Paul talks about his own fight with the fleshly nature in Romans 7.
It is in those moments that we really need to take this passage to heart … all of it, because verses 8b-9 give us the “how” for the verses that come before and after them. How do we submit to God when we find ourselves denying Jesus the right to sit on the throne of our life? How do we resist the devil when we find ourselves giving in to temptation? How do we draw near to God when we have wandered away from him? How do we humble ourselves before God when we are filled with self-righteous pride?
1. Admit you are a double-minded sinner who has filthy hands and heart. Don’t justify, excuse, or minimize your sin and the fact that you made the choice to sin.
2. Spend time in real sorrow for your sin. Be miserable and mourn and weep instead of sweeping sin under the rug and going about your day like everything between you and God is perfectly fine.
3. Cleanse your hands and purify your heart from sin through honest confession and true repentance. Make real changes in your life and bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance (Matthew 3:8). It is possible because God will give you everything you need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).
Let’s not cherry-pick, my friends. Let’s take in and obey the whole Word of God.
“Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord and He will exalt you.”