Summary: Pentecost 19(B) - Come near to God with humble repentance, trusting in divine justice, and with complete confidence.
COME NEAR TO GOD…
James 4:7-17 - September 25, 2005 - Pentecost 19
Dear Fellow-Redeemed and Saints in the Lord:
In our daily Christian living you and I would probably come to the same conclusion. There are times when you and I are not as near to God as we ought to be. This morning James reminds us to come near to God. We aren’t as close to God for a number of reasons. We are busy with the things of this world. We aren’t as close to God because of sin. We think of Adam and Eve when they first sinned. What did they do? When God came to speak with them, they hid themselves. They were al-ready becoming farther away from God because of sin separating them from God. James reminds us in our text: "Come near to God." That will be our theme this morning. We are also reminded of the words in Revelation where John writes these words: "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me" (Revela-tion 3:20). Today we gather together because the Lord has invited us to come near to him. Today, our gracious and loving God stands at the door. We pray that we would have listening ears and open hearts that not only do we come near to God, but also as he adds God comes near to us.
COME NEAR TO GOD:
I. With humble repentance
II. Trusting in divine justice
III. With complete confidence
I. WITH HUMBLE REPENTANCE
The book of James is filled with divine advice for Christian living. He begins reminding these believers that they needed to come near to God and to put behind them their sinfulness. He says, "Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded." You may remember from last week that most of these believers became believers later on in life. They were always torn between living a sinful way of life or following God. They were double-minded. James writes, "but purify your minds and wash your hands." In other words they should come clean of their sinfulness. Then he tells them how they can do that--with re-pentance that brings sadness because of sin.
Verse 9: "Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom." He doesn’t want these believers to be sad-sack Christians. But James does remind these believers, when they look at their sinfulness and see how it separates them from the love God, there is sadness. When they saw the times they had sinned against the Lord over and over again, instead of laughter there was mourning and grieving. This sadness over sins was not just for the evil they did, but also the good they did not do. Right at the end of our text, he says, "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins." Sin separates the believer from the closeness of God. James writes to these believers there is a solution in humble repentance.
With humble repentance, come blessings. At the opening of our text in verse 7: "Submit your-selves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." Those who follow God find that the devil flees from them. They are able to resist temptation. They are able to change their lives following repentance. James also writes: "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." Those who see their sinfulness and recognize their separation from God also realize it is the Lord God who comes to forgive them and then lifts them up once again. The Lord restores the sinner to be near to Him.
So the Lord says to us: "Come near to God with humble repentance." In our world not many would like to admit to sin. Sin is something that is not good. Sin means we have a shortcoming and we are not perfect. Many in the world like to think that they are perfect. Maybe at times we don’t like to look at our own sinfulness. It isn’t pleasant. As James says sin makes us mourn and wail and grieve. It turns our laughter and joy into gloom, and it ought to. Recognizing our sin is the first step of repen-tance; starting here, we come near to God. Paul writes in Corinthians: "Godly sorrow brings repen-tance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death" (2 Corinthians 7:10).
We are not happy about our sins. We realize that our sins stand as a wall between God and us. This causes us to lack a complete and full understanding of God’s will. We also understand that as we repent of our sins, the Lord provides us with his forgiveness. As we come near to God with all of sins, he takes them away from us and places them on his Son, Christ our Savior. God graciously comes near to us. Listen to the prophet Joel as he describes our loving Lord who is anxious to forgive: "Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassion-ate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity" (Joel 2:13). God wants to forgive, doesn’t He? So, yes, we look at our lives and see our sins of thought, word and deed. We can’t even number them. There are too many.