Summary: A sign of genuine faith in Christ is seen in the heart of the person who has a genuine longing to be in close proximity to their Heavenly Father
OPEN: - We are dealing with the issue of disconnectedness in our relationship with the Lord. And how we can draw near. This is a passage of Scripture that follows a warning James gives to his readers on the issue of pride.
Every spring there is an international competition called the "Wacky Warning Label Contest" The fear of lawsuits has driven companies to fork over millions of dollars to place beneath-the-level-of-common-sense warning labels on their products. There is often this disconnectedness between the issues addressed on the label and real life. But somehow the people marketing the product fail to see it. People who find these wacky warning labels submit their findings and one label is chosen as the winner each year. The 2009 winning label was fixed to a portable toilet set called "The Off-Road Commode." The seat is designed for outdoorsmen -- complete with camouflage padding -- and attaches to a vehicle’s trailer hitch. Try to picture that. The warning label reads, "Not for use on moving vehicles" (no seat belt?) Other labels are equally ridiculous. A small tractor has a sticker that reads "Danger. Avoid death." A label on a hair dryer advises, "Do not use while sleeping" An iron-on T-shirt transfer warns, "Do not iron while wearing shirt" On a package of bread pudding the label cautions, "Product will be hot after heating" A sleep aid alerts the insomniac, "Warning. May cause drowsiness." There’s a child’s superhero costume that label reads, "Wearing the garment does not enable you to fly." But I think this one would have been my pick for the winner: A Swedish chain saw gives the user a critical reminder: "Do not attempt to stop the chain with your hands or genitals." (Now admittedly I really don’t know much about the culture of Sweden -- but it’s a bit of a stretch for me to think that’s really a valid concern for that product.)
- These labels may seem insulting to anyone with half a brain. But we live in an age when most people don’t think for themselves, so these idiotic labels become necessary and essential. Ignoring warning labels can obviously result in some very bad things happening to you. James is teaching us how to draw near to God following a warning that we dare not ignore. "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." It is a necessary warning and essential that we understand. The problem we have with this verse of course is we are all people who from time to time struggle with pride. And pride always causes a distancing in our lives -- on an interpersonal level and more importantly on a vertical level between us and God.
- the goal is moving into authentic joy in the presence of God in the midst of a world that steals it away.
A sign of genuine faith in Christ is seen in the heart of the person who has a genuine longing to be in close proximity to their heavenly Father
What the Lord really wants is for those who draw near to draw near with a pure heart and a true heart. We’re told this time and time again in the Scriptures. For instance, in Psalm 27:7-8 we read, "When You said, ’Seek My face,’ my heart said to You, ’Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.’"
In Psalm 63:1-5 we read, "O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; my soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory. Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips will praise You. So I will bless You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name. My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth offers praises with joyful lips."
Psalm 84:2 says, "My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God." In these verses you hear words like "seek," "longing," and "yearning" There nothing passive here in relationship to the Lord -- there is a chasing after -- a pursuing -- a following after Him. We settle for a casual relationship with the Lord but got wants us to have the exact opposite.
One more -in Hebrews chapter 4:16 says, Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. God is saying draw near, come close, there’s grace here, there’s mercy here if your heart is right.
So last week as we started this passage we saw that James has ten steps that show how a person can draw near to God. No where you presently are -- these ten steps will bring you back to where God wants you to be. If our hearts desire is to draw near to God then we must do as God’s Word commands. We must first submit to Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives. We must stand firm in our faith and resist the lies of Satan. When we do Satan has no choice but to flee and we’ll be able to draw nearer to God.