Faith in Action: Comes Close
† IHS †
May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ draw you closer to them, and overwhelm you with love and peace, as you help draws others in!
Have you ever been caught between two friends who are fighting? Both whom want you attention, who want you to be on their side?
What if one has been a longer friend, who you have had a lot of fun with over decades, and the other, while a close friend, is somewhat newer?
But what if this newer friend is the one who is right?
That is the picture we see in the apostle James’s letter this morning. Even as he urges us to draw close to God, he recognizes the draw of the world on us,
Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world
This divided loyalty is something that creates trauma, that causes us more problems, yet the hold of the world on us is so strong, even though we know how broken it is.
It so challenges the relationship we have with God, it so prevents our drawing close to God!
The Struggle with Zeal….
James talks about the world’s ways using primarily two thoughts in this passage. Bitter Jealousy and ambition.
Bitter Jealousy is described as sour, or poisoned zeal, a desire to chase after something for the pleasure it brings. The second problem is related to it, the ambition that drives us to get what we want because we want it. It is a word that is used to describe mercenaries, those who do what they do only for the rewards that they will receive.
Not for love, not out of honor. Just for what they get out of it.
No wonder James calls such things worldly, unspiritual and even demonic.
He even notes this self-centeredness can influence our prayers when we pray for what will give us pleasure, what we want and desire. As our desire grows, we find ourselves justifying what we do to get what we desire, eventually we don’t even consider the cost.
For what we desire demands our loyalty, and we find ourselves involved in a war….
And remember, James isn’t writing this to heathen unbelievers, he is writing it to believers, those struggling to live life in a broken world, torn between God and that world.
He is talking to us.
And we struggle with being caught between the world and God all the time if we admit it. It isn’t just about pleasure, it can be about seeking comfort, or security, or happiness, when those things are more important to us that God, or other humans.
We see this all the time in the lives of others, especially those who think different than us, as we oppose them, not interested in justice as much as being right.
So how do we break free of the grasp the world has on us? How do we break free of the sin that so easily ensnares us?
The Healing Humility found before God
I think most would suggest that James is teaching that the hope is found in the humility that he mentions a few times in this passage. Particularly these two places
13 If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes
13 If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom
So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come close to God, and God will come close to you.
Yet in both these statements, humility comes not from our work outside of God’s presence, in the first it comes from understanding God’s ways, and in the second place, it comes as you are before God, as you are drawn close to Him.
This is where our hope is found, this is where the power of sin, driven by our desire for what we want is broken.
For it is when we experience the love of God, that real humility comes into play, as we stand in His glorious, wonderful presence. When we realize He loves us, that is when all else falls away, and we simply and humbly find that with Him, we can dwell in His merciful, loving peace.
For what else is there, standing in front of God, but realizing His love and peace?
Prodigals Lifted up!
It is from there, simply in awe of His love, that God’s will makes sense. His desire that we would love each other, and even those who drive us crazy. It is there we can see the needs of those around us and find ourselves responding to them way before we respond to our own wants and desires.
It’s that kind of thing I saw in the eyes of one man this week, whom the church provided a stack of gift cards for, who was amazed that we would care for him, and his family.
That is what happens when our loyalties are less divided when we give up being prodigals and come to the altar, when we come home. As God sees us before Him, in awe of His love, humbled to be in His glory… and He lifts us up as He gathers His children to His side.
As we wait for that day, I pray you come closer and closer to God, as you realize that you dwell in His peace, the peace that is beyond explanation, as He guards our hearts and minds! AMEN!