It is very commonplace to see ‘How to books’ in the Christian Life section of a bookstore or website. Just a few among the mass of titles available today are “How to hear from God,” “How to be a Godly wife,” “How to be a better Christian wife,” “How to fall in love with your husband again,” etc.
There is nothing wrong with emphasizing the Practical side of life. However, if a Christian is not careful, he or she can succumb to the error of self-effort. At the center of the word, sin is the letter I, just as the I in us all is always at the center of sin. Pride, rebellion, self-exaltation, self-centeredness are all ways through which sin rears its ugly head at God and says, I AM, I don’t need you. If the truth be told, there is the one I AM in the universe, and it’s not you or I, it is the Lord God Almighty, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not that we do not participate in living a holy life, we most certainly do.
Nevertheless, careful navigation is essential in any journey, as one degree of miss direction can end in never arriving at the desired destination. The objective for the Christian is the glory of God’ and that all things be done through Christ.
What I am talking about is the choice between pride or humility. We all want to be on the winning side. However, there is a world of difference between the side a proud person chooses and that of a humble man. They may appear to be the same side but alas they are not. The proud man understands that everything depends upon him. The humble man realizes that the success that really counts is the one that is achieved through and for the glory of God. Look at the way God says it.
“You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”? But He gives a greater grace. Therefore [it] says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.” 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.” (James 4:4-10)
The adulteress is one who cheats on a spouse. In this context, it is about people cheating on God. The way people cheat on God is by preferring the world’s philosophy, and stuff over God’s truth, and contentment with what He supplies. Some will ask how does this relate to benefiting from a ‘how to book’? I would return such a question with questions, not to get cute, or side-step the question posed, but to surface the motives of our heart.
Do we love the world and ourselves more than we love God? Do we desire our own glory more than that of God? We are told in the previous scripture verse to submit to God, resist the devil, draw near to God, cleanse our hands, purify our hearts, in the context of being double-minded.
Why double-minded? It is all too easy to think oneself holy and a lover of God, without doing the work to see if our assessment of ourselves is accurate. We may be successful in what we set out to accomplish when, in reality, we ought to turn our laughter to mourning as the Scripture says. Maybe, we should mourn because we do not love God as we say we do. Maybe, we love our success more. Whatever we love more than God is an idol, and that’s a big sin.
You see, Jesus made clear in the most excellent sermon ever preached that salvation and a walk with God begin humbly. This is why He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” The poor have nothing, that is why they beg. We are all beggars, morally corrupt, and hell bound apart from the grace and mercy of God.
If you don’t believe my last statement, there is insufficient humility with you. You can work as hard as you like, and you should, at whatever you do, so long as you understand that God alone is holy, good, right, pure, gracious, kind, and the only One that deserves the praise. If you don’t, you are in direct conflict with Him. Not a good idea!
All I am talking about is humbling ourselves before God. That is the message of James in his fourth chapter. Why wouldn’t a person want to humble themselves before God? If you are a Christian reading these words, I am sure you will see my point and more importantly, the point made in the Bible. You will gladly humble yourselves before the God who thought necessary to send His Son to suffer and die because we needed him to. That doesn’t sound like we are sufficiently good before God to me. Does it to you?