MS Week #35: God Responds to Repentant Hearts

Brad Libolt speaking on James 4:7-10. From these verses Brad talks about submitting to God’s rule, His desire to draw near to us and our need to draw near to him. Reminding us that there is nothing we can do except continually come back to God in repentance and let him give us joy in the midst of our mourning.

Intro

  • I attended a wedding yesterday, and it was a sweet reminder of the vows I made with my wife and what we said to each other. Marriage is a picture of what Christ has with His Church.
  • Two weeks ago, we talked about how we are adulterous people. Even in the midst of this marriage with Christ, we are unfaithful to him, and this unfaithfulness causes us to chase after our world desires and passions. When we do that, we do terrible things. We fight with one another and ask God for things that we want instead of asking him what is best for us. But, remember in verse 6 we heard the greatest news in the world, that despite our adulterous hearts and sinful nature, God gives more grace. God is a gracious and loving God, and it doesn’t matter how much we fight or how often we turn to our own desires or how much of an enemy we think we are, he always gives more grace. All we have to do, is be humble. We just need to recognize our sin, repent, and humble ourselves before God.
  • Being humble before God is just another way of saying repentance. James is saying that God gives more grace, but he gives grace to those who repent.
  • Back to marriage. We all have pet peeves, and one of my wife’s pet peeve is when I chew loud. One of the things you learn to do is how to say sorry and how to forgive. Saying sorry, but not meaning it, shows not wanting to change anything. When you say sorry, or repent, you recognize your sin, and humble yourself before God. It’s not just asking for forgiveness but actually turning from that sin. Repentance is also often explained as making a 180 degree turn. You are moving in one direction, towards sin and disobedience, then you stop and turn around and go the opposite way. Repentance is what James is calling us to do.
  • At the end of this passage we will see that when we repent, God is faithful to respond. God responds to repentant hearts.

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

  • So James begins to explain what repentance looks like, how we humble ourselves before God.
  • He says submit yourselves to God and resist the devil. What does submitting to God look like? Submitting to God means obeying him. It means we subject ourselves to his rule and reign and obey his commands. We go to Scripture to learn about God’s character and how he wants us to live our lives, then we must submit to him and obey those commands. Submission seems like a bad word, like something we don’t want to do, but submitting to the creator of the universe, the author of good and evil, the one who knows what is absolutely best for our lives is the best thing we could ever do. Submission done right works when the person submitting recognizes who the person submits to. In marriage, we see the wife is called to submit to the husband. In the same way, we can submit to God because we know who God is and recognize it’s He who we are submitting to. He loves us, cares for us, and cherishes us. It is easier to submit to someone who loves, cares, and cherishes us, someone we trust, like God. Submission works when we recognize that we are submitting to our Creator. When we submit to God’s rule and what he commands us to do, we will find greater joy than we ever could on our own. 
  • However, James recognizes that it is difficult to submit to God because of our sinful desires and because we must also resist the temptations of the devil. Temptation is going to come, Satan is out to get us. We have to realize that as Christians, we are going to experience temptation from the enemy. This enemy wants to destroy and deceive us, and he does that by tempting us and luring us into disobedience against God. This is serious, but what’s even more serious is the power of God that we have within us that allows us to resist these temptations. James doesn’t give a secret formula or a specific list of steps on how to resist the devil, he just says to do it. He understands that because we are in Christ, we have the Holy Spirit and the power of God within us. That alone is enough to resist the temptations of the devil so that we can be faithful to submit to God.

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

  • Part of submitting to God is drawing near to him, and this makes submission not so rigid, but rather more relational. God is like a king in one sense, that he sits on a throne and is ruler of all, with a specific and important set of rules and guidelines that those under his reign must follow. But unlike a distant king on a throne, he has a relationship with his people..He desires that relationship with us. That makes us more than just his subjects, we are his children. God desires for us to be close to him, and the closer we draw to him, the closer he is going to feel to us. When we draw closer to God it becomes easier to submit to him, because we know his heart more and we experience his love for us. But how do we draw closer to God? Through spiritual disciplines. If we want to be close to God we must communicate with him. We do that and respond through prayer and reading the Bible. We obey him, we tell others about him, we worship him privately and publicly, not only in song but with our entire lives. God has laid out access to himself plainly for us in his word, so we must go there to discover more of who he is.
  • There’s a catch here, because something happens when we draw close to God. The closer we are to him, the more we see how awesome and glorious he is. The more we see how awesome he is, the more we recognize that we are not awesome. We recognize our imperfection when we see more of God’s perfection. So James says we need to be cleansed and purified to even be able to draw close to God, just like in the Old Testament, the Israelites had to go through multiple purification and cleansing rituals before they could enter the presence of God. The same goes for us, but we have the sacrifice of Jesus to cleanse and purify us. The only way we can even draw near to God and approach his throne room and have a relationship with him is because we have been purified and cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. 

Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.

  • Though we know this, it doesn’t mean we don’t get upset about our sin. James is very clearly saying that we should be very very sad about our sin. Our wretched sinfulness should cause our smiles to turn into frowns and our joy to turn into deep sadness. This is all part of repentance, recognizing our sin and mourning because of it, being deeply saddened because of how messed up we are. Our sin should bring us to a place of humbleness, to our knees before a perfect God, and to repentance. But our repentance doesn’t go unanswered. Like I previously stated, God responds to repentant hearts.

10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

  • Because of our imperfection, we should never be confident or comfortable with our holiness and goodness before God. We will always need to repent and humble ourselves before God for the rest of our lives. God responds to repentant hearts. When we are faithful to humble ourselves and repent because of our sin, when we put ourselves in a low place of sadness and lament because of our sin, God is faithful to lift us up, exalt us, and turns our mourning and sadness into joy and peace. It doesn’t matter how many times we sin or fail to obey God’s commands, if we humble ourselves before him, admit our sin, turn from it and repent, God will be faithful to lift us back up, to exalt us and welcome us into his arms and his kingdom for eternity.
  • That’s the beauty of the gospel. There is absolutely nothing we can do, except continually come back to God in repentance and sorrow, and let him exalt us and give us true joy in the midst of our mourning over our sin.

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