James begins his conclusion by getting to the bottom line with some strong, concrete language. What should you do if you see yourself in this letter? Repent.
- James 1 – James told us to consider it joy when we face trials because trials test our faith and the process of testing our faith brings us to maturity and makes us into the kind of people we should be.
- James 2 – James argued that if we have saving faith and genuinely believe the gospel, it will change the way we think, the way we live, what we value and who we are.
- James 3 – James focuses on strife within the community. James argues that the strife results from our lack of understanding of the gospel. Growing in “wisdom from above” leads to peace and unity because we are all striving after and seeking and valuing the same thing: the word of God. Wisdom from above can be summarized in 2 basic ideas: a growing single-minded pursuit of the gospel of Jesus Christ and a humble merciful attitude toward others.
- James 4:7 begins the final section of the book which is basically a call to repent. Having just confronted them with the stark choice of being friends with God or friends with the world, he goes on answer the “so what” question, the bottom line and the bottom line is repent.
7Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. – James 4:7-10 ESV
- What do I do if I am reading this letter from James and I recognize myself as one of those without mature faith? Is there any hope left?
- James answers that question: Draw near to God. Submit yourself to him. Resist the lies and temptations of the devil. Stop playing both sides of the table, humble yourself, confess and repent.
- The things you have been laughing about you should have been crying about. What you need to do is make a complete 180, an about-face and repent.
- Stop being double-minded. – Stop saying you believe the gospel and living as if it is not true.
- Resist the devil and he will flee is not a promise that we will never ever sin again. The context is repentance.
- The key idea in this section is humble yourself. Lower yourself before God and he will forgive you and raise you up because of the blood of Christ.
- The sternness comes across in the strong language, but notice the emphasis on repent and God will accept and restore you.
- Continuing his call to repent, he’s going to give us examples of the kind of change should we see if you embrace the gospel.
11Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? – James 4:11-12 ESV
- James 4:11: “Speaking against” is paired with judging. The issue is making judgments about someone else, condemning someone else and going out and talking about it.
- Compare with Leviticus 19:15-18.
- The idea is that I may reprove my neighbor – I may encourage him to turn from the wrong he is doing — but I am NOT to seek his harm.
- Instead we are to be guided by loving your neighbor as yourself.
- To condemn others is to put myself in a place I don’t belong. God is the only judge and His judgment falls equally on me and my neighbor.
- My goal is to humbly remember who I really am (a fellow sinner in need of salvation) and I approach her speaking the truth in love from the position of a fellow sinner, not from the position of a lofty judge.
- We are told not to judge in a condemning sense. But we are never told to overlook evil.
13Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”– 14yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. – James 4:11-17 ESV
- Believers acknowledge that God is in charge.
- James is writing against a worldly attitude that discounts or ignores God; the attitude that I can pursue my goals, my plans and my will as if God has nothing to say about it.
- The emphasis in James 4:17 as the contrast between knowing and doing. To be in a situation where you know the truth and do not live as if it is true is sin.