“Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” James 4:8-10 NIV
Grieve, morn, and wail. Wait a second. I thought Jesus came that I might have life, and have it abundantly? What kind of life could this possibly be?
Verses like James 4:9 have a tendency to turn us off. We skip over them because A. – we don’t like them and B. – we don’t understand them. How can we possibly make sense of the Gospel when one minute It’s all sunflowers and daisies and the next minute It’s all gloom and doom?
A big misconception is the idea of a big fluffy candy giving Jesus in the sky, a prosperity gospel. It messes us up. Not all of us view Jesus in this extreme way, but if we are honest with ourselves, we all tend to fall in love with and heavily lean on the unconditional love and forgiveness of Jesus – and rightfully so. But while we are leaning into His amazing grace, we cannot forget the reason forgiveness was necessary – we did wrong – and a lot of it.
There had to be judgement of some sort of our foul and stench filled sin. So foul in fact, that it called for the murder of God’s only Son on a cross before God could even look at us again. In a world that speaks constant love peace and tolerance, we can’t forget the nastiness of sin. The only reason God is able to love us is because Jesus covered our sin, and never because our sin was tolerable. It’s not. It’s ugly. James 4:9 reminds us that sin should never, in no way, be tolerable in our lives, and it certainly should never bring us joy. Will we sin? Yes…but we must run to the Lord in grief and repentance. Only in doing this are we able to come under the forgiveness of Jesus in humility, and then comes James 4:10 – He will lift us up.
Jesus came that we might have life, and have it abundantly. But this abundant life is different from the world. And it should and will look different. We should not look like those around us who are emblazoned with phrases of complete and total acceptance of everything – why? – because everything is not okay! Sin is real, and it’s nasty, and when we do it, we should be sad and grieve. But the good news is, the pure amazing JOY of the Gospel is the defeat of the sin’s grave through the blood of Christ Jesus. So let there be no higher Name in our lives. He is Jesus, the Son of God.