Connecting with God!
The Great Adventure
January 28, 2018
Two weeks ago, I told you my hope, my goal and vision for the year is that we would move closer to reaching our FULL POTENTIAL. That idea came from a quote by Kobe Bryant. He said ~
My deepest fear is not using what God blessed me with to its full potential. ~ Kobe Bryant
Is it possible that this is one of your deepest fears as well. When you look back on life, you realize you never became who you were called to become. That’s a scary thought. I don’t want that to be who I am or who we are. So for 2018, I want us to strive and push to reach our FULL POTENTIAL
About 1 week ago, I read a quote from Lebron James. He was talking about his team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. He said,”I love our potential.” The article then commented . . . . The question is whether that potential will ever be realized. Can that be said as well for us?
BlankSo, to move us in that direction, two weeks ago . . . we were looking at what it means to draw near to God. How do we do that? Well, my first premise was to remind us that God is God and we aren’t! When we try to be God, we’re acting in a prideful manner which is not consistent with our call to be Christ – followers.
God seeks to bless us because we’re His kids, He loves us, He saved us, ransomed us, sent His Son to die for us, and has prepared a place in eternity for us, a place which is perfect. A place where there are no tears, no suffering, not too hot, not too cold. Nobody has the flu! It’s heaven, the place of perfection.
Until that time comes, God’s greatest desire is that we would live a life of abundance. Not abundant living because we did it our way, but abundant living because we did it His way! Abundant living doesn’t mean you’ll never have health issues or financial issues, or job loss, or issues with your kids or marriage. It means you’re resting secure in the promises of God. It means you have an inner joy, power, confidence and strength because of Christ! Not because of you!
So, how do we get that? How is it that when Jesus simply says, “Follow Me!” They follow Him! How do we get this abundant life?
I believe it all starts with us! God is always ready, willing and able to pour His Spirit into us. But we have to do some things to prepare for this indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Two weeks ago we were talking about humility, humbling ourselves in the face of God. This week we will continue talking about humility and what that means. And we’ll move forward in the next few weeks.
We looked at James 4:6-7. James tells us ~
6 God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. – James 4:6-7
We saw how God opposes or resists those who are proud, arrogant, and self-righteous, but He gives grace to those who are humble, to those who are God-reliant and not self-reliant.
James calls us to submit ourselves to God, becoming dependent on God as our Lord and Master. We’re also to resist the devil, stand and fight him. And when we do, he will flee from you, because the devil is a coward. And God will give you everything you need to fight off the temptations which are thrown your way!
I read an interesting quote this week . . . it said –
Before we commit a sin, satan minimizes it.
After we commit the sin, satan makes it look to big to be forgiven.
satan makes the sins you’re tempted with seem small and insignificant, but
after you commit the sin, he makes you feel like they are unforgivable.
How true is that? Yet, God promises us that He will provide the way out from the temptations that are thrown before us. Usually, just saying NO is the answer!
Now, with that in mind, let’s move on to verses 8-10 ~
8 Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.
10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you. – James 4:8-10
I want to break these verses down a little so we can better understand what James is getting at, because I don’t believe we fully grasp what the author is getting at until we slow down and break it down.
When James tells us to DRAW NEAR – – we may assume it’s like I move towards the piano. But that’s not the intent of this phrase. The phrase more literally means ~ “extreme closeness.” And isn’t that what God wants for us? He wants us to be close to Him. He wants us to move towards Him and don’t stop drawing near to Him. And when we do, He promises – – He will draw closer to us.
It’s a sign that we want an intimate relationship with God. So, as we draw nearer to God, He draws nearer to us, and we experience the power of what it means to have “extreme closeness with God.”
The question is not, how near is God to us, but rather
how near are we to God?
Every married couple understands that proximity is one thing, but intimacy is something else. A couple may be seated on the same couch but be miles apart from each other. It is possible to be married and live entirely separate lives.
Drawing near to God starts in the heart. Take another married couple and watch them for a moment. She may be knitting or reading. He may be watching television or listening to music. Minutes may pass without a word being spoken, but you sense they are together as one. He has drawn near to her, and she has drawn near to him.
And that comes from years of building their relationship in which they were always intentional to cultivate that intimacy.
If we come to God with that same desire to know Him, He will draw near to us. You do not need to be an advanced Christian or a super-saint or a deep Bible student.
The question is — “If God feels far away from you, who moved?” It’s never the Lord. God promises to always be with us. We are the ones who move away from God. He’s left standing at our door. It’s only when we turn and come back to God, that we experience the power of His presence.
James now goes in hard with the next couple of statements he makes. In the second part of verse 8, he tells us ~
8 Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
We’re commanded to scrub away all of the filth and sin in our lives. To become purified before God. James reminds us we are sinners, and as sinners, we need to wash our hands of our wickedness. We are to purify our hearts. It’s not just a washing, it’s going a step further.
Think about all of the flu that’s going around. We’ve had it in our house. We can cleanse everything, get everything washed and clean, but the purification part takes us a step deeper in that process. We don’t just wash everything, we get into the root to make certain there are no stains, no pollutants, no impurities.
James tells us to wash our hands, purify our hearts, and he calls us double-minded. Literally, that’s a person who is considered “two souled”; a person “split in half,” vacillating like a “spiritual schizophrenic.” It means we’re distracted with our decision making.
That’s a person who doesn’t know right from wrong. They vacillate between what is good and what is evil. They’re like that squirrel who’s going to cross the road and starts, stops, starts and stops and you have no idea what they’re going to do.
This means we stop making excuses for bad attitudes, for casual unkindness, for clever put-downs, for dabbling in pornography, bragging about our accomplishments, for envying others, bitterness, for a critical spirit, for prayerlessness, for our need to be in control, for giving in to despair, for hating our enemies, not loving our neighbors, and for our failure to do what we know we ought to do, and you can add more to that list.
Here’s a useful way to apply this truth. Take time alone with God and ask God this – “Lord, show me the truth about myself.” That’s it!
Then write down what the Lord shows you. This isn’t a 5 minute exercise – – and you can’t do this when you’re busy. It takes time to open your heart to the Holy Spirit. You may not be overly happy at what the Lord reveals about your heart, but afterwards comes the cleansing through confession and repentance.
James wants us to have intimacy with God because we’ve washed away our sinfulness and we’ve purified the place where all of life flows through . . . our hearts. If our hearts are pure, then the decisions we make are going to improve. When we’re tempted, we know we have God’s power to help us fight them off.
James continues by really hammering his point to us ~
9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.
WOW! How’s that for encouragement?!?! Let’s look at these 3 words and see what James wants for us when he says we are to — be wretched, mourn, and weep!
WRETCHED — means we are — to feel afflicted and miserable; .
To MOURN means — we grieve over a figurative death; over a personal hope or relationship which dies; AND
to WEEP means — uncontainable, loud crying.
That’s how James wants us to be before God.
When it comes to our sinfulness – – we are to feel miserable, afflicted, to grieve over what we’ve lost, which is our closeness to God and we demonstrate our sadness, confession and repentance by wailing and weeping.
This doesn’t sound like the abundant life Christ is offering us. Yet, this is the road, the way to reach the abundant life. Because until we come face to face with the realization we are sinners in need of God’s grace and mercy, then we will continue on in life in a happily ever after attitude and never have the power and peace; the strength and love which is available.
Nobody wants to be wretched, mourn and weep! That’s not a happy life. This is a downer sounding verse.
James wants us to get serious about our relationship with God. When theologian R. C. Sproul died in December 2017, Russell Pulliam wrote an assessment of his life in the Washington Post. Sproul was profoundly influenced by the theology of John Calvin. That led to this sentence:
Sproul believed that we are more sinful than we usually think we are.
Who wants to hear that statement? Yet, that’s accurate, both as a statement of what Sproul believed and of the true American self-assessment. We would agree nobody’s perfect. We all make mistakes.
But the Bible goes much further. We learn, sin has infected every part of human life, we are spiritually dead, spiritually blind, lost, separated from God, and without hope in the world.
Paul reminds us in Romans 3:23, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We’ve all missed the mark. That’s God’s verdict on us.
Once we see our sin as they really are, we should become wretched, mourn and weep. We’ll stop laughing and start crying. Our joy will turn into mourning. And that opens the door to the abundant life we seek.
We realize that we were playing God. We sought control of everything, and now we turn to God in humility, recognizing and proclaiming Him as Lord and Savior; as our righteous Judge, and as our gracious Redeemer, all at the same time.
As David said in Psalm 30:5 ~
5 Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning.
That’s God’s promise to us. When we come to Him, we will weep and mourn and grieve, but God promises us this – – – JOY, His joy comes in the morning.
For this to happen, we must draw near to God and allow Him to draw near to us.
Finally, we come full circle, as verse 6 leads to verse 10. Remember, James said ~ 6 GoSLIDEd opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
And now he adds this in verse 10 ~
10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.
We have options about how we live our lives. We can exalt ourselves, we can be full of pride and arrogance and think we are God and so great. . . but the goal should be to humble ourselves – – to fall to the ground before the throne of God, proclaiming and confessing that God is God and we are not. As we practice humility, we are exalting Christ, and in turn, I believe He will then exalt you.
We can brag on ourselves, or we can exalt Christ, but we can’t do both at the same time. We have 2 choices – – – exalt yourself OR exalt Christ, you can’t do both. When we decide to bow down before God and exalt Christ, there is no limit to what the Lord may do through us.
In the Kingdom of God, the way up is down. If you humble yourself, the Lord will raise you up.
It’s like those old Fram oil filter commercials where the mechanic says, “You can pay me now or you can pay me later.” If you humble yourself now, God won’t have to do it later.
Sin left untouched always grows. It’s like a deadly virus or infection we leave untreated. Sin always spreads because it is the cancer of the soul.
We can humble ourselves in the eyes the Lord, or we can go on living the way we want until the time God decides to humble us. The choice is ours.
Every blessing awaits those who humble themselves before the Lord.
This is God’s promise — and it is good news indeed.