It is insane to me that God doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve.
I was reminded of that yesterday as I was sharing my testimony with the girls in my dorm during dorm chapel, as I testified yesterday of a life that is so broken and undeserving. A heart that is so wretchedly ugly. But a God who is so good and kind and gracious and who has brought me out of my sin and placed me where I am today. But it really hit me like a sledgehammer this morning as I was reading through James.
James 4 has always been a bit of an enigma to me. It wasn’t until I heard C.J. Mahaney preach it at Grace Community a few years ago that I even realized what it was even talking about- our own passions at war within us that cause us to fight with one another. But the latter half still remained strange to me, like a list of scattered thoughts and commands. But this morning I saw more clearly than ever how plays out in my life.
“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves 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 wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” – James 4:1-9
We lust for things so strongly, we feel our passions so intensely, and that’s why we fight and quarrel and have conflict. That’s what motivates all of it. And we lust for things so we can spend it on our passions. So we can serve ourselves and feed our flesh. And God sees this as adultery- he sees it like he talks about in Jeremiah 2 where he calls for the heavens to be appauled and shocked when his people hew out for themselves broken cisterns that can hold no water instead of pursuing Him, the fountain of living water. We act like Gomer, the prostitute in Hosea, and God being the jealous God that He is will have none of it. He, in His kindness, will not allow us to chase down our passions. He will put a stop to it. He will oppose us in our pride because He loves us so dearly. And when we find ourselves in our pride, having gone down a path of unfaithfulness, sin, and ultimately pride, we are not to run from God but to submit to Him. At this point we already know that God has opposed us, we have felt what it’s like to be opposed by God. In that moment we can choose to run farther, or we can turn, come back, draw near to him, cleanse our hands, purify our hearts, and humble ourselves before the Lord like the prodigal son who realizes the folly of his ways and returns to his father, knowing he full well deserves his scorn but hoping to find forgiveness and love instead.
And that’s what we will find. And this morning as I saw how wretched my heart was and how far I had allowed my pride to take me, I was broken by the idea that like Nehemiah in Nehemiah 9, I could turn to God and pray and ask for mercy even though he has dealt righteously with me. To know that I am fully deserving of any way that God would choose to discipline me and to accept it, but to know that any discipline I receive is his kindness to me, because He jealously wants my heart and my soul and is kind enough to hurt me so that I will obey Him. And like King David in Psalm 52 I could ask God to create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me. And like Psalm 103 says, that God would not deal with me according to my sin or repay me according to my iniquity. That he would not continue to oppose me even though I’ve been proud. That like a father has compassion on his children, God will turn to me and have compassion on me because he knows my frame and remembers that I am but dust. The thought was almost too much to handle in light of how ugly and heinous my pride is.
I think God loves us so greatly to produce in us a humility that accepts so great a love and doesn’t try to explain it, or earn it, or bargain for it, but just recognizes the unfairness of it all. I am so undeserving.