Posted on June 24, 2015
James 4:7-10—The Ten Commandments of James or How To Get Close to God
Most anyone who knows anything about the Bible has heard of the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments are the foundation of the Old Testament Law, a summary of how to be close to a holy Almighty God. The rest of the Law fleshed out those brief commandments and “filled in the blanks.”
Today’s passage in James contains ten commandments too—commandments that also sum up how to draw near to God. James’ letter contains many Greek imperatives (commands), but this passage is especially direct—ten terse tight statements about the actions and attitudes that please our holy God.
Let’s take a look. Get your Bible and read James 4:7-10, then start at the beginning of chapter four and read through the whole chapter to put these four verses in their context. Do you want to be close to God? Here’s the exciting truth: these verses tell you how to get there!
“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Withstand the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, double-minded. Grieve and mourn and weep. Transform your laughter to mourning and your joy to dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will exalt you.” (my translation)
Each of these ten “orders” fits into one of two categories:
1) Understanding who God is.
2) Understanding who I am unless He rescues me.
Here’s a quick cameo of each commandment, to help bring this teaching home.
1. “Submit yourselves to God.” To submit is a military term, meaning to place yourself under the authority of another—just as a soldier becomes subordinate to his commanding officer. That soldier trusts his commander with his life and knows that his very survival depends on immediate, unquestioning obedience. Is that how I obey God? Am I submitted to Him? Or do I have my own ideas about how to do things?
2. “Withstand the devil and he will flee from you.” Take a stand against the evil one. Resist his advances. How? Ephesians 6:11 tells us, “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand…” Read on in Ephesians 6 to see what the armor of God is. Truth. Righteousness. The gospel of peace. Faith. Salvation. The Word of God. Prayer. Have I made these my protective shield, so I can move out fearlessly against satan? Do I understand that when I resist him, he’ll run? Am I prepared to take my stand in the power of the Almighty?
3. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” For most Christians, day after day goes by without any real effort to draw near to God. We talk a good game, but we don’t walk our talk. Then we wonder why He seems far away. Have I made it a priority today to draw near to God? How? Is He waiting for me to make the first move?
4. “Cleanse your hands, sinners.” We were sinners—filthy in the sickening stench of sin. Then He offered to pour over us His righteousness. We accepted, stepped into the waters of baptism, had our sin washed away and His Spirit come to stay. But we still catch ourselves dabbling in the filth, though sin no longer belongs in our lives. What do I need to let go of, if I am to be wholly His? Are my hands stained with remnants of a life left behind? “Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your unfailing love; according to Your great compassion, blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” (Ps. 51:1-2)
5. “Purify your hearts, double-minded.” To purify a substance is to remove all contaminates and bring it to a single, unalloyed state. To have a pure heart, then, is to refuse to be contaminated by any other desire or loyalty. The word double-minded (“two-souled”) is also used in James 1:8 of an unstable man whose doubts keep him from receiving God’s best. If I want to be close to God, am I willing to put aside anything that interferes with or contaminates my relationship with Him? Will I pursue a pure heart?
6. “Grieve.” Be distressed, be afflicted with pain. Do I understand and feel the high cost of my sin? Do I comprehend what God paid to redeem me?
7. “Mourn.” Do I sorrow and ache over the fresh pain God feels every time I desire anything besides Him? Do I get that my choices have the power to cause Him agony?
8. “Weep.” If you’ve seen Middle Easterners in mourning, you know why part of the temple ruins in Jerusalem are called the “wailing wall.” Their expressions of grief are soulful, loud and unabashed. With that picture in mind, have I wailed over my sin? Or do I casually brush past it? Have I sought God’s forgiveness with weeping and received His mercy with tears?
9. “Transform your laughter to mourning and your joy to dejection.” Listen, my friend: There is nothing funny to God about sin. Absolutely nothing. Sin killed His Son. So if you’ve giggled at obscenities or lapped up the latest movie’s immorality, if you’ve gleefully participated in activity that would make you blush should He appear, transform NOW. Repent and change. The word for transform is the source of our word for metamorphosis, like the total transformation from a caterpillar to a butterfly. We need to transform our view of sin. It’s no laughing matter. Do I see sin as the dark world sees it—or as my holy God sees it?
10. “Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will exalt you.” Do I understand the mess I would be, had He not saved me? Am I humbly grateful, fully submitted (there, we’re back to #1!) to His mercy and grace? Am I content to allow Him to lift me up, or am I always trying to exalt myself?
God needs a humble, undivided, pure heart in which to do His best work. Will he find such a heart in me? Will I follow the path of these “ten commandments” to be close to Him?
• Memorize James 4:10, adding it to your treasury of verses from this study. Keep reviewing verses from previous weeks as well. Can you successfully quote James 1:2-3, 12, 17, 22; 2:13, 17, 26; 3:7-8, 17; and 4:7? One of the ways you put on the armor of God, resisting the devil’s schemes, is through the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17). You can do it!
• Pray over James’ Ten Commandments. Choose one or two weak areas on which to concentrate your efforts. Do you want to be close to God? Make it priority.
• Read James 4:11-17. What does verse 17 mean to you? Read back through all of James 4, then read the entire book of James. Keep its teachings simmering in your mind this week! I’ll meet you back here next Wednesday.
© Diane McLoud 2015