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Wed, Dec 29, 1999

76 - Drawing Near to God

James 4:8-10 by Robert Dean
Series:James (1998)
Duration:1 hr 1 mins 48 secs

Drawing Near to God; James 4:8-10

Reversionism is the problem that James is addressing in this congregation. We have seen it back in 3:13-15 where he described their basic problem as being their mindset.  "Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom." Right there he emphasizes the fact that in the spiritual life it is not simply a matter of thinking, it is to culminate in right character and right action so the end result is transformed living. But it is not transformed living without first transforming the thinking. Whatever values we picked up from our environment from the time of our childhood they did not come out of the Scripture, it was what we had absorbed from the world system around us. That is what the Scripture describes as the cosmic system. It is all of the values, all of the principles, all the priorities that is part of the culture that surrounds us. James in 3:15 gives us three adjectives to describe that cosmic system, that frame of reference that we all have and develop. It is a) earthly, which is opposed to heavenly; b) it is natural [yuxikoj], soulish. This is the unbeliever who lacks a human spirit, and thus a spiritual life, and he is related to human viewpoint thinking; c) demonic. What we don't like to hear is that the human viewpoint thinking that we have that seems to work for us is demonic. From the time of infancy everything that we are developing, because it doesn't come out of the Word of God and is not done under the filling of the Holy Spirit is demonic. It doesn't matter how much it works for us, how happy it makes us, how good it seems, how much it helps other people. It is classified in the Scripture as earthly, natural and demonic. That is the spiritual dimension because it is based on the same basic foundation as Satan's whole thought in the fall that he could make life work on his own apart from God and he didn't need any help or insight from the Lord.

Any happiness that you have that does not come from a relationship with God based on Bible doctrine is a pseudo happiness, and when it is based upon the concept that man can do it on his own it is false and it is demonic. Therefore it is ultimately harmful and destructive. While it may be okay for some people in some arena to try to help people become functional in life that is not our goal as believers to help people be functional. Our goal is to drive them toward spirituality, towards either salvation by understanding the gospel or by moving forward in the spiritual life to grow to spiritual maturity. The problem that James is facing here is this congregation of Jewish Christians who are living in a set of circumstances where they are surrounded by unbelievers and going through some kind of testing, some kind of persecution perhaps from other Jews, and the way they are handling it is on the basis of human viewpoint problem-solving and not on the basis of principles from the Word of God. So they have given themselves over completely to sin nature control of the soul, they have gone into reversionism, and the result is described in chapter four as the complete fragmentation of the congregation and individually.

Now he gives them the solution for recovery, starting in verse 7: "Submit to God"—recognition of authority orientation; "resist the devil and he will flee from you." In this aspect of spiritual warfare the issue is always resistance, taking up a defensive posture.

Acts 5:1 NASB "But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, [2] and kept back {some} of the price for himself, with his wife's full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles' feet." The sin was that he was telling them that he gave it all. He was operating on self-righteousness and he wanted a lot of attention because Barnabas owned  a tract of land and had sold it and brought the proceeds of that land to the church, and they wanted to get just as much attention because they are operating on approbation lust. At this early stage of the church this could create problems so this is a very harsh disciplinary action which is taken. [3] "But Peter said, 'Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back {some} of the price of the land? [4] While it remained {unsold,} did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.'" The words "why has Satan filled your heart" does not mean that Satan himself is indwelling Ananias. Ananias is a believer. Satan has somehow put ideas into his mind. The sin nature can also be the source when this happens to a believer, and so can the third source, the cosmic system. It doesn't matter where the thought is coming from. What is Ananias's solution? Positive volition, apply doctrine, and decide not to lie. It doesn't matter where the source of that thought came from the cosmic system, from the sin nature or from Satan, the solution is the same: apply doctrine. This is the means by which we resist the devil. We are to take a stand on the Word and just stand in the fortress that God has provided for us. We always resist the devil by submitting to the authority of God's Word and/or Bible doctrine.  

James 4:8 NASB "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded." Two sentences that are connected. The fist describes the general activity and the second describes the mechanics of how that takes place. "Draw near to God." The Greek word here in the imperative is EGGIZO [e)ggizw], and it means to draw near, to approach, to come close to. Here it has the ingressive sense of beginning an action. All of these aorist tenses have an ingressive sense because they are out of fellowship. They are in extreme carnality, are in reversionism, and hat they need to do is recover, so they need to begin this whole process. They need to begin doing these things because they have not been doing them. They have come under overt persecution from the non-Jews in the community, and maybe to some degree from other Gentiles, and their response has been to solve the problem through seeking favouritism. The norms and standards that were governing their souls and the problem-solving devices and techniques they were using had their source in the cosmic system and the sin nature. Man is always trying to solve his problems apart from exclusive reliance upon the grace of God. The result of trying to solve their problems on their own was operation from the sin nature. This is nothing but arrogance and we see that the arrogance skills start of with self-absorption, move toward self-indulgence, self-justification, and then self-deception. We can move from self-absorption to self-deception in a matter of seconds, and this can become cyclical so that we go deeper and deeper not arrogance and development of all of our arrogance skills.

There are only two options and the Bible represents these as complete, you are either one or the other: a friend of God or friend of the world; either antagonistic to God or antagonistic to the cosmic system. You can't compromise. People say, Well that is so extreme, you need to just kind of balance that. How do you balance truth with error? What it is, is that people don't want to have a view of life that is so abrasive to those around them because that is exactly what divine viewpoint is to the pagan human viewpoint mindset.

The doctrine of adversity and stress

1)  There are two kinds of pressures in life, adversity and stress. Adversity is the inevitable outside daily pressure of life that seeks to attack and penetrate the soul—all of the negative circumstances that we face in life—whereas stress is the optional inside pressure. Stress is the result of what you do to yourself when you face outside adversity.

2)  Adversity has four categories: a) suffering by association. This is suffering in relationship to living in the fallen cosmic system; b) because we are living in relationship to someone in a divine institution that is operating on cosmic standards or carnal standards, and because of the consequences that that brings we, too, suffer; c) suffering from volitional responsibility. That means that you make bad decisions and you suffer the consequences. Galatians 6:7; Hosea 8:7; suffering for blessing. That is when God brings suffering into your life as a believer. It may originate as suffering by association or suffering under the law of volitional responsibility but then because you are in fellowship you can handle it through doctrine and it becomes suffering for blessing to accelerate spiritual growth.

3)  Adversity is what the outside circumstances of life do to you; stress is what you do to yourself.

4)  Adversity is inevitable; stress is optional, it depends on your volition, and it is the result of your failure to utilize God's stress-busters to solve your problems.

5)  Stress in the soul always results in sin nature control of your life. Whenever you face a circumstance, and adversity, and you decide to handle it on your own resources, that means that at that moment you have gone negative to God and God's grace, and the sin nature takes over control and you are operating on arrogance and the arrogance principle. So stress is tantamount to sin nature control of the life and causes carnality, reversionism, moral and immoral degeneracy, and destroys your capacity for life, love and happiness.   

6)  Stress perpetuated in the soul means a failure to glorify God and therefore spiritual failure and collapse.

7)  The only solution is the divine solution. 2 Corinthians 12:9 NASB "And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me."

"Draw near to God." What does this mean? Matthew 15:8, where Jesus is quoting Isaiah NASB "THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME." "Far away" is the opposite "of draw near." What causes them to be far away? They are operating on a false interpretation of doctrine. It has nothing to do with experience, it has to do with the fact that they have distorted the doctrinal teaching of Scripture. They have twisted it so that they have made it invalid. So moving away from God has to do with disobedience to God's Word.

Hebrews 7 deals with the superiority of the priesthood we have in Jesus Christ compared with the Levitical priesthood. So each one of us at the point of salvation was appointed a royal priest unto God, which means we have immediate access to God in prayer. Remember, the role of a priest was to enable people to come to God in prayer and to have a relationship with God. He was the mediator, the intermediary between man and God, and men went to God through a priest. The priest's job was not to interpret the Word of God to people, that was the role of the prophet. So the context of Hebrews chapter seven talks about priesthood which has to do with coming into the presence of God. Hebrews 7:19 NASB "(for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God." Drawing near to God is related to the procedure and mandates of the Word of God.

Exodus 3:5 NASB "Then He said, 'Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.'" The situation here is the call of Moses when God speaks to him in Horeb at the Mountain of God from the bush that was burning, yet was no consumed. In the Septuagint the words "Do not come near" is the same Greek word EGGIZO that we find in James. Coming near to God  now is going to be related to two aspects of God's character: His perfect righteousness and His justice. We cannot draw near to God if we are minus R [R], if there is sin in the life, because sin violates the character of God and the removal of Moses' sandals represents his recognition of who God is and the removal of sin in the life. [6] "He said also, 'I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God." The whole context here is focusing on the perfect righteousness of God.

Leviticus 10:3 NASB "Then Moses said to Aaron, 'It is what the LORD spoke, saying, 'By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, And before all the people I will be honored.' So Aaron, therefore, kept silent." This is talking about the priesthood and Moses' instructions to Aaron the high priest. The context is the rebellion of Adab and Abihu. [4] "Then Moses said to Aaron, "It is what the LORD spoke, saying, 'By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, And before all the people I will be honored.'" So Aaron, therefore, kept silent." So the issue again is coming near to God and it has to do with His holiness.

When a believer sins (going back to James) we are far away from God. We are not obeying Scripture, we are operating on false traditions. That is comparable to cosmic thinking. The only way to return to God is the cleansing that takes place as a result of confession. "Draw near to God" is in the dative of reference in the Greek, which indicates with reference to God. But what about God? With reference to His character. So it comes down to character and absolutes, and when we are out of fellowship an operating on the sin nature we cannot draw near to God. The general command here is to draw near to God, and what? He will draw near to you. This pictures fellowship. Fellowship can occur only if there is +R and +R. So if there is sin in the life of the believer that has to be dealt with.

This is then described in the next phrase: "Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded." Except that that is not what it says in the Greek. In the Greek there are no second person plural pronouns. We have to supply them in English so it makes a little sense because obviously the command is a second person plural. It is very precise, it is simply, "Cleanse hands, sinners; and purify hearts, double-minded." This takes us back once again to Old Testament imagery. In the Old Testament, when you entered into the temple or the tabernacle the priest first of all had to go in and offer a sacrifice at the brazen altar. This signified salvation. Then he came to the laver where he had to wash his hands and his feet, signifying confession of sin—hands, what you do; feet, where you go. So that is what washing the hands symbolizes. Cleansing your hands is the Greek KATHAROS [kaqaroj], KATHARIZO [kaqarizw]is the verb form. I John 1:9 is the picture here, and that is the first part of the solution.

There are two aspects of drawing near to God. The first has to do with confession, God's grace recovery procedure where we admit or acknowledge our sins to God and we are cleansed from all unrighteousness. Cleansing is related to the noun HAMARTOLOI [a(martoloi], the vocative for sinners. Then we have the next phrase which is from  the Greek word HAGNIZO [a(gnizw], aorist active imperative, which relates to purification and is often used in the Old Testament as a synonym for KATHARIZO, but it is used in the New Testament as going beyond KATHARIZO. It is not simply a matter of confessing your sins, it is a matter next of purifying your heart, the KARDIA [kardia], the innermost thinking part of the mentality of the soul. 1 Peter 1:22 NASB "Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart." Peter is not talking there about salvation, he is talking about spiritual growth. There he is using the word HAGNIZO to refer to a process that goes beyond confession, and that is to exchange the human viewpoint ideas that have dominated the inner part of your thinking from birth for divine viewpoint. You have to purify your minds. How do you do that? Notice there he calls them double-mind, and that is the word we saw back in James chapter one. They have one foot in the world and one of doctrine and they are trying to do both. It can't be done. A little bit of human viewpoint mixed in with doctrine destroys the whole thing. It is either all doctrine or nothing. 

James 4:9 NASB "Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom." James is not talking about some kind of emotional remorse over sin; that is not what is going on here. Just as with the other verses we look to the second half to explain the dynamic of the first half. When we get into reversionism mankind thinks it can find happiness apart from God. They go on the frantic search for happiness and they come up with all kinds of ways that they can find meaning and purpose and definition of life, happiness and joy apart from God. What James is saying is let all those things that you think are going to bring meaning and happiness to your life fall apart so that you will be absolutely miserable. It is a call for divine discipline so that you will realize that your life is empty, you cannot make life work apart from God. James wants them to feel the impact of their autonomous activities and their independent thinking and that life apart from God ultimately ends up in misery and unhappiness and self-destruction.

Then he concludes: James 4:10 NASB "Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you." He uses the phrase that mirrors the initial command of verse 7. In verse 7 it was "Submit to God"; in verse 10 it is the same thing. Humbling yourself to the Lord is submission to His authority. It is authority orientation. The only way that can be done is to learn His Word and know exactly what His will is in our lives. That means we have to submit to the teaching of God's Word. We have to learn the Word of God and to think, not just in bits and pieces—which is what you get if you show up Sunday morning now and then—but consistently. We have to renovate our minds, remove everything that was there; it is a major project. Anything less than that is just playing games with God, so we have to submit completely to His authority and it is only then that we start seeing that renovation take place.