Merry Christmas

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From our family to yours Merry Christmas.  May God bless you and keep you.  May you experience the grace of God in your life, whether it be for the first time or new every morning.

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Repentance Pt.II (James 4:8b)

The second aspect of repentance that James highlights for his readers is found in his command to “purify your hearts, you double-minded.” What we see here is that repentance is not only an outward change in our actions, but it is also an inward purification of the heart. James is calling his readers to a radical repentance that devotes the entire person – both inward and outward man – to God and His authority in this world. The truly repentant person will have clean hands that are busy with righteous deeds, and his pure heart will be consumed with devotion to God.

In Matthew 15:19 Jesus taught on the importance of the heart, and the motivations for our actions. “

Out of the heart,” Jesus said, “come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.”

This is vital for the Christian life; it is not only what we do but the motivation for why we do it. If we simply do good works, and make oursleves look like Christians without any change in our heart then we are fooling ourselves and living like the double-minded man. The true believer will be motivated by a wholehearted devotion to God, and this desire for God will result in righteous living. This is why purification of the heart was so desperately needed in the lives of the double-minded.

The double-minded are those who outwardly claim to be Christians but inwardly are driven and tossed by the wind (1:5-8). The people to whom James was addressing this section were the double-minded. They hung around the Church, claiming to be Christians, but they preferred friendship with the world. They enjoyed talking about, pursuing, and desiring the lust of this earth. And their hearts were consumed with these lusts. Even though they outwardly associated themselves with Christ, inwardly there were in desperate need of purification. It is my prayer that this description does not apply to you. But if it does, James makes it clear, that through God’s grace repentance is possible.

Repentance (James 4:8b)

In the second part of v.8 James continues with the theme of repentance. In this verse we learn the true nature of repentance. It begins with an inward change of the heart, and it results in an outward change in behavior. We are to repent and draw near to God, and to do this we must cleanse our hands and purify our hearts. We will look at the first of these today (and hopefully the second tomorrow).
First, James says that we must wash our hands; we must do this because we are sinners. Similar analogies of washing hands are used in several places in the OT. In Isaiah 1:15-16 the Lord warned the unrepentant people of Judah,

When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; yes even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood. Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil.”

In Psalm 18:20 David refered to his righteousness as the “cleaness of [his] hands.” Based on these references we can see that the hands represent our actions, and the level of cleanliness represents our righteousness. This means that, according to James, we must have a life that is righteous (or clean hands) in order to repent and draw near to God. This is a serious problem! It is the stain of sin, a stain that we all bear, that makes our hands dirty and prevents us from approaching God. There is nothing that we can do to wash clean this stain of sin. Thankfully God has provided a divine cleansing to all who will humble themselves and submit to Him. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

James’ command to cleanse our sinful hands is a command to humbly submit to God’s gracious and miraculous cleansing of sin; a cleansing that can come only through the blood of Christ. Unfortunately the people to whom James was addressing this section had not done this. It is important that we learn from their mistake. If we want to postition our lives in such a way so as to receive grace we must not only repent unto salvation, but those of us who are Christians must also live a life of repentance.

Draw Near to God (James 4:8)

Last week was a slow week for blogging. I had several things pulling me in several directions. But today I want to get back to business. We have not been in James for a while, and it is time to continue our study. With the Christmas, the celebration of the incarnate Son, coming up James 4:8 is especially important. In vv. 7-10 James gives 10 commands that are all centered around repentance. Here in 4:8a James’ command is to draw near to God. Draw Near to God and He will Draw Near to You…

As we follow James’ thought process from the previous command to this command we see that we are to resist the devil and the entire demonic world-system that he represents, and replace it with devotion to God. In other words, James commanded his readers to do the exact opposite of what they were doing. In v. 4 we saw that there was a group among his readers who desired the things of this world above God. By this attitude these people set themselves up as God’s enemies. Here in v. 8 the command is to draw near to God. If we can pull ourselves away from devotion to this world and draw near to God then He will draw near to us. 

 The advantages of drawing near to God, rather than being His enemy, should be clear to us. Surley any reasonable person would rather be God’s friend than His enemy! The question is, how do we draw near to God? From Scripture it is clear that before we can draw near to God God must do a work in our lives. This is precisely what Jesus meant in John 6:44 when he said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day.” Truly it is only by God’s grace that we can draw near to Him; but do not think that we have no responsibility in drawing near to God. God’s grace will result in outward actions that will match our calling, and must be done in order to draw near to God. Scripture calls these actions that result from God’s grace repentance. 2 Timothy 2:25-26 teaches this very truth when it says, “… if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive to him to do his will.” From this we see that in order to “draw near to God” and “resist the devil” we need the grace of God that leads to repentance. A repentance that is primarily a change. It is a change in authority in your life. When you repent you are admitting that your way (authority) is deficient, and God’s way (authority) is superior. By doing this your are humbling yourself before God (v. 10), and you are submitting to Him (v. 7). Repentance must involve these two elements of humility and submission.

To answer the question how do we draw near to God, it is through grace that we submit to God and humble ourselves before Him. When we do this we can be assured that God will draw near to us. Do not forget, “God jealously desires the spirit which He has made to dwell in us (v. 5).”

Excused Absence

You will have to excuse my absence this week from the blog.  Along with the normal weekly duties I have been trying to get my new computer set up.  Additionally, I had to do my civic duty and go in for jury duty.  I don’t have much time today so let me give you the quote of the day from a prospective jury member.

“I can’t judge the actions of another person; I don’t have no right to judge anyone. But I don’t think that will make any difference in how in my decision on this case. I can be fair.”

Football Friday

After a long week my mind is tired, and I only have the time and energy for a quick sports post.  As the debate over the BCS rages on, here are some of my thoughts: 

For all of you who are unhappy about the BCS this year I can sympathize. However I have a hard time with those who say that UF does not deserve a shot to play for the title. When you look at what they did this year you have to admit, without taking anything away from Michigan, that they derserve a shot .

The talk now is of a playoff, which I would love to see. I personally would love to see a 4 team playoff. That way, by limiting the teams that make it to the playoff, the regular season is still just as important as it is now. To me this preserves something great about NCAA football; the enormous impact that every single game has. But as I thought about it the truth of the matter is that we already had a four team playoff this year. Look at the top 4 teams:

  1. OSU
  2. UF
  3. UM
  4. LSU

These four teams had their playoff this year. OSU won their bracket beating UM, and UF won their bracket beating LSU. This, and the fact that I am a huge UF fan, is why I am satisfied with the two teams that are playing for it all this year.

Dec. 7th- A Day of Infamy

I hope that you never forget the sacrifices that were made on this day 65 years ago.  There are many who cannot forget. 

This is an edited form of a post orginally posted this day last year, and it still applies today:

65 years ago today the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii was attacked by nearly 200 Japanese aircraft in a raid that lasted just over one hour and left nearly 3,000 dead. Many of us will go through our today without thinking about the significance of Dec 7th. But to many this day will never be forgotten. To those who were there, to those who lost a loved one there, and to those who never had the opportunity to meet a loved lost there Dec 7th will never be forgotten. My Great Grandfather, Grandaddy, was not there, but he will always remind me of the importance of this date. It was this one act that took a reluctantly involved Nation and pushed it into WWII. From this date forward we were no longer friends of the allies, we were the allies. Grandaddy was not there, but he was at Normandy. And after Normandy he signed up again and went to the Pacific front. Grandaddy knew what was right, and he fought for it. He was not at Pearl Harbor but it changed the course of his entire life. Don’t just let today go by. Remember all that God has done for us, particularly today remember all that God has done for us through the military. Remember the men and women who had the courage to face an awesome evil and defeat it. Let the great sacrifices of those before us remind you of what U.S. forces are currently doing.  They are facing an awesome evil, and all they want is to defeat it.