In his second letter, Peter writes, “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and brotherly kindness love.” For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5-11 NKJV).
Peter writes that we need to make our calling and election sure; in other words, we need to know that our salvation is genuine. It’s one thing to say you are a Christian, but your lifestyle better proves it. This is why Paul writes against being a “carnal Christian,” he demands that true Christians walk holy before the Lord. In our day, salvation has been watered down to simply praying a prayer; as long as you say you are Christian, who can question that? Jesus said that we would know people by their fruits, and if your life doesn’t have the fruit of salvation, chances are, you are not saved.
Let’s look at the words of Jesus in the full context, this is a long passage, but it sets up our next portion of our James study.
Matthew 7:13-23 NKJV “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and few find it. “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits, you will know them. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”
Jesus says that there will be those that claim to know Him, yet, He will say depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness. Other translations say you workers of iniquity. I am starting with this today because of one word in our text. James 7:8 says, “cleanse your hands, you sinners.” Throughout the New Testament, Christians are referred to as saints, even in Corinth, where Paul rebuked people for many sinful practices. James uses the word sinners here, which means he is issuing a call to salvation for people who are not genuinely saved. For those of us who are saved, the things James mentions can be indicators of our spiritual progress, just like the things listed in Peter’s second letter.
James 4:7-10 NKJV “Therefore submit 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. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you.”
The call to salvation and the evidence of genuine salvation is clearly outlined in these four verses. While the call to salvation is not written in a step-by-step order, it is nonetheless there. First, we must submit to God and resist the devil. The fact is, we are not submitted to God if we are not resisting the devil. To resist the devil means to stand against him, to oppose him. If we are not opposed to our old ways of living, we are not truly submitted to God. Yes, that submission grows over time; there may be things you continue doing in the weeks after salvation, that after reading the Bible and attending church, you realize are sin, so you stop. That is growth in knowledge and sanctification, and that is to be expected. None of us know everything the moment we are born again, but if you continue in the same sins years later, you need to examine yourself.
When you submit to God and resist the devil, that is the initial step in going from darkness to light. To continue growing, we must draw near to God; we must have fellowship with Him. We draw near to God through prayer, Bible reading and study, fellowship with other believers, and going to church. If you have been a Christian for years and have never had a desire to read the Bible, that may be an indication you are not saved. The Bible is a Christians’ spiritual food; if you’re not hungry, you’re not living. It grieves my heart when I hear believers say the Bible is boring. It grieves my heart even more when preachers, in an attempt to be relatable, talk about the Bible being boring from the pulpit. We have so many translations, tools, study guides, and books that there is no way a Christian in America today cannot find help in understanding difficult passages in the Bible. The Word of God is alive and active. The Word of God is profitable for direction and correction. When we meditate on the Word day and night, we will have success. And those are just a few truths from Hebrews 4:12, 2Timothy 3:16-17, and Joshua 1:8. If you don’t desire to read the Bible, if you don’t pray, these are signs at a minimum that your growth is lacking. So how do you develop a habit of Bible reading and prayer? You simply do it. The more you read and pray, the more you will want to. Just as a child’s appetite grows over time, so too will a new Christian’s spiritual appetite.
Purify your hearts, you double-minded. Here again, James brings up being double-minded. We know from chapter one that a double-minded man will not receive from God. Now James is saying purify your hearts, you double-minded. Proverbs says, and Jesus reiterated that everything flows from the heart. A double-minded man claims one thing but lives another. True Christians will purify their hearts; like David, they will say search me and see if there be any wicked way in me. As Christians, we must continually examine our hearts and make sure we are living right before God.
James closes out this section by saying, lament, mourn, and weep. Let the good times stop. Let the laughter stop. It’s time to be sorrowful over your sin. Not sorry that we got caught, but repentant that we have offended a holy God. Weeping signifies being broken over our sins, to have the gravity of our sin weigh heavily upon us.
There is much preaching about not feeling bad about sin because God’s love takes care of it. That’s only partially true. God’s love only takes care of sin if we repent. And we should feel guilty about our sin because it’s a sin. The day a Christian isn’t bothered by their sin is the day you have gone so far from God; you have hardened your heart to the point that you cannot feel conviction, and that is a dangerous place to be. That is why James says, humble yourselves. You don’t want to get to the point where God has to humble you; you want to humble yourself. Realize your sin, repent of it, and let God lift you up.
How is your walk with God? Are you submitted to Him? Are you in His Word? Have you cut off your old way of life? Take some time and examine your heart, your thoughts, and your actions. Is there anything you need to repent of? Do you need to dedicate yourself afresh to time in the Word and prayer? Do you need to surrender to the Lordship of Jesus for the first time? If so, repent of your sin, tell the Lord you are done with your old life, declare that Jesus is Lord, and submit to Him. Then, start reading your Bible and find a church to go to or return to the one you used to attend. This Christian life is the life of the narrow path, but there is joy and peace on that path. Walk it faithfully, with the help of the Holy Spirit.