Monday in the Fourth Week of Ordinary Time

James 4:8-10

Humble Yourselves before the Lord

We live in an age when people want to be uplifted, where a sermon is judged on how good it makes people feel about themselves, where the music is supposed to be upbeat, many “worship services” imitating rock concerts.  Churches look not to Scripture but to the culture for how to organize themselves, their worship services, and their buildings, looking to the culture to tell them how to be and do church.  The rationale is that it does not matter how we package things as long as the gospel is preached.  The fallacy here is that packaging does not impact the message, that the message can be separated from packaging.  This is ridiculous!  There is some truth in the saying, “The medium is the message.”  And any scientist will tell you that the way an experiment is conceived and constructed will have a direct impact on the results of that experiment.

The words of James are in direct opposition to our culture of “feel good” worship and preaching.  There is no way that James’ sermon would fly in most evangelical churches today: “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.”  What?  Be not happy and gay?  I sense that James had read the prophets who painstakingly warned the people with coming judgment if they did not change their ways.  Oh, there was always the word of forgiveness and grace, but that word was predicated upon the people’s repentance.  Where there was no repentance, there was judgment—and in horrific forms including the sword, famine, and death.  I suppose living in America makes us foolishly think that we are immune such trials.  But let us never forget, it is eternal death that is the real punishment.

James calls for purity and single-mindedness.  God will not allow us to have our sins and Him, as well.  He comes to save us from our sins, not in them.  So, He calls us to take up the cross, deny ourselves, and follow Him (Luke 9:23).  But this requires humility, the humility it takes to confess our sins, not in some off-handed way, but with tears and groaning.  “But I’ve been saved,” you retort.  “My sins are forgiven past, present, and future!”  Yes, and such a response though true manifests your lack of seriousness concerning discipleship.  “Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will exalt you.”  We are to let Him exalt us upon mourning and weeping, not to exalt ourselves with feel-good platitudes that circumvent daily repentance and cross-bearing.  Preach it, James.  We so need to hear it again.

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

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