James the Apostle made one of the strongest appeals in Scripture for us to take our sin seriously (James 4:1-12). He called on believers to ask themselves why they had problems with relationships. He suggested that there is a war going within our lives. We struggle with relationships and create havoc for ourselves and the church.
His answer fits perfectly with Paul’s assessment of the same issue. Paul and James both knew that the heart is deceitful about all things, a deadly poison (Jeremiah 17:9). Jesus had already spoken about the problem of the human heart. “For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come–sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly” (Mark 8:21-22).
James and Paul both spoke of the war within the human heart. Paul noted how the flesh wars against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh (Galatians 5:16-17). James similarly spoke about the war in our flesh because we seek to live with a foot in the world and a foot in the church. James succinctly stated that “whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4). Christian commitment calls for us to submit ourselves fully to God and to humble ourselves before the Lord.
Nothing else will solve the problem of sin.
More than anything else James emphasized the importance of taking sin seriously. These are the things he said: resist the devil, cleanse your hands and purify your heart, turn from sin, and mourn over your rebellion (James 4:7-9).
Some of James’ exhortations are easily misinterpreted. When he called on believers to grieve, mourn, and weep and to substitute mourning for joy, he wasn’t calling for an austere, monastic lifestyle. He simply meant to take your sin seriously. Look at it as God does.
When we look at sin as God does, we will resist the devil and turn from our evil ways. Grieving over sin and turning from our old sins will issue in joy and laughter. Remaining in our sinful ways will rob us of the joy and blessing that God so abundantly supplies.
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