As we have witnessed throughout the epistle of James, the theme is a contrast between real, saving faith and false faith, between a profession of faith and possession of faith. If nothing else, James wants to make clear that real faith changes the very DNA of a person. It is not something you can put on and take off when the mood hits. It alters us once and forever.
Last week, we saw how James pointed to the existence of overbearing, selfish desires as evidence of a false faith. We saw how fights and quarrels are an outward sign of hidden pride. Does this mean Christians never fight or quarrel? Of course not, but it does mean that if we are a divisive, quarrelsome person, we need to examine ourselves carefully.
This week, James points to the cure for a prideful spirit. It is humility. The kind of humility James describes is not a false humility rooted in false faith; it is true humility rooted in a full realization of who God is and of our own sinfulness.
James uses Old Testament pictures to describe the cleansing of the hands and the purifying of the heart, which are rituals a priest would have performed before entering in to the holy presence of the Lord. How do we find such humility? It comes from fully submitting ourselves to the Lord. We are His creatures, his creation, and yet He sent His one and only Son to be a ransom for many.
Submissiveness and humility are not necessarily honorable descriptions of a person in our culture today. These words would likely be associated with weakness and even shame. Yet, like many examples, true biblical humility is one of the clearest pictures of Christ in our lives today. Biblical humility is both bold and humble, strong, yet submissive to the tender leading of the Lord. Instead of feeling shame when entering the presence of the Lord, humility gives us confidence, not in ourselves, but in the finished work of Christ. Perhaps Charles Spurgeon describes it best:
Humility is not at all inconsistent with believing that we are saved, nor with the fullest assurance of faith, nay, not at all inconsistent with the nearest familiarity with God. Listen to Abraham: “I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, I that am but dust and ashes.” He has drawn very near to the Lord, and speaks with him as a man speaketh with his friend, and yet he says “I am but dust and ashes.” His boldness did not destroy his humbleness, nor his sense of nothingness hinder his near approach to the Lord. My dear brethren, we know that in Christ we are accepted, we know that we are dear to God and loved with an everlasting love, we know that he hears our prayers and answers us continually, we know that we walk in the light of his countenance; but still our posture should always be that of deep humiliation before the Lord, and in the attitude of complete submission we should sit at the Master’s feet and say, “By the grace of God I am what I am.” May the Holy Spirit work this gracious submission in every regenerated soul.
This Week’s Core Virtue
Peace Humility (Philippians 2:3-4): I choose to esteem others above myself.
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