Perhaps I made grace sound cheap with the final thought of my last blog: “This,” I wrote, “is Gospel: simply a humble confession from my heart that signals my desire to turn from sin is enough for God to pour in his always-greater grace.” Just so there’s no misunderstanding, here’s a classic quote from German pastor and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer to which I say a hearty AMEN! And which I hope clarifies I’m not for cheap grace.
Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.
Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy for which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.”
Hopefully with a clearer understanding of grace, we turn to James 4:7-10 where James delivers several strong imperatives . . .
So then, submit yourselves to God (4:7a, TEV).
” . . . then” connects this imperative to what preceded: “But the grace that God gives is even greater. As the scripture says, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (4:6, ESV). In other words, since God gives grace to the humble, “submit yourselves to God.” The Greek verb is often used of submission to human authority. James, then, is urging his readers to humbly submit themselves to the authority of God who opposes the proud but gives grace (“generous, active, effective help far beyond anything we deserve or have right to expect”–Adamson, The Epistle of James) to the humble.
God’s grace is for the one who humbly submits to him. Muslims (“those who surrender or submit”) may understand that better than Western Christians who re-made God into a cosmic-helper! He is that, but only to those who bow and kneel.
Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (4:7b, TEV).
This world is the devil’s realm (“the whole world lies in the power of the evil one”—1 John 5:19, ESV). Pride is one of his primary projects. We are“lured and enticed by our own desire” (James 1:14, ESV); but the devil stands in the bleachers cheering us on.
Come near to God and he will come near to you (4:8a, TEV).
Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded (4:8b, TEV).
James calls these Jewish Christians “sinners” because they’re “double-minded.” While drawing near to God they’re living like “friends of the world.” “Wash your hands” and “purify your hearts” calls for repentance and moral purity in act and attitude.
Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom (4:9, TEV).
Paul’s letter to the Corinthians offers the best commentary on James , , ,
Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it– I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while–yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern . . . (2 Corinthians 7:8-11v, ESV).
(Confession: my sin-concession to God often becomes emotionless, as if I’m admitting a spelling error. “O God, surely there are sins my heart should break over! Break me then. Guard me from receiving your grace cheaply.”)
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up (4:10, TEV).
James returns to his theme that threads through this segment. Put aside “bitter jealousy and selfish ambition” (3:14, ESV). Stop fighting and quarreling and coveting and praying to gratify your own passions. Cut off friendship with the world (4:1-4). “Lower yourselves before the Lord” like a proud mountain peak bowing at the command of His Majesty.
The imperative comes with a promise: ” . . . and he will exalt you.”
Once, invited to a feast, Jesus noticed how many guests chose seats of honor. He told them a pointed parable . . .
God opposes the proud,
but gives grace to the humble.
(James 4:6, ESV)
Humble yourselves, then, under God’s mighty hand,
so that he will lift you up in his own good time.
(1 Peter 5:6, TEV)