We’ve said this before with James and no doubt we will say it again, but so often he demands from us that which we cannot deliver and this makes us go with all the more urgency to the refuge of the Gospel, where Jesus said “It is finished”.
Because, honestly, after reading James 4.1-10 how many of you can say yes, I can resist the devil, yes, I can cleanse my hands from all unrighteousness, yes, I can purify my heart, I can love the Lord with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength in my own power and of my own accord?
How many of you can say yes, I grieve over my sin and I do so because all on my own I realised that it is sin?
In Ezekiel 36 we read of a prophecy for the nation of Israel. We are not the nation of Israel, but we can look at the principle of what is promised and see that, you know what, there is now no Jew or Greek, we are all one in Christ Jesus, so whilst there are specific promises regarding the nation of Israel, in principle, the spiritual promises we can look at as being for us too.
So in Ezekiel 36 we read,
Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
This is the spiritual transformation that we all need, a new heart. James 4.1-10 talks about your heart; what do we need to do with it?
It’s broken, isn’t it, it’s deceitful, it will tell you what you want to hear in order to get what it wants, which is fleshly and all too human. We need restoration, we need fixing, we need a new heart.
To his original readers, James is instructing them to take seriously the truth that this new way of life is deeper than surface level religious acts and you need to change from within. For you and me, going from there to here, we need to take a serious look at ourselves and be honest about our condition, about the condition of our hearts.
The moralistic teaching of this passage would say something like this – You need to work hard to fix the problem of your heart.
A Christ-centred view, however, would say this – You never will, give it to Jesus.