The Decision to Surrender
James 4.4–10 NIV
“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”
Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
Well this is it! The last decision in our series, “Six Decisions That Will Change Your Life.” Our decisions have been to follow, for a new life, to mature, to respond and to persevere. Today…the decision to surrender.
And so I’ll cut to the chase. Give up. Throw your hands up. Lay down your weapons. Stop striving after the wind. Stop being torn in two. Quit choosing to live in the tension, that hanging on to “the world” and hanging on to God creates. It will not work. We live divided lives because we have divided loyalties.
Loyalty to the world and loyalty to God are completely different. In the secular world, diversity, variety, and a buffet of choices are encouraged, accepted and even expected. There is no commitment to one way, only a commitment to do as you please. And a life such as this leads to the desire to fill ourselves up on the many appetites that present themselves to us. So, we give in to so many different feelings, impulses, thoughts, actions and pleasures. The bottom line of this scenario is that we end up being loyal to ourselves and our desires.
But with God, loyalty looks different. God is seeking loyalty to Him and Him alone. It is not about diversity, variety, or any kind of buffet of choices. It comes down to surrendering our choices for one choice—the choice to trust God and God alone.
As Christians we believe there is only one life-changing, soul-saving choice. That choice is to put our trust in God because we understand that we are sinners in need of grace. We surrender and submit to this reality because God is the only One who can forgive us and heal us. There is NOTHING the world has to offer our sinfulness except the ability to deepen it. With this, we then see that we have only one real choice and that is the choice to surrender to the God who loves us and seeks to save us, especially to save us from destruction and death.
In v.5, James uses an image that comes from the Old Testament; the image of God as a jealous God. The word here translated “jealousy” isn’t the petty, envious kind that we so often experience in our brokenness. The meaning behind this statement is that God has totally committed Himself to us and us alone and is calling us to that same fidelity—to an unwavering commitment to Him. He repeatedly calls Himself a husband and us His bride.
The prophets of the OT constantly accuse God’s people of prostituting themselves out to the world, taking on many lovers (i.e., relationships with worldly things) instead of remaining committed to God. This is the source of God’s jealousy for us, the longing for God’s beloved to love Him as He loves His beloved.
And James in our Scripture today gives us a constant reminder of how to be loyal to God and surrender ourselves. In an encouraging word that almost has a worshipful, prayer-like mantra for us to use in order to keep our hearts aligned to God he says, “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
If we will repent, turning away from our worldly lovers, and surrender to an all-fulfilling relationship with God, we will have all we need. This means that we must be committed, faithful to the God who is infinitely faithful to us.
To close, look to this scripture. In the sermon on the mount from Matthew 5, Jesus says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5.8). In its original language, the statement “pure in heart” means “single focus.” For to have our hearts singly focused upon God is to open up the relationship for us to fully embrace Him, just as He embraces us. A pure heart is focused and undivided. It knows where it’s loyalty lies.
Where is your loyalty? Will you take on many relationships with the world or will you take on the monogamous, focused, pure relationship with God? Today we can make the decision to surrender, to submit to the God who can save us and heal us. Let us do it so that we may see God and be blessed. Amen.