The Haughty Worshiper
The arrogant worshiper is a self-made man. He reviews himself, likes what he sees, and gives himself a pat on the back for setting higher goals, choosing the narrow road, working harder, taking advantage of opportunities, making something of himself, and being exceptional.
The arrogant worshiper is also a self-righteous man. He looks into the mirror of God’s Law and imagines he is a cut above. Now, of course, he must play games with the Law of God to come to such a conclusion.
1. He must compare himself to man-made, extra-biblical rules added by himself or others. This provides him some laws he can keep.
2. He must compare himself to select ordinances found in God’s Word. By majoring on some and ignoring others, he is able to add to his righteous resume.
3. He must focus on external obedience and forgo assessing his internal affections and emotions. This allows him to claim to be righteous when he calls “obeys” despite what he wants to do.
4. He must compare himself to sinful neighbors and not compare himself to Jesus Christ — the perfect standard. In this way, he can always claim his maturation and superiority.
5. He must totally forget the clear teaching of Jesus and James regarding God’s grading scale, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.” (James 2:10)
It is then, and only then, after diluting God’s Law, that he can consider himself better than those compromising, fickle, faithless, double-minded, and luke-warm worshipers.
It is also then that he can go to church and pray the prayer, “Oh God, I am so thankful I am no longer like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.” (Luke 18:11)
He is self-made; he is self-righteous; he is self-deceived. He is proud, and God opposes pride.
The Humble Worshiper
Now contrast the attitude of the arrogant, pharisaical worshiper with that encouraged by James:
But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:6-10)
James is writing to believers. He is writing to blood-bought Christians who have been entirely and irrevocably graced by Jesus Christ with atonement, regeneration, justification, union, adoption, sanctification, preservation, and glorification.
The humble worshiper longs for “more grace.”
The humble worshiper understands God “gives grace to the humble.”
The humble worshiper “submits to God” that he might “resist the devil” and send him running.
The humble worshiper “draws near” to God, that God might draw even nearer and bless with even more grace.
The humble does not “claim he is without sin.” Instead, though being eternally graced with Christ’s atonement and forgiveness, though being a saint, he sees himself as a “sinner,”and he does not recoil when James calls him “double-minded.” He then engages in heartfelt confession. He “cleanses his hands … and purifies his heart.” And for a brief but serious time, he is “wretched, mournful, and gloomy” over his sin. Why does he do so? It is because he has a new heart given him by the Holy Spirit, and with such he is learning to loath Satan and sin. With increasing passion he wants to practice holiness. Desperate he is to love, think, talk, and walk like Jesus. At this point, heavy confession and passionate supplication are intermixed. But then he smiles.
The humble worshiper, he who “humbled himself before the Lord,” finds the Lord “exalting him.” The Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit, and all his Gospel-believing friends remind him …
He has been eternally loved and chosen by God to receive grace.
He has been immutably chosen by a gracious God who never changes his mind.
He has been perfectly covered by the substitutionary obedience and condemnation of Jesus.
He has been internally affected by the Holy Spirit. He believes, repents, and loves differently because of God.
He has been perfectly declared just, holy, blameless, pure, and saintly because he has received Jesus’ merit.
He has no fear of divine retribution; Jesus has received such on his behalf. The Father’s wrath is turned away.
He has been indwelt, inhabited, or possessed by the Holy Spirit. God dwells and communes within him.
He has been adopted into God’s family, and as God’s son, he is entitled to all family benefits and inheritances.
He has power to say “no” to sin. According to the power of the Spirit who lives within, he finds it delightful to practice the sainthood he has received.
He never has to fear falling away. He has a desire to persevere, but even more importantly God has a desire to preserve.
He will one day see Jesus, the new heavens and earth, a host of redeemed loved-ones, and his own new body. And never again will he see Satan, sinners, sin, and its horrid consequences.
Therefore, the humble worshipers, while having his moment of being wretched, mourning, and weeping, after spending a setons letting his laughter be turned into mourning and his joy into gloom, cannot help but smile, look up, laugh, relax, rest, and dance. He has been humbled by the Law. He has been humbled by his sin. He has been humbled by his God. He has been humbled by the Gospel, and now he is being exalted.