Consider Your Ways
James 4:7-8 – Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; purify your hearts, ye double-minded.
Whenever I would get into some type of trouble as a child, after a thorough scolding, my mom would sit me somewhere all by myself and tell me, “Now, you just sit there for a while and consider your behavior.” Today we call it having a time-out. In Haggai 1:18, God twice speaks to his children, telling them, “Consider your ways.” God wanted them to take time to consider their behavior in hopes that they would change their ways. The people had let their priorities get confused and had become distracted with doing their own thing rather than doing what God had commanded them to do. As a result, God’s blessing was withheld because they no longer put him in first place. I can’t help but feel like we’re being put in a time-out today as well, in order to consider our ways. If that’s the case, then we need to seriously consider them, or we could find ourselves sitting in time-out for quite a while.
Speaking of being scolded, it seems to me as if that’s just what James is doing when telling us, “Cleanse your hands, ye sinners and purify your hearts, ye double-minded.” As I thought about this, I began to notice some interesting parallels between scripture and our present-day situation. For instance, uncleanliness is what started this nasty virus in the first place, and washing our hands is the number one means of preventing ourselves from being contaminated by it. In II Corinthians 6:17, God tells us, “Come out from among them and be separate and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.” Ironically, separating ourselves and being careful about what we touch is another means of preventing ourselves from being contaminated by this virus. When God says to “touch not their unclean things,” he is referring to our participating in things in the world that don’t reflect his holiness. And when he tells us to “come out from among them,” he is referring to our being set apart in conduct from those in the world who are being led by the flesh and living according to the ways of the world. He makes it clear that his receiving of us is conditioned upon our doing these things. Psalms 24:3,4 asks, “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in his holy place? The answer: “He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart.”
James warns those who are double-minded to purify their hearts. A double-minded person is of two opinions. He’s half in and half out. In other words, he’s a hypocrite. An all holy God says half-way holiness will not do. God’s desire for his children is to be holy as he is holy, to live, “as obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to your former lusts in your ignorance.” (I Peter 2:14). My Bible translates “not fashioning yourselves as “shaping up your way of living.” Walking in holiness requires that we shape up our way of living. When James tells us to purify our hearts, he is telling us to get rid of the impurities in our hearts that have come through mixing our hearts with the unclean things of the world. This virus is the result of a clean, healthy person coming into contact with, and subsequently being mixed with, an unclean source. A pure heart is undivided and unalloyed with impurities, much as gold is before it is refined in the refiner’s fire. The purpose of the refining process is to produce 24-karat gold containing no impurities that would lessen its value. A pure heart cannot contain mixture with that which is impure. When Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection, he said to them, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you. And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Through the breath of Jesus, God imparted eternal, spiritual life through the Holy Spirit. This is perhaps the most important parallel of all. Just as we need pure, clean oxygen to help us fight this virus, we need the pure, clean breath of the Holy Spirit to breathe God’s life into us to hep us fight against the sickness of sin in our hearts. Only in the breath of God is there life. If we are breathing in the things of this world, we are breathing in death, just as surely as we are breathing in death from this virus.
The same problem Haggai had, we have today. Our priorities are out of order. People are more concerned about the pleasures this world has to offer than they are pleasing God. Could it be God is saying to us, as he did the people of Haggai’s day, “Consider your ways?” Could it be he’s giving us a time-out because we are running out of time? The word “time” in Hebrew (Greek) means, “a window of opportunity; a season of opportunity; strategic, opportune time.” I know I am not alone in seeing the invisible hand of God in all of this. There are many today who are saying that God is giving us a wake-up call. A wake-up call is when someone notifies you of the time in order that you don’t miss some pre-scheduled event. I believe God has actually been nudging us for quite some time now and we just keep refusing to wake up. It’s kind of like when your mom tried to wake you up for school and she would come in a couple of times and nudge you, but as the time for you to go to school drew closer, she no longer nudged you, she shoved you and yelled, “Wake. up!” “You’re going to be late!” I feel the shove of God’s hand upon us today as never before saying, “WAKE UP!” because it’s getting very, very late!
One final parallel between this virus and scripture. The whole world is searching for a universal cure that will rid the whole world of this sickness. John 1:29 gives us that cure: “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” Jesus is the only hope for man and he is the only cure for the sickness of sin in the world. For those who will serve the Lord, Exodus 23:25 gives us this promise: “And ye shall serve the Lord your God, and he shall bless thy bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee.” For our own good; it’s time to wake up and consider our ways.
The flesh appeased, our hearts deceived
To be entertained our greatest need
Give us your goodness world we pray
That among you we might stay
Offer us your decency in exchange for enmity
with our Holy risen Lord
We choose the world for we are bored
Hearts filled with hypocrisy
compromised now to believe
In the world we can remain
and bear reproach our Savior’s name
Come ye out we hear him say
Choose whom you will serve this day
To whom will you bow your knee
The God of life or your T. V
The Devil comes but to deceive
Unfaithful hearts who will believe
Search your heart that you might know
To whom you cling, to whom let go
(James 4:4 – Adulterers and adultresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.)