Clean Hands, Pure Hearts
“Extol the Lord our God and worship at His holy hill,
for the Lord our God is holy!”
How do we recoup when the storm of the sea of life around us is not made by us alone, and despite our cooperation in walking with Jesus, the storm still rages? How do we press forward to calm waters anew when we cannot control the stones tumbling in from the unclean hands of others around us to cause the wake that threatens us with every growing wave? Here in our passage we have two vital ingredients to calm the raging seas: James 4:8b-12.
“Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you” ~ Vs. 8b-10.
As said in the previous post, part 2 of this series, we can only control ourselves and the stones we are adding to cause the wake. So peaceful waters begin as we watch ourselves, remembering that we are not infallible; for apart from cooperation with the work of Christ in us, we too are sinners. We must set our minds to clean hands, which require us to seek pure hearts in agreement with the holiness of God. We accomplish this by being “miserable and mourn and weep” over our own sin, letting “your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom” by way of repentance that is truly saddened by sin, however pleasurable it may seem. Thus we “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord” trusting that by His grace, “He will exalt you.”
You and I, who know God through Jesus Christ, are to be holy as He is holy despite sin’s surge all around us.
“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” ~ 1 Peter 1:14-16.
“If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are” ~ 1 Corinthians 3:17.
“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” ~ Romans 12:1.
Remembering that we are made to be and live holy lives as the living temple of God, housing His Spirit as seal of our unity with Him; the practice of holiness is vital to our ability to walk the stormy seas and experience the calm that is found when we walk hand in hand with Jesus. Actively being alert to every opportunity to present ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, is the step by step path to crossing storm tossed seas that are out of our control.
Note, in our James 4 passage, vs. 8b-10 above the call to “purify your hearts, you double-minded.” I believe that wording is vital to our understanding as we seek to walk with clean hands that cast no stone of sin into the water. Our thinking can cause all sorts of trouble for our hearts. Romans 12:2 says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
The will of God for whom? For each individual of us. You and I can only choose for self to align our wills with God’s will. So we must seek the thoughts and will of God as we relate with others who stir the waters, responding to each challenge as pleases Him so we do not add our stones of sin to the wake of the stormy seas.
The way we allow ourselves to think and feel toward others who are troubling our waters will drop stones that soil our hands. We must remember, “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith” ~ Romans 12:3. Our minds are transformed from the blame game the world plays as we remember from whence our grace comes, and choose to have sound judgment that does not think more highly of self than we ought, but that has God’s grace toward those still struggling with sin.
“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you” ~ Colossians 3:12-13.
And “Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?”
It is vital, especially when we are coming out of hurt that has caused us to stumble, that we leave the judgment / condemnation of those whose sin sends trouble to stir the seas of life around us to God. If we fail to practice grace and leave vengeance to God in dealing with those who hurt us and make trouble for us in this life, we enter into bitterness, and anger, and all sorts of depression and oppression that will bring destruction to our bodies and add to the wake of sin we are in.
“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. ‘But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ DO NOT BE OVERCOME BY EVIL, BUT OVERCOME EVIL WITH GOOD” ~ Romans 12:9-21.
This is the prescription for persevering and walking free of the storm tossed seas around us: Forgive self and walk in the righteous path of God that is set before you; forgive those around us and deal with them righteously, trusting God to pass judgment and send the consequences for sin righteously. This prescription taken daily as we deal with those who trouble the waters, we can not only see our own hands cleansed and our heart purified as our minds are transformed to love with God’s love, but we can help those with us on the seas to grab the hand of Him who can cause us to walk upon the waters. And the next thing we know, the waters around us are calmed, though the outskirts of the sea still be tossed and turned.
(Recommended reading: Good read when caught in the wake of sin and working your way out is The Practice of Holiness by Jerry Bridges.)