How to come near to God
Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor. James 4:9-10 NLT
How do we approach a holy God? From the text, James uses terminology from the Old Testament which brings to mind David’s words: “Who may climb the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and never tell lies. They will receive the Lord’s blessing and have a right relationship with God their savior” (Psalm 24:3-5). James clearly implies that he is speaking not of being ceremonially clean but of being spiritually pure. Every human being is a sinner. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Not only that people are disregarding the law of God and His standard of morality but also, they vacillate saying that they love God and yet insist on pursuing the pleasures of the world. “Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do” (James 1:8). Such persons, James says, must repent. James is like an Old Testament prophet who calls the people to return to God through repentance, by having them grieve over their sins. We experience grief when someone who is near and dear to us dies. That is one aspect of the concept of grief. The other aspect of grief is spiritual. Scripture teaches us that repentance and grief go together. This is what the Lord Jesus Christ preached in the Sermon on the Mount. After His call on people to realize their spiritual bankruptcy, now He admonished them to grieve over sinfulness. “God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). That is godly sorrow! Paul, describing his struggle with sin, exclaims, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” He himself gives the answer: “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24–25 NIV). When James said, “Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy,” he is not saying that a Christian should dress in black clothing, walk around with a somber face, and preach gloom and doom. A Christian ought to be happy in the Lord, thankful for the gift of salvation, and obedient in doing the will of God. When he has fallen into sin and responds to God’s call for repentance, a change must occur in his life. When he reflects on his sin, the repentant is filled with mourning and gloom. “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death” (2 Corinthians 7:10 NIV). The believer who shows humility approaching God in His throne of grace shows the same humility toward others.