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Don’t you wish it were easier to know how to do what is right thing and not sin? I do.
So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. ~James 4:17, ESV
It doesn’t get much more straightforward than that, does it? If you know what you’re supposed to do and you don’t do it, you’re sinning. It’s like James had a drops mic moment.
The really startling thing is that James says this at the close of a long discourse on Christian behavior. So there’s literally no excuse left.
No Excuses For Wrong Behavior
We know that we aren’t saved through works but by God’s grace and our faith in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8,9).
However, James also points out that faith without works is dead. Your works don’t save you, at all. You can’t buy salvation by being good. But on the flip side is the truth that genuine faith will result in a fruitful life that pleases God.
Related: How To Make God Happy
And James is clear that once God has revealed His truth to you, you’ve got no excuse for doing something else. Let’s look at the standards laid out in James chapter 4 that lead up to this incredibly bold, black and white statement.
No Quarreling and Fighting
James says this is a result of having passions that war within yourself. As Paul said, I want to do good things and don’t and I don’t want to do wrong things but I do.
You are pulled constantly by the sinful nature that you are born into and the godly nature you put on as you walk in your salvation.
No Hating or Being Jealous
Jesus said that hatred in the heart is the same as murder.
James says that murder is a result of not getting what you want.
And when you’re jealous of what someone else has, you fight and quarrel some more.
Stop Being a Friend of the World
Friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God.
James is really good at making black and white, no wiggle room, make you squirm kind of statements, isn’t he?
One might argue that it would be impossible to witness and share Jesus with the world without befriending it. And yet, James (and therefore God, as it’s in the Bible) is terribly blunt. That’s a no-no, my friend.
Be a friend of the world means being intimate with it. Sharing likes and dislikes, time, and feelings.
Witness to the world means loving it, but you can love it and not befriend it. That has to do with your heart.
Can you be in it and not of it? Yes, certainly. Is it easy? Not even a little.
Grace For Right Choices
There is hope. God gives grace for doing the right thing.
Submit Yourself To God
James says the first step to making the right choice is submission to God.
And really, how obvious if you think about it. But when you’re in the thick of a situation and about to lose your temper or think quarrel with someone you just know is wrong, it’s not really the first thought in your mind.
Or maybe it is. Maybe I’m just weird.
But submission to God is the very first step toward a fruitful life of joy-filled purpose and God-honoring action.
Resist The Devil
And then you have to actively resist satan.
What on earth does that look like?
Maybe it means not watching that show on Hulu that you like, even though it has bad language and sex.
Perhaps it’s just keeping your mouth quiet instead of feeling honor-bound to prove someone wrong when they say something ridiculous.
Sometimes it’s as simple as being nice to the
jerk person who cut you off in the parking lot or shoved their buggy in front of you at the market.
Each of these actions resists the lure the Satan is using to pull you into sin.
There are times it’s harder though, too, and you know what those are. Sometimes it’s walking away from a glass of wine when you’re an alcoholic, or the cake when you have an eating disorder. Sometimes it’s saying “no” to the flirtatious encounter with that person who makes you feel wanted and special after years of being overlooked by your husband.
Resist the devil, sweet friend.
Draw Near To God
Push in toward God. James gives the beautiful reminder that if you draw near to God, He’ll draw near to you.
Prioritize having a “quiet time” (even if it’s not quiet, make time to intentionally read the Word and pray). God will meet you. He always keeps His promises, and He promised.
When you listen to God, impossible not to know how to do what is right.
Purify Your Heart
Another clear direction. But what does it mean?
If you’ve held onto unforgiveness, let it go. Forgive.
If you’ve let bitterness hang out in your heart, stop. Choose to love.
If your thoughts are impure, stop that. Let God transform your mind and start thinking on things that glorify Him. That might mean changing your music and video choices as well as your conversations. Do it.
Ooh, the hardest. But humble yourself.
Recognize that you’re no better than anyone else; you are all made in God’s image and all loved so much that He sent Jesus to die for you.
But also recognize how much you need Jesus. Humble yourself enough to receive His grace. You are not, and never will be, good enough to earn your own salvation.
Do What Is Right
And that leads you back to the summary of it all: do what is right, or it’s a sin. And you know right and wrong because you have the Bible.
But sometimes it’s hard to do what’s right, even when you know what it is, because you get caught up in emotions and forget.
So how do you do what is right?
This is part of the Bible in 90 Days Challenge.