James 4:7-8

James 4:7-8

7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

Verse 7 is included for context and because it is one of my life verses. However, I always read it in the following manner Submit yourselves unto God then resist the devil and he will flee from you. You or I can resist the devil all day long, but we will do so unsuccessfully until we humble ourselves and submit ourselves onto God. Of course He wants us to resist the devil, but sees us all too often doing so full of pride trying to do it on our own without Him. He waits on us, desiring to give us the strength to successfully resist the devil sending him fleeing – beaten once again.

Additionally, this verse provides the key for Coming near to God, as you first have to submit yourself to Him. Of course He is always near to each and every one of us waiting on us to become spiritually near to Him.

How do we submit ourselves to Him? First by admitting our need for Him while repenting of our sins. Then through the grace offered through His Son’s sacrifice on the cross we can begin drawing near to Him.

Don’t think you are done then for now you have to Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, in order to avoid being double-minded. So Wash your hands which means to change your ways or as Matthew Poole says

reform your actions, amend your lives. Hands, the principal instruments of bodily actions, being put for the actions themselves; cleanness of hands signifies the innocency of the outward conversation

Along with washing your hands – a lifelong endeavor – you also need to purify your heart, another lifelong endeavor. What do you put before God? Before communication (prayer) with Him? What do you harbor in your heart? Jesus made it clear it is what is in your heart that can defile you when He said

Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.
Mark 7:15

To avoid being double-minded we have to look at what is in our hearts. We cannot simply go through some ritualistic behavior when it is in our heart an empty ritual. Barnes’ Notes on the Bible further states

That is, do not rest satisfied with a mere external reformation; with putting away your outward transgressions. There must be a deeper work than that; a work which shall reach to the heart, and which shall purify the affections. This agrees with all the requisitions of the Bible, and is in accordance with what must be the nature of religion. If the heart is wrong, nothing can be right. If, while we seek an external reformation, we still give indulgence to the secret corruptions of the heart, it is clear that we can have no true religion.

Let your prayers, worship, and repentance be heartfelt and real – not empty rituals – then you will begin your lifelong process of drawing near to God.