Devotional Day 23
You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says to no purpose, “He jealously desires the Spirit whom He has made to dwell in us”? But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit therefore to God. But resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God and He will come close to you. 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 into gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.James 4:4-10
James uses some strong language here, and most of us probably don’t like being called adulteresses or enemies of God. But he catches our attention and calls us out. Are we willing to be humble enough to take an honest look at where we stand and what direction we’re moving?
I think of a map: on one extreme is the kingdom of this world, where the devil still has the powers of seduction and distraction. On the other end is the kingdom of God, where holiness reigns and love compels us. It is impossible to go both directions simultaneously. Going towards one means going away from the other. Befriending one means rejecting the other. So, when we are slipping into our sinful pleasures, our distractions and avoidances, we’re getting further from God.
The Call of the Beloved
While the word “adulteress” may seem extreme, it means that Christ considers us His bride. When we turn away from Him, we reject His pure, sacrificial love. He desires intimacy with us, overcoming sin on the cross so that He can fill our redeemed hearts. If we recognize the rejection of that love, the “adultery” that we commit whenever turning toward the world, that is reason to weep.
Think of any tear-jerker love story, whether in real life or a fable, where we see the heartbreak of rejection and abandonment. When we realize we are the ones running away from the faithful Lover, we should indeed be mourning that faithlessness. The good news is grace. Once we admit we’ve been going the wrong direction and need help turning around, God offers grace, inviting us to come back to His intimacy, to draw close to His love.
Seeing where we’re headed isn’t about counting sins and measuring righteousness, it’s simply looking to see if we’re facing toward or away from God. Are our actions based on self (pleasures, selfish ambition, envy) or on our love for God? It takes humility to recognize where we need to confess and repent. But God is not seeking to constantly induce guilt-trips. He wants to exalt us back into that place of the “beloved.” He is calling us to daily draw nearer to Him.
Following the Arrows
When following El Camino, the right way to go was pretty clear to me in Portugal, as long as I looked for the arrows in the right places. Most were painted in yellow on signposts or rocks, curbs or walls. But once in a while there would be a junction where it wasn’t clear which way to go. We had to look more carefully to make sure we were going the right direction. The further off track we went, the further we would have to backtrack, which we definitely preferred to avoid.
Occasionally there was an official marker that also said how many kilometers were left. It was always reassuring to know we were definitely on track, as well as demonstrating the progress we had made in concrete measures.
When getting closer to Santiago, more and more commercial and private albergues were present, and many used yellow arrows for marketing, pointing pilgrims toward their front door rather than toward the official Way. We had to be more careful to make sure we weren’t being led astray. At one point, a bright yellow arrow painted on a bridge directed us away from the path along the river (which would have taken us almost all the way to the municipal albergue) to the city streets, where the private albergues were ready for our business. While we were not going a “wrong” way, our time and energy was misdirected.
At the same time, the closer we got to Santiago the more frequently official markers were posted, making it relatively easy to stay on the right path. Other resources such as books, maps, and apps, were also available if we needed direction when seeing multiple arrows. Directions were plentiful; what mattered was the source.
Source of Direction
There are times in life when the messages we hear are consistent and as long as we pay attention, we can stay on track. Early in our spiritual walk, we might be convinced we have found the definite truth and a clearly defined calling and commission. Other times it may feel like we’re barraged with conflicting messages about the “right” way to go from all angles. The world is complex, right and wrong are not always clear, and the outcome of decisions may be difficult to predict. Many parties claim to have the “best” way to minister, to serve, to give, to lead, or to follow.
Instead of just following the loudest message, or the biggest arrow, we need to be more intentional about evaluating the source of direction. Is this really the Way God wants me to go, or are other forms of fulfillment competing for my attention? Where is this way going to take me? The Source of direction matters. We are given guidelines in Scripture, but often fail to take time to stop, read, listen, and ask God for guidance.
Here James also combines a command with a promise: Come close to God and He will come close to you. He doesn’t expect us to know what to do or where to go based just on our own keenness, strategy, or intuition. All we have to do is to draw near to Him with a humble heart and open ears. Wherever we are in our journey, He is eager to walk alongside us, allowing us to grow more and more intimate with Him along the way.
Thank You, Lord, for the promise of Your presence whenever we come to You. Forgive us for the times we are distracted by the messages around us or the selfish desires inside of us. Help us to remain focused on the Way You have called us to take, ever drawing closer to You.
- Think of your life’s journey so far. What obstacles or distractions have previously pointed you away from God? What has helped you to focus on God?
- Is there anything in your life right now that misdirecting you? If so, take time to confess and receive grace.
- Spend some time drawing close to Jesus. Picture yourself walking along the path next to Him. Listen for His guidance.
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