How to Receive God’s Grace

Sunlight on the ocean

Any hope that we have to be saved is by the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8). God’s grace is offered to all (Titus 2:11); however, it is not received by all. How do we receive God’s grace? James explained:

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. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near 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 to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you” (James 4:6-10).

James’ explanation is very different from what a denominational preacher would give. Yet his explanation is “inspired by God” (2 Timothy 3:16). So let us take a closer look at what James had to say on the subject of receiving God’s grace.

We Must Be Humble

God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).

God offers His grace to all, but only “gives grace to the humble.” Jesus emphasized the importance of humility in the opening statement of His Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).

The opposite of humility is pride. Those who have this attitude are “opposed” by God and unheard by Him. Notice Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:9-14). Pride blinds one to his faults – he believes that he does not need God or that God owes him for his goodness. Humility – as seen in the example of the tax collector – allows one to see his faults and recognize his need for salvation. This is why one must possess an attitude of humility if he is to receive the grace of God.

We Must Submit to God

Submit therefore to God” (James 4:7).

Remember that James’ words fall within the context of receiving God’s grace (James 4:6). He followed this by saying, “Submit therefore to God.” God offers His grace to all. If we want to receive it, then we must submit to Him.

Many believe that grace and works are conflicting concepts in salvation. Yet they are not conflicting, but complementary. That is, grace and works must go together. Paul wrote, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10). We are saved by grace and are expected to do the works that God has given us to do. This goes back to the need for humility. Humility leads to obedience: “In humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (James 1:21-22). Faithful obedience leads to justification: “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24).

We Must Resist the Devil

Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

We must resist the devil because he is trying to destroy us. Peter wrote, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). How does the devil do this? He destroys us by leading us into sin and away from Christ. Paul said that “as the serpent deceived Eve,” Christians can be “led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3). John warned of the avenues of temptation: “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world” (1 John 2:15-16).

Contrary to what many appear to believe, grace is not a license to sin. Jude warned of those who would “pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality” (Jude 4, NIV). Yet Christians are not to “continue in sin” (Romans 6:1). By the grace of God we have been “freed from sin” so that it “shall not be master over” us (Romans 6:7, 14). This freedom from sin leads to salvation (Romans 6:22-23). Therefore, we must resist the devil and his attempts to draw us back to the world.

We Must Draw Near to God

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8).

James stated the divine promise that if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. The Hebrew writer said, “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). But how do we draw near to God? We might immediately think of prayer – this is related, but there is more to it than that. The Hebrew writer provided further explanation: “Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:19-22).

We draw near to God through Christ. Remember, James was writing to Christians – they had already been saved, having their sins washed away by the blood of Christ in the waters of baptism (Ephesians 1:7; Acts 22:16). But as Christians, we must continue to draw near to God by following the way of Christ. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). Jesus calls us to “take up [our] cross daily and follow” Him (Luke 9:23).

We Must Cleanse Our Hands

Cleanse your hands, you sinners” (James 4:8).

Cleansing ourselves of sin is a continual process. This is contrary to the Calvinistic idea of “once in grace, always in grace.” We were cleansed of our past sins in baptism (Acts 22:16). After baptism, we must cleanse ourselves of any sins that we later commit. We are expected to “walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light.” If we do, then “the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). If we fall into sin, then we must make confession to Him, having the assurance that “He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

We must not ignore sin in our lives. If we “walk in darkness” and “do not practice the truth,” then we do not “have fellowship” with God (1 John 1:6). We are not to “continue in sin so that grace may increase” (Romans 6:1). Instead, we must “test [ourselves] to see if [we] are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5). If we find sin in our lives, we must “repent…and pray” so that we “may be forgiven” (Acts 8:22).

We Must Purify Our Hearts

Purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:8).

The Scriptures repeatedly affirm that God’s grace is conditional. Those conditions are more than just outward – our hearts must be pure as well. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). This is why the wise man said, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23). Our obedience to God cannot be just “going through the motions.” Obedience must be “from the heart” (Romans 6:17).

As James directed the instruction to “cleanse your hands” to “sinners,” he directed the instruction to “purify your hearts” to the “double-minded.” This is a reminder that we must be wholeheartedly devoted to God. Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). We cannot divide our allegiance (Matthew 6:24). We must serve God exclusively and with our whole heart.

We Must Mourn

Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom” (James 4:9).

Many believe that God just wants them to be happy. They then use this idea to justify all kinds of sin. Christians are certainly to rejoice (Philippians 4:4), but the primary reason we rejoice is because of the hope we have in Christ (Romans 5:2). God wants us to be happy in heaven (Matthew 25:21, 23), but we must get there first.

While on earth, we will “mourn” over many things. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). This mourning must include “godly sorrow” over sin because that leads to repentance (2 Corinthians 7:9-11). We will also “weep” as we suffer in this life. This should cause us to “groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven” (2 Corinthians 5:2). Even though there are fleeting pleasures in this life, we must not allow them to distract us from our goal. Remember how much greater heaven is than life on earth: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

Conclusion

Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you” (James 4:10).

How do we receive the grace of God? James concluded by returning to the point on humility. Everything that James discussed – which we have considered in this article – is connected to humility. Peter added to James point: “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time” (1 Peter 5:6). When is “the proper time”? It is when the Lord returns.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:3-7).

Because we look forward to this day, Peter said, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13). Salvation is only possible through the grace of God. But we must do the will of God to receive it. Therefore, let us humbly submit to the Lord in faithful obedience so that He will “exalt [us] at the proper time.


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