An old-time evangelist used to say, “You have to make the sinner Mad, Sad, then Glad.” (Bob Harrington, Chaplin of Bourbon Street). Contemporary evangelism eliminates the first two as being too psychologically harmful and instead emphasizes how much God loves the sinner.
The sinner’s naturally egotistical mind believes he is not that bad after all, because God still loves him. He is led in a prayer that he repeats verbatim, as though the precise wording is the formula for salvation. After a public announcement of the new convert, he is usually baptized and becomes a member of the church, still thinking he has to be a pretty good person.
Something is missing from this picture. The convert goes to church thinking he is a pretty good person, learns that God loves him, and goes home unchanged. He often believes that as long as he remains a good person, accepted by the church, he will go to heaven. The commands in James 4:9 show the element missing in most Christians. Are you ever sincerely broken because of your continual sinfulness? Why does sin not break our hearts like it does His?
We are told to “grieve,” which means, in the aorist imperative, “to immediately decide to be miserable, lament or mourn.” John wrote to the church at Laodicea, “You say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Rev 3:17).
The New International Version translates 2 Corinthians 7:10 this way: “For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation…But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.” When did you last weep because of your sins?
James sums up the thought: “Immediately begin to turn your laughter into mourning and your joy into despair.” Do your sins bother you? Do you take the time to let them bother you?
James is not forbidding legitimate laughter or joy; rather, he is emphasizing the shady, sensual, sin-condoning, worldly entertainment that unbelievers revel in. James is teaching his readers to grieve over “the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life” (1 Jn 2:16). Never lose your sense of unworthiness. The grace and mercy of God is our refuge.
“I’m sorry, dear Lord Jesus, for how often I fail to obey You. It hurts me that I hurt You after all You have done for me. I could never deserve Your grace; Thank You so much for Your undeserved mercy toward me.”