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Positively Negative

James 4:9-10
Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (NIVUK)

Until credit, work, money and food run out, positive-thinking sounds very good. But imagining that everything is going well, in a real disaster, is very foolish. Many people try to play the same game with God. They play make-believe that they are good people, and most of the time they fool themselves and other people. They also imagine that they have earned enough points for God to be nice to them and let them into His heaven. Wrong. God knows exactly who He will welcome, and He excludes spiritual con-men (Matthew 7:21-23).

The only way to receive God's favour is to admit the truth. There is no way of earning God's favour; every part of us is, in some way, polluted by sin. Jesus said that even when we have done our very best, we are unprofitable (Luke 17:10). Isaiah likened our finest efforts to dirty washing (Isaiah 64:6). God does not want us to give a slick boardroom presentation of our successes, but He cherishes every tear we shed over our failure. King David put it like this in Psalm 51:17, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." And more than that; God heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds (Psalm 147:3).

In a world of media manipulation and corporate spin, assertiveness and positive mental attitude, it is a relief to know that the most positive thing we can do is to be heart-broken over our sin, crying out for mercy as we come to the foot of the cross. Putting a brave face on our woeful life does not impress God: but admitting our failure with no excuses is the only starting point for healing. Of course, no proud person will ever want to do that, which is why God opposes them (James 4:6). But as we humble ourselves before God, He applies all the benefits of the Passion of Christ to us, making us clean, and restoring us as members of His family.

The astonishing thing about God is: when your heart is broken because of the realisation of your sin, God mends your heart. When you throw away your pride, He lifts you up. Indeed, it is not until you confess your sin, that Jesus can be your Saviour. But the working world despises weakness, and workers will often ridicule Jesus Christ crucified, using His Name and His blood as swear words. But in Christ, mercy and grace are waiting for all who will humble themselves under God's mighty hand: He will lift them up (1 Peter 5:6). If you have experienced the relief and joy of being a sinner who has received His mercy - you are the best person to speak about Jesus to those who are in despair because of their sin, or who are hopelessly anxious as they try to pretend that nothing is wrong. You can tell them today!

Merciful God. It is a relief to know that You do not want me to pretend that I am good, but rather to be sorry for my sin. I confess that I am a sinner, and I need Your mercy today. Please help me to stay humble and allow Your grace to work in me. Help me too, to speak plainly about Jesus to my colleagues who are at their wit's end, and do not know where to turn for help. It is wonderful that You never turn away from those who humble themselves. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams