Every believer is a double-minded Christian on some level. It’s a process of choosing God over self, and He waits to cleanse and purify those who come.
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (James 4:8)
Our natural inclination is to imagine that being ‘double-minded’ means essentially being unable to make up our minds. Surely, that cannot be the condition of born-again, Spirit-filled believers? After all, we’ve made our commitment. Yet James is speaking to those in the kingdom of God, not those without. What it means is that perhaps there is something more to being ‘double-minded’ than we originally assume. What, then, is a double-minded Christian and how do we avoid this?
A double-minded Christian is one who is not fully surrendered.
At face value, this seems to be a statement that challenges us at the very foundation of our faith – until we acknowledge the reality that we are all of us still ‘under construction.’ This new perspective means that we are all of us fully surrendered to Christ as far as we are able at any given time. There are many layers and depths within each us that self hangs onto, things that masquerade as ‘good’ or ‘harmless’ but which are contrary to the will and Word of God. These are the things that make a double-minded Christian.
Unfortunately, we’re not automagically perfected at salvation. So many things remain in us, often unnoticed until they are brought out into the bright light of God and we see them for what they are. This process of revelation, repentance, and cleansing brings us to a deeper level of surrender. With each surrender of something that transgresses the will and Word of God, we are a little less double-minded. It’s a sad reality that we will potentially be a double-minded Christian until we are finally with Christ in eternity.
Self is the challenge of the double-minded Christian.
Paul summed this up beautifully when he described how he continually found himself doing and saying things he did not want to do or say. Self is often a more active enemy than Satan himself because he knows he doesn’t have to do much while self is alive and well. A double-minded Christian must defeat self every step of the way, gradually surrendering each layer and depth to Christ as we wrestle it from the stranglehold of self.
We must remember that, for most of our lives, self was the boss. Self-gratification, in one form or another, was the motivation, the driving force, and the impetus behind everything. It’s powerful, demanding, and relentless, and will challenge every attempt we make to cease being a double-minded Christian. As soon as our spirits make a decision to move closer to Christ, self is there to rock the boat and raises itself up as a seducer, deceiver, and even a bully if that’s the only way it can retain control.
The double-minded Christian need not live in condemnation.
In the midst of this struggle, God’s grace shines clear and pure. Though each of us may still be a double-minded Christian on many levels, God knows and understands. It was for each one of these weaknesses that Jesus went to the cross. His sacrifice was to make a way for us to break free of the chains of self and move into deeper and more sincere surrender to God. We will be faced with every kind of temptation self can conjure in league with the devil, but Calvary made a way to overcome them all.
This is our hope and encouragement – God is so much bigger than our weakness, and His strength is made perfect in our weakness. Constant condemnation is no longer an issue, because we have the way of confession and repentance and the cleansing of the blood of Christ. In fact, God expects us to be double-minded. Expects, not wants. We need to be clear on that. But if He didn’t know us and therefore expect our weakness and mistakes, why make a way for us to be free of them?
Every double-minded Christian has a responsibility.
As always, and in everything, God also expects us to participate, and this is the crux of today’s verse. There are two things every double-minded Christian must do in order to resolve the problem. Of course, being imperfect and human, we don’t have what it takes, and it’s actually the power of God working in us that brings about the transformation. But we still have to play an active part. We must cleanse our hands and purify our hearts.
Obviously, again, these are things that we cannot do alone. But our responsibility as a double-minded Christian is to be willing, to make the choice to do what we must. Remember, self hangs on with the tenaciousness of a pitbull. At every moment, we are faced with a choice – to follow God or to follow self. We cannot be the water that washes our hands, or the fire that purifies our hearts, but we have to make the decision – and follow through – to get ourselves the water and the fire. God’s isn’t going to magic us there, or drag us kicking and screaming. It’s entirely up to us. When we make a committed choice in our spirit, self has no choice but to follow.
What the hands and the heart signify for the double-minded Christian.
It’s interesting that hands and hearts should be used when challenging the double-minded Christian. But it makes a lot of sense. Our hands and our hearts manifest who and what we are. If our hearts are divided between God and self, it will show in our hands – the things we do and say. The reverse is also true. The things of the hands affect the things of the heart. What James is saying here is that the mind actually has nothing to do with winning the battle. Realistically, the mind is the throne of self. But when we get our hearts right with God, and the outflow governs the right actions of our hands, the mind ceases to be a problem.
Again, it’s a process. I, for one, am eternally grateful that God, in His mercy, has allowed a process over time for the challenge of this battle against being a double-minded Christian. There is absolutely no way any of us could handle dealing with everything in one fell swoop. It’s rather like we prise the tentacles of self free of their stranglehold on a particular part of us one by one, a gradual hacking away at each weakness or desire for self-gratification. No, it’s no fun, but we have the assurance that the battle is won.
How does a double-minded Christian cleanse the hands and purify the heart?
This is the joy and peace of grace – we don’t do it. God does. First, we choose to fix our eyes on Him to the exclusion of all else. This doesn’t mean we won’t be distracted. Self is good at that. But once we make the choice – and if we continually reaffirm that choice daily – we open ourselves to the water and the fire. If we set the desire of our heart on God alone, He graciously moves alongside to draw us in and accomplishes His miraculous transforming work. Like the father who raced to meet his prodigal son, our God waits only for us to turn to Him.
Father God, thank You for Your mercy and grace, and for the transforming power You release so freely and abundantly into our lives. Gives us the strength, Lord, to turn to You, to make the choice to lift our hands and hearts to You to be cleansed and purified, and lead us into the path where we are able to fix ourselves on You alone.