"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)Grace is essential to our Christian life, it is what opens up to us the very storehouses of heaven. All of us have experienced His grace. Whether it is the common grace that is shown to all ("for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." Matthew 5:45) or the saving grace that all believers have received ("For by grace you have been saved through faith." Ephesians 2:8) we have all received of His grace. However, there are still greater levels of grace that He bestows upon some, upon those who position themselves well before God. God gives greater grace to some that others will never know. The secret to greater grace is in our proper standing before God.
James says that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. The word for "resist" means to "set oneself against", as an army would array themselves against a city to siege it and take it by force. God sets Himself up to wage war against the proud, but is gracious towards the humble. The proud will never know the greater degree of grace that is available in God; a greater grace that is only available to the humble.
So how does one humble themselves before God? How do they position themselves before God to receive greater grace in their lives? First, we must submit to God. This is a submission to obedience. It is not enough to believe in God, we must also obey God. Paul reminds us that we must choose whom we will obey, "Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?" (Romans 6:16) To find greater grace with God we must choose to submit to God in the obedience of righteousness.
Secondly, we must resist the lures and temptations of the Devil. The resisting of the Devil and the drawing close to God are not two separate acts, but two parts of a single action. We cannot resist the Devil if we simultaneously do not also draw near to God. Paul tells Timothy, "But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness." (1 Timothy 6:11) One act must follow the other.
Thirdly, we must pursue sanctification both in our outward acts and our inward thoughts. God receives us "just as we are" but He doesn't intend to leave us "just as we are." John, speaking of the marriage supper of the Lamb, says "Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready. It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints." (Revelation 19:7-8) There is a part of our salvation that is up to us; for us to "make ourselves ready". This process is sanctification and is a joint endeavor between us and God's Holy Spirit.
Fourthly, if sin exists in our lives, then we must repent. Repent not only means to turn away from, but also to change our minds. So often, while we may acknowledge that we have sinned, we don't often really appreciate the sinfulness of our sin. We know from God's word we sinned, but we don't fully understand how our sin effects ourselves, others, and God. Paul tells us that part of the purpose of the Law was "so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful." (Romans 7:13) Morning and humiliation may well attend our repentance if we truly understand the sinfulness of sin.
Finally, in our humiliation, we must trust God for our exaltation. God, speaking of Himself, says, "All the trees of the field will know that I am the Lord; I bring down the high tree, exalt the low tree, dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish. I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will perform it." (Ezekiel 17:24) It is our temptation to stand up ourselves, to promote ourselves, to seek by our own strength to reach an exalted position, but it is God who raises up and brings low, it is God who exalts and who humbles. In our humility we must wait for God's exaltation. We must learn to be content with our present state knowing that, in His time and in His way, He will exalt us.