In these four simple verses, James issues ten, yes ten, commands! Here they are (from the KJV):
Verse 7: (1) Submit (2) Resist
Verse 8: (3) Draw nigh (4) Cleanse (5) Purify
Verse 9: (6) Be afflicted (7) Mourn (8) Weep (9) be turned
Verse 10: (10) Humble
As my pastor pointed out, this paragraph calls on those who are living a self-centered life to repent, and it does so by using these ten commands. They may be divided into five actions.
First, the self-centered individual must submit/subject himself to the Lord. He is the Lord, the Master, and we are his servants, his slaves. Such submission reminds us who is in charge of our life. Furthermore, after submitting to Christ, the individual must resist the devil and his temptations. James tells us to oppose him, to take a stand against him. The self-centered believer still has the indwelling Spirit and is able to stand tall against Satan and his wiles.
Second, James calls the self-centered to draw nigh to God. In other words, come near to Him. I see, in this command, our need to offer up our prayers to God, to meditate on His Word, to know Him better than we ever have.
Third, the self-centered individual must be cleansed. In other words, they need to seek forgiveness. We see this clearly in the second half of verse 8. James tells us to cleanse our hands. He paints the picture of the priests washing the filth from their hands and feet prior to their ministry for God. The sin must go. We must purify our hearts referring to internal, spiritual cleaning. Seek the Lord for forgiveness. As John tells us in 1 John 1, those who confess their sin will be cleansed and forgiven.
Fourth, James issues the call for repentance in verse 9. He commands the self-centered person to be afflicted. The word carries the idea of lamentation, a sincere regret for behavior. Such affliction demands the individual recognize the error of his ways. As a result, he is to mourn or grieve internally; a sincere heart inwardly grieving for its behavior. Such internal mourning is often accompanied by outward weeping, the physical expression of such grief over sin. Daniel Doriani has said, "The desire for a pure heart leads logically to sorrow for sin."
Verse 9 concludes with the key command of repentance: "be turned". True repentance leads to a turning, a change in life. The self-centered person who truly repents will move forward with a life lived for God rather than self.
Fifth, and finally, James commands those who have recognized their self-centeredness, who have grieved over their sin, and who have turned their focus from themselves to God to "humble themselves". God will exalt those who live for God rather than self.
So, we have a choice between two ways of living. We can live ambitious, proud, self-centered lives or a life of repentance and humility. As the Apostle Peter has written,
"Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you." (1 Peter 5:6-7)