I’ve just begun an inductive bible study on James for women, entitled “Faith”. The letter of James is written to Jewish Christians who have scattered throughout the Mediterranean world because of persecution. In their hostile surroundings they were tempted to let intellectual agreement pass for true faith. This letter can have rich meaning for us as we are reminded that genuine faith transforms lives, and we are encouraged to put our faith into action. This letter could be considered a “how-to” book on Christian living. James’ letter is applicable to all Christians. “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28-29)
As told by the title, the letter is written by James, the brother of Jesus Christ. However, he doesn’t use his lineage as an introduction. Instead, he calls himself “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (James 1:1). If he had boasted about being Jesus’ brother instead of His servant, James’ message would have been more about him, and less about Christ. “He must become greater, I must become less.” (John 3:30). As we are all sinners, no matter our station in life, we are not to boast; we are to serve Jesus humbly and faithfully giving Him all the glory, for it is not ours to take. “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23)
The beginning of this bible study reminds me of a series our lead pastor, Tim Liston, gave a few months back “Thriving in Babylon”. I wrote about it in a post entitled The New Normal. This was a study from the book of Daniel in the Old Testament – and here we have it again from James in the New Testament. I LOVE how God’s word remains true through the ages and repeats the lessons we need to learn.
Notes from my lesson in James this morning: As Christians, we are living in the evil Babylon. This home is not our home, but we’re here for a while. The immorality by which we are surrounded and subjected is foreign to us as Christians. It’s important that we hold ourselves apart from the immorality and live our lives in godliness, so that there’s a discernible difference between Christians and non-Christians. James wrote this letter to address the hypocritical practices of clinging tightly to the world and it’s values while claiming to trust God and be His people. When we share the gospel with others, the non-believers will see the difference between their lives and ours, and they will want the peace and joy we have through Christ Jesus, even in troubled times. THERE MUST BE A DIFFERENCE! “Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.” (Acts 11:19-21)
Excerpts from The New Normal: “This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and will bring you back from captivity.” (Jeremiah 29:10-14) They [non-believers] become the victims of their own refusal to hear the truth. Having turned from the truth, they become victims of deception. As soon as they turn away from the truth, they become pawns of Satan. The message we are required to proclaim is often offensive. But we are never permitted to trim the message or tailor it to people’s preferences. Paul made this clear to Timothy at the end of 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.“ This is the Word to be preached: the whole counsel of God (cf. Acts 20:27) “For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.” “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)
The last question of the Bible study today asked us to read Jeremiah 31:10-14 and Revelations 21:22-27 and asked us to write how these scriptures give us hope as we begin the study of James. Jeremiah 31:10b-11 says, “‘He who scattered Israel will gather them and will watch over his flock like a shepherd. For the Lord will deliver Jacob and redeem them from the hand of those stronger than they.” The Lord scattered Israel – He is in control and He has a plan. When we seek the Lord’s guidance in living our lives for His glory, we will be rewarded with eternal life with Him in Heaven – and it will be glorious. “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:1-3)