James

1 Peter 2

SCRIPTURE
1 Peter 2:8-18

OBSERVATION
As people who are God's children, chosen and adopted into His family, we now have a new identity and a new job description. 

UNDERSTANDING
We are called to live holy lives in this unholy world in which we live.  We are to remember that we are just passing through this world, it is not our home.  With that in mind, Peter gives us a glimpse of what our job description looks like as royal children of God, chosen ones and priests ministering to God.

  • This world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it.
  • Dont indulge your ego at the expense of your soul.
  • Live an exemplary life among the non-believers so that your actions will point them to Christ.
  • Be good citizens: respect the government and authorities no matter their level. Exercise your freedom by serving God not breaking the rules.
  • As employees, work hard for your bosses whether they are good or bad bosses.  You are really working for God.

All of these things, if we do them and not shirk our responsibility, makes us stand out in a way that our Father is glorified and worshipped. 

If we live with such hope in God what will happen is what Peter says in chapter 3, verse 15: we will have to be ready to share the reason why our lives are such breaths of fresh air. 

Remember you have green cards for life on this earth, your citizenship is in heaven.  Let us remember to not get too attached to this temporary situation.

LIFE APPLICATION 
Looking at the list, why not choose one of the descriptions on the list (so far) and come up with a plan of action to integrate it in your life.

Example
BE GOOD  CITIZENS
I will pray for the President every Monday.


James 5

SCRIPTURE
James 5

OBSERVATION 
James lists some more outward actions that speak of the inward transformation that occurs when we receive salvation.

UNDERSTANDING
He tells us that we will be people who are patient in the face of hard times.  The patience is not a sit on my hands and do nothing kind of action but an active waiting for the return of Christ.

As we are waiting we must be people who are prayerful.  Again it points to a faith in God who will deliver us.

He also tells us that a Christ-follower will be one whose speech is pure.  It is not that we should not swear an oath but what he is saying is that we should have such honest speech that we never need to back it up with promises or oaths.   We are to keep our word even if it costs us more than we bargained for.

LIFE APPLICATION
In all of these things that James enumerates as the marks of a Christi-follower you notice that they are attitudes of the heart.  The outward action is done because of the inward change that has taken place.  The inward work is the work of God and the outward actions are the outflow - we don't do them because it makes us children of God, we do them because we are now children of God and we want to do them.  Yes it requires discipline to do them but we are motivated by the inward transformation that has taken place.

Thank you God for making me your child.


James 4

SCRIPTURE 
You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God?

OBSERVATION
James gives us yet another mark of the Christ-follower:  he says that Christ-followers separate themselves from the world, it's ways and its thinking.  

UNDERSTANDING
So does that mean that we must live in monasteries and not have anything to do with those who are not Christ-followers?  The answer is a resounding no!  What we are called to do is to live in the world but not fall prey to its ways and thinking.  We are to be insulated from the world but not isolated from it.  That requires careful attention daily to what we listen to, who we spend most of our time with (willingly), etc.  It is an issue of carefully guarding yourself and then washing yourself daily with the Word so as not to fall prey to the world's ways.  It requires that we spend time with other Christ-followers who can help to point out the blind spots where we may be slipping into a world's way of thinking. 

LIFE APPLICATION
Be on your guard, it is easy to get sucked into the ways of the world but if we put up proper boundaries we can be Christ-followers who live in this world but are not of this world.


James 3

SCRIPTURE 
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

OBSERVATION
James gives us yet another mark of a Christ-follower - changed speech. 

UNDERSTANDING
A life transformed by Christ will show itself in the way that we speak, reflecting the new nature that we have been given.  The issue is less about the tongue and a matter of a inward transformation that leads to outward actions.  The Bible tells us that is it from the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks, so really what James is saying is that our speech gives others a glimpse of what is going on on the inside.

Paul says it this way...

  • Colossians 3:1-2(TMSG) 1So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. 2Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.
  • Colossians 3:5, 8-9(TMSG) 5And that means killing off everything connected with that way of death: sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. That’s a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God... 8But you know better now, so make sure it’s all gone for good: bad temper, irritability, meanness, profanity, dirty talk.  9Don’t lie to one another. You’re done with that old life. It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you’ve stripped off and put in the fire.
  • Colossians 3:15-17(TMSG) 15Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. 16Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! 17Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way. 

Notice how the tongue gets a new job description.  Instead of bad temper leading to mean words, profanity and dirty talk, now the tongue is used to cultivate thankfulness, to sing praises to God and to instruct and encourage one another.

LIFE APPLICATION
Do our words reflect the new nature that we have been given?  Have we as Christ-followers learned to submit this area of our lives to the lordship of Christ?


James 1

SCRIPTURE
22 
Do not deceive yourselves by just listening to his word; instead, put it into practice. 23 If you listen to the word, but do not put it into practice you are like people who look in a mirror and see themselves as they are. 24 They take a good look at themselves and then go away and at once forget what they look like. 25 But if you look closely into the perfect law that sets people free, and keep on paying attention to it and do not simply listen and then forget it, but put it into practice—you will be blessed by God in what you do.

OBSERVATION
One of the marks of a true Christ-follower is that they put into practice what the World of God says.

UNDERSTANDING
James insists that Christian practice must be consistent with Christian belief so his letter gives us a list of practices that should be present in the life of a Christ-follower. (Keep in mind that the practice comes as an outflow of position. We have been made holy by Christ and if this transformation has occured then there will be outward practices from this inward transformation.)

In chapter 1 James gives us three such practices. He says that a true Christ-follower will...

  • Respond with joy and perseverance when faced with trials of all kinds.
  • Not blame God for the temptations that we face.
  • Act in obedience to the truth revealed in God's Word.

In the last one James implies that the person who has genuinely come into the family of God through saving faith, will respond gladly to the Word of God. In fact they will crave it. Just as we don't have to teach a baby to crave its mother's milk, so too the newborn child of God does not have to be taught to hunger for God's Word. You have to teach them how to eat it with discipline, but the hunger is not taught, it is the natural impulse of any newborn believer. I guess an argument can be made then that the person who professes to be a Christ-follower but who has no interest in hearing and obeying God's Word would not really be considered a child of God. Hmmm, interesting.

LIFE APPLICATION
So, if the work of grace and faith that brough salvation is genuine in our lives then the outflows of that inward work should be evident. How are you doing in these tests of a believer? How are you responding to trials? What is your response in the face of temptation? What is your response to God's Word?


James

There are no conflicts between James and Paul on the matter of justification by faith. James could not be contradicting Galatians because Galatians had not yet been written! Paul explains that sinners are justified by faith; James explains that a person’s faith is dead unless it is proved by works. We are not saved by works, but the faith that saves us leads to good works. Paul wrote about our standing before God; James wrote about our witness before the world.

James writes . . .

  • To explore how faith finds expression in the life of a believer.
  • Out of a concern that faith produce fruit, so that no one confuses creeds with a vital Christianity.
  • Shortly after Jesus’ resurrection, when the church is still Jewish, and Old Testament truths are known by all.

 Paul writes . . .

  • To explain saving faith in relation to the work of Christ on Calvary.
  • Out of a concern that faith be placed in Jesus alone, unmixed with any reliance on Law or on an individual’s supposed “works of righteousness.”
  • When the church is primarily Gentile, and their inclusion has raised many theological issues never before explored.
James is a great and practical book that helps us as Christ-followers to live out our witness before a watching world.  

James 3

SCRIPTURE
 3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. 7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, 8 but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

OBSERVATION
The words that come out of our mouth give us insight into how much we are allowing God to reshape us from the inside out.

UNDERSTANDING
The Book of James is about faith. But it is not about “saving faith.” It is about the role faith plays in the life of a person who is already a believer.

A believer’s character, attitudes, emotional responses, behavior and priorities are all reshaped by faith. James tells us that those who have been saved by grace and brought into the family of God show that new status in how they live - we are new creatures, the old has gone and we live in a different way.

After telling us that our faith in God must find expression in our lifestyle as well as our beliefs James now talks about some of the challenges that this life of faith has.  Practical problems too, ordinary problems.  Taming the tongue for instance.

 It’s so easy for us to slip and to criticize or say something cutting about our brother. It’s so tempting to gossip. The person who has his or her tongue under control has definitely matured in the life of faith.

LIFE APPLICATION
Lord I present my body as a living sacrifice to you.  Thank you for saving me and now I worship you with my life.  I do not want to conform any longer to the old way of life I lived in before you saved me, instead I ask that your Holy Spirit continually remold my life from the inside out so that my outward actions represent my ongoing maturity in my faith.

 


James 1

SCRIPTURE
 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

OBSERVATION
We need to change our perspective regarding trials and troubles.

UNDERSTANDING
James tells us that trials and troubles can make us bitter or better and that the testing and ensuing result gives us a state of our faith.  Our faith is only proven in the testing and immediately James tells us that one of the tests of our faith is trials.  But those trials if looked at through the eyes of faith will lead us to joy not bitterness because through the eyes of faith we see that the trials help us to develop a deep commitment to continue in the ways of God - to stay on course.  Faith that leads to joy reminds us that God is in control and that if we will trust Him, everything will work to His good.  Faith reminds us that we are His children with an inheritance that spans this life into eternity and today's trials are a vapor compared to the eternal joy that awaits us.

LIFE APPLICATION
Thank you God for the trials.


James 5

Frank Alfonso

James 5 opens with a warning to the rich, who apparently do not know the Lord. It warns of them to turn to God before the apparent coming of misery is upon them. Verse 4 describes how they have cheated people out of their wages. It goes to describe a luxurious life and "have fatten themselves in the day of slaughter". The footnote describes the wicked are like cattle that continue to fatten themselves on the their way to slaughter, unaware of the fact that they are going to be killed!

How sad that even today we see people who have been "blessed' with wealth beyond our wildest dreams. We watch TMZ or Entertainment Tonight and drool over the lavish homes, expensive cars and extravagant life styles. Yet, in the final analysis, many of them will die and go to hell. Don't get me wrong, who wouldn't want some of those things! I want those things! Then you hear how they die of an overdose or worse yet, purposely take their own lives. You hear how they go from relationship to relationship, in and out of rehab or jail. My first reaction is always anger. I think what idiots, you have everything and still your not happy! You have more than any of us will ever have and you don't know how to appreciate it. Really? Do they have more than me?

Lord thank you that you have blessed me with everything I need, and some things that I just really wanted!. Thank you that you have blessed me with a wonderful family and good friends. Thank you that you provide for me and those I love each and everyday. Thank you Lord that when I have been at my lowest points in life, The Lord is always above me reaching down to pull me up. Thank you that you have placed me in a church whose Pastor is not afraid to preach the truth and what we NEED to hear, not just what we WANT to hear. Thank you for a church family that has caught the vision of the Great Commission. Thank you that I have what they don't have: A relationship with a God that loves me more than anything in the world.  So Lord first of all, heal me of my desire to watch TMZ or Entertainment Tonight! Until you do, when I do watch thank you for reminding ME how rich I am.

 


James 4

"God is a fiercely jealous lover. And what he gives in love is far better than anything else you'll find."  v5 The Message 

Why do I have such a hard time surrendering to God?  Why is it that when things don't work the way I think they should I tend to abandon God and try any other method to get what I want?  Why is it so hard to walk out what I say I know...that God loves me, wants only what is best for me and what He gives, in love, is far better than anything else I will find.

Lord, as I have to do everyday when I face circumstances that don't go my way, I chose to desire what You desire for me.  I chose to pursue Your way not my way.  Forgive me for letting my selfishness and desire for self-preservation get the better of me sometimes.  I choose to trust You.