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James 2 – Destroy Social Status – Evident Faith

When you meet someone for the first time you are typically asked the same number of questions. Who are you? Where are you from? And the most important…what do you do? We might not realize it but in a lot of ways we classify people based on their profession. There is a certain level of social shame to have to say, “I don’t currently have a job.” We wrap so much of our identity up in “what we do” that we find our value, and often give people value, based on these professions. Is there a way to communicate to people that we don’t care who they are, where they are from, or what they do, all we care about is that they are a child made in the image of God and that is where all of their value and identity comes from?

Tatian (120-180 AD)

One of the major reasons the early church was persecuted was because it messed up the social order of the Roman world. In a culture that thrived on class and social status Christianity created problems. There are letters that were written from one governor to another, complaining about the Christians and how there seemed to be no divisions between groups of people. They all seemed to act as one. Early Christianity created a sense of belonging that made people feel included, loved, and cared for. They welcomed outsiders, regardless of their background, and thus overcame the divisions of gender, ethnicity and class that characterized the Roman world. The second century Christian writer Tatian claimed, “Because we do not make any distinction in rank and outward appearance, or wealth and education, or age and sex, they devise an accusation against us that we practice cannibalism and sexual perversions.”

 

James, in this first section, says, “God doesn’t show favoritism and neither do His people.” When we fully live this out we develop a community of people to which all are welcome. We embody the love and peace of Christ that transforms communities. See everyone in the same way that God sees them. Do not show favoritism and do not do things just so that others will favor you.

Thursday, Kent reminded us out of James 1 that, “Your faith should impact your life.  Unfortunately, this remains a radical concept today when thousands of Christians attend church on Sundays and it has no affect on their decisions, actions, or words throughout the rest of the week.  What’s frightening is when their conscience is not even pricked by such behavior.  It is to this crisis that James wrote and to which his words still speak today.” James goes on in chapter two to say that if you say you have faith but it isn’t evident in how you live then you don’t really have faith.

What does this look like? If Jesus calls you to pick up your cross and follow him, to come and die, and you continually strive to preserve your sense of worth and identity then you haven’t taken the call of Christ seriously. When you say, “I’ve been crucified with Christ that I no longer live but Christ lives in me…” (Gal 2:20) and you live as though that happened figuratively in your baptism, then you haven’t taken seriously what you did in your baptism. Your baptism was not “just a symbol” of what has happened but it was you participating in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is why throughout the New Testament we see the writers reminding Christians what they did in their baptism as a way of handling different situations.

You cannot simply believe in Jesus and actually be a Christian. You have to live it. Sitting in the auditorium during a worship service makes you a Christian about as much as sitting in the garage makes you a car. A transformation has to take place. Simply believing in Jesus puts you on the same level as the demons. Allow yourself to be transformed.

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2013 in Bible Blog, James

 

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Ephesians 4 – Can You Have Full Maturity as a Christian and Not be Part of the Church?

Grace brings us into the Body of Christ. Grace gives us power, placement, and purity. It is by grace that we have been saved. I know this passage isn’t hammering away on grace directly but I remind us of the grace that we have been given because we were brought into the Kingdom before we were worthy to be there. This bringing us to a humble position, we are called to live a life worthy of this calling. Too often we live a life “good enough” but if we truly realized the calling we have received we would continually press on to live lives worthy in a way that is ever increasing. My Grandmother is a great example of this. She never felt like she was good enough and always strived to be better. While I would never say that you could ever be good enough to gain this placement, I feel like some have taken this too far in the other direction and have said that God accepts them where they are and therefore there is no need to change. But…we are called to live a life worthy and Paul gives us a picture of what that life looks like.

Be completely humble and gentle, patient, and bear with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. How is this working out for you? There is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one baptism, and one God and Father. We are supposed to make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit…but we are supposed to do it through peace while bearing with one another in love.

It is this grace that has been given to us through Christ. How amazing is it that He came down here to give it to us?! He gives this to the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers for a very specific purpose. He gives it so that His people will be equipped for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up. The desire is for the body of Christ will reach unity in the faith, assumingly through these works of service, and in the knowledge of the Son of God. What does it mean to have the whole measure of the fullness of Christ? If the Church is the body of Christ, does this have any correlation? Can you have full maturity and the whole measure of the fullness of Christ without being part of the Church? It is in this body, the body of Christ, the Church, that we are no longer infants tossed by waves because we are a body filled with supporting ligaments that is growing and building itself up, as each part does its work.

Paul makes an interesting comment in his transition into his instructions for Christian living. I am working from the belief that Paul is writing to a Gentile church. In the Jewish way of thinking, you are either a Jew or you weren’t. If you weren’t a Jew, then you were a Gentile. Paul spills a lot of ink challenging the Jews to give up the practices that distinguish them as Jews. He isn’t calling them to become Gentiles per se. Here he tells the Gentile Christians to quit living like Gentiles. Paul is pushing for a unified body of believers without national labels.

You have been brought into this family, now here is how you are to act. I started out with talking about grace and now I want to end with it as well. Your actions are not what get you into the Kingdom of God. Grace does that. You stay in the Kingdom by acting like you belong there and continually striving to be the citizen you have been called to be. You have the choice to choose to be part of the Kingdom you’ve been brought into or be part of another kingdom.

 
 

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