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James 1 – Life Consistent with Faith

We don’t know for sure who actually wrote the book of James.  The name James was very common at this time, but it is most likely that the letter was written by the most well known James of the early church, the brother of Jesus.  James was a pillar of faith in the Jerusalem church.  While most people assume that Peter was the strongest leader in the early church, there is much church tradition that indicates that James was just as much a pillar and leader in Jerusalem.

This letter is addressed to the twelve tribes.  This could mean that James is writing to a more Jewish audience, but I lean towards it being a Jewish phrase (since James was a Jew) to describe all the Christians in the churches around the world.  This is different from many of the letters that we have in the New Testament that are addressed to a specific individual or congregation.  James understood his letter to contain instructions valuable to Christians in all places and all situations.

The book is well known for being full of practical instructions for Christian living.  Similar in many ways to the wisdom literature found in the Old Testament, this book puts forth the idea that our lives should be consistent with our faith.  If we believe in Jesus but that belief never touches our life through our actions and practices then we have nothing.  The book also seems to be dealing with problems that were already creeping into the early church community.  We know from Acts that the Apostles had to appoint servants to be in charge of making sure widows were fed fairly.  Apparently the widows who behaved more “Jewish” were getting better care than the Jewish widows who behaved more like Romans.  Prejudice towards widows is a problem.  And there was the problem with Ananias and Sapphira, who wanted the glory of generosity without the willingness to actually give.  In James we see that there is prejudice between the wealthy and the poor in the church as well.  

In the office we have a saying that’s more of a joke than anything, but occasionally we find ourselves saying “Ministry would be the greatest job in the world if it weren’t for the people.”  Well James has discovered exactly that and now he is writing to help people bring their lives into alignment with the Gospel that they proclaim to believe.

The last several verses of chapter 1 highlight this very point, that if you should get rid of moral filth and instead accept the word of God planted in you.  Don’t just listen to the word and deceive yourself, but actually DO WHAT IT SAYS!  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.  We will cover the entire book in the next week, so be sure to keep reading and measuring your life against the teachings of James.

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2013 in 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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