I am so excited to start this journey through the book of James with you! I have a love/hate relationship with this little book. I LOVE it because James writes with obvious divine authority and inspiration about some of life’s most difficult struggles. He cuts to the chase and tells it like it is. I HATE it because, well, he cuts to the chase and tells it like it is! Which often leads me to serious conviction and repentance. 😊
James was the half-brother of Jesus (imagine what that must have been like!) and was converted to Christianity after Jesus’ resurrection. He later became the leader of the church in Jerusalem and wrote this letter in about A.D. 44 which makes it the earliest of all the New Testament writings. His letter is unique because it was written to the Jewish Christians “scattered among the nations”. The overall theme of the letter is how Christians live out their faith. In chapter 1 verse 25 we read what I believe to be the heart-verse of this little book:
But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it–he will be blessed in what he does. James 1:25
We are going to try to memorize this verse as it points us to three very important responses to God’s truth that James challenges us to pursue wholeheartedly. When it comes to the “law that gives freedom”, we are to “Know It”, “Own It”, and “Live It”. This is my prayer for all of us as we begin a month-long focus on this challenging book. Oh, that the Holy Spirit would come and stir our hearts to the Truth of God and conform our lives to the image of His Son so that we might experience the freedom that comes from obeying Him.
I love you all!
See you Sunday,
STEPS TO PREPARE
PRAY FOR THE SERVICES AND FOR YOURSELF
AND ME AND THE OTHER TEACHERS.
PRAYERFULLY READ THE SCRIPTURES
AND CONSIDER THE DISCUSSION QUESTIONS.
MAKE PLANS TO ATTEND A PREACHING SERVICE AND A SMALL GROUP.
INVITE SOMEONE TO COME WITH YOU.
PREPARING FOR SUNDAY: SMALL GROUP QUESTIONS
SMALL GROUP QUESTIONS
- Rank the following behaviors in order of how reliable they are in pointing out true saving faith
(1 = mark of a genuine believer; 10 = nothing to do with true faith).
- _____ wears Christian T-shirts and jewelry
- _____ has Christian bumper stickers on his or her car (and drives the speed limit!)
- _____ gives regularly and sacrificially to the church
- _____ participates in regular missions and outreach efforts
- _____ sings in the choir (sometimes even solos)
- _____ studies God’s Word regularly and seeks to live it
- _____ attends church faithfully
- _____ has healthy, loving relationships with friends, family, coworkers, church members
- _____ prays fervently for the lost
Why did you rank the items as you did? What do you think are the best indicators of true, saving faith?
In James 1:19-27, James presents a test of true believers. The first two tests found earlier in the chapter, centered around our response to trials and to temptation. The third test is our response to the truth revealed in the Word of God. One of the most reliable evidence of genuine salvation is a hunger for the Word of God (see Ps. 42:1). Just as a newborn baby does not have to be taught to hunger for its mother’s milk, the newborn child of God does not have to be taught to hunger for God’s Word, his spiritual food and drink. When the true disciple hears God’s Word, there is an affection for its truth and a desire in his heart to obey it. James focuses on a proper reception of Scripture as God’s Word, and then on a proper reaction to it, reflected in an obedient life. As you study this passage, ask God to increase, or renew, your hunger for His Word and give you strength to do what it says.
Read James 1:19-27
- According to verses 19-22, how will true believers behave?
- In the arena of faith, how are the actions of “hearing” and “doing” different? How are they related?
- What is the right response of a child of God to the Word of God? Why?
(Verses to consider: Psa 119.1, 10-11, and 14; 2Tim 2.15; 1 John 2.24; 3.10)
- What examples does James give as behavior indicative of true faith? Why do you think he chooses these particular actions?
In a related passage, Jesus teaches on the importance of obedience and what that reveals.
Read John 14.21-24.
- How does Jesus relate love and obedience?
- What does this teaching of Jesus add to your understanding of the relationship between true saving faith and obedience to the Word? What does obedience demonstrate?
Look at Galatians 5.16-26
- What resource does God give His children to ensure that they are able to live obediently?
Genuine believers receive Christ and continue in Him. They hear His Word and do it. They know His commandments, and they keep them. They do not claim to know God yet deny Him with their deeds. The validation of salvation is a life of obedience. It is the only possible proof that a person really knows Jesus Christ. If one does not obey Christ as a pattern of life, then professing to know Him is an empty verbal exercise.
- Reflect on your life and habits. Do your actions show that you have received Christ and are following Him in obedience?
- Why is humility (James 1.21) necessary in hearing and obeying God’s Word?
- When do you find it most difficult to approach Scripture with a humble heart and a teachable spirit?
- How can we best pray for you this week?