James 5

Vs. 8, “You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lords coming is near.”  A timely reminder as we remember Jesus’ first coming and look forward to His second coming.  We are a consumer society and we are exhorted not to treasure the wealth that the world offers (vs. 1-6).  Wealth itself is not a sin, but its when we put it before God or acquire it an unethical way (vs. 4).  We are then reminded to be patient through the trials and suffering of our lives (vs. 7-12).  Just as a farmer must exercise patience to await a fruitful crop, we too must remember things don’t grow overnight.  We are to remember the prophets and Godly people who came before us (vs. 10-11).  Question: What then shall we do when we face trials of many kinds?  We must pray (vs. 13-20).  While we can use our tongues for evil (James 3), we are now exhorted to use it for the highest purpose.  Prayer is so powerful that it can heal (vs. 13-15, it can reconcile (vs. 16), and it can cover over sins (vs. 20).

Regarding application…Power or Prayer.  Vs. 16, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”  Prayer is one of those things that we know is important, yet many of us fail to exercise this part of our life.  Many of those in our nations gave prayers to the Newton elementary tragedy in Connecticut.  We pray because we realize that there is only one source we can turn to in our darkest times.  Prayer is the compass for our life.  It recalibrates our hearts and minds so that we can remember the bigger picture of life.  Let us be people who live righteous and powerful prayer lives!

James 4

Vs. 4, “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”  Question: What is the problem here?  The previous chapter reminded us about human wisdom vs. God’s wisdom.  As people continued living with their own selfish wisdom, their sinful desires took precedence over the Lord.  They began to love the world and what it had to offer.  James does not hold back and denounces such ways of living (vs. 1-10).  Little did people realize that their selfish ways were literally hatred towards God.  We are reminded that when we submit to God, the devil must flee (vs. 7).  In the latter part of our chapter, James addresses two admonitions regarding holy living; speech and money (vs. 11-17).  People were gossiping and slandering their brothers and sisters (vs. 11-12).  When we so quickly judge the actions of others, we are in effect trying to do something that is reserved for the Lord, not us.  And lastly, James addresses the boastful and smug attitude towards their future and attitude towards money (vs. 13-17).  Not much has changed, for we struggle with such goals even today.  With our current economy and the collapse of the value of homes, we know how the things of this world are never certain.

Regarding application…Here Today, Gone Tomorrow.  Vs. 14, “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”  Perspective folks…Perspective.  We work so hard for what?  To play and enjoy the temporary things of this world?  Work hard, play hard.  Question: How would you live your life if you only had one week to live?  Given such insight, I think many of us would get things right.  Yet, we have this reality that our lives are but a vapor in the wind.  How foolish to have such a small perspective when it comes to how we look at our lives.  This is an important reminder for all of us as we consider how we conduct our lives and our future goals.

James 3

Vs. 10, “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.”  Just as favoritism was divisive in the church (James 1), the tongue can be a very dangerous weapon (vs. 1-12).  In the context of this passage, James is addressing the reality of influence a teacher or leader in the church can have.  Though the tongue is small, it can cause great damage.   That is why not many should so quickly take on the role as leaders (vs. 1).  In the very least, teachers and leaders should be prayerful and ensure they are spiritually mature.  While none of us can control the tongue (vs. 8) on our own, only the Lord working in our hearts can change it.  The Lord is the source of our goodness and our wisdom (vs. 13-18).  I recall one of the most profound prayers requests I ever heard was in a bible study with someone genuinely asking to pray for wisdom.

Regarding application…What is Wisdom?  Vs. 13, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.”  There are many who seek the accolades of knowledge.  Get the best grades, go to the best schools, have the most prestigious careers.  The say, “knowledge is power.”  But, knowledge without wisdom is nothing.  Just because you know something to be true doesn’t mean we can wisely apply it to our lives.  The building of the Tower of Babel seemed to be a knowledgeable thing to do, but it was quite unwise (Genesis 11).  There is worldly evil wisdom (vs. 14-16) and then there is Godly wisdom from above (vs. 17-18).  Let us be people who seek such wisdom in a world where chaos seems to get the frontpage news.

James 2

Vs. 1, “My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism.”  James now begins to show us practical ways to show our faith and works.  The Jewish society was an honor and shame society.  There was a problem with the church giving favoritism and honor to those who were rich, while neglecting the poor (vs. 1-12).  When we show favoritism, we are not having the mind of God (vs. 4).  Notice how they were not to ignore the rich, it’s just that they were to not give more honor to them.  While many of us know this truth about rich and poor, it is a true paradigm shift to how this world operates.  James reminds his audience about the law since they were well versed in it (vs. 8-13).  Much of their perspective was based on living righteous by obeying the laws of God.  However, they were doing so without love and therefore breaking God’s royal law (vs. 8).  And lastly, we come to one of the central points of the book of James: Faith and deeds (vs. 14-26).  While faith is believing what is true, there is far more to it.  True faith is one that is demonstrated in both belief and action.  Now, one of the big issues in James is the seeming contradiction that James presents verses what the Apostle Paul states (Romans 3:8).  If you have real faith, you were produce good deeds.  Indeed, we are saved by faith and a true believer won’t do works out of obligation, rather out of heart.

Regarding application…Living Faith.  Vs. 22, “You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.”  I once heard this analogy about a fruit tree.  A fruit tree grows and has one purpose; to grow fruit so others can enjoy.  Technically, if a fruit tree had free will, it might choose to grow rotten fruit or no fruit at all.  But, a fruit tree’s purpose is to bear fruit.  When we put our faith in the Lord, we become a new tree, rooted on the foundation of Christ.  We were created to bear fruit.  However, there are those who think that just being a fruit tree is enough.  But, the very essence of a fruit tree is to bear fruit.  Likewise, the very essence of a Christian it to bear the fruit of good deeds.  Let us have a living faith today!

James 1

Vs. 2, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.”  We don’t wake up in the morning hoping and praying for trials in our lives.  However, James reminds the Christians who were living in their day that all their trials had its purpose.  Many of the recipients of this letter had lost much of what they had once known; their loved ones, their homes, their community, their means of income.  When we go through such trials, we must persevere and grow (vs. 3-6).  James also reminds us that much of our trials can also be a lack of our own faith (vs. 6-8).  Sometimes we think the grass is greener or that money will take away the trials (vs. 9-11), however, we should be thankful for such situations in our lives.  When those trials come, our response to them can determine our spiritual condition of being alive or dead (vs. 12-15).  In light of our nations tragedies of the Connecticut school shooting and Oregon mall shooting, it is tempting to blame God.  But God is the source of good things (vs. 16-18).  As children of our Father in Heaven, we would do wise to listen to the Lord and others (vs. 19-21).  But James doesn’t stop there, while we may listen, that is only half the battle.  We must take action and be doers of God’s words (vs. 22-25).  But we must not be selective in our doing, Let us be authentic and speech and deed (vs. 26-27).

Regarding application…Persevere.  Vs. 12, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”  Question: Persevere from what?  From trials.  This is someone who had endured much trials and opposition, but none of that stop their ultimate faith in the Lord.  Think of Job in the Old Testament.  Jesus forewarned us that we would have troubles in this world (John 16:33).  There are troubles and atrocities that we cannot fathom, but let us persevere in our faith to bless the name of the Lord in good times and bad times.

James 5

Vs. 8, “You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.”  While there are several ending thoughts James gives, the key thought is once again the second coming of Christ.  When Christians honestly look for the return of Christ, they can’t help but show the evidence of hope in their lives!  While there were a few good rich people, God does not pull any punches when it comes to the rich.  The rich often live very selfish lives and God warns us time and time again not to love money because James outlines a little bit of what might happen if you do (Vs. 1-6).  We also see that we must be careful with swearing by an oath (like putting your hand on a Bible and swearing you are telling the truth).  The way we live our lives should be enough of a testimony of our promises.  And of course, when trials inevitably enter our lives…Question: What must a Christian do?  Pray, Pray & Pray!

Regarding application…How We Pray For Others.  Vs. 16, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”  S.A.G. (Student Accountability Group)…this is one of the inspirations of why we have S.A.G’s!  We can’t make it on our own if we do not learn to pray for each other!  In order to pray, we must break the dividing walls and humble ourselves so that through prayer we can truly be healed.  Whether you are in the Youth group are you are at your own church…we must learn to depend upon each other!  “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”  (Proverbs 27:17).  I’m looking forward to our first Corona Prayer Night tonight!

James 4

Vs. 8, “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”  The problems that are addressed in this chapter really stem from selfish disobedience.  It is sad to see brothers & sisters in Christ divided.  James addresses some of the main things that can keep us from God…The flesh (Vs. 1-3), the world (Vs. 4-5), and the devil (Vs. 6-7).  It is important that we examine ourselves to see if any of these three enemies are defeating us.  We have this verse I like to quote at times (Vs. 9) about turning our laughter to sorrow…indeed, there is a time for everything.  We are also warned against pride, criticism, and arrogant self-confidence.  Lot’s of good exhortations to meditate and pray about.

Regarding application…Compromising.  Vs. 4, “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God.”  This is not addressing God’s attitude towards us…rather…OUR attitude towards God.  The gap between God and the world is so great…that when we compromise and go towards the world, we unknowingly alienate ourselves from God.  When we compromise, we begin to not realize how bad our sins have become.  Time and time again…we rationalize and compromise the choices we make.  I know, because I did and foolishly thought I was going to be okay.  But for at least 3 years, I unknowingly showed and despised everything that God did for me because I chose the world over Him.  No wonder why James would use such a strong statement as “hatred toward God.”  Compromise = Hatred towards God.  We can’t have our cake & eat it too.  Don’t ever forget…one of the most formidable enemies we will ever face is not Satan…not the world….but OURSELVES!  “I want” “I deserve” “I will” “It’s my life”…when we you realize it’s not about you, it’s what Jesus did for us that gives us life!

James 3

Vs. 1, “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”  It is a privelidge to teach but also a very great responsibility.  I hope & pray all of you would one day be teachers of His word…most importantly to your children one day and hopefully in the church too!  James goes on to mention the power of the words and what we say.  The Book of Proverbs gives us much wisdom on this topic and we see the life of Peter who goes from a man who often spoke before he thought to the leader of the first church.  We also see the importance of Wisdom (Vs. 13-18).  Not only are we called to know His word, we are also called to make wise choices (applying God’s word).  There are two wisdom’s…the wisdom from below (earthly, unspiritual, of the devil) and the wisdom from above (pure, peace-loving, etc.).  People who follow the wisdom of the world…you will usually find jealousy, division & much confusion in their lives.  True wisdom are people who live it in their lives and the gentle words they use.

Regarding application…Taming the Tongue.  Vs. 9, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.”  We are reminded the Tongue is compared to a bit in a horse’s mouth, a ship’s rudder, and a simple flame of fire in a forest…all small, but all very effective in what they can do.  But notice this truth in Vs. 8, “but no man can tame the tongue…”  Question: Do you know what this means?  It means, without God…there is absolutely NO WAY we can learn to tame our tongue…there is NO WAY we can stop cussing, or stop gossiping, slandering, saying things that can hurt others, etc.  When we allow God to takeover our lives and control the words we say, we will find the words we use will be far different than what we used to speak.  The words will have gentleness, patience, self control & love mixed with them.

A careless word may kindle strife;

A cruel word may wreck a life.

A bitter word may hate instill;

A brutal word may smite and kill.

A gracious word may smooth the way;

A joyous word may light the day.

A timely word may lessen stress;

A loving word may heal and bless.

—Author unknown

 

Brothers & Sisters in Christ…think before you speak and let God change the words that come out of your mouth.

James 2

Vs. 18, “But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”  Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.”   Throughout this chapter, we see the importance of faith shown real by action & love.  If we show favoritism (Vs. 1), how can we see we live by faith?  Faith is believing in what we do not see…and that also means to stop looking at things we can see.  When we judge others by their gender, race, culture, rich/poor, popular/unpopular…we are living by sight rather than faith.  We also are given a great lesson on faith in action from this chapter.  While we have been justified by faith not works…we also cannot live faithfully without works. That is one of the big knocks on Christians from the outside world.  There are so many so-called Christians not living out their faith and the world sees this and wonders what good it is to call yourself Christian if Christians look and act just like them.

Regarding application…Walk the Walk..  Vs. 26, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”  Think of it this way…We are justified (declared righteous) before God by faith, but we are justified before men by works.  God can see our faith, but men can see only our works.  The reason why we can look to Abraham as a great man of faith is because he walked the walk.  When push came to shove, he not only believed it in his heart, he acted upon his faith with action…even if it meant sacrificing his beloved son.  Personally, I hope selfishly God would never put me through such a test of faith.  But don’t misunderstand…God tests our faith far more than we probably ever realize.

Illustration:

An old Scotsman operated a little rowboat for transporting passengers. One day a passenger noticed that the good old man had carved on one oar the word “Faith,” and on the other oar the word “Works.” Curiosity led him to ask the meaning of this. The old man, being a well-balanced Christian and glad of the opportunity for testimony, said, “I will show you.”

So saying, he dropped one oar and plied the other called Works, and they just went around in circles. Then he dropped that oar and began to ply the oar called Faith, and the little boat just went around in circles again—this time the other way around, but still in a circle.

After this demonstration the old man picked up Faith and Works and plying both oars together, sped swiftly over the water, explaining to his inquiring passenger, “You see, that is the way it is in the Christian life. Dead works without faith are useless, and “faith without works is dead” also, getting you nowhere. But faith and works pulling together make for safety, progress, and blessing.”

Introduction – James

The theme of James really lies in this: Genuine faith will produce good deeds.  The audience is for Jewish Christians, but it also is for all Christians in all times of history.  There are at least three different James’ who could be the author…although…the concensus would be James the half-brother of Jesus.  It was Martin Luther who upheld the book of James during trying times with the Roman Catholic Church.  Once again, there was a situation of hypcritical teachings.  In a way…the book of James could be like the “Dummies guide to Christian Living”  James deals more with practical Christian living…much like Proverbs or the Sermon on the Mount.