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James

May 18, 2009

Background

I. Living for Christ                         James 1:1-5:2

A.  Deny Yourself             James 1:1

B.  Take Up Your Cross         James 1:2-8

1.  Rejoice in Your Trials                     James 1:2-4

2. Ask for Wisdom                               James 1:5-8

C.  Follow Me          James 1:9-26

1.  Be Humble                            James 1:9-12

2.  Persevere                             James 1:12

3.  Resist Temptation            James 1:13-18

4.  Listen and Obey                James 1:19-26

D. Love Your Neighbor              James 2:1-4:16

1.  Do not Discriminate                         James 2:1-13

2.  Show Your Faith; Do Good               James 2:14-26

3.  Control Your Tongue                     James 3:1-12

4.  Be Good                James 3:13-18

5.  Don’t Fight or Quarrel          James 4:1-6

E. Love God        James 4:7-5:18

1.  Love God and Encourage One Another        James 4:7-17

2.  Problem Wealth        James 5:1-6

3.  Be Patient        James 5:7-12

4. Pray and Praise        James 5:13-18

F. Love the Brethren        James 5:19-20

Background

The theme of James’ letter addresses how we are to live our faith in Christ.
It defines ethical conduct. It is authoritative in tone but not theological.
It is written to Jewish Christians who were once part of the church in Jerusalem
but have been driven out due to persecution. They were most likely the more
wealthy families in that they were able to move, find work, and live elsewhere.
That is probably why the church at Jerusalem was poor and had to be supported
from time to time with gifts from the Gentile congregations. These Jewish Christians
had suffered persecution, were oppressed, discriminated against, and were more
than likely a little bitter. James wants to remind them and guide them in Christ-like
living.

James is the half brother of Jesus, the leader of the Church in Jerusalem.
He did not believe in Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, until after the
resurrection of Jesus. Most scholars believe this letter was penned early, around
45-50 AD, because there is no mention of the issue of circumcision which took
place about 44 AD. That issue had already been handled successfully. The disciple
James had already been martyred for the Faith in 44 AD. James, the author, was
stoned by the High Priest in 62 AD. Therefore James is one of if not the earliest
book written for our New Testament.

James tells these believers that their priority is not survival but service
and submission to the Lord. He is saying to invest their talent, not bury it.
They are to let their light shine. Regardless of where they are living, they
are to not to be passive concerning their faith in Christ.

I believe James, his brothers and sisters, and his mother Mary were in attendance
when Jesus gave His Sermon on the Mount. Much of what James writes is similar
to what has been recorded in Matthew’s gospel account of that Sermon. Proverbs,
in the Old Testament, seems to be another resource James used. Therefore, I
have put together a different outline, using the words of Jesus in describing
the cost of discipleship and in summarizing the Law. It seems to fit. James
seems to take these words of our Lord and describe what they mean in everyday
life.

Living for Christ                                            James 1:1-5:20

Deny Yourself                                       James 1:1

James defines himself as a servant of God and of Jesus Christ. He does not
call attention to the fact that he is even related to Jesus Christ. There is
a big gap between being a half brother in the flesh and Jesus, his Lord, who
is both flesh and spirit, man and God, God incarnate. James is a servant of
Jesus Christ, no different than the Jewish Christians he was writing to encourage.

Regardless of what position we hold in life, we are to be servants. Jesus
came to serve and if we obey His command to be like Him, we will also gladly
serve others. Having a servant heart is the first step of a true follower of
Jesus.

Take Up Your Cross                                      James 1:2-8

Rejoice in Your Trials                                              James 1:2-4

“Take joy in your trials”. This speaks to heart-felt satisfaction
and contentment, not a short lived happiness.

Count it a privilege to have your faith tested. There is no better way to
teach perseverance and dependence on God. Learning to persevere develops maturity
and gives one assurance that God is involved in our lives for the purpose of
bringing forth our sanctification and perfection. We, like them, are being prepared
to bring glory to God by learning to trust and depend on Him for what we need.

Ask for Wisdom                                            James 1:5-8

“Ask for Wisdom”. God is generous and will provide it just as He
did for Solomon. Proverbs reminds us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning
of Wisdom. We are to come before Him with humility, awe, and respect acknowledging
Christ as Lord. We are to ask expectantly, without reservation, because God
is faithful. We are to believe and rest assured that His Wisdom is present in
our hearts and minds. Doubting leads to questioning leads to rationalization
leads to disobedience. The Lord prefers to use people who trust Him, believe
Him, who are willing to obey Him, to listen to Him, and who will follow Him.
Godly Wisdom is present when we “deny ourselves, take up our cross, and
follow Christ”. Godly Wisdom is present when we humble ourselves before
Him, listen to what He wants us to do, and then do it.

Follow Me                                                                                James 1:9-26

Be Humble                                         James 1:9-11

Humility is key. Moses was humble. Christ was humble. Humility enables one
to have faith and depend on God. A humble person is highly valued by God. Humility
is usually more evident in those without wealth. They have no wealth other than
that of Jesus Christ. [Actually they are very wealthy per Ephesians 1.]

We who are wealthy are to recognize we are least valued in God’s Kingdom.
The wealthy are generally less generous, less trusting, less humble, and less
dependant on God than those persons who lack wealth. The wealthy have worldly
wisdom but tend to lack Godly wisdom because they don’t seek it. They tend to
be known for what they are [rich] instead of who they are to be [humble, compassionate,
loving, generous, hospitable etc.]. It doesn’t have to be that way but it generally
is because of our fallen nature. So seek first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness.
Then everything else will fall into its’ rightful place.

Persevere                                        James 1:12

Those who persevere pass the test and are victorious. They inherit eternal
life because they have demonstrated their steadfast love of God for all to see.
Again Jesus is a great example of perseverance. He withstood all temptation
and He obeyed God to the end in His death and resurrection. Paul is another
good example [see II Corinthians 6] and so is Abraham.

Resist Temptation                         James 1:13-18

We are all subject to temptation but God does not initiate it. God is good,
not evil. God is light, not darkness. We are tempted because we harbor evil
desires. We are sinners. We have inherited sinful hearts and minds from Adam.
Giving in to temptation leads to sin leads to death. So be on guard and resist
temptation.

God does not tempt but gives us good gifts instead. He is faithful. He keeps
His promises. We are “born again” because of His truth, His love,
His death, and His resurrection. We are “born again” to be as He is,
resurrected unto eternal life with God our Father.

Listen and Obey                               James 1:19-26

Listen and obey. James reiterates Proverbs 4:1-2, 20-22; Proverbs 16:32; and
others. We are to listen, take our time before speaking, and suppress anger.
We are to be an example of righteousness; right with God and right with our
fellow man. Speaking without thinking and angry words will not accomplish what
God desires in our relationship with our fellow man. He desires we live in peace.
Our words are to conform to His teaching in Scripture. We are to build up, not
destroy, with our speech.

Knowledge of what is right is of no value if we refuse to accept that knowledge
as wise and proceed to act accordingly. Wise actions are a blessing to others.
What would Jesus do? What would Jesus have us do? We are to love, help, show
compassion to all orphans, widows, and those who are hurting. We are to do all
we can to meet their needs and make their life easier. Ignore the world’s values
of selfishness. Be selfless. Christ was.

So James has begun exhorting us to take joy in our trials. The Jews who were
scattered were most likely those who had the means/wealth to leave Jerusalem.
The Jerusalem church became a poor church . That is why Paul took up a collection
for them from the Macedonian churches and Corinth. They were rich in faith but
poor from the world’s point of view. James is writing to those who left Jerusalem,
recognizing that some of them were no longer rich while others still had plenty.
They were probably what we would classify as educated and professional people.
Those whose wealth has disappeared as a result of moving or who lived in places
that despised Christians are encouraged to be joyful and content with their
lot in life. We all are to persevere, to be witness of God’s goodness. We are
to ask for wisdom from God, to humble ourselves before His throne, listen to
Him, and obey Him. We all are servants of the Lord Jesus Christ wherever we
reside. We are not only to be joyful, but recognize we are also victors because
of our perseverance. Such perseverance in following God’s wisdom/teachings,
avoiding temptation, and continuing to acknowledge God’s blessings assures us
of God’s promise of eternal life. We are not to question what God has said.
We are to believe what God has promised. He is faithful. Therefore, we are to
be of strong faith. We are to be an example of God’s faithfulness to those around
us. We are to be a blessing to others because of how we live.

Love Your Neighbor                                                                  James 2:1-4:16

Do not Discriminate                                                 James 2:1-13

Don’t discriminate. Don’t play favorites. James illustrates his point by comparing
a rich man with a poor man visiting their worship service. What a person wears
or what car he drives does not tell you anything about his heart. In fact the
poorer the individual the more likely they have great faith. Their faith is
great because they have learned to depend on God to survive. The rich are more
apt to depend n their wealth. The rich are more apt to be self-centered. The
rich are more apt to exercise power over others instead of loving others as
Christ commanded.

James exhorts his exiled parishioners to practice loving their neighbors.
It is the positive reading of the Law. It is the law that gives freedom because
it is merciful and forgiving. The negative reading of the law as given in the
Ten Commandments enslaves because we are powerless to keep all of the law. People
respect those who love over those who exercise judgment. So look upon the heart
as God does and ignore what a person is wearing. Live loving God and your neighbor.
Live joyfully and abundantly while showing the grace, mercy, and forgiveness
of our Lord Jesus Christ. Follow His example and be a blessing to others.

Show Your Faith; Do Good                                    James 2:14-26

Possess genuine faith. Genuine faith results in good deeds [fruit]. We are
to love God and bear fruit. Faith without deeds is really no faith. Faith saves
and good deeds do not save. But good deeds are the result of genuine faith,
the evidence of genuine faith. Faith that doesn’t result in good deeds is of
no value. It is a dead faith.

To illustrate this point, James refers to Abraham whose faith caused him to
offer Isaac, his only heir, to God. James also refers to Rahab, a gentile woman
whose faith protected the Israelite spies sent into the Promised Land.

Genuine faith is active, not passive. We are to be active in our community
for the cause of Christ. We are to be active in loving others and in showing
mercy. We are to be active in being just and in sharing the gospel. We are to
be a light showing the way of eternal life to those in darkness. We are to let
our faith and its’ fruit show forth the way of the Lord. We are to be selfless,
not selfish.

Control Your Tongue                                            James 3:1-12

Control your tongue. This is difficult but very important. The more responsibility
one has the more important this is. What one says and how one says it has a
great influence on those who hear. The more responsibility one has the higher
the standard becomes. Controlling one’s tongue becomes evidence of one’s self
control, stability, and maturity. Maturity is defined by self control.

As bits are able to control animals, our tongues have the ability to encourage
obedience. Like ships rudders, our tongues have the ability to influence others
to change direction. Like a small spark, our words can destroy.

The tongue is one of the most active organs in our bodies. It responds instantaneously
to the thoughts in our hearts and minds. People will like you or dislike you,
love you or hate you, by what comes from our mouths. It both praises and curses.

Controlling our tongues is very important because we, as Christians, represent
Christ. Christ-likeness starts with the heart but is revealed by our tongues.
We are to use it to praise God, to encourage one another, to share knowledge,
to express love, faith, and hope to one another. Cursing, destroying, judging,
talking down in arrogance hardens hearts. Think before you talk. Call on the
Holy Spirit to guide you. [see Proverbs 15:4; Matthew 12:34]

Be Good                                                      James 3:13-18

Be good. But what is “good”? James defines good as being wise, humble,
disciplined, having pure motives, peace-loving, considerate, merciful, impartial,
and sincere. A good person is a peacemaker, a person who is considered righteous
by his fellow man, and a person who is righteous in the sight of God. A good
person is selfless, not selfish. “Let your light shine among men so they
will see your good works and glorify the Father.” [Matthew 5:16] A good
person is a Kingdom Worker.

Don’t Fight or Quarrel                          James 4:1-6

Don’t fight or quarrel. Jesus taught these principles in His Sermon on the
Mount. The root cause of disagreement is our lust and desires of the flesh resulting
in coveting and possible murder. Instead of coveting, we are to ask of God.
But in asking, we must ask with the right motive, the right heart. We are not
to ask for our own pleasure but for His Pleasure. His Pleasure is for us to
show love, mercy, compassion, and hospitality to our neighbors. His Pleasure
is for us to be Christ-like, giving hope and living in peace.

Love God                                                                                   James 4:7-5:18

Love God and Encourage One Another               James 4:7-17

Serve God, not man. We can not serve both man and God. We are in the world
but not of the world. We are to be humble, not proud. Such defines those who
truly love Christ. The true born again Christian submits to God’s Will. He does
not covet. He does not boast. He does not fight or quarrel. The true believer
loves, forgives, offers hope, lives in peace, resists evil, purifies himself,
seeks to know God, recognizes he is unworthy except for God’s grace, and humbles
himself before the throne of God. Those who love the Lord encourage one another.
Our purpose is not to judge and condemn. The Lord is charged with that responsibility.
Our purpose is to imitate Christ in all things so others will acknowledge Him
as their Lord and God and, thus, avoid condemnation. Christ Jesus came to earth
as a humble baby, grew up to train us according to the will of God in righteousness.
He taught us how we should live and He showed us how we should live. Following
Christ is not easy. It will bring trials and persecution. But we live in hope,
assured of being resurrected unto eternal life. He paid our debt for sin with
His life. He conquered death with the power of His resurrection that gives us
life.

Life is short. Use it for the glory of God and not the glory of man [wealth].
Seek God. Know God. Live Christ-like. Be steadfast, steady, and separate. Avoid
and flee the world’s influence. Practice the goodness of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Live fearlessly. Live dependently. Live joyfully. Live victoriously.

Problem Wealth                                                James 5:1-6

We who are rich, listen. One’s wealth will do you in. It will cause you personal
misery because it consumes your being. One’s faith becomes centered more on
wealth than on Christ Jesus. We end up spending more time counting our money
than in using it for good. We become the Scrooge in Dickens Christmas Carol.
We want more and more as time passes. We end up practicing injustice and oppressing
others to gain wealth. We falsely condemn and can even stoop to murder indirectly.

This is a strong condemnation. The love of money is the root of evil and the
pursuit of wealth leads one to do evil. But wealth can be used for the good
of others when we are not possessed by it but are possessed by His Holy Spirit.

Relatively, we who live in the United States are very rich. Even those who
are poor are rich by comparison. We in the U.S. have been very benevolent with
our wealth but the world thinks we can and should do more. They may or may not
be right. There are other countries who are rich who do not contribute equivalent
to our per capita amount. But true generosity doesn’t use comparisons. It is
based on our hearts.

God has blessed us as individuals and as a nation. Wealth does us no good
long term but it can help others short term. We are to use our wealth to help
others and thereby show them the love of Christ. Doing more than is expected
of us draws attention to the Lord’s grace and mercy. We give according to our
hearts. Our Lord gave His life that we may live. What are we giving that others
may live? We are to use our wealth, money and spiritual blessings, to be a blessing
to those in need both materially and spiritually. Share, don’t hoard, the gifts
given us by the Lord.

Be Patient                                                  James 5:7-12

Be patient. Look forward to the Lord’s return as the farmer looks forward
to the harvest. Don’t waiver. The Lord is faithful. In your patience, practice
perseverance and depend on Him. Don’t grumble as the Israelites did when life
was not smooth and easy during their exodus from Egypt. Trust the Lord. Depend
on Him. He has proven to be faithful in the past and, therefore, He is faithful
in the future. His coming is near. When He comes He will judge. When He comes,
may He find us faithful.

Remember the prophets? Remember Job? They did not waiver but persevered. They
believed the Lord was full of compassion and mercy. They remained faithful in
times of great trouble. Trouble is upon us. We suffer persecution for our faith.
But continue to “practice what you preach”. We are to be credible
and trustworthy in our dealings with others. Be faithful until He comes.

Pray and Praise                                              James 5:13-18

Pray, praise, and pray. In other words, do not forsake the worship of the
Lord. We are to come before Him in times of trouble. We are to praise Him when
life is good.

We are to come before Him in times of sickness. God hears and answers the
prayers of the faithful. The Lord is happy to intervene in the lives of His
children. Sickness comes because we live in a fallen world. It comes because
of wrong decisions [i.e. smoking, drinking, eating the wrong foods, etc.] It
comes as His punishment for our lack of obedience in order to get our attention
and restore us to fellowship. When sickness comes, we are to pray and discern
the root cause. If it is because of disobedience, confess, repent, and seek
His forgiveness. Our lives are to be His in sickness and in health. We are to
be His in life or death. We are called to be faithful and trust in His Will.
He will raise us up to be an example for others. He will raise us up to praise
His name. He will raise us up unto Himself. Whatever the outcome, His name will
be glorified because we have called upon Him in faith. His grace is sufficient.
His grace raises us up. Prayer is an effective and powerful tool. Use it to
the glory of God.

Love the Brethren                                                                         James 5:19-20

Guard one another. Restore those who are wandering. May our witness be Christ-like,
practicing love and forgiveness. May our witness be His light in our darkened
world. May we bloom where we are planted. May we love one another.

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