We need this book as a church; we need wisdom to guide our discipleship. The Book of James mirrors the book of Proverbs at times. Prescribed practice is detailed then Theology explains why or Theology is explained by citing ‘Normative Practices.
The book of James is considered a ‘wisdom’ book in regard to Biblical genres along with Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job, Psalms and Song of Songs. It was written to guide a flock that had yet to develop a culture of shepherding. James is caring for their souls with his explicit warnings about sin and it’s consequences.
Here at the beginning of the letter, the stage is set for series of practical lessons that are meant to have the goal of glorifying Christ through our character and spiritual maturity. It is about embracing the idea that Spiritual Growth is a lifestyle for those of us who have surrendered our lives to Christ!
The rest of our world is not concerned with ANY personal growth, much less growth towards OUR CREATOR. The rest of the world is becoming more and more self-absorbed. We cannot imitate Christ AND live self-centered lives; unless we are living in ‘virtual reality’, which is where narcissism lives. How do we reject this wretched life of self absorption? We live for OUR Lord, we do it by BEING His Body, here, now, in person, warts and all.
Our vision here at Midtown church is Biblical Church Culture. That means reading The Scriptures, Old & New Testaments as Jesus Christ’s ‘Called Out Ones’ have always read it. That reading of it HAS to include real life application! That is what we mean when we say we ‘read’ the Bible as Christ’s followers have for 2000 years. This means in order to live as we are called to we ALL have to GROW UP! Spiritually / Emotionally / Relationally We ALL have a lot of growing to do!
The rest of this world is not trying to grow, they are trying to lower the bar. They argue that the world of today should be accepting of attitudes and behavior that have been rejected by humanity for centuries, even millennia. The rest of the world is not concerned with growing, it is concerned with being made to feel good about their selfishness, FEEL good about their consumerism, their dysfunctional way of doing relationships, Feel GOOD about their greed and lust and destructive obsessions. We are going to be different. We are committed to a lifestyle of Spiritual Growth! Are you good with that? Have you embraced that?
James 1:1-12 (JB Phillips)
- Historical Context
- Social Context
2 When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers and sisters, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! 3 Realize that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. 4 But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become people of mature character with the right sort of independence.
- When, not if trials come… Trials are normative for Christians
- Trials feel like and represent failure (change your thinking about failure)
- Failure having such bad connotations is a recent thing, a snowflake thing…
- A Lifestyle that embraces & learns from trials / failures is ‘Biblical’: Discipleship
- Renounce the fear of failure / Own your failures and let that humble you
- Nothing has value until it is tested. Is faith OUR meant to be worth something?
- We are to view it as a process (Sanctification) We signed up ‘to be made Holy’
5 And if, in the process, any of you does not know how to meet any particular problem, they have only to ask God. He gives generously to all without making them feel foolish or guilty, and each may be quite sure that the necessary wisdom will be given to them.
- The process is a given… now let’s talk about how we navigate the process
- PROBLEMS THAT WE DO NOT HAVE SOLUTIONS FOR IN SCRIPTURE
- James assumes a reliance on the Scripture (Old Testament)
- Beyond the particulars of Scripture we seek God in Prayer (Governed by Bible)
6 But you must ask in sincere faith without secret doubts as to whether you really want God’s help or not. 7 One who trusts God, but with inward reservations, is like a wave of the sea, carried forward by the wind one moment and driven back the next. 8 That sort of person cannot hope to receive anything from God, and such a life of divided loyalty will reveal instability at every turn.
- Wholehearted / Undivided
- Humbled / At The End Of Yourself
- Only God can get rid of your doubts. He doesn’t always do it right away.
- The anything refers to things only God can give: ETERNAL THINGS
- If your loyalty is divided you are hoping on superstition and magic, NOT GOD
- No one is able to ‘Practice’ undivided loyalty in each decision they make
- Stability comes for the ‘Author of Stability’: THE TRIUNE GOD
9 The person who is poor may be glad because God has called them to the true riches. 10 The rich may be glad that God has shown them their spiritual poverty. For the rich person, as such, will wither away as surely as summer flowers.
- Your material possessions &connections DO NOT reflect your Spiritual State
- God has mercy on the humble and down trodden when it matters: ETERNALLY
- The hope of the rich lies in the discovery of their spiritual poverty (Matt. 5:3)
- The things of comfort and luxury are not lasting
11 One day the sunrise brings a scorching wind; the grass withers at once and so do all the flowers—all that lovely sight is destroyed. Just as surely will the rich person and all their extravagant ways fall into the blight of decay.
- This life is but a season
- The prioritizing of material things over the things of GOD brings death & decay!
- Everything in this world is temporary. We can choose to invest in eternal things!
12 The person who patiently endures the temptations and trials that come to them is the truly happy one. For once the testing is complete they will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to all who love Him.
- For those without STUFF inTHIS world, HOPE lies in Eternity with Christ!
- The definition of true happiness, eternal happiness, eternity with Christ
- God has a plan for salvation and growth that is a lifestyle and a lifelong deal.
- Those who are undivided in their trusting Christ for eternity GET THE CROWN!
- The crown of life IS ‘Eternal Life’ with Christ!…
- The Bible also teaches of another kind of eternal life…one without Christ
A lifestyle of growth is a lifestyle of actively participating in that growth (DISCIPLESHIP), this happens in challenges, trials and temptations (failures).
God’s Word calls us to embrace what God allows in our life, enduring the process that HE has chosen for our growth spiritually. God’s goal is to make your character reflect HIM (Spiritual Maturity).
As we navigate the process of God developing our character, we are directed to consult with our Master on how to proceed. He is generous, gracious and able to provide the wisdom we need to grow spiritually.
The basis of a biblical relationship with God is to approach Him from wholehearted, undivided surrender to Christ as Lord. The stability of our relationship is only as strong as our complete loyalty. Solid Biblical Gospel Foundation.
Our spiritual condition is not based on or reflective of our socioeconomic position. Scripture teaches the ‘Anti-Prosperity Gospel’. Material poverty is helpful in overcoming spiritual poverty. Material success can be a roadblock to overcoming spiritual poverty: We ALL need to overcome spiritual poverty!
Trusting Christ for Eternal life is reflected / expressed in trusting Him for THIS life. When we place Christ in priority over everything this world can offer, then we can find peace in the promise of that eternal life with Christ.
What would help you embrace failures as part of God’s process of spiritual growth?
What would help you seek God’s wisdom in the challenges you face?
What do you see when you honestly evaluate what divides your loyalty to God?
How much do you connect your dependence on God and your prayer life?
How well do you recognize when material things distract you from biblical spiritual growth?