I have seen things over the past two weeks that I could never have imagined. My children rode roller coasters, jumped into pools and swam underwater, my daughter ran up to and hugged Mickey Mouse (which she has always been terrified of doing), paddle boarding, kayaking, playing with a dog (again, both of my kids have been afraid of dogs forever). I have seen dolphins playing in the waves with surfers, dive-bombing birds fishing in my mom’s back “yard”. It was an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime trip, and I still can’t believe how blessed we were to take it. I confess my brain is struggling to come out of Disney mode! As I have been studying the last couple of weeks, many of the commentators and outlines title the last two verses of James 5 “The Final Admonition.” How many of you have seen Mulan? All I keep hearing in my head when I read that word is the matchmaker at the beginning of the movie when harshly evaluating Mulan saying “Recite the final admonition!”
Okay, all Disney aside, it is good to be back. I very much appreciated reading Mary’s and Ashley’s teachings from the last two weeks. I hope you were encouraged and challenged by them as much as I was. This has been a wonderful year, and I love hearing from many of you how you are growing in response to God’s Word!
This is our last lesson in the book of James. This week we touched on a passage of scripture that can be somewhat confusing and intimidating. However, I think Keri Folmar did a great job helping us unpack the need for faithful prayer. I especially appreciate her highlighting the need to focus not just on physical healing, but for spiritual strength and healing in the midst of trial and sickness. There is much from this week we could spend time discussing in depth, but because it is our last week, I want to spend our time, instead, zooming out again from the detail and looking at the entire book again like we did in week one.
Week one I gave you an outline, and we talked about the temptation to cherry-pick this book, to treat it like a checklist of unrelated commands or instructions. I also said we’d come back at the end of the study to see if we could discern an overarching theme. We are going to give that a shot this morning.
I know, I know, the answer to the theme question is obvious, right? I mean, our study guide has a title that works as the overall theme. “Faith,” right? I think faith is a good starting place, but I don’t think that the word faith alone is enough to describe what James was talking about. What about this?
If my faith is genuine, then my relationship with God radically impacts my relationship with those around me.
First, if my faith is genuine. We are told through all of chapter one and the second half of chapter two what genuine faith looks like. Being doers of the word, not just hearers. Genuine faith shows itself, proves itself in the works of the believer. Their life is different. Our lives are to be different. We love differently. We approach trials and temptation differently. Our speech is different. Not because WE do it differently, but Christ in us causes us to do it differently.
And it is that – that “Christ in us” relationship that radically impacts my relationship with those around me.
Chapter 2 verse 1 – I should show no partiality. Fine clothing, poor clothing, popular or uncool.
Chapter 3 verse 1 – I shouldn’t seek leadership positions for the possible esteem it may bring, knowing that there is great responsibility and weight to bear in those positions.
Chapter 3 verse 5 – I should reign in my tongue – attempting to speak life and truth instead of setting the forest ablaze.
Chapter 3 verse 18 – I should desire to be a peacemaker.
Chapter 4 verse 4 – I should choose friendship with God over friendship with the world, which leads not to quarrelling and fighting, but unity with the body.
Chapter 4 verse 14 – I shouldn’t trust the circumstances of today to secure my circumstances tomorrow. I shouldn’t hold on so tight that I am wrecked when things change.
Chapter 5 verse 1 – I shouldn’t trust in money or wealth to be my salvation. I am freed up to share what I have with those around me who are in need.
Chapter 5 verse 9 – I should be patient not only with my circumstances and suffering, but with those around me who are suffering, keeping my eye on the coming of the Lord and the promises He brings.
Chapter 5 verse 12 – I should be a person of integrity, unwavering and unambiguous.
Chapter 5 verse 13 – I am praying in all circumstances – good or bad. And not just for my own needs, but those of the body around me. Physical and spiritual.
Chapter 5 verses 19 and 20 – I am willing to be transparent and allow others into my life to see my sin, and to humbly accept correction and guidance when I need it. I allow others to be Christ’s agents of truth in my life. I also make time to know others well enough to do the same for them.
All of these choices were just as radical in James’ time as they are today. Most importantly we need to see that these radical changes come not from our own strength, but from the indwelling of Christ in our hearts.
These radical and impossible choices are made possible because we acknowledge the gospel:
I am a woman created by God in His image. I am a sinner, separated eternally from God, deserving of punishment for my sin. Christ, fully God and fully man, lived the perfect life that I could not, and offered himself as a sacrifice on my behalf. He took the punishment meant for me, and gives me His righteousness and new life. And because he has satisfied God’s judgment and wrath, I will spend eternity with Him.
If you are here this morning, and you have not already come to understand this good news of the Gospel, we want to tell you more. We want you to have what we have. Please, ask us. Allow us the privilege of sharing this truth with you.
We have one more meeting next week where we will have the opportunity to share together what God has been doing in us this year. I look forward to hearing from each of you. Thank you for your faithfulness and dedication this year.