I love the phrase, “heart-to-heart” to describe a conversation. The book of James is just that. It is also a shepherding, pastoring guidebook to a healthy Christian life. He is writing to Jews, displaced by much persecution. Can you imagine how stressed they were? James cares and writes what he knows to be true about living a life for the Lord. His book is great for everyone! I am so excited about what he writes, so how about we start day one of A Study in James? We will dedicate a day per chapter, so in just a few days, you will be very familiar with James’ message to the Jews…and to us.
What a beginning! James sets the tone for his upcoming words in the best way possible. Chapter One, verse one says,
“James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad.” James 1:1 NKJV
What exactly is a bondservant? According to everything I researched, a bondservant is a servant that was released by his master but willingly remained in service to the master, out of gratefulness for their freedom. We are bondservants! Jesus freed us but we love and respect Him so we CHOOSE a life of service to Him. That’s pretty powerful stuff! We choose to be bonded with Him!
James is a great pastor and cheerleader! He wants to encourage the Jewish Christians who have been persecuted. With easy to understand language, he tells them how to look at all the trials as a testing that produces patience. He reminds them that being rich is not the goal, but being lowly and exalting in belonging to Christ. He admits there will be temptations from the enemy, because that is what the enemy does, he gives us lies that could lead us astray. On the other hand, the Lord only gives good gifts!
The second half of chapter one is like a playbook of how to navigate the battle for our souls. The first thing to do is to realize we will be tried, but not just randomly tried, but tried to produce something, the righteousness of God. What a daunting idea! I can only wrap my head around that when I consider that I, myself, produce nothing close to righteousness, but it is the Lord that does good and seemingly impossible things in us. He is that great!
You could say James likes to warn others, sort of like a safety monitor. who tells others what to look out for, what to be prepared for and how to handle tough situations. He tells the Jews to be careful to actually DO what the Word of God says and not just KNOW it. Ouch! How easy is it to know what we are supposed to do but not do it because we get distracted or think someone else will do it? I am guilty of that! I like the way James describes that needed focus on God’s Word as the “law of liberty.”
“But He who looks into the perfect LAW OF LIBERTY and continues in it and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.” James 1:25 NKJV
He ends chapter one with an if/then proposition. He basically points out a possible pitfall that Christians can fall into…. He explains that IF we think we are religious but we don’t control what we say, trying to trick our own heart, THEN our religion is worthless. James 1:26 Thankfully, he then tells the Jews what real undefiled religion is:
“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” James 1:27 NKJV
…And that is James chapter one! I love the detailed way he teaches the persecuted Jews to hold onto hope because there is a reason for suffering. It produces righteousness. Only God in His perfect wisdom and power can accomplish that! We are just the loyal servants who, not only know what His law says, but we want to actively do it. That means treating others as the brothers and sisters that they are meant to be. If they are in trouble, it is our job to help them. That is something the Lord has been urging me about lately, the need to help each other more.
I hope you will read chapter one of James and then join me for Chapter two on Monday. It’s good stuff! Have a great and safe week. No matter what trials you may have, the Lord can use it to produce something useful to Him. Watch out for the schemes of the enemy, praying always. Help someone today and tomorrow and the next day and I will do the same!
With much love from the Father to you,