Do It

The New Testament epistle of James is a favorite among many of us.  It is so practical and direct.  It is not laden with theology or the challenging sentences of Paul.  Its themes are clear and simple, echoing many words from Jesus’ sermon on the Mount.

This James is not the apostle James, who was brother to the apostle John, and a son of Zebedee.  This is James, the half-brother of Jesus Christ.  He grew up in the home of Jesus, born from the same womb of Mary that Jesus was.  Think of it! James became a leader of the church in Jerusalem with notoriety and enfluence among the saints there and is mentioned over and over in the book of Acts as well as some of Paul’s letters.

The major themes of the epistle of James deal with Christian suffering, saving faith that works, taming the tongue, wisdom from God, favoritism, Christian relationships, dangers of dealing with wealth and wealthy, patience, prayer, and rescuing the sinner from the error of his way.

We are finishing our year long journey through the Bible this month.  We’ve focused on God’s saving mission all the way through.  The gospels all showed us how God fulfilled His promise to send us a Redeemer, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.  We saw how Jesus suffered on the cross, taking the punishment of our sins and bringing salvation to us by His sacrifice.  Jesus Christ came to save sinners!  His saving mission was to give His life, His body and blood, as a sacrifice for you and me.  It took that much for God to save us!  It was a cost He was willing to pay for you and me!  Suffering death, Jesus paid for our sins, He was buried in a borrowed tomb, three days later Jesus Christ rose from the dead, proving that He is the Christ, and that there is coming a resurrection of all mankind.  The grave is not the end.  For the saved, it is merely a passage to eternal life.  For the lost, it is a waiting place for judgment and eternal condemnation. 

After His resurrection, Jesus appeared alive to as many as 500 at one time, over a period of 40 days before His ascension to His Father’s throne.  Before Jesus ascended He commissioned His followers to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that He had commanded.  Then Jesus promised to be with them always, to the very end of the age.

The saving mission of God now becomes the mission of every follower of Jesus Christ!  God’s word is clear in Acts: People with saving faith share their faith!  Those who believe in their hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead, confess with their mouths, “Jesus Christ is Lord!”  Every believer must be a witness of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.  The book of Acts shows us over and over and over that this is true.  We also see that those with saving faith who share their faith suffer for it.  Just as Jesus suffered for us, we now take up the mantle of suffering for His sake.  We follow a crucified and risen Savior.  As He did, we must deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him, if we would be saved.

James opens his letter reminding us of this truth about suffering.  Just listen to his opening words.  Right after saying hello, James jumps in with both feet into dealing with trials.  Then look at verse 12 of chapter 1.  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.

Now let’s read again verses 19-27.  God’s word is to be obeyed, not simply heard and believed. (read)

James says that the word planted in you can save you.  Like a seed in the soil, it germinates and begins to grow and ultimately bears fruit for God. 

Have you humbly received the word planted in you?  Have you heard Jesus command to go make disciples?  Has that seed begun to grow in your life and show in your conversations with others?  Jesus commands us to go make disciples.  Did the church do that?  Did the Christians in Acts share their faith and make disciples of others?  Is this God’s word as an example to us? 

James tells us to be good listeners and careful speakers.  Are we careful in our words to speak things that reflect our faith in Jesus Christ?  Are our tongues put to work for God’s glory and the spread of the gospel?  Look at James 5:13-14.  Here we see two things that should come out of our mouths.  If we are happy, let us sing praises to God.  If we are in trouble, let us pray.  You don’t have to be a teacher to do either one of these!

James 3:1-12 and 4:11-12 tell us about our talking.  He first warns us about assuming to be teachers.  You don’t have to be a teacher to praise God or pray to God, you just need to believe in Him and let your words reflect your faith by confessing Jesus Christ as Lord and sharing what you do know.  It’s ok to say, I don’t know the answer when you don’t know the answer.  It’s not ok to stop confessing your faith, praying to God and praising God.  That’s not ok.  You are not necessarily a teacher when you do those things.  You are disobedient when you stop doing those things.  God’s word says, “Pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks.” Paul says, “I want all men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer.”  Peter says, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God… why?  That you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.”  When are you supposed to do that?  When are you supposed to stop?

If Christians would keep our mouths busy praying to God or declaring God’s praises, it would certainly cut down on gossip, slander, course joking, filthy talk, and ungodly language many Christians struggle to stop speaking, would it not?

Along with our good works we need good words.  That’s what James is saying.  We don’t just need to say the right things, we need to do the right things too.  But, get this clear.  You can’t do enough good deeds to save anyone without speaking God’s good words too.  Let us watch our lives and our words closely to do works that express our faith with both.

Let’s pray: Our Father in heaven, holy is your name!  We bow to you as our Savior, Redeemer and King, we come to you in the mighty name of Jesus Christ, Your only begotten Son, our Lord, who you sent to save us from our sin by His sacrificial death on the cross.  We hear your word to us that we are to declare Your praises and offer to you our prayers in full assurance of faith.  Now make us doers of Your word, O Lord, and not merely hearers who deceive ourselves.  Let us be convicted that it is not enough to hear and understand Your word, but we must be obedient doers of it, if we would be saved.  Let us not be forgetful hearers who walk away from the mirror of your word and act like we do not know who we are as your chosen people, your royal priesthood, your holy nation, the people belonging to You that we may declare your glorious praises in this dark world.

Holy Father, God of all creation, please hear our prayers and give us boldness and courage to declare your praises in this dark world as you have commanded us.  Help us make disciples by sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with others.  Give us strength to share Him of whom we put our hope and trust, by whom we have redemption and forgiveness of sins, from whom we have received the Holy Spirit and through whom we may call you our Father. 

Holy Father, by Your word, through Your Spirit, in and with Your people You build Your church.  Let us be Your church, Holy Father.  Let us shine with Your glory.  Let us show our faith by our works and through our words.  Please, Holy Father, increase our faith.  Forgive our sins. Fill our hearts so that our mouths overflow with Your praises. 

Keep us in Your word.  Let us not grow weary in doing good.  Give us humble hearts, contrite spirits, and may we tremble at Your Holy Word.  Be glorified in us, O Lord.  Praise be to Your holy name, forever and ever in Jesus Christ!  Amen.

Do It