Stepping Into James : Introduction
- Quote: “Not everybody who grows old, grows up”
- For many people there is a vast difference between age and maturity
- Ideally, the older we are, the more mature we should be; but too often the ideal does not become the real!
- The result is real problems for us
- in our personal lives,
- in our homes, and
- in our churches…
- Problems in these areas are more often caused by immaturity more than by anything else
- If we Christians would just grow up, they would become victors instead of always being the victims
- The Epistle of James was written to help us understand and get spiritual maturity…
- James says as much in 1:4 “…that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”
Who is James:
- ½ brother of Jesus
- James introduction of himself is humble
- he identifies himself only as “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (James 1:1)
- James did not initially believe in Jesus – John 7:5
- Eventually he became the lead pastor at the church in Jerusalem – Galatians 2:9
When did James write this:
- 45 AD
- one of the earliest books in the NT
- along with Galatians and 1 Thessalonians
To Whom is James writing:
- “12 tribes in the Dispersion”
- Another word for “dispersion” is Diaspora
- A Diaspora is an involuntary scattering of people
- Different from migration, which is voluntary
- James is writing to Jews who are living outside of Judea
- They are living in Roman and Greek cities
- James wrote his letter to Christian Jews
- At least nineteen times he addresses them as “brethren”
- These were brethren “in the Lord” and not just brethren “in the flesh” James 2:1
What did he want to address?:
- He addressed the challenges they faced living for Christ among their friends and enemies
And Why is he writing it to them? 3 main reasons
- THE EPISTLE SUGGESTS THAT PEOPLE WERE HAVING PROBLEMS IN THEIR PERSONAL LIVES AND IN THE CHURCH…
- They were going through difficult trials
- They were facing temptations to sin
- They were hearers, but not necessarily doers of the Word
- Some were catering to the rich, others were being oppressed by the rich
- Some were competing for positions in the church
- The improper use of the tongue was a problem, as was worldliness
- Some were straying from the faith
- THESE PROBLEMS ARE NOT MUCH DIFFERENT FROM THOSE WE FACE IN OUR CURRENT CHURCHES TODAY…!
- Aren’t there people in churches who are suffering for one reason or another?
- Don’t we still have members who talk one way, but walk another?
- Isn’t worldliness a serious problem?
- Aren’t there Christians who cannot control their tongues?
- It would appear that James is dealing with some very “up-to-date” problems!
- BUT JAMES HAS NOT CHOSEN SOME RANDOM AND UNRELATED PROBLEMS TO DISCUSS…
- All of these problems had a common cause: spiritual immaturity
- These Christians were in need of “growing up”
- Look at the problems and you will see that they are each characteristic of little children:
- This gives us a strong hint that the BASIC THEME of this epistle is:
- Marks Of Maturity In The Christian Life
- In fact, James uses the word “perfect” several times,
- a word that means “mature, complete”
- By the expression “a perfect man” (James 3:2), James did not mean a sinless man, but rather one who is mature, balanced, one who is “grown-up”
- AND SO JAMES WRITES TO FILL A GREAT NEED: THAT OF SPIRITUAL MATURITY…
- Spiritual maturity is one of the greatest needs in churches today
- God is looking for mature people to carry on His work, and sometimes all He can find are little children who cannot even get along with each other!
HOW CAN WE GET THE MOST OUT OF studying THIS EPISTLE?
- FIRST, WE MUST BE “BORN AGAIN”…
- Apart from spiritual birth there can be no spiritual maturity
- James writes with the assumption his readers have been born again – James 1:18
- This “rebirth” is brought about by …How?
i. obedience to the Word of God – 1 Peter 1:22-23
- It involves being “born again of water and Spirit” – John 3:5 (traditionally understood to refer to baptism, Mark 16:16; Titus 3:5)
- To benefit the most of this study, we must have been born again through obedience to the truth - Acts 2:38-39
- SECOND, we must be willing to honestly examine ourselves in the LIGHT OF GOD’S WORD…
- This is not always easy for us
- James compares the Word of God to a mirror – James 1:22
- As we study the Word…
i. We are looking into the divine mirror
ii. And seeing ourselves as we really are
- We must be honest about what we see and not merely glance at the image and walk away
- THIRD, WE MUST OBEY WHAT GOD TEACHES.
- We must be “doers” of the Word, and not only “hearers” only
- Our “blessing” does not come from merely studying the Word, but in doing the Word – James 1:25
- FOURTH, WE MUST BE PREPARED FOR SOME EXTRA TRIALS AND TESTING…
- Whenever we get serious about our spiritual growth, the enemy gets serious about opposing us!
- But if we wish to develop patience, we should expect some trials – James 1:3
- But we are assured that, in the end it will be worth it! – James 1:12
- FINALLY, WE MUST MEASURE OUR SPIRITUAL GROWTH BY THE WORD OF GOD…
- We should not measure ourselves by comparing ourselves to others – 2 Corinthians 10:12
- But by the Word of God, and by the Son of God!
- We have been talking about mature Christians.
- What are Mature Christians?:
- Just because a Christian has been saved 10, 20, or 60 years does not guarantee that we are mature in the Lord
- Joyful Christians, James uses joy…
i. They are joyful, despite the trials they face
- Useful Christians, overcoming the temptations that cross our paths
- Christians who help encourage others and build up their local churches
So our hope is that as we study The Epistle of James together, that we, with God’s help, grow and mature together…
– We know that the Basic Theme of James is Spiritual maturity
- James also has 4 main sub-themes or principles
- They are:
- Life as a citizen of heaven
- Principles of faith and works
- Principles of impartiality and compassion
- Principles to live by
1. Life as a citizen of heaven
- Today each we Christian live as “alien”, being a citizen of heaven, but living on earth
- This earth it not our home (song)
2. Principles of faith and works
- James agrees with Paul that we are saved by grace through faith and that our works do not contribute to salvation
- But James also stresses that genuine faith will eventually produce good works
QUESTION TO PONDER: What should we do if we are not seeing any good works in our lives?
A: re-evaluate the genuineness of our faith
3. Principles of impartiality and compassion
- James puts riches in their proper perspective
- The value of our material possessions is insignificant compared to our Christian inheritance in heaven
i. Think about it … As most of us mature life and in faith, we begin to value our material things less
- The problem isn’t whether we have money or not.
i. The problem is the value we place on this in our lives.
- The mark of a believer is also in how we help the poor and the underprivileged
4. Principles to live by
- James offers us specific and practical wisdom for living our Christian life
- And for the things not specifically addressed in his letter, he advises that we ask God for wisdom
- God gives wisdom to anyone who asks
i. And this wisdom helps guide us through life and its challenges
- As we learn to work from the perspective of patience, humility and love, which is supplied to us by the Holy Spirit, we can avoid:
i. using our tongues destructively, while we
ii. Draw nearer to God and resist the devil
End of Introduction