November 2014

Focal Passage- James 2:14-26

James 2:20-23 “Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’—and he was called a friend of God.”
The one example James’ Jewish readers might have used to justify a position on faith-only salvation would have been Abraham, so Abraham is exactly the example James uses to show that faith plus works is necessary. While it is absolutely true that Abraham’s faith saved him and this faith was “counted to him as righteousness,” Abraham demonstrated this faith by his actions. God had promised him that his descendents would be as numerous as the sands of the seashore. Then God commanded that Abraham sacrifice to Him the very son He had given the old man to fulfill this promise. Abraham’s faith, his belief in God, was then shown in his obedience to God. His faith was, as James wrote, “completed by his works.” Likewise, our faith is completed by our works. To say I believe God and all that He says and then disobey what He says is not saving faith; it is not faith that has been proven. As stated in verse 22, our faith must be active, and it is active in our obedience.
Study/Meditation: Look back at Abraham’s response when God told him to go to the mountain to sacrifice Isaac. (Genesis 22:1-14) How were Abraham’s instructions to his servants before going up to the mountain indicative of his faith? (Genesis 22:5)
*Father, thank You for the many examples You have given us in Your Word that saving faith is obedient faith. Help me in this life to show that I believe. Amen.

Focal Passage- James 2:14-26

James 2:18-19 “But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!”
A Gallop poll in January 2012 read that 92% of Americans today say they believe in God. Nearly 80% of those same people identified themselves as Christians. James would ask each one of these 80% if this faith they claim in Jesus Christ has been accompanied by fruit, by good works to the glory of this Savior they claim to have received. He would most certainly ask the 92% who say they believe in God what good that was going to do them on the Day of Judgment, since they simply share a knowledge that even the demons have—demons who are scared to death in this knowledge! The Apostle is asking all of us to examine what we claim as compared to what we do because one will naturally follow the other. True, saving faith in Jesus Christ as Savior will be followed by a changed heart that seeks to do good. There is not works without faith nor is there faith without works that will lead to eternity. In a child of the King, the two will exist together, and we must each examine ourselves to be sure that this is the case.
Study/Meditation: How are you going to go about examining your own heart to be sure that your faith and your works coincide to make you a child of the King?
*Father, help me as I examine my heart to see in it the places where I must persevere in my sanctification. Thank You for changing my heart when You called me to be Your own. Amen.

Focal Passage- James 2:14-26

James 2:15-17 “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
James is expounding on his previous point, that simply giving lip-service to one’s faith does not make him or her a believer. What better way to demonstrate saving faith than by helping someone in need or by giving a kind word in a difficult situation? Christian faith is to be a selfless faith, a faith where we take ourselves out of the center of the equation because of what was done for us. True faith is hinged on the knowledge of what Christ sacrificed on our behalf. When that is central in our hearts and minds, doing for others and sacrificing ourselves and our comfort for them will be second nature. Remember, the very essence of the word “sacrifice” connotes pain, or at the very least, inconvenience. Christ sacrificed for us in the truest sense of the word. How can we but sacrifice for others in the least sense of it?
Study/Meditation: John makes this point further in his first letter, actually saying that those who do not love their brothers are in the darkness. How is being in the “darkness” the same as having a “dead faith”? (1 John 2:7-11)
*Father, help me respond correctly to the moments You give me to show my faith through my works. Forgive me for the times I have chosen myself over others. Amen.

Focal Passage- James 2:14-26

James 2:14 “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?”
James’ concern throughout his letter so far is that some who claim to be Christians aren’t actually Christians. Notice in this verse that he addresses the issue of those who “claim” to have faith, not those who have it. James’ concern, as should be ours, is for those who may have said the words or went to synagogue, or in more contemporary circumstances, those who signed a membership card or repeated a prayer but whose lives in no way exemplify a changed heart. He is concerned because he heard his brother and Savior say that many will say to Him on that day when He returns, “Lord, Lord,” but that He would not know them. (Matthew 7:21-23) What is the telling factor between those who really know Jesus as Lord and those who only claim to know Him? It is good works that come from that changed heart.
Study/Meditation: What does a changed heart look like from the outside? Since we only really know our own hearts, how can you be certain that yours has changed with your profession of faith?
*Father, I profess to You and to the world that I believe in Jesus Christ as Your Son and in Him as my only Savior. Thank You for changing my heart from the inside; help me to show that changed heart to a dying world. Amen.

Focal Passage- James 2:1-13

James 2:13 “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”
The only way any of us is able to stand before the Throne of Judgment without condemnation is because of Christ’s mercy. The only way we receive the undeserved love of God is because of mercy. Without mercy we are lost for all eternity, but because of it we have received eternal life. If everything we have and can live in hope of is because of mercy, shouldn’t mercy be the overflowing of our hearts toward others? Shouldn’t our default in terms of dealing with others be mercy since we have been offered and given so much of it? James is reminding us that a heart that has received the mercy we have should be full of that same mercy; it should be an indication that we have experienced God’s mercy in how we treat other people. Let that be a sober reminder to each of us this day: Mercy will flow from those who have received mercy.
Study/Meditation: What part does forgiveness play in this relationship between mercy and judgment?
*Father, thank You for giving me Your undeserved mercy. Thank You for sending Your Son to give Himself completely so that I might live. Forgive me for the times I don’t offer even a fraction of this mercy to others and remind me to do so. Amen.

Focal Passage- James 2:1-13

James 2:12 “So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty.”
It’s a somewhat interesting concept to speak of something as a “law” of “liberty,” as the very meaning of the word “law” connotes restriction. However, James accurately portrays God’s Holy Law as one of “liberty,” or “freedom.” Only in Christ are we truly free, and His Law is freely given to any who would seek it. As James begins to summarize his admonitions on showing partiality, he points us directly back to the things we must do and say, most especially in relation to how we treat others. Do so with love, just as we have been treated so by our Heavenly Father, knowing that He is no respecter of persons and neither should we be. We must love in the sense that He loves, and that is always going to bring the glory and honor and praise back onto Him. Only then may we rest in our judgment according to His Law of freedom.
Study/Meditation: Think about the concept of being “judged” under a “law of liberty.” How might that be confusing to an unbeliever? How should it be encouraging to a believer?
*Father, thank You for offering to us Your law of freedom. Help me as I strive to treat others with the same love and mercy as You have treated me. Forgive me as I fail in this daily and remind me to try again. Thank You for Your patience with me. Amen.