James 1:2-3 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”
We must remember first that James is writing this letter to the “Dispersion,” that is Christians who were scattered throughout the lands, and they were being threatened and tortured and killed for the sake of their beliefs. They were enduring trials, and James starts his letter off by telling them to count these trials as “all joy.” Now, James is certainly not mandating that any of us run around in ecstasy when we suffer, but what he is reminding us to do is to remember the eternal picture. He’s telling us to remember that all our steps are ordained and each one is numbered, including those we don’t enjoy very much. We have been promised trials and tribulations in this life, but James doesn’t give us a secret here. As a matter of fact, he says, “for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” These are things that we know; James is simply reminding us that in the middle of these trials to look to God’s purpose in them, which is toward our sanctification and His glory. Then we can do so with joy, or as Paul calls it, in the “hope of glory.”
Study/Meditation: How do trials and tribulations produce steadfastness or endurance in your life? What times in your past can you name that did exactly that?
*Father, help me to remember the eternal perspective while I endure this life’s trials. You are good and glorious and loving. Forgive me when I doubt those things, and thank You for them. Amen.
James 1:1 “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings.”
We begin today on our study of the book of James, a letter sent to the scattered Christians from James, the brother of Jesus and the leader of the Jerusalem Council. This letter has often been referred to as the “handbook for Christians” in that it is…
from beginning to end packed with practical, day-to-day advice for any believer in Christ Jesus as Lord. As we look at the greeting of this letter, James sets the tone for the entire discourse in the way that he introduces himself. He was a man of some esteem and very respected among the Jewish community. Additionally, as the brother of Jesus, he most likely joined the rest of his family in doubting his Brother’s authenticity as the Christ while Jesus lived on this earth. As a matter of fact, James’ conversion didn’t come about until after Jesus was resurrected. In spite of all of that, we see that James introduces himself only in terms of his devotion to our Savior and as a servant of God, not in terms of his earthly position. No matter who we are or what we may accomplish, it is nothing unless it is done in the shadow of God’s glory and for the sake of our Savior. James knew that and begins his letter with this attitude and introduction. (The James study will be based on “James on the Mount,” by Dr. Deborah Waterbury, Xulon Press, 2008)
Study/Meditation: Why do you think it is often said that pride is the root of all sin? Why is humility foundational for any believer?
*Father, guide me as I begin this study of James. Help me to receive Your Word in humility and gentleness, seeking only to please You and bring glory to Your Name. Amen.
The proper response to the #grace of #Jesus is praise and thanksgiving.
Galatians 6:18 “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.”
At the end of the day and when all is said and done, our eternal destinies and everything we look toward lie in that one little word—“grace.” And yet, everything in our natures—our sinful, fleshly natures—either rails against the need for that word or works to add to that word, as if it wasn’t enough on its own. Paul’s final prayer on behalf of the Galatians was that they would accept not just any grace, but the “grace of our Lord Jesus.” His prayer was that they would know and understand and accept this amazing gift in its entirety. He prayed that they would realize that it is the complete gift of love from the complete work that could only be done by the Son of God. When Jesus healed the ten lepers, there was nothing they could offer Him in return. He gave them the gift of life. However, one of them understood the magnitude of what was done for him, and when he did, his response was not to go back and try to pay Jesus or to work for this gift. Luke records that this healed leper, “when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks.” (Luke 17:15) When given something from the Lord of the Universe that we absolutely could not earn nor gain for ourselves, our proper response should be to recognize this grace and worship our Savior in light of it.
Study/Meditation: After reading the entire passage in Luke 17:11-19 (http://www.esvbible.org/Luke+17/), what other lesson do we receive from how the other nine lepers reacted to Jesus’ healing?
*Father, thank You for Your grace. It is undeserved and unmerited, and I know that it is given because of Your love and mercy. Thank You that You chose to give it to a sinner such as me. Amen.
How can we exult in our sufferings for Jesus? #persecution
Galatians 6:17 “From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.”
In ancient Greece, slave masters marked their slaves with brands, denoting possession of them. Additionally, many pagan priests marked their bodies with a brand that signified which god they worshipped. The word Paul uses here when he referred to the “marks of Jesus” on his body was the same word used in both of those instances. Yet, Paul was not advocating that Christians were to mark themselves, either with circumcision or by any other means, in order to gain salvation and brotherhood with Christ. Paul was instead pointing out that he gladly took every blow given to him for the sake of Jesus’ name because in each of those, he was sharing in the sufferings of our Savior. In 2 Corinthians 1:5 he said, “We share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” In 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 he said, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” Paul knew what each of us must know: the only marks or works we ever need manifested in this world are those already received and accomplished by Christ, and in each we show that we belong to Him. Let us glory in that privilege.
Study/Meditation: Read Paul’s proclamation over the church in Colossae in Colossians 1:24-29 (http://www.esvbible.org/Colossians+1/). What comfort are we to receive when we are persecuted for the sake of Jesus’ name?
*Father, the persecution I may suffer in this lifetime on behalf of my Savior, Jesus Christ, is a privilege, and I thank You for this gift. I know that it is not worth comparing to the glory that will one day be revealed in Him. Amen.
How are peace and mercy and joy connected in the life of a believer?
Galatians 6:16 “And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.”
Everyone desires peace in their lives, and everyone wants to receive mercy. In those two things really lie what we would often describe as “happiness,” and we would be hard pressed to find someone who didn’t want to be happy. There are no shortages of proposed answers to this dilemma either. One need only wander down the aisles of any major bookstore and see a myriad of books describing different means to reach this elusive “happiness” we all seek. However, Paul very boldly asserts that there is only one avenue by which mankind can attain peace and mercy, thereby bringing happiness. This avenue is based on the truth that happiness is really just an outward result of internal joy, and joy comes only when we have found peace for our troubled lives and mercy for our troubled souls. No man-centered book in the bookstore or religious practice of any sort will bring what we desire. To “walk by this rule,” as Paul states it, is to be crucified to the flesh and all that it stands for and to instead allow Christ complete lordship over our lives. When Christ is our center, we have peace, a peace with God and a peace in our lives no matter our circumstances. We also have mercy, which is both forgiveness and provision in the midst of these circumstances that often seek to take away our peace. Therefore Christ who brings us peace and mercy also brings us joy that cannot be displaced. Why does anyone tarry?
Study/Meditation: How would you describe the difference between “happiness” and “joy”? Why do you think that peace and mercy result in joy?
*Father, thank You for the security of Your love that brings me peace and mercy, thereby bringing me unchanging joy, no matter my circumstances. Amen.
#Salvation is both initiated and completed by Jesus Christ.
Galatians 6:15 “For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.”
A boy was watching a boxing match on television one day with his father. The boy noticed that one of the boxers crossed himself over his chest before he began. He asked his father, “Does that help?” His father answered, “Not if you can’t punch.” There is absolutely nothing we can do to generate or propagate our salvation. We simply can’t win this fight by doing enough or becoming enough, just as Paul was explaining to the Galatians that the physical act of circumcision or the lack thereof would never save them. Just as a boxer can’t box simply by performing some ceremony before the fight, we can’t be saved by simply performing certain acts or accomplishing certain things. Only the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ saves, and we only receive that gift by accepting His sacrifice and making Him Lord over our lives. When we do that, we become new, not because of anything we did, but because His Lordship regenerates our heart. When our hearts are regenerated and we are justified, we become “…a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17b)
Study/Meditation: In what ways does modern man try to replace Jesus’ gift of salvation with ceremonies or acts?
*Father, forgive me if I ever try to add to or take away from the perfect gift of salvation given by Your Son, Jesus Christ. Thank You for both initiating and completing my salvation. Amen.