Wednesday, September 28, 2011

James - Intro - Walk It Out

First I am so excited to do this study with you! Thanks for joining us. You can simply leave comments here or send me a request to be part of our Facebook group where we discuss the study together more interactively.

The book of James is filled with practical wisdom for life. I feel confident it will grow and challenge us in new ways. This first week I am just going to give you a historical background and ask you to read the book all the way through. Pay special attention to main themes, who this is addressing, and potential issues these people struggled with.

Simply put this book is a book that instructs us to Walk It Out. The "It" we are walking out is our Christian life, it is not just something for Sundays but for every day of our lives. And it is something that should be constantly changing us making us look more and more like Christ. Not only alone either but together.

James, the author of this letter, was the half brother of Jesus. He would have observed Jesus up close and personal. Perhaps they shared a room. If anyone had a personal look into the life of someone it would be the immediate family. James had this view. We can know that Jesus was so like us that even James his own brother did not believe Him (John 7:5). Yet we know Jesus was fully human and fully man but had no sin (1 John 3:5).

Church history tells us about James:
  • He was the leader of the church of Jerusalem (Acts 15:13)
  • He was a man of prayer, they say he had knees like camels because of this.
  • He was also called James the Just.
  • He was martyred for his faith in 62AD. He was thrown from the top of the temple but did not die so at the bottom was beaten to death. While he was on the ground he was praying for his persecutors.
So the question is how does a skeptic go from a non believer to one who believed so strongly that he was martyred?

The answer is because he saw the Christ crucified AND risen! 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 tells us Christ appeared to many after He rose. Specifically James his brother is listed separately. I wonder what that meeting was like? We see a change in James gone skeptic to believer. This is what happens when anyone spends time with Jesus! I am reminded of these Scriptures, "When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus." (Acts 4:13).

The time period was difficult for the non Romans. The Roman empire was in control of the territory. The government was corrupt. They were very greedy and selfish. The emperors desired worship like divinity. Yet Romans practiced worship of many gods. However it was up to the emperor what worship was acceptable. The unrest from Christianity was not good with them. They allowed people to persecute Christians like what Saul had overseen and the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7). This caused many Christians to disperse out of Jerusalem to other safer places. Also much of this turmoil and corrupt government with over taxing caused many people to become poor. So the times were filled with unrest and turmoil.

James the "pastor" of the church of Jerusalem wrote this letter as an encouragement to all who were scattered. They were mostly former Jewish people who converted to Christianity. It is very applicable to today though too even for us Gentiles.

The book opens like this,
"James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings." ~James 1:1

First I love how James identifies himself. Instead of saying, hey this is James, you know Jesus brother. He says he is a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus. I love that. No name dropping or bragging. He is a humble servant. And if anyone could name drop it would be him! I hear a lot of name dropping these days and it really makes me sick. Sometimes especially in women's ministry I observe "celebrity" chasing. This should not be. Yet James states, he is just a servant. 

The word for servant used means slave. In the Greek it is "doulos" and refers to a position of complete obedience, utter humility, and unshakable loyalty (Life Application Bible Commentary). To anyone other than Christians this term would be humiliation. But for a Christian to be a slave to Christ is a true honor. It still is today. We still should be this today even to the point of death like the example the early Christians set.

When others referred to Jesus being Lord as in this verse it meant their lives were dedicated to Him. Their allegiance belonged to Him alone. You can only have one Lord. To the Romans this was a threat because it could be viewed as treason. Instead of an allegiance to the emperor Christians are submitted to Christ. Also, to the Jews that surrounded them this was blasphemous, that is why Christ was killed. It threatened what they knew to be true.

It was written like stated earlier to the new converts to Christianity who were dispersed from their homes. James a concerned pastor wanted to send them a letter to encourage them.

Then finally the word Greetings. This in the Greek conveys a sense of joy. I like he used this term in his letter addressing those who were living in such tumultuous times.

That is all for now! I hope you are as excited as I am to take this journey in this amazing book of the Bible. My prayer is that we will Walk it Out together in the way that is pleasing to our Lord!


Shelley said...

AMEN - Sister - I am excited and I can tell you are too :) I have been enjoying my times with James and I really look forward to your insights on this book.

I also think that James is so humble in his identification of himself. Amazing to think that he was Jesus brother - just imagine!

Thanks for this. BTW I will probably comment more here than on FB - I'm not going there as much these days ;)


Angela @ Refresh My Soul Blog said...

Love you are here Shelley! I am also looking to your comments on the letter too!! Love how we can discuss it together and "walk" it out together!

I am great with you commenting here!
Much love,

Shelley said...

If I was on FB I would hit the 'like' button about now ....

Like, Like, Like :)

Mystic_Mom said...

What a wonderful introduction to our study, thank you for doing this! I am so looking forward to this!

Angela @ Refresh My Soul Blog said...

Mystic Mom, so glad you are joining us!

Shelley said...

These are some more gleanings on James

Thought to be the first New Testament book to be written - somewhere around the time frame of AD 44-49. The book never refers to the Jerusalem Council which is spoken of in Acts 15. It also lacks any reference to Gentiles, Gentile churches or such related issues (circumcision, or eating of meat sacrificed to idols etc) So these facts support the early writing of the text. And b/c James was such an influence in Jerusalem and the pastor of the church there if the Jerusalem Council would have met then James would surely have mentioned it

It is a book that mirrors the Sermon on the Mount (I could list references and scriptures but I don;t want to steal any of your thunder as I'm not sure what you have coming up - but if you would like me to list the references I can) :) Which leads us to believe that James was profoundly impacted by the teaching and considered it at great length after the resurrection.

Because James is a book full of practical application - I love how you put it ... Walk(ing) It Out - it has also been called a New Testament book of proverbs - I like that.

It is also a book that is full of references to Tests

James is a call to examine our faith - to examine, test and determine it's validity - which pulls at my heart stings so much these days as we see counterfeit faith creep in through the doors of the church. We need to have the same urgency when it comes to the absolute truth of the Word - we need to examine the scriptures for ourselves - be diligent in our studies and not just take the thoughts and opinions of man. "Test yourself to see if you are in the faith - examine yourselves!" 2 Cor 13:5 Just at the beginning of the book we read the phrase 'do not be deceived' - this is such a warning for us today.

Another thing I really like about the family of Jesus is not just his brother James but His brother Jude. Just as James introduced himself so humbly - so does Jude ... He too could have said "Here I am brother of Jesus" but he doesn't he humbly pens Jude a servant (Doulos) of Jesus Christ and BROTHER OF JAMES!

Love it.

Angela @ Refresh My Soul Blog said...

Love it Shelley! Love those observations on Jude too. About the sermon on the mount stuff or anything else just post it as we study those sections. That would be helpful. I do want this to be interactive and we can all bring much to it. I am really excited that you did an in depth study though already. :) keep sharing.

Cherie said...

So excited I finally get to join in..

I love that James recognized "who" Jesus is.. As you said, Angela, he could have said he was Jesus' brother. What the Holy Spirit said to me is he developed a deeper understanding of each of their perspective positions. It was no longer about "family", it was about honoring Jesus and who He is as the Son of God!

Wow! We can learn so much from James from who he was to who he became. We named our youngest son James after my Daddy and this James. I love the book of James and pray that my James gains the same incite and maturity that James had.

I look forward to delving into what God brings out through you! Your a great Bible study teacher, Angela!! {{hearts}}


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