An Update and an Apology:
Well friends, this past week has been a little bit of a disaster. I was gone on our high school youth group retreat last weekend and I have been sick ever since. Hopefully, I am on the upswing and back at regularly posting to our study! My biggest apologies but, as you all know, sometimes life just happens. Thanks for being a part of this study!
This post is part of our Community Bible Experience on the book of James. If you would like to catch up, click here to view:
Today’s Verses (NIV):
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
A Few Thoughts:
And this is when it gets real people. If you want to turn back, I won’t judge you for taking the next legal U-turn. As we read here, James is not the book to read if you like your lukewarm, middle-class faith; he doesn’t strike me as the warm fuzzies kind of guy.
I have seen over and over in my story how easy it is to get caught up in the religious routines, the bible studies, the new programs, the churchy meeting (which are all good things). Yet, Jesus doesn’t say those of you who started small groups, you can stay everyone else depart- he says, all those who cared for the least of these: the sick, the poor, the lost, the lonely… yours is the kingdom of God. (Matthew
All too often, I equate religious activity with following Jesus. These past few years I’ve learned that finding our way in this world actually means saying no to good things so we can be available to actually live out the will of God in our lives. Just as it says here in James, and throughout God’s word, God cares about the how we serve those that can do nothing to repay us.
If we are too busy, we risk missing those around us who desperately need help and we don’t have the space make a difference.
When you call yourself a Christian, you’re held to a higher standard. People don’t expect you to be perfect, but they do expect you to be different. The truth is that different has become synonymous with hate and judgment rather than action and compassion. What if every Christian fed ten people for every one opinion they gave about how anyone should live their life? What would that world be like?
Now before you start scolding yourself and hitching a ride on the guilt-train, take a deep breath. Guilt is not what James is inviting us to – he is simply reminding us that we were first and foremost placed here to serve as Jesus spent his life serving those around him.
Following the big JC never feels like guilt or condemnation so if that is hitting you, know that is not from God. Following Jesus feels like gentle wave of kindness and compassion that inspires to do something a little crazy and unexpected.
Today, open your eyes to the world around you. Consider quitting something that is cramming your schedule so you have time to hear James’ invitation. Look for one person that you can help in some way big or small. Move away from the complacent faith and remind yourself why you are here. Don’t fall into the trap of good religious activity, let your faith lead to deeds and action.
Take a deep breath. Make a difference.
A Few Questions:
1.) What was your first feeling when you read today’s passage? Why do you think you felt that way?
2.) Describe your “stereotypical American Christian.” Does that match what James is calling us to in these verses? If not, how do we start changing that perception?
3.) We know that nothing is required but believing in Jesus to enter heaven, yet James says faith without deeds is dead. Does Paul’s writing about grace conflict with James or do they compliment each other?
4.) What might God be inviting you to do through this chapter
Forgive me for continuously conforming to this world and busying myself with religious activity. Help me to see areas of my life where I can cut back and create space in order to truly love my neighbor. I know in my heart of hearts that you are a God of grace and that all I need is to believe in your son to find eternal life.
Yet, out of that grace you call me to more. You invite me to make a difference, not out of obligation, but out of a desire you have placed within me to become more like Jesus.
Protect me today from the guilt that religion employs and instead breathe life and power into my lungs. Remind me deep in my core that I am yours regardless of any work that I do but that I have been chosen to do the good works you have prepared in advance for me to do.
Give me joy as I carry out your purpose for my life and as I fight the hard battles and temptations the enemy has placed before me. Be with me always, guiding my steps and my hands to bring your kingdom here to this desolate world. For I will serve you all the days of my life because I love you and you are the best thing that has ever happened to me.
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Looking for inspiring music? Follow me on Spotify. These songs can be found in my playlist James: Finding Our Way.