Thoughts from time studying the Letter of James
‘I am a great sinner but Christ is a great saviour’ John Newton
I love how Mr Newton holds these two truths together. As we have studied the letter of James in CAMEO (St. Peter’s Women’s Bible Study group) the Lord has once again made clear to me two things that I think I am prone to forget:
God is serious about Sin
When we think of James’ letter we think we’ll get beaten over the head with some sin or another that remains unchecked and unchallenged. The women in the group were both excited to begin this letter but also nervous of the directness of James’ tone. We come to James and expect to be given a list of dos and don’ts. It is true that James letter is full of practical advice to the Christians then and is as applicable to us now 2000 years later! He shines a light on our inability to live faithful, God-fearing lives. I’ve read this letter before and I still don’t have control over my tongue, I don’t experience joy during trials, I am prideful and am prone to favouritism and as some of you reading this may know, I am quick to speak (not slow), as my housemate can testify I am slow to hear and listen well and I am quick to become angry (not slow!). The fact that these things still very much exist in my heart and life reveal that I have not taken James’ words – and therefore God’s words seriously in the past. This is highlighted in James 4:1-10 – where James uses the word ‘adulterous’ to describe our sin and that because of this we have enmity with God. We learn that God is opposed to the proud. God is opposed to me, he is against me in my adultery. Sin is serious – James goes on to encourage humility before God and to embrace our wretched position before the Lord. To turn my pride and joy in self or in worldly desires into mourning and gloom. My behaviour shows that I am against God, and so God is against me. So once again, I have been challenged to recognise the seriousness of my sin through this letter.
God is serious about Grace
I remember a sermon on a different subject where the preacher noted that ‘we can’t out-give God’. Praise the Lord that in all the challenges posed to us through this letter, he never leaves us without hope. Time and again James shows that for the humble and the repentant God has given more grace. If we don’t understand something, we can ask God and he gives generously. If we come near to God he will come near to us. The promise is clear that it is God who sustains our faith and our works, in order that he may give us the crown of life so that he may exalt us! What can the world offer us that even competes with this God of wonders? It strikes me that the world can’t ‘out-give God’. Without his grace we would be wretched indeed. But He gives grace enough for faithful submission to him, he gives grace enough for steadfast resistance of the devil, he gives grace enough for patient endurance and joyfulness in trials. His gives grace that we might be ready and raring for coming of the Lord!
‘Draw near to God and he will draw near to you’ James 4:8
Fiona Bennett (07/07/17)
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