I have to admit that I struggled a bit over the past couple of months as I thought about studying the book of James. One of my goals in reading the Bible is to see Jesus (or aspects of His character and work) in ways that I haven’t seen before. This is one reason why I LOVE the Old Testament: I love seeing the how God foreshadows the Good News that He would one day send His own Son to redeem the people that He loved. I also love the gospels, because there we get to read about Jesus in flesh and blood; we get to hear Him speak about Himself, his Father, and His plan for salvation. I also love to read the epistles of Paul and Peter because they remind us who Jesus was and what He did….but the epistle of James just seems like a list of “to-do’s”—and if there’s one I DON’T need, it’s more TO DO!!!! Where is Jesus in the book of James?!?!? And the whole history of Martin Luther wanting to through out the book of James from the Bible….now that is disconcerting!!!
So I waited, and prayed, and prayed some more, asking the Lord to change my heart and make me excited about the book of James. “I know this is your Word, Lord! Open my ears, mind, and heart to hear!” And I am happy—more than that—humbly amazed to report that the Lord did just that a couple of weeks ago and it was after I completed the table in the first lesson.
Here is my table:
Chapter Theme Key Words
1 joy in suffering trials, persevere
2 impartiality no distinction
Faith in action faith with works
3 Humble speech tongue = FIRE
4 No worldliness grace to humble
5 Patience & Prayer Steadfast, faith
As I looked at my table, it hit me: who was/is the ultimate example of joy in suffering, impartiality, faith in action, humble speech, not an ounce of worldliness, and patient in prayer!?!
I thought I was looking for Jesus in the book of James, but I failed to see “the forest for the trees!” That instead of being a list of my “to-do’s,” James is a list of Jesus “to-did’s." Jesus suffered joyfully FOR US, for all of us—impartially--even us Gentiles—for the least of us! He is the ultimate man of faith in action; he was willing to die for us because He believed that His Father was and is trustworthy! He humbled himself…even though He was (and is!) God! He displayed perfect patience and was continually communing with His Father in prayer. It was like a lightbulb went off in my foggy brain….THIS IS JESUS! He is this WORD incarnate…and implanted! We receive JESUS, not a list of do’s and don’ts!
This makes so much sense when we remember, as Alex reminded us on Sunday, that the Bible is about God, not us!!! I thought I was looking for Jesus in the book of James, but all I was seeing was myself….but it’s not about me…it’s about WHO the Holy Spirit is making me to be like!
It also reminds me of Alex’s point that God approaches his people with an invitation for a relationship, but he starts his invitation with a question (even though he knows the answer full well): to Adam and Eve he said, “where are you?” Do you remember in Joshua, chapter 24, Joshua basically asked the people the same question that Jesus asked Peter: Do you love the Lord? James asks this same question as well: “Do you love the Lord? This is how you live it.” James is doing nothing more than what Jesus Himself told us to do: “Follow me.” And again what Jesus said in John 14:15- “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
I cannot entirely explain how this immediately softened my heart; instead of making me just feel like the worst Christian in the world (which, granted, I probably am), I SAW JESUS. And as Eric is fond of saying, when we see Jesus, we are changed!!!
“Yes! Lord, I want to be like you!!! Make me like you!!”