Next Sunday we will conclude our expositional study through the book of James at Christ City Church. I have had the privilege of preaching verse by verse through this epistle each week, and the Lord has used it to to open my eyes to so many important and often overlooked truths. There is a difference between merely reading the scriptures and actually taking them personally. To consider the weightiness in the level of commitment that we as Christ followers are called to as laid out in the book of James is absolutely staggering to the mind. If we consider the implications of what James is actually saying, our proper response should be one of conviction and repentance.
Simply considering the context that the letter was written only serves to increase our clarity of what it means to be a Christian. James writes his letter to Jewish Christians who had been scattered (or dispersed) throughout the Mediterranean world due to persecution.
“To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion:” James 1:1.
During this time period, secular culture was extremely hostile towards Christianity. Believers were being driven from their homes for their faith. And due to this persecution, the churches were tempted to compromise or even depart from the faith. James writes to these persecuted churches in order to strengthen them in their faith and admonish them to remain patient in times of trial. And in his encouragement, James reminds the churches that persecution is allowed in the lives of God’s children in order to mold them more into the steadfast and perfect image of Jesus Christ.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4.
The epistle of James is broken up into sections that address important topics pertaining to true faith. James address what true religion looks like in chapter 1:1-27. James examines genuine faith in chapter 2:1-3:12. And he concludes the letter by looking at genuine wisdom in chapter 3:13-5:20. James is passionate about encouraging the saints and pressing them into true Christian living.
When we begin to examine the background to the book of James, one thing is extremely apparent. James never got over seeing the resurrection of his older brother Jesus. This event radically changed his life. So much so that it wasn’t until approximately 70 years after Jesus rose from the grave that James penned his letter to the churches. And 70 years later, James was still a man who could honestly say, “Jesus is my life.” Prior to the resurrection, Jesus younger brother James did not believe in the deity of his older brother. In fact, he once thought that Jesus claims about being the Messiah bordered on insanity.
“For not even his brothers believed in him.” John 7:5.
“When His family heard about this, they went out to take custody of Him, saying, “He is out of His mind.” Mark 3:21.
Then something happened that changed everything about the way James thought. Jesus was crucified, and three days late He rose from the grave.
“Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.” 1 Corinthians 15:7.
History records that James went on to become the first leader of the Jerusalem church. He spent the remainder of his life professing to others how wrong he had been. Jesus was not just his brother, but He is God in flesh! James devoted his life pouring into the church, preaching the Gospel and discipling believers in their faith. James died a martyrs death in his latter years. He was tossed off of a high temple mount after refusing to denounce Christ as Lord. When it was seen that the fall did not kill him, James was beaten to death. Historians say that one of his final statements before death was, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
James never got over the resurrection.
It never became common place to him. It was never just something extraordinary that happened that made little impact on his life. The reality of this event changed every aspect of his thinking. And the same should be true of all believers today. The question we must ask of ourselves is, “Have we gotten over the resurrection?” Or has the phrase ‘Christ is Risen’, become all but common place to us. Is Christianity merely a moralistic code that we begrudgingly abide by in order to avoid the fires of Hell? Or like James, has the reality of the price that Jesus paid impacted every aspect of our lives?
Before the resurrection, James had his doubts. Afterwards, his thinking changed. That is a picture of true salvation. Before we knew Christ, we all thought one way. Our lives were built around the evil trinity of me, myself, and I. But for the person that truly comes to faith in Jesus, they look back on their former life and can say with James, “I was wrong.”
The Apostle Paul is another example of one who never got over seeing the resurrected Christ. Paul thought Jesus was a false teacher. Thats what he thought. Paul thought that what was right was to exterminate and kill all of those who followed Him. Thats what Paul thought. But then Jesus revealed Himself to Paul on the road to Damascus, and everything that Paul once that was proved to be wrong.
In our church culture today, it is quite easy to play the church game and say all the right words. We can even fool ourselves into thinking that we have a real relationship with Jesus based on a few religious things that we do. But the true test of faith, as James pointed out, is seen not in our words, but in our actions. Has the resurrection of Christ totally wrecked your former way of life? Or do you still cling to the ways of the world while you profess that Jesus is Lord?
“‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;” Matthew 15:8.
For the true believer, it is impossible to get over the resurrection. It shakes us to our very core. It obliterates any trace of pride that formerly existed within our hearts. And the reality of our risen Savior makes it utterly impossible for a believer to walk in a consistent manner of sin. Because our hearts now break at the knowledge of the price Jesus paid for our sin. If you want to know what true Christianity looks like, read the book of James. And do not just give it a passing glance. Take it personally. And allow the God inspired words of Jesus little brother to drive you into repentance, and ultimately into an unearthly joy in fellowship with Christ.