What We Mean When We Say

Uncategorized


WHAT I MEAN WHEN I SAY.png

If you’ve ever watched a football game on TV you’ll hear the quarterback speak a strange language before he hikes the ball. “Blue 42 left, white 80 set, hut!” While this sounds like nonsense to us, it means everything to those manning the line of scrimmage. Using these specialized terms means nothing to the other players unless what they mean is clearly defined, communicated, memorized, and executed.

The church likewise uses specialized language to communicate its activities, events, strategy, and mission. But unlike a football team, we usually don’t face 240lb linemen charging full tilt at us so we may lack the pressure required to clearly define what we mean when we use language to talk about the church.

The reality though is we face much greater pressures than anything ever faced on the gridiron. We aren’t contending over a ball. We are fighting for the eternal souls of the lost. So then why then is there not more conviction and commitment among God’s people? I content a fundamental problem is we’ve gotten lazy with our terms. We don’t know what we mean when we mean to communicate about the church. Here’s why this is a massive problem.

Clarity leads to conviction,

conviction leads to commitment,

commitment leads to character

So for the next two weeks, we are going to define what we mean when we use the language of the church. What do we mean when we say “The Gospel”? What do we mean when we say “The Church”? What do we mean when we say “Disciples”? What do we mean when we say “Women’s Ministry, Children’s Ministry, Out Reach Ministry?” What do we mean when we say “worship, preaching, prayer”?

By the time we are done we’ll know exactly what we mean when we say “We share the Gospel so that the lost are saved, the saved matured, and matured are multiplied, to the glory of God.” You’ll have clarity that ought to lead to life-defining conviction so that you can grow in your commitment to God’s plan for the church and participate in a way that builds greater and stronger Christian character in your life.

Read More →

The Danger and Opportunity of Faith in Post Christian America

Uncategorized

Sometime in the last 4 years, America demographically shifted from a majority Christian country to a minority Christian country. For over three centuries Christianity has been a dominant force in the creation of American culture, law, and institutions. In Church, every institution, practice, conference, school, and worldview was forged during the era of Christian dominance. Every experience we have had up to this point has been created by or at least influenced by the kind of Christianity that is developed when its community leaders sit at the table and hold the levers of power.

We have known for some time that the winds have been changing. The moral revolutions that have rocked America have been indicators that as Christian influence loses its dominance, a pandora’s box of competing identities and world-views has been opened. The Bible reader is unsurprised by this. Our worldview accounts for both the ascent and descent of a nation as judged by the barometer of faithfulness to God. What we may be surprised by is that this shift in American has happened during our lifetimes, and not during some far-off future. There is a massive inflection point confronting Christianity in North America. As the winds have changed so do they point to the future, a future that does not include Christianity as a dominant cultural and power player.

What will your response be? For some, the prospect will be exciting as we will witness Christianity shed its excess weight packed on during the decadent decades of dominance. For others, there will be fear as the “other” takes the seat at the table once occupied by Christians. For yet others, the days ahead will simply blow away the thin topsoil of faith to reveal the hard soil of a hard heart that sees no value in associating with Christianity. This in fact is already happening as the fastest-growing religion in America today is the nones, or nonaffiliated.

One danger we will all have to deal with is how our hearts are shaped by this experience. There are a lot of pressures facing the faithful, and pressure can harden our hearts, diminishing our view of God’s work in our world, and tilling fertile soil for unbelief to take root. It’s in a context like this, intense pressure, competing worldviews, a distant view of God’s Word, that Hebrews repeats an Old Testament warning to not harden your heart.

This Sunday we will apply the oil of God’s Word to the leather of our heart in order to keep it soft and flexible instead of dry and brittle. We will worship with songs that will give you an opportunity to rebel against the darkness of this age. We will fellowship with an alien love, that is foreign to the world. And we will walk away edified, equipped, and encouraged to walk faithfully regardless of the waves that rock the boat of our faith in this American cultural ocean.

Read More →

We Have the Answer

Uncategorized

Where does the church belong in these trying times?

We are drifting as a Christians. The world around is in tumult and there are string influences tell us that we need to side with either the social unrest in the streets, or the law and order rhetoric of our politics. But if I were handed a blank piece of paper and told to draw where I believe the church belonged I’d draw a line right down the middle of the sheet.

We cannot join with the lawlessness gripping our streets and destroying lives and property in what is increasingly being identified as a movement against just police authority, but all authority. The push to cast of existing authority is being driven by a desire to entrench a new authority made in the image of those advocating for change. The advocacy is a good indication of the kind of authority they would replace the status quo with. Since God is a God of order and peace, those who are indwelt by His Spirit cannot give themselves.

On the other side of the issue are those who rally under the banner of “law and order”. It’s clear that this approach will not solve or end the current cultural moment we find ourselves in. Consider, that in 1970 only 1 in 400 Americans were incarcerated. That number has jumped to 1 in 100 over the last 40 years and increased both awareness of inequalities in our justice system and increased calls for justice reform. The law and order banner looks at mercy and grace as signs of weakness and so tough on crime initiatives are passed and infractions that were misdemeanors a generation ago are now charged as felonies.

Lawlessness and gracelessness…there has to be a better option for the church to align itself with. It just so happens there is. Christians advocate for societal change through personal transformation. The object of our evangelism is the unbeliever who may encompasse the ardent antifa member to the alt-right idealogue. We believe that society and culture is a reflection of the human condition not a creator of it. Therefore if we want to change the culture we need to change the hearts of the people who make up that culture. We do that through the means of the Gospel and compelling witness.

If I had a sheet of paper, I’d draw a line right down the middle of it and say that’s where the church belongs, that’s where the church will be most effective. The church should stand between the waring factions of our fractured society and point everyone to the way of Jesus Christ.

After all, we know we the world can be changed through coercive fear. We also know the world can be changed by legislative fiat. Despite the changes wrought through outside forces, we find that people remain the same, their hearts are unchanged and it is inevitable the new realities will become as corrupted as the old realities they replaced.

If we really want to see genuine lasting social change, we must go after individual people. We must be in the world but not of it. And the way we retain our distinctive identity, is to fully identify with Jesus, His message, and His methods. Because in 2020, if Jesus were to walk our streets, he’d walk right down the middle too.

Christians recognize that institutional change can happen through the coercive power of fear. Oddly both camps are philosophically rooted in the same soil. Fear motives action, fear of authority leads to rejection of authority and rioting in the street. Fear of anarchy and lawlessness drives gun sales, the preper-culture, and political activity. Fear fear fear. Christians are called to fear not.

Read More →

Inducements to Read Your Bible

Uncategorized

Would you set off on a cross country trip without consulting your navigation app? This is what it’s like to start out on the Christian life when you choose not to read your Bible. We get it. A lack of desire regarding the reading of Scripture is something that everyone experiences to varying degrees throughout life. Our desire is a powerful indicator of a couple things that we should pay earnest attention to.

There is a Louder Voice in my Life

Like you internet connection, your brain only has so much bandwidth. Between, parents, spouses, teachers, bosses and preachers there are a lot of voices speaking directly to you everyday. Behind the cacophony is a spirit inside of you that longs to regularly connect with the God who made it. This spirit is manifest as your conscience, that inward voice of conviction, correction, or condemnation. It speaks what it knows of God’s law written on your heart, or the knowledge you have by reading His Word. When our spirit no long compels a desire in us to read God’s Word, its usually an indication that there are louder, yet lesser voices filling up the bandwidth of your mind. What to do about this? Recognize it and respond. Pray, read, meditate for a desire to be restored, and it will be.

Relationship by Reading

When my wife and I were engaged she was living at home and I was deployed as a wildland firefighter hacking a line in a forest trying to contain a fire. For months we did not see each other but our relationship did not wither because of the distance. We wrote letters back and forth that enabled us to continue to grow our relationship. The Bible serves that purpose today. It’s a theological textbook though it contains theology. It’s a personal communication from the God who is and who wants you to know Him. The fundamental way you have fellowship with God is through Word. Reading it is hearing from Him. Praying is responding to Him. Mediating is valuing Him. It would be hard for people to have a relationship where they never spoke. Is that the kind of relationship you have with God right now? It’s liberating to admit, and it’s easy to correct it. Ask God to meet with you, talk with you, counsel you, comfort you. And open your Bible and read, praying as you do.

Life’s Questions & God’s Answers

There are dozens of websites devoted to helping you answer life’s questions from God’s Word. In this way, the Bible is not only useful for a living relationship with God. It can also be used for daily, practical guidance for all manner of problems, and questions. A couple of my favorite are the expansive archive of articles on a myriad of topics at Desiring God or the Scripture reference website BibleHub. Furthermore, as a Christian you are to be in fellowship where pastors and elders provide oversight to your soul that includes providing counsel and direction for you as you navigate the hills and valleys of life.

The Bible is the bread of life. It’s the medium of relationship between God and man, it’s called the book of wisdom with good reason. Does your soul need nourishing, has it been too long since you’ve communed with God, is your life aimless? Read the Bible and read it with those who do.

Do you need help getting your Bible reading jumpstarted? Contact us at info@anchoredchurch.org for resources that will help you take your first steps in an life transforming journey of personal transformation.

Read More →

You Are Not an Animal. Here’s Why.

Uncategorized

 


12.png

The noble ape….that’s how some evolutionary biologist describe human beings. The Bible describes people in a radically different light. They key passage is Genesis 2:7 “God formed Adam from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostril and Adam became a living being.”

Previously in Genesis chapter 1 and up to this point as well, God has been creating living things; that is animating the physical material bodies of animals by breathing the breath of life into them. Mankind is no different. We possess the nephesh of God (the Hebrew word for “living creature”) for just like the animals we have a body and a nephesh…that is living, moving, soulishness. But when we get to Genesis 2:7 God breathing into the dust produced something different. Adam isn’t described as a living creature. He’s described as a “living being”.

This is a critically important observation. Dust + Breath = a living BEING, not a living thing. What distinguishes man from the animal world even though both posses body and life? What makes a living thing into a higher order ‘living being?’ Humanity posses what the animals don’t because we posses a spirit.

Not only do we have a body, not only do we have the breath of life, we also have a spirit. And spirit is the essence of personhood. This attribute of humanity is non-communicable with animal life. Fluffy the kitty may have traits and character, but for all her cuteness she does not have a spirit, and ergo personhood.

When we teach ourselves that mankind is nothing more than a noble ape we have set the bar for behavior at a very low level. The justification for all kinds of harmful behavior can be justified by the logic “they were just doing what animals do.” But when you understand anthropology from a Biblical perspective, you are immediately struck with the nobility and dignity of the body, soul, spirit composition of mankind. This higher order creation calls for respect, community, stewardship, and morality. After all if we are created in the image of God, abuse of another is to abuse the image of God. To love a fellow human is to love the image of God. Such a conviction cannot but result in a powerful deterrent to harmful, naturalistic, animalistic, base behavior expected from noble apes. Far from being noble apes, we are the pinnacle of creation, designed by God to bear his image as bodies housing the breath of life for life on this earth, and a spirit that make connection with God not only probable but possible.

 

Read More →

Of Demons and Devils: Understanding James 2:18-19

Uncategorized

Horror is Big Business and Good Money

2017 was the best year for horror. According to industry insiders, horror films have become the top earning films in the movie industry, and 2017 saw the profitability of this genera explode. The top three biggest horror flicks of 2017 earned more than $733 million dollars at the box office. When Stephen Kings “It” opened it was projected to earn $81 million dollars on opening weekend. When the stubs were counted it grossed over $123 million. It would seem that betting on horror, the paranormal, and the demonic is good business. If you were a film investor for every $10 you contributed you could expect $200 in return.[1]

It might be argued that belief in the supernatural and specifically the demonic is at something of an all time high. In a somewhat dated study by Gallup, their researchers reveal that 3 out of 4 respondents believe in the paranormal. For all of the data one striking observation is lacking. Non-belief in the spiritual is as dangerous as ignorance about the true nature of what so many choose to believe and entertain themselves with. Many criticize the bible as being out-of-date, out-of-touch, and out-of-acceptance but it is the best source we have for understanding the supernatural, paranormal, even the demonic.

In James 2:18-19 there is a debate recorded about whether faith is genuine if does not motivate a person to good works. The protagonist is arguing that a faith of “word” only is sufficient to be called genuine faith. That is as long as you profess belief in the right things, it really doesn’t matter how you live. James opposes this view with three powerful arguments. First by his own example (vs. 18). Second by pointing that even demons respond to what they believe, by shuddering (vs. 19). Third, by point to past experiences in Jewish history where the faithful acted bolding because of their beliefs (vs. 21-25). Sandwiched between two pieces of historical evidence; i.e. personal experience and the historical experience of the Jews, it seems unlikely that James was appealing to imaginary creatures when he tells us about the shuddering demons.

A Primer on Lucifer, Satan, and his Demons

So just what is a demon? They are none other than angels whose nature was corrupted when they followed Lucifer in his rebellion in heaven against God. Stick with me for a minute while explain that in Ezekiel 28:11-19 the words apply to a earthly ruler who is so corrupt that he stands as the example of Lucifer on earth. In his prophecy against this corrupt king, we learn the history of the rebellion in heaven that caused the angles for become corrupt.

 

·      Verses 12, 14- Lucifer was perfect, wise, beautiful, and possessed honored status in heaven.

·      Verse 15 – Lucifer was a righteous being blameless in all of his ways.

·      Verse 16 – The pride in Lucifer’s being could not be contained and he led a rebellion against           God. We can actually read what the motivation of Lucifer was in Isaiah 14:13-14

 

“You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven;

above the stars of God I will set my throne on high…

I will make myself like the Most High”

 

·      Verse 17- in Judgment God case Lucifer out of heaven down to Sheol, that is the place of the          dead.

·      We also learn from both the Old and New Testament, that in his present state Lucifer (now called Satan) and his agents have access to the world we live in. In Genesis 3:14-15 we see Satan tempting Eve. In Ezekiel 28:11  Satan is seen influencing if not controlling the king of Tyre. In Matthew 4:1-11 Satan tempts Jesus and in multiple references in the New Testament we come to understand the not only Jesus but also His disciples clearly understood that our world is currently under the regency or delegated rule of Satan.

We are fortunate that James wrote what he did about shuddering demons. This single adverb brings a massive amount of understanding about the nature of theses beastly fallen angles.

·      First, they are thinking cognitive beings. They are able to know true things and respond in their being to that knowledge.

·      Second, we see that even demons have a warped form of morality. They know what’s in their best interest and apparently the knowledge of God causes them to recognize they are in a crisis; God is not for them.

·      Third, owing to the fact that angels were created in heaven to attend the very person of God, we can  surmise that they have perfect theology proper, that is a complete and accurate knowledge of the Holy One. It’s probably safe to say that their knowledge in an experiential sense, exceeds our own! No man has seen the holiness of God and lived and yet these angles would have ministered in the holy presence of God.

·      Fourth, the provide a stunning warning to us about the deception of a faith that does not move us. Let’s explore this further below

FAITH THAT DOES NOT SAVE IS THE FLAVOR OF FAITH TODAY

Consider that never before as so much of humanity has so much access to so much Biblical scholarship and learning. Conference abound, myriads of books are published in more languages than ever before. In the western world Bibles which once were so valuable they were chained to their pulpits, are now mass produced in paperback and left in nearly every hotel room in America. Evangelical theology is more refined and purified that ever before, at least amongst the orthodox. Christianity has won the day, we after all regarded as a ‘Christian’ nation. Notwithstanding these observations, we are also the most decadent, self promoting, pleasure seeking, licentious culture since the Roman empire. We trade in and consume narcotics and human flesh equally creating a black market economy that is the 12th largest in the world  representing just over 5% of our National GDP.[2] This exists in a nation where over 70% of people identify as “Christian” and where a solid 25% of identify as Evangelical Christians.

My intent isn’t to be negative, it’s simply to point out the massive chasm that exists between who we identify ourselves as a people, and the behavior which tells a different story. We are a nation that professes Christ as Savior without the corresponding works and fruitfulness of life that the Bible says marks a genuinely born again person.

What’s my point? It’s simply to make this assertion “Does the Bible motivate to action?” If not you may be worse off that the demons. They have enough common sense to shudder at what they know. How much more should we be motivate to bold, faithful, joy-filled living than they who know God perfectly, and perfectly know what their end will be. This is point that James is making, “Faith without works is dead” that is faith that is in word only, that is verbal only and not backed up with conviction and life transformation.

Learn from the demons and respond to what you know and you will be better than them as demonstrating and life that is shaped in response to the Scripture. You have an opportunity they never will have, you have an opportunity to respond positively to the message of the Bible. You have an opportunity to see it’s Gospel transform your life, unlike they who were shown no mercy and who have no hope. That is a plot twist that even the best hollywood movie could never imagine. That is something that is truly worth shuddering over!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     [3]

 

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/26/movies/top-horror-movies-box-office-it-get-out.html

[2] https://www.forbes.com/sites/niallmccarthy/2017/02/09/where-the-worlds-shadow-economies-are-firmly-established-infographic/#250234ee742c

[3] http://news.gallup.com/poll/16915/three-four-americans-believe-paranormal.aspx

Read More →

Should We Help the Poor: A Biblical Understanding of the Extent and Limits of Christian Charity

Uncategorized

 


matt-collamer-555626-unsplash.jpg

 

       Most Americans receive some form of financial assistance from the federal government. Direct assistance like disability, unemployment, mortgage interest deductions, or subsidized medical insurance are a few examples. Our founding fathers could not have imagined the America that exists today. Youth today will grow up not knowing anything except the welfare state. It may surprise you to learn that for the vast a majority of Western history, the local church was at the forefront of providing the “social safety net” and not the government.

     In this short paper I want to show you the history of benevolence in western society, explore biblical principles of generosity, and identify limits of Christian charity.

     A landmark book on this subject is Marvin Olasky’s “The Tragedy of American Compassion”. A review by Daniel Bazikian provides the background story we are exploring.

     “The early American concept of charity, as expressed from both pulpit and printed page, stressed biblical themes. This established the cultural and intellectual framework for viewing the problem for at least the next 250 years. Charitable aid was encouraged to be given in a spirit of generosity (which in those days was associated with nobility of character, as well as gentleness and humility). Emphasis on a God of justice and mercy, and of man as a fallen, sinful creature, led people “to an understanding of compassion that was hard-headed but warm-hearted.” Those in genuine need would be helped, but those who were slothful were allowed to suffer until they showed a willingness to change.”

     Of all people it was a theologian, Thomas Chalmers, who in 1819 organized his community into districts which his church members engaged with to know the plight and welfare of the citizens of his city. Soon there was a remarkable increase in charitable philanthropy, an increase in employment, and a reduction in poverty. Chalmers concept spread and charitable societies were established in every major American city by the mid 1800’s.

     How did an effective grassroots, local church centered end up giving way to the bureaucrat welfare state we have today? Would it surprise you if the answer started with theology instead of politics?

     Universalist Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune used his plat form to promote Unitarian ideas. These beliefs include that everyone had a right to eternal salvation and earthly prosperity. Wealth distribution was the key to accomplishing this utopian dream of universal prosperity. In the 1880’s theories of Darwinian evolution wedded social science and birthed Social Darwinism. Ideas have consequences the affluent had the moral obligation to protect and preserve their wealth. Aid to the poor became looked down upon as unnatural. The final blow to the Christian consensus was again from theology and not politics. By the turn of the century theological liberalism had become popular among intellectual elites. The Bible lost it’s authority and people began looking for alternative philosophies to live by.

     With personal generosity to the poor out of fashion, more people looked to the state as the answer. FDR’s “New Deal” in the early 1900’s, Lyndon Johnsons “Great Society”, in the mid 1900’s and most recently Obama’s “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act” have all advanced the cause of governmental welfare.

     What have we earned for this revolution from Chalmers Christian ideals, to Social Darwinism? Today there are fewer people participating in the American work force than. A whopping 73% of all federal expenditures are spent on social welfare (compared to 15% on national defense). Former Treasury official Peter Fisher once said the federal government is basically “a gigantic insurance company,” albeit one with a sideline business in national defense and homeland security.”

     Today the failure of the social state is clear especially where we live. Chronic homelessness, unemployment, and underemployment keep our community in the news for all the corresponding maladies that follow poverty: crime, gangs, and drug use. So once again we should ask, “what principles should guide the people of God in the expenditure of their time and resources in alleviating the suffering of the poor?” We can start by examining 7 marks of historic Christian compassion that Marvin Olasky discovered. In the seventh chapter of his book he write:

 

1) Affiliation – work to keep the individuals family, religious, and community ties strong to foster his sense of belonging.

2) Bonding – developing a close personal relationship between the charity volunteer and the recipient for the purpose of mentoring and teaching the poor how to become self sufficient.

3) Categorization – assigning individuals to categories of specific need instead of one size fits all government aid. This includes designating someone as unfit for relief due to an unwillingness to work.

4) Discernment – the willingness to separate worthy person of charity from fraudulent ones.

5) Employment – the goal of employing all able bodied heads of households as a step toward helping them achieve economic self sufficiency.

6) Freedom – the ability to work without government regulation that allowed a person to improve their lot over time with diligent work.

7) God- Christian charity pointed recipients to God who can meet their spiritual need just as charity was meeting their material needs.

 

In essence Christian charity was intended to not only meet the needs of the deprived by point them to God as the source of all their provision. There was very distinct goal of helping people live up to their potential as disciples of Jesus.

Today there is still massive opportunity to help the poor. For generations now many family have only known the financial and spiritual poverty that comes from being a member of the welfare state. The government can meet many physical needs people face. Yet, government can never address the spiritual poverty that is at the root cause of so much poverty. So what could a model of Christian charity look like in 2018? Besides to the seven marks of historic Christian compassion I would add:

 

1) First, Christians should be willing to give aid to anyone who asks for it! (Matthew 5:42) and be motivated in part by the understanding that giving to the poor is lending to the Lord (Proverbs 19:17)

2) Second, Christian charity is a theological work. We know that God is just and merciful. We remember that man is weak and sin curse. We are lead to compassion and tenderness at the plight of man. Our compassion attempts to bridge the plight of man with the provision of God.

3) Third, Christian charity comes with instruction for wise living. (Ephesians 4:28 & 1 Timothy 6:18)

4) Fourth, Christian charity is limited: if an able bodied person is unwilling to work they are to go hungry as a corrective experience (2 Thessalonian 3:10).

5) Fifth, Christian Charity is limited: aid is extended to all who ask barring those who refuse to work and is such aid would subsidize or fund wayward living (Proverbs 1:31-32)

 

With so many people needing help how do you focus on meeting the needs of people. The bible recognizes the priority of the family (1 Timothy 5:8). Secondly we are to be generous to the household of faith (Galatians 6:10). Last we are to do good to all people giving to those who ask and aren’t disqualified because of laziness or waywardness (Matthew 5:42). A general principle that will allow you to grow in generosity is to live simply. As theologian Carl Henry was famous for saying:

 “Live simply so that others may simply live”

  

Read More →

JAMES: BROTHER, DOUBTER, BELIEVER

Uncategorized

 


matthew-hicks-533652-unsplash.jpg

     If you want to understand someone’s writing you have to understand something about them as an author.  The Bible is not mythical book, it was written by real men, to real audiences, in real time.  Understanding these things is not hard but does require a little work. I present this life synopsis on James, the brother of our Lord to help you better appreciate the book we are studying.

     James was the a younger half brother of the Lord. He was one of 4 boys that Mary had after the birth of Jesus.[1]  James like his brothers, did not believe that his oldest brother was the Messiah. As adults they responded to Jesus’ signs and miracles with unbelief, calling him a lunatic![2]  Jesus’ brother convinced Mary to doubt Jesus. We find her standing with her sons calling Jesus to stop his ministry and return home![3]  The Apostle John paints the picture clearly when he wrote, “For even His own brothers did not believe Him.”[4]

     Unsurprisingly the brothers of Jesus are not mentioned during the crucifixion. Their brother was a mad man, who had finally crossed the line and would now die for his lunacy. Mary having recovered her faith was entrusted to the Apostle John and not her unbelieving sons. John was now regarded as closer to Mary blood relatives[5]  A miracle filled life, a shocking death, and an incredible rumor of resurrection had no effect on James.

     It was a post resurrection appearance of Jesus that finally opened James eyes.[6]  The conversion of James during the encounter in 1 Corinthians isn’t, but the later life of James shows that a radical change took place after meeting Jesus. From then on, the doubting brother would be a faithful witness. He is found among those in Jerusalem praying before the day of Pentecost.[7]  He is seen as consequential leader in the young and growing church in Jerusalem. His teaching gives shape and form to this new Christian community.[8]  James was so important to the church the Apostle Paul appeared before him. James was one of the first to hear of the miraculous escape of Peter from jail.[9]  It is not understating the point to say that James shaped Christianity as you and I know it! 2000 years later his teaching continues to shape and influence the morality of Christian community.

     How James died is a matter of church tradition. We read that James led the church in Jerusalem for 30 years.[10]  His career and character provided the necessary stability for the early church. Despite persecution from without and division from within, the church continued to grow. James influence wasn’t contained to the church. We read that Jewish leaders became threatened by the influence of James among the Jews and arranged his murder.

     The legacy of James is inspiring. From calling Jesus a mad-man, to calling mad-men to follow Jesus as their Savior, James is a living illustration of Gospel transformation. Whether we read about James in the book of Acts or read the book named after him, we what is possible when we follow God.

     The challenge to reading the book of James isn’t it’s content. The problem is with us, we live in an authority adverse culture. The clarity and boldness of James is offense to people trained to doubt authority. James isn’t having a discussion, he’s clear, simple and urgent. If you are a Christian you are a friend of God, so live like it!

     How can James write like this? As you read you will hear the Words of Jesus saturating this letter. This is intentional. James is providing a sermon on the implications of the Sermon on the Mount.[11]  The Gospel truth creates moral imperatives and James is a book of moral imperatives. We are in danger of seeing Christianity devolve into a religion of moral codes. James saves us from this fate by teaching that obedience is the result of a relationship with God, not the cause. Christians do what they do because of what has been done in them. More simply, “good works do not save, but saved people do good works.”

This is a religion that works, it is the religion taught in James because it is the religion of our Lord Jesus Christ.


 

[1] Matthew 13:55

[2] Mark 3:21

[3] Matthew 12:46-50 cf. Mark 3:31

[4] John 7:5

[5] John 19:26-27

[6] 1 Corinthians 15:7

[7] Acts 1:14

[8] Acts 15

[9] Acts 12:17

[10]  Saint Jerome “On Illustrious Men” pg. 8 para. 14

[11] Matthew ch. 5-7


 

Read More →