James, a fall bible study
You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shudder. ~James 2:19
Spirituality is on the rise. I prefer a spiritual worldview over an atheistic, materialistic worldview (a materialistic worldview is not necessarily atheistic–I know a few Christian monists), but what makes my faith different from someone who identifies as spiritual but not religious? Do I do more good works than them? No. Absolutely not. But…I think that the content of my faith is important. I love that many people who are spiritual acknowledge God, spiritual beings, and morality; however, they are likely missing out on the life-giving faith in Jesus Christ. 1
Jesus taught that faith in himself was the means to know God and to live forever:
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. ~John 6:35-40
In a way, it seems kind of odd that one’s eternal well-being would hinge on whether or not he or she believes in Jesus, but I like how sufficient the life of Jesus is–it’s powerful.
My faith is not about my own sufficiency. My faith is in the sufficiency of Jesus. What does faith in the sufficiency of Jesus look like in action? Since I am receiving everything–and I mean everything– unmerited, then my faith in action is fairly simple. I will speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the new and merciful “law of freedom” that faith in Jesus brings eternal life. I will love mercy, and even better, I can trust that if I fail to be merciful, God is still faithful to me. When James wrote his letter arguing for a faith that showed itself in action, he was not crying out for people to suddenly start giving money to the poor or to obey the ten commandments (although those are good actions). He was addressing their rude, discriminating behavior toward a sector in their society. James was saying that by showing favoritism, they were not living out their faith because if they truly believed that God wants all to know him and that all may have life through Jesus, then they would have a more merciful and welcoming attitude to the poor among them.
The end of a hymn quoted in 2 Timothy 2:12-13 says, “If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” Even though true faith is demonstrated with our actions, if we have a failure in faith, such as not being merciful to someone as God was merciful to us or having difficulty forgiving someone, God is still faithful to us because he cannot deny the sufficiency of Jesus. On the other hand, denying Jesus is the Son of God results in Jesus denying us, which would leave me trusting in my own sufficiency (or another god). No matter how spiritual I am, I would rather take Jesus’s free offer of eternal life and trust his goodness.
Today’s reading is from James 2:14-26.
This series is inspired (but not sponsored) by FBC (First Baptist Church of Davis) and their fall focus running from October 4, 2015 through November 28, 2015. When I first heard FBC was doing this series, the lectionary reading and sermon that day at my own church, Christ the Redeemer Anglican Church, was from the book of James, and it really spoke to me; James is also the first bible study I completed on my own: I was fourteen, and I wrote with colored markers in a spiral notebook each morning before school, using an observation-reflection-action method similar to the one outlined in FBC’s bible-study guide. I am looking forward to spending more time meditating on this challenging book of the New Testament. I will be using the bible study guide provided by FBC with the accompanying scripture throughout this series; however, my methodology might hop around from anecdotal to more analytical word study. My goal is to do this study daily, or at least a few times a week! A big thanks to FBC for their theme, chosen scriptures, and structure of this study.
Monday – James 2:14-26
Tuesday – Genesis 22
Wednesday – Joshua 2
Thursday – Romans 3
Friday – Romans 4
- I say “likely” missing out because there are some people who have faith in Jesus yet do not want to affiliate with organized religion, which is another topic entirely. ↩