James 1 ‘The Symphony of faith.’ Malcolm Duncan #SH2018


My notes from today’s Bible reading at Spring Harvest Harrogate

Who was James? How does he establish his credentials? He doesn’t say ‘Jesus’ brother James…’ but ‘James the servant of Jesus.’

The church does not exist to serve us. We exist to serve Christ.

It’s a pastoral letter (paraenesis) James is reminding them – to exhort them. Not saying ‘there there there’! He’s inspiring them that they are more than they think they are, and they can live differently.

He picks up many threads – loose structure.

James has more imperatives in a short letter than any other book in the NT – yet delivered in a caring way.

Full of metaphors. Mirror, horse, ship, arrogant businessman, patient farmer. We can connect to them.

And echoes of many sources – not just OT and Jesus, but others like apocrypha.

It’s a book that challenges our view of ‘success’ – a worldly church and a fleshy faith. This has to speak to the western C21st church.

The only way out of worldliness is repentance. Letting God define us.

James 1 – living in faith

In an uncertain world, full of trials and challenges.

We have choices to make every day – what’s our plumbline?

There are echoes of Jesus’ sermons on the mount and the plain here. Encouragement to pray. To ask, seek and knock. Why? So the Holy Spirit will be given. In James, we’re told to ask for WISDOM – not so much living intelligently, but integrally.

What carries us through our hard times? Is it not that God is good and his love endures forever – or you can rely on your own wisdom? Lean on that? Only the wisdom that comes from God will help. Knowing that I don’t deserve the blessed happy life. What we deserve is death and punishment. What we get is life and grace. God’s wisdom is not the baptized thinking of our culture. It’s from above!

What does it really mean to live well?

Allowing God’s wisdom to shape you from above.

Don’t allow anything to determine your worth other than what God says about you in his word. Sit under his authority.

Vs 17-18 pictures God’s wisdom.

How wise is it to spend our whole lives investing in what will only fade away and die?

Is there goodness in people of every faith? Rich and poor? Every race? YES.

Where does it come from?

All goodness does not come from us. It all comes from God.

19 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. 20 Human anger does not produce the righteousness[h] God desires. 21 So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.

This is what sets you free. There are many who tell us that it’s irrelevant now. But it brings life! How? By insulting our egos and assumptions.

James looks at the Christian life and how it’s lived out in our actions, in clearing out what clutters God’s pathways.

We are to live this – not just recite it.

How do you become a member of your church?

By signing a statement of faith? NO! That’s not how you define faith.

If you want me to know what you really believe – let me see how you’re living. Giving your time to. Your bank statement. How close are you to Jesus? Not defining by our boundaries but by our centre.

Truth is not a proposition – truth is a person. There’s always more to know about a person. And if I believe him – I’ll live more like him. As I live out my faith.

Believing and living our not nouns but verbs.

No score is written just to be read, it’s written to be played.

Faith is for living.

Words are the clothes our thoughts wear. The words are enrobed in actions and attitudes. Your life plays out the melody of faith in a tone deaf world, to play the symphony of grace.