Faith and Works- the Real Issue is Sharing Jesus
May 3, 2015, 8:24 pm
Filed under: Searching for our Savior in His book | Tags: , , , ,

“This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” was considered a controversial title for a man crucified in Jerusalem. At one point, this “Messiah” was followed by multitudes who even worshipped Him as He rode into Jerusalem on a young donkey. The crowd cried out “Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ The King of Israel”! But by the time the title was written over Jesus, He was on a tree, being crucified by the Roman government at the urging of the Jewish religious leaders. His popularity had waned and although He was different from the religious leaders of His day, He seemed to be doomed to be only an asterisk in the history of Israel at best. Then Jesus did something that no one had ever done that set Him totally apart from anyone. He rose from the dead! The resurrection of Jesus Christ changed everything! The resurrection proved that the Bible was correct in its predictions of a Messiah who would suffer and die, yet live again so that He could rule as the Eternal King of kings and Lord of lords. We could spend much time discussing the importance of the resurrection but our focus turns to the epistle of James. Like the majority of the General Epistles, the letter is named for the author. While the name “James” is used for several men in the New Testament, the most likely author of this epistle was James the Just, a man who had personally seen the resurrected Christ, was a companion of the apostles, and the senior pastor of the church at Jerusalem. He was also most likely the half-brother of Jesus. More about that in a minute! James’ concern for the “twelve tribes scattered” traces back to this church, consisting of many Jews who came to Jesus and followed Him after hearing the Good News in Jerusalem of whom he was the pastor. Some of these scattered Jewish Christians may have received the gift of a relationship with Jesus Christ after hearing Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost. His heart ached for these believers who were driven from their homes and families because of the persecution inspired by the same Jewish religious leaders behind the crucifixion. James’ heart went with his “sheep” and family members–in- Christ. These spiritual sisters and brothers of Jesus were also the spiritual sisters and brothers of James because he was also a spiritual brother of Jesus. Funny word, that word “brother”! When we think of a brother, words like “friend, intimate, close, respect, love, and challenger” come to mind. James was a younger physical half-brother of Jesus. Prior to the resurrection, James and his other brothers thought that their half-brother Jesus must have been crazy because He claimed to be God. James just couldn’t buy that! But the resurrection changed everything! Paul mentions that Jesus appeared to James personally. What an experience, to personally be visited by your older half-brother who with this one act proves He is God. The evidence and weight of this one event completely transformed James. I love the fact that when writing the epistle, James calls himself Jesus’ bond-slave. There is no claim to be the half brother of Jesus in the epistle. He is Jesus’ slave. His heart extends out to his people and he wants to encourage them. God the Holy Spirit picks him out to write this epistle in which he comforts and encourages those suffering while being scattered. The letter he wrote is filled with practical application of salvation in our world. James tells these believers who are experiencing doubts about themselves and their standing before God in Jesus Christ that the evidence of a genuine, authentic relationship with the true and living God is seen in how we live. The epistle of James’ theme could simply be stated “faith in action”. There is no contradiction to the teachings of Paul about faith and grace, this book presents the outcome of that faith and grace, godly works. James demonstrated his faith in Jesus Christ in his life and in his death. Tradition and early church history describes an ironic end to the ministry of James. Jewish religious leaders pushed James off the pinnacle of the same temple to which Jesus was taken by Satan during the tempting of James’ older half-brother. The Jews cast James off the highest part of the temple. As these Satanic-inspired pseudo-religious leaders looked down, they saw James survive the fall long enough to get on his knees so that he might pray for them. They ended his life by casting stones. So this hero of the faith demonstrates that true faith will accomplish great things through God but also suffer great things for God. These acts serve as a monument to faith which is worthwhile because it is “in Christ”.
We need to make sure our young people understand this type of faith. We have changed the Gospel to a fast-food version because we have mistaken our mission. God called us to go preach or proclaim the Good News to all people, but to also teach those people. While we do plenty of teaching with our mouths, we need to also teach with our lives. We are losing our young people to the world. Middle school students see a disconnect between the Gospel and their lives. To them, the Gospel is a ticket that will take me to heaven, but has little impact in my life in a practical way. As a church, we have given them the example that Christians have “boxes” to check each week and that as long as we do our duties, keep our “ticket”, and are good, moral people, we have experienced everything that Christ has to offer. James gives us a different perspective that comes from God Himself. The relationship we have with God through Christ is the treasure of salvation. In fact, Christ is the Treasure. In Him, we have all we need. But the great thing about Jesus Christ is that He is making all things new. Our lives are being transformed into Christ-likeness by the work of the Holy Spirit. We have this intimate relationship with God, are growing and being transformed, and having our minds renewed by the Word of God. Reaching others with the Great News that James discovered and died for is the desire of those who know Jesus Christ. Please become burdened to pray for young people, old people, children, adults, the un-churched as well as those deceived church members who need a REAL RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD.