My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20
Imagine your young child has wandered from the safety and security of home. You would stop at nothing to find them. You would search night and day. You would liquidate everything for a ransom. You would hang up posters and boldly bang on doors. You wouldn’t stop until they were safe in your arms.
James closes his letter with the wanderer. The wanderer is the heartbeat of James. It is the culmination of all the practical advice packed into his letter thus far, pointing to true and genuine faith; what it looks like when we aren’t lost and wandering. Perhaps he is reflecting on his personal experience as a wanderer, remembering his mocking and unbelief when Jesus, his half-brother, was walking the earth. The risen Jesus appeared to James personally and his wandering ceased. He believed and his life was changed. His Savior pursued him. He didn’t leave him in the dark.
We are part of God’s search and rescue team. Why don’t we pursue our lost brothers and sisters like we would a wandering child? Armed with excuses, why are we so quick to leave them in the dark?
The truth is, it is hard. Because unlike a physically lost child who wandered off into the woods, our spiritually lost friends don’t always want to be found and rescued. They don’t realize they are lost. They don’t know they need to be rescued. We have to trust the Spirit to lead us to those we should go after and pray that the Spirit opens their eyes to the fact that they are indeed lost. God will join us on this mission near and dear to His heart.
May we have the kind of urgency toward wandering and lost souls that we do for a physically lost child. God, soften our hearts and open our eyes to chase after who and what you are chasing.
Challenge: Write in your journal a wanderer or two you are praying for. Commit to praying for them fervently, asking God to open their hearts.
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:7-8
We don’t know much about the early life of Jesus. I often wonder what it would have been like to be his sibling or best friend growing up…to watch how he played, learned, and interacted with family and friends. I think James, as His half-brother, would have such a unique perspective on the Gospel and Christian living. So when James teaches things like joy in trials, living humbly, not just hearing the word but LIVING it, having compassion toward those in need, showing no partiality, backing up faith with good works, being aware of the power of our words…when James teaches these things, I imagine him going back in time and remembering what it was like to be with Jesus and the way Jesus naturally lived life. Not just when crowds were around, but always…in the mundane daily chores and tasks and downtime…in the everyday relationships.
James, armed with this knowledge and perspective, doesn’t hold back either. He says, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4) Pretty intense, right? But it echoes things that Jesus said about not being able to serve two masters and watching out for the little leaven that seems small and insignificant, but slowly and severely changes the composition of the thing it enters. We think we can handle a little of what the world has to offer; that we can manage the worldly ways and things and not be changed by them…but this is a mistake.
To think we can straddle the fence of the world and God’s kingdom is to remain double-minded. David Guzik says, “Our problem is we often want a middle road; a little popularity, a little reputation, but still the anointing from God. We want the power without the cost.” God doesn’t share His throne. We are either with Him or we are against Him.
Questions: Do you tend to want a little bit of the world mixed in with God? In what ways is friendship with the world being an enemy with God?
Who is wise and understanding among you? James 3:1a
Wisdom is more than knowledge and accumulation of information. In Proverbs, we learn that fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. In the teachings of Jesus, we learn that the wise person is rooted in God’s truth and character. They hate injustice and evil. They love righteousness. They are alert and ready for His return. Wisdom is a manifestation of faith and spiritual living.
So, how do we know if we have wisdom that is from God and not from the world? James offers a series of tests by which we can verify the genuineness of our faith, because when we are truly saved and genuinely know God, we display wisdom that looks and acts like it is of God. The wisdom we display is a reflection of our heart condition.
James tells us that ungodly wisdom looks like BITTER JEALOUSLY and SELFISH AMBITION. It is a life of self-focus, protecting our turf and wanting more for ourselves.
Wisdom from the world looks like attitude and action based on self...comparison, tension, competition. It looks like drifting with the tides of culture and ego, rather than an anchoring in God’s ways. It looks like personal gratification...no humility, no love, no seeking the interest of others. James further gives us a picture of the consequences of earthly wisdom in action, “there will be disorder and every vile practice.” It wreaks havoc on us and those around us.
Wisdom from God looks vastly different. “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” (James 3:17) Pure motives. Love of peace. Humble. Patient. Forgiving. Yielding. Merciful. Compassionate. Reasonable. No partiality. No hypocrisy or hidden motives.
God, please fill us not with simply more knowledge, but with YOUR love and wisdom. Let our life be a reflection of You.
Questions: How does the wisdom you display look? Does it look more like wisdom from God or the world?
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. James 1:22
Let’s say you really want to get in better shape. You go to a wellness seminar, you buy a handful of healthy cookbooks, you join a gym, you research and download the highest-rated fitness apps, you talk for hours with your best friend about your plans, you even make a calendar with a workout schedule and meal plan. But you never go to the gym or change your bad eating habits. The scale doesn’t budge.
Or what if you tell your teenager to clean their room. You smile as they happily head upstairs. A few hours later you peek in to check on them. They are sitting on their bed in their even messier room with a laptop in one hand, phone in the other, and sketchbook by their side. Shocked you angrily ask what they are doing. “Looking up videos on room cleaning, texting my friends for advice, and jotting down some plans. I’m all in and so inspired,” they tell you. But their room is still a mess!
Or you have this dream inside you. A gift from God. Something He has given you to do. You think about it constantly, you pray about it and journal about it in great detail. But you never take that step toward it.
Or in a hurry to meet your dinner date, you quickly glance in a mirror. You notice your hair is a mess, your mascara smeared, and your shirt inside out. You tilt your head in concern, then proceed to walk out the door. Though you no longer see it, you are still a walking disaster.
Or you go to church, consistently have quiet time, and wouldn’t think of missing your small group. But you never put what you hear, read, discuss into practice. It never transforms you. Your heart is still hard and your life outside of church activities hasn’t changed at all.
Let us not be deceived, just going through the motions. May our desire to do what God says be as strong as our desire to hear what He says. God, transform us into who You know we can be; who You created us to be.
Questions: Do any of these scenarios resonate with you? How can you make sure to be a do-er and not merely a hear-er?
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5
Sometimes studying the Bible can be confusing.
Sometimes LIFE can be confusing… and really really hard. Things happen that we just can’t understand.
Sometimes the pain and suffering can blur our vision.
Sometimes it feels like we are working so hard and doing all the right things, but nothing seems to be happening for us.
Sometimes we are at a fork in the road and we just don’t know which way to go or how to even move forward.
Sometimes we tend to be so critical of ourselves that it is hard to see ourselves as God sees us.
Sometimes we know a lot of things, but still don’t understand.
While God doesn't reveal everything to us, He doesn’t leave us stuck in a pit of confusion either. God promises to give us the wisdom we need if we ask Him for it and believe He will give it to us.
And not only does He give us a little wisdom, He gives it to us generously and without reproach, meaning He isn’t critical or hard on us because we ask Him to help us understand things. Actually, the opposite is true, He loves when we ask Him for things. He has so much He is wanting to show us and give us…but He wants us to be part of the process. He wants us to ask Him.
When you find yourself confused or unsure – which you will – remember that you can always ask God for wisdom!
Question: What is something you are struggling with that you can pray for God to give you wisdom about today?
The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.” Genesis 4:6-7
Cain doesn’t react so well to God’s lack of regard for his offering. It again reveals what is brewing in his heart and what God saw when Cain presented the offering. He has a heart full of anger and a focus on himself. God knows this is a recipe for disaster in our lives.
James, the half-brother of Jesus, tells us how these temptations from the devil grow in us. It starts with a desire that isn’t of God; a desire to focus on ourselves and/or to do wrong. If it is not addressed, it gives birth to sin. And sin grows and grows and gets easily out of control. (James 1:14-15) This is why God warns us to see it and nip it in the bud.
A quote I often repeat when I am angry like Cain is, “the level of your irritation often reveals the depth of your idolatry.” Think about the things that tend to irritate you the most. They are likely tied to things you are clinging to over God. Your reputation, your social status, your security, things you think you deserve and don’t have, work you are doing or want to do. Not necessarily bad things, but they become problematic when we elevate them to a higher position than they should be and care about protecting them at all costs; when we love them more than we love God.
God warns Cain (and us!) that sin is crouching at the door. We must rule over it. Here is some good news…While temptation is never from God (James 1:13), God promises that with any temptation, He provides a way of escape so we can endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13). We have the power in God to rule over the sin crouching at the door.
Challenge: When you feel irritated this week, stop and examine the root of it. Is sin crouching at the door? Is an idol being revealed you need to address? Immediately pray about it and ask God to show you the path to overcome it.
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