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caring for the elderly November 16 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: James
(note: James was a very early church epistle that was written to encourage persecuted Jewish Christians and to deal with some problems in their conduct. It may have been written as early as A.D. 45, following the dispersion of the Jewish church from Jerusalem (Acts 8-9, James 1:1-4) and before the Jerusalem councils mentioned in Acts 11 and 15 (The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the N.T, by Walvoord and Zuck, © 1985, p.816). Because of the theme, this Bible study is long, but the next is very short.)

Genuine Christianity

For most Christians believing is the “easy” part of their faith. God does all the work; we just have to believe and trust what he says is true. If we genuinely believe Jesus died for our sins in our place and rose again, we can have forgiveness, peace, spiritual life, and a guarenteed home in heaven after we die (more...). Living what we believe is often the difficult part of the Christian life. How can others know if our faith is genuine unless our lives show it? What kinds of things should we do or not do that show we are Christians? James, like Proverbs, gives a multiplicity of answers on how we should live our Christian life.

The book of James was primarily written to Jewish believers, apparently scattered upon the death of Stephen, the first martyr (Acts 7:59- 8:4). The rock of persecution had been thrown into the pond of over 5,000 new believers, and they scattered in concentric circles from Jerusalem. At first, only Jews were evangelized, and they formed their own little congregations. Because of their culture they were prejudiced against all non-Jewish people (Gentiles), and apparently the rich were prejudiced against the poor. How did James say they were to act in their new assemblies?

First, they should persevere under the persecutions and trials they suffered. The Jewish religious leaders hated Jesus, and now they hated his disciples. They pursued them and punished them for their Christian message (which was viewed as a cult). Other Jews viewed them with suspicion. James told the new Jewish Christians that they would grow spiritually through the persecutions and trials they suffered.

Many people exclaim, “Where is God?” when they are suffering. They don’t know how to make sense of it. James says if they are confused about what they are suffering they should ask God for wisdom and help in dealing with it. Trials and persecutions may be allowed by God to refine them (and us), but they should not, however, consider temptations as coming from God. God does not tempt anyone; it is against his very nature. Giving into sin is not a matter of our circumstances but what we do with our desires. Though most of us are not Jews, if we have a personal relationship with God through his Son, Jesus Christ, we, too, can and should ask God for wisdom and help when we are dealing with persecution and trials. But James exhorts readers to make sure that we ask in faith, believing that we will receive an answer if we ask Him (1:6). God answers the prayers of those who ask in faith. To not ask God with faith that he will answer is offensive, and we should not expect to get an answer. Though we may not see him, he is present and cares about us in all our circumstances, so we should call upon him in faith.

Second, James told them, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says,” (1:22, NIV). Listen to the illustration James gives:

Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it-- he will be blessed in what he does, (James 1:23-25, NIV).

Because we go to church and listen to Bible messages does not necessarily mean we are Christians. The proof of our Christianity comes when we recognize what needs to change and then make the changes.

Third, they (and we) should watch their (our) tongues. The tongue is very powerful. James 1:26 says, “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless,” (NIV).

What then is true religion - is it a bunch of do's and don'ts? James answers, “religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world,” (James 1:27, NIV). Of course, all this is only possible through a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ (more...). True religion is expressed by compassion and personal morality. God is not so much impressed by people who know their doctrine as he is with those who live it.

Fourth, James exhorts the Christians not to act in prejudice against their brothers and sisters in Christ. Where a person is born or what place he has in society should make no difference; we should love each other equally. James instructs them to “speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom,” (2:12, NIV). The Apostle Paul says something similar in Romans 14:10 “You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat,” (NIV).

Fifth, Christians should do their deeds as an expression of their faith and with humility. James 3:13 says, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom,” (NIV). Boasting is inappropriate because everything we have is from God, even our faith (Ephesians 2:8). 1Corinthians 1:31 says, “Therefore, as it is written [in Jeremiah 9:24]: ‘Let him who boasts boast in the Lord,’” (NIV).

Sixth, God wants us to live in peace and godliness. In James 4:6-10 James exhorts Christians to submit themselves to God. “Come near to God,” he says, “and he will come near to you,” (NIV). We should genuinely repent of all ungodliness and wickedness, humble ourselves before him, and live in peace.

Seventh, James gives the Christians a final set of instructions: don’t fight with each other, don’t slander each other, don’t judge each other, don’t grumble against each other, stop your boasting about yourselves, be patient in times of persecution and trials, live lives of integrity, love your brothers and sisters in Christ, take care of one another, pray for one another, minister to one another, and save one another from slipping spiritually. Don’t let sin rule your life. Be a genuine Christian with your words and deeds; let them be the proof of your faith.

Lessons to live by:

  • Christians grow spiritually through the persecutions and trials they suffer.
  • Christians, you can and should ask God for wisdom and help when dealing with persecution and trials; but ask in faith, believing that God is present and truly cares about you.
  • “Do not merely listen to the word [of God], and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says,” (James1:22, NIV).
  • Watch your tongue.
  • True religion is expressed by compassion and personal morality. God is not so much impressed by people who know their doctrine as he is with those who live it.
  • Put away prejudice.
  • Do good deeds in humility.
  • Genuinely repent of all ungodliness and wickedness and humble yourselves before Him. God offers us forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life to all who come to him (more...). Live in peace and godliness.
  • Don’t let sin rule your life. Be a genuine Christian with your words and deeds; let them be the proof of your faith.

Today’s Bible memory verses: James 3:16-17

For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. (NIV)

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