Book of James, part two

I received an awesome confirmation in church tonight that I think directly reflects to this blog.  I’ve been feeling a little conflicted about writing on here because as I mentioned last time my biblical knowledge is not at all strong yet (though I’m working on it daily!).  Well, I found myself in a special class tonight that was designed to figure out your spiritual gifts.  My main two gifts that came out of taking this 100 question test were teaching and wisdom.  It’s funny because all day this blog was on my heart and I even consulted my brother about it and if I should keep doing it.  To find myself in a class that brought forward my inclination towards teaching and wisdom felt like a God inspired series of events and something of a confirmation that continuing this blog is in alignment with God’s direction for my life.  So amen to that, I feel really full of confidence and inspiration and I’m excited to finish out sharing my first impressions of the Book of James.

If you want a song to listen to while you read, the song I listened to while writing this can be found HERE.

MORE VERSES THAT JUMPED

So let’s go straight to honest town here.  I’ve loved the world for my whole life.  One thing about following Christ that I never used to understand was the idea that we as Christians are “in the world but not of the world”.  I understand the difference between a saved and an unsaved person, but we all live in the same world, right?  But worldliness is a different thing altogether, and I think that’s what James is talking about in this next verse.

James 4:4  You adulterous people!  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.

One definition of the word worldly is “devoted to, directed toward, or connected with the affairs, interests, or pleasures of this world”.  As I start to gain understanding over what worldliness is, then James 4:4 starts to really speak to me.  It’s not that I can’t have friends here on Earth, or that it’s particularly wrong of me to love Seinfeld and popcorn.  The issue here is loving the world more than you love God.  The issue is allowing worldly things to become idols that you put above God.  It’s spending every waking hour pursuing money, pleasure, fame, and any number of other flesh inspired pursuits.  And man, James doesn’t mince words about this issue.  Wanna be a friend of the world?  Then God is your enemy.  That’s so strong.  I know so little, but I do know that God is not someone I want as an enemy.  That thing I said a few paragraphs ago, that I love the world, that scares me now, and I really have felt my heart change on that stance recently.  I love people, and yeah, I still love Seinfeld and popcorn.  But I love God so much more.  I still spend time on worldly pursuits, more time than I should.  But I no longer desire to be a friend of the world.  I want my pursuits to be God based and God inspired and for them to help further his kingdom.  My destiny lies beyond this world, and I’d much rather build up riches and rewards in eternity than to spend my handful of years on earth trying to build a mega bank account or an award winning video game collection.

I do want to be clear though, that I don’t view this verse as some US versus THEM thing.  I love people, and I want them all to know God as I’m coming to know him.  I want them to encounter Jesus in a big, undeniable way.  Turning away from worldly pursuits and desires doesn’t equal turning away from the people of the world.  If anything it strengthens my love for people.  I want them to come to know what I’m coming to know, that a holy life is infinitely more fulfilling than a worldly life, and that having Jesus as the Lord of your life isn’t slavery, it’s actually the truest freedom imaginable.

I’m not gonna lie, this next verse straight up hurt my feelings the first time I read it.

James 4:13-14   13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.

I want to focus on just verse 14 first.  I’m serious, I was so insulted by this at first.  You are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.  Really?  That’s how MY ENTIRE LIFE is being summed up here?  Keeping the focus just here, however, I found that this verse has been a big help in reshaping my thinking on what my life here on earth is really all about.  My best friend and I have long been at odds on this subject.  I saw nobility and purpose in life, while he sees a quick testing ground where you either accept or reject Jesus.  The more I study and the closer I draw to God, I’m finding that my perception of the meaning of life is changing drastically.  I don’t see this time as simply a pass/fail Jesus acceptance test, but I do think that’s not too terribly far off.  Life is a time to make a choice.  There is no neutrality with God.  He’s either savior or judge.  But being saved isn’t the end of the story.  You don’t say “I passed the test” and then sit down and wait for death and the reward of heaven.  I believe in an active pursuit and action based believers.  With the Lord sitting on the throne of my life, with his holy spirit residing inside of me, I find the thought of doing nothing for Him to be IMPOSSIBLE.  The meaning of life to me now is to do God’s good work for the rest of my days.  Not because good works get me into heaven, because they don’t, but because good works are the desire of a holy heart.  If you tell me you’re filled with the living God and yet have zero desire to do anything for God, well, I’m not going to judge you because that’s not my place, but I am going to pray for you.  Because to me it seems impossible to truly know God and not want to pursue a Godly life.  To me that’s the meaning of life.  Accept Jesus as your savior, take him up on this insanely amazing gift of salvation and eternal life that we are so UNBELIEVABLY UNDESERVING of, and then go do something awesome for God.  Identify the gifts and talents he’s given me and put them to use not for my own glory, but for his glory.

So what is my life?  It may just be a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes, but I’m gonna make it the most useful, Godly, inspired, mist that ever briefly blew across this planet.

Now, I do want to extend the focus for a second and look at the verse as a whole.  I don’t think James was setting out to belittle the lives of everyone here, I think that verse 14 is in direct response to verse 13.  He sets up this scenario of people making all these plans, but nowhere in those plans do they mention God.  I think these two verses together are a strong reminder to make Godly plans and leave room in our plans for God.  It shouldn’t be “I wanna and so I’m gonna” but instead should be “God willing and if it’s within his plan for my life, then I’m gonna…”.

I made two final notes about the Book of James.  The first was in relation to this verse.

James 5:9   Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.

I was really struck by the power of something simple here.  The capitalization of the word Judge in the final sentence implies that we’re talking about God.  I just thought that was a neat little wordplay trick.  Don’t judge one another because watch out, THE JUDGE is standing at the door.

The final thing I got out of the Book of James on my first few readings is this.

James 5: 12  12 But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.

I’ve gotten better at this in recent years, but my whole past is littered with not following through on my word.  Telling friends I would do something only to back out, telling my family I was coming over only to back out, I was downright notorious for it.  It may be a bit tougher to just say NO, as not everyone likes hearing that word, but saying what you mean and sticking to it isn’t just good business, it’s biblical.  This is something I’ve really had to work on, but I think this verse makes it pretty clear that sticking to what you say matters.

So that’s it for my first impressions of the Book of James.  I loved it dearly and found the writing style to be really appealing.  I look forward to returning to it at a later time and seeing what new things I get out of the book.

As far as prayers go, I’d ask that you just lift up my brother, his wife, and their three kids.  They’re all heading off to church camp in the morning.  This is all of what’s most precious to me in one car, so please pray for their protection for the protection of all those who are travelling to the camp.  I pray that God moves in a huge way in the lives of all the kids and adults going to camp and that they come back transformed!

 

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Published by: Aaron Hall

A lifelong writer, I now spend my days working in communications for city government. I love Jesus with all my heart, and I love sharing my thoughts on the Bible here on this blog.

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