Saturday, January 28, 2017

James: Week 6: POWERFUL PRAYER

WEEK SIX: POWERFUL PRAYER 

DAY ONE: PRAYING FOR WISDOM
  1. 1)  Read our focus passages, James 1:5-8 and James 3:17. Make note of what stands out to you.


  2. 2)  The admonition to pray for wisdom, found in James 1, comes with a promise offered few times in Scripture.

    a) Take a look at the word translated as let him ask. In what way are we to ask?

    b) Now look at the word translated as who gives. How does God give wisdom? 

    c) Look at Thayer’s Lexicon for the sweetness with which God gives generously

    d) There’s a great word picture in Thayer’s for without reproach. Make note of it.

  3. 3)  Put what you learned in #2 together to find the sweetness of this promise.

  4. 4)  There’s a warning about our asking that can’t be overlooked. Again, follow the links to gather more information.

    a) The word translated as “must ask” is the same as “let him ask” above.


    b) We’ve looked at the word translated as “faith”, pistis, before, but let’s review it. 

    c) What kind of battle does the word translated as “doubt” describe?

    d) What word picture is painted by the words translated as “surf” and “tossed by the wind”?
  1. 5)  Put what you learned in #4 together to understand the chaotic distress of the one who doubts.

  2. 6)  There’s an interesting truth in verse seven about the one who doubts, but still expects to receive wisdom. The word translated as “receive” suggests someone taking something they believe is owed them or belongs to them. How likely is God to allow this kind of “receiving”?


  3. 7)  James 3:17 describes the wisdom from above for which we are encouraged to ask. 

    a) pure

    b) peaceable


    c) gentle


    d) reasonable 

    e) full of mercy

    f) fruits

    g) unwavering

    h) without hypocrisy

  4. 8)  Use what you’ve learned to describe wisdom in greater detail.
PRAYER PAUSE:

We serve a God who is generous beyond measure. When we don’t know what to do, it’s not necessary to struggle, wonder, or agonize. All we have to do, if we lack wisdom, is to ask. God doesn’t sling it at us in anger or hit us in the teeth with it. He’s delighted to give more wisdom than we knew we need, simply because He desires to bless us.
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Savor that truth for a moment.

God makes one thing clear. This waffling back and forth to which we’re so prone will not result in wisdom. Doubt is a chaotic struggle within ourselves that yields only turmoil. Not wisdom.
The wisdom God gives us is so beautiful that it’s nothing less than a gift of Himself. Pure. Peaceable. Gentle. Reasonable.

Think about the last time you needed wisdom. To whom did you turn first? Did you read a self- help book or ask God for wisdom?

According to James, what a disciple of Christ is expected to do when wisdom is needed is simply ask and receive it.

How much of a role does doubt play in your prayer requests? 

What changes do you need to make in your prayer life?


DAY TWO: PRAYING AMISS

James 4:2-4

In our focus passage today, James addresses the issue of unanswered prayer. It’s not God’s fault we don’t receive that for which we’ve asked, James tells us. The problem is with our motivation.

  1. 1)  Read the focus passage, then read it again, aloud. Take notes on what stands out to you.

  2. 2)  James 4:1-2 describes a dreadful picture of believers who were in constant conflict with those around them. They argued and fought, not because they wanted a good outcome or because of a zeal for God. They indulged in conflict because they enjoyed it. It sounds like our media-driven society, doesn’t it?

    There’s no indication that they took these desires to God in prayer, likely because they knew they were not godly.

    a) When their desires rooted in lust were denied, what did they do?

    b) When their desires rooted in envy were denied, what did they do?

  3. 3)  The problem, James told them, was that they didn’t have because they didn’t ask, and if they did, their prayers had nothing of godly intent in them.

    a) Look back at the way God gives wisdom (from yesterday). Compare it with the way
    these believers expected to receive their answers.


    b) What did James say was the problem behind their asking? See kakōs

  4. 4)  Matthew Henry’s commentary on these verses is so profound that it sounds as if he’s been reading the vitriol commonly found on social media sites today. It’s worth following the link to read, and will expand your understanding of the political struggles which James addressed.
PRAYER PAUSE:

These prayers were not “unanswered” prayers. They were answered with a resounding no for one simple reason. They were not motivated by a desire to expand the kingdom of God or to give God pleasure, nor were they motivated by need.
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Their prayers were motivated by their own desires. They wanted what they did not need, and they assumed God would be a kind of “cosmic candy machine,” dispensing the desire of the day whenever they inserted their prayer-coin.

This is not how prayer works.

We have a loving Heavenly Father who delights in giving good things to His children. No good Father would coddle the foolish requests of an overly-spoiled child. He knows what we need, but He will not indulge our lusts.

Think about your prayer life for a few minutes.


a) Which of your prayers have been answered in the last six months?

b) Which of your prayer requests were either delayed or denied?

c) What was the motivation behind the requests that were delayed or denied?

d) How might you change your prayer requests so that you would not “ask amiss”?

DAY THREE: PRAYING FOR PROTECTION

“Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” James 4:7 nasb

Those words don’t sound much like a directive to prayer, but I believe they are. When we are under attack from the enemy of our soul, we are not powerless. We can have the strength to resist the devil, but it comes after we submit to God.

The preceding verse gives an important introduction to the topic of avoiding the schemes of the devil. God opposes the proud. He gives grace to the humble. THEREFORE, choose humility by submitting to God.
  1. 1)  Let’s dig into this verse to get a better understanding of how we gain protection from the evil one.

    a) submit

    b) resist

    c) flee:

  2. 2)  Use what you learned to expand your insight into James 4:7 and write it here.

  3. 3)  Ephesians 6 broadens our understanding of resisting the devil. Read Ephesians 6:10-18 and make notes on what stands out.

  4. 4)  In an encounter of spiritual warfare, the only one who should flee is the enemy. We resist. We stand firm. He flees. Examine Ephesians 6 to find the different levels of authority in the dominion of darkness and make a list here.

  5. 5)  Under what level of authority do we live and serve? 

    a) Matthew 18:18-20
page119image12904 b) Matthew 28:18-20
         
         c) Luke 10:19
  1. 6)  Consider the different levels of authority in the realm of darkness versus the authority of Christ under which we do battle. How often should we be defeated? How often are we? Why is that?


  2. 7)  With what virtues should we clothe ourselves? (Ephesians 6:14-17)

  3. 8)  When most people list the armor of God, they stop at verse 17. I believe verse 18 holds the key to the entire spiritual battle. What is the most neglected piece of weaponry we have?

  4. 9)  The lessons of James prepare us to submit to God, pray and petition in the Spirit, and resist the evil one. How might these lessons be helpful in prayer?

    a) Persevering in trials


    b) Controlling the tongue 

    c) Addressing our sin


    d) Humility


    e) Servanthood (works)

PRAYER PAUSE:
The first question we need to answer as we look at the discipline of praying for protection from the schemes of the devil is so basic we often overlook it.

Do we want to resist sin or not?

If what we want is to remain as sinless as possible, the first step is to make the choice to resist the devil with intention. Let’s do that now, and write our prayer of confession, repentance, and commitment.

Review the battle gear we are to wear for spiritual warfare. How well have you clothed yourself?

Consider the girdle of truth. How much time do you spend studying Scripture in order to know and plant truth in your heart? 

Is it time for change?

If our faith is made evident by our works, how evident is your shield of faith? 

What changes are needed?

Consider your prayer life. How much of prayer time is spent asking for “wants”? 

For needs? 

For protection from the evil one? 

How much time is spent asking for blessings for your children versus asking for them to be made more like Christ?


DAY FOUR: PRAYING AND PRAISING
James 5:13

Suffering will drive us to our knees. If you’ve ever suffered, you know the truth of that statement. Whether the suffering is from physical pain or emotional distress, none of us are exempt. At some point, we will all experience a difficulty that kicks us in the teeth and knocks us nearly out from the shock and agony of it. Illness. Death. Wayward children. Unfaithful spouse. Financial reversals. Betrayal. Hunger. Abuse. Poverty. There’s no end to the opportunity, nor the occasion, of suffering.
James has a simple solution. Are you suffering? Then pray.

1)  The word translated as “ pray” is proseuchomai. This is not a quick prayer on the run. Follow the link to find out more about this specific word usage. (Check Thayer’s, mid-way down)


2)  This same word is used in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. Write this three-word verse here.


3)  Our response to suffering should be unceasing prayer and a recollection of the examples of the prophets. What other kind of suffering should cause us to pray? (See Matthew 5:12)

4)  There’s an odd juxtaposition of suffering and cheerfulness in this verse, and it’s not done by accident. Why might James combine these two directives?

5)  Follow the links to learn more about the praise response to a cheerful heart. 

a) cheerful

b) sing praises
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6) James does not say that we should be cheerful and to sing praises only if we have marvelously favorable circumstances. How might prayer in the midst of suffering lead to a cheerful heart and singing of praises?

PRAYER PAUSE:

I’ve suffered before. It drove me to my knees. You probably know the truth of that, too. If you don’t, one day you will. It’s easy to pray when we’re desperate. When we’re filled with joy and everything’s going our way, however, we’re less inclined to prayer. Desperation drives us. Peace, harmony, and prosperity seldom do.

In this verse, neither the prayer nor the singing of praises are accidental. They are, instead, intentional. If we want to be prayer warriors, we must choose to pray. If we want to be worshippers, we must choose to praise and worship our Lord.

The life of a disciple is a choice we make, every single day. What disciple-choice did you make to day?

What disciple-choice do you make most days?

In what ways have you demonstrated a choice concerning prayer?


In what ways have you demonstrated a choice concerning praise?

DAY FIVE: PRAYING FOR HEALING

“...and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise Him up...” James 5:15 nasb

Years ago, a patient came in my office with a rash on her leg. “I had the elders pray over me, but God didn’t heal me yet. The elders said I needed to come see you,” she told me.

I was caught off guard. Did she think God still healed? Yes. She did. So did the members of her church, as it turned out. They “thought” that, because it was true. Most of the time, God healed the problem. Sometimes, He used a doctor to help.

He used a doctor that time, too. Her leg healed with treatment, and stayed healed. I thought it was good medical care. After I spent a few years as a wound doctor, I understood it was more than medicine. It was a miracle.

God still heals in response to prayers of faith, and with surprising regularity. Since I became a prayer-missionary in August 2016, missionaries have reported scores of people healed of illness, sight restored to the blind, hearing restored to the deaf. Even function restored to a paralyzed limb.
He is still a wonder-working, healing God. But I wonder... are we still a praying-for-healing people?

Our focus verses today are James 5:14-15.

1) James asks an interesting question. “Is anyone sick?” He offers a surprising solution. “Call for the elders.” If you’re wondering what he means, it’s pretty simple. If you’re sick, call the elders and let them pray over you. Just to be sure, let’s explore this verse a little more fully. (“Pray” in this verse is just a little different from the preceding verse, so be sure to check Thayer’s.)

a) sick


b) elders


c) pray


d) anointing
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2)  Compare the anointing described in this verse with that of Luke 7:38 and John 12:3. (The same word is used in all three verses.)


3)  It’s clear that James expected those who are sick to invite the elders to lay hands on them, pray for healing, and anoint them with oil. Let’s look closer at verse 15 to see what he expected to happen.

a) offered in faith 

b) restore

c) raise him up 

d) forgiven


4)  This faith with which the elders are to offer their prayers is mustard-seed faith. It’s the same word used in the following verses, so take a look and be encouraged. If the one offering the prayer has even a smidgen of faith, it’s enough.

a) Matthew 9:2 

b) Matthew 17:20 

c) Romans 5:1

d) James 1:6

5)  The healing James expects is not a temporary improvement in discomfort. The phrase, “raise him up” implies that the sick person is unable to get up on his own and requires the intervention of God. How complete is the healing James expects?
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PRAYER PAUSE:

Nearly twenty years ago, I had migraine headaches. Eighteen a month. Some days, I’d lie on the floor and cry between patients. Some days, my head hurt so badly that I’d leave a patient room, vomit, then go back and see more patients. Every day, I’d think about these verses in James. Could God heal me? Would He?

I didn’t have the faith to ask. I went to a Baptist church. I didn’t think we believed in healing.

Finally, the headaches were so debilitating that God left me no choice. I had to take a chance on faith. That’s how I saw it back then, before I understood the love, grace, and power of our Father.

That day, the one when I couldn’t take it any more, I emailed a friend who would hold me accountable, and my pastor. There was no turning back.

Deacons were assembled and, on the eventful day that changed my life, I sat in a chair as the deacons laid on hands, my pastor prayed, and anointed me with oil. A white-hot bolt of fire shot through me. I nearly fainted. For a brief instant, I thought the house had erupted in flames. It hadn’t. The fire of God had pulsed through me and I was healed.

I’ve never doubted the power of God again. I haven’t had migraines, either.

In case you’ve wondered, I serve a God who still heals the sick. Even for sinners like me.


When’s the last time you saw someone healed by the power of God?

When’s the last time you took your illness to God first, rather than to physicians?


Today, let’s examine our hearts. Do we believe in a healing God or not? 

If not, why not?

In third-world countries around the world, they lack the excellent health care we have in this country. As a result, they rely on their Wonder-Working God. When they’re sick, the elders are summoned, prayers are lifted, and God heals as He chooses.

I believe we could see more of the healing power of God if we trusted Him enough to ask Him to heal us. Maybe we don’t think He’s up to it. Maybe we don’t think He cares enough about us. Maybe we don’t want to clean up our lives enough to approach Him. I don’t know why, but, for some reason, God is not the first one we consult.

As a physician, I have to admit that I believe in the abilities of my fellow physicians. I believe we have much to offer in the way of health care. I believe in the power of surgery to remove diseased flesh. I would not want anyone to avoid health care or discontinue medicine because of what I’m writing. Take your medicine. See your doctor. Follow medical advice.

BUT...

With that said, what I want to communicate clearly is that Our Lord is the Great Physician. Why not give him a mustard seed of faith and see what He will do?

DAY SIX: PRAYING FOR FORGIVENESS

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed...” James 5:16

Here it is again...Sin.

We can’t get away from the need to deal with our sin. In verse 15, James encourages us to seek the counsel and prayers of our ministers as we pray for forgiveness. If sin is in any way related to the sickness, we certainly need to confess it and seek forgiveness. When we confess our sin and seek forgiveness, they will be forgiven, not because we confessed them to a minister, but because we confessed and sought forgiveness from God.

In the same way, James encourages us to confess our sins to “one another”, i.e. a friend/fellow believer. What he’s describing is, in the vernacular of our day, an accountability partner or mentoring partner.

What James describes is a blanket of prayer that surrounds us. Personal prayer (verse 11). Ministerial prayer (verse 14). Laity prayer (verse 16).

1) Just to be sure we have the essence of this verse, let’s look at it in a little more detail. 

a) confess

b) sins


c) one another 

d) pray


e) healed

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PRAYER PAUSE:

The “one another” described in this verse implies mutual confession. It’s the sharing of equals. Of partners.

I’ve had an accountability partner for years. An iron-sharpens-iron friend who will not overlook your excuses or denials is a wonderful gift, straight from God. If you don’t have one, I encourage you to ask God to provide it.

There are multiple opportunities for mutual prayer and support. I’m involved in a prayer group by text, several email prayer groups, a secret Facebook group, and even a WhatsApp group. If you want accountability, it’s easier than ever to arrange.

In what ways are you accountable to other believers?

With whom do you mutually confess your sin and discuss your struggles?

James doesn’t mention this specifically, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this. Prayer partnerships are not created to provide fodder for the rumor mill. Prayer partnerships are for mutual benefit and trust. What is said must remain confidential, except in the most dire of circumstances. (If your prayer partner threatens suicide, don’t keep that to yourself.)

If you are willing to enter into an accountability partnership with a fellow believer, write a prayer asking God to provide His choice of partner for you.


DAY SEVEN: PRAYING LIKE A PROPHET

James 5:17-19

Elijah was just a man. His nature was just like ours. Frail and weak and whiny. BUT Elijah prayed and God moved in a big way. Even though he was so much like me. So much like you.
Ponder that for a few minutes and see if you can grasp the magnitude of it.


Elijah was just like us.


Get ready for this big truth: We are just like Elijah, and we could pray like Elijah if we would.

You know this story. Elijah prayed that there wouldn’t be any rain and it didn’t rain. For three long, dry, and dusty years. Then, he prayed again, and rain poured down, and the earth was refreshed.
Scripture doesn’t tell us this specifically, but, having had a few answered prayers of my own, I’m fairly sure God put the prayer in Elijah’s heart before he prayed it. He put the fire of God in Elijah before he announced his prayer to King Ahab. If not, he’d have never dared to approach the king.
That’s the kind of amazing transformation our God can accomplish in someone willing to be used. Like Elijah. Like you and me.

1)  Read the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 17:1-19:18 and take notes on what stands out to you.

2)  Elijah grew weary and grumpy. He felt alone and forgotten. After a while, he began to think all his obedience had amounted to nothing. He thought he was the last faithful man standing, but he was wrong.

a) God hadn’t forgotten him. (1 Kings 19:11)

b) God wasn’t through with him yet. (1 Kings 19:15-16) 

c) Elijah wasn’t the only faithful one. (1 Kings 19:18)

3) He sounds so much like us, doesn’t he? There was one thing Elijah did that we don’t always do, but we should. When God spoke, he listened, and answered. See 1 Kings 19:12-14.

PRAYER PAUSE:

The difference between us and Elijah is that he recognized the still, small Voice of God, no louder than a gentle blowing. When God spoke, Elijah answered. When God directed, Elijah obeyed. Because he obeyed in little things, God gave him bigger things to do.

Elijah didn’t face off with the prophets of Baal and call down fire from heaven at the start. He began by speaking one sentence in an unlikely place, simply because God told him to do it.

Each little obedience led to a greater opportunity for obedience. Each little victory led to a greater one. Every little answered prayer led to a bolder one. Before he knew it, Elijah was praying like a prophet.

We can pray like prophets, too. If we will.

IF we’ll listen to the still, small Voice and obey in the little things, pray the little prayers He give us, He’ll give us bigger. If we obey in the bigger, He’ll give us more.

Before we know it, He’ll give us prophet-sized prayers and, when we pray what He says, He’ll give us prophet-sized results.

This might be hard to believe, but it’s true.

Today is decision time. Do you have a mustard seed of faith to invest in the tiniest of obedience? 

Enough to pray whatever God puts in your heart and trust Him for the answers? Even when you don’t understand? When you don’t know what He’ll do?

God’s not the one keeping us from praying like a prophet. We are. But we don’t have to be.

Here’s the question for today. Are you willing to let God train you to pray like a prophet? 

If so, write your prayer of commitment to obedience and prayer now.







1https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/mhc/Jam/Jam_001.cfm. Accessed 1/11/17
2https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/mhc/Jam/Jam_001.cfm Accessed 1/11/17
3https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/mhc/Jam/Jam_001.cfm accessed 1/11/17
4https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2570&t=NASB Accessed
1/12/17
5https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/mhc/Jam/Jam_005.cfm Accessed 1/13/17 6http://www.economist.com/news/business-and-finance/21710771-new-analysis-how-worlds-
wealth-distributed-you-may-be-higher-up Accessed 1/13/17
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#James 

James: Week 5: DOING AND BEING

WEEK FIVE: DOING AND BEING

DAY ONE: SEEING OURSELVES RIGHTLY
JAMES 1:22-25

James 1:22 is one of the verses I memorized as a child. “Be you doers of the word, and not hearers only...” In Junior Sunday School opening assembly on Sunday mornings, Dr. Herring often led us in the song, “Out of James 1:22 comes a song for Juniors true, Be ye doers of the word...” by B.B. McKinney (the link is a YouTube performance). You can see the words on page 2 of this link: Be Ye Doers of the Word. (They’re worth reading.)

That verse is ingrained in me. Be a doer.

The problem is that doing is easier than being. We can fake our way through doing. There’s no faking being, despite how hard we try. That’s why the “Doing and Being” section is near the end of this study. If we get the trials, temptations, sin, wisdom, repentance, and humility parts right first, we’ll have the doing part right, too.

This week, we’ll do my favorite kind of study. Verse by verse word studies.

James 1:22

The word translated as “prove yourselves” is ginomai, and is most commonly translated as “become”.
1) Poiētēs is the word translated as “doer” in all four of today’s focus verses. Follow the link to Outline of Biblical Usage II A to find a clarification of its use.

2) Now follow the link to learn more about the word translated as “deluding”. What did you learn?
I haven’t included links to the others words in this verse because they mean exactly what they say. James is very clear. When we hear the Word of God, we have a choice to make. Will we simply listen to the words? Will we put them into action?
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If all we do is listen to God’s Word, we not only deceive ourselves into thinking we’ve done enough. We also cheat ourselves of the joy that would come with complete obedience.
3) Let’s expand this a little with some hard truth. If we take every Bible study our church offers and are present every time the door is open, but do not put what we learn into action, what good have we done? How does God see that kind of “hearing”?
James 1:23-24

4)  Let’s dig into these two verses, then we’ll pull them together with what we learn. Follow the links to the following words and make notes on what you learn:
  1. a) who looks: b) natural:
    c)
    face:
    d)
    mirror:
    e) what kind of person:

    5)  Put what you’ve learned together. Describe the word picture James paints of the one who
  2. listens to the word but doesn’t put it into practice.

    6)  Compare the truth of these two verses with God’s instruction to Samuel in 1 Samuel 16:7.
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James 1:25'

7)  We’ll handle this verse in the same manner. Dig into the following words, then we’ll pull it together. As you dig, look for comparisons and contrasts to the preceding verses.
  1. a) looks intently:

    b) perfect:

    c) law:

    d)
    law of liberty

    e) abides by it

    f) blessed:

    8)  How is the “looking intently” described in James 1:25 different from that described in the preceding verses?

  2. 9)  What does James mean by “perfect law” and “law of liberty”?


  3. 10)  Compare the concept of the “law of liberty” with Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 10:23-24?
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          11) Use what you’ve learned to paint a word picture of the person described in James 1:25.

PRAYER PAUSE:

It’s time to take another hard look at our lives. If you’re like me, you’ve attended church for years. Participated in numerous Bible studies. Memorized verses. Claimed Bible promises.

The question then, is not how much truth we know, but what have we done with it?

As I’ve looked at these verses, one thing has resounded in my mind. The early disciples took what they’d learned in three years with Jesus and applied it to take the gospel literally around the world.
We have these truths we’re studying because of their efforts.

I have had many more than three years of teaching, but I haven’t use what I’ve learned to make the kind of impact they made. Why not? The biggest difference in them and me is that they were sold out from the start. They literally laid everything down for Christ and He blessed their sacrifice in ways too big to fully comprehend.

Today, take a close look at your life. Intense. Intentional. Look at your study. At the truth you know. At how you’ve used what you’ve learned.

Ask yourself these questions: 

Am I a hearer only?
In what ways have I used the truth I’ve learned to impact the world for Christ?
How can I make a bigger difference for Christ with the truth I already know?
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What have I left undone?
DAY TWO: PURE AND UNDEFILED RELIGION
Today, we’ll look at what James 1:27 says about “pure and undefiled religion.” I’ve read these words dozens of times. Every time, I’m convicted that I could’ve done better. I should’ve done better.
We’ll dig into the words in the same way we did yesterday, then draw a lesson from what we’ve learned.
  1. 1)  First, let’s clarify “pure and undefiled religion.” Follow the links to the following words and make notes on what you learn:

    a) Pure:

    b)
    undefiled:

     c) religion:

  2. 2)  There’s an important truth hidden in those few words. God regards “pure and undefiled religion” as something vastly different from a set of rules to obey. How does He view religion?

  3. 3)  According to James, our actions are more than a checklist to complete. When we use what we’ve learned to serve others, how does God see it? (refer to the meaning of “religion” above)

  4. 4)  To what two actions does James distill his description of “pure and undefiled religion”?
page97image10664       a) 

            b)
  1. 5)  The word translated as “visit” does not mean to simply stop by and say hi. What is involved in this kind of visit?

  2. 6)  The word translated as “orphan” does not mean merely a child without any parents. Follow the link to find the expanded meaning and make note of it here.

  3. 7)  How does the expanded definition of both “visit” and “orphan” broaden our field of service and our responsibility?

  4. 8)  The word translated as “in their distress” implies a situation that might not be as inviting as we would hope. Follow the link and make notes on the distress and its severity.

  5. 9)  The next phrase we need to examine is “and keep oneself unstained by the world.” We’ll examine a few of the words, then put it all together.

    a) keep:

    b)
    unstained:

    c)
    world: (see #6 in Thayer’s Lexicon)
If we are to keep ourselves unstained by the world (as described in Thayer’s), it must follow that we will have contact with “the world,” but not allow that contact to change us into conformity with the world’s standards. In this context, the world does not mean “things” of the world. Instead, it means the people of the world.

10) Which people are included in “the world”?

11) In what way might contact with the people of the world cause “stain” in our lives?

12) How might we “keep” ourselves from stain yet still have contact with the lost people around us?

PRAYER PAUSE:

James, in a way, throws down a gauntlet and issues a challenge in this passage. People in distress need help. If we are to serve Christ in the way He intended, we can’t shy away from the need simply because it’s hard or overwhelming. We are to wade into the situation, see what’s needed, and do what we can to help.

His admonition to keep ourselves unstained by the “world” suggests that the help we give will extend beyond the limits of the body of Christ. It will extend to lost people in the world, as well.

James is not making a suggestion when he describes this “pure and undefiled religion.” He’s painting a word-picture of the Christian life. No one is exempt from putting what they’ve learned into action. We are all called to serve, and that service is to extend past the boundaries of our families and the walls of our churches.

It’s time for some soul-searching. Let’s invite the Holy Spirit to shine the light of God into our hearts as we ask these questions:
  1. 1)  How readily do I recognize those in need? How thoroughly do I “see” their need?

  2. 2)  How am I serving those in need?

  3. 3)  In what ways do I serve the fatherless?

    4)  In what ways do I serve the widow?

    5)  In what ways do I serve the lost people around me? How do I demonstrate Christ by my actions?
  1. 6)  If I’m not serving, what changes do I need to make?

  2. 7)  What actions can I take to be a more effective doer? (Be specific)

  3. 8)  How can I keep my heart pure while, at the same time, ministering to those who are lost?

  4. 9)  Write a prayer of confession and repentance for any failures of doing, serving, or keeping.

DAYS THREE AND FOUR: FAITH AND WORKS

JAMES 2:14-20

“Faith without works is dead.” James doesn’t pull any punches. If our faith doesn’t propel us to action, it’s not faith at all. When we follow Jesus as disciples, we are more than classroom students. 

We’re interns in the field.

We can’t do what Jesus did without doing.

It’s that simple. It’s that hard.

1) Let’s begin our study today by reading through our focus passage, then reading it again, aloud. Make notes on anything that stands out to you.

We’ll dig into the words in the same way we've done this week, then draw a truth from what we’ve learned. This is a long lesson, and filled with foundational truths. We’re taking two days on this passage, rather than rushing through.

2) We’ll dig through the Greek in James 2:14, then draw a lesson from it. Follow the links to the following words and make notes on what you learn:

a) use is it:

b)
say: I’m giving you this one. It’s in the lower 1/4 of Thayer’s and it means more than
to simply speak a few words. It means “insist upon”. 

c) he has:

d)
faith:

e)
works:

f) can:
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g) save:

James asks a hard question. Is faith that doesn’t result in action a saving faith? Let’s ponder the

answer to that as we continue to study this passage. 

3) Now move to James 2:15-16
a) without clothing

b) in need:

c)
daily:

d)
go:

e) in peace:

f)
be warmed

g) be filled

h) necessary:

Here’s another hard question from James. If we encounter someone who doesn’t have adequate clothing or enough food to get them through the day, yet we brush them off and fail to give them what is necessary, what good is that? How can faith in Christ respond to needs in that manner? Ponder that, too.

4) We’ve come to one of the most difficult truths in James. If faith doesn’t result in works, it’s not simply of no use, it’s dead. Since there’s a tendency to skip over these hard words, let’s dig into this truth so we can own it for ourselves.

a) dead: (See Thayer’s toward the end of the entry) 
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b) by itself:

Nekros is the word translated as dead. It’s used in verse 17 to indicate the kind of faith that is “destitute, without force or power.” James uses the same word in verse 26, but we’ll soon see that he uses in a different way that’s hard. This is one of those verses that is sharper than a two- edged sword. It divides bone from marrow. Let it soak in, because we will soon be to the “dividing line”, and it might be a hard place for some of us.

5) James 2:18 presses a very important point. If faith is demonstrated by our works, how can we demonstrate our faith without works? The same words translated as faith and works are used in this verse, but follow the link to find the deeper meaning of the word translated as “show” and record it here.

I don’t want to belabor a point, but this is a critical piece of information. This is how the Christian life looks: faith results in works. Period. If we don’t have works, how can we “prove” our faith? We can’t. It’s that simple. It’s that hard.

6)  James 2:18-19 are hard words. Believing that God exists is not enough. Satan believes God exists. The demons believe God exists. Salvation does not depend upon the belief that God exists. It’s a good starting point, but salvation requires surrender to the Son of God. Read Romans 10:9 and write this verse here.

7)  What is the difference between acknowledging Jesus exists and confessing Him as Lord?

8)  Which leads to salvation?

9)  The last verse for today, James 2:20, is filled wth hard truth. 

a) recognize

b) foolish:
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c) worthless:

If all we believe is that God exists, and do not confess that Jesus is Lord by the way we live our lives, we are foolish. This verse is a call to a decision. Are we willing to recognize that we might have it wrong?


If all we have is pew-sitting faith, we don’t have enough Jesus. 

The Lordship of Christ will not leave us unchanged. It will not leave us sitting on the sidelines. It will not leave us comfortable and untouched by the need of the world.

PRAYER PAUSE:

Today is the day to look at your faith and ask yourself how viable it is. 

Does your faith result in works or not?

If so, what works?

If not, why not?

If your faith is judged by the standard James presents, (and it is) how “real” is it?

We’ll take it a step further tomorrow, but, for today, ponder what you’ve learned and, if works are lacking, consider what this means for your eternity.
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DAY FIVE: RECOGNIZING DEAD

JAMES 2:21-26

We’re at a hard patch of Scripture, my friends. Some of us may not find ourselves in quite the position we thought.

Before we get started with today’s Scripture, let’s remember some important facts. Jesus’ little brother knew Him better than almost anyone on earth. He looked up to Him. Wanted to be like Him. That’s what little brothers do.

It took James a while to reconcile the public Jesus with the private big brother. When he did, James understood better than most what it took to follow Him.

What he’s written is truth. There’s no debating it. Even if we don’t like what he’s said.

1) Let’s begin, as we did yesterday, by reading our focus Scripture through, then reading it again, aloud. Make notes on anything that speaks to you.

We’ll dig into the words in the same way we've done this week, then draw a lesson from what we’ve learned. The same words, translated as faith and works, are used in this section of Scripture, so we will not explore them again.

2) In this passage, James gives examples of two people who were justified by works. Let’s look at their stories, then at the teaching about faith and works.

a) Abraham: Read the account of Abraham’s work of faith in Genesis 22:1-18. How was his faith evident in his actions?

b) Rahab the Harlot: Read the account of Rahab’s work of faith in Joshua 2:1-21. How was her faith evident in her actions?


3)  Genesis 15:6 tells us, “Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” The proof of his faith was the action of offering up Issac on the altar. It should be evident, James suggests, that faith was working with his works. Follow the link to see how the two worked together.

4)  How might faith be “perfected” as a result of works. (Follow the link)

5)  James 2:26 is a verse that is foundational for the Christian life. Let’s dig into the words in this verse.

a) body 

b) spirit 

c) dead 

d) faith 

e) works

f) dead

Just as the body, without Spirit (or breath) is literally dead, so the kind of faith that produces neither godly change in us nor works is also literally dead. Good works don’t save us, but they are the evidence of our salvation.

I have a concern that those with a “pew-sitter faith” may misunderstand this passage. Those with an immature, baby faith may not have grown to the point of works, just as an infant may not have reached the stage of walking alone. It is, however, the normal and expected progression of a disciple of Christ that their faith will result in, and be evidenced by, their works, and that they will progress fairly quickly.

PRAYER PAUSE:
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We can’t earn our way to heaven. The Pharisees had plenty of works, but they lacked the faith that led to salvation. If we’re counting on works to save us, we’re not only sadly mistaken, but also in jeopardy of an eternity in hell.

Works without faith cannot save us.

On the other hand, saving faith will produce works. It’s that simple. No matter how many tears we shed when we first professed faith in Christ, nor how dramatic our supposed salvation, if we don’t live the Christian life, something is wrong. If this is the case, a serious faith/works assessment is in order.

Is my faith perfected as a result of my works?

If not, what does this mean?

What do I need to do about it?

DAY SIX: DOING RIGHT

JAMES 4:17

Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin. James 4:17 nasb
The right thing to do. The word translated as “right thing” is kalos. It’s the beautiful action, because of the purity of heart behind it, the honorable deed.4 The “right thing” may not always be obvious, but it usually is. When we know what we should do, but decide not to do it, we’ve sinned.

Rather than look at the “thou shalt nots,” today, we’re looking at the “thou shalt’s.” What are those “right things” that we should do?

1)  Exodus 20:12

2)  Psalm 100:1-5

3)  Isaiah 58:6-7,9-10

4)  Micah 6:8

5)  Malachi 3:10

6)  Matthew 5:16

7)  Matthew 5:44

8)  Matthew 6:6

9)  Matthew 6:14

10) Matthew 11:28-29 

11) Matthew 28:19-20

12) John 13:34

13) 1 Corinthians 6:18

14) James 5:19-20

There are many more “right things” that we can and should do, but they can all be summed up in Matthew 22:37-39. Love God. Love others. Read these verses aloud, then write them here.

It’s not always the “commandment” that trips us up. Sometimes, it’s the still small voice that directs us with a gentle whisper to do a particular action. Especially when that action is outside our comfort zone. When we allow indecision, hesitation, or fear to stop us from doing what the Holy Spirit has directed, we have sinned.

Doing what God says not to do is sin, but not doing what He says to do is sin, too.

PRAYER PAUSE:

Take a close look at how well you’re “doing what’s right.” Ask God to help you assess your life in regard to Matthew 22:37-39. How do you show by your actions that you love the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength?

How do you show by your actions that you love your neighbor as yourself?

Now is the time to make a decision. Will you “do” what God expects or not? This is a question that has eternal consequences, so take some time on this.

If not, what will be your consequences?


DAY SEVEN: SINNERS AND SAINTS

JAMES 5:1-8

This passage specifically addresses the actions of the rich, but these words apply to all of us. Matthew Henry suggests that James’ words were written to admonish unbelievers in their treatment of believers and to encourage Christians to persevere.5

1) Read though the focus passage once, then read it aloud. Write down anything that speaks to you.


James uses an interesting technique here (rarely used by ministers today). He first addresses sinners, then addresses the saints.

Sinners:
2) James tells the rich (presumed to be the unsaved) that they have built up a multitude of sins including hoarding riches (rather than using their wealth to help with acts of charity), cheating their hired workers, living extravagantly, and condemning and putting to death the righteous. What consequences have they encountered for each of those sins?

a) hoarding riches:


b) cheating their workers: 

c) living extravagantly: 

d) killing the righteous:

Saints:

3) James specifically addresses the saints who have suffered at the hands of the wealthy. What encouragement does he offer? 

What admonitions does he offer?

a) See James 5:4 

b) See James 5:7 

c) See James 5:8
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4)  In James 5:7-8, the word translated as “patient” is used three times. Follow the link to learn what’s involved in this kind of patience.

5)  The saints are admonished to “strengthen your hearts”. Follow the link to find out more.

6)  What is the basis for the strength and patience of the saints?

PRAYER PAUSE:

Most of us in the United States view the “wealthy” as those with billion-dollar estates. According to an article published in The Economist, if you have more than $2,200 in assets (combination of money and stuff) you are wealthier than more than 50% of the world’s people.6 Follow the link to access the article. You may find that, in comparison to most of the world’s population, you are extravagantly wealthy.

Friends, we are the wealthy, whether we realize it or not. We fall into the group of “rich” to which James was speaking, whether we “feel” rich, or not.

With that in mind, we need to assess how we manage our riches.

Do we live extravagantly? (Not in comparison to American standards but according to God’s standards)

Do we hoard our resources rather than invest in acts of charity?

How do we tip our servers when eating out? Do we “scrimp” on a fair wage for them?
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There is obviously a place for the wealthy in the economy of God. Boaz’ wealth was an important part of God’s provision for Ruth and Naomi. Jesus was laid in the borrowed tomb of a wealthy man. The question is not whether or not we have wealth, but how we use it. Do we use our wealth to expand the kingdom of God or not?

In what ways have I used the resources God has entrusted to me for His kingdom?

What changes do I need to make?

We are the wealthy, but we are also among the “brethren”, for whom patience is encouraged. Do we live with eternity, and the second coming of Christ, in our minds?

How prepared am I for the second coming of Christ? 

#James #Biblestudy