James, the brother of Jesus, was not a believer until after the Resurrection. Then his whole life changed. He was made the leader of the early church. We often think of the great apostle Paul as the greatest leader in the early church, but whose counsel did Paul seek when he had to make a crucial decision three times? Was it not James whose counsel he sought? James was Paul's life coach, and by reading and studying the sacred and inspired writings of James, he can then can become our life coach.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.45(d)|
Read an Excerpt
The Good News About Hard Times
James:Paul's Life-Coach and Ours
By Jonathan H. Wilson
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2015 Jonathan H. Wilson
All rights reserved.
"Five test questions checking our Maturity"
The Book of James –An Introduction
"What is Maturity?"
I can still hear the late Joan Rivers repeating during one of her famous monologues, "Oh grow up". Good advice? I tend to think so. I believe that the greatest problem that we have in this world is immaturity. People need to "grow up!" James' goal in his letter is to talk about the immature Christian. This is written, not to unbelievers, but the Book of James is written to believers. We see can that in the first two lines of Chapter One. People are acting immature, making immature decisions, acting in immature ways. Some people in life have this mysterious life-long quest to find God's will for their life. The Bible says that finding God's will is not some mysterious search for the Holy Grail with mysterious inscriptions on it from the Hebrew. The Bible, very strongly in the Book of James, points out that Christ's will for us is personal growth and maturity.
God's will for every part of creation is growth. The same is true spiritually, emotionally as well as physically. God's will for every person is that they grow to maturity. In Hebrews 6:1, "Let us go on to maturity." The word "mature" in Greek is the word "teleos", translated "mature, complete, perfect." James uses the word five times within five chapters. The Letter and the purpose of James is to bring people who are already Christians to maturity in Christ. It is a manual on maturity.
Who is James? Who wrote this letter? There are many theories about it; some say it was James the brother of John and one of the sons of Zebedee. Others say he was James, the son of Allpheus. Most competent scholars now agree that the James who wrote the letter is probably the James, the Lord Jesus' own stepbrother. As a result, we really should take James seriously as he grew up with Jesus. He had direct knowledge of the teachings; he saw the miracles. He was actually not a believer in Christ as the Messiah until the time of the Resurrection. Paul tells us that it was the Resurrection that had a powerful impact and changed James' entire life and belief about his stepbrother, Jesus. Jesus' stepbrother, James, would be perfect for the role, as men said his "knees were as callused as a camel's from long times of prayer."
James is very important in the Early Church. The time that he wrote was probably the earliest letter written about the Early Church. It took place during the time of the Book of Acts. The scribes and the Pharisees hated James, and the people loved him. He became such a significant leader in the Early Church that the great Apostle Paul came to him at least at least three times to seek advice. Today we would probable call James Paul's "life coach", for it was James that Paul went to seek counsel and advice. In the early days after the Resurrection, James became the acknowledged leader of the Early Church. In Jerusalem, even the Jews regarded James with respect and reverence, so he gained the title of "James the Just."
One of the early church historians, Eusebius, tells us that James was killed for his faith, by being pushed off the pinnacle of the temple. The pinnacle was the point in the wall around the temple that jutted out over the Kidron Valley. There is a drop of about 100 feet from the height of that wall, straight down into the valley. Years ago, I stood on that wall, on the pinnacle of the temple, and as I looked down into the valley I was reminded that this was the very place where the devil took Jesus and tempted Him to jump off the pinnacle of the temple.
Eusebius tells us that in about the year 66 AD, "James the Just," the brother of our Lord, was pushed off the pinnacle by the Jews who had become angered with him for his Christian witness and testimony. Historian Eusebius says that the fall did not kill James, and that he managed to survive the fall, stumble to his knees and pray for his murderers. By then they got so angered that they finished off the job by stoning him to death in the same fashion that Stephen was killed.
What was it about the life of his brother, Jesus' life that would dramatically change James' feelings to where he was willing to lay down his life for what he believed about Jesus? I can think of no stronger testimony than his opening words to this letter: James 1:1, "This letter is from James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ." This is a tremendous change, because James did not believe in his brother during the times of Christ's earthly ministry to somebody who says that he is "a slave" of the Lord Jesus Christ.
What caused the change? After the Resurrection Paul writes in I Corinthians 15:7, "The risen Christ appeared to James," an incident that undoubtedly led to his conversion and later as a disciple of Jesus, and a leader in the Early Church. This letter from James was written during the early part of the life of the early church. It comes out of that period reflected in the Book of Acts, and may therefore be the earliest Christian document that we have, written perhaps even before the Gospels of Mark or Matthew. You cannot read this letter without being struck by its likeness to the teachings of Jesus. In fact, if you take the Sermon on the Mount and the Letter of James and lay them side by side, you will see more than a dozen exact parallels. Therefore, it is quite evident that James listened to the Lord Jesus and heard these messages, even though perhaps he struggled with them at the time. Another thing about this letter that aligns with the methods of teachings of Jesus is that just as Jesus took illustrations directly from God's creation, so did James. You have the waves of the sea, the animal kingdom, the forests, the fish, plants, trees, and others all drawn from nature, just as the Lord himself did.
If we are to look in James' own words, I think we would see that it was not so much the words of Jesus as the works his brother did and the life he lived. Of course, the most overwhelming miracle upon James' mind was of the Resurrection. In the life of Jesus, he saw far more than mere words, far more than theology. He saw a clear demonstration of what Jesus taught. What James is saying to all who have ears to hear is "Christianity is a faith that really makes a difference, a philosophy that carries with it a life changing force." Here was a practical way of living, a realistic power to meet the problems of the day. This was a faith that worked in practice as well as in theory and to James; practicality was of utmost importance. What really concerned James was that Christians not just talk, but do good works and have Christ-like attitudes that demonstrate the genuineness of their faith.
The theme verse of James letter might well be James 1:22, "... be doers of the word, and not hearers only." In essence, he is saying that faith in Christ, if it is to be authentic, is not just words but is seen in several ways that we act:
1) by the way we deal with troubles
2) by the use of one's tongue
3) by the way one handles money
4) by the non-judgmental way one treats other believers
5) by the kind of wisdom we seek
James mentions these things, not to discourage us, but rather to prune us so that we became more productive and effective witnesses to a brand of life that has the fingerprints of Jesus all over it. James wants us to help the person who says, "I would become a Christian if only I could see one."
James wants us to become a visual aid to the unbeliever as we live out what our lips profess to believe. Unlike the letters of Paul, James' letter was not focused on the particular issue of one particular church, but it was intended for all believers everywhere.
After Stephen was martyred in Acts 7 and 8, persecution intensified and believers left Jerusalem and went everywhere throughout the Roman world. These Christians did not yet have supportive believing communities, so James as the leader of the Jerusalem church wrote to them all as a concerned pastor. After he identifies himself, he writes the address. James 1:2, "It is written to Jewish Christians scattered among the nations." It is important we understand that writing this letter assumed that the people who read it already had a saving knowledge in Jesus as Lord and Redeemer. He was writing to people who were already believers, but who needed to act upon what they believed. That is called maturity — when our walk matches our talk! Throughout the Bible, one of the very purposes of the church is to help people to grow spiritually. Satan tricks us into making us think that we are mature. What is maturity? Perhaps it helps first of all to define what it is not.
1. Maturity is not age.
a. It has nothing to do with how long you have lived, or how long you've been a Christian. You can be a Christian for 50 years and not be mature.
b. Unfortunately, so many people experience severe cases of arrested spiritual development. Their spiritual development stopped when they dropped out of Sunday school in the 7th grade. They have a 7th-grade spiritual education, trying to live in an adult world with serious adult questions and it doesn't work. There is a bumper sticker that reads: "I may be getting older, but I refuse to grow up." That sticker could be on the cars of many believers.
2. Maturity is not appearance.
Some people just look mature, more spiritual than the rest of us. They appear dignified, holy, sanctified. You can wear a clergy collar, have a head full of silver hair, and still not be spiritual at all. On the other hand, I know other young-looking people who are incredibly mature spiritually, but to see them in person, you'd think they were still in high school.
3. Maturity is not achievement.
You can accomplish a lot and still be very immature. You don't have to be mature to make millions. That is attested all the time in the newspapers.
4. Maturity is not academics.
Maturity has nothing to do with how many degrees you've gotten or how much education you have. When I was a senior in high school, I thought I knew everything — and then I went to college. At the university, I found out that I didn't know as much as I thought. Then, I went to seminary, got into Greek and Hebrew and found out how little I really knew. Then I went on to get a doctorate, and now I don't know anything much at all. You can have so many degrees that they call you "Doctor Fahrenheit", but that does not make you mature.
5. Maturity is not in recognition.
Recognition is what people say about you, but that is not maturity; that is not what God thinks about you. You can have all the headlines, good or bad, and it has nothing to do with your maturity. The critical dilemma is what God thinks about us. God says that maturity is our "attitude." Attitude is what makes the difference. God says that it is your attitude that determines whether you are mature or not. God wants us to grow up and have Christ-like attitudes. How do you measure spiritually? Not by comparing ourselves with someone else. This is funny because we can always find someone less mature than ourselves to compare ourselves, but by comparing ourselves to the Word of God.
James writes in his manual on "What is Spiritual maturity?
The following five marks of maturity:
1. A mature person is positive under pressure.
James 1:2-4, "Consider it pure joy, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance, and perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete not lacking anything." How do you handle trial and tests of your faith? The first test of maturity is how do you react to problems? Do problems blow you away? Do you get nervous, uptight, and negative? Do you grumble and gripe? How do you handle problems?
Christianity is a way of life; it is not really a religion. It is a life. Jesus said, "I have come that you may have life." Life means problems; and part of life is solving problems and facing them in the right attitude.
What is your attitude? When things don't go right, is your natural bent to become irritated? Are you negative or positive? Are you a supportive person or a skeptical person? Is your life filled with gratitude or grumbling? Are you affirmative or angry most of the time? James says, "Blessed is the person who perseveres under trial, because he has stood the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised those who love him." I know people and so do you, who go to every Bible study known to man. They are in great knowledge of the Bible, yet as cantankerous as all get out! Are you positive under pressure?
2. A mature person is sensitive to people.
James 2:8, "If you really keep the royal law found in scripture, 'Love your neighbor as yourself' you are doing right.'" A mature person doesn't just look at their own needs; they look at the needs of other people. They understand the hurts of other people. They are not only interested in what affects them, but they are very concerned with the needs of others. Immature adults, like children, tend only to see life in light of themselves. It's "me, me, my, my. I want that, I want this, I don't care about anybody else." God says that He wants us to love one another; that means being involved in the active care for another human being and that love and concern for others is a mark of maturity. In his letter, James get very specific: James 2:1-6, "Don't show favoritism, don't be a snob, don't look down on people, don't judge by appearance, don't insult people, don't exploit people." James said, I may do all kinds of things for the Lord, I may build great church buildings, I may be on TV, I may give all kinds of money to the poor, I may be a regular on the prayer chain, but if I do not have love, I am as a sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal; it just doesn't amount to much. It is interesting to me that in the Matthew 25 judgment, the one thing we will be judged for is how we treated other people — not how many Bible verses we memorized. The Pharisees were great at that. Or, not how many times we were in church, but on how we loved people.
3. A mature person has mastered his mouth.
James 3:2, "We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check." When you go for a checkup, the first thing a doctor will ask you to do is to stick out your tongue. He uses your tongue to check your health. God does that, spiritually, too. In World War II there was a saying, "Loose lips sink ships!" I can say after all these years in ministry that is also true in many other areas of our lives. Loose lips destroy marriages, destroy careers, and destroy lives. One definition of gossip: "Hearing something you like about someone you don't." It is mouth-to-mouth recitation. Self-control comes from tongue control. We get ourselves in so much trouble by what we say, what we think, and what we speak. James gives us several illustrations. He says that our tongue is like a rudder, or like a bit in a horse's mouth, a spark, a snake, a spring. He says you put a little bit in a horse's mouth and that little bit can control the direction of the horse. A little rudder on a boat can control the direction of the ship. Your tongue, which by size is a very small thing, controls your life. What you say directs your life; what you say can destroy your life and all your relationships. James says that it can delight people's lives, and it can discourage people's lives. Your tongue is a powerful force for good or for evil. Have you ever heard someone say, "I just say what is on my mind"? They are actually proud of it. They say they are just being honest, just being frank, up-front, just saying what's on their mind. Not thinking that what's on their mind could be totally wrong, uncaring, hurtful, or devastating to other people — probably being judgmental without knowing all the facts. Chances are that what is on their mind should not be said. The results of those thoughtless comments are often destructive. The Bible says that kind of talk is not frankness, but thoughtless, tactless, inappropriate, hurtful, and immature. A large number of people need huge doses of tactfulness.
Excerpted from The Good News About Hard Times by Jonathan H. Wilson. Copyright © 2015 Jonathan H. Wilson. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
"Doctor Fahrenheit?", 1,
"James: our Life Coach in facing problems", 15,
"When You Can't Make up Your Mind", 27,
"Satan, Trials, Temptation and Success", 41,
"The Party invitation awaits", 51,
"Dialogues of the Deaf", 63,
"Bible study without application is an abomination", 75,
"How to Have Successful Relationships", 87,
"The Road to Success-Reality Faith", 99,
"The World's Biggest Trouble Maker/Encourager", 109,
"How to Relate Wisely to People", 123,
"A subject that we don't like to talk about", 133,
"All it takes is 57 cents", 143,
"Patience in Times of Suffering", 157,
"Old Camel Knees", 169,