More Letters of Discipleship

Recently, we’ve been chatting about the three “Rs” of discipleship; Repent, Return and Remain.

And for me, these first 3 R’s have been great reminders;

  • When I’m not living the way I ought as a professed follower of Christ, I am to repent; to turn around and start doing things the way He’s called me to.
  • To return to the foot of the cross and the feet of Jesus through regular conversation (prayer) as often as needed for his coaching, encouragement and love.
  • Remain in Him; fervently and humbly requesting the help of His Holy Spirit so that I might not drift toward, seek or follow the world’s way or stubbornly plow forward with how I think things should be done; instead regularly consulting the “owner’s manual” (The Bible) to remind and reeducate myself on how God has things planned out from the very beginning of time.

Well, as you might imagine in our current culture, my email, text and social media accounts have been blowing up with messages from other letters wanting their equal due; that they also want to be heard and to share thoughts regarding their take on discipleship.

Okay…not really but I’m hoping it will make for one of those clever (albeit a bit cheesy) segues to continuing our discussion about discipleship from the perspective of some other letters.

Oh, but (and here’s the kinda’ cheesy part) not the type of letters you’re likely imagining.

In this post, I thought we’d dovetail off of our current weekly teachings at North Coast and take a look at discipleship from one of the letters of the New Testament; the letter from James.

It’s believed that its author is the Apostle James; the half-brother of Jesus.

He writes the letter to his church; the twelve tribes of Israel; those who had become believers in Christ Jesus and saved for eternity through his Gospel.  But who, through time, had developed some bad habits, beliefs and behaviors that undermined the essence of what they believed. Things like favoritism, slander, pride, the misuse of wealth and a lack of patience.  James’ letter of correction to them takes a no-nonsense approach to hypocrisy.  It’s not about how to become saved; it’s about how we are to live as a result of our salvation.  And that’s why I wanted to study it again here.  To be reminded, reeducated and maybe even corrected about how we are to live an authentic Christian life.

James kicks things off with an admonition that may sound a bit strange to his readers.  He writes, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds…”  Wait, what?  How is joy possible when we’re facing trouble?  He goes on to teach, “because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  (James 1: 2-4 NIV)

James isn’t suggesting that we derive pleasure from trouble. Instead, he describes a unique kind of joy – the deep sense of well-being that comes from knowing that God is in control of every aspect of our lives – that he is present and has a plan for the pain we experience that will ultimately result in good.  It’s an assurance that He is constantly at work, using both pain and pleasure to develop within us character traits like patience and endurance.  James goes on to say, “Blessed is the man (or woman) who perseveres under trial, because when he (she) has stood the test, he (she) will receive the crown of life the God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12 NIV)

A mature Christian and disciple is continually growing in Christ; constantly thinking and acting more like Him.  Though Christians may never be perfect living in a sinful world, God’s goal still is that we become like Christ.

Here are 10 additional ways James teaches us to live authentic Christian lives as Jesus’ disciples:

Chapter 1

  1. 19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
    1. Anger, like a knife, can be used for either good or evil; like a murderer’s weapon or a surgeon’s scalpel. Anger can be a powerful tool for confronting wrong.  Selfish or manipulative anger, however, can cause great harm.
    2. Such anger becomes destructive when it controls us rather than us controlling it.
  2. 21 …get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
  3. 22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
    1. 26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.

Chapter 2

  1. 1My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism.
    1. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in.If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
    2. …if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.
  2. In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
    1. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.
    2. 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

Chapter 3 (Read all of chapter 3 here). 

  1. Learn to tame your tongue.
    1. “Because of human frailties and tendencies to sin, the tongue will never be fully ‘tamed’ in this life. But as believers grow in grace and love, they can use their tongues to build up and bless others, rather than curse or tear them down.  Our speech has great potential – for good as well as harm.  But learning to use words wisely comes from focusing more on the inner life than on the tongue itself, more on the source than its outflow.”  (Quest Study Bible commentary)

Chapter 4

  1. Quit quarreling with others; humble yourself and submit yourselves to God.
    1. You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.
    2. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
    3. Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.Come near to God and he will come near to you.
    4. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

 Chapter 5

  1. Don’t enjoy the gifts the Lord has provided for you while ignoring (esp.) those who have worked to help you and are themselves in need. (v. 1-5)
    1. The Bible warns of severe consequences for those who live in luxury because they abuse or ignore the needy.
  2. Be patient (especially in suffering at the hands of others) until the Lord’s coming. (v.7)
    1. It’s easier to tolerate physical suffering when it’s seen in the light of Christ’s return.
    2. Don’t grumble against each other, or you will be judged. (v. 9)
    3. …the Lord is full of compassion and mercy. (v. 11)
  3. …confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. (v.16)
    1. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (v. 16)
    2. …if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins. (v.19-20).

Ten additional spiritual life hacks from the half-brother of Jesus, written to his church but applicable in each of our lives as Christ-followers.  Nearly meaningless, however, and downright hypocrisy, unless we choose to act differently as a result of them.  Nope, doing them won’t lead to our salvation.  That’s already been accomplished on our behalf; a gift of righteousness extended to us through the shed blood of Jesus.  But belief (faith) without action is dead.  And so I pray that you, with me, will take these practical instructions from James to heart.

Right here with you,