Preparing the Way – Week 2: James 1:27; 2:14-18
Redeemer Church exists to reach people with the life-giving message of the gospel that they might become fully devoted followers of Jesus. That’s our mission statement. It is the core of who we are and why we exist as a church. Last week we defined fully devoted followers of Jesus as 1) thankful for what God has done, 2) secure in their futures, and 3) anxiously anticipating the work God has for them. This week we will look at what the “good works” that God has prepared for us are.
Many scholars believe that the Book of James was among the first (if not the first) books of the New Testament to be written. Its author was James, the half-brother of Jesus and the leader of the church in Jerusalem. Though the church was in its infancy, James wrote to a church that was plagued by complacency. He wrote to a church that while it maintained its faith, it was a faith that was more in word than in deed. Though they professed that they were anxious for the return of Jesus, the way they lived their lives didn’t show it. They lived their lives as if nothing would ever change, as if there would always be tomorrow to do the things left undone today (Jas. 4:13). They had become distracted by the cares of this life.
James tells us that such faith is dead. It doesn’t matter how much we profess our faith; our words are meaningless if our actions don’t display our faith. But what are these actions? What are the good works that show the world that we have a real, tangible faith?
1. Service to the less fortunate in the world (1:27a). The Greek word that is translated “religion” in this passage meant “the outward practice, the service of a god.” Widows and orphans were truly hopeless in the culture of the day. They had no means to protect or support themselves. Absent the care of others, they faced starvation or worse. According to James, the Church was to be the original “social security.” Part of the Church’s mission to the world was to beacon of hope, not only spiritually but also physically. If the Church fulfilled its calling, there would be no need for government feeding, housing or clothing programs. The Church was to be the living embodiment of God’s love for the lost.
2. Separation from the world (1:27b). Though we are to care for the world, we must not be entangled in it. We must be careful to maintain both our moral and our spiritual purity. In its efforts to remain relevant, the modern Church has struggled with the line between relevance and conformity, and in that struggle, it has many times lost its purity. Scripture tells us that both Abraham and Lot were righteous men, but the man who kept himself separated (Abraham) had a greater impact on the lost community than the man who compromised in an effort to be accepted (Lot). Relevance is not measured by our fashion or style of music—relevance is measured by our love.
3. Service to the less fortunate in the Church (2:14-16). It’s not just our service to the world that is to be a light to the lost, it’s also our service to each other. If you read the Book of Acts, the early Church in Jerusalem exploded because of their care for one another (Acts 2:42-47). Not only was their message compelling—their love for each other was compelling as well. Yet, just a few short years later, James is admonishing them for their disregard and partiality. The cares of the world and the tarrying of the Lord had numbed them to their mission.
If Redeemer Church is to be all that God has called us to be, we must be a church that not only proclaims the Gospel but that lives it as well. We must all be looking for how we can serve the world, serve each other, and exert a positive impact on our culture. Becoming fully devoted followers of Jesus requires us to fully devote our lives to being all that God has prepared us to be.
- Assess your life and priorities. Have you become spiritually complacent? What does that look like for you?
- Is it possible to serve in church and still fail to do what James has challenged us to do?
- How can we engage our culture without assimilating to it?