James does not conclude his letter like other apostles who conclude their letters with greetings, benedictions, or passing greetings along to churches from fellow saints. James tells us not to take oaths, anoint with oil, and exhorting us to bring back the wandering one. Is it really true that we are not to take an oath? Are we to anoint all the sick with oil? How do we bring someone back who has wandered from the truth? These are the questions that we seek to answer in our last sermon on James.
James greets the church as sojourners through this world as James greets us as saints in the dispersion. We are a people who are to see ourselves as a guaranteed a land, but we are not in that land. There is no doubt that living life under the sun is challenging, and we can be tempted to give up on the sojourn. We, like Israel, might wonder if the Lord is coming to fulfill his promises. How do we know that the Lord is fulfilling His promises? How do we know that the Lord will bring us into the promised land? How does this impact our lives today?
James wants us to consider our lives in light of who we are in the Lord. We might think that this is obvious and something that we should all be doing. However, the reality is that our temptation is to look at the areas in our lives that we think are ordered properly and then judge others in the community in light of our walk. Why is this such a problem? How does such an attitude remove God from the equation? How are we then acting as if we are not even Christians when we judge one another?
We can be very frustrated at times because it seems like the Lord is not hearing our prayers. We might be asking for something that we desire, but the Lord might not be giving us what we want. Why would the Lord withhold good things from his children? How can we find contentment in times of want? How can we have an attitude before the Lord that is pleasing and honorable to Him?
t is easy to claim that one is wise provided that we do not ground wisdom to a proper and good standard. So, how do we know if we are really wise? Where do we learn and discern wisdom?
We might think that we are in control of our tongues and able to be very disciplined in what we say. We might also think that maybe a few careless words are not that serious in the grand scheme of things. We might think this, but James would not agree. Why are a few careless words so serious?
The reality is that we desire to make the Lord’s standard something that will comply to our standard. It is not an easy thing to realize that we are a sinful people in need of the Lord’s redemption. His redemption has to cleanse us from the core of our being so that we see the fruit of His power. So, how are these fruits manifested? What figures in covenant history have demonstrated a life ordered by the principles of the Lord?
One of the challenges of the Christian life is not allowing our earthly perspective to get in the way of our heavenly perspective. We are people called to arrive at heaven. We are people called to have the orientation of heaven ever before us as we sojourn through this age. So, how is this worked out? On the one hand we are struggling sinners called to honor the Lord and on the other hand we are called by a perfect God. So, how are we to live our the righteous requirements of the law in light of our sinful struggle?
The law of God is one of those difficult things to address. On the one hand we can go down the road of being self righteous where we reduce the meaning of the law down to a few outward things that are easy to keep. We can also become a people who dismiss the seriousness of wanting to conform to the law. We can claim that this law is not binding. We can also go to a place where we claim that our works are needed for our entrance into heaven. So, when James exhorts us to be doers of the law what can he possibly mean? How can we be a doer of the law without minimizing Christ’s one time completed work?
James desires us to see and believe that God is the giver of all good things. This might sound strange considering that James just talked about the suffering that we will endure in this life. Why is it so important to see that God is good? Do we vainly hope that God is good or is there another issue and problem that we need to own which prevents us from seeing God’s goodness?