VISION ARTICLE – July 15th Journey Through The Book of James: A 2-Week Immersion into Living Life as a Christian


One of the most common responses that preachers get to their sermons is to “make it more real.” People today want to know exactly and precisely how to live to be a follower of Jesus. They want to be told, step-by-step, how to live their life in a way that would qualify them to be a “little Christ” – a Christian. And that’s what The Book of James offers its readers … a game plan for living according to the teachings of Jesus. 

And who would be so qualified to write such a sermon? Would it be Peter, the Rock of the church? Or perhaps the Apostle Paul, the church planter and mystical theologian? Maybe it should be the mother of Jesus, who was with him every step of his life? Think about it – it you wanted someone to put down that manual for living a life like Jesus, who would you turn to as your authority? 

The Book of James is the answer to that question. It’s James, the brother of Jesus, who offers to us 5 precise and challenging chapters to teach us how to live. The Book of James is not the longest book in the Bible, it’s not the most cited book, nor the most read. Truth is, it barely made it into the final version of the New Testament, and many biblical experts, including Martin Luther, would rather not have it there. 

But despite the objections, James is one of my “go to” books of the Bible, and it is always a timely and relevant read that shows me where I am on my walk of faith according to the very brother of Jesus, and then teaches me, as if for the very first time, those same principles of living that turn us away from the ways of the world and toward Jesus, once again. For me, this is the book that tells us how to live, and emphasizes that Jesus followers should not just hear the “word,” but also should do it! 

The first chapter of James gives us an overview of what’s to come. He identifies about a dozen subjects that he will be covering in this epistle, thus offering a preview of the book in one chapter. Here are some of the subjects which James lays out before us as significant challenges to living the Christ-like life:

  • there is joy in the midst of trials
  • trials should evoke prayers for wisdom 
  • the poor should boast in exaltation and the rich in in humiliation
  • one who perseveres and loves the Lord will wear the “crown of life” 
  • selfish desires conceive sin within us and lead us away from the “word”
  • God the father is good and constant
  • God’s goodness is shown by bringing believers to “birth” through the “word of truth” 
  • the proclamation of the gospel results in the start of “new creation”
  • human anger does not produce righteous behavior
  • Jesus followers should get rid of impurity and cling to the “implanted word” 
  • God’s word alone can cultivate righteousness and deliver us from judgment
  • and perhaps most importantly for James, Jesus followers should not just hear the “word,” but should do it.

The Book of James is the ultimate “be careful what you ask for” book. James will hit us right where we are, and then tell us that we must move … change … become new again. And he tells us how to do that. 

Imagine being raised as the brother of Jesus. It seems apparent form the gospels that James was not an early follower of his brother Jesus, and indeed may have been concerned about his behavior and the risks he was taking. I imagine it would have been hard to have your brother as the Son of God, the true Messiah, and the anointed one. As they grew up together, I’m sure that was a little much for James to swallow. 

But as it was for many then, and still today, it’s the resurrection of Jesus that changes everything. Rising from the tomb, appearing again to his disciples in spiritual form, was just the body of evidence that convinced folks of the truth about Jesus. And it must have convinced James too. After the resurrection, James becomes a major figure in the Jewish movement to declare Jesus as the Messiah and to change the way Jews live and practice their faith. James became the head of the Jesus church in Jerusalem. And it is thought that Peter and John desired as much. 

So, James goes from being the highly skeptical and probably even resentful brother of Jesus, to the leader of the Jerusalem church in his brother’s name, to carry on the movement and spread gospel truth throughout the lands. 

I find the story of James especially convincing, as I find his book. This is not a man who came easily or early to the realization of who Jesus really was, and yet, when he became convinced, he was all in. That sounds authentic to me, and I know it’s the path to belief for many of us since then. 

Once James became devoted to his brother Jesus, then he was unshakeable in his faith. And the Book of James reflects that seriousness and commitment required to actually be a follower, and not just a fan, of Jesus. Indeed, it seems from reading his book, that James had no patience with the “fans” of Jesus. Just like in these times, so many people want to have a piece of the Jesus movement in their life; they want to be a part of something that’s good and right, and just might save them from eternal damnation. But beneath that overt desire to belong, the commitment to actually change is lacking, and so many of us keep our religion and faith life at a comfortable distance from our real life – after all, we wouldn’t want to lose what we have for something we don’t know much about. 

James will attempt to convince you otherwise. He will urge you to take that leap of faith into the unknown, by following the Way of Jesus, and becoming willing to change the way you live by letting Jesus change your heart. 

From his exhortation that “faith without works is dead,” to his warning that one’s tongue is the spark to light a forest fire, to warnings against arrogance and wealth, and the assurance that prayers offered by a righteous person are effective – Jams will challenge us in ways that we can’t even see or know yet. 

In 2 short weeks, Jesus’s brother James can change your life. I hope you will join us for the        “Journey Through James” 2-week immersion that includes daily recorded readings from James that will take us through the book in sequence; Wednesday evening Zoom discussions led by Bruce Condill on what we’ve read and your reaction to it; and sermons in our Sunday service that animate the teachings from the Book of James and bring them straight into your daily life …

I’m not sure what you had planned for the second half of July … but you can’t go wrong by making a commitment to give James a part of your life. 

Serving God and Loving Neighbor … I am,

Pastor Bob