Living out of control...
Living out of control...
The Letter from James to the Christian Church is one that probably doesn't receive too much air time in our congregations... and,outside the passages used in the common lectionary, likely isn't appreciated by people . In fact, Martin Luther, the great Reformer, famously opposed the book of James as being "straw" on the basis that it did not focus on Grace and did not mention Jesus outside the initial greeting.
But was Luther being fair to this letter? Is it really that bad?
James is certainly a hard hitting letter that should probably leave you feeling a little uncomfortable. But then, I personally feel that way every time I read Scripture... This letter does not speak about salvation in the ways we normally hear of it... maybe because it is addressed to believers, specifically... People who should already know the truth. Therefore he does not waste time in explaining how we come to faith. Rather, James' concern is with the reality, the depth of that faith. He is intent on exposing imposter faith... religion that sits on the surface and does not penetrate to the heart or core.
This is where is begins to get uncomfortable because there is a spotlight on the connection between Faith and Works. And without getting too hard and heavy, it comes down to this: Works does not lead to our salvation; Works are a result of it!
A genuine Faith that affects the heart should bring about a change in life, an outflow of work and worship... because, we recognize that we are no longer living for ourselves! Faith is placing things in proper perspective.
And this brings me to this wonderful passage in James chapter 4:
James 4:13-17Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.Essentially, James reminds us to consider who it is that governs our lives. And isn't that a timely message in our world today?
It is super easy to fall into the thinking that we are the ones who are in control... that we choose our path and our destiny. And, even with good motives, we make all sorts of plans relying upon the wisdom and experience that we have amassed... yet fail to stop and consider the one who, alone, has given us everything.
It's a sobering thought... I cannot depend on my next breath. It might not come.
Aneurysms, strokes, heart attacks... there are many ways that death can come to us unexpectedly... and all beyond our ability to control. And, if we do not know who it is who provides these gifts, perhaps it makes us fearful... that some capricious deity comes and steals our life willy-nilly.
But true Faith recognizes that God is not one who deals with us unjustly... one who has given us life, and who leads us through life... and eventually leads us into eternal life... that death is only a doorway. But our control? Our independence? It truly is a fiction. Our choices always exist within a larger framework of God's sovereign will and power. And this, itself, exists all within the realm of His Grace and Truth.
So, what am I doing today? Next week, or next year? Well, looking to God for His guidance and provision, I make plans based on His Will. And I recognize that my choices... well, they are pretty insubstantial. I daren't trust my life upon them, because I can't control much in this life.
But there is great comfort in knowing that the one who does control my life... well, He knows my name. And He loves me!