The Bible indicates that Jesus had four brothers and at least two sisters. Apparently, none of them became believers until after Jesus’ death and resurrection. One of the brothers, James, became a key leader of the early church – presiding over the church in Jerusalem. Prior to his martyrdom in AD 62, James wrote a letter we call the book of James. This letter addresses the outworking of faith—which is the external evidence of inner conversion.
James’ letter was sent to Christians dispersed throughout the Mediterranean region. Because many of them were enduring severe trials, his letter was intended to provide encouragement and direction during those difficult times.
In chapter one, James begins by telling his readers to view their trials with joy. Yes, you heard that correctly—trials need not rob Christians of the joy that comes from the Spirit. That joy remains and even grows during times of testing as believers realize that God has not abandoned them, but is present with them in their trials. Mature believers also find joy knowing that God is using their trials to transform them into the image of Jesus.
In GCI, we refer to this transformation as the fruit of “divine participation.” God, who created us and redeemed us, calls us out of our dead life in sin and restores us to a relationship with himself. He does this through the atoning work of Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit then works in us to transform us to be more like Jesus. It is with this process in mind, that James says this: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22)
The King James translation puts it this way: “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.”
When we really hear God’s word, James is telling us, our lives will change. Hearing is not about merely filling our heads with new notions and intellectual ideas. Neither is it about acquiring information about how to change. For James, hearing is about knowing God personally, and through that relationship, having our lives transformed. Our transformed lives then testify to the humility, patience and love of Jesus.
James assures us that this journey of transformation is leading to the “crown of life.” Though we won’t experience our ultimate transformation until we are glorified, James assures us we can and will experience transformation even now as we hear God’s word, and do what it says. This is participating in God’s eternal life: from the Father, in the Son, and by the Spirit. To God be all the glory.
I pray that you are actively participating with the amazing God who is available to you now and forever!
This is Greg Williams, speaking of life.