Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God


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2. Test 1: The Identity Test – Part 2

James 1:1 “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.”

After seeing our identity in the World James now reveals the second aspect to our identity, our identity in

  1. JESUS

James doesn’t stop by giving us his name, he goes on to identify himself as a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. What does he mean by that? He means that after all that the world had identified him for, he really is identified by his relationship to the Lord. But notice how he describes that relationship, a slave. Slavery was very common in James’ day but what most of us don’t know is that there were actually two kinds of slaves? One is the slave we always think of, the one who is bought or sold on an auction block and forced to serve. But that is not the word that’s James uses here. The word that is used here refers to a person who upon being set free chose to willingly continue in slavery. The Jewish Christians that James was writing to understood what he meant because they knew about Deuteronomy 15:12-17 where the Law that required that after six years of service slaves were to be set free. Yet if the slave loved his master he could choose to stay and become a slave forever. Verse 17 tells us that the ones who did were marked with a hole in their ear by an awl. This is the kind of servant James called himself. One whose body is permanently marked as a willing slave of God and the Lord Jesus Christ. So how did that happen? What transformed him from being offended at Jesus and calling him crazy to calling Him Lord? Look at 1 Corinthians 15:1-7 with me, “Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.”It is here as Paul gives the Corinthian church an overview of the gospel that we discover what happened with James. James saw the resurrected Jesus. No longer was He just his physical brother but the one who came to save him from his sins. No longer was Jesus just that weird one in the family. No longer was Jesus offensive to him because the offence of the cross had turned to fellowship and freedom in Christ. James didn’t just see Jesus he said yes to Jesus and we see evidence of this transformation in Acts 1:14, “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.”There we see him gathered together with the disciples in one accord, in prayer and supplication as they waited for the promise of the Holy Spirit in obedience to Jesus. If you find yourself today just like James was before the resurrection you need to know that you can be saved the same way he was. Believe that Jesus not only died for your sin and rose again but that He ascended and lives to interceding for His kids. Jesus saved James and He can save you. But He didn’t just save James to give him a place in heaven, He saved him to give him a purpose here. This is the third aspect to our identity, our identity in the:

  1. CHURCH

When you look at who James wrote this letter to, you might not think that has much to do with his identity. But this doesn’t just reveal who James was writing to, but why. While we know who James was before he was saved and we know that God saved him, what did He save him to do? For those of you who are saved have you ever ask yourself that question? What did God save me to do? Because if you are saved and you’re still here God has a purpose for you. Not only has He got something for you to do but you need to know that it is connected to His church. We were not saved to be selfish but to serve. You see when we were saved, we were given certain gifts that God intends for us to use in our service to Him through His church. We were not saved to be Lone Ranger Christians; we know this because the gifts that He gives you aren’t for you. They are for the building up of His body, the church. God gifted James to be a pastor not for James benefit but to bless the body. Of all the books written in the New Testament, James is really the only one written by a full-time, long-term pastor. Even Paul wasn’t really a pastor, the longest time he was in a church was at Ephesus which was only three years. Paul was really a church planter who started a church got it going and handed it off to a pastor. James was the pastor of the church in Jerusalem. While Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 started the church, James was the one who became the leader using the gifts that God gave him to pastor the people through thick and thin. He pastored them through times of plenty as well as poverty. Through the phenomenal growth in Acts 2 when the church was growing by the thousands upon thousands, as well as through the pain and persecution, when Stephen, one of the first deacons was martyred and many of the believers fled from Jerusalem. James is preaching to the persecuted here, those who have been scattered abroad. He had a pastor’s heart and with it he carried a pastor’s pain, even though they weren’t right there in his congregation, he still cared for them. Because he cared about their spiritual well-being, he wrote them this letter. God saved James for the purpose of pastoring His church in Jerusalem. Every time he is mentioned in Scripture after the resurrection, it is in regard to his involvement in the church. God saved James to serve Him by serving His church, gifting him for the particular way He wanted him to serve the church. Which means God saves everyone to serve Him by serving His church. He might have blessed you with the gift of teaching, preaching, encouragement, administration or mercy. But regardless of however He’s has gifted you, you need to use it in His service. James did and his service to the Savior became his identity. His service to the church was so legendary that history gives him two nicknames, both of which reveal his pastor’s heart, James the Just and my personal favorite “camel-knees.” Because James spent so much time on his knees praying for his congregation that his knees became callused to the point of looking like the knees of a camel. What about you how fully are you using the gifts God has given you? Are you too busy to serve Him? Are you too distracted by all the business around you to serve Him? Are those the things you’re identified by, because Scripture calls those things wood, hay and stubble which all be burned up by fire. Or are you identified by your service to God by serving His church. What is your identity today? Is your identity wrapped up in the world? If it is, you need to see Jesus for who He is and turn from your sin. Or is your identity in the Lord, but not in His church? I’ve got news for you, heaven is not just going to be you and God, but His body the bride. Being a Christian means being a part of His church, so are you an active, living, working part of the body? Or are you withered and atrophied from lack of use? If you are saved, you need to realize that God has gifted you for His service. He expects you to use the gifts He’s given you. So, what is your identity wrapped up in?

 

 

 


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1. Test 1: The Identity Test – Part 1

James 1:1 “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:Greetings.”

 Today as we start a new series in the book of James titled “The Litmus Test for Life” we will be confronted with at least 13 different specific tests of our faith which will reveal where we are really at in our Christian walk. While we may not like tests, we desperately need them if we are going to discover not only who we are but where we are at. Imagine that there are 3 glasses of water that all look identical, but when I test them with litmus paper, it reveals the real ph of each container. All these glasses of water look the same but when I test them we discover that one is acidic, one neutral and one alkaline. Sometimes things look fine on the outside but it’s only under the pressure of tests that we discover what is really in them, and what they are really made of. Just because the water appears clear and not cloudy doesn’t mean it’s not deadly and doesn’t need cleaning and changed. I recently moved from Nebraska to the mountains of Colorado and the new home we bought has a well. When we looked at the home, I filled a glass of water and it seemed fine, clear and not cloudy, but how could I really know if the water was safe to drink? I needed to take a sample, and have it tested.  Just like the water that needs to be tested so do our hearts, to make sure they are clean and not harboring any harmful bacteria. Now before we jump into chapter 1, I want to take a moment and doing a quick overview of the book of James. James is a very unique book partly because it is one of the few books in the New Testament that wasn’t written by an apostle. Even though there were two apostles named James, neither one of them wrote it. Instead it was written by James, the half-brother of Jesus and is believed to have been one if not the first book written in the New Testament. Probably written between 44 and 49 AD, only a few years after the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Another thing that makes the book of James unique is in the way that it is written, James was a pastor and so it is written in the way a pastor would write. He begins with a greeting and then gives us a brief overview of what the book is about. Telling us that the entire letter is going to be about the testing of our faith as he moves into revealing the thirteen different tests. Then he concludes as a pastor would with the way in which those who have failed the tests can be restored. As we study the book of James you will begin to notice that what each of the tests discusses are really a repeat of the words of his half-brother Jesus, in his sermon on the Mount. In reality over the next few months you will be reading my sermon on James’ sermon on the greatest sermon ever preached by Jesus. Now while the scripture that we will be looking at today is a very short one, it may be the most critical because it speaks to the foundation for our walk of faith. For it is here that this first verse identifies the author to his readers. The first thing we discover is that James doesn’t hide who he is. Which brings up a critical question, do you let other people know who you really are? And do you know who you really are? We will be looking at the foundational truth of who we really are as we discover our real identity. Who are you? What is your identity? My prayer as we start this series is that we would not only be open about where we are at but that they would be honest, both about who we are and where we are really at. My desire is that you will be able to identify yourself in a healthy way, a right way based on Christ and not on the culture. To do that, we’re going to look at three aspects of your identity, the first being your identity in the:

  1. WORLD

James starts in the same way that we usually do by introduce ourselves. He started off with his name which is what the world knows us by. We have all probably experienced a mother who in her care cautioned us about hanging out with the so-and-so kids because they were a bad bunch. Your name is how you’re known by the world, it reveals your reputation. Which means that sometimes it can be hard to live up to your name or it can be hard to live your name down. While your name ties you to your family it actually speaks even louder about your own reputation. So, who was James? What was his identity in the world? Well, first, James came from not just a good home, but a God fearing home. He was born to Mary and Joseph the ones that had been entrusted by God to raise His only begotten Son. Not only did he have a good upbringing but apparently, he also had a good education. There are several things that point to this but the primary one is in the way that he wrote. James wrote in an almost classical form of Greek, which was only used by well-educated people. This letter was written in some of the finest Greek. The difference between James’ Greek and Peter’s is the difference between Shakespeare and the newspaper. Not only did James have a good upbringing and a good education, but he also had something that has unfortunate become a very rare commodity today, good common sense. Now as Washington regularly reminds us, a good education doesn’t necessarily mean good common sense. And you can always tell people who have education and no common sense, because they make simple things complicated. Which is why our county is being strangled to death by red tape. On the other side people who have common sense but no education tend to keep simple things simple. But you can tell if a person has both, because they are able to make complicated things simple. As you read through James it is obvious that he had both. His common sense shows through in all of the simple illustrations he uses. Illustrations like fire, a horse’s bit and bridle, a ship’s rudder. Illustrations that make complicated issues simple to understand. James had a good upbringing, a good education, good common sense but he also had a really good Brother. His big Brother was God in the flesh, Jesus Christ. James had the opportunity of walking with and being physically closer to Jesus than many others. As far as his identity in the world, James had all the benefits in the world. A good home, good education, good sense, a good brother, yet despite all these advantages the sad reality was that he was lost. He had everything going for him and he was still lost. John 7:5 says that Jesus’ brothers didn’t believe Him. Mark 6:3 says that Jesus’ family, including James, was offended at Him. Mark 3:21 tells us that Jesus family tried to grab hold of Him to take Him away because they thought He was out of His mind crazy. Despite having every benefit in the world James still did not recognize Jesus for who He is. Whatever your name is. Whatever kind of upbringing you’ve had. Whatever kind of education you’ve had. Whatever kind of common sense you have. However closely you’ve physically been to God’s people and His church. None of that really matters because none of that will save you. The bottom line is, James’ identity in the world was that he was lost. And while many of us are frantically trying to cover up our condition with education and reputation your PHD or your family legacy can’t save you from your sin. What about you is your identity in the world today that you are lost? If it is, James has some great news because just like James it doesn’t have to stay that way. You can be saved and gain a new identity as a child of God. Are you willing to admit your sin before God and ask Jesus to save you from your sin? What must you do to be saved? The same thing as the Philippian jailer in Acts 16:31, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved”