Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

1. Test 1: The Identity Test – Part 1

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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”

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