A Culture of Pursuing

 
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During a previous church series on James, God impressed some things on me regarding our calling as believers.

How do we view the body of Christ? What is our mission… not just to the world, but to each other?

This is a vital question James addresses at the end of his epistle.

Do you ever have someone confront you over something in your life… specifically a believer? I’m not talking about a negative legalistic confrontation over some petty difference that Scripture doesn’t speak to. I’m also not talking about judgmental snide comments made almost in jest. I’m also not talking about gossip about other people’s faults behind their backs. But, have you ever had another Christian confront or at least ask you about an area in your life in what seemed to be a genuine, loving way? If so, when was that time? How recent was it? In the reverse, have you been that loving confronter to someone else recently?

I’ve personally had several people do this in my own life over the course of the last few months. At first, sometimes it hurts (especially if it’s personal to you or it really hits a nerve). But, in time, God has a way of showing us that He is the One actually speaking through other Christians in these confrontation moments.

This is the way church should be!

As James closes his letter, there is something even more specific in focus for the church… loving confrontation, but evangelistic in nature.

Recalling some context of the letter, James writes to scattered Jewish believers early in the church age as they are forced northward from Israel after vast persecution. Correspondingly, James’ content is practical instruction. Much of James’ super relatable content dealt with rebuke regarding various ethical sins. The poor partial treatment thing, the destructive speech and hypocrisy thing, the encroaching worldliness thing, the flippancy toward life’s shortness, the abuse of wealth and power, the lack of faith and fervor in prayer amidst suffering, and overall just a tendency to chuck it all and go for an easier life.

James’ abrupt style doesn’t follow a distinct outline, and his closing reflects this as he goes out summarizing one final note of application.

He talks about the reality of those in the church who don’t have authentic saving faith, and their lives show it. It’s a sober warning of sorts meant here not to jolt fakers to real faith. Rather, James seeks to jolt the legit church to this reality, getting us to see the reality of dead faith in our midst and motivating us to do something about it.

This job of pursuing and being a part of rescuing sinners cloaked in religious culture is not ultimately the job of the pastor/elder or deacons, but instead is the collective job of all Jesus followers. It is this mentality though that goes much deeper than a typical Western/American comfort level of church life. I mean, just let us come as we are on a Sunday, blend in, sing/listen to some music, hear some preaching, have some superficial conversations, and then go home. But this is NOT the Christianity and church life that God calls us to lead. Instead, He draws us into a living, active body… a family on mission together… a mission to reach the nations sure, but also a mission together to be the body of Jesus. From this perspective we see the importance of being the church together, whether under the scattering threat of persecution of James’ day or the relative ease of religious freedom we live under in America today. James would tell us the same message today. We must see ourselves in the life and mission together, fully committed to Jesus and helping one another press on together. And as we’ve observed in this closing text, we are called to loving confrontation evangelistically too. Yes, we are called to look for and take opportunities not just to evangelize the nations, but evangelize within the church too! Never assume that someone knows Jesus. May we be willing to pursue and ask.

Oh church out there, we are given the tremendous responsibility to not just be part of a club that comes together and watches. We are called together to be active participants on God’s mission together as the church. 

Church, is your faith real?

Is your faith active? Can you see tangible fruit of your faith?

Church, are there areas in your life where you’ve grown cold or lazy in your faith? Sometimes, do the burdens of this life just make it easier to ponder (maybe only internally) but ponder walking way if possible? 

Oh church, James’ message still stands for us today. Oh church, hold on.

Count it joy my brothers when you meet trials of various kinds… that opposition to your faith, that sickness, that loss, that frustration, the mundane, the unexpected, the unknown, the unpleasant. Oh church, hold on.

You know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial.

Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only.

Handle the use of your speech carefully.

Be aware of your heart’s propensity toward hypocrisy.

What causes quarrels and fights among you? Is it not your passions at war within you?

Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.

Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.

Deal with your work and moneys ethically, in ways befitting of the Gospel.

Oh church, be patient, until the coming of the Lord. Establish your hearts.

See the vital importance of prayer and bring your praises and prayers to God always.

These are the practical admonitions from James to Jesus followers everywhere.

And oh church, see that the battle is real. The mission is real. We are called not to a club that sits and soaks up more Bible content that we do nothing with.

We… you and you… and me… we are all called to be the body of Christ on mission together, spurring one another on to love and good works. And when necessary, we lovingly pursue those who seem to defect from the faith.

- Derek