When Jesus became a man and lived a perfect life, dying on the cross to pay the penalty for sin that we could never pay, and rising from the dead to conquer sin and death, He accomplished far more than “just” saving believers from eternal death in hell. He restored our broken relationship with God and paid the ransom that redeemed us from the power of sin. We who place our faith in Christ’s death and resurrection are no longer in bondage to sin, but are set free to joyfully love and obey our gracious God, becoming more and more like His Son.
Paul tells us, in Colossians 1:21-22, “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.”
We were once separated from God, but now we are reconciled so that we can live holy lives that glorify Him. James devotes his short letter to fleshing out what that Good News looks like in action. How should our faith affect our thoughts and our actions? How is our faith displayed in our thoughts and actions?
That’s what we get to spend the next month studying, with the goal of not only being hearers of the Word, but also doers, just as James commands us.
Assignment: We always want to begin our study time with prayer, acknowledging our inability to understand or obey any of God’s Word without the teaching ministry of His Holy Spirit. As we begin today, pray for His blessing on your study time, that He would open the meaning of His Word to you, and that those words would transform you.
Pray for perseverance, for creativity and wisdom in making time for studying, and for your sisters (and brothers) in Christ who will be studying along with you.
We’re going to read James’ entire letter today, because we need to read it all before we focus on just one section. When we receive a long-awaited letter from a loved one, we don’t just read the first page and then quit because it’s too much work to read all four pages. We read the whole letter, and the whole letter makes the first page make more sense.
This is a good opportunity to listen to the book of James, if you want. Gather your kids and listen with them, or grab a few quiet minutes while your day is winding down to listen. Here are links to readings in the King James Version, English Standard Version, and New International Version. Take your pick! (Be sure you check the “Continuous Play” box, so that the recording continues from one chapter to the next.)
While you listen, imagine hearing this as a first-century Christian. What is James’ message to you? Can you pick out any recurring themes?
Tomorrow we’re going to zero in on Chapter 1. We’ll be marking the text all month to help us more carefully see and understand what is there. I personally have chosen to mark directly in my Bible because I will always have my notes right there where I’ll see them (and not lose them), and because I enjoy creating a personalized, illuminated record of my journey as God speaks to me through His Word.
Some of you may not want to mark in your Bibles. No problem! Print out Chapter 1 in your preferred translation, and have it ready and waiting for tomorrow’s lesson. Here are five choices to get you started. Click and print! KJV, NKJV, ESV, NASB, NIV.
Also, if you are on Instagram, look for doorpostslady. I will be posting daily material related to our study.
For your children:
Each of your daily lessons will be followed by a children’s lesson that relates to yours. These are entirely optional! If you’re doing good to just find time to get your own study done, don’t feel guilty about ignoring these add-ons.
If you find yourself really struggling with the “adult” lesson, you might just want to do the children’s lessons along with your kids this first time through, and then take another month to come back and do the adult lessons.
Teaching your children what you have been learning will help you learn it even better, and I can almost guarantee that your children will have a few things to teach you as the Holy Spirit opens up the Word to them, too.
For today’s lesson, invite your children to listen to the book of James along with you. You might want to listen to a chapter in the morning, another one at lunch time, another during a quiet time, and another at bedtime, instead of listening to the entire book all at once.
Your children won’t understand everything they hear, but then, neither will you. 🙂 But the more they listen to the Word, the more they will grow to understand it. Invite them to ask questions, and turn off the audio to address those questions as you go.
When you’ve finished, ask them what stood out to them. What do they remember best of what they heard?