James and Jude
Is It True?
Perusing bookshelves, scanning newspaper and magazine racks, opening all the email anecdotes I’m sent, I reel with the overpowering amount of information and amusements available to me. But the old adage reminds us that you can’t believe everything you read. I’ve tried to teach my children – and myself – that nothing should be read without analyzing, testing, and comparing the material to the Bible, even those works which seem innocuous. Worldview, how a person looks at life’s circumstances and where they put their trust for the outcome, will be evident in an author’s work.
That said we must be careful of what we commit to writing because people often do believe everything they read. What we write in a letter, an article, a brochure, a book, or a note can be colored and even clouded by outside factors. That includes what we’ve read, what we’ve experienced, even how we feel. All these things can be effective tools for reaching and relating to others, but can’t be the end-all to the advice and counseling offered.
Thankfully, God’s Word is one book where it’s justified and good to believe everything you read. Scripture promises that the real writer behind every book in the Bible is the Holy Spirit (II Timothy 3:16). Even though each book reflects the personality of the writer, it is given by, influenced by, edited by (so to speak) and based on the mind of God. So, in a world where people are accustomed to living by the wrong advice they’ve read, James urges us to be “doers” of the one source you can believe every time you read it.
I. DAY ONE
A. James 1:16 says “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.” It’s a strange beginning for this week’s lesson, to jump into the middle of a conversation, so to speak. Yet, how potent these seven words are on their own. James warns us not to be deceived. Why? Because the possibility exists.
1. Quickly read through James 1:2-15 to bring us back up to speed on what James is saying. In what areas might we be deceived?
2. Look at James 1:13-15 again. James outlines the path of temptation, reminding us that negative challenges meant to pull us away from God’s way are not of God. So with the possibility of deception from verse 16 in mind, how have you allowed yourself to think less of God in times of temptation?
B. Read James 1:17-18 with Job 36:3-11, 15 and Psalm 85:8-13. To avoid deception, we need to know the truth about the Father.
1. What are some facts about God listed in these passages?
2. According to James 1:18, God’s will is to bring those apart from Him to Himself. The “first fruits” were the early, mostly Jewish believers of James’ audience who were the beginning of a great harvest that would later include Gentiles, as well.1 That means you and me. If there is “no variation or shifting shadow” in the Father’s character, how will you think differently about God’s purpose for difficult times?
II. DAY TWO
A. How easy it is to revel in that feeling. Read James 1:19-21. The first three words of this passage in the New American Standard Bible are “This you know.” Other translations say “wherefore” which is correct because it implies one thing directly following another. All that this humble half-brother of Jesus was about to write was not new to those reading his letter. Yet knowing and acting rightly according to that knowledge have vastly differing results.
1. What three things does James tell us to do in verse 19?
2. What kind of anger is he talking about according to verse 20 and in what way does it fail?
B. James is speaking to believers, and yet he knows there is a need to be vigilant to remove filth that enters into our hearts due to our sinful natures. In verse 21, James knows our battles because they were his, too.
1. Read Mark 6:45-52. In this account of Jesus walking on the water, we only have one sentence attributed to our Lord. What was it He said?
2. Replace the word “afraid” in Jesus’ sentence with “anger.” What other word could you use that reflects your struggles? Isn’t it encouraging to see that Jesus won’t leave us in the middle of our storms, even when we remain pretty hard-headed and hard hearted like the disciples (Mark 6:52)?
III. DAYS THREE AND FOUR
A. Today, James asks us to “prove.” Webster gives definition statements such as, “to be found or to have its qualities ascertained by experience or trial; to be found true or correct by the result; to make certain; to show; to evince.”2 In this case, James encourages us to be found true “doers” of the Word.
1. Read James 1:22-25. When we merely hear the word but do not act upon it, James says we “delude” ourselves (v. 22). The Darby Translation uses the word, “beguile.”3 Other translations use the word “deceived” which is the same word used in Eve’s encounter with the serpent (Genesis 3), the mess between Jacob and Laban (Genesis 29-31), the recognition of Saul by the witch at Endor (I Samuel 28), and the acts of the Beast against the saints (Revelation 13).
a. What does the Apostle John say about deception in I John 1:8?
b. How would listening to the Word with the intent to do or act help us overcome this warning?
2. As an exercise, glance into a mirror for 2 seconds. Now, write down every detail of what you look like. Compare your findings again with the mirror. How much did you recall? How many things were you surprised to have recalled in error? I failed miserably. And, quite frankly, I’m always surprised when I look at my reflection during the day. It’s just not what I expected to see in the mirror – I forgot what I looked like, just like James said I would. But there’s more to me than what people can see on the outside.
a. The mirror of God’s word is a reminder to change, to fix, to make little corrections, to do. How does Jesus set the example for us in Matthew 5:19 and John 6:38?
b. The steps in verse 25 for becoming the doer James talks about are:
1) looking intently, 2) abiding, 3) remembering and 4) doing effectively. How will you incorporate these steps into your week, becoming “blessed” in what you do?
c. What does the reflection of your heart look like?
B. Read Matthew 7:24-27.
1. How does Jesus’ parable about the house built on the sand versus the house built on the rock illustrate James 1:22-25?
2. Psalm 19:7-14 gives a picture of the Law of the Lord. List the synonyms for the “Law of the Lord” and the descriptions of what it is like and what it does.
3. John 6:28-29, reminds us that we can only be doers of the word once we’ve done something else. Who in your life needs to know that doing God’s will begins with believing on Christ?
IV. DAY FIVE
A. The final two verses of James 1 bids us to do religion right. Beginning with the words “if anyone thinks himself to be religious,” they remind us that thinking and being, unfortunately, aren’t always the same. In the early days of the church, James watched many entrenched in the traditions of Judaism who struggled or sometimes demanded that those practices still hold true. We looked at the Jerusalem Council during our introduction week to see James’ answer to those who wanted Gentiles to “become” Jews before being able to claim Christ. So before we get to the practical outworking of our religion, let’s refocus our minds on the foundation of our salvation.
1. Read Galatians 2:16-21. As you read this passage, understand that Paul is pointing out there is nothing we can do in and of ourselves to obtain salvation.
2. Now read Jesus own words concerning the purpose of His earthly mission – John 6:35, 51, 8:12, 9:5, 10:7-18, 12:46, 18:37. What are some of the things Jesus became for us to bring us salvation?
3. Of these descriptions of Christ, which is most precious to you?
B. Now let’s look at what “pure and undefiled religion” entails. Read James 1:26- 27. We’re going to have an entire lesson on the tongue later when we get to James 3, but for now, the author wants us to understand that what we say reflects how the world views the gospel.
1. What other things does James list as being evidence of a true relationship with Jesus Christ? From Hebrews 13:1-6, what else should be evident in a life in order to best reflect Christ?
2. Read Matthew 20:26-28; Luke 22:26; John 12:26; Ephesians 2:10; and Philippians 2:5-7. How are we to emulate Jesus once we become part of His family?
3. One commentator wrote “I feel there is a grave danger in our having a religion of the sanctuary but not a religion of the street … We should be in contact with the world in a personal way, with tenderness and kindness and helpfulness.”4 How do you balance the idea of a “religion of the street” with keeping yourself unstained by the world?
If you were to write a letter of encouragement to a group of struggling believers, what would you say? What would you tell them about how to live victoriously for Christ? What has God shown you that could be of value to their situation? I’m sure most of you will have such an opportunity at some point in your individual ministries. When you do, remember that people will believe what they read. So refer them to God’s Word – and to James. We can trust it every time.
[Author’s note: I’m using the New American Standard Bible for the study on James unless otherwise noted.]
1. Charles C. Ryrie, The New American Standard Bible, commentary on James 1:18.
2. Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language, (S. Converse: New York, 1828), facsimile reprinted by Foundation for American Christian Education, San Francisco, CA, s.v. “prove.”
3.”James’s Epistle 1 – (DBY – Darby Translation).” Blue Letter Bible,29 Apr 2010.
4. J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible With J. Vernon McGee, vol. 5 ( Thomas Nelson Publishers: Nashville, 1983), 644.
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[i] The New American Standard Bible, commentary by Charles C. Ryrie on James 1:18.
[ii] An American Dictionary of the English Language, by Noah Webster, S. Converse, New York, 1828, facsimile reprinted by Foundation for American Christian Education, San Francisco, CA, “prove”.
[iii]Blue Letter Bible. “James’s Epistle 1 – (DBY – Darby Translation).” Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2010. 29 Apr 2010.
[iv] Thru the Bible With J. Vernon McGee, Volume V, J. Vernon McGee, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, 1983, pg. 644.