James stands unparalleled among biblical books. Possibly first and foremost, its uniqueness lies in the fact that it is a transitional work that serves as a bridge between the first and second Testaments. In content and emphasis it can be seen as the last of the Old Testament’s prophetic or wisdom literature, and at the same time, the first of the New Testament’s affirmation of Jesus as Lord.
After the inscription and salutation Christians are taught how to conduct themselves when under the cross. Several graces and duties are recommended; and those who endure their trials and afflictions as the apostle here directs are pronounced blessed and are assured of a glorious reward. But those sins which bring sufferings, or the weakness and faults men are chargeable with under them, are by no means to be imputed to God, who cannot be the author of sin, but is the author of all good. All passion, and rash anger, and vile affections, ought to be suppressed.
Since this is the last Sabbath of the quarter dealing with the “Teachings of Jesus,” I am going to break some polite rules governing this column – mostly unwritten and some of them of my own making – because this particular lesson provides a wonderful opportunity for us to discover things in Scripture we had forgotten or never knew before. And let me be extraordinarily candid about the situation facing Adventism right now. A great fear is stalking the land, a fear that if we don’t reinforce what we have always said, and with greater emphasis, the church will disintegrate.
In some ways, Adventists are very conservative, believing in a God who answers prayer and who is coming again. But even the most conservative Adventists are “liberal” in at least one key respect: “mortalism,” the belief that the body is a holistic unity and does not have a separate soul. Mortalism means no eternally burning hell, a very “liberal” idea.
This one time, at pathfinder camp, we ran out of food. On Sabbath. I, being a pathfinder leader’s worst nightmare, quoting chapter and verse, said ‘If the disciples were allowed to pick grain, surely we could go buy some bread?’ Needless to say my pathfinder leaders were not impressed with my pre-adolescent exegesis and practical application of Mark 2.
From its very inception the church has grappled with clearly understanding the mission Jesus assigned. It is not that the words Jesus spoke to the disciples are hard to find or understand. The words are simple and direct. They essentially defy any human misunderstanding; nevertheless, the church has debated the concept of mission for centuries. The words of the mission are located in five different places in the New Testament: Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-49; John 20:21-22 and Acts 1:8.
In his book “Practicing Resurrection,” author Eugene Peterson makes the terse statement, “Church is difficult.” I say more, it is audacious. Only the with-God-nothing-is-impossible-
God could attempt it or would attempt it. We look and often our eyes see more defeat than victory. We assess and see more strife than unity. And it weighs us down and weakens faith.
But it need not. Facing conditions as they are we can return to the Word of Christ and the Father, praying to see once again what they saw and yet see in this initiative called the Church.
What does Jesus tell us about growing in him?
If “repentance” is the crucial element in God’s plan of salvation, then what comes next? How does the believer grow “in Christ” ? For Paul, the idea of being “in Christ” was crucial. Note 2 Cor. 5:17 (NRSV): “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”