Monday, 1 December 2014
Connecting Our Real Life To God’s Real Grace. James 4:1-12
Do you ever feel like there’s a disconnect between your spiritual life and your real life?
For instance, have you ever closed your Bible with a happy sigh and then found yourself yelling at the kids or grousing about your boss just minutes later?
Yup. Me too. And I find it completely demoralizing. What’s the point? I find myself thinking. Is spending time with God a waste? Or am I just the fastest sinner out there?
You and I have come to the right place. James wrote his letter to connect the dots between our spiritual life and our real life. Between our faith and our actions.
We’re hungry for that connection, because we’re tired of the sour taste of our sin. We’re hungry for grace.
In the last chapter James took us, figuratively, into his art studio. There he sketched two pictures, the first of earthly wisdom, the second of heavenly. His terrifying picture of words raging through our lives like wildfire left us panicked. Who in his right mind wants that kind of life? Those kinds of words? We vow to try harder to control our tongue but he shakes his head. No one can tame the tongue. No one.
So we turn to the second picture. It fleshes out the wisdom from above–words that don’t destroy, but create, listen, wait, reason, show restraint, discuss, show mercy, listen impartially, speak sincerely. In the end this wisdom produces what nations and neighborhoods seek, but fail to find. Peace.
James’ words in chapter 3 do their work in us. We shrink from the ugly and are drawn to the good.
We ask God to help us.
Then we step out of the quiet art studio into the harsh glare of our lives. Horns blare, babies wail, our voices add to the din. Hey! Watch where you’re going! That @&*# driver!
The next thing we know we’re accusing our husband of forgetting to pick up the prescription on purpose. We’re yelling at our children to “hurry up or I’ll leave you at home!” We’re arguing over whichever detail of our lives that has turned into the latest land mine. Boom! War breaks out.
James stands ready with his reality check. He knows that the pictures he drew are helpful, but they’re still floating about us like clouds.
He’s about to bring the “wisdom from above” down to the streets where we live.
Diagnosis and Treatment
To do that James takes off his artist’s smock and puts on a doctor’s coat. He looks at the symptoms–our quarrels and fights–and simply asks a question. “Where does that come from?”
We’re caught off guard by his directness. But he’s not asking us to feel bad or make excuses. He’s pointing out the problem because it’s there. He wants us to understand why we do it. What’s the cause? Then, here’s the cure.
In this week’s lesson we have lots to learn about our sin, ourselves, and our God. And even more to learn about his grace.
This Week’s Questions
Please use Lesson 5 of our study guide or the questions below.
- What is the last thing you argued about with a friend or family member? What did you want?
- Passions are desires out of control. How does wanting something too much affect our words (v. 1)? Our relationships (v.2)? Our prayers (v.3)?
- When we want something too much it affects our relationship with God most of all. What three ways does James mention in 4:4-5?
- “But” introduces the prescription. What is the hope James gives in 4:6? What is James overall prescription in 4:6? What is the prognosis for our condition in 4:10?
- Between 4:6 and 4:10 James tells us to do 10 things. List them.
- What is the relationship between God’s grace and our obedience according to this passage?
- What further misuse of words does James address in 4:11-12? How does it illustrate our continuing need for humility?