A Brand New Year, A Fresh Start!
Yet, we may have already blown it, or if we understand anything of the holiness of God, we know we will before the day is out. Still, I’d like you to reflect on how you are growing because of the power of Christ in you, and then give us a word you want to grow into in 2023. My word is: Emptied.”
This year I have grown through good preaching, books, and friends (like you!) The sermon on Jesus being Mighty God was so good, showing all He emptied Himself of in order to become flesh. And Paul tells us to do likewise. So when I am with a hard person, I want to empty myself and be to them what Christ would be, valuing them above myself, and really listening, really loving. them. I want to see this year a year of real growth in resisting temptation, living sacrificially, and trusting Him. And I do know that it isn’t enough to empty myself, but I must fall on Him in faith.
Let’s pray for one another to live into our words! If you don’t know your word yet, pray, and ask God to give you one.
Beginning January 12th, I will follow Paige Benton Brown here on her 8 week series on James. (See begins streaming January 11th. To be reminded, sign up here: https://westendcc.org/studies/paigebrown/
During the next 11 days we will get ready. I will not post again until Thursday, January 12th with questions for Paige’s first lecture on James. I hope you will stay here next Sunday through Wednesday to hear Nancy Guthrie’s fascinating lecture on the brother of Jesus: James.
There are those throughout the centuries that have protested the inclusion of this letter, saying, “Where is the Gospel?” My seminary professor at Covenant explained that some see James’ letter as being like the book of Proverbs, with many wise sayings on how to live. But actually, James is giving us the law, much as Jesus did in The Sermon on the Mount. By the end of the book of James we are screaming: BUT I CAN’T DO IT!
Photo by Simran Sood on Unsplash
That is exactly where we need to be to hear the Gospel.
Downloadable Document for Small Groups:
New Year’s Day! God Hunt Sunday
1. How did you experience the power or presence of God during this last Christmas week?
2. What word will you ask God to help you live into in 2023 and why?
Monday: Where is the Gospel in James?
3. What does James finally tell us in James 4:6-7 and how can you see the gospel here?
4. What is the purpose of the Law according to Galatians 3:24?
5. Share how the Law helped you recognize your sin initially and made you realize your need for a Savior.
6. Share how the Law, on an everyday basis, caused you to fall upon Christ. How might this relate to living more victoriously in 2023?
Tuesday: What’s The Deal Between Faith and Works in the Book of James?
Read the following one page article by Courtney Doctor:
7. How does Courtney Doctor reconcile the controversial James 2:14?
8. What other comments do you have from the above article?
Wednesday: Should the Book of James Be in The Bible?
Perhaps you have heard the controversy about James’ letter — why is it in the Bible if it doesn’t contain the gospel? (Though we have already shown it does!) This tenet is based on a false presupposition that a group of men sat down and decided, among hundreds of books, which ones should be in and which ones should be out. That is not how the Canon came about. As R. C. Sproul explains, they didn’t decide which should be in, they accepted the books that had always been accepted, and did not include anything that had not always been accepted. He writes:
It’s one thing to make something authoritative, and it’s another thing to recognize something that already is authoritative. Those human decisions did not make something that was not authoritative suddenly authoritative, but rather the church was bowing, acquiescing to that which they recognized to be sacred Scripture.
9. How does the above understanding give you confidence in the Canon?
One truth that gives me confidence is that though the Bible was written over many centuries, by many men, from many cultures, who for the most part had no contact with one another, it is one story from Genesis to Revelation: the story of Jesus and His glorious gospel.
10. List some evidence that gives you confidence that the Bible is the very Word of God.
Thursday: James, the Little Brother of Jesus
There were books that people wanted in the Canon that had not always been accepted — and they are in a separate section in Catholic Bibles. That section is called “The Apocrypha.” In one section, it describes the boy Jesus turning clay pigeons to life. If that had really happened (which is so doubtful as Philippians 2:6 tells us he never used his power to his own advantage) then perhaps James wouldn’t have had such a hard time believing his brother was God incarnate. No — Jesus emptied himself. He had to learn to talk and walk. Jesus probably got colds, suffered acne…all of it so that He might sympathize with us.
11. Given this, why might it have been hard to believe that your older brother was God incarnate?
12. Read Mark 6:1-5
A. What do you learn about James from this passage?
B. How did people who knew Jesus’ family respond to Him?
C. How did Jesus explain it? (verse 4) Why, do you think?
13. What did Jesus’ siblings think about Him according to Mark 3:20-21?
When Lucy comes back from Narnia, her brother Edward tells their siblings she made the whole thing up. The Professor gives them three options: Either she is lying, or she is out of her mind, or she is telling the truth. Those were the same options that Jesus’ siblings had when considering Jesus.
Friday: James, The Worldly Unbeliever
Tim Keller points to John 7:1-12 to show the unbelief and worldliness of Jesus’ brothers before the Resurrection when everything changed.
14. Read John 7:1-12
A. Why didn’t Jesus want to go to Judea and why did his brothers think he should? What worldly reason do they give?
B. Who do you think they thought he was?
C. Describe the differing opinions you see about Jesus in this passage.
We do know from Acts that James became a leader of the church in Jerusalem. We know from historical sources like Josephus that he was stoned for his faith. What converted James so dramatically? The resurrection of his brother!
15. What caused you to believe that Jesus is indeed who He claimed to be — God incarnate?
16. What’s your take-a-way this week and why?
I will not post until next Thursday — so here are four more days to keep going!
God Hunt Sunday:
17. How have you experienced the risenness of Christ this week?
Monday-Wednesday: Nancy Guthrie on James
18. Listen (or read) the above from Nancy Guthrie and share your observations and comments:
See you tomorrow as we begin listening and learning from Paige — watch for a Post in your in-box.