Saturday, March 28

What should we do? Part V

Last week at Quest we concluded our look at the book of James. We have been using James to help us answer the question of what we should be doing if we are truly following Jesus. Throughout this study, we have noticed that there is both an internal and an external part of the answer to this question. The interal aspect is a spiritual response that impacts our relationship with God and our affects our character. The external aspect is the response in how we live our lives that affects our relationships with others and the way that we live our lives in the world around us. Here is some of what we talked about in our discussion of James 5:

• One of the major focuses in this chapter is prayer. It reminds us that prayer is effective. It reminds the reader of the story of Elijah. Elijah prayed that it would stop raining in Israel. Once he prayed, it stoped raining, and it didn't rain for another three and a half years. After three years, he prayed that it would rain, and it rained again. Elijah was a man just like us, but God listened to him.

• The key to having that kind of effective prayer, we need to be righteous. One of the keys to being righteous is confession. We need to confess our sins. Confessing our sins and the things we do wrong will make us righteous before God. What is interesting here is that it doesn't talk about confessing our sins to God. Scripture tells us that this is an important part of confession, but it is not the only aspect of confession. James tells us that we also need to confess our sins to our fellow followers of Jesus.

• This idea of confessing sins to each other is a foreign concept to many of us, especially those of us who come from evangelical or pentecostal background. In fact, we often feel the pressure to do the exact opposite. We are taught that we should confess our sins to God, but that there are significant consequences to letting other people know about our sins. This is particularly true for people in leadership positions. If a leader sins and that sin becomes public knowledge, they could lose their position of leadership. Even if we don't lose some kind of position, we still know that people will judge us for what we have done. The result is that we confess to God, but we keep our sins secret from each other. James says that this is wrong. We should confess to each other as well.

• James knows that if we are to live in community with each other, then we need to not have secrets. When we hide things from people, we keep that part of us from them, and as a result they can't know us completely. The more we hide, the more difficult it becomes for us to truly build relationships with people. Confessing our sins lets people know who we are and what kind of things that we struggle with. Confession can help us create stronger relationships, and it can help our friends to help us in the areas where we struggle.

• There is one major element of James' discussion of prayer that can be difficult. James 5:15 says "And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up." This seems like a definite, black-and-white promise. However, most of us who have been followers of Christ have known people who were sick and had people pray from them in faith, but they didn't get well. This is no easy answer. We can come up with all kinds of reasons, based in scriputre, for why bad things continue to happen. However, that doesn't make it any easier for us.

This should give you a good idea of what we talked about concerning James chapter 5. Next week we will turn to the book of Ephesians as we continue our discussions of what it will look like if we truly are following Jesus.

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